Thursday 24 May 2007

...and at my feet it fell

I am a very frustrated piano player.

I don't take enough notes at my lessons and go to practise what I've learnt and find I am using the wrong backing chrods in BiB. I am silly.

Also, I just can't get motivated at the moment. There's lots to do, I jsut find myself doing other things. I am not losing interest, just drive to practise. I'll try and hit into it this weekend. Do some pentatonic blues, that I can't record. Maybe I should set up the recording?!

Anyways, to avoid this being just a total rant, I thought I'd figure some pop songs out, or at least the intros to them. Can you pick it?



Monday 21 May 2007

Fire Tissue

I am quite horrendously sick, but I didn't want a Monday to go by without some substance.

For some reason I was singing the Drizzle Song 'Fire Tissue' today. Fire Tissue was written on the day of a bands night back in year 11, inspired by the peppermint oil tissue I had in my pocket to deal with a sickness similar to the one that ails me now. Essential Oils were not really enough of a topic for a song, so Liam and I threw something in about a sick relationship in there.

It was poorly rehearsed and my insistence on employing many non hihat breakdowns left timing to the wind. Fire Tissue was never performed again. We've got it on a mini DV tape somewhere, but the travesty that was fire tissue has really only lived on in my head. Today I decided to do something with this lyrical gold:

Fire Tissue!
Makes me feel so warm inside!
Fire Tissue!
Makes me wonder why-y-y.

She calls me up, late at night.
She says I make her feel alright.

But we all know [but we all know]
There is no way [there is no way]
It just won't go, I won't play your game. No way!
It doesn't work that way.

I was sitting on the toilet today singing the words and I made them a bit less cheesy, while still keeping them cheesy. Kinda like when Syd changed the one off 'free games for may to see emily play. Maybe. I forgot what I changed it to today, so its either lost or perhaps already integrated into what I wrote above.

Regardless, I decided to revive this old gem. Now clearly it can't be taken seriously, so I've gone for a sorta muppets jazz feel on this one.

Vocal melody,something like this.

Timing, Kevin!

And a fairly basic chord progression underneath, though perhaps with a bit more hand shuffling than this

Yep, itsa
coming along safe in the knowledge that it would still be dropped from any Drizzle set...

Now to write the next verse...

Saturday 19 May 2007

If Looks Could Kill... I was saying, I was fiddling around on the white keys and I came up with this little ditty

[actually I just played the C iteration first - took a few more gos to send it up to D]

Not normally a rhythm I would play, and I think the scale familiarity helped with this. Its just the same three notes in sequence, but what makes it interesting are the slight changes in rythm. It has a cool Buddy Hollyish 50s rock feel, but after playing it a few times I realised I'd heard it before...recently in fact.

After a bit of head searching I realised what it was.

Not exactly the same in terms of scale, but the rythm and feel are definately there, and there was probably some subconcious processing going on there.

But what to do with it?! I constantly played it over and was dry of ideas of what to do next, or what to throw on top. I certainly didn't want to cover the Camera Obscura song. I wanted to do my own thing with the feel. I tried a few different ideas on top of it - just the root note for instance. It sounded OK, but didn't really lead me anywhere else with it. I tried some 7th chords, too, but they didn't sound right...

Then at my piano lesson I showed it to Paul and explained the issues I was having 'doing' something with it. He was a bit confused by my question, and after going through some ideas with him I suppose I was, too. What had sounded pretty boring at home actually sounded OK in the lesson - though we did settle for C6 instead of C7.

There's a lot I can do with the C6 and D6 chords, though rythmically I seem to keep reverting to the feel from Camera. Paul also suggested I try just running about the scale, holding different note lengths on top of this. Suddenly I have a situation where I am tackling two of the challenges I mentioned previously: note lenghts and different rythms.

Unfortunately these challenges were coupled with another - two hands. The odd rhythm of the bassline is apparently hard enough to sustain on my left hand on its own. Whenever I throw in anything but the most basic right hand stuff, it goes to shit. I am not sure what I can do about this - practise makes perfect I suppose.

Paul got me to try something really simple - hold a quarter pulse on the right hand while playing the bass rhythm - like this.

I do lose the feel a bit with that quarter pulse - I guess I am losing some swing there. You can see at the end there that I am finding it hard to get abck to the start - I also think I am speeding up?
Let me try it again with a metronome.

That's a little better. It sounds simple enough, but it made me realise a bit about the timing of the bassline that I didn't realise previously - its not very 'neat' at all! I'll keep working on the timing, but for now I'll have to try the two hands separately. This is something involving different note lengths on the right hand [bassline courtesy of computer. :(]

The problem is though that it really loses that rocknroll feel there. Still, I'd be happy if I could play the two together. Feel or not.. Plenty to keep me busy. I really need to challenge myself to beat this.

