How to prepare to attend a classical music concert.
This goes deeper
Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (1977) with scrolling score
The score and parts are at the bottom of this page.
I recently returned from Scotland where I attended, Mostly Audio 2023, an audio/music/Ai workshop and conference. This video summarizes all that's wrong with Ai generated music while missing the creative possibilities of Ai.
My take aways from this video.
However, this video does raise interesting questions for music education. The structure, delivery methods, and content of musical education will need to quickly evolve to stay relevant. But I have a few questions.
Relevant to whom?
Do all students want to be creators or producers?
What will be the nature of musical collaboration?
Who will have time to listen to all this easily generated music?
Who will care?
Is the joy of making music in the work or the output?
How will this be monetized?
Did the "creators or producers" of this video have licenses to use the likenesses of John Coltrane?
I wish this had been available when I started playing piano as I was not a gifted ear player. In fact, I struggled. On top of this my teachers didn't stress aural development either. They were all readers first. So, my development was glacial. Thankfully, things have changed for piano students.
How did I develop my sight reading and aural skills? In college I was given proper ear training. Later, I took up the drums, learned countless tunes by ear, and wrote them down. For the last decade I've been teaching online where I don't always see students' hands clearly. My ear learned to hear individual notes out of place. My sightreading developed early because I was a lazy student. It was more fun to read tunes than to practice them. Consequently, I became a professional sight-reader. I still am.
If I can help you, call me.
What an exciting time of learning. I was able to experience live coding, VR sound, Ai developments in musical education and more under the direction of young and exciting researchers. It was just what an old goat needed, some fresh ideas.
One thing that did strike me was how dated the synthesizer music was. The young musicians were in the thrall of the 1990s. That took me by surprise.
The walk from downtown to Napier University was lovely and peaceful.
I've been attending concerts for over half a century. That's a lot of concerts. Many have been completely forgotten, a few others can be recalled with some sort of prompt, and a small number remained seared in my mind. I counted seven concerts that changed me in some significant way. Here's the story of those concerts.
Spend 15 minutes playing along with a recording.
How to maintain your jazz repertoire.
I recently attended a Q&A with Lynn Seaton, bassist, and Regents Professor from North Texas State University. My question to him was on how he maintains his repertoire when jazz gigs are no longer 6 nights a week.
What a great answer. After he practices, he rehearses from his list. How simple is that? My plan is to follow his lead for a year and see what happens. I'm going to use the list below as a goal for revitalizing my repertoire on the mallets.
"I have been a student with David for the past couple of years. While my primary instrument is Trumpet, I decided to take piano to broaden my knowledge. I have never had music theory, either in school or private lessons. David is taking me there through the piano. He assured me that all the skills I would learn through theory and practice on the piano were transferable to other instruments. David has a way of simplifying theory concepts, making them easier to understand.
I had an opportunity to play Trumpet at a private service recently. Playing completely solo - no other musicians. One piece happened to be the one David and I were working on. Everything we had done came into “play” and those skills I have learned completely transferred to my Trumpet and I played the best I have ever played.
When you ask yourself, “Do I really need to know this?” I can honestly say, Yes! and it pays off in performance quality."
Thank you, Barb.
A New Student's Profile
The new student is a young professional with a keen interest in learning to play jazz piano. They took piano and trumpet lessons in high school. They have a basic understanding of music theory. Aural skills are excellent.
Their program will include the following components:
This is a perennial favorite of music students. Let's look at a few key terms and concepts.
Canon is a melody that accompanies itself at a staggered interval. Row, row, row your boat is a well-known example. In this canon the melody, played by the violinists, follows itself in two measure intervals.
Ground Bass is the violoncello melody that repeats its 8 note pattern throughout the piece.
Cembalo or continuo is the chordal accompaniment that is improvised behind the violins. In this video it is played by the organ and the lute. Notice that the cembalo left hand outlines the ground bass.
Other notable orchestral canons can be found in J.S. Bach’s Musical Offering. The canons in that suite of pieces feature 2 violins chasing each other around accompanied by the continuo.
Have a great summer.
If you would like to meet in the summer, call me. I have some limited availability.
This is a lesson given to a student this week.
Louis Armstrong, on the topic of how to improvise, said something to the effect, "memorize the melody, mess with the melody, and then mess with the mess." For beginners, this is the best advice I've ever come across. It is truly the shortest distance between A and B. Or jazz newbie to intermediate jazz student and beyond.
The student can already play. Therefore, it is a question of what to play and less of how to play it.
Two octave scales: C, F, Db, Bb, Eb
Four note broken chords: C, F, Db, Bb, Eb
Two octave arpeggios: C, F, Bb, Db, Eb
Please use a metronome and practice different tempi, dynamics, and articulations.
Being able to play the broken chords is an important starting point in improvisation.
A selection of whiteboard Zoom notes from the past week or so. It gives a good snapshot of what goes on in students' classes.
