New book by Armen Donelian is a guide to piano music

Published: Sunday January 22, 2012

Armen Donelian.

Hudson, N.Y. - Whole Notes: A Piano Masterclass, the third instructional book by veteran pianist, composer, bandleader, and educator Armen Donelian, has just been published by Advance Music.

Written in a conversational tone, the book "offers practical guidance grounded on principles of music theory, rhythm, analysis and composition as well as physics, anatomy and holistic development," Donelian writes in the book's final chapter. Although "this is not the first attempt to examine these subjects in writing, nor will it be the last," he writes, "it incorporates my personal experience in the worlds of both composed and improvised music. I treat these not as two separate areas, but as multi-faceted expressions of universal musical sound phenomena that transcend categories, because that is how I experience them."

Concerned with how as well as what to play, Whole Notes is both a piano method book per se and, more importantly, a guidebook to accompany the reader's personal journey into music. Posture, practicing, mental and physical health, using weight and force, economy of movement, and expression are some of the topics addressed. These themes are amply explored through detailed piano arrangements of Armen Donelian's compositions and are of universal interest to all musicians. As a practical inquiry, Whole Notes offers many options for creatively applying and integrating them for individual use. For this reason, the needs of non-pianists are also discussed.

The 212-page book contains 73 photographs, numerous original compositions, musical examples, and technical exercises. It is available in the U.S. through and, and internationally through

Armen Donelian's enviable career, spanning four decades, includes seminal stints with Sonny Rollins, Billy Harper, Chet Baker, and Mongo Santamaria. An invaluable educator and international clinician, he has previously written the two-volume Training the Ear (Advance Music). Donelian is currently on faculty at William Paterson University and the New School, and is the Co-Director of the Hudson Jazz Workshop. He has taught at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Yerevan (Armenia) State Conservatory as a 2002 Fulbright Senior Scholar; he also did Fulbright residencies in Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Greece. "Over the years I discovered I had a knack for teaching and later a talent, and beyond that a responsibility," Donelian says.

On Leapfrog, his critically acclaimed latest album (and ninth release for Sunnyside), Donelian focuses on his spacious, lyrically charged compositions with an exceptional quintet comprised of Dutch tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas, guitarist Mike Moreno, veteran bassist Dean Johnson, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

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