I usually associate “finishing” with sporting events. Think about the finish line of a car race, the eighteenth hole of a golf tournament, or the ticking seconds of the clock as a football game runs out of time. In these scenarios, the finish can be a tense, hold-your-breath moment, triggering a burst of euphoria if your favorite takes the win. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to reflect on the completion of my Lego Grand Piano. Tense? Hardly. Held my breath? Not at all. Euphoria? Anything but. No, this finish feels a little forlorn.
Three thousand, six hundred, and sixty-two tiny pieces ago, I began the assembly of Lego’s Grand Piano, just about the closest gift to “perfect” my wife has ever given me. Piano is inextricably connected with my childhood – hours upon hours of practice and playing and determined progress at a tender age, eventually succumbing to other temptations of time. Piano introduced me to commitment, skill, and patience, even frustration and disappointment. My parent’s big, black grand sat patiently in our living room, beckoning me to play every time I passed by. The instrument was always perfectly tuned and sparklingly clean, thanks to my mother’s weekly persistence with a dust cloth. I can still hear her sweeping the eighty-eight keys from one end to the other – a delightfully musical moment.
Believe it or not, the Lego Grand Piano is the second gift of a piano from my wife. On our wedding day in 1987, she presented me with Korg’s “Sampling Grand”, an electronic keyboard with weighted keys and surprisingly realistic sound, much less expensive than the real thing. Thirty-five years later, the Korg still plays like a champ and still earns a spot in our living room. (Unlike the Lego version, the Korg was already assembled when I got it.)
The start-to-finish journey of my Lego Grand Piano has been a more enjoyable ride than I expected. When I opened the box last Christmas, I remember my jaw dropping a little, not only because I never saw the gift coming but because of the sheer complexity of the project staring up at me from the box That’s a complicated-looking instrument, I thought. That’s a ton of pieces, I also thought.
The unopened Lego box sat on my home office desk for a couple of weeks, looking elegant without even being touched. My curiosity eventually got the better of me and I finally had a look inside. Talk about intimidating. A 500-page instruction manual awaited, along with forty-odd individual bags of pieces. Even though this was a twenty-one-step journey, some steps involved “sub-bags” of tiny, tiny pieces, grouped separately so as not to escape! Was I really brave enough to dive into this mess?
The first chapter – shared with you readers on January 6th of this year (a date we Americans wish to forget) – spoke to my hesitation when I wrote an entire post about building the piano without actually building anything. I just poked around the box and marveled at the contents and felt pretty good about even opening up the box. But I did get started seven days later, and the subsequent journey was wholly satisfying and something of a weekly escape.
At first, I made several mistakes as the piano began to take shape. Since the pieces are small it’s easy to place them backward, or even mistake one for another. I also fretted when extra pieces remained after a given section of the build. (For the record, there were 38 extra pieces when all was said and done. I can fit all of them into the palm of my hand.) There were at least two instances where I had to disassemble several pieces to get back to the point where I’d done something wrong. Those moments were utterly unnerving and confidence-shattering (take your pick).
[Author’s Note: After weeks and weeks of building the Lego Grand Piano, it only now occurs to me I’m describing one type of keyboard while typing on another. Don’t you just love the coincidence?]
So let’s finish this post by revisiting “finishing”. What should be a moment of triumph feels a tad sad instead. After the first few weeks, the build of the Lego Grand Piano became a weekly treat, accompanied by some of my favorite classical music. Many stages were mini-surprises, not knowing what section I was building until the last piece was in place. And of course, sharing the progress with all of you was also fun. One reader admitted she would first scroll to the bottom of a post before reading my weekly topic. She couldn’t wait to find out how the piano was coming along.
So, here we are now, finally done. Next week’s post will feel a little empty without a reference to the Lego Grand Piano. By total coincidence, my daughter got married this past weekend, also the end of a journey (months of planning and all). My son just turned 30 yesterday, the finish line of his 20’s. And soon, my wife and I will point our cars east for our move to South Carolina, the finish of our days in Colorado. To be finished is to be sad? You bet it is.
I’ll dive into another Lego build one of these days, I promise. Maybe I’ll even take you along for the ride again. In the meantime, I’ll flip the hidden switch and play the piano every now and then. I’ll also find an acrylic box in which I can display this magnificent project. After all, with my mother’s good habits in mind, I don’t want it gathering dust.
Lego Grand Piano – Update #21
(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)
The finále of the Lego Grand Piano assembly, as expected, was the build of the pianist’s bench and the placement of the sheet music onto the stand. Bag #21 – of 21 bags of pieces – was bigger than I expected. I mean, a bench is a seat with four legs, right? Not according to Lego. This bench raises and lowers with the little dials you see on the sides, to accommodate the height of our fictitious pianist.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Lego Grand Piano was designed by the guy you see below, Donny Chen, a 33-year-old piano teacher and tuner from Guangzhou, China. No surprise, Donny’s passions are the piano and Lego. He’s a lot smarter than I am, evidenced by this quote: “I’ve always seen toys as something to be imagined, not just played with”. Me, I just played with toys.
[Pianist’s Note: The Lego Grand Piano DOES play, I know it does. I just have to figure out two things. One, how did I manage to disconnect the cable to the sound box buried deep within the piano frame? Two, how the heck am I going to get it reconnected? That’ll take more time than I have today and is part of why I “finished on a low note”. But I’ll share a concert with you when you least expect it – I promise. “Stay tuned”.]
Running Build Time: 14.0 hours. Musical accompaniment: Jarratt and Reedman’s Hooked on Classics. Leftover pieces: 1
Conductor’s Note: Apologies to the purists but I just couldn’t resist this somewhat tongue-in-cheek accompaniment to the final chapter of the Lego Grand Piano. Hooked on Classics is a top-ten Billboard Hot 100 hit from 1981, a mashed-up perversion of bits of the world’s most recognized classical pieces… overlaid on a drum track. It was recorded by Louis Clark and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and bred several spin-offs (ex. Hooked on Romance) Hooked on Classics came along just as I was wrapping up my childhood piano “career”. I much prefer the originals of the several classical pieces in Hooked but maybe this peppy number is your cup of tea. Have a listen:
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.