Yes, there are a million ways you can improve on piano. Me too. But don’t let the things you can’t play interfere with your enjoyment of the things you can play.
Since I’m on a Charlie Brown kick this week, I’m remembering one of my favorite “Peanuts” comic strips which I enjoyed as a child. Linus and his sister Lucy are at the beach. Linus, who’s about 3-4 years old at the time, excitedly runs up to Lucy and exclaims, “I can swim! I can swim! I can swim two feet!” The drawing makes it clear that he had walked two feet into the water, which came up to his knees at most, and was able to “swim.” Even though this might not seem like much to an adult, Linus is overjoyed. After all, he was able to swim for the first time! Then he reflects on the situation and proudly delivers the punch line: “If I’m ever on an ocean liner and it sinks two feet from shore, I’ll be ready!”
Even though I haven’t seen this strip since I was 6 years old, I’ll bet I’ve quoted it almost exactly. It made that much of an impression on me. I remember enjoying the irony of his remark (since no ocean liner is ever going to sink two feet off shore) and also his boundless enthusiasm. He’s HAPPY!
So why aren’t we always happy with our piano playing? Even pianists who’ve been playing for years are unhappy. (Maybe especially pianists who’ve been playing for years!) What’s missing?
What’s missing is what Linus has. The ability to enjoy what we can do, even though it’s only a step along the way. (Spoiler alert: We’re always only a step along the way.) If you don’t enjoy your playing now, when will you ever enjoy it???
Why don’t you start enjoying that G Blues Scale you can play on “Freebird” at the same time you practice those complex left hand boogie-woogie patterns you long to play?
Why don’t you start enjoying your jazz improvisations on “Autumn Leaves” at the same time you keep trying to play “All The Things You Are”?
Why don’t you start enjoying that simple pop song you play for your friends at the same time you slowly plod through The Piano Guys’ songbook?
If you don’t enjoy the first part of the above sentences, you’ll never enjoy the second part. Guaranteed.
The good news is that if you can learn to enjoy your piano playing now, you’ll enjoy it even better later on. I promise.
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