The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
i don't know if you guys get excited when I say I'm writing a new song or if its eye roll time - I guess it depends if you like them! Well I am writing something new, at the moment it's a piano song, I think it's going to be 'Elton John' ish rock pop? Too early to tell as yet but it's got that bouncy full sound and is leaving the door open for lots of fun dynamics. I'd like to try and do a bit more on drums for this one but there's a problem - I can't play them!! I'll try and figure that out, I think if I work out what it is I'm looking for sound wise I may be able to figure some workaround - we'll see.
Anyway yesterday was lesson day and I think we're moving on to electric now for a while. I think now I've picked it up a few times Zak is rubbing his hands with glee - he loves the electric, my heart at the moment is definitely with acoustic but I'm open and that may change as I learn to play. I don't think so but who knows, I've discovered a LOT of things about myself I didn't expect. In some ways it's like being back at square one (that seems to be happening a lot recently!) but I think that's because as with the acoustic Zak is pushing hard on technique. As I want to play the hell out of the guitar both electric and acoustic that's probably a good thing!
We're starting with power chords which may sound very basic but had you have been here I the lesson you'd realise it's not (well it is but the number of things I had to think about was crazy!). Lots to practice and he wants me to play over drum backing tracks and to try and write them into a song, I can't see that happening on this new song but who knows. That's the bit I love most about writing, I never know where my songs are going until they're nearly done.
I'll keep you updated, not every song I start gets finished but I think this one will I love what I've been messing with so far.
Yay! The day finally arrived for these two awesome guys to meet and jam. They are such different people but they have two things in common.
1) They're wicked musicians
2) I adore them!
It was slightly intimidating sat on drums being totally naff watching these two play but it was a moment I'll remember forever.
It may seem dramatic but you have to remember two years ago I had never played a note, I'd never met either of these guys. I'd never even contemplated living this life and now it's who I am, it's what has made my life happy - really happy for the first time ever. I think all things considered my reaction is fair!
Its lit a fire in me (well flamed it anyway) and also flagged how far I still have to go just to jam - let alone really write but that's not a surprise just cold water on my face! I really look forward to the day I can post a video of the three of us playing together. One day!
So onwards, back to work I go. There is a shed load of work I need to be getting on with. Number one priority for me is still confidence with guitar, yesterday I was happy to show one friend my piano playing, I was happy (in a feel like a dope but don't really mind kind of way) to play drums while my 'boys' jammed but as soon as someone passed the guitar I shut down completely. Not a note, couldn't do it.
The way I'm most likely to defeat my guitar demons is simply to learn how to play so I'd better get on it! Enjoy the pic (told you the camera hates me!!), enjoy your day and I'll 'see' you tomorrow. Should be lesson day so looking forward to that 😊
One of the best ways I've found to learn is to get stuck in and mess around. I often do this, I experiment totally free on all the instruments just to discover new ideas, try out techniques I can't yet do without the stress of needing to get them right. I will often be far more adventurous and it gives me ideas - it's fun too!!
Most importantly though it prepares me a little for when the technique crops up in lessons. Sometimes it will be something I've seen my teachers do that I then secretly go away and play with, sometimes I'm creatively trying to recreate some sound I heard in a song.
On many many occasions the things I'm messing with have then cropped up in lessons and I've been in a much more comfortable place (well than I would have been!) to try it. Sometimes I confess I've been playing with it sometimes I don't (sorry guys!) - depends how bad I still am haha! But my point is that not only does it get me thinking creatively it also helps with my actual learning and it's fun too.
At the moment I'm practicing letting my fingers run rampant over the piano and seeing what comes out and trying to play more rhythmically, I'm being more experimental in my playing. On the drums I'm working out new beat rhythms and trying not to play so straight, I'm being very playful and experimenting with fill rhythms by mixing up my rudiments too, mostly it all sounds bad but it should I'm creatively noodling! On bass I'm playing around with funky rhythms and with syncopation and trying to mix repetition and faster little runs. On guitar I'm trying to experiment with rhythmic and percussive strumming (if my teachers could see what I've been up to they would smile but I'm NOT doing that in a video any time soon) and trying to move my fingers around when I'm on simple chords. I'm experimenting with fingerpicking patterns too.
