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Hell-ohh! How time flies when one has fun, it’s already May! After Women’s Jazz & Blues Camp my right hand started to be really achy due to too much practicing – and probably faulty position, too, something to which I have really tried to pay attention lately – so I had to take a break from everything and give the hand a rest. The vacation did good; my hands are in shape again, so I’ve been active with The Voice of The Octagon – we had a photo shoot a while ago and Ted also has updated some new recordings in the blog, by all means go check those out! – as well as banging my head against the wall with music theory… and finally getting it, too. And, of course, playing piano and sax! Have I mentioned earlier that I am an incurable play-a-holic and if I don’t get to practice for few days I become impossible, grumpy and awful bitch? No kidding here, it’s worse than PMS, and the only thing that helps is to dig out that horn and blow it like it was our last day on earth… which, to my husband’s relief (poor guy has to live with me through these breaks) I sure did when my thumb finally let me! Peace on earth and so on.

Last week I spent some time in a house with an actual piano, and it so happened that one day after breakfast I went and sat before the piano without any sheets, practice methods or anything in front of me and just started banging away, thinking of something we’d been talking with Ariel last time. And once again as soon as I gave myself a chance to just have fun and fool around, music came and took over, and soon I noticed my hubby standing in the doorway, amazed by how I have developed with piano. Funny – I probably couldn’t play piano in front of audience even if my life was depending on that, but leave me alone with the instrument and all kind of music emerge… it’s kind of spooky, really!

So everything is fine and well here, spring has sprung, development occurs as well as new music. What else can one hope for? Well, maybe wine… 😉

Ode to Thelonious Monk

My piano teacher made me practice this song with piano lately, and it has not only been super fun but also brought me some new understanding to chords which has been great. I have to say the more I listen to Monk the more I appreciate his approach to jazz. He swings like nobody’s business -I dare to say that while listening his recordings I finally really understand what Ariel means by saying that playing jazz is pushing and pulling- and manages to be simultaneously cool as hell and hot as Sauna! The rhythm!

More songs from Monk – both of the songs, Blue Monk and Round Midnight, are amongst my favorite tunes. Not to forget Straight No Chaser which I’ve lately been practicing with sax.

Straight, No Chaser

This Thelonius Monk’s song has caused me some grey hair lately. The melody itself is quite simple, but there’s a little twist in the rhythm towards the end of phrase which has caused my fingers tumbling clumsily around the so called spoons. Today I finally nailed it, with the metronome 140Bpm. Of course in this Monk’s recording the song is faster, so more practice is in order!

I also finally practiced the melody to Parker’s My Little Suede Shoes. It’s been one of the jam session songs forever and so far I’ve played part of the melody by ear, and long harmony notes to the places I didn’t quite know how the melody goes, but now finally I pulled that together, too.

Other musical adventures include piano -we went through Monk’s Dream last time and my teacher kicked my ass to practice more scales. And I have a new project, a duo using laptops and Ableton as instruments, mixing samples with acoustic stuff. So it’s almost like learning three instruments simultaneously. I definitely have my work cut for this spring!

Piano adventures

Due to a really busy autumn I just realized I haven’t written about my piano adventures for a long time! So let’s update.

My husband is very much into classical piano music, and ever since I’ve started to learn piano I’ve been very easy to talk over to the piano concerts. Since my knowledge of classical music is quite limited I have been enjoying the fact he knows so much more about the different artists, and it’s been a pleasure to just let him take me to the concert knowing that I always end up enjoying the ride! He’s really helped me expand my appreciation for classical piano (though my knowledge about the artists is still limited, since I have a black hole in my brains where other people store names…).

Last week he took me to see Emanuel Ax play Schubert and Beethoven, and boy that was an experience! First we went into the hall and there it was, majestic Grand Piano standing on the stage looking so amazing I had to name it The Beast. But when Emanuel came and started to play it… I had never, ever in my wildest dreams imagined how utterly expressive that instrument can be! My arm-hair stood up like billion soldiers ready to conquer while he made The Beast express all kinds of moods from giggles and laughter to wandering in countryside roads and assault like a tsunami on the shore… that, my friends, was purest bestness.

