• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Riccardo Chiaberta

    Thursday again, and it’s time to dig deeper into the minds of another contemporary composer and piano player. Let’s get to know Riccardo Chiaberta a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Verbania, a city in the North of Italy situated on the shore of Lake Maggiore. I moved to London in 2015.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the piano at 7 years old while playing drums and percussions around the age of 14. Since then I’ve been playing drums as my main instrument and I started studying and practising the piano more deeply only during my Jazz Academy studies’ years. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music as a kid, inspired by my family’s music passion: my dad plays guitar and a bit of piano, and my grandfather was a composer and music director of the local bands. My house has always been full of music instruments.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making piano music since I started studying Jazz at the Music Academy. I’ve spent many hours practicing jazz harmony and some classical pieces. Since then I started writing compositions for solo piano.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I guess that one of my first composition came out from a mistake practicing some harmony exercises. it sounded good and almost unexpected and I kept repeating the chords progression over and over and then writing a melody on top of them.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love the piano performances by Thom Yorke, the music of the impressionists Debussy and Ravel and the lyric pieces by Edvard Grieg.

    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 usually play my own songs or I just like to improvise some melodies.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Any genre barrier. Music is music, it can’t be fitted in boxes.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    As a drummer I’ve recorded loads of albums in professional studios but I then decided to tape-record my piano album A Bird Told Me and the single Camden Town at my parents’ house on the same piano where I used to play and compose my music in my early years. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    If they can help you to make the music you like it’s a great way of writing original compositions!

    Anything else you want to share? 
    This is a gem! Truly beautiful music, played by two great musicians that love each other. It warms your heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8lTh58jhA8

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

    They come from my emotions, experiences, the people I spend time with, the books that I read, the movies that I watch, the nature and from my music studies.

    Thank you very much for your participation on my Behind the piano series Riccardo!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Benyamin Yahyavi

    It’s Thursday, which means we’ll dig deeper into the mind of another contemporary piano composer. This week we’ll get to know the Iranian composer Benyamin Yahyavi a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Was born in Romania but my parents are Iranians and I currently live in Tehran.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano for about six years and yes, I also play Trumpet and Guitar as my second and third instrument. If we consider a computer as an instrument, i also play computer and digital instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was 13-14 years old, I was very interested in music and listened to different music for hours a day. And finally, one day i accidentally realized that I was playing the piano, so i was very happy to choose music and composing as my first love, as well as my main job. Because i know nothing but writing and making music!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    About 3 years ago I start writing music. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was so happy because finally found a way to convey my feelings to others.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I think my favorites are guys like Ólafur Arnalds, Fabrizio Paterlini. I really like the sadness that is in their works and other favorites that I’ve discovered along the way are Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran.

    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? 
    Maryam, my own song that I love it! It’s very special to me.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All rules! Because I think music is a way to break the rules, and that’s why it can’t be in prison of rules!

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? Etc.
    I have a small home studio that I do all of my work there. But for my new project it’s possible that I record my strings in a big studio.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    It’s very simple: VSTs are Good and helpful! The quality of the sound and feel just keeps getting better but live instruments still feel more powerful when playing than VST.

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

    Thanks for your participation Benyamin!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Florejan

    A while back I presented you with the song Watching clouds disappear by the composer Florejan. And today, it’s time for him to take over the blog and to be the next person Behind the piano!

    What’s your real name? 
    Florejan Verschueren.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    My first name is already difficult enough 🙂

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in my little but beautiful hometown, in the north of Belgium.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I play all kinds of keyboard-instruments, but piano really is my instrument of choice any day.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    As a child I was very intrigued by the sounds my father made by pressing the keys of the grand piano. I guess I never stopped searching for those sounds.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    As long as I remember. I had some basic piano-lessons from my father at age 4 or 5, and understood rather quickly how to make notes ‘blend’. The first years I mainly improvised. Composing came a bit later.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The first song I was really proud of was made at holiday in the summer (I must have 6 years old?). My father took a small keyboard along, and I spent most of that vacation with my headphones on. It wasn’t a moment of epiphany, because my father also writes music. It was just a natural development.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    That’s a though one! Nils Frahm, Yann Tiersen, Wim Mertens,… So many to choose from!

