Thursday, February 25, 2010

End of the Road

This entry is heavier on geeky analysis than philosophy...

One of the problems I face when working on these songs (well, it's more of a choice than a problem - this isn't exactly the war on poverty here) is whether to focus on learning it as a solo arrangement, or as an accompaniment for a singer or part of an ensemble. Figuring out how to comp a groove to be part of a band or play for a singer is usually simpler than figuring a solo piano arrangement.

This is especially true with up-tempo R&B numbers that are thickly orchestrated. The horn licks, bass line and background vocals are so hip you don't want to leave anything out, but it's physically impossible to make all the seemingly indispensable parts happen at once with only two hands. I guess this explains why a lot of piano-vocal arrangements suck. Most piano parts include the melody line (which I think is retarded - the melody is a half-inch away in the vocal part if we need to play it! Give us a little credit here!), and just voice the chords very klunkily underneath the melody. It sounds like Schubert if you play the notes on the page. For those of us whose eyes still gravitate to the notes on the page when given the choice between notes and chord symbols, this is a little distressing. I think I must be reading the chords more these days, though; a couple times this week I have had to check the notes because the chord was wrong and didn't make sense... which tells me I'm reading the chord symbols more now. Yay! Can I have a cupcake?

Not until Easter. Humbug.

Today's song is "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men. It feels appropriate right now. This is a long-ass song - almost six minutes. (This is why I don't mess around with Mahler.) Classic example of too-much-going-on-for-two-hands-to-cover, not to mention the spoken parts that are just, well, impossible to express on a piano. So I'll memorize this one for accompanying purposes.

Simple form, harmonically. One A-section intro, then loosely A-A-B-A-A x 3 and then two more A sections of chorus. Lots of retrogressions. I'm not great at hearing these - I'm very much an up-a-2nd-down-a-3rd-down-a-5th kind of girl. I'm also not great at understanding compound chords (eg, F/A) within the key, which is a pain when I'm transposing. But that is why I'm doing this.

I haven't written this week because I've been busy with work and moving, and have had to take care of a couple of unexpected, unpleasant things. I'm looking forward to being on a new road soon.

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