This is me at age 23, working as an unarmed security guard.
- Don’t you feel safer already?
- Oh Lord, have I aged!
Note the resemblance to the piano virtuoso in this YouTube video. (My hair did that whenever I let it grow, so I got a lot of crewcuts.)
In the video, you’ve heard the traditional Fur Elise played much better than I do it, followed by Fur Elise Boogie, which I have yet to play. I tossed it more than once as being too hard for me, seeing as how the original used to be too hard for me, but it’s back now. I play a measure or four a day, repeat a few times, smile, move on. I’ll get all my moves together next month, and I’ll do you the favor of never recording it. But if you’d like to tackle it yourself, here’s the sheet music in a PDF.
Enjoy a short post!
If you are ready to achieve a higher level of success and happiness, then read and absorb the strategies in this brilliant book by Ron and Michael! James Malinchak, founder of www.bigmoneyspeaker.com Recently featured on ABC’s hit TV show “Secret Millionaire”
We need more books like this. Terrific story and a short read (which I like!). Both a counter-intuitive and powerful look at the principles that simply and easily take the reader through the actions that drive both personal and professional success. Dr. Tony Alessandra Hall-of-Fame Keynote Speaker Author of The Platinum Rule
I learned more from this book than I did many college textbooks on philosophy. And the best part is that it’s a delight to read (unlike the textbooks). It’s more like taking part in a conversation than reading a book, making its lessons both more practical and accessible at the same time. Carl Dickson, CEO CapturePlanning.com, LLC
Make A Difference: From Being Successful To Being Significant is really great. I love how you bring the reader step by step to understanding the true difference between just being successful and being significant, in other words making a difference in this world and knowing you matter. Dr. Fred (DocFred) Simkovsky, CMCP
The best investment you can ever make is in yourself. Ron’s book is full of valuable life lessons within stories, that will help you take your life and the ones around you, to the Next Level. Dr. David Vik Former Coach Zappos.com Founder/Author – The Culture Secret
This book makes you think about your life – the way you live it. It focuses on the good form of self-interest and how you develop personally in the lifelong learning environment that is there today. Jens Graff, Associate Professor Solbridge International School of Business
These 9 simple laws will get you where you are going at warp speed. Rick Barrera, CEO Author of Overpromise and Overdeliver: The Secrets of Unshakable Customer Loyalty
The book they’re all endorsing is Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant by Ron Finklestein and Michael LaRocca.
Clouds by Zach Sobiech. My best friend from high school sent me the sheet music (public domain) and a link to the video. (And the rest of Chamberlain’s Class of 1981 is saying, “Wait, Michael had friends?”) Zach was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 14, died at age 18, and wrote this at some point in between. It was a viral video and top-selling song that I missed, but I can play it by sight-reading in real time, which addresses one of my definite weaknesses. The bold title of this paragraph is a link to the video, of Zach not me.
A long-time customer told me he could play the intro to Crazy Train on his guitar. When my piano teacher mentioned teaching one of her students the same song, I took it as a sign. I can play it too, way down on the left side of the keyboard. My teacher uses her right hand for that, but somehow I do it better with my left.
You can raise it four octaves for an Exorcist effect.
Deck The Halls is one of those songs I planned to master and then delete. I’ve done this with much Christmas music. But a few months later, I brought it back. Songs that go up and down the scales but then suddenly skip a note are hard to master but then always fun after mastery is achieved. Once you get the first four measures, you just repeat them and then play eight easier measures. I’ve hated all Christmas music for most of my life, but actually playing the music is changing my tastes. Why did I wait until after my 51st birthday to begin?
Dixie started as what my teacher would call a party trick. My party tricks are almost always offensive. But now I forget its history and just enjoy the melody. I stop playing before it turns into a march and we’re all taking our stand to live and die in Dixie, because that’s a shit melody anyway.
Dueling Banjos was my first offensive party trick, because Jan hates that song. But there’s kind of a “roundness” to it when I play it on a keyboard that I enjoy. I do most of the work with fingers 3, 4, and 5, which are by far my weakest, so this is a good exercise. I only do the intro, not the dueling. Outside of classical music I’m often just a riffmeister.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is my most recent bit of classical. There are many arrangements, and it took me a long time to find one I like. It is a two-hander, so I can be proud. Programming this one into memory rather than playing from the paper made me especially proud. Wolfgang Mozart himself undoubtedly played a much more difficult arrangement than I work with.
