How To Learn
I am learning how to be a better pianist and composer. In order to learn, I must listen and mimic, the same as a child learning to speak. My studies require that I listen to the musicians that inspire me, to hear the nuances in their playing, and consider their technique. Transcription is an excellent tool for growth because it allows the student to examine note for note what the subject performed (which offers some insight to what they thought, especially for improvisers). But it also forces the student to listen to a particular recording dozens of times over, memorizing every note by ear at first. Details of the subject's style subliminally become imprinted upon the student.

I also look at scores written by great composers, in hopes that I can learn from them. Of late, my attention has ben focused towards Mario Laginha, Gonzaguinha, and Guinga. Their compositions are so harmonically dense with shifting tonal centers, rich melodic colors, and mesmerizing melodies. After learning to play pieces by them, I write my own, guided by what I've learned. I believe it is working.

The other day, someone asked me to rate myself as a pianist on a scale of 1 to 10. I refused, but I thought about it later and thought that using a scale of ten is very challenging, as opposed to a scale of five, like that used in letter grades (A, B, C, D, F). Five is simple: Excellent, above average, average, below average, failing. But a scale of ten has a lot more room. I thought about it carefully and came up with a break-down of a scale of 1 to 10. Here it goes:

1 - No experience. Terrible or atrocious. ("I've never touched a piano.")
2- Very limited experience. ("I've touched a piano a few times. I don't know what I'm doing.")
3- Novice, a beginner. Just learning the practice. ("This is my first lesson!")
4- Trainee. Having some or little study. ("I've played for about a year. I know a little.")
5- Good. Average. Decent. ("I can play John Legend!")
6- Experienced. Well trained. Notable. (I can play Chopin!")
7- Outstanding. Professional. Highly skilled. ("I am a concert pianist.")
8- Masterful. Extraordinarily gifted. A leader in the field. ("I am Brad Mehldau.")
9- Legendary. An icon of the tradition. ("I am Bud Powell.")
10- Divine. The pinnacle of achievement. The greatest that ever lived. ("I am Art Tatum.")