I've been lucky enough to have some nice pianos in my life. My old studio piano was a 1925 Kanabe 6' grand piano. My Kanabe and I have had some great memories together. In fact I wrote and rehearsed the songs for both of my albums on that piano. Now my Kanabe lives in my living room.

Here's Annika tickling those ivories. Actually the Kanabe doesn't have ivory, it's a plastic-based key which I'm not 100% sure of its makeup. But, it feels good to the fingers!

Even though the Kanabe has served me well over the years, I felt I needed a better quality instrument for my Jazzedge studio.

Time for an upgrade...

Jami encouraged me to go take a look at pianos, and in October of 2020 we took a ride up to Steinert in Boston and I fell in love with this Boston piano. Thank you Jami for encouraging me to get it!

Quick story about Boston pianos.

I've always loved their pianos since I did a gig about 20 years ago on a Boston piano. It was a private house party in which the hosts had a gorgeous Boston piano in a room away from the guests. I was hired to play cocktail piano for a few hours and it was like a wonderful practice session just sitting at this beautiful instrument, being able to play whatever I wanted for hours.

Needless to say, I was hooked on Boston pianos. So, in October 2022, I took the leap and purchased the GP-193 Performance Edition II by Boston.

The Grand Piano Move

Moving a 6'4" 824 lb piano is never an easy job. Luckily being close to Boston we have some great piano movers in this area.

The movers needed to bring the piano up to the 2nd floor where the Jazzedge studio is located. Plus, they needed to make a pretty tight turn.

Take a look at some of the pictures from that day:

Studio Upgrade

Now that Paul is back with Jazzedge, I'll be focusing on my new Jazzedge Academy program.

I wanted to have a new studio look for this new program, so I was lucky when the office condo next door came up for sale. I quickly grabbed it and got working on a studio revamp.

Here you can see the studio being torn apart to be rebuilt:

'Midifying' The Grand Piano

MIDI, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface allows you to connect devices to your computer. Basically a MIDI interface on a piano means that I can plugin in my piano to my computer to record, write music, and trigger the Jazzedge Virtual Keyboard.

To do this, I'm using the PNOScan product from QRS music.

My piano technician, Larry Brown can be seen below installing the light sensors for the MIDI application.

Now that I have MIDI installed on the piano, I can do fun things like trigger the Jazzedge Virtual keyboard to "light up" keys making it easier to see what I'm playing.

What Does The GP-193 PE2 Sound Like?

The piano has a beautiful, rich tenor and bass due to the fact that the soundboard of the piano is so wide, plus it is 6'4" long.

Here's a sample from the Jazzedge homepage of me playing the piano:

This is not the best recording, but it does highlight the beautiful range of this piano.

New Studio Coming This April

The new studio will be reading this April, 2022 and I plan on releasing many more performance videos once complete. I'll also be releasing early access to my TheTotalMusician program as well.

Right now, the piano is waiting for the action to come back...

Conclusion

Well, that's my new piano.

How about you?

Do you have any piano stories to share? If so, leave them in the comments area below!

Los tritonos definitivamente le añaden condimento a tu forma de tocar. Pero mucha gente se confunde cuando llega el momento de utilizarlos. En este artículo lo voy a explicar:

El Tritono
¿Qué es una Resolución?
Movimiento de Dominante (Resolución)
Enlaces ii-V-I
Usando tritonos en enlaces ii-V-I

El Tritono

El tritono es un intervalo. Un intervalo es la distancia entre dos puntos (dos teclas o dos notas). Medimos la distancia en el piano en intervalos. Un tritono es la distancia entre la raíz del acorde y la # 4 (cuarta aumentada). Por lo tanto, de C a F# es un tritono.

Hace años, podrías estar expulsado de la iglesia por siquiera tocar un tritono debido a su muy "desagradable" o disonante sonido. Se le solía llamar el "intervalo del diablo".

Irónicamente, el tritono es el ingrediente clave en el acorde de 7ª de Dominante. Las notas de un acorde de G7 son el G-B-D-F. El intervalo B ― F es un tritono.

Ahora, digo que es irónico porque los acordes Dominantes proporcionan una gran cantidad de movimiento en la música. Ciertos acordes como un acorde mayor o menor pueden o no provocar una sensación de "¡Tengo que moverme a otro acorde!" Podrías terminar en un acorde mayor o menor y el oído estaría perfectamente feliz si te quedaras allí. Mientras que un acorde dominante quiere resolver a otro acorde.

¿Qué es una Resolución?

Bueno, vamos a pensar por un minuto en una resolución en el "mundo real". Cuando hay un conflicto se necesita una resolución. Esa resolución podría conducir a una respuesta "normal" o a una respuesta "engañosa".

Si eres sorprendido tirando basura la respuesta "típica" podría ser una multa. La respuesta "engañosa" o "atípica" podría significar que tuvieras que caminar por ahí recogiendo basura durante el día. Estamos acostumbrados a las respuestas típicas en nuestra vida cotidiana. Dices algo malo y alguien se enoja contigo. ¿Pero qué pasa cuando esa persona te confronta gentilmente y te pregunta "¿Por qué eres tan malo conmigo?" Esa (desafortunadamente) es más una respuesta atípica.

