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Will Barrow

Member Since 04 Feb 2008
Offline Last Active Sep 01 2013 02:27 AM

Topics I've Started

Singing at the Piano

01 August 2013 - 03:45 AM

   Hey Everybody,

                              I'm convinced that everyone who plays the piano should sing while at the piano. I had a piano teacher once who assigned me a Mozart Sonata to work on. When I practiced it and came back to play it,he stopped me after a few bars and said "sing that opening phrase for me". He could tell I'd learned the notes of that phrase,but not the nuances of its phrasing-which notes are more accented,how they flow,etc.-the stuff that makes that music come to life. My vocal rendering of the phrase proved his point. He sung the phrase the way it was supposed to sound,and we started working on the piece in this way.

                           When working on melodies,chords,bass lines,rhythms,whatever your doing at the piano,singing that melody,a note in the chord [or the notes of the chord stacked]that bass line or rhythm helps you to HEAR it better. When you can really hear what you are to play [as opposed to just finding the notes on the keyboard] helps you to PLAY it better-to make it come to life. Singing songs allows you to accompany yourself. Many of us don't like the sound of our singing (and/or speaking) voice, or feel that we simply "can't sing". I say hogwash. to quote an old Sesame Street song ( "Sing a Song") - "don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear-just sing.....sing a song". Singing will make you a better pianist,and add to your enjoyment of piano and music in general. Happy humming,       Will


Piano Fingerings

14 May 2013 - 08:41 PM

 Hey everybody.

                          A recent query posed on the board by Steve got me thinking that others might have similar questions about fingering. I give fingering suggestions for the material we learn to play in the course,to help guide the student,and I also point out that there are frequently other options worth checking out. Everyone's hand and fingers are a different shape,so it's not a one size fits all proposition.Fingering IS very important in the sense that how you finger something has a huge effect on the phrasing and articulation of what you play-how it sounds and is shaped musically.The most important thing is that whatever you play utilizes the fingering that is most effecient and enables you to play with the desired articulation,phrasing,etc.It's good when practicing a particular thing to have OPTIONS-such as fingering suggestions from this course or fingering markings on a piece of classical music. Once you use these fingerings, you can try alternative ones through your own experimentation.With some things you'll play,there'll only be one good option-that will be apparent as you learn the fingering and see that it's the only way to make it happen.But with other things,you'll be able to try alternative fingerings.I say whatever works.Also, keep jn mind that the fingers are only part of the equation in the physicality of playing piano-hands,wrists,forearms and upper arms/shoulders come into play and shape the sound you're making at the piano..Hope this helps,     Will

 


Discovering the melodica-the keyboardist's wind intrument

01 April 2013 - 03:22 AM

    Hey everybody,

                              I was recently in a local music store and noticed they were having a blow out sale on Hohner melodicas. I'd always been intrigued by the instrument,but had never owned or tried to play one. When I lived in New York City, I'd seen Donald Fagen play one while he sitting in with a friend's band. The melodica is a hand held 2 1/2 octave keyboard that has a mouthpiece on one end that you blow into to create sound. It's sound is somewhere in the ballpark of a harmonica or accordion. I'm loving this thing! It was inexpensive [50 and change on sale]. It's great to control a keyboard instrument with the breath-with all the expressive possibilities that entails-swells,vibrato,etc. It seems to work better for single note lines than for chords,though those are do-able. I'm especially enjoying used it on melodies in a Brazilian vein [i.e. Jobim's music]. Try a melodica for a new,wind-driven approach to keyboard playing! Happy playing,      Will


Consistency and efficiency are 2 big keys to progress

28 February 2013 - 08:15 PM

Hey everybody,

                          I'm frequently asked by students how much time they should spend practicing if they want to progress. This is an obviously highly subjective question,but it reminds me of some important concepts that I've learned in my time at the piano. The amount of time spent at the piano is less important than 1] how focused that time is and 2] how consistent you are with practice over the long hall.

                       The idea of focused practice time brings to mind questions like-are you working on the lesson material in the prescribed way ? are you using the metronome if that's called for? are you slowing things down when they're too fast to be played with the right rhythms,phrasing,fingering,etc.? do you break things down into small units when there's a part that is challenging you,isolating the tricky part,then build that small unit up into the larger unit of music ["additive practicing"].

                        The idea of consistency underscores the fact that learning piano is a building block process-if you learn a couple new things every week,that's 100+ new things in a year! Most of us have a tendency to come to the piano and play what we already know how to play-and with good reason-it's gratifying and fun. Challenging ourselves to develop new skills,knowledge,etc. is more difficult and involves less immediate reward-and sometimes we just don't know what to work on next [especially when not engaged in a course or lessons]. Playtime,free forming,experimentation,etc at the piano is important,and if you'll strike the bargain with yourself that you'll do some organized/new stuff first [the practice part]-even for a short period of time, you'll make consistent progress. Happy playing!       WILL


The value of EQ-and mellowing some of the ultra brightness of the digi-age

01 February 2013 - 04:32 AM

   Hey Everybody,

                             This course is approached from the standpoint of playing piano-either with an acoustic piano or a keyboard designed to be a good digital simulation of one. Most digital piano sounds-even the best ones-have,to my ear, an inherent brightness that makes them sound more "digital". I believe one can achieve a warmer and more realistic piano sound by utilizing the equalizing[EQ] capabilities onboard the keyboard[if it has such features,on an amplifier or mixer if one is used,or by using a separate equalizer. Different piano samples[sounds] have different needs, in terms of tweaking them to make them sound best-so it's best to experiment with EQ-ing different frequencies[high-mid-low] to see what sounds best. With an acoustic piano,this is done by "voicing" the piano-for example,filing hammers or sticking pins in them to take out some of the brightness-I just had this done to my Yamaha grand to mellow it's brightness a bit. It's great to listen to lots of different recorded piano sounds from different genres of music,to develop your ear for what you're trying to make a piano sound sound like. Different genres have different needs in terms of brightness-for example classical music would tend to work better on a piano less bright than rock and roll,where you need the piano to "cut" more. Happy playing!     Will