• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Thomas Klak

    Today it’s time to get to know the artist behind the Spotted song What’s here a bit better. I’ll give you – Thomas Klak!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Marl, a mid-sized City of Ruhrgebiet in Germany. But I’m living and working in Essen, which is only 50 kilometers away from Marl. So I didn’t move that far away from hometown. I teach piano at Foklwang University of Arts in Essen. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started to play piano when I was six years old. I played church organ some years ago and play keyboards and synthesizer in progmetal bands. 

    Ah, and I play „Olaf“ my hedonistic mocca-kitchen-organ, which is an electric Magnus chord-organ. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Music was always in center of my family. The sound of the piano had a strong impact on me when I was a child. I remember being fascinated by the sound of our Bechstein C. 

    My grandfather bought his first piano when he was sixteen. That was in 1928. And it’s still in the family. He also played violin and other instruments in the era of silent movies. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    As i wrote, I began to play piano at the age of six and I’m composing my own music since my teenage years. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I remember it very well. The first songs evolved out of a band session during easter holidays in 1994. I good friend of mine rented a room in a fishermen clubhouse. We put all our stuff there and started our own power metal thing. We came every day to this place at least for a whole week and all we did was improvising while having good days and nights. 

    This was the environment, where all the ideas, that I had found during my (real) piano practicing (Bach, Chopin, Liszt) could come into other ears and other lights.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Nils Frahm

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    At the moment I’m improvising Boogie Woogie as soon as I sit down at the piano. I like the strong motorics and the feeling while improvising in the right hand. It makes my body happy. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I guess, all musicians and composers are used in braking rules all the time. Their rules and the rules of others. 

    How do you record your music?
    All my songs of the last two albums where recorded with a low budget equipment that I own myself. My first album „slow acting“ was recorded in my bedroom on a day and a night. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Use everything if you like it. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Love what you have and love what’s here

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

    I guess, my songs are from the 5 year old child in me, who wants to play, play, play. 

    Thank you for this Thomas!

    For more information about Thomas Klak and his music, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Prof. Lacasse

    Hi there professor! I wrote about your song Lost and found a while back. Lets get to know you a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    Serge Lacasse

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    Well, I’m an “actual” university professor in music…:) 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Canada and live in Levis, clos to Quebec City.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    That’s an interesting question. I started as a child, but was always playing by ear, by memory… I thus stopped taking lessons because sister Therese (who was teaching me) didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t able to properly read music… Then, when I got 16 I decided to try to get into the piano performance program in college (Quebec’s cegep). I started again my courses with Sister Therese and was actually admitted at the university level. However, I was feeling that I didn’t “deserve” this admission and I decided to study drums instead (which I’m plying since I was 8). But I’ve always played piano and composed for the instrument all these years.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    The Beatles fault…  When I was 8 I discovered the Beatles and wanted to be Paul. But my best friend at the time, who was older, decided he was Paul and I ended up as Ringo… I started playing drums at 8 which became my main instrument (I’ve played jazz, pop, rock, in studio, on stage with major Canadian acts). 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Well, as I mentioned, I’ve started composing music for the piano at 16-17. Actually, one of the pieces featuring on my album, “Debussy’, was written then. But I never played them in public nor recorded them. It is just a couple of years ago that I discovered that the tens of pieces I’ve composed through these years were very similar to the postclassical genre. I then discovered Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, Joep Beving, but also more “romantic” ones such as South Korean Yiruma. Since then, not only did I started composing new music, but also dig  into my past (because, fortunately, I did record on on dictaphone a lot of these early compositions). What I also discovered was that these musicians had a very similar background that mine: age (I’m 56), but also their wide musical taste and competence: pop, jazz, classical, contemporary music, electronic, etc. As a musicologist, I strongly believe that this is linked to this new “cultural condition”, that is the cultural omnivores: people that distinguish themselves by being equally at ease in many musical traditions, as opposed to earlier generations where artistic quality, or cultural taste, were measured according to their knowledge of strictly classical music. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
    Well, there are two; Lost and Found is probably my own favorite and i play it a lot. Bu I also love Max Richter’s Written on the Sky (based on his own On the Nature of Daylight, both featured in his 2014 album The Blue Notebooks).

    How long is your shortest song? 
    About 1:30… It’s called “Sunny Day”.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    First and foremost: borders between genres. That said, and as I evoked earlier, many musicians are already working toward breading these rules. For me it’s very similar to what we are witnessing in LGBTQ communities. First, we start by grouping these communities together (as well illustrated by the acronym itself), but then by attempting to radically delete gender distinctions. For example, some researchers have just proposed an AI voice that can’t be characterized as female or male. I believe this is where we are also going in music and in arts in general.

