When stealing is good.

Pablo Picasso once said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”. I stole (in other words learned to play note for note) Erroll Garner’s piano solo on The Way You Look Tonight (1:46 in the video) in music college and have used licks, phrases and techniques from it in my playing ever since. It’s a great way to learn. In fact I think it’s the best way. You internalise feel, rhythm, dynamics, and harmony from the guys who did what you are trying to do better than anyone else in history. But it’s not just the masters of piano playing from whom we can learn. Any of us can learn something from anyone else who can do something on their instrument that we can’t. And so in this spirit, I have recorded some online tuition videos which will hopefully help some of you get to grips with certain areas of piano playing with which you may be struggling. So here’s the

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Music as a language, music as a lifestyle.

Victor Wooten came to Sligo a few years ago as part of SJP. The people of our town found out that night what an inspirational musician he is…but I have recently discovered he is also an inspirational speaker and teacher. Today I watched a TED talk he gave in which he spoke of why you should learn music as you learn a language, and why you should live in life as you live in music. He touched on the importance of listening, of working together, of being allowed to be wrong, of learning in context, and gave a wonderful example of how a different perspective on two notes can change the sound they make from disturbing to beautiful. Take a few minutes and have a look.

Sometimes you just need a ladder…

So today we recorded the first of the piano tuition videos I’ll be using with my students as of next month. A day that had been in my head for a long time. I had done a lot of thinking and talking about it, bought new equipment, got parts made, figured out what I thought was the best way of doing it. And if I’m being honest, I was quite apprehensive about the day…wondering if everything would work, if I had all the right leads, all the correct software. I remarked to one of my colleagues on the project (a man 20 years younger and far more tech-savvy than me) that because it was in an area in which he felt at home, for him today was probably just another day, whereas for me the day had a bit more significance. Anyway all was going fine until our videographer mounted the overhead camera onto the specially designed overhead stand. He

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Illness and medicine…

Most medicine is directed at a particular illness. You go to the doctor, present your symptoms, and you hope she prescribes something that will tackle them effectively. Follow the course accurately and you’re right as rain in no time. The problems can arise when the medicine doesn’t work, or when the doctor isn’t sure what medicine to prescribe. When this happens, recovery can take longer, and patients can get frustrated waiting. But this is the way it is in most areas of our lives. The problems we face, the projects we try and complete, the arguments we have – they often don’t have straightforward solutions. But it is our ability to stay the course in the face of this uncertainty which will often determine our success in finding the right answers…

Would you like to…?

We get invited to do things for all sorts of reasons. It may be to reluctantly reciprocate a previous invitation, to extend the hand of friendship, to thank you for something, to manipulate the gender quota of invitees, to increase the glamour of an event, or indeed (imagine!) because someone really really wants you to be there. In my experience, it’s best not to worry too much about why you have been invited. Just focus on the fact that you were, and if it’s something you want to do, show up ready to give of yourself. You may even be invited back then…

Album photos.

Not photo albums. Here’s the latest in the line of pics celebrating the end of the recording and mixing process of various albums over the years. All with recording engineer Dave McCune. August 2019 (as yet untitled). From Jan 2017 – with Seamie O’Dowd and no slippers. Melodic Reflection. From Sept 2015. The Next One. And the very first – Not Just Black and White – all the way back in Sept 2013. In an age where we all take far more photos than ever before, it’s easy to forget the value of looking back at them. It’s a way of gaining perspective, an aid to reflection, a reminder of who you were and who you are, and a way of figuring out what you may want to happen in the future. PS if you want to hear the tracks from the new album live, the best place to do so will be on Nov 22 in the Hawk’s Well

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It’s Sunday night – nearly Monday morning again…

A lady told me this afternoon, in the aftermath of yesterday’s Warriors Run, that running just wasn’t for her. Furthermore, she said that if I ever saw her doing the Warriors Run I would know that she was going through some sort of crisis in her life. Sometimes it helps to look at things that way…if X happens then we can deduce Y is the case. It somehow reminded me of the refrain in the Saw Doctors song Same Oul’ Town – ‘it’s Sunday night, nearly Monday morning again’. In the song the singer is lamenting the fact that things never change, that Sunday keeps rolling into Monday, for another week of the same oul’ faces. Sunday night blues happen to all of us. But if it’s a regular thing, if as the sun sets on a Sunday you often feel down with the prospect of what’s facing you on Monday morning, maybe you should deduce that something needs to

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Warriors Run 2019

Today is Warriors Run day. Again. Last year’s blog on this day was about the history of the race. Today is more about strategy. So a wise head who had done this race many times told me once not to worry too much about the uphill part…that you’re better off focusing on maximizing your speed going downhill. I found it interesting, given the uphill part takes a lot longer – hence I thought the capacity for making up time there would be greater. I pressed him on it, and although there was no major science behind it, his response stayed with me – and I quote (possibly not fully accurately)… “There are enough times in life when the wind or the slope is against you. All you have to do is get through those. When things turn in your favour though…that’s when you go hell for leather. Make the most of it. Pound down that mountain!” Indeed sir.

I Never Stopped Loving You…

A great line! I thought of it as the possible title of a song today. I knew that it had probably been used before but I wondered if by some chance maybe it hadn’t. A quick Google search dashed those hopes. Doris Day and Survivor (at least) have beaten me to it. But does that mean it can’t be used? The laws of copyright cover only melody and lyrics, not titles. And then I thought of the following. Jump – Van Halen and The Pointer Sisters. Hello – Adele, Beyoncé, Lionel Ritchie, Oasis. One – U2, Metallica, Ed Sheeran. You and I – Queen, Lady Gaga, Bing Crosby and Stevie Wonder. Any other examples? Actually I wrote a song for my second album called Smile…think someone else might have done that too. Anyway back to my title. Sounds a bit like a country song. Anyone fancy writing lyrics?

Recording

Phil Woods was a great alto sax player, by any measure. He was a jazz musician first and foremost and kept some very good company over the years – touring with the likes of Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. He also did pop session work, playing on tracks from Steely Dan, Paul Simon, and most famously is responsible for the now iconic sax solo on Billy Joel’s 1977 ballad Just The Way You Are (the second song from his album The Stranger to be featured on the blog in a week). But the interesting thing about this solo (at 3:03 in the above video) is that it was not in fact done in one take, but was spliced together from 6 different takes by producer Phil Ramone. And that’s the thing about studios – there are all sorts of techniques available to artists, producers and engineers to make tracks sound whatever way they want – even more so

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