Garnet Walters

Pianist Educator Producer Composer Arranger

The Official Website of Garnet Walters and Geephlat Music
 

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Digital and Virtual Pianos

Hi everyone! In my last blog, I talked about why I prefer an acoustic piano in comparison to digital and virtual pianos. As much as I love acoustic pianos, I don't have the luxury to practice on one everyday. Due to that fact, I have to go with technology. Even though I have to go that route, I must have the closest simulation and feel to the piano. These are the pianos that I use the most. (Side note: I'm not going to go into the details of the specifications of each virtual piano. I'm just going to talk about my experience with each one.) Here are the virtual pianos that I like (in no particular order):

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I love this piano because it sounds like the real thing without using a whole lot of RAM. There are different pianos to choose from like the Steinway D to the Yamaha C7. There are also producer ready pianos and legacy pianos/keyboards for specific artists as well like Bruce Hornsby.

http://youtu.be/DrgJkY9E11s

Alicia Keys Piano by Native Instruments

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I like to use this piano because the people at Native Instruments literally went to Alicia Keys' studio and sampled every single nuance of her Yamaha C3 Neo piano. I believed they nailed it in terms of sound, touch, feel and expression. Because this piano sounds so real, it can use a lot of RAM, especially when recording.

http://youtu.be/9dV_Q_npCtM

http://youtu.be/E7X3pvFg2R4

http://youtu.be/3_54ERfLElI

Classic Piano Collection by Native Instruments

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These are another set of virtual pianos made by Native Instruments. I love the fact that there is a variety of tone colors and feels with these set of pianos. From the brightness of the New York Grand to the warm notes of the Berlin Grand, I have many options to choose from depending on how I feel that day to what I want to express musically.

http://youtu.be/rihbbCckgxI

Piano In Blue by Cinesamples

I fell in love with this virtual piano not only because of the authenticity of the sound but because it is so versatile. The people at Cinesamples did a wonderful capturing the essence of the Steinway Model D Grand Piano which has a very interest story. This can also take up a lot of RAM as well, but it is worth it. I use this piano the most.

http://youtu.be/x93hUqPpW4A

I know that there are other virtual pianos out there. There are more that I would like to try out and add to my collection. Keep in mind that the velocity of the keys can be changed to your liking. Try it out. Experiment. What virtual pianos do you like? Which ones do you dislike? Which ones would you consider purchasing? I am interested in your feedback! Enjoy!

Here are the links to the websites for these pianos:

Piano in Blue by Cinesamples: http://cinesamples.com/product/piano-in-blue

Alicia Keys Piano by Native Instruments: http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/keys/alicias-keys/

Classic Piano Collection by Native Instruments: http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/keys/classic-piano-collection/

Reason Pianos by Propellerhead: https://www.propellerheads.se/products/refills/rpi/

Acoustic Pianos Vs Digital Pianos

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I have played on many pianos in my life. I have also played on many digital keyboards and digital pianos as well. I would love to have access to practice on an acoustic piano but I am currently using an 88 fully weighted keyboard/workstation and a virtual piano from my computer. I am amazed at technology because of how close the digital pianos sound to the acoustic pianos. It's so close that the technology can fool you. However, as close as technology can get, for me nothing beats playing on an acoustic piano. Here are some reasons why:

1. There is something about getting the sound out of a piano without having to move a slider or turn a knob. As the pianist, you control that as you press the key. It's also pretty cool to feel the slight buzz in your fingertips from touching the keys.

2. The sound from the piano is the main thing for me. It's an awesome phenomenon to hear the overtones on a piano. It's like the tones are alive and blending with each other.

3. The action on a piano to me is more exact. What I mean by that is there once you press the key, the tone is released. The issue of latency is not present when playing an acoustic piano. There is no delay.

4. For me, playing on an acoustic piano keeps me honest. I cannot afford to be lazy while I am on a piano. I am accountable for every tone that comes out. I have total control of that.

5. The connection to an acoustic piano is wonderful. I feel that the piano is an extension of me. I am sending out the raw, unfiltered sound and emotion when I am playing.

