Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Ditone Applications (part two)

The fourth chord substitution we will talk about is the Tri-tone.

TRI-TONES!!! The big girls of gospel music! Aha! Everybody is talking about tri-tones.

The question is, Can tri-tone substitutions really revolutionize your play?
The answer is YES

I know you’re thinking… “This is going to be very very complex"

Let me assure you that this concept is very easy to understand. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Perhaps you’ve seen these words thrown around forums.

Well, I’m finally going to demystify tri-tone substitutions for you.

As you know, a tri-tone is made up of the 1 and b5 interval.

C major:
1 2  3 4  5 6 7
In C major, that will be C Gb (G is the 5th… so simply lower it to Gb).

It’s also known as a diminished 5th interval. (literally means to “make smaller”).

But here’s the thing with tri-tones. Unlike other chords, you really only have to learn 6 of them. Yes!

12 is the magic number in music. 
There are 12 major chords, 
12 minor chords, 
12 diminished chords…
12 of everything! But with tri-tones, they are symmetric. In other words, they are the same if you take the bottom note and move it to the top. It doesn’t matter.

Take that “C Gb”, flip it, and you’ll get “Gb C” (it’s still a tri-tone).

On the other hand, if you take a perfect fifth like “C G” and flip it, you won’t get the same 5th but instead, you’ll get a 4th (“G C”). That’s because they aren’t symmetric.

Tri-tones are basically equal when you transpose them. And get this…
They cut the octave perfectly in half.

Yes, believe it or not, the “b5 (flatted fifth) marks the MIDDLE POINT of the octave. So if you go from C to Gb and then from Gb to C, you would have encompassed an octave.
Octave = 12 half steps
Tri-tone = 6 half steps (or 3 whole steps, thus the name “tri”)

Because of all this, there are really only 6 of them. Gb C is basically the same as C Gb (at least for the purposes in which we’ll use them). That means, all you have to do is learn these (and I’m going to use informal spellings just to keep things simple):

C Gb
Db G
D Ab
Eb A
E Bb

…And you’ll automatically know that the “flipped” versions are:
Gb C
G Db
Ab D
A Eb
Bb E

So the key is to master not only these tri-tones played as chords (or dyads) but to master, for example, what a tri-tone up from C is. In other words, you should be able to know that the other “tri-tone” side of D is Ab. Or the other side of G is Db. Or the other side of E is Bb, and vice versa.

Once you understand this, tri-tone substitution is easy. It basically says that you can substitute the chord a tri-tone away for the chord you’re currently on. It works best with dominant chords but you can mess around with it on major and minor seventh chords as well.

But basically, let’s see how this works in a 2–5–1 chord progression. 

Normally, in a 2–5–1, the 5th tone is a dominant chord.

2 (minor 7) - 5 (dominant 7) - 1 (major 7)

In C major, this plays out as:
D minor 7 - G dominant 7 - C major 7
D minor 7 = D F A C
G dominant 7 = G B D F
C major 7 = C E G B

See the “G dominant 7”? The rules behind “tri-tone substitution” say that you can replace this G dominant 7 with the dominant chord that is 3 whole steps away
That is the golden rule!

You don't just use tritone anywhere unless you are an expert and you have a very quick hand.

Tri-tone Substitution
This is the use of a chord, 3 whole steps away to replace (or follow) the original chord.

I use the word “follow” because, in my experience, you can usually play your original chord and then follow-up with the dominant chord a tri-tone away. And other times, you can substitute the original chord altogether.

And like I said, if you know your tri-tone relationships very well, it won’t take long to know that you can use Db dominant 7 in the place of G dominant 7 (G7 for short).

D minor 7 >>> Db dominant 7 >>> C major 7
D minor7 = D F A C
Db dominant7 = Db F Ab B
C major7 = C E G B

Why does the Db7 work so well as a substitute for the G7 chord?

Well, let’s look at their notes:

Regardless of what you call them, do you see the two common notes that these two chords share? In fact the notes they share (B F) form a tri-tone, themselves! There are just tri-tones everywhere!

