David Hicken ~ The Classical Crossover Pianist

FAQ

Can I use your music in my YouTube video?

Yes you can, and it doesn't cost anything to do so.  You will receive a copyright claim from "CD Baby" who administer the rights for my music.  This is nothing to worry about and doesn't affect you in any way, but simply points out that you are using music that is administered by that company on my behalf.  You can use any of my music, but please list the name of the track as well as me as the composer in your video description, so that others may be able to discover my music.

Can I license your music for my project?

Yes.  Licenses are available for film, television, commercials, videos games as well as websites, software, and smaller scale projects.  Take a look at the licensing page for a list of prices, but  contact me with the specific details of your project, and I'll send you a quote.

Is it safe to order from your website?

The store on my website is hosted by an excellent company which uses the same encryption used by all major retailers.  Your information is completely safe and is never shared with anyone.  Although everyone has their preference as to where they shop, I always appreciate if customers purchase directly from my site rather than iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.  All of those companies take a significant portion of the proceeds, so it makes all the difference for an independent musician like myself, if you purchase directly from me.  There is no difference between ordering from my store and any other retailer, and you receive exactly the same plus my appreciation.

How will I receive my order?

If you purchase a digital product such as a PDF, MP3 or MIDI file, you will receive an email upon completion of your order, which contains a link to download the files.  If paying via PayPal, there can occasionally be a backlog on their system which although rare, can cause your email to be slightly delayed.  Avoid trying to download your files directly to a phone or a tablet, because these devices are usually not designed to download and save files.  The link you receive does expire, and only allows a certain amount of downloads, which is implemented as a safety feature intended to prevent people from sharing the files.  However, once you have purchased files from me, you always have access to them should you ever need to download them again.  If you find that the link has expired, or experience any difficulties in downloading your items, send me an email and I will reset the link for you.  I am usually able to respond to these requests quickly because I receive alerts on my phone.

Books and CDs are almost always mailed the day after the order is received.  Most items are mailed via U.S. Post Office first class mail.  International orders cannot be tracked once they leave the U.S., but I ship products all over the world and have never had a problem with customers receiving their orders.

Can you explain the shipping charges?

I charge my customers the fee that it costs me to mail an item, and I don't believe in trying to make a profit from shipping.  Because I ship all over the world, it has been necessary to make the shipping options on the store as simple as possible.  Domestic orders are always shipped first class mail except for some books which weigh over 13oz and must be sent via priority mail.  The fee to ship most of my books internationally is $12.60, and although it is lighter, a CD costs $13.25.  These fees apply to most countries, and there are unfortunately no cheaper options.  However, all of my shipping charges are per order, which means that you can order as many items as you like and the shipping price is the same.  You may want to consider purchasing more than one item to help offset the shipping cost.

I live in a Middle-Eastern country.  How can I purchase your music?

Many of my friends in countries such as Iran are unable to purchase music directly from my website because they can't use U.S. currency.  The authorized agent for all of my music in the Middle East is Narges Karami.  You can email her and let her know exactly what you would like to purchase and she will make arrangements with you directly.

What app do you use on your iPad to read the music?

The app is called "ForScore" which you can download here.  It is a wonderful app which has changed my life as a musician.  It allows me to store all of my music in PDF format on the iPad.  The app has a ton of useful features such as a metronome, the ability to add annotations and use landscape or portrait mode, re-order pages, rename files and much more.  I have recently upgraded from an iPad Air to the 12.9 inch iPad Pro which is not only much easier to read from, but allows me to annotate the music using Apple's digital pencil.

How do you turn the pages?

I use a wireless foot pedal made by a company called "AirTurn".  It connects to my iPad via bluetooth and features a pedal to move the pages forward and another to move them backward.  After turning physical pages of music my whole life, it has been an absolute joy to use this product.  The model I use is called the "Duo" and you can purchase one here. I do receive a very small commission from the company if you order using this link. 

What software do you use to write music?

I use Sibelius which is a wonderful program.  It is intuitive to use and creates scores that look fantastic.  I have enjoyed using Sibelius more than any other music application, however, I will soon switch to a brand-new music notation program called "Dorico".  It is made by Steinberg and was just released in the Fall of 2016.  It has been created from scratch by some of the people who created Sibelius, and the reason for my switch is not because I don't like Sibelius, but because I firmly believe that they have created a program that is even better.  Find out more about Sibelius here, and Dorico here.  You can't go wrong with either program.

Can you recommend a good metronome?

I own a variety of metronomes, from the traditional wooden type with a pendulum, to the modern electronic ones.  I now use an app called "Tempo" made by Frozen Ape.  It is an excellent and versatile app that is better than traditional metronomes.  It does everything that I need and has the added convenience of being on my phone.  iPhone users can check it out here, and android users can check it out here.