If you would like to join us, please contact me.
Years ago, while adjudicating piano exams in Aurora Ontario, I heard a young child came in to sit for her grade 2 piano exam. The performance was so beautiful, it took my breath away. Could you learn to play as well as her? Yes, with patient work. Thankfully to play the piano competently only requires you to follow a well-worn path. A path that has evolved over the last two hundred years beginning with CPE Bach's 1787 "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments," to today's Adult Piano Adventures by Nancy and Randell Faber. I invite you to follow the links for more information.
However, you will need to plan to succeed; so please consider the following conditions that you will need to meet:
If I can help you, please call me.
This guy explains how to sit on the piano bench correctly. He includes a discussion and demonstration of the correct distance to sit from the piano and the height of the bench. As he says, sitting correctly will help us play easier and avoid injury.
Consider each of the following before beginning.
This African rhythm is found throughout the popular music of the Americas for centuries. Here it is applied in a jazz context. You will hear it in the introduction of "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin, The Charleston by Green Hill, and Chinatown by Teddy Wilson. It is still heard today loudly emanating from the cars of young men. Jelly Roll Morton called it the "Spanish tinge." You can hear it in "The Crave." It is also called the Habanera Rhythm as heard in the introduction of St. Louis Blues.
Learning the melodies to jazz standards will save you a lot of time and bother. The thesis is this.
I'm finishing my first year with the Toronto Concert Band and what a thrill it has been. From drum set to piano, xylophone to tympani it has been a journey of intense rehearsal, thrilling concerts, private practice, and fellowship.
At the upcoming concert I will be playing:
Come join us and say hi after the concert.
When: June 10, 2023 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Where: Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front Street West
Tickets: 2023 Spring Concert - Toronto Concert Band
I suggest you vary the tempi, dynamics, and articulations of the following warmup etude. These passages can also be transposed to other keys, both major and minor.
Angela Hewitt shares her tactics, strategies, and stories on how she keeps her musical memory strong. It is interesting to note that musical conservatories, like the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, have developed curriculums that prepare the ground for developing and helping to maintain musical memory.
Link to the article: ‘Like sex and religion, we don’t like to talk about memory’: pianist Angela Hewitt on how she keeps hers in shape | Classical music | The Guardian
A student writes, “Hey David, I wanted to check my learning strategy with you. My goal right now is to play better at the jams I attend. Most of them are funky with someone creating a groove, and everyone jumping in.
I noticed the keys players are all very good at hearing the bass and figuring out the progression— or finding a groove within a set progression. At my level, I’m usually asking others what key we’re in (although it doesn’t always work since it changes) and then playing the root chord and inversions of it. I’ll sometimes create groove lines from the respective blues scale, but that’s about it for my understanding.
Taken together, I’m thinking the number one thing I need to work on is: Ear training.
For that, I’m thinking I focus on training my ear to understand:
Yes, this is a good start. Here are some more ideas to consider.
One Chord Songs
I recommend playing these warmups at various tempos with a metronome. Transposing these exercises to different keys is also highly recommended.
Adding a single note, at strategic places, will enhance the fullness of the arrangement. For popular music from the 1950s to today, say Carol King or Beyoncé, this will work. Whenever the melody is at rest, add the 3rd or 5th of the chord below the melody, as illustrated above.
This lesson presupposes you understand the meaning of root, third, and fifth of a chord. And, have a basic grasp of intervals. If you struggle with this call me, I can help.
So many beautiful pieces to learn and so many chords to master. It's a real problem for beginning jazz students. Lester Young, the legendary sax player of the 1940's, is known to have requested or demanded that the pianist play the "vanilla chords." "Forgot the fancy reharmonizations, just give me the vanilla chords; I'll decorate the harmony." Or something to that effect. It was a story told to me many decades ago. So, here are the vanilla chords for hundreds of jazz standards. Let it be your guide to taking the harmony back to a more manageable level.
Me: What was Lester Young referring to when he said play the vanilla chords?
ChatGPT: Lester Young was known for his distinctive and influential saxophone playing style in jazz music. There are a few different stories and interpretations of what he meant when he referred to "vanilla chords."
One interpretation is that Young was encouraging his fellow musicians to stick to the basic, fundamental chords in a song, rather than adding too many complicated or unusual harmonies. In this sense, "vanilla chords" could be understood as simple and straightforward chords that provide a solid harmonic foundation for improvisation and soloing.
Another interpretation is that Young was referring to the use of the basic major and minor chords in a blues progression. In this context, "vanilla" could be seen as a metaphor for the basic, essential ingredients of a blues song, and Young was emphasizing the importance of staying true to that traditional form.
However, it's worth noting that the exact phrase "vanilla chords" does not appear in any known recordings or transcripts of Young's performances or interviews. So the meaning of the phrase remains somewhat elusive and subject to interpretation.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.