Buying a piano


My new piano teacher wants me to get something to play at home that’s more piano-like than the electronic keyboard I have, which has an organ-like action and practically no dynamic contrast. I usually practice in the morning or at night, while Glenn’s asleep, so I’m thinking of two options:

  1. An acoustic upright piano at the opposite end of the house with a practice pedal to dampen the sound.
  2. An electronic piano which plays as much like the genuine article as possible.

Both have their up- and downsides. A real piano with the damper pedal on may still make too much racket, and it defeats the purpose somewhat to be trying to develop touch and dynamics while intentionally muting the instrument. An electric piano will never completely match the real playing experience, but can be played through headphones when Glenn’s in bed (or watching TV).

I’m checking Craigslist (wow, are there a lot of pianos there) and getting some ideas of what I want to do. My teacher mentioned a Korg electric which is quite good, I’ve asked her for the model number so I can check it out.

Advice and suggestions welcome!

Started lessons again


I took a piano lesson this morning. According to the dates on the journal I kept, my last lesson was on 5/3/2007, almost exactly four years ago. It’s been a busy time since then, but I’m home and on a more regular routine now, and plan to stick with it.

Some of Glenn’s friends were concerned recently that I wasn’t finding any time and activities for myself, and encouraged me to pursue what help the county could provide. A social worker’s coming in a couple of weeks for an evaluation, and one of the results should be enrolling Glenn in a program he can attend Tuesday and/or Thursday mornings, which should allow me to get away for lessons regularly.

I looked up a pianist I remembered from chamber music concerts in the area, and with the school year winding down, she was ready to take on new students. I’ve enjoyed both her playing and her energetic, upbeat personality, and hope we’ll be a good fit.

I worked up a bit of the material I’d learned back in ‘07 to play for her, and she thought I could go ahead and start the first Invention by Bach, the music I brought along in the “hope to play sometime” category. I think it should be a great tool to get the left hand working, to get more comfortable with reading the bass clef (a skill lacking from my guitar background), and, most interestingly, to start to know what the brain feels like when it’s running a melody in each hand simultaneously.

So, as I approach 40 at Summer’s end, I’m excited and looking forward to learning some of what Bach wrote for his kids to play when they were 4. :)

It feels good to be playing something again. Once I get the fingers moving and hit a first plateau of proficiency, I need to find someone on my own level to play some four-hand music with me. A combination of lessons to prepare for and friends to enjoy making music with should keep me on the wagon. Wish me luck!

two pages in c

in the spring of 1994, some umbc students put up signs announcing the formation of a “new music ensemble”. i went to the first meeting, and we talked about what we wanted to do for the year. someone was already composing something, so we would work with him on that. we also decided that each week, one member of the group would write a simple piece of music and bring it to the meeting, something everyone could sightread and play right away. i brought mine the next week, and was the only one who ever did.

it was named after “two pages” by philip glass and “in c” by terry riley. you can see the score here.

all the files are available in one place here.

composer title length
jeff covey two pages in c 10:01
this was at a concert in the fall of 1995. someone in the group suggested that we all play the first/last melody together at the end, each at our own tempo.
jeff covey two pages in c rehearsal 14:50
4/11/1994 — a couple of people from the ethnomusicology department were wandering the halls one day while we were practicing. they had an old reel-to-reel recorder they wanted to test, and asked if they could record us playing something. what a perky sound it got, with a good stereo split!

jeff covey's senior recital, 05/09/1996

nearly ten years after the event, i have the recording of my umbc senior recital to share! many thanks to bob rivkin, one of the few to still have a dat player, for digitizing the tape. it’s great to have this reminder of my friendship with bill, greg, and dave.

all the files are available in one place here.

photos are here.

composer title length
alonso mudarra romanesca (transcribed by andres segovia) 03:03
some renaissance music to settle everyone’s ears.

this was a late (the last, i think) addition to the solo program; i’m surprised and happy with how well it came off.

manuel de falla homenaje, le tombeau de debussy 03:22
this is one of the greatest little gems for solo guitar, and one of the rare contributions to the repertoire from a prominent early 20th century composer.

i’m pretty happy with my interpretation and performance here!

francisco t�rrega recuerdos de la alhambra 07:13
i’m afraid i never got my tremolo up to speed (the professional recordings i have of this run from 3:58 to 5:12). take the extra time to kick back, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
heitor villa-lobos etude 9 05:44
prior to listening, i only had vague memories of this lesser-heard villa-lobos etude. what an odd little work, running in circles with occasional outbursts. i seem to remember worrying at the time that it was monotonous for the listener, but hearing it now, i think that’s rather the point, and not in a bad way. it’s like a rainy day when you had a ball game planned, but in the end enjoy quietly watching the rain from the window anyway.
heitor villa-lobos etude 11 04:57
back on familiar ground. some nice savagery to overcome my limited chops.
jeff covey babble: chatting up the crowd 00:34
thank you, thank you! i’ll be here all week.
augustin barrios julia florida 04:53
a lovely, schmaltzy barcarole from barrios.
albert harris sonatina, 1. allegro moderato 04:37
bill was playing this sonatina in his concerts at the time, and it (especially the rondo) was a little tough for him, let alone me. hoorah for making it through! and even shaping it a bit.
albert harris sonatina, 2. aria 03:23
pretty; i think i could have given it more room to breathe.
albert harris sonatina, 3. rondo 06:27
and saving the scariest for last…

