There have been a number of interesting things in the news this week in the keyboard world.
Firstly, there's been a noticeable increase in the release and coverage of apps - especially iOS (e.g. iPhone, iPad) apps - enabling users to play, record and/or learn keyboard on screen
. Playing piano on a flat screen really is a big industry now!
Next, as a piano player nearly all my life, this one came as a bit of a surprise to me - there is actually such a thing as a left-handed piano
! Yes, a piano which is a complete mirror image of a standard piano, specially designed for left-handed players by a left-handed player. The piano has all the highest pitch notes as the far left of the keyboard and all the bass notes towards the top / far right. Strange but true.
Finally, I was amazed by this very cool online music player from Japan called Songle
. It enables you to upload a link to any URL containing an mp3 file (or a link to a song on SoundCloud) and it will analyse and provide a visual representation of what it finds in the song. Structures, chords, beat analysis, interpretation of where the chorus starts... pretty amazing stuff.
There's never a dull moment in the world of music...
This is a performance I've always loved. The particular version I listen to most often is the Mandolin Rain / Black Muddy River Medley performed on the "Here Come The Noise Makers" (Live Disc 2) album. A sample of a recent live performance of the medley from YouTube appears below. Why do I love this track? To begin with - Mandolin Rain.
I love the simple melodic intro to this track, piano, organ, followed by stripped back pad synths and simple piano as the first verse begins.
There's something about the longingness in the voice and the feeling behind the lines "Listen to the tears roll down my face as she turns to go" and "Listen to my heart break every time she runs away" that get me every time. Simple and heartfelt.
The references to the rain will always hold a special place for me. The rain is one of those sounds and atmospheres that I just love
In this medley the feeling winds down after around 5 minutes in, as the segway to Black Muddy River kicks in around 5:48. The response from the crowd is testament to the feeling this segway creates. Black Muddy River was originally performed by The Grateful Dead. Perhaps this will lose me kudos with some, however I prefer Bruce Hornsby's
particular take on this track. It is more stripped back and emotionally bare which for me seems to work better with the lyric. "
When I can't hear that song for the singer A
nd I can't tell a pillow from a stone"...
"I will walk alone by the black muddy river
Sing me a song of my own..."It is just such a reflective, bare, and heartfelt performance. The clip below provides a glimpse, however the live version on
"Here Come The Noise Makers" (Live Disc 2) is the version which really moves me. Enjoy.
, is a good choice. I have just replied and thought many other people could be wondering the same thing, as I did prior to making a purchase some time ago. The detailed specs for the piano can be found on Yamaha's website.
For those who are less interested in the numbers and specs, following is a summary of my responses to the questions I was asked earlier:
- Before I purchased, I had trialled the P-155 for touch and sound alongside some high end Kawai and Roland digital pianos and it stacked up easily as well (and in the case of the Kawai MP6
which is generally at a significantly higher price point, the P-155 sounded and felt better, more realistic, under the fingers).- Many years ago
I held the belief that keyboards with internal speakers were "low end", not as professional as those you have to plug in to external speakers. While sometimes a truism, this is not a solid rule. The quality of the internal speakers in the P-155 is fine, and part of the appeal for me with this model was the ability to sit down and just turn it on and play. Having played with synths in a studio environment for years, it is refreshing and more natural to have no need to put headphones on, turn speakers on, wait for the piano to boot up etc. It was closer to the experience of playing a real piano.- S
omething you wouldn't think of and most people wouldn't think to mention - when you use a keyboard of some substance which has internal speakers, because the sound is created inside the keyboard there is a slight vibration you can feel through the keys as you play them - a sensation which feels a little more natural like the resonance generated by the strings of an acoustic piano.- Like a wine, a car, or a restaurant meal, some people will judge an instrument's quality or lack thereof by price tag alone. This is a shame. Interestingly though, the Yamaha P-155 which retails in Australia for $2,199 actually uses the same
AWM Dynamic Stereo Sampling sound engine as the Yamaha Modus H11
which retails for $18,999+. In other words, the wrapper may be different but the sound you're paying for is exactly the same. As I did prior to purchasing, listening to and comparing clips of various piano performances on YouTube is a good way to get a feel for the quality of sound and sensitivity you can reproduce with various digital pianos. Hear the Yamaha P-155 put through it's paces further here. Happy listening.
I was recently asked via a contact on YouTube whether the digital piano I play, the
Last weekend I recorded a performance of my composition "Before April". In a strange coincidence, a few days later I read this post about the "Out Back Project"
, a 15-minute audio piece to be composed from the memories contributors have of their backyard. I immediately contacted the talent behind the project and am pleased to contribute my track as the score. The title "Before April" refers to the time shortly before the arrival of my first child.
At the time I was living in Sydney, in a unit, with a tiny grassed area flanked by a very tall graffitied concrete wall, the only thing separating us from the Gore Hill Freeway into Sydney.
I composed this track thinking of the complete unknown that lay ahead for us with the pending arrival, as I looked out to our very limited living space outdoors. That April we moved to Newcastle, returning to our roots, closer to family, in our first home with a large and varied outdoor environment for our little guy to explore. We have not looked back since, and the concrete wall I once saw from the window of my studio has been replaced with the top of citrus trees, rooves and an expanse of sky.With that, please enjoy the track via the YouTube clip above. If it connects with you, you can download the track in the format of your choice from here. Enjoy.
I grew up learning to play on an old upright grand piano. Around 10 years ago I remember asking my great Uncle, who is now in a nursing home, if he knew how old the piano was, as it had been in the family for well beyond just my lifetime. To my surprise he stood up from his chair, and as quickly as if you'd just asked for a glass of water disappeared into another room, rummaged for a moment, and returned with the original receipt, dated 1923.
Amazing. That piano had some history.
As I grew up, the location of that piano shifted. From the front room in my early childhood house, to our next door neighbour's garage while that house was being rebuilt, to the back room of the rebuilt house, where it has stayed loyally for well over two decades.
A piano is not a very transportable thing. I once saw a busker towing an upright grand by bicycle in Sydney's Martin Place, but this is somewhat off the chart... When I moved out of home, that old piano was left behind. I started playing in bands, using synths and samplers, and after some time fell into a groove with music which demanded a wide range of sounds to be on-call, but piano was always passable from a 76 note synth which felt more like an organ to play than a piano.
Sure, I had a digital piano for a while there, which recreated some of the feel. I've recently upgraded my gear to once again include a great-feeling, great-sounding digital piano. But it's just not the same.
When you play a piano, you feel the vibration of the instrument through your fingertips. You feel the sound in your foot as you touch the sustain pedal. It makes the whole room sing.
That old Beale piano still lives in my childhood home. I've known it since I was too small to reach up to the keys. Some of the hammers don't strike the way they used to and the tuning has found its own way here and there. But with my parents currently overseas and a trip to the old house planned, I can't wait to make that back room sing with its sound again.