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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review of “Spirit of the Snail” on Le jars jase jazz 🇬🇧

Review (in French) of Jim Funnell’s Word Out’s second studio album Spirit of the Snail on jazz critic Guillaume Lagrée’s blog Le jars jase jazz (also available on paperblog.fr).


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 are 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


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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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review of “Word Out” on Le jars jase jazz 🇬🇧

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


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 Snail; 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


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