• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Tom Blankenberg

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Düsseldorf, Germany and I still live there.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    Maybe started with 7 or 8? My piano teacher and and I had like an on/off releationship. It started with maybe 7 or 8 for a short time, continuing briefly with around 12 and then again with 19… but not a long time in total.

    Do you play other instruments as well? 
    I played saxophone for a short peroid of time as a teenager, but very unskilled… and I can play the most common guitar chords for campfire situations!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I went to music school at a very young age for a first introduction in music, playing a small c-major glockenspiel. Then as a child i had those piano lessions. The Teacher loved „The Beatles“, so I was more used to play non-classical stuff. As a teenager I was into synthpop. So I started at 13 or 14 with a synthpop band, having only a few rehearsals, maybe just one… ha ha, this was more about having the image of being in a synthpop-band. After that experience I tried a little Sade-like popjazz and funk as saxophone player and/or keyboarder. Nothing long or serious. But after that I start playing piano, Rhodes and synth in the guitar-indie band, i’m still in. We released 4 albums so far. No. 5 is in the making.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I did only a few pieces when i was young (one of them ended up on my debut album 32 years later), but then I stopped somehow… and started working and having a family… I still did music in this guitar-indie band but I did not participate in the songwriting process. I fullfilled my demand for songwriting/composing doing soundtracks for a few short films. But 6 years ago I started doing solo piano music again more seriously.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was always there. I made tiny tracks or musical experiments with my brother as a kid. Those felt songish already. For me Making music was always making compostions too.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love the piano work of Ryuichi Sakamoto. A „piano genre“ artist I like very much is Hideyuki Hashimoto. And I regularly comming back to Matthew Bourne, Carles Viarnès 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    There’s a song of mine I come back to more often that to other ones. It´s „tori“, the opening track of my latest release.

    How long is your shortest song? 
    I did many very short ones for an audiobook, from 4sec. to 45sec. But on the album the shortest is I guess 56sec.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    It took me a long time to realize: ignore expectations and go out with your music! 

    Anything else you want to share?
    After stoping having piano lessions as a kid, my parents didn´t sell the piano. They hold it, it was always there. That was very important for my musical development. I was able to play it whenever I wanted to… Having access to a piano is very important for me now. My advice for everyone: don´t sell your instrument ever! Even the longest pause may end and then it´s like an old friend coming back. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    I don´t know. It feels like that they´re already there. I have to dig a while to reveal them completely… Then the songs tell me their stories or allow my to tell them.

    Thank you for this Tom! And thank you for that lovely record of yours!

    Please check out these links for more information:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Joseph Nimoh

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Ghana. But I currently live in Kansas, US

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I have been playing the piano for over 20 years now. I play a little drums and bass as well. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing at age 11 at my mom’s church. Initially, I wanted to play the drums but the church had two drummers already, so that was not going to work. It was around the same time that one of my brothers began playing guitar and showed my a few chords and how to play them on the keyboard. I was basically hooked after that. I started taking piano lessons later on. 

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    I have been making Piano music for about 18 years now. I spent a lot of years recording and producing other people’s music. But it wasn’t until recently that I started recording as a solo piano artist.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself! 
    I discovered this very early, as I was taking piano lessons. I realized that though I enjoyed playing all those piano etudes and what not, my true desire was to apply what I was learning and make my own music. I used to make my own songs out of the piano pieces I learnt while taking lessons.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?  
    I enjoy the music of several artist including Jim Brickman, Kevin Kern, David Lanz, but to mention a few.
    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 really don’t have a song like that. Most  of the time when I sit behind the keyboard, I’m trying to compose or work out some  interesting  idea, chords or harmonies going on in my head. I tend to compose in the moment.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I don’t let rules dictate my music. I go with what feels and sounds good. I learnt most of the rules so I can later break them to create something new. Being authentic is more important that trying to a cheap copy of something you’ll never be. We are all endowed with great talent already. All we need is to focus and polish that gift to where it can shine! 

