“Effortless” Piano Technique?

My own study of piano technique began after my initial rapid progress (from 0 to Grade 8 in 1 year) began to subside and I needed to go back and cover much needed groundwork and really understand how to control the instrument, my muscles and my thoughts!
In the following years I came up against various dead ends and numerous technical methods which in my opinion, are flawed. I now possess a reliable technique with a good tone which (on good days) is completely effortless – so that my concentration can be entirely devoted to hearing the music (which is a difficult enough task!)

 The article below (re-printed with kind permission) is written by Canadian pianist ALAN FRASER who has developed an approach to technique which I wholeheartedly endorse. His thinking is based upon sound scientific thinking and over 30 years research and performing experience.
For further reading and many, many fascinating articles (look out for the one on Horowitz!) please visit: 

The Craft of Piano – an Introduction
Why yet another piano method?

Countless excellent methods exist today – but some pianists still fall short of their full potential. Many pianists play with unquestionably beautiful tone and expression, but fewer possess the big, orchestral sound that was the trademark of the Romantic virtuoso. The mark of each artist’s personality is less visible than it was in a bygone era – and there’s a hidden underlying cause: limitations in one’s physical organization.


Craft of Piano also effectively addresses another pressing concern: performance injury.

 What makes this method different?

Recent insights into the nature of human movement offer new opportunities for improvement. We know more about how the brain uses the sensory-motor feedback loop to control the muscles and bones, fine-tuning a movement’s accuracy literally dozens of times a second. More is known about the hand’s innate structure, and how its natural grasping function is hidden in virtually all finger actions. Craft of Piano links these developments in kinesiology to piano technique, creating a focus on the physical that enriches personal expression rather than sterilizing it.

What are the basic components of the method?

Instead of defining a particular movement as good or bad, Craft of Piano enriches the sensory picture of your hand, allowing you to find the best way of moving in any pianistic situation. In Craft of Piano, old terms take on new meaning – for instance, relaxation is no longer an end in itself but becomes a means to greater activation of the hand. And new terms are introduced, such as skeletality: how the bones would move if you were a skeleton and nothing more. You learn to make your bones do more of the work, your muscles less. Freed from the need to stiffen or take over the work of the skeleton, your muscles can now fine tune movement, leading to a new level and quality of control – more refined and more powerful.

Craft of Piano analyses whole body actions such as standing, walking or running, then creates a pianistic analogy to give your hands the sense that they are really starting anew, learning from scratch, with the exciting possibility of leaving old counter-productive habits behind and developing new combinations of grace and power, sensitivity and brilliance.

At the piano we first look at legato, the foundation of piano technique. We discover the structural integrity needed in the hand to create a legato that really joins notes together but avoids stiffening physically – the combination of structural stability and moveability that your hand needs to do the job. We then examine other types of finger action before moving on to the role of the arm in this complex and multifaceted process. Every physical step is linked to listening: to the aural result any particular physical organization will obtain.

How can one put it into practice?

– Learn to sense your own structural power. Lessons in Feldenkrais Method © can help you experience the incredible release of muscular tension that happens when you access the skeletal power of your body.

– Learn how to stand, walk and run skeletally at the keyboard. The Craft of Piano Playing video and book will guide you in developing these qualities in your own playing.

For further reading please visit:

Posted in: Piano Technique

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Royalty Free Christmas Music-Too Early? :-)

royalty free christmas musicWell, if you’re think that October is too early for Christmas Music, so did we until we saw so many people searching for it already!
We’ve got some great, high quality Royalty Free Christmas Music ranging from the rather beautiful, traditional Silent Night and rather lighter Jingle Bells to the fun heavy rock versions of Auld Lang Syne, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and of course-Jingle Bells. There’s also some Jazz and Urban/ Hip-Hop tracks.
We had fun recording these, especially the rock versions where we used a live kit to avoid that drum loop sound.
Have fun with you Christmas projects 🙂

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Adding Audio to Your Site – “Why” and “How” Answered

For those of you that surf the ‘net often, you might be noticing audio clips that are popping up. Some will start playing as soon as you enter a site, and others you are beckoned to click “play” to hear their message.

