Imagine by John Lennon – My Solo Piano Version

What this post is about

I love the song Imagine by John Lennon; not only because it is a musical master piece, but the lyrics are so deep and inspiring!

So I thought I’d make it into an instrumental version for solo piano, and attach a little message to it. That’s how the idea of the video was born. John’s lyrics are the perfect message for Donald Trump. I explain it in detail below, but you may want to first watch the video. It is pretty self-explanatory.

Learn how I arranged the song Imagine for Solo Piano

In case you are a keyboardist who wants to learn how I arranged this song I have good news for you: I posted an article on my blog PopJazzKeys.com at popjazzkeys.com/imagine with the sheet music where I show you the arranging techniques I used to creat my piano solo version.

But before you head over there, please read on if you are at all interested in the political context I put this song in.

Imagine – A Message for Donald Trump

Why this song is more relevant than ever today

John’s song (written almost 30 years ago) could have been written today as a message to Donald Trump.
Why?
Because the world John invisions in his song “Imagine” couldn’t be more different from the world Donald Trump represents. John sings about his vision of a unified peaceful and all inclusive world “No Possessions…, …No Countries (no country = no boarders)…, Sharing All The World…, about Brotherhood and Peace”.  
Contrary to that Trump is all about possessions and isolationism, strongly focused on creating a disconnected world ruled by self-centered leaders who all fight for themselves while taking advantage of the less privileged.

 Thank you John for this wonderful and timeless song!
And peace to all of us!

Life’s A Dream, When You Keep Dreams Alive

What dreams are we talking about

I define dream as the intense desire for something we want more than anything in the world; something we dream about at night, and can’t stop thinking about all day. Furthermore, the dream I am talking about is not like winning the lottery. It is the kind of dream we have to work for, and are willing to sacrifice other things to achieve it. Only those kind of dreams ultimately energize us, focus our efforts, and make us live up to our potential.

Your dream(s) can still come true

Everyone has – or had at some point in their life – a big dream. Unfortunately, it is easy to give up on our dreams for all the wrong reasons.
My song Life’s A Dream, When You Keep Dreams Alive wants to revive the hope in you that one day your dream(s) can still come true, as long as you don’t give up believing in them, and as long as you keep them with you day and night.
There are many personal stories of people that prove that if we just want something badly enough, it’s only a matter of time that we will achieve it.

We are (NOT!) born a couch potato

Someone once told me this: “We are all born to become couch potatoes”. I couldn’t disagree more with this kind of pessimistic thinking! We only become lazy when we give up on our ambitions, in other words, when we ignore our hopes and dreams that drive us to do more with our lives than just waiting for a lottery ticket to come through.

Don’t you give up on your dream(s)!

Life can really grind us down when we don’t pay attention to our dreams anymore. Successful people know that learning to embrace failure is a prerequisite for becoming successful. They don’t give up on their dreams no matter how often they fail. In fact, failure only motivates them to work harder.

It’s all about the journey

The bottom line is that when we believe our dreams will come true, our life already feels like a wonderful dream. In that sense, it doesn’t matter at all whether we reach a particular dream. All that counts is that we enjoy the process of trying to make it a reality.

I truly hope that this song inspires everyone to believe in and pursue their dreams with all they’ve got.

Wake up your dreams,
Embrace them and trust them,
Turn your life into a dream!

Quote from song

View or download the free sheet music below.

Lyrics to LIFE’S A DREAM, WHEN YOU KEEP DREAMS ALIVE!

1. Verse (female voice)

Life is made of dreams,
those dreams that live within us;
they show us a world without boundaries;
they give us hope,
and make us happy;
you won’t believe
what dreams can do.

2. Verse (male voice)

Dreams come from our imagination,
filled with desire
that we can’t ignore.
Follow your dreams
and you’ll be changing
for you will find out that your

1. Chorus

life’s a dream,
when you bring dreams to life;
life’s a dream,
when you keep dreams alive,
life’s a dream, when you’re living your dreams;
keep dreaming, turn your life into a dream!

stop wasting time,
welcome your dreams now!
keep them with you every night and day.
Dreams do come true,
for you and me, too!
So let us toast to dreams once more.

