• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Gianluca Piacenza

    A while back, I introduced you to the song Sometimes by Gianluca Piacenza. Today it’s time to learn more about Gianluca!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Italy, and I live in Piacenza, a small city just 70km away from Milano.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the piano when I was 4 or 5 years old, I also played a little bit of electric guitar in my teenage years but I have always been captured by electronic music and synthesizers, samplers and drum machines!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I think I’ve always been playing something! When I was maybe 3 years old I received as a gift a little toy snare drum with two sticks and began hitting it! Then I had a little “Bontempi” keyboard and a Casio mini-synth. Then my family rented an upright piano, a beautiful Petrof which I have now in my studio and then I started taking formal piano lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Being academically trained in both piano and composition, I only started writing piano music when I was a student at the local conservatory, but at that time I was more of an contemporary-experimental composer. Than I understood that my emotions need a minimal and simple language to transfer to the listeners, and my modern-classical piano journey began.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    When I was a student I had the fortune to have one of the first prosumer Tascam 4 track tape recorders: I could layer piano and synths, drum machines, vocals together and then I started experimenting and adding more gear. Then listening to the results I said to myself: good, you must improve but maybe you could become a composer and a producer! I have so much raw material, piano tracks, songs, orchestral compositions in my hard drives, but I try only to release what in my opinion add something unique and special or has a really deep connection with my soul.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have so many, but probably I must say Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I don’t have a specific song I play when I sit at the piano, but I always start improvising something and get in touch with the instrument (especially if its a piano I never played before): I explore the timbre, melodic capability, dynamic and then try to make it sing….

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my opinion there are simply no rules: as we speak of art, everything become subjective and everyone could potentially have something to say. The problem is that only a minimal fraction of what an artist produce today is really a masterpiece (this is the reason why classical composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin etc. will always stay in another league).

    How do you record your music?
    I’ve always been interested in recording gear and now I’m very proud of my “Red Couch Studio”, a perfect space for my music in which I have an treated piano room for clean recordings (and a beautiful Yamaha grand) but also a control room with my upright Petrof and a bunch of analog synths and effects. So I learned to record myself properly but at the same time I always like exploring new techniques.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them and I like them very much, it’s fantastic to see what awesome tools we have now as modern composers… But I firmly believe that a real instrument and a real performance are on another level of depth and emotion.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Being an indie artist could be very demanding and demotivating at times: I’m trying to develop a real audience for my music, and I really think indie artists are the most interesting these days and I’m always discovering new unexpected talents… Sad thing is that almost nobody else know them… So if you like an artist, please support him and above all spread the word with all your friends!

    And as always, the question my 5-year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    The inspiration for my music come from everywhere: it could be an emotion, a travel, a book or a picture, a natural sound… But at the end of the day I hope all my songs come from my heart and my soul and are a path to know me as a real person also.

    Thank you very much Gianluca!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Thomas Hewitt Jones

    I have previously written and forced you to listen to the fantastic music by British composer Thomas Hewitt Jones. And now it’s time to dig a bit deeper into out knowledge about this man!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Dulwich, London and my family came from Gloucestershire. Many of my relations are still there and it feels like home, in some kind of way. I currently live in Bickley, near Bromley.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano and cello from when I was about 4 years old. I also play the organ and keyboards in general – and odd instruments which lie around my studio. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Many of my family are musicians, and so I grew up around it. There was also science in the family, but music won me over!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing as long as I remember, and from a young age found myself interested in writing down and structuring my own music, as well as enjoying performing and communicating it to others. Without sounding overly pretentious, the ability of music to communicate that which words cannot is a lifetime’s fascination for me.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was given an old tape recorder with a microphone. I initially used it to record pretend ‘radio programmes’ as a kid, but quickly became interested in recording music which I had written. My school also had a printer and binding machine, so I started printing my own schoolboy music as well!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love listening to all kinds of performers and pianists. The ones which really speak to me make whichever music they are playing incredibly fresh and appealing, as if it has just been written.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Playing Bach at the keyboard is something I do to relax, and I absolutely love it. His music is contrapuntal as well as just vertical, and so it is a feast for ears, eyes and brain.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Music would be boring if everyone wrote in diatonic harmony all the time. That said, our musical ancestors have evolved music to the point it is at, and so to compose music today without at least being aware of the basic rules of harmony and counterpoint is not only disrespectful but limiting. This is why I believe we need to deliberately break the rules in our own ways to achieve an individual style, rather than totally disregard them. In the 1960s and 1970s musical composition went as far as it can ever go away from any sense of order, and I personally feel that human emotion can now be expressed in all kinds of creative ways through music without totally throwing out what came before.

