In my last post I linked to Gabrielle Aplin, who produced a stunning cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love. I loved the simple, almost melancholic, piano accompaniment. This style really floats my boat. Back in November Dermot O’leary on BBC radio 2 had bands send in their rendition of Chas and Dave’s Aint no Pleasing You. This is not a song that I particularly like however there was a fantastic version of it by The Gentlemen who completely stripped it down to a few notes on the piano. It is definitely worth clicking on the link.
I am in awe of people who can take a song and make it their own. I struggle to play tunes without having the sheet music in front of me. I’ve sat down a few times to try to work out the notes of particular songs, but never get very far. I’m not sure how to develop these skills. My piano teacher tells me to pick a very simple tune that I know well, but I really struggle to do it. I don’t think that I have very good relative pitch (the ability to identify the gap between 2 different notes). If I did I’m sure it would be easier for me. I do try to practice my scales and arpeggios although not as frequently as I should. I’m sure that this is the key to being able to learning a tune without the music.
A few years ago whilst searching on Youtube I found the channel of Evangeline Hall. She is a British piano and harp player who plays her own arrangements of popular tunes. My current favourite of hers is a cover of the Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again. Unfortunately for me she doesn’t post up the sheet music, which means if I want to be able to play her version I will have to work it out myself.
My teacher has quite a few compilation books that don’t have the full sheet music in them, just single notes for the melody with the chords listed above. The idea being that this is enough info for you to be able to play a version of the song by filling in the rest yourself. There are even apps that you can get for your smartphone/tablet that display music this way, allowing you to have hundreds of tunes wherever you are. The problem is that for someone like me they might as well be written in Greek. I still haven’t learnt all the nomenclature for all the chords, and even the ones that I do know, do not fall quickly under my fingers.
At my last lesson my teacher flicked to the song I am currently learning I wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free. The whole song only took up 4 lines, but she was able to play a passable rendition of it. Certainly it would have been a perfect accompaniment to someone singing the song. I asked her how she filled in the blanks, and she said that whenever she played these books she was just “Bullsh***ing in the key of”. So as long as you keep to the notes in the right key and swap the chords in order, then you can get away with it. I think it will be a long time before I get to this stage. But it is definitely a skill that I want to learn.