Muy bien, de vuelta a la música. Así como en la "vida real" tenemos respuestas o "resoluciones" típicas y atípicas, también tenemos estos tipos de resoluciones en la música.

Ciertos acordes quieren naturalmente trasladarse a otros ciertos acordes. El acorde de 7ª de dominante es un ejemplo de esto.

Movimiento Dominante (Resolución)

La resolución típica de un acorde de 7ª de dominante es resolver por 5ª descendente (o por 4ª ascendente) a un acorde mayor o menor.

Algunos ejemplos:
G7 resuelve a C mayor o menor
D7 resuelve a G mayor o menor F7 resuelve a Bb mayor o menor, y así sucesivamente...

Podrías preguntarte : "¿Qué pasa con los acordes de Blues? Ellos no resuelven como"deberían".

En el Blues, los acordes de 7ª de dominante no resuelven como "deberían". Es una de las razones por las que el Blues tiene un sonido único.

Cuando un acorde de 7ª de dominante no resuelve normalmente (por 5ª descendente) llamamos a esto una resolución engañosa. Hay una excepción a esta regla que explicaré más tarde.

Tritono1

Tritono2

Tritono3

Tritono4

Wouldn’t it be fun to go back to school? Recess, lunch with friends, quizzes… Yeah, quizzes. Sounds like fun, right? I was recently putting together a music theory quiz for a new lesson and thought to myself, “I should share this with all of our students out there who are music theory fans.” (I don’t lead the most exciting life).

Take the quiz, check your answers, tally your score, and discover how much of a music geek you are by getting your ranking below. No cheating (this means no internet assistance!) The questions get progressively more challenging.

 

#1. Which two keys are indicated by this key signature?

Music Theory Quiz Q1

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. Identify this interval?

Music Theory Quiz Q2

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. Name the scale (mode) written below.

Music Theory Quiz Q3

 

 

 

 

#4. Identify the chord below. (Identify the root and quality of the chord - ie, the root of the chord and whether it is major, minor, dominant, etc).

Music Theory Quiz Q4

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5. Using Roman numeral analysis, identify (label) the chord progression below.

Music Theory Quiz Q5

 

 

 

 

 

 

#6. Using Roman numeral analysis, identify (label) the 4-measure passage below.

Music Theory Quiz Q6

 

#7. Spell a C#m7 chord in 1st inversion.

Music Theory Quiz Q7

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8. Rewrite the closed-position F7 chord below in open-position.

Music Theory Quiz Q8

 

 

 

 

 

 

#9. Write an Eb harmonic minor scale.

Music Theory Quiz Q9

 

 

 

 

 

 

#10. What is a V7/V chord in the key of A major?

 

 

Now check your answers, tally up your score, and see where you rank below. Correct answers are 1 point apiece, no partial credit allowed. (It’s all or nothin’ folks).

RANKINGS

0 points = “Dunce Cap”

1-3 points = “Stay After School For Extra Help”

4-5 points = “Shows Potential”

6-7 points = “A Pleasure to Have in Class”

8-9 points = “Teacher’s Pet”

10 points = “Valedictorian and a Gold Star!”

 

ANSWERS:

    #1. A major and F# minor

    #2. Minor 6th

    #3. C phrygian (3rd degree of an Ab major scale)

    #4. Db7 (i.e., D-flat dominant 7th chord)

    #5. “ii - V7 - I” progression in the key of G major (ie, Am, D7, Gmaj)

    #6. In key of E major: m1 = Emaj (I); m2 = B7 (V7); m3 = Amaj (IV) and Emaj (I); m4 = B7 (V7) and Emaj (I)Music Theory Quiz A6

 

    #7. Can be written anywhere on staff (treble or bass) but must read in this order (from bottom up): E, G#, B, C#.  Example answer:

Music Theory Quiz A7

 

    #8. Answers will vary. Chord must be spread across a range larger than an octave (i.e., an “open-position” or “spread” voicing).  Example answer:

Music Theory Quiz A8

 

  #9. Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, D, Eb

Music Theory Quiz A9

 

  #10. “B7” chord

Music Theory Quiz A10

 

Paul Buono has returned to the JazzEdge family as an instructor.  His professional piano/keyboard experience includes national and international touring, university professor, musical director, pit musician, sideman, composer/arranger, middle school teacher, and even a brief stint as a... lawyer(?)!  

Willie:  What got you started on the piano?

Paul:  My grandfather was a very good pianist, mostly self-taught.  He told stories of how he used to get wheeled through the hospital wards on a little rolling stage that could hold a small piano and bass player and would play for the injured veterans during World War II.  He appreciated the arts and wanted his grandchildren to have the opportunity to take music lessons (my sisters studied flute and violin).  Once a week he would drive us to our music lessons with the promise of ice cream as a reward.  Of course, my parents were also instrumental (pardon the pun) and huge supporters of our music education, as well as both loving music themselves and exposing us to everything from Kenny G to Kenny Kirkland.

Willie:  What was your training like?

