Sunday, December 5, 2010

Been busy as!

I haven't posted for awhile as all sorts of musical things have been happening or are about to in my life. I have just started work on this classic tune with the help of rounder2u. Apart from the video above he has also created three others that detail the bass line during the famous opening chords intro, the right hand part and the bass line during the solo section. He also plays lots of other great tunes too.

Caroline and I have been meeting regularly and our differing approaches to what we like to play on the keyboard has provided both of us with the inspiration try new things. We have even pulled out our old flute and guitar duets to play which has been a lot of fun.

I have also decided it is time to get out there and gig again but I am determined to make sure it happens on my own terms as I am not interested in playing beyond 10.30pm so will be looking to restricting to gigs during the day or late afternoon to early evening. This has essentially knocked out the possibility of joining an existing line up as most seem to do the late gigs.
So I am on the hunt for a like minded bass player and drummer for a blues based trio. This time around I will also be playing keys which is a very exciting thought. I have also retrograded from a Line 6 Variax 500 guitar and Pod XT Live amp simulator based rig back to a Fender 72 Telecaster Deluxe and Deluxe Reverb valve amp. A terrific combination with the DR providing bags of luscious and quality clean tone from the humbucker equipped Tele. I am also looking forward to the addition of a modded Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer although I may still find a way to incorporate the POD XT Live in to the signal chain somewhere. Ultimately, I want the band to be versatile enough to invite other musos, including Michelle who has just equipped herself with an Alto Sax, to play with us on the odd occasion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A piano buddy!

Following a successful meeting with proposed piano teacher friend Caroline last week, it turns out I have gained myself a piano buddy instead. We have agreed that the best arrangement for both of us would be to meet every week to play for each other. This way we both get the benefit of a regular session for which we need prepare a piece/or pieces thereby ensuring the establishment of a solid and properly learned repertoire.
I have gained such a lot more confidence from having successfully played for Caroline and also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity just to talk piano with someone. I was stoked that she took home 2 of the pieces I had played for her as she liked them so much. A really positive step to have taken and and I am so looking forward to this weeks session.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


After more than a year of directing my piano journey alone, I have approached a former flautist musical duo partner and colleague from the now defunct Fremantle Music School, Caroline Blumer, to give me some guidance. Interestingly, I found her pic on the Simply Music website. This seems to be a most successful approach to teaching piano and funnily enough mimics, to some degree, the way I have approached it myself over the last year. However, I think I need to be reined in a little to be honest and to get some fundamentals in place. I am a bit nervous to tell the truth and am currently preparing 3 disparate pieces to present to her so she has some basis from which to decide what to do with me. Been such a longtime since I have been a student that although I am looking forward to it, I am also feeling some trepidation. I'll let you know how it goes for sure!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

D Scarlatti K 380

One of my favourite Scarlatti Sonatas that I used to play on the guitar and now I am starting to learn to play on the piano.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Brightcecilia forum

Whilst researching clavichords, I discovered Ryan Layne Whitney had created a video playing Telemann Fantasias on an Epinette.

As I am trying to improve my keyboard sight reading, I am always on the look out for what I call sight reading fodder and the Fantasias looked ideal. So as is my way, I went on a search for them and lo and behold found that a wonderful person known as Philidor on the Brightcecilia forum had been painstakingly re-engraving an original 1923 Urtext publication. You can get the first 12 without joining the forum but if you want to get your grubby little mitts on the rest of them you will have to register.

The Clavichord

I was cruising around on the internet recently when I came across teafruitbat's youtube site. He has created a wonderful array of videos (258) of his playing many of which are on original keyboard instruments. It is the clavichord that particularly caught my interest as it has such a unique sound and is portable.
I would really like to have a non electrified keyboard instrument but a piano is too loud for my current living circumstances so a clavichord fits the bill beautifully as the 61 note version can play all of Mozart's work and Beethoven's up to 1801!
I am particularly fond of Renaissance and Baroque music and on the clavichord it sounds wonderful.

So I am thinking "One could probably build a clavichord so there have got to be plans/kits available?".
Amongst the many fascinating sites I found, my research discovered the Renaissance Workshop Company that sells kits for all manner of original instruments and another that shows step by step pictures of Kenneth Sparr constructing a clavichord at the now discontinued annual instrument building course in Marholmen in Sweden.

