This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode welcomes avid JazzPianoSkills listener and student, Mike Knapek.
Welcome to JazzPianoSkills; it's time to discover, learn, and play Jazz Piano!
Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, playwith special guest, Mike Knapek. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
Mike Knapek, Husband, Father, GrandDad, Friend, Lawyer, Golfer, and Jazz Pianist
About Mike's musical journey starting from the young age of 46
Various practice approaches used by Mike Knapek to help you discover, learn and play jazz piano
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Thank you for being a JazzPianoSkills listener. It is my pleasure to help you discover, learn, and play jazz piano!
Dr. Bob Lawrence
President, The Dallas School of Music
Dr. Bob Lawrence 0:32
Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Well, today you are in for a real treat. I am joined by husband, father, grand dad, lawyer, golfer. And of course, jazz pianist Mike canopic. Mike has studied jazz piano with me for the past six and a half years and started his piano journey, his jazz piano journey as an adult at the inspiring age of 46, proving to the world that it is never ever too late to begin pursuing dreams and it's never too late to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Needless to say, Mike is an inspiration to many who personally know him and is about to be your inspiration to I am thrilled that Mike has agreed to come on jazz panels skills to share his story. So both the audio and video formats are available for this podcast episode. Of course, you can listen to the audio version of this podcast through any of the popular podcast directories I Heart Radio, Spotify, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Amazon, music, Pandora, and so on. Or you can go directly to jazz panel skills podcast.com, where you can also watch the video of the show, which I strongly recommend. So now, it is my great pleasure and honor to welcome to jazz piano skills. Mr. Mike canopic. Mike cannot be can you believe it can on your on jazz piano skills my friend
Mike Knapek 2:30
from I was gonna say coast to coast, but I guess it's from Australia to Italy and points in between, right?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 2:37
Yeah, that's right. We're all jazz piano skills all over the place. So anyway, hey, it's a thrill to have you today. I've been threatening you for a long time that I was going to have you on jazz piano skills. And here I made good on my threat
Mike Knapek 2:50
Dr. Bob Lawrence 2:52
So, you know, this is interesting, right? Because I started last year, this process of interviewing, not just prefer other professional jazz pianist and educators, but also inviting students on like yourself, to come on and share your story and share your background. And you have a fantastic story and history in music. And so it's great that you're joining me today and, and willing to share your story because I think it's gonna have a profound impact on a lot of listeners, that can will totally will be totally relating to your journey. So with that being said, I'm going to turn the microphone over to you right now and kind of fill us in. And this is you know, there's a lot that I don't know about you even though I've been now teaching you for how many years have we been studying jazz six and a half years? Six and a half years we've been studying jazz together and I know there's a ton about the your whole journey that I still have that I have to learn myself so I'm excited about this. So why don't you kind of start at the beginning how you got into music How did this how did you get to this point, that we are here right now. So
Mike Knapek 4:13
you know growing up I was I participate in sports. And you know when one season ended football season into basketball season started Believe it or not, I did play basketball in high school and then baseball season so I never really had time for music. Although I liked listening to music. Growing up my parents did not ever really pushed me in that direction. But I like listening to as I grew older, I love the Beatles when they from the first time they appeared on it Solomon in 1964. And, and so as a as I became a teenager, Elton John came around and I like listening to his music and I liked listening to Billy Joel And I noticed, you know, when other people were playing the air guitar, I was playing the air piano as a kid, you know? And, yeah, I like I mean, I would, I would, I was constantly hitting my knee with my righty and, you know, keep trying to emulate whatever whoever was playing. And I, my friends gave me a hard time that so that I never had time for music or took the time. And my mother has told me if she had forced me to take lessons as a, as a kid would have kicked and screamed, because I didn't have time and I was participating in sports. Right. So, you know, I always kept listening to music and then and then in, you know, oh three. When I was 46 years old, a friend of mine told me he said, I'm taking group piano lessons, adult piano lessons at SMU.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 5:57
Now, hit the pause button, hit the pause button there for a second because between high school, you know, you jumped from high school to 4040 some years of age, you actually went to college or Texas a&m. Texas a&m. Right. Yeah. And, and your lawyer?
Mike Knapek 6:16
Yeah, I went to Well, I went to Jesuit High School here in Dallas. And I played baseball there hoped I had the dream of, you know, going on and playing in the matrix. And that dream. When I figured out I couldn't hit a slider that was evaporate a lot. I tried to play in college, but so then I went to a&m, graduated in and went to SMU law school, and had children and I have three children and now for two grandchildren. But I have three dead three children. So I have
Dr. Bob Lawrence 6:48
so yeah, so So yeah, but but all during that time. I mean, you're you're enjoying music, you're digging music, but you really you really hadn't given any thought to actually formally study music?
Mike Knapek 7:00
None, none at all. Okay, right. My mother had a piano in their house. And, you know, nobody really ever played it. But when I was an adult, and so, yeah, no, I never did. And so then a friend of mine just happened to tell me, you know, I was, again, I was 46, I really hadn't given any more thought. And he said, Look, I'm taking piano lessons at SMU as a group in a group setting adult setting. So I looked into that. And I I think they met over Tuesday night or something like that. But I was I was interested from the beginning. I remember Laura was was a teacher and she said, first thing she said was everybody find middle C. And we were a classroom, I'm not sure we even had a keyboard for this. I think maybe we had some diagrams or something. But but you know, it was okay, then everybody tried to keep a B 1234. And but I but I liked it. And so I bought a you know, a fairly inexpensive keyboard at that time. And but I found myself at that time, because the lessons were at a set time and I was traveling a lot for business, I was not able to keep up with those lessons. And so I started taking from her part time, I mean, I'm sorry, individual lessons at SMU, right. And then she moved Plano I had to drive to her house to take to go to the lessons. And you know, we just focused on songs and then she moves in no four ish, or Oh, seven, something like that. And so then I was scattered around on what to do, didn't know what to do, but I didn't want to stop. And I bought this wonderful piano that I'm where I'm sitting right now. And but wanted to just keep doing it. But all I was doing is playing songs. And so then a lady named Linda. And it was important to me that she come to my house for you know, for convenience purposes. And so Linda started taking lessons from Linda in Oh, seven ish. And but we got to a point where I was just learning songs and she was a wonderful teacher. I mean, she she helped me learn how to read.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 9:21
Right? So when you say learning songs, you're doing like traditional piano lessons at that time, right? Try reading treble
Mike Knapek 9:27
clef. Hannon book, you know, right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 9:31
Okay, yeah, so you're doing your traditional kind of classical piano introductory classical piano lessons,
Mike Knapek 9:36
right. And I was trying to play songs that were really over my head. I mean, I can sit here
Dr. Bob Lawrence 9:41
yeah, like everyone does.
