I should probably admit that, although my enthusiasm remains undiminished, I haven’t played keyboard in a few weeks. I just haven’t had the time, although in the past this would have worried me more than it does now. I often read that it is best to practise keyboard or piano little and often, to avoid tiring yourself out. So that’s exactly what I do; it helps when you’re trying to remember what to play. Once upon a time, this would have been concerning because it sometimes feels like you aren’t progressing as a keyboardist, and you’re condemned to always be an amateur. To many, that probably sounds like a bad thing, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
I’ve said to several people in the past that I believe people are put off playing piano by classical musicians. Whilst I respect their talent immensely, I can’t help but think that seeing their fingers become a blur on the keys must be a little offputting for some. Even listening to the music that inspires me the most was intimidating whenever a piano featured in it. It fooled me into thinking that you have to be highly proficient in order to make learning any instrument worthwhile, and when I subsequently started my piano lessons I chose to learn to read music, thinking it would be beneficial. In some ways, it must be, but I’ve since realised that it’s hindered me more than it’s helped. I came to find that when sat at my keyboard I was spending more time squinting to read the notes than actually playing, and that can’t be a good thing! As a result, I’m now just using the letters of the notes or chord charts, and it’s improved my mentality towards the keyboard a great deal. I was aided further in this by the sudden realisation that you should just play whatever you want to, whether it’s complex or not – and this is good news for me, given my slight dexterity problems. It made me strive to just do whatever I can, and to always enjoy it. I was particularly inspired by Candida Doyle, keyboardist in the band Pulp. Despite suffering from rheutamoid arthritis, she has been an integral and enthusiastic part of the group for over 30 years, never letting her condition get in the way. She is a true role model.
Here she is talking to BBC News. Watch, enjoy, admire, and then play.