• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matthew Thomason

    A few weeks back I wrote about the song Distance by the British composer and piano player Matthew Thomason, and today we will get to know Matthew a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    My family are all from Liverpool but I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. I currently live in Falmouth on the coast in beautiful Cornwall, UK. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was about 5 (I was fortunate that my father taught me from a young age). I also sing, play guitar and direct choirs.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Music has always been a part of my household, whether that’s at family gatherings or going to gigs so it made sense that the young generation would get involved. I was never particularly interested in learning sheet music, I was more interested in playing rock/pop songs to jam with other musicians. Sheet music came later in my development!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve always enjoyed improvising at the piano even from a young age but I’d say I started developing and performing my own compositions at school when I was around 14.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I remember using a really old version of Cubase and I made my first midi song, in hindsight it was probably really crappy but just the feeling of putting together different elements on top of the piano and arranging a track was a game changer for me. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m a big fan of Yann Tiersen and I would say his early film music work (Goodbye Lenin etc) had a big influence on me. I enjoy Philip Glass, Max Richter and Nils Frahm too. I’m currently a student of Lubomyr Melnyk, who pioneered Continuous Music and his philosophy of piano playing is hugely inspiring to me, as well as his mesmerising compositions. 

    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 have a two year-old daughter so most of the time I only get to play nursery rhymes! If I do get a few minutes to myself I like to work on Philip Glass Études, especially No.6. 

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I think we need to re-consider traditional forms and structures. I think it’s too common that composers feel the need to keep songs digestible and predictable in terms of structure but I feel like music should challenge listeners and take them to places they weren’t expecting. This doesn’t necessarily mean constantly changing your piece, in fact, it could be completely the opposite – maybe the song doesn’t need to move and you can allow the listener space to be absorbed by a rhythmic or chordal pattern. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc
    I tend to record my music at home as I have a really beautiful piano built by Pinkham Pianos that was custom designed for my style of playing. Once I have recorded the piano I normally send the stems over to Switzerland to be mixed and mastered by my friend and collaborator Tim Nyss at Apothecary Sounds. I also produce ambient music so I have a small studio set up at home to work on this.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand it is more satisfying to hear the rich tones of an acoustic instrument, however, generally I am an advocate of samples. They have enabled musicians around the world who may not have the means or access to studios to produce and share their music. For me, it’s like music socialism – for the many not just the few. 

    And the questions my 6-year old son once asked me:
    Where does your music come from?

    Great question! Most of my music is very reactive – I like looking at landscapes or reading books and then trying to capture how they make me feel. Although a lot of my work is inspired by places I try not to write traditional programmatic music which is very literal, I see it more as abstract landscape composition which is driven by emotion. 

    Thank you for this Matthew!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Chafa

    A while back I posted about the track Toulouse by the American composer and piano player Chafa, and today we go behind the piano to get to know him a bit better!

    What’s your real name?
    My real name is Shayne Reagan

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    Chafa is the last name of my mother’s side of the family

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from California and currently live in LA.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been teaching myself piano since I was 12. I also play accordion, guitar, ukulele, and sing.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Oakland, California. Music was a way to escape the world around me. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing original music for over 10 years now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think a light bulb moment came when I began rearranging songs I already knew, and adding my own flare to them.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Olafur Arnolds, Ludovico Einaudi, Philip Glass, Stephan Moccio, and Max Richter.

    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 necessarily a song, but I usually always start my sessions with a major 7 chord and let it ring out. It sets a calming atmosphere for my writing sessions.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The idea that you must follow certain musical principles and rules. I started out on a shabby plastic keyboard and was told by many teachers and students that if I’m not going to have a real piano or take lessons, that I shouldn’t start; that I’ll develop too many bad habits to work around. Music should always be about expression, no matter the form or medium. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record in my kitchen. It’s simply my keyboard plugged into my computer. We got rid of the dining room area to make space for the ‘creative corner’. Not like anyone is coming over during quarantine! haha

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I use a VST since I don’t have a real  piano – my apartment doesn’t permit a real piano. Make do with what you have! 

