Piano for Dummies
The last play I was in was rather a last-minute affair. Essentially, the guy playing a composer in a play wouldn't be available for the pickup performances because he'd gotten a job in the US or something. While looking for someone able to play this role, which was supposed to be an American, they asked the director of the English Drama Group where I played the last couple years, and she suggested me.
Now, the only problem was that they needed someone who was able to play the piano. I can sing, but I'm happy if I manage to play the Flea's Waltz on the piano. But since I otherwise fit the bill quite nicely and they were short on time and people, they managed to wonderfully work around this by simply making it a running gag that the composer wants to but never actually gets to play the piano.
The reason I was suggested was probably because last year, when GarageBand was released, I realized that the only way to create music with this thing was to have an actual keyboard (remember, this was GarageBand 1.0). So, I went into the Apple Store in Mannheim and bought the small keystation. Since I don't like commuting in and out of Mannheim several times a day, I did this right before rehearsal, and lugged along the box. And I guess that's how Rita got the impression I was able to play the piano.
I don't really have any grand ambitions, musically speaking. I don't want to really learn to read sheet music and chords and all that stuff in detail. It's just that I like to sing and make music, and since there are many people who want to sing, bands aren't really looking for someone with my low skill-set. But to sing music solo, you need an instrument accompanying you if you want it to sound decent, and so I thought I'd go for versatile and pick the piano.
I asked my Mom to teach me a little piano, but she effectively assumed too much knowledge on my part and overwhelmed me a little with theory, and so I quickly gave up on that. I simply wanted to be able to pick out a song and accompany myself on that. No concert piano, no bells nor whistles.
The drama performance (where I realized a number of people of whom I'd never expected it were actually quite good guitar players) and that huge keyboard using up space on my desk convinced me to make another try. This time, I took a different approach: I remembered that almost every songbook I'd seen had guitar chords in it. Surely there must be some way to play those on the piano?
Google had the answer: At Chord House, they have a few nice little scripts where you select a chord name from a list and it shows you which keys to hit on the piano. Perfect. You can easily google for song lyrics and chords if you can't find them in a songbook. And whaddaya know -- it works. I still have to practice before I can let anyone but the walls hear this, but today I sang Paat Cooksey's "Sick Note" to the chords of a GarageBand piano for the first time. Shweet...
While I'm at it, let me mention a few advantages my Keystation has over a real upright:
- I can plug in headphones so I can practice at night without waking up the entire house.
- It's small and reasonably portable. I could take it along with a laptop or stuff it in a cupboard when I don't need it.
- I can record it in GarageBand and even print it as sheet music if I get GB 2.0
- I can switch to another simulated instrument
- The keyboard has the names of the various notes marked up above the keys. Makes it a lot easier for beginners like me to search for the next key to hit.
The disadvantage is: My keyboard doesn't burn as long as a real wooden Piano. ;-)