    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 actually don’t play it that much, but ‘Melodie’ op.47 nr.3 from Lyric Pieces by Grieg is very often in my head. I am classically trained and I love the repertoire of Bach (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier) and Chopin. Their music I do play over and over again.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Making music has no rules, nothing needs to be broken. There should be no boundaries, just let the music make itself. Don’t force it!

    How do you record your music?
    I record my own music, in my own music room. It’s not a real studio, but it was built with creating a nice sound in mind. A lot of wood to make it sound natural, a high ceiling so the sound can take flight,…

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I used to look at it as cheating, but that has dramatically changed over the years. In the end it comes down to this: If you like the music and how it sounds, it’s not important how it is made. A real piano is a joy to play, but if the recording requires samples to sound good, then by all means: go right ahead. I absolutely love to play music for an audience, so I really need a nice sounding instrument, with strings and wood to inspire me.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I prefer older instruments (with flaws and everything) because they already have a story. I love the discovery and where the instrument takes me. Making music, for me anyway, is combination of the one who plays it (the musician), the piece (composition) and the instrument it is played on. I play differently on each piano.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    I don’t really consider them MY songs. It’s just music that happens to pass through my fingers. I’m the lucky one to discover them!

    Thank you very much for participating in my Behind the piano series Florejan!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Mattia Greggio

    Today we’re gonna get to know the Italian composer and piano player Mattia Greggio a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Verona (Italy) and I’m living in Verona.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the piano at the age of six at the Verona conservatory. At the moment I only play the piano. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    This is the question I love most because it is an important anecdote in my life. I can’t tell you why I wanted to play the piano, but I just wanted it.  Out of fear that my parents would say “no”, I invented a lie (a lie that a 6-year-old boy would invent to get something). I told my mom that a my classmate (my best friend of those years) was playing the piano and therefore I wanted to play it too. I didn’t know at all that my friend played the piano, for me it was a pure lie. My mom started asking my friend’s mom for information and I start losing hope and I was getting ready to be scolded. To my amazement, I suprised that my friend was really playing the piano. So it was that I began to venture on the white and black keys. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have always composed my music as a teenager. But I decided to share my music from the autumn of 2017

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started in the early teens, 13-14 years old, where the piano and solfeggio studies had become more “interesting”. I started by arranging famous pop / rock music on the piano, finding harmonies and melodies by ear. In these arrangements I started to insert more and more of my personal parts. Then slowly I started writing my first melodies.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    As for contemporary classical music, there are 3 artists who listen most: Ludovico Einaudi, Roberto Cacciapaglia and Yiruma. There are many many others that I love, I chose these 3 artists because they are the ones who listen the most.

    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? 
    Oh Yes! It’s my “warm up” after the stairs of course 🙂 . When I sit on the piano, I usually play 3 songs before starting anything else (study or composition): my own arrangement of the song “Piccola Stella Senza Cielo” by Luciano Ligabue. A stretch of the song “I Giorni” by Ludovico Einaudi and the song “May be” by Yiruma

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All the rules (or almost)! When composing music it is important to try to put all the emotions you want to convey into the song, even if this forces us to “violate” all the rules. This does not mean that it is okay to make random music, harmony is a fundamental component to achieve those sounds that can represent the emotions you want to transmit.

    How do you record your music?
    I record my music on my own with my home recording station

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    The VST give a great help. It depends on the cases. If a person makes solo piano pieces and has a well tuned instrument, a good recording job can be done with a good microphone system. But this is already very expensive. A good sampler helps but it must be used very well, sometimes I struggle and I prefer to use the direct sound of my keyboard. When I make multi-instrumental or orchestral pieces I necessarily need samplers. This speech is valid at an amateur or semi-professional level. At a high professional level, however, the songs must be recorded directly from instruments with musicians. No samplers.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Music is currently my biggest passion. I dedicate all my time to her from my main job. In every song of mine there is a part of me, a thought of mine, an emotion of mine, a memory of mine. I always try to create different songs from each other. Piano only, piano-ambient, piano-strings, orchestral pieces. I am getting small but great satisfaction for me and this gives me the strength to never give up.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Answer: It may seem obvious, but my songs are all born from within me. Very often I want to compose a song, but I don’t have the emotion to transmit, I don’t have the inspiration inside me and therefore I don’t leave anything in the music I’m composing. However, when there is strong emotion inside me, the right spirit, the song is already all in my head and I just have to write it, arrange it and record it.

