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by Jon Iverson Iverson.Jon@MacPhail.org

DisklavierPlayerWhen it comes to audio recordings, overdubbing is nothing new. There are some unique examples worth noting however. Legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans created three full albums of music with the technique of overdubbing, "Conversations with Myself," "Further Conversations with Myself," and [the creatively titled], "New Conversations." The tracks were recorded during three different studio sessions. And for trivia lovers out there, he used Glenn Gould's piano to do so.

Another use of overdubbing that I want to highlight is Richard Egarr's harpsichord recording of the Goldberg Canons. (Yes, that's right: the Goldberg Canons, not the Variations.) Bach composed these canons on the bass line of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations. The canons are extraordinary and were written as one-line ciphers that could be played in retrograde, in introvert, and in introvert retrograde, but that would also harmonize with itself. When one realizes these one-line canons, however, it becomes too complicated to perform on one keyboard alone. <Enter: overdubbing.> A full discussion of the Goldberg Canon's can be found here.

While not technically "overdubbing," the last example comes from Turkish super-genius Fazil Say (pronounced, "Fah-zel Sigh"). For a liveperformance in the Czech Republic, Fazil Say performed Stravinsky's Rite of Spring on one piano. But here’s the kicker: he performed the two piano arrangement made by the composer. He recorded Piano I on Bösendorfer’s version of a Disklavier and performed Piano II live during the concert. 

The teaching applications of overdubbing are far reaching, which will be discussed more at length in coming posts. 


Photo Credit: Disklavier Player: Kowloonese at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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The gorgeous post learned a great deal Thanks greatly!


I like the concept of overdubbing, even for beginnger/intermediate students. I know of a student who applied this concept in creating a Christmas gift for her grandparents. The student worked through a simple duet book, recording each of the duet parts separately. She used headphones (as D. Birrow describes in a later post) to keep herself on track, and then burned the selections onto a CD (see D. Hedegard's post). The student was highly motivated to do this because of its greater purpose, and felt a sense of pride in sharing something she'd personally created - a great example of project-based learning.


The Rite of Spring overdubbing is awesome. I've used this technique while practicing and it is great. How have you used overdubbing for your own performing and teaching?

Here is a neat performance of piano phase by percussionist David Kossin: http://youtu.be/8zAcUBZ2yvc