Exercise: Come up with tri-tone substitutions for every 2 – 5 – 1 chord progression.
Send audio to my what's app number: 2347055461447

Ditone Applications (part one)

According to Wikipedia, In music , a ditone is the interval of a major third. The size of a ditone varies according to the sizes of the two tones of which it is compounded.
I actually don't like big grammar... what are the application?

The di-tone on your left hand is usually coupled with a form of quartal chord on your right hand. I like to associate them in clumps for better understanding, because there are other ways to use the di-tone. Here are some general rules to using this di-tone:

1. The di-tone mimics the bass line:
What this means is that if your bass line is C, then your di-tone will usually be C and E.

2. The di-tone is usually coupled with a quartal chord in the right hand

C E - Bb D# G# (Quartal chord)

As a Passing Tone
Remember to think about the bass note. The bass note is exactly what it sounds like: It is the actual sound and movement of the bass guitar. So if you hear the bass guitar on a song go from C to D to E, then your di-tones will be C E, D Gb , and E Ab. Your right hand chord will be Bb quartal lead – C quartal lead – D quartal lead. 
But be careful! Make sure that when you hear the bass that you use the bass notes that are acting as passing tones. So you have a responsibility to learn and interpret the song to see if it’s a foundation bass note, or a passing tone. So what you can do is move the di-tone / quartal lead combination in whole notes to get to your destination. So if your starting point is C and your destination point is F, then you can use the di-tone / quartal lead combination that goes from C to F, but on F you play the foundation chord.

N.B. The reason why I describe this as a di-tone / quartal lead combination, is because what you can do with the quartal chord is play around with the *quartal lead chords. I also call it a quartal lead because it is not the actual quartal chord that goes with the tone, but the leading chord that will take you there. Get it?

This is why I describe the chord in clumps, because each clump has its own distinct way of use, even though they are used in combination.

Replacing the 1 Chord

You hear this done in jazz music an awful lot. Instead of playing a regular C major chord, you can play:
LH     -     RH
C E - A D G (C Quartal chord)

You can even move these chord combinations in whole or half steps, up and down, to get to your destination, and it sounds really jazzy.

A quartal chord as a chord in fourth degrees, or a triad chord combination with intervals of four notes e.g. l – r – s. From the first note to the next note are four tones.
The di-tone is usually used to substitute for your diminished 3rd chord. Let’s say you have this progression:
t r fe / l de m - m d r / se d r s - l m s / s t d 
You can substitute the 3rd diminished chord representation with your di-tone, or use your di-tone to play passing chords to your destination:
m se -  r s d

m se / r s d = fe to / m l r = se d / fe t m

I will continue from here in my next post.
You are always welcome to ask questions.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Jazz Theory: Modes in Improvisation

When musicians talk about modes in jazz, they often mean the seven modes based on the major scale, however I prefer to think of each mode as a scale in its own right. Having said that, in order to learn the concept, there is nothing wrong with taking a major scale and making each note in turn the tonic of a mode. Modes are used in Modal Jazz, which is not (yet) covered in this course, but knowledge of modes can also sometimes be useful for learning to improvise over chord changes. It is important to realise that this approach should only be used as a preliminary to learning to improvise melodically.

Let’s look at modes in two ways, relative and parallel:

1) Relative

The simplest way to understand relative modes is to start with the major scale of C, but instead of beginning and ending on the note C, begin on each degree of the scale in turn to create a different mode:

ex 5a: Relative modes.

2) Parallel

Although the above modes are based on the same notes as the C major scale, they each function as a different key in their own right and the starting note of the mode, not the relative major scale, is the root note. Eg the Dorian mode starting on D (using all the same notes as C major) is a D Dorian not a C Dorian.

Similarly the Dorian mode starting on C (which would use the same notes as Bb major) is a C Dorian, not a Bb Dorian.

