It’s been just over month since I started the Blues Piano course at Goldsmiths tutored by Tim Richards. The first few classes have been quite straight forward:
- Learn several LH (lefthand) walking bassline patterns;
- Learn a different 12-bar blues chorus/tune each week;
- Learn different RH (righthand) chord rhythms for accompaniment;
- Practice improvising.
Now I’m at the stage where I’m expected to not only learn a new tune/chorus each week, but remember the previous ones, add them together, in any order, and improvise around them. It’s not enough to just memorise how to play a new tune or practice simple exercises. When you take into account that I have a choice of nine different LH patterns that have different “grooves” (I don’t need to know all of them but a few), at least four different kinds of rhythms for RH chords that I do need to know, and several types of chords to be familiar with in different “intervals” (e.g. each single chord has at least three different ways it be played plus additional notes)… well you can see how I need to structure my practice sessions quite carefully so I cover everything.
Add to this that in class I might have to play the memorised choruses in any of 3 different keys and be able to demonstrate some form of improvisation and you might begin to understand my frustration of having to drive to my mum’s to practice on my piano since there’s not enough room for it in my flat! I’m looking forward to when I can just roll out of bed and do 1-2 hours of piano practice to start my day.
Despite the lack of frequent practice sessions – I manage a minimum of 2-3 hours a week in 1-2 sessions – I’m doing pretty well in class. I got through my first solo, blues piano demo in class this evening. It wasn’t as good as when I last practiced this afternoon (I’m still a bag of nerves playing in class and lost LH and RH coordination a few times as well as forgetting bits) but it was well received, and the teacher appreciated my attempts to keep the flow of the groove in the LH/bassline even when I totally lost what I was doing in the RH. It’s early days but with more practice I’ll straighten out the kinks.
I can’t believe I had left it so long to return to regularly playing the piano and I’m really enjoying the Blues Piano course. In fact, I’m already thinking about which jazz piano course to continue with in the next academic year, Sept 2010-June 2011. But first I need to make the most of this course. If all goes well I may even venture out to play at a jazz blues jam in London!