• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matthias Krauss

    Today we’ll get Behind the piano of the German composer and piano player Matthias Krauss!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from a small town near Frankfurt, but I am living since nearly 30 Years in beautiful Cologne / Germany 🇩🇪

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I startet as a kid playing piano and guitar…first on a little keyboard with an organ sound and the old little nylon guitar of my father. After a while, thank god, my parents bought me real upright piano and a „better“ acoustic guitar. I started taking piano lessons when I was 9 years old…

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I remember the moment when I discovered this little organ like keyboard at the age of 4 or 5 – I was so excited and I played it the whole time. Same with the guitar – a good friend showed my the first chords and I was practising a lot to get it in my fingers. After I started to have piano lessons I realised that I had the gift to play music that I heard on the radio – something my classical piano teacher could not understand, cause he was used to play „only“ with scores. At this point I realised that for me the piano is something to express myself in music – not only to play music which is already written by someone. I found it always more interesting to find some own melodies or chord progressions…

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Making piano music was always a big part in my music career – I had some band projects in my school time where I was writing songs on the piano, but my first solo piano piece that I released on a professional record was in 1991 with my jazz rock band called „Matalex“ – we toured a lot all over Europe, made 5 albums and did some nice collaborations with big jazz stars like Randy Brecker, Steve Smith, Jean Paul Bourelly. In this period I learned a lot about playing, improvising and also producing. On every album was one dedicated piano Ballad which was for me the start of the actual „Improvising Silence“ Project.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    As I said I was able to play songs I heard on the radio – that was for me the inspiration and the starting point to write my own melodies.  I also startet very early to work with Keyboards, Computer and 4 Track Tape recording machines…so I recorded a lot of song ideas, some instrumentals, some with vocals. The piano was always the center of my musical life and still is. I love playing on an acoustic Instrument – there is a something magic about sitting in the center of the sound of a Piano.

    My first Solo Album was not even planed. I was producing a Pop Band in a very nice Studio in the south of France (Studio Miraval) – there was this unbelievable Boesendorfer Imperial grand piano in this Studio, and every night when the production time was over I played on this magic Instrument – so at one night a recorded a lot of my ideas – just to have it – at home in my studio i listend to the recordings and my first „Improvising Silence“ Album was already there ! 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    During my classical piano lessons I realised that I like Chopin, Schumann and Debussy the most – later, I discovered modern Jazz pianists like Chick Corea, Keith Jarret, Bill Evans or the beautiful playing of Herbie Hancock, also a big Inspiration for me was to work with Jon Jord (Deep Purple) – I was blessed playing in his Band for a few years and did some recordings and Concerts with this outstanding gentleman. I learned a lot about composing and bringing the both worlds of classic and pop together.  

    In our days there are many of really good piano artist/composers – in the neoclassical genre to name a few like Max Richter, or Olafur Arnalds – I love the creativity of those guys !

    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? 
    No, there is not the one song – music or composing for me is to be open and to let it flow, I always try to find something new, the first seconds sitting on the piano are the most valuable for me, cause I am not thinking, I am just playing.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think every rule is there for a good reason, but also that every rule needs to be broken to go further…This is a very personal process that every creative mind has to explore. Sometimes I change my recording setup in my studio or I travel to another place which inspires me and compose / record there. Since a few years I did many productions in a very nice studio in Ireland – in the middle of nowhere – things changes when you leave your „normal“ setup, you get inspiration from the environment or the people you meet an your travel…when you start to feel to comfortable – go to a different place, find different Instruments, talk to other artist and composers – how are they working ? 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have a big studio where I write, produce and record, this is my main base where I work as a producer with many artists,  but I also have a small (Laptop based) recording setup, which allows me to record also in many different places.

    Im my studio I have this wonderful upright piano which I used for the „Improvising Silence II“ album – I do everything by myself, recording, editing, mixing – only for the mastering I have a good friend who works as a mastering engineer,  I like to have this second opinion !

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I bought so many sound libraries the last 15 years and I am still exploring them ! I love the Libraries from „Spitfire Audio“ – I think they are doing a fantastic job ! I also use „8DIO“ or „Toontrack“ – Samples to name a few.