If we take one key centre (ie one note) and base different modes on it using that note as the root we get parallel modes. In other words the Dorian mode starting on the note C is parallel to the C major (Ionian mode) and all the other modes starting on C.

ex 5b: Parallel modes

It is important to learn both approaches. Initially it may be easier to think of the 7 modes relatively as above, e.g in relation to a major scale, but a more musical approach is to learn the actual sequence of intervals that make up each mode. In other words a Dorian mode functions purely as a scale by itself, not a relative of the major that starts on the second degree. A good exercise is to write out and learn all the modes in all keys as relative and parallel.

Learn the intervals between each step of the different modes:

( T=Tone, S=Semitone)

Ionian = TTSTTTS (in semitone intervals 2212221)

Dorian = TSTTTST (2122212)


and learn to sing them using (moveable doh) solfege



Chord/Mode System of Improvising

Improvisers today are often taught a system based entirely on modes and scales, but it is important to realise that although it is necessary for the learning improviser to learn them, scales should ultimately be used to construct musically meaningful melodic lines.

The commonest chord progression is the IIm7-V7-I. The most basic implied scale is the major scale of the I chord, but it may be also useful to think in terms of modes of the major scale in order to visualise the root progression. Take the sequence Dm – G7 – C maj7

There are two ways of approaching this sequence.

1) The Key Centre Method:

Analysis tells us that these chords are diatonic to the key of C, i.e. they all have a key centre of C (C:IIm7-V7-Ima7). A C major scale can be used to improvise over all three chords. This can be useful for the beginner, especially with fast-moving chord changes.

HOWEVER it is often useful for chord notes to fall on strong beats. If you use the C major scale but start the scale on a chord note for each chord you will probably have more success than if you merely use a C major scale indiscriminately over the sequence. This is not easy until you have a thorough grasp of all notes in all chords, hence the alternative approach:

2) The Modal method:

Each chord can be associated with the mode based on its root note.

Ex 5c: modes implied by IIm7-V7-I

Note that chord notes fall on the beat. This method also has some drawbacks.

You would not always want to start a scale on the root note of a chord.
With descending scales the chord notes do not fall on the beat.
With fast moving changes it is difficult to think of the modes in time.
In practice it is often useful to cut out one mode in this process: as most V7 chords in mainstream jazz have a preceding IIm7 it can be useful to use the Dorian mode to cover the V7 chord as well.

The key centre method is useful for fast moving chord changes, the modal method for slow moving changes when there is more time to think of the modes.

Alternative key centres

In the progression we looked at in ex 2e we found an alternative way of analysing the progression, with a possible key centre of D. If we take a similar progression we can use either the modal or key centre method to choose which scales on which to base an improvisation.

ex 5d: RN analysis showing alternative key centre.

With the simplified modal method (ignoring Mixolydian) we would think: E Dorian, D Dorian, C major, D Dorian (ex 5e-1)

With the key centre method we would use the alternative key centre and only need to think: D major, C major. (ex 5e-2)

ex 5e: Modal method and key centre method.

The modal method becomes easier if you treat all minor chords (in a major key) as IIm7 (Dorian). This makes some sense because VIm7 chords are often changed to become secondary dominants (as above -ex 5d), so in many cases minor 7 chords will either be an actual IIm7, or a IIm7 in the new key centre implied by the secondary dominant as with the Em7 above).

Both of these methods can be useful for beginners, as they can make the process of playing over chord changes less daunting, but it is very important to realise that this is only a small step on the way to understanding harmony. In the above example we are thinking of the Em7-A7 as being in D major (key centre method) or E Dorian. The problem is that in this case, although the A7 does not resolve to a tonic, it does not necessarily imply D major, in fact D minor often sounds better for jazz. You will find that a D harmonic minor scale sounds more interesting. You could think in terms of modes of minor scales, however it is far more important to learn the notes of the chords and begin to think about the scale using those notes on the strong beats. This leads to a more musical and melodic approach than the more technical process of thinking in modes for chord changes.