6. I also believe that the acoustic sound has a deeper effect on people rather than the digital sound. It is probably because of the pure overtones and the pure vibrations on the acoustic piano.

There are many more reasons that I have missed. I love the piano. I'm not knocking that how far the digital world has come. This is just a matter of preference. I have been playing pianos since I was a child (I had a Baldwin upright for many years. We pretty much grew up together.) Please feel free to chime in! Thanks for taking the time to read this!

P.S. I will do a blog on my favorite digital/virtual pianos.

Discipline

As a young musician, I was often caught between holding back and being a disciplined player. I was never really one to take a chance musically because I was afraid that I would make a mistake and/or I thought that others would think that my idea would be corny. I battled this for a long time. Usually, younger musicians tend to overplay and play everything that they know. I, on the other hand, held back a lot. I still do this even now.

I remember when I attended Purchase College and studied under Pete Malinverni. He told me that I have great musical instincts and I should trust them. He also told me something that I carry till this day:

"Always do what the music calls for."

This statement has helped shaped my view of music. It has enhanced and added to my musical instincts. It has helped in terms of what kind of musical vocabulary I should use for a specific tune, how I should shape a solo, and shaped my understanding of the musical language. It's all about knowing what goes where. Creativity is involved in this because sometimes I have to know how creative can I be with the given parameters.

Often times, other musicians and band leaders tell me to open up and play out more (I call that giving me the green light). My thing is that I want to blend in with the band. When I get the green light, I get excited! At the same time though, I make sure that I do what the music calls for. There are some cases where I had to "water myself down" due to the insecurities of others and in that made me a dishonest player. I felt like I had to lower my skill level because other band members didn't practice or take their craft seriously as I did. Discipline is still the name of the game though. I have to continue to play my parts with excellence. If the song is joyous, then I have to express that. If the song is sad, I have to express that feeling.

A good friend of mine told me that discipline is all about timing. It's like trying to throw a ball in between two train cars while train is moving. It takes patience and risk in order to do it. So when I play I pick my spots carefully. I play an idea just enough so that the listener would hear it but quickly enough to not be in the way of another musician or vocalists.

I'm really glad I learned it this way. Some musicians learned this concept in a more traumatic fashion. Just do what the music calls for and try to throw the ball between the cars. Take a risk but be patient!

Please feel free to comment!

Thank You Harmonic Minor Scale!!

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I remember as a young student how much I hated the harmonic minor scale. Why? It was that skip from the flat 6 (b6) to the major seventh (M7). I loved the sound of it but my fingers wanted to boycott that interval jump at the end. In some keys, (primarily C, D, E, F, G, A and B) the fingering was pretty straight forward and manageable. When it came to the black keys, my fingers were tangled up in knots because the fingerings were completely different. With slow practice and a lot of patience, I managed to get the scales down into all the keys.

Fast forward to 2014. I was practicing the B flat (Bb) Harmonic minor scale and the fingering that I was using felt strange. I was using the fingering that I had used as a child but something felt off. I slowed down and examined what I was doing. I was taught to start with my 2nd finger in both hands and I remembered that clearly but something still didn't feel right. I decided to go read the fingering from the Hanon book and I was right. 2nd finger on the left and right hand on the Bb. I check out another book to make sure that the fingerings were correct and to my surprise, the fingerings were different. The right hand started with the 4th finger on the Bb and the left hand started on the 2nd finger on the Bb. I tried it out slowly and I felt comfortable. No awkwardness at all! What I learned was the key to playing this scale as well as others was contingent on where the 4th finger lands.

My ring finger surely had a work out that day but I immediately saw the benefits. Usually the ring finger is the weakest finger but the harmonic minor scale kept it accountable and honest. When I started to play my other scales and lines, my ring finger kept up! So not only did I learn a new fingering, my ring finger got stronger because of it! That skip was an excercise in itself!

It's a good thing to check out alternate fingering for scales and other musical ideas. Everyone does not have the same hand or finger shape so that also needs to be considered. Experiment weird fingerings when playing scales or when you are soloing. Experiment with different fingerings when you are learning music as well. The composer may have put that fingering there for a reason. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it won't. Don't be afraid to try it out.