    How do you record your music? 
    So far most of my recordings have been done at my home studio. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    Well, sampled instruments have gotten quite good these days. But I guess it depends on the material you’re working on, budget, convenience and the likes. However, for an instrument like the piano, I think it’s going to be very hard to capture the sound in it’s totality in a sample, just because the piano has a wide range of dynamics, subtleties, and nuances that you just cannot capture. My advice is always to work with what you have and build up from there. If you can afford to record on a real piano then by all means go for it.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Keep up the great work with the playlist! I encourage all who enjoy excellent piano music to give it a listen and be sure to follow! One of the reasons why I record is to inspire hope and healing through my music. We are all dealing with something, and so if I can be a source of hope or healing to anybody then I feel fulfilled. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    My songs come from my daily experience in life. Although, a good number of them also come my conversations with my two little boys. 

    Thank you for sharing with us Joseph!

    For more information, please check out these following links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Anna Yarbrough

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, but I now live in New York City.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano for around 26 years. I also play violin and sing, and occasionally experiment on guitar (badly).

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My father played piano a lot at home, and I grew up with books of Bach and Chopin lying around. I’d try to play them before I could even read notes. I took piano lessons early on, and was blessed with three incredible piano teachers in the time I was learning (Kathryn Bousfield, Michael Harrison, Michael McGuffin). 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve really only been writing seriously (for myself) for about a year and a half. I’ve played and studied all my life, but I was actually in the process of writing and recording songs when I stumbled into piano-composing. It’s something I never set out to do, but I absolutely love it. I’m still writing songs, but so glad I tripped into something I love just as much.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I’ve been creating and recording work for others for some time but never had any plans to become an ‘artist’ myself. Now that I have, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the process of mastery. The pursuit of perfection not just for the sake of it, but to touch on something sublime. It’s what drives me to write.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Too many to name! But Debussy is a hero of mine – he completely changed the way I heard music. Two current favorites are Johannes Motschmann – he wrote this beautiful piece called “Papillon”, and it’s perfect. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for some time. I’ve also been playing Susanne Geisler’s (aka Kaleidoscope of Colours) album “Music and Colours” a lot – again, really incredible work and her backstory as a synesthete is so interesting.

    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 write every single day (for both myself and others) and I have to say that I rarely play the same thing over and over again. But I’m trying to get less “busy” and find time to simply play. 

    How long is your shortest song? 
    “Intro: Underwater” comes in at 01:38. I wrote it as a mood piece to open my debut album.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The notion that we need to do things a certain way. I think there are certain expectations – subconscious or otherwise – when it comes to composing in any genre. There are always going to be certain things that are in vogue for a season, but getting too stuck in writing for what’s expected really limits creativity and the possibility of something new.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record both at home and in various studios around New York (or wherever else I happen to be traveling!). I’m looking forward to building out my own studio and performance space in the years to come – but I need a bit of patience on that one.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I’ll always be a purist in that I love the real thing – I love the experience, the tangible, the process. That being said, I think VIs can get a bad rap – they’re a handy tool when you need them, and they definitely open up some new possibilities. Best piece of advice I ever got was “use what’s in your hand”. If that’s a VI, use what you have. If that’s a broken down old acoustic, create a cool novelty project. I think we get bogged down on the “right” way to do things as artists – but just create. That’s the most important thing.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I’ve got a fun project in the works for later this year – but you’ll have to check back with me on that one!

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    What a great question. Kids are the best. I hear my songs in my head before I write them. I’m not sure how normal that is, but every note leads into the next for me – once I play something, I hear the rest of it before it has been written. From that point it’s just a matter of grabbing it before it escapes.

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Heim

    Late februari Heim released the debut single called Motif, which is a beautiful ambient/piano track. I thought it was tome to learn more about Heim!

