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!