Fur Elise kicked my ass for so long. I quit on it more than once over the months. But now that I’ve got it, I play it all the time, alphabetical order be damned. It was my go-to piece of choice before I nailed the Pachelbel. I am only playing Part A, not the Part B where Ludwig von Beethoven decided to just cut loose because he could. Also, there are spots where I’m supposed to use both hands at once, but I just haven’t tried yet. Let me learn one hand at the time, the way I do most songs. So if the recording below, sounds a little odd, that’s why.
Also, I’d like to note that all my recordings sound better on the piano than in MIDI. Just so you know. Plus, my skill drops off significantly when I hit the “record” button. One reason for all these blog posts is to cure my performance anxiety. The other reason is that I’m damn sure not writing anything else at the moment.
Don’t expect greatness here, a’ight?
You yowl loudly if your litter box is not clean.
You yowl loudly at the full moon.
You yowl loudly for no reason.
Ping Pong balls!
You find yourself bathing Daddy every day because he doesn’t know how to clean himself.
You don’t understand the language that your pet humans use, but you always know when they are talking about you.
Daddy won’t change the weather no matter how many times you tell him to.
Sleeping near the air conditioner is always bad, no matter how hot the weather is. It’s better to curl up under a lamp in the hot summertime.
You are always on the wrong side of any closed door.
Strangers invade your home and you can do whatever you want. You can sniff them, you can let them rub you, you can purr and cuddle in their laps, you can protest their presence, you can cuddle Daddy, you can cuddle Mamma when there are too many males in the apartment. This is your home; they are only visitors.
You often get uncontrollable urges to bolt around the house at 3 am yelling meow meow at the top of your small but impressively powerful lungs.
You prefer even your water to have a tuna flavor.
I eat therefore I am.
Lying atop the bookshelf, which is very tall, gives you an excellent view of everything that happens in your apartment.
Acrobatic leaps that make the rest of the world sick with jealousy.
Your pet humans can sleep through alarm clocks and train wrecks, but not through the siren that is your voice. They wake up, feed you, and sleep through the rest of the day. Who cares if they sleep, as long as you are fed?
You feel an irresistible urge to get inside a wardrobe as soon as it’s open and remove all articles of clothing from their hangers.
You love climbing into any drawer that those fools carelessly leave open.
You know how to open an inkjet printer and watch the black plastic things move, even though you haven’t quite been able to bat one yet. But one day, you know you will.
Bug hunt! C’mere Daddy! Bug hunt!
You like it when people knock on your head.
You have an amazing variety of sound effects that cannot be reproduced phonetically.
When you are watching birds out the big window, they try to attack you.
You have the uncanny ability to vanish whenever you want. And nobody can find you no matter how hard they try, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
You can eat all the cans you want. All! Just say meow and more food magically appears.
You talk whenever one of your pet humans goes to the toilet. You feel an obligation to yowl on their behalf, same as you do when using your own facilities, because for some strange reason they lack this ability.
The computer is a friendly animal that purrs when you cuddle it.
You attack funnel web spiders on the television screen.
Sometimes you stop talking in the middle of a sentence and wash your leg or your naughty bits.
You are always right, no matter how bad you are.
This is an excerpt from Who Moved My Rice?
I’m proud enough of this one to share my sheet music and my MIDI without any self-deprecating “oh I’m so funny and witty” crap. It’s a song that I’ve never heard except when I play it myself, but I know I’m nailing it, which gives me a special pride. The closest my piano and I get to how I felt when I wrote novels just so.
I have a tendency to play songs that I know, because I’ve always enjoyed my innate sense of rhythm, but when I can nail one solely by what’s on the paper, oh yeah. I feel a bit of a communion with Handel or Mozart or whoever when I first meet them on the paper. But I’ll blog about them later. For now, it’s Chinese Kites. I have no idea who wrote it. The first time I played it, last year, my little Chinese Calico cat entered the room to listen. She still likes it, which is no mean feat.
But I digress. Let me start where I left off in our last installment, which was Back In Black, and work my way through the alphabet.
