100 Hour challenge

It’s been a month since I last updated you on this. Well, well, well, haven’t I been good! Wherever there is a piano, I is. I am practicing jazz standards and improvising. I’ve been averaging 2 hours a day and it has positively impacted upon my gigging, I got loads of compliments at Friday’s penultimate tour date, I felt loads more confident. No idea I suggested was rejected in terms of improv, however I was told to turn myself down, lol! Having regular lessons, and my teacher said in just 2 lessons I had improved considerably, yay!

Say, I’d practiced 1 hour a day for the last 4 weeks that would take me up to 89 hours on this old challenge, I know I’ve done more, but let’s just say I’ve done that ūüėČ We both know after 100 hours this aint gonna end, hooked.
I’m moving this week, so practice is on hold cos everything is being boxed up, but I’m keen to get back on the pedal!

Go me!

Week 6 & 7: 100 Hr Challenge


Day 1: Fail, still in Brumtee, spoke to mi ma about secretly moving my piano from the old house to the new (behind Pa’s back), we’ll see, he doesn’t really do Internet btw.
Day 2: Fail still in Brum, social media workshop, helping these cherubs become digital journalists.
Day 3: Fail, still in Brum exhausted, chilling with my baby
Day 4: Mediasnackers training/CPD, still in Brum
Day 5: Back in Londungeon, practice for an hour
Day 6: Practice for a couple of hours, start with some Bach, Debussy and then chords, training myself to play chords as quickly as possible
Day 7: Didn’t manage to fit any in. Booo! But I contacted a jazz pianist for lessons

Week 7:
Monday: Practiced for a few hours, still getting my head round playing chords automatically.
Tuesday: Chris D came round and we jammed around compositional ideas.
Wednesday: Had a lesson with my new teacher and learnt loads!!
Thursday: Been practicing, properly
Friday – Sunday: Doubt I’ll get a chance back in Brum.

Someone asked me what is the 100 Hour Challenge? I quote Rachel Carter:
‚ÄúPick something about which you are passionate, which you have a deep desire to learn or to achieve yourself. It can be related to work or totally personal. Ideally it‚Äôs something you will share with the wider world. Practice, read up on, share your knowledge on your chosen challenge for at least one hour a day, every day, for 100 days.‚ÄĚ

This week will take me to the 49th hour.

Week 5: 100 Hour Challenge


Day 1: Fail
Day 2: Fail
Day 3: Fail
Day 4: Fail
Day 5: Fail
Day 6: Fail
Day 7: Fail

Summer workshops all day last week. In Brum. I suck. Yes, I do. I’d come home and want to sleep, but had planning and preparation to do. When I’m near my keyboard nothing will stop me. Sing it!

100 Hour Challenge: Week Four

Day 1: Practiced and wrote music with fellow workshoppers for half a day, spent the other half playing jazz standards for a few hours, really slowly, still practicing the same two, sounding better!
Day 2: Wrote music again with matees, one hour of practice.
Day 3: Practiced, learning chords and listening to what they sound like
Day 4: 1 hour in the bag.
Day 5: Back In Brum, fail. Was given a chord chart to play from (for a devising session) by a jazzer and panicked. I could identify most chords, but not as quickly as I would have liked, if the chords were notated, would have been fine. Felt crap and wanted to go home.
Day 6: Back in Brum, all day training and drinks after. Fail.
Day 7: Back in Brum, no piano, anxious to practice. Still hours in the day but suspect I shall fail.

ūüôĀ So, rather than feel sorry for myself, going to spend the next hours finding a piano here. Time to make it happen. I saw this TED talk by Mr. Steve “Apple” Jobs, it inspired me to carpe diem, how to live before you die.

100 Hour challenge: Third week

Hmmmm…

Day 1: Practiced for two hours
Day 2: Practiced for an hour
Day 3: Back in Birmingham, no practice
Day 4: Nada
Day 5: Nada
Day 6: Nada
Day 7: Nada

Hmmm think I failed there. I did read up on stuff but… few ebonies and ivories were tinkled last week! On the plus side, whenever I am home I practice. I asked a local Birmingham church whether I could practice there, thanks to Clare Edwards, but the times available clashed. Gonna do more Brum based piano hunting.

100 Hour challenge: Second week

Day 9: Practiced for two hours, worked through 2-5-1s randomly. Tried to improvise over them, sounded pants!

Day 10: Went to Rachel’s after workshopping all day, got lost, took ages to get there so was tired and hungry, played through scales, and tried to improvise, felt a tad exposed and embarrassed playing knowing Ms. Carter was listening but got through it. Was rewarded with Rachel’s home grown cherries, yum!

Day 11: Nada, all day workshops, planning, emails, tired. Fail

Day 12: Nada. See above

Day 13: Fail. All day workshops.

Day 14: Fail. Read a bit about jazz theory but no playing.

I’m not worried, when I’m near a piano and not working, I’m practicing, as I’ve been working in Brum so much, there’ve been fewer chances to play.

Banded About – C’est Fini

It’s all over and done with! Today was the final concert date at Town Hall for the Banded About project, we made it! It was emotional, it was sad, it was tiring, fun and creative.

I was soo impressed with the young people at Watville, Wilkes Green and St. James primary schools over the year. This term, we (Steve and I repping Birmingham Jazz) were given such a tall order yet I feel we delivered the goods; I learnt that most of the other primary schools in the music hub (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Sound It Out, CBSO, THSH) were able to give their schools weekly and some around 8 sessions per term, to develop ensemble and music making skills. In total I had 5 sessions in the spring term, and 3 in the summer, yes 3, which meant we had a¬†mammoth¬†job to do, devise, rehearse and perform at the Town Hall after 4.5 hours, minus ice-breakers, and packing away and you’re left with little time I tell thee, yet we managed to do it. I was proud of the fact the young people devised lyrics before the project, rehearsed outside of lessons, and after a scary sound check on the day after a week’s break, pulled it off!! Go gang!! There were tears, I got told off, necessary hugs were given and received.

