Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Since I have acquired Sibelius 6....................

......... I have used it to rescore and revise all my compositions/arrangements both finished and still incomplete and uploaded some of them to my homepage at Sibelius Music with more to come as time passes by.
There are quite a few little pieces for guitar including what I believe is the first transcription for solo guitar of the lovely little Adagio in F by J Haydn which you can buy for $5.00 US.
There is also a short piano piece in the style of Philip Glass.
I also have ready to upload a wind quintet which is a Homage to a musical acquaintance of mine, still young being in his 40s, who has unfortunately contracted an incurable cancer and is not expected to live for much longer.
Currently I am working on a piece called " Passion Play" scored for string quartet which is sounding interesting.
Apart from Haydn's Adagio, the rest of the guitar compositions are free, so please do take the opportunity to print them off for your own or your student's use if you would like.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sibelius 6!

Sibelius 6 Educational EditionMost years, I take the opportunity at Christmas to splurge a little, and buy myself a present that I would really like.
Now that we have finally moved to Denmark, I am looking forward to becoming far more actively musically than I have for some years.
Apart from playing and performing, I would like to include a more regular composition regime than I have sporadically done so in the past.
I have been an on and off user of both Finale and it's quite capable little off shoot Musicprose for many years
However, following some fairly extensive online research, as is my want nowadays when contemplating a purchase, I have chosen to switch to the "other" music composition software Sibelius now in it's 6th version.
Why you ask? Well it appears to be more user friendly and intuitive than Finale ( I downloaded the demo version to trial and is particularly so of score layout which can be a pain in Finale! ) and this is confirmed by the many comments made by users and particularly so this latest version!
The main new features are:
  • Magnetic layout
  • Track changes and compare versions
  • Conduct your own scores
  • Better sounds than ever
  • Syncs with many sequencers and DAWs including Logic Pro which I use
  • New keyboard/fretboard windows and much easier chord symbol and guitar chord diagram generation
  • Top notch looking scores with pro engraving
  • Sell scores around the world
and many, many others.
I cannot wait to start using it so looking forward to getting my 24" Imac back today with a new hard drive to replace the original one that was starting to fail? ( So I am pleased I took out some Applecare warranty )
Check out a video of the new version here and Sibelius Senior Production Manager Daniel Spreadbury's terrific blog.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The International Music Score Library Project!

Wow, what a great resource I stumbled upon today as I was looking for Beethoven Piano Trio scores.
The Petrucci Music Library at this site provides tens of thousands of scores by thousands of composers that are free to download. Quite extraordinary and must have site to Favourite/Bookmark if you are at all into playing classical music on the piano.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Mysterious Barricades

Couperin's strange little gem for the harpsichord has always been a favourite transcription for guitarists, due to a similar lack of sustain as the harpsichord, unlike the piano where the degree of existing sustain can destroy the charm of this piece.
On Radio National recently, the luminary of the day being interviewed, someone called Bill, who knew an awful lot about Lucian Freud, had chosen this wonderful piece and it was played by George Malcolm on the harpsichord. Well, what a treat that was and it sounded far more convincing than when I had played it on the guitar. So immediately I tracked down a terrific free arrangement in F ( rather than the original Bb ) by William Wallace and have started working on it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

C Blues - just love it!

Now that we are all settled into the new house I am back into my piano practise routine.
I spend far too much of that time improvising over a 12 bar blues in the key of C (working on G and A also). I use a simple walking bass pattern in the left hand and a combination of David Sprunger licks I have learnt and a whole lot of other licks I have come across in the hours I have wiled away. On the advice of Mr Sprunger I have also been practising blues scales in octaves (block and split) and have just started to introduce these into my impros too. Damn - it is such a lot of fun and a style I really want to nail ultimately.
I have finally got my Casio connected up to Logic Pro and will put together a little track with backing and post it soon so as you can hear how I am going or not!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I couldn't play my piano for a whole day! :-(

So yes, you can just see it there in my great new studio behind the chair but unplayable because the idiot that owns it left the power lead 55kms away when he moved! Uh duh!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Thanks to Play Piano for this one

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A real piano!

