Everyone should have a house pianist


Last year, a request was sent out to a social mailing list that went something like this:

Hi, everybody. My girlfriend is coming to visit for a week, and she's a pianist. Does anybody have a piano they would be willing to let her practice on while she's here?

I offered the piano in my living room and gave him the key to my house. I came home one day to hear the house filled with the resonant chords of a Beethoven piano sonata. You can have all the recordings you want. There's nothing like experiencing music played live right in front of you. The music fills your body in a way recordings simply are not capable of reproducing.

Everyone should have a house pianist.

(The wife of one of my relatives has a degree in piano performance. He doesn't know how good he's got it. It's also her birthday today. Happy birthday!)

Comments (18)
  1. John Webber says:

    I know the problem – I’m a pianist too (as well as a programmer); the last time I visited my family in Seattle I had to scramble to find practice pianos, since I had a concert a couple of weeks after my vacation. I was able to use the piano at a Seattle golf club a few times, and at a Bremerton piano dealer. The piano dealer was very nice (but the piano was a lousy upright).

  2. Damit says:

    I’ve not had much luck at finding good pianos around the Eastside, so I ended up getting a keyboard for myself… but being a house pianist sounds interesting.

  3. DWalker says:

    My parents have a nice quality baby grand in their 40×40 foot living room.  She can use that!  It’s in New Mexico.

  4. PinkDuck says:

    I too am a pianist and software engineer. I bought a Yamaha CP300 stage piano for home and production use. Close your eyes and it’s pretty much the same as playing on a Borsendorfer grand piano. Somewhat more portable too :)

  5. Andy says:

    You are so right. Recordings are no where close. My sister played piano professionally for many years and her practice piano was right outside my room. I haven’t heard some one play piano in my house since my sister moved to Turku and I moved to the US. I miss it a lot. There is nothing like having Mozart or Beethoven played right in your own home.

  6. Eric D. Burdo says:

    The same can be said for most instruments.  My wife plays the flute… it’s nice to hear her practice… she is not concert level (yet… could be if she wanted to).  But listening to the live music is just… relaxing.

  7. I used to have a housemate who played sitar and tabla. Hearing classical Indian music drifting up from the living room in the morning would really set me up for the day.

  8. John says:

    And then she seduced you.  Or was that only in your dreams?

  9. Jon Peltier says:

    My wife’s mother bought us a new piano when we moved back to Massachusetts. My favorite days are twice a year when the tuner pays a visit. Besides plunking around, he also plays some nice pieces, as a kind of advanced check on his progress.

    I don’t play, but one of my daughters is very musical, and has taught herself to play very well. My office is directly above the music room, so I am often treated to private recitals. I don’t know whether she spends more time on the piano or on the internet. She also plays viola with various groups, and this spring played the fiddler in the high school’s outstanding performance of Fiddler on the Roof. (I’m so proud, it makes me wish I had developed some musical talent.)

  10. J. Peterson says:

    In Berkeley, several years ago, I saw the film Koyaanisqatsi, with the soundtrack performed live by Philip glass and his orchestra.  It was incredible.

  11. Gabe says:

    You people are lucky. My upstairs neighbor has a piano that gets played all hours of the day and night. And when I say "played", I really mean "mashed". Sometimes I can hear the pounding of the keys against their stops through the horrible noise.

  12. Nice. My daughter’s learning the piano; she’s still at the stage where she’s just starting to use two hands to play, but eventually I will have Beethoven sonatas in my house, and there will be much rejoicing.

  13. steveg says:

    I bought a piano* last week… it’s fun — I’m a self-taught hack, I’m never going to be a "pianist" but it’s a great way to while away a few hours. And relaxing.

    *A keyboard, really. Yamaha P70, fullsize, weighted keys and headphone sockets for that 2am Bohemian Rhapsody.

  14. cmov says:

    I sold my Yamaha, I couldn’t let it run custom firmware :'(

  15. Hayden says:

    If you can’t get Live, get some /excellent/ recordings, and a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-A900 headphones.

    The sense of presence is very pronounced, even if the sound is not the most accurate you’ll hear. The BBC recordings you get free with the BBC Music magazine are particularly fine for this.

  16. Scott Tringali says:

    Or, learn to play an instrument.  It’s not hard.  Playing an instrument is similar to, but far easier than, learning a language.  You have a soundmaking component and a literacy component.

    (This is not directed at Raymond, it’s just a coincidence that he picks up languages for fun, something I would find impossibly hard.)

    You already know the difference between experiencing live music versus a recording, which is a whole new level.  The same difference applies to performing it, over listening to it.  The music fills your body even more when you’re making it.

    Somewhere in-between is performing with a recording.

    When I have a really bad day, I can go down into my basement, put on a recording of something really fun like Gordon Goodwin’s “Phat Pack” and play along with some of the finest musicians in the world.

    [Playing and listening are very different experiences for me. -Raymond]
  17. Alok says:

    Maybe a nice set of speakers like the Bose might interest you?

  18. Pete says:

    My daughter, a skilled amateur pianist, often practices while my wife and I are eating breakfast.  I find the unpredictability, even within a piece, makes the experience much better than any recorded music.  It’s a fantastic way to start the day!

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