Paul:  I started playing the piano when I was about 8 years old, taking private lessons weekly at the Performing Arts School of Worcester.  I eventually moved from years of classical lessons to jazz, but I was not a focused music student.  It was not until high school that I started to take music more seriously and focus on real practice.  Ultimately I decided to pursue music at the university level, but when I got to college I got my butt kicked (musically speaking).  I listened to some of the upper-level players and knew immediately that my playing was far behind their advanced comprehension and abilities.  But I thought those advanced players were so cool!  I desperately wanted to be in that group, to know what they knew, and to be in all of the top ensembles.  I decided to give everything I had to music for one year.  That year was some of the most intense practice I’ve ever done - I practiced every hour I could stay awake.  My teacher told me I had advanced two to three years in the space of one, which was a great feeling and compliment that pushed me to practice even harder.  And from that point on I was hooked.

Willie:  What happened after college?

Paul:  I figured out that all the great players were in New York City, so I moved to New York.  I actually did my final year of college in New York because I was in a rush to get there.  I played a lot of very different gigs, but had a bit of a “jazz snob” attitude. I considered pop music and other kinds of music to be beneath me. This was was wrong, immature, and short-sighted (I got my act together pretty quickly, though).  Once I became more open-minded, my musical opportunities and networks expanded (big surprise, right?) and I also became a more versatile musician. Suddenly I had more gigs, more things to practice, more musicians to play with, and more of an understanding of what I needed to practice in order to improve.

Willie:  What about professional work? What kind of things have you done professionally?

Paul:  I’ve definitely played a lot of gigs, but a couple experiences in particular stand out.  I worked as a musical director and sideman for Princess Cruises, playing in the production shows and cabaret theaters and travelling to Tahiti, Bora Bora, New Zealand, Alaska, and throughout the Caribbean.  I also toured with some of the singers from the NBC TV show "The Voice," including the season 1 winner Javier Colon. I toured the U.S., Central, and South America with Maroon 5 and Javier, including a performance in São Paulo, Brazil in front of 35,000 people! Now that I have a family and teaching commitments I stay a little closer to home, but I continue to play in Boston and throughout New England and New York with various bands and ensembles.

Willie:  Do you enjoy teaching?

Paul:  I love teaching! I love talking to students about music, sharing what I love, sharing what I know, sharing what mistakes I made and helping them avoid those mistakes, and introducing ideas that are exciting and stimulating and inspiring. I'm very excited to be working with JazzEdge again, largely because of the incredible instruction and technology tools that are part of the site. Online instruction has been very exciting because it allows for strong, effective learning with so many various resources instantly available. I also enjoy being able to teach in a variety of environments - classroom instruction, private instruction (in-person and online), and directing ensembles. Keeping up with my own performance calendar also informs my teaching. Gigs help motivate me to practice and learn more. I've also occasionally taken advanced students on gigs with me so that they can see the ins-and-outs of professional musicianship.

Willie:  What’s this “lawyer” thing I heard about? Are you a lawyer?

Paul:  Yes, in a moment of temporary delusion (which lasted three years) I did in fact successfully graduate from law school and pass the bar exam.  In many ways I’m not sure it actually happened, although my therapist tells me that it’s common for the human psyche to repress emotional scars. Kidding of course. My first love is music, but I've always had a deep interest in law and the formation of legal precedents, and I actually really loved law school. I worked briefly as an attorney for a small intellectual property firm outside of NYC, but something about the practice of law did not appeal to me. I have worked as an attorney and consultant for other musicians and agencies and continue to do so in small part, but my primary focus is teaching and playing.

Willie:  What advice would you give to players trying to get gigs and establish a musical network in their community?

Paul:  I always tell students that, as a musician, everything is an audition.  So even if you’re graduating from Julliard, the person hiring you is always going to want to hear you play.  And then there are the auditions that you don’t even know are happening.  Everytime you play with new people, you should assume that they are listening critically to what you do as a player, so approach gigs professionally because it could lead to you getting hired in the future.  To me, being “professional” means a few specific things: be on time, dress well, be courteous, and have a great attitude.

And above all, be prepared to play the music as best you can, regardless of your personal opinions of the music. Practice. Be ready. You only get one chance to make a first impression. There are lots of great players but the great players that I hire regularly are the ones who are prepared musically and also know how to respond to emails, voicemails, and texts in a timely manner, are punctual, dress professionally, are respectful, and are a “good hang." One last thought - being prepared is often more important than being the best player on the gig. I have often been the most prepared, but far from the most talented, and I've noticed that matters more and gets me repeat-hired.

Lloyd Rees, Newport South Wales

Lloyd is one of our newer members, from a city along the M4 Motorway next to the Welsh Capitol Cardiff. He began playing the piano at 7 years old. After studying for 5 years Lloyd began to pursue other interests like rugby and gymnastics. He then went to college, became a Chartered Civil Engineer, and started a family. At last after retiring Lloyd was able to return to his old passion, the piano.

He spent the past 10 years trying to pick up where he left off. He even studied locally with a concert pianist who was able to help him get his bearings again, but he wasn’t done there. Lloyd eventually turned to the internet to find some online music sites.
“I have been involved with 3 other similar sites, but find they half explain things often leaving the student mid session to ‘figure it out for themselves’...”

After feeling like he still wanted more he returned to search around the internet, when one site mentioned JAZZEDGE Corp. He watched some of Willie’s sample lesson videos and felt like the teaching method was thorough and well done. He quickly became a free trial member. This soon turned into a Gold Membership due to Lloyds respect for Willie’s attention to detail and total commitment to teaching.

