Livestream Jun 27, 2023 |”Keep your eye on the ball: hearing what you’re playing

Today we’ll explore the ideas, practice tips, and actions of connecting what we are playing and intending to play, with the music that we hear in our heads.

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Pre-stream music: hearing music better

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I always start the stream a few minutes early and play a video or two to give time for people to get alerted and join the stream. For this stream I played two YouTube videos “How to listen to music like a pro” by 10Tet and “7 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned at the World’s Best Music School” by the incredible Nahre Sol. These videos set the perfect ambience, enlightening us on the art of truly experiencing music, not just as a passive listener, but as an active participant.

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Keeping our eyes on the ball

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The theme of today’s livestream is using our inner musician’s voice to audiate – that is, to vibrantly imagine – the music we’re creating. It’s about transforming our musical intuition into a technicolor mental symphony, letting it guide our hands as we weave our melodies and pour our hearts out.

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Going to the Chicago ATG Festival this next month

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I let everyone in on my excitement about my upcoming trip to the ATG festival in Chicago this July. It’s not just the thrill of the festival I’m buzzing about, but also the anticipation of catching accordion maestros Francone Andrea and Jimmy Keane in action. We also chatted about the pricing for the festival.

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First Lesson in audiation ie: keeping our eyes on the ball

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We then treated our ears to a YouTube video of Jimmy Keane’. After absorbing his performance, we practiced keeping our “eyes on the ball”, audiating the melody we had just heard, and trying to recreate it with our voices. This auditory exercise was like a gym workout for our inner musicians.

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My non-existent musical ear as a young musician

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Nostalgia washed over me as I shared my own story of navigating the music world as a young musician, reflecting on times when I underused my inner musical voice. And then there were my punk rock friends, who played music by ear – truly raw, instinctive, and a testament to their brilliance as musicians.

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The Main Act: How to add audiation to our musical work

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The spotlight then shifted to the core of the livestream, where I walked through a simple 4 measure exercise from “Mi primero año con el bandoneon”. I shared my systematic yet relaxed approach to practice: hearing the melody vibrantly in my head, singing it out, playing it with passion, and finally, performing the melody with my accordion and own voice simultaneously. This process, practiced separately on the right and left hand and then combined, helps synchronize our inner singing with the music we produce.

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I got to the main focus of this livestream which is where I showed how I work through a simple 4 measure exercise from the book “Mi primero año con el bandoneon” (applied to free bass accordion – but you can do this on stradella bass too), and how I practice “keeping my eye on the ball” to practice having my inner musical voice follow the music that I’m making.

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My process is to work systematically (but relaxed) through each part in the following order:

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  • a. first just hearing/imagining in my head the music to the melody as vibrantly and clearly as possible
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  • b. second singing the melody as vibrantly and clearly as possible
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  • c. third playing the melody with as much expression and musicality as possible
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  • d. fourth playing and singing the melody at the same time.
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After I’ve done that on the right hand, I do the same steps on the left hand alone.

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After I’ve worked to connect my inner singing to each part individually, then I work to hear hear the two parts at once. I also break this down into steps, setting one hand’s music to do the same thing (for example play the melody) and the other hand’s music I cycle through:

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  • imagining (which we call audiating) the other part
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  • then singing the other part
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  • then playing the other part
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  • then singing and playing at the same time
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Watching YouTube video approaches to work audiation on chords/harmonies and dynamics

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Next, we took a breather from the accordion to immerse ourselves in some YouTube wisdom about enhancing our musical audiation. First, we checked out pianist Emma Leiuman’s genius way of audiating chords.

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Then guitarist Frank Wallace showed us a great exercise for playing two parts with different dynamics. I demonstrated how accordionists can practice this using depth of touch – softer notes with a light press, louder ones by pressing down all the way.

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Applying the audiation exercises to Palmer Hughes Book 1

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Then, we returned to the accordion, this time focusing on the standard bass. Borrowing an exercise from the renowned Palmer and Hughes accordion method books, I showed how the same techniques can be adapted to sing the left hand.

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The key is singing the bass note and then the third of the chord for the oom-pa-pa part. This approach, while not linear, opens up a grid of possible combinations to explore and strengthen your skills.

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Mark your calendars

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As we neared the end, I plugged our upcoming events. The July 4th, 2023 livestream will be all about Zydeco Music, and all through July we’ll be hosting a book club focusing on “Pablo Casals and the Art of Interpretation”. I encouraged everyone to grab a copy and join the literary-musical fun!

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Buy “Casals and the Art of Interpretation” on Amazon: https://amzn.to/41FTjYg

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Make a free account on archive.org and you can borrow a copy of the book for free. Or get it at your local library, or buy a copy online.

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In memory of accordionist Nick Ballarini

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We wrapped up the livestream by honoring Nick Ballarini, a fantastic accordion player and beloved member of our accordion community, who left us on June 26th, 2023. Nick’s beautiful renditions of jazz, swing, and other genres will forever echo in our hearts. His memory will continue to inspire us as we journey forward, our inner musical voices growing stronger each day.

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Life’s journey involves a great deal of joy and sorrow, and it’s inevitable that we experience the loss of loved ones. Such experiences leave deep imprints on us and often stir profound reflections. But in the midst of it all, we are fortunate to have music. It brings us solace, joy, and a means to express what words often can’t capture.

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I wish everyone a life filled with happiness, good health, and, of course, great music. Looking forward to connecting with all of you next week.

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