Adding an audio clip to your website gives a personal touch where reading text is hard to portray. It puts a voice to you representing your product or service and can make a big effect on how you are perceived. It assists your website visitors so they can gain a better understanding of what you offer – just as a face-to-face meeting would – having an audio clip helps your web audience build that important relationship with you.

Audio also enhances your professional presentation – in most circumstances. In my opinion, having an audio clip (whether it is music or a voice-over) automatically play when a web page is opened is not a good idea. It is forcing the visitor to listen to something they may not have cared to hear and more importantly, it interferes with the music or radio program they are playing while surfing. It is best to provide an invitation to listen to the audio clip when it is appropriate to introduce it in your website content. This way, you are making your visitors feel comfortable and you appear professional and trustworthy at the same time.

From a marketing perspective, audio can act as an “attention grabber”. You have the ability to guide your website visitor through your site and talk about the product or service you have to offer. The audio clip can also be a powerful motivator to explore and discover your site.

There are several ways to utilize audio on your website:

*Personal Messages: Add a personal greeting by means of introducing yourself, your products or your services. This is a quick way to capture their attention as opposed to counting on them to read all of the text you have provided. In fact, simply do that – read what you already have written on your site! This will give your visitors a lasting impression once they hear your voice.

*Promotional Message: Promote a sale, special give-away, or announce a brand new product you want to let everyone know about. Your passionate message speaking about how much you truly believe in your product or service will be sure to catch people’s interest.

*Audio Testimonials: Ask your clients to record a quick sound byte for you and post this audio message, along with their name and website address (or contact information) and it becomes a powerful way to tell others of your credibility. Your visitors will be more apt to believe the testimonial if it’s attached with a live voice of your client. Your client also wins by giving them some extra exposure of their business.

*Audio Instructions: If you offer a product that needs some instruction, provide an audio clip that explains the steps involved. You can accompany it with a picture of what you’re talking about. Seeing and hearing how something works is very powerful and will give people the confidence they need to purchase what you have to offer.

* Audio Invitation: If you have a free e-newsletter, it’s important to try and get as many people to sign up for it as possible – they are your target market just waiting to hear more from you! By using an audio message inviting people to sign and explain what they will get for their efforts (answering the “what’s in it for me” question), can be very effective. Be sure to mention that you are giving away a free item to anyone signing up – such as a free article, e-book, or piece of artwork etc – people love receiving something free!

How to Put Audio on Your Site

Digital audio can come in many different formats, but the most common and safe format to use is MP3. There are several ways to going about creating these MP3 files – some more expensive than others. I’ll detail a few here:

*Recording the audio on your home PC: There are lots of audio recording software available for you to install and start recording your message. All you need is a good quality computer microphone, a quiet room and you’re good to go. Here are a couple of software suggestions:

– Audacity is a free, open source audio software program you download and install yourself.
– Web Audio Plus 1.0 is another free software program. I found instructions to use it here: How to put audio on your website
– Sony Sound Forge is a software package that you purchase. Sony Sound Forge enables you to create CD tracks and web audio files. You can even capture audio from an analog source and digitize it onto CD’s and MP3’s.
– Internet Audio-Video. These guys offer several different pieces of software in one bundle – which includes creating your own video as well. But be careful making your own video clips, if not done professionally, they could work against you. I’ll be talking more about video next month.

* Using an on-line service:
– BYOAudio is an audio recording service where you can use your computer microphone or call in via the telephone. The MP3 sound clip is produced for you. They have a sale on right now for a 30-day trial for $1 and after that, it costs $19.95 a month.
– Audio Generator is also a monthly fee-based audio generating service. Beware – you have to sign up to get any information on them and then it is a very intense marketing campaign you need to endure. I was turned off right away – but that’s just me.

* Hiring a Professional: With this option, you hire a local audio recording company and go into their studio where they record your voice-over, do edits to make it sound professional and perfect, add some background music and then your audio file is ready to be burned to CD or uploaded to your website.