Lloyd is now working on the Blues and Boogies Volumes, but found the Piano Chords Lessons very useful.

When asked what he would change about PianoWithWillie, Lloyd expressed his admiration for our dedication to students and simply said there is nothing he would change.

His major goal has always been to be able to put his own arrangements together from lead sheets with better success than he has experienced in the past. Lloyd hopes to reach this goal with Willie’s lessons and private coaching.

After a flourishing professional career and great success in most all his ventures, it is clear the Lloyd's determination and hard work will bring him to the advanced level he desires with Willie's lessons.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to do some studio work for a local singer. Studio work is different than playing a gig, soI thought I'd give you some studio tips to make your experience in the studio both fun and productive.

What is Studio Work?

First off, anytime you are offered studio work, I suggest you take it. Working in a recording studio is a valuable learning experience and it makes you a better player, musician and listener!

When I refer to studio work, I’m not talking about working a mixer or setting up mics -- although that’s fun and rewarding as well. In fact, I almost went to school for recording production and engineering! No, when I speak about studio work, I’m talking about being a pianist/keyboardist on a recording session and laying down your own tracks.

Studio work is not always easy to come by. So if you're fortunate enough to get an opportunity like this, you really need to wow the engineer and your fellow musicians. For the most part, this kind of work is distributed by word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals. The last two studio jobs I got was because I knew the guitarist on one session and I did a recording session with another group and the engineer took my number. From there, I ended up getting about a half-dozen other jobs!

Can you see how this can be a rewarding creative experience that can literally pay off?

Studio Terminology

Before walking into a studio, it is good to know some “studio terms.” You might already know some of these, or you might have heard them used in a different way, but here are a few terms that are good to know:

  1. Session – short for recording session. Sometimes musicians use this term for a recording session, or a jam session. Basically think of it as an organized date that you should be ready to play.
  2. Tracks – recordings (CDs, etc…) are done in what’s called a multi-track system. This means that you record every instrument on its own individual track so that when you mix the instruments together you have a lot more control over the sound. In this format you can raise the volume of the vocals while making the bass softer. Today. 99% of studios use digital systems which means that the recording is done on a hard-disk system. This gives the recording engineer the ability to record practically an unlimited number of takes per song. (Wiki link)
  3. Takes – think of this as a “try” or a “once through.” Every time you go through the song and record your part…it's a take. This might happen as a group or as an individual. For example, when recording with my group Katahdin’s Edge, we would rehearse the material outside of the studio, then record live in the studio. This means we all played at the same time…no over dubs. We would do 3-5 takes of a song. Then we would pick the best take and use that one on the CD. Now, in the session I recently did, I was the only one laying down tracks, so I did multiple takes of only my part while the rest of the band was untouched.
  4. Engineer – This is the head honcho. They will make you sound great or sound bad. Always be respectful to the engineer. They are the ones who normally setup the mics, run the recording session and actually run the equipment. If you show the engineer respect…they will be of great help and value to you. I sometimes hear guys in the studio treat the engineer like a lackey and bark orders at them like “I need more bass” or “My monitor sounds like #!@#, can’t you do anything about it?” Needless to say, being polite goes a long way in the studio. Please and thank you go a long way. Moral: treat the engineer with respect and they’ll do the same in return.
  5. The “booth” can refer to where the engineer sits (where the mixing board is, though often this is called the control room) or a vocal or drum booth where the vocalist or drummer might record.

Getting Ready For The Studio

Before going to a session, always do your homework. I like to get a rough recording of the song in advance (especially if it is an original) before walking into the session. This gives me an opportunity to create a basic “cheat sheet” of the chord structure and form of the song. You can see an example on this page.

Now, there are musicians that like to spend 5 days in a studio and let the music come together organically by rehearsing and recording all at the same time. You have probably heard stories of how the classic rock bands would spend all week in the studio, sleep there, party there, etc. Well, I can tell you that for the most part, those days are gone. Studios are expensive to run, and even more expensive to rent. A typical recording session costs about $50/hr. There are many other costs that could be involved as well -- like a producer, hard drives, backups, etc. So, time is money in the studio!

Here are some good tips to help you prepare for the studio:

  1. Practice BEFORE the session! Do not practice your parts in the session. If it takes you an hour to “get down” your part, you just spent $50 or more of studio time.
  2. I’ve said it before -- be quiet and listen! Do not “yammer on” about the game or what not, especially if you are a hired musician and not the one paying the bill. If you want to socialize, do it after the session.
  3. Get your equipment in order before you walk into the studio. You don’t want to be fiddling with your strings or keyboard settings while the clock is ticking.

Trust Yourself

Now let’s now talk about studio performance. Let me start with a story…

The last session I did was in a very small studio (see the picture on this page). After all the equipment, there was only about a 6×8 section in the control room where I was recording that was uncluttered. Bear in mind, I had never met this engineer, or the singer! There were also 3-4 other random people who came in and out of the room to hear what was going on. Now, if I was new to the studio, this would have been somewhat distracting, maybe even intimidating. Studio work is hard enough without having a bunch of by-standers looking on to see what you are doing. Personally…I love it. I like the challenge and I had a secret weapon…I was prepared. Since a lot of musicians go into the studio and perform on the spot, you look like a hero when you come in and just lay down your tracks.