    Anything else you want to share?  
    It is fantastic to have the possibility as an artist to be heard in nearly every country on the planet and for a listener it is even more exiting to explore all the different kinds of music. I really hope that some of them will enjoy listening to my music 🙂

    And the question from my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Wherever  the  songs come  from, they are accepted with gratitude. I feel like a medium through which the songs evolve. I regard it as a gift that I have the possibility to channel certain powers at certain times, and at the end of this chain a song emerges that wasn`t there before. Sculptors always say that the sculpture itself already exists somewhere in the stone and they only need to carve it out. Writing songs is similar. Strictly speaking, all of them already exist!

    Thank you very much for this Matthias!

    For more information, please check out the following:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Marcus Moon

    I have previously posted about the track Moonstruck by the Sweden born, Canada located composer Marcus Moon. And now it’s time to get Behind the piano and get to know Marcus a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    Marcus Lindström 

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    The Moon is a great inspiration for me as an artist and composer. It felt absolutely natural to use it in my artist name. Plus it has a better ring to it than Lindström 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised in Malmö, Sweden. Moved to Canada in 2006. I now live in Vancouver.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have only started playing piano in the last year, and I hope to develop my skills  as much as I can. It will improve my composing process I am sure. Before the piano, guitar was my main instrument. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I grew up listening to a lot of singer/songwriters, and storytelling has always been at the heart of my music. I picked up the guitar at a young age, like so many others, trying to be like my musical heroes of the time!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    About 2 years now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started learning music theory simply to improve my guitar skills. I got hooked right away on the process of creating new music, and I knew pretty quick that this would be my mode of artistic expression. It was something I had been thinking about my whole life, but i never had the confidence to do it. Starting out, I made myself a challenge where i was to write a piece of music every day for 100 days straight and post the result on instagram each day. It was an enormous task, but by immersing myself in it, I developed my skills at an incredible rate. After only 100 days I really felt like a composer, albeit with a lot still to learn.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    To be honest, I still have a lot to discover when it comes to contemporary pianists/composers, but to give just one example, I have been listening a lot to Lera Auerbach recently. I find her to be quite brilliant. Look her up on spotify! 

    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? 
    Yes. My own Moonlight Requiem from my upcoming album. I have a preference for playing sad songs, and simply because it’s one of the few songs I’ve mastered at the piano so far, haha. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Personally, I prefer to NOT break rules. The need to be original and ‘groundbreaking’ can really put a damper on the creative flow. I’ll leave that to the academics and the musical geniuses of the world. I believe that too much pressure to be original may keep a lot of people from writing music. Myself, I use the same composition rules  that have been used for centuries. Sometimes I get comments that my music is not innovative enough, but that doesn’t matter to me. I will never win any awards for groundbreaking achievements in composition, but I just want to write beautiful music from my heart that touches people. I really believe in the power of music to change the world!

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I recorded my first album in a beautiful venue, which was located in an actual barn on an actively operating horse farm. I had the fortune of working with some of the very finest musicians on my album. They really took my music to the next level. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Nothing beats a real musician, although I am very impressed with the progress of virtual instruments. I use them a lot in preparing demos. 

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

    My songs come to me when I have a story that I want to share with the world. Usually, it’s a personal story, but not necessarily. I always write down the story first, often as a poem. Then I write the music that I feel best captures the spirit of the story. I am a storyteller first and foremost, and music is my language.

    Thank you very much for this Marcus!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Angel Ruediger

    New year, but my theme from last year goes on and we move on to the Brazilian piano artist Angel Ruediger!

    What’s your real name? 
    Angela Ruediger

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    “Angel” is one of my nicknames.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Brazil, and at  the moment I’m based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I started to have classical piano lessons at the age of nine and never stopped playing since then. Piano is the only instrument I play.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I asked my parents to have piano lessons. I was an unquiet child, and liked to make many things at the same time (which isn’t necessarily a good thing)

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started to compose my own tunes since the second year I was taking my classical piano lessons, it was a kind of relaxing moment since I really took the piano lessons seriously and studied it about two/three hours per day, almost everyday.

    Tell us something about that moment you realised you could make songs yourself!  
    It came spontaneously after I started to learn classical piano. No effort, no tension. I got two passions from  playing the piano at that time: learning pieces from Liszt and Chopin (in time)  and composing. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Classical Music: Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, Bach, Mozart, Mahler, Satie, Barber and Debussy
    Modern Classical music: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, Peter Cavallo, Gavin Luke , Joep Beving,  Ólafur Arnalds, Carol Comune, and the wonderful Sophie Hutgins.

