I was lucky enough recently to be able to borrow an electric piano on long-term loan. I learned to play as a child for my own pleasure (aka. my piano teacher was sensible enough to not make me do any of the grades), and I’ve wanted a piano since I moved out of my parent’s house, but haven’t had space or time for one. But when we moved, we now have space, and I do have a bit of extra time at the moment – so, piano!
I admit I’m in two minds about the electric one. I don’t like playing them; they don’t have the resonance of the stringed pianos, and I don’t particularly care about having the weird instrument options. However, I’m going to be doing quite a lot of recording over the next few months, and having the electric one does make that so much easier…plus, at this point in time, I’ll take anything I can get! So I’ve accepted the loan and I’m over the moon about being able to play again – I’ve been grinning like a Cheshire Cat every time I sit down, and at this point I am still practising every day. I’ve learned Hurt and I’m halfway through Imagine Dragons Demons, and I was playing duets with Sam over the weekend which was so much fun. I’d forgotten how much joy playing brings me, and the fact that I can sing over the top adds a new dimension. It’s been so brilliant to have music back in my life as another creative thing.
More generally, I’ve been doing a lot more music over the past year. One of my friends, Jamie, is incredibly creative (I’m going to make him blush, but I am in absolute awe about the amount he knows about music and the things he can do…and he plays guitar, which is a dark art to me). When he found out that I can sing, he immediately press-ganged me into doing music with him. So over the last year, I’ve been finding out that I can sing*, what my vocal range is, and what I want to sing – in that order – and also being introduced to an incredible range of new music. I’ve done a little bit of corrupting back (Frank Turner, mostly) but I’m grateful to have such a brilliant guide to what is, really, a completely new world for me.
With regards producing music, up until last month I’d only been doing vocals; I started learning one thing on the keyboard, but having to borrow someone else’s makes it pretty hard to practise – at least I can learn the vocals on my own! I’ve recorded a few things and learned a number of others, and I’ve got a few playlists worth of stuff that I’m listening to and learning lyrics for. But now I have the electric piano, I’m plunging headfirst into a number of additional projects:
– The first is sheet music that I’ve got myself, which ranges from The Quiet American to Phamie Gow to Imagine Dragons to Counting Crows; I’m hoping to record my playing and then record vocals for some of it, which will be amazing and terrifying. I love being able to play, so the sheet music is my ‘default’ setting; I always pick things that I want to learn (again, not doing grades had some advantages) and so the sheer range of music that is now available means that I’m not stuck with classical stuff that I don’t enjoy, and also means that I can pick songs that I can play and sing to as well, which is a wonderful feeling for me.
– The second is transcribing the vocal melodies from a number of songs into the chords so that they can be played on guitar if the tabs aren’t available. I’m lucky enough to be able to ‘hear’ tunes and replicate them on the piano, which I recently discovered isn’t something that everyone can do – it’s humbling to actually realise how many abilities I take for granted.
– The third project is going to be a challenge to myself: I want to transcribe two Poets of the Fall songs (Fragile and Jealous Gods) so that I can play them on the piano. There are guitar tabs available, and I need to be able to read and write those (see next project) so I’m hoping that by using them to transcribe the songs, I can get a better understanding of them. I think I brought Jamie up short a few days ago by reminding him that I actually didn’t know what a fret was and how to read guitar tabs…he had to go find a picture of a guitar for me and then explain how he plays! Whoops. So even though I’m unlikely to actually learn to play the guitar, I want to be able to use the notation and understand what’s going on, and if I can do that by learning two beautiful songs then all the better for me.
– And the fourth project, which is likely to be kicking off in the New Year, will be new music – Jamie wants to write some for guitar/vocal/piano, and I’m going to have to help (!!). So I want to be able to read and write guitar tabs from piano scores, and I’ll also get to work on melody lines and lyrics, which should be a good challenge. It’s scary, but exciting…and we’ll see how it goes.
So over the last year and ongoing into the future, I’ve had/got another creative outlet in addition to writing – a bit different, but still very exciting!
*Someone once told me I couldn’t. Strange how you carry the small things onwards through life, isn’t it? I’ve spent the last year discovering that I can sing – just not as well as a member of a professional choir can.