• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Oskar Kappland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you Oskar for your participation!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Steve Luck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you so much for this Steve!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: It’s Kevin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you very much Kevin for these amazing words!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Franco Robert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you Franco!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Pietra

    A couple of months back I was contacted by Swedish hit song writer Andreas Stone Johansson about his piano music (you can read the spotted post here). I was a bit starstruck, but as it showed; I didn’t have to be. Andreas is a really nice guy, and we’ve been keeping in touch ever since! Hence it became kind of natural to do a Behind the piano post about him and his music; both the piano music and the hit music.

    Hello Andreas!
    How did you come up with your artist name?
    My middle name is Sten (Which is Stone in Swedish), plus my dad’s name is Sten, so it’s also kind of a tribute. Pietra means Stone in Italian.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Malmö, Sweden, where I’m also currently living. I grew up in Arlöv, a suburb to Malmö.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the Piano when I was around 5-6. I sing too and play the guitar. I also play most other instruments a bit too, hahaha…

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    It’s always been in my life, mind and around me. An addiction I suppose! A good one most of the time, haha..

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I actually started writing (If you can call it writing at such a young age) when I started playing the Piano. But the will/ambition to come up with melodies yourself. To be creative and driven by your imagination.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I do remember when I was about 6 or so, and I heard ”The Final Countdown” on radio and realized how much I loved music. From that moment I wanted to make my own songs. 

    How long have you been able to make a living out of making music?
    I dropped my work as a Teacher (Music ”Piano/Vocals” / English / Art) around 2008 and have been living of my music ever since.

    Do you remember your first song that became a hit?
    I don’t exactly know if it became a hit, but it was the opening song for Jakob Sveistrup’s debut album right after he participated in Eurovision for Denmark with his song ”Tänker På Dig”. My song was entitled ”Forever And A Day” and the album did actually sell gold in Denmark. That was a big moment for me. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are so many talented ones, but I can mention a few I really appreciate. Aaron Zigman, Chopin, Keith Jarret, J.S. Bach, Michael Nyman, James Horner, Hanz Zimmer, etc.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    It used to be Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin, back when I practiced a lot and knew how to play it, hahaha..

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All !!!! Study / Learn music by all means, there are tons and tons of information / knowledge that is useful. Then remember that there are no rules in music, only heart! What comes from the heart reaches the heart.

    How do you record your music?
    All by myself usually. Nowadays my studio is a little bigger and a little more fancy, but it always used to be just a small room. Whatever that gives you inspiration.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use it a lot. You have to remember that music has to be played/felt at some point of the creation. If you use a sampled Cello, you still ”Play” it on a keyboard and thus has to be able to play the Piano and also listen and respect the authenticity of the Cello. As much as I wish I knew how to play every instrument, I don’t. If I could I’d have tons of musicians in the studio all the time. But 99%  of the time I end up playing everything myself. The piano and sampled instruments are very useful this way. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Always remember, You are what you love, not what loves you! That said, you are everything you love about music, life, etc, not necessarily what people love about you! Be your own dreams. 

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

    It comes from everywhere around us. We see it, grasp it, borrow it for a while. We put our heart into that moment, try to seize it, so it won’t disappear. Until the next time we get a chance to capture it. 

    For more information about Andreas and the music he makes, please check out these links:
    Website / Instagram / Spotify /

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Philip Campbell

    Today it’s time to get to know Philip Campell a bit better! You can find the spotted post about him and his song Seeking here!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’ve lived in the small, coastal town of Larne in Northern Ireland all my life.  It’s the perfect blend of town, countryside and views of the Irish Sea.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I was sent to piano and violin lessons at age 8 and I’m now 34 so you could say that I’ve been playing piano for over 25 years.  In reality though my obsession was guitar, bass and banjo in my teens and 20s and it was only in the last 3-4 years that my main focus has come ‘full circle’ back to piano.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    At school a few friends and I formed a 5 piece rock band, we played a few gigs when I was at university but ended up going our separate ways.  After that I actually ended up playing 5 string banjo in a bluegrass group for a few years.  Both a far cry from the ‘solo piano’ genre!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ll never forget hearing Ludovico Einaudi perform ‘I Giorni’ on youtube in 2016.  It was unlike anything I’d heard or seen before.  One artist, one piano, one simplistic arrangement that was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’d ever experienced.  I immediately fell in love with solo piano and was inspired to try composing a few ideas myself.  That’s a long way of saying 3 years!

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    A few years ago my wife and I started the adoption process.  I remember sitting at the piano one night after hearing that things hadn’t worked out with an adoption application and feeling totally frustrated and disappointed.  Playing piano always relaxed me and I remember just repeating 2 single notes over and over again.  All of a sudden a simple melody came into my head; I added a few chords on the left hand and that became my first solo piano composition. (Here’s a link to the song Almost Home).

