Because no two musicians are alike, no two musical journeys are, either.
In the spirit of celebrating the shared yet very diverse experiences of being a musician, this week is about discussing both what unites us as musicians and what makes our experiences unique.
We’ll be looking at what quirks and talents many pianists have in common with one another, how to craft amazing instrumentals when collaborating with a vocalist, and how to transcribe music in a way that suits your musical goals and learning style. Last but not least, one of the world’s leading jazz piano educators shares the course of his own musical journey.
It’s the first instrument many of us ever learn, and for those of us that don’t abandon it in our childhood, it turns us into dedicated, incredibly versatile musicians.
Like any musician that loves their instrument, the piano players among us have developed our own idiosyncrasies and habits that allow us to excel at our instrument (and at others’ instruments, when called on to do so!), move audiences with our emotive performances, and harmonize with everything from the radio to the hum of the refrigerator.
Dying to know what other talents and quirks lie within? Head over to 10 Things Piano Players Do Differently to learn more about these musical jacks-of-all-trades!
What is it about piano players that makes them so unique? Our article featured several funny characteristics that pianists tend to exemplify, but is there also a physiological explanation for what makes piano players so amazing. Learning Mind explores this topic by discussing the unique brain of a pianist.
Piano players are skilled in so many different styles of music, you could almost say they are superhuman! So why not take a shot and get started on the instrument yourself? Become A Piano Superhuman gives a great guide to learning the piano as an adult.
In many performing ensembles, the piano player helps keep all the other instruments on the beat and in time. So much so that pianists have a difficult time not tapping along to the beat whenever they hear music. It’s almost like they are a living metronome! Uberchord shares some great tips on incorporating more metronome practice into your music, for instrumentalists looking to improve their sense of rhythm!
Crafting the Perfect Beat
What would your favourite rap or hip-hop track be without the punchy, catchy instrumentals? The vocals, would float, unsupported, and the song would lose most of its impact.
The instrumentals of a rap or hip-hop song, also known as the beat, is what holds the song together, supports the vocalist, and keeps the listener engaged by building and releasing tension.
So, what separates a boring, forgettable beat from something like the iconic opening bars of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”? Professional beatmaker Tim Koi is here to clue you in, giving you expert advice for crafting beats in The Basics of Beatmaking, with tips on everything from arranging and mixing to making that all-important verse-to-chorus transition!
Learning to read rhythm is an important part of developing your musicality, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get! Musika Lessons compiled the basic rhythm symbols that you will encounter as you begin perfecting your understanding of rhythmic notation.
While many artists choose to make their own beats, there is a huge market for you to buy beats that are already produced. Robin Wesley has some suggestions on strategically purchasing beats so that they can be mixed more effectively later.
Writing beats takes a certain understanding of basic music theory to create patterns and melodies that the listener will enjoy. This is especially true in the chorus, where the composer connects the most with the listener. Discmakers has talks about how applying music theory in your writing can go a long way to helping you compose a great chorus.
Tim talked about how the chorus of your song should be highlighted. This can be tricky when crafting beats, as you don’t want to overpower the lyrics that have the hook in the chorus. Ditto Music teaches you the art of writing a catchy hook while keeping the vocals front and centre.
Putting Notes to Paper
When people think of musical transcription, many imagine complex notation, and countless hours spent listening and re-listening to the same bar in a song trying to get all the notes down perfectly.
The truth is, you don’t need to create a perfect written copy of the music – it just needs to work for you. This means it can be informal, simplified, or even written in a musical notation you invented! It just needs to capture the essence of the music and aid you in remembering what you heard.
Tune in to The Musicality Podcast episode About Transcribing Music to learn more about this useful skill, how to develop it, and how you can use it to help you sharpen other musical skills like rhythm, audiation, and interval recognition.
A popular method to transcribing a solo is to slow the recording down. There are even devices and apps that will do this for you. But, don’t be so quick to take this shortcut! Janek Gwizdala explains why this diminishes one of real benefits to transcribing… training your ear!
When talking about transcribing music, it is often assumed that we are talking about chords and melodies. However, rhythm instruments need to be notated as well! Rob at Drums the Word shares his process for transcribing music for drums.
Jazz musicians will often cite transcribing music as a core element of learning to play jazz music. In this sample lesson, learn how Marshall McDonald of the Count Basie Orchestra approaches transcribing music, and the impact it has had on his musicality.
Wisdom for Your Musical Journey
What does a musical journey look like?
Those that are in it for the long haul are well aware that it’s rarely a straight line, and that your approach to learning is constantly changing and evolving as your musical goals change too.
This week on The Musicality Podcast, we interview a man whose incredible musical journey has been long, winding, and rewarding, taking him through learning piano as a child, to attending music school, to becoming a recognized musician and music educator specializing in the much-revered and often-feared genre of jazz music.
Head over to The Rhythm of Success, with Steve Nixon to hear all about his musical path, his take on musical talent vs. hard work, his secret to improvisation and getting rhythm, and his brainchild FreeJazzLessons.com, the world’s largest jazz piano education website!
Steve talked about his new course on playing Christmas music, which is very useful for this time of the year! Many tunes that you may encounter in the holiday genre are likely to be on lead sheets, which many musicians struggle with. On his website FreeJazzLessons.com, Steve shares his secrets to playing from a lead sheet.
One thing that really stuck out from Steve’s story was that his musical journey was not a straight line to success, but has had many challenges along the way. He was able to persevere and make it to where he is by consistently working at his craft. We frequently talk about this skill here at Musical U, as it’s incredibly important for your growth. J-Ro School of Music has a fantastic guide on practicing with consistency for the best results.
It was inspiring to hear how Steve approaches improvisation and music theory. It can be so easy to get caught up in the mechanics of playing our instrument that we lose focus of the objective to playing music… to express ourselves musically! On Music for People, one musician shares their experience in exploring improvisation, and what they learned along the way.
The Shared Experience of Music
Whether you’re a producer/beatmaker, pianist, free jazz guitarist, music educator, or are just starting out by learning how to sing, something we can agree on is that music is an incredible shared experience regardless of the angle we’re approaching it from. As we hope you’ve gathered from this week’s content, skills such as transcription, playing by ear, improvising, and rhythm will benefit you no matter what your musical aspirations are.
Want to learn to do all this, and more? Musical U has modules on these invaluable skills, roadmaps to keep you on track, and a supportive group of fellow musicians to give advice and answers if you get stuck. Sign up for a free trial today, and join a diverse yet united online musical community!