Paul Gilbert has many well-known songs and The Curse of Castle Dragon is definitely on the top of the list! Any Paul Gilbert fan will be able to tell you the technical challenges in this song. They will even tell you how each part is played at the most detailed level. Or if I played anything wrong in this video. But I feel I have something else to express through this song cover.
Learning straight from the master, Paul Gilbert
If you don’t know, I was very lucky to be able to interview Paul Gilbert when he was here in Singapore for a gig in 2019. You can read all about my nerve-wracking experience here. On top of that, I am also part of his online music school at ArtistWorks.com
The motivating factor
I started playing guitar at an age that’s considered too old by many. Impossible to be able to reach the standard I so desire. I had no teachers or could I afford one then. But I stumbled upon the great Paul Gilbert and his “Down to Mexico” video. The insanely fast and accurate picking with fancy costumes and the quirky greenscreen background caught my attention right away. Not to mention how humble Paul was. That became my catalyst to pursue in guitar playing. It took me 15 years to find the courage to cover “The Curse of Castle Dragon”! I fell in love with the song when it was first released and had been messing around the sections of the song over the years. Never have I found the right phase of my life to put it together.
That was until I met Paul last year. I had the privilege to chat and interview him during his gig in Singapore back in 2019. It felt so surreal to be standing right next to someone who I watch on videos and admired so much for all these years. I told myself, that has to be the sign for me to start taking my life seriously.
There are many ways to play a left-hand accompaniment on the keyboard, to convey different modes and show off different music genres. For example, an Alberti bass might sound like this:
Or, you could play the 1-5-8 pattern shown in the video, which is most commonly found in contemporary music. You might find some variation of it in “Faded” by Alan Walker or some parts of “River Flows In You” by Yiruma.
How to Play the 1-5-8 Left-Hand Piano Style
The example we used was “Home”, composed by Dick Lee. You can click here to download the chord sheet if you want to learn to play the left-hand accompaniment for this song.
The chords used in “Home” include C, Am, Em, F, G, Dm and E, represented by chord symbols hovering above certain words in the lyrics, indicating when they are employed. Chord symbols contain information that tell us what type of chord to play. C / F / G /E chords are major chords and Am / Em / Dm are minor chords e.g. A minor, E minor.
There are many types of chords – major, minor, diminished, augmented etc. Each has a different sound quality that lends a song different moods. You can learn the notes for each type of chord by Googling, but having basic knowledge of chords in music theory will help you derive those chords much easier than searching for each chord as you need it.
To make learning easier, we will play “Home” in the key of C Major so we only need to use the white keys on a keyboard. Here are the notes for each chord, and be sure to play them with a 1-5-8-5 variation at steady intervals from one another.
Em chord / E chord
Some words before you leave…
It’s not difficult to learn left-hand piano styles, especially with a plethora of YouTube tutorials out there. But with so much information available on the internet, it can be tricky choosing reliable tutorials that guide you correctly. The text highlighted in blue are important basics to know when you take your first steps into pop piano.
Our chief drum teacher and a fellow industry friend share how to set up your ZOOM for drum lessons! Zoom, although it has its share of bad publicity, is the most popular and versatile video conferencing software today. With the system set up correctly, you won’t need to worry about intrusion in your video call or bad audio quality. Let’s dive right into the setup!
Security is the number 1 concern for parents. While the can monitor their child’s video call session, they won’t be able to stop an intruder in time. An intruder can send photos containing nudity or profanity if a chat room is not secure. They can also harass the users in the chat room. This is why we do our part in making sure that the system is set up correctly.
In case you are unable to view the image above, below are the points we share with all our students.
SECURING OUR ONLINE LESSONS
UNIQUE MEETING ID – Generated randomly at each new session.
PASSWORD-PROTECTED – Passwords are required for all meetings & changed regularly.
SCREEN-SHARING – Only VC teachers have permission to share their screens.
WAITING ROOM – Students will join a waiting room before teachers allow them to enter the meeting.
The drum teacher’s setup for online drum lessons
Windows 10 laptop
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface
Unique setup: clip-on fish-eye so that students can see a more complete drumming angle
Unique setup: 2 different video angles. This is useful in some teaching situations. However, this means there will be a 40-min limit for free account.