    Thank you very much for participating Mattia!

    For more information, click on any of the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Björn Gottschall

    A while back I posted about the track Sonnig Schwarz by the composer Björn Gottschall, and today it’s time to get to know Björn a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in germany and after living in quite a few countries, I am living in France now, which I really love – for cheese, wine and women… HAHA. Yes I kind of like the french lifestyle and also the diversity of nature in this country.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I play the piano since I am a child. But always when I saw an instrument, I wanted to play it and if there is something like talent – I was always able to play after a little while the melodies I had in mind on any instrument. But mainly I’ve played the piano. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I can’t really find a beginning since for me even babies are musicians, everybody expresses himself with more or less organised sound in a way. Learning techniques and instruments are just largening the musical horizon. But I think there is no real end and beginning of playing music, it is just a part of life. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself! 
    I think the first moment when I felt I have to express myself in my own musical language was when I had to digest the death of a close family member. I kind of used this melody as a retreat for my thoughts. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    There are several people that I admire, for example Philip Glass, but also Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and Chopin – I like a big range of piano music. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Often there is one song like this, which I play always during one week. But this can change very fast, it is like having different love affairs. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    Maybe not to many. I like rules in music and in life they provide us with orientation. I think the challenge is getting most out of a piece within your rules. Finding new ways, which are not forbidden, but still super surprising. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio?
    It depends, I did both. Not really in a “big” studio, but in a studio. My latest works were recorded at home. I have a wonderful piano, which I know very well and I don’t like this lost of control while recording on a studio piano which I don’t know at all. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Since last year I have a 6 octaves Kemble acoustic piano which I am using to play outside. The piano is always in the back of my car. And I can play it on the most beautiful places of this planet! Contrary to what people say, a piano is a very robust instrument and should not only be alone at home 🙂 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    In my opinion I just tell stories, which everybody knows by using my own words. 

    Thank you Björn for this lovely talk!

    For more information, please check out any of these following pages:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Felix Reuter

    A while back I posted about the track Petite Sonate Pathétique – Part II by the German composer, pianist and music comedian Felix Reuter. And today we’ll get to know the man behind the piano!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in the middle of Germany, in the federal state of Thuringia (Thüringen). I grew up in Jena and today I live in Weimar which is just nearby. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was seven years old. Before, I learned to play the recorder – with a strict teacher: my mother! During my studies at the “Franz Liszt Academy of Music” in Weimar I got acquainted with jazz harmonics which inspired me a lot. For several years I played in different bands: jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. I needed to keep this a secret in front of my professor: She was quite severe and argued that this music would ruin my touch for playing classical music. Later I studied playing the church organ which I also enjoyed pretty much.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was a kid, my father, an organist, would have us listen to the radio and ask over and over: “So, who do you think composed this piece?” We were many children and would guess together, so we learned to distinguish between different musical eras by ear. Our father stimulated my curiosity so much that I was eager to learn to play the piano.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I grew up with music and composing. I invented melodies early and got composition lessons at the age of 9, so it was rather a flowing development than linked to some certain “turning point”. Today, as a pianist, I have been giving cabaret piano concerts for several years. It has become my true specialty to improvise over classical music, playing with a variety of musical genres. E. g. I perform Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” in a rock’n’roll way, or Beethoven’s famous piano sonata “Pathétique” in the style of modern pop music. In this way, I interact both with the old masters and with my audience. That is a lot of fun to me. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My favourite composers are certain romantic ones: Edvard Grieg, Sergej Rachmaninov, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Not precisely. When I sit down at the piano, I usually improvise and play just the way I feel: sometimes excited or temperamental, but sometimes also very calm and quietly. Rarely, I play compositions by others.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think there are hardly any rules these days. Many compose as well as their computer software allows them to, and some still master the feeling and the actual technique of composing – and this, you can hear and tell either.