Why did you choose a Shigeru Kawai piano?

The Shigeru Kawai piano is one of the finest instruments in the world along with Steinway, Bösendorfer, Fazioli and Bechstein.  High-end pianos of this caliber are all fantastic, and it's hard to say that one is better than the other.  It all comes down to personal preference because pianos from each manufacturer have unique characteristics.  I switched from Steinway to Shigeru Kawai because of Kawai's carbon fiber action.  The feel of a piano is so very important to me, and the action of this piano is unlike anything I have ever played before.  The tone is exceptional due to specially aged woods, as well as having beams made of spruce rather than the usual hardwoods.  Cold-pressed, rather than heat-pressed hammers also makes a difference as well as the methods used to manufacture their strings. The piano is hand-made by a team of master craftsmen who truly care about what they do.  The model that I have is the SK-7 semi-concert grand, which is 7' 6" in length, weighs over 800lbs, and has a manufacturer's list price of $97,000.  You can read more about Shigeru Kawai here.

How do you go about composing a piece of music?

I sit at the piano and begin playing around with ideas.  I never know what will come through my fingers on any given day, but I just go with the flow.  When I find an idea that I like, which might be a simple as two chords, or a short melodic pattern, I immediately enter the notes into my Sibelius notation program before I forget them.  It is much quicker and easier for me to enter notes into the software program than to write them out by hand.  I work with these initial ideas to develop them further, and sometimes they lead on to other ideas and sometimes they don't.  Very often, the finished product is completely different from the ideas that were used to begin with.  Composition is a wonderful journey for me, and I never really know where it will take me.  I enter another place when I compose - almost like a form of meditation.  I am currently finishing up a new book called "Secrets To Better Composing And Improvising" which gives clear details as to how I do what I do.  If you're on my mailing list, you will receive a notification when it is available.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from life and the many wonderful experiences that comes with it.  My music is a culmination of all that I have experienced, and yet certain pieces have more focus in some areas than others.  I am very much inspired by nature as well as history. I take regular walks in nature which allow me to clear my mind and put myself in a state where ideas flow easily to me.  I refrain from following any form of news and I don't watch television.  This allows me to stay connected as well as focus on positive rather than negative.

How long does it take you to learn one of your pieces?

This varies considerably depending upon the complexity of the piece.  As I compose a piece of music, I am already playing the ideas over and over, so the practicing of a piece of music begins in the early stages.  However, once the piece is finished I do practice and learn it just as I would with music from the classical repertoire.  More complex pieces such as the ones from "The Art Of Piano" can take anywhere from ten to twenty hours of practice once the piece is finished.

Do you practice scales and exercises?

Yes, I spend 30 minutes every day on piano technique.  I have written a book which details exactly what I do called "The Ultimate Piano Workout".

Will you teach me?

I have taught thousands of students over the course of twenty five years, but I no longer teach.  I am able to share my knowledge and experience with a much larger audience through my videos and books.  Everything that I could teach you in-person, I have either written down somewhere, or will write down in a future book.

Will you give me feedback about my playing or my compositions?

I do give feedback and offer critiques to my supporters on Patreon.  A wonderful group of people help to support what I do by contributing as little as $1 for every video that I create, and I put all of this money towards the funding of larger scale video projects such as "The Bell Carol".  I am able to offer a number of bonuses to those who help me, such as free MP3 files, behind the scenes video footage, sheet music that has not yet been released, discounts on books as well as feedback and critiques about playing and composing.  I am happy to help you in your endeavors, but please consider becoming one of my supporters by using the link above.

How can I play like you?

Begin by reading my blog where I share all kinds of useful information, then check out my books "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" as well as "The Ultimate Piano Workout" which will help you immensely.

Can I purchase your sheet music anywhere else?

No.  My sheet music is only available on this website.  The only exception is a piece of choral music I wrote called "Adoramus te" which is published by Hal Leonard.

Can I make an arrangement of your music?

Maybe.  Please contact me first and let me know what it is that you'd like to do.  My music has been arranged for string ensembles as well as wind quartets, but the arrangers always contacted me first to let me know what they were doing.

What can I do to help you?

The best way you can help me is by supporting me on Patreon.  Please read my page on their site to see what it's all about as well as the perks that are available to my supporters.  The next best way you can support me is by sharing my videos with your friends and family on whichever form of social media you use.  This makes a big difference, and helps to get my music into the hands of pianists who may really enjoy it.  Please let people know that they can stream any of my music on Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music.  If you have purchased any products from my store, I'd appreciate if you'd take a moment to head over there and write a quick review of the item, stating what you like about it and why.  It can really help someone else who is considering purchasing too.  Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter so that I can stay in touch with you, and certainly subscribe to me on YouTube.

