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I am a Los Angeles-based twentysomething. I have a profession, and I have a secret life in music, and this blog isn't about any of that. I like Blogger because I can't read what you're thinking.

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Tuesday, September 28   >>

SCOTT HOUSTON THE PIANO GUY



This guy changed my life.

I'm not joking.

He literally *changed* my life. Overnight.

All the artists I've ever gushed about here have never changed my life. Folds, Mehldau, Hancock, etc. They didn't change my life. They continue to inspire me greatly, but they did not change my life.

Here's how it went down:

You know how the dad in Alvin and the Chipmunks always had sheet music strewn everywhere in his house? That's the way I thought people wrote music. Not just classical musicians. But, like, Metallica. Or Green Day. Or Britney Spears. I thought they all wrote music by proper notation, note-by-note, in perfect harmonies and rhythms and dynamic markings.

Because I saw how difficult that was, I quit piano for a couple years. 1999-2001ish. It didn't seem worth 5 months of slave labor to learn a 10 minute Mozart piece, let alone write my own sheet music. ALLLVVVVVINNNN!!!!

Then, in my junior year of high school, my dad ran into a PBS program with the guy in the video above. Scott Houston, the host, said, "Anyone can learn piano." And they showed footage of old people fingering a paper piano. It looked almost pathetic.

I guffawed. By this time, I had gotten back to piano and was still slaving over the classics. I'm, like, "Who the hell is this prick to say that all my years of education should be erased and can be learned within a few hours?"

And, in just a few words, Scott Houston explained what a lead sheet is. And that was a game changer. Forever. Music just clicked instantaneously, everything made sense. It was the musical equivalent of seeing The Matrix. I swear to god, that's how it was. Like being reborn with a new outlook on life. I'm not fucking with you guys.

The chords looked familiar on this old Phantom of the Opera book I had. At that very moment, I went from the sofa to the piano and I made a boring melody into this lush, arpeggiated interpretation. My interpretation. And no one could tell me I was wrong. There was no rules. It was so liberating. There I was, playing with this talent I never knew I had. It was fucking INSANITY. I lost my shit. It was my eureka moment.

The very next day, I bought a massive lead sheet book.

The very next week, I quit classical instruction with my teacher of 10 years.

The very next few weeks after getting used to learning every chord imaginable, I was playing literally hundreds of songs. Hundreds. I could never even dream of playing more than 5 songs a year, and there I was, playing hundreds of songs in every genre I'd always hoped to be able to play. And best off, people around me were finally enjoying the sound of our shitty piano. It wasn't just Bach anymore. It was The Beatles, Bee Gees, Carpenters, Journey, Mariah Carey.

I often wonder where I'd be musically if I didn't accidentally run into this PBS program.

I owe everything to Scott Houston. If I met him, I would probably break down. I don't really know anyone else I could say that about. Houston seems like a cool guy, so he'd probably be like, "What the fuck?" but I'd explain it to him and I'm sure he'd understand or whatever.

Since then, it continues to be my goal as the occasional piano instructor for young kids to get that eureka moment. And when it happens, I know I can send the kids off.