I was talking to one of my friends recently about the problems with being a pianist. She plays the piano like I do, and we are often asked to accompany people at our church when they sing or play another instrument. We came to the conclusion that it really is a thankless job, even though we enjoy doing it.
This conversation prompted me to think of seven of the annoying things people commonly say to pianists.
1. “I wish I could play as well as you do.”
Well, you can. You just need to start practicing. Begin taking lessons, and then practice for an hour or more a day for at least ten years. Then you’ll be as “good” as me.
2. “I’m just not blessed with that talent.”
Neither am I. See my response to comment number 1.
3. “Can you accompany me tomorrow? The music has four sharps and only changes keys eight times. It’s so easy.”
Uh, no. I don’t learn difficult music over night, unless I spend the entire night practicing. I also only perform when I know I can do my best, which requires practice and time for the music to sink in. Last-minute performances are not my strong suit, although I do know some musicians who can pull this off, like professional ones. I am not one of them.
4. “We heard that you are really talented. Will you come and perform for us? We don’t have a piano, but we have a small keyboard, and they are basically the same, right?”
No. They aren’t the same at all. The keyboard is missing most of the octaves, which my pieces require, and the touch of a keyboard is plastic and unresponsive, unless it is one of those weighted keyboards with the pedals. Still, it isn’t the same!
5. “Are you sure you are okay—like in the head? That was a really weird song.”
First of all, piano pieces are called “pieces” not “songs.” Secondly, just because a piece has dissonance does not mean that the person playing it is crazy or unbalanced. Try taking a music appreciation course and learning more about the periods of classical music, including the contemporary one.
(This comment was made to a classmate of mine by his father, after I performed Aaron Copland’s “The Cat and the Mouse” for our senior awards ceremony. If you’d like to hear it, click here.)
Good luck with that. See my response to number 1.
7. “Why do you have to play so loudly?”
Well, it depends. If I’m practicing, then I play loudly to work on muscle memory. If I’m performing, it is likely that the music is marked forte or fortissimo, so therefore, as a good pianist who knows how to follow dynamics markings, I would play loudly. I also play loudly because I’m confident and comfortable in expressing emotions through music.
So these are my pet peeves when it comes to comments about piano playing. Are you a musician? Do you have any pet peeves or strange stories about how people comment on your instrument? Do you have pet peeves about how people perceive something else that you are good at, like a profession?