Mike Knapek 9:42
I try to play for release. You know? What? I thought this didn't sound half bad. Well, I like to go hear what it sounds like then down but so, but I told you the other night that I remember vividly. There were some and I bought piano books like they were going into style. Like I'm through a lot of people do Samba. Right, exactly right. And, and I would sit down and try to hammer out some, some song from, you know, a Carole King book. Right. And, and I found, but I found when I couldn't do it quickly, I'll get frustrated with put that book down. It's the go try to find the magic pill somewhere else, you know,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 10:28
right? Yeah, find the book the book, right? Because that book didn't turn out. So now go find another
Mike Knapek 10:34
book. And I've still got those books. They're in a closet, or somewhere. I've dug them out not long ago. And I'm thinking what am I ever going to do with these books? So So I remember in that context, I said something the other night, how something we were looking Linda and I were looking at it head to Roman numerals on and I never had seen those. Right? And I asked her, so what are these? She said, Well, we'll get and, and I can't and I would ask her questions about like, why does this fit here? And this melody? Or why are we playing this? And this melody? Will? We'll get to those, you know, and and
Dr. Bob Lawrence 11:11
which, which is, which is code for? We'll never we'll never get to the probably
Mike Knapek 11:15
it will we never did. And so, um, you know, I think I had plateaued again, I can't say enough nice things about how I progress. Sure from with Linda and but I think I played well. I knew I play toe. And I was I was I was trying to get more more, or theory and we did some jazzy songs Linden, I would do some at times. And I'm thinking kind of like that. I mean, they're easy. They're not easier. But there were interesting to play to me than Elton John songs, for example. Right? And so I started in the summer 15. She wanted to take the summer off. And which was okay with me. And I start scouting around and as I told you, I just didn't call her back. And he says, Okay, say this, it was like, we're not dating girls not calling back. I just wouldn't call that a fullback.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 12:17
You dumped her? Well, I was. But our training, she dumped, maybe, maybe she'll
Mike Knapek 12:25
call me back either. So, but I cringed every time I'm thinking that she calls me what am I going to tell her but but anyway, so. So I did a little homework on jazz, I really want to look more into jazz. So I did a little homework on jazz. And that led me to you there was another there's somebody else that almost a precedent forest here in Dallas, who I talked to, but didn't really get a great vibe from and but I remember asking you we got in my house, you said no. Because at that time, I thought it was important for me to
Dr. Bob Lawrence 13:05
I remember that now you did ask me. I was like, Dude, I like like a doctor making house calls. I ain't going to your house. Right? So it's kind of creepy, man.
Mike Knapek 13:16
It's so I thought talk to you is August of 2015. And, and he said, Come out, I'll give you a free look. And, you know, if you like it, right, and your
Dr. Bob Lawrence 13:29
life and your and your life changed forever, you know,
Mike Knapek 13:31
it has a Jennifer will tell you, my wife will tell you my life. Our lives have changed forever. And I get emotional about it sometimes. I mean, it has been a life changing. I mean, getting to know you and Tam and the kids and but but you know, and I'll put it in a pitch for the school and you I mean, you you make learning fun. I mean, I know that sounds corny, but you keep it interesting. I get frustrated, as you know. And but but you know, you know, so in 2015 we started and and I remember the first time you and I met you I look for that sheet of paper. I've talked to you about the other night that I can't find it but it had all 60 sounds on in the key of C
Dr. Bob Lawrence 14:21
60 chords. Yeah, right. And I was told John he Oh,
Mike Knapek 14:28
five for the keys, roll all six all 12 keys, right?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 14:33
He right. It's an old Jasmine Hagen book that has the 60 chords of jazz
Mike Knapek 14:37
because I remember talking to somebody SMU I call listen, you got some stuffs coming to mind I thought about yours. I call this in you and talk to students there and they said if you're going to study jazz, you're going to need to learn a course me your scales. And see with Linda I never learned scales.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 14:56
Yeah, because the focus was on playing song. Yeah.
Mike Knapek 14:59
And I'm right Oh gosh, do I really want to?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 15:03
Which which Mike, in her defense, which is typical, most adult students when starting on playing piano lessons, right, it's only natural, right? You want to learn how to play the piano. So you think I'm going to learn how to play songs. Right. And, and you start there. And, and as you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of groundwork that needs to be covered to get you to the point to be able to play a lot of songs.
Mike Knapek 15:28
Right. And, and so, but the thing you told me was, look, there's there's 12 keys, there's five sounds in each key. That's 60 sound 12 notes. Right, exactly. Okay. And right. Uh, you know, Paul McCartney had 60, Beethoven had 60, Mozart at 60. So right 60 chords, right? 60 there's not an infinite amount. Correct? Okay,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 15:53
there's a finite finite number,
Mike Knapek 15:55
right? And so and then I remember you talked about paper practice. Because the, you know, what seems so Elementary to me now is what's a C major chord? Okay, well, okay, now, I know what that is. But, but I had to sit but but before thought a chord was was three notes. I mean, I thought it was CG. Okay.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 16:17
Right. It's again, very seventh, right? Yeah. Very normal.
