Learning Piano – Part Two

February 22, 2011

I initially commenced studying piano at the tender age of six – my mother was herself a piano teacher and insisted that my siblings and I study music when we were young. However, I so switched to the low brass and thought no more of pursuing piano though I did occasionally pick my mother’s brains about various chords whilst picking out my favorite pieces on her little Steinway S.

When she passed, I inherited the Steinway and decided that i would actually learn to play it. To this end I enrolled at the local junior college, where I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of one of the professors. When he retired, he invited me to continue studying and so for the past few months i have been making a weekly trek to his house to further my knowledge.

The greatest challenge, from my perspective, has been the mechanical aspects. My hands are not trained to work in the actions so necessary for piano work and i have a terrible time trying to force them to do different things. In particularly, i am very fond of walking bass lines and look forward to the day when i can do a creditable rendition of stride piano. But I am not there yet.

I am currently working on contours – where the hands form the notes of the scale all together – and triads, where the player does the main inversions of the major scales. The contours are beginning to come to me, but the triads are much more difficult. I suspect this is because, unlike the contours, the triads require the hands to do different fingerings, instead of being exactly the same. However, I am slowly beginning to get a handle on it. And I am finding that my reading is improving as well. I have always been able to read bass clef, but I am slowly beginning to get more confident with treble as well. I am looking forward to the day when i can sight-read a real piano piece.

In the meantime, I am discovering that I am also learning more about theory than i ever knew previously. This is very good for me, as it translates well to the other instruments I play. in particular, I am finding that the bass lines I play on tuba are becoming rather more inventive as I comprehend the inversions and the relative minors for the root notes of the scale.

Piano is very good and I would highly recommend it for any young musician – it provides a basis that no other instrument can match. I am even preparing to start my young son on piano – at least I will once I receive a response from the teacher!

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Upcoming – March 2011

February 22, 2011

2011 has been a fairly busy year from the music perspective thus far. I performed at the January meeting of the South Bay Traditional Jazz Society as part of banjoist Pat Dutrow’s Jazzmeisters, and also performed with the East Bay Stompers at two area farmer’s markets – one in Newark and one in Hayward.

In March I will be performing in San Anselmo with the Barrelhouse Jazz Band for the annual Jazz Service at the San Anselmo First Presbyterian Church. I will also be performing with the East Bay Stompers at the Fremont location of Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace. As other performances come up, I will post them on my own sites – at Reverbnation and at MySpace.


New Mouthpiece – Curry Precision 1.5M

February 22, 2011

I was up at my favorite little repair shop in Oakland last weekend – Best Music Repair on 14th Street just across from the Federal Building. My little Reynolds Contempora baritone/tenor horn trombonium needed some repairs and so I took it to Dick Akright for him to work his magic.

After dropping the horn off with Dick, I went next door to A&G Music to peruse their usual stock of cool stuff. Played a real nice Bach alto trombone, but didn’t have the $1300 dollars they were asking for the horn itself. Drat – the two slide horns I’d really like to add to my collection are an alto trombone and a contra-bass trombone.

Subsequent to that¬† I got into conversation with the polite and extremely knowledgeable gentlemen who work there and we discussed mouthpieces. I’ve been using a Bach 5C on my trumpet and soprano trombone, but I’ve been looking for something a little different – I’m not overly pleased with the 5C. We tried several mouthpieces and I ended up settling on a Curry Precision 1.5M. I’ve never used a Curry before so I was a little dubious, but it certainly felt the best of the mouthpieces I tried so I ended up taking it home.

I’ve now been using the Curry for the past week on both my Bach Stradivarius 180-43G model trumpet and my Jupiter soprano trombone and I really like the mouthpiece.¬† I am especially enamored of the response. It seems to be easier on the embouchure than my old Bach 5C and I am getting a more consistent tone as well. Not to mention that my upper register is richer and less whiny. I actually like the new mouthpiece well enough that I am considering going back and acquiring a Curry for the tenor bone/baritone as well.

On the topic of the lower brass, I’m currently using a custom Denis Wick on the bone and a Schilke 45D1D on the baritone. For the euphonium I’m using a Schilke 51D1D and I’m using a Marcinkiewitz 3G on the bass trombone. The Marcinkiewitz suits my bass trombone’s primary purpose excellently but for the other horns, I might try a Curry. Any musicians who use Curry care to chime in?