Interview: How delusionalknitter uses tuneUPGRADE

"If you don't have time to practice ... you have FIVE MINUTES - just do something for 5 minutes - over time it will add up and make a difference!"

by Tarun

Creator, tuneUPGRADE

To start, tell me a little about yourself and what you play?

I'm from Massachusetts, USA.  I've been playing for 3 years.  I play mostly Classical, Folk (Scarborough Fair and Greensleeves type songs) and rock covers/transcriptions.  My main listening genre is Heavy Metal, I'm always super excited to find transcriptions of metal songs for piano!  Not all songs from that genre translate well, but those that do are absolutely BEAUTIFUL on piano.  

What are your musical goals - are you a hobbyist and just playing music for fun, are you looking to be a professional?

Definitely not professional ;)  I've always loved piano, especially in television and movies.  And I've always wanted to learn.  So its just for fun, though I take it very seriously and I love learning music theory, its fascinating.  I really want to learn and develop the skills to be able to pick up a lead sheet and just whip up a song on the fly.  At this time I'd like to develop the skills to just sit down, pick a key and progression and bang something out that sounds like a tune ... its getting there!  I have a long, long, long list of songs that I want to learn.  I have stacks of books and sheets I've accumulated.  

What are some of your favorite tunes to play?

I really love minor keys and discordant sounds.  My brain might be wired differently ... Major/Happy keys ... eewww!  I learned Ghost Waltz by Edwin McLean - that was the first piece I really memorized and I still play it often.  Sally's Song by Danny Elfman and May the Force by John Williams are also some of my favorites.   I also love The Beatles - they use so many keys and every song is very different!  Most of my current repertoire consists of simplified versions of pop/movie songs or Late Elementary/Early Intermediate pieces. 

Before you used tuneUPGRADE, were you tracking your practice? What was your practice like?

I've pretty much tracked from the beginning, I use a dotted hardcover journal as a log.  I jot short notes in it, like metronome speed if I'm trying to speed something up or "Left Hand needs work sounds sloppy" or "Bars 12-18 not good,  need more work" and what technical exercises I worked on and the length of time for everything and a total for the day.  I also keep a goals list for the month and then break it down for the week.  

What is your routine like within tuneUPGRADE?

My current weekly goal is 5 hours (I should probably increase that, I think I've been surpassing that for some time, hahaha).  I primarily use tuneUPGRADE to track songs and exercises.  I vary things daily so setting up routines I haven't gotten the hang of yet.  I love that I can pick the song/exercise and click GO and its tracking my time, then I can jot that in my log.  I also use a timer so I keep to a schedule, but if I'm almost done and want a few more minutes, I can silence my timer and keep going and tuneUPGRADE is still tracking my minutes for me!  In the past resetting my timer was very disruptive, now I just have to click to silence, get right back to practicing and I still have a log of my time.  I do enjoy that sometimes I think, man I've been working on this for a while now, why is it still awful ... look in tuneUPGRADE and find out ... 3 days - its only been 3 days!  Its much easier to see how long and often I am working on a particular piece at a glance with the app than my traditional notebook.  

What are your favorite features of tuneUPGRADE?

I do like the youtube/spotify links and need to utilize them more.  I love the materials links - I often have a few different binders (so they don't get too heavy for the stand) and once things move on to repertoire for example, the location changes.  I feel like I used to spend more time looking for my sheets than practicing!  I just started reviewing repertoire more regularly (now that I have built one) so I will be using the smart tunes feature in the future!  I love the graphs on the Dashboard (who doesn't love graphs!?!?!?) - I can easily see what I spent the most time on during the week and how much.  I also like that its divided - Learning, Repertoire and Exercises.  It can be customized to be as specific or broad as you want - "Let it Be by The Beatles" or "Hanon No. 1" or "Chording" ... I have set up some broad categories in exercises that help me track certain areas of my practice.  For example, for me "Scales and Chords" covers scales, triads, arpeggios, 7th chords.  I also have a category for "Warm Up" because I was really bad about NOT warming up ... now I do it every day!

Any general practice tips you can give others that you've found helpful for yourself?

I had a traditional in person teacher and I do think that is the best way to learn, but due to COVID and my work schedule I haven't been in a few months.  In addition to, or if absolutely impossible to have an in person teacher, I have found, Bill Hilton, PianoVideoLessons and Pianote to be extremely good resources to learn piano.   I have also learned that you can't play fast if you can't play slow ... this takes time and sometimes it feels like forever, but you will see improvement if you stick with it.  Piano is incredibly difficult to learn and coordinate your mind, fingers, arms and feet!   Most importantly - if you "don't have time" to practice ... you have FIVE MINUTES - just do something for 5 minutes - over time it will add up and make a difference!

Anything else you'd like to share?

I am so happy I finally learned how to play piano, its never too late to learn music!  Although, I call it an obsession now ... a family friend corrected me and said, no, its a PASSION!  Passion sounds better doesn't it?

Would you like to participate in a user interview yourself? Simply send a note to [email protected] and I'll send you over some questions!

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