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Improvisation and Inhibition

When the musicians improvised, Dr. Limb found, areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex linked to self-expression were activated, but an area linked to inhibition and self-monitoring “kind of shuts down when you go creative,” he said. That did not happen when musicians played a memorized piece.

When Melody Takes a Detour, the Science Begins, New York Times, June 6, 2011

This makes me wonder if improvisation can be used as a tool to train oneself to turn off the inhibition and self-monitoring when playing.

Sun, 2011 10 30 at 9:05 AM |Permalink for this entry

Free Me

It’s just a metaphor. I don’t have dissociative identity disorder. Wait, do I? I don’t know. Let me ask myself.

There is a piano player inside of me whom I really like. I like his tastefulness, I like his style. I like the kinds of licks and styles of music that he plays.

I want to hear him play in the “real world.” I want to see him play with some real people. I want to feel the joy he feels when the music is made. I want to let him out and see what he can really do. I want you to be able to hear him, if you want to. But most of all, I just want him to be free to play his music.

Has anyone seen my keys?

Sat, 2011 10 29 at 9:03 AM |Permalink for this entry


You sing

The other day, I came to a point where I no longer had any outside musical obligations. Before I knew it, I jumped into one project I was doing as a favor/volunteer (a web design project, no less!) going so far as to stay up late to get a bunch of it done. I would have done some stuff on the piano, but Lori was trying to sleep. I did do a bit before she headed off to bed.


This tells me that one of the issues that I have been having is control. Was it that obvious from the outside? The reason that programming appealed as an alternative is now clear to me. I would have been doing it under only my own expectations.

Jimmy Jam

Since the band broke up, I haven’t had very much that I was doing musically (nor elsewhere, really) that was primarily mine. When I felt that things were up to me for the most part, I was okay. The issue is when I am not sure what the expectations are. Unfortunately, you can’t always find out what a band or band leader wants until you play together. But I think that I need to keep an outlet where I am in control to fall back on at the very least. I am not sure what that will be, though. I guess for now I will just see how things go and what I end up doing.

Thu, 2011 10 27 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Super Seed

“Though thinking does not make it so, thinking makes you make it so. What you think becomes what you live.” - Ralph Marston

I read this “motivator” from Ralph Marston and it strikes me that I should use the power of my over thinking to think the right thing. Instead of worrying about not practicing or how things are going to go or that I’m not good at something, I should think about what I can be, what I would like to be, me being confident in what I do. Simply put, I should supersede the negative thoughts with positive ones.

I may have mentioned in a previous post about how imagining myself playing at times feels nearly as good as actually doing it. So why not fill my head up with those thoughts instead? Not all the time, just when the crap thoughts are bugging me. You know, most of the time.

Tue, 2011 10 25 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry


Hearing me sing.

I’ve been taking these Ear Training classes with Paul English lately, and the cruel man is making me sing. I cannot imagine the horror that it sounds like.

I thought these classes would have me listen, and they do. But in order to internalize the notes, we apparently must sing them as well. Even though I can hear it in my head, I can struggle with a simple solfege. I can hear a note and sing it back, sometimes. One trick I am having is if I’m on the other side of my “break,” which is around A3 or so (the A below middle C, 220 Hz). I tend to stick on one side of the break and then hit it like a wall until I consciously realize that I need to go past it to hit the desired note. That is not my only problem, however.

I am also finding a strange problem that sometimes I have no idea where I am relative to the desired note. Am I below it or above it? Am I close or am I far? In class, I try not to be embarrassed, but I cannot help but think what the other students are thinking. I try not to think about it too much and press on. They have been polite, and even encouraging.

But Paul? The man is just mean.


Mon, 2011 10 24 at 9:21 AM |Permalink for this entry

No post today

Today, October 23rd, is Lori and my wedding anniversary and the anniversary of the day we met, so no talk about music and all that. Today we simply celebrate the beautiful music we make together.

Sun, 2011 10 23 at 11:23 AM |Permalink for this entry

A Metaphor for Life

Vacation is all I ever wanted.

Have you ever gone on a vacation with plans to see and do a ton of things, and only got to part of your list? Perhaps you went to New York City and wanted to see the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Greenwich Village, the Museum of Modern Art, and a bunch of other places but only got to some of them. While you were at one, did you fret about not getting to the next place, or did you enjoy what you were doing and where you were?

Those of us who enjoy what we’re doing on vacation while we are doing it and don’t worry about what we’re not doing enjoy the trips much more than those who do not, obviously. I know that I come back from trips like that with fond memories. I will just try to visit those other places next time. Maybe I will make it back, maybe I won’t.

Life should be like this too. There are things that I would like to achieve in my life, “levels” of musicianship I would like to have, etc., but I should enjoy what I am doing, where I am, right now, no matter where I end up. The journey is the reward.

Sat, 2011 10 22 at 9:10 AM |Permalink for this entry

Obsession for Me

Eau de Toilet

You may have noticed my obsessive nature. I find that it, along with my over-thinking, is great for solving problems. It came in handy when I was an engineer, and when I have done programming. It even helps when I am writing lyrics, trying to come up with ideas for parts of songs, or trying to analyze parts of existing cover songs.

Where it gets in the way is when the solution is to do something. It does not help to think when I need to work on a part to play. Once I know what I need to be able to play, only practice and repetition will fix the “problem.” However, when I am away from my instrument, I have to struggle to not think about what I am not practicing. There’s no point in thinking about it or worrying about it. Do or do not, and all that.

Fri, 2011 10 21 at 10:11 AM |Permalink for this entry

Judgement Day Blues

A friend recently replied to my post about Judgement. He suggests that a) not everyone can do what everyone else can, and 2) we need judgement in order to find out the truth and rise above where we are. I don’t disagree with either. As he said, “a guy with no legs is not going to be an All Pro Running Back.”  Or, if the guy has legs but for some reason doesn’t know he’s not strong or quick enough, he’s not going to get better.

The trick is the line between discouragement and encouragement. I can only assume that point is different for each person. There have been some who have been told that “they suck” perhaps in so many words, and used that as their own motivation to get better. On the other hand, some have heard the same thing, got discouraged, and either gave up or maybe they’re the ones who struggle every day with that voice in their head. One could argue that maybe those people weren’t meant to do whatever they are trying to do. If they don’t have the drive to overcome the criticisms perhaps they should do what does drive them. I don’t know if there are any clear answers to this, and like I have mentioned, it could be different for each person.

In my original post, I was talking about that self-criticism that tends to stifle, because we are afraid of “what if.” It’s one thing to judge oneself objectively in order to improve, it’s another to constantly think, “I am not good enough,” “I can’t do this,” “I’m wasting my time trying,” or whatever that keeps us from even making the effort. Similarly, when one wants to criticize someone else’s work, I think it should be done tactfully and constructively. Anyone can say, “that sucks,” but are you capable of telling them why you think that? If you don’t, you might not really be in a place to tell them what you think.

Tue, 2011 10 18 at 8:59 AM |Permalink for this entry

Changing the World

These things spread.

Very few people do something that changes the whole world so boldly and obviously. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and other “crazy ones” did, some a few times over. Not everyone can do that.

What everyone and anyone can do, is have a positive influence on the world around them. Like ripples in a pond, these things spread. You don’t have to volunteer at a shelter, feed the hungry, help old ladies cross the street (though those kinds of things are great). Just by being a positive influence, doing what you feel you were meant to do (follow your heart), any little thing can contribute to the betterment of our world. I can’t be specific because that’s something each one of us has to find for ourselves.

I know some people want to make a bigger impact on the world, and many feel overwhelmed by the things they think need to change. Just do your part. Remember, these things spread.

Mon, 2011 10 17 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

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