Denmark TAFE, where I work, very successfully delivers music courses from Certificate II through to Diploma level. As a consequence of this there are quite reasonable facilities and equipment including a real piano! Yesterday, as the music students were obviously occupied elsewhere off campus, I had the opportunity to play said instrument during my tea breaks during the day.
My impressions were:
1. A disappointing sound in comparison to my digital piano based on a Steinway and which I normally play wearing headphones.
2. I struggled to get much volume out of it but it was nice to really attack the instrument and have it respond.
3. The touch was certainly a little heavier but not so much that I struggled which is a testament to the designers of my Casio CDP100 which is only an entry level instrument.
4. Eventually, I did start to enjoy playing it and look forward to getting the opportunity to do so again soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Piano Handbook

I think many of you might agree that bookshops can be dens of temptation, but not normally for piano books!
However, I happened to drop in to the local Angus & Robertson bookstore yesterday - just for a browse of course and no intent.
Lo and behold, a few minutes later I am walking out with "The Piano Handbook" grasped firmly in my sweaty, damn I have done it again, hand.
Well, no regrets! What a gem of a resource because this illustrated handbook offers a comprehensive tutorial for learning to play piano alone or with a teacher. An accompanying audio CD demonstrates key techniques and concepts, and the author explores the common origins of different musical cultures to show that learning different kinds of music can be an enriching experience. Readers discover how classical piano technique and musicianship inspire creative approaches to composing and improvising across a variety of styles, including pop and jazz. There is so much useful information in here for the beginning to intermediate player wanting to stretch out a little.

A must have resource that I have always recommended for my guitar students is Ralph Denyer's Guitar Handbook and this publication for the piano is very similar.
I don't think you can really have too many resources when you are learning an instrument and even if the whole resource is not relevant so often there are a few little gems that kick you further along the road.

Monday, September 14, 2009

David Sprunger's fantastic Blues for Piano & Keyboard Course

I have blogged earlier about the brilliant and comprehensive resources that David Sprunger offers at playpianotoday.com.
Having worked through his "Pattern Piano & Keyboard" over the last few weeks, I ordered and downloaded his "Blues for Piano & Keyboard" course couple of days ago.
I cannot believe what good value he offers considering the numbers of hours of effort that David must have had to put into preparing his really comprehensive resources.
And amazingly the first 9 lessons of the "Blues for Piano & Keyboard" course can be viewed for free.
Sometime in the quite distant future, as it is going to take me a long time to absorb and practise all the material in the "Blues for Piano & Keyboard" course, I intend to also purchase:
  • "Phat Chord Voicings"
  • "Piano & Keyboard Salsa"
  • "Intros, Fillers and Turnarounds"
  • "Modulation Tips & Tricks"
Oh and hey I forgot to mention - You do not need to be able to read a note of music as it is all by ear!!!!!!!!! What's holding you back? Go for it and enjoy as I am doing!

Here is what another fan of David's can do

Monday, September 7, 2009

Practise - becoming a welcomely unmanageable load at times?

As you can imagine from the number of resources I have blogged about, I have alot of different stuff to work on. Currently:
  • The John Thompson Method books and have just started to delve into 4th grade
  • The pop piano book within which I am concentrating on Pop and Rock styles
  • Having worked on the above, I can now start to flesh out the very simple arrangements in the Hands On piano method
  • Improvising on a simple blues in C using what I have learnt from PlayPianoToday's Online Blues piano site
  • A few pieces from Microstyles Book 1
  • A piece out of the 2nd grade AMEB book
So my practise sessions are busy, but it is wonderful to have got to this point after only 10 weeks so far!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another useful tome!

Yeh I know yet another book, this guy must be crazy you say to yourself!
The Pop Piano Book is such a thorough examination of how to become comfortable creating your own accompaniments from lead sheets in the following styles:
Pop Ballad
Pop-Rock and Hard Rock
New Age
R'n'B Ballad
R'n'B Funk
Country & Country Rock
Slow Gospel
Fast Gospel
The author Mark Harrison starts with a comprehensive section on contemporary harmonic and rhythm concepts before launching into all the above mentioned styles. Midi files of all 800 music examples are available.
Not for the complete beginner, this is a must own book if this is your game on the keys!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Keyboard Grimoire!

