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Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Latest Inspiration

I once read that a good writer is a reader. The same aspect can be applied to instrumentalist. If you want to be good at the instrument you play you must listen to music. So over the past year or two I have come up with quite a variety of "inspiration" music (hymn instrumentals) that I listen to often. I don't like everything I hear from any certain artist, but I am able to get something out of each CD and try to apply it to my own music. I happen to be very particular about what kind of style I play, so it's very easy for me to point out what I do and don't like. I wont be discussing that in this post because it's just a matter of preference and who is to say I have the right or better taste? What I may dislike, my sister may love! So we won't spend much time on that, but you may be able to figure out my style without me spelling it out.

Daniel Hopkins
When I began looking for good quality piano hymns I asked a fellow blogger (who is going to college for music ministry) for recommendations. He told me about Daniel Hopkins who was making his first CD, For the Audience of One, and as soon as it was available I bought it and was very pleased! Not only do I listen to his CD over and over, but I also visit YouTube to hear many other arrangements he plays at his church in California. Daniel plays moderately fast to fast, and keeps his songs exciting (for a lack of better words). I really like his introductions because they are interesting and not too long. (Some peoples introductions last about a third of the song!) He is also very good at playing the slower "mood" or reflective songs, but when I need inspiration for a fast and fun song I always turn to Daniel Hopkin's arrangements. If I don't find what I'm looking for I at least come away with some good ideas for the introduction to my song.

Erin Bates
This piano player isn't just someone who I've heard play beautiful melodies through my CD player, but someone I've met in person. She and her siblings have been to our church twice and were very nice. Though she is a year younger than me she plays as if she has 10 years more experience under her belt! In fact she is a big encouragement to me because of her age, seeing that she can do it makes me believe that I can accomplish the same. She fills her songs with lots of unique runs and arpeggios as well as octave scales in the bass. Her CD is titled, Merciful and Mighty, and she is working on her second recording which will hopefully come out within the next few months.

Greg Howlett
I've only been listening to Greg Howlett's music for a few months but I feel like I know a lot more about him because of his blog and YouTube lessons. In my opinion his talent is in "mood" music, or "reflective" music as he calls it. His songs are very soothing and relaxing, and in a lot of ways, less extravagant than most. He  has a deep understanding of music and has learned how to make it powerful with less notes. Instead of filling his songs with fancy frills, he uses a lot of impressive chord substitutions that makes his music sound much more interesting than the original chords that are written in the hymn book. He has really got me excited about chord substitutions and color notes, so much that I'm starting to think that chord substitutions are more important than all those fancy runs and arpeggios. But Greg doesn't just record his music and leave it at that, he has created sessions with the church piano player in mind so that we can advance our talent in a way that will be beneficial to our church. The prices are very reasonable, thought he has a wealth of information on his website that is free. (I absolutely love his free arrangement of Just as I Am.) In one of his free sessions on soft music he stated several things that have stuck with me which I will talk about in another post.

Of his 5 CD's I have, Seasonal Spice, Quiet Place, and Portraits of Hope, all of which can be found at his website along with his blog.  If you like orchestra music you will like Portraits of Hope, but if you prefer to listen to primarily the piano then Quiet Place is a much better place to start. If this post has been interesting to you, be sure to check out Greg Howlett's interview with Erin Bates. They both share some of their favorite piano styles and talk about the recording process.