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Bodyjar - Five Minutes Away 

For three of my posts in this series I wanted to record solo piano versions of songs that aren't covered by solo piano very often.  This exercise of figuring out a vocal melody and harmony and making an arrangement is something I get my first year university students to do- there's nothing better than working out a song you love.

The first one is by Australian group Bodyjar- I saw these guys play sometime in the late 90s at a tiny club in downtown Ottawa that doesn't exist anymore, the Liquid Monkey maybeRead more

Forbidden Musical Devices 

During World War II, Hitler's regime forbade certain musical ideas and devices that didn't conform with their idea of artistic music.

From New Dutch Swing

It [de jazzwereld's guideline for entertainment music in 1940] was mostly a detailed roster of forbidden devices and practices: plunger mutes, growls, smears and other dirty timbres, ostinato basses, background riffs repeated more than three times, charts written by black musicians, washboards, the use of the word 'jazz' were all off-limits.

How many…

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RIP Gunther Schuller 

I had the great opportunity to perform this piece with the composer himself conducting during my time at NEC.  Without him I don't think any of us working in jazz full time with a large part of that work coming from post-secondary education would be doing what we are doing.

I hope to get back to writing some of my thoughts on music for my online community of students and fans now that the school year is over.  Have a great summer everyone.

Jazz Standards- 16 you should know. 

This past weekend I moderated a jam session for Jazzworks at the new Ottawa Bluesfest Music School.  I prepared a handout on tunes to know that I wanted to make available to all my students and those who couldn't make the jam.

For the last few months I have been looking over many other people's lists of standards, as well as pooling my peers for their opinions on the matter.  There are tons of great lists out there, from the great book by Ted Gioia to lots of websites.  I even remember coming across regional…Read more

Learning how to Learn 

After missing a week of my self-imposed schedule of weekly thoughts on music, and already being 24 hours behind and dangerously close to missing another I thought it might be good to whip off a quick note about something I have been meaning to mention for a while.

I've been slowly working my way through Learning How To Learn by Idries Shah, a book that was recommended by Dave Holland during a masterclass at the New England Conservatory.  I've been reading it slowly because it is one of those books of…Read more

Music Note Sudoku 

I often encourage students to practice randomized chord patterns by picking a chord type or two, and then moving them through a tone row.

For instance CMaj7 - Ebmin7 - FMaj7 - F#min7 - Dbmaj7 - Dmin7 - BMaj7 - Emin7 - AbMaj7 - Bbmin7 - GMaj7 - Amin7.
And the opposite Cmin7 - EbMaj7 - Fmin7 - GbMaj7 - C#min7 - DMaj7 - Bmin7 - EMaj7 - Abmin7 - BbMaj7 - Gmin7 - AMaj7.

I had great breakthroughs in my playing working through newer chord types that I didn't realize were coming slower to my fingers than I thought…Read more

Don't just know how to do something 

I had a huge breakthrough early in my college music studies when I first started practicing for extended periods of time (besides the obvious). 

When I was younger, I would generally practice the stuff I liked to play and avoid the stuff I didn't like (generally longer, involved pieces... that required more of an attention span).  This naturally led to me only being able to play the fun stuff and hating the hard stuff--  a vicious spiral.  When I confronted these issues in college, I went too far the other…Read more

Happy New Year 2015 

I want to congratulate my brother-in-law, Tyler Kealey for sticking to his insane goal of recording a different song every day for 2014.  Here is the final video which includes many of my favourite Ottawa musicians.  Not to leave anyone out but off the top of my head there's Rebecca Noelle, Dave Schroeder, Jeff Rogers, Brian Asselin, Megan Jerome and Peter Voith, plus many familiar faces (including my sisters and our significant others). 

Click here for the link.

Year in review 

While I had made attempts at blogging before, this fall, inspired by my brother-in-law's much more daunting endeavour, I finally started weekly entries.  Even if they are sometimes simple and short, I wanted to have something out there to focus my thoughts on music, life, and practicing.  And here we are, over 40 entries in!  For any of my friends, students, and potentially music fans who don't even know me, thanks for taking the time to check these out.

Here are a few of my favourite entries from this year…Read more

Music: An Investment of Your Time 

Full time and part time musicians alike are living in an age where it is increasingly hard to put a monetary value on music.  In the 20th century, people in the western world found ways to monetize every aspect of music- performance, recording, royalties from recordings of performances, and even getting paid for royalties of songs other people wrote that substantially sounded like songs you wrote.   Many interesting developments have happened quite recently, from the drastic decrease in costs of home… Read more

State of mind (Acceptance, Enjoyment, Enthusiasm) 

One wisdom nugget from Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth that has stuck with me for years is his idea of three states of mind.  When things are at their worst- his example is changing a flat tire in poor weather- at least you can move past negative feelings to a place of acceptance and do what needs to be done.  When what you are doing is better than this you might even experience enjoyment, and above that you can be enthusiastic. 

