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6 November 2008

Jeez, I'm bad at this.

One of the better days I've had practicing. I'm trying to get my chops up, because I really want to be able to play with both hands adeptly. The problem isn't my left hand by itself. In fact, I'd say I use my non-primary hand more than most people. I even mouse with it most of the time. As far as playing, it's probably no worse than my right hand. No, the trick is separating your brain so that both hands play the instrument independently.

The first step seems to get the left hand on autopilot, where it's just playing a repeated figure while the right hand plays other stuff. Really, that's not quite enough for me, though. Ideally, both hands can play independent, even improvisational lines at the same time. I don't know if I'll ever get there. First I have to simply get the left hand to not screw up and lose its place while the right hand plays. I'll need to spend a lot of time working on this, and I realized that I needed to go back to some pretty basic pieces to build upon.

I also went back to another piece I've been playing and found my notes on a comping section. This is where you pay the tune, then you play a simplified version to accompany or "comp" behind another performer, then perhaps you play a solo, and then you go back to the "head" or beginning of the tune and play the full version again. Comping and soloing can be repeated as many times as you wish in order to let everyone take solos. At least, that's how it's done in jazz. 😉 Finding how to comp on that tune did two things. First was to show me that I wasn't really paying attention to tempo, and second, it will help me do similar arrangements of other songs.

I've written a few songs lately, but only one is complete enough to bring to the band. For various reasons, we never got to it the last two jams. I hope we can try it for the next one. I still need to finish up the other songs I've been talking about.

Lastly, I've been considering trying to get gigs as a hired gun with other bands around town. I'm not really sure how to approach this. I probably need to get out more, go to some more blues jams, and see what happens. If I sit in with some people and they don't invite me back, there's my answer.

Thu, 2008 11 06 at 6:23 AM |Permalink for this entry

Gotta Get You Back Into My Life

After intending to post as close to daily as I could, I was pretty happy that it started to happen. Then, as my previous post mentioned, I went out of town. We went to Dallas for a few days, partially to see my friend Kevin Anker play with Seth Walker at House of Blues Dallas. Kevin is a killer player and a helluva cool guy to boot. In fact, so is Seth.

After the Dallas trip, Lori had some time off so I didn't do too much musically, though it's my fault for not updating the blog in the interim.

After that, I didn't update the blog, and then we got our asses kicked by a little windstorm named Ike. Category 2 my ass! That category scale is a joke and seriously needs to be replaced. Ike had one of the most destructive levels of energy on record. But this blog is about music, so I'll stop there. 😊

The day before Ike arrived, I was supposed to get my new RD-700GX from FedEx. What eventually happened is a blog post all its own. In short, FedEx beat the crap out of it before I finally got it. I'm still chasing after them to make a claim, and I've separately registered a complaint. I may also complain to the BBB.

As life here has gradually returned to normal (we were lucky that we sustained no damage to our home and only had power out for 8.5 days), I've slowly gotten back into practicing and songwriting. There are a couple of new tunes in the works from the Dallas trip and post-Ike. I also still owe my sister that song, and I need to finish the song for Beth Black, as I may see her near the end of the month. Meanwhile, I really want to get the band back together so we can blow out the cobwebs and do a few more jams at Dan Electro's. I don't think any of us want to do any more jams without feeling tighter like we used to. Since Jeff left the band a year ago, I don't think we have gotten together regularly since. I am leaving out the times we auditioned replacement guitar players before we found John.

Mon, 2008 10 06 at 6:47 AM |Permalink for this entry

A Quick One (While He’s Away)

Make music anyway!

I'm going out of town for a couple of days, so I may not post for that time. While I'm gone, here's a thought for you to digest. I read this post on another blog about learning music and ability, and thought it worth sharing. My dad always used to say, "there's nothing you can't do if you set your mind to it." I'm often disappointed when someone says they love music but can't play, or even worse, they say they've tried but they just don't have the ability. I really believe that a person who loves music can make it, too. Most people I know that play music say they are no good or they have no business doing what they do, but they don't (usually) let it get in the way of them making music anyway.

One of my pet peeves is when a sitcom makes a joke about someone learning how to play an instrument, and they're terrible and everyone else on the show cringes, plugs their ears, etc., especially when it is a kid. That is just wrong and just reinforces the perception that some people have that either you can do it or you can't. I bet most of the musicians you hear today started out at least lame if not terrible. Only a few were pretty talented right from the start, and I bet even those took years to develop the ability to take it beyond just copying others.

So if you want to make music, do it! But have some patience with yourself, and have fun! With the right attitude, you'll find that your baby steps are progress, and put them together, and you have gotten somewhere. I bet your family and friends will be more than encouraging if you give them a chance to hear you. People on TV shows are jerks. That's what makes comedy. Why do you think I act the way I do? 😉

Fri, 2008 08 29 at 4:18 AM |Permalink for this entry

A Writing Tip

Songwriting not different than other writing in many regards

I just read this post on Wil Wheaton’s blog, and point #4 stood out to me.

4. Don’t show your work to anyone until the first draft is done. Don’t even excerpt little bits and put them on your blog. I put about 30 words from House of Cards online, and I lost all of my momentum as a result. I’m not sure why this happens, but it really sucks when it does.

Jimmy Webb said much the same thing in his book. I’ve found it to be completely true. If I tell someone, “I’ve had an idea for a song about such-and-such,” it’s done, gone, goodbye.

Here is one commenter’s explanation, along with a point about why you can’t critique yourself while you write.

Re #4: this is actually explained in Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer.” She says the momentum comes from the desire to tell your story to someone. Once you’ve told someone—even just told them ABOUT your story—that desire is satisfied. Hence, no more motivation.