    How do you record your music?
    I usually record large orchestras in central London in studios designed for the task, and smaller projects and overdubs at my home studio. I do sometimes mix myself, but tend to get mastering done elsewhere as a separate pair of ears (of a mastering engineer you trust) can help a record.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them, but usually write away from the computer first and record as many live instruments as the budget allows, because writing music straight into a sequencer to make samples sound good can be extremely limiting.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Every human on this earth should have access to music as it helps us communicate – cavemen knew this! It has an untold number of benefits to people’s lives, despite governments’ unwillingness to allocate enough funding for a proper musical education which should be a birthright. 

     I would add that writing music is an obsessive, tiring, wonderful, addictive, intense, fulfilling occupation.

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

    God knows…I don’t think any creative really knows!

    Thank you very much for this interview Thomas!

    For more information, please check out any of the following links:
    Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Luke Duffy

    A while back, we listened to Luke Duffys tune Telltale signs together. Now it’s time to have a deeper conversation with Luke to learn more about the artist behind the song!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Dublin, Ireland, but have been living in Iceland for the last three years. Met a lovely Icelandic girl when I was in Dublin and I followed her to the icey North.

    Oh, Iceland! Have you learned the language yet?
    Yes, well, I’ve learned it enough to get by. I teach music in a school here and I use it everyday!

    Did your move to Iceland have an effect on your music making? I mean; many of the great ones comes from there.
    It did have an effect I suppose. I was already listening to a lot of Icelandic composers: Johann Johannson, Soley, Olafur Arnalds; so it was a soundworld I enjoyed. Although I don’t go out of my way to write programme music based on landscape or places, on some level everything is an influence and the natural beauty here is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano, or at least learning to play piano since I was around 5 years old. I can get away with a few chords on guitar and I was always an avid singer, but piano is my passion. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Well, I, like many children, was put into piano classes from a young age. It’s a bit of a gamble I suppose because I’ve seen young students who end up resenting their instrument because their parents forced them into it, but thankfully I was one of the fortunate ones who grew to love it. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    My interest in writing for piano didn’t come until I was half-way through my undergrad degree in Music Education. There was an option to try out composition and thanks to some encouraging teachers I ended up realising I had quite a liking for it. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It’s hard to pinpoint a particular moment, but the first year or so when I began exploring my own voice on the piano was a really interesting one. When you have spent a long time learning to play pieces from other composers, you’re really sponging up all of that influence. Although it sounds like the ultimate freedom, it can be a daunting task to sit at the piano and think about coming up with something ‘worthy’ of being written down or played. Getting past those insecurities is something I think every composer has to come to terms with. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Hmmm, that’s a tough one. The issue of putting music into these little genre boxes is a conversation in itself, but in terms of composers that use a lot of piano, there’s a long list. I’m a fan of Dustin O’Halloran; his own early piano releases are really beautiful and melodic. Craig Armstrong in a similar way has some very chorale-like pieces which I listen to now and again. They both walk that line between melodically-driven and more ambient soundscapes. My list of classical influences would be an essay in itself but to be honest. Iceland has a whole bunch of inspiring composers, both for piano and otherwise, so it’s a good creative atmosphere to be in. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Whatever I’m working on at the moment takes precedence, I can find it hard to juggle multiple things so often I’ll keep ironing out the same piece until I’m satisfied. But besides that, I’ll play through a lot of standard repertoire that I have picked up over the years if I need a relaxing evening: Schumann, Grieg, Mendelssohn, the Romantics. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I’d have to get back to you on this one. I would like to think it’s less about breaking rules necessarily, but at the same time when you take things to the extreme end of the bell curve you can learn a lot about your own music making. 

    How do you record your music?
    If it’s piano music, then I am happy recording myself. Otherwise you kind of have figure out your own way. Recording music for larger ensembles is not a cheap endeavour if you’re undertaking it alone, so I’d rather write music knowing it can be heard rather than writing for a massive orchestra without it having been commissioned.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they are a great tool to composers. I use sampled piano software called Pianoteq quite a bit, and although not perfect, I think it’s fun to have something that you can manipulate a lot easier than if you’re recording acoustically. That said, there’s no replacing the real thing. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Well just a definite thank you to you and other small independent bloggers for doing what you guys do. It’s a lot of work and often a lot of thankless work. 