    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?
    Not really. I usually start my “piano routine” with a lot of practice (scales and arpeggios) and then composing. If a new composition is finished, I play it until I feel its “fluency” is good enough so it can be recorded.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I don’t follow any rules and I don’t see them, have I’ve missed anything? In fact, this streaming era  is so democratic. The action of “making music”  couldn’t be more free of rules. Of course there are a lot of not good stuff, but there are really great new composers rising, too.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record my tracks by myself at home

    What’s your take on sampled instruments? 
    I’m totally open to every kind of instrument if it means to make music with quality. I’ve got some ambient/piano tracks I made all by myself, and already got on my 2021 schedule some collabs with artists who use sampled instruments…but definitely acoustic piano is my thing.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Yes, many thanks for inviting me to this interview, Johan. I really feel honoured. I also have to say that I love your music. And I would like to finish this interview  mentioning a quote from Oscar Wilde I’m really fond of:
    “…This is why music is the perfect type of art. Music can never reveal its ultimate secret.” 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Depends on the day. Mainly it comes from my soul, but sometimes  from my guts.

    Thank you very much for this Angel!

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Melany Thompson

    We are staring off the new year (go 2021!) with another great composer. This time I’m presenting you with Melany Thompson from Australia!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Australia and I live in beautiful Sydney! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started learning the piano when I was 4 years old. I have also attempted the flute and the guitar over the years but think I’ll stick to the piano!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was 4 I asked my parents for a piano and they bought me a little toy piano which I was quite disappointed with apparently. I somehow managed to teach myself a couple of nursery rhymes on it and so they bought me a full size upright piano! It was so big I remember they had to shave off some of the doorway in our house to fit it in! 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started to write my own melodies when I was a young teenager.  I used to write songs about different boys that I had a crush on (every song was a love song obviously!)

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t really remember it being a massive thing, it just came naturally to me to make my own music. Once I started recording my music though, I remember it being such an amazing experience to see other people listening to it and enjoying it.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I grew up listening to a whole range of artists from Richard Clayderman to Mozart but now there are a whole range of piano composers that sit in a more modern genre. I love Ludovico, John Williams and all the big film score composers. 

    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 always play Pachelbel’s Cannon as it’s easy to play in any key and to improvise around. Most people know the tune so it’s a good one to warm the fingers up with!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I’m not sure – does anyone follow a set of rules anymore? I think music is so subjective and people are recording in so many different ways these days and using different methods which keeps things interesting and fresh. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have done a bit of both – I recoded my first album in a studio in the Blue Mountains on a beautiful concert grand piano. I have recorded digitally using my digital piano, and now I can use my beautiful Yamaha Grand piano (which is fitted with a silent system) to record on so I have a few different options. I love the studio experience but it’s also great to do it yourself at home and get it right without the time and cost constraints of a studio. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I’m yet to find the perfect sampled piano sound! It can be expensive ‘collecting’ samples but there are so many amazing sounds that can be created. It’s a bit of a mine-field for me, I’m only just starting to get into digital recording and sample sounds and it’s quite overwhelming to be honest. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I feel so lucky to be doing what I love. Music has always been a part of my life but the decision to start recording and releasing my own music was a huge turning point in my life and I’m so excited to see what the future holds! I’m relatively new to this world so still finding my feet and working out the business side of things but it’s a great adventure. 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from feelings and emotions. I often write about something I’m going through, feeling or longing for. I also get inspiration from people and relationships. Just sitting down at the piano and improvising is a really important part of the creative process for me which means setting aside a lot of time and space to just sit and play for fun and relaxation. 

    Thank you for sharing this with us Melany!

    For more information and updates, please check out these links:
    Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Kayla Peeters

    Today is the last day of 2020, and also my birthday. I will celebrate with another post about a another strong women in the piano industry! I present to you, Kayla Peeters!

    Where are you from?
    I am from Green Bay, WI and currently live in Green Bay, WI. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano since 4 years old. That would make it my 28th year at the piano. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My dearest friend wanted to learn so I wanted to learn as well. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing composition for 12 years. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    When I wrote my first album titled “The Beginning”, it was an am amazing experience. That was in 2010. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    George Winston. I have met him several times and am very inspired by his music. 