Yesterday, one of my colleagues popped his head into my class to ask if I would assist a prospective IT student.
I recognised David immediately as one of the few piano players to have gone through the music programme offered at this college.
Having worked out that he was already skilled up IT wise way beyond what we could offer we got talking about piano which was when he mentioned that I should get my hands on "The Keyboard Grimoire".
Well, I thought I had a fair handle on scales but this tome goes way beyond what I know.
The book is designed for guitarists to find their way around a keyboard for sequencing it so it works for both genres of instrumentalist.
Well worth searching out and adding to your piano resources if your are into impro at all!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Independence - it's coming!

Wow, I am really pleased to report I am finally achieving noticeably greater independence between the hands.
So it seems it is just practice over time that results in a gradual improvement rather than suddenly a thing that becomes automatic!
Oh well, it is still encouraging.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A really excellent on-line resource!

Aswell as my goal to learn to read well enough to play any genre of music, I am also interested in using the keyboard in a band context. I am therefore, delighted to have discovered David Sprunger's website and the wonderful array of video lessons he provides based around his rhythmic patterns. I was initially drawn to his blues piano lesson section working through all the free videos before realising that it might be a good idea to purchase his very reasonably priced ($19.95US) original Pattern Piano and Keyboard lesson pack which I have done and am starting to work through.
Once I have completed it, I am looking forward to purchasing the complete Blues piano lesson series.
Well worth a look if you are not interested in learning to read and only interested in chordal accompaniment.

Or a Yamaha S90XS.............................maybe!

Really impressed by Yamaha's latest offering and may purchase the S90XS instead of the Roland RD-700GX.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Starting to get serious about playing keyboards

I have just ordered John Thompson's 4th grade tutor as I am getting through the 3rd grade book pretty quickly.
I am rapt that my ability to read the bass clef is becoming far more instinctive and so I am getting quicker at familiarising myself with each piece. I am also still amazed at how much easier I am finding memorising piano music is in comparison to the guitar. It is almost automatic once I have decided that I wish to work further on a piece and I am starting to get a core of memorised repertoire together which is fantastic.
Typically, I am already looking at upgrading my Digital Piano and I am most impressed with Roland's RD-700GX depicted above. Apart from the reported brilliant sound and touch etc I am really interested in the USB stick feature that allows the use of the keyboard to run backing tracks.
Once Michelle and I move to Denmark, within the next month or so, I am hoping we will get back to playing and performing music again. With some hard work, I hope I have my keyboard chops up enough to make use of them and being able to use it to run backings would allow us to create a massive sound for a duo.
I was contemplating purchasing a laptop to run the latest version of Mainstage to do the job but I think this maybe a more elegant solution.
I really feel gaining these keyboard skills is rounding me out as a musician and adding new and exciting possibilities for the future creation and performance of music.
Why have I not chosen to start this journey earlier! Bewildering!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The journey continues..........

Started the John Thompson 3rd Grade book this evening and am a bit stunned at the rate of progress I have been making. My initial goal was to be playing 4th grade pieces within 12 months and I think I am well on track to achieve that.
I am using the same strategy I have used with my guitar students over the years, which is to work through new material, getting it to a reasonable level before moving on to something new rather than trying to perfect everything before doing so.
I then revisit that previously studied material after a period of time and it is always amazing how much easier it is to play.
Yesterday, I returned to the First Grade book and played through the whole lot in one session and it took me two weeks to get through it initially!
So I will continue that successful process with the 2nd Grade book also once I have gone some way into the 3rd grade book and consequently build up lots of repertoire, much of it that I can sight read which is my primary goal.
Another part of my teaching process is to also choose some more challenging pieces to memorise ready to perform when the opportunity arises. Interestingly, I have found it far easier to memorise piano music than I have guitar music.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Many years a go, I used to own the musicaI instrument store here in town before various events including my own mismanagement caused the whole operation to fall over but that is a story for another day.
In any case, the point of mentioning that is, we supplied books to many of the local piano teachers students and I remember one of the books that was particularly popular was the series by Chris Norton, Microstyles for keyboard.
The first of the series of four constituted one of 3 new books I bought yesterday along with John Thompson's Grade 3 tutor and the AMEB Series 13 4th grade publication. Yes, yes I know, I haven't finished John Thompson's Grade 2 tutor yet but......!!
Anyway the Microstyles books are wonderful with tremendous and reasonably accessible pieces written in wide variety of popular styles. I have listed the contents of Volume One here for your edification. In searching the internet for an image of the books cover to post, I note that all 4 books are now available in one volume and had I known that at the time I would have ordered it instead. If you want to add a bit of variety to your daily practise, do yourself a favour and check out Microstyles.