    How do you record your music?
    For the recordings I have been to different studios, all of them featuring a grand piano, a lot of microphones and someone able to operate all of this perfectly. Some of the productions also included a camera team and were documented. Lately, I have been recording in a studio in Hamburg – also for my latest EP “Petite Sonate Pathétique”.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Well, there are many stunning sounds I really like. But you need to be careful – just the same you find very coarse samples that I would not recommend using. You can hear the differences between a good and a bad sample particularly well when it comes to wind instruments.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I am happy that you are interested and curious about my music. This year, music lovers celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and I reckon some more artists are going to release fresh reinterpretations of the composer’s pieces or music inspired by Beethoven. Sadly, now during the restrictions against the spread of Covid-19, artists all around the globe cannot perform normally, but I strongly hope that this will be possible again soon.

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

    The pieces and songs on which I am working have often come to my mind already some time ago. I have played them on stages in the same or in a similar way and eventually I have written them down so that I do not forget them. But sometimes it also happens that I think of something when I’m out for a walk, taking a shower or driving in my car. Then I need to write my idea down quickly and only later I decide whether I really like the idea – if not, the note goes straight to the recycle bin. 

    Thank you Felix for your participation!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Karl Thesing

    I have previously written about the German composer and piano player Karl Thesing, and today we’ll go deep!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Cologne, Germany

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    The Piano was my „last“ instrument. I started with drums when I was 6 years old or something- but I was never really good at it 🙂 My main instrument was guitar and bass- I also sang a lot. I can not really remember when I started playing piano. I did not had a teacher and just always played Piano when I saw one. It was just always something I liked but never had in mind. I intensively started playing about 13 years ago.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I always listened a lot to music. When I was a kid I was singing along to operas and musicals, I heard on Cds my parents liked to hear. I really started playing with my first band, what now seems more like a joke, because we were more then bad. I played drums and sing in this group.I wrote my first solo piano composition with 16.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I really started making piano music or neoclassical music at the age of 16.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My mother told me about a scrapbook I used when I was 6 years old or something. I had a little cheap Casio keyboard. I did not know how to play, but I invented melodies using my own pretty dumb notation system and wrote them in that scrapbook.I am pretty curious how it did sound. Unfortunately I do not have it anymore. Otherwise I may could make some nice rework 🙂

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It often changes. Right now I would say it is Niklas Paschburg. I can’t get those melodies out of my head 🙂

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I can’t really play other songs unfortunately and I don’t see the fun in it as well. I am always playing the songs I am writing at the moment over and over again.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I never felt like there are rules at all. When I started playing guitar, a kid from school said I am not good at all, especially my songs, because I did not stay in the right key. When I got my first teacher (an amazing guitarist) he said I can do whatever I want when I write my own music. I believed him since then.

    How do you record your music?
    I always start just by myself, with my piano. Then I change over to Logic and cheaply produce the song with MIDI. When it comes to production, recording and mixing I always work with the same Producer and the same studio. Lennart Damann from High Tide Studio in Hennef (its near by cologne). I can’t do what I do without him. He is the sound in my music. We often spend 10 days mixing the same song together- not because it is always necessary, but we enjoy going really into every possible detail. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I used to job a bit in that section and sampled just a few instruments myself. I often changed my mind about them. I think it is a great way to work and it opens a lot of creative opportunities. I don’t want to miss them. But when it comes to my songs and the final production, all sampled instruments have to go.There is not a single sampled instrument in it.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I just want to say hi to my friends/team and I hope I can soon replan our tour. Lenn, Tobi, Linus, Linda, Dominik, Raffi, Marco, Tommy, Marcel! 

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

    I am dreaming of the songs. When I wake up my fingers are itching. Then I sit down at the piano and my fingers show them to me 🙂

    Thank you Karl for your participation!

    For more information, please check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Alstad

    A while back I wrote about the track When we lost it all by the composer and piano player Alstad. And today; we go behind the piano to get to know the person behind the track a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    My name is Cory Alstad

    How did you come up with your artist name? 
    When I started producing instrumental piano-music, I decided to separate my other music (mostly singer/songwriter stuff with full band, studio recordings, etc) from this particular music. So under ‘Alstad’ at this point, the music will all be instrumental and will feature piano as the main instrument.

