Figuring out the key to a song by ear

My technique of finding out the key by ear is based on something I saw on youtube. Essentially you loop the song you want to find the key of, then on the piano, play all of the notes one by one and decide if the note sounds sounds wrong in relation to the existing notes in the song (most likely because it’s not a note of the same key) or if it sounds okay.

Once you have identified enough notes that sound wrong in the song, you can start using that to figure out what notes should be sharpened or flattened to end up with the key of the piece.

I’ve only tried this once or twice but it did work for me.

Australian Piano Fair 2011 – Friday 15th July

I went to the Australian piano fair after work today after finding out that it was over 3 days including the Friday which I didn’t realize until I got to work, so not many photos for this day.

My goal is to check out all the grand pianos to figure out which one to save up for in the future.
I tried a number of grand pianos and they felt quite different from what i expected.

The first i tried was a Yamaha GB1K and it was a lot smaller than I imagined. The action was a bit more heavier than my Yamaha T121 and the sound was dull and muffled sounding. When I mentioned that to the Yamaha representative showing me the pianos, he agreed about the sound and mentioned I had good ears. He recommended me to try some of the higher end grands in the C series such as the C2, so I gave them a shot.

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Visual novel

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of composing because I’ve started a hobby project to make a simple visual novel game.

To do so, I am using the Onscripter game engine. I am drawing all the characters myself too. I have to cover all the facial expressions and poses so that I am able to express the character how I want to in any scene.

Most of my background pictures are taken from my trips to Japan with some effects applied to them.

Of course, the most important part of the visual novel apart from plot which I have yet to come up with, is the music.

To be able to set a particular mood for the scene, I need to think about composing background music that is happy, sad, scary, upbeat, suspense, exciting, amusing and so on. So far I have composed a couple of songs including one that is upbeat and a couple that is a slow pretty song that sounds good for perhaps an emotional scene.

You can find a couple of demos at:
Visual Novel Demo v1
Visual Novel Demo v2
Sample composition

Lately I’ve been trying to analyse existing music and one in particular that has caught my interest is scary music. I’ve been playing around with playing minor 2nd intervals and even figured out how to make a sound that sounds like someone screaming.

It would be amusing if someone asked you to play a song on piano and you’d play something that would leave everyone terrified. 🙂

Piano practice lately…

I’ve noticed in my piano practice journal app i use on my iPad that i have over 100 entries of things to practice. I tried to practice it all, but so far after 2 days, I still have plenty of different practice activities to go through before getting through the list sequentially. 

I’ve been concentrating on the most recent songs lately, so it’s almost been a month since i’ve played any of the others. If i don’t practice them soon, i’ll end up forgetting how to play them.  🙁

Fortunately not all of them are songs, but rather exercises or playing the same songs transposed or with different rhythms.

Kawai Gakufu Camera

I just tried the Gakufu camera app for iPhone released by Kawai.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtLBWUqCTAg[/youtube]
http://recombu.com/news/iphone-app-scans-and-reads-music-plays-in-real-time_M14772.html

I have downloaded it with my Japanese itunes account and it is really useful for me.

You can take a photo of a line of music and it will automatically identify the notes. You can then make corrections, select the key, choose whether it is in treble or bass clef, store the recognized music and even transpose it on playback.

To play the notes, you can either swipe across the notes or you can manually tap the rhythm on the play button.

I use it as a tool to help me train my rhythm for songs that i’m having trouble with. So I simplify things by taking out the difficulty of finding the right keys to play and focus on getting the rhythm right. Then when I have that figured out, I find I can play it better when I go back to the piano.

Typical piano practice

This is pretty much what my parents put up with everyday when I practice the piano. It’s a long video with me playing with all the mistakes included. I admit that I picked the more interesting songs from my song playlist for the video.
I use the iPad to tell me what songs I should practice. It shows me a list of songs I can play, tells me how recently I’ve practiced it and it can record how long I practice it for. So far I’m averaging about 1 hour of practice a day, although some days it’s a bit less.

My teacher started me on playing songs before learning to read, so I can play most songs from memory (about 1 hours worth), but need to practice every day so I don’t forget them. I’ve started reading music recently so I have been concentrating on quite a bit too.
As you can tell, the main song i’ve been practicing lately is Fur Elise as I learnt it fairly recently.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7_yr9GqAdI[/youtube]

Fur Elise

This is the first part to Fur Elise that I learnt 3 weeks ago. I’ve noticed how chord based this piece is after learning it and noticing the broken chord patterns in the left hand.

I think I still need to work on this piece more, but since I hadn’t posted anything for a while, I decided to record it and post it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfDQXdpUdbc[/youtube]

Piano Practice Progress

I have been using an app on my iPad called Music Journal to record my piano practice times, to identify what songs i’m neglecting and to make notes of my playing during the practice session.

I feel it’s making sure that I am doing my share of practice every day and helps identifies my weaknesses that I can work on the following practice sessions.

My playlist of songs indicating how recently i’ve played them.

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Piano Sightreading

After starting to learn to read music on piano from my lessons and seeing some friends sightread various songs, I’ve realized that it is by far the best way to learn to play a song the fastest way possible without requiring the need to analyze the music for ages to decipher what the melody and chords are in the piece and how things fit together like I’ve been doing lately.

I’ve also realized that sightreading isn’t as easy as it sounds. After thinking about it for a while I came up with an analogy for sightreading which really helped me understand what is involved in performing the task.

It’s essentially like touch typing on PCs. That is a difficult enough task for most that use a computer. However, sightreading on piano is like reading 2 different lines of text at once and typing them out at the same time on each hand. But it gets more complicated than that, because, you also have to type at the correct timing and hold the keys down for the right amount of time.

Fortunately music isn’t totally random (I hope it isn’t!!) so the music being played can be simplified into recurring patterns. I guess that would be like typing words instead of typing individual letters.

So thinking about it in that way, even if you can touch type, it seems incredibly difficult to acquire this skill to play anything that you have the sheet music for.

Anyways, I’m now currently working on this as a goal to allow myself to play any song I have the music sheet for. I’m still in the early stages of learning to read music for piano, but so far can sightread the right hand melody part of music with a bit of trouble at times. I can’t really play both hands even at a slow pace as i’m still trying to identify the notes, but the reading exercises my teacher has given me are quite good at training me to overcome that gradually.

Hybrid Rainbow jam session

Over the easter break I did a few jam sessions with a guitar playing friend of mine. This is one of the songs we played.

For this one, it didn’t take very long to learn the chords, and I managed to play them in time quite reasonably after about 4-5 tries. I’ve learnt a lot from the jam session.

I found that counting was really important to keeping the parts in sync. Just playing by ear results in getting lost in the song and unable to recover quickly if you miss a note.

Also check out my friend’s cover of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmF5xPNJYy4

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhiBbz1c7C4[/youtube]