Mike Knapek 16:21
And, and, and so, when I was playing songs before, that's what I would hit if I hit a C major. Oh, hit a CG, right. But so a paper practice, practice. And at the time, I thought, one, what's he talking about this paper practice. But it was really invaluable. I mean, you you're big on and I've still got some of these paper practice knows, you're big on going up, you know, where you go, you build that chord vertically going up. So C, E, G, okay. And then you okay, what's, what's the dominant? What's the minor and, and you said, Look, when you're on an airplane, do this paper practice.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 17:06
And I'd write that you don't use that pride that you can, you know, again, a lot of most students always equate practicing with being at the instrument. Right. And the thing that what you're talking about is I like to stress that there's a lot of ways to practice away from the instrument. Yeah. Study what
Mike Knapek 17:22
yeah, you kept that up with those illustrations that you have in your podcast materials. Correct. But, and I still pay for practice. I mean, I still I don't necessarily do it vertically. But I've still got
Dr. Bob Lawrence 17:36
well as you should, right. Yeah, we've been worked right as
Mike Knapek 17:39
arpeggios. And I told you the beginning of the year, that thing that I'm weak on among the thing, something weak on is is knowing getting the harmonic vision as you call it. No one okay. What what are my I go up, I can ascend a lot easier than I can descend on, on scales and arpeggios. So, so
Dr. Bob Lawrence 18:06
well, you, you. You've told me a story. Line. I vaguely remember this. But when you first came in for your first lesson, you sat down and played a song I think you played. What song did you play?
Mike Knapek 18:20
Imagine I probably could play imagine at the time I can't
Dr. Bob Lawrence 18:23
give it Yeah, you play it. i Yeah, I think I think you're right. I think it was like John Lennon tune or something, you know, and you play it. What did you What did you say? You? You told me that I said something to you? Do you remember what I said to you? Have you played the song? Something about? Well, that's good. You know, you know how to play a song. But now I'm going
Mike Knapek 18:42
to teach you how to play piano. I do. Remember that. You said now. You've been learning songs. And now I'm going to teach you how to play the piano. But what's he talking about? I know what you're talking about? Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 18:55
Right. So that's, that's the big difference. I think over the last five years, right? You've been learning. You've been learning how to play the piano and doing it very well. Well, it's nice. Yeah.
Mike Knapek 19:06
And I've told you I would rather I would rather, you know, work on exercises and work on improvisation. One Piece, rather than tunes. If you get the wrong note playing to tune people know what if you get the wrong note playing?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 19:22
So what yeah, that's funny. Okay, so let's talk a little bit now. Let's so here you go. We got started. And you said this, this been five and a half years, is that right? Six and a half year, six and a half years? It's amazing. So, okay, so six and a half years. So let's talk a little bit about how you approach practicing. How you approach practice and how you how do you structure it on a day to day basis, because you do I mean, you practice on a day to day basis, you remain very consistent with your practicing. So let's let's go kind of share with listeners a little bit because there's so many folks that are in the same boat learning how to play. Talk, talk to us a little bit about how you structure practicing on a day to day, day to day basis. And not only how you structure it, but what you practice as well. Well, one
Mike Knapek 20:15
thing I like to do, I don't always do it. I didn't do it today, for example, I like to practice Firstly, in the morning, and I know that you had a you had a student Oh, not long ago, who said the same thing? Yeah, because John Gray. Yeah, one mom, I'm a little more clear headed personally, in the morning. I haven't started, you know, thinking about I'm still working not much longer, but I'm still working. And so not not, you know, so I like going first thing in the morning, and Jennifer will tell you, as we're doing stuff during the day, she'll say, Oh, you're worried about are you going to get to practice this afternoon or tonight? So she likes me practicing in the morning. I, I was impressed with one student you interviewed. Not all that long ago who want he said he likes to run his lesson plans a week in advance. I don't do that that far in advance. But I do like to, as you've stressed, have, have an idea or more than idea. Like right now I'm working on this harmonic and melodic workout that you've done a podcast and get working in, in C major and, and how to how to make that. And how to turn that into improvisation which I find incredibly typical still, but what I've got right. Otherwise, I'll get frustrated. If I'm wondering if I'm not if I don't know what I want to do or what I I want to work on. I'll work on something for 10 minutes and go to something for 10 minutes, and I don't get anything accomplished. Well, that's
Dr. Bob Lawrence 22:00
the big struggle, right? Mike, we talk about all the time, right? Have a have a clearly defined objective before you even sit your rear end on the bench, right? Because if you do not have a clearly defined objective for that practice session is what happens is exactly what you said, you sit down and you go, I think I'll work on this for a little bit. You spend, you know, 510 minutes on it, then you're off to the races doing something else. And then you're off to the races doing something else. And it's kind of like a dog chasing its tail. You sat there for an hour, but you got nothing done.
Mike Knapek 22:28
Right. Well, and that's another thing that that I rarely sit here for just an hour. And I probably right, you're probably should more. But I mean, when I was in so for long periods of time.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 22:44
So what's your average practice session? And how long is your app? Know how long? Two hours? Two hours? Yeah. So when you sit down, you actually spend two hours at a pop practicing the piano?
Mike Knapek 22:55
Yeah, no, I'll I try to work a tune in there some. Yeah, you've you've emphasized that. I mean, right now. Because when you show up at events, events, we show up in casual gatherings. People want you
Dr. Bob Lawrence 23:13
to people to to play, right. Yeah. Yeah. They play me a song.
