Behind the piano: Olexandr Ignatov

Behind the piano: Olexandr Ignatov

A while back I wrote about the track Empathy by the composer Olexandr Ignatov, and today it’s time to get to know the man Behind the piano!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from Lviv, Ukraine. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing on the piano since around 6-7 years old, when my parents got the little electronic keyboard. It was red color, had some fun pre recorded songs on it and a wrong pattern of black keys too.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I started playing that little red piano at first. At the same time I was also playing the acoustic guitar, which my father had hanging on a wall. Later I decided that keyboards are closer to me, and I continued learning it by myself on some cheap Casio keyboard. It had auto chord functionality, some pretty cool songs in it with the interactive learning system so it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot on it.

How long have you been making piano music?
Since I got to study piano in a music school in Lviv, I think a year or two after that I started playing some of my own stuff when I was capable to produce some cool sounds. Improvising, you know. Except for the piano, I was really into keyboards – playing them everywhere, at home, at school, at music school – wherever I could find a keyboard – I’ll play it. So it was going hand in hand – piano and keyboards.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself?
I think that moment was gradually emerging from the time I got comfortable with other songs I learned on my keyboards, on piano, and so on. You know, the music vocabulary slowly but steadily grows when you do that. And slowly you can create something that you may call ‘yours’, which is basically a weird melting pot of everything you’ve learned + some of your own ideas that come into your head why you play. But to do it I really had to learn a bit of theory to position myself on the keys better – for example, if I conquered the C minor scale – that’s what I was playing on and improvising until something cool started to sound. If I didn’t know the scale – it was a hit and miss. So gradually while I was learning them, my ideas started to sound better and better.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I’d say Chopin and Liszt are pretty awesome if we talk about classical composers. From the more modern ones – Jordan Rudess, Rick Wakeman, Lubomyr Melnyk… and even some today’s popular pianists like Yiruma, Hiromi, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
I don’t have any particular song here… but I like to warm up with some Dream Theater or just play some favorite tunes from my favorite bands and artists. Whatever comes to mind at that moment.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I won’t go too far to tell which exact rules should be broken – but I’d say you can break the rules if it serves the bigger purpose, helps you create something cool sounding or something unique that wasn’t heard before. Or some that just don’t make sense for you or limit your creativity. If there’s some ‘don’t do it!’ thing about playing  – investigate why exactly it is a rule, and if it’s just someone’s fixated idea for no reason – go ahead and break it if that helps to come up with something better. But you better don’t ignore some valid rules like “don’t play with the tension in your arms’ and such, you can’t be ignorant of such things and try to outsmart that. You’ll end up in a hospital and that’s it.

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I do all my music by myself in a compact home studio. I don’t need a big one at the moment. More than that – I found that the more things in the studio you have – the less creative can you become. I try to do maximum with the instruments and tools that I have and really put them to work. So I record with my KAWAI VPC1 or just my Komplete Kontrol keyboard controller straight into my computer – and then process everything inside in the Studio One 5.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I love them when they are recorded properly and provide you with options to either create a great sound by tweaking things or they sound amazing out of the box. Sampled instruments now have become pretty huge but they quality is also so much better than it was even 10 years ago. I use sampled instruments in my productions every time, not only for piano but for all my work (writing royalty free music, custom projects, and such). It’s just awesome and so easy to work with and helps you get the job done in a fast and efficient way.

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 

It’s a good one! I don’t know. Tell your son that I am catching them in the air, when I can. They are usually hanging around me somewhere close and when I sit at the instrument sometimes I can catch one of these bad boys. Then I tell everybody that I wrote it! Not all songs are created like that, though.  But I’d say – the best ones happened pretty much like that! But, usually it’s a more boring approach – I sit down and try to joggle my music vocabulary accumulated though years until some cool combination appears. Sometimes I just whistle my melodies into my iPhone and then record them. So yes, I really don’t know one answer for this! It’s a bit of a mysterious thing, really. 

Thank you very much for this Olexandr!

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