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Trying to help out a friend, any advice?


Tusker

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A friend of mine is a classically trained pianist, and is starting to play popular music. He has invited me to listen in, and ... well he overplays quite a bit. Mostly piano sounds, but he will layer them with strings, b3, harpsichord, you name it. He will play with the pedal down and create walls of sound. And he will fight for control of the mid-range "pocket" with his acoustic guitarist. Both them hammering away. Even on songs that should be guitar driven.

 

He is a gifted song writer, and can hear a lot of classical (orchestral) nuance, but seems to want to control his band rhythmically. When he asked me for feedback I mentioned that sometimes less is more and it was like I had shot him. A pang of guilt went across his face. He said "I'm trying very hard to play less." So I guess the band (or someone) is getting on his case.

 

I can't give him lessons, and I have only so much bandwidth to advise him. Is there a resource that can help a good classically trained pianist to become a good keyboardist in a rock/pop vein?

 

I looked at homespun tapes, and wondered if some of them might work. Many of the resources I have run across in the past are about developing additional licks, not about developing tasteful sensibility.

 

I can only help indirectly, the rest is up to him. Any advice?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Jerry

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Hi Jerry,

 

My advice is to tell him about this forum and ask him to post a MP3 file for others to hear.

 

He needs to hear comments from people he doesn't know.

 

Tom

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I've seen that alot. It seems like a common trait of classically trained pianists who did not take into other styles of music up till this point in their life. And chances are, I'd bet that he actually doesn't even listen to that much of the music styles he's trying to play here.

 

It depends on how open the person is to advice. I somewhat doubt he would accept advice from most people, let alone strangers. Most people's egos are too fragile for that (thread deja vu!)

 

I'll say the best way is for him to work it out himself. He needs to listen to more music in the styles that he's attempting to play. Make him a compilation tape or lend him CDs which might demonstrate this. It can also be much less confronting, as a "check out this music" sorta objective, as opposed to "you're doing it all wrong!". If he's got half an ear, he should start picking up on what works in other pieces of music, and what doesn't...

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Dammit you guys this a fellow keyboard players more keys is always better. Jerry tell him the band is wrong and they sound better because of keyboard playing. :thu:

 

Ok he really needs to sit down with the band and they need to all communicate their feelings. They also need to give emaples of what exaclty them mean. Have them tape themselves and then listen together and point out the specifics. I think the clearer they can be, the more understanding will allow a true understanding of everyone position while also allowing any changes to occur if people in the band are willing.

Begin the day with a friendly voice A companion, unobtrusive

- Rush

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+1 on making the compilation CD consisting of tunes in the style of music the band wants to play.

 

Sounds like this cat needs to take a "course" in Pop music which is mainly about rhythm and pocket presence. :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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+1 again on CD compilation. This guy needs to transcribe the tunes (original artist) the band is playing. Pick out the things he can reproduce on keys. That will be his best lesson.

Jimmy

 

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Playing less is one of the hardest things to get for someone who grew up playing classical. Its true for guitarists as well as piano players since most guitarists don't start out playing with a keyboard in the band.

 

So your friend shouldn't feel bad. The best thing you can do to help him is help him select good examples to listen to and drag him along to hear people in your neighborhood who have it down. This is an aesthetic thing and I think you only get that by listening.

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Originally posted by Tusker:

When he asked me for feedback I mentioned that sometimes less is more and it was like I had shot him. A pang of guilt went across his face. He said "I'm trying very hard to play less." So I guess the band (or someone) is getting on his case.

 

OK my forum friends, I will agree that this man needs to listen and learn. It takes time.

 

The point of my first post is simply that a musician, or group of musicians, needs a third party - a coach, a mentor, someone like George Martin was to the Beatles.

 

Bands often fail because of the egos involved. I recommend a third party because if you, or someone in the band, starts to criticize, it can be difficult for the person receiving the criticism not to take it either as an insult, or in a personal way.

 

If you have a 3rd party who's role it is to deliver constructive criticism to everyone in the band, then any negative thoughts from the recipient are not aimed at you. It's often the case that the recipient may be temporarily PO'd at the 3rd party. Hopefully, he'll come to understand that it was indeed constructive criticism.

 

If the man won't post an mp3 to the forum, and I admit that this was an idea that I wasn't certain about, try to find a mentor that he trusts. This could be a previous piano teacher, or someone with credentials of some kind.

 

A band is often just a group of ego-driven guys with hair-trigger emotions. And some guys never grow up. It's best to keep your distance if there's a chance that your constructive criticism could backfire and come back to bite you on the fanny. Hire somebody else - with no ties to the band - to offer up the constructive criticism.

 

Now somebody agree with me or I'm going to get really pissed and quit. :mad:;)

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

Originally posted by Tusker:

When he asked me for feedback I mentioned that sometimes less is more and it was like I had shot him. A pang of guilt went across his face. He said "I'm trying very hard to play less." So I guess the band (or someone) is getting on his case.

 

OK my forum friends, I will agree that this man needs to listen and learn. It takes time.

 

The point of my first post is simply that a musician, or group of musicians, needs a third party - a coach, a mentor, someone like George Martin was to the Beatles.

 

Bands often fail because of the egos involved. I recommend a third party because if you, or someone in the band, starts to criticize, it can be difficult for the person receiving the criticism not to take it either as an insult, or in a personal way.

 

If you have a 3rd party who's role it is to deliver constructive criticism to everyone in the band, then any negative thoughts from the recipient are not aimed at you. It's often the case that the recipient may be temporarily PO'd at the 3rd party. Hopefully, he'll come to understand that it was indeed constructive criticism.

 

If the man won't post an mp3 to the forum, and I admit that this was an idea that I wasn't certain about, try to find a mentor that he trusts. This could be a previous piano teacher, or someone with credentials of some kind.