Mike Knapek 23:17
Yeah. And so summertimes on my list, I'm working on good. Angel Eyes.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 23:27
A great tune. But
Mike Knapek 23:29
I want to be able to play something like that at the drop of a hat. But again, I you know, I can remember we had some friends that are home in California. And my friend said to me play the play song. And his friend said, or his wife said, I like hearing what he's doing right now. And I was doing nothing but working on C minor arpeggio
Dr. Bob Lawrence 23:55
so you're just playing. You're just playing? Yeah, you're well, that's a good hey, that man. That's a great testimony to you. It cuz we've talked about that too. Right? If you can play an exercise and it sounds like music and people are enjoy it. You're on the right track. That's exactly right. That's how you should be playing
Mike Knapek 24:10
embellishment to it. I was just sitting there. Right. And she's not but
Dr. Bob Lawrence 24:14
but but yeah, right. But but it should be musical to what she was saying to you is what you were playing was very musical. Yeah. Even though there wasn't a title. There wasn't a formal title attached to it. Right. So that's, that's, that's a that's a compliment but
Mike Knapek 24:29
um, I think get frustrated sometimes. Because I want to then throw in a, something we've done in the past I haven't haven't worked on in months. So let's so some encircling around this or something like that. I'm thinking, Wait a minute, you know, yeah, you'd now you're right. Now you're straying. But I don't want to forget. And one thing I don't want what we've done in the past to remain in the past. And one thing I love about what you're doing on these melodic and harmonic workouts, is we're coming back to some pretty basic stuff, you know, but but but it always comes back to that. Well, yeah, and you've always emphasized grunt work and scale work and are fit. And, you know, I told Jennifer I said, Bob says he sits down just works on scale. Sometimes she said, You're kidding me? I said, no, no. And he said that other jazz piano players do the same thing.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 25:23
Jazz musicians in general, right. I mean, it's, it's misleading the to I think it's incredibly misleading to suggest any student that you can somehow in some way bypass or complete the grunt work as if as if someday you're done with scales as as if someday you're done with arpeggios. Yeah, I got news for you that someday never comes because you continue to work on scales and you continue to work on arpeggios and, and technique development, that that's an ongoing process forever and ever
Mike Knapek 25:54
you reverted so his abs articulation was being balanced
Dr. Bob Lawrence 25:58
analysis D is balanced between the hands, you know, between your harmonic work and melodic work. And so, you know, but but one thing that you did say that I want to back up for a second because I think it's important for people listening you, you know, your, your, your unique animal and that, you know, you sit down and you devote a couple hours a day to are those billable hours? By the way? Do you bill people?
Mike Knapek 26:25
I shouldn't comment out probably
Dr. Bob Lawrence 26:27
okay, we'll just leave that. We'll just leave that alone. Okay, so I have a hunch, but I won't say what I think it is. But anyway, so you spent a couple hours. But one of the things that and you've heard me say this and I and I've told you this even though you let it go in one ear and out the other here, that I'm a big believer in short periods of short bursts of practice time, right? Like a very focused 20 minutes a very focused 30 minutes gets a lot done. So I don't want listeners thinking, you know, getting depressed right now going like man, dude, I should be practicing. I should be practicing to two hours a day. Because you don't have to put that kind of time in if you have a very specific skills and goals that you're working on and, and a process in place that you can get in and get out and accomplish a lot. But but you can eat like, but you can even accomplish more if you put more time.
Mike Knapek 27:24
I mean, I sat down before I went to bed last night played Angel Eyes for about 15 minutes, you know. That's fantastic. Yeah, that's, that's great. So and I'm working on improving. You know, I'm working on playing the tune and improving for a run through and then playing the tune again, like you do keep talking about, but no, I certainly sit down for snippets of time. 1530 minutes, but I'll look up. Seriously. You know, I think I'm gonna sit here for 15 minutes. I've been sitting here for
Dr. Bob Lawrence 27:52
Yeah, yes. Yeah. Well, that's yeah, that's, that's, that's a phenomenon that happens, right? You sit down, think I'm gonna just, I'm just gonna spend 20 minutes you look up and, and, you know, that's what that's what tam says to me all the time, too. Because I sit down at the piano. And she goes, Hey, we got it. We have to go. So I'm only going to be a couple minutes. And she goes is that like real time or Bob time? Because Bob time on the piano is like, you know, two hours, not two minutes, you know, so yeah, I get it. That happens. But but that's because we enjoy doing it. Right? Yeah, that's the that's the whole point. I
Mike Knapek 28:24
always think we can get posted on you better. I mean, when I when I've voiced right to you my frustrations that I've experienced over the holidays. You said what you're getting better and you're expecting more of yourself and I am my world my my worst critic. So I want to tell you something. Yeah, it's up to that helps me with lessons from you is our as you know, record audio record my lessons. I mean, if I did not audio record my lessons, I cannot imagine how much of that I retain for
Dr. Bob Lawrence 29:03
let's talk about that. Yeah, let's talk about that for a minute because you do when you come in for lesson here in person. You set up your phone right there on the piano, you hit the record button and record the entire lesson and then what do you do with that talk a little bit about after you do have
Mike Knapek 29:21
to do this with that.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 29:26
For those of you listen, for those of you listening like driving in the car right now, he just held up a stack of binders of of notepads and books that he
transcribed was. So you
literally got you literally go back and you listen to the lesson and you transcribe it you you listen to it again and write down what we've discussed and what you're Yeah. What the goal of the lesson. Yes, yeah. Yeah.
Mike Knapek 29:49
Because because one of the things that I'll ask you, okay, what do you mean working on, you know, so, you know, for next week between now and next week, and you'll give me a things we'll work on and I'll write those down. But so the first I started doing but I must have started doing this in July of 2018. Because I have July 2018. notepad here and I date them. Here's my first book is July 2018 to October 2018. And I'm so ridiculous about this. I started indexing these at one point in time I sit down my doing that so but
Dr. Bob Lawrence 30:31
hey, man, do you ever get the court, you know, a trial case and you open up your folder for the defendant or wherever you know your client, you open it up and you look down? You got modes, and you have scales, right? Oh, my God, I grabbed the wrong folder. No,
Mike Knapek 30:45
I haven't done that yet. But okay, good. I you know, I've asked other students, I mean, Linda, for example, who is before me, right? If she ever records those lessons, and she says, No, I don't know if you have any other students who record lessons, but
Dr. Bob Lawrence 31:01
some, some do, and many don't. And, and believe it or not, I, I actually invite students to do that. Because a lot of times I think students are afraid to ask to record if for some reason, like that's like, I don't know, some kind of invasion of privacy, or, but I think you should. I think anybody listening right now, if you're taking private lessons with teachers, I think it's a great idea. We have the technology in our back pocket all the time, right, our phone, hit the record button and record the lesson. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, as you you can testify here that How'd you like that? I threw in a little longer good law terminology. Was that good? You can testify to you can testify to the fact that that's very beneficial for you correct? Absolutely.
