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A songwriter examines the tools he has to survive the inevitable

Published on The Green Room — NewMusicalTheatre.com

Eighty eight keys. Twenty six letters. That’s it. That’s all that separates me from oblivion.

Often when I sit at the piano with my laptop resting on top, getting ready to write, it hits me: every key is there, every letter already formed, every pitch ready to vibrate into the air. All of the actual components are right there in front of me — the only thing I can do is order them. All I have are eighty eight keys, and twenty six letters to say something that matters.

This is somewhat of a misnomer in itself, the eighty eight keys on the piano are really just twelve pitches in repetition — in fact some pianos (often really beautiful ones that are also insanely expensive) are made with an extra octave at the bottom, bringing the total to one hundred keys. Similarly, when I sit at my MIDI controller writing into my computer, I only have access to seventy two. The number of keys to play are completely arbitrary; in many ways a more accurate title of this essay would be “12/26”. C/C#/D/D#/E/F/F#/G/G#/A/A#/B — there you go, now you have them. …

Songwriter, playwright, composer — and other things writer.

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