I recently attended a master class workshop with “America’s Romantic Piano Sensation”, Jim Brickman. I’ve been a fan of Jim’s ever since I bought his first CD, No Words from a Blockbuster Music store (remember those?!) back in the mid-90’s. I’ve also played his hit song, Angel Eyes, for countless weddings and am still not tired of it! Jim has a great sensibility in composing songs with memorable melodies and surprising harmonic twists.
The workshop centered around composing, improvising, and creating. Here are a few take-aways that I intended to implement in my own practice time and composing:
1. There’s great benefit in sitting down at the piano and ‘noodling’. Let your hands wander as you play chord progressions – not necessarily thinking about how something sounds, but rather about something that inspires you – a person, a place, a feeling.
2. For inspiration in creating ‘new’ chord progressions, try taking a classical piece (Rachmaninoff? yes!) and reducing it to the harmonic changes. Then improvise over those changes.
3. Talent doesn’t mean lot’s of notes – simple is actually harder. As you create songs, be willing to ‘peel away the activity’ — find the heart of the song!