Your Story: Simon Reich

Your Stories

Simon Reich is a pianist and award-winning composer from Victoria, Australia. He has written several articles published here on the Pianodao site.

Simon’ latest post tells of how he has, in later life, turned to music as a full-time professional, and his experiences training as a media composer. As well as giving a special insight into his own personal journey, the post will be an encouragement to all considering a career in music.

Continue reading Your Story: Simon Reich

Piano: the future of music?

Guest Post by Simon Reich

Looking at the crystal ball into the future would have had me shaking my head and not believing what I was seeing…

The ubiquitous guitar is falling out of favour with the new generation of musicians.

Yes, you are reading correctly! Both electric and acoustic sales are dropping through the floor. The big guns of the guitar world, Fender and Gibson are facing hardships. In fact, Gibson, have already begun bankruptcy proceedings.

The six-stringed instrument has been the virtual logo for rock and pop since its inception. No-one ever suggested substituting a piano or keyboard as a sexy alternative to the guitar, but it appears that could now be the case.

And while you’re at it, you may need to add a laptop computer as well. Yes folks, these are the items that are causing a huge drop in guitar sales, MIDI keyboards and music software.

Continue reading Piano: the future of music?

Piano Tuning – What’s Under the Lid?

Guest post by Simon Reich

I have a recurring nightmare. It involves me and a piano…

I see the instrument from the other side of the room and then move stealthily, not too fast mind you, over to sit down on the stool waiting patiently for me. Everything seems like it’s going well up to this point. The horror only kicks in as I press down the notes for that first D minor 7 chord. The piano is totally out of tune with sticking notes I can’t avoid.

I’m sure some of us have also encountered this outside of our sleeping times, me included. Apart from our instrument, a piano tuner is our next most important point on our must have checklist.

With this in mind I decided to interview Nathan Winterbine, a piano tuner (based in Melbourne, Australia) who I only met last year, but instantly warmed to. His prompt service, fixed price and then excellent workmanship cemented him as my “go to” tuner.

I sat down with Nathan and plugged him with questions I wanted answered…

Continue reading Piano Tuning – What’s Under the Lid?

Stories of Recovery

Guest post by Simon Reich

Unless you lived in a humidified bubble, away from sharp objects and potential harmful items, injuries are part of life.

The response to my invitation for stories and anecdotes regarding incidents that may have curtailed your piano playing or ended your musical career altogether was overwhelming. As I was therefore unable to squeeze the material into one blog, I’ve been compelled to write a second part to You Can’t Stop the Music.

Just to reiterate, the injuries were not necessarily musically acquired, but things as simple as falling off a bike, crushing fingers between two bricks or hurting your back slipping down a flight of stairs.

Amazingly, after writing the first article, I found out my mum has some nerve problems in her fingers.

She told me that as children, her siblings would melt wax on their fingertips and when cooled to dry, play the piano as a fun alternative to the standard method! This was the way she described how playing the piano keyboard now felt. It hasn’t stopped her from performing but it’s certainly put a spanner in the works of eliciting dynamics and feeling to her performances.

Continue reading Stories of Recovery

You can’t stop the music

How your creative outlet survives an injury…
Guest Post by Simon Reich

Ouch!!

Putting a brand new blade in a window scraper demanded concentration, as the surgically sharp implement would slice the end of a finger off in a millisecond. Unfortunately I didn’t give my scraper the respect it demanded…

While trying to multitask, taking a mobile phone call (with it wedged between my chin and shoulder), holding the scraper, and attempting to close the back door of my van, I accidentally sliced so deeply into my left hand, that I could see my bones and severed tendons.

Although not feeling pain straight away, the sight of the inner workings of my hand caused me to collapse onto the footpath, holding my skin together to stem the flow of blood.

As I sat in the back of an ambulance, it suddenly dawned on me I may never play piano again.

The paramedics informed me that because the blade was brand new and incredibly sharp, the cut would have made a surgeon proud. Amazingly I was still not feeling pain in my hand, but the thought of losing my musical outlet was causing me enough ache as it was. I knew this situation only too well, as my brother (while serving a cabinetmaking apprenticeship) lost three fingers to an electric wood buzzer. This severely curtailed his drumming career.

Continue reading You can’t stop the music

Child’s Play: Why do parents send children to music lessons?

Guest Author: Simon Reich

There we sat in the dark. My Mum and I had been looking at the local Church hall for half an hour now and nobody had arrived, the building still in darkness.

I could tell my mum was getting more and more upset as the minutes ticked by. But to understand the full gravity of the situation, we now found ourselves in, we need to go back in time a little bit.

Continue reading Child’s Play: Why do parents send children to music lessons?

Emotions – playing their part.

Guest post by Simon Reich

Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brian Wilson & Johnny Cash all had things in common. Not only were they gifted musicians and composers, but they managed a depressive side to their lives.

Continue reading Emotions – playing their part.

Losing the joy in music?

Guest Post by Simon Reich

After reading a rather sad article by Washington Post author Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch, I began discussing the issues raised in the story with other musicians.

