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This is Jazz
This is Jazz ~ Image by Andrew Pescod via Flickr

What type of music do you listen to?

If your answer is only one style ~ yours ~ you might consider trying a few more.

Although I am a classical pianist, with every bit of my formal training falling into that vein, I love listening to other styles.

Why?

  • It gets me out of a one-directional mindset
  • It’s fun!
  • We all learn from each other

While playing theater gigs, for example, I’ve encountered a different vocabulary.  In one such situation, I was the only classical musician present.  Rather than giving up and walking away, the theater people and I discovered that, by articulating one or two more sentences in explanations of style, ensemble considerations, etc., we arrived at the same place.

Norman Luboff hired me after hearing my Gershwin!  I never played a note of Gershwin in school.

Jazz

I listen to jazz because:

  • I can’t analyze it
  • I can’t critique it much
  • It swings
  • It’s original
  • It’s fun to move to
  • It’s a great switch from living classical music for hours at a time
  • I don’t have the vocabulary, which makes reading reviews intriguing

When Oscar Peterson, the legendary Canadian jazz pianist, appeared at Carnegie Hall following a stroke, he was wheeled to the piano.  The review I read dismissed that immediately.   The reviewer went on to mention that the great maestro had lost most of the use of his left hand.

During the concert, Mr. Peterson played amazing things with his right hand as always, adding only a few plunked chords with his left.

The reviewer’s take?  “That’s OK.  He played more notes with one hand than most people play with two.”  (Paraphrased.)

Classical pianists can only hope to get a review like that!

Gospel and Soul

Listening to gospel and soul keeps me in touch with:

  • honest emotion
  • uninhibited expression
  • vocal improvisation

One church choir I conducted sang “Precious Lord Take My Hand” (text by the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), melody by George Nelson Allen (1812-1877)) one Sunday morning.

I first discovered the song while leafing through a catalog of anthems.  Many of you probably grew up singing it!  The first time I read the story behind the composition, and then sang and played the song, I was very moved.  Even reading the Wikipedia article is moving!

The singers in my choir were reluctant to “let it out” during rehearsals.  I asked them to just sing it, encouraging them to add parts wherever they wanted.  There is no such thing as a wrong rhythm or a wrong note.  Start singing when you feel you want to, and wait for everyone else to finish each sentence.

I got them started, then stopped conducting, continuing on the piano.

I’m delighted to say that it worked!  They sounded the best ever.  They took an unfamiliar song and dared to be emotional.

There are many versions of “Precious Lord” on YouTube ~ I chose to post this video of the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey conducting his own heartfelt composition.

What types of music do you listen to?  What do you enjoy about them?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Be sure to catch the book sale!  Both versions of “Goal-oriented Practice” are available at special sale rates through Thursday, November 18 at midnight!

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