Its interesting that the 7th chords actually sounded ok in the lesson. I have often found me changing my mind about something sounding good or not. I think I'll talk more on things sounding crap one time, but good another in a later post...

Why do you only use the white keys, Kevin?

So about a week ago I was fiddling around on the white keys. Now that I have figured out three different scales all using the white keys,

This post is now about the white keys.

I remember back in year 10 or 11 or whenever it was, we were in music class and I was putting some stuff into Fruity Loops. Liam was giving me shit about only using the white keys and Mr Lipsham chimed in and teased 'oh but its much easier that way'. Nevermind the fact that he should have then explained a bit about intervals and suggest how I incorporate some sharps in there - he was never a real music teacher anyways. The fact is, given my breadth of music theory, it was easier.

Where does that leave me now though? I know about scales and intervals, and I know many scales that work across whites and blacks, so why when I stuff around do I find myself on a D Dorian, C Major or A Minor? Its to do with familiarity I suppose. I just as often find my fingers running up a C or G blues. These are just the scales I know inside out, and where I am inclined to go. I wonder what will happen if/when I know 100 different scales?

I don't think this employment of a few regular scales is a bad thing in and of itself. Playing in a scale that I am familiar with allows me to play in ways that I am not familiar with - there's more to my playing than just the scales!

By having the scale in a familiar place, I can more easily experiment with components such as:

  • Rhythm.

  • Two hand independence.

  • Note choice. [as in not just playing up the scale as I am wont to do -more like working around a key note and referencing other notes from that, or just jumping around the scale in differnet ways]

  • ...and a particular week point of mine...note lengths, and employing diversity between them.

I talked about note lengths in the last post with those basslines. Maybe I should talk to Paul to get some exercises on this.While I do try and challenge myself to find [or just look up and play] different patterns, too, I think trying too many new concepts at once will leave my high and dry.

Anyways, the next post will go on about familiar notes and unfamiliar rhythms.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Why don't you write a blog about it?

8:30 piano lessons and new episodes of 24 are not conducive to a decent blog, but before I forget...

Tomorrow or the next day I must reflect on:

  • Organ VS Piano.

  • That inadvertently Camera Obscura inspired 50s rock'n'roll riff.

  • Working out scale structures.

For now I had best bed...

Sunday 13 May 2007

Always one step ahead...

It just occured to me that for this to work, I need to be posting up everything. My last post missed a very important piece of progress from the last week...

In the last lesson, Paul had my playing up, and improvising on a Pentatonic C Minor Scale here.

[FYI this is playing up, not improvising]

After a bit of fiddling, though, he issued me a challenge. Pare back the improvisation, but try and hear in your head the note you are going to play next. This proved an interesting challenge. I was not to hum the notes, only to hear them in my head. I found it really hard at first, but after trying a few times, it became a bit easier. I found myself imaging the next note. Sometimes, though, I wasn't imagining the next note in the scale - my brain was literally saying, don't go to the F, jump straight up to the G. It was really weird and hard to explain.

I think I am able to get into it much more after playing a scale a bit - getting used to where all the intervals are. After playing the funky tune mentioned in the last post a bit, I could actually 'audiovisualise' it all with my hands, but away from the piano. Again - weird - interesting - but ultimately hard to get across in text form. I'll keep practising 'hearing ahead of myself' and see if I can explain it any better.

I start my new job tomorrow, so I should really bed, but I can't resist playing something on the Pentatonic C Minor now...very short...

Gotta keep it regular. Like Bran, bitches.

So this week has been a bit lax. I am still crippled by Tascam not supporting by recorder. I really need to set up my mac to do multitracks, but it will have to wait till I rewire everything. Each weekend seems to pass by without me wiring it all how I want, so as I said above, the progress here is stifled a bit.

I've also been busy generally, and not playing that much. I have a bit on my mind, and haven't really been feeling like playing that much. The songs I was working on prior to starting the blog [including one with lyrics!] have pretty much stopped dead, as has my plan to go back and look at what I've done in the past. Maybe next week.

That said, things aren't totally dead. I am currently working on this funky little thing
I made in a C Blues / C Pentatonic kinda feel. It really hasn't progressed much beyond this basic lead line though.

[disgracefully recorded onto the mac using a microphone - I tried a bit of compression, but it still sounds sad - I really need to set up the tascam :(]

There are two distinct basslines in this tune. While in terms of core notes, they are very similar, they have a markedly different feel in terms of timing. This has made it hard to play in the song context, but has given me a good practice focus in this fairly uninspired week.