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It’ll be no surprise that Ludovico Einaudi is first on the list.  I also love Goldmund, Joep Beving and Olafur Arnalds.  It’s great that Spotify playlists allow you to continually discover new artists; recently I’ve been listening to Anna Yarbrough’s albums ‘Divided’ and ‘Softer Sessions’, they’re fantastic.

    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? 
    That’s an easy one – ‘Berlin Song’ by Ludovico Einaudi.  I just love the chord voicings and dynamic variations he uses to produce the melody.

    How do you record your music?
    It’d be my dream to have a row of grand pianos lined up in a large studio but unfortunately it’s just me, a piano and a laptop at home. 

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    For me solo piano as a genre already breaks the rules!  You don’t need 20 layered tracks, 40 instruments and an insanely technical arrangement to make amazing music.  One pianist and a carefully crafted, simplistic arrangement can create some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t think there should be any restrictions in creating music.  If sampled instruments are what you have available to you and enable you to create music in a way you enjoy, I say – go for it!

    Anything else you want to share?
    It ties in with the previous question about ‘rule breaking’ but I’ve found the ‘community feel’ among solo piano artists really challenges the competitive arena of mainstream music.  Sites such as ‘Sleepy Songs’ greatly help with this!

    And the very last question from my son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    (Tell your son, great question!)  I’ve found the hardest part is coming up with the ‘start’ of the song.  Once I’m happy with a few starting notes or chords, the rest of the melody seems to follow naturally.  Whatever mood I’m in or whatever has happened that day will help shape that melody.

    Thank you very much Philip for these wonderful answers!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Andy Feldman

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in New Jersey, not far too far from the beach. I still live in NJ, but a bit further north now.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I was always interested in the piano as a kid and eventually gravitated towards other instruments as well. In addition to piano and other keyboards, I can also play trumpet, guitar, drums, and some other assorted instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My family always had a piano in the house when I was growing up. As a young kid, I would always sit at the bench and hit random notes to make sounds. My parents eventually started to teach me simple tunes and by the age of 5, I was taking lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I always had an interest in jazz, blues, and improvisation so I always was fooling around on the piano and making things up. I don’t know when exactly I started thinking of those creations as songs though. I always initially took my popular style music more seriously than my instrumental music until I was in college and started posting to SoundCloud. I found my piano music was getting more attention, so I also began to pay more attention to it. Eventually I took what were essentially improvisations and made them into more well formed pieces that became my first EP, and some of the songs on my more recent releases.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was very gradual process. My piano teacher always encouraged me to start recording various ideas I had, or to use recordings to make backing tracks to try to improvise over. I had a few friends who were interested in recording technology as well, and started using those tools to get an idea out of my head so that I could move on to the next one without the fear of forgetting it. Like I said, I originally focused on writing pop songs, and didn’t think too much of my instrumental music, but I always had a love of improvising and was constantly playing whatever came to mind.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I never gravitated towards the classical genres much so I didn’t have much exposure to this “piano genre” in the traditional sense. I take a lot of inspiration from soundtrack music, jazz, and even pop. Nobuo Uematsu was probably a very early inspiration for my piano music – I always loved the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy video games and learned many of those songs on piano. More recently, the soundtrack to the movie “Her” which was written by Arcade Fire, was an album that really stood out to me. It’s beautiful and simple. Lots of great use of space and some interesting tones. In highschool, I had a phase where I listened to The Doors constantly, and Ray Manzarek was a big influence. I loved hearing someone use the piano and other keyboards as a lead instrument. I guess I was always jealous of guitars having all of the fun stuff in most popular music. In the jazz world, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, and Gene Harris were guys I listened to a ton.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually I play whatever my latest “song” is. I often start by improvising something, and then playing that over and over, over the span of weeks or more, eventually refining it into a more structured piece.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All rules need to be broken, but you have to understand the rules first to understand why you are breaking them and be able to do it tastefully and with purpose.

    How do you record your music?
    I record a lot of music myself at home. I have a mini studio and an assortment of instruments. But I’ve also gone to various studios locally or in NYC to record for myself or for others.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Samples instruments are great. Just like anything else, they are tools – when used appropriately and purposefully, they can 100% be the right instrument for the job. The piano is a particularly hard instrument to sample, but again it depends on the context. A sampled piano in a pop song may cut through the mix nicely, whereas a sampled piano in a solo piano piece might sound a bit unrealistic. But there are some truly amazing VSTs out there these days!

