I wasn't sure what I'd want to play, so I got an assortment of classical music, and then a few 'fake' books. If you're not familiar with them, fake books have both the regular music, but also the melody line with guitar chords, which makes it much easier to sight-read the music quickly. It means that I can pick up a Simon and Garfunkel tune, or a song from Camelot, (the two fake books I have so far) and pretty much play it and sing along without practicing. I sort of thought that's what I'd be doing a lot, but it hasn't turned out that way. Instead, I've been playing classical music, and specifically, Bach.
Now, I didn't love Bach when I was a kid, studying classical music every week. I liked a lot more drama in my music -- my favorite was Rachmaninoff, if I'm remembering right. For my last performance, I did a piece of his, twenty pages of big crashing chords, flinging my hands up and down the piano, crazy trills -- playing that piece was like playing a thunder-and-lightning storm, and it was FUN! Bach is like the opposite of that.
And while I didn't think I could just fling myself into Rachmaninoff again after twenty-five years away, I did try a Chopin nocturne when I first sat down. And yes, it is awfully pretty, but dude. That isn't easy. Five flats to start out with, and all kinds of complexity. There might have been a time in my life when I could have played it smoothly, but that time isn't now, and trying to play it was just stressing me out. Which was NOT the goal in actually getting the piano.
But then I picked up the Bach book. It's the Schirmer Library (oh, those yellow books, I remember thee well) First Lessons in Bach, and it is surprisingly perfect. For one thing, Bach sounds great on the spinet we bought -- perfectly apropos to the instrument. But more importantly, these little songs are just my speed. Little studies in rhythm, in fingering, in tone and more -- each one designed specifically to help you work on some aspect of piano technique, but at the same time, each one a charming little tune, soothing and satisfying to play.
It's surprisingly meditative, playing these little minuets. And at this point in my life, discipline and quiet are apparently exactly what I need. They are balm to my stressed-out soul. I'm not the teenager longing for drama in my life; I don't need Rachmaninoff right now. At forty, a little Bach a few times a day is a prescription for a calmer, happier me. I had no idea!
I'm off to practice now. Thanks again, Mr. Valenti! I may have wasted some of your time, but now, finally, I can try to make sure those childhood lessons didn't entirely go to waste. I'm never going to be a concert pianist, but playing music is bringing joy to my life. Which was pretty much the point all along.