My Life

Teaching music to a tone deaf kid…

One aspect of many a child’s formative years is learning to play an instrument or getting involved in music in some way. Generally speaking, I think it’s a great idea to get kids involved in music as a way to exercise different parts of their brain and develop some culture.

From about age 6 or 7 to about age 10 or 11, I was enrolled in piano lessons.

My Mom was able to play the piano well and I have fond memories of sitting beside her on the piano bench, singing along as she played. Most of the time it was hymns, which I loved, until November and December when she played Christmas carols. I loved sitting there, listening and singing along.

But what I didn’t enjoy much was actually learning to play piano for myself. It’s one thing to sit and listen to someone else. It’s a completely different thing when you try to do what they do…and it just doesn’t make sense.

Some people have it and some people don’t. I am in the “some people don’t have it” category.

Despite my music teacher and my Mom’s best efforts, I never “really” learned to read music.

I think there’s something with “F,A,C,E” and “E,G,B,D,F” or something like that? I just remember “every good boy deserves fudge” or “every good boy does fine” – Except me apparently…

I can locate middle C on the piano, and I think I know where the notes are, generally speaking.

I don’t understand what the black keys are for or what they do. Flat? Sharp? Whatever…

You would think that after 4 solid years of piano lessons, I would know some of this stuff, but it just didn’t stick. I remember practicing piano and both myself and my Mom being quite frustrated with my lack of progress.

The easiest thing for me to do was just to get her or the music teacher to play the piece several times, and then I would memorize which keys to hit next. That was far easier than trying to figure out what the notes were.

In my defence and so you don’t think my parents completely wasted 4 years of piano lesson money, I can play “Old MacDonald had a farm”, “3 Blind Mice”, “Hot Cross Buns” and “I have decided to follow Jesus” – with one hand.

I can play those pieces without music…Aren’t you impressed?

The irony of the situation is that I married a musician.

You will recall from my post about meeting Joy, she took music in University, graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education, followed by a Bachelor of Education. She’s technically a music teacher…married to a guy who couldn’t tell you the first thing about music.

Any time we have someone over and Joy starts talking about music with another music person, I tune out because I don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

Early on in our relationship, Joy broke the bad news to me. After hearing me try to sing in church or singing along with the radio in the car, she just had to tell me the truth.

“Honey…I think you’re tone deaf”

And you know what…I’m not offended at all. It all makes sense now! I’m just not musical and that’s OK. What comes out of my mouth versus how I think I sound are completely different.

In my head, I sound fine. To the people sitting around me, I sound like sea-lion, barking for food.

This makes complete sense now when I think back to elementary school.

Back in Grade 4 or 5, we were doing a choir piece for our music class. Each child was asked to sing a line in front of the teacher and then she would decide which part each student would sing. Alto, soprano etc.

I sang my line…and she didn’t quite know what to do with me. She asked me to sing it again. I sang it again. Same thing. She actually said: “Are you sure you’re singing?”

What a dumb question. YES, I was singing. It just didn’t sound good. OK, lady!!!

She stuck me in the back right side, which was the bass section apparently, but really, if she could have, I’m sure she would have liked to ask me not to sing at all.

Despite my lack of musical ability, I do have a real love for music and I enjoy musicals.

It’s just best if I leave it to the professionals to actually make the music.

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