Wednesday, September 21, 2011

God's fingers

After buying a piano over a month ago, I had three main goals I wanted to accomplish: (1) learn new stuff (stretching beyond the wonderful world of Jon Schmidt), (2) strengthen my fingers, and (3) memorize those songs I've been playing for years.

So far, I've done pretty good on #1, great on #2, and not so good on #3, though that hasn't been from lack of trying. I haven't memorized a song on the piano in years, and now I'm remembering why: memorizing is hard, and what's the point if you've always got music with you?

However, I don't always have my music with me, and I'm getting a little sick of only being able to play "Waterfall" when I find myself sitting at a piano with no music. So for the past five weeks, I've been working on "All of Me."

Because I have learned, relearned, and polished this song many times over the last decade, I thought this would be an easy song to kick off my memorization project. I figured that since I've played it thousands of times, I would be able to play it straight through with no music after just a few tries.

Boy was I wrong. What I thought would take a few days at most ended up taking five weeks. Deep down I knew the song by heart, but I just couldn't keep my eyes from the written music where I was safe.

After a few weeks being stuck on the same two pages, I decided to try a different tactic: I would close my eyes and just let my fingers play. And to my surprise, I got through the section without any hesitation. I was then able to move on to the next two pages. Again, at first I couldn't help peaking at the notes every few lines or so, but eventually it was only after I closed my eyes and trusted my fingers that I was able to master those pages and move on to the next two.

It's an odd experience letting your fingers play when your mind is blank. Thoughts like "I sure hope you know what you're doing, because I've forgotten everything about playing the piano" float through your mind, but if you keep trusting in those fingers, they will know what to do.

Last night, I made it through the entire song without the aid of any music for the first time. It wasn't perfect; I bumbled my way through a few parts and I broke a couple of fingernails. And I played most of the song with my eyes closed; every time I opened them, I would get distracted, I would lose the cool connection I had going with my fingers, and I would lose my way completely. It was only when I played the song on blind faith, so to speak, that I was able to make it to the end without trouble.

And let me just say that despite the setbacks, it was well worth the effort memorizing this song.

Much of my progression along my rocky but beautiful path of life has been accompanied by the music I have learned to play on the piano, from the C-major scale to the the masterpieces of classical composers. That music is the loudest during the high times and hard times of my life, and is rarely silent, because whenever I come up short, God's fingers are always there to keep the music going. All it takes is just a little bit of trust.

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