Monday, July 31, 2006

Is it possible to create cool "new age" sounds on the piano without knowing a thing about music?

Is it possible to create cool "new age" sounds on the piano
without knowing a thing about music?

I'll admit that for many years as a piano teacher I didn't think so.

But in the last couple years I made a discovery about creating pleasant sounds on the piano that I never would have believed during my earlier piano teaching career.

I recall a physician friend asking me if I had any kind of course he could take that didn't involve learning to read music or music theory or any of the traditional materials.
He had purchased a beautiful Yamaha grand for his daughter to take lessons on when she was growing up, but now she was married and moved away, so he had this grand piano in his living room with no one to play it. He was much too busy in his career to take traditional piano lessons – he just wanted to "doodle" after work in the evening and relax after a stress-filled day at the hospital.

Unfortunately, I told him "no – I don't have anything like that available – sorry!" and that was the end of that story.

But a few months later another student had heard a "new age" pianist somewhere, and loved the sounds he produced so much that they wanted to do the same, and asked me how in the world he got those sounds. They weren't really songs – more like the sounds of nature and running water and nature in bloom.

I have taught piano for 30 years and I'm a firm believer in learning to read music, understand music, and really master the keyboard. I'm no fan of mindless "shortcuts" because I know in the long run they just don't work – you've got to have understanding.

But I also know now that there are many people like my doctor friend – people that would love to be able to make their own "pleasant sounds" on the piano just for their own satisfaction, relaxation, and amusement. They know full well that they will never be full-blown piano players, but still, they would like to sit down now and then and just make some sounds on the keyboard that sound good, feel good, and give satisfaction to them and/or their family.

I should have understood that earlier, because as I think back to my own youth, I recall my Dad sitting down at our old upright piano for a half-hour on a Saturday night and playing some kind of chording pattern that absolutely delighted my Mom and my big brother and I. I guess you know that if I could call him back from Heaven and have him play that again for me, I wouldn't trade the entire London Symphony for that half-hour.

There is a style of music which is quite popular these days known as "new age" music. It tries to capture the sounds of nature – water flowing, birds, wind – that kind of thing. It is very descriptive music, and very relaxing. It's fun to play, too, because there are really no "wrong answers" – anything that sounds nice and pleasant is "right".

After trying for several months to create some of these sounds on the piano, I was delighted to discover that there are some very simple finger patterns that can create some wonderful impressionistic sounds – patterns that can be repeated in various places on the keyboard and in various ways.

And so for those people who just want to make some nice sounds on the piano (or keyboard or synthesizer – it doesn't matter what kind of keyboard) I have created a new DVD video showing 15 different sound patterns such as:

Cascading waterfalls
Wind in the forest
Rainbow after storm
Oriental gardens
Stroll in a meadow
Peaceful morning
Playful kittens
Gentle waves
…and 7 others.

And then after you learn each sound pattern, I'll show you how to link those sound patterns together in various ways so you can create your own song, your own creative symphony that expresses the feelings you want to express.

We use no printed music, of course. All a person needs to do is sit at their piano and watch my hands on the piano, and do what I do. Of course I will be talking and explaining what I am doing, but even if you had the sound turned off you could still follow and duplicate what my hands are doing.

Even if you have played the piano for years, you might just learn something new about patterns & linking – I got some new ideas for myself just by shooting this DVD video! Check it out at

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