2. Chorus

Life’s a dream,
when you bring dreams to life;
life’s a dream,
when you keep dreams alive,
life’s a dream,

when you believe in dreams.

3. Chorus

Life’s a dream,
when you bring dreams to life;
life’s a dream,
when you keep dreams alive,
life’s a dream,

when you wake up to your dreams.
believe in…

Outro

life’s a dream,
keep dreaming!
life’s a dream,

keep dreaming!
life’s a dream,
when you bring dreams to life.
Wake up your dreams!

Wake up your dreams!
embrace them (embrace them!)

and trust them,
turn your life into a dream!

Das Meer (The Sea) – an original song by Thomas Gunther

About the song Das Meer (The Sea)

I wrote the song Das Meer as part of the accompanying music to a text by Oscar Wild called “The Young King”. The Song “Das Meer” (The Sea) describes the sea in all its different facets. I finally found the time to record it and create this video.

Composing music in the style of Debussy and other composers of the impressionistic period is an exception for me. I am much more at home in more jazz influenced styles and genre. This said, most contemporary jazz pianists are or at least have been influenced by the classical repertory of the past 300 years for good reason.
“Das Meer” is written out note by note, from start to finish. In that it is different from how I usually compose and arrange music. Often I give the performer(s) the possibility to improvise between written out parts.

Maybe one day I will add an improvisational section to it. Or use the different sections as a source for improvising variations instead of playing them as written. Music is a living and breathing art after all.

View or download my original sheet music for Das Meer below for free.

Should you ever decide to perform the piece I would love for you to forward me a link to the audio or video of the recording.
And I encourage you to interpret the music in your own way. Can’t wait to hear what you do with it.

About creating the video

Creating the video was also a lot of fun. I love working with graphics. Many concepts of the visual arts are similar to composing music. Maybe I should not deal with it given the amount of time it takes just learning all the software. But hey, I have fun with it, and save a ton of money. I also believe that somehow it will improve the way I create music. The brain works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it!

Classic German Christmas Songs CD

I am proud to announce my newest music production:

A Blues & Jazz inspired CD of Classic German Christmas Songs, featuring Herbert Quelle ( the German Chancellor General of Germany to the United Stated of America) on Harmonica.

What, is it already Christmas again?

Well, no. I just wanted to be early to make sure everything is in place for the Holiday madness.

To learn all about it just click/tap on the photo below.

Swing Fever Song Review

Dear Swing Music Fans and Dancers!

The first official review of my original Swing Fever Song is here and I’d like to share it with you. Health Andrews, an independent writer selected by Arial Publicity, conducted and wrote the review.

A note of caution: We can all agree that reviews by nature can never be 100 percent objective and therefore should not be overvalued. 
It is also rather rare that a review is positive all the way from start to finish. I’ve found that even when the writer likes a song there will be at least a view things she/he didn’t like about it, and if only to give the article more credibility.

This being said, I think that Health Andrews did a great job with his review of Swing Fever Song.
In regards to what he wrote about the lyrics let me just say this: Made in Germany 😉

To read the review click on Swing Fever Song Review , or use the download button to download the pdf.

The Silver Bullet to Successful Song Writing

Is there a Silver Bullet to Successful Song Writing?

You want to become a song writer, and a successful one at that. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to successful song writing, no one method that would guarantee you that. However, there are a few things you can do that help you become a better song writer. This article will explore those things.

Things you can do to become a better song writer

There are many aspects to song writing that need to be mastered before writing great songs. Besides good song writing genes, there are some basic things that help boost your song writing skills.

1. Listen to a lot of great songs

Most people don’t understand that listening, or more accurately, active listening, is the key requirement for becoming a good song writer. Question: would you belief me if I told you that Mozart was able to play the piano and compose music without ever hearing music before? Of course not! Although he was certainly very gifted he was also born into a very musical family and exposed to music from the very beginning of his life.
My point is that before you can write music you first need to listen to a lot of songs. This may come as a shock to you, but we rarely invent something completely new when we write a song. Instead, most of the time we unconsciously “borrow” small ideas from other songs and rearrange them into something new. I guarantee you that you can analyze any contemporary song and find snippets of its harmonic progression and melody in thousands of other songs.

Bottom line: you need to put something into your brain first before you can create something, and the more you put in the more it has to work with!