This brings me to trusting yourself. If you’re in the studio it is because someone asked you to be there or you booked the studio time yourself. This means that others have faith in your abilities or you have personally amassed the resources from your work to provide this forum for your music. Trust in your ability, trust in the time and practice that you have put into your instrument and trust your ears.

Studio Rules

Here are a few good rules to live by in the studio:

  1. The equipment is not yours, it is very expensive and can break…so don’t touch it! Most engineers will get, understandably, very sensitive if you start moving mics or touching knobs. If you’re new to the studio, you may feel a lot like a kid in a candy store. There is a lot of cool stuff to touch…but don’t.
  2. Don’t pop the speakers. Always ask if it is o.k. to unplug or turn on your equipment. You get nasty pops if you unplug while the speakers (which are called monitors in a studio) are on.
  3. Be respectful and do a lot of listening. Tensions can run pretty high in a studio because it's usually a small space and time and money are on the line. If you are hired as a musician to work on the session, be quiet, do as your told, get paid and go home. This has worked well for me and has landed me other studio work. Musicians, engineers and producers like working with musicians that are easy-going and do their job.

Conclusion

As you do more studio work and learn to listen to what is happening around you in the studio, you will get a much better understanding of how music is made and the people that make it.

Kyle Jameson

In my first six months here at JAZZEDGE I noticed a common beginner student question:

“I am a beginner, can these lessons bring me to a professional or almost professional playing level?”

Our answer has always been of course our lessons will guide you in that direction, you just have to work hard. Then one of Willie’s former students contacted us recently to update us on his new “professional” status. He had come to Willie with this same question 6 years ago.

This months Student Spotlight is on Kyle P. Jameson of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He has known Willie for 6 years and studied with him for a year before becoming a more independent student. Kyle’s determination and motivation is primarily what lead him down a fast track for success at the piano and organ.

Kyle began as a Head Server/Sacristan at St. Leo the Great Church locally, and after a lot of hard work is now the Music Director/Organist/Choirmaster at the Church of Saint Timothy (another local church).

What originally brought Kyle to JAZZEDGE and PianoWithWillie.com was Willie himself. He had been picking Willie’s musical knowledge for weeks when finally Willie realized that having an entire library of lessons to work with during his down time might be more beneficial for a student as eager as Kyle. He got a Gold Membership while also continuing his private coaching with Willie.

His favorite lesson is “O Come All Ye Faithful” which he even reviewed again this year in preparation for the holiday season at Church.

Kyle’s main motivation to play is the fact that there is always something else to learn, you can always learn a new piece or technique. This is one of his keys to success. His constant drive to learn something new keeps him growing as a musician.

Kyle is now the founder of the “Music at Saint Timothy Church” Concert Series and says there is nothing he would change about our services at JAZZEDGE.

Thank you for being our student Kyle, and we hope in the new year after the release of COREPIANO we can bring more beginners onto the same path.

Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis is the drummer in reggae’s rolodex. Over the past 40 years he has performed with legends Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Mighty Diamonds, and Burning Spear, as well manning the backbeat in Ziggy Marley’s band, a chair he’s held for more than a decade.  Fresh off collecting a Best Reggae Album Grammy for Marley’s In Concert, we spoke with Davis in Los Angeles between rehearsals for Marley’s tour in support of his new Fly Rasta record.  From his early years in the CYO drum corps to his current role as a top recording and touring musician, Davis is well-versed in the practice of practice.

What is your earliest memory of practice?

When I was 11-years-old. That was from the drum corps days, my first introduction to drumming.

Was being a member of the drum corps a special thing in your town?

Oh, yes. I didn’t know it at the time, but you would call it prestigious.  I wanted to be a boy scout at the time, but then the drum corps happened.

Who was your first teacher?

The senior guys, the ones who were there before, gave us lessons.

About how old was a senior?

At the time the guy who started teaching me was going to college. He would’ve been maybe 17, 18-years-old.

Did you ever have trouble taking instruction from someone who was only a few years older than you?

Growing up in Jamaica in the ‘60s, we were taught to respect our elders. He was like a bigger brother.  You have to have respect.  He was teaching me something I wanted to learn.  It didn’t matter if he was 35, 40, or 50- he knew more than I knew.

In learning your instrument, what was an early hurdle?

To be perfectly honest, I was like one-of-a-kind. I remember at that time they were wondering if I had done this before, because I was learning so fast.  I was really open as far as learning.  I was ready.

When did you realize this may be something you could do for a career?

Gradually it happened. I was a quick learner, so pretty early in the game.

How important was practice in your development?

That was the main thing. I practiced five days a week.  After my homework and my home chores, I’d go to practice.  I would also practice at home with my practice pad.  It was an everyday thing.

Did that routine give you a sense of discipline in other areas of your life?

Yes. I think it was beneficial.  Even to this day that is the discipline I have.  I like to practice.  I started from rudiments; paradiddles, single strokes, I went through all of that.  I got to understand all of it, and that helps you advance.

Was there something about the way you played that made you desirable to those looking to hire a drummer?

It was an interest in what I was doing. I was quick at learning stuff.  It was something that was in me.

