Last night I had the treat of going to the City with my parents for a fun night of Beatles music. Now, (don’t gasp), but I’m not a huge Beatles fan. I like their stuff, but it wasn’t the music I grew up with (MOTOWN, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, etc). It also was never something I was really exposed to much– although I do enjoy it and it’s obviously a big part of our culture.
My dad, as time has gone on, has become a huge Beatles fan (although, he’s always been more of a Stones kinda guy). With his newfound passion for the Beatles, he’s found The Fab Faux. Having talked about them for several years– he finally invited Mom and I to come with him to see a show. We love the city– and, of course, music– but last night was a snowy, cold, semi-gross wet night. But it was a smooth trip and once inside City Winery, it was a cozy (if not a bit crowded) night. When the band came out, the lights went low and the snow shone outside under the City lights. It was a perfect evening. The Faux stayed away from most of the hits (although, we got some Blackbird, which was very pretty), but instead devoted the night to “deep cuts.” Perhaps because I don’t know the music as well– and because the selections were more obscure anyway, I got to really enjoy the MUSIC. And my mind drifted to performances past and things I’d like to do– to the many people who have come into my life and been a part of my musical journey (yes, they’ve usually been boys), to the harmonies being sung (they were really good– I was actually surprised how well all 5 of the band members can sing– there’s usually someone in every band who CAN’T). I reveled as the band swapped instruments. With almost everyone playing both keys and guitar or bass– and some of them playing drums in addition to that. Singing for most of my life, I can’t say I play one other instrument to any level to speak of. And it’s been one of my hardest struggles as I hate singing with recorded tracks but never seem to have anyone reliable to practice and play with– so without accompaniment, I do a lot less performing than I like.
Once upon a time, in a place not far from where I sit now, typing, I played piano. And although (both) times I tried to learn were fairly short-lived, I was pretty good. I’m no prodigy and I never got terribly far, but what I did was good. After a year and a half, my piano teacher moved away when I was in 3rd grade. And later, in college, tendonitis in both wrists short-circuited my training, although I still performed well on my juries and my teacher was always very happy with my progress. As a music major, I had some harmony training too, although, as a vocalist, I always found this hard. I only deal with one note at a time. Harmony to me– is melody. It’s just a different kind. I can pick out a harmony well enough, but it’s very instinctual and not very deliberate. Tendonitis also forced me out of my keyboard harmony class that year of college, and although I sought out more training, I never felt I got to where I could have… I’ve lacked practice.
So today, I did something that I haven’t done in a long time (there’s record of this– cuz I blogged about it last time too). I pulled out my keyboard and played. I played through a few melodies of my super-beginner John W. Schaum book as a warm up. Then I took out a Christmas songbook I had, back as a kid. And I picked out my favorites. But instead of playing them as written, I decided to put harmonies with them. They’re simple. Block chords and such. And the melodies mostly only call for I,V, and IV’s… which helps. But I got an inverted I in there and embellished a few melody notes. And it felt really good!
I know that once the semester starts, I won’t have time for this. But I really like it. And I hope I get more time this break to do things like this. I’ve started trying to teach myself a few other songs, too. And, at only $2-$3 a book on Amazon, maybe I’ll try to complete the John W. Schaum piano course…