The Piano Singer In All Of Us

When I was a child, my parents had a single speaker, semi- upholstered, orange shellacked pecan wood, hi-fi that looked like a piece of furniture that had been made by a blind man with a hatred of any music past about 1920. 

It sat by the front door. Like an odd box with a flip-up lid because we had an electrical outlet around the corner and my father needed something to kick on his way out.

We used it as a table for dropping keys and purses and occasionally for listening to music. 

My parents had a fairly common collection of records for the 1960’s: Como, Al Hirt, Sinatra, Streisand, Mitch Miller, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. 

I loved listening to the comedy classic The Bickerson’s (Don Ameche & Frances Langford) and laughing at the simple misunderstandings of the childless couple as they grappled with money problems and noisy neighbors. How wonderful. How provencial. Problems that could be resolved? What a novel idea! But I digress…

Our house was not full of music- other loud things like race car engines, barking dogs, and tempers,  but not music. 

This hi-fi sat largely unused. 

The occasional record would be spun at parties, or by my sister or me when we needed background music for the plays we would stage in our living room for the other kids in the neighborhood (Well, mostly I staged, wrote, directed, and choreographed, but you get the point).  

Anywho, my grandparents had an electric organ, and when we would visit I would fiddle with the keys and the sound buttons: organ, piano, harp, harpsichord, strings, brass, etc. I was a regular one girl marching band.

I kept practicing anywhere I could find a piano. 

I never read music but I taught myself to play, badly, but with gusto. 

And someone was listening- though it took them a while.

In Junior High I came home from school one day to see a bunch of men struggling to move a large object down the street towards our house. WTH?

My parents had purchased the baby grand piano from the family down the street that were moving to Europe. And it was for me! (I still get goosebumps).

It was rolled into the living room, the local blind piano tuner (true) was called, we were told it needed a new harp, this advise was instantly disregarded, and I played, and played, and played, and played.

Forever, it seemed. 

Never once did my parents complain.

Day or Night. Night or Day. (see what I did there?)

And that ugly hi-fi finally got a work-out. I lugged it to the side of the piano, and played all of my favorite albums and tried to replicate the scores. 

I got pretty good.

My mother asked me if I wanted piano lessons.

No.

My mother asked me if I wanted voice lessons.

No.

My father asked me to play my Washed-up Piano Bar Lounge Singer Who’s Been Ridden Around The Track A Few Times Too Many And Brushes Her Teeth With Gin schtick for company.

Of course. It always got a good laugh. In fact, I believe I brought our ranch house roof down a few times, no matter that the adults were three sheets to the wind and my sister was mortified. 

All was right in my world. Let’s get this show going!

Fast Forward: I never learned to read music. I always played by ear. I married a man who LOVES music. We play(ed) it often. Our children grew-up underneath our piano “Now just sit there and tell me what you think about Mommy’s new song? No. You may not leave.” Our son became a musician, and this Christmas he gave his sister a keyboard, and she played, and played, and played, and played.

And never once did I complain…

I wouldn’t dare.




  • Anonymous - Playing by ear has always fascinated me. I can’t imagine it!
    Carol
    http://www.carolcassara.comReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - And looking at music notes seems impossible to me. Even last week, as Bryn was reading sheet music and struggling a bit, I heard myself say, ‘Just listen and find the notes.’ She, of course, totally dismissed my nonsense. HahaaaaReplyCancel

  • Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design - Beautiful post. My mother played the piano and us girls would gather around and sing!! I took piano lessons for years, but I haven’t had a piano and couldn’t play a note, but I sure would like to learn again. You have such a wonderful gift to be able to play by ear. The only girl grandchild has my moms piano and her two daughters are now learning to play on that very piano. Makes my heart feel so good to know that the music continues.
    Patty at Home and Lifestyle DesignReplyCancel

  • Cary Vaughn - Such a great post. I am jealous of anyone that has natural talent like that with a musical instrument.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Thanks Cary. It’s still the way I learn a song. I don’t how WELL I learn it- but it sounds good- from a distance. HahaaaaReplyCancel

  • Sharon Greenthal - I loved playing the piano when I was growing up – I even enjoyed the lessons and the practice. But then I hit the wall of talent improvement, and never progressed past the mediocre skills I learned. Oh well, I still read music and enjoy playing every so often.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - The reason I didn’t want to take lessons was because I just wanted to be able to enjoy it- my way, without someone telling me I was doing it wrong {{shaking my head}}. I probably should have taken my mother’s advise and now I don’t care enough to learn. Oh well….ReplyCancel

  • Theresa Ledford - This… this is fabulous! I had piano lessons as a kid. We had an upright grand piano, but eventually we moved to an apartment and had to get rid of the piano. I never got to play it much after that and eventually it just faded out of memory. To this day though, the piano does something to me that no other music can do to me. I used to listen to records of a guy named Dino (I think), and was in heaven even as a small kid!
    Now I play the radio, but my son has an incredible gift for stringed instruments. He even played Metallica’s Enter Sandman on a ukulele once!
    http://lovelytl33.blogspot.com/ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Wow! Metallica??? WOW! Our son went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. He began with his chosen instrument being guitar but then changed to piano. One of the things I love MOST in the whole wide world is when we both sit down and play together- he reads, of course, I just screw around. Good for our boys- right? YEA!ReplyCancel

  • Sue - We just had a carry around and put it anywhere record player that I would listen to with not much music in the house either except at Christmas! Love this Cheryl because our daughter also plays by ear and cannot read music. We gave her lessons (not even knowing about her play by ear gift) that she took for a scant maybe year or slightly longer. She now tells me she could not read the music and just faked it to the teacher as if she was reading it. She listens to songs and pounds it out on the keyboard like you do which fascinates me. We talk about this gift a lot and she tries to explain to me how she does it. Like you, she is just able to hear the exact note I guess. Thank you for linking up with us on Meet The Neighbors too.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - I don’t know if it’s a ‘gift’ but somehow you just hear the note/chord and know where to find it on the keyboard. Then you have to figure out the rhythm and the order in which they’re played. Your daughter sounds like my kind of gal! And linking up with you is all MY PLEASURE my dear!ReplyCancel

  • House Crazy Sarah - Great story Cheryl – your family has the music in them!
    I, on the other hand, am one of those people who quit piano lessons as a child and have never regreted it. Just way too technical and regimented for me.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Which is EXACTLY why I never wanted lessons. I’m more of a free-style player. Hahaaaa LOVED your post today BTW!ReplyCancel

  • Bryan Jones - Clearly you are the center of a musically-gifted family. Also heart-warming to hear how the your skills and interests have been passed on to the next generation. A feel-good post.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say the ‘center’ but okay- I’ll take it. Thanks for stopping by Bryan. Always good to see you.
      ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Liew - From one piano player to another….way cool,Cheryl!ReplyCancel

  • William Kendall - My dad learned the piano starting in his fifties, I think. There was an upright piano in the house. He still plays, but with an electronic keyboard these days.ReplyCancel

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