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#2504750 - 06/21/13 07:06 PM Soloing more melodically
bachsteady Offline
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Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 29
So I played a show last night with some good players. Overall it was a great time however I noticed that some of my soloing was not up to par. Specifically when I solo I either play percussive or I rely on blues licks and funky rythmic type playing. However, when I attempted to play a very "musical" (I know that is a subjective word) solo I stuggled for ideas. Nothing really flowed like the other kind of soloing I do, so my question is: What are some of your suggestions to increase melodic soloing/improvising?

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#2504765 - 06/21/13 09:10 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: bachsteady]
Bucktunes Online   content
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One of my favorite improv approaches for soloing is to try and play what you would sing. Good eartraining will help you with this. Get good at hearing pitch intervals and diatonic/chromatic pitches. Start with short phrases and lengthen them as you get better at it. The ones that are really good are guys like George Benson, who can literally play it as spontaneously as he can sing it. The fingers find the notes as fast as the voice does! rawk

Of course, it never hurts to throw in a fancy lick or generic blues lick in once in a while. Especially if you get momentarily stumped for ideas...As with anything else, start simple and get fancier as you develop skill. Good luck! cool
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#2504771 - 06/21/13 09:49 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Bucktunes]
CEB Online   content
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Sing.
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#2504773 - 06/21/13 09:56 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: CEB]
miden Offline
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Registered: 01/30/06
Posts: 974
Loc: Australia
+1 and again +1 - sing the melody in your minds vision and your fingers will follow. Try not to look at the keys.

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#2504774 - 06/21/13 09:57 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: CEB]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Listen to Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett to name two masters of melody that immediately come to mind.. Also singers with impeccable tone, pitch, taste and time feel.
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#2504776 - 06/21/13 10:08 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Dave Ferris]
bachsteady Offline
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Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 29
I always forget to sing when soloing, I will remember that. thanks

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#2504785 - 06/21/13 10:42 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: bachsteady]
Pa Gherkin Offline
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Registered: 03/27/11
Posts: 335
You've gotten some great advice here. Playing lines that could be sung was the first thing that popped into my head upon reading your post. Also,try not to fall back on tried and true "muscle memory" licks(we all have them)unless you're really stuck. Sounds easy but avoiding them can actually present a challenge that's well worth overcoming.

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#2504786 - 06/21/13 10:43 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: bachsteady]
kanker. Offline
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How many songs do you know where you play the actual melody - with or without a band? How much do you focus on the phrasing of any melodies you do play?

The more you play melodies, the more you focus on playing them with as much beauty as you can muster, the more your soloing will be impacted. All a solo is is a melody given to a particular instrument, be it written or improvised. Melody is primary. Period.
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#2504791 - 06/21/13 10:58 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: kanker.]
uncledunc Offline
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Registered: 04/09/13
Posts: 375
Loc: Tucson AZ, USA
If you have to make up your own melody, break up the note values. Do a long note, followed by some quick notes. The idea is the lure the listener in, and then surprise them. I like the way Larry Carlton plays melodies before he goes off into the ozone. Booker T is another one that comes to mind. Norah Jones is such a minimalist, some might not take her seriously, but what she plays is memorable, and that should be our goal when making music.

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#2504820 - 06/22/13 01:41 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: kanker.]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 3040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
Originally Posted By: kanker.
How many songs do you know where you play the actual melody - with or without a band? How much do you focus on the phrasing of any melodies you do play?

The more you play melodies, the more you focus on playing them with as much beauty as you can muster, the more your soloing will be impacted. All a solo is is a melody given to a particular instrument, be it written or improvised. Melody is primary. Period.


What HE said ( with the Single funny eye ) 0_0
Melody is king or queen if you prefer. What I do is informal and fun. Check it out. Play anything that comes into your head not so much harmony, but melodically. ( as far as your two hands- play it sometimes with left hand other tiomes right hand- but the hands are not the point )
PlAY ANY melodic idea, pop goes the weasel, happy birthday, the 1812 overture, a lick Eric clapton played.. PART of a lick that joseph Blow played, a lullaby, i riff, a lick, a pattern a sequence, the sky is the limit. Play any melodic idea short or long
try playing what you hear in your mind- and yes singing is important too.
So sing as has been recommended
but also PLAY AND on ANY starting note your hand happens to be on. DO not concern yourself with the correct key, or intervals, or starting notes, just react to what you hear and feel in your hand- the key your hand is on. if your hand is on a C# that is where your melody commences. No excuses, just do it. Lots of errors, but little by little you will learn to play what you hear.
You can think of a melody, be quiet, hear it in your head, match the note in your head with the piano and go for it... just five notes or whatever... this is along journey, not a picnic. It is great fun, Play star spangled banner starting wherever hand finger is or match what is in your ear to your finger/ hand. Whichever comes first. Blues, movie theme, jazz, americana - no limits on the melodic material anything is fair game. just little threads of melodies half recalled. Any starting note.


