Being a pianist that people want to be around?

I analyze each social context when I am the only one confused, which causes a lot of embarrassment, partly because I am now aware that I am the only one who doesn’t understand a situation that I should be able to understand by now.

What did that look mean? What did that wink mean?

People expect me to understand, or else they wouldn’t be including me in them.

It’s like a secret language where I intercepted a few signals. Like catching the Enigma Code in the Imitation Game. I’m only more aware that I don’t understand, and each time I think about it, I’m more dismayed. So maybe I have Asperger’s.

The possibility of having Asperger’s just means that I won’t be able to understand, even if I tried very very hard to pay attention and memorize how you’re supposed to act during certain situations.

I haven’t gone through a doctor yet. Asperger’s in women is misdiagnosed so often that I could cycle through doctors until I found one who would slap the label on me. I could very well have social anxiety instead.

I baked a blueberry loaf the other day and thought I would leave a slice outside my neighbour’s door, since he wasn’t “in the mood to hang out”. It’s the neighbour who was ignoring my texts because he was having family issues.

“He might get the wrong idea,” Pan says.

“What?”

“A pretty girl wants to see you all the time and feed you. What are you supposed to think?”

“Oh,” I say. “It never occurred to me.”

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My favourite Hanon secrets

My Secrets for Playing Hanon

Not everyone understands how to play Hanon.

There are 60 exercises, but you are not meant to do them all at once. They are tools in your arsenal for each of the different areas you need to improve on.

Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, and this is true for a lot of things in life, especially piano technique.

If you only had 5 minutes for technique and you’ve laid the groundwork for other fundamentals (scales/arpeggios/etc) I’d recommend spending time on Hanon.

If you don’t have the Hanon book yet, click here to get it.

In the video below, I share tips for playing Hanon:

  • If you are stiff or tense, how to move your wrist
  • How to properly press your fingers down to each key
  • Where you’re wasting energy when playing piano
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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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