You are essentially the top reggae drummer in the world. Do you still practice?

I’ve actually increased it. To be in the game right now, you have to know what you are doing.  I’ve listened to a lot of different music.  I got interested in jazz.  I’ve listened to a wide selection; funk, classical, African.  I used to buy a lot of records and I would sit down and mimic them.  To be a proficient musician you have to know every genre of music.

Can you talk about your practice routine?

I would sit down and play ideas in my head. Just the basics.  A lot of guys can play fast, but I do things  very slowly, making sure I have coordination and balance.  That’s very important.  Everything has to be balanced.

What are some points you feel are necessary when learning or practicing an instrument?

For me, everything is mental. I play things in my head.  Before I hear something I play it in my head and have a mental picture of what I’m going to do.  It’s a spiritual thing.  For me, music is very spiritual.  You have to maintain focus.  When I was younger, I used to do some things at random.  If I was going to do a fill, I may be thinking about something else, and it wouldn’t come out like it was supposed to.  I realized my focus was off.  Keep things simple.  Don’t try and do too much.  Listen to a Bob Marley record, and you can hear that discipline.

How do you fit personal style into drumming, when the instrument requires such a consistency?

It comes down to placement, knowing the value of the notes and what you are doing. If you don’t have that kind of knowledge you won’t be able to fit your things into it.  Jazz is a whole different ballgame, and I listen to that to see where I can fit it inside reggae.

Is there an aspect of practice that you think a lot of players overlook?

One of the most important things is posture, the way you sit behind the drums, the way the drums are positioned. Everything has to be in a place where you can reach them.  You have to sit where you have control.  Always sit over the drums.  Once you sit right, you can play for hours and hours.

You are in the midst of a six-month tour in support of Ziggy Marley’s new Fly Rasta album. What are some of the things you do on the road to stay sharp?

I exercise. I ride the bike, lift some weights if there is a gym where we stay.  I do a lot of stretches.  You have to keep loose, especially if you are on the road a long time.

Many times I’m listening to pieces of music that I’m working on or learning for different gigs or performances.  Right now I’m preparing for a job as a Musical Director for a show entitled “The Last 5 Years” by Jason Robert Brown which will be staged in February/March 2015.

I’m a huge fan of this show (beautiful but sad) - love the music, love the score, think the composer is brilliant, and I jumped at the opportunity to musically direct this show.  The show is very unique - only two actors, a male and female who are in a romantic relationship.  The woman tells the story in reverse order, from the end of their relationship to the beginning of it, while the man tells the story from their first meeting to their ultimate break-up.  In the middle they sing one duet, the only duet of the show, which takes place on their wedding day.

One of the things that struck me when I started investigating the music was how pop/rock-oriented the music is and yet there are no drums in the score.  The instrumentation calls for two cellos, violin, guitar, bass, and piano, somewhat unorthodox for a modern-day musical theater ensemble.  When learning new music, one thing that has worked for me is having the music memorized before I start learning it.  By that I mean listening to the music critically and internalizing it, listening for my particular role and that of the other instruments (where are the places that I’m playing solo?), seeing if I can figure out the chord changes by ear (usually me in the car trying to sing roots and map the harmony in my head), making notes of any funky things that are going on that will require special attention (such as places where the time signature changes and making sure I can count through such passages smoothly), and just being able to sing along.

Check out one of the songs, “Moving Too Fast.

 

 

If you are a drummer that has played with both Frank Zappa and the Beach Boys, two of America's most iconoclastic artists, then you are one versatile musician.  David Logeman is that versatile.  Beginning with his Midwest upbringing that had him forming his first band at age 10, Logeman has always been a quick and ambitious study, and is currently the leader of the Surf City All-Stars, a group of former Beach Boys and Jan & Dean members playing that Southern California sound to audiences around the world.  We spoke to David in the middle of his very busy schedule about the practice of practice.

Can you describe your earliest memory of learning to play the drums?

I had dual experiences.  The first one was in the third-grade and I was eight-years-old.  The junior high school band director came to our school and offered free lessons on any instrument a person wanted.  I said, ‘Yes. I want to learn drums.”  He would come once-a-week with a snare drum, and started to teach me drum music.  Also, that same year, I found out that a friend of my father’s had a drum set in his basement.  He said that I could come over anytime I wanted.  That was a mistake on his part because I came over every single day.  After a week of that he gave me the drum set and I took it home.

Was that your first exposure to learning an instrument?

I had taken piano lessons when I was five so I had some musical training.  I was drawn to drums by God, I guess.  My mom said I had to learn about music first- play piano first- which was a pretty good deal.  I was also hearing a lot of stuff on the radio and I could hear what the drummers were doing.  I had an interest and an ear for it at the same time.

How was learning from a teacher different from trying to emulate what you were hearing?

For me, I felt like I had a gift.  When I was listening to a record or to the radio I could hear what the drummer was doing and have an understanding.  But, when I saw somebody playing the visual impact was even stronger from what I was hearing.

So watching a drummer play was even more valuable than hearing him?

To see it in reality was a defining moment.  The grip they were using.  How the drum was on them.  How they were playing the sticks on the head.  Even though at the time I didn’t know how to accomplish all that, I took the curiosity to experimenting on the drum set and also to my teacher to try and become a functional player.

