Previously on The Hearing Aid…
And now here comes the real introduction. So how did I start with music? I remember it like it was 15 years ago.
I took up “pianistry” at around 6 years old and started with four years of home-based lessons from a cool guy in a local music store. He got me settled with basic note reading and playing techniques as well as how to play oido (not ‘widow’ but the implication is pretty similar). In other words, he taught me to play by ear and from there, we quickly went to pieces my parents wanted me to play. He would transcribe said pieces by ear and I would learn them by sheer interest and muscle memory.
My early repertoire which was always a hit in family gatherings included:
Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise (minus the complex bits)
Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer
David Benoit’s Kei’s Song
John Barry’s Somewhere in Time
Silent Night (re-rendered in a jazzy fashion)
Gary Valenciano’s Pasko na Sinta Ko (composed by Francis Dandan)
After my stint with Mr. Awesome McGo-to-your-house-ington, my parents enrolled me in Yamaha for formal classes under the guidance of Ms. Real-deal Play-the-right-wayford (censored for their respective privacy). That’s when I started getting into the nitty-gritty of proper playing techniques, time signatures, and what it means to respect the original composer’s pieces. That’s when I started enjoying modern music and playing in a band. That’s when I started hating classical music with the rage of a thousand Beethovens. I played in about six recitals; each with a different theme and challenge.
Recital 1: An enhanced rehash of my previous hits my new teacher found do-able, Für Elise (in its glorious entirety) and Jazzy Silent Night (with relatively few changes to the original by Mr. Awesome). Got in the Top 10 Most Outstanding Performers. It was a plaque, my very first one. This is just me trying to introduce a bit of that home-grown magic of learning piano the fun way.
Recital 2: A.K.A. my finger-busting-first-time-with-a-partner concert. Maxim’s rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee (IN FULL SPEED) was the piece. The challenge was not only crunching those really tight notes with pudgy fingers in a constantly fast pace but also playing the exact same piece with another piano and a techno drum beat, not to mention that I was playing the electric piano which was the louder of the two. It was more of an exhibition recital so no awards; just us trying to get these high-caliber pieces over with.
Recital 3: Ragtime, blues, and all that jazz with the real Entertainer as my piece. While the last recital had my fingers machine-gunning single notes with occasional chords, the original Entertainer was ALL CHORDS for both hands. It may not be as fast and strict as Flight of the Bumblebee but if you were playing full-blown four-note chords with a separate groove for each hand at a really jolly pace, it’s not so happy-go-lucky as it sounds; especially when your hands haven’t grown enough to reach the other keys. But once you dial in the practice, the slow growth of your hands and the feeling of playing the background music for a Charlie Chaplin episode in real-time, it’s all worth the trouble. That got me another ‘Most Outstanding Performer,’ this time in the form of a trophy.
Recital 4: A recital that focused on grouped performances. I was assigned to play the Boogie-Woogie with three saxophonists. (I’m light years away from being as good as that link though.) It was one of the more enjoyable recitals I had, evident in my slight overuse of syncopation and improvisation, according to my teacher. I still had to stick to the script as well as keep the rhythm steady for my accompaniment to follow.
Recital 5: The penultimate vanilla classical recital. Got to unleash some of that Spanish flair in my blood with the iconic piano arrangement of the Tango by Isaac Albeniz. Outstanding performer award-worthy. The lack of “most” didn’t really bother me at this point as I was already preoccupied with high school and my own musical interests.
Recital 6: The last shabang before my “indefinite hiatus.” Performed in 19 East, it was a straight-up modern gig with more band-oriented setups and more accessible performances. There were many memorable performances such as Oasis’ Shock of the Lightning, The Knack’s My Sharona, and John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire, among others. Ours was Eric Clapton’s Layla, and thank God somebody captured it.
At first, I didn’t want to play some crummy old rock song. My teacher just told me to give the track a good listen. She wanted me to hear how the piano moves the song and wonder why it was structured that way. From that desperate pleading in the first half of the song to the endearing piano solo that leads to one of the most beautiful transitions in music history, that’s when I knew that I wanted to love music again, instead of merely playing what the piece wants from me. No awards, no regrets, no more piano please.
So… what did high school do to my musical upbringing? How did Blue Hour become a thing?
TO BE CONTINUED ON THE NEXT ORIGINS POST
Until then, stay tuned for my next playlist! Have a teaser.