I had a Skype lesson this week with a great organist Brian Charette http://www.briancharette.com/. He had many great ideas for me and I immediately feel much more confident about my music career.
One piece of advice that immediately helped me was “Sit up with good posture, relax, and detach yourself emotionally.” Don’t worry about getting it right.
This is something I still need to practice for it to come naturally, but here’s what I’m beginning to be able to do. I’ve always had moments while playing where I was able to let go and feel free, and music flows out of me naturally. What I’m learning is that this state of mind is my natural state, and the only thing that throws me out of it is worrying about if I’m going to play the right thing or not.
Good stuff- can’t wait to try it out on tonight’s gig.
“There just aren’t any gigs around here any more, and the ones that we have don’t pay anything.”
I’ve heard that line over and over to describe the music scene around the Triangle. Gigs and money are scarce. People ask me all the time about how to get gigs, and I find myself parroting the same idea.
I wanted to write this post to provide a different viewpoint, one of abundance.
What percentage of people living in your area are likely to become die-hard fans of your music, if they were to be exposed to it? I mean the type of fan who would show up to watch your band play once a month? I have no evidence-based way to estimate this, but for now suppose 1 out of every 1000 people, or .1%.
The Triangle area of N.C. has 2.2 million people, .1% of which could be a big fan of your band. That’s 2200 die-hard fans, all of whom are interested in buying your CD and coming to your shows. Do you realize how awesome that would be? Instead of trying to get a gig for tips at your local coffee shop, you would be worried about booking an auditorium large enough to fit everyone.
So with this abundant goal in mind, your task is to painstakingly weed through millions of people to find this strong group of fans. More on this in the future!
I cannot say anything about classical organ music without looking like a complete uneducated ass. That’s how little I know about the subject.
I have had a handful of pipe organ lessons, a fantastic textbook, and a Hammond organ to practice on. The Hammond B3 is not ideal for playing classical, but it works fine for me at this point.
Putting aside for now the theory and history I don’t know, I know the basic mechanics behind how to play the pipe organ. I practice it for about an hour a day, and it’s become my favorite thing to do. Here’s why I love it and why I think everyone should play classical:
1. The music as it is written on the page is already perfect. You just need to practice it and know how to interpret it. I often find myself moved to tears by how good something sounds as I’m hacking my way through it. It’s also amazing to think that someone living as long as 400 years ago could write music that can still touch peoples hearts.
2. You are working on sight reading skills on a daily basis. I’ve run into people before who have said that sight reading isn’t important. I’ve also been on gigs where people looked pretty dumb if they couldn’t read.
3. Reading organ music is so challenging for a beginner like me. I mean reading right and left hand is already hard enough, but adding my feet is an extreme mind bender for me. I enjoy the challenge of being a beginner.
Yesterday, I shared a cool music video with a friend. His reaction was “That guy has no business being on stage. He is way too overweight. It’s a shame because he’s amazing on his instrument, and he has a deep understanding of the music, but he has no business being on stage.”
Lest you jump to the conclusion that my friend is a total jerk, I need to tell you that he is a very nice guy and has a gift of telling the truth exactly as he sees it. It’s an incredibly bold way to live.
This got me thinking. I don’t people by the way they look. When a band is onstage, I only listen to the music.
Only, this is not true.
If I were given the choice of spending $40 to see a band that looks like crap, or an equally good band that looks totally hot, I’d likely go see the hot looking band. Because I’m a human being and I like looking at beauty more than I like looking at ugliness. Why would I deny that?
A light bulb went off over my head. I need to take a look at my own stage appearance.
In the TMI category, I’ve gained 16 pounds over the past five months. I went from 190 pounds to 206. I had worked hard to achieve my ideal weight of 190, and then everything went downhill as I tackled a tough semester of two new jobs. I didn’t eat well, and I didn’t exercise. I feel very different, much less energy and confidence. Not such a good thing for performing on stage.
I don’t have any medical condition that causes me to gain weight. I simply was not careful about what I ate, and I was not diligent about exercising. I’m starting a 27-day cleanse (which will be finished by the time you read this), and maybe I’ll scrape together fifty bucks to buy a nice shirt.
Finger independence is so important on the organ. If you’ve ever tackled a Bach fugue, or transcribed a Jimmy Smith jazz organ solo, you’ll immediately see why.
Before tackling this Goldberg variation, your chops better be in amazing shape:
You have to have strong, agile, independent fingers. I first learned this when I started to tackle jazz improvisation. I think a good keyboardist needs to practice all types of scales and arpeggios. But another ingredient is being able to make your fingers move in odd, independent ways; at least odd from the perspective of switching to keyboard after playing bass for many years.
Get ready to get your butt kicked old-school. As a beginning keyboard player, this book was really tough. Exercises 1-10 contain the bulk of this books message, which is essentially “Get ready for your hands to be very sore.”
I recommend you spend the ten bucks and buy this book.
When I switched instruments from bass to organ in 2010, I wanted to start playing gigs as soon as I could. My attitude was that I knew that I ‘sucked’ at it, but the best way to learn to play was to get out there and do it. I figured my band could do music that people would enjoy, and it nobody would really care that I wasn’t that experienced. I knew enough about music in general to fake my way through.
Now that I’m seven years into playing the keyboard, I’m finding that it’s not useful to think of myself as a beginner. There’s a difference between saying that I ‘suck’ (don’t know anything about my instrument), and having the attitude that I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me.
I’m not a beginner any more. I’ve got 26 years under my belt of being a professional musician under various guises, and I know a lot. I have enough practicing and training on the organ to tackle difficult things. It’s no longer okay to say I’m not good enough to do a certain thing- that’s simply a cop-out which limits me. It isn’t fair to me or people around me who might depend on me to be a good musician.
Instead, I look at things which used to seem impossible and I know that all I have to do is break them down into smaller components, and master each component. I’m learning to disengage that part of my brain which thinks I’m not good enough, and then trips me up in the middle of doing something that I’m perfectly able to do.
Greetings! I’m very busy this month with N.C. Arts in Action, as our small team attempts to serve ten schools in Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties. I’m also playing bass with Ravenscroft’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. They have a great drama department, so get a ticket if you’re a Broadway fan.
The only jazz trio gig that I have booked this month is at Irregardless Cafe. See details to the right.
I sat down a few days ago to work on a classical organ piece that I had started about two years ago. It’s the fugue from the Organ Sonata No 6 in D minor Op 65 by Felix Mendelssohn. Quite intimidating to me.
In approaching this movement again after several months, I found that I’m able to approach it in a methodical new way.
I remembered a few pieces of advice from my lessons with Susan Moeser. Break off a chunk of eight measures. Sometimes it’s helpful to start at the end of the piece and work forward. Practice each part individually- RH, LH and then pedals. Then practice each combination of two (RH + LH, RH + Pedals, LH + Pedals). I made it a goal to play each of these combinations through ten times, spot practicing individual measures ten times if I messed up.
Then finally, combine all three parts and play the eight-bar passage fifty times, again stopping to spot practice troublesome areas.
That should take two hours or so.
Repeating this process, go through the entire piece practicing in 8-bar chunks. Then go through with 16-bar chunks, then 32.
Then when you can play each chunk really well, practice the entire piece 500 times. I guess after about 6 months or so of practicing an hour a day, maybe I can make a video of the entire movement and share it with y’all.
Here’s what I have to offer after Day 2. I present to you The Last Eight Measures of the fugue from Organ Sonata No 6, replete with finger noise: