About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My First Piano Lesson

The title of this blog is a little misleading, because I took piano lessons from age 7-10. After that, I quit to concentrate on more important things, like baseball and bicycles. I just took my first piano lesson in 35 years. Although I'm plenty busy with guitar, a part time church job, and music engraving, it's important to me that I learn how to get around on the keyboard. I want to be read well enough to play church hymns and simple choral accompaniments, and I want to eventually be able to play piano or guitar on a jazz gig.

After my first lesson, I'm confident that I've found a piano teacher who can help me meet my goals. While there are certain general things I'll need to learn, he is already tailoring lessons to include classical and jazz styles.

We spent a good portion of the lesson working on posture and hand position, and I have a few basic position/relaxation exercises to perform before working on anything else.

Since one of my goals is to play hymns, I brought Unitarian hymnal and picked an easy hymn for starters. (For you curious UUs out there, I chose Spirit of Life.) For now, I'm not supposed to worry about speed or even rhythm. Instead, my teacher wants me to move slowly from chord to chord as an extension of the relaxation techniques. I'll gradually gain speed, but right now, it's more important to establish basic posture and hand position.

Finally, we worked on basic jazz voicings. I learned simple voicings for three jazz chords and played them in all keys. Just like guitar, as I work through these voicings, they'll gradually come naturally, and I'll be able to apply them to jazz songs. We'll start working through Autumn Leaves next week.

Aside from the joy of learning another instrument, I can already see how this will help my jazz guitar playing. I've always have a knack for music theory, and my knowledge has deepened as I've explored jazz guitar. The nice thing about the piano is that music theory is laid out right in front of your eyes. When I eventually move beyond basic jazz piano, I'll be able to apply any new knowledge to my guitar playing as well.

With piano lessons, my busy schedule just became busier. I already have a lot on my plate, but I can move things around and make a little more room.

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