Everyone thought I looked fine.

Around this time of year, I get a lot of big thoughts. Cutting thoughts.

I’m having some of them right now.

A few days ago, I caught myself thinking about what I would do to spend even one more minute with my dad.

I caught myself thinking what-if, and those are dangerous what-ifs, so I’m not going to write them out. Those moments that I took for granted back home are so precious. Why didn’t I think to save his fuzzy voicemail clip?

It looks like I have it together, really. I decorate my home, I cook healthy food, I lounge around in the hot tub when I’m stressed. I even made a few friends in the city. I smile when I’m supposed to.

You wouldn’t have known.

That I was lonely, that I was dying inside, that nothing seemed to be working no matter how hard I tried. I dreaded going to sleep since I’d wake up in nightmares or worse, wake up in a dazed stupor fueled with caffeine.

I was alone, going home to a home that didn’t feel like home. With friends to call but none of them get me yet.

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Don’t rely on music school to make you successful

Pan quit university.

Well, he didn’t quit, exactly.

He dropped out of a specific minor program that is traditionally essential in computer sciences. He still finished all the other science courses.

Which is ironic, considering computer science is supposed to be cutting edge and you still need a 4 year degree to get hired.

I wasn’t on board with this at first.

“Don’t look at the success cases of people getting dream jobs without a proper degree,” I say. “They make it sound easier than it is.”

There’s a lot of math and algorithm work that is useful to have a background in, in a computer science job.

“My friends say it’s not necessary, anyways.”

“Then why did your friends finish their degrees?” I say. “Why didn’t they drop out and get hired?”

We are sitting on a bench overlooking a peaceful pond and I squint into the sunlight once in a while.

Pan has heard all of this before.

It’s hard to get your foot in the door when a recruiter has hundreds of resumes to sift through.

It’s better to get a proper degree the first time than coming back to school for a second round of night school. A lot of my successful friends have two degrees.

It’s lonely to not know what everyone else knows in the room.

“Show me someone who’s doing well in a software job and didn’t do a proper computing science degree,” I say.

“Me,” he says. “I’m the first in my program.”

Two summers ago, Pan landed an internship that people with computer science or engineering degrees compete for.

Internships are the golden standard for who’s who in the tech industry. You can’t get a stellar tech job without having experience under your belt by the time you graduate. If you have an internship with a world-class company like Google or Apple, then you’re guaranteed a pick of top jobs after grad.

Did you know that a $100k annual income is considered low-income in San Francisco? Low income means you spend more than 25% of your monthly paycheque on rent, which is mind boggling when so many people live in one-bedroom lofts in SF.

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How to play a complicated melody (finger independence piano technique)

In piano, you’ll notice that the melody is often given to the right hand, or upper voices. This is common in contemporary piano music, and pop music. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the melody when a lot of notes are playing at the same time.

That’s where finger and hand independence come in. How do you make sure that your hands are able to do their own thing without copying the other hand? It’s tough.

How do you bring out a melody in one finger when all the other fingers are playing something completely different (i.e. the accompaniment)?

I want to show you a technique that I’ve been using for years. Check this out–it’s called ghost playing.

What is ghost playing?

This involves playing your piece of music the exact way you would play it, except, don’t press down on any key that’s not part of your melody. So, when you hear it, you’ll only hear the melody.

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Tips for Playing Faster Repeated Notes on the Piano

Tips for Playing Fast Repeated Notes on the PianoI spent a lot of time in the practice room refining my fast, repeated notes, and for whatever reason, I would only nail these passages sometimes.

One blurred note in the 16 fast repeated notes, gives my entire passage a failing grade.

Before my piano lesson, I would cross my fingers. After all, having the piano teacher stand beside me always made me play approximately 39.94% worse. Anyone with me here? The “I played better at home” excuse never worked for me.

I’m talking Toccatas, Valse Brilliants, anything with furiously repeating notes.

After some long practice sessions, I finally got to a respectable rate of success with my repeated notes. Here are some tips to improve your repeated notes. This video demonstrates the concepts, and the article below explains in detail!

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How I picked my digital piano

In Seattle, I’ve settled into a cave with slate blue cabinets. I’ve gotten myself a mattress and a bed and a shelf.

Things have fallen into place bit by bit. I appreciate all the Artiden friends who reached out or sent a simple hello.

Here I am, sitting on a silver milk jug thinking about life in front of a plateful of cheese, in Seattle.

Every time I come to the Seattle Pike Market, I visit the handmade cheese factory. I love grilled cheese. I’ve always wanted to try crab pot, but by the time I finish my grilled cheese, I’m always too full. Pan the cheese fanatic drove down to visit me, and we were too busy eating cheese.

In music, I’ve always had a Yamaha acoustic piano, so in my mind, I was getting a Yamaha digital piano. It’s like my handmade grilled cheese. There’s no question.

I went to the music store to play most of the digital pianos they had while Pan looked like he was in pain. (Pan says I have to also say that he drove me there and back while I was asleep with my mouth wide open)

My first criteria was that I wanted the touch to feel like an acoustic. Good luck with that, Grace, most digitals don’t have real hammers inside.