 

A band is often just a group of ego-driven guys with hair-trigger emotions. And some guys never grow up. It's best to keep your distance if there's a chance that your constructive criticism could backfire and come back to bite you on the fanny. Hire somebody else - with no ties to the band - to offer up the constructive criticism.

 

Now somebody agree with me or I'm going to get really pissed and quit. :mad:;)

I can agree with your last statement. One man's constructive criticism can be another's ego-challenge. Criticizing a friend's playing sometimes sabotages the friendship, even if the criticism is asked for.

 

It's like your wife or girlfriend asking how a certain dress or hairstyle makes her look. You have to be very careful framing an answer to this kind of question. To venture an answer (not wise), one must first discern what this person is really looking for--objective analysis or reinforcement of their already formed opinion?

 

Women have long known how to handle this situation. When confronted with the "how does this look?", they often reply: "what do you think?"

 

Come to think of it, that's how psychotherapists respond also.

regards,

 

--kwgm

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Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

Thank you kwgm. :freak:

 

http://static.flickr.com/23/28718936_69128fe6b5_o.jpg

Yea, me too. 27 years. Plenty of time to make those kind of mistakes many, many times.

 

We are hijacking this thread, so I'll shutup, but I just tried the technique on another post.

 

Maybe I'm on to something?

regards,

 

--kwgm

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Tusker,

Yours is a difficult position to be in.

 

Based on what you wrote, it seems your friend wants more to play lots of notes and lots of layers, than he wants to be musically effective in the pop band in which he is playing. Based on his reaction to your feedback, it also seems he is making it difficult for people to reach out and help him. If you he is resisting useful feedback from you, it is a guarantee that he is doing the same with his bandmates. This must be driving them nuts.

 

You cannot force him to be a better listener (neither while playing music, nor while having a conversation about how he plays music). But you can be there for him, when things don't work out for him in the band in which he is now playing, and hopefully he will be ready to listen to you then. I wish both of you the best of luck.

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Two musicians come to mind who would educate this guy:

For comping, have him listen to Count Basie. Few notes, all effective.

 

For soloing, have him listen to vibist Cal Tjader. Here are solo lines that are all well-conceived, and feature excellent choice over blasts of sound.

 

Otherwise, he needs to learn to listen. The more he listens, the less he will play.

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Originally posted by kwgm:

.....Come to think of it, that's how psychotherapists respond also.

Ahhh, the power of psychotherapy. I'm an industrial psychologist by training but I know just enough about clinical psychology to be dangerous. Sure, a clinical psychologist can tell a client what is wrong, but it is much more powerful if the client figures it out for him/herself. A dear clinical psychologist friend of mine once told me his approach: "I am not here to cure you. I am simply here to join with you and go into this hell in which you find yourself, and see if I can somehow put you in a position so that you can find your way out."

 

The way I see it, one problem with your friend is that he has poor insight. That is, he does not even realize there is a problem with his playing. Further, there appear to be some personal barriers that prevent him from using the cognitions of more experienced players so that he can gain insight and take corrective action. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, he may not gain an understanding of the issue until he hits "rock bottom." That is, he may not "get it" until his playing is connected to a significant emotional experience, such as entering into a heated argument with a band member or getting kicked out of a band (or two). I like the suggestions above that involve having objective outside consultants evaluate his playing. He may find this less threatening and react less defensively, especially if he respects them.

 

To some degree, I would bet that most all of us have been where your friend is (think back to some early band ventures.....), and it is not until hes been around the block a few times that he hopefully will develop the thick skin he needs to be successful in this business. Of course, some folks never reach this level of emotional acuity.....

 

In an ideal world, before things hit critical mass, it would be nice to have a band meeting that is a coordinated intervention of sorts. This meeting can be used to talk about many issues, to include a strategic discussion of everyone's playing. During the meeting, be sure to first compliment him on several things you like about his playing, such as the quality of some of the sounds/patches he uses, chord voicings, etc. Then approach the overplaying issue (e.g., You know, this sounds a little busy here). It may be helpful to have a recording of the group handy. Again, he may find it less threatening if everyone is being critiqued and the other band members model acceptance of the criticism they receive. If he feels that you have his best interests as a player, and a person, at heart, hopefully this will facilitate truly reflective insight to his playing, leading to positive growth on his behalf. Good luck!

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Originally posted by VLH:

For comping, have him listen to Count Basie. Few notes, all effective.

 

The more he listens, the less he will play.

+1 for Count Basie. I like to say that he played rests better than anyone else. This goes for his small group work as well.

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Here's some advice that will work if your friend is open minded. Have him and the other members of the band start teaching each other the basics of their instruments. You'd be amazed at how your perspective opens once you start hearing, writing, and playing from a different view.

 

I started as a guitar player roughly 30 years ago and at one point started a progressive band that lacked a keyboard player. I knew a bit so I became a guitarist/keyboard player, but I wasn't where I wanted to be on that instrument so I took lessons for 3-4 years. Towards the end of the piano lessons I had bought a keyboard workstation(Roland JV-1000) and had trouble coming up with believable drum parts for the music I was writing. So I started taking drum lessons(incidentally it was from my piano teacher, a very talented jazz player who taught piano, drums, and vibes). 3 years or so of drum lessons later and now I can write rhythym parts without much trouble. Now when I write, play, or even just listen to music I can appreciate and discern it from various angles and perspectives.

 

The long and short of it is that in order to mesh well with others you must to some degree understand what they do, how they do it, and why they do it :)

 

Darkon the Incandescent

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Make a recording of him playing in that group and have him listen to that recording a few days later.

 

If he does not hear what you hear, he probably never will.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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