Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I have just finished watching this fascinating documentary that I am sure anyone who is into the piano would also appreciate. The main film itself is wonderful but do watch the extras too as they are a viewing experience in themselves!
At the center of the film is a collaborative work between Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Stefan Knüpfer Steinway's virtuoso piano tuner. Bach's The Art of Fugue is to be recorded and Pierre-Laurent Aimard has decided in favor of concert grand piano Nr. 109 for the Bach recording.  In order to prepare the piano succesfully for Aimard, Knüpfer feels he needs to to study instruments from the time of Bach leading to experiments with sound absorbers made from felt and with glass sound mirrors. But as fate will have it, the number 109 grand piano is sold to Australia a few months later; and that is not the last obstacle that gets in their way. Knüpfer and Aimard meet regularly and at times the tension is so thick it can be cut with a knife with Knüpfer saving the day with his sense of humor and incredible patience. In the end a highly succesful recording is made and already downloaded by myself I may say. One afternoon, a rather sleepy artist in jeans and sneakers shows up. It is the Chinese star pianist Lang Lang, who will be giving a guest performance in the Viennese concert hall. Still suffering from jet lag, he has to choose an instrument to play. His overcrowded tour calendar leaves little time for individual settings. Instead, and almost shyly, he asks for a heavy bench that will hold up through his extroverted style of playing without sliding around. The Piano superstar completes his performance in the large hall in a dark suit and wild hairstyle. The bench holds up, and he receives thunderous applause. I was less enamoured with the sketches of the comedy duo Igudesman & Joo always parody the elitist music world. Together with Knüpfer they come up with some of the craziest scenarios for the next show. The film also features on of Alfred Brendel's last concerts at the Grafenegg Music Festival. Knüpfer prepares the piano for him while the star pianist gives his directions humorously.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pianist Magazine

I discovered this great magazine recently and have been looking forward to finding the new edition each month at the local newsagency. Having recently, purchased an iPad and enjoyed the reading, audio and video experiences it so ably provides, it occurred to me that it might be considered an ideal platform within which to view a magazine like Pianist that provides scores. I am delighted to report that an iPad version is indeed available and well worth subscribing to as the rates are significantly less than the printed magazine and that there are indeed sound files for all the scores!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Andy's Song

I wrote this recently in honour of a pillar of our arts community who passed a way recently. You can get the dots here.
Andy's Song by Ramsnake

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's been too long.......

.......since I posted here. I have been a bit busy playing guitar of late since Ramsnake started gigging. Yes, I am still playing the piano and have chosen 20 or so standards to practise. The reason is I am hoping to get my playing up to scratch enough to team up with a local trumpeter, bass player and drummer and plus some jazz gigs. I can tell you I would be stoked to have got my playing up to that standard within three years since I started learning to play piano. I have got quite a few of them going playing the melody and improvising over thirds and sevenths in the left hand. I am ok this but have not quite got the hang of adding a 3rd or seventh in the right hand along with the melody. The image at the start of this post shows Randy Halberstadt's neat trick, from his great book  Metaphors for the Musician, for deciding whether to play a Root and 7th or Root and 3rd whilst maintaining the best range for the middle voices, which is straddling middle C. If you are using the 5th finger for the root play a 7th above and if the 2 finger is used play a 3rd above.
What I really need to practise though is more accompaniment style playing for when others are doing the soloing. This is proving a bit of a challenge oddly as I am not that familiar with playing chords in the right hand? Bizarre I know! I have found the "Incomparable Comping" section of Metaphors for the Musician very useful. Randy explains in detail what voicings to use solo, in duos, trios and quartets. Basically it means becoming much more familiar with voicing rich sounding chords across both hands. One great and relatively easy technique he talks about is using improvised octaves over rootless left hand voicings. I must start practising that!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Metaphors for the Musician - Perspectives from a Jazz Musician!

I have been after this very interesting looking publication for sometime now and recently I finally got it in my dirty little mitts along with three other useful books including:
  • Tons of Runs for the Contemporary Pianist
  • Intros, Endings & Turnarounds for keyboard
  • berklee Jazz Piano
Metaphors for the Musician has turned out to be everything that I hoped, distilling the complex world of jazz piano into easily understood chunks. For instance there is a wonderful section called Voicings 101 for solo, duo, trio and quartet situations in the chapter titled, Incomparable Comping.
I have a reasonable handle on the use of rootless voicings if playing with a bass player for duos, trios and quartets but for some reason I have had a mental block about what to do with the left hand if playing solo and Randy explains it beautifully. So now I feel a lot better equipped to play the Real Book tunes and to actually produce something that sounds reasonable on my own.
There are many great chapters including:
  1. Picturing Jazz
  2. In the Practice Studio 
  3. Painless Piano
  4. Ways to Develop Your Improvising
  5. Theory Demystified
  6. Incomparable Comping
  7. At the Gig
  8. Paths To Success
A great companion to Mark Levine's The Jazz Piano which gets plenty of mentions throughout Metaphors. Get it!