So you can see I''ve been messing a LOT with rhythm and yes given my posts recently and teacher feedback it may look like I'm not making ANY progress but in actuality I really have. I was just catastrophically bad now I'm just really bad (haha!), of course my teachers don't know how much effort I've actually been putting in so it's not their fault I feel like a total dope in lessons but I know from experience at some point I will start to make progress and it will move on from there much much quicker because of my practice - timing & soloing both did in the end.
There you go! One thing to put more of into your practice, I'm no expert player (obviously) but I'm pretty confident in holding this up as a solid piece of advice because it's how I've learnt most things that I've done from web design to magazine production.
This self confessed music nut isn't completely without her vices. I thought as it's been a week of hard work (and then some) I'd lighten the mood and confess some of my guilty pleasures!
Ive already shared the link to my Spotify playlist but here it is again in case you fancy being nosy - I know I love peeking at people's music it's so much fun seeing what I have in common.
Top ten guilty pleasures.. (not in order!)
1). Everybody - Backstreet Boys
2) Rock Me Amadeus - Falco (how bad it that haha!)
3). Patricia The Stripper & Spanish Train (Chris De Burgh, I know it's two!)
4) Ice Ice Baby - Vanilla Ice (hanging my head in shame)
5). The Humpty Dance - Digital Underground
6). This Used To Be My Playground - Madonna
7). Heart Skips A Beat - Olly Murs (I love Rizzle Kicks shhhh!)
8). Neighbourhood - Space
9). Strawberry Fields Forever - Candyflip
10). Ball - Craig Armstrong
That's a very guilty and very eclectic little mix for you to go try out. I wonder if any will sneak into you're own guilty pleasure list - probably not haha!
I'm one of those people who come up across a challenge and instead of slowing down and preparing to get through it in a timely fashion I crank it up to 300% and smash my way through the problem. I learned to do this to cope with the struggles of my business but I didn't realise (obviously) at the time I would be learning music. I've been (and will continue to) applying the same thing to learning music but what I didn't factor in was after you crash through one problem there is another, and another, and they get harder and harder and....! It's a great way to progress but it's a very difficult thing to sustain so I'm finding the joy in everything I'm doing right now and looking at the lighter side or life, it helps me cope because I don't think there are many people who appreciate just how HARD I'm pushing myself right now - hence today's fun little breather (I'm going to go and listen to ALL these now haha!).
Coffee time for me then practice begins, I've got the latest wall to bang my head against of course! Enjoy your day, evening or night 😊
Oh just to keep you up to date here is my latest double stop solo attempt - any better?
Brief this week is to go from single notes to double to single in a flowing way. To add different rhythms to the notes, to try to add more playing away from the beat and the & and to focus on repetition of rhythm and notes but not to straight (so over different area or within a different rhythm etc).
AHA - lesson day so it's late and I'm up and writing a post, big surprise! I love lesson days, it's worth a bit of sleep deprivation, what I hate is that there's a week between them but that's probably a good thing for my health (and their sanity)! One of my crazy doodles today (I got a bit silly with this one, the shark is just for fun and some added suspense haha!). It's not literal just an image to express how I'm feeling really and to give an overview to today's post.
As you've come to expect there's lots to work on and shock horror I need to find my rhythmic side, believe me I am trying, I know there is one in there - after all I can dance pretty well in a embarrassing mum kind of way. I love funky rhythmic music and I like things that don't follow a straight line in general so I'm sure it's in there somewhere! Buried deep!
