New additions to the catalog

Some new mp3 instrumentals have been added to the music catalog at http://www.jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php

The two new title are Leoni in Africa and Sweet Feel.

The first is a blending of African drums and Middle Eastern melodic instruments. A considerable portion of the music consists of a variety of African drums.  The melody is added on top of the drums. There is no harmony to speak of besides what is implied in the melody. Take a listen.

The second is a jazzy/bluesy instrumental featuring the piano. It is a combo of bass, guitar, drums piano and solo piano. A catchy tune, it might even count as a pop/jazz crossover. Take a listen.

We’d love to know what you think of the music. Please leave us a comment.

Tips for Practicing The Piano – Intermediate to Advanced level

Another look at practicing the piano. This time for intermediate to advanced level students.

This is one approach to practicing the piano. It is by no means meant to be the only way. Use this as a supplement to other ways of practicing.

Before You Play

  • Look through the piece of music and look for anything that might be different than what you are use to.
  • Do you know what all the terms (eg. morendo), and symbols (eg. accents, fermatas) mean? If not, learn them first.
  • Make sure you are positioned comfortably and use good posture.

When you play

  • While you may not need to keep every finger curved and the wrist level all the time in more advanced music, don’t forget that a good hand/wrist shape will help you play better.
  • Scales, arpeggios and other technic exercises: Start SLOW and gradually speed up. Use them to focus on how you play – position of wrists, fingers, fingering, and volume/intensity of each finger. Take your time. Don’t rush through them just to say you’ve done them. Always practice them with precision.
  • Use the correct fingering on scales and arpeggios. If you have any problems with the fingering, start over this time SLOWLY. Wrists should remain LEVEL throughout the entire scale. (A slight leaning to the right when ascending or a slight leaning to the left when descending is okay). This includes when fingers cross over/under or when playing the thumb or 5th fingers. Keep your elbows in the same general position and avoid letting them stick out when crossing your fingers.
  • Look ahead several notes, or even several measures as you play. Adjust your fingering accordingly.
  • As you are learning a piece, be sure to count with precision. No pausing or hesitating should be allowed. If you are hesitating anywhere in a piece of music you need to work that section AND slow the entire piece down until you can play the entire piece at the same speed. You MUST count when learning a piece of music. Keep the tempo steady and precise. Add rubato later. Use of a metronome can be helpful.
  • Fingering: Use standard fingering for scale, scale-like, arpeggio or arpeggio-like passages. Don’t invent your own fingering. The simpler the fingering and the less motion of the hand, especially the less crossing of fingers over/under, the better. You should almost NEVER slide from one note to the next using the same finger (when playing just one note, with chords & harmony it is okay).
  • Where you have problems, work – slowly – just that section, then increase to regular tempo. Then add a measure or two before and after – slowly first – then a whole phrase, then the whole piece.
  • Understand the theory behind what you are playing. What chords and chord progressions are you playing? What is the relationship between the chords and the key of the song? What is the key? What is its relative major or minor key? Look for scale like passages (ie. 4 or more notes in a row) and figure out what the scale is (or might be if it had all 7 notes).
  • Phrasing. Pay attention to slurs. At the end of a slur, let your fingers breathe similar to how a singer or wind instrumentalist does. Don’t change the tempo, but rather shorten the last note of the phrase a slight amount (eg. make a quarter note 0.9 beats long instead of 1.0 beats).
  • Rhythm. In addition to basic counting to keep the tempo steady, double check the length of individual notes (or chords) and make sure you are playing them the correct length. Use of a metronome can help to insure that you are playing all the notes correctly. Look at the rhythmic relationship that exists between the hands. In some songs, for example, there are passages where every beat will consist of 1/8th notes, but not necessarily in both hands. Use the rhythmic flow of a piece to help you in playing the rhythms correctly.

The best advice I can give about practicing is to play the piano every day and try to play correctly. If you skip days between playing the piano, it will slow down your progress.

Komplete 8 Ultimate Session Strings Pro animator demo

I posted a video showing some of the features of Session Strings Pro that is shipped with Komplete 8 Ultimate. (I’m not sure if it also ships with just Komplete 8).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXCc-JPbQ6U?hl=en&fs=1]

The video should give you an idea of what is possible with the animator feature. The original material is basic block chords. Animator makes it into what you heard.

Any suggestions on other Komplete 8 products you’d like to hear some demos of, let me know and I’ll get something on YouTube.

Chords – Part 3

Part 3 of our ongoing series about chords is now available on YouTube.

In this video we talk about Augmented and Diminished chords.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOVHzQ9Ggos?hl=en&fs=1]

You can think of Diminished chords as minor chords with a flat-5th.

You can think of Augmented chords as major chords with a sharp-5th.

When adding 7ths to diminished chords, in order to get the correct spelling, the chord must be spelled, from the bottom up with every other letter. For example: a C diminished 7 chord (fully diminished) is C, Eb, Gb, and Bbb (double flat, which is the same as A).

Check the video out for the rest of the story.

Komplete 8 Ultimate Studio Drummer & Retro Machines Demo

Here’s another article about one of my YouTube videos. This video has a very rough piece of music in it using the Studio Drummer and Retro Machines from Kontakt 5 (part of Komplete 8 Ultimate) and Reaper. No processing was added. The sound is straight from Kontakt.

I loaded a midi file into reaper, added an instance of Kontakt 5 (as a folder). Under that folder I added two tracks, the midi import and the drum track. The drum track was created by dragging the grooves from Studio Drummer to Reaper. In Reaper I used a midi routing FX to route the midi drums from channel 1 to channel 2 as I had the retro machines on ch 1 and the drums on ch 2. The midi file was originally created as an export from Sibelius 6. I did no editing to any of the midi files (the song or the drums).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfk_f7tW7Jo?hl=en&fs=1]

Introduction to Chords – Part 1

I’ve started a new video series on my YouTube channel. The first part of an introduction to chords is there.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmezVWK0Ex8?hl=en&fs=1]

The major and minor chord charts shown in the video are available for download in the Free Titles section of the music catalog: www.jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php

There are also some other chord related files there that will be applicable to future videos.