Arianna lamented her loss of joy in music due to endless exercises, scales, playing the same pieces ad nauseum and various other musical drills akin to army training, that robbed her of any love she might have had for a life as a musician.

Once I’d read the expose, I wondered about the author’s mental or emotional approach to music. Was it her attitude or the way she interpreted music that was a reason for her eventual dissatisfaction, and could this also affect your own (or if you teach others) students longevity and enjoyment in the art of music?

Continue reading Losing the joy in music?

Does music grow on the family tree?

Guest Post by Simon Reich

I would imagine, many creative and serious musicians, would love their children to follow in the same footsteps? Well interestingly enough, it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Take my own four children for example…

Continue reading Does music grow on the family tree?

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 3

Improvisation in Action – A Video!

In this series, I have written many words and imparted knowledge from my experience. But merely in print form.

I have mentioned a few times though, that you need to dip your foot in the pool and go for it yourself. That got me thinking about videoing myself noodling around until I “found” something that constituted a tune.

I’ve never done this before, so it was quite interesting for me as well. I put my phone on a shoe box and started taping in my music room. I only did one take and had never consciously heard this tune before.

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 3

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Improvisation – Jump In!

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

The amazing thing about improvisation, in my experience, is the fact that inspiration and output can come no matter how I am feeling.

In fact, some of the best tunes I have composed have been when I am feeling down and compromised. The flip side to this is that when I am happy, the creative juices still flow! So in essence, nothing need hold you back from a productive improvisation.

As mentioned in the previous article, armed with your skills of scale and chord understanding it’s always the right time to start noodling around the keyboard and find a gem waiting to be unearthed. Sometimes it starts with a chord progression, other times a melody.

When I was quite young, I remember hearing certain tunes and feeling a funny tingling sensation in my stomach. This became my yardstick for great chord progressions. If I could make myself feel those “butterflies in my tummy”, I’d done it!

You are your own best guide to what sound good, so trust your intuition.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 1

Improvisation – Can it be learnt?

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

People ask me, “can you learn to improvise”, and my answer is, “YES, the majority of musicians can be taught”.

If you have only ever played from printed scores, then surely at times you have heard music in your head? It’s just a matter of coaxing that out via the instrument.

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 1

Improvisation – A natural high

Guest post by Simon Reich

Launching a new series on improvisation…

There are many natural highs to be enjoyed in life.

Society’s obsession with alcohol, drugs, nicotine and artificial stimulants misses the serotonin release available from activities that occur all around us. In my case, consuming great tasting food, stimulating conversation with friends, daredevil acts – like riding a roller coaster or jumping from high platforms into water, romancing my partner, winning competitive games and (for the focus of this article), playing a musical instrument.

Continue reading Improvisation – A natural high

Confessions 8: The Final Scene

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 8

Although movies can’t always finish with a happy ending, I thought we’d round up this series with a question that could give teachers a chance to give a positive finale.

“I have a few secondary school teachers as friends. They often remark how they hardly ever hear from former students. So as the last question, Have you ever had a response from a past student, years down the track? Something that really warmed your heart?”

Continue reading Confessions 8: The Final Scene

Confessions 7: How wide are piano teacher’s job descriptions?

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 7

How wide are piano teachers job descriptions?

Continue reading Confessions 7: How wide are piano teacher’s job descriptions?

Confessions 6: Are Exams helpful?

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 6

This controversial question needed to be asked.

“Do you feel the current system of testing and grading of students is helpful to budding creative musicians? If not, what would you consider as an alternative?”

Continue reading Confessions 6: Are Exams helpful?

Confessions 5: Student listening tastes

Guest Author: Simon Reich “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

Question 5

This question was born from an ugly personal experience I had as a child. At a local monthly musical society concert, a classical guitar teacher had found out his most gifted pupil had bought an electric guitar and was dabbling with it in his own time. Admittedly the guitar teacher was an older man, but he publicly tore strips off his prized student and humiliated him in front of the whole crowd. He then banished his pupil and told him not to return to lessons until he’d given up the electric guitar.

It’s in this context, I asked the following question.

“What would be your reaction to a student confessing they played synthesizers in a simple dance music style of playing? How would you feel about them listening to electronic music or heavy metal style genres?”

Continue reading Confessions 5: Student listening tastes

Confessions 4: Choosing music with each student

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 4

When I had lessons as a young man, my teacher had a set, worn path of selected pieces, so the answers to this question interested me no end.

“Are the selection of music to be learnt, important to maintaining the interest of a student? Do you tailor the music to each student?”

Continue reading Confessions 4: Choosing music with each student

Confessions 3: Naturally gifted students?

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

Question 3

Being someone who had a natural ear for music and could play back most things I heard, this was a question I was keen to hear the answers to –

“Do you feel some students have a natural gift in music? How does that manifest?”

Continue reading Confessions 3: Naturally gifted students?

Confessions 2: Are teenagers difficult to teach?