Basin Street Blues is a classic, and oh do I love the blues. But as a player, I can’t get past the first two bars. They will always be a part of my rotation. Look it up if you give a shit. Louis Armstrong and so forth.
Beethoven’s Fifth contains the most famous four-note riff in history. I play with it a lot. But since you know it as well as I do, I’ll move on. Ditto on the second most famous four-note riff, Smoke On The Water, which I play often. (I’ll share it with you and disparage the rest of the song later.)
The Blues Scale (C Eb F F# G Bb C) and a tune called Boogie Blues both came from one of my six actual piano lessons. I love playing the blues. I wish I had the skills to progress beyond those two — three since we should include Basin Street Blues — but as I’ve noted before, a man’s got to know his limitations. As Clint Eastwood taught us. Boogie Blues was in my textbook. I do love to play it. Whether it’s a “real song” or simply an exercise is irrelevant. I am nailing that bad boy with both hands and no flashlight. Except (again) when I try to record the damn thing for your enjoyment. But hey, I enjoy it. Nothing else matters.
By The Light of the Silvery Moon is a song that I love. (No, don’t be surprised that someone still plays this one. Do like my piano teacher and be surprised that someone still plays Swanee River. Kids today…) Not only do I play Silvery Moon well and feel it in my heart, but in my mind I’m actually singing most of the lyrics. (“Most” means I still have to do 2-3-4-3-1-2-4-3-1-2-3-2-1-3 rather than words.) Not aloud, lest I frighten the women and children. And that’s not even funny. I’m a far better singer than I am a pianist, and Mr. Napoli would agree. He was my ninth grade chorus teacher at Adams Junior High in Tampa, Florida. I was a First Tenor back then, which is a convenient excuse for why I don’t always read a Bass Clef so well. Except that I do now. An old dog can learn new tricks.
Canon In D Minor by Pachelbel is my go-to piece, my absolute favorite to play on the piano. And a newcomer. I have always loved to hear it. But in the case of playing, when I upgraded from the Casio 61-key to the Yamaha 88-key in January, the latter of which is touch sensitive, I discovered that I suddenly sounded like shit playing everything I’d previously mastered. Weak fingers, which I’m working on. (And little hobbit hands, which I can’t change but which are not an excuse anymore.) But this particular song, in the simplified version that I work with for now, is all whole notes. Just what I needed since my finger strength was shit. God, I love this song. I feel it. That’s what I want to play, songs that I feel every damn time. The more complex version is a future project. I could easily post sheet music and MIDI here, but that’d just be (1) bragging and (2) inferior to YouTube. I play this one solely for my own pleasure. All. The. Time.
Carolina In The Morning. Given where I was born and raised and currently live, I had to take a shot. I can do the riff, and it doesn’t matter a whit what lyrics I may be hearing in my warped little naughty Boy Scout mind. (If you have never heard the “naughty” version, just ask yourself what Carolina rhymes with and move on. Or read Conundrum, a novel in which I was explicit about it.)
Chinese Kites is the title of this post for reason. Let’s rock.
Back In Black – I saw a truck commercial during the Super Bowl where a classical violinist broke into the intro, and wow did that sound better than AC/DC. I’ve learned the same on my piano. I still screw up the rhythm of the fourth measure, but never mind. Here’s the sheet music I use, and here’s how I sound, although it’s obviously still a work in progress. What’s interesting is that I don’t even like AC/DC. Cool riff, though.
Okay, bonus track. Here’s me playing the opening to Another One Bites The Dust, by Queen. I was inspired by sirens outside my window, and since they’re a nightly occurrence. I get plenty of practice. Not that you’ll know it from this…
I consider myself a classical pianist. I just started goofing around with rock riffs earlier this month, probably to celebrate conquering Fur Elise (the easy version) after only six or so months of butchering it.
Both of these recordings expose how weak I am at using both hands simultaneously. This weakness may take years of practice to correct. Be grateful I don’t record them all, and try not to imagine what my outtakes sound like.
