1. hiiiii
2. thank youuuuuu you're the besttttt <3

Today's YouTube video had a lot go into it. I know it doesn't look like it - it's just a one-take recording - but there's a lot that happened behind the scenes that I want to get into.

First, we need to start with me playing piano. I've played since I was 7 or 8 - can't remember exactly. Coming up on either 10 or 11 years soon. I took lessons until the start of COVID, then I took a break, and then I started playing again - just by myself. I play music from video games mostly, now.

However, since I stopped taking lessons, I needed a way to push myself to keep getting better. So I have what I call "challenge pieces", which are pieces that I'll have to work at, learn/master a new skill for, stuff like that. Something to keep me getting better at it.

The first piece I picked was Pale Court, from Hollow Knight. I printed out this arrangement along with a few other pieces when I got back into it at first. The other ones went ok, this.. did not. I was not ready. So I shelved it and resolved to come back later.

Later arrived, I pulled it back out, and I still sucked. But I sucked less enough to convince me that I had a chance.

So I started working on it. I was really not good at it at first. But I was committed, so I kept going. Slow tempo, hands separate. No metronome. So many mistakes. But I kept working, I kept trying, I kept practicing, I kept improving. And slowly I got better.

Being just "good at the piano", the way I frame it, isn't enough. Being "good at the piano" gets you a larger percentage of the way to mastery at the start. 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60% done much easier and quicker. But to truly master a piece - to reach 80%, 90%, 95%, 100%, you have to work on just that one piece. You have to learn its quirks, its tricky parts, its rhythm, its feel.

After about 6 months I decided to record something to upload to YT, mostly as a reference point so I could see how far I'd come later, and also as a way to say "hey, I'm working on this song, hope you like it". That's available here.

After about a year and a half I got to a point where I considered myself good enough to try recording it. It took me a few attempts, but I got a decent take. But when I went to listen to it, it felt… wrong. Something wasn't right with it, though I didn't know what, so I didn't upload it. I ended up deleting the recording. I wish I hadn't, but oh well.

I tried recording it a few more times. Maybe I had done something weird with the rhythm? I didn't quite know. But every time I got something that was good enough, it was still missing that.. crucial bit. That I couldn't place. After about two weeks of trying, I gave up and shelved it for later.

Then came the talent show. People told me I should play in it, so I decided "why not". I figured Pale Court was my best shot of winning something since it was my most difficult piece. I wasn't sure if I'd manage to figure out that missing bit in time, but I figured an empty but impressive song was better than a full but simple one. I often find critiques in pieces I play that my family doesn't even notice, so I was banking on this missing bit being that.

The talent show comes around. I'd been making sure the piece is going to be the best it can be sans missing bit. I go out to play, and when I start, it sounds right. I didn't know what was different, but whatever that missing piece was, I had found it.

I end up getting 2nd, which is a lot better than I was hoping for. So I thought "hey! I found that missing bit! maybe I can record it now." A few days later I go to record it but once again, it's missing that bit. So I decide to shelve it once again, disappointed.

And then one month a lot of stuff happened all at once. I'm not going to go into details - there's one person reading this who knows what I'm talking about1 - but suffice it to say I was stressed. I often turn to playing piano when I'm not feeling great as it lets me express my emotions in a way that other people can't always tell. And then I began to think.

Most of the songs I play are from a game, so they have something to go with them - to give them direction? A story? Meaning? I'm not really sure and I don't know how to explain it - I understand it on a conceptual level but I can't put it to words.

When I play songs, I usually try to incorporate that… feeling with the song, to give it direction? I'm trying to explain abstract concepts here which I am not good at. However, Pale Court is different. It's from Hollow Knight, but it never appears in game. And so when I tried to play it by itself it had no… feeling that I could pull and give to the piece for it to feel complete. That's why it felt so weird.

In said difficult month, one day was particularly bad. Once again no details - outside the scope of this - but it was not good2. So after school that day I sat down to play. I'm not sure why, but I decided to revisit Pale Court.

And finally I had something to give to the song. I had stress, anxiety, uncertainty, anger. At the same time, happiness, contentment, love. At the same time, curiosity, excitement.

I hope you like it :)