Advanced Setup (you likely missed)
Before we figured out this audio setup, we had a hard time to get the drum to work over ZOOM. The system is designed for speech and not sudden spiking audio. So while the default setting allows your voice to sound loud and clear for your participants, it compresses and mutes the drum as soon as we hit it. Go to your ZOOM’s audio setting and set it up like this! You can thank us by sharing this to your friends, colleagues and students.
While it is not ideal to have drum lessons over video call, we are happy to be able to continue our lessons with our students! To all music teachers out there, stay strong and positive!
While we are no strangers with conducting our music lessons via video conferencing for our students. some as far as Shanghai. The new measures from the Ministry of Health have effectively forced all our students to have their lessons over video calls! But does this mean the end of the music education industry? Probably not!
Music Lessons | The COVID 19 style
Ideally, music lessons should be done in a conducive room with proper instruments and equipment. The acoustics of the room should also be treated properly with professional-grade acoustic treatment walls to remove unwanted reverb and echo. The lighting of the room must be at the right lux level. These are now considered luxuries.
With the current COVID-19 situation, we converted all our music lessons to video conferencing! Though easier said than done, we really wanted the best for our students! Rooms have to be rearranged, workstation setup to match the requirement of video calling and endless troubleshooting. At the end of the day, the smile on our student’s face is what that matters.
With that, we bravely embraced our first day of full-on online lessons today!
Video-calling problems we faced and how we solve them
We would be lying if we were to say that it went smooth sailing. With all the issues, we had to put all our brains together! Sometimes to the extent of researching through the entire ocean of articles online. So if you are a music teacher, perhaps we might be able to offer some tips!
Make sure students always uncheck the “automatically adjust microphone volume” function.
If you are using the laptop’s mic, keep a distance from your device.
Even with the automatic volume adjuster unchecked, a spike in volume will still cause the app to compress the audio hard. As we would have guessed, apps like this are created with speaking in mind. When a loud volume is detected, the app will push it down to prevent the other users from blowing their speakers. We had no issues with Ukulele and Piano but all the trouble with Drumset.
To combat the issue of feeding the drum’s signal in without having a problem, we mic-ed the entire drumset! Signals are sent into a USB audio interface that is then connected to the computer. The microphone source will be the USB device. This allows us to tweak the input volume accordingly. Things will definitely be easier if you have a digital drumset with a USB connection.
Our guitar rooms are also rigged with a USB mixer. As such, we line our electric guitar directly into the mixer with IR technology. We line our acoustic guitar and ukulele into a DI box and speak through a condenser microphone.
Daylight from windows will help with illuminating the video
Using a decent stand to help with adjusting the camera angle
Most of us hardly use the camera on our laptop, some don’t even know it exists! Some of us live in a dimly lit room and that is bad for video conferencing. So the first requirement is for the student to be able to have decent lighting in their room. While this isn’t an issue with most instruments, this is a common problem with Piano students.
The user back face the room’s light source with the piano to the wall. This results in the shadow of the student to cast on their hands.
Thankfully, solving this is easy! All you need is to place a small table lamp on your piano! This is especially cool on rainy nights when the table lamp is all you turn on to practice your piano with.
The camera angle for chatting with your friends or for a business meeting is very different from teaching and learning musical instruments. The laptop-camera was not designed for music lessons in mind. As a teacher, we want to view the students’ playing from a high to low angle. Think of how teachers usually sit next to the student in the room. So the same height and angle are important. As for demonstrating, various instruments require different angles. Piano prefers a top-down angle, guitar prefers a slanted front angle and drum prefers an over the shoulder angle. So the most basic requirement for video music lessons is perhaps a good stand to hold your device. Watch the video posted by Vinnie demonstrating to his students to get a better understanding!
Our first day of video conferencing music lessons went fairly smoothly! Classes went on as scheduled without much hiccups. Students were happy and satisfied with the lessons. It gave us the confidence to proceed with more of such lessons! With more fine-tuning, we will be able to provide lessons with even better quality and efficiency!
Normally we ask you to sign for our free trial lesson, we now ask all those who are interested to join us for the music lesson experience of 2020!