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions…
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 2

This question was born of my own frustration as a teenager, and seeing the skill level I wanted to be at and the skill level I was achieving.

“Are mid to late teens a difficult age bracket to teach? Why?”

Continue reading Confessions 2: Are teenagers difficult to teach?

Confessions 1: How many continue to play

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions. In this series he shares their answers…

In my previous article “Confessions of a piano student”, I stepped through my personal journey growing up learning music, which led me to believe I was mismanaged by my teacher, who possibly didn’t have a grasp of the natural musical gift I already had, or how to assist in its growth.

So it was with great interest that I conducted an open interview with today’s piano teachers to see how the prevailing thought in musical education has changed since my childhood.

Continue reading Confessions 1: How many continue to play

Confessions of a piano student.

Regular guest author Simon Reich (pictured above as a little boy) has a confession to make… 

“I’d let down my piano teacher, my parents and ultimately myself, by not being able to read music better than my grades suggested”. This was the unfortunate soundtrack playing inside my head, each time I went to piano lessons.

But deep inside me a sleeping talent was about to emerge – and I didn’t yet know it!

Continue reading Confessions of a piano student.

Encouraging Music

Guest post by Simon Reich.

Before recording became a viable option to most home-based musicians, I would improvise and compose tunes at my piano each day, as a way of winding down after work.

Sometimes I would forget them completely by the next day, but that didn’t concern me, as I had felt something quite deep and cathartic during the creation of these musical adventures.

Continue reading Encouraging Music

The Importance of Music

Guest author and professional visual artist Simon Reich gives his personal perspective…

Being a visual artist myself, I have to reluctantly admit that it’s quite possible that the general populace of the world could live without paintings, sculpture and visual art. But I severely doubt the people on this planet could live without music.

Continue reading The Importance of Music

Healing with music

Guest author Simon Reich shares an inspiring personal testimony to the power of music.

With war in Syria, daily muggings, deadlock in the Middle East, domestic violence and escalating racial tensions, we are in desperate need of some good news stories.

Being a creative musician, you may not realize it, but you hold the key to giving the world some peace and inspiration.

Continue reading Healing with music

“The Creative Pianist”: Interview with Mark Polishook

Interview by Guest Writer, Simon Reich

I have always thought that to be a well-regarded teacher in a particular area, you need to know the subject inside and out and be a proficient exponent of the subject and Mark Polishook is definitely one of those.

Continue reading “The Creative Pianist”: Interview with Mark Polishook

“The Black Dog”

Guest Post by Simon Reich

Being a creative musician is a dangerous profession. No, I don’t mean getting your fingers slammed by the piano lid, or a Steinway falling on your head. I mean the proportion of suicides compared to statistics in the general population.

Every time I hear a story informing me of another person who has taken their life, be it a celebrity or “man on the street”, I am deeply touched and realise how close I have come to being another statistic.

I knew from early childhood that certain things affected me profoundly. When I heard certain songs or chord progressions, I felt butterflies inside me and sometimes it made me cry. When I would see injustices to class mates or in movies, I would feel deep empathy. Obviously I was quite a sensitive person and music gave me a chance to enter a creative world of my own making.

Obviously I was quite a sensitive person and music gave me a chance to enter a creative world of my own making.

As positive as these traits were and still are in me, they also have a dark side. Having only recently gained some wisdom on how these thought patterns have affected me, I stumbled on unknowingly through my life, eventually culminating in a breakdown which really forced me to learn more about the subject and about myself.

Here are some of the key points I have learnt about how I tick.

“People Pleaser”

I realised I tried to “please all of the people, all of the time”. This is an impossible task, and ended up causing a massive gap between my expectations & reality.

“Setting Boundaries”

I had a tendency to place clients higher in the pecking order than my own family, so partook in some pretty crazy overtime hours. I would take bookings for gigs, even though I’d promised to do things with the family. This caused massive frustration on my part as I danced around trying to please everyone. Inevitably I pleased no one and hurt myself in the bargain.

“Learn to love yourself”

I have only just started to hear my negative self talk, and have realised how destructive it has been all my life. I remember listening to a relaxation tape that was meant to be part of your nightly regime. One of the first things the speaker asked you to do, at the end of each day, was reach up behind you and give yourself a pat on the back! He would then go onto say “You did the best you could today with the information you had.”

“Surround yourself with supportive people”

At times I thought I was the only one who felt these thoughts. When I discovered others were in the same boat as me and were willing to help each other out, I rejoiced! Friends who understand your condition and are willing to talk with you are a gift from heaven.

Living with anxiety or depression is not an easy thing, but I have to wonder, “what if I didn’t have this condition? Would I be as productive as a creative artist?” The fact that I have felt the lowest of lows, means I rejoice all the more when I feel the highs.

If you are experiencing these types of feelings, then take solace in the fact that you are not alone and that a helping hand is just a phone call or key stroke away.

Simon Reich

Simon is a pianist and award-winning composer from Victoria, Australia. Further information : Simon Reich Music


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