Tuesday, April 3, 2012

'Play the piano daily and stay sane'

Just now for the first time in weeks I sat down and played the piano. This is a funny thing about playing the piano: After playing for an hour or so I have problems typing. It has taken me forever to type that last sentence! And normally I am a champion typist.

That is because your fingers get the piano keyboard mixed up with the typing keyboard. It feels something like getting off  a boat onto land. Wow, you should see me trying to type this! I am hopeless.

I was playing the piano partly because of David Dubal, the, ahem, piano pedagogue. I have written about him before, about his book "Evenings With Horowitz."

A few weeks ago I had the honor of being in touch with a friend of his and I believe it was this friend who hipped me to this article Dubal wrote in the New Criterion about why we should all play the piano.

"There is a proverb that goes, 'Play the piano daily and stay sane,'" the story begins.

That is the truth!

Later he writes: "There is another saying, 'If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well,' but I disagree," Dubal writes. "Like Chesterton, I feel that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing even badly."

I love that!

"Good practicing is like meditation without the mantra," Dubal also writes. "When you commune with Bach or Schubert, you can reach the heights of Mount Parnassus, where the atmosphere is rarified."

I communed tonight with Schubert, Beethoven and Brahms. And I am only now getting my land fingers back! Now I am finally starting to be able to type again. That was a weird feeling for a few minutes there!

Anyway, a sweet, sweet story and it has stuck in my head for a few weeks now. The only part I did not like was about the guy who rented a hall to play for his friends and got nervous and blew it. I feel sorry for that guy. I would like to think his friends took him out drinking after that. My friend Annie who teaches piano to kids, she has a saying she tells her students: "If you play well, people will clap, and they'll eat pizza. If you play badly, people will clap, and they'll eat pizza."

Well, the rest of Dubal's story is sweet. I thought I wrote about it before but I guess I did not.

Tonight I did not have to read it.

I lived it!


  1. Thank you for this piece. The first time I tried to type on the computer keyboard after practicing piano and could get my fingers to work on the computer keyboard, I thought something was wrong with me. Glad to hear that this is a common phenomenon. And yes, practicing piano is healing and joy producing whether or not one is a concert pianist. Thank you!!

  2. Anonymous, I don't know if it is a common phenomenon, but like you, I am glad I am not the only one to experience it. Happy playing! Stay sane!

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