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Bar room piano!


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” 🙂

Cheesy 80s Keyboard Blues Sounds

I picked up a book from Oxfam recently, “Play it Again, Chester – Boogies, Rags and Blues for Piano”.  These are beginners pieces, so it was nice to be able to pick up a piece of music and learn it relatively quickly.  I’ve spent a bit of time during piano lessons on these too and have been meaning to record these for a while, but hadn’t got round to it.  What better to do on a bank holiday than waste some time recording on an 80s keyboard!  I took the old Casiotone 405 from the top of the wardrobe and recorded three of the pieces from the book.  I would hope it goes without saying that these are intentionally….. er……. crap sounding, with the old drums backing tracks.  I realise it may be difficult to tell the difference between these synth sounds and a real piano, electric guitar and organ 🙂

Merry Go Round

Here they are, cheesy tracks just for fun.  Play it again, Chester….. whoever you are.

Blue Waltz (Carol Barratt) 
Lazy Haze (Carol Barratt)
Navy Blues (Carol Barratt)

The keyboard they were recorded on:

Casio Polaroid



Here are a few more pieces I’ve been playing in my piano lessons.  Whilst I am actually learning/playing parts that are a bit more complex than this, one thing I’m finding challenging generally is getting them up to the standard needed to be able to record them with no mistakes.  I don’t expect everything to be perfect (you may have noticed!), but to record something I at least want to be able to get through it in one piece! 🙂

Practice, practice, practice I guess, but it seems some pieces i’ve had for ages which i can sort of play, but I can never seem to get through them entirely with some kind of mess up.  Perhaps once (if!) my skill level increases i’ll be able to go back to them and get through them easier.  Here’s the ones I can get through: –

Tarantella (P.Hall)

A type of Itallian folk dance in quick 6/8 time.  I need to get the speed up a bit, but its a good work out on the fingers, especially the second-half.

Country ballad (Unknown)

Can’t help thinking this sounds like the start of some American sitcom!

Scarborough Fair (Folk music standard)

Straight out of my first keyboard book, it was only a few lessons in so pretty challenging back then to play the arpeggios with left hand and melody with the right.  Still a challenge now i suppose!

A Tender Flower (F. Swinstead)

Not my favourite piece…. relaxed, but not particularly “exciting”.  We can’t love ’em all i suppose!

AND!!! Whilst I was all set up at Abbey Road I thought i may as well bang out a quick moody 2 chord blues solo.  No idea what scale it is, but it has a kind of darkness i like.  Probably because its a scale i’m playing wrong! 🙂

Moody Blues (under the power of Carlsberg)

All the above were recorded though an Art Tube MP Studio 3 valve pre-amp.  The valve is meant to “warm” up the sound.   I’ve done some side-by-side comparisions of line-level instruments and it certainly does seem to help (even if relatively subtle).  Particularly “synths” sound that bit less electronic..y.  Will be useful for recording the acoustic band with mics.

The blues….

In my last couple of piano lessons, i’ve been doing a bit of improvisation over a 12 bar blues phrase.  A few things are clicking into place now with scales etc. but it will take a while and a lot of practice.  I recorded the whole backing track with drums, bass, piano and clarinet (on keyboard) and then played piano over the top.  So here it is!


Also, just to prove I have been doing something else, below is a sneak preview of an initial idea that is likely to warp into Tentacle 5….   Its a loop in 5/4 time, created on my brand new Korg Microstation’s sequencer!!!  As i was working on some improvisation I thought i’d record the main loop and just have a go at a solo over the top.  No fancy recording, this was a video camera pointed at me, press record and go.  I’d had some beers (as you can see from the bottle of Stella in the pic – there was even a beer break during recording), so there are bum notes and dodgy timing all over the place (notice how I blame the beer) and it goes on a bit long because i was in the moment!  If this is spotted, i will simply defend it by saying it was “free-jazz” and therefore it is exactly as it is meant to be, its just the listener needs to pay more attention 🙂

So it was the first use of my new and final (haha) piece of gear – the Korg Microstation.  I love playing my Yamaha piano, but it has a very limited range of sounds.  Space is limited, so i searched around for something small with a vast array of sounds and came across the Microstation.  Its discontinued now, so was a bit difficult to track down.  I managed to get an ex-display one hiding on someones shelf in Glasgow for a good price (Guitar Guitar – who were very helpful – even for a bunch of string twangers ;o)  Its got a sequencer on board (although you’d need a PhD in computer science to be able to record a full song on it!), but its great for banging down some quick ideas like the clip above when I don’t really want to get the computer out.  Good times!