My own journey with piano is still going strong even though my studies and especially exams do distract my practice pattern sometimes. But I learn, thanks to my greatly talented teacher, Ariel, who has an amazing ability to always notice what is the most beneficial to work with on any given lesson. During these weeks we have gone through some more of the Chopin Nocturne, and I can play -roughly, but play nonetheless- first part with two hands, and lately we’ve gone through the first 16 bars of the second part. We have also been adding some very useful music theory, too: chords and how they relate to the scales they’re in and …oh boy, I am yet to learn all that before I can really explain it…!

My hands are already much stronger than they were when I began, and thank goodness my wrists haven’t been aching for some while anymore! For a short while I was really a bit worried that I have broken my right wrist with too much practice, but everything seems to be fine now even if I have played quite a lot of a piano at my in-laws’ house, which is an amazing instrument but also somewhat heavy to play. I also find that learning kind of gets easier all the time. I still bump into my brains getting totally jammed every now and then, and then again, but I do notice a bit of development, too.

Sometimes I just have a glass of wine and sit in front of the piano, and just… fool around with it, and every time I manage to get out something that really is music from that amazing instrument, and that is so cool!

To be continued… 🙂

Raw morning porridge & Chopin with two hands

Slumps are best to take care of by cutting the proverbial bs and take out everything that isn’t necessary. Rest and food can be medicine just as well as they can be poisonous! My recipe for the last few days have been good, fresh food, a bit earlier awakenings, being outside (the benefits of my husband being away is that I just have to walk our dog more often), non-scheduling my time and the improvisation that follows. I like to go with the flow instead of planning my life weeks beforehand, the latter only makes me anxious and nervous.

So. I love smoothies for breakfast, they’re healthy, yummy and easy to make. Since we got a bag of apples and plums from our friends last week my last few days’ smoothies have been composed pretty much on top of those fruit. Here’s what I had today:

a banana, an apple, two plums, little piece of fresh ginger, handful of sunflower seeds, couple tablespoonfuls of linen seeds, a little bit of dried rye bread, cup or so of orange juice. I mixed all this in a blender, and it turned out to be perfect! Rye bread brings some good carbs, seeds offer some protein, and from fruit comes loads of vitamins and sugar that kick me out of the awakening zombie mode.

And last but not least, gotta tell you that my piano teacher made me play that Chopin with both hands! Boy how much can a person’s brain hurt… but I made it! I do feel great sympathy for both him and his neighbors.

Good practicing boogie

I’ve been lately well on the roll when it comes to practicing; we spent few days up north where there is not too many significant distractions so I was able to play sax all day long – and I pretty much did! I worked mostly with Boplicity and tritone chords but also played Airegin and Donna Lee to get my fingers better around them, too. And, like always, also had some serious fun while improvising on top of different tunes.

Today, as soon as we got home, I sat in front of piano intending to give my hands some serious piano practice but as soon as I had my fingers on the keys the avalanche of music swarmed over me and there I sat, looking at my hands working around C major, wondering what on earth had happened during my little break on piano practicing. I was playing music with a new instrument – what a feeling!

After almost five hours of playing and practicing both piano and sax I feel… like if I’d been working the whole day in a construction zone. Which is not so far away from the truth, actually.

Chopin

My first piano piece under rehearsal is Chopin’s Nocturne opus 37 no 1. Isn’t this piece of music the most beautiful one! I got to feel soooo handicapped while practicing them first 8 bars at my teacher’s place, but now I have listened it quite a bit from Youtube and played through those bars so many times that the basics go somewhat right. And we didn’t even take the left hand with yet!

I am very glad my teacher doesn’t let me off easy. 🙂