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Playing the Blues

[This post will be the first in a series.]

I love music.

Over the course of my life I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to perform in a variety of settings. There’s nothing I love more than playing for an audience, and no situation in which I feel more alive.

Recently, I’ve been taken with blues piano. I was classically trained as a kid and was looking for a different way to apply my skills. The blues can be vital and energizing, but also convey profound sadness when necessary. I think it sounds more pleasing to the ear than jazz, yet the fact that it’s improv-ed is something I find intensely appealing; no two performances can ever be exactly alike!

I’ve tried taking lessons but have found it difficult to get the right instructor. Usually the problems are logistical. Some weeks I don’t have enough time to practice, while other weeks I have too much (and end up longing for more assignments). Sometimes I just don’t have the time to drive to the instructor’s place, and other weeks I find I’ve gotten to the end of a lesson only to question why I’m forking over $X for it. I understand that nothing can replace 1-on-1 lessons with a skilled instructor, and I hope to eventually return to that arrangement at some point. It’s just not what will work for me right now.

So I sought out other means of learning. Specifically, I invested in a few piano books, including David Cohen’s series of blues piano books. I found them to be decent-to-good, but the biggest problem with any book system: it will only take you so far. Books obviously have a finite number of pages, and even the thickets ones can’t take you any further than what is contained inside the book. You can often exhaust the lessons within in a matter of weeks or months.

Enter Willie Myette, whose piano lesson websites I discovered while browsing the internet.

At first glance, Myette’s system of learning piano appears to offer several advantages:

1) They lessons are incredibly detailed, and allow you to recreate the pieces Myette plays precisely, down to the note.
2) The lessons are relatively cheap (Current prices are about $300 for a year of unlimited access to all sites. Getting a piano lesson with a real-life instructor can often cost as much as $100 per lesson, especially if you live in the Boston area, which has been blessed with some amazing music schools.
3) The lessons are full-featured, in the sense that they come with sheet music and lesson plans.
4) Most importantly: Myette continuously updates the site, with new lessons every week. This last point is crucial, as it replicates one of the most appealing elements of having a real-life teacher at only a fraction of the cost.

In the next few months, I will be going through some lessons on Myette’s website and seeing how I can improve my very, very limited blues abilities. I made a recent recording of myself just playing around so you can get an idea of where I’m starting at. Please note I don’t consider the following to be performance-ready by any means. It is just a recording of me randomly improvising (poorly):


Can Willie Myette make me a better piano player? I’m eager to find out. Watch this blog for future entries tracking my progress.