Cheeky - Rock 'n' Roll Style
Down South - Rock Ballad
Fax Blues - Ostinato
Heavy Work - Mancini Stomp
Hideaway - Rumba
In the Bag - Glenn Miller Style
Latin Nights - Bossa Nova
Martinet - Heavy Rock
Omnibus - Swing
On the Line - Half Time Rock
Oriental Flower - Slow Waltz
Short and Sweet - Boogie

Monday, July 20, 2009

For a moment...............

the other day, i think I might have really got in touch with the arm/wrist/finger action that Alan Fraser is talking about in his book "The Craft of Piano Playing".
As far as I can remember, as I haven't got the book by my side, he talks about feeling as if the fingers are effortless and just gliding above the keys with a direct connection all the way up to the shoulders.
It is worth checking this book out for Sonya Arden's wonderful drawings of the hands alone (a challenge for any artist).
I am going to have to order the DVD!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bach - a challenge for me on the piano!

On the guitar, I have always loved to play J S Bach's music most of all (and Barrios' too to be truthful), so naturally I have a tendency to gravitate to his music on this new journey with the piano.
Apart from continuing to work through my main tutor, John Thompson's second grade method and scale and arpeggios etc, I am also getting some more challenging pieces to memory.

That includes the Menuet in D Minor from the Anna Magdelena collection from the Series 12, second grade AMEB publication. This is a piece I can play easily on the guitar but damn it is a challenge at this point on the piano.
But, I am definitely progressing as there would have been no chance of playing this piece a month ago.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Josef Hofmann

And just in case Malwine Bree's book on the Leschetizky method was not enough for you, here is another digitised book of interest that can also be downloaded for free.

Theodore Leschetizky

The teacher of many of the great players of the 20th century, Theodore Leschetizky's name comes up frequently when one researches the topic of piano playing. Here is a link to a fully digitised copy of the original publication (that you can download for free) "The Groundwork of the Leschetizky Method" authored by one of Leschetizky's assistants, Malwine Bree, and fully approved by the Maestro describing his ideas in relation to piano playing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I have been doing a lot of reading about the technical aspects of playing the piano and what some of the great pianist's have to say and do about it also. Today, during my regular morning practise session, I really felt that I am starting to understand and put in to practice some of what I have been reading about.
The key issues:
1. A well supported upright sitting position from which relaxation from the shoulders down through the arms and wrists and in to the hands can be achieved
2. Position of the hands on the keyboard, being much flatter with lower wrists than I when I first started this journey which seems to allow me to pass the thumb through under the fingers more easily resulting in more facility and ease in scales and arpeggios and produces a far better tone.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Finger numbering issue!

I am slowly overcoming it, but it is a little annoying as I find myself having to stop and think momentarily.
You see, being a classical guitarist, I am used to the fingering shown in the image above. You will note that the left hand is numbered with index finger number 1, the middle 2 etc etc.
The right hand is different again with letters allocated to the fingers.

Now for the piano, of course, both hands have numbers allocated to the fingers but they are different to what I have been used to for the last 30 years or so.
The thumb is number 1 and the index 2 etc etc.
It is probably not quite such an issue for the right hand as I have not associated that with numbers but for the left it is definitely an issue and amplified by the fact I am still becoming accustomed to reading the bass clef. I look forward to a time in the future where I am instinctively using the correct finger!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Piano Mastery - Talks with Master Pianists and Teachers

An innocuous looking little book but chock full of gems to guide us along the road to piano mastery for no cost to you at all.

