Adventures in Piano Land

I took a stab at the piano today, one hour and a half in the morning and an hour tonight.  This morning was a fiasco.  I had to stop because I was concentrating so hard I gave myself a headache.  I opened up my Grade 5 Royal Conservatory Piano Book to the first piece, welcomed jubilantly by a “WOW” sticker stamped proudly at the top.  The fact that I was “wow worthy” 13 years ago was little comfort as I struggled to remember what all the notes were.  All my earlier piano books and theory were downstairs, so I decided to challenge myself and see if I could remember on my own (hence, the resulting headache).  I could remember the right hand stuff no problem, but the left hand was a complete psycho.  It would end up in the wrong octave or I would start reading the notes as though it were a treble clef.  My left hand was also much slower, there were times where I was concentrating so hard that my eyes would shut from the sheer effort of it.   I would be muttering “Good boys deserve fudge always” and “All cows eat grass” out loud to refocus and remind myself of what the bass clef notes were.  I should have taped myself.  There should at least be some enjoyment and amusement from this whole thing.  I left the piano feeling slightly queasy.  No wonder I never practiced and quit twice… and that was when my brain was “normal.”

I tried again tonight and it went much better.  I think I have almost mastered that first peice.  The left hand still gets a little spastic in the middle part, but my parents say it’s sounding quite good.  I decided to relax a bit more and I allowed myself to laugh at myself.  Well, I was pretty “chipper” tonight, so that probably helped as well.  I was feeling so confident that I flipped to the piece I performed in Festival and tried that out too, but only got through a few bars.  I cannot believe I played this thing at all, much less in front of an audience and an adjudicator or that I actually memorized it, not to mention the fact that you’d have to add the pedal to it too!  I remembered the top half of the first page, but the rest was a total blank.  I can’t even imagine what it would sound like.  If I relearn this thing, then I have no choice but to learn how to drive standard.  Three driving pedals will no longer stir up the fear and anxiety that they did before!

I do find it interesting that my left hand was the weak link in this whole thing, since I have been under the belief that the left side of my brain has the most inflammation.  I know that it would be difficult for anyone to pick  up the piano again after 13 years, even without brain inflammation, but I have a feeling that most would stay in the right octave and not switch back and forth between reading the bass clef correctly to thinking it was the treble.  Can any piano players shed some light?  Do you think that my right hand was stronger for the sole reason that I am right handed?  I recently was doing the “tree pose” during yoga and I noticed that my left side is noticeably weaker and off balance.  My right side was strong and solid.  I went to the opthamologist a few weeks ago and my vision in my left eye has worsened, not because the eyeball itself is damaged, but because the brain is having trouble “uploading” the image.  My right eye is unchanged.  I also wonder if my left side is weaker for the sole reason that I have always believed that I am a right-brained person.  One of the reasons why the piece went so well tonight is because I stopped calling my left hand a psycho and started giving it a little credit… or that’s what I think anyway.  Can we really rule out the corny and almighty power of believing in yourself?  If I start to really believe that I am a left brained person or that the brain isn’t separated at all, will my left side improve?  And how do we prove it when I have so many medications pumping through my veins?  You know that the doctor folk will pat me on the head and say that sure, a positive attitude always helps, but it’s most definitely the chemo that has come to save the day.  And I am sure there are those who are reading this right now and think that the chemo is already working and that my efforts in controlling this thing have much less impact than I think.  And who knows, that might be true.  My ability to process things are not at their best, but I don’t know guys, I just have this feeling that I’m already changing my brain… and this goes beyond the inflammation stuff.  I feel like I am awakening parts of my brain that I wasn’t using before.  You know they say that we only use like 10% of it or something.  One of my keepers sent me a link to this video of this neuroscience entrepreneur (I highly enjoy those two words together, by the way) who talks about this new MRI technology that will allow us to see and control our brain function.  He says that we will be the first generation that will have the opportunity to learn how to control our brains so that we can get rid of things like chronic pain and even control things like our emotions.  Once I figure out how to post it, I’ll share it here.  It’s pretty exciting to hear him talk about it and it really does make sense to me that we would have the power within us to do that.  Why would we have this huge brain in our head if we were only going to use 10 % of it?

And just so you know, even though I took that creepy picture of me and the Time Magazine, I did not read any more of it.  Sigh.  I know.  I’m working on it.

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Piano Land

  1. You are inspiring me to start practising piano again! I haven’t played much in the last five years, but when I occasionally try to play, I find that I have more difficulty with my left hand/reading in the bass clef… if that’s any consolation?
    You have so much more drive than I have!


  2. Whenever I try to play the piano again, which I do every so often (though having not actually studied in about 16 years), the left hand is a complete wash. I might as well not even bother with it. Even with the two songs I’ve actually written that have piano parts, the left hand/bass clef stuff is absolutely boring and rudimentary.

    So, combined with Andrea’s assessment, it may indeed just be par for the course, and not a case of more inflammation in the left side of your brain. But then again, who knows?

    The brain continues to fascinate.


  3. Hmm… thanks Andrea and Paul. I suppose we could say that the left hand “psycho-ness” and the weak yoga pose on the left could just be the fact that I am just naturally stronger on the right (being right handed as well). I know that is common, but the vision thing is definitely a brain thing. At least we can say that is for certain. I actually just realized that whenever I want to reference my actual beating heart, I always go for the right side. There have been many times when people have had to remind me to move it over to the left and each time, I would look up at them in surprise and say, “Really? It’s on the left?” Fascinating…


  4. I just pulled out some piano pieces I did for my university recital. Terrible, terrible terrible. It is all muscle memory, once you play a little bit, then you will be able to get back into it.

    As for the left hand and left brain thing, don’t forget that the right or left side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body. IE- our right side of the brain controls our left side of the body. But it is common for right handed people to be right dominant in a lot of areas.

    Your problems with reading music are extremely common and happen to all of my students- it is like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head. All of your behaviours and feelings around the piano are exactly what they should be after that long of a break- I get piano headaches from playing still. It requires a lot of brain power so you keep rockin on my dear!!!! Can’t wait for the recital.


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