Edited by I-missRichardTee (06/22/13 01:43 AM)

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#2504825 - 06/22/13 02:10 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Dave Ferris]
Aidan Offline
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Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 3401
Loc: Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris
Listen to Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett to name two masters of melody that immediately come to mind.. Also singers with impeccable tone, pitch, taste and time feel.


Well, this was the point when I was going to snarkily insert the ubiquitous "Keith Jarrett shreds" vid as a guide for the OP but searching for it, I got this:

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by ECM Records."
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#2504834 - 06/22/13 03:01 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Aidan]
Bridog6996 Offline
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Registered: 01/19/05
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Take a small bit of a phrase, maybe from the melody of the song, and try to limit yourself to developing that small motif as much as possible. Sonny Rollins was a master at this. At the very least, that's a good starting idea for solo to get you thinking in a melodic way.

Whatever you play, you gotta "own it." Nothing is wrong if you're playing with conviction. If you're timid and/or unsure about what you're playing, that will come across to the listener.

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#2504844 - 06/22/13 04:43 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Bridog6996]
ABECK Offline
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Registered: 01/22/01
Posts: 2078
Loc: Framingham,MA,UNITED STATES
Tell a story when you solo. Build it as you go. And never blow your wad too early. There is always a tendency to want to get to the fancy licks right out if the gate.

I also like the idea of limiting yourself to a few notes. Hell, try to tell the story with just one note. That will help reinforce how important timing is.

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#2504849 - 06/22/13 05:20 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: ABECK]
Tusker Offline
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Registered: 08/02/00
Posts: 5978
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While immersion is a great way to subconsciously learn melodic idiom, it additionally helps to be aware of common melodic structures.

http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/motive.pdf
http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/phrasesperiods.pdf

Every good story has a structure which advances it's intention. So does every good piece of music and every good solo.

Some worry that structures can damage spontaneity. They can. It comes down to how you use them. A single minded reliance on structures can lead you to a very studied way of improvising (not good) or you can simply have them in the background, much like the way you choose the roads down which navigate a car without those decisions interfering with your actual driving. A simple understanding of structures will give you a larger perspective even as you are immersed in the inspiration of the moment (good).

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#2504852 - 06/22/13 05:36 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Aidan]
Joe Muscara Offline
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Registered: 02/21/05
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Loc: Houston, TX
Originally Posted By: Aidan
Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris
Listen to Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett to name two masters of melody that immediately come to mind.. Also singers with impeccable tone, pitch, taste and time feel.


Well, this was the point when I was going to snarkily insert the ubiquitous "Keith Jarrett shreds" vid as a guide for the OP but searching for it, I got this:

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by ECM Records."
How is that even possible? It is definitely not for the "music" that was played, so it must have been for the original video footage itself.

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#2504858 - 06/22/13 06:20 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Joe Muscara]
Hammonddave Offline
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Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 4327
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
+1 on all the advice above...

One thing I used to find myself doing is playing too many notes. Simple is always better. Some of the most beautiful soloists are musicians who play simple, melodic lines... like Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Greg Rollie, Booker T., etc... Play slow and simple... and don't forget to crawl while sustaining a note.

Build your solos... Use tension in the melody lines and chord progressions...

Be wary of too many fast arpeggios... Choose your moments wisely...

And finally... RELAX... Many players (myself sometimes included) seem to get a little nervous and uptight when soloing. Zen out and enjoy the moment. Your solos will not only be more listenable, they will certainly be more enjoyable to you.
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#2504860 - 06/22/13 06:27 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Joe Muscara]
Rusty Mike Offline
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Registered: 10/05/10
Posts: 325
Loc: Central NJ
I always try to resolve my phrases during my solos, looking to come sort of melodic and rhythmic ending. It doesn't always have to end on a tonic, but the listener should feel some sense of completion when I'm ready to let them go. Setting up for the end has helped me play with a better sense of "song", where I'm composing on the spot instead of jusy playing through familiar licks.

The licks, of course, are still there, but are often times used as fill between melodic phrases.

Another thing I rely on is melodic themes. I will tend to start a solo around a sequence of notes, quite often a simple pattern, and then explore that pattern through the chord and mode changes. The complexity and intensity builds up through the prgoression, but once again I look for some sort of resolution to let the listener gracefully exit.

I think a lot about guidance such as telling a story and a solo being a conversation with your band mates. I'm also a relatively simple player, so pyrotechnics are not in my soloing tool kit.
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#2504925 - 06/22/13 08:54 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Tusker]
I-missRichardTee Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 3040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
Originally Posted By: Tusker
While immersion is a great way to subconsciously learn melodic idiom, it additionally helps to be aware of common melodic structures.

http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/motive.pdf
http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/phrasesperiods.pdf

Every good story has a structure which advances it's intention. So does every good piece of music and every good solo.

Some worry that structures can damage spontaneity. They can. It comes down to how you use them. A single minded reliance on structures can lead you to a very studied way of improvising (not good) or you can simply have them in the background, much like the way you choose the roads down which navigate a car without those decisions interfering with your actual driving. A simple understanding of structures will give you a larger perspective even as you are immersed in the inspiration of the moment (good).


Hey, thank you for those 2 pages of melodic theory. Do you happen to know a way for me to save those pages to my evernote or similar app? When I ( of course ) hit select all, the notation is not selected. I wish I could save those pages. I guess I could bookmark, (or favorite) . But sometimes those bookmarks become obsoleted !

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#2504926 - 06/22/13 08:55 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: I-missRichardTee]
Pale Offline
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Registered: 12/04/08
Posts: 820
Loc: Croatia, Zagreb
Open in iBooks, if you are on iPad?
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#2504928 - 06/22/13 08:58 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Pale]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 3040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
Well I am on a laptop, but great, I can open Evernote in iPad.. and that would do it? edit For those of you who are backward with computers, this works, even on an iPhone.. Thank you very much.


Edited by I-missRichardTee (06/22/13 09:05 AM)

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#2504947 - 06/22/13 09:36 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: I-missRichardTee]
t9cstudio Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/07
Posts: 172
Remember what Satchmo said, "It's the notes you DON'T play that matter".

I like hearing a shredder as much as anyone, but if the solo won't stand on it's own, it shouldn't be played. Too many musicians are guilty of overplaying everything; solos, fills & endings. I call them the "gotta play every note of every song" types.
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#2504948 - 06/22/13 09:37 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Tusker]
Jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 02/19/06
Posts: 3936
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Tusker
While immersion is a great way to subconsciously learn melodic idiom, it additionally helps to be aware of common melodic structures.

http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/motive.pdf
http://www.clt.astate.edu/tcrist/theory2/phrasesperiods.pdf

Every good story has a structure which advances it's intention. So does every good piece of music and every good solo.

Some worry that structures can damage spontaneity. They can. It comes down to how you use them. A single minded reliance on structures can lead you to a very studied way of improvising (not good) or you can simply have them in the background, much like the way you choose the roads down which navigate a car without those decisions interfering with your actual driving. A simple understanding of structures will give you a larger perspective even as you are immersed in the inspiration of the moment (good).


Nice! Thank you. I was reading through that and some of those I forget about. Like everything else, even melody making needs some sort of foundation that needs woodshedding.
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#2504962 - 06/22/13 10:03 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Jazzwee]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 3040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
In music schools at least during 20th century, the ratio of material on contrapuntal, rhythmic, melodic, harmonic and what was once called orchestration, was way out of balance ratio wise. I would go to music bookstores in NYC, and every book was either analysis , harmony, some counterpoint, Form, but next to nothing NOTHING on Rhythm ( I know a total of two good books ) and Nothing on melody.

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#2504972 - 06/22/13 10:25 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: Hammonddave]
J. Dan Offline
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Registered: 07/25/08
Posts: 6889
Loc: St. Louis, MO
Originally Posted By: Hammonddave
+1 on all the advice above...

One thing I used to find myself doing is playing too many notes. Simple is always better. Some of the most beautiful soloists are musicians who play simple, melodic lines... like Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Greg Rollie, Booker T., etc... Play slow and simple... and don't forget to crawl while sustaining a note.

Build your solos... Use tension in the melody lines and chord progressions...

Be wary of too many fast arpeggios... Choose your moments wisely...

And finally... RELAX... Many players (myself sometimes included) seem to get a little nervous and uptight when soloing. Zen out and enjoy the moment. Your solos will not only be more listenable, they will certainly be more enjoyable to you.


