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Dear Little Bobby…
I am new to being a musician. I recently started trying to play the piano. I haven’t taken any formal lessons, but a friend of mine has been showing me a few songs and a few chords. I’m wondering, what is the best way to become a better piano player?
-Newbie in Neverland
I would recommend taking a couple of lessons, maybe even from a couple of different people, that will give you a few different perspectives on the instrument and your playing.
Back in 2003, I joined a band as a keyboard player, despite the fact that I was a frustrated guitar player who barely knew how to play piano. I knew which notes were which, but that was about it. At the same time, our drummer also started playing piano, but unlike me…he would stay up, for hours, night after night, practicing. After a couple of years of this, he had become such a fantastic, self-taught piano player, that he received scholarships which paid for him to obtain a graduate/master level degree in music. He specializes in piano composition and performance—pretty good for someone who did not finish high school. Now he teaches and plays piano on a professional level.
Every once in a while, however, if I get stuck musically and need another round of information to help me progress as a player, then I will take a lesson from someone REALLY knowledgable, like my friend.
But the key is always practice, whatever level you are at, beginner (like you), intermediate (like me), or expert (like my friend). He only became an amazing classical piano player by spending hours and hours and hours playing.
The more I play, the less I think about my limitations as a musician, and the more I think about having fun and expressing myself.
So, take a lesson or two, and after that, spend your time playing what you want to play. Look online for chords charts (or even sheet music) of songs you like, and learn them. Learning those songs inside and out and eventually write your own. Ask your friends for help. Most musicians like playing together. And if you are having fun, then you are doing it right.
Life is short. Play hard.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“I just want to play piano!” —Mark Mallman, 2004
Dear Little Bobby,
My mom and dad both have concealed carry permits. This is because they are afraid of all the bad guys out there with guns, and they want to be a couple good guys out there with guns.
Basically this means that they have guns on them all the time. My siblings and I didn’t grow up with guns around like this. Sure, there were guns—locked away in the safe—and my dad hunted various innocent wild lifeforms every year, with varying levels of success/deadliness, but there weren’t guns, like, ON YOUR PERSON at any (basically every) given moment.
So, since this is a relatively new thing for them, I tend to forget that they will, like, have their guns in their purse (or coat or whatever) at the diner, the coffeeshop, in my house when they come to visit me. And at my art openings (I’m a sculptor).
I think this is creepy. I also think this is dangerous. Should I tell them that they’re not allowed to bring guns when they hang out with me? Or…just continue to ignore it?
—Unwillingly locked and loaded in ABQ
The growing epidemic of gun violence that has continued to consumed this nation, year after year after year—in conjunction with my own training in meditation and compassion—have convinced me that I want nothing to do with guns…ever.
Does this mean that I do not allow guns in my house? I would like to say yes.
But the truth is that last year, when my mother stayed a weekend with me, I did not ask her if she still carries the handgun she bought after divorcing my violent, psychopathic, gun-loving, woman-hating stepfather.
On the other hand, my father was a police officer. And being around his gun was part of my childhood. It never seemed odd to me. However, I never liked it, because it signaled danger. He also drilled into me that his gun was not something to touch, and I never did.
Other kids have not been as fortunate as me. According to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, every single day in the United States, 50 children are shot by guns. FIFTY CHILDREN. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. As well as an additional 250 adults.
America’s collective attitude of impotence towards this is heartbreakingly sad.
You think your parents carrying guns is dangerous? Well, you are absolutely right, it IS dangerous. Statistically, someone’s gun is more likely to hurt them or a family member than a “bad guy.” But the cowards that run the National Rifle Association (and the politicians they purchase) want you, me, your parents and mine, all of us, to live in fear. They profit off of fear. They try to frighten the reptilian parts of our brain. They are not interested in compassion. They ignore the truth and they want nothing to do with statistics.
People like your parents, and mine, will tell us that they are careful. They have an “accidents will not happen to me” mentality. They think that they are above average when it comes to anger, rage, suicide, domestic violence…but the TRUTH is that half of them are either wrong or DEAD wrong.
Stories from my childhood back me up on this, as does a plethora of empirical data.
My psychopathic stepfather should not have had guns, much less a bunch of them. And my mother should not have had to fear him and his guns.
Despite my childhood, I will not live in fear.
You can ignore your parents’ guns if you want. But I would tell them how I feel. After all, they ARE bringing a dangerous weapon into your home (or coffeeshop or wherever) under the guise of keeping you safe. However, the fact is they are making you, and themselves, less safe.
If I were you, I would ask your parents to please not bring their guns to your art shows out of respect for you. But remember, they ARE afraid. Try to have compassion for them, because your compassion will always be more beneficial than someone else’s fear.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Imagine all the people, Living life in peace” —John Lennon, victim of gun violence