Playground Sessions Global Piano Recital

Playground Sessions, the Piano Learning software company, recently provided a nearly month long “course” on the song “You Raise Me Up” that we students learned at the three different levels (Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced) and submitted our sections via video to Playground Sessions to form a global piano recital. I participated at the Rookie Level.

To see the results visit YouTube at this LINK.

It really turned out amazing.

Eulogy for Barbara Jean Sandlin

[Eulogy for Barbara Sandlin 1941-08-08 – 2020-05-19]

Irving Berlin said about death that “the song is ended, but the melody lingers on…”

My mother, Barbara Sandlin, born Barbara Belk during World War II, grew up in a musical and loving family, including aunts, uncles and cousins. Her father played several musical instruments, and her mother played the organ.

She was the oldest of two children. Her parents, Bill and Juanita, provided a loving and blessed home life for her and her brother, Ken. Barbara adored her brother his entire life. She was his cheerleader and support as they grew. Later she extended this to Ken’s family.

Barbara enjoyed participating in her High School Drama department as crew, support or cast, and also the pep club, and service club. After graduating she continued on to college where she planned to study nutrition. While at college she met her life partner, Gerald, whom she married in 1960. Gerald was another connection to music as he was deeply involved with performing music, playing instruments and performing with a Gospel quartet.

Barbara had their first child while Gerald was in the Navy. During his time in the Navy Barbara moved from Detroit to Norfolk, Virginia to Gerald’s home port. She made lifelong friendships in Norfolk, participating with and helping other sailor’s wives in their community.

Barbara had their second child as Gerald was finishing his enlistment. In total, they had four children; John, Marica, Jeff, and Curt. As the children grew, she enjoyed providing the family a blend of “Southern Comfort” food with a balanced and nutritious diet, along with keeping them active and making friends, all in a positive environment, filled with brightness, love and hope.

After the Navy they moved back to Detroit and began a civilian life. She had a busy life and only found time to practice piano as the children were heading to sleep. This heavily influenced the children to pursue music in various aspects as they grew up. She liked to play from the Great American Standards, songs such as “Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Them Eyes,” “Alley Cat,” “The Entertainer” and others.

Barbara continued to be deeply involved in community service. She earned “Master Gardener” from Michigan State University Extension Service, becoming the president of the service in her county. She also later earned “Master Gardener” in her Tennessee community, learned and then led Tai Chi sessions, while encouraging others to join the Tai Chi group. She held many jobs and volunteer positions throughout life, including Cub Scout Den Mother, Girl Scouts Troop leader, Newspaper Columnist, an assistant at a hospital, active in the Unity Church of the Cumberlands, the local Tai Chi group, and Quilting.

Music and sharing her bright and loving vision of life were important to Barbara at every stage in life. In addition to piano, she played Hammer Dulcimer, sang in the church choir, and encouraged her children to pursue their musical passions.

She expressed that she had a blessed life and always knew she was loved.

Barbara was a truly bright light in this world, bringing love, happiness and hope to everyone she met. Her light has gone out but the echo of her light will continue to spread, bringing more light, love and hope to the world.

Tonight we celebrate her life.

2020-04-21 A Different Topic – “Game Of Life”

John Horton Conway passed away recently. He created the original “Game Of LifeCellular Automation system. In response to his passing I’ve created a version in DOSBOX, using Microsoft QuickC 2.5 With Assembler (not that I used the assembler portion here).

It is a simple program that randomly fills 20% (roughly) of the cells with the ON bit. The rest are set to OFF. A set of rules are applied in successive generations that control which cells turn on, which turn off, and which stay the way they are. This creates an interesting evolving pattern on the screen. In this case I used the standard 25 line by 80 columns of the old style monitors (generally called 80 column displays), including MS-DOS PCs of the late 1980s.

I used QuickC because it included library functions to control the cursor position and screen clearing. It is entirely text mode, with the ON cells represented by an asterisk character. The OFF cells are space characters. I added a display at the bottom of the screen to indicate which generation is showing. They tick off at the amazing speed of a 1980s PC. DOSBOX emulates a 4.77 MHz clock rate generally, though you can make adjustments. Mostly it uses the slow clock speed so that games of that era will run properly rather than insanely fast.

