For such a beautiful, wondrous thing as music, you wouldn’t think that there would be many problems with it. And in general, there aren’t. There are no downsides when thinking about music as one big thing. But when it comes down to practices and the “daily” side to music, there are more hitches than you could ever imagine. Here’s a (kind of) short list of the small, everyday, sometimes hilarious problems we musicians suffer through. Guaranteed, almost every musician in the world has experienced all these.
Before we begin, please note that since I’m a pianist, my problems are a pianist’s problems, but most of these are general.
Oh, and feel free to take these completely unseriously!
25 Problems Only Musicians Understand
- Non-musicians have no idea how very true this is, but Bach is an annoying composer. I host a secret dislike of Bach – at least, when I’m starting a new Bach. The problem is, it is so easy to become lost. Listen to this prelude I’m practicing at the moment, for instance. Two pages of closely related but not copied music. One mistake and it’s back to the beginning for me!
- Then there’s that disconcerting problem of trying to turn a page and instead of cooperating, the sheet music slumps all the way down to the ground. (Try this fabulous page turn fail. Oh, page-turners these days! Another very funny video would be this one, of a torn page that obstinately refuses to yield!)
- Or, how about when your book is too thick to actually open correctly?
- Oh, and how complicated music symbols are. From quarter rests to Italian—so much Italian—to which direction the stem of a note is supposed to go, it’s a musical maze of possible mistakes. But just look at the picture below and console yourself.
- Sightreading with six flats or sharps is miserable. We’ve all been there. Just plain miserable.
- I don’t know what’s wrong with piano manufacturers these days, but the music rack on a piano has a gap where the rack is hinged to the lid. So often, my pages fall through that gap, slide down onto my fingers, and flutter to the floor.
- When the audience claps between movements of a piece and as a player, you must wait for their applause to end to continue.
- “Triplet” to a musician has three syllables and that’s never gonna change.
- When people call pieces songs. I’m actually quite guilty of this offence and I drive myself crazy sometimes.
- I can very firmly state that a huge downside of being a pianist is not being able to bring my instrument with me everywhere. Not to mention that every time I perform, I’m on a completely new piano with different touch, tone, and volume of bass. It takes a lot of adjustments under a lot of pressure to perform a piece to satisfaction when playing on a new instrument.
- Playing a Romantic piece then playing a Classical or Baroque piece. So difficult.
- When you hit a key, but no sound comes out. This once happened to me at probably the most important and poignant part in a piece – the end of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, the second-to-last note of melody. I panicked and kept trying to replay the F-flat while the left hand’s A-flat forlornly echoed, all alone. But it was no use, for the note would not sound.
- Going through daily life and suddenly having the impulse to go play something. Unfortunately, the urge usually comes when I’m supposed to be practicing and not reviewing that oh-so-fun piece from four years ago.
- Practicing a piece to death at home and then having your memory slip at your lesson. There doesn’t exist a more dissatisfying thing.
- The binders and binders and binders filled with old sheet music. If they weren’t so disorganized, this would be an upside.
- Squeaky piano pedals are discomfiting, but I admit, they’re a bit endearing, too.
- When you have to practice with the dreaded metronome!
- Having little space when practicing violin. The bow, I’ve observed, manages to bump into every possible thing in the room. Cammi plays with much e-MOTION, so I’m sure she knows what I’m talking about!
- Scales. Oh, the many, many scales.
- When you creditably get through a really long and not-so-enjoyable passage of music and there’s a repeat sign sitting stolidly before you.
- Having to trill with your pinkie.
- When sightreading, blindly missing the key change. Or when the right hand goes into bass clef and you never even noticed. Or when there’s nothing but accidentals ahead of you. Sightreading is hard.
- There’s always a point in a piece at which the more you practice it, the worse it gets.
- When your shoulder rest falls off.
- The puns. The never-ending musical puns.
Well, now that I’ve listed some problems of being a musician, it’s time for some pros.
11 Pros Only Musicians Understand
- Nailing that one difficult part of a piece – it’s so satisfying that I usually promptly make a mistake in the next section.
- When you’ve got your fast piece to such a point at which your fingers just speed along doing their thing. Pure joy!
- Practicing your piece an octave up. I don’t know why, but it gives me a wonderful feeling. It always sounds so much better an octave up.
- Memorizing a piece and playing it straight through with no mistakes. Well, few mistakes anyway.
- That moment when you speed up a piece to the point at which it actually sounds like the real thing. Magical.
- Being able to sightread through a piece perfectly – which is why I love sightreading Mozart. Easy to learn, hard to master.
- Zoning out while playing and then coming back to earth with a start and realizing that your fingers are still going at it!
- Spending an hour getting down one part to a piece. And then coming back to it the next day and discovering that it’s not so hard anymore.
- Playing—not practicing, really playing—when you’re home alone. Ahhhh.
- Muscle memory. When you don’t remember what’s next, but your fingers do.
- When your teacher commends the pieces you practiced extra hard at. Let’s just agree that that is the most rewarding feeling ever.
Oh, there are a lot of perks about being a musician. So many that we should just save that for an entirely new post!
Hope you got some laughs out of this – I know I did. Thanks for reading!