"Try to be creative, create your own market, your own network, your own product."

Walter Fischbacher is a renowned New York based pianist, composer and recording engineer. Already an accomplished performer and professor in Austria, he followed his dream and moved to New York in 1994, but he never lost his foothold in the European music scene, building his reputation as one of the most sought after pianists around. He now performs over 50 concert dates a year in Europe alone, with his celebrated trios “Phisbacher” and "Walter Fischbacher Trio”, and has been touring the globe with his own projects or as a sideman for the last decade. He is a successful recording artist and will be showcasing his latest project at the world renowned Jazz Conference Jazzahead in Bremen. Recently he performed along with  Beat Kaestli, an internationally acclaimed Jazz vocalist, songwriter, arranger and producer at the Swissotel Kolkata organized by the  Alliance Francaise du Bengale and The Embassy of Switzerland .

How did you know the piano was the instrument you wanted to play? 

My father played the piano as a hobby, so there was always a piano in the house. I started fooling around with the piano at age 4 or 5, so my parents figured I was talented and sent me to have private piano lessons with age 6. I never stopped since then.

What is your approach towards composing music? As an artist where do you draw your inspiration?

I am a very structured guy when it comes to writing music: I start out with narrowing down the following parameters:

  • Who am I writing for (p solo, trio, instrumental, vocal) should it be complicated to play (my trio) or easily (my students)
  • What mood: fast, slow, minor, major
  • Is it for an album: if yes, what is needed for the album? (Fast, slow, medium tempo, happy, sad etc.)
  • Which style should it be: swing, straight, jazz, fusion, pop etc.

Once I choose one or more of those parameters, then I wait and  see what comes to mind, it can be in any order:
Melody, harmonic structure, rhythmic patterns, etc. whatever comes first, I write it down, if it's a complicated rhythm, I might first program it on the computer, and write the rest to the track

Some people think of improvisation as an art rather than a science. Do you think it’s something that can be taught to everyone, or is it inherent in some musicians?

Don't quite know where the difference is between art and science in this case
Improvisation is definitely something that can be taught. Although I heard that some of the (Western) classical musicians have a hard time playing anything that is not written, I think it can be taught to everyone.

It's a balance act between practicing it in a structured way (scales, chords, chord progressions) and letting loose (not thinking about anything and just playing), and making sure one does not confuse those things. (Practicing improvising only by playing anything that comes to mind will not get you further, and neither will just recite during a concert whatever scales you just have practiced)

                                                                      - Walter Fischbacher Trio
What do you feel are the most important things for an aspiring jazz musician to spend their time practicing?

It is important to learn your basics while in school, later on you probably won't have time to do that;
So, practice your scales and patterns and chords, do your ear training, learn your repertoire.
Furthermore, be prepared for any gig you take on, show up on time and be nice. A bad reputation spreads fast and is hard to shake off.

Seeing that Jazz still lies in the niche bracket, is there a piece of advice you have for any kids thinking of pursuing it as a career in a country like India?

I am afraid jazz in a niche music all over the world, it will never be much more than 0.5% of the general audience that will listen to jazz. I assume this is true for India as well.
One of the things that stuck with me from my music business classes at the New School with Jimmy Owens was: Don't try to get the gig that the other 1000 musicians want. Try to be creative, create your own market, your own network, your own product.

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