    What’s your real name? 
    Jonas Andersson 

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    It means Home in northern Sweden dialect 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from the north of Sweden and have lived there for the most part of my life but five years ago I moved south. Now I recide just north of Stockholm.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    Pianos has always been around I guess. I started playing the trumpet as a kid actually, but switched to piano when I was about 15.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I was brought up in a family where music was a big part. My father was a music teacher who later became principal of the local music school, so it was kind of expected of me to play something. 🙂 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Well I have been making instrumental music for several years, but more on the electro side. Piano music is a quite recent path actually. I had all these musical ideas that I didn’t really know what to do with. I got inspiration from Icelandic hereos like Olafur Arnalds and Sigur Ros. Their music really shows the true emotional potential that piano music has.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I first got a music program called Notator, that could handle MIDI (yes, I was around in the eighties…) and I started making interpretations or covers if you will of famous songs. I learned about notation and harmonics and soon started making my own simple songs. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    As mentioned, Olafur Arnalds and Sigur Ros, but I have lately listened a lot to LUCHS.  

    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 rarely play my own songs actually. There are many other thoug. Ára Bátur by Sigur Ros to name one – simple but amazing!

    How long is your shortest song? 
    Haha, odd question. If you count my unfinished songs, just a few seconds! Other than that, I guess around 1:30-2 minutes. I want the listener to get something out of my music – a reward in the end of some sort. That’s why I often run the theme one last time in the end! 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Perfection! I like noises and other imperfections – if made with love of course, not out of laziness.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    Just myself, some instruments and the computer. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I blend in a lot of them, so it opens up a whole world of possibilites for us “home composers”. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Just keep playing, creating, consuming and enjoying good music! Music helps people to get by you know.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Good question! Sometimes an idea just pops up in my head. Other times I sit by my piano and play something. Sometimes I even accidentally miss a note and find a really nice chord to base a whole new song around. You never know, and that’s what’s so fantastic with music.

    Thank you Jonas! Looking forward to hear new music from you soon!

    Please check out these links for more information:
    Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Philip G Anderson

    A while back I introduced you to Philips song Along the forest floor, and now it’s time to take a deeper look into the artist Philip G Anderson.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised in Virginia, just outside of Washington DC. I’ve moved around a bit over the past decade after I graduated from college. I spent some time in Los Angeles and then moved to Chicago for a number of years but now live just outside of Atlanta, GA.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    This is a bit of an interesting question for me as there was never really a time where I “started” playing piano. When I was very young I used to play around on my family’s piano, but that was mainly just banging on keys with my index fingers so I’m not sure that really counts. When I was in college I played a little more piano in the practice rooms or on my MIDI keyboard mainly when writing music. After I graduated though I got a little more serious with piano and began practicing basic exercises and learning a few simple pop songs. However within the past 2-3 years is where I think I’ve developed most of my piano playing ability. I typically practice for about 1-2 hours a day during the week now. I’ve never taken a single piano lesson (I wish I had when I was younger) so I’m completely self taught. I actually grew up playing and training on drums. I played in the school band and took private lessons. However I haven’t played drums in years so who knows if I’m any good anymore! Lastly, I also play a bit of guitar. I compose music for commercial clients in addition to the numerous other things I do in music so that’s a skill I kind of needed to know for the kind of music I typically write for that.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I think I started playing music because I’ve always been fascinated by it. I say “I think” because I’ve been playing music in some way or another for as long as I remember. I can’t remember a time before I was so captivated by music and playing it. My earliest memories of music are of film and video game scores growing up. I often listened to that kind of music more than I listened to pop music. Because that music is so unique, I think I wanted to create my my own music like it. I was inspired by those soundtracks.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’d say I’ve been making piano music for about 3 years now. I’d been writing parts for piano in my music for years prior to that, but I didn’t really start focusing on piano driven pieces and modern classical music until about 2015/2016 when I first discovered the genre and style.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Another tough question because that moment was so far back I’m not sure if I can remember it! As I mentioned before, I’d been fascinated by music and playing it for as long as I remember. Part of that fascination was actually writing and composing pieces. Now at that age, all of the music I wrote was just awful, but it’s where I first developed my passion for composing music. An easier related question to answer would be what was the moment I realised I could pursue a career in writing music. That came in college when I took a course where I had to write a piece of music to go with a video. I’d never been so excited for classwork before than in that class! I loved doing that and after that class I realised I could and wanted to pursue this as a career.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    In terms of purely piano music, I’d say Nils Frahm, Chad Lawson, Olafur Arnalds, Philip Daniel, Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, and Jameson Nathan Jones. But my favorite 2 artists who are also pianists and have written piano music are Max Richter and Johann Johannsson. All of the music by all of those artists is incredible.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Yes! It’s a piece I wrote recently and every time I sit down at the piano I can’t help but play it. I don’t know what makes it so fun to play! I also don’t have a name for it yet, but It’ll be on a future release of mine for everyone to hear.

