9. ‘… Play on’

I shall continue with the misquoted Shakespeare line from the previous post ‘Music is my food of life … ‘…. play on’.

PD affects (amongst other things) tremor, dexterity and multi tasking. With that in mind and my new post diagnosis attitude, should I :

  • (For comedic affect) enter the intercounty ‘jelly on a stick’ balancing competition
  • (Or for a challenge) learn a musical instrument?

Both require co-ordination, a steady hand, dexterity and concentration. However with one you end up with sticky fingers, the other possibly a Certificate.

I have already established music is marvellous, the right kind has a positive affect on my symptoms*

*To be clear I am not unique; PD hasn’t turned my brain into a musical superpower. Everyone will get a boost when they listen to music they enjoy. If you have sufficient dopamine, I assume that the boost will make you happy. With PD sometimes it means improved walking, or (possibly as important) properly peeled potatoes.

On with the blog …

Music and learning new skills is good for the brain. So music plus learning, put them together and what have you got (apart from bibbidi-bobbidi-boo):

Music + Learning = Learn to play an instrument

Stop right there : Don’t worry I don’t intend this to turn into a ‘journey’ with an emotional arc, plinky plonky music and a bit of slo mo.

I had some piano lessons when I was young, but to be honest I was not totally committed (with my 8 year old diversion skills I managed to avoid a few lessons). However, things are different today with my new attitude and desire to learn.

My piano teacher was amazingly patient. During lessons the symptoms would appear and disappear unpredictably. The practice and lessons followed a similar pattern. Some good progress, a bit of bad playing, sometimes a bit of a cry (from me), and random interruptions from Flanrinsto (see ‘a day in the life’ post 7 for an explanation), and later interruptions from a new puppy (more about that later).

I soon found that something amazing happened when I put my hands on the piano keys. More often than not the tremor and rigidity stopped. In fact, when dexterity is rubbish, I can usually play scales smoothly with both hands simultaneously – you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with either hand.

However if I become tired and/or stressed, symptoms will inevitably break through. So towards the end of the lessons my fingers may lock up, or if I got particularly frustrated then PD would break through.

I refer back to the section on stress (post 7) and avoiding it as much as possible. So what did I do next :

  • Carry on learning for pleasure
  • Or enter for my grade 1 piano exam?

As this is obviously now turning into one of those annoying ‘journey arcs’, then it had better be the latter.

So a piano exam, I obviously needed to limit stress and forward plan. My PD nurse wrote a letter stating that during the exam I would need chocolate, water and extra time. So a dopamine boost from the chocolate (yes really), a drink, and time to regroup if PD interfered.

Apologies this is the plinky plonky music/slo mo part …

The week before the exam, I randomly suggested that I play in the piano concert at my children’s school, where my piano teacher taught (I know, I know). One of my exam pieces was a duet, so I thought that was safest because at least my teacher would be with me, and in lessons it went quite well.

I will not beat about the bush, suffice to say :

  • School hall
  • About 40 parents and students
  • Sat at the piano to play the duet with my teacher
  • Fingers locked up and tremored
  • I played nothing, she played something
  • Stood up and bowed
  • Went and sat down.

My exam was the following week, all I wanted now was a level playing field.  I genuinely didn’t care if I failed.  I just wanted to get through it without PD interfering.  Again, a control thing, I was happy to fail as long as the fail was all my own work.  If PD failed on my behalf it was double rubbish, no control and a fail.

The exam went like this :

  • Walked in
  • Sat down
  • Played scales/pieces/sight reading/aural test
  • Stood up
  • Walked out

Chocolate, water and extra time weren’t required.  Flanrinsto stayed in the corner eating jelly.

I passed with MERIT and have a beautiful certificate.

Now you may stand and clap.

Pre PD : I had thought I should really go back to piano, it would be nice to learn an instrument, I’ll do it one day. And get on with the dusting.

Post diagnosis : I have a dusty house (that is not a joke). PD makes me seize the day and appreciate what a great thing the brain and human body is. And to use it whilst I can.

This is all smashing but there was something missing.

‘The right kind of music’. With all due respect to grade 1 piano music composers, it is not my brain’s music of choice. So although good, it could be better.

So that got me thinking of a new mathematical equation :

(Music + Learning) x Loud Rock = Bass Guitar Lessons