Do you do commissions?

Yes I do.  For those who are not familiar with what a "commission" is, it is where I am paid to write a piece of music for someone.  This is how many of the great composers of the past earned a living, but commissions tend to remain in the world of classical music.  Rock, Pop and Jazz musicians may write songs about people, but not usually for them.  Patrons of Beethoven enjoyed the fact that not only were they helping to support a great artist, but that they had a piece of music written for and dedicated to them.  Their name was forever linked to that piece of music.  There's no better gift for a piano-lover than having a piece written specifically for them.

My fee for a commissioned piece of solo piano music is $1000.  I write for any instruments, so a piece for clarinet with accompaniment would begin at the same price, however the price increases according to the complexity of the piece that is desired.  Obviously a concerto or a symphony would be considerably more due to the time required.  Contact me for a quote on something more specific.

Do you give live performances?

Yes I do.  My fee for live performances is $10,000 plus expenses.  There are a handful of specific requirements, so contact me for more information.

If I send you one of my compositions, will you record or play it?

No, I only perform and record my own compositions.

Do you do collaborations?

No, I prefer to work alone.

Why don't you do covers?

I don't see much point in it really.  What's wrong with the original version?  Performing covers certainly increases views and subscribers because it allows the performer to capitalize on search traffic for well-known songs.  However, views and subscribers, although very nice for the ego, are of little consequence to one's bank account!  Music is my full-time job and I am in the business of selling music, which is easier to do when it is my own.

Will you record any more arrangements?

With the exception of Christmas music, probably not.  I arranged an organ piece called "Carillon-Sortie" and called it Mr. Mulet's Exit.  It is one of my favorite organ pieces, and I had thought about transcribing it for piano for many years.  I also made a video of "Dizzy Fingers" by Zez Confrey - another piece that I particularly like.  After watching the latest Jurassic Park movie, I was inspired to make a video of the brilliant music by John Williams, but it is not my arrangement.  If you like that version, you can find it on any of the major sites that sell sheet music.  I had thought about removing the video from YouTube because I receive so many requests for an arrangement of the music, but people like it, so I'll leave it on there.  There are pieces in the classical repertoire that I sometimes consider arranging, but I am happier writing my own music.

Why don't you have more subscribers?

I have not been doing this for very long.  Although I did add some relaxing and meditative piano videos to YouTube several years ago, the first real video that I added was "The Bell Carol".  After its release it was about a year and a half before I added another, which was "Incantation".  After the addition of "Incantation", people showed real interest in what I was doing, so I added more.  Now this is my full-time job and I upload a new video every week or two.  The more my music is shared on social media by people like you, the more my music is getting out into the world.  I rely very much on my fans to help spread the message.  Although I may not have the huge numbers that some other YouTube artists have, I am lucky to have a very loyal community of wonderful people who really enjoy what I do.  They not only purchase my music regularly so that they can play it themselves, but they help to promote and support me, for which I am most appreciative.

Can you explain the Bell Carol?

The "Bell Carol" is my arrangement of "Carol of the Bells".  I had always wanted to produce a Christmas album, and as Christmas of 2013 was fast-approaching, I decided to knuckle down and get it done.  After arranging ten traditional carols and composing one original piece, the Bell Carol was the last piece that I finished for an album called "Carols of Christmas".  Upon hearing the Bell Carol, friends and colleagues suggested that I make a video, however I really didn't think there would be much interest in watching me sit at the piano and play "Carol of the Bells".  How wrong I was!  My feeling was that the video needed a story in order to make it interesting.  A lot of time was spent working out a story line, and before we knew it, the day of filming was upon us.  The weather in Hawaii is always beautiful, but the day of filming was one of the worst days of the year, and the shoot almost had to be cancelled.  You can see that it's windy in the video, but it was actually so windy that I was afraid that the lid of the piano would blow over (and that was a very expensive piano).  We filmed during a few hours of reasonably good weather, but before and after the shoot, there were torrential rains and gale-force winds.  Not only were we not able to film the entire story line due to bad weather, but what we did film was too long to be added to the four and a half minute track.  The result was a video that looked cool, but was obviously random.  As we viewed the first draft, even we questioned "who is the girl, what is she doing and why is she there?".  However, decisions needed to be made quickly because the video had a release deadline.  I decided to release it as it was, just consider it as an "art piece", and let people interpret it however they liked.  I had no idea just how successful the video would become, and obviously most people really like it, despite some people asking the very same questions that we asked ourselves about the random girl in the red dress.  If I could go back and do it all over again, there would be no girl and no randomness, and in fact, no story at all because it was not necessary.  But at this point it is best to leave it as it is because it is enjoyed by many people throughout the world.