Do I have the patience?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's been a year now.............

........since I made the decision to take a major change of direction musically and learn to play the piano. Never too late as they say! It is not a decision I have regretted for the piano has now become an important part of my daily life. I am pleased with what I have achieved and learnt in this first year and look forward to what I may have accomplished at the end of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th........etc!! Here is a recording I made yesterday of a standard blues piano impro in the key of C using a split keyboard to handle the bass with an onboard drum backing. Apologies for the slightly ropy quality.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

'Play as if you could not speak!'


I felt I needed to know more about playing the piano as an accompaniment to a voice or instrument rather than playing the melody also. Funnily enough there isn't terribly much out there on the internet but eventually I came across Bill Hilton. He has clearly also recognised the lack of material available and has created an array of really useful video lessons available on YouTube that provided me with exactly the information I was after.
Here are 2 on Jazz piano comping.

Here are two on Pop piano comping

He has also produced a very aptly named book 'How to really play the piano'

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Denmark is born!

Denmark by Ramsnake
Inspired by Chick Corea's Spain and hearing MoodSwingz are about to rehearse the tune, 'TwentyTen', that I wrote for them sometime back, I have whipped up another tune for them. It is a head based on the changes in Spain and it is available on Sibelius Music here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I have added the above solo version of Chick Corea's Spain available from here at Musicnotes to my practise schedule.
Having played classical guitar for many years and consequently many Spanish pieces, I can really appreciate this great piece and I am really enjoying the challenge of coming to terms with it rhythmically.
Here is the man himself with his electric band with Aussie Frank Gambale on guitar. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nothing like a bit of........

Beethoven to get one pumped up in the mornings!
I have started work on the 1st movement of Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op. 13, "The Pathetique".

It is a little hard to contain one's emotion and maintain at least some degree of detachment in the build up through the intense Grave opening before jumping into the Allegro di molto e con brio.
I am now so hyped and ready to hit the waves this morning for a good session as current conditions are indicating it may well be really good out there. Surf's up - yee hah!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Improving hand independence 2.......... are two riffs to practise from Toto's great song "Hold the Line".

They are in the key of F#m so don't forget to sharpen the F, C & G.

The first is the classic introductory riff

The second one is when the verse starts

Although each are only a couple of bars long they include the guitar part in the left hand so they are a solid test of your level of hand independence. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Improving hand independence.........

... the fun way! As you would know from previous posts, I don't mind the music of Steely Dan and of course there are some great piano riffs thanks to Donald Fagen.
They are pretty tricky to play and I use them to help develop further independence between the hands which is an ongoing project.
Here is a relatively easy one, Bodhisattva, for you to try if you are interested and I will post a few more in time. It doesn't look too bad until you actually have a go at it, but practising each hand separately, in time of course, should do the trick.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Improv in C

Crazy Saturday by Ramsnake. Here is a soundtrack, for a short surf movie I shot recently, created and performed by me using the Yamaha S90XS. Such a brilliant music creation tool and the sax voice is particularly wonderful fun! I utilised the Performance named "Smooth It Over" in a one off live take with all the arpeggio variations to create variety in the backing track and recorded it straight to USB.
I then transferred the .wav file to my iMac, converted it to an mp3 using Audacity and then imported it into the project in iMovie HD.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A moment of pure ecstasy!

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am working on the first half of the slow movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata.
Anyway, last night I was working my way through it and I suddenly realised that here I was actually playing a piece of Beethoven's that I have loved for so long and it was sounding like it should and I was sight reading it!
Talk about a proud and epiphanetic ( new word I have made up ) moment!
Still a lot of work to go as I want to memorise it but hey I am definitely getting there!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Donald Fagen - The Nightfly!

The NightflyI have always been a fan of Steely Dan and since taking up the piano appreciate them all the more. So I have spent some period of time recently searching for charts for their music and Bingo - I found lead sheets for 11 Steely Dan songs at Lucas Pickfords site where there are many other useful transcriptions also.
During this search, I discovered Donald Fagen had continued to release albums and that one in particular was extremely highly regarded "The Nightfly". So of course I went looking for the dots yesterday but with little success as the original publication is out of print and all I could find were a Donald Fagen - Five of the Best. Fate - you have to wonder about it sometimes because when I ordered the Five of the Best book I noticed that I had inadvertently mispelled my email address. Idiot Robin! So, this morning, I went back in search of the publication at SheetMusicPlus and buggar me if I didn't discover a downloadable link to Scribd for the complete original publication! So I have consequently cancelled my order - Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's interesting.............