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I’m a Canadian and have always lived in Canada. I grew up in a few different places, but spent most of my early life in Winnipeg, MB, which is in central Canada. Years later, my wife and 3 kids moved to where we live now about 14 and a half years ago. We live in a city called “Langley” which is basically kind of a suburb of Vancouver. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I’ve played piano for many years…I started lessons when I was 7 years old and have played ever since. My parents forced me to take piano lessons, even later on when I begged them to quit! Now I’m thankful that they wouldn’t let me, but we had lots of fights about it…I can play a few other instruments as well, but not at the same level as the piano. I can play guitar, a bit of the drums, bass guitar and can ‘fake it’ on a few other  instruments. I’m also a singer. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.  
    I grew up in a home where my dad was quite musical, on the piano and with vocals. I took lessons from a young age, on. I did the whole classical “Royal Conservatory of Music” route and actually ended up going to the University of Manitoba School of Music, where I completed a Bachelor of Music. But from the very beginning I was drawn to songs that I heard on the radio and loved. I have a good ear for music, and so I would often  learn the songs by ear and focus on that in my practicing, much to the annoyance of my piano teachers! I would also often ask them to play a piece that I was supposed to learn, so that I could have a head-start in learning the piece by ear! As I grew older and developed as a musician, I began to write music as well and that quickly became a real passion for me, which it continues to be, today. I also grew up attending church and was very much involved musically in that context, as I continue to be. 

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    Probably for 30 years or so.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself! 
    I think that I was writing/making music from very early on – writing all sorts of terrible songs on the piano at a young age! But, they got better as I got older. I think that one of the turning points for me was when I was attending a college near Winnipeg (before my university days) and I showed my music professor a piece that i had written. He loved it and was super encouraging to me and urged me to continue down that path. i think that was a really good ’nudge’ in my life and I started to take it more seriously after that. Having someone believe in your music is such an important thing in any musicians life, I think.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I would have to say that Olafur Arnalds is one of my favourites. He’s fantastic. I also really love the music of Joep Beving, Peter Cavallo, Nils Frahm – and many others!

    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? 
    Hmmm. I made up a fun arrangement of “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson a few years ago with a guitarist friend of mine, so I often will jam to that!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think that it’s good to know the rules before you break them. But I think there are lots of rules that can be broken. Of course, part of the challenge is, depending on what genre you’re in, the rules change 🙂 If you’re writing a piece in the baroque era/genre, you’re going to have to be careful about sticking to their rules, or else you’re not going to actually be making baroque music. I’m drawn to chords that have dissonances to them. Like a suspension 4 chord (say a Gsus) that still has the third in it – so you’ve got that beautiful tension of an 11th chord (without the 7th and 9th necessarily). So maybe you’d call that a G add 4…lots of subjectivity around chord labels. I think that anyone who claims that there are hard and fast rules about what can be included or not included in music isn’t correct. It can all be music – it may just not be great music 🙂 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    With my Alstad stuff (piano instrumental) I started out collaborating with a friend, but for the last little while I’ve been doing it all on my own in my little studio in my garage. So very much a solo thing.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love sampled instruments! I use them all the time. There are so many legit sounding instruments out there right now and it’s never been easier to have a great sounding piece/album without needing to do it in a big studio with a real piano, etc., which costs a lot of money.  Obviously, using a real piano is ALWAYS ideal – sometimes just for the feel of it (which of course affects how you’ll play the piece) if for nothing else. But there are lots of great sampled instruments out there.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I appreciate the chance to be part of this blog! If people are interested in my music they can definitely check me out on Spotify, Apple Music, or any other music platform. Also, I curate a great little playlist called Chill Evening Music that’s filled with beautiful and reflective instrumental music. 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year oldson
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Ha ha – beautiful question! I think that my songs come from my heart. I really believe that we’ve all been made to create and it’s one of the ways that we speak about the things of the heart and the soul. Words often don’t do a good job of articulating what is going on in our inner lives and so music can really help us there. There’s an old, obscure passage in the Bible that says that God has placed eternity on the human heart. I think that when we make music, we are reaching for that eternity – we’re made for it and can’t help ourselves. So, I think that my songs come from a deep place of longing and of reaching towards the Divine! 