    Anything else you want to share?
    I’m very excited to release my music this year. I have over ten years worth of compositions but life got in the way. I was finally able to learn how to record at home during lockdown, and hope to release an album or EP by the end of the year.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    They come from the heart – which comes from all of the experience life gives to you. 

    Thank you very much for this little talk Shayne!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Caleb Warnar

    A while back I wrote about the track Shimmer by the Canadian composer and piano player Caleb Warnar. And today we go Behind the piano to get to know the person about the song a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I currently live in Goderich, Ontario. I grew up here as well.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano for 19 years, and I am also a percussionist! I attended the University of Western Ontario as a percussion major, so I played a lot of marimba/vibraphone along with other percussion instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I first started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old, and I was actively involved in the worship at my church once I was 14. By playing drums and piano in this environment, I realized later that it helped me be able to perform in front of others.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been making piano music for 8 years now, but it wasn’t until this past year that I began to record and distribute my pieces.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I realized I could make songs myself when I downloaded a free music production app called music studio on my iPod as a kid. After experimenting with songs during the bus ride home, I eventually was able to create songs that I was proud of. This lead to me composing full pieces on the piano later on.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My favourite piano artists include Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, and Hior Chronik.

    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 find that I don’t like to play songs repeatedly, whether it’s my own piece or someone else’s. Instead, I really enjoy improvising at the piano and playing how I feel at that given moment.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my experience, a rule that I believe should be broken is the mindset that a song/track needs to be perfect. I have really grown to like the imperfections in my music. That’s what makes it sound human, and oddly enough the imperfect parts tend to become my favourite aspects of the pieces I create.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? Etc.
    I usually record my piano music at home from the piano. I find that I generally prefer this over a studio setting since I find it more comfortable and relaxing.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I used to be strongly against using sampled instruments if the real thing was available to me. However, I have now come to love certain sampled instruments. I believe that as long as the authenticity of the sampled instrument is preserved, then it is equally as valid as using the real thing.

    And the question from my six year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    That’s a difficult question to answer! I suppose my songs come from a place inside of me that I am usually not yet aware of until I play the piano. When I play, I find that it’s like having a friend re-affirm how I feel, or a loved one comforting me.

    Thank you very much for this Caleb!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Mikael Oterhals

    A while back Mikael Oterhals released his EP Association Vol. 1. and I wrote about the track Eskil here. So today we go Behind the piano to get to know more about Mikael and his music.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m Mikael Oterhals, and I’m a 24 year old pianist and composer located in Stockholm, Sweden. I grew up in the Swedish town of Uppsala and lived there until I was 19 years old when I moved out to study classical music (and a little bit of jazz music and composition). 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano for about 18 years, but it wasn’t very serious until I was about 14 years old (which is 10 years ago). Apart from the piano I can play a little bit of guitar, but it always ends up in me prioritizing practising the piano so I’m not very good at it to be honest. 

    Tell us how you started playing music.
    I started playing when I was 6 years old because my parents gave me and my brother a small keyboard as a Christmas gift. My entire family is very musically interested so music has always naturally been a big part of my everyday life. I took piano lessons for a couple of years when I was that age, but ironically I didn’t like it very much so I quit playing for several years after that. I didn’t pick up the piano again until I went to high school and my new music teacher inspired me to start playing again. I started arranging piano covers of songs that I like and I think the reason why I loved playing again so much is the fact that I realised I could play pretty much what I wanted to, instead of going to piano lessons to play music I’ve never heard of because someone else told me to. That’s why it is super important to me, who’s a piano teacher for kids and youths today, to inspire them to play music they like themselves and to make the lessons enjoyable and not only something they HAVE to do, but something they WANT to do. 

    How long have you been making music?
    When I was 19 years old music was such a big part of my life and I decided I wanted to start studying classical music full time. During those years I also studied a little bit of jazz music and composition, which resulted in me writing my own music. This took a whole new level when I at age 22 began to sell piano music to customers on the Internet, who ordered all different kinds of piano compositions. This was a great way to improve my skills as I was forced to learn writing music in different genres, styles and emotions in order to satisfy my customers requirements. 

