Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going from Classical to Pop (part one.)

How to take a popular song, learn it by ear, and arrange it to fit your
playing style and ability.

I could easily write a book on this subject...but here now are my beginning
thoughts to help get you started.  Part one will give you an overview of the
process...part two will show you the process and how to get started actually
doing this!

Start by picking a popular song you enjoy and really want to learn to play
in your own way.  This can be done without written music...we are going to
try learning the song by ear, and then do our own arrangement of the arrangement that fits our style and playing ability.  We will use
the song, 'Don't Stop Believing' originally by the rock band Journey, and
now again made popular by the cast of television's 'Glee'.

If a song has been recorded and covered by multiple artists, you might want
to listen to these various versions...see what you like or don't like in
these.  I also recommend finding the original artist's recording so you can
get the essence of the song in question.  Your version may end up sounding
like the original, or you may want to transform the piece into your own
invention...changing the key, tempo, chord structure, and even the melody.  This is
all up to you and where you want the song to go!

Begin by listening closely to the song¹s melody. It may also help if you
have the lyrics printed out to reference the melody too.  Also, listen to
the underlying chord progression. Notice that the verse chords change once
every bar in this song. See if you can hear the bass notes of the chords as
they go by. Often times, by either playing a major or minor chord over the
bass line, you will start to find your chord progression...but this is NOT
fool proof...just a way to get started. More on this later!

The chord progression of any song is really the foundation on which you add
the melody and any other embellishments.  If you enjoy improvising within a
song, you will most likely do this over this same chord progression.  Any
song's chord progression is comparable to the foundation of a building. 
You start with the foundation, and then everything else is added to it.

Many songs pop and otherwise, use very standard predictable chord
progressions.  Of course you can re-harmonize the song using different and
alternate chord changes that still support the melody, but I recommend
finding out the original song's chord structure first before you alter it.
As it is said, best to learn the rules before you try and break the rules. :-)

Note: If you find it impossible to hear the chord changes of any given song,
you most likely could find a simple chord chart on the internet, but be
forewarned that many chord charts can be over simplified and even sometimes
include the wrong chords.

You will also gain valuable insights into song writing by looking and
listening to all variety of songs; pop, rock, folk, hymns, and even jazz
standards, analyzing the chord structures they are built on.  And as I said,
many songs rely on simple tried and true chord progressions, so after
awhile, you will begin to see similar and even identical chord progressions
being used.  You can even take these same chord progressions and by adding
your own melodies and rhythms, write your own songs!

Note: part 2 will deal with figuring out our song's chord progression and
melody and then putting our song¹s arrangement together...from the the ending!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ten Grands ‘A Must See Concert Event!’

Ten Grands features ten grand pianos and ten concert pianists playing a variety of classical and modern pieces both simultaneously and individually. Presented just once a year in Portland Oregon at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and in Seattle at the world class Beneroya Hall.

I 'm proud to be a part of this amazing event...and have been for the past twelve years! The music highlights many of our young up and coming musicians; it's inspirational!

Concert proceeds benefit The Snowman Foundation (over two million dollars to date!), which in turn benefits youth service groups, helps generate scholarships and music lessons for disadvantaged youth in the Northwest and helps purchase pianos for schools and organizations in need.

What began as the vision of my friend, Michael Allen Harrison, Northwest composer and pianist, has evolved into a community effort that shares the joy, the healing, the learning, and the life-changing gifts music has to offer. The Snowman Foundation was formed in September of 1999 to promote the musical arts in the Pacific Northwest.

The Foundation's primary source of funding comes from fundraising events such as the annual "Ten Grands" concerts, as well as recordings, theater productions, and small concerts. Proceeds from these events support our schools, our children, and our community through the following:

  • Musical instruments, materials, and supplies for members of targeted groups
  • Performing arts lessons for members of targeted groups
  • Scholarships for laboratory studies in the performing arts
  • Artist-in-resident grants for targeted groups
  • Grants to fund production and travel costs to bring performing arts productions to target groups
  • Encouragement of multi-generational and multi-cultural interaction in artistic productions

School budget cuts continue to increase the demand for foundation funds and services. Over one half of our community's elementary schools have lost their music programs. To address this void, The Snowman Foundation launched a campaign to bring the music back to places where it has been dearly missed and desperately needed.

This event will hopefully be embraced in other cities around the country soon but for now its Seattle and Portland Oregon. I can’t encourage you enough to attend one of these concerts, and or make a donation in support of our children’s musical future!

For more information on donations…

A few videos on YouTube from various Ten Grands performances....