Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Purveyor of Pleasingly Pianistic Pyrotechnics of Ragtime Music

My music began at the age of 7 when my fingers first touched the black and white keys on our first piano in my parents’ house. I begged my Mom and Dad to get a piano because I wanted to learn how to play the piano thinking it was cool to have a piano. Of the three of us siblings, my younger sister and older brother, I was the only one who continued to practice on our piano. Over the years I had fun performing at piano recitals though many did not realize that I was deaf/hh. In my early teens I discovered ragtime though when younger my first piece was a simplified version of “The Entertainer” - a widely popular and recognizable Scott Joplin ragtime piece. My love for ragtime stayed with me even while as I was absent from ever touching a piano during my college days and while raising a family that took away much of my time the opportunity to even play on piano on a regular basis. But that didn’t stop me from reading books on ragtime and the people while collecting ragtime piano sheet music whenever I could. The internet over the last several years has made it easier to learn about ragtime, the people (new and old), the history, the music and lots of free ragtime music sheets I can print out. My time finally came in December 2008 when I bought myself a piano. I decided upon a goal to get back into ragtime with fervor and become the first known deaf/hh ragtime pianist. It will take some time, gradually and slowly for sure. I sure hope I have some fun getting there.

It won’t be easy to be an accomplished ragtime pianist. The question I am facing is how accomplish can I become? This goal of mine will certainly take some time since I started my long hours of practicing last year starting January 2009. I’ve been absent from my piano much too long. My fingers and hands would require getting used to playing the piano on a constant basis. Just like when it comes to sports or exercising, one has to build up to it until so you can practice for hours and not have your fingers get tired. At first I was sore and felt clumsy playing it, my coordination was a bit off but with gradual practicing and finger exercises I was finally able to get to the point of practicing 4 or 5 hours a day if I wanted to. Though my normal, ideal, amount of time is about 2 to 3 hours a day. It takes time to get the proper hand/eye coordination in place, have your brain adapt more fluidly to reading piano music sheets, getting the dynamics down correctly, knowing where to place your fingers and hands without looking, learning to listen to the notes and make sure they sound right, get the timing down, using the right amount of application, getting the right melody, and so on…..done automatically. For me, it takes even more practice to get it down right while others are a pure natural at playing the piano. I may be a “natural” in some sense but it sure doesn’t feel like it...yet. There is a 25 year gap I’ve got to catch up on. Though my sight reading on new music sheet pieces are becoming easier nowadays though by no means I can whiz right though them. There are thousands of ragtime songs out there, many of them available over the internet. I collect them for my growing ragtime portfolio. My goal is to play as many of these ragtime pieces and memorize some of them when I can. Someday I'll eventually move into more early Jazz pieces (e.g. Jelly Roll Morton) and stride piano (e.g. Fats Waller) but for now it’s all ragtime and lot of catching up to do.

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