June 25

Recent News – And a Short Audio Clip of Mozart KV 331

A lot has happened in the past 7 months that prevented me from recording and posting…Long story short, my brand new Tascam US-800 interface turned out not to work with my Windows 7 – 64 bit computer. I searched high and low online but simply couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it to work. I was frustrated beyond belief and eventually just quit recording altogether. I finally sent the interface back to Tascam, who issued me a full refund right away (apparently they had known the issue with this discontinued model and its incompatibility with Windows 7 – 64 bit). I didn’t want the money — I wanted an interface that worked for me, but I really didn’t know which interface to get. After all, I’m a classical musician, not a recording engineer.

Then I found out Guitar Center offered free recording lessons every Saturday morning, so I decided to check them out to see if it would help me understand the whole recording process a little better. At first I was totally clueless, but after a few sessions I started to feel more familiar with the recording terminology and equipments. So here are the new equipments I bought in the past few weeks —

– M-Audio Fast Track Ultra interface

-Pro Tools MP – (the software that came with M-Audio)

-Yamaha P-155 – I’ve been wanting to buy a keyboard for a while and eventually decided to go with this one because of it has weighted keys and the touch is pretty sensitive. It can also be used as a midi.

-On Stage KS7150 Table Top Keyboard Stand – for my Yamaha keyboard I originally purchased a standard sized keyboard stand which was adjustable from 27″ to 39″. 27″ turned out to be just one inch too high for me. It was to either purchase a tall keyboard bench, or a lower keyboard, and I decided to go with the latter.

The recording lessons at Guitar Center also helped me connect with the instructor Ben, who actually came to my house tonight for a private recording lesson. I was so glad to find someone who could set everything up for me without me having to read through the horribly complicated manuals. Ha! Ben also made me realize I probably was never going to figure all these things out without help.

So here’s the first short clip I did after my recording lesson, hope you enjoy it. This is the theme from Mozart’s Piano Sonata KV331 (I promise the rest of the Sonata will come soon!), hope you enjoy —

Mozart Piano Sonata KV 331 – Andante grazioso

November 12

11/11/11

Today is a special day so I shall do a special blog update. First of all, I will be doing a cafe concert with my 8-hand piano group “The Four Top Notes” at Single Smile Cafe next Thursday. This is a free and informal public concert, so do stop by anytime between 5 and 8pm if you happen to be around.

Among all the 8-hand piano pieces performed is Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2. This is an exciting virtuosic piece and I will be playing the primo part (the melody) on piano II. The piece starts slowly but then gradually speeds up towards the end. I had so much fun with this piece during the practice sessions that I decided to learn the original solo version, because when all the crazy notes were divided by four pianist, the piece was (I don’t usually say this) simply not challenging enough for me!

This week is special for me because I made some good progress musically. I have finished Chopin Ballade No. 4 and performed it from memory twice, so I’m hoping to do a new recording on it soon — this time, a video as well! A few things have been holding me back: the piano needs to be tuned, my piano group concerts are coming up, and my jewelry business is starting to get busy  because of the holidays. BUT it will be done. I promise.

Another thing that makes me happy this week is that I am finally able to see my life from a different perspective. All of a sudden I “feel” the world around me changing, although I know it is only me that is changing. I have been working on this for many years and now it’s finally happening. It felt like something inside me “clicked” and changed the direction of my mindset and my whole being, and then from then on I just started to get a little happier each day.  I will talk more about this in the future. I cannot tell you exactly what happened this week, because nothing really happened other than my finishing Chopin Ballade #4 and moving on to Liszt Rhapsody #2, but basically, know that I feel hopeful and look forward to the future, and am at a happy place.

Hope you have a happy 11/11/11  too. 🙂

August 17

The Lady Who Calls Me Millie

I have been going to Single Smile Cafe to play a few short pieces and listen to other musicians play almost weekly. Not only do we have regular musicians, we also get some regular audience as well. There is an old lady in the audience who comes every once a while and she seems to really enjoy my playing. Instead of Mollie, she somehow remembered me as Millie. I never corrected her because, I guess, I actually liked that name. Every time, when she sees me, she would ask, “are you going to play today, Millie?” and I would tell her yes. When I finish and go back to my seat, she would ask, “are you going to play more, Millie?” If I  tell her no, she would ask, “will you play more, Millie? I really love it when you play the piano.” She would ask several times until she is certain that I will not play anymore for the night.

After countless hours of practice, I believe that is all a musician wants – to hear the audience ask, “will you play more?”

 

June 30

Midnight Improvisation 062911

It was a nice night for another short recording session…

Midnight Improvisation 062911

In contrast with 062111, this time I decided to try a steady bass to support the melody.

Improvisations are probably the best way to express my feelings at this stage. Lately, I often feel as if I have lost the structure and direction of my life, and my creativity has also dwindled. I can think of a few reasons why this happened, but understanding the causes doesn’t help regain my focus. If I can’t capture a whole picture, I suppose at least I could try to catch pieces of fragments floating in the air.

June 24

Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1

Another midnight concert –

Chopin Nocturne Op. 9. No. 1

This is my third home recording of Chopin Nocturnes. The first two recordings used my old microphones and will need to be redone later to match the sound quality of my new recordings.

I’m starting to realize this is going to be a never ending project that just started – music practice, recording, writing…etc, or just being a artist.

Also started a facebook page today. Be sure to “like” it to receive updates of my new recordings, projects and blog posts.

 

June 22

Midnight Improvisation

A short midnight improvisation for those who are still awake —

improvisation 062111

This was recorded with my new Rode NT5 Studio pair and Shure PG27. I had trouble recording directly through Audition because of some setting problems(and still can’t figure out) so it was first recorded in Audacity, exported to mp3 file, and then minimally edited in Audition with the hiss reduction effect.

May 30

New Recording Gears

After months of research, I finally made a decision on my first recording equipment kit, and ordered everything online yesterday. Here are the list of the equipments I will be using for future home recordings..

 

Shure PG27 condenser microphone (I purchased this microphone partly because it was packaged with an X2U signal adapter and I thought an USB adapter is handy to have)

Rode NT5 stereo pair (originally I was thinking about buying Shure KSM137 stereo pair, but they were just a little over my budget. Hopefully Rode NT5 will also do a decent job recording my piano).

Musicians Gear tripod mic Stands w/fixed boom

Monster cable and Mogami silver series cable (wasn’t sure which one was better so I bought both to try out)

Tascam US-800 audio/mini interface (originally was thinking about getting a Tascam DP-008 because of its simplicity and portability, but it only had two condenser microphone inputs and I would need three or more)

 

I have been using Audacity as my recording software. Since my recordings (classical music on a grand piano) will all be done with minimal editing and mixing, Audacity does pretty much everything I need. However, I recently acquired Adobe Audition CS5.5 from a friend, and after playing with it for a few hours, I realized the benefit of having a more advanced recording software. The “hiss reduction” in Audition easily removed the microphone noise in my old recordings(Chopin Op.9 No.2) without altering the original piano sound. Here are the comparisons…

Original

After applying Hiss Reduction

Being new to home recording, I was pretty amazed by the wonder of modern technology. I also tried to use the noise reduction in Audacity and Audition but it was rather confusing to me and I wasn’t able to make it remove only the microphone noise. The hiss reduction works great.

Anyway..in the past two weeks I have been very absorbed in my research, and didn’t get to practice enough. Hopefully the new equipments will motivate me to practice and record more.

 

May 18

New Recordings and Music Night at Single Smile Cafe

Added two new recordings to the recordings page today — updated Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.3 (second take) and the popular Nocturne Op.9 No.2 (first take). No.3 is a new piece for me. Just started three weeks ago and probably still need to work on it for a little longer.

I played both pieces at Single Smile Cafe tonight. Keith Miller, a member from the Greater Summerville Music Forum (which I just recently joined) started the “Acoustic Night” for musicians and anyone who enjoys free live music with a cup of coffee on a nice summer night. The current plan is to hold the acoustic night every Tuesday from 6-8pm, and anyone who plays music is welcome to bring an instrument, share some music in a relaxing setting with a supportive audience. The little cafe was packed tonight. I met a few talented musicians and exchanged a lot of ideas with them. We stayed until the cafe closed at 9. It was great fun.

Earlier today I also had my first practice session with an 8-hand piano group. It has been too long since I had to sight read so much, but I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to our next practice session in two weeks.

Striving for perfection is important, and so is the sheer enjoyment of playing. It was a happy day for me today.

March 22

Classical Music on Netflix

I have had a Netflix subscription for a while, but it was not until recently that I started to notice a few movies and documentary about music on their DVD list. Today, while browsing their category, I was pleasantly surprised to see a music&musicals category. I watched this documentary “They Came to Play” on instant streaming and loved it. Having been an amateur pianist until age 21, I found this documentary  on  the 2007 International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs truly inspiring. Even though I eventually had professional training in music, very often I still find myself an amateur pianist at heart.