I think last weeks going to be a walk in the park compared to this one but I'm game, why not it's only sanity and it's pretty overrated anyway! No I'm kidding I like the challenge but what I like most is feeling like I'm moving towards a destination that will finally make me feel like I'm on the first rung to being able to play like I want to - at least I hope so, I think so & I really do hope so. It's a BIG ladder but that first rung is so important to me, this weeks practice won't get me there but for the first time it's in sight.
Timing was the issue of the day for a long time, now it's rhythm (and still timing but not quite so catastrophically!), for both teachers but in different ways. I can tell you one thing though I made the right decision because we're covering issues I know were screaming at me & holding me back & I'm enjoying the HELL out of learning both ways of playing, no matter how hard (and I'm going to need to remind myself of that fact often I think over the next few months!).
So where to start...! Tom's given me some great starting points and it's a case of doing what I did last week, start small and figure it out, step by step, idea by idea, struggle by struggle (by struggle!). The hardest thing is taking everything I did last week and totally rethinking it as I suspected would be the case (come on admit it I did tell you!). Don't get me wrong everything I did really counts, it's like learning an alphabet but in the wrong order and getting some of the pronunciation wrong. Ok it's not exactly like that but as an mental image it'll give you an idea. Repetition keeps cropping up as a regular issue too. Too much, not enough, in the wrong place, not done in the right way. It's easy to get stressed over it but I have to remember it's not a straight line eg
1) I had to introduce repetition first as I wasn't doing any.
2) I have to learn how to use it
3) I have to learn how to use rhythm with it
4) I have to learn to use when to use it
Not necessarily in that order and there's lots missing but you get the idea, as a concept I'm still trying desperately to understand it. Eventually it'll fall into place but for now ARGH!
No easy quick solution, a good dose of stubbornness and hard hard work that's what's needed. One thing is for certain, this is my biggest battle yet but I think it's going to be my first real victory when I get there because it's going to consolidate a lot about what I think is so bad about my playing. I don't think it will be any time soon but I'm just imagining that feeling when I get there and it will really be worth it.
I love these guys & I love this journey - I just don't love my playing .... YET!
Here's the latest attempt for you and I really hope you hear some improvement in there.
We've all probably had enough of this now so I'll run you through where I am and then we can move on :) A few things I've been working on.
1) Rhythm, I've tried very hard in this one not to do that same rhythm every time Tom builds up the strumming. Mostly yes it's still there but sometimes I'm trying to come in before or after or both or mix it up a little.
2) I'm trying to vary a little more when I do fast funky notes and when I hold them and I'm trying not to make the rhythms so clean. What I mean by that is I've added in a little too much space so you think I'm not going to play then I do. I think sometimes it works really well - not always!
3) I've added in more single notes and I'm trying to add more rhythm there too and to put in slurs, I even managed one bend. It doesn't sound great but it doesn't get my toes curling either haha! And I'm working very hard to add vibrato, I tend to start well then forget :)
4) I've tried to mix up they dynamics more, taking advantage of quiet playing for busier sections or stabby sections and then bringing it up when I want to make an impact.
5) I've tried to get more control over my fretting hand so there is less buzzing, still some but I think it's a big improvement on day one.
So that's where I am for now. Obviously my brief from Tom was to try and play over this track with double stops and a few notes and add in vibrato. So a lot of this is my mind at work and it almost certainly will change up after our next lesson. If it does obviously I'll keep updating and then at some point I'll link all these so anyone trying to learn this to can follow (well they can try) my thought process.
I really hope that seeing me work through a difficult thing (difficult for me anyway) has been insightful if not helpful. Seeing how I approach the concept, the struggles and build on ideas, think things through etc. It's certainly been interesting for me because the journey is all documented and it's interesting to see. This is just week one obviously so this technique has a long journey ahead of it, I won't keep posting updates on this but I will come back intermittently and talk about what I've learnt and give any tips I can think of.