What I am doing is just a simple alternation between the two basslines, trying to keep it continual without inventing a third bassline as I try and recover from the futz. I've been trying it a few different ways - say four of each - two of each - etc. The real challenge is playing them one after the other, bar in, bar out. I am not quite there yet. I can do it once, but I end up repeating myself. Anyways,here's an example of what I am on about:

The difference in the note lengths between the lines is as much a part of it as the timing of the notes themselves, I think. More practice to be had, as usual!

Of course, at almost 23 years of age, one might begin to question the point of it all, particularly when your 8 year old second cousin can pull off shit like this:

Look @ More from this user. Her older brother is just as evil...

Saturday 5 May 2007

Hunting Ginger Extremes

My theory about the piano at work was right. While I am not 100% happy about the recording, it is closer to the sound I want than what I was nutting out at home. I think it has a lot to do with the softness of the sustain pedal. I suppose I should upload what I did at home too, what with my 'real illustration of progress' rule, but I don't want to remember it if its total crap.

Still thinking of a title. I suppose I'd be in a better position to give it a cliched piano wank title if I knew what key it was in. I think its a C Harmonic Minor, but there are a few notes in that scale that don't sit right with this, so I am not sure. As usual, my theory follows slightly behind my playing. For now, lets go with Hunting Ginger Extremes in some form of Cm.

Actually, wait. The notes match the key of F Dorian. I don't think this song is in F Dorian, but I can't remember how to extrapolate Dorian's into other scales. I know D Dorian = A Minor = C Major with different dominant notes, but I don't grasp this enough to make a decision. Lets go with Hunting Ginger Extremes that work in a Dorian's F.'

As I said above, this is far from perfect. At nearly fifteen minutes long, its a bit of a hike. There are a few bung notes here and there, and there are at least a couple spots where I lose all semblance of rhythm and direction. Persevere past the pieces of pain, though, and there's actually some stuff in there that I am really proud of. Some of the better stuff is at the post ten minute mark. I probably should have ended on that first downwards arpeggio, but you know me, can't stop playing.

I was thinking about doing a running commentary, but I think I'll pass. 15 minutes is enough to listen to, let alone write about.

Thursday 3 May 2007


Here's something I came up with today. I don't really think it has that much potential, but perhaps that is because I haven't found a way to introduce it yet. I really like the melody, but I have this inkling its actually from somewhere, and that I will soon realise this. Anyway, its called Clouded Melody I

Initially I banged it up on piano like this:

That's the Jinger's favourite, but I was also fiddling around with a bit an EP sound, banged on some distortion and applied a swing.

The EP experimentation also revealed this dreamy sound that I threw some electronics on.

I am not sure which, if any, have real potential. I am a bit frustrated to decide, I suppose. This is due to my main idea at the moment, Sadness in C, being uncommitable. For starters, its not really that sad anymore, but regardless of that, whenever I record it, it goes to shit. Last night I did a pretty nice version but forgot to record. Today I sat at the piano at work and took it to a new level, but again, no recording. I think the problem is that it lacks any structure - just a few ideas, the transitions between which are fudged at best. I think the piano at work gives a bit more of the sound I want, so tomorrow I'll probably take an edirol in and see what happens...

Kevin Plays the Blues

So, is born.

This site is still not looking quite how I want, but it will do for now. In an ideal world I’d have a nice looking theme that automatically scales these images. No such luck. I was contemplating creating my own theme, but I didn’t start this whole shootenany to learn CSS and PHP, I did it to document my rise to piano god status.

Perhaps not. I came to the conclusion some time ago that I will never make it ‘anywhere’ with my music. That said, I love it. I am determined to become as good as I can be. My goal here is to document the progression my playing and of the songs I write.

One thing I regret is not doing something like this ages ago. Since I began playing piano seriously about a year ago I’ve learnt a fair bit and formalised things in my playing. [though I can’t help but feel this has stifled some of my creativity on the synth] Not counting the songs I’ve learnt, I’ve written a fair bit of stuff, ranging from little ditties to almost songs. While I still have copies/recordings of them now, I don’t have a record of the progress that went into these songs. A lot of what I write changes dramatically before I get bored and start playing something else.

Initially I am going to throw up a bit of stuff I am working on at the moment…hopefully streaming. Then I’ll probably use this as a vehicle to go back through what I’ve created, maybe find some stuff I need to work on.

I suppose I should stop writing and start playing…after neighbours.

…the real question that arises out of this though, is how can I play piano with all this crap on it?