Video of the program running. Running time 2.52 minutes, rendered to 1280x720p.

2020-03-18 A Month Flows By

I’ve been busy working on Scott Joplin‘s “The Entertainer” full Rookie Song. But I did take a brief detour to do the Playground Sessions Facebook Social Media Challenge #QuincyChallenge to celebrate Quincy Jones‘ 87th Birthday. Just a snippet of “My Way.” Since these WordPress pages aren’t really suited to video media, I decided not to post it here.

I do want to put up a small montage of shots in response to a ‘Creative Sauce‘ YouTube video where he reviewed a BenQ LED lamp. I have an LED lamp on my DAW workstation by LE Power, so I took some shots and expanded the grouping to get the Yamaha P-515 digital piano too.

I did add a Yamaha FC-3A pedal to the Yamaha P-515W to allow pitch bends as necessary, which is more useful for Guitar and Synth voices than piano, but worth having.

2020-02-15 Playground Sessions 30 Day Challenge Done!

I have completed the 30 Day Challenge for the Facebook group Playground Sessions Community (closed group, you have to request membership). The full song for Scott Joplin’sThe Entertainer.” The version we learned is a simplified arrangement at a slower tempo. It is designed for very early – even Day 1 – beginners.

I will probably buy the song from the Playground Sessions Song Store to get a fuller arrangement and a faster tempo. Even with the simple arrangement from the Challenge done, the full song will be a real challenge.

2020-01-19 Playground Sessions 30 Day Challenge

In September 2016 I started the Playground Sessions computer based piano lessons. Over time they’ve added content, new lessons and courses, and other tools to improve our piano skills. Their Social Media presence (Facebook at: Playground Sessions) has improved too. Late in 2018 they began “Challenges” to make learning more interesting and fun. They offered simple prizes awarded randomly among the participants. I won the Game of Thrones Vinyl LP (and a little LP turntable) in one of the challenges.

The first challenge of 2020 is the 30 Day Challenge. The idea is to develop a habit of playing every day. I just completed Day 5. A new lesson is loaded to the application every day, so you can’t work ahead, but if you’re behind, you can try to catch up. I started late on the first day, so I’m all good. Below is a capture of the screen showing the final exercise of the Day 5 Lesson. I’m not sure if they will offer a prize for this challenge, but the reward really is getting a daily practice habit.

The song, because you may or may not recognize it from the screen shot, is “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. At the end of the challenge we will be able to play a very simplified version of the song. For the very early, or raw, beginners, this will be a great introduction to the Playground Sessions system and help build learning skills. It will be good for those of us that have gotten some bad habits, too.

2020 !! Where does the time go? Oh, and a little Reverie

Some time has past since my first post to this blog, mostly because I live a boring life and don’t generally have great massive events to talk about. So now it is 2020! Since I have long counted things beginning with zero, being a programmer at heart, I am considering this the start of the new decade – the Twenties are back! I don’t intend to argue about it – if you think the decade starts on January 1, 2021, that is your prerogative. I’ll just point out that when we are born and are 0 years old, heck, even 0 days old yet, that we have started our first decade of life. That the guy that invented the calendar didn’t include a year zero doesn’t impress me much. Just saying.

So I have a minor Major event to discuss. I have a musical project that made it onto the RadioSpiral Internet Radio Station. They are a non-profit Ambient Music station. My project was an electronic music version of Debussy’s Reverie which Gypsy Witch played on her Around the Campfire 2020 January 8 show. It was a big “Listener’s Music” episode and is totally amazing. I have a hard time choosing a favorite from the set. She puts replays up on her website for a few weeks after each show if people want to catch a replay. Probably by the time you’re reading this the show with my project in it will have expired. But have a listen to one of her shows anyway. It is fun stuff.

For reference, here is the MP3 of my file. I’m working on getting the “full quality” version uploaded to something like bandcamp. If there is any beauty in the song, I give full credit to Claude Debussy.

