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To bad translations of Rilke that made us fall in love with Rilke To fountain pens I don't know how to use and soap that slips throug...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More Monk

Very simple forms, and sing-song, singable melodies. Kitschy stride patterns. Percussive, repetitive patterns. Physicality. Humor.

Intellectual eccentricity. Harmonic complications. Dissonances. Weird vacillations.

The Recovery

I played a wrong chord on my recording, in one the better takes so I had to use it. What I did was to play another chord right after, making it seem like the wrong chord was an intentional dissonance that led to a resolution. The trick is to make even wrong notes seem appropriate in their context. Similarly, a hesitation before a chord, I prefer to see as Monk-like, even though it was actually the result of my inability to remember what the chord was supposed to be.

I also find that my playing does not swing. In fact, I don't hear most of my songs, even in my own head as I imagine others might play them, as swinging. That might be too bad, because I like swing in music I listen to, but I don't really want to force the issue either. I have rhythmic patterns in my head that are simply not those. You will notice in Monk's playing that he doesn't use the same bebop rhythms as Bud Powell, or the countless Bud Powell knock-offs. Each player, whether Oscar Peterson or Monk, or Powell, or Evans, has a kind of template for how they are hearing and producing rhythms. When you hear someone say that a musician does not swing, it could be that they are like me (incompetent) or else maybe they do swing, but in a way different from the template you associate with swing. For example, one jazz critic was driven crazy by Peterson's rhythmic conception. Many think Bill Evans couldn't swing, although they are obviously wrong. Swing is not the most evident quality of Duke Ellington's piano playing for that matter.

Monk had several rhythmic conceptions. For example, a deadpan, singsong stride imitation that he would use to play "Lulu's Back in Town" or "Sweet and Lovely." A hesitating, halting, vacillating style that I hated the first time I heard, that he would use in solo work especially on his own tunes and slower ballads. And a bebop style.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


In addition to being able to hear the flaws in my playing (at least I can hear those with come clarity), when listening to a song I've recorded I can also hear the chords as chords, without the intervention of my fingers which play individual notes. I know what the chords are, because I came up with them and played them, but I couldn't identify them as such if someone else were playing them, so I can hear them more purely, as colors.

If I can hear what I'm doing wrong with some precision, then I can correct it. I can hear that connections can be more legato, or that I rush in certain places, or hesitate too long for a fermata. Isn't listening a more important skill than playing, then?


My playing should be much more legato, I noticed. I never use pedal even when I play a real piano, because I have a hard time coordinating that, but I should be able to play very legato even without that. I need good phrasing, dynamics, and articulation. I don't need to worry about speed, though. I'll inflict this first effort only on close friends and family.

I should work on two songs at once, and then record them.

Monday, April 25, 2016


I went into the studio today. In our public library there is a free music studio, which is nice. I find it interesting to analyze the mistakes I made.

*I was too eager to record and should have practiced a song at least five times there in the studio before I even started to record.

*I should have deleted more bad takes and saved myself time later on.

*I should have just recorded three songs and done them perfectly rather than six or seven badly. I needed to have rehearsed those songs for a week at home, playing nothing else. Things I play perfectly every time at home seemed difficult to play with the tape rolling (well, no actual tape was involved.)

*Not hiring an engineer was smart (not a mistake) because it allowed me to make a fool of myself with no observers. I know that when I hire an engineer for the final project, I will by then know a little better what I am dong.

*It wasn't a mistake to go into the studio before I was ready, because I needed to see what it is like first. If I had gone in thinking I could get final takes I would have been more disappointed.

*Hearing my songs played back at me, I realize that they are better than my playing of them is. That is good, in a way.

*I thought I'd use a metronome to keep my time steady. That was brilliant. (Except for the fact that I hadn't practiced with the metronome, so having to do this for the first time while recording produced a cognitive overload. I lasted less than one take with a click in my ear.)

Still, these mistakes mean that the next time I will come up with better results. I'm glad I didn't try to record anything more than piano for the first time I tried this. The vocals and drums will have to come later. I realize that practicing on a keyboard that has no dynamics is not great, because it took me a while to get so I could play phrases with musical-sounding dynamics. My playing is missing a whole dimension. I also learned, though, that I know what the dynamics are supposed to be even if I can't execute them well. By the end of the three hours, I was playing how I wanted to be, within my modest limits.

I have been playing for less than a year (after the usual childhood lessons I mean) so I shouldn't be hard on myself.

I will send you my cd, if you want to pay for the postage. It is an amateur effort so it might not even be worth the postage and price of a blank cd, but I will be willing to share.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Anxiety, old friend,

feel free to come and go, but not to stay