    What are your favourite artists in this ”piano genre”?
    There have been a lot of people who have inspired me throughout the years. I enjoy listening to, and playing, all kinds of genres and there are of course too many great musicians out there, who’ve made a huge impact on me, to mention in this interview. But in the piano genre a few big names for me are Frédéric Chopin, Ludovico Einaudi, Joel Lyssarides and of course all of the great piano teachers I’ve had in recent years. The list is endless so it is an impossible task to name only a few favourites, but those people were the most spontaneous choices that popped into my head in this moment. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Not really, I don’t have any one song that I keep playing, at least not anymore. There was a period in my life, about 8 years ago, when I loved playing the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean. That track really followed me for a couple of years and I learnt a lot from it. But nowadays I would rather say I stick to a few pieces until I’ve reached a level where I cannot learn much more from them, at least not for the moment, and then I change. That process could take anything in between a few weeks to many months, and it also occurs that I resume old pieces I’ve played before, but I can not mention any one song that I keep going back to. 

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    The biggest rule that needed to be broken for me in order to make my own music was that a composition does not always have to be complex, technically difficult or even musically theoretically “correct” to be good. The most important part of creating music for me is to deliver some kind of feeling to the listener, and that can be done with any kind of musical ideas. I spent a lot of time trying to achieve theoretical perfection when I started creating music, but it often resulted in very emotionless and dull compositions. I got so much more satisfied with my music when I started writing stuff based on my feelings. I do not say that it is not important and educative to study different kinds of composition styles and musical theory, because that knowledge makes it a lot easier to be able to turn you ideas into music, but at the end of the day your primary focus when creating music should not be to please other people, but letting your own feelings and ideas flow in order to be satisfied with the final product yourself. At least that is my perspective on the matter. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio?
    I mostly record my music by myself at home, but I’ve recorded some things in studios as well. I prefer to play on a grand piano because with sampled instruments it is sometimes hard to reach the same level of control and of course realistic sound. But with that said I must emphasize how great it is to have access to such a high level of sampled instruments, as today’s technology allows. It makes it so much easier for everyone to create high quality music, not only those who have access to big expensive studios and gear, including myself. 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Hehe, great question! I must say that most of my music comes from feelings and thoughts in my head, which in its turn often comes from people around me, memories, places and other peoples music. My lastest release ’Association Vol.1’ is an example of this, since each song title on that EP is a name of a person who inspired me to compose that piece of music, in different ways. 

    Thank you very much for this little talk Mikael!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Ros Gilman

    A while back I wrote about the track Falling Snow by the composer and piano player Ros Gilman. Today – we go Behind the piano to get to know Ros a bit better!

    What’s your real name?
    My real/full name is Rostislav Gilman.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I was once on the phone to a film music agent in L.A. I introduced myself as Rostislav Gilman. The agent didn’t seem to quite understand me and repeatedly asked me for my first name. She eventually said: You really have to change your name! Nobody can remember that. And so I went ahead and changed my name to the much easier Ros instead of Rostislav. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Moscow, Russia, and grew up near Munich, Germany where my family moved to, while I was still young. I spent my student years in Vienna, Austria, studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts. I also received a scholarship to be an exchange student at the Royal College of Music, in London, UK. This was when I fell in love with London, so after completing my Masters I made it my new home and that’s where I am based today.  

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was 3 years old, but my first instrument is actually the violin, which I started playing at the age of 3 as well. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Both my parents are professional musicians; my mom is a violinist and my dad is a (now retired) music theory lecturer, composer and pianist. So it wasn’t really a conscious decision, I just followed in their footsteps. I still remember the time when my mom brought my first violin — I was only three years old back then, and the violin was tiny. I was very excited and immediately tried to play on it. At that very moment, Mendelsohn’s Violin Concerto was playing on the TV and I immediately tried to imitate what I was hearing.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t work out quite as well as I had expected. But right then and there, my musical journey had begun. And some 15 years later, I finally performed Mendelsohn’s Violin Concerto as well!  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been improvising on the piano for as long as I can remember. However, it was only after my hand-injury, which forced me to give up my violin career, that I started taking composing more seriously. To me personally, playing the piano is an essential part of being a composer. After entrance exams, which were spread over three days, I was happy to learn that I was once again accepted to the University of Music Vienna, but this time to the Degree program in Composition. I went on to study Composition for Screen, Jazz Composition, Orchestration and Conducting. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    There wasn’t really a moment of realization per se. Since I was young, I had always improvised and created my own music; be that on the violin or on the piano. Creating music has always been part of me and always came naturally to me. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    From the great composers of the past, I’d say Ravel, Schostakovich and Rachmaninoff are some of my influences. Playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor had been a goal of mine for some time. Piano is not my first instrument, so it was a challenge, but I’m happy to say that I was able to accomplish this goal last spring and even put up a recording of my performance on my YouTube Channel. This was one of those big personal moments for me, so I wanted to document it…  

