25 Second Sneak Peek

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25 Second Sneak Peek

I’m planning on putting out another CD this summer, and I thought it might be fun to occasionally give my blog followers a sneak peek into some of the pieces that will be on the CD.  In fact, this CD will have some differences from my last CD.  While most of the pieces will be piano solos, there will be a few with either flute or voice.

Here’s a 25 second sneak peek into a piece called The Sixth Day.

Let me know what you think!

Homecoming – The Meaning Behind the Music

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Homecoming: The Meaning Behind the Music

Homecoming is one of the piano solo pieces from my Dayspring CD.

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How comforting the light of the gospel is in the face of something as shocking as death!  Testimony, born of faith, adds a spiritual element to the otherwise abstract complexities of life.

That testimony is a real and powerful confidence that becomes indisputable in the heart of those that embrace it, and it is a real and life-sustaining thing.  This mortal life is but a moment.  After death we continue life as we had previously known it, before it was crudely interrupted by this frightening but essential phase of existence.

To those with such faith, death is not a thing to be feared at all.  In fact, death is more of a reunion than a separation.  The partings that come with death are only very temporary, and when all is said and done, this mortal life will seem to have been but a passing moment.

I have a photograph that I like to get out and look at once in a while.  It is of my older brother’s missionary homecoming. He is only seconds off the airplane from his mission to Brazil, in a tight embrace with Mom and Dad.  Their faces are full of excitement, joy, and love.

That picture has a lot of meaning for me.  I took it on my own full-time mission, and it reminded me that I must serve my mission honorably, so that when I return, I will have such a moment.

It also reminds me of another homecoming that I will someday experience.

The thought of leaving this life and rushing into the arms of my Heavenly Parents sometimes fills me with so much hope, and so much anticipation, that I have to remind myself that I still have much to do before I can qualify for such a reunion.

Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown that frightens us about death.  We thrive so much on regularity and tradition that even a minor change from the ordinary can throw us completely off balance.  Adventurous as we may occasionally feel, it seems that few of us feel ready to step beyond the comfort-zone of mortality into the surreal and unknown mystery we call death.  Even the most courageous people can’t deny that there is a bit of apprehension that accompanies impending death.  Perhaps to some, it is like lying down to sleep, knowing that whatever dream first enters their mind will be their new permanent reality.

But again, this is where faith plays such an essential role in our lives.  Life as we know it has the greatest opportunity for growth, experience, and learning.  It also allows us glimpses of the joy that will be available in the eternities.  Such glimpses give us hope for the fullness of joy that will be awaiting the righteous in the life to come.


Purchase Dayspring CD
, by Chas Hathaway, buy Homecoming MP3 on iTunes, or see other writings about the meaning behind Chas Hathaway’s music.

Un-edited Improv Session

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Un-edited Improv Session

Okay, I’m putting myself on the line here again. I sat down, pushed record, and this is what I came up with.

Personally, I think the first part sounds nice… but a little two much like Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling.” Hmmm… It would definitely need some slight melody altering if I were to develop it into a full piece.

And on the second half I hit a couple funny notes.  But it is un-edited improv – so I shouldn’t be too hard on it.

What do you guys think?  Do the two parts have potential to be developed into full pieces?

– Chas

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 13

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 13

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Play only when you want to

Another interesting thing about the emotional aspect of playing by ear deals with your mood.  Whether you notice it or not, your mood plays a huge part in your ability to hear, and especially to feel, what you’re playing.  My basic rule of thumb is this:  Never play the piano when you’re not in the mood to do it.  There’s a funny link between your emotions and your motivation when it comes to playing and writing music by ear.  If you are not in the mood to play, don’t do it.  For me, when I force myself against my will to play the piano by ear, it sours my motivation to return to it.  Afterward, I can often go weeks without feeling like playing the piano again.
If you’re also a music reader, you know that you can practice reading music all you want against your will.  The increasing of skill involved in training your eye-hand coordination has little tie to your motivation to be working on it.  The technical aspects of playing by ear still works this way, but with writing music by heart, it’s different.
Perhaps this sounds strange, since piano teachers encourage a set time and duration of practice hours per day.  The fact is, we are not talking about piano lessons.  You are learning to not only hear, but to feel the music.  If your feelings are fighting your will-power in this, let your feelings have their way.  This may sound odd, but in my experience, it works best that way.  This does not mean that you should only play the piano when you have a burning desire to do so.  It only means that if you have a burning desire NOT to play, don’t.  If you’re not sure whether you want to play right now or not, give it a try.  If it gets better as you go along, great!  But if you start feeling even less desire to play, just leave it alone and come back another time.

The Call of the Piano

You may think by this that there will be times that you never play the piano.  While this may happen on occasion, you will likely find that as you begin to develop more skill, your motivation will increase also.  You will find that often it is as if the piano itself is calling you.  When you hear that call, or in other words, when you feel that longing to play, go with it!  Play away.
Play for as long as you have the desire to play.  When you begin to get bored of it, put it away and come back later.  I would highly suggest taking at least a little time every day to practice.  You should choose for yourself how often and much time to spend at it, but consistency is one of the great keys to obtaining skill.  If you do so, you will be amazed at the speed of your progress, and the wonderful enjoyment you find in it.  It really does become addictive.  Where possible, take advantage of every time you feel the desire to play.
In light of that, I should mention that it has been in those moments where the piano has ‘called’ to me, that I have created my best musical pieces, and experienced the most fulfillment in my ability to create something new and beautiful.  There is much to be said of the first time you find yourself creating music from nothing.  It may not be masterful yet, but it will surely feel that way at first, because of the excitement of the moment.  The motivation that is born of this experience may be enough to hold you for a lifetime of music writing.