So now on we go - but to where! I'll still be doing this for some time so I'll need to find something new to bore you with :) One thing I am doing which is cool is reworking Finding Hope - it's a song I've not put up here actually although I'm not sure why. It's a very jazzy little number full of wicked chords including a devilishly fun C diminished chord. Anyway this is just a taste of it in a very very early stage and that diminished isn't in this recording but here you go.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, I suppose I should say Jill but I don't go for all that sexist rubbish Jack sounds better, it's just a phrase so today I'm Jack haha!
Today I'm letting out the rock god in me - well maybe not god - god wannabe? Zak's left his gear here for a second week and while the cats away the mouse NEEDS to play. Actually what I need to do is sort myself out so I can play with the cat but we'll get there.
What am I up to? Noodling - not soloing just guilty old fashioned play like crap noodling and I'm loving it. The electric is plugged in, the amp is warmed, the pedal board is just waiting for me to fiddle with the buttons and knobs to see what they do and I'm ready pick in hand!
Gonna throw in some bend practice, try and get some degree of control over those strings and see if I can practice a bit more rhythmic and funky playing. That's why I'm noodling because it's experimentation, trying to tease out a bit more of my non-melodic side which is a side I'd dearly love to meet.
So here you go a pic of my fab set up and sexy Fender Strat (ok it's not mine it's my daughters but seeing as they never use it I've adopted it - and as yet it's unnamed, we'll need to fix that!). And guess what -I got the loop pedal working so I'm having lots of fun today!!
Hope it's a great day for you. Oh and exciting stuff it looks like my two "boys" might be meeting for the first time this Saturday, can't wait. These guys are like chalk and cheese but they're both so so nice they're gonna get on great and I get to see (hopefully) two awesome guitarists rock out .... please please please haha!
I was off rocking out to Jet last night which was a lot of fun so I lost a good chunk of practice time. Does me good to get away for a bit and enjoy something (well I was going to say other than music but haha - yeah right) - something other than practising!
So not a huge amount of improvement as you'd expect but what I am now noticing is where I've found a rhythm that works over the strumming I'm repeating it far too often. So I want to try and mix that up by finding others or taking that one and adjusting it then using that when I want to make a statement. Adding notes in between or before or after will help I think. That's the other area I'm looking at today is the actual notes to solo over the top with, I don't know why it's so hard to find the right ones but it really is. Getting the right note, putting it in at the right time and then mixing up a bit of single note soloing back into double stop harmonies.
I am both pleased at the progress I've made and nervous that the progress is down to the fact I'm getting used to playing over the backing tracks I have. Probably a bit of both.
I've been practising the solo to Hotel California too and it's got a long long way to go but I'm really pleased with how this is going. So for your enjoyment (maybe!) here is a vid of me bending the hell out of the guitar :)
Today is Zak lesson day (yay) so I need to get myself mentally prepared for his kind of soloing because I know that's what we're going to be doing and he's pushing harder and harder all the time. I'm convinced that doing both these styles is going to really help with each other even though they're so different. I'll learn to play less (which I need to do) but when I want to go for it I'll know how. I'll learn rhythm and harmony and how to do licks that will sound really cool and give it all a wow factor and both are all about phrasing which I suck at!! That's the idea anyway.
Busy week ahead of me, I lost my beloved Nan this weekend, I won't be able to go back to the UK to say goodbye so it will do me good to have lots to focus on and I know my passion and drive were things she loved about me.
As promised here is the second post today. I tried but I can't speed it up any more and I couldn't extract sections, well I could but it would take a lot of effort and time and it's really not worth it!! Anyway what does 10 hours of practice look like? Boring - that's what, very very boring!!!! So I edited it down from 5 1/2 minutes to this 1 minute bit of fun. Seeing myself is too funny, I did warn you the camera hates me and it really does. We have a very mixed relationship, when I'm behind it the camera loves me (I still owe you a post about my photography) in front of it - well it's not pretty and neither am I!!!
