Friday, June 8, 2012

Guitars are old fashioned. Bring out the piano!

I am a guitarist, and one would expect my influences to be the guitar hero greats; Slash, Jimmy Page and whatever the guy from Queen is called. But they are not. These guitarists (even ones I admire like John Mayer) always come across as overbearing, arrogant, and generally distasteful.
But do not fear! I have found the salt and light of the musical world. Piano players!

I was asked by my guitar tutor a few weeks ago who was a guitarist I idolised, instantly three pianists names came to mind before I finally came up with The Edge, there is something about that instrument.

So I am going to pull up some random youtube videos of pianists and have a little ramble about why I like them.

Andrew McMahon - Jacks Mannequin "Amy I"

Listen to that intro! Stunningly simple, surprisingly groovy and twice as interesting as a guitar playing the same type of thing. 
Then the vocal comes in! Piano was actually built as a vocal accompanying instrument (people who play them in orchestras and concertos are being down right disrespectful), it sounds incredible with human voices and offers so much more percussive impact than a guitar ever could.
There that is what I wanted to say! Piano offers a percussive and melodic beauty to music.
Notice in the chorus that it provides powerful attack for the guitar part. Sure you are listening to the guitar, but drop that piano and you have a dead boring song.

                                                       Josiah Leming, "With Love"
I'll be honest, I am kind of just including this guy because he is really cool. But this also shows us more of the piano, this same song on the guitar would be sad and boring. But on piano it is an energetic, exciting song.
The piano is the whole band in this video, bass, chords, lead, rythym everything! He also plays a great little solo bit and the dyanamic variation in a piano is a powerful force of beauty.

 Foster the People - "Houdini"
This not only displays once again the power of the almighty piano, but also the spin off instrument the synthesizer! 
I don't have a lot to say except: could you make something this exciting with just a few guitars?

                                               Adele, "Turning Tables" (Ryan Tedder)

I don't really care about Adele or this song (actually I love them both), the reason I include this video is because it is a great example of songwriting talent. This was written (largely anyway) by Ryan Tedder and it won a couple of Grammys. There are others songwriters too, Paul McCartney wrote most of his songs on the piano, Chris Martin mostly writes on piano, Bono writes on piano, Elton John, Norah Jones, the list goes on and on!
My point being this: Pianists are better songwriters. And I've no idea why.

That is my aimless blurb about the piano. Guitars are old fashioned! Bring on the keyboard!!!

Dan Brunskill


  1. Nice work Dan. I fancy you'll probably find different instruments will inspire you at different points in your life. Do you think you would have been so into music if you had just had piano lessons all your life?

    BTW: Love the song Amy! Haven't heard it before.
    Also love the youtube inserts into the blog. Illustrates your point nicely.

  2. Thanks James! You are almost certainly correct, but do think guitars are become a little old fashioned. But fashion is just swings and roundabouts.

    The piano lessons is an issue, but a different one than what I was talking about. Piano lessons tend to be classical lessons, and you would just be better off suppressing any desire to create, cutting your hair in a bowlcut and getting stuck into an accounting degree. Most of those pianists are self-taughtish. Andrew McMahon learn by himself for a few years then did a year or two of lessons, then became a popstar.

    Amy I is an EPIC song! Go buy the album! It is full of positive piano rock songs just like that one! Positive music is so rare nowadays!
    Youtube inserts is a Ben Brunskill signature, that I will be adopting for future blogs!

  3. To make sense of the above comment please insert the following words and letters:
    I, ing, 's are, t

  4. Why doesn't blogger have a like button!!!!

  5. Nicely done sir! I can't really argue with any of this, and why would I? You're not trying to say that one type of instrument is empirically better than another, just that you're considering alternatives. That's brilliant.

    I find the comment about piano lessons both interesting and resonant with my experience. I learnt in Trinity schools for a while, felt constrained, learnt a bit of jazz, and then went off on my own-- and it wasn't until I started teaching myself that I really started to enjoy playing keys. But two thing must be said about that: one, that I'd never have gotten anywhere at all without that classical base and two, as Jeeves points out, playing (and learning) multiple instruments alongside each other- rather than just one- makes all the difference. They all feed into each other: the rhythmical concepts I learnt in my piano lessons make me a better drummer, and the chromatic nature of guitar helps me with piano, and so on.

    Whether you take lessons from the start is going to depend on your background and your latent natural talent. But I will say that ability and enjoyment in music are so closely related as to be almost the same thing. If you don't know how to do it, you'll have a rough time-- but if you don't enjoy what you're playing, all the lessons in the world aren't going to change that.

    1. Nicely put Tim! I also learnt classical guitar for about a year, I hated it, quitted and became a musician in my own right. But is was in that class I learnt how to pluck a string and hold a pic and what an A chord was and other basic guitar knowledge. That set me up to discover the rest myself. Now of course I am back in lessons for a year and they are driving me crazy!

      Multiple instruments is definitely the way to go! Keys, Drums, Guitar, Bass. Learn them all!