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Looking to Rock On


Bryan Henry

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Hello Everyone

 

This is my first posting and I had a question. I used to play the old classical music at a resort for 4 years during the summer. It made be so tired of bing a pianist that I stopped until recently.

I want to get in to new age rock music like Nickelback or Simple Plan. The problem is the old method of on hand chord and one hand melody just does not work.

Is there anyone here who could give me some starting tips for this genre? I have been using the guitar chords only at the moment and it sounds better then before.

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I wish I could help but I can't picture anyone wanting to play Nickleback who has a classical background. Not that there is anything wrong with the band, but it's definitely not "elite" music for lack of a better definition. Try listening to some Echolyn, Flower Kings, and even Arena to see what can be achieved in todays market with your classical chops!

 

Your best bet to trying something new is to grab some sheetmusic and see what these artists are doing technique wise. And think about equipment ;)

 

Wish I could be more help but it's sort of like trying to tell Hendrix how to play Go-Go's music :)

 

Darkon the Incandescent

http://www.billheins.com/

 

 

 

Hail Vibrania!

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What's wrong about playing rock,jazz or blues on the piano? Look at Bruce Hornsby, Amy Lee, Elton John and others that I can't recall at the moment. They are all schooled musicians yet they are playing modern music amazingly well. Thing is in that even if you want to be playing rock or any other genre that is not classical music on any instrument and especially on the piano, you have to start with playing classical music first.
Davor
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I studied classical piano for ten years, and when I started playing rock, it was, to say the least, a rude awakening. The rhythms were different, I didn't know how to improvise, there was an entire universe of textures suddenly available in the forms of organ, synthesizer, Rhodes, and more, and I had to learn to play in an ensemble more instead of before where I played the "accompaniment" with my left hand.

 

I would say listen to groups that you really like, and really really listen to what the keyboardist is doing. It may not be as technically challenging as classical piano, but there are plenty of other challenges there for you to sink your teeth into.

 

Really listen to how the keyboards augment, highlight, contrast, or support what the singer is singing, and how it (hopefully) doesn't clash with the other instruments, but instead provides an interesting counterpoint. Pay attention to whether the keyboards add or detract or muddy up the sound, and think about why it may or may not do that. Allow your classical sense of composition and arrangement to facilitate new ideas in rock.

 

Learn how to improvise and come up with new riffs, parts, melodies, countermelodies, harmonies, solos, textures, moods, and sounds. The keyboard can add a huge dimension in texture and emotion.

 

Learn that sometimes the best part is to not play. Learn when to play sparsely, and when to totally cut loose with a universe of notes and sounds.

 

Focus on the groove. Focus on being totally in the pocket, no matter how simple or complicated your part is.

 

In rock, you're presumably supporting the main instrument, which is usually the vocals. What can you do to make the vocals sound even better? What can you do to serve the song? What can you do to augment the emotion even more?

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Well, yeah, there's billions of people playing music around the world who would disagree with that statement. Problem is that they're all playing music wrong... ;):D
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When I made the transition from classical to rock years ago, the very first song I learned was "Light My Fire".

 

It provided three things I found valuable:

- the ability to exercise my already good hand independence by playing left handed bass

- an introduction to picking parts off the record by ear

- an opportunity to take my first steps into improvisation. I found Ray Manzarek's solo style to be classically influenced anyway, and I was able to play in that manner much easier than if I had tried to jump headlong into Jimmy Smith or something else.

Moe

---

 

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Ken/Eleven Shadows offers a lot of great advice there. A good point he makes is 'less is usually more' in a band and pop/rock setting - keep in mind that, ideally, every part should serve the overall mix. Too many notes are gonna make anyone else you play with look at you sideways - and definitely avoid playing the melody throughout the song! ;) Good luck.
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One of the main points I'm trying to make with the first post is that there are many challenges that don't have to do with showing your chops. There's always room for that if it serves the song. But there are other challenges when making the jump from classical to rock (or other genres). Playing one genre well does not necessarily mean that you can play another genre well.
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Originally posted by davorp:

Thing is in that even if you want to be playing rock or any other genre that is not classical music on any instrument and especially on the piano, you have to start with playing classical music first.

