Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Equivalent of Scales

As I mentioned last week, I recently started making music. I've been playing the piano for 15 minutes every day.

Yep, I have the usual history with piano for a mid-20th-century kid in North America. Piano lessons as a kid, forced to practice, allowed to drop it in favor of other music and sports in Grade 6 or 7.

In years past, I've tried "just playing" at the piano, but it wasn't particularly fun--in part because I wasn't playing very well. I'm a much better musician than I am a pianist, and that was frustrating.

So this time, I started with scales. Not JUST scales, but scales to start with. A scale, repeated, repeatedly. My fingers need more coordination and more strength. Starting with scales, and then practicing--really practicing--the studies I'm noodling around with has made this time at the piano a WHOLE lot more fun.

I'm sure it sounds deadly dull. The most "un-fun" part of music is the stuff you wouldn't expect anyone to listen to. Like scales, like the left hand playing on its own, like a phrase repeated (repeatedly) until the fingering is second nature, like the keys pounded until you have a pretty good sense of how loud piano has to be so you can also have a pianissimo.

The kind of thing that's crazy-making to listen to. But the kind of work that lays a foundation.

What's the writing equivalent? Prompts, maybe--writing for five or ten minutes on a random topic. Or maybe doing client work--working with someone else's words, preserving their meaning while standardizing their expression.

Both of those are ways to develop skills that make future "play" with words more productive. Maybe. Maybe not. It's supposed to be play, after all--which is by definition doesn't have to be productive. right?