As you can see, there are many options to consider on how to go about adding audio to your website; in my opinion, give the free open source software a try first and see how that works. If you find it’s too difficult to manage and you want an easier way, try the services offered. Once you have your audio clip created, simply contact me or your web developer to have it added to your site.

PS. The resources mentioned above are sites I have found in my Internet searches – I do not make any guarantees; I’m just sharing my research results and do not endorse any of them personally.

Kind regards,
Susan Friesen, B.B.A.
eVision Media ~ Definitive eBusiness Solutions

About the Author: Susan is a professional website developer with over eight year’s experience in the industry. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, concentration in Computer Information Systems, she is able to provide a unique and caring service to her clients not only as a website designer, but also an eBusiness Advisor; assisting individuals, businesses and organizations establish and brand product or service effectively on the World Wide Web. Contact Susan today for your free consultation on building your website presence to the effective marketing tool is can be. or visit

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How to Add Audio to Video

Digital media is everywhere you look. Music and video production have made it to the grass roots level thanks to the affordability and widespread use of powerful computers.

Inexpensive digital video cameras are widely available, and older analog video cameras can be connected to a computer through a video card to download movies to the computer for editing, storage, and distribution to friends and relatives over the internet.

It has become fairly easy to edit your own videos, and there are many software packages available aimed at the amateur. The Windows operating system has its own video editing package called Windows Movie Maker that allows you to produce professional-looking videos.

As you explore this exciting new world, you will inevitably come up with the need to edit the audio portion of your video file. The sound quality of most video cameras is not great, so you may want to process the sound or replace it all together with music or voice-overs.

It is very easy to separate the audio from the video. Free software packages that do this task include Windows Media Encoder from Microsoft (if you are working with WMV video files) and VirtualDub (if you are working with AVI files). Either of these programs (and many others) allow you to save the audio portion of video file quickly and easily.
Once you have your audio file, you can process it for noise reduction, bring up the volume, add music or do any digital magic to it that you desire.

With many video editing packages, however, it isn’t necessary to split the audio to a separate file. Even simple packages like Windows Movie Maker have basic audio editing functions, and you can add separate music or voice tracks and mix all of them together.

If you have a particular audio file that you would like to use in your video (maybe a special effect or a voice over that you have recorded separately) simply add that file to the list of media to be included in the video. Other media formats can be separate video files, picture files or graphics.

The audio file can be placed anywhere on the time-line, and you can use the same file many times without requiring any extra storage space on your computer. For precise placement, zoom all the way into your timeline and place the audio exactly in sync with the video. That’s it! You are well on your way to making professional-looking videos!

Hans is editor of the Audio Howto Section of the

Posted in: Tutorials, Video

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An Evening With Jim Mullen……Just!

It’s been a hectic weekend of gigs, starting Friday night in central London at the Cafe De Paris. This is a great venue and the gig was fun, playing keys in a band for a  party for Sony. I didn’t get to bed until 3am and at 38 this takes it’s toll a little more than when I was 21.
Saturday’s gig was a swing band and again I didn’t get to bed until 3am. Sunday morning, and I’m beginning to feel the effects a bit.. the trouble is that I have two gigs to play today.
The afternoon gig was a simple Jazz duo for a birthday party but it turned out to be a great gig. It was with Tim Robertson on bass. He’s a great player and it made playing really easy. The difficulty was that after my lack of sleep I’d developed the biggest headache I’ve had in years which was making me sweat, turn pale, then green and want to throw up over the piano. Having said that, I’ve rarely enjoying playing the piano quite as much as on this occasion!
By the end of this gig I really was feeling like death so I tried to get a half an hours sleep in the car and set off for the evening’s gig.
I arrived at the evening venue, after a quick detour in order to throw up 🙁
I didn’t look or feel too good and really didn’t think I’d be able to sit through a concert style gig-where it does tend to look obvious if you run off stage or indeed, throw up on the piano.
After a couple of cups of black tea the gig was under way. The rhythm section was myself (James (Jim) Treweek) on piano, Buster Birch on drums and Pete Ringrose on Bass and the guests artists were Joe Fooks and the great Jim Mullen.
Jim is one of the UK’s greatest guitarists and is a total joy to play with and to listen to. He’s a great guy and a wonderful guitarist with a faultless ear but overall he has a real uplifting, joyous way of playing. If you get the chance to hear him, please do.