But in the interest of building my confidence by putting a really pig ugly video of me on the internet because that makes perfect sense (actually it does, I need to let go and just go sod it, we can't all be dynamic now can we)!
Here you go then here is a section of my marathon 10hr practice yesterday. This is pretty much a daily routine for me.
1) The audio is my most recent attempt, fingers crossed it's sounding a least a little better. Gorgeous strumming from the man himself once again of course. At least I think so!
2) The most boring video is on it's way! Uploading it now haha! 10 hours of practice sped up to 5 minutes. I'll do a double post today and stick it up then, I'm warning you it's really really really boring but it is funny - at least to me and at one point you can see I'm having some serious fun on the drums!!!
Back to today's post!
What can I say? - Patience is not a virtue I possess, luckily stubbornness is and I NEED every drop with this. I'm finding it so alien. Tom does it and this beautiful sound comes out, I try and it sounds like someone mutilated my poor guitar.
Today I've been trying a few new things. I've taken that backing track I soloed over and I'm using that to try and combine both normal soloing and double stops but with finger picking - it sounds god awful every time but there are glimpses in there. I thought it might help me hear a bit better what's working and what's not because I'm used to soloing over that. One thing for sure is when I get it right the double stops sound really fantastic - I just don't get it right often!
One problem I'm having with this (one of many) is that it's hard to find a double stop that sounds really nice, then it's hard to change it up with a close note then it's even harder to harmonise it with another double stop, then you have to put a few notes in and find the next harmony over the next bit of track. It's so hard without having experience to find a combination that's right in the millions that are available. And that's the main area I'm struggling right now. Then add on to that rhythm, timing and dynamics and the fact I'm not used to playing finger style and it really is causing me problems.
I'm chipping away though, play, record, listen, learn, play, record ... wait till you see the video you'll see (well you'll see the back of my head but you'll get the gist).
I think one important thing is intervals, learning how they sound instinctively and then choosing a bass note and harmonising it via the right interval. That's exactly what's happening here (duh) but it's funny when that ding moment happens and you realise why you need to learn certain things. See I told you knowing and understanding are two very different things for me. I've known about intervals for ages and their purpose in soloing but the ding moment had to happen for me to really understand.
I'm absolutely certain now that a combination of this funky, rhythmic and melodic playing with Zaks cool licks is going to sound HOT! - When I can actually play that is :)
Truthfully - THIS IS GOING TO TAKE - F O R E V E R!
This weeks posts are going to be a running theme, that's unusual for me but in this case it's such a big thing I think it's worth it to show the stages I go through.
However I've got a silly project I'm doing which depending how it turns out you may see in a couple of days. I'm actually going to record a full day of practice (doing it now!!) and then seriously SERIOUSLY speed it up, leaving a few bits normal so you can see what I do and upload it! You'll get a full view of what this odd ball gets up to all day, it might be fun - If it goes well - it might be boring as hell!
Ok back to the today's post. I'm working so hard on this and finding it so stressful I actually fell asleep at my desk for bit yesterday - I never ever do that!!! I was exhausted :) Doesn't slow me down though does it haha!
Right so we're still on the double stop thing! 48 hours in and I'm about ready to burst, that's normal btw, pretty much with each new challenge I come up against. There is always a degree of banging my head - actually more like bulldozing with my head - but you know by now I get through it eventually. Remember my post about small steps (here is a refresher if you don't) well I'm taking my own advice. I'm doing this in batches then moving onto drums or piano or bass for a bit or practising something else on guitar. Then I'm coming back to it as soon as I can - as soon as that pressure valve has released!