Debussy’s Reverie – seq by JBS on Yamaha MX49

Here is the blurb I sent with the submission:

(AKA SwitchTech) This is an updated version of Debussy’s Reverie I sequenced (entered the notes one at a time, using a mouse and a MIDI Sequencer) back in 1992. This version was updated to take advantage of the voices in my Yamaha MX49 keyboard and the Cakewalk by Bandlab DAW. I used the voices which on an MX are also from a Yamaha Motif synth: Stereo Harp, Octave Strings, DX Celesta, Mystic Trance, and Concert Piano. I haven’t yet composed any of my own music, so this is the best I have at the moment. You have my permission to use it on your Wednesday show – and if for some odd reason you want to add it to the RadioSpiral Library, I can fill out the appropriate documents. It isn’t all that original, other than this is my arrangement but very closely following the Public Domain work that Debussy created in 1890.

In 1992 I had recently purchased a Yamaha PSR-500 portable keyboard (61 Velocity Sensitive keys and MIDI IN/OUT ports). It did not use the “General MIDI” voice set, so when I uploaded the MIDI file I’d created to the Delphi Online service I had to manually remap the four tracks to the GM voicings, and couldn’t test it! I liked my version on the PSR-500 and hoped the GM version was nice too. Cycle forward a few years (27 or so!!), I updated the MIDI file to use the Motif/MX Voices. I then recorded the audio to six tracks using those voices listed above (I used Concert Piano on two tracks) from the MX49 that I have – and then bounced the audio to stereo for the MP3.

Yamaha PSR-500 probably sometime in 2002 or 2003, perhaps? Fancy footwork on display.

Perhaps my next project will be my own composition.

So now I have a BandCamp Artist page! The song is here: https://switchtech.bandcamp.com/track/debussys-reverie

My full page is here: https://switchtech.bandcamp.com/releases

So how was your day?

Sands’ Spot Blog Post 1!

Let’s start with the text that is on my About Page – this is obviously a tiny bit redundant!

“I am John Sandlin.

Currently I am learning Piano using Playground Sessions. You’ll find me lurking in the Facebook “Playground Sessions Community” and occasionally posting videos of my progress in my quest to learn to play piano.

I use Cakewalk SONAR Platinum when I’m working on music not related to Playground Sessions. If you’ve heard of SONAR before, you might have heard that Gibson Brands, the parent company, closed it down. A new company, BandLab purchased the intellectual property and is planning to bring it back. Their announcement is here.

Now that BandLab has released an Early Version of their replacement for SONAR, called Cakewalk by BandLab, I very well may be using that instead. I’ll have both installed for a while. The extras that come with SONAR work in the new Cakewalk by Bandlab – which does not come with the extras.”

In time I will add pages and content to this web site, though I haven’t planned it out that far. I really just wanted a place I can share information and maybe some pictures and other media. I know I could use Facebook for this, and I do to a degree. But Facebook posts get buried in the deluge that is Facebook. Here will be only me. I am unlikely to unleash a deluge!

I have a number of hobbies, Computers, Music, Computer Music, Computer Gaming (mostly Skyrim), Astronomy, and Mustangs (automobiles). Astronomy is on a back burner for now, and I can only afford one Mustang at a time. So Computers and computer stuff take most of my hobby time.

One aspect of music I’d like to share is Electronic Music and making it. I haven’t really made any of my own yet, but I have some tools. VCV rack is a computer based modular synthesizer system that emulates the Modular Synth systems like Eurorack Modular Synths (very customizable synthesis systems). I haven’t made much more than basic sounds with it yet.

One thing that inspired my interest in VCV rack is an internet radio station called RadioSpiral.net. They are an Ambient Music (drone music, space music, etc.) station. They have several live shows each week with hosts that play live, at least some do, and will play songs from the station archive. There are a great number of Ambient Music artists with music in the archive. They have a presence in Second Life so if you have an Avatar you can visit them while they host their shows.

Another aspect of music to share is that I am working on improving playing Piano using Playground Sessions. This is computer based lessons for piano. It really is a great way to learn to play piano. Or to improve your piano playing. It uses interactive features tied to your digital piano, or other electronic MIDI Keyboard, to provide a game like environment. You get points for playing the music, more points for doing it well, and a progress chart you can watch yourself improve. They also offer songs in their growing Music Store for you to learn with their software. They have a strong presence on Facebook in their Playground Sessions Community and a YouTube channel where they provide  introductory lessons for many of their songs from the Music Store. Check them out.