    Anything else you want to share?
    You can check out my music anywhere music is available. I also play in a funk/jam band based in Asbury Park, NJ, called Secret Sound. We’ve played with acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Dark Star Orchestra, and The Black Crowes. You can also check us out anywhere you routinely get your music!

    And, of course, the question my five year old son one asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    It’s hard to say where the songs come from. Some are thoughtfully crafted, others come from the space that exists somewhere between thinking really hard about something and not paying any attention at all.

    Thank you for these answers Andy! It’s been great talking to you!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: William Ogmundson

    I have spotted a couple of Williams piano tunes before; the touching story behind the song I will return being my favorite.

    Now its time to get to know William a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from rural New Hampshire, and still live there, in a little town called New London.  We’re part of New England (yes, everything is “New”) in the NorthEast corner of the U.S., north of New York City and south of Quebec, Canada.  Everything here is quite old, by American standards-many houses date back to colonial times and every village has a center with a town hall, a library and a white congregational church.  There are lots of lakes and trees and is rather cold most of the year.  

    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 three and started lessons at age five.  I play other instruments badly.  I got a guitar for $35 at a flea market recently and I’m determined to learn to play it properly.  I played a shruti box (a middle eastern drone) when I was recording my latest album “La Vie en Couleurs”, and I’ve also played hammond organ, marimba, orchestra bells and the wine glasses for other recordings.  

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started picking out Icelandic (my dad’s family is from there) folk songs on the piano when I was maybe three. “A Sprengisandi” I think was the first song I learned by ear-it’s about herding sheep and watching out for elves.  I guess everyone starts somewhere, right?  Not a bad song actually.  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Hmmm…well, I recorded my first album in 2006, but I didn’t take it seriously until about a year and a half ago, after I went to a Piano Whisperings event in Seattle and got inspired.  I was still a full time musician before that, but mostly focused on other things.  I wrote quite a bit of musical theater, taught some lessons, music directed at a church and performed locally.  

    Something clicked though when I went to the Whisperings event.  Maybe it was looking around and realizing how happy and fulfilled all the people there were, and thinking, “Wow!  I think this is what I’m meant to be doing.”  So I kicked it into high gear-I recorded three full-length albums and four singles in a year’s time and here I am now. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I used to play in pit bands and would entertain the other musicians by messing with the music, especially if I didn’t particularly like it. I think I played the whole score of Annie as a cha cha cha once-it was a big improvement! And you can ruin any song by making it a stripper number, with big octaves in the base and heavy triplets.  Hahahaha  At some point though someone suggested to me that maybe instead of making a mockery of other people’s music, my time might be better spent creating my own.  

    I wrote a lot of bad music-a whole show in fact before I wrote what I consider to be my first good song, “Dance of the Fairies”.  It was written to be sung during the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  I still remember the ecstatic feeling I got hearing it performed on stage and thinking, “Hey, this is really good!  I could get used to this.”.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    So many….Greg Maroney stands out.  Rachel Lafond is quite good, I don’t know-there are so many good ones-it gets daunting when one thinks about it too much.  

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    A few.  “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess is one.  “Hold On” by Sarah McGlaughlin.  Someone about the chord patterns and melody of those two just gets me every time.  

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Parallel fifths and octaves for sure!  Are there any other rules?  I never took composition so I was spared having to learn a long list of “thou shalt nots” for a budding composer.  

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I use a studio.  For my last two albums I’ve gone down to Pennsylvania to record with my friend Greg Maroney.  I love going to the studio-it’s like being a little kid in a candy store.  I almost always discover some instrument that I decide, spur of the moment, just has to go on my recording.  

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    A qualified “like”.  I was hired to write songs and background music for a half hour TV show a couple years ago, and for the most part they liked what I did.  They sent back one of the background pieces I had written though, and asked if I could write something that sounded as if it had been put together on garage band.  So I basically sewed together what I considered a horrible Frankenstein of a song (I actually called it the Frankensong) using sampled sounds and beats on garage band, and of course the TV people loved it!  

    To this day I’m not sure what to make of it, honestly.  Sampling brings the ability to compose to the masses I suppose, or at least gives them that illusion, but there will always be a place for real sounds created by real people.  

    Anything else you want to share? 
    We’re all on a musical odyssey.  I just want to keep traveling and creating as long as I can.  I’m so very fortunate that  I get to do something I love all day, every day. 