    Thanks for participating Cory!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Casey Crosby

    Today I’m introducing you to American pianist Casey Crosby, which we will get to know better in this Behind the piano article!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I come from Syracuse, NY.  I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Northern Virginia and later in a small town in rural Upstate New York. Since leaving university, my professional travels have taken me around the world. I have worked and played in many countries. In the past 20 years I have resided in Poland, Italy, Ireland, and Germany. Now I live in beautiful Switzerland.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started taking lessons at the age of 10, so I play the piano since 40 years. I also play the organ.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My grandmother got from Reader’s Digest a record of Beethoven’s 9th symphony which she gave me to listen to on her record player. The music blew my mind and I asked his mother to get me lessons on any instruments that could get me to play what I  heard. In my parent’s bedroom there was a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and a girl I liked had piano lessons on Wednesday’s so my mother booked me piano lessons on Wednesday’s after school for 50 cents.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since I was a teen. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    When I was 13, I was asked to provide some dramatic scoring for a play being performed by the school I was in at a statewide performing arts competition. I had to write down the notes for the judges to have. At the end of the competition, though the group did not win a prize, I was given an “honorable mention” for “lively and stimulating” musical support. That kind of got me “kick started” into thinking there was maybe something cool to be achieved with this. I never dreamed it’d turn into a career

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    For me there’s only one real pianist in this genre worth mentioning: George Winston. He was the first and coolest. You could throw around many names, but they all come back to him. We are all store brand generic cola. He is “classic coke”. It was during my university years that I was introduced to the music of George Winston. I attended my first concert of George Winston in 1989 in Lynchburg Virginia, VA. I began studying Winston’s influences of Jazz, R’n’B and stride piano. On a rainy Monday night in half a full auditorium in October 1995 in Utica, NY, I attended another concert of Winston. Winston walked onto stage in his traditional socks-no-shoes and flannel shirt look, sat down at the piano and quietly announced “This is a song by Larry Young called “The Cradle”. It was the only time I remember listening to a song and not breathing without realizing it. I caught my breath somewhere around measure 30. Winston’s music was crucial to shaping who I became as a composer and performer.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I wouldn’t say there are really any rules, so to speak, that need to be broken, but there is a certain mentality that should be obliterated, sooner rather than later. That is the whole lack of passion and due paying process that artists today feel entitled to skip. The desperate need for acceptance from social media and shiny gadgets and “likes”. While social media is important, I believe every composer in this genre should have one aim- and that is to perform for an audience. The balls to risk small crowds yet treat them to a full on 2 hour concert like its 500 people in Carnegie Hall. If I had to choose something other than mentality, it’d be to encourage pianists in this genre to find ways to be unique and virtuosic, and not use the same lame song titles and endless arpeggios for every song. People used to record albums when their ideas were completed. Nowadays pianists write songs in order to have a record. I think quality and individuality would be much better represented by people finishing their theme and “message” and then deciding whether it worthy to record or not.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I only record in label sanctioned recording studios. For example I recorded my latest album “November” in the Powerplay Studios in Maur, Switzerland, and I am planning to record my next album “Calix Meus Inebrians” there too. Artists from all over the world such as the Bee Gees, Keith Jarret or Prince record there. I wanted to have a high quality recording and the Powerplay Studios had everything I needed: A beautiful Steinway B211 Grand Piano (which I need to do some of my songs that use muted strings), all the technical equipment and a great engineer (thank you Reto!) who also mixed and mastered the album. It was totally worth it because I think the high quality result I got from recording in such a place played a part in getting “November” several awards, since they also value the recording quality of the music.  

    Thanks for participating in my Behind the piano series Casey!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Kaleidoscope of Colours

    A while back I wrote about the track Mimosa by the German artist Kaleidoscope of Colours, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    My name is Susanne Geisler. I’m a songwriter and and neoclassic composer, but a lot people know me from my artist project „Kaleidoscope of Colours“, under which I compose and perform neoclassical and minimal piano pieces. 

