Am I Really Learning Piano?

My Mom always wanted me to learn piano.

I never saw the joy in it.

I had to practice piano for about a year when I was a kid. I stressed over how little I practiced. I stressed over recitals and if my Mom knew that I didn’t want to keep trying because I just wanted to play video games.

Many years later, my Mom’s passion remained and she offered to pay for our kids’ piano lessons with her social security money. We suddenly became “those” parents. They only play for 10-15 minutes a day, but it is a chore. We see it as helping their brains develop and see things differently and allow them to play other music in the future if they want. They disagree.

After I retired, I had time to lead by example. Over the years I’ve really enjoyed piano rock like Ben Folds and Billy Joel. I decided to start an “instrument” streak.

I Wanted to Play, Not Read

Here’s where the question comes in on whether or not I’m really learning to play the piano. I don’t read sheet music. I basically play Rock Band.

For the uninitiated, there are a series of rhythm video games where you can “play” a musical instrument by strumming/hitting/singing at the appropriate moments.

It’s very fun but criticized as not actually playing instruments. They even added a mini keyboard for Rock Band 3 and you could actually play the appropriate keys. I was about to buy this accessory until learning about how scarce it was due to the pandemic and the game no longer being made.

That’s when I stumbled across Synthesia.

Please feel free to also check out this other Synthesia, where you can make a human-looking AI read a script for you

Synthesia acts just like Rock Band except you can play real notes with a real keyboard.

The notes come down the screen at the correct pace and you have to strike the matching keys. It’s even able to use MIDI files to generate playback for your own favorite songs. Meaning, I am able to play any song I want on the piano… as long as I have my computer/tablet streaming me the answers. But is this any worse than sheet music? If I memorize the song, no one would ever be the wiser.

I have played for fifteen minutes a day since May of 2020, including all easy and medium songs in the app.

I just finished my first “hard” song, Ave Maria.

My Dilemma

Am I really learning to play the piano?

Although I enjoy practicing, I literally don’t know the names of any of the keys. I can’t play a chord, progression or an arpeggio. I only know these terms because I hear my kids’ teacher say them.

But, do you actually have to learn these things to enjoy playing the piano? I feel like Will Hunting is going to show up and rip apart my paint by numbers painting.

If you do a line dance, does that mean you can’t call yourself a dancer? If you cook with box cake mix, are you not a baker?

I honestly have not had anyone give me any grief for the way I’m learning to play, but my own anxiety is my worst enemy. I don’t want to look disingenuous, but I also need to accept that I’m just doing something I enjoy and hopefully one day I can play some Ben Folds songs and TV show themes, and that’s ok.

I am learning to play the piano.

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