The second was that I wanted it to have good sound quality and some kind of connectivity for recording.

That’s it. That’s all I asked for. If you want to see some of the research I’ve done about travel-sized digital pianos, take a look here.

I dallied at the music store and voted the Yamahas off the island right away. I am looking for THE ONE and as soon as I sat down, I knew it wasn’t a Yamaha.

I went back and forth playing a Casio and Roland, when a wannabe Beethoven started competing with me. I swear he turned up the volume on his digital piano, so I turned up mine too, since I couldn’t hear myself play.

In the end, I got a Roland FP30. It’s the closest to an acoustic in the store that’s in my budget.

Here is what I learned about shopping for pianos / starting your music studio:

  • know what you DON’T want. I used to try pianos and say “I don’t know what I think of this”.
  • watch videos where people sample different pianos and close your eyes – you’ll find that you’ll prefer one over the other, intuitively.
  • be ready to fall in love with an unexpected piano.
  • having a piano won’t motivate you to play piano. it’ll become a piece of furniture unless you’re already motivated to play. so it doesn’t matter how expensive or cheap your piano is, if you’re only looking for a new piano to “get motivated” to play more.

If you’d like to see my behind-the-scenes music / techniques and also be the first to see my music tips videos, I have a Patreon! It’s a way get perks in return for joining a membership each month. You can contribute as much or as little as you like.

While I’ve gotten back on my feet financially, this is a great way to support what I’m doing and I appreciate any amount that you’d like to contribute. I thought about starting this for a long time, and everyone has been beyond supportive.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions, so I’ll answer them below.

FAQ about joining on Patreon

I don’t want my name to be public. Can I donate anonymously?
Yes! Check out this link.

How can I donate?
Go to this link and click “Become a Patron.” Then, you can choose how much you want to donate each month, and you’ll be guided through the process. Here’s a tutorial on how to do this.

What forms of payment does it accept?
It accepts credit/debit card, Paypal, and more. Check out the full list here.

Please note: I don’t get access to your payment information, and you can cancel the membership at any time.

Here’s my Patreon page! Join here.

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Goodbye to a place I love

My friend tells me that border security will punch a hole through my drivers license when I pass the border.

I am aghast when she tells me this, because my license is a piece of my identification as a canadian. It’s silly, it’s a piece of plastic, but it’s my identity.

It’s like I am leaving it behind, in Canada. Have you ever moved countries?

You know how some robots look almost human, but not quite human enough? This is Seattle. It’s still the west coast and it looks almost like Vancouver, with a mountain in the background (in the photo above), but I know better. I have no friends here.

The point of this is that I am now realizing the gravity of what I have to give up, to pursue my next job in the states.

Is it worth it? I don’t know yet.

I will be getting a new ID card, a new identity to define me. I might have to be less nice, in the USA.

I read that I will be considered a minority race and gender in Seattle.

I research the mountains where I can go skiing or mountain biking.

I have been browsing the American news sites for the past month.

This is a chance to start fresh, to make my mark, to not let my past define me. I will always be me inside, and no hole punches can take that away from me.

Goodbye for now, Canada.

I wrote the above when I was expecting to move. Now that I have finalized everything, I wanted to share a bit more about what happened.

I view 14 apartments in 2 days. I arrange the appointments so I tour the city in a circular shape and leave 15 mins between each one.

However, I drive into Seattle by accident and wait in 45 mins traffic on a highway to drive back to Bellevue (a small city to the north).

I put in so much work to optimize my route and did not account for human error. But, Bellevue is such a small town that I complete all the Bellevue viewings in one day, so I only had 4 viewings the next day.

There is nothing in Bellevue. There’s no nature, no interesting restaurants, nothing but highway and houses.

I end the day satisfied with myself, and disappointed in the plain city.

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New Ways to Learn Piano Online / Sydney (Smart Game Piano)

We don’t talk about learning music in new ways very often, but rote / learning online has gotten popular in the past year. Technology has improved enough to let people learn online, and online learners can become fairly skilled!

Today, we have an interview with my new friend Sydney from Smart Game Piano, who’s teaching videogame music online, by rote!

From easy pop songs to advanced videogame music, it’s quite simple to start picking up the basics of piano by playing by rote–I suspect that’s why a lot of teachers are using this in their teaching!

We talk about how to take advantage of teaching/learning by rote, using videogame music to improve mental health, and how she got started teaching online. I teach online as well, but by different means, and it was interesting to hear about her methods!

Take a look at my interview with Sydney below. I had a lot of fun!

Check out Sydney’s website, Instagram, and Youtube! This is the Smart Game Piano Facebook group we were talking about in the interview.

Sydney and I played this mashup together.

How did you learn music? Have you ever taken online lessons?

P.S. If you’re new here, get my best music tips/stories by signing up for my FREE weekly email newsletter! I talk about practicing efficiently, learning faster, and other ways to succeed in piano.

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