When did you know this is something that you wanted to pursue?

I knew immediately.  Whenever I would see Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa on TV, or the first time I saw Elvis, and saw an actual band playing, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’  I immediately started practicing.  I immediately put a band together.

What was an early hurdle to getting to a next level of capability?

To be able to play a piece of music, and be able to march on the field, I had to learn to read a whole sheet of music.  That was an early goal.  Also, what we were learning in class didn’t always translate to learning “Blue Suede Shoes.”  That was tough, when you don’t know what you are doing.

When you tried to play “Blue Suede Shoes” were you trying to copy the licks exactly or were you approximating?

I was trying to copy it exactly.   That’s how I learned.

Was a metronome a part of your learning experience?

A lot in piano, but it was difficult to implement that with a drum set.

Given the changes in technology since then, is learning with a metronome something you encourage?

Absolutely.  Whenever I teach now I have students read music by themselves, and I have them record by themselves.  Then again, with the metronome.  It’s very important for students to get acclimated with that early on.

At what point did you start thinking of drums as a profession?

Another watershed moment came when I was 10.  We went to play at a party and we got 20 bucks.  We got five dollars each.  I realized I could make money from this!

So, as you learned drumming at school and at home with your band simultaneously, did you allot separate practice time for each?

The practice time was broken up between playing music on the snare drum and music on the drum set.

Was that important?

I would recommend that.  The earlier a drummer learns to play in different scenarios (the better).  You have to be able to adapt.

You auditioned for Frank Zappa, primarily a rock musician known for composing his songs, with charts and sheet music for each player.  Did you ever listen to what a previous drummer of Frank’s did with the material or did you rely on your ability to read the sheet music?

I didn’t listen to previous performances because of the time factor.  I was a fan of his, but by the time I played with him I’d stopped listening to him.  I was reading some stuff, and wasn’t that concerned with those that had previously performed it.

With written drum parts, do you ever stray from what is on the page?

My own personal philosophy is to play what is written.  To me, you are dishonoring the composer (if you don’t).  You should always play it exactly as written first.

In your estimation, what was it that separated you from the 50 or so drummers that auditioned for Zappa for that spot?

Even though I was replacing Vinnie Coliauta, he didn’t want a Vinne Coliauta-type player.  The fact that I could play jazz and rock was a big deal.

How did you prepare for it?

I didn’t prepare.  Every time I went in it was a different scenario.

Was it as grueling an audition as it has been suggested?

Absolutely.  When I first went, there was a drum set there, and they were playing in 13/8 and 11/8, but they didn’t tell the drummer that.  Frank would hand him the sticks and say, ‘Play.’  If the drummer could not find the ‘one,’ he would stop the band and tell the drummer to go home.  I was smart enough to move to the back of the line.  By the time it was my turn, I knew what they were doing.

How did playing with Zappa change your development as a drummer?

I don’t know if it changed my development, but it validated it.  I was always intent, from early on, to try and learn all styles, to play in authentic situations to learn those styles.  I wanted to learn to read as well as possible.  I wanted to be prepared for anything that would be thrown at me, and, of course, that was the ultimate.  Frank Zappa is the ultimate at throwing things at a drummer.

From there, you joined the Beach Boys.  Were you a fan of the band?

The second record I ever owned was Surfer Girl.  The Beach Boys struck me early on as a kid.  I had a love for it.

Zappa’s approach was instrument-based, while the Beach Boys may be the most famous vocal pop group ever.  How did you see the role of the drummer in the Beach Boys?

I saw drums as a supporting, foundational thing.

And how would you accomplish that?

Create a supporting environment with the dynamics, and also rhythmically.  What I like to do is accentuate and complement the rhythmic aspect of what somebody is singing.

Now, you lead the Surf City All-Stars with former members of the Beach Boys’ band and Jan and Dean’s band.  How’s that going for you?

It’s going great.  I took the best singers and musicians from the (Beach Boys) band and decided to give it a shot.  I’m much happier as a leader than as a sideman.

You have talked about enjoying practicing.  What was the height of your devotion, and are you still finding the time to practice?

When I went to Berklee School of Music I was practicing five to six hours a day.  I don’t practice quite as much now, but I still enjoy reading.

As a primer for anyone wanting to play drums, can you recommend some listening material?

I think some classical music.  Bitches Brew (Miles Davis).  I think a rock record like the first Led Zeppelin record.  But, there are so many.

Darby Wolf is a pianist, keyboardist, and organist living in the Western-Massachusetts area who performs regularly throughout New England and New York City and has toured nationally with various ensembles.  He is an aficionado of vintage keyboards and music gear as well as an educator and a new instructor at JazzEdge.  We're very excited for the launch of his new organ course on February 10th!  We had Paul sit down with Darby to ask him some fun questions about music.

Paul: When did you start playing the piano/organ?

Darby: I started taking piano lessons when I was about 7 years old with a family friend Mitch Chakour.  I played piano and trumpet in school performances and bands.  In middle school I took a great interest in the Hammond organ and also started playing in bands with friends.  I started working regularly with different bands when I was about 15.

Paul: What kind of music were you first drawn to?