That's just silly :freak:

 

Classical music is an entirely different animal. I will agree that to some extent classical music is usefull for the purpose of exercises; Hanon works wonders if done correctly for instance. But really such excersises are but derivitives of classical works, not pieces in of themselves and as such are intended solely for improving finger strenth and independance.

 

That said, there is nothing wrong with being classically trained ;) IN fact, the more knowledge the better. I just see classical as one of MANY aproaches to the same instrument, not one that is required in any way. Personally I find Jazz much more fullfilling. But that's just my opinion.

 

~C

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Originally posted by davorp:

...Thing is in that even if you want to be playing rock or any other genre that is not classical music on any instrument and especially on the piano, you have to start with playing classical music first.

You mean I've been going about this all wrong all these years :(

 

Two of my all time favorite albums:

Robert Johnson's "Bach to the Crossroads" and

Bill Monroe's "Beethoven goes Bluegrass" ;)

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Plenty of great advice above.

 

Also consider re-working the songs you like for solo piano too if possible.

 

This will allow you to develop the ears, maintain those chops, left/right hand independence, etc.

 

Having a broad repertoire of material, style and flavor makes a keyboardist invaluable in a number of gig settings.

 

Good luck and welcome to the forum. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Bryan Henry,

 

You have hit on a very common reason why some classical players have trouble moving to rock or pop music. It's a totally different style.

 

While you are used to playing chords with the left hand and melody with the right hand, now with what you want to do, the melody is handled by the SINGER, so you don't do that.

 

So...

 

Play chords with your RIGHT hand, and octaves, 3rd, 5th, 7th with your left hand. Sometimes you'll find you don't want to play with that left hand at all.

 

For ROCK like you want to play, make sure you know the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales and how to use them.

 

Good Luck.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Stepay hit it on the head when he wrote about the left hand in rock. Often, less is more. And, yes, sometimes NONE is more. (Good thing for me, because I'm "left-hand challenged.") Completely depends on the tune. I most often find my left hand playing octaves, sometimes in unison, but often in syncopation.

 

Speaking of syncopation, listen to Joe Cocker's version of "Feeling Alright" (the original, studio version from 1969) which features Artie Butler on piano. I've learned as much about tasty, funky rock piano from that one song than from anything else, from the distinctive intro to the oh-so-tasty solo that ends in a wonderful piano break before the vocals resume.

 

Oh, and Mate_Stubb's "Light My Fire" recommendation is perfect.

 

Good luck!

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Bryan,

Yes - all good advice above. I'd just like to add one thing about your left hand. If you ever want to try to venture into some New Orleans style music, your left hand chops that you acquired playing classical music will come in handy playing bass lines. A lot of the times in this style of music the piano player is pumping bass lines that the bassist is doubling (don't let him tell you the opposite ;) ) or playing a different bass line than the piano. ex:Longhair.

 

And there are a lot of cool two handed counter point things they do while going to the next chord change that is not so unlike Bach counterpoint.

(edited for wrong word usage :freak: )

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Iatchmo is right on in regards to the bass lines, especially in smaller groups I think. If you learn a cool bass line for a song and get that on auto pilot it makes it that much easier to be creative with your other hand, especially when you get thirsty. I played quite a bit of classical before what Im into now. One of the hardest things to do was to strip away some of the embellishments I was used to playing. Im sort of into a folk/rock/cheesy thing where less is generally more. Lay down some shakers, congas and a lyric about your dog. If I want to show off I might through out a fancy intro.
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All excellent advice! Let's just not lose focus on what the original issue was: a classically trained piano player looking to successfuly switch to rock. He specifically mentioned Nickelback and Simple Plan (and that he was "tired" of classical). Thus, if I'm reading him right, his biggest challenge will be to "loosen up," period. Classical training is wonderful, but the styles ARE very different. As a strict rocker who's (informally) tutored classically trained musicians, I have no doubt he'll have the technical chops. But as Ken/Eleven said, rock/funk and related styles ultimately are more about "the groove" than anything else. Deciding when to play and how much/little to play -- that's what makes rock (and other, more unstructured styles) so much fun.