........... observing my progress on the piano in relation to what I know and understand of the process of learning the guitar. As I mentioned in the previous post, I am embroiled in jazz piano currently amongst all the other bits and pieces, and that has meant pushing my knowledge of chords particularly left hand voicings.
Learning chords on the guitar is very much about shape once one has worked out what finger goes where and for some reason this did not seem so obvious to me on the piano.
Yeh, I know your thinking:
"Well you Dill, how could you miss that?"

Then it suddenly occurred to me the other day that it must be the same on the piano and - that there must be a finite number of meaningful shapes as an octave is an octave is an octave if you get what I mean.
So I have shifted my perception a little as I am playing chords and trying to feel the physical shape of a chord in my hand and to recognise when it occurs again but is for a different chord!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So where am I at currently................

...with this learning the piano business? Well after 9 months of endeavour, I can report that all is going very well and that I have made the transition from merely a guitarist to a least some sort of keyboardist also.

What's improved?

  • Independence between the hands. I have no problem improvising a C blues over a simple walking bass. I am working now working through the other keys and more complex left hand bass patterns. I am particularly pleased that I have almost mastered a swinging shuffle version which I had no chance of doing some months ago without the right hand following the bouncing rhythm of the left.
  • I have a far clearer relative physical mind map of the notes on the instrument meaning I am not having to look down at my hands to find notes all the time but can often feel where they are. Fantastic!
  • My sight reading is improving and I am recognising groups of notes more easily because of my work on jazz and popular piano.
How have I done this?

By studying 4 genres of piano playing including:
1. Classical - the reading side of things
2. Blues - 'cos I love it!
3. Jazz - the improvisation side of things
4. Popular - the gigging side of things

The Piano Handbook: A Complete Guide for Mastering PianoMy resource of the moment is Carl Humphries "The Piano Handbook".
I have just started today to do some serious work on the first of J S Bach's Two part Inventions and the theme from the slow movement of Beethoven's Pathetique. I can sight read through the Bach piece slowly but the Beethoven is a little more challenging mainly because I am unfamiliar with the right hand be required to play some of the Bass clef notes. Hmmm! I hear the more experienced of you saying, well, keep in my mind that I am not just diving into these 2 more difficult works as I have worked through the first three John Thompson Piano Tutors, the earlier sections of Carl's book, memorised and can play up to speed the theme for Couperin's The Mysterious Barricades and I have completed additional work in three other genres of playing also. I have really valued and appreciated the efforts I made to become an accomplished sight reader on the guitar and I am keen to be so on the keyboard as well.

Blues Piano: Hal Leonard Keyboard Style Series (Keyboard Instruction)My initial resource for this piano style was David Sprunger's "Blues for piano and keyboard" course which is available on-line. I have not completed all the lessons in it but worked through the first 9 or so which gave me a terrific grounding in the style teaching me a few basic licks which I have now added to through my own practise. Following the discovery of Mark Harrison's pop piano resource mentioned below, I also purchased his Blues Piano publication which is also an excellent reference. Mystified that I have not blogged about that resource. Oh well you know about it now.

The Jazz Piano BookI have been working through Mark Levine's wonderful "The Jazz Piano Book" and his equally useful accompanying text "The Jazz Theory Book". 
The Jazz Theory BookI have been concentrating on learning left hand voicings to a few of the easier jazz standards such as Tune Up, All of Me, Fly Me to the Moon and Autumn Leaves.

The Pop Piano BookThe main resource I have been using to explore this genre is Mark Harrison's "The Pop Piano Book". This is a huge book providing a complete and thorough resource of the genre and which I have mainly concentrated on the Pop Ballad style until my chops get a little more proficient and I can attempt some funk and rhythm and blues. Apart from that popular songs I have been working on include Van Morrison's Moondance, Missy Higgins' Ten Days and I am about to revisit Cocker's Feelin' Alright.

So there is always plenty to do and as you can see my studio is inundated with all my resources!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Yamaha S90XS? - What an amazing musical tool.....................

