Hi folks! Something that I’ve been curious about for a long time, but haven’t had the guts/patience to really investigate, is making electronic music. I love the idea of experimenting with electronic modes of production, but in the end, always defer to composing in the manner I know best – sitting at my piano, with pencil and manuscript paper.

Well I made this track. It’s short and quite basic, and I know I have lots to learn, but I kind of like it. I hope you like it too.


News and Musings

Hello, I’m back. My holiday was super-fun and great and also a bit lonely but I’ll get into that later. First, let me draw your attention to the fact that I am very excited that my band Monkey Puzzle Tree has been invited to perform at Womadelaide this year! Womad is my favourite festival and I can’t think of words that can adequtely describe how pleased I am to get to participate as a performer. This is a great opportunity for us so all four of us are very excited.

There’s something about the fresh feeling of commencing a new year that leaves me feeling quite excited in general. It’s the end of January right now, February contains good things like Chinese New Year (which coincides with Valentines Day this year; the 14th), then comes March and anyone who lives in this town knows that March is the best time of year to be in Adelaide. Not only is there Womad (which I’ve mentioned already, click the links above if you want more, more, more) but there’s the Fringe Festival (biggest Fringe in the Southern Hemisphere I believe) and this year is an Adelaide Festival year too.

My recent adventures abroad have really awakened the travel bug in me and I’ve already started making plans. I want to go on a holiday every year. Fortunately my occupation, with its frequent school holidays, allows this. In July, I’m planning to go to Fiji for a tropical escape. And in the December/January holidays I want return to the Motherland, as it were, and go to Hong Kong and possibly surrounds.

Kuala Lumpur was great, especially at first. I explored and got lost and discovered things and ate fruit every day. But I did get a bit lonely towards the end of my stay. I went alone and by the week’s end I was feeling the strain of not having had a real conversation with anyone for that whole time. Pathetic, no? This was of course, only exacerbated by the fact that I caught a cold in the last few days and could do nothing but languish in my hotel room. Boring!

I opted for luxury (for once in my life) and stayed in a beautiful hotel. It as great, but next time I travel alone I will stay at a cheap place, like a backpacker’s hostel as such locations are great for meeting interesting people from around the world.

I flew from KL to Melbourne where I stayed with my sister and attended seminars for work. The seminar days were inspiring and fun. I always leave seminars feeling excited about teaching and it’s fun to be in an environment where I can discuss the teaching materials with like-minded professional musicians. It’s great.

So now I’m back and I’m fresh, rejuvenated and optimistic.

Here’s a scan of some pictures I took in KL to finish…

Recital approaching… EEP!

My recital date has nearly been set. (They’re just trying to find a third examiner but they don’t anticipate having any problem with that.)

So the date will (probably) be Thursday 10th December. I think it will be 6pm.

I’m playing the Debussy piano and violin sonata in G minor and the Grieg violin and piano sonata in C minor. Both pieces are amazing and I shall struggle to do them justice. The Debussy is mysterious, fantastical, distant, capricious. The Grieg is exciting, virtuosic, extroverted and majestic. My associate artists are two wonderful violinists, one from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the other a fellow Honours student at the Con.

Entry is free and it’s at Elder Hall at Adelaide Uni. So please come if you’re free and in town. Because this is like, the single biggest event of the year for me and I need all the support I can get!

Once the date and time is confirmed I’ll do proper invites. (Meaning I’ll make a Facebook event, lol.)

A Fine Ear

What all fine musicians have in common is a good ear. Music is aural, so the ear gets to make all the final calls. A more discerning ear can detect more ranges of sound and nuance. To “laypeople”, a Steinway grand may sound much like a Kawai upright, and a first year Conservatorium student may sound much like a professional artist.

When you learn a musical instrument long enough, you get to a stage where you are no longer simply concerned with merely playing the right notes. Even louds and softs become obsolete. The way in which you judge the quality of sound has to become so refined. The word “soft” by itself isn’t descriptive enough. What kind of soft? A rounded, pebbly sound? Or a bright, sparkly sound? I often find I revert to visually descriptive words to talk about the kind of sound I want. My teacher, on the other hand, always tends towards describing sound as an energy force. Even the mystery of music as an emotive force is an illusion created by sound.

