Monday, March 21, 2011

Pianist Envy

"Sing us a song, you're the piano man. Sing us a song tonight. Well, we're all in the mood for a melody, and you've got us feeling all right."

- Billy Joel

Have you ever been inexplicably drawn to something? Something you couldn't quite explain? Something that somehow spoke to you... and only you... as if there was some hidden language between you and your source of inspiration?

Since you're reading this, I sincerely hope the answer is "yes." For, otherwise, the subsequent blog entry will probably be of little use to you. If you're with me - or at least, interested in seeing where all this is going, then welcome aboard... because that mysterious attraction I alluded to in the first paragraph is exactly how I feel about the piano.

There's no way to be sure exactly when or how my love affair with the piano began. As a child, I dismissed it largely as "old person's music" and instead turned to the more pop-tinged MC Hammer and Michael Jackson music that encompassed the bulk of my childhood music collection, before adolescence and a broader approach to the arts set in.

Over the last decade, though, it has been a gradual, ever-growing appreciation for its sweet, simple and yet extremely evocative sound. What started with the radio hits of artists like Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and John Legend has evolved to touch a bit more on the classical masterpieces that have made the piano one of the most popular and integral instruments of the musical world.

The funny thing is that I only really noticed just how deep my love for the piano goes in the last couple of years. A number of my favorite artists - from those more popular stars mentioned above to more underrated talents such as Jamie Cullum and William Joseph - center their gifts on the piano as their central mode of expression. I've even recently taken a more developed liking to the oeuvre of classic rock/soul artist Billy Joel, whose seminal hit "Piano Man" is quoted atop this post.

Come to think of it, it's interesting to note that Mr. Joel's hits may, in fact, have been the foundation for my love of piano in the first place. I remember being a little kid and listening to his "Greatest Hits, Vol. I and II" album collection (yes, I said "album." I know I'm dating myself here. Lol). Even with my limited exposure to music, there was no denying that songs like "Just the Way You Are," "Only the Good Die Young" and "Uptown Girl" had the ability to make this silly kid come alive in ways few other songs could at that time.

And as I've grown older and wiser, the piano has come to represent something else entirely. In today's musical age, that of Autotune and thumping club beats, it's nice to know that music need not be complicated with layers of adjusted vocals and the artificial tones of synthesized instrumentations.

If nothing else, piano is simple. It's elegant. And it allows the music to speak for itself. No hiding behind an over-produced audio track and no fancy T-Pain-esque vocal stylings designed (let's be honest now) to hide the fact that the "singer" at the mic has little to no vocal talent and/or nothing worthy to say. Mind you, this regards music in very general terms. Some of these tunes are too infectious for words, and I'm not ashamed to admit I have used the "I Am T-Pain" iPhone app. Who doesn't love "Blame It (On the Alcohol)"?

Yet the fact remains that the piano harkens back to a long-gone era, where jazz reined supreme and today's standards were the law of the land. I was fortunate enough to discover a local jazz club recently, and the experience of taking in the piano - coupled with commanding vocals - was not one I'll soon forget.

Armed with my fedora and a lovely lady by my side, it was one of the most memorable nightlife visits in recent memory, and it has played its part in helping me realize that - in my wonderful ways - I am an old-fashioned kind of guy. Yes, I love today's pop culture just as much as the next guy (well, mostly...), but I feel a special connection to the piano's soothing melodies and the timeless songs that it serves as the foundation for.

Yet, despite my pianistic passion, there is one objective I have yet to achieve. For years, I have wanted to learn to play the piano for myself. Much as I have taken to creative writing to satisfy my hunger for storytelling... much as I am drawn to the karaoke mic to showcase my love of music... I desire to be able to translate my reverence into another medium by playing the instrument itself as well.

And, well... I guess that's kind of the point of this blog entry, dear readers. I'm tired of postponing the pursuit of my passion and harboring a secret jealousy for those with the gumption to go for it. Like Billy Joel. Like Elton John. Like Stevie Wonder. These men have an amazing gift, and while I may never (ok, WILL never... lol) reach their level of talent in this respect, I owe it to myself to give it a try.

So, in my typical 11th hour attempt to transform a matter of personal opinion into a life lesson, I urge you all to search your hearts and minds. Surely, there is something in there that you've longed to do, longed to try, but never mustered up the dedication, willpower and/or courage to do so. I know there is something of this nature lurking in your heart. For mine is full to the brim... with pianist envy. ;)

Happy writing and living, all...



  1. Great post, Robert!

    It's kinda funny because GUESS WHO just started learning the guitar???


    Just like you, I've been wanting to pick one up and jam out FOR YEARS.

    Now I know 3 chords, my fingers hurt like hell...but I LOVE it!


    Maybe we can jam sometime? ;)

  2. First off, the title is fantastic. I am sure this is what you were going for.
    Second, the last sentence about going for something you have always wanted to. So many of us want to do something new...not just learning how to play an instrument. The fact that the jazz club evoked such a strong response from you, is what counts. There is something there.

  3. Jenn,
    That is AWESOME! Good luck with the guitar, and yes, we should totally have a jam session... Guess I need to learn how to play the piano first! :P

    Lol.. Glad you like the title. And yes, there are some things in life that I have yearned for. Luckily, age has made me wiser, and I'm now more proactive about going after what I want in life. :)