True stories with a twist!


I played it again, then isolated the difficult parts and practiced each part alone. When the hard parts were mastered I started again and put the whole piece together until it flowed smoothly. This was the tedious part of playing the piano: practicing. By now I had played Beethoven’s Fur Elise, so many times that I heard it in my sleep.  images.jpg

This time at my lesson would my piano teacher, Steve, recognize how much effort I had put into playing this piece? The fingering, the left hand chords and the subtlety of transitions? The shading of tones and the rich feelings that Beethoven felt when he composed this beautiful music had to be interpreted and expressed by the performer. I was the 10 year old performer.

My harshest critic, Steve, would pronounce his verdict about my playing this piece. Today he will hear the version I will play, one week after my last lesson.

images-1.jpgWhen he spoke he said the exact same words he used every single time I played a piece for him. “Not Bad.” Every lesson, every week, no matter how hard I tried to improve, his critique of my playing was always “Not Bad.”

So that was it? Not Bad? Could I ever do better? Or was the piano teacher simply telling me that my talent for the piano was mediocre and would probably never improve?

My life as a pianist ended shortly thereafter.

But how strange that over 40 years later, as I worked with a physical therapist, it all came rushing back. I was practicing standing on one foot at a time to improve my balance. After holding the one foot pose for the count of 10 before starting to wobble, she said, “Not Bad!”

We both had a good laugh, as I explained my history with the expression “Not Bad,”and continued the balance exercises.


Comments on: "PIANO LESSONS" (23)

  1. Worst than my piano teacher

  2. Pity about the piano. ‘Fur Elise’ shows good progress. I still play it from memory for enjoyment, and it provided the gateway to the sonatas. If only those comments had been in the ‘pretty good’ range to encourage you to keep on with it. After all, you mastered the guitar. I have started teaching myself that, and am not getting very far! My teacher says, ‘Pretty lousy’. (That’s me, of course.)

  3. Yes, all in all, “Not Bad” is a pretty horrible expression for a teacher. I’ve taught Creative Writing classes for many, many years. I’ve never once used the expression, “Not Bad.” I believe in focusing on the positive points of a student’s creative expression, whether playing a musical instrument or penning a story, and focusing on the positive. Encouragement leads to better work, always.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Not bad, Ronnie.

  5. It is always amazing what we hold inside of ourselves Ronnie, and It never fails to amaze me at what sets off those same triggers of memory we once thought lost..
    Showing us how we hold onto those comments, and how they affect us..
    May be his Not bad, was because you were TOO Good for your age.. And he found that difficult to acknowledge,
    I hope you never gave up playing for good.. To reach such a scale within your training.. I hope you play for pleasure..

    Love and Hugs my friend

    • Actually, what happened, Sue, was that I took up the guitar. I really enjoyed playing the guitar, and played it without pressure for many years. In fact when I was in college I taught guitar, and I can assure you that I never said, “Not Bad” to one of my students.

      • I am learning Guitar Very Slowly 🙂 but getting there.. 🙂 and wonderful you taught it too 🙂 now wished ‘I’lived next door to you .. LOL…

  6. harvey hammer said:

    All in all:
    Not Bad

  7. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer said:

  8. Well, not a bad post. 😉

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