|CHICK'S FREE CHEAP ADVICE
Q:First of all I'd like to thank you for your awesome music, which is both great to listen to and a constant inspiration for my own playing! Something I'd be very interested in is your/your technicians' approach to miking pianos. Which microphones do you use? Where do you place them? How do you mix them? Do you do any further processing for records? Do you make any difference between live and studio situations? — Wolfgang
Your question about miking pianos is interesting to me as, for most of my life, I never paid much attention to what mikes and how they were placed. But I've become a bit more curious of late.
So that said, I can give you my personal taste in miking the piano.
I usually like the mikes to be anywhere from 2 to 4 feet distant from the strings. When the mikes are to close up to the strings, there's not enough air for the sound to breathe. The air, I believe, acts as a kind of filter and tends to smooth out any harshnesses in the piano sound.
I also don't always do the same thing as each performances situation has so many variables that the only final guide has to be listening to the mike choice and placement for that situation and deciding what should be done. Of course I've been working with a true artist in sound, Bernie Kirsh, for so many years that I leave these choices up to him since we seem to agree on what we're going for re the piano sound.
So, basically, my own rule of thumb is to listen newly each time and decide then what sounds right to me. For more technical info on exactly what kind of mikes, etc. you must consult Bernie himself:
Q:Can you please tell me if there is a book of your harmonies and scales and what the titles of the books are? Harmonies are my weakest point and I need a lot of work to do in that area. Perhaps you could share your method of working on harmonies with me. This will be a big help to me. — Beka Gochiashvili
Regarding harmonies, I have published some books of my compositions. But for now, since it's all 'cheap advice', I can tell you that your abilities in harmony will develop as you continue to learn generally.
There is so much wonderful harmony in the compositions of classical composers - Bartok, Stravinsky, Debussy, Scriabin and more. Just keep experimenting: re-voice standard melodies, compose music trying to find the harmony that is right for your taste, listen to a lot of different music to check out what others have done and are doing - but mainly trust your own judgement when you are playing, practicing, experimenting and composing. Only you can ever know what "harmony" is the best.
That's an absolute. Have fun.
[Note: Beka is a young piano prodigy—here he is last year with a beautiful take on "Mr. P.C."]
Q:Hi, I'm Zoe, and I'm 11. What are some tips for counting in 3/4 time? — Zoe
A:Hello Zoe—thanks for writing. For counting in 3/4 time, I think a good place to start is to use the numbers 1-2-3, and make a real steady beat. Go 1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3. And emphasize the "1"—put a little extra stress on the first beat, so you see where each measure begins. Go "1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3."
You can also find digital metronomes that have a click on them, and you can set it to 3/4. It'll go "click - click - click; click - click - click," where the first click will be louder than the other two clicks. And then you can also adjust the tempo, so it'll go faster or slower.
So those are two methods you could do to practice that, but after that becomes easy, you should try to just think of the "1 - 2 - 3," without saying it verbally. Just think "1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3," and then after that, you can just feel it, like a little dance.
And try to recognize songs on the radio, or songs in your record collection, that have a 1 - 2 - 3 beat on them. And then while you're listening to the song, practice saying "1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3," so that you recognize what music is made in 3/4 time.
Q:I would like to know more about how you manage practice time—specifically, how you know when it's time to stop practicing something and move on. Also, how do you make the mental switch from practice to playing? — Sam D.
A:Thanks for your question—it's a good question. To learn how to prepare properly or practice properly, to make advances in one's technique, or knowledge at the instrument, or music in general, is a really important thing.
The main thing that I can see about practicing—and it's also true about playing—is that the very basis of practicing, and knowing "when" and "how" and all of that, stems from first having an intention to advance, an intention to improve. An intention to take a certain challenge, or a certain piece of music or a certain phrase, or any particular thing that you think of, and then you have an idea that you would like to improve it, and you also have an idea of how it probably would sound, when it sounded right.
And this is another real important aspect—how you know when you've arrived, is that you have to trust your own judgment of what it should sound like. You can't just accept another's opinion about it. If a teacher is listening to you practice, and they say, "Oh yeah, that's right," when you play, you have to make sure you understand that that's someone else's opinion; it's not yours, unless you can also see that same thing.
So it's all about one's own understanding of what his own goal, or target, or object of accomplishment, is. You have that in mind, and then you just go for that. You apply yourself calmly, and create the time, and you just keep doing it, until you've got it.
That's the simple explanation of how to practice. I try to do that, and I get better at it, actually, as I get older. I learn more and more how to do that. And how to slow things down, sometimes, to the right speed, in order to understand every little part of it. You don't want to go too fast or too slow, but just at a tempo and pace that you can have success at, and really know that you're gaining on your goal.
Q:Have you ever played on a Fazioli piano? If you did, what do you think about them?
I played on the Fazioli piano when it first appeared some years ago, and last year came across one on a show I did with Stefano Bollani, the Italian pianist. I haven't had much time with any one Fazioli so can't really tell, other than it's a very well made piano.
A little comment on evaluating pianos, though:
I have found there are 2 factors in evaluating a piano. One is the quality of the construction of the piano itself. The other is the skill and artistry of the piano technician who regulates, voices and tunes a piano. This is said from the viewpoint of a touring, performing pianist (me) who plays a different instrument each night.
The two pianos I have in my home studio are a Bosendorfer Imperial and a Yamaha CF3. Both incredibly well made instruments. And because I have a very good technician near home who tends the pianos, and a stable temperature and unvarying humidity in my room, these pianos are a joy to play on.
Not much about Fazioli I guess - but I thought you might be interested in these other comments.
Thanks for writing -
- - Chick - 4 Apr 10
Chick plays a Fazioli piano at the Umbria Jazz Festival with Stefano Bollani in 2009:
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