How (Not) to Practice Piano
By Jacqueline Yeo
When your mother asks you to “Go and practice your piano, Dear,” no matter how calmly or reasonably, you must violently protest. Throw a fit if you have to. Fits are a brilliant time-waster, and, honestly, she’s going to get mad no matter how logical your counter-arguments for watching the rest of Full House may be. So, go for it.
Step 1: Largo
Fit acompli, it’s now time to wash your hands. Oily fingers make matte white keys slick and slippery. Have your nails been clipped? No? Perfect. Go and cut them. Your mom can’t get mad, because Mrs. Maher has instilled in you a hatred of the click-click-clicking of nails against piano keys, and you’re an exceptionally obedient student.
Next, walk very…slowly…toward the living room. Take the time to feel the chilly foyer tiles beneath your black-socked feet. Speed up only after the kitchen bellows, “Jacqueline!” and make your way toward the piano bench. Be sure to step on each and every crack.
Step 2: Andante
Are all of your music books stacked by colour? No? Well, they should be. Time to acquaint yourself with a certain colourful “Roy G. Biv.”
And your hair? Is it tied tightly enough? There’s nothing more frustrating than curls licking at your lashes. So, get up and carefully close the French doors that lead into the dining room. This way, your mom will be less prone to notice your coiffure sojourns into the bathroom.
Next, remove anything sitting on top of the piano that might buzz when you begin to play. This probably includes things like that ugly little crystal piano, a hunk or two of your mom’s Venezuelan pottery, and that bloody metronome. When you get a chance, hide the metronome behind a lamp. You’re not going to use it, so why should you have to look at it? Save that battle for another day.
Is that Rod Stewart warbling from the speakers above the bookshelves? It is? Brilliant. Make a run for the radio. After all, you can’t be expected to practice piano with all that noise distracting you.
Mothers however, are often quicker. “Sit down, I got it, Sweetie!”
Step 3: Adagio
Your mom may be beginning to look a little on edge by this point. So, take a deep breath and sit down at the piano bench with your hands a-hover and your fingers a-flutter. Fortitude, that’s all it takes. Glance into the kitchen where your mom is pretending not to watch you. “One hour till dinner,” she’ll be sure to threaten.
Start your scales. Skip the arpeggios. Your mom only ever notices the difference if you break the pattern, so play for a while. Minor scales only. Eight minutes at most.
After that it’s time for…sight-reading.
Step 4: Vivace
Time to change things up. Ease the tension. Play a song or two that you know. Be certain it’s a song that your mom doesn’t know you know. This will give her the impression that you are a prodigy.
Are you thirsty? Doesn’t matter. Go and get a glass of water. Once every five minutes should probably do it. This may quickly become a sore spot with your mom. She may even try to get you to set the table for dinner in retaliation. In cases such as these, be sure that your response is to quickly bound back into the living room to resume your studies.
Careful now, you might find yourself enjoying piano practice. Twenty, even thirty minutes could slip by. Don’t fret. When your dad arrives home from day shift, stop mid-song. You haven’t seen him since yesterday and he deserves a hug. Your mom does too, come to think of it. Now, clearly any parent who denies their child a hug (or two, or four, or six) must be some sort of a monster. You can work with this.
In the midst of your fingers fluttering out a favoured sonatina, you will likely begin to notice the thick scent of perogies, borscht, and sauerkraut sneaking their way through the French doors. Don’t break your concentration; you may never get it back. Besides, you hate borscht.
When your mother screeches, “It’s time for dinner, Jacqueline!” act offended. You are in the middle of practising piano. Can’t she just wait a minute?