It’s time to relaunch this regular feature on Pianodao, and what better way to do it than to share the recent piano improvisations of my good friend Simon Reich, an award-winning composer who will be known to regular readers for his frequent guest posts on Pianodao, and in particular for their wonderfully encouraging tone.
It’s a reflection on this consummate musician’s gift that his solo improvisations are every bit as warm and encouraging as his words. I’ve had a listen to the latest tracks he has shared on SoundCloud, and compiled this playlist of a few favourites.
Many of these pieces showcase Simon’s studio nous, with gorgeous electronic treatments and delay effects beautifully enhancing his music. Enjoy!
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.
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.
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…
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.
How your creative outlet survives an injury… Guest Post by Simon Reich
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.
After reading a rather sad article by Washington Post author Arianna Warsaw-FanRauch, 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?