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Tinkle tinkle thump

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On Saturday I hung out with someone who is an incredibly talented keyboard player, and furthermore has never had any formal lessons - she can sit down and play something, anything she wants, but can't read music or tell me what a major or minor key is. She invited me to play alongside her - improvisation - and while I wasn't too bad I couldn't shake the feeling that I was wasting her time somewhat. She was giving me beautiful flowing baselines and chord progressions and the best I could pick out was a single note line (with the occasional wrong note thrown in).

So I'm going to try and practice a bit - build my basic technique to give me a decent set of strategies to employ - before I next play with her. I started this evening.

I'm technically a grade 4 pianist - I almost reached grade 5, but I hated the piano teacher I had after grade 4 and found myself unwilling to practice in my own time; she killed the fun for me, so I stopped playing formally (i.e. with lessons). That was about four years ago, I think; since then, I've messed around and created little compositions and suchlike, some just experimenting and improvising on the piano but many more using trackers like ModPlug and Buzz. I took Music to GCSE (and it was one of the subjects I got an A* in) so my music theory is fairly strong - I know my ostinatos and ternery forms, legatos and staccatos.

That said, I've been working almost exclusively in tracker format (C-4 D#4 G-4 C-5) for the past couple of years, and it turns out that I've lost much of my knack for reading music. I spend a lot of time working out where notes are based on their distance from 'reference points' (usually the Cs). It possibly doesn't help that I'm jumping straight back in with a grade 5 piece but I guess it's a surefire way to pull myself back into shape.

As I said, I started this evening, with a full set of scales (2 octaves, hands together, major and minor from all the natural notes) - that took me about half an hour - and then on the beginning of 'The Death of Ase' from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite (the same set of pieces that contains the famous 'Hall of the Mountain King', known to many as 'The Alton Towers advert music'). The rhythms are fairly simple though it tends to have at least four threads of music going at a time which makes for interesting handling. I've more or less gotten the first line (4 bars) up to a 'can play without too much hesitation and without too many wrong notes' standard, and I plan to continue working my way through in the next few days, bringing the first section (16-20bars or so) up to that standard by the end of the week. I'll continue tonight if my parents stop watching TV and leave me to practice in peace.

On a mild tangent, I observe that my music teachers had to push me rather hard to get me to practice my scales, but this girl is inspiring me to do it completely of my own free will, unasked. Which is... very much to her credit, I guess. I'd probably better not mention it [smile]
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I "play" violin. I studied it for about 6 years. I'm not any good, but I love it. Keep it up, playing keeps the imagination going.

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So, improvisation... you into your Jazz at all?

I used to play Jazz Alto Saxophone, I was rubbish at it and haven't played for about 4 years but I did enjoy it. Might pick it up again someday [smile]


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I quite like jazz, to the extent that I was actually studying jazz piano at one point - it's interesting, you get a full piece with a bars just marked as 'make up something with these notes' - but the improv I've done has come out sounding more like Philip Glass's stuff (which I quite like, though a little goes a long way).

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