Monday, January 30, 2012

Pasta and Piano

Recently I bought three boxes of pasta, along with over a hundred dollars of other foods from the grocery store, but I forgot to buy tomato sauce. Well, it's time to go grocery shopping again, but I hate seeing uneaten food in the kitchen when I am buying new groceries. Those three pasta boxes on the kitchen counter are tormenting me.

Tonight, I made a special trip to a local convenience store and bought a bottle of sauce just so I could finally cook some pasta. Not hard at all, just boil 4 quarts of water, and throw the pasta in for 8 minutes, and your done. You also should heat up the sauce a bit. A pound of pasta is a lot of food, so next time I think I am going to aim for 1/4 pound instead.

After I ate, I turned to the piano and practiced a couple songs. Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonate Op.27-2 "Moonlight" 1st Movement (Moonlight Sonata,) and Inventio 13 BMV 784 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The first classical piece I taught myself on piano was Moonlight Sonata, although I learned it by ear.

My parents bought me an electric Yamaha keyboard when I was very young, and paid for piano lessons which were taught at a real piano at a friend's house. I used to think it was boring to play songs which were handed to me by teachers, or my parents, since they were always either standards, or songs that they liked, instead of songs "I" liked. Later in my life, probably around when I was 16 years old, when I had some cash of my own, I bought a real keyboard: Roland D-50 linear synthesizer. The sounds that keyboard made were ten times more powerful and interesting than the old Yamaha keyboard I had, and I finally became addicted to playing a musical instrument. Not much later I learned how to play alto saxophone, and even played in a High School Jazz Band, which was a lot of fun, but the keyboard was the most addicting to play. I used to sit in my room with the headphones on and just make up songs everyday. Never wrote any notes down, except when I was trying to learn a complicated Pink Floyd or Doors piece. The D-50 keyboard had a lot of sounds, but the best sounds were the strings and pianos.

After listening to my CD collection of Mahler, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, I zeroed in on Moonlight Sonata after hearing it, and have never let go of it. For me, Moonlight Sonata was one of those songs that is so hauntingly beautiful it never gets old, especially when I am playing it, instead of just listening to it. Learning Moonlight Sonata by listening to the CD, and then playing it on the keyboard, was like a game to me. Figuring out chords, and notes, by how they sound when played, and by using my memory, seems to be easier for me than literal objective musical theory. When I finally read the sheet music at my girlfriend's house many years later I realized that I played the song wrong in some parts. I decided to go out and buy a copy of the sheet music back then, and sit down and pick over the score to relearn how to play it. The sheet music was lost in a house fire over a decade ago, and I never bought a new copy.

When I was in college I also learned how to play classical guitar. It was a small intimate class of half a dozen musicians who all knew how to play electric guitar, or keyboard, or some other instrument, so the class moved fast and before the first course was over we were all playing advanced pieces. When I went back for the next semester, we formed duets, and really pushed our abilities. This was a wonderful time for me, since it was the first time that I felt like I had a close relationship with my teacher and students. Small class size really does matter.

I used to love to jam with other musicians, and record it. Later we would chop it up and make a song that sounded decent. Unfortunately, about eight years ago the band I made the best music with broke up, and I lost interest in music completely after that since I didn't have anyone else to play music with, and I even gave away my keyboard I had at the time which was a Roland XP-30. Since then, I have played guitar off and on, but stopped playing piano. However, recently I have been feeling drawn to playing music again.

I have been saving money for a while, and decided to spend a little on a new Casio PX-130 Privia digital piano, and don't regret it at all. This device is amazingly similar to a real piano, both in sound and feel. I also have a Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos Mod E classical guitar that I dug out of my closet and cleaned up. Both have a hidden universe in them that is limitless once you relax and let the notes play themselves. This concept also works for any artform, such as drawing, painting, dancing, singing, etc..

The Privia came with a book that contains 60 classical scored pieces, and in addition to that the keyboard contains recordings of each one, so you can compare your playing to the recorded work. Very cool concept. I also downloaded some sheet music from and now own the guitar scores for Classical Gas by Mason Williams and Kiss the Rain by Yiruma. For the past week I have been hammering away on the keys, and plucking the strings with my filed nails, and man I am feeling sore! But, eventually my muscles will adapt to playing again.

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