In just 8 sessions I found that the young people’s time keeping,¬†ability¬†to¬†improvise¬†and create grooves improved exponentially, I was also impressed with how a teacher got stuck in the project and played recorder on stage with the kids!! How supportive is that!

Areas of improvement: I need to work more on varying my signalling, I wish I had the funds to go on a ensemble leading course, yes, another one, for intermediate workshoppers, I also need to think about using different time signatures, I’ve been using compound time more recently, but haven’t written many pieces in 3/4, I did use 5/4 with some secondary kids last term…. anyho! Onwards and upwards!

Highlights of the project for me were: working with amazing individuals at the aforementioned schools! Thanks young peeps, you rocked my world!

What would have made my life easier on this project: less emailing and more tete a tete (please), meetings with admins and the whole of the team so we could there could be greater consistency across the cluster, more efforts made to incorporate workshop leaders who don’t read music in CPD sessions too, some of my team felt a bit left out.

Here is some media for ya from our rehearsals,courtesy¬†of my iPhone, ¬†you can hear me shouting, teachers getting stuck in lol! I think you can hear an improvement in each school’s pieces.

First piece St. James composed: 

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Second piece by St. James, with some recorder playing by Ms. Hanson: 

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Watville’s first composition:¬†

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Second piece by Watville (second rehearsal): 

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Banded About ‘the first year’ from Mathew Beckett on Vimeo.


Find more photos like this on ‘Banded About’

100 Hour challenge: Days 1-3

I started on Sunday learning ¬†2-5-1 chord progressions, just about got the right hand down, left hand is easier, I revised my knowledge of¬†modes.¬†I then worked out how to transpose them into different tonal centres. I am learning a standard called “Here’s that Rainy Day” by Jimmy Van Heusen, it has lots of 2-5-1 chords in it:

I’ve worked out the chords, can play the melody alongside them, it just needs polishing. I tried improvising over the chord progression, but realised I didn’t know what I wanted to say, musically that is, also what style am I to play the scales? So many questions. I stopped asking questions and kept on playing.

Day 2: Monday, woke up and practiced, I tried to transcribe some of Alice Coltrane’s Jaja Jaja Rama, read up on scale theory in my jazz book, played through the scales and modes and had enough time to go through the Van Hausen tune again.

Day 3: Not so good,back in Brum town, had back to back workshops, 9-4, then from 6:30 – 9:30 practitioner ensemble, so was playing music, mainly improvised music with fellow workshoppers, but not on piano, instead on the fantastic G√ľiro and tambourine…. I would have rather done my challenge in the time but…¬†By the time I got home and ate dinner, I was asleep. I reckon I’ve done more than an hour for days 1 and 2, so kind of excuses day 3.

Day 4: Today, I am in hunt of keys. Will find a way!

So far the experience has been fun, the self-discipline part is hardest, so many distractions, humans, chocolate, sunshine, who wants to be locked indoors practicing when the sun is out?

100 Hour Challenge – I’ve Picked up the Gauntlet

Alright then, I’m doing it. It’s been on my mind for a while.

This is how I’m going to tackle the not being at home barrier to improvisation learning; finding pianos in Brum, asking some local residential homes if I can pop in, practice and play to the elderly, asking my old church, friends who don’t mind me popping round. I’ll also read up on scales/theory or transcribe jazz solos for the hour too! I’ll also arrange a few lessons with people. Who shall I ask? Any jazzers wanna give me some pointers?

So improvisation it is, I might even do something really scary! Sign myself up for some jams, none of those scary jazz ones, where everyone has studied standards at uni, but more obscure ones. Gulp! I’ll need a drink or two or three!!

An hour a day, an hour for play!

100 Hour Challenge Anyone?

I went along to a regional creative agent conference today and was inspired by Ewan McIntosh to do a 100 hour challenge, well in fact, I was initially inspired by Rachel Carter, who was inspired by Ewan (in a previous training event) to do it. Thing is, I’m uncertain as to whether I can do it because I work away from home a lot.

What is the 100 Hour Challenge? I quote Rachel Carter:

“Pick something about which you are passionate, which you have a deep desire to learn or to achieve yourself. It can be related to work or totally personal. Ideally it‚Äôs something you will share with the wider world. Practice, read up on, share your knowledge on your chosen challenge for at least one hour a day, every day, for 100 days.”

I want to improve my improvisation techniques, learn more about jazz scales, but that involves using a piano/keyboard. When I work in Brum I hardly have access… You’re meant to practice an hour a day. However, I can only practice when I’m near a piano. What’s a girl to do? Can I do the challenge as soon as I’m home in London? Am I creating ‘extraneous pillars’? Excuses? Can I do a slower version of it? Am I being lame? What do you think?

Margin’s Music

Sorry about all this blogging, what can I say, I’m on a roll!
So I’m part of a musical experiment led by producers Dusk and Blackdown, I’ve kindly been given permission to use some pics from our last rehearsal. They were taken by Jonathan Howells, who has done some wicked stuff which you can check here.

Me looking confused, all day long rehearsals hurt the brain and we only discovered air-con the third rehearsal I think:

Dusk plays with his Theremin:

Ableton Live playtime:

Percussion by Renu and in the backdrop lovely visuals by Jonathan:

Sibelius meets MIDI from Reason 4