    And the last question from my five year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Everything I do, every conversation, every book or movie that I absorb, everything gets taken in and influences the next composition somehow.  I like to give myself parameters when writing.  Stephen Sondheim said it very well, and I paraphrase.  “If someone asks me to write a song about a guy that’s sad, I freeze up.  But if someone says to write a song about a white poodle wearing a pink hat, that’s easy.”  We’re all intimidated by a blank canvas.  I drew notes out of a hat to form the melody of “Pharaoh’s Horses”.  Sometimes I read poetry and recite it to get a rhythm, and then the melody springs out of that.  Or it could be a horn honking, or a dog barking, or the way a dragonfly’s wings sparkle in the sun.  Inspiration is everywhere you look.  

    Thank you for this talk William!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Christopher Colaço

    A while back I wrote about the piece The brightest point of light by Christopher Colaço & Philipp Schaeper. I had a talk with the pianist of the duo. Here it is!

    What´s your name?
    Christopher Colaço

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Bavaria in southern Germany, where life is good and easy and now living in Berlin since 10 years.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I´m playing the piano since I was 5 years old and I sometimes play the clarinet, which I started quite the same age, but I had to focus on one instrument. That’s what my piano teacher told me back in the days.

    Tell us about how you started playing music?
    I basically started with straight forward piano lessons in my village and quite quickly got into a music based college, where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of like minded people. My teacher there, was a Jazz enthusiast and that’s how my love for Jazz music started. Therefore I founded some local jazz bands but even reached my hand out to funk and reggae music. I decided to dedicate my life to music and applied for music studies at the university of arts in Berlin. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since the age of 5 where I started playing. By the end of my jazz studies I focused more on neo-classical piano tunes combined with strings.

    Tell us something about the moment you realized that you could make songs yourself!
    It was pretty romantic, haha. At the age of 16 I composed some piano pieces for a girl to like me, which worked out pretty well 🙂

    What are you favorite piano artists in this piano genre?
    Of course I’m influenced by the great jazz masters like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly but as well as modern classical piano pianists such as Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds and all these beautiful players out there.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually Chopin brings me in the mood.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    What, are there any rules?

    How do you record your music?
    I have a basic setup to catch some ideas in my home studio. When it comes to music production I choose one of the great studios Berlin has to offer.

    What´s your take on sampled instruments?
    I think there is a hugh variety out there which sound beautiful, but I think mixing them with real instruments is the way to do it.

    And the last question from my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    Your son seems to be a philosopher. If I only could answer this question!

    Thank you very much for this Christopher!

    For more information about Christopher and the music he makes (together with Philipp Schaeper) please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Ahren

    A while back I wrote about Ahren and his track Continuum. Today it’s time to get to know Ahren a bit better!

    Whats your name?
    My name is Ahren Merz

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised in Kilchberg, Switzerland, a town not far from Zürich and currently live in Adliswil, which is also right next to Zürich. My mother is American and my father is Swiss.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I originally learned playing the piano (and the flute in school) about 20 years ago but did not have an interest in composing my own music until 13 years later when I discovered Electronic Dance Music (which eventually shifted to contemporary/classical music) and noticed that my past experience with the piano made the introduction to music production/composition a joyable experience from the beginning. I started playing the guitar as well but it didn’t give me the same emotional response the piano was able to. All instruments in my compositions are played with a midi keyboard and tweaked accordingly to make them feel organic.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music 20 years ago in form of piano lessons and the flute in school. The piano lessons weren’t a long term hobby back then however because playing other people’s music felt unnatural to me.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making piano/orchestral music for about a year now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The moment I realized I could make my own music was a gigantic new world opening up to me. The beautiful thing about it is that it’s a constantly changing world which regularly brings me back to that comforting initial feeling.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My favorite artists of the genre are Ryuichi Sakamoto, Akira Kosemura, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and many more.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    No, there is not really a specific song I like playing again and again. I like experimenting with new sounds and instruments/synthesizers however. The approach I take with my music is like building something. It’s more of a construction process, although starting compositions is usually based on improvised ideas.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of the rules can be broken once they’re understood. Broken rules characterize authenticity: If the music feels right it doesn’t matter what rules are being broken.

    How do you record your music?
    I record all of my music with my computer in my bedroom/living room in
    a 1.5 bedroom apartment. Currently I am also experimenting with ambient sounds from nature which requires going outdoors and recording sounds like rivers, chirping birds, wind, etc. which is a lot of fun and is very inspiring to me.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I like sampled instruments and the freedom you have in processing their sound. They allow anyone with a computer to create their own music at home or wherever. What’s important in my opinion however is to process or combine these in a way that is fresh for the ear which can be difficult since so many people are using them. With sampled instruments I find it especially important to know exactly what they do and to experiment with playing them in ways they’re not supposed to be played.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I also would like to share that I am planning on experimenting with paint and audio visual media for performances.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from what I see, hear and feel. And sometimes they come from musical accidents. Great question by the way!

    Thank you very much for this Ahren!

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