AND NOW, WITH TWO HANDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtime Daily Prompt #66 – ABIDE (WITH ME)


“And now,” said Mrs. Nelson, “You can try it with both hands.”

This was huge. Before now, I could only play one note at a time, one hand at a time. I was four and a half. Almost five, I would point out.

Today, I was going to play “Abide With Me” with two hand using chords (okay, only two notes in each, but still chords). A power performance!

I was definitely going to be a great pianist. I couldn’t reach the pedals yet. I was much too small, but eventually, I’d get there.

Thus I advanced my musical career which, in the end, didn’t amount to much. I enjoyed it, though. I tried majoring in it in college, but piano wasn’t the right instrument for me. I needed something more compact, with fewer long reaches. I was tiny with very small hands (but big feet, go figure). Making those long reaches in complicated pieces was impossible for me.

By the time we were moving past the easier Nocturnes and into the longer Beethoven sonatas, it was obvious to me it wasn’t lack of practice. I practiced a lot. Every day, for hours.

I was simply ill-equipped to get it done on a piano.

Piano became a hobby and writing became my profession and I’m not at all sorry it worked out that way. I can’t even imagine myself performing with an orchestra or alone on the big stage.

I’ve also got an insane degree of stage-fright where music is concerned, though I can speak in public. There’s no accounting for irrational fear, is there?

19 thoughts on “AND NOW, WITH TWO HANDS – Marilyn Armstrong”

      1. I won highest achievement award for a music test. Two girls beat me (grade 4) because they’d had lessons and knew the 2 answers I did not as a result. They seriously wanted me in band a flue (which could keep up with my brain they suggested) I would have loved to. Both my kids have an ear for music and play so well…one a trumpet, the other a sax. How I wished! Perhaps one day, I’ll get the opportunity.

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        1. You can learn. Try the recorder. You can buy a good one for very short money and most people learn to play them alone, maybe with a book. It’s easier than the flute. My first husband taught himself and got pretty good at it. It’s not hard. You just have to want to do it and make the time.

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  1. Marilyn, I find a lot of music was written by people/men with huge hands. I’ve started doing some arranging and it’s a lot of fun. I’m arranging it for me and my hand span.
    Leslie

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  2. I still have not got the knack of the left hand having different timing than the right on keyboards, although I can tap out several different beats with hands and feet at the same time, usually while doing a hand prayerwheel in one hand. That isn’t on stage though, but next to the drum circle downtown. I probably have stagefright about singing solos, but not so much about speaking or singing backing vocals.

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    1. I was a good piano player, but not a professional. I could play most things, but not well enough for a stage — AND I had terrible stage fright. My teacher used to hide in the kitchen while I played … and I’d known her my whole life.

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      1. Performance pressure can be really paralysing. I find that after having gotten electrocuted I was much less self-conscious, because I was much less self-conscious–

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          1. I got electrocuted indoors the time it killed me, but our car did get hit by lightning directly one time. I get indirectly hit by its off-flow or whatever you’d call it a few times,including twice this month.

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  3. Even though there was a point in my musical life that I actually earned an income from it. But it slowly became apparent to me that I was never going to be the musician I wanted to be. There were always better players out there, and while I enjoyed a modicum of success, I felt I was taking up the space of those more deserving. However, I LOVE music and was determined to have something to do with it. I switched gears and chose recording engineering, enabling me to experience the efforts of musicians far more talented than I. I can’t say that I miss actually playing, but there is something about producing music that can’t be explained. It’s a feeling that defies defining.

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    1. I love music, but to me, too, it became obvious that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t bad, but “not bad” is SO far from good enough to be a professional musician, it’s almost funny. I did what I always was meant to do, which was write. The music was fun, but it wasn’t a way to make a living. Maybe on a different instrument.

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  4. As a teenager I finally was allowed to learn to play the violin. I did relatively well but I always knew that I’d forever be a ‘me too’ player. I’m not cut out to be a soloist…. Then, at nearly 50, I uttered the wish to my Hero Husband that I’d always wanted to play the cello but that this wasn’t possible financially-wise. He said: You really want to learn to play the cello? We shall buy one – and we did…. I LOVE it although I nevr ever play enough and I don’t like to practice. But of course, once you’ve mastered reading the notes and extras, and having played the recorders for nearly forever, you have a base to work with. I also preferred to sing, again, not as a soloist but was happy in a ‘crowd’ of other singers. I still prefer to sing than to play if I should have to choose.
    I’d also absolutely advise anybody who has never even started to play an instrument to do it NOW….. where there is a true wish to play, there is a way to do it. Go for it, you all with a yearning for playing!

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    1. I can’t play the piano anymore. My hands are so arthritic, the pain is really bad. And I waited too long for the surgery to fix it, but I had a heart that needed fixing and I did that first. Oh well. I have a little uke and I can play it a little bit, but I don’t feel all that deprived. At my best — 50 years ago! — I played pretty well. I got a lot of years of playing, so if I can’t now, it’s not a catastrophe.

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