26 Feb

What Makes the Piano Difficult to Learn?

When you look at a piano keyboard, you may think that it is straightforward to learn. You have the white keys at the bottom and the black keys on top. Every key has its chord, and when you are presented with a piece, you think that it is as easy as punching in the chords.

Jazz music on the piano can be intense and fast-pacedHowever, many people swear by piano as one of the most difficult instruments to learn. Looking at a piece may make you think that piano is easy to learn. However, if you try playing the chords with both hands, and then having to play the left-hand side differently from the right-hand side, you will quickly realize that it can prove incredibly challenging.

A different chord for the right and left hand

It is the reason why most teachers teach the piano by doing it one hand at a time. Whatever the student’s dominant hand is, it is the first hand that is trained to play. And then, after the student gets comfortable with playing with that dominant hand, the teacher will start training on the other hand. The progression is different here depending on the student’s skills and openness to training. Some students in jazz piano lessons in New York City take as little as one week to progress from their dominant to the other hand. Other students, though, take several weeks to get confident with switching to the other hand.

Playing with both hands

And the challenge does not stop there. Now that you’ve practiced playing with the right and left hand, you must now learn how to play them together. The trick here is to learn how to play with both hands, even with the seeming independence of each hand. It is because there is a different key for the left and right hand (i.e., what is C for the right hand is different from the C of the left hand). So, you must train well until you get to a level of learning how to play with both hands without hesitation.

It is the part that takes time, though. Some learners never progress beyond playing with their right or left hand. And some students find it difficult to read the piano piece with lots of things to consider, like the chords for the right and left hand, the rhythm, and timing.

Reading a piano piece

Reading a piano piece can be challenging. You need to train yourself to get comfortable with reading it because of the many chords, bars, and frets that you get to see. To get confident on this one, give time to memorize the chords for the right and left sides. It takes time to do this, so be patient. Repeat the lessons and quiz yourself often, so you get to memorize all the chords without struggling to remember. Knowing the chords is crucial when you want to progress with your learning journey.

The piano instrument is difficult to learn; however, with patience and dedication, you will master it in no time. You need to get comfortable with reading piano pieces and playing with both hands. When you get confident with these lessons, you can play any piece that you like with no problems. If you are lucky to get an excellent teacher, then the learning journey gets easier for you.

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10 Jan

Five Jazz Guitarists That Changed the World!

As Jazz emerged as a musical force in the early 20th century, few have left their mark on the in the guitar world as these following virtuosos.

Wes Montgomery with a Gibson L5 semi acoustic guitar1. Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery’s innovative style and virtuosity was the influence of multiple contemporary guitarists including Jimi Hendrix. A virtuoso among virtuoso, Montgomery’s command of the instrument has not been matched. His most notable technique was the use of octaves.

Although his recordings with Riverside records are considered his most “pure” works, he obtained commercial success with his later adoption of string accompaniment. Montgomery’s influence is widespread, as his tone is considered standard amongst guitarists.

2. Django Reinhardt

The legendary Romanian has inspired countless guitarists. Despite a debilitating accident, which left his hand permanently injured, Django persevered to bring unmatched innovation to the instrument with his unique gypsy style. Performing with renowned jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong, Django will forever be known as one of the most prolific artists ever to pick up a guitar.

3. Pat Metheny

Incorporating tones from rock, Pat Metheny sonic palate is among the most versatile of all guitarists. He was one of the first jazz guitarists to utilize the Roland synthesizer, although only accessing a small number of the sounds contained in the unit. Metheny was greatly influenced by Wes Montgomery in the early years but cites many surprising inspirations, which affected his style, many coming from non-jazz acts such as The Beatles and James Taylor.

Joe Pass from New Jersey4. Joe Pass

A master of the walking bassline as well as a wizard of chord inversions, Joe pass redefined the instrument in his era. Pass cultivated a heavily refined styling of guitar tone, partly attributed to his abandonment of the guitar pick in favor of fingerstyle playing, which provided higher harmonic expression. Pass began his training when he was 14 on a $17 guitar, and overcame a battle of drug addiction to emerge as one of the major figures in the genre. Great contemporary artists such as George Benson use the Ibanez Joe Pass model guitar to this day.

5. Charlie Christian

The first major star of electric guitar, Charlie Christian stands a pioneer among pioneers. The Oklahoma City son broke new ground with his creative solo style which highlighted the guitar out of the rhythm section and into the forefront as a solo instrument, a precursor to solo electric guitarists of every genre. He is highly regarded as a significant influence on the development of the bebop genre.

Although many guitarists have enriched the history of the jazz genre, the above five virtuosos have proven themselves as timeless figures that have permanently left their mark on not only the jazz world but popular music in general!

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3 Dec

16 Weeks on the Jazz Week Charts

Thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy of “Eastern Standard Time.” The CD’s been doing very well and spent 16 weeks on the JazzWeek charts this summer, including several weeks in the top 10! If you’re waiting to get one, now’s your chance – they make a great holiday gift!

I got back from the University of North Texas 2 weeks ago where I had the honor of conducting the 1990’s alumni band at a concert honoring Neil Slater and Jim Riggs. A beautiful event and a great hang. I also had the opportunity to teach a couple of arranging classes and hear the One O’Clock play through 4 recent charts of mine. What an amazing band! The band’s latest CD is out – Lab 2008. Buy a copy, and make sure you read the liner notes! (Another honor.)

There’s more writing ahead for me, including charts for Alfred, Walt Whitman HS, Walter Johnson HS, Howard University, George Mason University, Bobby Shew, Nenna Freelon, Dave Leibman, Gabriel Espinosa, Don Junker, and of course the Airmen of Note.

Thanks for checking in, and feel free to drop me a note here or on my new Facebook page! With much appreciation, -Alan

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24 Jan

New York on my Mind

Sorry it’s been too long! 2005 closed out with new music written for Phil Woods & the Capitol Quartet, Pat Martino, Tierney Sutton, Rachael Price, Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra, US Army Jazz Knights, Howard University, and Central College in Iowa (It was a busy couple of months!).

In New York earlier this month, I heard one of the most stunning performances of my life. John Hollenbeck and Big Band Graz. Absolutely beautiful music. I just finished a new piece for the great Walt Whitman H.S. Jazz Ensemble, and I think a little bit of the freedom and elasticity of that music rubbed off on me!

Lots of exciting things ahead in the near future including more commissions, and guest artist/meet the composer appearances in Kansas and Arizona. Look for a new ABJO project soon also!

Best wishes to all, and please keep in touch! -Alan

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“Alan Baylock has achieved a goal that many artists aspire to, but often fail to reach: he has developed his own distinct sound as a composer. His writing is fresh, and is imbued with a great sense of spirit and fun.”
– Gordon Goodwin (Grammy & Emmy award winning composer/bandleader)

Profile Pic Alan

“Baylock goes beyond the pale and creates moods and textures which challenge a big band to be on their best behavior. I have the highest regard for his writing.” – David Liebman