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Wish #7 – to reawaken my love for piano playing

January 7, 2012 2 comments

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Photo: Fire Bird Flame

Now this one has been on my list for many a year. I’ve never been an amazing pianist, but I have loved playing, I do have a very underused piano and I did pass Grade 7 with distinction about 20 years ago!

Probably what would make the difference is to have some new repertoire to learn – not so tricky that I’ll never get there, but not so easy that I can do a decent job of sight reading it so there’s not much incentive to work at it properly.

Fortunately/unfortunately (I really haven’t decided which yet…) I’m going to have to work at it a bit over the next couple of weeks as I may be needed to cover for one of the pantomime performances in two weeks time so will need to be prepared. Kill or cure I guess!

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Wish #5 – to write a song

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

For my music GCSE and A level I had to do modules on composition. And again for my degree. I wrote songs, instrumental pieces, even an orchestral piece.

One of my degree modules was ‘how to write for the musical theatre’ and the professor teaching the module had written a book on Sondheim’s musicals. I have had lots of experience of song writing but I don’t do it any more.

And I should.

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Wish #2 – to play the guitar

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment

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Photo: Ian Britton – FreeFoto.com

Well this is one I’ve actually started on!

I’ve had a guitar since I was 16 (not quite 25 years, but close enough with rounding). It was a present from my mum for doing so well in my GCSEs. I’d wanted to play the guitar for ages; I liked the idea of an instrument I could just pick up and play wherever and whenever and with whoever, rather than the piano which always seemed quite an antisocial instrument (I’ve since learned that’s far from the truth after many raucous evenings with friends singing songs from the shows).

I never really got anywhere. I remember teaching myself a few chords, but I wanted to be able to play without working at it! When I was 17 I started going out with an amazing classical and electric guitarist. Now that was inspirational, but also frustrating as I wanted to be able to play like he could and to do it straight away, without any practice or other effort! I think he gave me some lessons, at least I remember I learned to play a relatively simple classical piece, but I didn’t get very far.

And as part of my PGCE – as my specialism was music – we had guitar lessons. All I remember is the teacher was kind, old and blind and that around a dozen of us sat in a semi-circle. I don’t remember what we learned but I’m fairly sure there was some sort of ‘test’ at the end of the year…

A couple of years later my guitarist broke off our engagement and I didn’t really play again. I could now blame that all on him and my broken heart but no, I just didn’t put any effort in – disgraceful! However, the guitar has always come in handy when teaching sound in Year 5 science lessons – you can get so much learning about vibrations, pitch, amplification etc out of a guitar!

Which brings us to now. When I packed up my office at the end of term I brought home the guitar. It (and my psaltery – look it up!) sat on the floor in my very small hall with the bags and bags of books, resources, cards and presents that I had brought home and left there till after Christmas. (Actually most of the stuff only made it upstairs into the spare bedroom, but that’s on my to do list…) When I started to sort through things I knew that the instruments could just go in the loft or maybe in my wardrobe. Or the cupboard under the stairs so the guitar could come out on party nights if we wanted a break from the piano or the Wicked karaoke.

And then I realised that actually if I left the guitar out, tucked in at the side if the piano, I might just think about playing it sometimes. So I did.

And yesterday, when I should have been sorting and storing all of the stuff from the bags and boxes that only made it to the spare room, I got the guitar out of the case, tuned it and decided to learn 3 chords (I went for D, G and A as I seem to remember not getting on well with C. Or F. Or maybe both. To be honest I’m struggling a little with G so maybe it’s all down to lazy fingers!)

I started with D and A as they looked the easiest on the chord chart Google found for me. I did lots of strumming, some arpeggios, and tried to go between the chords without having to stop and say “Wait there” like I used to as an 11 year old who’d just started to play the piano and wanted to play for her mum. And then I added G. And more practise ensued. And I had a go at singing Leaving on a Jet Plane as that was the first song I liked on the ‘Easy Songs with 3 Chords’ web site. And then my brain realised that the opening verse of Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues would also work with those chords so I tried to remember how that went too.

And then I just sat and played with the chords and improvised a few wordless melodies. Which was great fun. Now if I’d decided to take that approach 20 odd years ago I might actually have had the motivation to learn more…

So now I have to hope that the guitar doesn’t just sit keeping the piano company for the NEXT 25 years… Although at that point I may be heading for retirement so the timing might be right!

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Mood Music

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

At the end of October I put together an anti-SAD playlist on Spotify.  At the same time I decided to subscribe to Spotify premium so that I could listen to said playlist on my iPod.

I wish I had done this years ago.  I’ve long been away that my mood and energy levels are affected by the weather and that as the days grow shorter I really struggle.  Having lots of songs that have a strong beat and/or positive associations for me has made all the difference and I don’t think I’ve had a weather/light affected mood issue since I created the playlist. Read more…

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