Category Archives: Piano
How this site (and me) have changed since its inception in 2012. Loads of music has been uploaded, culminating in three short “releases”; Bucket of Tentacles (2013), Analogue (2014) and The Illicium Lure (2015). I’m very proud of what I managed to pull together as a “solo artist” since starting to learn the piano and its more than I ever really expected, but I developed a new passion, running, which I’ve gradually started sneaking into this blog. Like many things I’ve tried in life its become an all-consuming activity to the extent that there is no time for music and I unfortunately seem to have currently lost the desire. I go running, in the mud, instead and haven’t touched my piano since around April 2016.
I’ve really enjoyed blogging to this site, so I’ve been contemplating how to continue with a running theme, and have now set up an alternative blog at www.allhailthetrail.co.uk
For anyone interested in my running exploits then please have a visit and follow. Otherwise, thanks for following this blog and any comments along the way. I expect to continue uploading Bucket of Tentacles style photographs now and again and who knows, maybe some more squelchy synth noises and horror beats will re-appear.
Bucket of Tentacles is descending to the depths from where it emerged. For the moment…..
It was time to attempt to play piano again in front of real people! My piano teacher, Daria, had arranged a student recital at her house. Bring nibbles and ‘performance enhancing’ alcohol! The last time I did this was June 2014 at the Royal Northern College of Music. I’ve been at this piano lark for quite some time now, almost 4 years and lessons for 3.5 so should be getting to some kind of believable standard. I almost certainly haven’t practiced pure piano as much as I should have as quite a lot of time has been dedicated to composing the tracks on this blog. A difficult balance which I’ll get to later.
On the day of the recital, I recorded the pieces I was planning to play warts and all so here they are! The first three are from the ABRSM Jazz Piano Grade 3 book (Sombrero Sam, Sails and Birks Works) and the final piece was a Christmas song, a quickly pulled together Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer 🙂
Six of us shuffled into the house all probably a bit worried about performing in front of others, but a few sniffs of red wine and there was a bit more relaxation in the air. It was really interesting to hear others play from relatively new players to people who had far more experience. When it came to my performance itself I messed up quite a few times but managed to get through it. The improvisation sections were perhaps the most challenging as I found this quite hard to improvise with performance nerves going on. I’ve played plenty of gigs on drums and had mostly got over the nerves of playing and during later stages got to the point where I was reasonably comfortable playing. Let’s just say I’m not there with piano yet……
It got me thinking about how long I’ve been playing and how ‘good’ I should be. As odd as it may seem, I didn’t start piano because I wanted to learn piano. I started because being a long term drummer with an interest in recording music and pushing what you can do with sound I thought I needed to try a solo project. Very difficult on drums, so a keyboard which can produce a vast array of sounds seemed a great option. Piano lessons have been great to develop musical groundwork and I’ve put a lot of that into the Bucket of Tentacles pieces, with certainly more musicality and development within the tracks from the first pieces I recorded for this blog.
I feel at a crossroads of sorts to decide where I want to take things, partly because I know that piano performance is never going to be ‘my thing’ and isn’t why I started this. I’ve always liked the extreme of things, for example I don’t want to listen to something that’s a bit metal, I want it as fast, as dark and as extreme as it gets. Or as genre-hopping discordant and weird as it gets. This is where I get my love for bands like the Secret Chiefs 3 or earlier Mr Bungle who turned my thoughts of what you can do with music upside down. I’ve had a similar experience with running, doing 5km, 10km doesn’t feel enough so I’m pushing to achieve a (short) ultramarathon 50km.
Its difficult to know where to focus my attention at the moment, my various hobbies need significant time spent practicing pure piano pieces, scales, arpeggios, technique, sight reading, music theory, feel, sound crafting on synths, drum programming, recording techniques, Cubase, applying effects, EQ, compression, listening, composing, writing music, blending sounds, mixing. Then running, long distance runs, intervals, tempo runs, all round fitness with cross training, weights. What about my other passion photography? Huge range of skills and practice needed there including familiarity with editing software on top of what you take camera side.
I am obviously very lucky to be able to even attempt to do that much “stuff” but its more slow development on all, rather than leaps and bounds in any one subject.
