Playing the B Chord – how music mimics life

Indulge me, if you will, as I share with you the draft of a speech I delivered during a recent Toastmasters meeting. Now don’t get all upset thinking, that SOB is giving me his sloppy seconds. This was actually intended for the blog, but once I started rambling on, I figured I might as well share this rant with my Toastmaster buddies.

Does anyone play piano?

If you do you may appreciate what I’ll be discussing. In fact, if you play any musical instrument, you may have an appreciation for what I’ll be sharing with you today.

I started taking piano lessons last fall, mainly to inspire my daughter to play with me, but I also did it because I read that it’s helpful for those of us in, what I like to call, the middle ages to take up new hobbies and activities as a way to keep our brains and cognition sharp.

I also have this image of me 25 or 30 years from now in the rest home playing piano and taking requests for tips!

One of the lessons I’ve learned, and one I’m still trying to master, is changing chords – specifically changing from a C chord to a B chord. 

When you go from a C chord to a B chord you have to move your fingers from a comfortable position, to a less comfortable position, and if you’re going back to C, you have to quickly snap back to the comfortable position. It’s not easy, and it takes some practice, but, of course, it’s not impossible.

Every time I practice my chord changes – jumping from a comfortable position to a less comfortable position – I often think about other examples in our lives when we have to move back and forth between what’s comfortable and what’s not so comfortable.

When you change chords in music, what happens? You’re changing the sound, you’re changing the tune. If you never changed chords, your music would always sound the same. It would be monotone.

Let’s look at our lives. If we never moved from a comfortable position to a less comfortable position, everything would be the same. Our lives would be monotone.

We can all come up with examples of times when we should have changed chords, but I’ll save you the trouble and share a few that come to mind for me.

When the alarm goes off tomorrow morning, I could stay in my comfortable bed, or I could change chords for the discomfort of going to the gym. Going to the gym is changing the tune in favor of being healthy.

When the next ‘latest and greatest’ high-tech gadget comes out, I could take a chunk of paycheck and buy the imagined comfort of being the first kid on the block with the latest and greatest high-tech gadget. Or, I could change chords for the discomfort of waiting until I can afford that latest and greatest high-tech toy. I’m changing the tune in favor of financial responsibility.

When everyone has gone to sleep, I could plant myself on my comfortable couch and watch TV until I doze off, or I could grab a seat on the uncomfortable piano bench and practice actual chord changes. I’m changing the tune in favor of doing something productive.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is that this notion of changing chords and changing the tune in our lives is a fascinating way to reflect on the lessons of the past.

How many times in our lives did we choose to stay with what’s comfortable, instead of changing chords to a less than comfortable position?

Had we changed, we might have changed the music in our lives. We might even be singing a different tune today.

What if we chose the uncomfortable position of staying in and studying a few weekends while we were in school, instead of selecting the comfort of going out partying?  What tune would we be singing today?

What if we chose the uncomfortable position of leaving the nest and seeing what the world has to offer instead of staying close to the comfort of our home base? What tune would we be singing today?

What if we abandoned the perceived discomfort of the certainty of the status quo for the anticipated comfort of chasing opportunities for short-term gains? What tune would we be singing today?

What if we … well you get the idea!

Another lesson I’ve picked up in my piano studies, when you’re playing a piece and you make a mistake, perhaps the chord change wasn’t just right, don’t just stop in the middle and ask for a do-over. We should keep on playing, finish the piece, and maybe the next chord change will be smoother, and maybe the next time, the tune will be just right.

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