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 12

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 12

Silence is golden

One aspect of the feeling of a piece that is often overlooked is the beauty of silence.  Some musicians fear silence, thinking that it will give the impression that a mistake was made, or that the piece is finished.  What if, after all, the audience started clapping before the song was over!  The fact that is overlooked in this, however, is that silence is as much a part of music as sound.  One of the great definitions of music is “sound and silence organized in time.”  This being the case, we need not fear silence any more than we need fear hitting a key.
The secret to the proper use of silence is timing.  A carefully designed pause may have a much greater emotional effect than a continuation without break.  A tempo, slowed to near stop, followed by a grand silence can create a wonderful effect.
In listening, as well as in writing new pieces, we can include silences with confidence, not fearing what the audience might think.  Doing so will actually do more good than you might realize.

Softness is silver

Another thing to consider when trying to put emotion into a piece is dynamics.  By dynamics I mean how loud or how soft you play.  This is at least as important to understand, if not more so, than the proper use of silence.  A common misconception regarding dynamics is that the harder you play, the more effective the music is.  This is simply not so!  The key to dynamics is to reserve the loudness (or the softness, as the case may be) for the most important parts of the piece.  Think of it this way: the softer your beginning is, the more power you have to increase the loudness of the rest of the piece – and vice versa.
This must be done in moderation, however, since the introduction of a piece is the first impression.  You don’t want people’s first reaction to the piece to be “I can’t hear it.”  Therefore, the ideal is to find a good middle ground, with plenty of space on both sides of the decimal scale to work with.  And then, don’t be afraid to use the slack you have given yourself.  On a gentle part of the piece, you may find it more effective to drop the power to almost no sound at all.  Then when the need for more power comes, don’t hold back!  Pound those keys!  You’ll find that the contrast between loud and soft will strike incredible emotional chords in your self and your audience.
Therefore, as you listen for what a piece sounds like, and feels like, be sure to notice why it feels the way it does, and what gives those emotional charges their power.

The Forbidden Tritone…

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Tritone

Okay, I’m asking for your honest opinion here.  I’m working on my next CD, and one of the chunks of music I’m considering developing into a full piece is this one.  I’ve always liked playing around with crazy chord progressions, and for many years I have wanted to come up with something that defies all the laws of music theory and has a tritone chord progression.

The tritone is traditionally the worse, most dissonant interval (set of notes) of all.  Basically, if you play a C and then an F#, that’s a tritone.  I think music theory would scream at me for even attempting a piece that actually uses the tritone interval for a chord progression.  Maybe that’s why I was so determined to find a way – and this sample is filled with tritones.

Anyway…

I want to know your HONEST opinion.  Does it work?  Is it pushing things a little too far?

If you do like it, what kinds of emotions does it invoke?  If I do use it, it will need a name.  I never choose a name lightly.

Arrangement Practice Series: Part 3

Practice Arrangement 3

This one has a lot of goofing up, but I think it also has one of the best possibilities so far.  Total ad-lib, or improv, or whatever you want to call it.

For an explanation of what this post is about, see http://music.willowrise.com/?p=242

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 11

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 11

The Heart: the Basis of the Musical Ear

I think there is a reason that the word “ear” is encompassed in the word “heart”. When it comes to music, the heart is the key to success, and to ignore the heart is to take the spirit from the body of the music.

When I speak of the heart, I am referring to the emotions and feeling. If a piece of music is full of spectacular technique and skill, but lacks emotion, it is essentially dead. The key to learning to play a piece of music by ear is to capture the feeling of it. It has been said that whatever a musician is feeling as they play, that same emotion will be felt by all who are listening to to the piece. This being the case, in order to hear and reproduce a piece of music, it is essential that you duplicate not only the notes, but the feeling of the music.

Not only is emotion essential to playing the music right, but emotion is also key to finding the right notes. As you learn a piece, and start the cycle of playing, rewinding, and replaying a CD, notice how the music, and even the individual chords make you feel. Note the effect the chord has on you. Then, as you stop the CD and try to duplicate what you hear, continue to notice your feelings. Does the sound coming from your hands give you the same emotional response as the music on the CD, or does it change your feelings? If it changes your feelings, even slightly, then something is missing, and you’ve got to try again.

Sometimes your ears can deceive you a bit. You may have the correct right hand, but the left hand is playing the wrong chord. Perhaps your mistake still sounds good, which may give your ears the impression that you have it right. But what do your emotions say? After playing the chord on the CD, and then trying to duplicate it with your hands, if you feel even slightly different, your heart is telling you that something’s not right.

Perhaps the lowest left hand note is right, and the right hand notes are right, but are the other left hand notes correct? If your ears are hearing a 1 chord (1, 3, and 5), but your heart is hearing a 4 chord (4, 6, higher 1), then perhaps the real chord is a variation of a 4 chord, such as 1, 4, and 6. This is a common mistake, since when you play the 1 chord, it doesn’t feel right, but when you play the 4 chord, it still doesn’t sound quite right!

Strange, isn’t it, to think that your ears and your heart can argue about what you are hearing? In such a case, both may be right about what they hear, but until both are satisfied, you still don’t quite have it. Ideally, it is best to get the ear and the heart in agreement. If, however, you just can’t seem to come to an agreement, always follow the heart. It’s better to feel right but sound wrong than to sound right but feel wrong.

Practice Arrangement Series: Part 2

Practice Arrangement Series: Part 2

Here we go again.  This is my second attempt at coming up with an arrangement for “I Stand All Amazed.”  For this particular song, if you’re following the series, you will hear every attempt I’ve made at coming up with the arrangement.

Because of this, there are a lot of problems and mistakes.  I want to share them, so you can see what it takes to come up with an arrangement.  Sometimes it goes better or faster than this, but not usually.

If you want to give input, please comment and let me know your thoughts!