Whenever a cycle of dominant 7ths appears without a preceding IIm7 chord, (e.g. middle 8 of I Got Rhythm sequences), it is either necessary to think of Mixolydian modes (ex 5g) or major scales with a flattened 7th (same thing but easier to learn.

Maxwell Ibe.

Friday, 10 March 2017


Are you a frustrated jazz musician?
Do you play your notes correctly but can't find the right sound? This will help you learn how jazz works and how to get it into your system.

1. Listen to a lot of jazz music. Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Pepper Adams, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum, Sidney Bechet, Oscar Peterson Al Jarreau, Ray Brown, John Scofield, David Benoit, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck and Peter White are all excellent and very different jazz artists.

2. Listen night and day. Go for days without any other music. You will notice the difference.

3. Find out where you can see live jazz performed in your city, and go see performances often.

4. Jazz often have a triplet feel called 'swing. ' It can be explained many different ways, but the best way to learn it is just to listen to jazz. However, be wary; artists such as Monk and Mingus have distinctive styles of swing that may not sound good on all charts.

5. Train your ears and brains: Try to follow the rhythm of a song throughout. Start with a simple 4 measure beat, swinging track by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (check the syncopation on "Moanin'"). Move on to tracks and both.

6. Only after this analytic approach, synthesize. Listen to the interaction of great tightly interacting jazz groups, like the ones of Bill Evans or Dave Holland, in live contexts. Notice how they "feel" each other in the group, how they react to one another. The musical experience will be more and more rewarding and gain depth as you do so. Try approaching more complex music.

7. Play a blues scale. There are many different blues scales. Here is "C": C, E flat, F, F sharp, G, B flat, C.

8. Play your chromatic scale in your left hand, and hold each note for two beats.

9. Choose a C note (middle, high, etc. ), and play it repeatedly with your right hand at the same time as you play the chromatic scale with your left.

10. Experiment with different rhythms. After a few times through, add "E flat" while playing.

11. Play C and E flat together or separately. Make your way up through all the notes in the blues scale above.

12. Learn the blues scale at least in the seven major keys.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017


Suspended chords are really powerful. They can instantly add a lot of flavor to your playing if you know when to throw them in while you are playing.

Alright, before you start throwing in suspended chords into your playing, I'd like to ask you to learn them first. Please check out the first post on suspended chords first; it should help you to better understand the topic.

One way to get very familiar with suspended chords is to practise playing them with your left hand, your right hand and then both, chromatically. 

What I'm trying to say is that say you start with G suspended: D-G-C you then play it up chromatically and then down chromatically.
For example: D G C/Eb Ab Db/E A D....

How Pianists Apply Suspended Chords
If you know how to use the suspended chords very well, it would be easy for you to throw them into your playing anytime.

Chord Substitution
One thing I know about them is that they can come in very useful in giving your regular chords different flavous.

Take this chord for example: (Left Hand/Right Hand) [on the key of C]

Gb/E Bb A D

You can give it another flavor by rerouting the notes (which gives you a suspended chord on your right hand) thus:
Gb D / E A D

Notice that the chords have exactly the same notes but different flavors. All you just need to do is to know when to switch between the two flavors.

Use Suspended Chords While Soloing
You can use suspended chords to spice up your soloing. You would have to figure out how to do that yourself but I will definitely show you when I start putting up audios  here.

Use Suspended Chords as Passing Tones
This one is very easy; with respect to the example I'm showing though.
There are several types and categories of passing tones. 

A passing tone is basically one or more chords that you can use to fill up empty spaces while you are playing.
For example, say you want to move from chord 1 to chord 4 [on a 4/4 bar time signature with moderate bpm(beats per minute)]

This example is on the key of C
You could throw in something like this:
the numbers represent the beat counts
1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4
1 2, E/D G C, Gb/E A D, 3|Ab/Gb B E, A/G C F, 4|G A C E/G C E G  

I hope you understand that

Give Your Playing a Jazzy Feel
I learnt this from Jamal's Urban Worship Extreme DVD.
If you know your suspended chords very well, you can throw them in every once in a while to give your playing a jazzy feel. To be able to do this, you must understand the suspended chords you can substitute with  your chords to give that jazzy feel.

Monday, 13 February 2017


Suspended chords leave you hanging in mid air. They create suspense or anticipation. They sound and feel as though they should be resolved.

A suspended chord (or a chord suspension) is usually made by holding one of the tones of a chord a tone higher, then resolving it to its resting place. This can be done with any tones of a chord, but one of the more common suspensions is to manipulate the third of the chord, by first playing the fourth, and resolving it to the third. So a C suspended chord has the tones of the root, the fourth and the fifth:

A C suspended chord of this type is often shown in chord charts as either a "Csus", or a "C sus4". "Sus4" means that the third is initially played as a fourth, and resolved to a third.

In "real music", let's suppose you're playing a simple tune which uses three chords, C, F, and G, then returning to C. Try adding a little flavor to the mix: turn that final chord into two chords. Make it a suspended C chord, followed by a C chord.. Your chord progression would look like this: C - F - G - Csus - C. You can try this on a guitar or a piano.

Experiment with other suspended chords. Put them in places where you need a bit of emotion in your music. Might be just what you're looking for. Take a Christmas carol book (one that has chord symbols in it is good for this purpose), and try adding suspensions to dominant or tonic triads.

In the Key of C:

Sus 4 chords- Formed by raising the 3rd of the chord you are playing by a half step.

C-E-G is your basic major triad C chord. The E in bold is your 3rd.

C-F-G: The F in bold is your suspended 4th. Notice that the distance between E to F is a half step. This chord now becomes your suspended 4th chord. If you play a I IV V progression, the IV is the best chord to play as a suspended 4th.

Sus 2 chords- Formed by lowering the 3rd of the chord you are playing by a whole step.
C-E-G This is your basic major triad C. The E in bold is your 3rd.

C-D-G The D in bold is your suspended 2nd. Notice that the distance between E to D is a whole step. This chord now becomes your suspended 2nd chord. I hope this helps!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Gospel Musicians and Remuneration

Written by Daramola Olanrewaju
Much has been said concerning the issue of Gospel musican getting paid or not- an age-old controversy.

Well to clarify thoughts especially on my previous post, here is my stand.
It is right for musicians to be paid. 1Tim 15:17-18

It becomes wrong when a musican does it solely for the money-the principal, God, forgotten.

When money controls the input quality (pay less, play less) (pay more, play more). God is a jealous God, anything that takes His place in one's heart is an idol. In God's works, the pay shouldn't influence one's input quality; always give your best. He demands an unconditional wholehearted service.1Samuel 12:24

Payments should be commensurate to the size of the church. "Elephant salaries" shouldn't be paid by ants-that's extortion; "Ant salaries" shouldn't be paid by elephants-that's exploitation. Col 4:1

A church musician may decide to serve as a volunteer-although he is fully aware of his right 1Corin 9:12
Outside of church service, dear gospel musician, the ball is in your court but always remember to glorify God in all you do. Col 3:17.

Note: Payment here is used in the sense of monetary/non-monetary compensation which serve the purpose of encouragement.

Edited by Mpiano.

Basic Rules of Sight Reading

Here are the basic rules for sight reading

1. Keep the eyes on the music; do not look at the keyboard/fingers. Glance at the hands occasionally when it is necessary for large jumps. Try to develop a peripheral vision towards the keyboard so that you have some idea of where the hands are while still looking at the score. With peripheral vision, you can keep track of both hands simultaneously. Develop a habit of feeling the keys before playing them. Although this rule applies whether you are sight reading or not, it becomes critical in sight reading. It also helps to “get there ahead of time” for jumps, see e. Playing (Wide) Chords, Finger/Palm Spreading Exercises and f. Practicing Jumps above; therefore, you should practice the jump maneuvers in conjunction with the sight reading practice.

2. Play through mistakes and make them as inaudible as possible. The best way to do this is to make it sound as if you had modified the music – then the audience does not know whether you made a mistake or changed it. This is why students with basic music theory training have such an advantage in sight reading. Three ways to make mistakes less audible are to keep the rhythm intact, maintain a continuous melody (if you can’t read everything, carry the melody and omit the accompaniment), and to practice simplifying those parts that are too complicated to sight read. The first thing that must be done is to eliminate the habits of stopping and backtracking (stuttering), at every mistake. The best time to develop the skill of not stopping at every mistake is when you begin your first piano lessons. Once the stuttering habit is ingrained, it will take a lot of work to eliminate it. For those with a stuttering habit, the best thing to do is to decide that you will never backtrack again (whether you succeed or not) – it will slowly go away. Learning to anticipate flubs is a great help, and this will be discussed below. The most powerful tool is the ability to simplify the music. Eliminate ornamentals, fish out the melody from fast runs, etc.

3. Learn all the common musical constructs: Alberti accompaniments, major and minor scales and their fingerings as well as their corresponding arpeggios, common chords and chord transitions, common trills, ornaments, etc. When sight reading, you should recognize the constructs and not read the individual notes. Memorize the locations of those very high and very low notes as they appear on the score so that you can find them instantly. Start by memorizing all the octave C ‘s, then fill in the others, beginning with notes closest to the C ‘s.

4. Look ahead of where you are playing; at least one bar ahead, but even more, as you develop the skill at reading the music structure. Get to the point where you can read one structure ahead. By looking ahead, you can not only prepare ahead of time but also anticipate flubs before they occur. You can also anticipate fingering problems and can avoid painting yourself into impossible situations. Although fingering suggestions on the music are generally helpful, they are often useless because, although they may be the best fingerings, you may not be able to use them without some practice. Therefore, you should develop your own set of fingerings for sight reading.

5. “Practice, practice, practice”. Although sight reading is relatively easy to learn, it must be practiced every day in order to improve. It will take most students from one to two years of diligent practice to become good. Because sight reading depends so heavily on recognition of structures, it is closely related to memory. This means that you can lose the sight reading ability if you stop practicing. However, just as with memory, if you become a good sight reader when young, this ability will stay with you all your life.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Piano History

Let’s take a look at the history of the piano.

When talking about piano history, mention must be made of the early instruments that paved its way.

The first historical mention of instruments is in Genesis 4:21. The King James Version reads as follows: “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ”. The first instrument in history to have a keyboard was the Hydraulis, the precursor of the modern organ. It was built in Greece about 220 B.C. By the Second Century A.D. the organ was commonly used at important festivities in Greece and the Roman Empire.

The earliest keyboards were played with the hands, wrists, fists, knees, or feet. Up to the 13th Century the scales were diatonic (as in GABCDEF) rather than the twelve tone chromatic scale we use today.
The piano is founded on earlier technological innovations . The 14th and 15th Centuries saw the development of different kinds of keyboard stringed instruments. Some came with hammers, including the chekker, dulce melos, and clavichord. Some were plucked instruments, including the virginal, spinet and harpsichord.

In this discussion of the history of the piano, let’s now talk about its inventor. Who invented the piano? 

The modern piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua. He was an expert harpsichord maker, employed by Ferdinando de’ Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany, as the Keeper of the Instruments. The first piano he built was about the year 1700 or 1698. Historians are not in total agreement as to the exact date. The keyboard looked different to today’s piano keyboard layout; the natural keys were black while the accidentals were white. It was Sebastian LeBlanc who suggested that the black and white keys be switched. The three Cristofori pianos that survive today date from the 1720s.

History of the piano – the harpsichord and clavichord

At the time of Bartolomeo Cristofori’s invention of the piano, the most popular keyboard instruments were the harpsichord and the clavichord. Both of these instruments looked like the piano that exists today. The major difference between them and a modern day piano is the way their sound was produced. In a clavichord the strings are struck by tangents, while in a harpsichord they are plucked by quills.

A major drawback of the harpsichord was the fact that the dynamics (loudness or softness) of each note couldn’t be controlled. This meant that composers couldn’t evoke emotion in their music as needed. The clavichord aimed to improve on this shortcoming. While it still plucked at strings, it allowed the strings to continue vibrating as long as the key was depressed. As a result players had more control over the volume of their instrument. The technically more advanced clavichord became very popular but it still had its weaknesses. Although it allowed artists to be more expressive, the tone of the harpsichord was too delicate. It was not suited for large hall performances and would often be drowned by other instruments.

The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine the loudness of the harpsichord with the control of the clavichord.

Cristofori was able to solve the fundamental mechanical problem of piano design : the hammer must strike the key but not remain in contact with it. That was the problem with the clavichord: the tangent remained in contact with the clavichord string, thus dampening the sound. Additionally, it was imperative that the hammer return to its rest position without bouncing violently, and that the instrument allow one to repeat a note rapidly. Thanks to the work of Cristofori, this was now possible. Many different approaches to piano actions followed, all modeled after Cristofori’s piano action. Although Cristofori’s early instruments came with thin strings and were much quieter than the modern piano, they were significantly louder and had more sustaining power than the clavichord.

Bartolomeo Cristofori and Harpsichord

Cristofori’s new instrument was known as the pianoforte because it allowed players to produce notes at different dynamic levels by controlling the inertia with which the hammers hit the strings. The original Italian name for the instrument is clavicembalo (or gravicembalo) col piano e forte (literally harpsichord capable of playing at the normal level, and more strongly).

Many years after the first version of the piano was created it was still called a harpsichord. This has made it difficult to know this specific aspect of the history of the piano, whether the great composers of the age such as Scarlatti or Vivaldi knew of its existence. The word pianoforte, shortened later to piano, appeared only in 1732.

Cristofori’s piano was largely unknown until 1711 when an Italian writer, Scipione Maffei wrote about it. His article was a very enthusiastic one and included a diagram of the mechanism. Subsequently, many piano builders started their work because of what they read in that article. One example was Gottfried Silbermann, better known as an organ builder. He built pianos that were direct copies of Cristofori’s except for one important addition; he invented the forerunner of the damper pedal we use today. It lifts all dampers from the strings at once.

When speaking about the history of the piano, mention must be made of Johann Sebastian Bach. When Silbermann first showed Bach one of his early instruments in 1736, he did not like it. 

According to legend, Bach did not think much of its sound. He was said to have destroyed it with an axe. Bach later saw a new instrument in 1747 and approved it. At the time, he was visiting Frederick the Great of Prussia at his court in Potsdam. He improvised an impressive three-part figure on a theme suggested by the king. The instrument caught the attention of composers across Europe. Its fame extended to the British colonies in America. Having a piano in the home became the height of fashion for high-ranking nobles in these colonies.

The history of the piano – the second half/late eighteenth century

The second half of the eighteenth century was characterized by rapid development of the piano . The instrument was made by a number of manufacturers with a focus on coming up with a more powerful, sustained sound. There were English pianos with a heavier mechanism and louder volume while Austrian pianos had a lighter mechanism and softer timbre. The first pianists began to perform in public on this new generation of pianos produced by Broadwood, Stein, Streicher, Zumpe and Tschudi.

During the late 18th century, piano-making flourished in the Viennese school which included the likes of Johann Andreas Stein and the Viennese makers Nannette Streicher and Anton Walter. Viennese-style pianos featured wood frames, two strings per note, and leather-covered hammers. Some of these pianos came with black natural keys and white accidental keys, the opposite of modern day pianos and keyboards. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his concertos and sonatas for such instruments. The pianos of the Mozart era had a softer more ethereal tone than today’s pianos or English pianos, and had less sustaining power.

By the mid 18th century, Romanticism in the arts became all the rage and the piano’s popularity rose sharply. Romanticism encouraged the expression of emotions through art, and because of the piano’s expressive characteristics, musicians chose it over other instruments. Composers began composing more piano music and solo piano performances in concert halls were often sold out. One performer who is known for his extraordinary piano performances in front of hundreds of adoring females is Franz Liszt. By today’s standards he was what we would call a musical superstar.

As we’ve already seen in our discussion of piano history, the piano underwent tremendous
inventions and  improvements in its construction throughout the years. This gave rise to more sophisticated, more refined and subtle playing techniques. For instance, there were richer dynamics as a result of strings stretched diagonally in a sound box, which Loud did in 1802. Broadwood invented the metal frame in 1815. Erard introduced the double hopper and thicker strings in 1822. Pape substituted felt for leather on the hammers in 1826. In 1842, Pape increased the range of keyboard to eight octaves (Beethoven’s Streicher piano came with only six and a half octaves). Bord reinforced strings with a metal bar in the year, 1843. 

This increased their resistance to the hammer blows.
As a result of all these innovations the mechanics of the piano was more balanced and responsive and the keyboard’s touch was improved. One great innovation was the double hopper. The double hopper permitted the rapid repetition of notes and better control of dynamics. The basic features of the piano as we know it today were established in 1859, with the first appearance of the Steinway concert grand piano.

The Americans played had their part to play in piano history. It was the Americans who brought the once expensive piano to the homes of middle-class families. The cost of pianos was significantly reduced, thanks to new assembly-line techniques and standardized piano parts. By the end of the 19th century, the instrument was a must-have for every household. It was very easy to store the piano at home, as a result of the functional upright design. There was really no excuse for not buying a piano, with pre-made piano parts made for easy assembly and mail-order catalogs with generous installment plans. The piano became very popular among women. Women were encouraged to learn to play the piano. A woman who could play the piano was perceived as a refined woman. Any woman who could play the piano, be a good cook and have needlepoint skills would find marriage in a flash. It was a great way for women to earn money through piano lessons .

During the 1920s, the piano was a hallmark for working class communities . According to the Smithsonian’s Piano 300 Exhibition in Washington DC, African-Americans had been using the piano in their gospel worship services since after the Civil War. Towards the beginning of the 20th Century, African Americans began to experiment with the instrument. New musical styles like ragtime and jazz were created by new composers such as Scott Joplin. These styles became the basis for American popular music in the latter half of the 20th century.

What impact did new inventions have on piano history

With the invention of the radio, phonograph and movie industry, the piano’s popularity was threatened . Piano sales fell in the Depression of the 1930s leading manufacturers to introduce player pianos. These player pianos were fed with music sheets resembling giant punch cards, which mechanically depressed the correct keys. 

Manufacturers, in an effort to stimulate interest in the piano, focused on economy and appearance as opposed to quality and performance. By the 1940s, baby grands and spinets were the piano models of choice among consumers and the same applies today.

In modern times the digital piano sells more than the grand piano (by far). Several factors contribute to this including the higher cost of grand pianos, the portability of digital pianos, and the presence of so many voices and features in digital pianos. 

However, one thing is for sure and it’s that piano playing and piano music is not going away. The piano is one of the most popular instruments today along with the guitar.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Rekindle The Music Fire

Just want to encourage beginner pianist who are still striving to understand some principles, styles or skills. In order to get become a pro, you need to keep doing what it is you need to do; which is constant practice.

If you expect that you'll become a pro without dedicated rehearsals and focus, you're wrong. This does not apply to music alone but it also applies to other areas of life.

They say it takes about three weeks of doing something regularly to form a habit out of it. This means that you must stick to something and do it regularly in order for you to get used to it.

Some beginner pianists say that they don't know how to rehearse or they just can't get how it's done. If you are that keyboardist that has been playing for like 2 to 6 years and you're frustrated because you're not playing what you desire, well, let me tell you that I've been playing for 19 years but I'm still rehearsing in order to get better at playing the piano.

If you do not do what you need to do diligently, 15 years down the line, you might still not be where you ought to be.

I've been frustrated and discouraged too, but the passion to be a better gospel keyboardist is what keeps me going.

So, I want to encourage you to not give up.
Have a mentor
Set goals for yourself
Be diligent
Never be tempted to give up#