Itchy Fingers

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Among the happiest memories of my childhood was playing the piano.
It was my refuge in an otherwise dysfunctional and sexual abusive
family. I survived several equally abusive piano teachers until I found
the man who mentored me back to health and creativity, inspiring me
to get a degree in teaching and become an educator. With a busy life
of work and parenting, I slowly lost contact with the instrument,
though not my love of music. But as I developed happier things in life
I didn’t need it as a crutch. Now I am close to retirement and want to
but a new piano. I lost my old piano in a house fire ten years ago and
we haven’t had the money until now to buy a good instrument. As I
look for used pianos for sale in the local area I am seeing everything
from $100 garage sale beat-up uprights to $11,000 Steinways. I want
something good but I am so out of practice that I’m not sure I’ll be
able to tell what’s the right one. But I’m ready to return to the

Itchy Fingers

Dear Itchy Fingers:

I have several suggestions, both financial and aesthetic. Money’s easy:
set a budget of what’s your absolute upper limit. It can be $1,000,
$5,000, or $10,000, but whatever you decide is your max, stick to it.
Aesthetics is harder, but trust your gut and your ear to work together.
To remember how to play, choose a piece of music you have always
loved, say Moonlight Sonata and use that as your piano audition piece.
For every piano you try out, stick to the same music. You might even
consider renting a piano for a month or two before you start looking at
pianos to buy, just to get your hands back in practice.

Also, for a wonderful story, Google keywords Noah Adams + piano
lessons. I heard it on NPR eons ago when I started to learn piano as
an adult. It’s the story of his desire to surprise his wife for a special
anniversary with a candle-lit, rose-in- a-vase, rendition of a romantic
Schumann sonata. He goes on a search for the right piano, from
Steinways to junkyard finds. The book Piano Lessons would be a
wonderful place for you to start your own search. I suspect it will
inform it greatly. You’ll know your piano when you hear it.