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

    I’ll have to ask them one by one, they must be floating in through one of these open windows. 

    Thank you very much for this Luke!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Jacob LaValle

    A couple of months ago we all listened to Jacob LaValle and his tune Night walk. Today it’s time to get to know Jacob a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in Nashville, TN in the US, but I grew up in the state of Florida. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano since age 7, and am 31 now, so many more years on the piano than off. It often feels like an extension of my self. I do also play the guitar and drums some, but not on a professional level.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I started playing music as a 2nd grader taking piano lessons, but I was always the student who never practiced what I was supposed to. My mom used to make me stay at the piano for 30 minutes every day, but we had a digital piano so I would wear headphones when practicing. I rarely practiced as I was supposed to, but would just messed around with the keys instead, basically trying to play songs I knew and liked. This is largely how I learned to write.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    A moment I realized I could make my own songs was one day when I was at that same keyboard, I think I was around 12 years old, and my first little two hand composition just kind of came out. Although I’ve never recorded it or written it down, I can still remember it to this day.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m really enjoying all the exploration that is going on taking from the influences of both classical and popular genres. Some of my favorites doing this today are Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, Joep Beving, Alexandra Streliski among others. I think it’s an exciting time for piano music, there’s a lot of tasteful things being done that reach the modern listener in a deep but relatable way. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually when I sit down at the piano, I will usually have a few chords that I’ve been playing around with recently, which I’ll start with and just kind of see where the inspiration flows. It acts as a kind of springboard into playing and composing, but those chords are constantly being changed out for other ones. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Great question! I think any rules which stand in the way of the communication of a certain sought after feeling are the ones that need to be broken. I know that is a pretty philosophically approached answer, but I think it’s also how innovation in music happens. When the set of current rules, or toolbox, is lacking in it’s ability to communicate a feeling effectively, new things will begin to be created out of necessity.

    How do you record your music?
    I record my own music in my home studio on my Yamaha U3. It is acoustically treated and is able to produce the sound I desire for a softer upright tone. When I want a grand piano sound though, there are some great studios in Nashville that I like to rely on.  

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they are tools, just like anything else. They can be used well or they can be used poorly. That being said, there is an emotional component that I believe cannot be fully reproduced by samples, as you have the full dynamic between a human being, their instrument, and the music they’re playing coming together for full resonance of all those emotional subtleties that make music, music. It’s hard to top real musicians for emotional expression.

    And, as always the question my five year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Great question from your son! Well my belief is that we are all created in the image of God. So that makes us like him in certain ways, like creativity. I believe the songs I make are just small recreations of what God has already made. Small reflections of the beauties in his original design. That’s part of what makes it so much fun to create, I know I’m just a very small participant in these beauties that are much grander than myself. 

    Thank you Jacob for your answers! Now we know you a little better; as planned!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: no-kë

    Hi there no-kë!

    What’s your real name?
    Cassie To

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    My Artist name is actually my dog’s name split in two (Noke/no-kë) Originally when i started to release music, I wanted to keep it seperate to the music I wrote for television, TV and concert music, and wanted a name that was gender neutral. Now though everything is all linked together and my dog doesn’t seem to mind borrowing her name!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Im from Australia and currently live in Sydney 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano for 21 years and started when I was 4. I think i learnt how to read music before I could read words! I have a small collection of different instruments, including Chinese flutes and Erhu, however can only play the flute and saxophone well out of that collection as I played them during school.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I didn’t really have a choice in that it was something my parents introduced me to when I was very young, and didn’t really think much about it as a kid.  I think my teachers realised I had a knack for it so I kept it up all through high school and later studied  music at university. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I think my first ever composition I wrote was for piano when i was about 16. Funnily enough now I don’t often write solo piano music (although I think its something I should return to more often!), but a lot of my pieces will feature piano. So I guess on and off for 9 years

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I would have been about 15 or 16, at the time I had just performed a solo Joe Hisaishi piano piece at my schools music festival, and I remember all these people saying how beautiful the music was and how it made them feel, and me feeling like I hadn’t really done anything cause all I did was play his music. So i decided to try and write something myself and it ended up being quite popular with my friends and music teachers! That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the art of performance!! I think at that time I felt really inspired by Hisaishi’s music and how it could effect myself and people in such an emotional way and really wanted to see if I could do that myself. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Currently Ludovico Einaudi

