When I was a teenager, I wanted to learn how to play violin. At the time, I had no clue about how expensive that hobby could be. With some gentle persuasion and heavy pleading, I reluctantly agreed to take up the piano instead.
My piano teacher tried her best, but I never truly took to piano. I barely practiced, my fingers couldn’t reach well, and I had zero natural musical ability. These days, I can play a single song: Falling Slowly from the musical Once, which took me over 6 months to learn from the sheet music.
I don’t have access to a piano today, but I have this handy-dandy virtual piano you can play with your computer keyboard. It isn’t too comfortable to use, but I’m just as uncoordinated on a real piano. I go and tap out some of Falling Slowly to get used to it, but I really want to learn a new song today. Where to start?
I dig deep into my memory and think of all the piano tunes I enjoy. The entry on Days of the Year about World Piano Day has this quote from American musician and mathematician Tom Lehrer:
Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.Tom Lehrer
This sparks something! I listened to Tom Lehrer a lot when I was younger. His songs are humorous, and often satirical takes on current events of the 50’s. I wonder why I never attempted any of his songs, so I search one up on YouTube. As New Maths, my favorite Tom Lehrer song, plays, I remember why I never tried it. It’s way too fast for me, and really stylized playing. His music is so enjoyable though, even after all these years. I can’t help but get sidetracked watching some of his videos. My boyfriend’s favorite song is Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.
I return to the search bar looking for something more classical. I remember one song my piano teacher tried to get me to learn, but I never got past a few bars. For a long, long time I hover over the search bar, trying to remember the title. I type in “that classical piano song that’s really springy-” backspace that. “classical piano tune that goes dadadadada dadadadada-” backspace. “classical piano songs on piano-” are my guesses getting dumber? All of a sudden, it manifests– Rondo Alla Turca! If any of you guessed that, you’re a classical music genius. I found a beautiful cover by Rousseau on YouTube.
It’s so pretty, but it would take me months to learn that. So I continued on my quest in a totally different direction. One of the best modern animated series, in my opinion, is Over the Garden Wall. If you haven’t watched it, the entire series is only about an hour and forty minutes from start to finish. It has songs interspersed throughout, each more charming than the last. One of my favorites is the opening, titled Into the Unknown. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piano piece. I look it up on YouTube and accidentally watch the entire first episode.
By the time I finish the episode, I know what I’m going to learn on piano. The nostalgia kicks in and I remember a video game I played a million as a kid. I still play it sometimes when I’m feeling down. This game is the virtual equivalent of a comforting hug. It’s happy injected straight into my brain. It’s the cartoon hamsters everyone know and love starring in Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak.
This game isn’t for everyone, but it fills me with pure joy. In one part, Hamtaro learns how to play Moonlight Sonata on the piano, from a ghost ham.
This was my first-ever introduction to Moonlight Sonata. I remember how magical this moment was the first time I played the game. The tune immediately became special to me, always bringing me back to the feelings I had playing the game. So, without further ado, let me present my rendition of Moonlight Sonata!
It took me over two hours to learn just the opening, but I did it! The recording isn’t great, but I have to call it a day after many many screen recording attempts. And honestly, I’m really proud of myself!
Happy World Piano Day!