    How long is your shortest song?
    2:02. My piece “Lakes”, a solo piano piece off my new album, is the shortest piece I’ve written so far. When I was writing it I kept thinking I have to make it longer but everything I tried to add on to it just didn’t feel right so I left it at 2:02.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of them. Creating music requires creativity and experimentation. If you’re trying to adhere to a set of rules that’ll only limit the possibilities of what you can create. There’s nothing quite like hearing a completely new piece of music with new ideas, or instruments, or recording techniques. Don’t write something in a certain way because “that’s the way you do it”. Create something new!

    How do you record your music?
    I don’t have a set way (going back to breaking the rules!). I’ve recorded in professional recording studios, a church, in my own studio, in my own bedroom and each yields different results. It just depends on the project and what I’m trying to capture with the recording. I’ve also worked with recording engineers and also acted as the recording engineer for my own music. In terms of that though, I do prefer to have someone else focus on the actual recording and gear so that I can focus on the music and other musicians if there are any.

    For Portraits, a previous release of mine, we recorded a string quintet in a large church because I wanted to capture the natural reverb and space of the church itself. I couldn’t have done that in a recording studio. I also hired a recording engineer for that session so that I could conduct the musicians and focus on getting the best performance from them instead of worrying about the engineering side of the session.

    Then for another piece of mine entitled Close, I recorded upright piano in a small recording studio because I felt that would get the best result. In just over a week, I’ll be recording a cellist in my own studio with my own gear. So again, I don’t have a set way, I just go by what I feel will be best for the specific project or piece I’m working on. That also goes for recording techniques. I may not place microphones on a piano or a cello the same way every time I record. I go by what sounds best for the specific instance I’m in.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I have a love/hate relationship with sample libraries. They’re incredible and powerful tools that give everyone the ability and means to compose and produce incredible music! But they also can become stale and old really fast and they can’t replicate the feeling and emotion of a live player being recorded. I use them in my music only when I need to. For example, I don’t have the budget to record a full orchestra, but I really want to have a bigger sound than just a solo string player. So I’ll record a solo violin player live and then layer a string sample underneath that performance so that it makes the overall part sound bigger, but it still has the feeling and uniqueness captured by that live performance. This is something I had to do on my latest album. The string parts were recorded with live players, but then I layered sample strings underneath them to get a bigger sound.

    The other problem I have with sample libraries is that they’re only 1 specific sound. So if I have a specific sound in mind for a piece, but I’m using a sample library that doesn’t sound like that, I’m stuck. And that’s where they can become old and stale because you’re hearing the same sounds and same performances over and over. Now, they are also wonderful because I do a lot of custom scoring work where I need to produce music from just about every genre and style there is but I don’t have the ability and the client doesn’t have the budget to hire players for all those parts and instruments to be recorded live. For example, I may be scoring a trailer that the client wants to have epic orchestral music in but 1, they can’t afford to hire a 60 piece orchestra, and 2, they don’t have the time to organize that kind of recording session because of tight deadlines. That’s where sample libraries are wonderful. It gives me, the composer, the ability to produce the music that the client wants. However when producing my own music, I try to avoid sample libraries and prefer to create and define my own unique sound.

    Anything else you want to share?
    In case it wasn’t already clear, I just released a new album entitled “Wilderness” which is inspired by the desire to escape and explore the outside world. I hope it inspires listeners in the same way that I was inspired when writing it! (you can read more about the album here)

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    The song genie of course! Haha, I wish I knew the answer to that question.

    Writing music is one of the strangest things for me. Before my fingers touch the keyboard I have no idea what I’m about to write or play. I’ll start off playing 1 note, or 1 chord and then react to that. It’s very free flowing, very improvisational, almost magical. I rarely even stay in 1 key when playing now. I don’t do much thinking when composing or playing, I just play. It’s liberating and an incredible feeling to have so many creative possibilities at my fingertips.