    How do you record your music?
    I’ve been a record producer for like 30 years. The recording studio is truly my main instruments. I do record at home, but also in our University Laval recording facility, the Laboratoire audionumérique de recherche et de création (LARC). I’ve founded this recording studio and am still heading it.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use both. My goal is to get the sound I want, no matter the means.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Well, thanks for having invited me Johan, it is a honour!

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

    Contrary to many composers who state that they don’t know their style, or that their music doesn’t belong to a genre (as if they were unique), I am totally aware of all my influences. For example, I use popular music forms (verse-chorus for example) [I’m a popular music musicologist], but also use some film music harmonic textures, etc. So yes, all these songs come from a sort of inner “mixing machine” that assembles elements from different sources: “pure” art doesn’t exist in my opinion.

    Thank you for these answers Serge! It was a truly interesting read!

    For more information about Serge and his music; please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Tristan Eckerson

    A while back I Spotted Tristans song For Natalia and now it’s time to get to know the artist behind it a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio. I was born and raised here although I moved around a lot- Charleston, SC, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Asheville, NC, and then back to Cincinnati.

    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 6. I’ve had brief forays into trombone, drums, and guitar. My trombone skills are gone, but I’m still pretty passable on drums and can play a little bit of acoustic guitar still.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I’m not exactly sure where I was at this point, but when I was about five I found a piano in someone’s house where I just happened to be, and I started messing around with it. Playing the really low keys and the really high keys. That’s my earliest memory of playing piano, and from there I just started taking classical lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been leading and playing in bands since I was in college, back in 2001. But as far as solo piano music, and the type of music that I’m currently producing, it’s been since 2016. I released a full length album with 1631 Recordings that summer and then did a tour through the U.S. and Canada to promote it.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The first songs I ever actually wrote were when I was in college in Charleston, SC and playing in a jazz fusion band called Doublestack. I wrote a few bluesy and fusion type songs on piano, and was also writing a lot of lyric based songs on acoustic guitar back then. At that point there was no plan or method, I was just writing anything and everything that popped into my head.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m not a huge fan of genres, and certainly when it comes to solo piano I think it really spans the map as far as what people are doing out there. If I had to pick one contemporary pianist right now, I’d say Tigran Hamasyan comes to mind. He might be categorized more as jazz, but I find what he does to defy genres and it is just really engaging to me. His album A Fable is pretty amazing.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    Not really, no. At this point I don’t even practice most of the songs I’ve written and produced. I mostly just move on to writing new music. But when I sit down at the piano I almost always just go to improvising. And that often leads me to coming up with an idea that I can then develop into a composition.

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I’m a big believer in knowing all the rules so then you can break them. I’m always trying to learn more about theory and compositional techniques. My goal is to have the knowledge and experience to then go beyond convention and create something that defies rules- something that people could analyze and categorize afterwards because it’s never been done before. That’s the idea anyway. But mostly I just try to make music that excites me and that I can be proud of.

    How do you record your music?
    For the past few years I’ve been doing everything in my home studio. I have an upright, and also I do a lot with Logic Pro and Sample libraries. I try to get samples and DAW productions to sound as real as possible. That’s my main goal. For my next album though I would like to get into a studio to record string parts and possibly some other instruments such as tuned percussion, brass, and woodwinds.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I like the saying “It’s not the software, it’s the user.” I went to grad school in San Francisco for Music Production and Sound Design, so I was completely immersed in that world. I kind of went in one end and came out the other, so to speak. I still use samples everyday, but I try to use them in the same way I would with real life instruments. I’m much more interested these days in writing compositions than tweaking settings. I have the utmost respect for people who really get into software and its capabilities, but for me at a point it was just overwhelming and really took away from playing an instrument and writing for humans. There was a point where I was producing so much “in the box” that I barely ever played my instrument. And that’s really the point where I decided to start writing solo piano music.

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

    Thank you for this Tristan!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Tom Blankenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Joseph Nimoh

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

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

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

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

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

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?  
    I enjoy the music of several artist including Jim Brickman, Kevin Kern, David Lanz, but to mention a few.
    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? I really don’t have a song like that. Most  of the time when I sit behind the keyboard, I’m trying to compose or work out some  interesting  idea, chords or harmonies going on in my head. I tend to compose in the moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you for sharing with us Joseph!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Anna Yarbrough

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
    Not really! I write every single day (for both myself and others) and I have to say that I rarely play the same thing over and over again. But I’m trying to get less “busy” and find time to simply play. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Twitter / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Heim

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

    What’s your real name? 
    Jonas Andersson 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
    I rarely play my own songs actually. There are many other thoug. Ára Bátur by Sigur Ros to name one – simple but amazing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Philip G Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Gian Marco Castro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Kyle Preston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you for all of this Kyle!

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