Mind If I Practice the Piano Privately?

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My best friend called me on FaceTime, insisting that he play me a song he had been practicing recently on his electric piano.

Something Richard Clayderman for sure, I knew it. His piano pieces were always so familiar on the ears, so soft, and sometimes like an infinite loop that seems to have no end.

“OK! You are starting to loop the song!” I attempted to stop him at a seemingly appropriate place in the music sheet.

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“Have you tried to practice the electric piano with headphones on? Go get an adaptor at Best Buy and you can practice piano with all the sound to yourself! The audio is super 360 and 3D, and you can practice whenever without disturbing your neighbors! Isn’t that great?”

I started to get him into using headphones when practicing the electric piano, given that I had found it to be one of the most personal and calming experiences in my college senior years.

“You know who I am gonna see at the concert tonight? Ma Yo Yo!” I didn’t think I am familiar with any of his works but he was a big name, I thought.

 

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Later that day at the concert.

Having the privilege seeing a whole orchestra playing to my eyes and ears, I couldn’t help but wonder:

Is everything real in front of me? Or is it just like me in my room with my Bose headset on while watching an orchestra playing on my YouTube screen?

Who am I to be part of this?

 

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I started to think more about the act of practicing the piano as a private experience or a shared one.

Mom used to say that one of her best memories were that when I was little, I practiced the piano in the study while she was cooking in the kitchen (I practiced the piano intensively throughout age 5 to 12).

For Mom, my practicing the piano was an experience that was certainly, not, private.

 

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During my college senior year, after many years away from everyday piano practice, I reached back out to piano, hoping to use music to calm my days.

After renting an electric piano at a low rate, I was able to discover the beauty of electric pianos for the first time: I was able to connect the piano’s output sound to my earbuds, enjoy the immersive 3D effect, without waking my roommate!

Most important of all, I was happy to be able to make any mistakes and challenge myself without telling the world that…nobody would get the right notes at the first time, or after fifty times. And that practice could be hard on the ears, and I would like to keep it to myself.

 

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Technology made it possible to mute the piano-practicing experience for the neighbors, and it might seem considerate. Well, despite my good intentions in not bothering my roommate with my piano practice, she later revealed,

“I woke up hearing the sound of keys clashing against the frame, and I didn’t hear any piano notes. It’s like someone has been making footsteps noises vigorously for an entire hour. I guess you were playing the piano?”

 

Well. I guess the technology just isn’t there yet.

 

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  Illustration by Sophia Foster-Dimino.

Illustration by Sophia Foster-Dimino.


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