    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?
    George Winstons variation of the Kanon in C or Yiruma River Flows In You.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The new music world is all so streaming based. Part of me wishes it wasn’t so centered around Spotify since it makes it very hard for artists to earn anything for their music. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record my music myself and send it to be mixed and mastered by a professional. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t really have an opinion. I do feel some of them can sound very professional. It really depends on the pro gram used and built ins being used. 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    What a fantastic question! My songs all come from deep within my heart. Every composition is a piece or me. The songs represent a time in my life, a memory or a setting in nature past or present. 

    Thank you for your participation Kayla!

    For more information, please go to these pages:
    Instagram / Facebook / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Starr Parodi

    And so the week continues! Today I’m having a talk with American composer and piano artist Starr Parodi!

    What’s your real name?
    A lot of people think Starr is not my real name, or that my parents were hippies when they named me :-). Starr is a family name and my grandparents last name – so it is my real name after all.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Los Angeles California and I have lived here most of my life. I love it here, there is so much beauty in Southern California and so many creative people.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I took piano lessons for 1 year where I was about 7years old, and then I quit because I had a terrible teacher who I was scared of! I started playing again when I was 14 and took it very seriously, practicing 6-8 hours every day. I went away to Interlochen Arts Academy (a music/arts high school) and surrounded myself with the piano and music from that time forward. I also play keyboards, and percussion, and drums (kind of).

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I was inspired by listening to friends in bands and started playing piano and writing as a bit of an escape from the world. It took me to a different place that I could really lose myself in and express my emotions. I had some wonderful teachers who also understood me and really inspired me to be creative and to see pictures in my head as I play – which I think lead me to be a film and tv composer as well as a pianist.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making music ever since I was a young teenager, however, I got a lot of gigs playing synthesizer in many bands and didn’t have much chance to play the piano as a solo instrument other than practicing, I am also a film and TV composer and In 2006 I was recording some music for a film project I was working on, and just started playing the piano and improvising, My husband Jeff Fair (who is also my writing partner and an amazing producer and engineer) said, let’s record this and see what happens and that’s how my first solo piano album “Common Places” came into existence. I feel like I really found my “voice” on the piano recording that album. Since then, I have continued to compose cinematic music for film & tv and I always try to feature the piano when it is appropriate. I have also recorded other solo piano albums and have always experimented with finding new timbres and textures that the piano can create, whether its using electronics * filters on the acoustic piano or piano preparation with fabrics and felt to give it a unique sound.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think I was very young and have always written songs, ever since I can remember. I hear them in my head first.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are SO many artists who I love in this genre, and in many styles within the piano genre. Olafur Arnalds is one of my favorites, Dustin O’Halloran, Ludovico Einaudi, Christine Brown, David Nevue, and in the jazz realm, Billy Childs, Keith Jarrett, Michael Wolff, Herbie Hancock

    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?
    Memories of Tomorrow by Keith Jarrett (the version from the Koln Concerts live album)

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of them!!!!

    How do you record your music?
    I have a really beautiful recording studio at my home and I’m so blessed to have a1928 Steinway B piano that was actually on the MGM soundstage during the late 1920’s thru the 1930’s,. It is rumored that the Wizard of Oz was recorded on this piano. It still has the MGM tag from the soundstage on its leg.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love the synthesizer when it sounds like a synthesizer – all the amazing interesting sounds it creates, but when it comes to sampled instruments that are emulating live instruments, I feel like the live instruments really breathe and have a life that sampled instruments just don’t have the capacity to have. Samples still sound great, but I truly love the real thing more.

    Anything else you want to share?
    Music brings healing and peace and light to the world and I feel so fortunate to be someone who creates music.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    I love this question – you have a very insightful son! They come from a place I think beyond myself. Sometimes I feel like I am just channeling what is coming through me. Inspired by God, spirituality, my ancestors, pieces I heard long ago as a child and forgot them may find a way into my songs, emotions that run the gamut of highs and lows, all those things are in my songs.. That’s about the only answerI can think of about where they come from.

    Thank you very much for this Starr!