Tommy Emmanuel just released a new song titled Timberland and it is not played on his trusty Maton! Took us by surprise because we are all so familiar with Tommy on his Maton EBG808TE! Instead, we see a new guitar in the video. The guitar in question is the Karol Baritone Guitar. The stunning and beautiful gloss finish was the first tell-tale sign that it wasn’t a Maton. Then came the low and haunting notes that a regular acoustic could not produce with such tightness in its tone.
What is a Baritone Guitar?
A regular acoustic guitar has a scale length of around 24.9 to 25.4 inches. A baritone acoustic guitar has a scale length of 27 to 30.5 inches!
The extended scale length does not mean you get more frets to play, instead, it provides a very different feel in string tension. If you have a 3/4-sized guitar, you will probably find it easier to bend a string than a full-sized guitar. This is because a shorter scale allows the strings to tune up to pitch easier. Thus you can imagine the effect of string tension on the baritone guitar. Then again, that is provided you tune a baritone to standard tuning. I can only imagine the possibility of breaking the strings or the guitar in the process. Then again, the Niibori Alto guitar is tuned a fifth up from standard (B E A D F# B). The crucial thing to note here is the right match of strings gauge.
Baritone guitars are typically tuned to A D G C E A (fifth lower) or B E A D F♯ B (fourth lower). They are usually fitted with .011 or .012 strings. The tension on these guitars is usually really tight and stiff. Not really ideal for string bending. As for this song, Tommy has it tuned to a fourth lower.
Does this mean there is no way of learning this song if you don’t have a Baritone Guitar?
Absolutely not! The song is written in standard tuning, just a fourth lower. This means you can still play the same song but at a higher pitch. Probably won’t bring the flavor and the intended meaning out nicely. Nonetheless, you will still be able to play it. Tommy has another song, Questions, mostly performed with a guitar tuned 1 whole step down. However, occasionally that same song will be performed in standard tuning. Was the essence of the song lost in the tuning? Weel, many of our students who learned this tune enjoys playing it on standard tuning!
Is Tommy Emmanuel new to the Baritone Guitar?
Our quick search on the mighty-web shows that Tommy was first introduced to the baritone back in 2009. The process of him falling in love with the baritone was all captured in a video. Then again, being the guitar man, he must have had experience with this unique version of the acoustic guitar before. It also took him a really long time before he finds the need to bring in a baritone to express himself. So no, Tommy is not new to the baritone guitar.
Tommy Emmanuel: Timberland
The video we have all been waiting for. Get ready for the emotional ride!
Classical music may not be everyone’s cup of tea! We live in a time where we have access to so many different types of music. The genres are ever-expanding. So finding an alternative to classical is a breeze! In fact, there’s an exciting modern music syllabus available to help stimulate your creative juices!
Welcome to the ANZCA Modern Pianoforte Syllabus! It is available throughout Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia. This is a great alternative to conventional classical piano lessons! Not least because it covers a wide array of genres which include jazz, blues, pop and rock, ragtime and more.
Watch these videos of our ANZCA students! We’re so proud of their efforts!
ANZCA is well-known for it’s ever evolving, innovative and flexible system that focuses on versatility in music education. The syllabus lists are carefully compiled. And of course pays great attention to setting interesting and musical pieces. This is especially so at the junior levels. Kids nowadays naturally like the music that they hear around them, on Spotify, on the TV, and on-line. As it’s the music of their culture, what they enjoy with friends, it can be fun to learn to play these popular songs. This is just the beginning and they will eventually develop a taste for a variety of music! All in all, it is a well-rounded music education that encompasses the sounds of the present and the past too!
So what are you waiting for? Find out more about the ANZCA syllabus and visit our website or contact us today!
Well, you are in for a treat! In this article, I will share how I managed to sound as close as possible to the amazing Jack Thammarat. Although “Practice, Practice, Practice” is indeed part of the plan, I will share more on how to help you attain that beautiful tone!
Guitar Amplifier: Laney Ironheart
They say the key to sounding like your favourite artist often lies in the amplifier. Stevie Ray Vaughan to Dumble amplifiers, Slash to Marshall amplifiers and John Mayer to Two Rock PRS amplifiers. If you were unaware of Jack’s love for Laney before, now you know! Jack really makes Laney sound good, or is it the other way around? Unlike other famous artists who are extremely secretive about their amp settings, Jack shows it all to the world. A “feel-free-to-try-my-settings” attitude!
Effects Pedal: Line 6 HX Stomp
If you are wondering if you should ever venture into the world of digital effects, well, my advice is to give it a shot! Besides, Jack has uploaded his HX Stomp patch on his website FOR FREE! So while the pedal may be slightly cost-sensitive to some, it is actually a gateway to access patches set by your favourite artist!
Guitar Pick: Master8 Japan Jack Thammarat Signature
I shared about Jack’s pick when I was visiting him in Thailand. These picks are very similar to the Dunlop Jazz but it comes with a layer of rubber coating for that fantastic anti-slip capability. The angle of the pick allows for those sweet tones. The thickness of the pick helps to make playing more precise. But if you are still clueless on which pick is suitable for you, read our help article here.
Sound like Jack Thammarat already?
Maybe! But like I said in the first paragraph, it all boils down to practice. This cover I did might be just 5 minutes long on YouTube, but it took me at least 6 months of relentless practicing to get there. I say at least because I am certain I was trying various parts of the song way before I decided to embark on the journey to actually learn the full song. Through lessons with Jack, I also learnt about how he frequently uses the hybrid picking technique to go through fast passages.
I would like to end this article with just 3 words Jack told me on many occasions: “Light but strong“.
In this article, we share the story of Glenn Gould and his piano – his search for the perfect piano, the ups and downs, and the tragedy that shook his world.
Glenn Gould’s Steinway Model CD 318, in his apartment in Toronto
When pianists love their pianos to pieces (literally)!
The music scene mourns the loss of a rare, one-of-a-kind piano, owned by Canadian virtuoso Angela Hewitt. The F278 Fazioli grand piano is the only one in the world fitted with four pedals. And has been used for numerous recitals and recordings since 2003.
Then last week, piano movers dropped the piano. The cast-iron frame was broken, amongst other parts of the piano. Alas, it was not salvageable and consigned to “piano heaven”.
There are times when piano movers drop pianos. And there are times when pianos fall off the stage. When the piano in question has practically become an extension of the artist over the years, it is a tragedy and the loss is immeasurable.
The Tragedy That Befell Glenn Gould’s Piano – the Steinway CD 318
Another case in point: back in 1971, movers dropped Glenn Gould’s piano en route from Cleveland, Ohio to Toronto. As a result, the famous Steinway grand, known as CD 318, had its cast-iron plate cracked in four places, soundboard broken, hinges bent and more.
Gould, best known for his interpretations of Bach’s keyboard works, did not outwardly express his devastation. But despite his determined pursuit for the truth behind the damage, his findings were insufficient to pinpoint the blame on any party.
A Pianist’s Search for the Perfect Piano
Before CD 318, the piano genius spent years, trawling continents in search of the perfect piano. His search took him from the Steinway CD 174 (on which the 1955 Goldberg Variations were recorded) to the small Chickering grand piano which Gould based his ideal piano on. Incidentally, the Steinway CD 174 was also damaged beyond repair en route to New York, returning from a concert in Cleveland.
Glenn Gould, known for playing the piano at an unusually low height
The Beloved Steinway Model CD 318 Piano
Then in 1960, Gould was reunited with a certain Steinway concert grand. He first played it in 1946, when he was performing with the Toronto Symphony as a thirteen-year-old! He rediscovered the old piano, tired, rejected, and forgotten, in the backstage of Eaton’s Auditorium.
Gould loved the piano’s extreme responsiveness. In his own words, it had “the most translucent sound of any piano I ever played”. He continued to use it for almost all his recordings. And it traveled with him wherever he performed.
The Broken Piano
After the fateful accident in 1971, Gould spent the next decade fruitlessly attempting to restore it to its former glory. His trusty piano tuner, the gifted, almost-blind Verne Edquist helped him.
Sadly, the piano was never the same again. The cast-iron plate was replaced, and the piano’s action had also lost the feather-light touch that Gould loved it for. He never really gave up on the piano. But in 1981, he reluctantly re-recorded the Goldberg Variations on a Yamaha C9 grand piano.
Tragically, Gould died a year later, having suffered a stroke that caused massive damage to his brain. He was buried in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, with the first few bars of the Goldberg Variations carved into his tombstone. A fitting tribute to a true piano maestro!