With that being said, I would like to thank the harmonic minor scale and its counterpart the harmonic major scale for teaching me this valuable lesson. I will never forget this!!

Feel free to comment!!

My Library

I love to read. I read because it appeals to my imagination and it feeds my mind. I love learning and experimenting with ideas and concepts musically. Here are some books to check out that can help in one's musical development! The+Musician's+Way-+A+Guide+to+Practice,+Performance,+and+Wellness+[Hardcover]+_0195343123_400

This book by Gerald Klickstein is a book that covers everything from how to practice to preventing injury to even the psyche of the musician. I shored up my practice habits reading this book. It reinforced practice habits that I had learned as a child. "The Musician's Way" is a great read!! You can follow him on Twitter @klickstein. He also has a website: http://www.musiciansway.com. The book is available in major bookstores and available for Kindle and iBooks.

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"The Practice of Practice" is an awesome book to have. The author, Jonathan Harnum brings a wealth of knowledge and wisdom in the art of practicing. There are definitely many eye-opening revelations in this book. He gets into the minds of many great musicians and the concepts that are revealed are astounding. This book is available at Amazon.com and is available for Kindle. Jonathan Harnum's website is http://thepracticeofpractice.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @PracticeTactics.

These are two of many books that I have in my library. There are more books that I would love to share. If this is helpful to you, please let me know!! Enjoy!!

Information Vs. Revelation

l1816929551 Lately, I have been practicing more on the basis of revelation rather than information. What do I mean by that? Well, let's go back to when I started playing piano as a child. When I was taking lessons, I was learning based off of gathering information and data (for example, this is a C major chord: C, E, G.). This had no bearing on the teacher giving me great insight on music. This was solely based on how I perceived and received what was being taught. On the other hand, I loved to experiment with music on my own free time and gather revelations on what I have learned on my own. Looking back, I realized how much I needed to experiment AND have structure in my musical development.

As I got older, I became more of a music theory, chord and scale book fiend. I figured that if I "played" the formula of how a chord progression works and learned my musical ideas from a bebop run book, that I would be creative. However, it made me mechanical musically because I was gathering information. In contrast in learning the books and "formulae" of great music, when I listened to music, I learned at a faster and more efficient rate because I was witnessing creativity. The key thing was when I listened to music, there was always something new that was revealed that I hadn't heard before in the song or piece. In the theory/information/formula aspect "2+2" will always equal "4". In theory, a C major chord is "C E G". If I were to be creative with the C major chord, I could play it as "C G E" or "C E G" with each note in a different octave.

There are some cases where information can become an "A-HA!" moment and that is a revelation also. There were things that were said to me as a teen that I finally understand because I have finally experienced the information first hand. Information becomes revelation when the thought becomes an experience. Experience and learn as much as you can musically. I'm still learning and I'm hungry for more revelation musically. Information and trivia has its place but revelation through experience with the information will increase learning in leaps and bounds! Revelation is generally active while information alone is passive. Here are some quotes to check out:

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Pablo Picasso

“Learn the rules, then break them intelligently.” ― Jessica Bell

"A theory can be proved by experiment but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory." - Albert Einstein

"After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well." - Albert Einstein

"There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law. I love music passionately. And because l love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it. It is a free art gushing forth — an open-air art, boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea. It must never be shut in and become an academic art." - Claude Debussy

"Works of art make rules but rules do not make works of art." - Claude Debussy

"You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail." - Charlie Parker

Now I'm not saying that the books are not great tools. What I am saying is that when I was actively experiencing music, that was when I got revelation. It is not only limited to listening to music. When I am learning a piece on sheet music. I get revelation as well. Sometimes it's as simple as a specific hand movement. Sometimes it's an articulation or even a nice melodic line that can potentially be a seed to a song or lick. I guess what I am trying to say is revelation is more organic because it grows and becomes a part of you.

Shrugs...

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I remember practicing the piano one day and I realized something. When I really wanted to execute a musical idea, I would raise my shoulders. I would think that by doing this, the musical idea would magically be played. Wrong.

