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Cords: Broken Chords and Ties that Bind

I started taking piano lessons in November. This has been a bucket-list item of mine for several years. From ages six to eleven, I gained an elemental knowledge of piano from my maternal grandmother. I retained knowledge of treble clef because I started playing the violin. As a violist, I move fluidly between the treble and alto clefs. When I practice before singing in public, I am adept at plunking out my part. I remembered the mnemonic phrase for the bass clef, but without routine use, I could no longer read the bass clef with proficiency. That became the first goal, and I dutifully fill in the blanks of my piano book when I need to review my bass clef basics.

I’m also relearning some terms. I maybe didn’t even know that the notes of a chord separated into a sequential progression is called a broken chord. It’s one thing to play three or more notes at the same time with my left hand while my right hand is playing the melody and harmony notes. It’s wholly different for my left hand to play broken chords with the main theme. My left hand does most of the work when I play viola, so one would think it would be easier. Years of musicianship aside, I often feel I’m rubbing my head and patting my stomach rather than the right way of doing it.

I’m discovering the benefits of breaking up the song by learning the right hand before figuring out the left hand. I’m forcing myself to go line by line–sometimes measure by measure–even though I’d like to simply play all the way through because I am familiar with the tune.

I’m still trying to figure out the pedal. When to use it. Why it’s used. What do I do with the other two pedals?

Sometimes I think I should know how to play a song right the first time. I wonder why I believe this about myself sometimes–that I can do something right, right away. When I see sustained chords with a simple melody, I assume I shouldn’t have a problem playing a song.

First mistake.

Ever made one of those? In public?

How about for the offertory on a Sunday morning?

Maybe I’m the only one who has done that. Maybe I’m the lone survivor of living out Luke 4:11.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 4:11

In fact, hadn’t I said the evening before what my husband called a “crash and burn” rendition of “We Gather Together” that we could be exalted or humiliated? Well, I’ll claimed the latter for certain.

The problem was, I had two more songs to play after the sermon. And they were harder. One I had decided to sing to as I played. I had never done that before in public. Not only that, I had to remember the words. In all our rehearsals, I had never gotten all the way through without a mistake.

The other was one we had arranged with a different rhythm. We could certainly skip it. People tend to talk through postludes anyway.

But, as I prayed for myself and my wounded esteem through the sermon, I knew I had to do both. Skip the pedals. I needed to get back on that piano bench.

Let’s say “Just As I Am” took on new meaning for me that morning. I sang every word. If I missed a note, it didn’t matter. The postlude ambled along with our own rhythm.

Why did I play better?

Maybe because I didn’t play alone. My husband is a human metronome and a better musician than I am, although he would never admit it.

My youngest son said that the offertory song was easier so I wasn’t nervous enough about it. Excellent observation. I did practice, but not the way I did for the other songs.

But, there is a deeper reason.


Just as I am is nothing compared to who I am because of God’s grace in my life. I will crash and burn if I fail to realize I am never alone. I can have assurance that His grace walks along with me and leads me. Especially when I tend to go astray.

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