The anxiety of the night before

Friday night. Dreading my piano lesson in the morning. I’ve been taking jazz piano lessons since February and making very little progress. And tonight as I sat at my piano, struggling to pick out chords to go with the dreadful blues song I’ve written — Don’t wanna get up today — I thought, “Maybe I should quit.”

Maybe I am completely untalented with no capacity for learning this stuff. It’s possible. And it’s painful. Especially the lessons. My teacher’s frustration with my inability to master even three simple chords is obvious every Saturday. And I can’t keep a beat with my left hand while improvising with my right. I’m completely uncoordinated and feel as though I’m juggling with a chainsaw and a toothbrush.

For last week’s lesson, when I practiced, I worked on keeping a beat with my left hand and moving smoothly between chords. Right hand improvisation was too much for my brain, so I sang while I played with my left. Made up a blues song, added verses. Nothing written down. That was my improvisation.

I thought it was a pretty good approach for me, a way to learn something, make some progress. But when I went to my lesson and performed my blues song, feeling pretty good that I kept my left hand going, my teacher was less than delighted. I finished up that lesson feeling like a terrible student. Again.

So I’m wondering: Is my problem that playing jazz is beyond my brain power? Am I approaching this all wrong? Or do I have the wrong teacher?

Looking for advice. Thanks.


Why jazz and superheroes?

When I was a kid, I’d button my cardigan at the neck with the sleeves hanging down my back and talk one of the boys at recess into being Robin. Then we’d jump into the rowboat in the kindergarten playground and chase bad guys. (Did I type rowboat? Scratch that. Batboat.)

Now I’m writing about a superhero. That means that for the next year, I’ll be spending a lot of time with Batman stuff: dark streets, martial arts, a shadowy sensei, and a city in distress.

But that’s not all I’m doing. There’s also jazz. My Matterhorn. After playing classical piano since I was driving the Batboat, I want to move like Jarrett. And it’s hard. I’m learning a new language and, right now, it feels like trying to explain celestial navigation. In Mandarin. Using only three verbs.

I’m going to share what I find out as I travel these two roads. My hope is that there are other people thinking about (and crazy for) superheroes and jazz, and they’ll be generous with their insights.

One other thing. Eventually, all things merge into one. Even Batman and riffs.