Come and meet MJ - the 1st place winner of 2013 Piano Improvisation Contest. You will learn more about her musical journey in this blog article.
Location: Illinois, United States
Song she improvised: You
How long have you been playing the piano?
I really cannot quantify the length of time I have been playing the piano because I don't play the piano regularly (its a shame!). It is like an ON/OFF situation since 2011. I play the piano whenever I have the time. I work weekdays and my commute takes 3 hours a day so it's kind of tough to squeeze playing the piano in my schedule. I try my best to do it on weekends. It was in the later part of 2012 that I kind of started improvising. Thats when I composed my very first music, YOU. I felt great about it and I ended up making more music. By the way, I never had any formal piano lessons. I learned it through the fake books piano courses (the first and second piano courses I got from PianoMother). These piano courses put me on the right track. When I retire, the one thing I would love to do full time is to play the piano.
What was the first song you learned to play on the piano?
I think it was the simplest arrangement of Silent Night.
What is your favorite song to play on the piano?
It is a Tagalog love song, Saan Ka Man Naroroon (Wherever You Are, not sure if this is the right translation) hopefully Ill remember how to play it.
What is your favorite musician?
I really don't have a favorite musician in mind until I saw Yoke's performances online and in her DVDs. This is one reason why I love watching and listening to Yoke. She captures my heart every time she plays the piano. I love how she gently touches the keys, her fingers are just flowing so smoothly showing how passionate she is in playing the piano. Yoke has made a big difference in my love for piano playing. I thought I can only play the piano when there's music sheet in front of me, not anymore.
What inspired you to learn piano improvisation
When I saw/heard Yoke play, how she can change a very simple melody into something very beautiful, it made me wonder if I can do it and how will I do it. Another reason is not being able to play the piano without music sheet and when the songs started to get so boring.
How did you learn piano improvisational techniques?
There's only one answer to this. I learned piano improvisational techniques through Yoke Wong's piano courses. They are very effective learning materials.
How did you like Yoke Wong's piano courses and free newsletters? What did you learn from them?
I love her piano courses because I was able to learn how to dress up a song, learn how to use the different left hand styles, add fillers and most importantly how to improvise. Her DVDs made it so much easier for me to follow the piano courses. About the newsletters, they are very informative and what is nice about it is that anyone can sign up for free. The newsletters give everyone the chance to preview the different piano courses being offered. I am so grateful to Yoke and her hard work on putting together those piano courses for us. She made me love more what I like to do. These are great piano courses.
What advice would you give to all the piano players out there?
I have always loved playing the piano just for my own enjoyment at home. Joining any musical contest never entered my mind, let alone my video ending up in the internet (but its cool!), not even in my wildest dreams but it was made possible by Yoke Wong. You never know where music will take you. This whole thing was a great experience for me.
All I can say is, as long as your passion to play the piano is coming from your heart, nothing should stop you from pursuing it. Don't let frustrations prevent you from doing it. Just be patient and follow your hearts desires. I would advise the piano players out there to continue playing the piano as long as they can (which I am planning to do myself), to utilize to the fullest their God given talents and to share their music to the world. For those who are already playing the piano, those who are just starting to play the piano and those who are planning to play the piano, I would highly recommend visiting PianoMother's website because they have tons of valuable learning materials in Yoke Wongs piano courses which can enhance your piano playing to a higher level. With Yoke Wong's piano courses, we can make beautiful music. Let your heart dictate your music because music is the language of the soul. The soul expresses its feelings through music. Thanks again Yoke Wong and God Bless. MJ
Comment from Yoke Wong:
Big congrats to MJ!
You really have inspired other piano players to continue to stretch beyond the limit and bring out the best in them. You are growing by leaps and bounds in such a short period big kudos! I see you have applied techniques that were covered in our fake book, 121 left hand styles, and other courses. Great work!
I enjoyed watching and listening to your left hand styles you have combined ballad with tango style interchangeably in the music. The melody was beautifully arranged as well. There are some nice musical phrasings! Overall this is a nice piano piece!
You may consider practicing and working out the left hand separately. There are a few times when you moved the left hand and it slowed down the tempo as your eyes were paying attention to the left hand movement. Another area of improvement is the pedaling skills whenever you switched to different chord or different phrase, change the pedal swiftly to avoid muddy or cloudy sound.
I admire your determination and focus - despite long commute time and working full time, you devoted time to practice piano!
You definitely have many fans and friends that voted for you :-
This is what life is all about - having circle of friends and network that support you!