Friday, April 1, 2011

The Gershwin Transcriptions (and Bloopers!)

Wow, this Weekly Wish video was a pain in the ass, especially for a 1-minute solo piece! But more on that in a moment (you can watch the blooper reel while you wait, only 45 seconds!) - first, for those who followed a link here in the hope of getting actual information:

This piece is from a collection of solo piano arrangements Gershwin wrote of his own songs. I chose Swanee, because it was one of two songs in the book that were also available on the Gershwin Piano Rolls recording.  Of course, what he wrote down is much simpler than what he actually played on the piano rolls.  Mortal that I am, I chose to learn what he wrote down.  The arrangement I learned is only two pages long, and doesn't include the intro or verse, just starts right on "Swanee, how I love ya..." etc.  It's a short, repetitive song, so much of the musical interest lies in the variations Gershwin wrote for the piano - fills and ornaments in the right hand, and harmonic variation/passing chords. 

Mind you, "musical interest" should not be confused with "important".  One of my Stonewall singers, Brookes, was over for rehearsal the other day.  Since the piece is only a minute long, I've taken to bombarding innocent people with it when there's a down moment.  Brookes was digging through his bag for his sheet music, and I saw my chance - and what do you know, he started singing along!  Fun. 

A couple days later, I was practicing after my failed recording session, berating myself for being a terrible musician and a failure in life, when I did have one lucid, helpful thought: Why was is so much better when Brookes was singing with me?  Not just because I prefer accompanying to solo piano.  The melody, dumbass.  I'd been working so hard to get the damn 16th-note triplets clean that I forgot about the melody (see, this is why I like singers; for their sins, they do take care of the melody for me).

About recording: listening back to yourself.  Aggagaggggglkkkkk... but if you can get over the cringe/gag factor and listen as if you were listening to a student, it's really enlightening.  My playing has gotten maybe a little bit better recently, but I've gotten waaaaaaaaaay pickier, from listening back with the knowledge that I intend to put in out there on the interwebs where anyone can see it.  This is not a comfortable thing, but I think it's a good thing. 

I wasn't satisfied with my playing on this one, but I decided to find a stopping point so I can move on to other things I want to play.  I chose the take I did for the video because, while there were a couple takes where the technical stuff landed better, this one felt free-er and less careful.  And it didn't involve a falling piano lamp.

1 comment:

  1. I know it's already taken as a band name, but have you considered renaming Diesel "Danger Kitty"?
    Love ya!