So the Bucket of Tentacles will continue into 2016 and will continue to be a record of the artistic or physical achievements that I do. Here is to 2016 which could include a grade 3 piano exam, some extreme running and potentially a fourth ‘release’ of collections of tracks. If there is time of course!
Have a slithering Christmas and New Year.
I spotted this whilst out and about and had to get a picture. The homeless man perhaps trying to enjoy a rare nice moment of life with a good read accompanied by some violin. At least it gave me the title to this post: Private Show.
On to the point of the post, its been ages since I’ve recorded any piano, so here are a few pieces I’ve been playing in my lessons. First up, is the start of Sarabande in D minor by Handel. I played it a few times on piano and then switched to the strings setting and thought it sounded better, so I recorded it like that.
Sarabande in D minor (Handel)
Here is the piano version too.
Next up is a piece I started learning over two years ago, but then gave up on it. I picked it up again recently so thought I’d record it. It is Bach, Prelude in C. This has been difficult, firsty to keep up the consistency of the continuous rhythm, but then also inject some feeling into it because of its continuous rhythm, but here it is as a record of my progress. The piece is fantastic, with some amazing chord progressions throughout.
Prelude in C (Bach)
Finally, a piece from Jazz Piano Pieces – Grade 2. I bought the book because I wanted to try and do a few pieces that I can learn relatively quickly. I’ve still found them tough though!
Contemplation (Tyner arr. Iles)
Just to finish off with a random picture, here is the outside of Victoria Station in Manchester City Centre. Its an air-filled ETFE roof and looks great in the right light. These couple of pics were from my new Lumix GX7, now at bargain price due to the release of the GX8. I’ve not had much chance to try it out yet other than one quick wander round the city and I didn’t manage to capture much….
The difficult third album….. From what started as uploading a couple of sound snippets has turned into three years of music or noise uploads, loads of photos, and somehow a third EP. Here is the latest offering of tracks recorded and uploaded over the last year, this time with some extras and a couple of minor remixes. For the first time, this also includes a collaboration. Track 5 “Thalassa” features vocals written and performed by long term friend and band mate, Alistair Davies. Thanks Al!
1. Lost (Self Inflicted Desolation)
2. Fleuve Parasseux
4. Interlude (Tango)
7. Interlude (Donkey Kong)
8. Number stations
How have “the tentacles” changed since the last collection of tracks “Analogue” in July 2014….? I’ve continued piano lessons, learnt lots and hopefully added more musicality to some these tracks, certainly in Thalassa and Fleuve Parasseux. Listening back, several of the tracks contain improvised synth editing. I’ve always tried to maintain an element of improvisation on several of my tracks but listening back I have no idea how, or what I did in some of the parts. It would be unrepeatable which I think is great but also slightly frustrating!
So another year goes by, Life goes on… some tough moments at work, got married, some great experiences along the way, and a whole new passion for running. Long live the tentacles!
Get a printed copy from THE SHOP
For the copyright purists, for (nearly) the first time I’ve ‘stolen’ a couple of bits and pieces, so here are the details: –
Track 1 – A mere use of a pre-set sequence from the Arturia microbrute, bite me.
Track 3 – The very premise of this track was recording artists from the streets. I actually tried to make contact to ask permission but received no response. Some drums and beat boxing parts are recorded on an iPhone in Manchester City Centre. The radio intro/outros are pretty much all live street recordings.
Track 4 – A very short piece from a piano magazine introducing the style of tango. I enjoyed playing it so recorded it and solo’d over it!
Track 7 – The beeps and boops are recorded from me playing my 1982 Nintendo Game and Watch Donkey Kong, still working today, move over PlayStation!
Track 8 – Voices and number stations stolen from web postings on the subject. The whole track came together from listening to parts on the web and adding some random synth warblings and a beat… getting it done off the cuff.
Time to get back to the roots of this blog and get some music up! Here is my latest offering – “Fleuve Parasseux”
What’s that rubbish picture I hear you say? Its a river of course, but I have taken the liberty of inconveniencing a few electrons and altered it using the free image “glitching” website available HERE
I love that we have access to fantastic technology, but then try and mess things up so that pictures look old, retro, faded and “glitched” or produce music then distort it to make it sound like its on tape, or add record scratches etc. Why do we strive for perfection and then try and quickly get away from it?