There is no quick or logical way to figure this out, I have to learn and to learn I have to practice a lot - an awful lot. What I've noticed is that the same double stop doesn't sound good over C chords in different recordings of Toms. Probably because he's mixing up to mess with my head (well alright not specifically to mess with my head, that's probably just an added bonus!) but it doesn't make my life easier now does it. I can't think oh C chord, good, I'll play this..! And then there's the rhythms in his playing which again every new one takes me ages to adjust to and I only have 3 to practice to so the danger is I'm going to get used to them and come Wednesday I'll find it too hard to keep up in the lesson. Alas I've got to work with what I've got and do what I can, no more, no less.
The thing is I know that whatever practice I do on my own the second we start playing together it's going to nosedive 80%. One of the reasons I think it's so crucial we stick with this is to get that 80% as low as possible (with Zak after months and months of hard work it's down to 50% still nowhere near low enough and we only have the one instrument to worry about!) but for now I'll have to accept it and do the best I can. The more confident I am the more I'll have left when I lose that 80% so I'm pushing HARD HARD HARD. It's very important to me that I show I have made progress, that I deserve his faith in me. It's the main thing that drives me forward with both these great guys, I can't bear to think they might ever be disappointed. That's a very powerful force and I'm using it to get through this struggle - and it IS a struggle. I'm not used to the rhythm, the strumming, the double stops themselves, the way I need to use my fingers, it's a whole new way of thinking - several new ways of thinking in fact all at the same time!
I shared yesterdays god awful soloing with you to show you that we all have to start at the very bottom, we're all really crap to start with but we will get there - just stick with it, I am!
I'll probably post another update tomorrow or more likely Monday - Wish me luck and I'll try not to make my day too boring tomorrow for the video! We'll see.
Another new big challenge - soloing with double stops!
WARNING - I'm sharing my progress, these audios contain some very bad soloing by me (awesome rhythm playing is not me you can enjoy that if I haven't spoiled it entirely!!). The second one is by far less offensive but both are very very poor - sorry! See told you guitar was my weak link! This is stage one - I intend to get better so that I can link this learning progression (that's the idea!!!).
Tom is the nicest strummer ever - that's him in the audio (with me attempting to play and totally ruining it!), I think he should just make a CD of that because I'd buy it!! But when it comes to soloing over it .... ARGHHHHHHHH! It's partly because I'm not used to his rhythmic structure and he's always throwing in curve balls to mix it up. But that's what I asked for, it's what I want so no point whinging I just need to figure this puzzle out like all the others.
One day I'll do a post and it will say "oh I learnt this and it was easy" shock horror. Probably not! That's not my way, even if it's easy I'll complicate the hell out of it because I want more and because I'm a pain in the backside!
What I have to do this week is use double stops with rhythm and some extra notes. It sounds easy, I'm sure to lots of people it is, but not to me (ohhh nooooo!). The first time we tried this a few months back it ended very very badly - poor Tom (and me, I was quite distraught, my fault not his!) but that was months ago and the work we've done together since means I feel so much more confident trying this now. I'm very proud of that because it's a big thing for me.
Anyway I did try Wednesday in the lesson, I really did, and to his credit Tom was very patient with me and gave me a lot of room just to try and find my feet (sadly I stayed firmly on my arse). But today I've put on some of his recordings and I've made a little progress over them especially this one. I'm feeling the rhythm of his strumming a bit more, when I'm not concentrating I can hear the chord changes but when I start soloing that goes to pot so it's something I want very hard to work on because it will help me unbelievably.
Anyway - I'm starting simple, I've found some areas that sound mostly nice over most of the chords and I've found alternative close intervals that work melodically so I can change it up a bit. I've got a few patterns I'm working with which is helping a lot. Wednesday I couldn't find anything that didn't sound offensive but I'm getting the idea now at least a little. I'm finding varying up the rhythms the hardest part, I think that's going to be the one thing that is going to take a lot of lessons and practice because it's not natural, I have to learn it, understand it, experiment with it and eventually much like the timing issue feel it more.