    Thank you very much for this Philip! I esepessaly enjoyed your thought on sampled instruments as well as your thought on recoding music.

    For more information, please check out these following links!
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Gian Marco Castro

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Italy and I live in Augusta (Italy).

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    I have played the piano for 11 years, now I’m 23.

    Do you play other instruments as well? 
    No but I’m able to compose for any instrument.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    S
    ince when I’m was a child I loved classical music because my father was a musician too.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    When I listened to some neoclassical tracks and I thought “It would be awesome compose something that could be beautiful like this”!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick and Òlafur Arnalds

    How long is your shortest song? 
    Maybe 1 minutes but it’s a piano track that I composed for a Series called “Hidden”.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    just be yourself, don’t copy from other composers, try to create something never hears and listen a lot of music and not just the genre that you compose!

    Check out these social links for more information:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Kyle Preston

    Some time ago I introduced you to Kyle Prestons album Paper Piano. A fantastic album where Kyle tried out a new damping technique by using different kinds of paper between the hammer and the strings of his piano. Today it’t time to get to know Kyle a bit better!

    Where Are You From and Where Do You Live?
    I was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia and moved around a lot as a kid. Eventually ending up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, in Seattle, WA.

    How Long Have You Been Playing the Piano and Do You Play Other Instruments As Well?
    My mother was a piano teacher and I started learning how to play around 4 – 5 years old. I continued to take lessons until I was 13. Around that time, my brothers bought me an acoustic guitar for my birthday and I played that thing all the time. I also joined all the music groups I could in school playing trumpet in symphonic band, jazz band, marching band, etc…

    Tell Us About How You Started Playing Music.
    I remember my Mom teaching me how to play some of the great classical works as I learned piano; Bach, Brahms and others. As I got older, I started learning how to play the rock music I enjoyed listening to, Nirvana, Silverchair and bands like that.

    How Long Have You Been Making Piano Music?
    For as long as I’ve been reading and writing words.

    Tell Us Something About That Moment You Realized You Could Make Songs Yourself!
    After learning a few basic chords on guitar, I immediately started writing my own songs. They were terrible and boring but for some reason, learning the guitar became a deeper form of expression for me. And that changed my thinking of other instruments as well. I started thinking of the piano more as an instrument of emotional expression as opposed to a device used to perform other people’s songs. It was therapeutic to sit there and just play without any regard for the rules.

    Who Are Your Favorite Artists in This “Piano Genre”?
    I really enjoy the work Dustin O’Halloran has released, his piano records are so lovely. Max Richter as well, both his piano and orchestral music.

    Is There One Song Which You Play Over and Over Again As Soon As You Sit Down By the Piano?
    I don’t play my songs much after I finish recording them. To be honest, I don’t enjoy listening to them once they’re finished and released. But, the past few years, I always find myself playing this cue from the Benjamin Button soundtrack, by Alexandre Desplat. I think it’s called Meeting Daisy. There’s something about that piece that’s simultaneously optimistic and melancholy, I never get tired of playing it.

    How Long Is Your Shortest Song?
    I wrote a piano piece called First Principles that is 1:07. Real petite!

    What Rules (In Making Music) Need To Be Broken?
    There are a lot! I think some composers (myself included) tend to get in our own way far too often. It’s easy to obsess over the technology you’re using to create your work. A lot of people will tell you the “correct” way to do things but you have to remember that for thousands of years, we passed down music orally and through live performance. Most listeners don’t shut down their emotions if they find out you recorded your work with this microphone instead that microphone. If your work moves them, it moves them. Start from there and expand your tech, not the other way around.

    How Do You Record Your Music?
    I record and perform nearly everything myself. Although, I’m going to hire mix engineers for my work in the future – it gets hard to maintain objectivity after listening to the same songs for several months.

    What’s Your Take On Sampled Instruments?
    Sampled instruments have provided a window for several artists to discover how to write for the orchestra. I think that is a tremendously good thing. In a lot of ways, it’s helped some of us convince film and game studios to hire real players. But writing for sampled instruments is so different than writing for live instruments. They are very different disciplines. But I genuinely love the way sampled instruments allow us to break the rules of convention in such profound ways.