    From my contemporary colleagues, I really like the music of Alexis French. An excellent composer and highly skilled pianist.

    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? 
    To be honest, most of the time when I sit by the piano, it’s either to compose or to practise. I don’t play just for fun all too often these days. That said, when I do find time for it on occasion, you might hear me play music from a Disney film… maybe one of the wonderful songs by the great Alan Menken. In fact, at one point during lockdown, there was a “window” between projects, so I sat down and recorded a short clip of A Whole New World from Aladdin for my social media. Such a great Disney song!

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I always say that, before you can go off and break rules, you should study them diligently. I’ve always thought that studying the great masters is a good investment of time for a young musician. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    That really depends. I’ve done both. My latest release Falling Snow for example , has been fully recorded in my home studio. But back in August, I travelled to Prague to record the music to the beautifully animated film The Last Cloudweaver (a short produced directed by Judit Boor and produced by Dragonbee Animation). We recorded with the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra at Czech Television studios with a line-up of 64 live musicians and I had the pleasure to conduct myself. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Much of my work is for film, for which I very frequently use samples for practical reasons. But whenever I can, I try to record with live musicians – the emotional impact of live recorded music is just unparalleled.

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

    Good question! Often, I will just hear music in my head. All I need to do then, is to record it in some way – be that as notes on a piece of paper or as digital information in my studio software. Other times it can take days or even weeks to write and produce a particular piece of music. However, it is often the pieces that form very quickly and easily – almost by itself – which turn out to be the most “natural” of compositions. When that happens, the music leads you on its own. That’s the case of my latest release for example, Falling Snow, which came to me on a quiet weekend evening, while at home, and only took me a few minutes to write. ‚Falling Snow‘ is one of those little pieces of music that are particularly close to my heart. 

    Thank you very much for this Ros!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Ron Adelaar

    Today we go Behind the piano to get to know the Dutch composer and piano player Ron Adelaar a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in The Netherlands, born and raised in the center of our country, in Amersfoort. And I still live there.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    As a child I started at the age of 8 taking private lessons in playing he accordion and after 4 years I switched to organ. At the age of 17 I started playing the piano and took two years of private lessons with mostly light and populair classical music.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    In our home there was always music. My father was a musiclover and always played records and cassettetapes. As a child I loved playing the accordion, learned to read notes and playing different kind of melodies and rhythms. Especially I liked playing the tango on the accordion like Ole Guapa from Malando. But soon I was inspired by some organ players my father played on his stereo and then I switched to electronic
    organ. I learned since I switched from 1 hand to two hands on keys reading notes with two different bars. But my right hand already had and kept a head start because of the 4 years I played the accordion.

    My father played the flute and we started playing together when I was 13. And soon we were playing together in churches in Amersfoort. We did that for almost 10 years and played many kind of melodies, light classical to easy listening and pop, Mozart to Vangelis…

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I was 17 when I started playing the piano. After years of playing the accordion and organ as I got older I felt more and more love for the pianosound coming fromthis beautiful and pure instrument.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself
    I already composed music as a child on the accordion and organ. It felt very special to create my own compositions. I started making pianocompositions when I was 18 years old. Mostly popsongs with my own lyrics and music and sometimes on the lyrics of others.
    The only problems was I couldn’t write it down in notes. I just noted the chords and learned the music by heart. Later I made many compositions for my church choir on lyrics that were provided to me.