For now I need to knuckle down and play, play, play, play, play. I'm recording so I can listen back and hear when it's not right - ok when it's particularly not right!!! For instance the first couple of recordings I did my usual and put way too much in there. But I will figure it out at least to some degree, as long as I can give us something to work off next week that's good and I'm determined not to let him or myself down. I know Zak will be so grateful too when I finally sort out my rhythm and stop endlessly noodling haha!
One step at a time - try, rework, relearn, review (lots of words with re in them), research (see) and then the next step, push on one tiny bit at time. It's the best I can do with this but I am really really looking forward to making progress on this and that's a huge driving force.
Monster post today, bare with me this ones very important in my journey and you had an iddy biddy one yesterday!
I probably should say be careful what you wish for but actually I'm glad. It was lesson day and as normal I scuppered poor Tom's plans - I don't mean to it's just that we're both a nightmare, I have some area I need to cover or at least talk over and then he runs with it and before we know it the lesson has morphed totally.
This time it was all about guitar, both my teachers have a very different style that I want to play, we've been over that already but it goes beyond that. Guitar is the hardest area for me, it's the one I work hardest on, and yet I feel it's my weakest link. It's where my heart lies (understatement) so I'm massively overly sensitive and that's a big problem because I tend to freeze up and that doesn't help me learn. Combine that with the fact that these guys are an inspiration and that I care deeply what they think of me and my playing and it's a perfect storm. Ridiculous no? But think about it - if I can break myself open here then applying it elsewhere is a piece of cake.
It's been a long journey for me the last 6 months, my confidence has grown massively but there is still a long long way to go, As our lessons have expanded the one area we'd actually pulled back from was guitar but I've decided I think it's vital to really get back into it for a few reasons. Firstly his style of playing transcends across instruments so what I learn on guitar will help me understand his style on drums, bass and piano. I'm boring in my playing, my ideas are getting there but my playing is soooooooooooooo straight especially my rhythm (except my drumming which is very eclectic but that's not intentional just bad playing haha!!). I've worked my arse off on timing which is progressing and in the same way I think this will open me up to rhythm. If you've been checking out any of my fav music you'll know I'm all about melody but rhythm is a close second. Remember the music I hate post?
The next thing is confidence (yep we're back to that chestnut), today was the first time in a long while we've touched on this sort of sticky ground (such a different experience, I loved every single second of it) and bless him he was so incredibly patient with me and really open to ideas on how to break down my walls. Asking me to do the simplest thing can be impossible if I don't understand why, even I scream JUST DO IT at myself, but I can't. That said I pushed myself far harder than I have before and I made a small step forward which is actually a very VERY big thing. It was the first time I really enjoyed playing 'for' Tom even though I felt painfully vulnerable (I always love playing with him but playing for him is a VERY different thing to me). If we can break through this it's going to make a huge difference to my confidence and to my writing and playing and crucially to the dynamics of our lessons, it's going to open me right up. I hope I don't put the poor fella through too much pain in the process because there's no quick solution here!
The third is obvious, I want to take inspiration from his style so it helps if I learn it. Duh! ;)
Forth is the fact that I love guitar and I want to play the hell out of it, to do that I have to find myself. I need to be able to connect with other instruments and other musicians when I play and right now I'm lost in my little bubble because I can't break free. I think Tom will eventually break me out of that bubble (he's awfully good with that crowbar remember!) but he's going to need to be very patient and he's going to need to support me a LOT, but I think - I'm certain - that with his help I can push harder than I ever have and break down some big walls (that's a scary thought huh, imagine if I can really free myself up - yikes and wow, bring it on!). I'm already making great progress with Zak of course but I think with Tom I'm going to be able to apply this over everything and it will be a far far bigger step.
So sounds terrifying right!? Well it is, it really really is, but I've never been more excited - and yes seriously terrified! This is as far outside of my comfort zone as I've ever been but I've got butterflies because I truly believe this is going to be a game changer. I've used the word 'confidence' several times in this post so you can see how important it is and why I've refused to let this slide. All I can say to the poor fella is "Hang in there Tom - we're going over rough seas but I KNOW there is something pretty damn good ahead (I just don't guarantee it will be my music!)". Haha!!
