Garnet Walters

Pianist Educator Producer Composer Arranger

The Official Website of Garnet Walters and Geephlat Music
 

Filtering by Tag: journey

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/

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!!

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

Piano Technique

Dumbbells How does one play more fluently? How does one play with such clarity? It has to be piano technique!! When she plays, it looks flawless and effortless. I often thought and asked those questions when I was younger. The answers that I got were to "Practice your scales" and "Do a lot of Hanon exercises". They helped in a way in terms of finger strength and durability but as I got older I wanted to understand how they translated into real music.

One day I met a classical pianist named Orett Rhoden at Carnegie Hall. He was very inspiring. After the concert I had a chance to talk to him and ask a few questions, one of the questions being...Yep you guessed it (or maybe you didn't...I won't judge you...LMBO) "How do I improve my technique? Should I use Hanon?" To my surprise he said, "Hanon? No way. Use the Chopin Etudes." I was very excited that I went to the store the next day to by the Chopin Etudes. I started on the first one and I was very impatient. (By this time, I wasn't taking formal classical lessons and I was doing more jazz stuff). Despite how I felt, I learned something: Every piece or song that is learned has a specific technical challenge. The thing is as a musician, I don't play music because I want to show off that I have learned and conquered a technical challenge. I play music to play music and express myself through it. Etudes covered the bases in that not only was I learning great music, I was getting stronger and developed more dexterity and flexibility.

Another thing that I have learned about technique is that it seems like it is taught in a cookie cutter fashion like a one size fits all type of deal. However, everyone's hands and fingers are not the same size and shape. I have sizable hands and slim fingers. I can reach a major tenth effortlessly with both hands. Some folks have bigger hands, some have shorter fingers. Yes there are common threads in terms of technique with how the hand works but it won't work for everyone. I'm not saying that scales are not important. They are foundational since music comes from scale. There are some things that are important in technique such as having maximum relaxation and maximum control. When those concepts are deeply rooted in our musical makeup, how do we move on from the elementary stages and begin to make and enjoy music?

I used to think that technique primarily a physical thing. This belief changed as I learned that technique is starts in the mind. Technique is the means to an end, which is to make good music. A musician can play a piece technically flawless but there is no emotion. Bill Evans said it best:

"Technique is the ability to translate your ideas into sound through your instrument. This is a comprehensive technique...a feeling for the keyboard that will allow you to transfer any emotional utterance into it. What has to happen is that you develop a comprehensive technique and then say, Forget that. I’m just going to be expressive through the piano."

So technique starts in the mind and comes out physically and audibly. It requires a lot of patience. Impatience will do more harm than good in learning music.

I guess when a musician is trying to strengthen their fingers, there are exercises that are made for that. It's a start but it shouldn't be the end. It is a foundational tool that should be applied to something for it to be useful. How does a person get better at math? Is it by playing chess? No. It's by studying and learning math. How does a person get better at Chopin? Is it by learning Hanon? No. It's by learning and practicing Chopin. Every musical situation is different so the one size fits all approach will not suffice.

So in closing, I learned:

1. Technique starts in the mind and comes out physically and audibly.

2. Technique requires a lot of patience. Impatience will do more harm than good in learning music.

3. If I want to learn a specific thing musically, learn that thing.

4. Etudes are great to learn not only because of the technical challenge. It's because it's musical and enjoyable to listen to.

5. The piano is not a gym. It's a musical instrument.

6. Most importantly, technique is not the end. Technique is the means to the goal and the goal is to make great music.

Please share your thoughts. I'm really interested in the point of views of others. I love to learn!

"The moment you stop being a student, you become a critic. Never stop learning." - Unknown