Keyboard Lessons

Why didn’t my mother do what every normal mother did with their children when they were young, and send me for piano lessons? I’ve asked this to my wife many, many times? Did she not think I would ever play a piano, just like she thought I would never take the guitar as seriously as I do today? The only reason I really shied away from keyboards was because my mother had this cheezy (and it mean really cheezy) organ in the house whose sound just grated my ears. I grew up in a synagogue where they had a beautiful sounding organ with an amazing organist (and pianist), named Ben Steinberg. I always wanted him to teach me how to play that organ. It had a beautiful sound. The one I had at home sounded cheap, like a toy. I couldn’t get serious with it. I found it really easy to get serious with the guitar because it sounded way more beautiful, compared to that organ. Just hearing my sister, Karen, playing some Neil Young on her guitar sounded so much better than the cheese I was squeezing out of that organ. At the very least, had it been a better sounding organ, or at least one I could get serious with, like the one in the synagogue, I probably would have taken to that right away.

I remember when my mother and I would go out to the mall when she had some shopping to do, and I would go whenever I could to the keyboard shop in the mall, and just play on one of those organs there. The sales manager was nice to me and let me play them for a while, as he knew it also kept me out of my mother’s hair. He knew that I wouldn’t just bang on the keys… I would actually try to make music on them. I remember just how great they sounded. So much better than the toy in our house. Even when I would straight out ask my mother for one of those organs, she didn’t get why I was asking for one. I would have played that thing like you wouldn’t believe. Even if she wouldn’t get me lessons, I probably would have found a way to teach myself. Or, at the very least, I may have asked Ben to teach me how to play such an instrument with both my hands and feet… and hopefully to show me how to get some sweet tones like he did out of the synagogue’s organ, even though I knew there was a massive difference between the two.

I used to grow up listening to Elton John. I always wanted to be able to play like him as he uses the piano to accompany his voice. To me, there was something magical about his first few albums. I still listen to those first few albums with amazement. I even have Elton John songbooks that my mother bought me. You’d think that would send her a message that I would have loved to play the piano. I also listened to Yes, thanks to Karen. I didn’t listen to Yes for Steve Howe. I listened to Yes because Rick Wakeman’s keyboard playing made me want to play music. I also loved listening to Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel and others. Heck, I thought I lost touch with the piano as I grew up with my guitar, until I met one guy in the church who played piano amazingly. Too bad he snubbed me off when I asked him just to teach me to play “rhythm piano” so I can have something to sing to. That hurt!

Even in my late forties, I still have the regret of not having learned to play the piano. I mean really play the piano. Playing that cheesebox organ when I was a kid taught me how to form chords on the keyboard and how to read music, once my mother showed me where middle C was. Sure, I can play pads on a synth, but that feels as far as I can go. I’m not looking to play a classical piano. I just want to play piano. Maybe, I want to blister out a lead on a synth, but I’m not looking to be Jordan Rudess, who I will admit is my keyboard hero, alongside older Elton John and Rick Wakeman.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to play guitar. I will never stop loving to play guitar. But, there are times I just want to play a keyboard, be it a piano, organ or synth. I find them fun and intriguing, and I think I have already written some great songs on it, even if I couldn’t play them with both hands. Now, I want to be able to play some of the songs I have written… as well as write some new songs on it.

Thanks mom, for not listening to me…

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