    In church I also like to improvise being in the moment of reflection and peace and I still do that. It was years ago the start of my peaceful piano compositions I make nowadays and can record because my son Ivo said I should do more with mu=y music, record it and releasing it on Spotify. He helped me with that and with great success. But this all started in church playing peaceful and soothing melodies.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I really love the music of Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, Alexis Ffrench, Joep Beving, Stephan Moccio, Jeff Martens, Anna Sofia Nord, Kristoffer Wallin and Michael Logozar. They’re all great musicicians.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    My track Mélodie is quite favorite but also my compositions Andante, Frozen and Desiree are very dear to me to play.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I don’t believe in rules. Music comes from the heart and that is unconditional. Of course music is also a matter of taste but music for me it’s a language on a higher level in which we can communicate with all people.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    Yes I record my music myself. I have my own home recording studio with three digital piano’s; Roland RD 500, Korg SP-280 and my master piano is a KAWAI VPC-1. Mastering of my tracks is professionally done in Sweden by sound engineer Markus Nordlund. He’s a real sound wizard.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I am quite satisfied recording digitally with Logic in a MacBook Pro. I use several piano vst’s like NI Grandeur, Noire, Maverick, Una Corda and the Ravenscroft 275. The acoustic piano I have in my house is not good enough to record my pianomusic. I will probably buy a better piano later this year to record also on acoustic piano.

    But so far I am quite content with the variety of sound possibilities using the vst’s from Native Instruments and Ravenscroft.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I’m very grateful that my music is being spread and heard in the last year. The amount of followers and streams is so huge. But I also really enjoy the friendship with so many international musicfriends, piano players from so many countries in the world. I made a lot of new friends in the last year thanks to music, Facebook and Spotify. That’s very special and especially in these Coronatimes I’m very happy to keep in contact with so many music lovers.

    And the last question, asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    All my music comes from the heart. It’s pure intuitive and I’m inspired by what I experience in life and the beautiful nature I like to enjoy. The source for making music is immense and never ending.

    Thank you for this interview Ron!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Emma Paunil

