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w/e 2021-01-24

The past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to Slaughter Beach, Dog’s recent fourth album, At the Moonbase. They continue to remind me very closely of someone I can’t quite put my finger on. Stephen Malkmus? Sparklehorse? Something specific from an early 1990s John Peel Festive Fifty? Whatever, I enjoy their sound.

Slaughter Beach Dog – Are You There, on YouTube

Also, if you like Digestive biscuits, this is a very good track with which to worship:

Blabbermouth vs. Murray Lachlan Young – On the 7th Day, on Vimeo

§ For the past few months I’ve been practising jazz piano with PianoGroove’s lessons. I learned to play piano as a kid but, like so many teenagers, got bored of the lessons and stopped going. I’ve played intermittently since.

(I remember as, say, a twelve year old, my teacher, Miss Griggs, mentioning one of her other students who was 30 – an inconceivably old age to me – and was only then returning to lessons having stopped as a teenager. Imagine making a mistake like that and going back to learning after so long!!)

Despite learning to play, and working through some grades, I never learned anything about chords and all that. I could, and can, practise a piece by reading the music, and keep practising until I get bored of it (which happens before I get good at it) but if you’d asked me to play something as simple as an A Major chord I’d have been stumped. I could play but I never understood.

A couple of years back I started working through Tim Richards’ Improvising Blues Piano book as a first step towards knowing more about the theory and, maybe, one day, being able to play things without following sheet music note-by-note. It was good, and I made some progress, but it wasn’t quite structured enough for me – too easy to ignore the aspects that I found difficult.

PianoGroove has been good so far, with more structure to it, which I like. It has clear videos, downloads of exercises and music, a helpful tutor, an active community, etc. I don’t think I’m progressing as fast as I should be, but I have improved.

In theory I’d practise every day. In reality it’s probably four days a week: half an hour of chords and arpeggios (which is boring but easy and satisfying to tick off) and then a bit of trying to play a simple piece from a lead sheet.

Given I can comfortably read standard sheet music and, haltingly, play from it, I find it strange how difficult I find it to play music this way. It feels like an entirely different discipline. But, when it slowly works and, one slow chord at a time, I piece a few bars together, it’s like magic. Despite only being given a simple melody line and the names of a few chords, it’s possible to produce what sounds like real, if slow, music!

I can’t imagine being able to play a piece from lead sheets in remotely real time, in the same way I wouldn’t be able to imagine speaking a foreign language fluently having got only as far as asking for a return train ticket. Never mind being able to play anything without the music. And then there’s the idea of improvising coherent music… unbelievable.

§ That’s all. Bye guys! Like and subscribe! Share, Other, Cancel!

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