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«Fills bring the thrills, but groove pays the bills.» (Steve Gadd)

Yeah, music: The most wonderful thing there is! 🙂 Good for hand, heart and brain (in German the three H: Hand, Hirn und Herz). By playing music one fine-tunes all three of them, therewith educating oneself in a holistic manner. Today there are many approaches to music and in my understanding not all of them are fitting this in the same quality. And now it’s getting difficult, so I’m going step by step.

In countless discussions on music philosophy  I learned that I have a somewhat uncommon (eastern) understanding of music. Most important is the terminology used to avoid misunderstanding. English is not my mothertongue, but I hope I“ll be understandable.

Notes and tones

So my heretical question is: Why is in my view a piano not a melodic, but a rhythm instrument? Why should some arrangement of several notes not be a melody? Ok, let’s be exact on this:

Let me split it – just to explain, not to assess – in true and fake melodies. Take some drums tuned on a scale, or take a Xylophone, or a piano, or any instrument you create the sound in a way where you cannot influence the shape of a tone in its duration. The only thing one can do then is to put notes in a row and vary it dynamically – you can hardly vary the tones in any other way. From this point of view, a piano also is even more fake as drums or a xylophone, because you not only cannot vary the tone after it started to sound, but also cannot alternate the point where you hit the sound source. Let’s call this a fake melody.

Now then, what’s a true melody? Obviously, tones are the key for me. Imagine an instrument where one creates a note directly with fingers: A guitar one picks strings with one hand, more or less close to the neck; the other hand that creates tones with vibratos and bendings. Any stringed instrument build in a way like a guitar. A flute with its airflow; the holes, which one can open fast or slow, or just open it partial. A talking drum. Not to forget the human voice!

What the heck is the difference here you may ask. In my experience it is very much a personal perception, and maybe also a question of how educated ones ears are. If one is used to fake melodies, one will find it possible to express and understand any kind of feeling, any communication on the heart level. This is – in this scale – absolutely true and for listener and player truth.

Nikhil Banerjee - Lyrical SitarIf you like, have a look (and an ear) at this blog entry. Nikhil Bannerjee is an absolute master of tones. Try to imagine to reproduce his musical expression on a piano. May I say that is – impossible? I don’t know what this means to you – to me there are worlds in between. One can reach my heart, but the other takes my heart, speaking literally. Playing ten notes at the same time in a most beautiful manner cannot replace – to me – the missing tone of one note in my musical experience.

Again, I believe this is heavily depending on listening habits. Fake melody is pure rhythm and not true melodies as I tried to explain above, so a piano is not a melodic instrument in its true meaning. Get me right – I don’t want to call fake melodies as cheap! But I’d like to call you to give it a chance. There’s a hole new world awaiting if you’re not aware of this difference. Start to sing – the voice is the most perfect instrument there is. Finally, this is the reason I ended up with a lapsteel guitar: like on a violin there are no borders to play true melodies. However, a life without borders can be hard to handle, sometimes… 😉

Digital and analog sounds

A different story is the one about sounds. And music that makes me feel like I’m in a factory hall. Coming soon…

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