2. Perform

There is no doubt that imitating, meaning playing and singing great songs from other writers, is the best way to get a deeper understanding of what great songs are made of. It will eventually inspire your brain to come up with its own songs. Perhaps they won’t be as good at first, but they will get better the more you do it, which brings me to my next important point, the importance of creating songs and archiving your ideas.

3. Create songs and archive your ideas

We need to strengthen our creative muscle at all times. Write down or record every musical idea that pops into your head. If it worked for Gershwin, who was known for carrying a notebook with him at all times, it may just as well work for you.
The most important thing is to just start writing. The writing process differs from person to person. Some like to have a message they want to share with the world, others like to start with a musical idea such as a melody, groove, or a chord progression. It may be even different with each song. What’s most important is that you let it flow, meaning don’t be judgmental, and just let your creativity take you wherever it wants to go. Later, you can think about it, analyze it, and change things, but not while you are in “the zone”.

Make sure you immediately save your ideas. For example, I use my smart phone to record my ideas when and where ever I get them. Of course there is also nothing wrong with using pencil and paper. Just make sure you archive your ideas for later use. If you don’t you risk to loose an idea that could have become the main ingredient for the next big hit. You never know!

4. Learn to play the piano

The piano is the best instrument to get a better understanding of how music works. There are two reasons for that:

  • The keyboard is the only instrument that represents scales with their whole-steps and half-steps visually  in a logical fashion.
  • We can play harmonic progressions on the keyboard as opposed to only melodies

It’s a fact that all higher education institutions make their music students take piano lessons, whether they are classical, jazz, or pop musicians, regardless what other instruments they already play.

5. Study Music Theory

Music theory is something a lot of song writers would like to do without. As a matter of fact, there are some successful song writers that never have taken a theory class in their life. If you want to write songs that only have two or three chords and a simple melody you may do just fine without any theory at all. However, I do believe that every passionate musician eventually develops a natural curiosity about how music works, why certain chords sound good with others, why certain notes sound bad with certain chords, etc.

To me music theory was always one of the most fascinating aspects about music. I believe that a solid knowledge of music theory can definitely help your writing. It will also help you understand what great songs are made of through analyses of there different compositional elements which will most definitely inspire you to adapt some of them for your own righting.

A note of caution! The theory can also get in the way of the music. Let me explain. After accumulating some music theory you might find yourself writing with your brain instead of your ear. As a result your song could sound engineered rather than inspired. This being said, once the theory is internalized, it usually inspires your creativity. For example, it may make you use a chord progression that you would have never thought of if you didn’t have a chance to explore it through music theory. Confused? Let me give you an example: there are actually many jazz and pop songs where it is quite apparent that the composer consciously or unconsciously applied learned theory to his/her song. However, those songs turned out to be great songs anyway because the composer obviously found a way to apply the theory in a tasteful and musical manner.

In short, look at theory as another source of inspiration. Beyond that, theory also teaches us how to read and write music and chord symbols, and how music works.

Exporting Parts as Audio Files in Finale (Training Video included)

In this video I demonstrate how to export Finale parts as audio files. Once you exported them as audio files you can import them into your favorite DWS program for further manipulation.

Why would one want to export the parts from a Finale score as audio files?

Finale is known primarily for its rich music notation features. Unfortunately, many users are unaware that Finale has also a very sophisticated and unique audio engine called Human Playback. What it does is very different from a midi sequencer. The idea is that the human playback engine interprets the music in a musical way similarly to how a musician does it. This is discussed in more detail in the post Why You Want to Use Finale for Playback.
The point I am trying to make is that Finale’s audio playback of e.g. a string score can actually sound very musical, in fact, much more musical than a sequencer program does. This is because it interprets many things like dynamics, articulations, bowing instructions, tremolos, trills, fermatas, phrasing, text expressions, in a humanized fashion.

Why You Want to Use Finale for Playback

Finale’s unique Human Playback Engine

Many Finale users are unaware that Finale has a very sophisticated and unique audio engine called Human Playback. It functions very differently from an ordinary midi sequencer interpreting music in a musical way similarly to how a musician does it. Although this may sound slightly overstated, there is a lot more to it. Allow me to explain.