ok, now just to be absolutely clear, what happens at 0:52 is decidedly not a memory slip. it’s my interpretation. i decided it would build dramatic tension to stop awkwardly there, stare into the abyss for a second, make a couple of false starts, then grab whatever chunk i could from later in the movement until i could catch up with myself again at 1:22. keep the audience on the edges of their seats!

this has, of course, been one of my strong memories of the evening, and i had a morbid curiosity to hear it again. i remembered it as happening much later in the movement; i’m glad i rallied and even played with some conviction until 4:36 and following (probably what i was selectively remembering).

hooray persistence, and ending with a bang like you mean it!

jeff covey babble: go have some cookies 00:15
don’t forget to come back!
anonymous lesson for lutes 01:07
my senior recital was combined with the guitar department ensemble concert, so these first three selections from the second half weren’t me and my cohorts, but some of bill’s younger students. here, it’s stephan keyser and sally scordino.
anonymous la rossignol 01:31
more brave soldiering on! :) dave r. and i played this back in 1991.
traditional malagucna 03:22
stephan and sally are joined by amir ahmadi for this fun number.
jorge cardoso milonga 04:00
back to me & friends for the rest of the show, starting with my dueting buddy, greg freyman.

this cool milonga was a last-minute addition that bill assigned; i wish we’d been playing longer and had it down better. double dare you not to dance to that rhythm at 0:31.

radames gnattali retratos, 1. pixinguinha (choro) 06:15
some of the assad brothers’ dense, elegant repertoire. pushing ourselves past ourselves here and there, but still enjoying the charm.
radames gnattali retratos, 2. ernesto nazareth (valse) 06:56
great to hear this again! i remembered very little of this movement, and since the assads didn’t record it, i didn’t
have to compare us to them in my head as i listened. :)

i remembered this as the slow movement of the suite, but it has some places of go-greg-go! i think we’re really working well together on this; it’s one track i’m looking forward to listening to again.

radames gnattali retratos, 3. anacleto de medeiros (schottisch) 04:47
sexy stuff — we just need roses in our teeth to make it complete. we’ve loosened up and are having a good time on stage by now; it’s fun listening.
johann sebastian bach sheep may safely graze 06:48
beautiful stuff. that bach wrote some pretty good music.
jeff covey journey to ixtalpa 05:59
this had no name for most of its life, and the weekly-growing copies of the score often had “a duet as yet unnamed, i’d bet” at the top. i finally replaced that with “incandescent incantation”, and bill changed it to “journey to ixtalpa” after some el dorado story he’d heard.

much gratitude goes to greg for his indulgence; i don’t know if he’s ever forgiven me for making him count through all the meter changes, and his sense of time may be forever skewed. one of the miracles of the evening is that we came out of the 2:48-3:01 section together, something we had literally never done in any rehearsal of the full piece. it’s amazing that the one time we got it was at the big show. how great to have it on tape structurally intact, with nothing out of place but the usual finger flubs. thanks, greg!

michael kuntz passacaglia 06:03
dave murphy had played trios with us for a couple of years, but had dropped off the scene for some time before this. thanks to him for coming back to round out the night!

this is just ok for me; i’m not crazy about passacaglias generally, even by brahms. there was a prelude and fugue we used to play which i rather wish we’d recorded instead.

nice mass page turns at 2:07 and 4:05; sounds like we’re throwing newspapers off the delivery truck. :)

jeff covey, dave murphy babble and tune 01:36
thanks, bill! ready, dave?
maurice ravel sonatine for piano, second movement (arranged by jeff covey) 03:32
i think this arrangement sounds pretty strong; it plays well on guitars. the weak spot is the harmonics passage at 1:35. even if i’d played it better, it still may not have worked so well. maybe i should have found another solution. i still love the charming way the melody changes on the repeat at 2:15, it’s a great little passing moment.
george gershwin prelude for piano #2 (arranged by jeff covey) 03:39
some good bluesy atmosphere here. i love how greg and dave go überjazz at 0:46. from natchez to mobile! the banjo-like pizzicato background at 1:51 works well.
george gershwin rialto ripples rag (arranged by jeff covey) 04:08
this one works quite well, too, and this gives me a chance to bust a prevalent myth:

dave definitely does not become completely lost and drop out from 1:17 to 1:52. not a bit of it. that’s right out. stop these vicious rumors.

but we get it together and pull through to a strong finish, so there!

thanks again to everyone who took part, and thanks for listening!