Remember my lovely new saxophone that I bought a little while ago, back in June? When I was in the shop - Chamberlain Music in Haslemere, Surrey - my eye fell on all the digital pianos and I noticed how small and neat they were and, more importantly, that you could play them with headphones and they'd be silent! I live in a small cul-de-sac that is packed with houses, we're all very close to each other, and the walls are not amazingly thick. And, naturally, in the summer everyone has their windows open and you can hear what's going on.
Generally, though, we're a very civilised bunch and are considerate about noise - I mean, I've only had to call the police out a couple of times over the 16 years we've lived here and that was due to more than noise, there was violence involved but I won't go into that here.
About six or so years ago, our immediate neighbours (we shared an adjoining wall) installed a piano in their study on the ground floor. It was a traditional, upright piano, and they started having lessons and then practising on it. Neither of them were absolute beginners, but I still got hear every single note. This didn't bother me, but it did underline to me how much noise travels through these houses. Because of this, I try to restrict my sax playing to when the neighbours are out. (The piano-playing ones moved out about 4 or 5 years ago, and the new ones don't seem to play any musical instruments at all). I am nothing if not considerate.
But seeing the digital pianos in Chamberlains got me thinking. I used to play piano in my very early teens - I can't remember exactly when, something like between ages 11 and about 14, I think. I had proper lessons and was studying for Grade V piano/Grade I theory when I got all teenage-flouncy about it and decided I'd rather spend my spare time hanging out down the park with boys than practising endless bloody scales. So I stopped.
Now, of course, 35 years later, I rather regret it. I didn't find it easy to play, it was not one of the instruments that came naturally to me (I'm better on wind instruments - recorder, clarinet, sax) but it taught me everything I know about the technicalities of music - how to read it, notation, theory, etc. So I started thinking. We don't have a lot of space in our house but these new digital pianos don't take up much room. The keyboard itself is a standard 88-key size but there are no strings, so there's no upright bit. The only space you need to find is for the width and depth of the keyboard. And I managed to find about 3 places in our house where one could fit!
I broached the subject with TLH and he seemed quite positive about it, so I said, as with my sax, I'd start saving up my earnings from jewellery sales and proof-reading, and I'd do some online research to find one that would suit my purposes. I decided I could live quite happily with a Roland F-110 digital piano.
I started saving but it was going a bit too slow for my liking so I negotiated with TLH and we decided that he'd chip in the rest of the money and I could have the piano as my Christmas present for this year. A bit early, yes, but what the hell? I never know what I want for Christmas so am, consequently, a bit tricky to buy for (unless it's books and CDs but they're a bit unimaginative), so this solves that problem! Hooray!
We popped back into Chamberlains on the Saturday before August Bank Holiday. TLH had not been there before and, like me the first time I went there, was entranced by all the different instruments in the showroom - everything from harmonicas to full size grand pianos. He picked up a ukulele and immediately got ribbed by the staff for playing the opening chords to 'Stairway to Heaven'!
(pic from "Wayne's World" for those bemused by the reference)
He'd not seen any of the digital pianos before so I showed him the one I was interested in so he could get an idea of the size, and a very helpful saleschappy ran through its features and showed us comparable keyboards. But my mind was made up, and so the order was placed.
Of course, things never really go smoothly, do they? It transpired that Chamberlains didn't have any in stock but they would contact Roland to deliver one to me directly. After a few days, Chamberlains emailed to say that, unfortunately, Roland didn't have any in stock either and were waiting for a shipment which should arrive within a couple of weeks!! I was peeved but, obviously, there's not a lot I could do and, in any case, I'd waited 35 years for a piano so what's a couple more weeks, huh?
2 weeks came and went, still no piano. Chamberlains chased Roland down for me and, finally, FINALLY, it was delivered yesterday. It arrived in a box the size of a coffin which took up most of our entrance hallway and weighed a bloody ton. Why, yes, that is my Bet Lynch leopardskin raincoat on the bannister...
There was no way I was going to be able to get that upstairs on my own, so I had to wait all day until TLH came home to nearly rupture himself getting it up the stairs.
We started to put it together:
And it fits exactly into the space I found for it in the dining room end of our sitting room:
My word it's a lovely thing. Chamberlains gave me a free bench (which is very well made and obviously would cost a few quid) and a pair of free headphones. Delivery was free too.
And this is the lid up:
Because it's a digital piano, it has all these 'voices' and settings so you can make it sound like a harpsichord or a honkytonk piano or even, should you so desire, a machine gun and a passing ambulance. Not sure what Mozart would say to that but TLH had a fine old time last night plonking around on it and playing with all its features:
Me, I'm just happy for it to sound like a piano, be silent when I want it, and to not take up too much room.
So this morning I've spent about an hour familiarising myself with the "joys" of scales. I bought myself a book of easy Grade 1 & 2 pieces and horrified myself finding out how difficult they are! Still, got to start somewhere, I 'spose, and Minuet in F is as good a place as any, although perhaps I have to be a small child to be able to play it properly as I'm nowhere near this good: