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Q.There are many blues piano scores available for sale, so may I ask you: why the collection Genius of Blues Piano?
R. In actual fact, there is a lack of information published on this subject. In short:
- there are several piano blues collections, but the pieces are usually arrangements of the great blues themes (most often at an easy technical level);
- there are also boogie-woogie (a particular blues piano style) collections, but they do not give a big picture; the boogie-woogies played (and embellished?) by CLAUDE BOLLING are an example;
- there are small Anglo-Saxon collections on the subject, but they are hardly representative due to the limited number and partial character of the pieces and to the poor quality of the transcription which fails to do justice to the blues.
I can, however, recommend a serious blues piano anthology by the great professional DOCTOR JOHN, and among the "methods":
THE BLUES,BOOGIE AND BARRELHOUSE PIANO WORKBOOK by A. BLUMENFELD.
It was, moreover, listening to the discography displayed in BLUMENFELD that made me aware of the gap which separates what is really played by these blues musicians from what we can currently read on the subject of blues piano.
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Q. Why having formalized these transcriptions in scores?
R. 1) Because, for playing the piano, traditional musical notation remains the most efficient way to facilitate the memorization, analysis and criticism of musical phenomenon. Musical notation allows us to represent not only the notes, but also their arrangement in subtle rhythms.
2) Modern computer techniques make possible an aid to the formalization of scores, and allows for an audio-visual animation of the scores thanks to the MIDI file which is generated at the same time as the score:as a cursor moves through the score, you hear it played in minute detail.
It is the best way I know to get used with solfeggio (sight singing).
Many musicians claim they play by "feeling", which in itself is not a fault, but this feeling quickly reaches its limits if not enriched by a good musical background.
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Q. Was the blues piano, a very simplistic music, worth such an enormous amount of work concerning the collection Genius of Blues Piano?
R. When we listen to blues piano,sometimes we can be struck by its monotony, which may be explained technically by its harmonic poverty: three chords and a pentatonic scale, the blues scale.
But it is pecisely this basic poverty which inspired blues musicians to experiment with expression and rhythm.
Moreover you will discover that the blues piano is not limited to one blues sequence and one blues scale, but presents a certain variety of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic techniques; generally, the appeal of a good blues is in a close association between a theme, even if simple and repetitive, the harmony, and the rhythm; so, the theme frequently leads to variations compared with the standard "blues sequence".
Thus, in spite of the danger of monotony inherent in the blues, we can identify a few masterpieces in diverse styles.
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Q. How have the transcriptions for Genius of Blues Piano been made?
R. My guiding principle was to make my transcription with the greatest possible precision; the transcription then formalized, each musician may decide how to use the information. I have made the best use of the available tools:
the selections are recorded by a digital "phraser" associated, via a mixing table, with a digital piano with a view to precision, notably as regards the pitch; the playing of the score allows us to correct errors and especially to attain great refinement in the formalization of rhythms: it is a matter of a final adjustment by simulation. Such technical assistance allows for the high quality of the transcriptions, as you will see for yourselves when you compare listening to the computer-generated MIDI file linked to the moving score with listening to the original score on CD. This technical operation by itself cannot, however, entirely guarantee the quality of the transcriptions when the listening quality decreases (CD produced from a vinyl record, play of the piano partially hidden by other instruments or by the voice).
So, I could say that the transcription is accurate in 95% of the cases.
In the 5% of the remaining cases my personal arrangement and the reason behind it are noted in the text of the score.
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