 

Heck, just rent "School Of Rock" -- Jack Black says it all right there! :cool:

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Delirium, I posted immediately above before I saw your post. Were you being serious or just poking fun at the fact that everyone kept talking about playing "less"?

 

If the former: While some may indeed find it very easy (it certainly is from a purely technical side), I've found many purely classical players actually have a difficult time "freeing their minds/hands" and understanding the inherent differences in the styles.

 

If the latter: Never mind ...

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Exactly. It's often very hard to "free the mind" when you're alone and since rock music is all about being in a group. Especially in those "new age" rock bands, because keyboards serve more as a rhythm section which may be difficult to adjust to if you're used to playing full rhtmn and melodies in a classical piece.

 

SO!

 

I reckon you should go jam. Like get a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer and then put on an organ noise, and do what comes naturally... that's how I broke out of classical.

 

but yeah, listening to a lot of rock music helps millions.

 

and learn a blues scale. It's the starting point. and don't play too many block triads.

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Big Bird,

I was talking about purely technical aspect.

Good classic player shouldnt have any problems,

Since he played it all - in classic music you can find many other flavors: E.g. Bolero by Ravel, its rock piece right? Fur Elise by Beethoven is a pop piece etc ;)

Regarding group playing, many of them play in orchestra, so small band isnt an issue.

 

Again, good classic player can smoke rock/pop playing with easiness. BTW for freeing your mind

there are plants to help you with that :D

♫♫♫ motif XS6, RD700GX
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It would seem that every classical player could easily switch to rock or pop, but that just isn't always the case.

 

Reasons:

 

1) Need to learn to become less dependent on sheet music. Most rock musicians don't use sheet music at all, and most don't even read a note. Best here to start at least with lead sheets (where chord is noted above the lyric in the form of C, Am, Bm7 etc.). Eventually, the plan should be to move away from those lead sheets (in my opinion).

 

2) Need to become comfortable with "jamming". things are going well and the dance floor is crowded, so the guitar player gives you a nod for a tasty keyboard solo to stretch the song out a bit. Can you do it? Not all classically trained players can. I know I couldn't when I first switched from classical to rock\blues. Took time to learn how to do.

 

3) Gotta work on playing chords with the right hand instead of the left. Not a huge deal, but takes some attention.

 

4) Gotta get comfortable with the syncopation and rhythm of rock as Big Bird said. To be really good, you have to learn how to play off the other players in the band, and since the guitar player is likely going to be doing a different thing each time he plays a particular song, the keyboard player likely is too.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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I think a lot of the advice presented here is good, but I also think too many people spent too much time obsessing over various technical aspects of classical. Music is music--period. The notes, scales, harmonic structures, and rhythms all come from the same essence. Style (or form) is how you put it all together.

 

It really doesn't matter where one begins one's musical journey; all that matters is one keeps on pluging away, growing, and enjoying one's self.

 

Additionally, while I think it's good advice in general to not double the melody, I like to double the melody sometimes--perhaps even a minor 3rd, perfect 4th, diminished 5, or minor 2nd off. After all, it also depends on the mood that the group is trying to set.

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Also remember, you as a keyboardist have 10 (or 12 if you have peddles) instruments at your disposal all the time. Sometimes, it's great to play off of the guitars like Stepay mentioned, and sometimes you can do your own thing--harmonize and/or comp with yourself.
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