My dad had helped plant a tree beside my grandma’s house when he was in his teens, and in recent years, it had grown taller than the house itself and the leaves had gotten a little unruly.
The last time I went to my grandma’s house, the tree was gone. It was chopped into tiny logs to heat my cousin’s house. It’s an important task, and I got to stay in her basement without freezing, because of the mighty tree.
It doesn’t affect me as much as a piece of music that would remind me of my dad.
The other day, I wanted to learn a song that my dad used to like, but after listening to it on the piano, I sat there and simply couldn’t play piano at all.
My travels took me back to Asia, and Europe. I stumbled upon many curious events.
For example, I was in South Korea when they declared “peace” with North Korea (couldn’t see anything at the border besides fog). I was in Paris when they won the World Cup (man, they didn’t stop screaming until 5am everyday on the streets). I was in London when the entire city marched to protest against Trump (I was careful to display my Canadian tag on my backpack so I wouldn’t get punched “by accident”).
The time I almost went deaf. It was terrifying to see how poorly I function when deaf in one ear. I couldn’t even walk without tripping.
When I took my first design classes in university, we were taught to use pen and paper to sketch pages and pages of… stuff.
I’ve drawn boxes, circles, squiggles, unicorns, if you name it, I’ve probably attempted it. (I also love to draw in my free time. In fact, for a while, I drew comics for this blog!)
In an industrial design class, the professor had told us to bring markers for sketching. Industrial design, in case you didn’t know, has to do with making physical objects, so it really is a sketch-heavy class.
I forget the markers, and all I had in my pencil case was a black sharpie and a purple highlighter.
He wanted to do a visual inspection of our sketches, so I have to hand something in, even if it’s chicken scratch. I shrug and use the sharpie to outline and purple highlighter to shade. It comes out bright, like my style.
Eventually, the professor comes around to my table and collects the sketches.
“Sketching on paper is really a lost art,” he says. “Everyone’s moving towards digital.”
He flips through the sketches and when he gets to mine, he says, “Some of you guys are going to be fine sketch artists by the end. I can already tell.”
I kept using highlighters to sketch for the class, and to this day, I still use highlighters to sketch. I shall use highlighters until the end of time.
I never learned how to draw hands properly, so last week, I sat down and drew hands for a few hours.
Recently, I have been going back to basics, back to the lost arts.
I went back to my very first digital piano, a Casio, and dusted off the clumps of dust bunnies and moved it upstairs. The piano has basic weighted keys and a variety of sound effects on it, so you could play the glockenspiel or xylophone if you’re bored of piano.
I wanted to jam with myself. I wanted to play different parts of a piece of music, by myself. Is that sad? I’m not sad, you are!
I loved playing with the different instrument sounds when I first got the piano.
On the first day, it hurt my back to sit at a non-piano bench. All the Alexander technique exercises went out the window. The desk was too high for a piano and my back felt broken-stiff.
In the evening, my sister sat on the chair and said, “You want it higher?” Her hand clutches the lever under the seat and SWISH the chair is 20cm taller.
To the children and adults in the room, I’ve fiddled with the chair and it didn’t budge, but I also have a history of breaking chairs, so thank you for judging me.
I try to play on the digital piano again on the second day, and I get some useable footage.
But alas! It turns out if one part of music is 0.3 seconds off, it ruins the entire piece. For example, if you’re trying to record the left hand and right hand of a piano piece separately, they likely won’t line up exactly when you match them up.
On the third day, I re-shoot some clips to play using both hands together.
Eventually I figure out why people wear headphones when they’re recording music: They’re listening to the other parts of the music so they can combine the parts perfectly later. DUH. It’s really useful.
I spend half a day editing (by the time I’m done editing, I’m ready to vomit sugar plums). I’m aware that some of the squares are jiggly and don’t line up, but hey, I don’t really work at pixar.
Here is what I came up with, for the Sugar Plum Fairy!
I used the audio straight from my camera (aka iphone). Are you supposed to do that? I wanted to process the audio using Audition (which thankfully I know how to use), but I would’ve had trouble syncing it with the video again.
Local stores don’t have the print music that I want, and online stores wouldn’t deliver in time for Christmas. I want the good stuff. Creative, novel versions of classics, the likes of Mark Hayes or Craig Curry.
Hello brick bookstores aka Tom Lee/Long & Mcquade/Chapters, this is why people are going to Amazon! I couldn’t even find digital versions of those books. I’ve looked, for 4 days.
Pan likes to tell me, “You can have results or excuses. Not both.”
“Is that Arnold?” I say. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Pan’s favourite person in the world.
I kept looking for a few days, and ended up finding interesting music by composers I’d never heard of, like Kent Hewitt. The catch is, his music is pure jazz. All the chords are suss’d or 10th’d or flat’d.
That’s why I’m now off to learn some jazz chords, to try to play some presentable jazz by Saturday. I can have excuses or results, right?
Rachmaninoff – Italian Polka (this is NOT Christmas but I played it for fun)
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
It’s a free, live online hangout with other musicians or enthusiasts in the Artiden community! It will happen on Sat Dec 15th 2018, at 11am PST.
You can send me music / non-music questions in advance by leaving a comment or email or sending me a message on Instagram. I would love to hear your questions about technique or learning new music! Other questions are welcome too.
During the hangout, I’ll answer some of these questions, share some of my music, then answer live community questions near the end.
Special thanks to Pan for being so cool and showing up to every hangout so far. Then becoming a moderator. What a champ!
Lastly, question for you: do you prefer the hangouts to be on Youtube, or Instagram, or some other place (like Facebook)?
I want to try doing the next hangout on Instagram because some people have told me that they don’t have a Youtube account. But the question is… who has Instagram then?