    The Last Question Is Asked By My 5 Year Old Son:
    Where Do All Your Songs Come From?

    What a great question. For me personally, my songs come from a need to express my emotions. It’s an emotional labor of love that I never get tired of. It helps me make sense of the world and share empathy with others.

    Thank you for all of this Kyle!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Paul Constable

    A couple of weeks ago I presented to you the song A silent tear by Paul Constable. It’s about time we got to know him a bit better!

    Hi Paul!
    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from northern Minnesota along the border between the US and Canada and currently live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. A couple of musicians of note hailed from those areas (Bob Dylan and Prince) although sadly our paths never crossed. I think for musicians, at least before the days of Netflix and 500 TV channels the long winters in the Northland contributed to lots of introspection and perhaps longer practice sessions since your recreational options would be sometimes limited by the temperature and weather. I have no data to back that up. It’s just a wild theory of mine.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since about the third grade, around seven or eight years old. I also played acoustic guitar through my high school and college years. I spent some time in Guatemala when I was around 17 with a cousin who was a luthier. He told me he would help me build some guitars and that he always gave away whatever he built. So I learned a lot about guitars musically and construction-wise and did build a couple under his direction and indeed gave them to a couple of Guatemalan friends. I’ve always been curious about where they eventually ended up. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My sister and brother and I all had piano lessons from an early age. Since my father was a minister there were always pianos in the church and parsonages to play and I took advantage of that. I would end up playing for services and even funerals when I was still pretty young, 11 or 12. I remember a piano teacher giving me a book of Boogie-Woogie and Dave Brubeck and from then on I was hooked. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been playing (wow I’d never really thought about this much) for around 50 years. I should probably be a lot better than I am after all that time.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Actually that was pretty late in the game. I had played both solo and in a variety of bands through the years doing mostly covers or versions that included a lot of improvisation. But I never thought of myself as a composer even though I had taken quite a few music classes, including theory, in college. I recall going to a George Winston concert probably back in the early 80’s and remember thinking how effortless his music seemed but it didn’t connect with me then that I should try it myself.

    About two years ago I started attending some songwriter sessions in Minneapolis at The Warming House, a great venue that supports and nurtures the artist community in the Twin Cities and they gave me honest feedback and encouragement. From then on I started learning about studio production techniques and I found the most satisfying result to me was a rich and full solo piano sound with minimal production. (I guess that would make me a post-minimalist.) I do remember the moment sitting down at the keyboard, clearing my head and letting a melody just sort of unfold itself and letting it pull me along to its conclusion. Once I discovered the sort of mental space I needed to be in and fostered that, the next tunes came easier.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Well, George Winston and Michele McLaughlin immediately come to mind as a couple of the most well-known that I like. And I love listening to someone that is fairly new, Alexander Lorella, and also Yimura. So many new and talented artists are appearing that are a joy to discover. We’re fortunate to be living in this time.

    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?
    There’s not one in particular although I tend to find myself playing “Peaceful Passage” from Dreams quite a bit when just noodling around looking for the muse.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    What a thoughtful question! I guess a rule I’ve been breaking is related to tempo.  I sometimes have my wife give me some feedback and often it’s related to slowing, slowing it down, making it relaxing, with few surprises. So I’m playing in rubato often. I want my listeners to experience what I’m feeling at the moment of writing something. I want them to have that same feeling of relaxation and I don’t particularly want to captivate or wow them with anything technically. So I tend to be slow and lingering.

    I’ve also heard of the “rule of three” applied to music where you want to always be trying to maintain interest – two similar things/ideas and then something different. It’s also I guess sometimes applied to comedy and photography. I think though, in this genre for me the idea is not necessarily to impress and entertain but guide the listener on a relaxing journey. I guess I kind of went on a bit of a journey myself in answering this question.