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I always play Joe Hisaishis solo piano music when I’m sitting at the piano, particularly Ashitaka and San from the movie Princess Mononoke. That and probably Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation on a theme by Paganini as its my dads favourite and he always asks me to play it. Ive also been playing my most recent release ‘Prelude’ a lot

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think the idea that every time you write music it has to be ‘innovative’ and ‘new’ and ‘ground breaking’. Throughout my years at the Conservatorium this was something that always seemed to be a pre requisite – and I get it, without these things music wouldn’t develop and we wouldn’t be where we are with it today, but sometimes I think you should be able to write a piece purely for yourself and not have to be accountable to other peoples expectations 

    How do you record your music?
    Currently all my music is recorded and produced myself in my home studio

    Processed with VSCO with av4 preset

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think sampled libraries are really useful, particularly if you have a job thats on a tight deadline or really tight budget and cant afford to bring in live players. I dont think they’ll ever replace the real thing, and given a choice i’d always choose live players over sampled instruments, however I do think sometimes they open up opportunities to be creative, especially with different plugins and I think they can produce some really unique results that you may not have gotten using live players

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

    To be honest.. I’m not quite sure! I think they come from an accumulation of all my experiences of performing music, writing for classical ensembles and writing for television and film all meshed together! A lot of the time the idea for the piece comes from me improvising on my piano and really developing and idea (whether it be a coupe of chords or a melody) that sticks. The way that I know it sticks is that I ‘feel’ something when I listen to it, and I could listen to it a billion times and never get over it. 

    Thank you very much Cassie for sharing your story with us!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Slowburner

    I recently spotted a song by Slowburner called Sunday joy, and I was interested to get to know more about the artist behind the name.

    What’s your real name? 
    My real name is Élvio Rodrigues.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    That was actually a long process. More than I would like to admit. Maybe “process” is not the right term. I wasn’t doing anything in particular to come up with a name. I think I was more like waiting for a name to come to me. I think not having a good name for the project, delayed its creation. Which might sound a bit strange. Now, the way I see it, ‘Slowburner’ is almost like a synonym to ‘Élvio Rodrigues’. At the end of the day, I could’ve probably named it ‘Élvio Rodrigues’. But then again, I think ‘Slowburner’ has a nice ring to it.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was actually born in Venezuela, but I grew up in Madeira island, Portugal. I moved to Lisbon to study when I was 18 and I’ve been here ever since.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I think I’ve been playing the piano for 4 years now. I used to play guitar and bass mainly. But I’ve always wanted to play drums. Actually, it all started with me wanting to play drums. So it’s funny that that’s one of the instruments I haven’t found a way to incorporate in my life. I’ll need to find a way to get my hands on a drum kit eventually.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I had a few friends that owned a guitar, and I think I tried to play it a few times. I probably sucked at it, but I guess what happened internally was far more important than what happened on the outside. I was hooked. I then bought a guitar, learned a few songs and then started creating my own music, and simply never stopped creating.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I think I’ve been making piano music as long as I started playing piano. That would be around 4 years ago. Although before starting to play an 88 digital piano, I had a couple of years while I still played the guitar but was also experimenting composing piano songs with an electronic small piano. Then my interest progressed to something closer to the real piano. My approach with instruments is to right away create music with it, without caring too much if technically the approach is the correct one or not.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think pretty early on I realized I could make songs myself. I think at the time I didn’t really care much about what It was or what it meant. I just enjoyed creating stuff and that’s just what I did. It was a way of expressing myself. And it still is. One of the moments I recall that got me closer to actually being able to make songs myself, was when I started experimenting with more than one guitar at the “same time”. I used to record one guitar to my mobile phone (I’m not even talking about voice memos, this was a service that you could call to and record something), and then experiment playing a different part while listening to the first part. I think that allowed me to explore composing more complex stuff. Or at least not as simple as just playing chords.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Obviously Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm are the first names that pop-up on my mind. Both are the ones that I’ve known for the longest time. But there are “newer” artists that I enjoy a lot as well like, Greg Haines, Lambert, Sergio Diaz de Rojas, Tim Linghaus, etc.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    To be honest, no. In general, when I sit at the piano, it’s because I’m going to practice my own stuff, and in that case I just play what I know I need to practice, otherwise it’s just me letting myself go and start messing around with new ideas.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of them? Well, although I’m a bit anti-rules in terms of music making, it wouldn’t be totally true for me to say that I don’t follow any rules, because if I didn’t, my music would need to sound completely different, right? I can’t really say that I don’t follow rules, since I don’t have anything unorthodox to show. That being said, I think what I meant is that I don’t follow rules consciously. And when I feel I’m starting to do something the same way over and over, I’ll change it up.

    How do you record your music?
    I record my music myself at home in the living room. I’m not even sure if I should call it a home studio.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Overall, I prefer to play with “real” instruments, but the funny part is that on most Slowburner songs I’m actually using sampled instruments. So, my take on this is, if playing a sampled instrument is the difference between someone being able to record something and put it out into the world vs not being able to do it at all, then go for it and use sampled instruments. If the circumstances in my life were a bit different right now, I would probably try to move away from sampled instruments. But that’s not where I’m at right now. And although I’ve battled a lot with myself because of this, I’m  currently in a mindset on which I just want to create honest music with what I have at hand. Maybe things change in the future and I’ll be able to use more “real” instruments. Only time will tell.

    Anything else you want to share?
    Thank you to everyone who read this far. Well, maybe this: ’Sunday mornings are for piano’ was released on June 7th 2019. Go listen to that and follow me on all the social networks if you want to be notified about what I’m currently working on.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
     
    This is a great question. I like to think that my songs come all from the heart. But truth is that some come from a specific idea that starts forming in my head. And others really come from nowhere at all. You just sit at the piano, and all of a sudden something happens. Maybe it’s magic. But in that case, where does magic come from? If you guys figure it out, just let me know 🙂

    Thank you very much Élvio!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Oskar Kappland

    Do you remember the guy with the “weekly piano challange”? That was Swedish piano player and composer Oskar Kappland. Let’s get to know him!

    What’s your real name? 
    My real name is Oskar Ehrnberg.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I started releasing music under my real name in 2018. At the beginning of 2019, I changed my name to Oskar Kappland, because Ehrnberg is (a) impossible to spell if you don’t speak Swedish or German and (b) kinda confusing for anyone to pronounce. I love the name Kappland because it preserves my Nordic roots (and works significantly better internationally). Kappland is actually an old Swedish land area measurement, which is super random, but it sounds good so why not?

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from a small town just south of Gothenburg, Sweden. I’ve been living abroad in Asia and North America on and off for the past five years. I’m spending the summer in Gothenburg, but I have no idea where I’m going this fall (help me please, hahaha). Sweden is a wonderful place to be from late spring to mid fall, but beyond that the darkness and cold just kills my soul. I’m a nature boy at heart, so any place where I get to enjoy that has a shot. We’ll see where the winds of fate bring me next!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    The piano is definitely my instrument. Everything I write and compose originates on the piano (if not in my head where a lot of songs also pop up). I played the recorder when I was young and played guitar briefly, but nothing’s ever sparked a passion like the piano did. I had an electric keyboard in my room from when I was four years old but started playing seriously in third grade. I took two years of classical lessons before quitting. After all, playing the piano wasn’t considered cool for a boy my age. So I gave in to the social pressure. I didn’t pick it up again until eighth grade as I started transferring the pop songs I had been composing in my head for years to the piano. My musical goals have always been influenced by this divergent influence from classical and modern pop music.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I have, for as long as I can remember, literally always been composing my own music, be it in my head or later on the piano. I’ve always known that I’d be an artist one day, so can you imagine the devastation and heartbreak I experienced as I realized I couldn’t sing? My dreams were put on hold for a whole decade. But here I am, at 22 years old, determined to become an artist with or without a voice. My first song with vocals, Small World, featuring an amazing singer and friend from Malaysia, is in fact coming out very soon. I couldn’t be more excited!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Alexandra Streliski has my heart right now. Inscape is just pure perfection. Also, increased female representation in this genre is incredibly important and I’m all for it. I also listen a lot to Peter Sandberg, Nils Frahm, and Johannes Bornlöf. In terms of names to watch for the future, I’m very excited to see what Andréa Aubertin, Mitch Toks, and Johannes Hirschmann do next. As for my favorite modern piece of all time, Qi by Phildel is an all-time fave. When it comes to the old greats, my favorites to play are Beethoven and Mozart and my favorites to listen to are Chopin and Debussy.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    It’s funny, but I often warm up by playing In May by Franz Behr (a children’s study) in every key from C to B. No judgement, please.

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I don’t think any rules need to be broken. Just do you! I also think it takes time. In the beginning, nearly all my compositions followed the I-V-vi-IV chord progression. In time, everyone learns to find their own voice and experiment with going off-key and off-beat. Not that there’s anything wrong with standard chord progressions – they often produce the biggest hits. But in terms of constructing one’s own language, it is entirely individual and does not come without tons of work and exploration.