Glenn Gould’s tombstone, with the Goldberg Variations inscription
Glenn Gould’s Legendary Piano Lives On
Today, the Steinway CD 318 is on permanent display in Ontario’s National Arts Center. Together with it is the famous pygmy chair that accompanied the piano legend, Glenn Gould, for most of his life.
Invention No. 5 in E-flat Major, BVW 776, as recorded on the CD 318 (1964)
Has this article inspired you? To become a pianist and grow as familiar with your beloved piano as these famous pianists? We can help you start your journey! Just check out our website for more details on piano lessons!
What is it like to have guitar lessons in Singapore?
Have you ever wondered what guitar lessons are like in Singapore? To be a guitar student in a country where students have a certain pressure to excel academically and stand out from their peers? Read on and learn about what it is like to be a guitar student in Singapore!
What it is like for me to be a guitar student in Singapore:
Generally, Singaporean parents have a kiasu mindset about their child’s academic achievements.
Due to this, it is difficult to be proud of learning the guitar especially since I don’t have superb grades nor a prestigious leadership title in school.
Having plenty of pressure on academic achievements, from not only my parents but teachers as well, has made guitar-learning even more challenging as more often than not, I feel pressured to finish up assessments as well as to focus on revision rather than practice guitar.
Difficulties with School
For most Singaporean kids, we have CCA, which usually takes place twice a week. Regardless of the CCA, you are in, you will surely be exhausted after CCA, especially since CCA lasts until the evening. If one also considers the many days I have to end school late due to extra lessons and seemingly endless amounts of homework, you’ll end up with a tiring and frustrating combination.
To put it simply, I practice on as many days as I can. There are times where I simply cannot find time to do so, especially during mid-year and end-of-year exam periods. But in a normal week, I try my best to practice, though I have to keep my practice sessions to 20-30 mins or find little pockets of time for quick practice.
It’s not much, but if you practice the correct way, then you should not be having much of a problem improving and sharpening your skills by the next guitar lesson.
How do I balance guitar lessons, practices, and school life?
Of course, getting ample practice and doing well academically isn’t impossible, but it’s not that easy to achieve.
For me, I counter my hectic and busy schedule by cutting short my screen time. Sure, it was difficult at first, however, over time it became more of a habit to practice rather than an obligation and hence has made it easier for me to tolerate the decrease in screen time.
At times, I am tempted to play a few more rounds of Call Of Duty or watch a few more videos on BTS. However, I remind myself that if I truly want to improve in guitar, I will have to make a conscious effort to practice, as the result we end up receiving will be the reflection of the amount of effort placed into it.
I also feel that it is important to have a passion for music. Doing something reluctantly or just for the sake of it isn’t beneficial or efficient. You also probably won’t have the motivation to improve on the guitar. Having a genuine liking to playing the guitar will help you immensely through the times when you feel like giving up!
In conclusion, sometimes the stress of school life, as well as the frustration from trying to correct one’s technique, can be quite upsetting. It’s something we students cannot avoid, so the best thing we can do is to persevere and push on. Quitters aren’t winners and winners aren’t quitters. Indeed, the guitar isn’t an easy instrument to master, but the very process of learning the guitar truly embodies the meaning of practice makes perfect! As long as we regularly practice and sharpen up our techniques, surely success will come our way!
Our last post received good reviews so we’re posting an encore for our piano students! The key to playing any musical instrument is to enjoy the process. There is a great deal of joy that comes from what may seem like hitting random keys on the keyboard. But you’re actually making music that sounds good and having fun too!
These video clips feature students – Kashvi, Nathan and James. All are taking the Australian Encore! on Keys syllabus, Whatever your age group, music will always be at your fingertips! Look out for our next post for more videos of our students!
What’s Encore! On Keys? It is an award-winning programme from Australia with a progressive curriculum that incorporates multiple learning layers. Music theory is also taught. And what’s more, no musical background is required!
There are 3 different Beginner courses (depending on age) and 1 Advancing course. These are suitable for a variety of age groups and learning styles. The course involves playing with a backing track for every song to simulate ensemble playing.
The genre of songs comprises a broad range of modern music styles that include rock, baroque, classical, jazz, blues and reggae. Find out more from our website or sign up for our free* trial lesson!