Steve’s first lesson in music

As someone once said concerning art: “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” The same certainly applies to playing the piano. Great pianists have practised for a lifetime before sprinkling their efforts with a shake of genius.

I tend to apply the opposite ratio: a smidgen of practice resting beneath a bucketload of winging it. Of course, the end result is not really being able to play anything: I can sort of play a lot of things, I can sort of improvise, I sort of know about keys and I can sort of read music.

This is sort of fine when playing alone, but when playing in a group or playing solo in public you have to think on your feet to hold everything together. So, for the record, here are some musical explanations for the piano player who spends most of the time trying to work out what on earth is happening whilst the music relentlessly continues to its climax.

Accelerando Hurrying up because it is all going badly wrong and I want it to finish as soon as possible
Adagio Note to self: resist temptation to improvise
Atonal A term used to describe improvisations which accidentally fall out of key
Beat Something lacking from some hymns
Breve Possibly a  minim
Bridge Possibly the chorus
Canon A chance for the men to sing worse than the women
Cantabile Times I wish I had learned the cello
Chord progression A set of chords played until I find the one I wanted
Chorus Possibly the bridge
Coda A section of music designed to make me lose my place
Conductor Someone you avoid looking at
Crochet Possibly a quaver
Da Capo Something joined to a coda to make the chance of losing my place into a certainty
Dissonance Playing wrong notes with confidence
Divertimento Any showy gesture or flurry of notes made to draw attention away from a mistake
Doppio movimento A speed adjustment made following a failure to read the time signature
Encore A reason to leave the stage quickly
Espressivo Pretend to be Liberace
Etude Any piece that I can’t play
Finale Often the penultimate chorus
Grace note(s) Any short note mistakenly played before you hit the right one
Impromptu The feeling you get when you have forgotten how things went in rehearsal
Key Signature A seemingly superfluous piece of information which sometimes suddenly becomes important mid verse
Mezzo I always think of hummous
Minim Possibly a breve
Mysterioso The realisation that I have no idea what is going on
Obbligato Having to sing because nobody else wants to
Ornaments The basic decoration which should be applied to all notes
Osinato Play with exceptionally self-indulgent head movements and facial gestures
Perdendosi The trick of fading away when it has all gone wrong
Precipitato Trying to play whilst stopping the music falling off the stand
Progression A sequence of chords played before finding the one I was looking for
Quaver Possibly a crochet; More often the feeling of dread before that tricky hymn
Recapitulation The realisation that you don’t know what key you are playing in
Refrain The feeling of sadness upon realising that you have over-improvised
Relative pitch The realisation that you are playing in the wrong key
Repeat A point in the music where there is a good chance of things going wrong
Reprise A fortunate moment of quiet when I can find my place again
rit A brief period in which you can find your place
Round See canon
Rubato A musical device to allow you to play the difficult bits
Run A sequence of notes played until you hit the right one
Syncopation Something to confuse the singers
Theme A bit of tune you play quietly when you are lost
Time signature That which is so often overlooked
Tremolo The hands upon playing the bridal entry or a tricky hymn
Variations A set of attempts at playing a theme correctly
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