    Today we go Behind the piano and get to know the composer and piano player Emma Paunil a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up on an 80 acre farm in the desert of Casa Grande, Arizona. As of right now, I’m currently back here in Casa Grande enjoying the colder months before we shall flee from 110+ degrees again next June! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano for about 20 years now. This year, I started teaching myself the viola, as well as the harmonica, but I would not say I am performance ready for either, yet… may be in a comedy show! 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    For nearly a decade, I answered this question as, “I was put into piano by my mom,” as if it were some prison sentence. The truth is, as with most children, I didn’t understand the life changing benefits and lessons in self-discipline that come as a package deal with most things parents “make us do.” I was classically trained through a very well-put-together curriculum by Ashley Hendrix and the Arizona Study Program, where I was to memorize pieces in every era (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary) and play them in front of a judge. Even though I was often stressed by the piano throughout the program, I still began playing the piano as an emotional escape around age 11.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Playing another composer’s songs is one thing… making music didn’t start with me until much later in life. In fact, the first piano solo I composed, “The Lighthouse,” was about 3 years ago: never officially released, but publicly performed at the Tempe Center of the Performing arts. I didn’t really seriously start looking towards my piano for anything other than recreational playing until COVID 19.  I’ve had a history of trying to please others (as many of us do). Prior to COVID-19, I had just gone from struggling through the never ending battle of, “what do you do for work?” I went from heavy pursuit of the veterinary sciences, virology, dabbling in education for middle schoolers, working at the zoo, all the while battling this little artistic “demon” inside of me I wanted to keep away — concerned it would take away from my “science-side.” I finally reached a point once a global pandemic hit that I decided to stop my mind from worrying, and turned to the piano. During this time, I have now released three “Transformative Piano” albums, Triple Point of Water, Ataraxia, and Spirit Animal.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I actually can’t give the credit to myself in realizing I could make songs. I had another musician friend basically peer pressure me into improvising piano during my first jam session. I was so nervous at first, because I couldn’t hide behind sheet music anymore. As I sat there trying to figure out what to do, my hands were shaking, and it felt like the keys all fell together into a mess of a pile. “Just play; stop being worried about what you think I’m thinking. I don’t care what you play, just play something,” I was told. Just like that, my brain seemed to switch to the key of C# minor, and I just went for it. It was bumpy at first, but it was the best feeling in the world once I got the hang of it. After reading and memorizing music for so long, improvising felt like stepping into an entirely different brain wave, or jumping into another electron orbital… whichever is more relatable! To this day, C# minor is still my favorite key in which to improvise.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I absolutely love George Winston, and I’m happy to say my father actually got me interested in him! “Longing/Love,” is one of my favorites in his album, Autumn. I also enjoy David Nevue and Michele McLaughlin. “Treasure Falls,” and “New Light,” are my two favorites from each of them, respectively. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    Yes, I most definitely have a go-to song: “Waltz in B minor” (Op. 69, No. 2) by Frederic Chopin. A few years ago, I realized that the implications in the development of a “go-to” song for me signified the first time I started using piano as an emotional release. When I was about 8 years old, I ended up with my first dog, Moon — a chocolate lab. Moon was the unwanted runt of the litter, and she grew to be an athlete running free across our 80 acres of ranch-land. As a child, she felt more like a friend to me than a dog I, “owned,” and we ran through the desert together searching for wildlife, rabbits, and make-believe adventures. As an 11 year old, I was heartbroken when she ran off one day with her best-friend (Rottweiler named Bear), and never came home; a farmer found her, and called my parents to tell us she had drowned. At that young, I didn’t really understand the feelings that were going through me; the only solution I could come up with of how to escape those feelings was to run to the piano and play that “Waltz in B minor.” Fast forward a bit: throughout highschool, every upsetting day was followed by playing that song. It wasn’t until later in life in college that I began realizing this as a pattern of emotional release. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Don’t try to fit into a genre when you are starting out. A lot of times, I notice that is the concern of musicians starting to realize their identity. I really think what has helped me is to, “… just play.” Your style might not mesh with other musicians at first, but at least in the process of getting the kinks out of your system, you begin to notice your own personal tendencies. Don’t immediately jump on that realization and start pushing a genre on yourself. Keep letting the fun and enjoyment of the creation process guide you. I think this would help musicians not become stagnant as well, and could possibly help with writer’s block. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record my music myself through an interface. I use stereo jacks and MIDI for the piano, as well as an XLR microphone for any vocal tracks. I love my interface for recording my piano. There is nothing worse than having a microphone recording my one-shot, improvised performance for a relaxing piano track, and a horse squeals in the background. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Honestly, I have to give them a big thumbs-up. I am all about adaptation to and appreciation of what you are given. I have never in my life gotten to own an acoustic piano; I’ve said many times that when it works out, I would love to have a grand piano. Nevertheless, the same digital Roland piano has been in my life since I started playing, and it has given me so much opportunity. For any musicians and creatives who do not have the privilege of acoustic instruments or a big studio, I think sampled instruments can definitely be utilized as a very valuable resource. Acoustic piano is an absolutely beautiful, rich sound, and I used to hunt down every coffee shop and bar with an acoustic piano just to be able to play them. However, I don’t think the “not having” of something should stop one from creating! Always use what has been given to you. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    True identity comes from within. Oftentimes, we become too ripped away from who we really are, and who we really can become. We worry about the externalities. We place all our focus on our name, nationality, age, race, genre, what we wear, gender, job, pay rate… category, category, category. Our personal flags don’t represent us anymore, they represent the external shell of society. As artists during this time, and as people desperately needing a cleanse from categorization, take advantage of the inward focus we have the chance of magnifying. What are we, then, other than shells? We have emotions painting our insides that we rarely grant ourselves the opportunity to visualize. I am personally very passionate about emotional intelligence, and want to fully understand these complex energies that pass through us, or sometimes get caught. I believe all art forms, in conjunction with a certain degree of scientific thought, can help us truly know thyselves: What are we feeling, and why? I hope everyone keeps some form of artistic expression in their lives, no matter what! It is essential

