Last week I blogged about altering my sleeping pattern in order to get more out of my day and keep up with my music goals. Here are the reasons why I decided to do this.
Every time I practice my accordion I always create more for myself to practice next time. I like to spend a bit of time improvising as this is such a great tool when it comes to composing. Most of my improvising tends to explore one idea such as a simple chord sequence and rhythm, and then coming up with new melodic ideas that go with this. I’ve also tried playing along to some of my favourite tunes and seeing if I can add anything new to the piece, or at least play the right notes. This combination is how I’ve been creating my parts for the 5 cover songs that we’re currently playing in the band which I joined. Each practice we seem to spend the last 15 – 30 minutes improvising to some simple chords and rhythms, but the rest of the time we work on these covers. As well as practicing these covers I also like to practice and develop the pieces which I’ve been writing for my accordion. I’m hoping to get them to a good enough level where I can play them busking in the summer. But it’s always good to have a few popular songs up your sleeve which people already know, so I’ve also started learning some solo accordion covers. Now this is already a lot of stuff to be practicing, so let’s increase the work load by changing instruments.
The piano. I’ve also noticed myself improving on the piano and whilst I originally only practiced for 30 minutes to an hour a day, I can now easily sit in front of the piano for 2 hours straight. I’m still practising from the books that I have, but I’ve also been creating compositional ideas by playing around with different chord progressions and melodies, much the same as when I’m improvising on the accordion.
Then there are the online courses that I’ve been taking. I started out just doing one, then I increased it to four and now I’ve managed to get it down to two, which I’ll be keeping it at until probably around June. But that is not enough. I’ve got some music theory books which I’m also reading and working through, plus a tone of tutorial videos on how to use Logic Pro X, which I’ll be starting soon.
Now you can see why I’ve altered my sleep cycle!
There was no composition for this weeks assignment, instead I had to do an analysis of two short exerts, where I had to identify the chords using roman numeral analysis, name any non chord tones as well as identify the cadences. I must admit it was tricky. The first piece I did ok with, only making a couple of errors. However, the second piece I was stumped at for a few of the chords and so took an educated guess. Obviously I’m not quite as educated as I’d hoped yet, as I got them wrong. However, I didn’t feel like a complete failure as the bars I struggled to identify with had chromatic runs in the right hand of the piano part and actually turned out to be augmented 6th chords, which I haven’t had as much practice at spotting, so lesson learnt there. All in all though it was well worth the time and the effort of analysing the music as it’s definitely improved the speed at which I can name and identify the chords. It also seemed to help me with switching from reading bass clef to treble clef and vise versa, as my brain now seems to be able to look at both clefs as one, meaning I don’t really have to “switch” at all, something I’m sure will continue to become easier with learning to play the piano.
I’ve been learning the piano for a month now so lets review where I’ve got to.
I’ve been using a series of cassettes to teach myself piano, cassettes unfortunately don’t seem to age well as the music on them is out of tune with my MIDI keyboard. I was trying to find a way to adjust the tuning on the recordings but I can’t. So I’ve ended up using the Electric Piano sound on my keyboard and then adjusting the pitch bend wheel ever so slightly and taping it down once it sounds good.
Anyway, altogether there are 40 books and the idea is to work on 1 per week, I’ve managed to progress to book 10. I feel I’ve had a bit of a head start though since I can read music already and have been playing the accordion for about 6 months before learning the piano, so my brain has got used to learning to do two different things with my hands. Nevertheless, it’s not all been smooth sailing. The later books have been proving challenging, so I doubt I’ll be able to keep up with finishing 10 books in a month. In fact judging from the difficulty of book 10, I’ll more than likely be aiming for 1 book per week now (as you’re supposed to do).
So overall I’m pretty pleased with the progress I’ve been making. But from now on it’s going to take a lot of hard work, patience and persistence as things are starting to get a lot harder.
I was very lucky to get a full sized keyboard for Christmas, but haven’t really been able to use it properly yet as I can’t actually play the piano. I can push individual keys or play some chords, but I wouldn’t call that playing. Thankfully my parents had stored away a bunch of books from which you can teach yourself.
There are 40 books in the series and they each have an accompanying audio cassette. That’s right cassette, they’re that old! Now I don’t know about you but I got rid of my cassette player quite awhile ago, so I’ve had to order a new one. I remember working myself through the books when I was about 15 and I managed to get to book 7. At the time I found the method of teaching really good, and whilst the technology might be out of date now, the teaching information is definitely not, which is why I thought I’d blow the dust off of them. My aim is to work through at least one book a week, so we’ll see how that goes. In 9 months I could be playing this:
…or I could still be stuck on Jingle Bells! Aim high though right 😉