“meditative practicing” technique

The following “meditative practicing” technique comes in really handy when far away from your instrument.

All you have to do is choose a notated piece of music that you’ve got memorized and try and play it in your mind as precisely as possible, hearing it, and even feeling the touch of the piano (this also works if you play another instrument: just mentally recall the feeling you experience when playing your particular instrument). For pianists, Bach’s Inventions work well because they consist of two contrapuntal parts, which are already challenging enough to hear simultaneously with the mind’s ear. But you can choose virtually any piece of music. When a passage seems unclear, go back and “replay” it again, slower if necessary (just as you would when you practice on your instrument) until you’re able to hear each note, as well as each item of expression attached to each note, with utmost precision.

This technique certainly requires sharp concentration and thus works best in a calm environment. But if practiced correctly, its benefits are certainly to be felt as soon as you return to the piano (the following day for example – it’s always good to allow the mental exercise to fully sink in during the night…): overall, your knowledge of the piece will have been considerably strengthened; your memory won’t fail you and you’ll be able to concentrate on musicality right off the bat.


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cantabile style playing: practicing both legato and staccato

I’ve recently been working on most of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Two-Part Inventions as a kind of warm-up for the fingers and the ears (I learn them by heart and usually go through several first thing in the morning or at the beginning of each of my piano practice sessions). As I was playing No. 3 (D major) today, I realized I mostly was using legato phrasing and decided to venture into a staccato rendition of the piece. With the change of expression (staccato versus the former legato phrasing), I found myself much less self-assured: my memory failed me and I had to refer to the music on a couple of occasions. This, to me, was an indicator that I wasn’t hearing the melodic lines as clearly as I thought I was able to. Indeed, I don’t think my memory would have been caught off guard in that manner if a had been hearing them strong. So in addition to being a useful technical exercise, practicing cantabile style playing using both legato and staccato phrasing seems to be yet another great way to strengthen one’s inner hearing, and thus a very musical exercise. Highly recommended!


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“Spirit of the Sn@il” CD release: Le jars jase jazz review

Review of Word Out’s second album Spirit of the Sn@il on French jazz critic Guillaume Lagrée’s blog Le jars jase jazz (also available on paperblog.fr).

SOTSrecto02


Jim Funnell’s Word Out
“Spirit of the Snail”

Produced by Jim Funnell
Released on Tuesday, 22 September 2015
CD release concert at the Sunside in Paris at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 22 September 2015.

Jim Funnell: piano and compositions
Oliver Degabriele: acoustic bass
Thibault Perriard: drums
Isabelle Oliver: Harp

“Dear cosmopolitan and xenophile readers,

As you know, the EU motto is “United in diversity.” As far as politics is concerned, it remains to be proved. On the subject of music however, British pianist Jim Funnell, Maltese bassist Oliver Degabriele, and French drummer Thibault Perriard illustrate it perfectly every time they play together. I have already praised their music in concert and in the studio. On this album, the triad is augmented with the presence of harpist Isabelle Olivier. She is nor a feminine alibi for a masculine trio, neither a classical one for a jazz trio. Her harp sounds like the kora of a Mandinka master.”

“[ Jim Funnell’s ] music is the singular result of a thorough reflection on rhythms, sounds, and colors.”

“Whether you want to stimulate your ears, your brain, or get your limbs in motion, enter the Spirit of the Snail with Jim Funnell and his band!”

– Guillaume Lagrée

why it’s a good idea to practice soloing with the left hand while comping with the right hand…

To improve rhythmic independence? Of course. But also:

  • it might lead you to use different voicings than the ones you usually use for comping. Sometimes a voicing might be too low and sound muddy when played with the left hand in the lower part of the keyboard, but the same voicing played higher up will sound OK due to the absence of low interval limit restrictions;
  • the left hand is generally weaker and slower than the right hand. Such technical restriction forces you to rely more on musicality, inner hearing and singing when improvising with the left hand. When you then go back to improvising with the right hand, it feels a lot easier! Musicality is now right at your fingertips, with the greater technical ability of your strong hand available to serve it.

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Word Out CD release: Le jars jase jazz review

Review of Word Out’s eponymous debut album Word Out on French jazz critic Guillaume Lagrée’s blog Le jars jase jazz.

Word Out CD cover_545x545


Word Out
Self-produced, 2009

Jim Funnell: piano and compositions
Oliver Degabriele: acoustic bass
Thibault Perriard: drums

“Dear attentive and focused readers,

You may have noticed that I already praised Word Out in concert, when the trio gave a sneak preview of their freshly recorded upcoming album, Spirit of the Sn@il; I certainly will tell you all about its release in due time.

Meanwhile, since it’s never too late to do well, let me trumpet the delights and merits of their eponymous debut album Word Out, released in 2009.”

“Word Out does not claim to revolutionize the piano trio format. These young musicians are not conceited. They are simply fresh, alive, curious, open-minded, joyful, and listening to their music does heaps of good.”

“If I had to choose an excerpt from this album, it would be their version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (track no. 7). [ … ] Here, they take a classic, preserving its raw pop energy and conserving its British majesty while instilling a sense of swing typical of jazz music. A complete success from the first to last note.”

– Guillaume Lagrée

Improphile concert review in l’Echo Républicain

Article in L’Echo Républicain, prime daily newspaper providing local and regional information in Eure-et-Loir and the Centre-Loire Valley region (France), reviewing Word Out’s concert organized by Improphile, an association dedicated to promoting knowledge, information, practice, and diffusion of jazz and improvised music. The concert was held at Le Parvis in Chartres on May 26, 2012.

Les thèmes lyriques du jazz avec Word Out
L’Echo Républicain
2012-05-30

The lyrical themes of jazz with Word Out

“Jazz trio Word Out inflamed the Parvis’ cellar on Saturday night.

Led by Anglo-French charismatic pianist and inspired composer Jim Funnell, a Berklee College of Music alum, Word Out offers sophisticated yet accessible worlds.”

– Basem Shalabi