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Weedon’s Wanderings: 12th February 2020

Me on a bike

LIKE RIDING A BIKE

I wonder how many times in my life, I’ve heard this lament: “I had some piano lessons as a kid, but if I sat down at one now I couldn’t play a note! I just didn’t appreciate then what a wonderful thing I was missing out on. But I decided I’d rather play football/be out with my friends/fill in as appropriate”.

Often the lessons were rejected because “the piano teacher was a real dragon, and used to slap my knuckles with a ruler.” Or maybe the person got to a good level on an instrument, but as an adult found their family and work responsibilities stole all their time. And when they finally sat down to have a play after a gap of months or years, it was as if they were beginners once again. And that felt so depressing they gave up.

I suddenly realised what this felt like yesterday. I learned to drive on a car with a manual gearbox, and drove happily with gears for decades. In fact, I revelled in changing gear either smoothly or, sometimes, with rather sporty elan. Double de-clutching was fun! I carried on with it long after synchromesh gear boxes made it unnecessary.

Then we got an automatic vehicle just because it was a nice car. I really missed those gears at first, but traffic queues are much better when you’re not constantly going in and out of first gear. When we next changed cars I was glad it was another automatic. As of yesterday morning, I’d not used a clutch and gear lever in years...

So there I was, confronted with a manual gearbox in a vehicle we’d just acquired, and needing to move off up a hill. I had absolutely NO memory of how to do it. I panicked. What did I need to do first? It took me minutes to recall that I needed to clutch out, engage gear, then balance the accelerator and clutch against releasing the handbrake. But once I remembered all that, I got a tremendous buzz from using a skill long forgotten. After that, the whole gearbox experience came flooding back to me and it was heady fun to be doing something I’d neglected.

If you used to play an instrument, but the years have descended like a fog on the whole thing, I’d encourage you to calmly edge into that mist and see what you can remember. It will feel scary and hopeless to start with, but it’s still all ‘in there’ somewhere, and finding it again will be thrilling. And if you don’t fancy blundering around on your own, get a guide - best of all, a real live teacher, or a good instruction book or video. Like slashing your way through an overgrown garden, you will find all sorts of treasures ready to sprout again with new vigour once they receive some light!

Weedon’s Wanderings: 10th January 2020

Writing

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITES?

Every two months I have to put my thinking cap on. Why? Because it’s time to write something for Organ & Keyboard Cavalcade magazine, or The Yamaha Club magazine. Occasionally, as today, I’m writing for both at the same time. And both mags ask me to arrange a piece of well-loved music as part of my article.

That shouldn’t be a problem, as the world is awash with great tunes. But then I have to consider copyright. If I use a piece which is too recent (in other words, its composer and lyricist are still alive or died less than 70 years ago), then the magazine has to pay royalties. This is only fair to the creators, of course, but the fees can be swingeing. I once wrote to the Beatles’ publishers to ask if I could use one of their songs in a teaching article and they agreed - as long as I paid them £8,000 per bar! And the penalty for unwittingly using a copyright piece is always four figures or more. 

The obvious way round this is to use older classical pieces and folk songs. But I’ve been arranging these for OKC since it launched nearly 35 years ago. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve used every tune ever written! I comb YouTube for ideas, I Google lists of the world’s most loved songs, I go to concerts for inspiration. But I’ve been overlooking a valuable resource. I’d love to know which are your favourite classical tunes and folk songs. If I’ve not arranged them already, and if they are playable as keyboard arrangements, then I’ll be thrilled to use them in future articles, and acknowledge your contribution. I look forward to receiving your ideas and putting a fresh slant on my articles. Thank you in advance :-)

Weedon’s Wanderings: 6th January 2020

VIENNA: THE SOUND OF A NEW YEAR
Maybe you, like me, are a bit of Viennese music fan? I always enjoy the New Year concert, and this year we also had a fix of Andre Rieu when his “70 Years Young” movie was shown at our local cinema two days ago. So I was more than a little chuffed to learn today that my album, A Conducted Tour of Vienna has just appeared on Amazon Music for immediate download. This is also a very economical way to buy this release, at just £7.99 for the whole album or 99p for individual tracks you particularly like.

If you feel like giving it a review, then please do, on the Amazon page. I’d be very grateful.

Weedon’s Wanderings: 27th December 2019

Cover artwork

WINTER WARMERS ON AMAZON!

No, not bed socks or hot water bottles. I woke up this morning to an email saying that By the Fireside, my 2003 album of winter music, is now available on Amazon. It’s available as single tracks or the whole kit and caboodle, for immediate download to your PC, iPad, tablet or MP3 player - or even through your Alexa if you have one. Just click here to have a free listen. 

I’ve decided that, if I can’t beat ‘em, then I’m going to join ‘em, and embrace the 21st century. After all, how much easier it is to receive one’s music immediately online. And how much plastic, money and diesel is saved if one’s not having CDs delivered to the door. 

If you feel inclined to put up a review (especially a sympathetic one) that will put the cherry on the cake. It’s worth mentioning that the cover illustration features our own fireplace, and my toy dog is beside himself with excitement that he has made it into the big time as a photographic model. 

Weedon’s Wanderings: 16th December 2019

Sitting Pretty cover

BOOKS LIKE BUSES

You know how it is - you stand at the bus stop and nothing comes for ages, then several buses come along at once! It’s the same with my books. Here’s the second one this week: Sitting Pretty, my treatise about the importance of posture for musicians.

If you’ve known me a while, you may recall that a bad back took me off the concert circuit for quite some time. It was The Alexander Technique which sorted me out in the end. In fact, it made me better than before. I was so amazed by the power of improving my posture and use of my body when playing that I wrote this book to share the secrets. It covers many aspects from seat height to choice of specs, hand position to adjusting the music rest, and includes the powerful Alexander semi-supine exercise. 

You can preview it and/or buy it for immediate download now by clicking here.