    How do you record your music?
    I thought about renting studio time for Dreams and was about to book some time. But I pondered it a bit more thinking about some studio experiences I’ve had in the past, and realized I could be much more relaxed and spontaneous and more in control of when I record if I was able to do it all myself while maintaining the same production quality. So I used some of the budget to buy and learn a DAW as well as other recording equipment. I’m pretty happy with the results. I didn’t do the mastering myself. That seems to require a special touch I’m not sure I have yet.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I like some of the pianos that come with Reason, a DAW I’m using but I didn’t use any of them on Dreams. I really love the Royal Grand 3D that comes with Nord products. So I used that on some of the tunes.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    I think everybody must be born with a whole bunch of “songs” inside them. The trick is finding the key to unlock and let them out. Sometimes I find the key for “releasing” a song after a great conversation, a delicious meal, a strenuous exercise session or after writing or reading an inspiring poem.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Well, I’d like to say I’m very much honored to be part of this series and really appreciate the work that’s being done with the blog and the site in supporting musicians.

    Thank you for this Paul! And you are also very welcome! I’m glad this blog I being appreciated by the community!

    Please check out these link for more information about Paul and the music he makes:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Maria Grönlund

    A couple of months back I wrote a little something about Maria Grönlunds (then new) single June and Me, and now it’s time to get to know Maria a little better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am a Swedish pianist and composer, born on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Nowadays I live in Stockholm.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    We inherited a black and shiny upright piano from my grandfather when I was about to turn six. My mother had always dreamed of learning how to play but hadn’t had the chance to do that when she was a child. She found us a piano teacher and we started taking lessons at the same time, having a lot of fun playing four handed pieces together. She of course learned much quicker than me in the beginning, but there was a little competition between us (at least from my side) that spurred me to work harder, and I will never forget the feeling when I passed her in piano skills!

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Going to music lessons after the ordinary school was a big part of my childhood and young years. I just loved being in the world of music, everything about it. The sounds in the hallway from different instruments being practiced behind closed doors, the smell inside of an instrument case, the fascinating secret symbols and signs in the sheet music that tells you how melodies go even if it’s two hundred years ago that they were made up…

    Do you play other instruments as well? 
    I sing a lot, and sometimes I make compositions entirely out of my voice, singing harmonies and treating them with different kinds of sound design. Other than that I play the guitar, the accordion, a bit on flutes, and as a part of my education I have studied some drums, bass, recorders, harpsichord, trumpet and bassoon.

    And sound design is fun, you can make music out of almost any kind of sound in a computer.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Coming from a classical background, starting out as a very sheet music based musician, and also never having known anybody who made their own music it didn’t cross my mind that I could possibly make up music on my own. When I was at the Royal College of Music the composers education was something you might be able to enter after four years of education, if you’d pass the hard tests. I never even thought about it, I had my hands full with all the wonderful things that were offered to me to learn – playing different kinds of instruments, writing arrangements, learning the ins and outs of ear training and music theory, music history, singing and playing together and all the different styles of music. I have a very inquiring mind and loved every minute.

    After the education I started to teach Upper Secondary students in music. I was amazed about their disrespect to what I (subconsciously) had learned about who was allowed to make up music. As soon as they had learned three chords on the guitar they wrote their own songs and saw themselves as the worlds greatest songwriters. And their eyes glowed with pride in a way I never saw in any other kind of school activities. It was like they discovered they actually had beautiful souls – how else could they have created something so good?

    They gave me my life’s most important music lesson and inspired me to start expressing myself.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    In my chamber – for a long time. But I guess I never really took it seriously and never had the urge to become an artist, so I mostly kept it to myself. I guess shyness played a part in it too. 

    I just started going out publicly with it, realizing music is to be shared. Someone might need to hear it. I get thrilled when people tell me they discovered it and that listening to it makes their lives a little bit easier for a moment.

    I have composed and released other kinds of music in collaboration with others before though, mostly under the name Sounds like Friday, and I also make and record string arrangements for other artists.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love the work of Ólafur Arnalds, Poppy Ackroyd, Analogue Dear and even though they are not pianists I also get very inspired by Zoe Keating and Imogen Heap. The album I’m working on will be piano centered, but also have some guest musicians and some electronica on it.