I try to apply these mentalities to everything, and they work especially well in a…Read more

Access To Information 

In this era of instant access to information, a lot of information doesn't have to be remembered as it used to be.  I know the common complaint is that people have short attention spans and they are always buried in devices instead of in the outside world, but there is something exciting about being able to fact check on the spot, that makes me more careful and confident in the things I'm passing on to my own students. 

I am continually clearing up misinformation that was passed down to me in the past…Read more

Performer and Listener 

Glenn Gould once said the ideal ratio of performer to audience is 1:0.  The meaning I take is that an artist should hold themselves to their own standard.  This quote was during the time when he became fascinated with making recordings of pieces and really crafting a piece through multiple takes and splicing.  He quit performing live because conditions were never ideal. 

At this point in time, a pianist is lucky to have an instrument provided for them, let alone one in an acoustically appropriate room that…Read more

New Music 

The Guilty Minds, a band I play in with Joe Brownrigg, Dan Junkins and Jeff Asselin, has some shows coming up, the first one on Sunday November 16, 2014 at The Daily Grind in Ottawa.  You can find more music by clicking here.

In anticipation of the show, here is a video of a new song Joe wrote.


In this crazy information age there is a high demand for internet content.  I remember years ago I barely struggled to keep a basic one-page website with my bio and a list of shows that didn't get too many months out of date.  Nowadays the music industry relies greatly on YouTube hits for booking artists to shows and contracts. 

Part of the reason that I figured I could at least maintain a weekly short entry into my own blog was that my brother-in-law, Tyler Kealey, took on the enormous challenge of posting…Read more

Binge Listening 

People are almost proud of epic TV-show watching sessions, or binge-watching.  In the last few years it seems watching Netflix, Hulu or even DVD box sets all night is a far more common an activity than going out. Yes, this does not bode well for the live entertainment industry- not just music, but sports, movies, even restaurants, which all are having a harder time beating the home-based experience. 

In music, people have been warning of this day since the radio was invented.  Why go out?  Musicians went onRead more


In acting, there is something in the world of improv referred to as 'blocking'.  The basic idea is that whenever someone introduces and idea you have to think "yes, and" as opposed to just "no".  The house is on fire! Yes and my cat is on the top floor, we have to save it!  If you don't know what to do with it you shouldn't just completely ignore it. Along the same lines it doesn't help just to stall and say yes its on fire and send it back to the other person with nothing added.  Also, check out thisRead more

The Body Conforms 

I have been thinking a lot lately about how over the years of playing a musician's body conforms to what they do. Sometimes you see this in a trumpet player's lips, sometimes they show exactly where the mouthpiece has sat those many, many hours.  Often, however, this kind of physical change is considered a sign of poor technique, or pushing your body too hard.

Recently I met some piano players who didn't have what many would necessarily consider 'good' technique, but were able to play what they needed to…Read more

The Gig Trifecta revisited 

One of the first things I wrote about when I started posting these brief thoughts about music was "The Gig Trifecta", a magical triangle of items to help you choose whether or not a gig was worthwhile.  I talked about how any gig could be seen as positive if you look at it the right way.  Now, however, I want to take the opposite approach without being overly negative. 

In an improv class I took at NEC with George Garzone, at one point I wrote down the note: "Sh***y music makes you play sh**y."  I believe it…Read more


As a Canadian who has spent a considerable amount of time in the States, I am very aware of our reputation as overly polite people.  This is heightened by the fact that our pronunciation of the word 'sorry' is one of the few noticeable differences in accent.

Are there times when maybe we shouldn't be so apologetic?

On a recent podcast, former NBA player Jalen Rose said that he loves when fans come up to him and ask him for an autograph, or just want to say hi in passing.  However, when they open with "Sorry…Read more

The Gig Trifecta 

Several years ago I was part of a masterclass with pianist Kenny Barron. The playing part was over and throughout the class he spoke very little to any of the pianists. Words of encouragement and a few observations, mostly.  Later on, I noticed that the more influential players tend to say less as teachers, because they know their word will be observed perhaps too completely and suggestions may be seen as commandments. When our time was almost finished he asked me if I had any questions for him. I struggled…Read more