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‘My Journey From Playing Piano to Genos!’ – Guest article

Paul Herrington

It was discovered from an early age that I had a ‘musical’ ability which was fostered by my Parents, by finding me a local Piano teacher (in Bradford, West Yorkshire) near where we lived. So lessons were duly attended on a regular basis, with progress being made, so much so,  that Piano exams were taken as well as being entered in Piano Classes at local Music Festivals. Alongside the playing, Theory was given me to study, so that alongside the ‘playing’ came the understanding of what and how I was playing.

It is hard for me to be able to state categorically when it became obvious that I had learnt to ‘read music’.   How long it took me to become proficient in two handed playing – reading Treble and Bass Clef, I do not remember, but it happened! By the time I was 11 we had moved to the Isle of Wight and I had further lessons with an accomplished teacher whose reputation was known all over the Island.  More exams, more theory, more Music festivals, duet playing and playing organ for Church services, plus learning to play Bugle (in the Boy’s Brigade), Cornet and Violin during my school days all led to a variety of ‘musical’ experiences.

Then came the big transition into the big world of London as I was offered a place at the Royal Academy of Music studying Piano, Organ, Harmony, History (although I am not a historian!). This course lasted for three years, although I also learnt Violin for one year only.

Then I decided that I wanted to become a school ‘music teacher’ which happened after I completed a one year course at Bretton Hall College, near Wakefield and took up a teaching post in a comprehensive school (11-18 year olds) in Doncaster.  After one year I moved to Brighouse and became Head of Music in an 11-16 Secondary School, still playing Piano, Organ, Cornet/Trumpet both in and out of school.

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Eventually in 1980 we came to Oxford for me to take on leading the Music at St.Aldates Church where many opportunities took place in playing, directing, leading a Choir, conducting, arranging and some composing. (Still using Piano as the basis of my music making).

In 1991 after a break from St.Aldates, I took on the role as Music Coordinator at a local Oxford Middle School and was there for 10 years, BUT it was at this school that I started working with Yamaha Electronic Keyboards, as they were becoming popular in music lessons throughout the country.  Small, cheap, portable, they were just right for getting children into music making, as well as using conventional classroom instruments (Xylophones, Glockenspiels, recorders etc) and still I could accompany the classroom ‘ensemble’ on the piano – no worries about the keyboards going out of tune!

So the language of a Yamaha keyboard became ingrained into the memory – Style, Voice, Dual, tempo tap…..etc. But still they were limited in the range of notes that you could play. The next stage of my work saw me working for the Oxfordshire County Music Service as Head of Electronic Keyboards, but by then (2001) keyboards had progressed with additional facilities for recording and storing music on ‘floppy discs!’

Working with the County Music Service saw me teaching Electronic Keyboards in various Schools, generally in groups of four and on occasions running ‘workshop’ sessions in Oxford for lots of keyboards ( up to 20 at a time!)   This was good fun, as it meant that the term Keyboard Orchestra (or ensemble) could be introduced and music arranged for various instrumental ‘voices’ thus creating the Orchestral feel. During this period (2003 onwards) I became acquainted with the Yamaha Music School and how Yamaha were putting the latest models into school music departments so that schools could use them during the day and then Yamaha ran clubs in the school during  the evenings. Obviously by now, I discovered ‘One Man Band’ in Banbury (which is now ePianos.co.uk) and witnessed lots of other keyboards that had been introduced into the keyboard market – Clavinovas to name one.

The keyboard revolution had arrived! Fascinated by what facilities were available on these new models and keen to become familiar with them and to use them for my work in some Primary Schools (producing backing tracks, so that when I was away, all that needed to be done was for a teacher to press play and hey presto, there I was accompanying the children!!!)

Naturally, the arranging bug had taken hold, but as I had a Bechstein upright piano at home, I could not really get a Clavinova into the same room, then, hey presto, what arrived on the scene,  TYROS 1, duly purchased from OMB! Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which way one looks at it) I happened to know the Sales Manager for Yamaha, who kept letting me know when Tyros 2, 3, 4,  5 was expected to make a debut……!! Of course I used to ask the inevitable question….when’s Tyros 6 due?

By now, I had procured a Tyros 5 and thoroughly enjoyed playing that model at various events, or making backing Cd’s for a friend of mine who is an ex-pro Soprano, learning from various tutorial sessions (which took place at ePianos.co.uk), watching how other people used the Tyros 5 and looking at techniques to support their playing of their favourite style of music.

Now I have arrived at the Genos with all it’s marvellous facilities that make it a great ‘digital workstation’, giving me a range of ‘keyboard/piano’ voices;  Organ voices, that have enabled me to play a re-worked version of Widor’s Toccata; recording CD’s for Recorders at school; Orchestrating accompaniments so that I can play solo piano in such pieces as The Dambuster’s March through to Dancing Queen (ABBA). Plus a ‘touch’ screen!  Wow!

So, what will follow the Genos??…

I leave you with this question!  I know what most players have to do with their ‘right’ hand, but how do you basically tackle using the ‘left’ hand??  Watch this space!

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Paul Herrington
Music Teacher FVCM: LRAM; ALCM; AVCM; Cert Ed. FRSA

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