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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019

10 things you will only know if childhood piano lessons were your absolute Everest

‘Have you practiced?’

AT THE AGE of 7, I decided that if I was ever going to get ahead in this life, I’d need to get my hands on a piano.


And my parents decided that if they were ever going to afford a new kitchen, they’d need to get their hands on a keyboard.

Fearful they thought it might be just a flight of fancy on my part, I laid it on pretty thick in the months leading up to Christmas Day.

At mass I’d ‘play’ along with the organist on the back of the pew in front of me, and in school I’d sidle up to classmates, get the suss on all the piano teachers in the vicinity and offload the info upon my return home.

Christmas Day dawned, and to paraphrase today’s Insta huns, the folks ‘did good’.


But after two weeks of dancing manically to the 20 tunes programmed into the keyboard and not so much as the first bar of Mary Had a Little Lamb out of me, talk turned to lessons.

Some people take to piano lessons like ducks to water, and other people are, well, like me.

I learned how to read music, I passed a couple of exams, I mastered some pieces so well I could still play them today, but when it came down to it, my heart really wasn’t in it.

In other words, I was fairly abysmal.

Over the course of about ten years – and one very questionable three-month stint as an adult – I had to accept that I was never going to give Alicia Keys a run for her money.

If your memory of childhood piano lessons is somewhat painful despite the best efforts of well-meaning teachers and encouraging parents, then you’ll know all about the following.

1.  Every week you promised yourself you’d practice for a minimum of 30 minutes daily.

And every week you’d rock up to the next lesson knowing that the 10 minute session you did once over the course of the last seven days wasn’t going to swing it.

ross pinao

2. You hated if the next pupil showed up early, and was forced to wait it out in the same room you were playing in.

How were you supposed to finish on a high when the Junior Infants kid, who was already composing their own stuff, judged you from one metre away?

3. There were some scales you literally owned every week, and some that were sent to test you.

Disappointing the life out of your teacher with a godawful E major scale was worth it when you stunned them senseless with a flawless G major scale.

4. You knew you had really effed up when there was more focus on clapping than playing.

And when that metronome was placed on top of the piano, you knew you were in for a world of anguish.

5. You longed for a high-backed chair to ease your back during some of the more stressful lessons.

But most of us were forced to endure those Godforsaken piano stools that wreaked havoc on our young spines.

6. Lying to your teacher about how much practise you put in at home became commonplace.

“I did! I practised that scale for six hours straight on Saturday. Ask my… my… mam.”

7. Being given a piece that was currently in the charts was a momentous occasion.

Now here was something you could actually work with! And who wouldn’t want to hear a nine-year-old murder Spice Girl’s 2 Become 1?

8. The urge to crash your hands over the keys in frustration was more than flesh and blood could stand on many occasions.

At home, you could loaf the piano book at the wall and tip the keyboard off its stand, but you were warned against that in actual lessons.


9. You spent the car journey over to your lesson frantically filling in your exercise book.

Scribbling the # symbol in the wrong place by the light of the dashboard wasn’t exactly what your teacher had in mind.

10. You were eaten alive with jealousy when your teacher whizzed through the same piece you had spent 7 weeks trying to master.

Yes, they had years of experience on you, but could they not at least pretend to find it difficult?


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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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