Will you provide backing tracks for pieces like "The Letter"?

I have received many requests for audio files of the background tracks for those of my pieces which are orchestrated.  This is a great idea, and I understand that people want to play along with the orchestration.  The problem is that when the piano track is taken out of the original recording, there is very little for the pianist to stay in time with in the remaining tracks.  If there was a constant beat throughout, it would be simple, but in some areas, the orchestration deliberately thins out or even drops out completely.  This would mean that unless the person playing had an impeccable sense of timing, they would never be able to stay in time with the recording which would lead to much frustrationI will be writing pieces in the future which include a very clear beat with which a pianist can stay in time.  I will provide the backing tracks for those pieces.

How do you encode your MP3 files?

All of the MP3 files in my store are encoded at 192kbps with variable bit rate.  320kbps files are possible, but the larger file size vs. the small improvement in sound quality is not worth it.  192kbps is the same quality as files downloaded from iTunes.

Do you provide high-quality audio files?

Yes.  My music is recorded in 24 bit at 192k which is four times the quality of a CD.  These files are huge and can take a while to download, and although I offered them on my website for a while, only a handful of true "audiophiles" are actually interested in music files of this caliber.  Usually these people own stereo equipment that costs many thousands of dollars.  I now offer 16 bit 44.1kHz WAV files for all of my music, which is exactly the same as what you would hear on a CD.  These files are less "intimidating" for the average person, and they will work with most music players.  Although higher quality files are possible, most people would only be able to hear a difference using expensive equipment.

So you aren't making any more CDs?

The way people consume music today is changing more rapidly than ever before.  We have always been used to keeping music on a physical medium such as cassette, vinyl record, CD, Hard Drive, thumb drive etc., but the world of cloud computing is changing all of this.  A subscription to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube Red, Tidal, Napster as well as many other companies, allows people to listen to over 30 million tracks instantly.  A quick visit to your local CD retailer will reveal that there are far more DVDs for sale than actual music CDs.  In fact, the record companies are getting so desperate, that there are more Vinyl LPs available in some store than there are CDs, which is silly because vinyl is NOT better than a CD and is simply a sales gimmick that will soon fade.  Although there are diehard fans of CDs, as well as people who are afraid of anything to do with "the cloud", the truth is that CDs will very soon be a thing of the past.  A considerable amount of time, effort and money goes into manufacturing CDs.  Artwork, barcodes, specialized mastering etc. and quite simply, it is not worth the trouble considering that most people either download the MP3 album, or listen to the music on a streaming platform.  I release my music one track at a time, and my albums are now more like "folders" which hold collections of pieces.  I like the fact that my music is available to everyone as soon as I have finished recording and mastering it.  No longer do I have to wait several months until I have assembled an album of music to release it as a CD.   Now that the HQ Audio WAV files are available for all of my music, these are the same files that are used to create CDs.  For those who really want a CD, I would suggest that they download these files and then burn them to a CDR disc.  Any modern computer is capable of burning a CDR and it is very easy to do.  You would then have exactly the same product as a normal CD minus the artwork.  It won't be long before all artists come to the same conclusion and will no longer have CDs for sale.  

What are MIDI files?

MIDI stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface".  A MIDI file contains actual data about the notes that I played, when I played them and how loud or soft I played them.  Just like piano rolls from a hundred years ago, these files allow any compatible musical instrument or computer to play back the actual data that I recorded so that you hear me playing through your device.  If you own a MIDI grand piano, these files will play through your piano as if I was sitting there playing for you.  They will play through digital pianos, and synthesizers etc.  I am the only pianist and composer that I know of who makes his MIDI files available.  If you have a MIDI device, it's a really cool way to experience my music.

As a pianist and composer, is there anything that really bothers you?

When people call pieces of music "songs".  Songs are sung.  Compositions that have no lyrics are called "pieces of music".

I am also irritated by the ads that run before my YouTube videos selling piano courses which are a complete load of rubbish as well as a waste of money.

Who are your favorite composers?

Johann Sebastian Bach and Sergei Rachmaninov

Who is your favorite pianist?

Vladimir Ashkenazy

Do you play any other instruments?

I played the clarinet for eleven years.  It is a beautiful instrument, but I got really tired of blowing into a tube.  The organ is my primary instrument, and I consider myself to be a better organist than pianist.

I hope you have enjoyed these questions and answers.  If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll add them to the list.