...........I have got for myself!
My new S90XS has kept me very busy over the weekend since I received it early on Friday morning.
I have sussed out alot of what it has to offer but I still have so much more to learn about it and feel a little daunted.
However, there is help out there though in the form of the Yamaha Arranger Workstation Forums and and Logic Pro Help for the DAW side of things. Each have proved to be useful for queries I have had in relation to newfangled terms I am learning about such as Performances, Multi, Master, SEQ PLAY etc!?
The arpeggiators on this thing are incredible and many of the heaps of default Performances sound oustanding and are such a lot of fun to play along with.
I have managed to get the XS talking to Logic Pro and I am looking forward to getting some of my favourite performances properly into Logic now that I have found out the method for doing so. My first attempt at it being an abject failure.
One thing I have to say about synths is they are certainly not very user friendly and I know Yamaha have really tried to make this product more so! Sheesh!
The new S6 piano voices have received a lot of flak but to my neophyte ears they are wonderful and very tweakable anyway and they will certainly do me. I have managed to pick up some tweaks created by one of the gurus at the Yamaha forum.
I have the theme for Couperin's The Mysterious Barricades down and it is wonderful to play it using the harpsichord voice. It actually provides some sense of the strings twanging away and just transports me to the 16th century. Amazing!
The Tenor sax voice is also a pleasure to use and there are heaps of other wonderfully realistic and rewarding sounds.
Want to have a one hell of a good time and own an all-time great music creation/performance tool? Then do yourself a favour and get either the S90Xs or the equally brilliant S70Xs!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


SoundCloud lets you move music fast & easy. The platform takes the daily hassle out of receiving, sending & distributing music for artists, record labels & other music professionals. I have just uploaded 3 more tracks to my Soundcloud site to add to the 3 that are already available there. If you write music of any sort and want to get it out there then Soundcloud is a terrific means for you to be able to do so. Check it out!

SoundCloud: The Tour from SoundCloud on Vimeo.

A Yamaha S90XS is on the way!

So now I am getting serious about this piano thing! In case you don't know anything about this awesome instrument here are 3 vids for your viewing pleasure featuring the S90XS's little brother, the S70XS!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Moondance guitar solo!

Local guitar hero Colin Reeves, of local band MoodSwingz, creating a tidy arrangement of notes over the Moondance changes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More jazz piano resources!

Following on from the previous post, II V I left-hand voicings in both "A" & "B" positions around the cycle of fifths. Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Jazz Piano Book extra resources

I have been working through the beginning of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Piano Book" and to assist with my learning, I have created myself some useful extra resources using Sibelius. Yes, I know jazz piano playing is primarily an aural art but, being a reader, I find it useful to have the dots in front of me initially to find the notes I need and then work towards internalising them from there.
1. Notated Cycle of Fifths - II V I - 3 note chords starting with the 3rd on top.
2. Notated Cycle of Fifths - II V I - 3 note chords starting with the 7th on top.
3. Notated Cycle of Fifths - II V I - Substituting the II V with a Sus chord
4. Notated Cycle of Fifths - II V I - Substituting the II V with a Phrygian chord
I am happy to share these for free and have published them on my webpage at Sibelius Music.
Double click on the Jazz folder and then the Jazz Learning Resources folder and either download or print them off for yourself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Guitar Wall!

So yes, I have been concentrating my musical efforts on the piano for the last few months but the guitar still plays a role in my life and here they all are including a couple that Michelle owns. They look pretty good up on the wall and it is a great way to store them as they are always immediately ready for action.
Starting from the left:
1. Michelle's Yamaha G-225 classical that a friend gave to her
2. My Regal Square-neck dobro
3. My Simon Rovis-Hermann concert classical
4. My Line 6 Variax 600
5. My Tanglewood TW170AS-CE cutaway electric acoustic
6. Michelle's Washburn bass
There is one other that is not functional but decorative and is stored high up on the adjacent wall.
Michelle painted it for a guitar related exhibition and, as nobody bought it, adds excellently to the ambience of my studio.

Monday, February 8, 2010

And yesterday I received..................

............Mark Levine's "The Jazz Piano Book" and the two other books that I mentioned I had also ordered in this post.
Jazz Piano Masterclass with Mark Levine - The Drop 2 BookThe Drop 2 Book

The Jazz Theory BookThe Jazz Theory Book

Having spent all of last year building our new home, I have dedicated this year specifically to the piano, composition, performance and surfing!
Bring it on!