Darby: Growing up I was always listening to my parents' record collection.  The artists that really stood out to me were pop and rock groups from the 60's through the 80's.  Motown records, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, The Temptations and artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Steppenwolf, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin.

Paul: Who are your musical influences and heroes?

Darby: Too many to list but some of the biggest influences on me have been: Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Billy Preston, Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck, Jan Hammer, Prince, Michael Jackson, Deep Purple, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Herbie Hancock, Erykah Badu, Jimmy Smith, 2Pac, Beastie Boys, John Medeski.

Paul: What's the most recent thing you've listened to that has really turned you on?

Darby: A friend just turned me onto this Chaka Khan record from the early eighties, Wha Cha Gonna Do For Me?  The record has a bunch of the most in-demand session players on it from that era.  The Brecker Brothers, Hiram Bullock, Greg Phillinganes, Dave Foster, Richard Tee.  Greg Phillinganes plays the bass line for "We Can Work It Out" on a Mini Moog and it's really incredible.

Paul: What kind of gigs do you play?

Darby: I've played a variety of different types of gigs.  I've traveled with Rock and R&B groups such as Rubblebucket and the Bomb Squad with Jen Durkin and Brenna Gethers (from American Idol).  Those groups played in clubs and theaters all over the country and often traveled for 1 or 2 months at a time. I've also worked with groups that stay much more centered in New England and work on the weekends or do regular weekly residencies.  Most of the work I'm hired for is rock, r&b, blues, and jazz based.  I often play with groups that heavily feature improvisation.  I'm most commonly hired to play Hammond organ and play in a supportive role where I'll sometimes cover bass parts to keep the lineups small.  I commonly play in clubs, bars and restaurants and on occasion play private parties, weddings, and services.  I recently accompanied music students for a recital at a private high school.

Paul: What do you practice? Or what do you like to work on in your practice sessions?

Darby: These days I learn many new songs every week depending on what gigs I'm playing so I work on ear training and transcribing songs, chord progressions, solos, etc.  I often have to play left hand bass parts so I spend a lot of time working on independence between my hands.  I spend a lot of time playing bass lines while simultaneously playing melodies, chord melodies, and improvising.  I also lately have spent time reading Bach four-part chorales. They are a good challenge for me to read and they force both of your hands to stay active.  You constantly have to change from playing 2 parts in each hand to 1 part in one hand and 3 in the other.  You have to be creative in how you play them since the parts aren not written for keyboard.

Paul:  If you were not a musician, what kind of work would you like to do?

Darby: I use mostly older vintage equipment so I've learned to repair and modify things as I go.  I can do basic repairs on organs, Leslie speakers, and guitar amps and I've partially restored Rhodes pianos and Hohner Clavinets.  I have a lot of fun repairing and customizing instruments so I could picture myself working in that field from the mechanical repairs to the more electrical side of tube amplifiers.

Paul: Complete this sentence: "Thank God I'm a musician, because if I weren't I'd probably still be working at __________."

Darby: ...an ice cream shop.

Paul: List your Top 5 'stranded-on-a-desert-island' albums.

Darby: This is tough but...

  1. Stevie Wonder - Talking Book 
  2. Donny Hathaway - Live 
  3. Jimi Hendrix -Electric Lady Land 
  4. Jeff Beck - Wired 
  5. The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

 

*New Organ Course*

We're excited to announce the release on February 10th of Darby's new course for organ...Essential Hammond Organ!

Since starting work here at JAZZEDGE as the Student Services Representative many of my daily tasks have involved communicating with students and researching new ways to connect with not only our students but our community. Willie and Valerie have been interested in doing more piano workshops and giving back to the community for awhile, it was now my job to make this happen. In my research I began looking at organizations and school programs that promote Music Education in their events and curriculum. Then in January we were actually approached by a non-profit organization trying to do the same thing.

Ironically, Maria Pree, from SWAP Inc., was working on setting up a week long event to promote “real music” to the youth of Providence, RI. She ran across PianoWithWillie in her research and wanted Willie to begin the event with a piano workshop. The group of fifteen students participating in the event ranged from 7 to 13 years old. It was a perfect fit.

Excited about this great opportunity, I began gathering information and research right away. The night before our music education workshop I drove to the event location to double check that there was enough space for Willie’s equipment. It was perfect. We arrived right on time the next morning geared up with Willie’s bass, keyboard, and photographer Matt Ferrara.

Willie went through some of the basics of music and the instruments that are discussed in the JazzKids  or Piano Basics Vol.1 for any members to the site. Willie only focused on four notes for the kids to learn. The kids, the workers of SWAP and myself were able to look at music in a whole new and beautiful way.

The kids loved it. Everyone got the chance to play bass, drums, and piano with Willie Myette. It was amazing watching Willie’s gift of teaching with these kids who had little to no previous education in music. He was able to entertain, teach, and make the kids appreciate different forms of music and instruments.

What I learned from this event and from Willie was : Music is a language that the whole world can understand and appreciate. Regardless of your age, you are able to learn new and exciting things as long as you take your time and find the right answers. The able to accomplish you thought was impossible cannot be greater and I was able to see Willie deliver that feeling for all these kids.

 

All photography and video taken by Matt Ferrara

Check out more photos from the workshop at MattFerraraPhotography.com