    For more information, check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Aysedeniz Gokcin

    Next in line for this Christmas series is the composer and piano player Aysedeniz Gokcin, which we’ll get to know better in this Behind the piano post!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I split my time in 3 different places: London Los Angeles and Istanbul. But most of the time (before corona) I live on airplanes! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    Since I was 5.5! I wasn’t allowed to play anything else – as my parents wanted me to not to spread myself too thin. However I really want to learn the violin and guitar!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I would improvise on the upright piano that no one played in our apartment, when I was a baby. My mother realised my passion for it and took me to piano lessons. From there I began learning fast and by the time I was 7 I was in the same class as 14 year olds. My career took on very fast as a child prodigy but later on I wanted to play other genres and eventually compose. That has been my dream since I was a child – I wanted to win an Academy Award for best score.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I used to compose but never share anything… It was an escape from reality for me – not a way to make a career. however after recording my Beethoven Senses Album last year, I had an extra day to record and that day I found all the short compositions I wrote and an album came out of all those! It became top 10 in classical charts in UK and USA.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My grandmothers would want me to play folk songs or tunes that they were familiar with. I would change them and make them fit my own classical style, and it gave me the energy to create motifs of my own. I knew I was good with melodies so years later these pieces just come out of me naturally. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Ludovico Einaudi and Olafur Arnalds

    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?
    As nerdy as this sounds, it is Chopin Ballade No. 4’s finale which is super difficult to play. I must have practiced it so much that now whenever I sit down I play that to warm up and to test my energy level!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think you really never should compete but only aim at expressing your own story. Copying something until it is perfect never works and it is so boring!

    How do you record your music?
    It is different each time – sometimes at a church that has great acoustic, sometimes in my computer using sampels, and sometimes in a studio!

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I feel like some are better than actual instruments! I love them and as technology progresses they get better and better. However playing an acoustic instrument has a completely different feel to it. One is like racing a car and the other is racing a computer game.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    That’s a great question! They come from my subconscious! I don’t think about what to write – the music just comes out.

    Thank you very much Aysedeniz for this little interview!

    For more information, please check out the following pages:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Rachel LaFond

    So, the week continues! I have previously written about Rachel LaFond here, so check that out if you havn’t. For those of you who have; let’s ask Rachel some questions!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Seattle, but during my career I’ve lived and travelled all over the world. I lived in New Zealand for three and a half years, and composed music for a year while backpacking in Oceania, Asia, and Europe. I am currently living in Austin, Texas and LOVING the music, the food, and the weather.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I began playing the piano as a toddler on my mother’s lap – she was a piano teacher. I am also a singer, and studied both piano and voice side-by-side at University. I’ve dabbled in some other instruments, such as flute, violin, and ukulele – I find that my long experience and comfort with the piano make picking up other instruments pretty easy to be honest! It’s a great instrument from which to branch out.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I grew up surrounded by and steeped in music of all kinds, because my mother was a very active piano teacher. In fact, until I started teaching piano myself when I was 11, I had to compete with her for time at the piano! Weekends were my absolute favorite because I could play and enjoy the piano for hours and hours.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I wrote my very first piece, Loving in the Rain, when I met my life partner David in 2013. A year later, I composed my second piece Redemption. But it wasn’t until I was backpacking around the world that I began to write music regularly and think of myself as a composer. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Really the big life-impacting moment was when I first arrived in New Zealand. I came to rest in a beautiful cabin in the hills in New Zealand that happened to have a piano. It was my first time touching a piano in months, and it was the most beautiful reunion! Fortunately, the piano didn’t have much in the way of sheet music, so I ended up writing new music simply because it was the only way I was going to be able to play much. I finished one piece in that cabin: Ember Warmth – Twin Peaks. I then travelled around New Zealand and played my first three pieces everywhere I could possibly find a piano to sit at. The folks who listened and heard my story were so encouraging, and again and again I was told, “You MUST record these so you can share them more widely!” It took hearing that message a LOT before I finally believed in myself enough to call up Stebbing Recording in Auckland and schedule a recording session to “test record” those three pieces. That experience lit a fire of purpose under me! I carried on with my backpacking adventure, through Asia and Europe, and wrote the rest of my first album Wandering Soul on borrowed pianos, on the streets, anywhere I could beg or borrow a piano.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I grew up listening to David Lanz, he and my mother were friends so he had a huge impact on my early development as a composer. I also love the circular rhythms and melodies of Ludovico Einaudi – I think those two artists are probably my biggest influences.

    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? 
    Whatever’s new and fresh for me usually gets the most of my attention. I tend to be very driven and focused in my work, so when I play it’s usually to accomplish something, like get ready for a tour or a recording session. If a piece is “in progress”, that’s definitely the one I’ll go to first!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I believe there’s no way music “should” be. I think if you like it, if it makes your soul dance in some way, then it has worth. There are so many myriad ways to make music that has value to yourself or other humans – music is as varied as humans are! Unfortunately, formal musical training can often focus on the one right way to do, play, or hear something, and it took me a bit of work to break out of that mindset. 

    How do you record your music?
    I record my music myself in my home recording studio on my Yamaha C7 in the company of 25 home-made sound panels and bass traps! I prepare in much the same way I would if I were going to a professional studio, because of course my piano has to be tuned and prepared before each recording session. After the piano technician has visited, I get a few days with the piano in peak performance to record as much as I wish, in exactly the environment that works for me, on my own instrument. During my massive year-long project The 52, I was recording every 4-6 weeks. These days, I record every 2-3 months.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Very high-quality sampled instruments in the hands of a meticulous producer can be quite nice! For me though, they usually can’t compare to the sound of real, acoustic instruments. More often than not, hearing sampled instruments in music puts me off, simply because I’ve had the privilege of hearing so much great live, acoustic music in my time as a musician. I have worked with the amazing Mike Bloemendal to put out some really cool music using sampled instruments, like my spooky Halloween album Well Past Midnight.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Yes! Earlier this year, I completed a monumental year-long project called The 52 in which I released a single and custom artwork every Monday for a year. It was a massive undertaking, and I grew so much as a composer during the span of it. You can learn more about it and hear the music at https://rachellafond.com/the52

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    I believe beautiful music exists inside of each and every one of us, and we have only to listen to hear it <3

    Thank you very much for you participation Rachel! It only took a year after I first asked you 😉

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Laura Christie Wall

    A while back I wrote about the track In the half light by the amazing piano player and composer Laura Christie Wall. Since today is a Thursday, let’s do a Behind the piano post about her!

    Lets go!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Wales, UK and have lived here all my life. It’s a very inspiring landscape for music!

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing for about 17 years, though I took a break in my early twenties. I don’t play any other instruments at the moment, but it is a goal of mine to learn the cello one day.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I wouldn’t say that I come from a particularly musical family, I only began playing experimentally on a small keyboard I was gifted one Christmas as a child. I would play around with different melodies and try to recreate my favourite pieces by ear, such as Einaudi’s ‘I Giorni’. I decided then to pursue music properly in my teenage years, taking piano lessons and later, beginning to compose my own pieces.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I wrote my first composition for solo piano at around 15 years of age, which featured on my debut EP ‘Things I Couldn’t Say’ back in June 2019. After this it wasn’t until early last year, when I was approached by Blue Spiral Records that I decided to write and release my own music properly.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It is a great feeling to be able to convey an emotion, a thought or a memory through music, without the need even for words. I suppose at first it was a form of self-expression for me, a personal way of giving life to my innermost thoughts and feelings; and then over time allowing myself to become comfortable enough with myself and the music to share these most vulnerable parts of myself with others. Composing gives me a sense of belonging, when I write a song I really connect with it’s almost like coming home, arriving at a place I was always meant to be.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My first and main influences are Olafur Arnalds and Ludovico Einaudi, but recently I have had the opportunity to connect with many great independent musicians of the modern classical genre and have discovered great music from the likes of Jesse Brown, Sophie Hutchings and many more. 

    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? 
    The first piece on my fingertips without fail is always Olafur Arnalds’ Saman. There is something so calming about this song, I find its simplicity incredibly relaxing, and the melody timeless.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think the great thing about modern music is that there are no rules. Music takes on so many different forms now and can be expressed in infinite ways, and so the boundaries are constantly being redefined by the many great independent musicians of today who continue to reinvent themselves and create their own unique and signature sounds.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    For me the composition part of the process takes place at home, on my acoustic upright piano, generally at night when the rest of the world is quiet. I find the nuances of a real piano; the pedal sound, mechanical noises and feeling the weight of the keys under my fingers are very inspiring during the creative stages of writing music. Depending on the sound I wish to achieve, I will then either record in a studio or at home using a library of sampled instruments.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    There is of course, no comparison to the experience of playing an acoustic grand piano in a beautiful concert hall, but I do believe that the great quality of sampled instruments today provides independent musicians like myself a good opportunity to be able to compose and share our music with others without the constraints of being both time and financially limited. And especially during the recent Covid pandemic, being able to work with sampled instruments from the comfort of your own home, it’s truly never been easier to be a musician!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Sometimes, I hear a melody in my mind and use it as the main theme for a song, embellishing and recreating it in different ways to create a full piece. More often than not though it begins as nothing more than a feeling, an intrinsic urge I get to sit at the piano and see what flows naturally in that moment.

