Music Lessons

Posted: July 16, 2013 in Storytime
Tags: , , ,

People frequently ask me if I’ve ever taken music lessons. The answer is “sort of.” I never took a music theory class of any kind, but I did take four hours of beginner guitar lessons at UNH in 1993. For $20, I sat in a group of ten people, and our instructor Stephen showed us the very basics of chords and some simple songs. The class was an hour long and lasted four weeks, and I remember that the first session was pretty much devoted to tuning everyone’s guitar. Stephen did print out a few diagrams and chord charts, but essentially, that was the end of my “formal” training. Everything else I’ve learned has been by figuring it out on my own, here and there having someone show me a thing or two.

What about piano, then? Some people hear the piano songs I’ve written and think I must have had lessons at some point. That part is interesting. After playing guitar for about five years, I was fairly competent with the basic chords. In my first band, we bought a synthesizer called the Boss DR-5 (see the picture below – click it to see a bigger version). You can see that the buttons are laid out in a 6×6 grid. These buttons corresponded to the first six notes on each string of a guitar, up to the 5th fret. If you wanted to play chords on the machine, and you knew the shape of the chord on the guitar, you could just play it directly onto this “fretboard.” Notice at the top of the device there is an LCD display of the same grid. This would show you what buttons you were holding down, so you could tell if you got the chord right. Now look to the left and see what vaguely looks like one octave of piano keys. The device would translate whatever you played in guitar format to the corresponding format on piano, so it was an instant chord translator.

This is how I learned to play piano. When I wrote my first piano song, I wrote it with guitar chords in mind and then translated them to the piano with the DR-5. Once I learned the basic chords, I was able to just play the piano directly. And I play completely by ear. I will play over and over until something sounds good to me. How Sansbeat ever came to exist still puzzles me.

So there you have it – my official music training history.


  1. Priya says:

    +1 for Sansbeat πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s