Mike Knapek 31:47
And I don't know what what you were when we first started, you would give me a synopsis of our lesson. And something that you call Mavenlink. Right. Right. Then you got busy. Yeah, like last summer, the other stuff and so I don't know what I you know, for three years. Apparently I didn't record but it also record you're also transcribe the podcast. And I know now, right. And oh, now that you have a transcription in the podcast, yeah. It's so
Dr. Bob Lawrence 32:18
yeah. But yeah, but yeah, you, you'd come in, you'd come in and show me your transcription notes. I'm like a mic. You know, it's like,
Mike Knapek 32:25
well, but But it allows me to, because the podcast is on Tuesday, our lessons are on Wednesday. And it allows me to have in my notes, questions that I'll have about something you did in the podcast, so and I like it. A lot of people I retain things better. If I ride you right down. I mean, it's like that paper practice. I mean, a lot of that paper I just threw away. But when I was in college in law school, I would remember things by, you know, writing them down, then I was tossing,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 33:01
right? Well, that's why I'm a big that's why I'm a big promoter of of paper practice, right? That, that there's something to that, you know, to sit down and write out your scales or write out your chords. There's something very powerful about that in the learning process that you should absolutely be doing and not just one time, but several times, right. Well, I'm
Mike Knapek 33:23
big on George to like you, like, you know, you open the floodgates a little bit. I'm big on charts in that those voices,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 33:36
Mike Knapek 33:37
left hand contemporary shells. Now got a chart here that I'm showing,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 33:43
yeah. Fantastic. I
Mike Knapek 33:45
have all of my, the left handed voicings, and then I've got separate sheets of paper. Where right to invoices, but there's my major, two invoices. Okay, for temporary
Dr. Bob Lawrence 34:00
Oh, well. Right, and I can't tell you enough how invaluable that is that you take the time to map that out, sketch it out, to put pencil to paper and create an image the imagery is so incredibly important.
Mike Knapek 34:17
I carry that around and when we go back and forth it's always winning. Right I'm so well where do I What losing it that I've also put it on a computer?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 34:27
Yeah, well and what that what that paper practice does and creating those image images i How many times have I told you and I've stressed in throughout the podcast episodes that you know, musicians play by shapes and sounds, shapes and sounds and so when you're mapping things out, you're you're making shapes come to life visually, you know, on paper and then and then when you placed those shapes on the piano, they become they come alive physically as well. Yeah,
Mike Knapek 34:53
I mean, so much as I remember you really stressed that and I mean, that's coming so much. Now more so because we're doing those, you're you're saying you do the inversions in your right hand, because though that's going to, that's a blueprint to what you're going to be
Dr. Bob Lawrence 35:10
improvisational buys, right? That's, that's exactly right. That's exactly right. So yeah, that's fantastic. So, okay, so you're consistent. Let's talk about the consistency, because that's really, you know, quite honestly, that's even more important than the length of time, right? Whether somebody sits down and practices two hours a day, or whether somebody sits down and practice 20 minutes a day, the key there is a day. So you talk about your consistency, this is something that you've built into your schedule that you do on a daily basis.
Mike Knapek 35:42
Well, you know, there's certainly some days I don't, so don't. Well, but but
Dr. Bob Lawrence 35:49
but yeah, but those are few and far. Those are few and far
Mike Knapek 35:51
anomaly. No, that's correct. Right. Right. And as corny as it sounds, I'm thinking, you know, I'm paying for these lessons. Seriously, I mean, not only do I want to learn it, but that's why I felt like college. I thought they lost both of my parents paying for school. I'm not going to skip client, right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 36:11
Yeah, because that's just right. Totally get so but,
Mike Knapek 36:15
but, but if I didn't like it, I wouldn't do it. Okay. Krill, but I yeah, I try to set some time out, at least the day. And it's funny, because as you know, we've talked about, you know, spending more time in Dallas, California, etc. And, you know, we Jennifer said, Well, what we could do is, is, you know, maybe come back to Dallas for, you know, a month and have a VRBO. And I said and her I said I've got to have to have a piano. We I told her I said I'm not going that long. Without without a piano. Yeah. And she knows how important it is.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 37:01
That's a That's awesome. Yeah. And she supports you absolutely incredible. She's incredible support for you that I think that's fantastic as well. Right.
Mike Knapek 37:10
Right. So yeah, I mean, she absolutely. In fact, she's working on loan documents as I mean, she's she is working. And she was sitting here where she works at done room table, or at the at the apartment here. And so thing we'll do this at the, at the piano, she said, I got to move into the office because I got to get this work done. So I'm glad somebody in the family. But no, she's very supportive.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 37:41
Yeah, that's awesome. So, so Okay, so I want you to talk a little bit because, you know, we've talked about all the, you know, upside here, let's talk a little bit about the downside of practicing, because you're right, you can be hard on yourself, what what are some of the things that throughout this journey that you've been on? What are some of the things that are that are frustrating to you, as as you practice and as you continually, you know, strive to get better at at becoming a jazz piano. So just talk a little bit about that.
Mike Knapek 38:16
I think the, I think want to do too much is one you know, during a practice session, like we talked about that that I'll just out of the blue think okay, let's do a cyclical quadruplet with this, which I when I haven't done a cyclical quadruplet and
Dr. Bob Lawrence 38:37
let's let's just pop in, just popped into your head, let's
Mike Knapek 38:40
circle the root on this one. Okay. I mean, one thing you did last night you on on, which was brought in line, what you're talking about, in all of me, what are your improvisational measures you did for the staffs? Okay, can we write another 140 steps and we've done 30 steps and so that's that's one thing that I found that I'm you know, that's when I began to really not getting anything done is is when I start wandering, but my my creativity, my what, what I perceive is my inability to be creative. is frustrating to me, because I love the exercises and I love the structure. You know, we were talking about when recently you and I were when I was working on tune up. And I was improvising just using arpeggios like the E minor going up and I will hit a that a seven coming down. And I said but it's so monotonous Santa because then I you know, you just hit him for four down it's said You know, just hit one, you know, just hit two. And so my, my, the, I find it hard to improvise.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 40:10
But everyone everyone does. Yeah. And that's
Mike Knapek 40:12
company somewhat that everybody does,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 40:15
yeah. Yeah, well, you know, because I can tell right, you come in for a lesson and I can tell that, you know, when you when you're getting ready to leave that it's been frustrating or you're frustrated, because it all stems to that from the, you know, we always want to be further down the road than we are all of us. And that never, that never ends, either, right, I want to be further down the road than where I am as well. So I know, like I tell students who will join the club, we all we all want to be further down the road. And we always want to be more creative, we always think that our playing is somehow not creative enough. Which, which, which then we we, we kind of, you know, we make that assessment that it's not creative enough, therefore, it's not enjoyable for somebody else to listen to. That's kind of what we're thinking. That's kind of the thought process. It's not creative enough. So therefore, it's not enjoyable. And that's, that's just like, being your own worst enemy there. Because that's just simply not true, right? You know, going back to when you have house guests, or you're at a house party, and somebody wants you to sit down and play, play a tune, and you sit down and bang out a couple courses of summertime. Does not everyone in the room. Enjoy. You just got done playing? Yeah, yes. Right.
Mike Knapek 41:31
And that's it. I mean, I'm not going to put on a concert for anybody. I mean, that's, that's all that I'm going to play. And so yeah, that's in fact, we were in our house in California with some friends there. And I put on a real pro in which is able I'm able to with a cable like a little backing track, right come into the through the speaker of the piano and my friend Bob. Izzy is a great friend of mine there who I think I may have told you he doesn't like music and he says music is overrated.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 42:06
Who is this guy?
Mike Knapek 42:07
Even he came in and he said that was really good. I mean, even Well,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 42:11
let me tell you, okay, all right. Yeah, let me tell you something. If a guy that's saying to you music is overrated, is coming in and enjoying your music. You should be doing somersaults man.
Mike Knapek 42:24
But he really likes the real like the back the back. The real boy. So you got a band playing behind. So yeah, that's right, dude, that's
Dr. Bob Lawrence 42:32
like an eighth. That's like an atheist going to church and I really enjoyed that. You know, so yeah, that's
Mike Knapek 42:42
it. It was nothing other than me just sitting there playing summertime. Which, by the way, which I have done at the Monterey Jazz Festival. I'm showing you you know, there there was a setup at the Monterey Jazz Festival patio. I've got a video I played summertime. So I tell people Yes, I played the Monterey Jasper.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 43:06
Oh, that's fantastic. And you have you're not lying. Right. Like you played Montreux? Yeah, that's, that's tremendous. That's awesome.
Mike Knapek 43:14
But since this opened up our lives to listen to jazz music. I mean, your your being with me has opened up. I mean, we love jazz music. Now. We've gone to the Monterey Jazz Festival in California now. 10 or eight or 10 times? Well, yeah, yeah, some are eight times voice since 2014. We've gone every year that's been there since 2014. And so but it's just but you've introduced me to artists I've never heard of before. I didn't know chicory I didn't know. Oscar Peters. Right. You know, I didn't know Bill Evans. Okay. I listen to Bill Evans all the time now.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 43:55
Your work your world's changed quite a bit has Yes, it
Mike Knapek 43:58
is. And I think it you know, people who don't want to retire or say they don't want to retire. say they don't know what they would do. Well, I know what I'm going to do. I want to play golf and play.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 44:13
Yeah, you know? Yeah, you get you have a pretty good life my friend. You know, you're either on the golf you're either on the golf course or sitting at the piano. I can't think of a you know, that's a pretty darn good life right there.
Mike Knapek 44:23
Yeah, so it but it's stimulates me intellectually, okay. People like yeah, a lot of people like a read. I don't read all that much. But I love to sit down and, and I've told you this. I'm almost a sponge with respect to the theory. Just the
Dr. Bob Lawrence 44:41
Yeah. You know, now that now that I think about it, you're kind of a glutton for punishment, because I can't think of two. I cannot think of two things other than piano or and golf that could cause more frustration in somebody's life.
Mike Knapek 44:55
It's harder. It's easier to throw a golf club
Dr. Bob Lawrence 45:03
Oh, that's funny, right? Yeah. So if you have a bad if you have a bad practice session, just go and grab a golf club and fling it across the fleet across the room or something. Right. That's awesome. So what else? You know, I, you know, I think that's pretty typical. With everybody studying music. It's frustrating because like I said, we always want to be further down the road than we are, we always think that we're not very creative. Are there any other things that kind of raise their ugly head demons that that haunt you when you're practicing that? Make you get frustrated?
Mike Knapek 45:35
No, no, you talked about the other night that that was one thing you're gonna ask me I've given this some thought. I mean, other than, you know, the things we've talked about wanting to do too much and, and expected more of myself and, and the improv. But now, I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's, you know, it's just very enjoyable. You know, so?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 46:03
Well, right. And you're really, you know, you've stressed how important you know how much you enjoy practicing. The exercise is, right, I'm doing air quotes here, right now, you know, that the exercises, which, by the way, to me, I mean, that's, that's me. It's music, right? It's whether you win, if you play a scale, that's music, if you play an arpeggio, that's music. So it should be played like
Mike Knapek 46:27
that, when you said that last now the Zoom class? I mean, you said that, yeah, you try to play rice today in a, you know, with a swing musical feel to it.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 46:37
Alright, let's play with the right, I want to, yeah, I want to always play everything I'm doing with the proper feel proper articulation, good groove, all of that, right. But you are at you know, you know, I want to just kind of sing your praises a little bit here. Because I think a lot of listeners can relate to this as well or may not, may not give them enough themselves enough credit as sometimes I think you do as well. And that is, the reality of it is if you stopped right now, if you literally stopped right now, you know, you have already accomplished enough in music with your being able to play your block shapes and your left hands and some voice chord voicings in your left hand to be able to sit down and take a fake book or, you know, a lead sheet, have some type with the chord changes, and the melody and you would in no time be able to bang out that tune and be able to play that song. Right? Yeah. And you would be able to do that for for countless number of songs. So in essence, the way you've been studying the grunt work that you've put in your attention to study in chords, your attentions to developing technique through the practicing of scales and arpeggios has already has already put you in a position to where you could play music for the rest of your life. Even if you didn't work any further to get any better.
Mike Knapek 48:01
That's probably in that I thought about them.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 48:04
Right. And that's phenomenal. Just stop to think about that. That's, that's phenomenal. In fact, so much so that I and I think I've told you this that if somebody were to ask me, if I would have a map of my musical growth, my musical journey and somebody asked me to put a push pin on that map at the most significant moment, my development, I'd have to put that push pin with no, I wouldn't think twice, I would put that push pin at the point where I felt like I could play my 60 chords. And I could play and I could play a melody over the top of those 60 chords. In other words, I could play a tune, I could play a melody of a tune and support that melody by playing the harmony, the chords. That was the most significant point in my musical development because I knew from there on out, it was just only getting it was only gonna get better from there. But at that point, I was able to play songs. Well, I was able to play. I mean, it's countless numbers, right? It's
Mike Knapek 48:59
like you said before, you've asked me did you understand everything that I talked about in the podcast? Yeah, I did. And you said that's, that's big.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 49:11
It's huge. Right? That's right, that that you can listen to a musical conversation and follow that musical conversation for an hour. That's fantastic. That's a testimony to just how far you've come you know let
Mike Knapek 49:22
me say this about you. You know, we're doing more and more lessons remotely but in and I'll confess I don't get as much out of those lessons but you were so far ahead of the curve in terms of when COVID hit and all that that of having lessons you perform providing lessons remote right, I get so much out of it. And I you know you said I record those in person. I also have a record of sitting on a computer when we're when we're doing or remotely but I get so much out of out of doing those lessons remotely that I would have not ever believed I would have been able to get out of.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 50:07
Right? Because you were a little skeptical at first. Oh, yeah. Right. You're a little skeptical. But but but but we make those you know, the online lessons are, are are valid, it's a viable, it's a viable alternative to be an in person.
Mike Knapek 50:22
Well, sometimes I get as much out No, I get. I get it. I'll say it, I get as much out of a lesson sometimes we don't play. Right. You know, you've said that before, when you were I mean, that you were taking lessons earlier that when you were younger, that you want to hear me play now, the questions you're asking, I understand, you know,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 50:42
yeah, right. Yeah, I had a teacher that sometimes the lesson would be so intense with the understanding the musical concepts conceptually, that had, you know, he was huge on if you didn't, if you didn't know it upstairs, it's not going to come out downstairs. And I completely concur with that. And I teach that same way, that, you know, you have to have an understanding of a musical concept first upstairs before you're going to have any success with it physically. And so there were some lessons that were so intense that we'd spend an hour on, on the conceptual understanding of a concept. And then at the end, you know, I would say, Man, do you want to hear me play something? And he would say, No, he goes, I know, I don't need to, because I know how you're progressing by the questions you ask and the statements you make. And I used to think he was a nut because I used to think what what what, what, what is that all about? And but now after teaching 30 plus years, I totally get that because as a teacher, I do know how you're progressing by the questions you ask and the statements you make, and and you always come to every lesson, whether it's in person or online, loaded with fantastic questions, and fantastic statements. So it's always what you're telling me in conversation is always affirming the direction you're going and how it's going. So I thought one
Mike Knapek 51:59
of the things that frustrates me alter dominants.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 52:04
frustrates me, Brian, right. Yeah, that's, well, that's a big time skill, right. I don't know whether you know, mine, but over dominance, yeah, alter dominance, or big time skill, and being able to see those altered nines and altered fives and, you know, sharp elevens. And that that takes what I call heart, you mentioned that earlier, I call it harmonic vision, right? Your ability to see, you know, those keys and scales so well, that you're able to see the harmonic structures within them.
Mike Knapek 52:31
And the numbering of the the numbering of the depending on what key you're in the numbering of whatever note it is that that's, I loved one thing, Darrell said last night about how he on the Zoom class about how he's watched piano players in Nashville, they don't have hearing that I have seen your ears on the lead sheets, I've got numbers. And I'm not gotten to the point where I have just haven't done it on like on, on all of me. I mean, I haven't done like David said last night where he, he played it in F instead of C major. And just looked at his function sheet and said, Okay, I'm gonna try, I'm gonna play an F major. And then I'm gonna play on an E DOM, and I mean a dominant instead of the E down and see how that sounds,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 53:18
right? I'm trying because he's thinking, and you should write using the harmonic function lead sheet, to play it in a different key. And think, in that learn how to think and that key, right? very invaluable. And that's these are big time skills. So anybody listening, you know, and working on this stuff, I want you to know that those are big time skills. So big that a lot of people just flat out, decide, you know, choose to ignore them well,
Mike Knapek 53:46
and I have a grasp the the value of being able to do that, I know that, that you played St. Thomas wasn't you played that in all 12 keys, I haven't grasped the value of being able or leading or being able to do that, as opposed to all of me seeing the C major evolve on a Damis dominant seven in a dominant and D minor. So
Dr. Bob Lawrence 54:12
Well, I'll tell you real quick, and I'll tell the listeners real real quick because the value of playing in different keys and being able to play comfortably in all 12 Keys is because songs and you know this already in fact, all of me is a good example of it by the by the second chord you're already that the chords pointing you to a different key. So we you know, all songs travel through a series of keys, not not just the parent key that's in the key signature. And so jazz musicians realize this and say, Geez, you know, I got to get comfortable. I got to get comfortable playing in different keys. You know, off the top of my head I'm thinking of the tune tangerine that the standard key is the key of F but there's four measures in there that dip dip into the key of A and you know, if you're not comfortable with the key of A you're in trouble when you start playing tangerine when you get to those four measures, so to
Mike Knapek 54:59
know So let me tune up you have three different cases
Dr. Bob Lawrence 55:03
that that was not tune up. It was oh, I don't remember what it was solar, solar. Is it so far that you were thinking? No.
Mike Knapek 55:13
But we played something that had three different key centers to begin that
Dr. Bob Lawrence 55:17
could have been any your? Yeah.
Well measured. Listen, a
lot of take any of the songs out the Great American Songbook, you know the standards, they wander through different keys, all the things you are looking at all the
Mike Knapek 55:29
things you are that's
Dr. Bob Lawrence 55:31
right. So well, wonderful. So what, you know what pearls of wisdom? What words of encouragement would you give listeners to jazz panel skills podcast that maybe folks that are just starting out on the journey? Or maybe folks that have been doing the journey as long or longer than you that that are experiencing ups and downs? What words of encouragement would you like to pass along to all the listening? Well,
Mike Knapek 55:55
when people who I talked to who are my contemporaries, and I'll know, they're, they're surprised to hear me say I play the piano. And they'll ask me inevitably, did you play as a kid? No, I didn't. I was 46 when I started. It's never too late. That's just start. I mean, I, you know, I'm thinking about this in context of, because I told Jennifer, US and Adele go, she said, What do you want to be? Do you want to play the piano when you're 60? I said, Yeah. She said, Well, it's star, you know. So I guess that would be one thing I would say is, it's never too late. I don't care how old you are. I don't it's never too late to start. And if you don't think you have rhythm, then neither did I. And and neither do I, you know. And it's, it's, it's something if you enjoy it, it's worth, it's worth getting involved in. And, you know, the other thing I would say is, is devote the time to it. I mean, I'm sitting here thinking, I don't have enough time during the day to I mean, I, I would rather at times, I would rather sit for six or eight hours in different set settings, cities, to, to get in everything I think I need to get in, but it's not like, I need to, I don't want to get to the point where I'm thinking this is a real pain in the rear, you know, which other I would think working six or eight hours. Right? So but I you gotta just devote the time that even if, you know, on a on a frequent basis, even if it's not for any extended period of time, to to just keep at it. Right, and make sure you like it. I mean, you may not, you may not like and if you you know, there's nothing wrong with wanting to do something else, I guess but but you know, that's that's those are the things that come to mind. And get and I would have had your teacher get a good teacher. Oh, man.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 58:07
Well, I think I get I think good instruction helps. And then I would add to that just be patient, right? It's a it's a game of patience. You have to be patient with this process.
Mike Knapek 58:16
Yeah. Yeah. That's the last thing you said. In this podcast this week. You know, it's a lot of something I wrote down in the podcast was, was Be patient. No, be patient. You said 55 minute and 25 second mark, you said the patient.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 58:38
Oh, that's funny, man. So Well, listen, Mike, you know, it's, uh, it's been a pleasure to spend this hour with you. And you know, you said at the beginning of the podcast, you made a statement that, you know, the, you know, I was I was saying it and tongue in cheek, and then you you were serious when I said your life changed forever, you know, and you said, Yes, it did change forever, when when we met and, and we started studying jazz together, but I just want to let you know that, that my life has changed forever to and, you know, being able to call you more, most importantly, being able to call you, my friend is has been a tremendous blessing. And as our friends and used to say to me, one of my teachers that he used to always say the greatest thing about music is the people that you meet through it. And I would have to confirm and affirm that statement that that is very true. And you're you're a testimony to your noise. It's
Mike Knapek 59:29
in the people we see in the the regulars we see on Thursday nights or
Dr. Bob Lawrence 59:35
Yeah, a class everybody's son. Yeah, it's it's a blessing. It's an optional one, but I showed me that class that that master class would be great if only I weren't there, right. So
Mike Knapek 59:54
it's wonderful. I mean, you said that about our friends and before and now it is it is true. I mean, it's I enjoy talking to everybody, you know, who's on the right zoom quest.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:00:05
Well look at Route and look at you know, in your own circles you know the people that you share music with and talk with about music and like your your experiences at the Montreux Jazz Festival and the people that you've met there, you know, like the female drummer friend that
Mike Knapek 1:00:19
Oh, yeah. Just recently passed away. Yeah, yeah. Right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:00:24
And she's she big time drummer played with all the all the greats in the jazz industry. So. So you know, it's no doubt about it. So I just want to say, you know, for the record for the record, so whenever you think I'm just being mean to you, I'm going to pull this up. And for the record, show you how that I actually went went in the podcast for all history to say to you, man, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being it's a, it's a great blessing. So all right. Well, that. Thanks, Mike. Thanks so much. And that's my canopic and jazz piano skills member and student here at the Dallas school music with me and like I just said, and my friend. So I hope you enjoyed all the listeners. I hope you enjoyed this, this episode of jazz piano skills. It will be if you want to watch the video of it. It will be posted on YouTube here shortly. And of course, you can listen to this podcast episode through any of the major the podcast directories such as Apple and Google podcast, Amazon, I Heart Radio, Spotify, and so forth. So, Mike, thank you once again. It's been a pleasure. And now it's time for you time for you to go play a little golf,
Mike Knapek 1:01:35
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:01:40
There you go, but better choice. Thank you, Mike. Thank
you. Well, I
hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast with special guest Mike canoptek to be insightful, and of course beneficial and most importantly inspirational. One of my mentors and teachers, our friends and used to say to me after every lesson never forget. The greatest thing about music is the people that you meet through it. And the privilege of knowing Mike the privilege of being able to call him my friend confirms Al's sentiment 100% Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member. I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills masterclass 8pm, central time to discuss this podcast episode featuring Mike canoptek in greater detail, and to answer any questions that you may have about the study of jazz in general. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by SpeakPipe nifty little widget found throughout the entire jazz piano skills website. Well, there's my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the journey. Enjoy the inspirational pearls of wisdom shared by Mike Novick. And most of all have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz Piano
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