In defence of bad piano players…

Posted on May 31, 2017 | 2 comments

How many times have you said or heard someone else say, ‘Why do they bother?’  You’ve just listened to an excruciating rendition of Mozart’s 65th Prelude in W Minor (or whatever and his sister probably wrote it anyway) simply because you happened to see a friend and stopped to talk (not gossip, heavens no) outside a house and inadvertently listened to some poor schmuck who thinks they’re David Dolan (or whoever).

To us bad players this attitude comes as no surprise.  The only surprise might be that we don’t care.  We’re trying to find a chord progression for God’s sake, then we’re trying to play a chord progression, make the damn thing flow like it was no problem, that it just rippled from our fingers like water rippling down a brook (yes we write bad similes too, okay?).

I tell you it’s not easy.  Even when we find a simple chord progression for the left hand we still have to think what the fuck we’re going to do with the right hand.  Knit?  Paint?  Perhaps bake a batch of biscuits?   No sense letting it lie idle, then you’ll really have something to grizzle about.

We are a happy breed though, us bad players.  Whether its guitar or piano, drums or cello, we bravely keep on.  Lost in our dream of one day, one day, playing a melody over a chord progression that actually works.  While it might sound like we’re in a dark wood palely loitering, we are actually improvising which good players do as well.   Improvisation is a word that covers a lot of fiddling about.  It can mean you’re going somewhere.   It can mean you are working something out.  Or it can mean I don’t know where the hell I’m going with this but I’m going to do it till I get somewhere even if its nowhere.

We might even write a song.  The notes we’re playing might very well be a song.  Not a good song.  I won’t go that far.   Doesn’t matter how long it takes to work it out.   Leonard Cohen took years to write his songs.  Probably improvised the hell out of the keys before he wrote Hallelujah, or You Want it Darker? And Robert Allen Zimmerman probably improvised like crazy before he became Bob Dylan and wrote When I paint my Masterpiece or The times they are a-changing.

Obviously they actually got somewhere with their improvising when they wrote these songs but look at it this way.  How many times did they improvise like Armageddon was coming tomorrow and come up with nothing?  How many times did Michelangelo paint the Sistine chapel before he got what he wanted?  Huh?

We bad players are simply following in the steps of the Great Improvisors.  True, we might stop before we get to their celestial heights or we might go on heroically playing the same damn chord progression forever.  So what?

Look at it this way.  There were, I have no doubt, lots of jeering comments when those poor buggers started carrying great bricks to build the pyramids.  Or naysayers saying nay when the equally poor buggers started trudging up and down with bags of cement to build the Pantheon.  Did the person who thought of these creations worry?  Let the jeers bother them?  Of course not.  Did Rosa Luxemberg,   Emma Goldman  or Helen Kelly ever stop their battling on behalf of the workers because people said unkind things about them?

All of these illustrious ones are examples of improvisations that finally got somewhere.  The pyramids were made, the pantheon met its target date.  We might have to wait a bit before Helen or Rosa or Emma and let’s not forget Sonja Davies’s dreams come true but there are other people improvising on their golden examples.

While I might have drawn what some might say are fairly tenuous links between these heroic ones and bad piano players the point is that none of them stopped what they were doing because they were called bad players did they?  No of course not. They just kept on improvising.

Go for it, that’s what I say.





  1. 5-31-2017

    Nice one, Renee

  2. 6-2-2017

    Really liked this and had a laugh. The improvisation metaphor would fit a lot of my efforts.