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    What a wonderful question from a philosopher! There are several perspectives from which this question can be answered. I’ll give a more scientific answer to this question, because I feel that will encompass all of my songs. Simple answer: all of my songs come from a warped version of my survival instinct. First, we shall start with the decision to sit down and play. Something has motivated me to sit down and play. That motivation could have been from a negative source (someone being cruel to me, for example), or a positive one (feeling an urge to create something new, for example). Either way, there was a stimulus that inspired me from within. Like an animal reacting to a stimulus, the memory within my body said, “Hey! *Insert stimulus* just happened… you should sit down and play because that will help you continue surviving.” No matter what the stimulus, positive or negative, making music has become a programmed solution in my mind for “survival.” There is of course a multitude of colorful perspectives with which to answer this question. However, when it comes down to it, even the pouring-of-the-heart out into the keys is a means to respond to the stimulus of emotional turmoil; emotional turmoil can cause such a degree of stress in our lives that it impedes our ability to survive and thrive. Ergo: music = survival of the fittest! 

    Thank you very much for this Emma!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: John Michael Anderson

    Today I’m introducing you to the composer and piano player John Michael Anderson. A while back I posted about the track Waltz No.1 Dance of Dawn and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am originally from Los Angeles, California. After many years of touring and living in different parts of the world, I am once again back living and composing in LA. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am now 35 years old. I started playing piano at the age of 10, so that makes 25 years of being a student of the instrument. I do play many other instruments. For work, I am a musical director, song-writer, and producer, so playing as many instruments as possible is a huge plus. Piano and guitar would be my most studied and capable instruments, but I also play strings, saxophone, flute, bass, drums, vocals, banjo, mandolin, ukelele, and some other auxiliary instruments as well. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My father was a builder so he was always tearing down and rebuilding homes. I would work with him, and one of these demolitions had an old, beautiful, abandoned piano tucked away in a room. I convinced him to bring it home. That was my ah-ha moment. I can remember vividly, the first time I struck a note. Everything changed. It was magic, and I was hooked. It was now my secret place where I could go to, and share all my secrets, desires, and turn them into sounds. Complete freedom. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since music was mostly something I found for myself and a whole world of exploration, I started writing melodies pretty much right away. Obviously silly at first, they quickly became something more than tinkering and I have been composing ever since. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I grew up in a big family, and sports were taken very seriously. Though I was good at sports and still love partaking, it was the team sports and group rules that were difficult for a more introverted type like myself. From the very first notes I ever produced musically, I immersed myself completely. Here was something beyond words that I could do completely solitary. All my answers were there, in the music. That realization that I could do this myself was liberating and has remained so.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I am a sucker for the Romantic era of piano, so Composers like Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Debussy, etc,. I also like some jazz as well, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Chick Corea, etc,. 
    as far as modern I do enjoy Nils Frahm, Philip Glass, Yann Tiersenn, Max Ricther, Peter Broderick, to name 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? 
    My favorite piece to play has always been Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor by Chopin. I knew it’s massively well known and common, but it’s one composition which, in my opinion, captures an absolutely perfect sonic representation of pure beauty.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    My answer is simply; if there are any rules set within music making, then they all need to be broken. Music is the most free form of expression and that should be guarded and never restricted. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I am fortunate enough to have my own studio, so with my own music and most of my work I record from there. If i am doing sessions with other artists or production houses then of course I will record in more commercial studios, but to have my own spot is priceless.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think sampled, or even virtual, instruments are incredibly useful in certain situations, like demos, or comps, or when you’re composing and would like to hear certain timbres for sections and how they play with each other. We’re blessed to have them, whereas composers back in time would have to essentially imagine all these different voicings. Now, I do think, and see how they have also taken away a lot of work from actual musicians. These days it is so easy to have full compositions, like a film score for example, where before you would hire a string section, now the composer can simply write it in MIDI and call it a day. It loses a bit of soul that way.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I will always be in awe of the power of music. I’ve been on tour in places where the language barrier was strong, however we were able to connect through playing music together. It is the first, and greatest language. Also, I appreciate and value so much people like yourself that take the time in sharing and connecting music with people that may not have heard it otherwise. It’s important for the audience and for the artists. So I thank you! 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    As a father, I enjoy this question the most! What a profound question for a 6-year old to ask. To be honest, I am still trying to find that answer. I’ve always felt music to be something much bigger than myself. It’s omnipresent, so much so that I often feel I can’t take credit for the songs that I “created”. How a painter would color a canvas, a composer does so with time. It’s tragic but beautiful. I would say it is life’s journal, so I suppose that’s where they come from: all of our past experiences.