    Thank you very much for this!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Tiffany Hobson

    The week continues, and today I introduce you to the composer and piano player Tiffany Hobson!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in Utah and I now live in Great Falls, Montana.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started taking piano lessons at 7 years of age. I can also play the organ and a few chords on the guitar.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My Dad decided to put me in piano lessons when I was seven years old because he loved piano music so much. I remember my older sister taking lessons and being excited for the time when the teacher thought my hands were big enough to start taking lessons as well.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    My first piano teacher taught me how to compose which I am forever grateful to her for! I don’t think many teachers do that. She even taught me how to write out my music with pencil and paper. I wrote my first song with her when I was 7 years old and when I was 8 years old I wrote a song by myself for my Grandpa who had just passed away. I continued to write a few songs here and there throughout my school years, but it wasn’t until I had my first child ten years ago and became a stay at home mom that I started to be more disciplined with composing. I wanted something to keep me busy while my son napped so I got back in to arranging music and composing original songs and it has grown into a huge passion of mine.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    When I first started taking lessons I was never good at sight reading and I didn’t enjoy the formal learning of reading music. But I loved letting my emotions flow through my hands onto the piano. I started just letting my left hand play chords while my right hand improvised a melody. I’d have fun creating a story in my head or making up words for the melody while my hands played back and forth. I didn’t realize I was doing anything that neat until my mom and my older sister took notice and enjoyed my improvisations.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Brian Crain was one of my first loves in the piano genre when I started listening to it more frequently 10 years ago. His music is so soothing and beautiful and definitely inspired me to become a piano artist myself. My other favorites include Jef Martens, Alexis Ffrench, Isabella Turso, Martin Herzberg, and Emile Pandolfi.

    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?
    My favorite song to sit down and play over and over again is “Jessica’s Theme” by Bruce Rowland from the movie, The Man from Snowy River. I’ve had it memorized for years now so it’s a song where I can just totally forget about the notes and let my fingers play the music. It’s such a freeing, beautiful and passionate song.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think any rule can be broken. I really try not to follow ‘rules’ when I’m composing. The key can change in the middle of the music, the tempo and the time can change, chord progressions can differ from the norm or from what may be expected and a song can still be wonderful. The important thing is to write from the heart and to write what brings you joy. When you write from the heart and share your own pain, joy or sadness, everyone can relate because we’ve all experienced pain, joy and sadness. That’s what makes music a universal language. A true creator is able to let go of rules and let their music and feelings flow how they are meant to flow. It is so important to be original and to be you. Don’t try and be like another artist, don’t try to make sure you follow all the rules. Just follow your heart and let your music flow. When I see or hear someone enjoying their passion without fear of following rules or impressing other people that is when I feel I am witnessing real genius. Nothing is more entertaining or inspiring than witnessing real genius.

    How do you record your music?
    I have been recording music myself in my home. I’ve been learning a lot about editing,mixing and DAWs. I still have so much to learn, but it’s been a great experience so far and I’ve been able to make some great friends along the way who have been generous enough to share tips andadvice with me.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I feel like I have a love/hate relationship with sampled instruments. They really have come a long way and some sampled pianos sound incredible. Sampled instruments make it much easier to record at home. But at the same time I feel like it’s harder to get the dynamics and the passion of the music across with a sampled instrument. Sometimes there is nothing that compares to an acoustic sound.

    Anything else you want to share?
    Piano music means a lot to me because it has brought me a lot of peace in my life not only from composing myself, but also from listening to the beautiful pieces from others. Life gets busy and we constantly have other things seeking our attention. I think it is important to take time every day to ponder and meditate. Piano music helps me do that. I hope you can find time to ponder and be still as you listen to my music.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    This is such a great question and sometimes I feel like the songs are true inspiration. I often have melodies come to me in the quiet of the morning or when I am still at night and I know it couldn’t have possibly come from my own mind.

    Thank you for your participation Tiffany!

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