There’s something magical about the pianoforte. For my money, it’s the perfect instrument.
It’s not constrained to a small range of notes, but rather, has a full range of expression. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, the piano can capture the full breadth and depth of the musical range.
And those notes, they’re arranged the most logically of any instrument. No confusing holes or levers or buttons; no confusing strings and frets, where you have to remember the shape and placement of each chord. Though since I’ve started learning the ukulele, I’ve learned the pattern, each fret taking you down a half step along the string, but still. The piano has it beat in terms of logic and simplicity: each key to the right is a half step up. It makes learning to read music easier, spaces and lines translating simply to keys, a simple spatial relationship. The world of music brought right in front of a new musician’s eyes, until muscle memory is built.
And you no longer have to have a concert hall. Thanks to modern technology, we have full-size keyboards that can be transported from place to place, no more strings to be tuned or full-sized movers required. We have pianos that can be folded and rolled and dragged halfway across the world.
Perhaps they don’t have the same stately magic as the handicraft of the old masters, where the instrument itself is a unique artistic creation. However, they can open a whole new world. Digital keyboards have made the piano more accessible to the world. The bar to entry is brought down.
Welcome to the world of the pianoforte. Here’s how you play Chopsticks.
The piano is an old friend that grows with you. If you nourish the relationship, it will grow with you, returning stately music as the novice grows from simple melodies, tapped out with one hand, through scales and arpeggios and chords and progressions, to looking at La Campanella and wondering if Liszt was a sadist with those goddamn intervals and trills.
(He was. But you’ll get there eventually if you keep working at it.)
The piano is strong enough to carry the weight of an entire song, strong enough to prop up a vocalist on its own, with ironclad chords and soaring melodies, while delicate enough to provide lacework ornaments when the rest of the band comes calling.
It’s like mitochondria: the powerhouse of the cell when it’s working in tandem, but also its own organism, with its own DNA, alive in its own right.
Music is powerful, however you play it, whatever instrument you play. But for me, the piano will always be home and heart, the keystone on which my entire love of musicianhood is built.