I learned to play the classical guitar to a reasonable standard when I was a kid, and also experimented with finger picking to accompany my singing ‘folk songs’.  I can also play the recorder and the clarinet (badly).  But I never really mastered reading the base clef, probably because it was surplus to requirements – it’s not used for any of those instruments.

The piano requires using both hands: right, using the treble clef (no problem there!); and left, using the base clef, which is where the problem lies.  When I learned music theory I recall that I always translated base clef music into the treble clef, the rule being:

  1. Think of the base clef as the treble clef;
  2. Shift the particular note down an octave;
  3. Shift it up two notes; and
  4. Shift it down a further octave.

It works, but not in real time!

Since I now have to read the base clef in order to play, I simple can’t go on like this.  I have found that after a while you just know where the notes are; and if you don’t, you can always refer to this helpful diagram when first tackling a new piece of music.



The Instrument

My piano

My piano

I have a Yamaha YDP161 Digital Piano. This looks like a piano, sounds like a piano and feels like a piano – it never needs tuning but it’s useless in a power cut! Digital pianos are also cheaper than the real thing and you can turn down the volume, use headphones and even make them sound like a organ!
Mine cost about £870 from the wonderful Hickies you can buy one on line for a bit less, but your Hickies piano is delivered at an agreed time, by two nice guys who unpack it, assemble it and make sure it works – you won’t get that from Amazon! That was nearly six months ago. The price has since dropped. Currently Hickies seem to be heavily discounting this model

One Hand, One Bar, One Line, One Page …

I used to be a full-time Tax Expert for a UK accountancy firm. You may remember a quote from Margaret Hodge (as Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee) last month. From
“Confronting Britain’s top four tax experts at Thursday’s hearing, Margaret Hodge, chair of parliament’s public accounts committee, said: “What really depresses me is you could contribute so much to society and the public good and you all choose to focus on working in an area which reduces the available resources for us to build schools, hospitals, infrastructure.”
Well I’m now trying to teach myself to play the piano – maybe not what Margaret had in mind, but I imagine she would regard it as less damaging than giving tax advice, which I hasten to add can actually be useful to society. The UK tax legislation is so dense – printed on thin paper, it currently runs to five weighty tomes – that many charities would have fallen foul of anti-avoidance rules (not even aimed at them) had they not sought advice!
Anyway, I’ve always been envious of the handful of people I have known who could walk into a hotel bar, lift the lid on the grand piano, and proceed to play for an hour so without driving the clientele out by the nearest exit.
So now I have set about learning to play. I have armed myself with a Yamaha YDP161 Digital Piano and a copy of ‘Absolute Beginners Piano’ (Wise Publications). Friends and relatives have also given me various books of piano music, some of which actually looks quite easy to play.
More about the instrument and my experience of learning in my next post. I promise not to post any MP3 files until I too can play without driving people away!