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Joined: Dec 2020
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Hello all...I am curious as to thoughts on the following on my piano progression. I am now just beginning my 4th year of piano. For three years I have been playing daily, for time spans of 30 minutes up to 3 hours, daily, alone, no lessons. If I missed up to ten days of playing everyday from then until now I would be surprised. The first 2 1/2 years I was playing on a Kawai digital ES8 95% of the time. It really was not until about a year and a half in this journey, that I took the plunge, and played an acoustic piano. I'll never forget that day! I sat down at the keys of a late model Steinway B. I kind of thought of it as my day of reckoning. I'll spare the detail here, but this added 4 or so hours a month of me now experimenting and learning on an acoustic grand. I found and purchased my own acoustic in December of 2020. A 1915 Mason & Hamlin model A @ 5'8". I had to leave it where it was as the owner an I agreed to a down payment pay plan. He allowed me to play the piano while at his warehouse so I would go Saturday or Sunday mornings and have some great sessions. My acoustic arrived to my house last June and now I am about 70% on the acoustic and 30% on the keyboard. I am still teaching(RETIRE at Spring break this year)!!! and the high schools have allowed me to play a lot of other acoustics and keyboards. I kinda fell for this short Baldwin upright, not sure the model, but I had some really fun sessions on that piano, alone in the band room. Also you should know that I have never attempted to read piano music. I read music during my trumpet years of eight years or so, school band, private lessons. Later in college years that turned into all by ear and jazz improv. TBH I would not know where to start if somebody put the piano score of Mary had a Little Lamb in front of me! Hey but I do play a really cool improv of Mary had a little lamb!(all sharps, black keys)

So I composed and have worked on my own piano composition virtually from day one of my playing, This piece continues to evolve and is over 20 minutes from start to finish. Trying to work on an Opus II but I keep finding new licks for my original. Since the sections in this piece vary in sound, tone etc. I find myself just playing sections of it a lot and each is kinda of song in its own, so its fun to practice and experiment with what to connect etc.
I would say this piece is of the "New Age" style or genre.

Up until about two months ago my sessions would always include covers of all different genres, Show tunes, Pop, Movies scores, Xmas on and on. I worked up a pretty good repertoire of these, and would play different songs I knew well and practice my other favorites that I wanted to master. As my playing progressed I found it fascinating that I was beginning to improvise, naturally, away from the melody of these tunes and then able to connect back to melody before I lost the actual song so to speak. This was really really fun! I started honing my Xmas song medley in September and I found these songs just fit for improv especially "On the first day of Xmas". I was able to improvise after every verse. It became my favorite for many sessions and different every time I tried to outdo my last performance.

Xmas season ended, and now I virtually am playing my one composition that I mentioned above and the rest just improv. If I connect I am in for a wild inspirational session, especially now that my right hand is just twice as fast and so much more accurate on key and different touch technique. The left hand is always improving too. In my earlier years I was petrified not to use the sustain pedal. Now I am finding all sorts of pedaling combos, and sometimes go a full 30m minutes into a session with no sustain at all and then slowly introduce it. I am also now incorporating cool rest and pauses and am just able to feel when to add silence and then start again. I do not know where the playing comes from, its just coming naturally from somewhere inside and its awesome!! I jump out of my chair at times, it just a great feeling artistic pleasure.

The issue, if I can call it that, is that I am virtually doing none of the covers I used to do. My playing now is virtually all improv from start to finish. I do
have Fur Elise in my current sessions, but even that is an improv version. So this is just a weird chapter of this journey. I might add when I play my digital keyboard, I now go directly to all the electric pianos, and Clav sounds. Hearing the different blends of my compositions going from the acoustic to the digi keyboard and vice versa is awesome. I am thinking seriously of adding a synth to my collection to produce layered tracks etc.


Also I am finding it hard to play, my style of playing on other pianos besides mine. One of the schools had a Boston acoustic, another an oldt 7"Kawai, and I have tried playing a Yamaha U 1 upright that peeps rave about but nothing, so far, sounds like my piano. I am hoping to visit the Sreinway B soon, that should be awesome.

So I have no complaints, and I am enjoying my progress, for the moment lost in improv.

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Hi Xam,

You might get more response posting this in the Composer's Lounge (another forum here at PW). This forum is more for discussing acoustic pianos, shopping, ownership, etc.

I do have some thoughts about your post. There is nothing wrong with improvisation, but living in improvisation is living in the moment. You may remember day to day your composition but I suspect it changes over time and that's okay too. If all you want is to play your composition then you're good.

However, I sense that you desire more from your piano experience. That will require getting out of your comfort zone. Reading music doesn't just happen you have to practice it. Composing is a very good way to learn music reading because you basically dictate what is in your head or comes out of your fingers. If there's an instrument with an enviable quantity of music available it's the piano. My suggestion would be to get some easy Bach music and just start in trying to read it. That means figure out the notes then figure out the timing. It's easy enough to get on Youtube and find a performance of almost any piece to see how you did. Good luck!