    How do you record your music?
    I record all my music on my own in my living room on my partner’s mother’s old piano. It’s not ideal, but it conveys my personal story in a fair way I think. After all, this is where I’m at right now. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I have nothing against sampled instruments. I use both audio recordings and MIDI for my pop songs. However, for my classical pieces, I usually stick to just piano. In my opinion, anything that elevates the listener’s experience is fair game.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I’m currently challenging myself to release one new piece a week. Go follow me on Spotify for a new piece every Wednesday until the end of 2019! I won’t let you down, promise. 🙂

    And as always, the question my five year old son once asked me:
    Where does all your songs come from?

    Say hi to your son from me! 🙂 Most of my songs come from a very happy place. I’m generally a very cheerful person, which honestly makes it difficult to write melancholy songs. If you hear sad songs by me, they usually come from my experience with my father. We never had a great relationship and he caused me a lot of suffering as a child. His suicide in 2016 is one of the most monumental and tumultuous things I’ve experienced. It changed everything and has given me time to process my childhood, although I didn’t necessarily want to. The whole thing has taught me the importance of talking about and reflecting on traumatic experiences, and creating music has certainly played a huge part in that for me.

    Thank you Oskar for your participation!

    For more information about Oskar, plase check out any of these following links:
    Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Steve Luck

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Newcastle upon Tyne UK

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I began playing aged 9and only play piano/keyboards

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I began with piano lessons. My grandfather and my uncle were not musically trained but both could play piano and organ by ear so perhaps I inherited some musical ability from that side of the family. I had a traditional classical music education, working through the ABRSM grades and reaching grade 8 at age 18 before going off to university to study music.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have played other peoples music on piano for 40 years and I began my career as a composer for film and television in 2006 but it’s only in the last six years since 2013 that I began composing my own pieces specifically for solo piano.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It took quite some time before I believed enough in what I was composing to let people hear it. I think a lot of musicians, even very successful ones, have what is sometimes called ‘imposter syndrome’ where in the back of their mind they feel like at some point they are going to get found out as not being ‘proper’ musicians like their colleagues/competitors. This was a factor in my musical life for a number of years and still is to a certain extent. There is always at least one moment when I question whether what I am doing in any good or not but it’s all part of creating – the trick is to not make those judgements too early and stifle the process. 

    Who are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My original inspiration to get into this genre came from George Winston and his groundbreaking album ‘December’. I love a lot of the music by both Olafur Arnalds and Max Richter and I also regularly enjoy listening to the music of some other pianists including Ben Crosland, Simeon Walker, Oliver Brouwer and Garreth Broke.  

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    When I was a music student as a break from the classical music world I would sit at the piano for hours and improvise boogie woogie piano blues – mostly in C major – that’s probably a favourite – especially a slow blues with a  Jimmy Yancey style left hand! 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I’m not sure if it’s a rule as such but I definitely feel that the current obsession with feeling like you absolutely must have the latest technology, hardware and software to make music on is a mistake. Spending time learning how to use the stuff you already have well enough and being creative in your sourcing of original unique sounds, will help differentiate your music from that of everyone else. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I’m lucky to have a recording studio space in a wonderful listed building and artist workspace in the creative Ouseburn area of Newcastle Upon Tyne. I have a 1905 Bechstein grand piano and a PC running Cubase with a variety of software instruments. I mostly record myself for the solo piano pieces but also have regular visitors to the studio to either record their work or to collaborate. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them every day as part of my work as a media composer. They are an instrument like any other, and demand time for practice to achieve mastery, so as to get the very best music from them at any given time. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    Do please check out the concert series I put on called Atmospherica. It features monthly performances from contemporary classical composers playing their own work in intimate and unusual venues around Newcastle Upon Tyne. More information can be found at www.atmospherica.co.uk

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

    I think that they probably already exist and I get to reveal them, to make them appear. I often think of the composing process as being like that of a sculptor starting with a large block of marble and chiselling away until a shape begins to emerge – I spend a long time improvising and working to develop rough ideas before refining and polishing them for presentation to the listener. 

    Thank you so much for this Steve!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: It’s Kevin

    Today it’s time to get to know the dude with the ukulele on top of that mountain I introduced you to a while back (read the post here).

    What’s your real name?
    My real name is Kevin Hines! 