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I’m a synesthete, which means, when I listen to music or play my piano I immediately perceive colours, that are evoked in my brain. A lot artists have it – Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga. But because I had difficulties with traditional note reading, I startet my own way to compose – entirely on base of colors. My projects name is related to something Tori Amos once said, when she was asked how she would describe music (she is a synesthete as well), and she said something like „ … I’ve never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously similar chord progressions follow similar light pattern, but try to imagine the best KALEIDOSCOPE ever!“ I was so impressed by her biography and life, that I decided to use it as artist name. I knew from a very early age that I have that colour thing going on, but I didn’t knew that it was something special.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in Eastern Germany. I live and work in Berlin, which has a huge vivid neoclassical scene. People like Nils Frahm, Hauschka or even Max Richter, for whom I worked a few years, live here, getting inspired by the city. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    More than 25 years now.  I also play the guitar and sing. But honestly, I wouldn’t see myself as piano player. I see myself as musician. I keep it with Victor Wooten and what he said in his book „The music lesson“: that we are not pianists or guitarists or singers, but musicians. The music is already inside us and our instruments are what they are: tools to express ourselves. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was about 8 years old, I discovered my parents’ guitar and just started jamming, and when I was 14, I got a keyboard, with which I started playing my favorite songs from the radio by ear. I am entirely self-taught. I have always been able to memorize tones and sounds, but it was many years later that I really understood that I associate music with colors and that the colors are the reason for my good orientation. I remember myself sitting with my guitar and keyboard, it were calm, happy moments, everything felt natural. I had access to me. I didn’t have that when I was among other people. I was quite shy and an introvert nature, struggled with playing roles. Its like this with music until today. Thats why I became a musician. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I startet pursuing a professional career beginning of 2016. The piano is still my favorite instrument. The variety of the sound range also including its body has expanded incredibly in the last decades, from Prepared Piano, John Cage to Hauschka or Nils Frahm with the more percussive and experimental parts. I am always surprised to discover new sides at this instrument. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself
    I don’t remember a specific moment. I think it just happened naturally, when I started playing around with all my favorite songs. I started imitating, then jamming, becoming more free, and with jamming you automatically generate own ideas and then you use what you like most to develop further ideas. And at some point I don’t even need that. Now I just get inspired by nature and our environment, melodies, stories, feelings. I know a lot people started like I did. That’s how we wake up our creativity. Its like a muscle that needs to be trained. But it started with simple imitating, jamming, trying etc. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I like Yann Tiersen and the way he just does his thing, with the way he writes piano pattern. He is one of the most authentic and innovative composers I know. His ideas and hand pattern revolutionized the modern contemporary piano compositions. But also Philipp Glass using polyrhythm for piano or Hauschka, using the piano as percussion instrument. I wish there would be more women among the composers in this genre though. Its still mainly men who are present and visible. 

    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 a song, but certain colours and shapes, which I guess can be named as certain inversions of Major 7 Chord progressions. It start in my brown scale (Bflat major – my favorite scale) and then just follow certain colour hues. Scales, chords, notes, they all have certain colours and I just start painting 😉 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The rules of music notation! Definitely! I struggle a lot with that. I’ve read that Tori Amos was kicked out from school, because she struggled with reading it too. Maybe its a synesthetes thing.  Its like I have to learn a new language, every time I write for orchestra. I found a way to colour it, so that my brain understands it faster. I’ve read an article that in Japan they have made tests, using colours and shapes for writing down a song of the Beatles. It turned out that people who failed or had difficulties reading the traditional note system, could read the notes much faster. Maybe worth a try to open the rules for written music a bit. It hasn’t changed since Renaissance.

    How do you record your music?
    I work in a collective here in Berlin. I often work with my friend and producer Maxi Menot, one of the few female producers. And I have a little studio where I play and record ideas on an old steinway. For my upcoming EP I went to Lake Stechlin, which is the clearest sea in Northern Germany, and recorded several sounds to include it on my new EP.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Everything that helps us expressing our ideas and pursuing our creativity is worth using it. The market has developed very fast in the last years and sampled instruments help us creating, expanding our ideas, especially when you don’t have access to certain resources. I know, a lot people probably see that differently but for me its not so much about the tools or instruments we use, its what we use them FOR. For me it’s the creative result that matters. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Thank your for this great interview. I really enjoyed these questions!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Haha, that is a great question! From inside myself, I guess. First I get inspired by my environment, sounds, noises, stories and then I try to „translate“ it into my music, using my feelings and the inspiration. Its one of the best ways to spend your life time 🙂

    Thank you Susanne for sharing your story with us!

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