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Keys as Learning aid
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6559 posts
Mar 29, 2020
4:32 AM
Of course it’s often suggested to use a musical keyboard to help understand musical concepts.
Today I did it while following Michael Rubin’s recent/current series of videos about playing the chromatic.
Michael was talking about playing chromatics in the style of Little Walter which is where he often played 2 notes at once. Unlike George Smith who possibly pioneered the use of octave splits on chromatic, Little Walter was fond of playing splits which involves blocking 2 holes and playing the holes either side of the blocked holes.
Michael was explaining the different intervals this creates and I was trying to get the sense of the different sounds of those intervals so I took it to the piano and played them all in the same key ie using C as the root note.

While I was there I remembered that if you play in Eb, you can play a minor pentatonic scale just using all the black keys, with Eb as the tonic, so I tried that.

I always like to play the melody of Zappa’s tune “Advance Romance” which is all just notes from minor pentatonic so I found Eb and then mucked around playing that.
Eb is the right-most black key in the group of 2
It’s left hand neighbour is Db

In the group of 3 black keys, left to right they are Gb Ab Bb

I found this exercise really helpful in straightening out the keyboard for me.

As Michael said, black keys are kind of like dots on a guitar neck, they are there so you can find your way. If all the keys were white it would be very hard to see what anything is.
This idea of mucking around in Eb using black keys only felt like I was developing something useful. Now I can spot C, B, and Eb at a glance, and also E and F and Db so I can see how with a little practice I can just ‘know’ the names of each key without having to think.
I like keys, I’ve decided. This feels like the right step toward further learning. Who knows; I might develop enough to play some basic keys!

Education of the ear, understanding musical concepts, improved bending accuracy. Those are my main thoughts about incorporating the piano into my practice.
I have a nice Casio electric piano with 4 voices. Easier to play for me than guitar or bass. My thumbs are pretty messed up with arthritis but I think can still play keys, and the notes are all laid out easy to see and understand.

Btw, I followed up the chromatic session by taking a look in Ronnie Shellist Taj Mahal lessons.
I play and sing She Caught The Katy already but I just learned the opening and fills from verse 1, then listened to the Blues Brothers and made up my solo based on the melody. So I knew the first part, but then Ronnie started picking out some other fills I hadn’t really listened to before.
Taj Mahal flips my wig sometimes, he can sound quite simple until you come to do it.

I had reached the limit of concentration so packed it in for a while and did some gardening instead. Tomorrow I’m gonna sit with the piano again though and try incorporate it into some harp practices.
344 posts
Mar 29, 2020
11:00 AM
"Education of the ear, understanding musical concepts, improved bending accuracy. Those are my main thoughts about incorporating the piano into my practice."

I like it. My keyboard skills are pretty weak but I sometimes sit at the organ with the harmonica.

The organ was definitely helpful while progressing from merely bending pitch to hitting bent notes, to understanding where the bent notes were relative to unbent notes, to actually using bent notes like keys on a keyboard.

I also like improvising on the harp with the organ, even if it's just playing a beat or simple chords.

OT So it's harvest time in your garden right? We just finished planting here. Our garden started as a way to become more self reliant. Later it was nice place for family time and a teaching point for the kids. The garden got smaller when it lost priority to work and other activities. This year there was a strange feeling of coming full circle. Gardening has always been great therapy.

Harmonica Mutes & Accessories

Last Edited by dchurch on Mar 29, 2020 11:02 AM
333 posts
Mar 31, 2020
3:58 AM
speaking of gardening... "Turn off the News, Build a Garden"

Last Edited by Spderyak on Mar 31, 2020 4:01 AM
6564 posts
Mar 31, 2020
4:37 PM
There’s some harvesting happening but mainly I’ve been remodeling the patch and sowing the winter garden, or at least the plants to grow into winter.
My patch is on a NNE facing slope (southern hemisphere so that’s the sunny side). The low corner is a bit too steep for my liking so I’ve raised it almost 50cm with a retaining wall built from planks marketed as ‘garden sleepers’. They wouldn’t cut it as railway sleepers but they’re fairly chunky and will be up to this task I’m sure. I’m holding them in place with fence droppers which are 450mm deep.
I’m reusing material from garden beds which were previously erected in this area but which I felt were not really performing as well as they could. I like the new design much better, and now have a much clearer vision of how the patch will eventually lay out. It’s been 20 years I’ve been gardening on this little patch, and I’ve tried lots of different ideas. But sometimes you just need to let it fallow for a while.
I was looking at some newly developed building blocks just up from mine, and noticed the poor condition of the native soil in this area. I’m not sure it was always this bad but about 100 years ago the colony had managed to strip all the trees from the hillside and the topsoil washed away leaving this yellow clay.
I’m quite grateful to have loam. Yes, it has a fairly high clay content but it’s proper soil which can be quite productive.

I’m also fortunate to still have a job and to have been sent home to do it, so I’m right here on the spot at lunchtime and before/after work.
346 posts
Apr 01, 2020
12:46 PM
"Turn off the News..." Ya, not good to dwell on this too much. My daughter is home working on some final classes for her degree in nursing. She is doing her required reading right now "Advise for Future Corpses" for her Death and Dying class. It's pretty bad timing for facing more harsh reality. I'm going to talk her into taking a break from that reading later so she practice her keyboard with me.

SB, It sounds like you are making good use of your growing space. Interesting that you pointed out the NNE aspect. Our prime ground faces south. Our north slope grows trees just fine but the ground is shady and somewhat damp. We harvest a good crop of wild mushrooms there each fall.

Harmonica Mutes & Accessories

6565 posts
Apr 01, 2020
1:33 PM
When I went to US a couple years ago, of course everything was flipped and the sun is our great reference point so I was always turned around, conscious of which way was South. I was largely in ‘the south’ too.
Funny, my brain flipped left and right too, in response to driving on the RHS of the road. That was very strange. It was all inside out, left became right. It took me about 2 weeks to stop walking to the wrong side of the car.

This island I live on once had a very bad reputation. One of the first things the parliament did in 1855 was to change the name, as internationally the reputation of Van Diemens Land was synonymous with ‘hell on earth’. The Victorian gold rush was in full swing at that time and the island had lost many able bodied people who had left to enjoy the booming prosperity of Melbourne and Victoria. The newly independent colony of VDL desperately needed immigrants but it was a hard sell. Rebranding as ‘Tasmania’ was an attempt to consign the convict era to history.
My father’s family arrived here in 1855, as sponsored immigrants. My GGGrandfather had to spend 3 years working for his sponsor (as a gardener, oddly enough) before he could take up his own land.
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