+1

I'm not exactly one to be giving advice on this subject, as I recently asked for help in this department as well and received some of the same advice. But I will say that it has helped to slow down and not feel like I have to fill every space. When you feel comfortable keeping it simple, I think it naturally gets to be more melodic. I've sort of settled into a kind of pattern of intro, melody, scale, melody, outro....more or less. My intro is usually something where I try to just pull the listener in - simple but attention getting, like "ok folks, here comes the keyboard solo". Then it's simple melodies connected by random noodling. The "outro" is intended to tie it into the next section, which might be very different depending on if it needs to resolve and go to a chorus, or lead into something like a guitar solo.

I understand, that you probably are already more proficient than me, so it seems odd for me to be posting advice. But keeping it simpe and following a basic structure or formula has allowed me to focus more on good melodies.
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#2504995 - 06/22/13 11:13 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: J. Dan]
opdigits Offline
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Registered: 07/25/12
Posts: 691
Loc: SoCal
Stepping out of the "norm" is one method that helps me avoid ruts. In doing so, it's important to release your fear of making mistakes. Purposefully tell yourself when approaching a solo to not play what you normally would. A good way to do that is to start your solo where you wouldn't, traditionally. Doing this in a live situation will decrease your fear of goofing up.

Stop musically "thinking", and just feel the groove. Experiment with empty space and timing. It can be hit or miss, but it will get better over time.

Knowing your instrument blind, both in the layout of its physical controls (where applicable), as well as your theory, scales and chords and such, in conjunction with knowing the song blind, also helps a great deal.

As mentioned above, simplicity is a thing of beauty, and, relaxation is a wonderful tool.

All the above can free your muscle memory up so that solos truly become spontaneously melodic.

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#2505000 - 06/22/13 11:18 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: opdigits]
miden Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 01/30/06
Posts: 974
Loc: Australia
I wrote earlier, but I think it important enough to repeat - imo the single best thing you can do for soloing, is NOT look at the keys. See the keybed in your mind and play from there.

It becomes so much more intimate, flowing and effortless, especially if you can also build a mind picture to go with it. It's what we learn as piano-accordion players - gets drummed into us in lessons and practice. Not the soloing bit, but having a "virtual keyboard" picture and allowing this to overtake the physical use of the eyes.

Try it smile

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#2505013 - 06/22/13 11:58 AM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: miden]
I-missRichardTee Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 3040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
Originally Posted By: miden
I wrote earlier, but I think it important enough to repeat - imo the single best thing you can do for soloing, is NOT look at the keys. See the keybed in your mind and play from there.

It becomes so much more intimate, flowing and effortless, especially if you can also build a mind picture to go with it. It's what we learn as piano-accordion players - gets drummed into us in lessons and practice. Not the soloing bit, but having a "virtual keyboard" picture and allowing this to overtake the physical use of the eyes.
Try it smile

I don't have a problem looking at keys, hmmm. I always like to hear new ideas about how to be a better player. So flowing is easier with closed eyes? Ok.


Edited by I-missRichardTee (06/22/13 12:00 PM)

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#2505019 - 06/22/13 12:17 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: I-missRichardTee]
uncledunc Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/09/13
Posts: 375
Loc: Tucson AZ, USA
In the studio, when I'm dealing with a player doing too many Guitar Center licks (the guy sitting in front of a guitar amp playing every lick he knows) I sometimes have to suggest a note limit during a solo. "You're only allowed to play five notes." This makes you break it down to the "good" notes versus the crap. From there you can expand a bit.

Another consideration is setting up what follows the solo. Vocal? Another soloist? Whatever it is, be polite. Don't step on toes. Build a bridge instead.

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#2505025 - 06/22/13 12:41 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: I-missRichardTee]
miden Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 01/30/06
Posts: 974
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: I-missRichardTee

I don't have a problem looking at keys, hmmm. I always like to hear new ideas about how to be a better player. So flowing is easier with closed eyes? Ok.


Sorry I should have included - works for me, maybe not so much for others.Depends on early training and lessons I guess idk

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#2505026 - 06/22/13 12:43 PM Re: Soloing more melodically [Re: uncledunc]
CEB Online   content
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Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 6256
All this simpler is better melody stuff is OK but if you can play some Art Tatum with warp drive engaged then do it. If you ask average Joe on the street who are the keyboard gods it will be guys like Emerson, Wakeman, Liszt, Tatum, ect...

If you can, kick some ass once in a while to let the mothers know what is up. LOL.
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