A funk piano lesson with Jonathon Wilson

Too soon for me but might be something you can try out for yourself.
I was really impressed by the presentation and delivery of this series of lessons, being one of the jewels available, amongst all the charlatans trying to get money off beginner piano players on the internet!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Art of Piano - Great pianists of the 20th century

I discovered this documentary by accident whilst Googling Neuhaus's book The Art of Piano. Amazingly, the complete video is available on YouTube, surprisingly so as it does not appear to be out of print. Maybe the distributors figure that people are going to want a better quality version of it and buy their own copy.
Oh you want to know what I think of it? Well, sensational and hugely inspiring to be frank and fantastic to see Glenn Gould included with this illustrious group of humans.
I cannot imagine the number of rigorous hours of effort they must all have subjected themselves to and marvel at the individual differences in wonderful tone between them all.
Well worth checking out for a bit of inspiration.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Egad - I have cut off my fingernails!

One of the things about playing the classical
guitar that has completed pissed me off at times over the last 30 years or so is the need for a well cared for set of fingernails on the right hand. I have developed great skills in repairing my fingernails using super glue and crescents of ping pong ball and so often because I damaged a nail just before I needed to perform! So.............,

as they are a hindrance when playing the piano, I have an excellent excuse and the other day I clipped them all off. I can tell you that was harder to do than you might think having invested so much effort over the years to maintain them.
It must be a new dawn!

The Craft of Piano Playing

As I am not in a position to engage a teacher at this time and acknowledging the importance of a sound technique, I ordered this wonderful treatise by Alan Fraser.
Having read some considerable part of the book, interestingly, it seems my years spent developing a sound technique for playing the classical guitar, has equipped me well to intuitively understand some of what is required of the relationship of the fingers, hands and arms for piano playing.
So I think I am on track and am looking forward to applying more of the information that is so clearly explained through the use of the most wonderful drawings. I am also keen to get my hands on Heinrich Neuhaus's The Art of Piano Playing.
I am now into the second grade book of the John Thompson Modern piano course (a quantum leap form the first, I may say)and have started the process of learning and playing the scales and arpeggios in all keys now that I have a better understanding of the techniques required to play them. I plan to regularly go back to the first grade John Thompson book to reinforce what I have learnt.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The beginning!

As is my usual way, and how I came to purchase a Casio CDP-100, I scoured the the internet using Google for a piano tutor and settled for the not so modern, been around for ever, method depicted to the left. Having played the classical guitar for more than 30 years, I am acutely aware of the importance of a sound technique and so have opted for this traditional method rather than the myriad of new ones that are available. I have found it to be excellent for my purposes and have already purchased and commenced the second grade book.

I do need to find a teacher though but as I am about to move 50 kilometres to the the
west when Michelle and I get the house we are building in Denmark to the stage where we can move in, it is a little difficult.

Resisted for years...........

but have now decided that the piano has a place in my musical life and that I need to learn to play it properly. So I used some of my KRudd money to buy a Casio CDP-100 88 note fully-weighted digital piano and I am incredibly impressed with it. There are just 5 sampled sounds - 2 grand piano, harpsichord, electric piano and strings and it has midi so as I can connect it to my computer.
The touch and feel of the keys is so piano like and is also graduated relative to the different weight of the strings from bass to treble.
So I have purchased Book 1 of John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano and have started the process of teaching myself. As I already read the treble clef fluently it is mostly a matter of becoming more familiar with the bass clef and to develop a sound technique for the instrument. I will go and get lessons to ensure I am staying on the right track technique wise and I am really keen to particularly develop good sight reading skills as I have for the guitar. I have high expectations as I usually do with everything I start and look forward to playing Beethoven piano sonatas some time in the future. Laboriously worked my way through the opening of the Pathetique yesterday, the music sublime, the playing? Umm, well, more practise required!