It’s a great book. Written long before we knew anything about right brain/left brain, the book explains exactly why you have to keep “generating new content” clearly separated from “editing/criticizing content.”

So if I don’t tell you what I’m working on, don’t take it personally. Heck, I don’t like being secretive, I’d much rather be open about everything, but if I did that, I’d not get any songs written or done. So enjoy them when I present them!

Thu, 2008 08 28 at 2:06 PM |Permalink for this entry

27 August 2008 - Lookin’ for love

A recurring case of GAS

[For those of you who don't know, GAS is Gear Acquisition Syndrome.]

Yesterday was mostly a bust. I had a dental appointment in the AM and then I took a trip to a big box musical instrument (MI) store, which will otherwise remain unnamed. There's this stage piano that I've been wanting, and I have an opportunity to get it at a really good price. Most of the times I've tried it out, I've really loved it. Not necessarily for the sounds, but for the action. It is very hard to duplicate the feel of a real grand piano, especially when you don't want to go overboard on weight nor cost. This keyboard may have hit the mark.

But, I've read some recent reports where some have complained about the action having a very hard feel when you hit bottom. I never felt this, until yesterday. I compared the keyboard's action to several other ones in the store, and it definitely felt harder. I don't know if because of playing with the band or something like that, my technique has gotten harder, or I've somehow gotten more sensitive to the bottoming. Sometimes after playing with the band, I have had some pain in the joints of my fingers on my right hand. I think this was due to pounding too hard to try to be louder. If this keyboard does have this issue, then playing on it could make the problem worse for me if I'm not careful.

I'm really looking for a keyboard that I love to play. What I have now I like a lot, but I've loved this action the times it felt right to me. Now, I'm thrown off by my experience from yesterday as well as the similar reports from others. So I'm trying to decide if I'm going to go try it again today and see if I feel any better about it.

Thu, 2008 08 28 at 10:07 AM |Permalink for this entry

26 August 2008

Coming up with titles will be the hard part. Maybe I'll skip that.

Tuesday was mostly a bust, due to some distractions that got me worked up and took some of my time. But, that led to a thought that was probably a clarification of something I had been thinking about. In order to help clear up my head, I put on some music (David Grissom's Loud Music, if you must know). I realized that I often find that music helps me when I'm in a mood. But what I also realized is that I need to learn how to make music when I'm in a mood. I tend to get frustrated and mentally "cluttered" when I feel that way, and what I'd like to do is to be able to tap into the mood instead. It seems like that's what other creative people do, so why not me?

Towards the end of the day, I started to read the part of the manual for Logic about how to use it for music notation. I played around with the feature that lets you drop notes into the score editor by hand. I wasn't terribly happy with the results. Predictably, it came out a little stiff. I'm not sure if the issue is dynamics (where some notes should be stronger than others) or rhythm. But, I did gain some knowledge about how to use the Score Editor and I'll play with it some more and see if I can come up with something a bit better.

Wed, 2008 08 27 at 2:58 AM |Permalink for this entry

Walkin’ Blues

Trying to get back on to the trail

My initial intention was for this blog to be a bit more pedestrian, more like a journal of what I've been doing day to day or as often as I am doing stuff musically. I got away from it because, as I've posted previously, I've been distracted with web work. Now that is (mostly) over, I'm hoping to Get Back into the swing of things, and keep a record of it here.

I was reminded of this concept for the blog by this video. I don't think I'm going to go quite that far with it, but I can't say that for sure. It is a good idea and so hopefully this blog will be interesting and good for me as well.

So, to catch up, Monday the 25th I spent a part of the morning with a little practicing and reviewing the song I'm co-writing with my sister. I looked at some ideas I've had for the transition from the chorus to the bridge. One of those ideas seems to have potential, I just need to flesh it out and see how it goes. (Why am I using visual metaphors such as "looked at" and "see how it goes" when I'm talking about music?)

I spent the afternoon at Musicwise trying to fix up my VK-7 for sale. It sucks, one day Lori and I dropped by and we noticed some of the keys were sticking. Turns out, the glue that holds the weights has begun to ooze and gum up the keys. So, Darren and I took it apart to clean it up and we got the keys freed up. But, when we got it back together, it would not turn on. After taking it apart and checking out several potential issues, we came up with very little. It will start up, but tapping it in the right spot will cause it to reboot. Nothing appears loose nor shorted. I wish I had been able to sell it when I first decided to, as it was fine in all regards then. Now, I will probably have to sell it for less than I had hoped due to these minor but persistent issues.

Tue, 2008 08 26 at 6:45 AM |Permalink for this entry

My Houston Promotional Videos

Houston's Convention and Visitor's Bureau has some cool promotional videos using the local Houston music scene.

This is Dan Workman, co-owner of world-famous SugarHill Studios.




You know who these guys are…



Fri, 2008 08 22 at 3:42 PM |Permalink for this entry

Song Composting

"Good artists borrow, great artists steal." - Quote often stolen and attributed to multiple sources.

I could not have said this better myself, so I'll just give you the link.

http://measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/09/rip-off-artist/

Mon, 2008 08 11 at 6:45 AM |Permalink for this entry

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

There is nothing new under the sun

This isn't really a new blog entry in that the article being referenced is from late last year, and in fact, I discussed it back then with my music friends. However, the topic of "360 deals" has come up a lot lately so I looked for this article to get a clearer definition (unfortunately, that does not mean I've been offered a 360 deal, not that I would take one!).

My favorite parts of the article are right at the beginning, where he talks about what the music business is today (second paragraph), and the sections "What is music?" and "What do record companies do?" The entire article is worth reading however, whether you're just starting out or if you're a "megastar."

David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

Tue, 2008 07 29 at 3:21 AM |Permalink for this entry

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