    Thank you very much for this!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Stefano Fasce

    Today it’s time to get behind the piano and get to know the Italian composer Stefano Fasce a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Genoa in Italy, and have been living in London for the past 5 years.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    There was a baby grand in my home when I was young, so I’ve been playing it since I was a child but I’ve never taken lessons. I graduated in flute, I’ve been playing the guitar (electric and acoustic) since I was 13 and I have been learning the cello for the past 2 years.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My dad shared his passion for music with my brother and I from a young age, so we were immersed in a musical environment very early on, and naturally approached the piano in the house, a beautiful Kawai.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    When I was about 15 or 16, after playing covers of other people, I sat down and started writing simple ideas and that was the start of everything. I’ve been more serious about writing music for the past 7 years.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    There was no sudden realisation. It was more of a slow development over time as the ideas that I was playing around with eventually turned into songs.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I like Olafur Arnalds, Vikingur Olafsson, Hania Rani, Joep Beving and many others.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
    Not a song but a couple chord progressions that I like that often work their way into my compositions.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Musical rules can be helpful guidelines but all rules can and should be broken if it helps you to achieve the sound and emotion that you want.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    It depends. Usually I record by myself in my garden studio, which is a lovely place to work in. My debut album was recorded at Metropolis Studios, and I’ve also recorded at Angel Studios. Of course having the opportunity to record in places like these is very welcome!

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use sampled instruments all the time in my work as a film composer. I think it’s great that we have so many options but their limitations can influence the music we write. I always feel much more inspired when composing on a real instrument rather than composing at the midi keyboard.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    They come from many places. Sounds, rhythms, ideas, melodies. They all have a seed, a small fragment, that expands into a much more complex composition.

    Thank you very much for this Stefano!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Marc-André Pépin

    Today it’s time to get Behind the piano with the composer and piano player Marc-André Pépin!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in a small village (Saint-Benjamin) located in the French-speaking province of Québec in Canada. I am now living in Québec city.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am playing piano since I am 8 years old, it is more than fifty years ago.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I was very attracted by music early in my life and since my older sister was learning the piano I asked my parents for piano lessons. I started with a person who was teaching piano and at the same time was the church organist in our small town.

    How long have you been making piano music? Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I learned the piano in a classical manner, I mean, I learned how to read music and I studied music from classical composers (Bach, Mozart, …), practicing scales and technique. But at the same time, I spent a lot of my practice time trying to play by ears songs heard on the radio. At the same time, I started to compose short melodies but I was only when I was a teenager that I started to compose more seriously and to write my compositions. At that time, I was mostly imitating pieces from the great classical composers.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have always listened to a lot of classical music. I like very much piano music but also orchestral music and I think that I am influenced a lot by orchestral music in the way I write music. On the classical piano side, I like the music from Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov. On the jazz side, I like Keith Jarrett, George Gershwin, Michel Legrand.

    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?
    This happens to me often when I just finished composing a new piece. I might repeat it over and over not only to learn it but because I like it so much. So practicing for me is not a big struggle.

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    For me, there are no specific rules that has to be broken but any rule could be broken if it makes the music more interesting. I know that the word « interesting » is very subjective and it is the privilege (or responsibility) of the composer to decide what is interesting and what is not. At the same time it is a risk because the audience sometimes might not agree. As a composer, I have to live with this risk.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    Most of the time, I record my music at my home studio. I hire a sound engineer and a producer. I like to have advices from outsiders on the sound recording and on choosing the best interpretation. Exceptionally, my fourth album « Tempus Fugit » was recorded in a very comfortable and modern studio. It was a great experience but more expensive.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Children are really good at asking adult hard questions. I cannot tell where they come from. They seem to come from nowhere and without any reasons, sometimes, a melody simply start playing in my head. Most of the time though, music comes when I sit at the piano and start to improvise. Then, when I find a good idea, I develop it and complete the song.

    Thank you Marc-André!

    For more information and updates; check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify