Piano Improv

December 16, 2017

Greetings from San Francisco. Have you listened to my track “Dancing with Light”? It’s piano improv, and has almost 42,000 plays on Soundcloud.

FYI, if you like that track you can download it here for free (or for a small donation).

I love improvising on the piano. It’s a special thing, sitting down and telling a story with my fingers. It brings me to a state of flow, such that it feels completely effortless. It also relieves anxiety. It expresses my emotions musically, and releases them from their grip on my mind. And thanks to the wonders of technology, I can listen to my improv tracks and re-enter that state of calm.

So how do I make my piano tracks?

I improvise on my Yamaha electronic piano, which gets digitally recorded as MIDI data directly into Logic on my computer. For each key I play, the computer saves:

1) Key, or pitch, like A, B, C, Eb, etc.
2) Time, i.e. exactly when the note was played.
3) Velocity, or simply how hard I hit the key.
4) Length, or how long I held the key before lifting my finger.

Once in Logic, I use the Alicia’s Keys synthesizer to output sound from the MIDI. I can also control the reverb, or add other effects. But really, the work is already done. It’s amazing how much of the heart of what I played is saved in those 4 pieces of data for each note. It would be theoretically possible to add each note “by hand” into the computer, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. And it still might not have any soul to it.

Watch this improv video on YouTube. You can see each and every note I play, and the velocity of each note is indicated by the color.

That’s all for now. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications about new posts!

Anthony / Trazer

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