A Big Reason Why I Have a Career as a Music Transcriber

I was browsing through my Facebook page when I found this string of comments from a Steve Stine post:

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One of the guys who commented on the new GuitarZoom “Guitarists of the 80s” course said, “Hey buddy! Are you reading the music to these leads as you play??”

Steve replied, “Tom, just wrote them out in my head and played them…”

Most of the time (myself included), many musicians write out their music inside their heads and just go out to play them. Another thing is that most of these musicians don’t have the time (or patience!) to write them out on paper for themselves. Let’s face it. The fact still stands that music transcription requires time, effort, and heaps of patience. These musical geniuses (like my buddy Steve Stine) give folks like me some kind of employment, and I am very thankful for that. Such musicians provide one big reason why I have a career as a music transcriber.

Perhaps there will come a time that the compositions inside my head will bring me great financial reward to the extent that I’ll just hit “record”, start playing, and then I could never be bothered to write them out on paper for myself. That would be a time that I will probably hire someone just like me to write them all out.

Until then, I’m the one being hired to do that sort of documentation. I really got nothing to complain about.

The Janko Keyboard: Very Innovative Yet Oddly Unpopular

It took me years and years of training on the piano to get to a somewhat competent level. For basic technique, I had to learn 48 scales with 48 different fingerings (12 major, 12 natural minor, 12 harmonic minor, and 12 melodic minor scales). I also had to learn various arpeggios in all 12 keys. Add to that pentatonics, blues scales, and seven modes in seven different keys plus variations, and that’s a lot of work without even getting into playing some real music. While it probably is easy to read music using the traditional piano keyboard, it is hard work to get technique up to real good shape. No wonder why starting young is a good thing when learning the piano; it’s such hard work.

Why can’t the piano as we know it today be like the guitar where you can learn just one scale or chord shape yet be able to play that same scale or chord shape in all 12 keys? How I wish that the piano could be like the guitar in that aspect. It’s a good thing that some people thought it can be like that. Case in point, Paul Vandervoort demonstrates such a possibility in the video below:

Mr. Vandervoort here is playing an otherwise normal piano fitted with what is known as a Janko keybooard.  As explained in the video, such a keyboard has great benefits such as:

  1. Easy transposition:  Play a scale shape, chord, arpeggio, or melodic passage in all 12 keys.
  2. Reach intervals beyond an octave easily, even if you have small hands.

I find it odd that the Janko keyboard’s practical and ergonomically sound design was not enough to supplant the otherwise difficult traditional piano keyboard. Has centuries of traditional piano keyboard use shackled us pianists to the past that we find it hard to embrace the future?

If given a chance, I’d like to have a piano and a MIDI controller with a Janko Keyboard layout. That’s going to save me so much effort in the long run.


Greg Bennett Electrics (Samick) No Longer in Production

I am a proud owner of a Greg Bennett Concord CD3. I call it my all-purpose guitar simply because I can use it for every genre or style of music. It has a fixed Tune-o-Matic bridge so it’s very easy to maintain. It plays so well and can hold it’s ground against the Fenders, the Gibsons, the Ibanezes, and the ESPs (this I know because I’ve played every one of those guitars). It is an underrated guitar hence its relatively affordable price point. Unfortunately (or fortunately in the case of a collector), Samick has ceased production of every electric guitar in the Greg Bennett line. I wonder why.

If you check out the Greg Bennett web site, all of the electrics and the basses are now in “The Vault”, meaning that such models are now out of production. My friend, Allan, store manager of Lazer Superior Musical Instruments in SM Bicutan said before that I had acquired one of the last remaining Greg Bennett Concords in the Philippines. How many of those were actually shipped here I would not know, but I’m glad I got mine 2 years ago.

If you have the money for another guitar and you see a Greg Bennett, I suggest that you get it. When properly set up, they play very well and they sound really good. I like mine so much that I would never trade it for my friend Pastor Abong’s U.S. made Fender Showmaster or any other electric for that matter. Matter of fact is that if I can get another Greg Bennett Concord, I’ll go have it fitted with locking tuners and a floating Wilkinson bridge (or some other floating bridge that is easy to maintain, the opposite of a Floyd Rose).

So, to those people who have got themselves a a Greg Bennett electric, I salute all of you for making a great choice. Take care of your Greg Bennett electric because I doubt you’ll see another one again.

SMALL UPDATE: Greg Bennett now designs guitars under the Ethan Hart name. They look really good.