Funny how we seek to deceive ourselves. Perhaps deception is too strong a word. After all I am only talking about a piano, not what you’d call a mental or spiritual imperative. The deception was that I sold my piano and convinced myself – at least temporarily – that it was just another of those passing fancies. I never was an especially accomplished piano player (to this day I can’t read music except in the most fundamental way – All Good Boys Deserve Fudge, etc.). But the accomplishment is really quite beside the point, which I suppose is where the subterfuge enters the picture. You see, I had succeeded in reasoning that if I weren’t all that good on the piano then it didn’t make sense to keep paying to have it tuned three times a year. Granted there was a bit of the hope to reverse some of my former profligacy by cashing in on the sale of the instrument, which today retails for about $106,500 though of course I didn’t sell my twenty year old “used” piano for anything that extravagant. It kills me to call it “used”. It never moved an inch from the day it was delivered and it was only I and maybe three others who ever played it. Anyway…
After the sale of my piano I confess I didn’t suffer urges to play. When I visited friends or family where there was a piano I always made a B-line for the instrument but invariably the indulgence was short-lived and frankly not altogether satisfactory. I mean to say, there was a reason I abandoned the instrument. Playing the same five pieces over and over again was bound to become tedious eventually!
Some months ago I got it into my head to test electronic keyboards. Not quite certain what initially prompted the inquiry. Perhaps it was my retirement or the prospect of spending four months on Hilton Head Island. In any event I visited a couple of stores, one in particular, where I had a good run at trying the device. At first I was impressed, and I even took my dear friend Jill (who is also a pianist and who has a Heintzman grand piano) with me to the store to see the device. She too was impressed. What however transpired that day was that in my effort to display my skills on the device I ended up rocking it almost off its feet. In plain terms the device was unstable, at least for the likes of me. When I play the piano it is a real workout; it is nothing for me to be exhausted after having played.
Well that instability killed the device for me! Suddenly all the deftness of the sound and the action (“weighted keys” as I believe they call it) and even the very good imitation ivory keys (which frankly I don’t think I even had on the Steinway, real ivory I mean) evaporated in light of the precariousness of the device. I had the impression I was playing something mounted on a card table and it rather destroyed sensation I knew.
So that was the end of the electronic keyboard business. Until we arrived on Hilton Head Island that is. Here I discovered a local store which had a small inventory of a brand name keyboard, Korg. I knew it wasn’t the high end of the devices but I was prepared to give it a test drive. Initially when I had attended the store on a whim there were no keyboards in stock. The person who served me (someone I mistakenly thought a bit lacking but who turned out to be not only the former owner but very pleasant) told me they were expecting several units in the following week. Later when I got home I thought how odd it was that the clerk hadn’t volunteered to take my telephone number to advise me when the devices had arrived. That failure did nothing to advance my confidence in the retailer and in fact I not only tore up his business card and threw it away but also put the idea out of my mind entirely. Or so I thought…
My interest in electronic keyboards continued to percolate in my mind. When we were bicycling one afternoon I suggested we drop by the store to see if they had any keyboards. Of course my agenda was anything but transparent. I hadn’t shared with my companion any of the background history to this venture. As luck would have it three new units had arrived in stock. The same clerk was there and he recalled my earlier visit (which naturally did something to redeem him in my eyes). I examined the three units, which covered the full range of discount, middle of the road and elaborate, each with the price tag to match.
Because of my lack of knowledge of electronic keyboards I must say I didn’t give the thing much of a trial run, just a few arpeggios and some of the regular schmultz but nothing in the nature of a challenge to the device. We returned home with the promise to “think about it” which I have no doubt left nothing to the imagination of the clerk. My companion suggested I research the device on the internet which seemed like a good idea. And it was. I discovered not only that it enjoyed good reviews but that two sounds (say piano and strings) could be played contemporaneously. This was my first introduction to the “technical” magic of these devices. I decided at that very moment to return to the store to take another look. My companion said I had already made up my mind. And I suppose I had.
When I arrived back at the store I tried the dual sound feature and was smitten! This was exactly the syrupy sound I adored! The device was instantly talking my language! In a matter of minutes the transaction was concluded, headphones purchased along with the stand and the collapsible bench. I was on my way back home where I assembled the stand and the bench and plugged in the power cord, pedal and headphones. I was in business!
That was yesterday. I have since played it so often that my arm muscles are sore. I haven’t yet fulfilled any dreams to learn to read music but I have importantly proven to myself that no matter how dull my repertoire may be, it pleases me to relive it – especially with these new electronic effects (including for example choir, organ and vibes). Not insignificantly the stand is superb, no movement at all. Even the Steinway shifted a tiny bit when I really got going. The headphones complete the package because I can avoid trying the patience of others.
I may yet buy some sheet music and see what I can do to improve my skills. But in the meantime I am perfectly happy with my decision and it nicely insulates me from any risk I previously felt about having quit the piano. So much for that theory!