    Where did you come up with your artist name?
    “Hello, It’s Kevin” has always been my way of introducing myself. Whether on the phone, meeting someone in person, or sending an email, Kevin is rarely found unless following an It’s. When I started to write and share my music with friends and coworkers, I would introduce myself as “Hey It’s Kevin. I do the music”. And the artist name of “It’s Kevin” stuck ever since.

    Where are you from? Where do you live?
    I was born in the metro Detroit area. I still live there, but I’m more excited about where I’m going to be next year over where I’m living now. I eventually want to make my way to the west coast or (ideally) out of the country! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments well?
    I’ve been playing the piano for around 15 years now. Over the years I’ve added guitar, bass, saxophone, ukulele, bassoon and countless other instruments to my tool belt! 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    It started with lessons in elementary school and progressed towards a small obsession with music. In junior high, I picked up the saxophone and the bass guitar to play in my school’s jazz band. Around this time I starting to improvise jazz solos. My junior high band teacher (Shout out to Mr. Groth!) showed us the basics of music theory; things like scales, chord progressions, minors and majors and I used that to make up my own solos. They weren’t great, but they also weren’t terrible so I kept pushing towards getting better at it. There was something about improvisation that kept me interested; something about the high risk of potentially playing one wrong note and everything falling apart kept me going.

    After junior high, I started to play the guitar (because come on what musician knows how to play bass but not the guitar?). Guitar opened the world of pop-punk up to me and I started writing and recording any time I wasn’t in the practice rooms getting better at jazz. High school was when I really started to get serious about music. My music teacher at the time (Mr. Traskal) was an absolutely monstrous influence on me becoming the musician that I am today. Mr. Traskal taught me all about music theory. He showed me music as if it were an open canvas ready to be written on, not some paint by numbers. He let me dig deep into music theory and fed me with all sorts of insane music knowledge. He pushed me to become the best musician I could be both when playing shows and when practicing. Thanks to him I’ve played countless amazing shows across several countries and two continents.

    After high school, I went for a safe route of studying computer science. I had to put music on the back burner while I focused on undergrad but once I graduated I dove right back in. Around the time I wanted back into music, I met my lovely girlfriend, Katie, who pushes me to be better every day. A lot of my growth in music today wouldn’t have happened without her amazing support.   

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been noodling on a piano since my family got one put into our family room 15 years ago. Sure I wasn’t writing coherent pieces at the time, but I like to think the gears started turning back then.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself.
    In elementary school nearly everyone was in band. For 3 hours a week, a large group of us would pile into the music room and play Hot Cross Buns so terribly out of tune, I have no idea how any of our parents could stand it. I knew we were bad, but it felt good to see how happy everyone was for us. In junior high, my 3 hours of music a week from school got bumped up to 5. I started to get more serious about my piano lessons and I started to learn more about music and what made it so beautiful. The first jazz concert I played in 8th grade had me improvising a solo on the baritone sax. I remember walking off the stage and people being blown away that I just ‘made’ that all up as I was playing. I loved that moment and have been expanding my knowledge of music theory ever since!

    What are your favorite artists in the “piano” genre?
    Whenever I’m in the mood for super relaxed and chill piano lines, Balmorhea is my go to. I know it’s not necessarily a piano-focused song, but I feel like everyone should give Masollan a listen. It’s an absolute masterpiece! 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    vi – IV – I – V. Those four chords are all anyone needs to noodle. Play those four chords and your I scale is going to sound good. The first chord I play on nearly every piano is an A minor, followed by an F, bringing in tension with a G and resolving it back to the root, C. Play anything in C here and it’ll fit; Heck learn a bit of theory and any note can sound good here! 

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    All of them. I was browsing the music theory subreddit when I came across a post by /u/nuggles1. They said “PSA: It’s music theory, not music law” and that really resonated with me. Throughout this amazing thread users go on to bring up how music doesn’t really have any set in stone laws. It has a few reasons why some things may sound good, but at the end of the day, any musician can make any scale work over any chord for any reason at any time. It’s all about the general feel of the music.

    How do you record your music? 
    I started off recording music through a super simple midi controller. I’ve never recorded in a professional studio but dream to do it one day. I’ve always loved the idea of building my own home studio so when I started to take music really seriously I built a super low end one. Throughout the years I’ve grown my studio to take up well over half a bedroom in my house along with countless VSTs and audio effects. What started with a simple keyboard plugged into my laptop has evolved into my dream keyboard playing out of studio monitors inside of an acoustically treated room. I couldn’t be happier with my current setup!