Raising my shoulders was more of a hindrance than an aid in my playing. I couldn't execute whatever I was playing because I was unknowingly creating unneeded tension from raising my shoulders. From the audience's perspective, they feel that I am really "into the music" or I'm trying to "sell the song" to them. From my side of things, my ideas are not coming out as clean as I would like.

So how did I remedy this situation. Well, I had to practice slowly. Very slowly because I needed to know when I would do it. Crazy enough, my shoulders would rise up like I was being controlled by a puppet master. Once I recognized this, I put my shoulders down and "reset" and started over. I started again and sure enough it happened again. I raised my shoulders. So, I had to reset again. All of this information by practicing slowly. After a while, I had "cut the strings" and I was free...for the moment. The lesson that I learned from this experience is to relax. I had to think of my body as a garden hose. A garden hose is connected to a pipe and water flows through it freely. When there is a twist in the hose, water does not flow freely and little to no water may come out. So raising my shoulders was the equivalent to twisting a garden hose. Energy was not flowing properly because it was twisted up in my shoulders. Now not only am I very conscious about what I am playing, I am conscious about the state of my body as well!

Any thoughts? Feel free to let me know what you think! <a

Zamar Nation

10290601_1479127718984329_8334065973481346860_n I had the honor and pleasure to be a part of an awesome musical project.  Zamar Nation, which has Bryant Wilder on bass, Andre Johnson on drums, Damon Mack on the organ and Willie Brown on guitar, created an album called "Uplifted Hands".  It consists of different styles of sacred music ranging from traditional gospel to Christian Contemporary Music.  It was fun to make music with such awesome musicians.  There is a nice blend of high musicianship, heavenly vocals and easy listening that will draw the listener in as the album progresses.  Many people have said that they play this music in their cars and is in heavy rotation everywhere they go.  I must say that this is a great testament of how great the music on this album is!

If you want to purchase a copy of this album, you can go on Amazon, CDBaby or iTunes.  Experience wonderful sacred music by getting your copy today!

 

You can check out Zamar Nation's website here: https://www.facebook.com/zamarnationmusic

 

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Paralyzed By Perfectionism

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Practice makes perfect, however what happens when the journey to "perfection" keeps you at the starting line? There were many times in my life that I felt that way. I felt that I needed to dot all of my I's and cross my T's in order to be ready. It's one thing to prepare well but it's another thing to be crippled by perfection.

I must say that perfection had crippled me because I thought that whatever I did was never good enough. I knew that if I had made a mistake then everyone else listening would have heard it and remember it just as much as I did. Even if someone came up to me to compliment me on my performance when I was younger, I wouldn't believe them because I know that I had made a mistake that wasn't even noticeable. I had a lot of fear in me because I thought that I wasn't good enough. On top of that, comparisons made my fears and perfection a whole lot worse.

Perfection caused me to second guess myself and it lowered my confidence in my musical abilities. I thought to myself:

"Who would want to listen to me play?"

"I'm not the best in the world and since I'm not the best in the world then I don't matter."

"The world only accepts musicians that do not make mistakes."

"If you make a mistake, you can easily be replaced and become irrelevant."

These thoughts have crippled me for years. I guess there is a part of me that wanted to be accepted. Everyone has that feeling. It feels great to belong. Many people have asked me for many years, "Why aren't you playing out and performing live?" I would answer "I'm not ready yet. I don't believe I'm ready." After a while I had to ask myself, "When will I be ready?"

One day I was reading the Bible and this one statement popped of the page:

"If you wait for the perfect condition, you will never get anything done."

After reading that, I had to make a choice. Either go out and do my best with the best preparation possible or live in regret of not trying because I wasn't perfect. So I have made the choice to go out and play more and invest in my craft as a musician. People are going to say what they want and that's fine. As long as I am doing what I love and embrace the process, I'll be fine. The conditions are the variable, but my love for creating and playing music will forever be the constant. Do those thoughts and questions about perfection still grab me? Sometimes they do. Probably because of the fear of the unknown and for wanting to do things right. As long as I do what I can control (pray, practice, produce, perform) I'll be just fine!

Please feel free to respond!!