Monday, September 12, 2011

More Talk About The Damn Piano

In my last vignette I explain how I became an invalid by saving a piano, and perhaps the world, from disaster. My words apparently has caused some consternation among some of the congregation, so it behooves me to come up with a way to use behoove in a sentence and I just did so... Where was I? Oh yeah, I am humbly behooved to address this subject in greater depth.

First of all I am pleased to announce that I am now able to walk without a grimace, unless I am in a situation where a grimace can be used to fine effect. Such as: "Oh my dear, you poor thing".

The issue was whether or not it makes sense to buy a $200 antique piano to be used as furniture. Some felt it was a grand idea, and others expressed dismay that we would be so crass as to use a musical instrument in this way. First of all, no matter what you say my wife feels she made a fine decision. So there.

Secondly, I can actually play at the piano in a personal, sort of non-audience viewing manner. I used to have a Fake Book, and it still may be over at my previous wife's residence. A Fake Book is a binder of perhaps 500 songs, one song per page. If you were to look at a song, you could discern the notes of the melody above which are odd alphabetic notations. If you were an astute musician, like moi, you can read the melody and play it on a keyboard...with your right hand. Your left hand, if you were the astutist of the astute, could read that mysterious alphabet and immediately play chords with your left hand. When you combine these actions together, you are playing the piano. Maybe. Sort of.

Jazz musicians always have Fake Books with them. They can sit and play for hours using that notated melody and those funny alphabet chords. They form the basis, the groundwork from which they can build on. I never quite figured out the 'build on' part. But I could sit and play those melodies and chords in root position. Major chords, Minor chords, 6th, leading tone chords, I could do it all -- in root position. How do I explain root position? A simple chord is three notes played at once. Say it is a C Chord, which means the notes are C, E, and G. (How do I know this? Because I am astute. And I majored in music.) Root position means that you always play the chord with the C-note as the bottom note, and the E-note always the middle note, and the G-note flying high on top. If you were astuter than I am, you would note that the C-chord can also be played as E-G-C, or G-C-E. All of those are the C-chord because they are comprised of the C-chord notes.

So I can actually play from the Fake Book as long as I don't switch the notes of the chords around, because then I would have to think. If I see 'Cm' it means a C-minor chord and the fingers on my left hand would automatically fall to the notes C, E-flat, G. But only in root position. My fingers know root positions and if you ask them to do anything else they get confused.

So the point is that I can play piano. If I have a Fake Book. And no one is around to listen, because sometimes I try to get experimental just like real jazz pianists and whilst trying to keep in mind the key signature and the Circle of Fifths (I said that just to impress you) and allow my fingers to dance across the keyboard. The typical reaction is, "What the hell are you doing?" I mumble something about improvisation while mentally wondering how I deviated from the plan.

So, the piano can possibly, remotely get some use in the future! That settles that.

Secondly a commenter that was trying to cause trouble asked me what was the name on the piano. This is a sore point. As the commenter wryly suggested, I checked the piano keyboard cover. On the outside, on the inside and on the lip. Then I lifted the top of the piano and checked. I have a no-name piano. This leads to several possible conclusions:

1. The piano was made in 1894 or before. We know that because the sticker on back says it won a Columbia Blue Ribbon Award in 1894. (No, I can't check the back for more information because the piano is too heavy to be moved and I am not risking my back again.) Possible conclusion: Maybe they didn't know how to write back then. Or,

2. Maybe the keyboard cover is a replacement, untitled cover. I don't think so but I can't prove it. The wood looks like the rest of the wood. Or,

3. Perhaps Top of the Line pianos don't like to brag. Maybe it is one of those, 'If you have to ask, you shouldn't be here' type of pianos. After all, we paid $200 for the thing.

Are the keys ivory, a commenter slyly asked. Would I go to jail if they were? Isn't there some law about owning ivory? Well, they are ivory -- but 1894 ivory and they didn't know any better back then.

If you were to expose the keyboard, it looks sort of snaggle toothed with some keys drooping and most discolored. And if you were to look down at those foot paddles, well one has no life in it. The poor old girl is tired and worn out.

But we will slowly bring her back to life. So I can play melodies, and chords.

In root position.


  1. Hey! You're posting mid-week! This is so exciting!

    Okay, It looks as though your beautiful piano has been refinished and a decal was not re-applied. No problem. If you are curious--and likely you are though you're not bound to admit it--there should be a decal on the metallic plate inside the piano, or on the underside of the lid that gets lifted when the tuner comes. (Be kind to your piano. Tune it twice a year!)

    As for the 'ivories'--It seems you have the real deal! There is sort of a grandfather clause when it comes to the ivory embargo. If you are in need of replacement keys, I have a slew! (One day I will put whole sets of them on e-Bay [tails included--no embargo breach]). Don't be talked into plastic replacements--they may look purdy, but there is nothing like ivory! :)

    So, anyway, I want to apologize in advance for any angst this additional piano info may put you through...Feel free to rant again at my expense! :)

    And the maker really is no biggy--most of the 'Piano companies' were furniture builders branching out. But if you have one of the elite builders, it's always nice to know. If not--be happy if it holds a tune!

    Okay, and here's a bit of trivia--antique pianos sound better than the new ones! You just can't compete with the sound of hundred+ year-old spruce soundboards.

  2. Okay, but you really do need to do something about getting the keyboard leveled and probably the action needs regulating (I just added that to sound like a pro, hehehe--and to torment you a bit more!)

  3. LOL Well, you see, your wife not only provided you with a lovely piece of furniture, but 2! Count em 2! posts worth of inspiration! Plus future entertainment when you are bored and feel like you would like to try and be a jazz musician! What a generous and wise woman you have! ;) Now you just need to find another Fake Book and you'll really be set! :)

  4. I love your piano and I'm certain you will have hours of joy playing it, even if it's only when you are alone. time remember these five magic words: Two Men and a Truck.

  5. I can think of a lot of places in my life where I could have used a Fake Book. Kind of like the AA thing; "Fake it 'till you make it."

    Heal well and fake on.

  6. Ah! and this post was an indirect and polite correction to my comment about hearing piano music wafting down the hall... because there will be!

  7. It's a beautiful and weighty specimen. Mostly lacking respect, it seems. Or, haven't you mentioned that yet. Do enjoy.

  8. So basically what you are saying is that you CAN play the piano?

    Then what are you waiting for? And - I would like video proof. :-)

  9. That's lovely wood. I can understand the appeal of this piece as furniture.

    When I was six, my Aunt Grace gave me her already-antique mini piano. The keyboard had been cut down by an octave, combined, from either end. I stopped playing at age 11, as soon as my mother actually asked me if I'd LIKE to continue with lessons. I kept the little piano for the next thirty years, dragging it from USAF assignment to assignment, probably destroying the motherboard, or whatever. It was given to me in love, you see, and I don't treat that lightly.

  10. To me it doesn't matter if it gets played or not, it would look awesome sitting in your house. My daughter tried to explain that method of playing to me a long time ago.

  11. Jerry! The piano does look like a nice piece of furniture at least, and I'm glad your back is somewhat recovered... What I'm really hoping is that the piano is "healthy." Is it really, really out of tune? (Find a piano tuner on Craigslist...) Either way, you and your wift will enjoy it in some capacity, I hope.