Day 1: The Redemption of the Artist

I used to play the piano. Tolerably well, actually.

I once played for over five thousand people and often traveled throughout the southeast, as well as one incredible trip to the Mediterranean. I played for our troops and a few major artists. I even recorded at the Grand Ole’ Opry in Nashville. I am a nobody. This is not false humility, I am suggesting that there are thousands of wonderful musicians better than I ever was, and I knew my place in the music world. But there I was, living the dream.

Then I forgot how to play.

It doesn’t matter why. I own my career and am humbly thankful for what it’s given me. But the musical landscape has changed, and I am not going to purposely degrade my talent for any gig or any one. I am going to relearn how to play really, really well.

I am embarking on a daily journey back to Green Dolphin Street (that’s a jazz piece, if you were unaware). Though I was never very good at jazz, I am going to relearn it one standard at a time, beginning today. Within one year I will procure a playing position at a local hotel, where I will be able to enjoy playing once again the challenging music written by masters of the art.

I will blog daily, and will include, at least twice per week, audio samples of my work, be it horrible or beautiful, to show my progress.

Here is how I will do it:

1: I will remaster the basics that I learned while taking college level piano at age fourteen. This includes all basic scales, as well as all common jazz ones. It also will include all arpeggiation common to classical and jazz.

2: I will learn all ii-V-1 progressions in all twelve keys to mastery and with all inversions.

3: I will learn standards, both chosen and suggested, in all twelve keys using a method that includes both rote learning as well as studying multiple interpretations by legendary artists of the time, thereby influencing my style through different eras of jazz.

4: I will share my frustrations with joy, humor, and encouragement online.

I am aware that this will take an incredible amount of practice and study, with the sacrifices that go with it. I will remain amazingly thankful for my wife, who will work a full-time job while I homeschool my two children and rededicate my life to my artistic career. Her patience for this is due to her love for me, which has always included her love for my aural art. I am a musician. I can be nothing else.

Onward!

My practice today: All major scales–four octaves, purposely slowly, to reintroduce accuracy and form. I am, after all, seeking to play all phases of the piano better! I also rocked the circle of fifths using only the first inversion triads, again attempting to get back into the groove of visualizing the inversion and ONLY that inversion. It was difficult to NOT play the sevenths, etc. as I sped it up!

Song of the week: “Autumn Leaves,” a wonderful ii-V-I piece that is one of the most commonly studied tunes in jazz, I think. I listened to over ten versions online, from 40’s to 90’s and made myself play along just the chords in whatever key they were doing it in. Not really worrying about attempting to comp solos, just getting the form and melody back in my head in all 12 keys. I hate G flat; let’s just get that out now.

Total practice time today: about 2 hours on the board and another 2 in listening/study of ii-V-I progressions and the tune.

I am saving up to buy a Roland FP30, so today’s practice was on my son’s little 61 key Casio thing. What it is really good for is accuracy on the triggering of the sound. It really shows if I am not steady from finger to finger.

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