Also Sprach Zarathustra – I got my (simplified) copy from some sort of Piano For Dummies book at the local library. The first time I played in public was at a music store. They just unleash the students on their $4000 Yamahas. I’d been playing two months and never taken a lesson, and it showed. However, when I unleashed this simple-to-play tune, everybody stopped to listen. It wasn’t my skill, it was Richard Strauss’s writing. I wasn’t even playing the bass part yet. Classical music is in the public domain, meaning you can find the sheet music without me. I don’t feel compelled to record myself, either, because you can hear much better on YouTube. Or, just watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s the theme you know. Oh, and whatever I’m playing, always assume it’s a simplified copy and you’ll probably never be wrong.
Amazing Grace – My textbook cleverly had me playing an actual song on page 7. Six black keys, no need to read sheet music yet, and I was hooked. Again, I don’t feel compelled to record it for you. I never appreciated this melody as a little boy in church, but it’s cool.
Yeah, my songbook is alphabetical because that’s how I like it. I wrap up this letter of the alphabet with the opening riff to Another One Bites The Dust and Aura Lee. (You may better know the latter melody as Love Me Tender.) Neither of which I feel compelled to record.
Free classical sheet music is soooo easy to find. Free traditional sheet music isn’t hard. Google almost always takes me to Music For Music Teachers or Free Sheet Piano Music or MakingMusicFun.Net, so I finally cut out the middleman and snooped on the sites directly. Do this.
Free rock and roll, however… that ain’t happening. MusicNotes.com will let you have the first page free and sell you the rest for $5.50. But my attention span often drops off after intros and riffs, so one page is enough. I haven’t bought anything from them yet.
Okay, that’s enough. I just wanted to kick off this series of blog posts because the category was looking empty. I’ll wrap up with my little version of Amazing Grace, just in case you want to play without learning theory and reading music first. Or, if you learn that you don’t like the keyboard, that works too. I fell in love. Obviously. You can find many arrangements of this classic, but none so simple as mine.
[an excerpt from The Last Titan]
“We did not ask to be worshipped,” says Hephaestus.
“Nor should you,” says Marla, “since you haven’t done a damn thing to solve any of the world’s problems. AIDS, poverty, food factories churning out GMOs and poisons, slavery, the Holocaust, global warming, wars, cancer –”
“Why doesn’t your god do it? He has more power than we do.”
“He’s not my god.”
“Mine either. Who are you to judge me?”
“Gods should always be judged.”
“This is true.” He pauses. “But we’re not gods. We crashed here. We didn’t ask to be worshipped. We do what we can, but you ask too much of us. We can’t stop people from being greedy or stupid. We can’t force you to care for your sick and elderly, we can’t create jobs, we can’t make Sisyphus push a rock up and down a mountain for eternity. We’ve got a few more skills than you do and we remember more than you do, so we’re a little more effective when we set our minds to something. That’s what we work with. That’s it.”
“Shit. Sorry. Shit.”
“This is why I don’t tell people who I am. This clinging needy dependency problem you people have. You invent an all-knowing all-powerful deity who can do or make anything he wants, and then you think you can bribe him with prayers and sacrifices and gifts that he made in the first place. You can’t bribe gods, and we’re not even gods. One thing your people have in common with mine is that you’re all a big pain in the ass.”
Marla sits in stunned silence for a moment before speaking. “Wow. You can get angry.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” She shakes her head. “Dependency, you say. Did you ever ask anybody for help? If you don’t, you create this ugly cycle where you’re always rushing in like a savior and then resenting it. It was nice of you to ask me to move a TV, but it didn’t come easily to you, did it? When you ask others for help, you give them the opportunity to feel valued. Maybe the problem isn’t with us, it’s with you.”
“Are you talking about someone you know?” Hephaestus asks.
After a long moment, she nods. “Fair enough. So, are we spending all day together?”
“That’s my plan.”
“In that case, I’ll harangue you more later.”
[I needed four years to complete The Last Titan. This is why I became a novelist, over 40 years ago, to write this book.]
In 2001, CrossroadsPub published Vigilante Justice.
Every book on their site had a theme song attached, and I absolutely loved their choice for my novel. I’d love to find more music by this person/band, and purchase it, and perhaps even scrounge up some sheet music and learn a few bars on my piano. But alas, the disbanded/disbarred/disreputable CrossroadsPub never listed a song title or gave credit to an artist.
I still have my song. Please listen to it, and let me know if you recognize either the artist or the song.