Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I like the production of this version better than last night's recorded version:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday / He's Leaving Home / Piano Learning

Two days before we take my son to college.

Tried to practice piano today. Didn't go so great. All those chords to memorize. Experimented with Sudnow stuff and wasctempted to return to it.

Ok went back to piano and recorded a cover of me playing the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" which is appropriate given that my son will soon go away to college. 

Here it is:

I think I just have to be more patient with the piano. This is a complicated skill for me that will take a lot of time. I'll stick with the Susman chords method. Playing a song solo style on the piano (or the guitar, for that matter) involves a lot more than just strumming chords in the background on a guitar to back up another instrument. And Each Song Takes Time. Ironically, "She's Leaving Home" was the first song that I voiced on my own using the Sudnow Method.

I think (for me, anyway) it would be helpful to strike a balance between chord memorization and playing songs. I think too much of either, or using one of them while  excluding the other isn't helpful for me. 

As I read somewhere, it's like learning a language. If I was to learn French, but only used French words (or, in my piano learning, just chords), I wouldn't communicate too well. Likewise, learning sentences and paragraphs (or measures and songs in my piano learning), wouldn't be too easy or meaningful if I struggled over how to say each word. This is I think how it works best for me, anyway, not sure about everyone else.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Woodshed

Just trying to get those open piano chords in my hands. Maybe it's a good time to explain something:
I'm learning open piano chords because those inversions just were too much for me to learn. And just playing the root position chords wasn't really working.

Listened to some bits of old jazz guitar and was tempted to do some more of that. But I'm not. It's time to work hard on learning piano, and not give up.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Bootcamp = Getting those chords memorized. I think I got the min7ths. Working on those 7th. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

August Christmas Tree Circle

Just a bit of a disoriented piano day. Spent a little time on "OhTannenbaum" by Vince Guaraldi. Not too terrible for a short effort. But maybe I'm spending a little too much time focusing on memorizing chords and should spend more time on playing and perfecting songs? 

Listening to the Tom Rush album: The Circle Game. Nice. The song "The Circle  Game"

Circling back to piano; in thinking about it a bit, I think it's best to still try to memorize chords as well as play songs. This chord memorization stuff can be taxing! However, it can also be extremely useful later on. Utilizing Susman's methodology more so than Swain's, but I like Swain's emphasis on chord memorization. Starting to dig into the world of memorizing 7th chords. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Almost completely done memorizing the minor chords on the piano. Hard work!

Listened to a John Renbourn vinyl album, "The Lady and the Unicorn," and really liked it.

Tried my hand at recording a version of Wichita Lineman. Here it is, chock full of mistakes all around, but hey, I'm learning!

The link:  

Almost forgot. On YouTube, I found an extremely moving segment from the movie Rocky V:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Minor Seventh Wednesday

Worked on memorizing 10 out of the 12 minor seventh chords. More work needed. I like the Swain emphasis on really having chords memorized. I'm getting there slowly. More work needs to be done.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Practice Regimine

I got some new practice ideas that I think have potential:

1) Use both Alan Swain and Bill Susman methods of learning chords.
2) Use Alan Swain's method mostly for learning how to practice, and for forming 6th, Major, Maj7, Minor, 7th, and Diminished chords.
3) Memorize the following Swain chords:
Major, Minor, Maj7, and 7th chords.
4) Utilize Susman's guidance in forming the more complex chords like 13th, b5, b9, etc., but will not memorize these chords.
5) Review chords learned by making a list and playing them as much as possible during practice.
6) Learn songs.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Just trying to figure out a practice regimine that would work for me. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Up to page 40 in the first Swain book and I'm up for the challenge. Here's a battle plan:

Practice Time:
1) page 40. in all keys.
2) continue to review, add to, and keep note of, chords memorized
3) start learning songs

Today I started p. 40 in key of C. May learn a Christmas song.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Band practice this morning; doing a cool medley of a couple of songs done by Fats Domino.

Up to page 40 in the Swain book, and I just might be hanging out on this page for awhile. It's an important learning page that I gather is to be used mostly to memorize chords for each key. 

Some important concepts learned today include diminished chords and Blocked (George Shearing) chords.

Here are some pictures taken on a boat ride today:

Friday, August 12, 2016


I am writing this at 2:07 AM. Heard of the meteor shower that was going to happen; went outside, and saw two!

Feeling like I caught a cold. Yuck. But practiced page 33 of the Swain book. Doing fairly well. Those Dbmaj7 /  Abmaj7 / and F#7 chords are stubbornly not easily staying in my brain! But I think I am getting a handle on them (finally).

I really don't intend on stopping the Swain material and I continue to like the challenge.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Here is what I sent my piano buddy today in terms of my weekly progress:


1) Well I remember hearing that in piano learning, sometimes the learning kind of goes slow. Well that's ok. I continue to practice daily with varying amount of minutes put in. But that's key: some quality practice daily, even if very little. I'm progressing, but slowly at this point. And that's ok! The piano is a long term thing, and it'll be worth it to hang in there. I'm up to page 33 in the first Swain book, and I continue to try to get those open chords in my hands memorized. He has some pieces to play in which the new chords are used with melody notes and instead of memorizing the pieces, I think I have a fairly good idea when it's time to move on. Here's the chords I know now (some better than others!): 
Ab7, F#7, Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, G7, C6, Fmaj7, Cm7, C7, C, Am, Ebmaj7, Gm7, Fm7, F7, Ab, Bbmaj7, Bb7.
Just trying to implant them in my hands and fingers.

2) This week I played around with the saxophone. Was toying with maybe buying a sax and taking it more seriously but decided to just let it go. Can't really do sax AND piano with my limited time, and the piano wins. I can always borrow (a friend's) sax if the urge strikes again.

3) Was briefly toying around with getting into fingerstyle guitar (again). But as with the sax, piano wins again.

4) This one should take a LONG TIME: Trying to save money for a really quality acoustic guitar. I know how to play guitar ok, and this will be more for just enjoyment, and who knows what else?!

Addendum: For a long time, I've wanted to make an album of just me and an acoustic guitar. Think Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" album and Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" album. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Very very very little piano practice time put in today but did manage to review some chords. I think I may retain more than I give myself credit even though repetition is important.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Working on page 33 of the first Swain book. Learning the F#7 and Db7 chords. 
Have been thinking a little about using some supplemental material like maybe my boogie piano book, a jazz method, or a pop method. But I think that will just muddy things up, and that doing what I'm doing with the Swain material is challenging enough. I'm getting some good traction with this method, and I want to keep it up. Everything else (like left hand bass note playing) might probably be learned in due time; no need to cram everything. Song playing from fakebooks on the fly is my ultimate goal.

"....psychology is a secular science, while care of the soul is a sacred art." - Thomas Moore (in "The Care of the Soul).