Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Piano Dabblings

I'm not a 'natural' musician, I had piano lessons when I was a wee boy; even passed the grade 1 exam even, but like so many, didn't stay the course and gave up in my early teens... But then, around 3 years ago, as my mid-life crisis approached (and with two kids to encourage) I had the urge to start learning all over again. So in January 2009, I started having weekly half an hour lessons with Diana at the North London Music Centre.
The first lesson was VERY painful, but I was signed up for five, so stuck with it. I'm still sticking with it now. Some Saturdays I play worse than others, but there's always something to learn from the lessons. There's a long way to go...

I had occasionally been dabbling with music-making on my PC sometime before starting the lessons. I made the soundtrack for my film Evo in 2006. But this 'plinky plonky' music is very much pattern-based, it was composed using sequencing software (Cubasis), that doesn't actually require any playing skills at all.

Then in Autumn 2011 I downloaded a trial version of Mixcraft. I enjoyed using this software a lot (It's a similiar editor, but newer, simpler and very satisfying to use). Whilst learning how to record and build the tracks, I made a piece I called Pony Morricone. It's inspired a little bit by Air and the Ennio Morricone music I try to play in the piano lessons. This recording is also highly edited in the sequencer, but at least I played the notes in using MIDI/USB keyboard before tidying them up. (And I tidied them up A LOT !)

Just this week I decided that I might start recording some of my piano efforts (straight from the piano's headphone output to my new TASCAM recorder) for the purposes of reviewing and hopefully improving my playing... So last night I stayed up late, and played this lots of times. It's a real shocker hearing your own playing for the first time, and what I thought was OK, turns out to be really awful. The main thing I've discovered is that I'm not keeping time well at all. Also, I only get the notes right once every few plays.

So this recording has no edits, no cleaning up at all, and it's very short... But it is the best selected take I could get of this from a long session last night... It's my best attempt at the Blue Note jazz classic... The Sidewinder written by Lee Morgan in 1963.

I'll maybe have another go at recording my playing again soon, it's a humbling but ultimately revealing experience...

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