What the Human Playback Engine does

Finale’s Human Playback interprets almost every music notation symbol and text expression you write into a part such as dynamics, articulations, bowing instructions, phrase markings, tremolos, trills, glissandos, phrasing, technical text, genre and style, tempo marks, breath marks and fermatas. It even offers a dialog box where you can personalize how Finale interprets those musical elements.

I started to use Finale more frequently for generating beautiful sounding playbacks. Most of my clients like to hear my scores after they are finished. Of course I could just export the entire score as a stereo audio file. But I like to go the extra mile and export either instrument groups or every single part of the score as a separate audio file. Why? Because I want to improve the sound by importing the files into Logic or Pro Tools where I have all those beautiful plug-ins and automation options to make each part sound even better.

Sure, doing it that way will take a little extra time, or even a lot more time depending on the instrumentation, but as a perfectionist I like to go the extra mile. Unless of course, I can afford to hire a real orchestra to record it.

Midi versus Audio

Why would I not just export the score as a midi file and import that into Logic or Pro Tools? Simply because most of the Human Playback’s unique information is specific to the Garritan sound library used by Finale. Sound libraries that are used in Logic or Pro Tools are not able to process this information properly.

Bottom Line

Once you have created your score take advantage of Finale’s Human Playback feature. You can select from many different genre. You can even tell Finale to which degree you want the eighth notes to be swung. I find it a fantastic way of transferring all the information I put into a score to an audio file without having to write any time consuming automation data. Try it! I know you are gonna love it!

See the article on Exporting Parts as Audio Files in Finale (Training Video included).

Do blind pianists have an advantage?

 

Call me crazy, but I am convinced that blind pianists to some degree have an advantage over the rest of us. Let me explain.

“We do not play with our eyes. We play with our touch, ears, and imagination”.

Franz Liszt, virtuoso pianist – who was, by the way, not blind!

Below is a list of some blind jazz and pop pianists that made it big:

  • Marcelo Bratke: blind classical pianist
  • Art Tatum: arguably the greatest jazz pianists of all times
  • Ray Charles: pop singer and pianist
  • George Shearing: jazz pianist who developed the so called “Shearing Sound” based on block chords
  • Stevie Wonder: few know what a great jazz pianist Stevie actually is, because he is most famous for his brilliant song writing and singing.

Listening to those brilliant blind pianists could indeed lead us to conclude that our eyes are unnecessary when it comes to playing the piano. For example, it is well documented that blind people have a better developed memory for acoustic events, a skill they are forced to develop in order to compensate for their missing eye sight, of course.

 Here is a great tip:

Have you ever played the piano blindfolded?

 Try it:

Blindfold yourself, or make the room completely dark, and play the piano. By the way, I take no responsibility for any insure or damage that may be caused by this experiment; watch your step!

Once you are done write down everything you noticed about this experience. If you can’t think of anything, try answering the following questions:

  • How did it make you feel?
  • What was different from “playing with your eyes”?
  • Did the keys feel differently?
  • Were you focusing more on playing than usually?
  • How did it sound?
  • Did you make more mistakes?
  • Which passages where especially difficult to play?

I find this to be an amazing exercise that helps me sharpen my awareness of how I am sitting, the distance between the keys, the feel of the keys, the sound, all of which are things I usually don’t pay attention to. It also seems to increase my focus on the music, because there is no visual distraction that can get in the way.

 Conclusion

Maybe we should always play as if we were blind. Admittedly, being able to see the keys may give us a higher sense of security, especially when our hands travel great distances. But then again, Art Tatum didn’t miss a key even when he jumped over 3 octaves in a milli second. I observed famous concert pianists perform the most difficult music without once looking at their hands or the keyboard. Instead, their eyes are often directed towards the ceiling or straight ahead. I often wondered why they do this. Fact is that many brilliant pianists recommend not to watch the fingers and keys if at all possible. You may assume that not watching the keys, hands and fingers gives you less control, but it is just the opposite. Looking at the hands can actually greatly distract a pianist; not only that, but it actually might cause memory slips and other unwanted side effects.

Closing words

The key to playing the keys seems to be more than anything – as Liszt pointed out so poetically – in our touch, ears, and imagination.

So let’s all close our eyes and focus on the music instead of staring at our hands!