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Piano Recital

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.

Bar room piano!

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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” 🙂