The difference between a fantastic piano and an average piano, is that the average piano will always sound, well, average. Upright pianos of fairly decent quality usually sound pretty unoffensive. A really awesome grand piano, like the Steinway grands we have at the Con are much harder to control. They can sound pretty awful if you bang away on them, not knowing what you’re doing. (Like how I played for most of my time as a student.) But they are capable of a huge range of sounds. To make the most of the instrument’s capabilities, the pianist has to have a large arsenal of playing techniques to draw upon, and, most importantly, the ear to detect what sound they want, and whether or not they have achieved that.

When I started out at the Conservatorium, I was playing without listening. I came from an electronic organ background, so I knew that piano technique would be the difficult thing for me to master. Only now that I have reached Honours level have I begun to make the connection between the ear and technique. Technique is nothing without ear.

Sigh. I’m rambling. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my first Honours recital is coming up. So I’ve been preoccupied with piano things. In other news, the music room gets devilishly hot when the weather’s warm, as it has been recently. I’ve moved a fan in there, making it more bearable, but I still have to come out for frequent breaks.

Besides recital stuff, term 4 is always a busy term for teachers. There’s a bunch of concerts and things to prepare for at Yamaha. So… much… to… do!!

Well, bye for now.

Things You Shouldn’t Do in a Piano Lesson

Fart. This happens more often than you might think. I’ve learned to ignore it.

Say you were too busy to practice this week. This one never flies, ever. I always want to laugh a little, especially if the student is, like, 11 years old. My response is always something along the lines of, oh really, did you get time to watch TV this week? Play videogames? Yeah, I thought so. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT BUSY IS!! You’re 11!!

Pick your nose. Quite a prevalent habit among younger children.

Cough at me, or on me. Only a few weeks ago I had a student cough directly onto my hand. Yes, it was gross. I maintained my composure and went and used some water-free hand sanitiser straight away. In hindsight I probably should have allowed myself to lose my shit a little. Always cover your mouth and/or turn away to cough, it’s just polite.

Play the piano while I’m talking. How rude. Please give me your attention when I am speaking to you!

Technical Work

This week I decided to do all the scales and arpeggios for 1 note per day for my piano technical work, going up chromatically day by day. Today’s note was F. So I practised….

  • F major scale, Hands Separately (HSep) and Hands Together (HTog). Legato and staccato, contrary motion.
  • F major scale in octaves, HSep and HTog. Double octaves with Right Hand (RH) leading and with Left Hand (LH) leading.
  • F major arpeggios. Root, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion, HSep and HTog. Also in 3rds and 6ths, HTog.
  • F chromatic, HSep and HTog.
  • F harmonic minor scale, HSep and HTog. Legato, staccato, contrary motion.
  • F melodic minor scale, HSep and HTog. Legato.
  • F minor arpeggios. Root postion, HSep and HTog.
  • F major chord progressions: I-IV-I64-V7-I. Also I-VI-IV-II-V-I6-II6-I64-V7-I. Also I-VI/V7-IV/V7-II/V7-V/V7-V7-I6-II6-I64-V7-I.

Okay, I realise I got a bit lazy with some of them, especially the minors, where I neglected to be as thorough as I was when practising all the variations on the major. But I console myself with the fact that this list still took fucking ages to get through. I used to think that doing technical work was taking precious time away from practising my recital pieces, but now I think I’m going to make sure I keep doing technical every day. I think it’s really important; it helps with my repertoire learning, it warms me up sufficiently and I feel good if I do it. A bit like exercising. Except I actually really like doing technical work and I don’t really like exercising!

I need to work on my staccato scales and octave scales the most. The staccato scales are especially relevant to some of my current repertoire. I really like doing the chord progressions. I sing the name of the chord, pitching to the bass note as I play. I only started practising chord progressions fairly recently, because my students have to do it. It’s really good for both me and them.

Tomorrow’s keys are G flat major and minor. One of my favourites! (Huge music nerd moment.)


Martha Argerich, my favourite pianist, playing one of my favourite pieces by Ravel.

My favourite song by bassist/singer extraordinaire, Esperanza Spalding.

“Souretsu” by Shiina Ringo. I wish there was a PV for this song.

“Nude” by Radiohead. I woke up with this song in my head this morning.