I remember being 5 years old, and tapping my index and middle fingers of my right hand on our dining table. I tapped once, then, liking the sound of the finger hitting the table, I tapped again, and again.
I was tapping out the sound of my heartbeat. It fascinated me as a young girl, being able to copy with my fingers the sound that my body produced. I remember being alone in the dining room and tapping away the whole morning.
I started doing this every day until I became comfortable with tapping out simple beats. Later on, the beats became far more complex and syncopated. But that didn’t happen until much later.
The feeling of tapping onto something, and being rewarded right away with a sound, never left me. I kept wanting to tap my fingers anywhere. There was so much going on in my brain, and the action of my fingers calmed and stimulated me all at once.
I have heard that some babies who like the feeling of having something in their mouths all the time grow up to have an oral fixation. When they grew up, they didn’t outgrow the sensation and the desire to have something in their mouths almost all the time. They became eaters, smokers, or simply talked a lot. They liked the feel of their mouths moving or being full.
I am kind of the same, but with my fingers. I love to just move my fingers all the time. I love keeping them busy.
I was 9 when I learned my first instrument, a guitar. Learning the guitar would keep my fingers busy. But they were kept busy in a way that I didn’t expect. Playing the guitar required a different movement from my fingers. I had to strum and pluck thick steel strings, which scraped the sides of my fingers and caused them to peel a little and bleed. My fingers were occupied, all right, but they were not tapping away like they would have wanted to. If only I’d learned how to do guitar harmonics then, I would’ve probably become a totally different musician.
When I was 12, I came out of the classroom in our school to take a break. As I was walking along the corridor on my way to get some food, I saw a young man steal into the music room. I didn’t pay him much mind – until the most incredible sound started coming out of the room. Breathlessly, I went inside to take a look.
He was sitting in front of a piano, and it looked like his fingers were gliding across the keys. I was mesmerized. He also played a waltz, and saw that his fingers were tapping onto the keys in what I would later learn was a ¾ time signature. Right then, I felt my fingers curl, the way your toes would tend to curl when someone you love is tickling your belly or your ear.
Right there and then, my fingers knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives