Sound Overload

After getting upset about not seeing my man and having a minor melodramatic moment where I exclaimed “We have nothing in common to do together!”, his exacting brain, true to form, took it literally and came up with this brilliant idea – teach me piano. Needless to say I was thrilled. He genuinely was interested. Oh my gosh, we have something to learn together as a couple!

Only one problem with this idea; my partner gets overloaded with sound. So far, I haven’t seen a reaction in the dramatic, classical meltdown range, but stick him in a loud noisy room expectantly, or even just a brief unexpected crash occurring in a familiar environment is enough to turn him temporarily into a stiff statue of hypervigilance. I still have no idea what it is about sound that does it. I know loudness is bad, if only because I am frequently being asked to shush (I am possibly one of the loudest people on the planet). I know any unexpected sounds are a pet peeve. I think discordance is horrible as well based off complaints of certain everyday discordant sounds being horrible. Other than that, not a clue. To my boring normal mind, sound is sound, and as long as it’s not ultra high pitched (seriously, keep those ultrasonic rodent deterrent machines away from me) or nails down a chalk board (discordance! NO!), I’m cool with it.

So when I’m asked to teach him piano, I’m thinking “Great. My piano is mellow, it’s reasonably soft sounding, and it’s easier to avoid discordance on than most other instruments”. In other words, piano is perfect because the likelihood the three things I know trigger sound overload are minimized to hopefully have little or no effect. Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the fact his sense of touch, hand-eye coordination, and hand-hand coordination is dodge, and that he’s basically a complete noob into this equation. Oops.


Eventually, sometime between unexpected life stuff and planned life stuff, we find ourselves at the piano. A piano which is admittedly a honky-tonk due to age and lack of regular tuning, but musical nonetheless. He’s been asking to learn pieces from ‘Amelie’. I’ve decided to start with scales and maybe the super easy accompaniment for my choral arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’. And thus began the (admittedly hilarious) torture.

Me: I’m going to teach you the C scale first, cause then it’ll be easier to work out all the other notes and fingering on the keyboard.

Him: Ok.

Me: So the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, octave C. *points at each key*

Him: This means nothing to me. How do I play it?

Me: Like this. *demonstrates correct fingering*

Him: *attempts to copy. In no way is this slow, legato, or even harmonious as he holds down each key when played, doesn’t let go, and consequently gets stuck*

Me: Play it slowly with me.


And so we play the scale with the right hand slowly through together. We try the left hand (which is the worse hand for sensory sensitivity). The 6 foot monkey in shoes sitting next to me is getting frustrated.

Him: I can’t when you play too, my brain isn’t registering I’ve played a note when you are playing.

Me: What even?

Him: What is this? *plays C*

Me: C.

Him: What is this? *plays F*

Me: F.

Him: I hear a ‘donk’ and a ‘donk’. If you play I can only hear one ‘donk’ not two.

Me: Fine, you play it alone then and tell you what you’ve done when you get stuck.


Teaching piano becomes an exercise in getting him sit down, not wander the room, or attempt to distract me with science about why him trying to play the piano is impossible. I subsequently turn into my old piano teacher who used to just ignore those behaviour and tell me what to play whilst pointing at the piano.

Me: C! *points at piano then taps on middle C*

Him: *sits down, mimics, then grins*

Me: Come on, C!

Him: I wanted you to try to teach me how to play.

Me: I am teaching you how to play. C!

Him: Yes, but I wanted you to teach me, not Hitler!


We play both hands together ascending, descending, and then in contrary motion. Eventually, he point blank baulks at doing this, removing his hands from the piano as though it’s a venomous snake. Alrighty then. Moving on. I’m getting bored. He’s distracted. What would my teacher used to do? Oh right! Teach a simple song. I pull out sheet music, draw up a simple stave with the C scale with the notes written underneath for comparison and off we go. He’s still antsy. Eventually, this gem is produced:

Him: Notation is wrong. How can you use letters to label sounds? There are more sounds in between this note and that note you know. *points at keys*

Me: I know. But that is just the way it is.

Him: But it’s wrong! *starts telling me some sciencey thing about waveforms and how one could write music using that and it would therefore be better*

Me: But this is the way it is. It’s standardised. Anyone can read it.

Him: *petulantly* They should be notated as lines of varying bumpiness.


Not long after he practically runs from the piano over to the lounge and sits there all hunched up. He’d lasted 2 hours before succumbing to noise overload; I had no idea we’d been doing that for so long and I am honestly surprised he lasted that long. Comforting hugs were in order before he was compelled to wander into the kitchen to make pancakes – apparently pancakes would make everything better.

Maybe next time I’ll invest in a pair of giant, fluffy, pink ear muffs for him. He won’t be able to hear anything at all and will look ever so handsome!


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