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I think if you feel like something is "missing" from your sessions, then perhaps you need to be more intentional about how you approach them. Maybe allocate a specific amount of time to whatever it is you think is lacking, to make sure you work on it.


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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler
Hi Xam,

You might get more response posting this in the Composer's Lounge (another forum here at PW).

Also in the Pianist Corner - non-Classical forum.

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This subject may well be a bit OT for the piano forum, but it happens on occasion, it seems, and there is nothing wrong with a little diversity here now and then. smile

As I read your thread, I found myself relating a lot to much of what you wrote. I too improvise a lot, and I write many of my own songs, and the arraignments that go along with them. If I happen to record a cover tune, which is usually different enough from the original artist/composer, I always give credit to the artist/composer.

I have a lot of fun with my own songs and arraignments, and they usually put a big smile on my face, and sometimes the faces of others. Of the 60 or so songs/arraignments I've written, I've never had a single one formally published or copyrighted. I read that if you post an original work on YouTube, it is copyrighted by default, but I don't know the legalities of all that. I do remember my late wife telling me that someone was going to steal my original songs I write and post on YouTube. I told her that if someone likes my song well enough to steal it, then so be it, and I'll just write another one. smile

My improvising and song writing goals are not to become rich or famous, but to have fun and share my music with others.

Also, there is something else I read in your post about your own style of playing. I too have my own style of playing that was developed and evolved mostly out of not having much, or any, real formal piano lessons, and just doing my own thing based on the music training and background I did have. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, and when I get to play for others, who also play, I'm not usually rejected outright, because of my style, but other players find it intriguing, or at least different from the norm. On the other hand, I do know there are some people who just don't like me or my music, which is understandable and probably the norm as well. But I'm thinking that if I like my own music, that is what matters most.

So, I see no reason you shouldn't keep doing what you are doing, and perhaps try to expand your abilities and skills by learning to play new pieces/songs/arraignments/etc... in genres that you like that are already established and well known.

Good luck, and happy playing!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
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Re: playing on others' pianos...you'll adapt. They're all different. You'll grow as a musician and creative person by working within the constraints of a given instrument. It's actually quite fun to explore what instruments offer that are unfamiliar to us.

I used to learn Classical repertoire (until I was about 20) and then I basically stopped. I've thought about going back to it, but love what I do on my own so much that it's just a matter of how I want to spend the precious time I have.

I'd prefer to put it into my own creative work rather than do covers, I just really like the creative freedom...but that's just me. We all have individual choices to make as musicians, and often it's a smart idea to specialize so that we can get good at one thing at a time.

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Originally Posted by chromaticvortex
Re: playing on others' pianos...you'll adapt. They're all different. You'll grow as a musician and creative person by working within the constraints of a given instrument. It's actually quite fun to explore what instruments offer that are unfamiliar to us.

I used to learn Classical repertoire (until I was about 20) and then I basically stopped. I've thought about going back to it, but love what I do on my own so much that it's just a matter of how I want to spend the precious time I have.

I'd prefer to put it into my own creative work rather than do covers, I just really like the creative freedom...but that's just me. We all have individual choices to make as musicians, and often it's a smart idea to specialize so that we can get good at one thing at a time.

Re: playing other pianos, besides your own. I've come to enjoy this activity a good bit. The "Piano Buddies" group I'm part of have monthly recitals, or playdates, or piano parties, whichever term you prefer, and we meet at one of the Buddie's homes who has enough room to accommodate the group, and has a piano. The group averages about 8 to 12 (during the pandemic) but has numbered as much a 25.

In fact, we had a scheduled playdate yesterday in Fayetteville Ga. and about 9 piano buddies showed up, and a couple of interested listeners. The host member's home where we met yesterday had a later model Yamaha baby grand, rather smallish, (5' or so) I think it was a GC1, but it could have been a GB1. Anyway, it sounded very nice for its size, and the action played very well, and it was in tune. I enjoyed playing it, and I think everyone else did too.

At the Buddies event last month, the host member had a late model, smallish Kawai baby grand, again 5' or so. I hope they are not reading this, but I liked the small Yamaha better. smile

One member has a very nice Yamaha C3, one has a nice Yamaha Clavinova, one has a nice, later model Wm. Knabe & Co. baby grand, just over 5 feet. One has a smallish Cristofori baby grand, and it sounds and plays nicely. I have an older Yamaha C7, and a newer Baldwin R grand, so the members have a choice when we meet at my place, but they can play both if they'd like, or a duet.

About two years or so ago, the group was hosted at Sally Phillip's Steinway Piano store near Columbus Ga, for those who were willing to make the trip. We got to play a newish, well prepped Steinway D 9' concert grand, and we also got to hear our own Joseph Fleetwood play in person at the event. Now that was a hard act to follow, and he played first... smile

So, yes, it is nice to have the opportunity to play other pianos besides your own. But I still like my pianos the best, for some reason. Familiarity? smile

Also, I think the Piano Buddies enjoy hearing my own original improvs and arraignments. I know I enjoy hearing them play Classical and Contemporary, and other genres. Plus, they are just good folks all the way around; high-class folks, and good musicians! I know they are a good influence on me.

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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