Again, I’ve rarely enjoyed a gig quite as much and by the end I’d even managed a small beer 🙂

Must be feeling better.

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Royalty Free Halloween Music

We’ve had some fun lately, recording Halloween music and general scary music for our library. We have a number of different tracks, some are more sophisticated eerie pieces while others are fun and one is downright scary!
You can find these tracks here:
“Home Alone”-60 second cut, very tense and scary.
“Dark Skies”-A spohisticated eerie orchestral piece.
Shadows”- A creepy, yet sweet orchestral piece with a Danny Elfman style.
“Fright Night” A fun, halloween kids style track with a hip hop beat.

Posted in: General, Royalty free music

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New Royalty free Music Composers

We’d like to welcome another royalty free music composer to our exclusive team:
Malcolm Boyle, an experienced TV and multimedia composer.

At present we have seven royalty free music composers:

James Treweek, Nick Beston, Mike Casswell, Simon Wolfe, Dan Morrissey, Mark Cooke and Malcolm Boyle.
If you like a particular composers work you can now search through the music library by composer here

We receive a large amount of submissions from composers to add music to the SMARTassMusic library and we choose very little of it so as to keep the standard of composition and production as high as possible.

If you are a composer looking to sell your work, you can upload files (MP3s are fine) to our upload page here
We are looking for the highest quality production and excellent musicianship. In addition, we are trying to avoid a generic “royalty free music library” sound and aim more for production music excellence.

If you are accepted, we require files to be in WAV format (44.1khz) and each track should include edits and loops if at all possible.

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Site Updates

Some of you may have noticed a few subtle changes at SMARTassMusic lately.
We’ve implemented a great deal of improvements to the site(s) over the past few weeks as well as some high quality royalty free music of course.

For our USA visitors you now have on a US server so that it loads even quicker for you. We’ve compressed a lot of the pages to help loading times and implemented a rather cool new music category menu. This looks like the previous one but should be much better to use – it’s certainly a lot more fun, give it a try!
In addition we’ve resolved some login issues that we were having with AOL customers and generally improved the overall ease of use of the site.
For UK visitors you have your own which is hosted in the UK and faster loading than the previous versions. The information from one site is duplicated to the other so you can login and purchase from either server.
Our stock music packages are more flexible now so that we can offer collections of entire tracks on our front menu. We’ll be putting more of these royalty free music collections together over the coming weeks. I should point out that they’re also great value as you get 2 free tracks!

We’re continuing to improve the site and more than happy to hear from you if you have any thoughts of how we can do this.

Happy music hunting..:-)

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Tight Deadlines and Halloween looming

smartassmusic.comWe’ve been involved with some interesting projects lately.
I had a call for more arranging for the Sugababes forthcoming album. We’re used to short deadlines but I emailed back at 10am asking when this was needed by and left to take my dogs out. When I returned I noticed that the producer had asked for the track by “late lunchtime”! It was done but I can’t say it was the most relaxing work I’ve done.
We’re also arranging a great deal of music for Sky TV but it’s confidential so that’s as much as I can say about that.
With the Autumn quickly approaching I thought it would be a good idea to add some Halloween music to our Royalty Free site. I added a fun Halloween track in a hip hop style with some spooky sound effects, harpsichord and church organ (listen) but also a couple of more serious tracks which I really like:

“Dark Skies” is a dark, eerie orchestral piece with a piano stating the main melody. This would actually make a great backdrop for any slightly eerie (Tim Burton style) video.
The other piece is “Shadows”, which is very much in the style Danny Elfman with strings, celesta, choir and a descending harmonic pattern. This is eerie and sweet at the same time. See what you think.

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