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    We live in an absolutely amazing time right now. Technology has made it insanely easy for musicians to get their hands on exactly what they want without needing to spend thousands of dollars. I’m a big fan of sampled instruments. For example, in some of my songs I need a punk-pop-styled drum kit. If I were to go the recording route I’d be looking at thousands of dollars in mixing equipment, microphones, and kits (and that doesn’t even get into the size of the room I’d need!). Thanks to the ease of sampled instruments I’m able to write killer drum hooks directly from a launchpad for well under 10% of the cost. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    I love playing music for people! I stream some improv peaceful piano music at night whenever I get a chance for people that are struggling to fall asleep directly on my FaceBook page. They’re called Pillow Plays and they’re just meant for people to put on in the background and relax to; Either to do homework and focus or to fall asleep to. I’d love to see you in the next one!

    And, as always the question from my five year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?  
    I don’t know how I’d be able to live without music. My songs come from my life, I write based on where I’m at in my life. I wrote a song about hating my job while driving into work stuck in traffic (8 Year Old Me Would Be Upset I Didn’t go to School and Get a BS in Happiness). I wrote a song about people not able to find happiness based on their geographical location while sitting in a Cracker Barrel (No One Smiles in the Midwest). I wrote a song about falling for my now girlfriend when we started talking (Want to be Needed) and about how much she means to me (Katie) about a year into us dating. 

    Thank you very much Kevin for these amazing words!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Franco Robert

    Today I’m introducing you to piano player, composer and awesome dude Franco Robert. Facebook is awesome. One Friday evening this summer, I was home alone having a Long Island Iced Tea myself to celebrate the release of the song Rowan. I sent out the link to some people, and Franco was one of them. That link was the start of a very deep and interesting conversation that lasted for hours about everything from metal music to Argentina. Thank you for the conversation, and now it’s time for you to get to know Franco as well!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Don Bosco, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I still live here.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    It’s been 16 years, I started at 10. I don’t really play other instruments but I’ve made some accordion recordings for my metal band Tersivel as well as I could.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Well, I listen to music since I was in my mother’s womb, precisely, Heavy Metal, like Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Metallica, etc., thanks to my father. When I was about five years old or so, I remember having a piano toy, and playing some Iron Maiden by ear. But I didn’t play again until I was 10, when I started a band at school with some friends, just like, to have a band, without knowing anything, and I got chosen for playing the guitar. I demonstrated my incredibly bad skills for that instrument and then tried with the keyboard and I loved it. And since then, I’ve never stopped. I entered a local band from the neighborhood and little time after that, at 13, I joined Tersivel.

    I also went to private lessons for four years, and to the Classical music conservatory Teatro Roma, in Avellaneda, for two years, but I got bored and left.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since the beginning, but I never released it. I have many compositions that I’ve made through my life, but only the metal ones have been the ones that came to the light, because of my band. Some years ago, I started to think about releasing the other kinds of music I also make, and in 2018 I released my first piano album “Piano Spells I”. In 2019 the second one “Piano Spells II”, and I plan to release more music by the end of this year or the beginning of the next one.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was right when I started. Melodies and everything just occurred to me and I recorded it. That’s why I’m a musician. This is the best way I know to express myself and feel complete. Learning and playing music from others is great to understand different perspectives and get richer composition skills, and it’s fun too, but music wouldn’t mean that much to me if I only played what others composed.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Currently: Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and Fabrizio Paterlini.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Not really. Generally when I play something very often it is because it’s something complicated to play and it’s fun to practice it until it gets right.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All. I hate rules in music. Of course there are some things that you can’t do sometimes, but mainly because it sounds horrible. If it sounds good, that’s it. Many times I don’t pay attention to what scale I’m playing on, or what signature, and I think somehow that it gives me more freedom than if I’d have everything under control.

    How do you record your music?
    I record it on my own, at home. Nowadays it’s possible to make music that sounds good with some affordable equipment. Also, it’s great to have all the time I want and need to record and record until it sounds exactly as I want.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they’re awesome. I don’t always use them but there are wonderful music libraries out there. Sometimes they’re exactly what I need for a song, and sometimes I feel better with my own sounds, I also feel a better control of what I play with the latter.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I just want to thank you, Johan, for your interest and I want to greet your blog’s readers.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Beautiful question. Hard to answer. I don’t really know. It’s a feeling, a mood. I realize when I’m inspired, because I sense it, and then I simply play and it all comes along. Sometimes I have to look for it, but generally those aren’t the best compositions.

    Thank you Franco!

    For more information about Franco and his music, please check out these links:
    Instagram / Spotify