    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 constantly ”doodle” – whether it is by unawarely singing or whistling to myself or by improvising on the piano. So it’s mostly different stuff, always mood based. But one piece I often come back to is Arabesque nr 1 by Claude Debussy. I have it in my fingers, and I just love his elegant winding Art Nouveau melodies and rich harmonies.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The rule of the need to impress and be ’very good’, ’trendy’ or ’up to par’, and to play after someone else’s rules. Music is about communication, of speaking in this invaluable non-word language about all the secret wisdom about our lives and beings that we don’t consciously understand. It is about expressing what it is to be a human, and about sharing joy and hope and a sense of community.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I am releasing solo piano singles with about a month between them during the spring, and will release my solo debut album Songs of a Sad Sailor after the summer. I also pop up solo piano covers of songs I like on my social medias every now and then.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    This is by far the best question of them all. I actually have written a whole song about it, after having listened to Ingmar Bergman’s radio ”Summer talk”, where he asked the same question.

    It comes from the shining stars
    from open air over the oceans
    It comes from the rolling meadows
    and flight of the birds towards free skies

    It comes from the place of rest
    from peace in the light of fires
    From glimmering eyes in dark nights
    and deep rolling belly-warm laughters

    And the music lights up your heart’s deepest corner
    plays on your hidden strings
    Of the secrets beyond the words and the reasons
    is what the music sings

    It comes from the memories
    from those you forgot that you have
    It’s speaking of all that you know
    and such you didn’t think there is

    It comes from the arms and laps
    consoling and stroking your cheek
    It’s telling that joy is still here
    it’s telling that love does exist

    And the music lights up your heart’s deepest corner
    plays on your hidden strings
    Of the secrets beyond the words and the reasons
    is what the music sings”

    Wow. Thank you!

    I will definitely read these lyrics to him and get back to you. The might be a small language barrier however, since he is five years old and only speaks Swedish. But I’ll try 🙂

    Please check out these links for more information about Maria and her music
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Jennie Löfgren

    A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Jennies record company regarding her (then) upcoming release Dreamology. Except getting sent songs pretty much daily through Sumbithub, this was the first time I was contacted by phone regarding the blog. It felt kind of big!

    A fun little anecdote is that I the day before got a call from a similar mobile number, but then it was those guys from india claiming they were from microsoft and wants to rescue your computer from some kind of virus… So I guess I didn’t sound so happy answering the phone when Jennies representatives called. Sorry for that!

    Back to Jennie then!

    Hi Jennie! Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was in born in Östersund, in the northern part of Sweden. When I was 18, I moved to Stockholm, where I still live today.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    My father was a musician so growing up,  we had a music room. I can’t even remember when I started playing the piano. I’ve always played the piano, haha!

    I also play the flute, I sing and play a little bit of guitar and drums. I wish I knew how to play the violin or cello! It’s not too late to learn, is it?

    (It’s not)

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Playing the piano was something I did everyday, like breathing or eating. It was always there. I started playing the accordion at age 8 then I moved on to learning how to play the flute and then I started singing in a rock band at the age 12-13.

    Foto: Stefan Lundaahl

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was very young and I had heard my father play a piano piece by Chopin. I started playing the beginning by ear but I couldn’t remember the rest, so I just made up my own ending. My own version of the song. 

    That’s my first memory of realizing that I could actually write something myself.  A happy memory!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are so many it’s impossible to answer,  but growing up there was a lot of Satie, Michael Nyman and Chopin and I think that sometimes comes through in my own 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? 
    Michel Nymans “The Heart Asks Please First” – I ALWAYS play that when I come to a piano.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I love to strive for simplicity (it is MUCH more difficult then making something weird and complicated) and then just when you think you know what’s gonna come, I do a little unexpected twist so it doesn’t become boring.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record it myself in my studio. When it comes to the piano: I work with a mix of 2 sampled pianos and 2 real pianos. It’s the secret recipe for “my sound”.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love them! But I always mix them with real instruments and musicians. I love the luxury of recording a real string orchestra and then adding a fat synth bass to maximize the sound. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Take a warm bath and listen to my personal favourite piano-pieces in my playlist Dream On Dreamer on Spotify.  

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jennie!

    For more information about Jennie and her music, please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify