New Keyboard: Roland FP-50

Guys, I got a new toy. A brand new keyboard!

After much deliberation, I got a Roland FP-50. It is replacing my old Kawai MP5.

This is why. After moving interstate, and leaving my grand piano behind, my digital keyboard became my at-home piano. While this particular piano has served me well as a gig work-horse, it’s limitations quickly became apparent as a home instrument. I begun to hate playing on it because:

It sounds awful. It took me a long while to work out whether it sounded bad because of the keyboard itself, or the amp it was running through. Because it is a digital stage piano, it has no in-built speakers, so it must run through an amp. The answer is a combination of both the keyboard and the amp. Piano really needs to be heard stereo, or else it sounds quite flat and hard.

It’s uncomfortable. Not the keyboard’s fault per se. My knees bump into the double braced keyboard stand. The stool, which I bought for its smallness and lightness, is uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time, and doesn’t go high enough. The stand for the sheet music is made of hard wire, so if you have individual sheets you need to prop a book behind. And the sustain pedal always slides away from you as you use it, even though it’s a “nice” one, not one of those cheap plastic foot switches that ship with some lower-end models.

The MP5 has tons of features that I never use. It’s quite heavy. I can lift it, but not easily. I decided that I wanted a do-everything digital keyboard. I wanted something I could use at home and at gigs, that could tick the following boxes:

  • Best possible piano sound
  • Decently realistic piano touch
  • Lightweight
  • In-built speakers

When you buy a digital piano, you always compromise on something. Lots of people can’t deal with the fakeness of the touch on digital keyboards, but I actually don’t mind too much. It’s always going to be a compromise. However, I’ve always been impressed with the touch on Roland digitals. They come closer to that grand piano feeling than any other keyboard I’ve tried.

The piano sound is best I’ve tried of any brand too. My main criticism is that it is difficult to control the gradient of loud to soft tones – it’s a bit too sensitive to be completely realistic, it doesn’t take much for notes to “pop” out too much. This suits jazz and contemporary piano playing quite well, but makes it more difficult to play classical music with control. However, like I said, compromise is key, and the Roland does very well. It’s certainly still much better than playing an old and poorly-maintained piano.

The in-built speakers allow for stereo sound without needing 2 amps. This is compact, and sounds decent, but not amazing. The speakers in this particular keyboard are built into the back (presumably to save space). I notice a big difference in sound when using headphones – the sound is rich and clear. I imagine that if I had the keyboard set up against a wall, so that the sound bounced off the wall, it would sound a bit better. And of course there are line outputs so I can run the keyboard through a PA or desk at a gig.

The Roland is light enough for me to move around easily. This is the only reason I went with the FP-50 rather than the higher model, the FP-80.

It’s comfortable! This is due mainly to me buying a new keyboard stool that is larger and higher. It was also cheaper than my old one, it’s actually just the most simple, basic model of portable keyboard stool you can get. I also have on order a new Roland keyboard stand that won’t bump into my knees (the same one as in the picture at the top). It is heavier and more expensive than the X-shaped stand, but still easily portable, and will be much better for extended home use. Also! the sustain pedal that comes with the FP-50 has an extendable rubber mat that the heel of your foot sits on, so the pedal doesn’t slip away from you! Such a small detail, but makes such a big difference to playing comfort. Unlike the music stand of the Kawai, the music stand of the Roland is a solid piece of clear plastic, much easier to prop bits of manuscript paper on when writing new music.

I’m super pumped. I’m excited to play piano again. Whatever instrument you play, you should want to keep playing it for hours at a time. I’m spending today practising and writing new music.

Do you play a digital piano? What are your thoughts on it?

Design: Hot Rods Band Promo CD

I’ve been working with Scott from the Hot Rods Band, to create their newest promo CD design and related promotional material. The Hot Rods are a 50s and 60s cover band based in the US. I live in Melbourne, Australia. Scott found me via this website, and we have worked on this project together despite being divided by oceans. The wonders of the internet! Not that that’s even new or remarkable anymore. But to someone like me who is used to delivering content face-to-face, (music teacher lyfe), this was a new experience.

Hot Rods CDThe CD itself is based on the labels on the old Capitol Records LPs. Scott had a strong vision of what he wanted for the overall design, I just had to make it a reality. Hot Rods CD-3Hot Rods CD-4Hot Rods CD-2

I passed Yamaha Grade 5 + Fundamentals!

Yamaha grade 5!Hello internet!

It took me 15 years, but I finally passed Yamaha Grade 5 and Fundamentals!

Why did it take so long? I guess life and other commitments got in the way. When I first began preparing, as a wee 15 year old, I got distracted by my AMEB Associate exam on Electronic Organ. I ended up sitting the AMusA exam and neglecting the Yamaha exam. Last year I moved to Melbourne where I began working for a Yamaha owned Yamaha school. Teachers were encouraged to sit grade exams, and so I signed up.

In Australia, Yamaha grade exams are not well known outside Yamaha music schools. Many Australian piano students will experience AMEB exams. The two exam systems are quite different from each other. The strength of the Yamaha grade exam system lies is the equal importance placed on a range of musical skills, including improvisation, sight singing, accompaniment and transposition. This is reflective of the Yamaha approach to music education.

I am really pleased I passed. I had to work hard on improvisation. My least favourite was transposition. The things that came easiest were sight reading, theory and aural. My sight singing had improved over the years through my teaching experience. When I first began preparing as a teenager, I found sight singing really difficult, but these days it’s a skill I use all the time as a teacher.

Feeling a sense of achievement,

xx Michelle


The Forest

the forestThis picture is far from perfect, but I’m very pleased with it because it represents a giant leap in my post-processing abilities. The original image came from a self-portrait experiment I posted about here, check out the link to compare this image with the original edit.


Coconut Oil for Skin and Hair

I love buying beauty products. It’s purely psychological though. When I buy beauty products I feel like I’m spoiling myself, even though the logical side of my brain knows that I don’t need to spend money in order to spoil myself. Well, here’s a way to spoil yourself without spending lots of bucks. Coconut oil saves the day again!

As we know, coconut oil is great for a myriad of applications, including as a moisturising foot treatment. You can also use it as a moisturiser on other parts of your body and your hair. It’s especially suitable for dry skin. Here’s how.

Facial Moisturiser

  • After cleansing, gently massage into face, avoiding eyes. I use a separate eye cream.
  • Only do this in the evening before bed. It takes a while to sink in, so skin will feel a little greasy for a while.
  • I use it on my face a couple of nights a week, not every night. It helps with the dryness I experience as a result of taking Roaccutane.

On Hands

  • Massage into hands, paying attention to cuticles.
  • I wash my hands a bazillion times a day, because I work in schools with germy, bacteria-ridden children, so my hands are dry.
  • Preferable to use at night before bed, once again because it can leave your hands a bit greasy.

On Hair

  • After washing, while hair is still damp, melt a little coconut oil in your hands and apply through the lengths of hair.
  • Use just a little bit of coconut oil. It doesn’t take much for hair to look oily! Use less than you think.
  • When your hair dries, it will be softer and less frizzy.

There are countless others ways to use coconut oil for beauty. How do you use it?


New Toy! Photojojo Macro Phone Lens

Close up
Close up
Close upThis little lens was cheap enough that purchasing it was a “why not?” decision. It’s includes a wide angle attachment which screws onto the macro lens. It comes with little metal rings that stick onto the back of your phone. I also stuck one around the camera of my iMac, so that I can Skype in wide angle.

The photos above are all taken with the macro lens. My favourite is the blade of grass with tiny raindrops. The middle left picture is my hair. Yep, it’s thick!


Rainbow Gelato

Well, hello humans. Here is some music that I made, and here are some thoughts about it, in easy to read dot points, because I’m tired.

  • It’s called Rainbow Gelato because it’s all cute pop happy times. “Gelato” is a nod to Melbourne speak (my adopted city); in Adelaide we say “gelati”
  • My favourite bit starts from 2:21
  • I’ve been working on this in dribs and drabs for almost a year
  • My hectic 2014 schedule meant that it spent most of the last 9 months neglected on my hard drive
  • I’m not happy with the cello and violin lines because the string timbres aren’t gelling with the electronic tones well
  • However, I’m pretty happy with the bass line and some of the beats
  • I need to improve/get more experience in creating timbres I like
  • I’ve decided to release it into the world anyway. I’m gonna move on and begin something new

Did you know that the flavour of rainbow ice cream is caramel?

Kew Cemetery

Several months ago, I drove past a long red brick wall, and caught glimpses of many old headstones on the other side. Even in that brief moment I could tell that the cemetery was something special, and I made up my mind to explore the space within the red walls.

Last week I went, with my camera in tow. But I wasn’t far within the walls before paranoia gripped me – maybe I shouldn’t be here? I exited quickly, but on my way out I saw a man walking along the cemetery path, with the relaxed air of one going on a late afternoon stroll. Then I felt silly. Surely public cemeteries should be enjoyed by the public?

Yesterday, my second chance came, quite unplanned. After finishing my first day at a new placement school, I got dropped off at a house that happened to be just across the road from Kew Cemetery. Walking along the footpath, I found a side gate in the red brick. I slipped inside. Kew Cemetery
Kew Cemetery
There were many beautiful memorials. The most recent that I could see date to the 1990s. My favourites were the very old and ornate sculptures and headstones. As I strolled along, I wondered at the dedication of the living, to erect works of art in memory of the dead. Surely such beautiful odes to memory should be appreciated and enjoyed.Kew CemeteryKew CemeteryThe last two photos are of a mysterious Victorian era memorial set on a hill not far from the main entrance. The name of the deceased is not inscribed anywhere. I did a quick internet search later, at home. It’s called the Springthorpe Memorial, and was built by John Springthorpe in honour of his beautiful young wife Annie, who died at the age of 30 giving birth to their fourth child. I’m not usually one for romance, but the tragic romance of this lovely memorial definitely had an impact.

All photos were taken and edited on iPhone using Afterglow.

On my own

On my ownThis is an image of Kyle I’ve had kicking around on my hard drive since our levitation shoot last year. At the time, it wasn’t one of my faves, but I came across it while I was poking around the other night, and something about it captured my imagination.

Aside from Kyle, the star of this image is Layer Masks. I discovered the wonderful world of Photoshop layer masks not long ago, and this one new skill, combined with a recent gravitation towards a darker, moodier aesthetic, resulted in the image above.

Hope you’re keeping warm, wherever in the world you are. It’s freezing cold where I am.

xx Michelle


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