The track itself started as a piano piece which I recorded and then developed all the other parts around it. Whilst uncharacteristically “nice” for the most part, I tried to add my own “glitch”.
New EP coming very soon including a collection of tracks from this blog, a couple of new “interludes” and an older track with new vocals all over it (not by me thankfully!)
A sudden productivity spasm, here are a couple of new tracks. First up “Reload”, an erratic junglist noise-fest with some eastern vibes.
This was an initial try-out of the Roland JD-Xi synth, a crossover digital/analogue synth. Almost all of the track, including drums, are played/programmed on this synth. I even used the vocoder :o) Loving the dirty analogue vibes.
Next up is “Number Stations”. A number station is a mysterious coded shortwave radio broadcast known to be used during World War I and through to the Cold War to send messages to agents in the field…. These broadcasts sound really sinister so that’s the vibe I went with, this was quick, play some of the number station and throw some synth/drum improvisation over it. No icing here.
The picture? I actually hacked apart Victoria’s (old) computer, shone some green and blue lights at the circuit board and snapped away!
I have another new piece on the way, almost a proper piano track. Building up to EP#3 me’thinks.
Here are a couple of pieces from my piano lessons as its been a while since I’ve recorded any. These have taken a while to learn as they’re classical which keeps both hands busy (and twists my brain). Anyway, they both happen to be called “Prelude”. The first one “Prelude in C” is noted as attributed to Bach and edited by Richard Jones, so here it is.
The second one has no noted credits on it, but the way I play it here its probably best they don’t know. This needs a lot more work to get the hands working together, but as a record of progress, here it is warts and all.
I’m working on a new “proper” track using a great new hybrid analogue/digital synth, the Roland JD-Xi. I’ve only had it a week, but am getting on very well with it. The track (inc. drums) will all be created using that synth and its vocoder (!!) and is warming up to be a bit of a dark drum’n’bass / hip-hop type track. In fact I’m going to record a few bits for it now…..
The title inspired by Morbid Angel’s Hatework, here is a very non metal track including samples of street performers around Manchester.
The geek details: I used a recording of the drunkards in The Unicorn in my last track, so I decided to do some more ‘field’ recording in the City. I used my phone to record clips of various street performers, so not great quality. The core of the track uses a couple of short loops from a live drummer in Piccadilly Gardens and then some “phat” dubstep style beat boxing recorded on Market St for the breakdown. The “radio” intro also features me, Hare Krishna chanting and buskers playing the piano and singing.
In the interests of throwing it all in, I’ve used sounds of bassoon, analogue synth (bass and lead), piano, koto, charang, organ, gang chanting plus some extra programmed drums. The whole thing was a bit of an experiment and might be a bit erratic, but hey, that’s the way I like it!
Hopefully I’ll record a couple of classical piano pieces I’ve been learning soon!
Music feeds the imagination right? I’ve learnt this piece in my piano lessons and every time I play it I get the vision of some smokey raucous jazz/blues bar, with an old beat up piano that everyone is free to have a go on. Its from the ABRSM Jazz Piano book, a version of Dizzy Gillespies “Birks Works” arranged by Pete Churchill.
When it came to record it, rather than keeping it clean I thought I’d try and get it sounding a bit like my vision! After a quick recording session I wandered into The Unicorn, a “traditional” pub filled with energetic boozehounds firmly rooted in the NQ. Bearing in mind it was Saturday afternoon it was quite lively as you may hear from the Tarzan noises! The footsteps and doors are added purely for dramatic effect.
Next up is the same song again! This time recorded on my 1980s Casiotone mere minutes before some guy came to collect it. I loved the sound of it but you can’t keep everything! I just thought I’d record a ‘final’ piece on it and here it is (a bit scrappy but not much choice as it was leaving the house!)
Finally, almost due to hit 3000 hits…. its only taken 2.5 years! Thanks to all the “lookers” 🙂