But that man is an absolute genius on the piano! If you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to Chilly Gonzales, I invite you, one and all, to sample his wares. His most recent album, Solo Piano II follows up an earlier work titled, you guessed it, Solo Piano. But he is so much more than a pianist! Over the past 20 years he has dipped his toes in pop, electronic, eclectic, and rap, amongst other things. He has done some fantastic projects with a list of talented artists as long as my arm, with my favorites being a piece he did with Feist and an orchestral rap concert he put on with The Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna. The man knows no artistic bounds! He even played a 27 hour long piano concert to break the previous Guiness record. I could sit here and link you to amazing music all night long but there’s no chance you would click on all the links so I’ll try to narrow my focus a bit.
Chilly has had a profound impact on my harmonica compositions and I think there are beautiful lessons to be learned from his music. I was fortunate enough to be gifted tickets to his Toronto show this past week and he said something that really stuck with me. He said, “I think you’ll find that most music is simple arpeggios put to rhythm and repeated.” He then proceeded to explain the concept of the arpeggio and how it formed the basis for his song, “Train of Thought”, which you can listen to below. Now how does this translate to harmonica, you ask?
Well, on a harmonica, unlike almost any other instrument, we have the gift of set intervals. While this can limit our available selection of notes, it sets us nicely on track to playing a good song. All we have to do is find a pleasant arrangement of notes within the order of the harmonica, put it to rhythm and, viola! Music! So take Chilly’s advice and play simple things repeated. Slightly alter your volume and the emotion behind your notes. Go back to the original. Speed things up a bit! And then slow. Them. Down. Back to the original. Even before hearing him say it the other night, this is one of the best things I had picked up from his music and tried to put into my own. And it works! So give it a try. Play any three notes on your harp. You can play around until you find three that you like. Then, once you have found a pleasing interval, add a bit of rhythm and repetition. I think you’ll find yourself creating better compositions in no time. For now, though, sit back and have a listen to “Train of Thought” from Chilly Gonzales’ latest album, Solo Piano II.
And for gods’ sake, after you’re done here go listen to some more Chilly Gonzales! You won’t be disappointed.