Sneak preview of the song in it's work in progress state. This has a long way to go - a long long way to go. Most of it needs some degree of reworking and or re-recording (drums AGAIN!), it's hashed together at the end just so I can see what it's like. The outro isn't right, the interlude needs a lot of reworking and the solos need to be redone once I've learnt how!
But as it stands here is the new song - I hope it's all I've built it up to be :)
I saw the amazing James Taylor last night, he has the most amazing silky voice, he's very funny and he can still play that guitar like a dream. Last week I saw Guns n Roses as well so two guitar gods in one week - lucky lucky girl :)
I'm sooo tired from late nights and insomnia so I'll leave you to - hopefully - enjoy this little work in progress and head back to bed! See you tomorrow - lesson day today so it'll be another very very very late night I suspect but looking forward to it, lesson days are the best!
Question - how do you fake a cool electric rock solo?
Answer - you can't!
As you can see from the pic I'm finding this quite a challenge, each of those coloured bars is a new layer where I've done another attempt at the solo and each of those has several attempts before I stuck with one and moved onto the next. So far I think I'm on around attempt 100!
There is is good news in all this - it's been one hell of a workout and I'm gaining a lot of benefit from it. I am struggling to move outside of my style of playing which is too pretty, clean and safe for a good rock solo but I'm working on it and there is some improvement. For instance I'm varying how I do my bends, I'm varying up the rhythm so it's not all 8th notes in a run or all 16th notes in a run etc - although nowhere near as much as I need to. I'm staying on the same notes more rather than doing 10 different ones in a row. I'm adding in double notes, double slides and being more playful up the higher frets. It's helping me understand a little why my solos always sound soooo like me, melodic but a bit boring. However understanding and implementing are two very different things, it's going to be a lot of practice for it to become second nature.
One of the best things this has done has really opened me up to playing more electric, I always knew I would want to at some point but like the bass I didn't realise just how much I would enjoy it. Best not let me try out any other instruments because this is getting crazy!
For now I'll have to accept there is only so far I can go for now and move on. That doesn't mean the song is nearly ready... I still have a third section I want to try and work in there to turn this song into a proper 70's rock ballad and some things like drums still need to be redone. My teacher lent me all his gear and I'm having so much fun with it - hence my growing shopping list! Pedals + electric = fun!!
As all this gets more serious I'm starting to think about equipment. I can't seriously record with what I have so far and although I'm a long way from needing studio quality (home studio quality!) I still need to think about getting to a place where I can record to a much better standard. That leads us to a very expensive list of "I wants" and it's going to take time to get it all sorted so I'll just have to do it bit by bit. Luckily I've got years of learning so a few months to compile what I need won't hurt will it.
What's on the list then?
The most important things I need so far are.
Guitar pedals, my amp does effects but it's nowhere near the same. Zak brought over his today and I'm drooling ...! It's very high on the priority list especially a few of the basic ones because I do want to start recording more in electric.
Monitors, I can't keep playing back my songs through a bass amp!!! It sounds terrible and then I have to mixdown the song so I can listen on my surface pro, then import it into itunes so I can check it over Sonos. And then go adjust - repeat. Not good, it's why my songs all sound a bit dodgy - well ok - it's not the ONLY reason (haha) but it is one of them and it's a big problem. Monitors are very much up there on the list.
A new drum kit - I have a very basic Roland starter set and it's not going to do. I'm sticking to electric even though I really REALLY want a proper acoustic kit *drool*, just imagine the fab noise I could make on that at 6am to annoy the kids! I'm unsure yet how far to go with this because it's a lot for a good kit but a hell of a lot for a pro kit however if I'm going to be using it to record properly in the future do I want to upgrade again or just go for it? Or will the lesser kit do the job even in the long term? Good questions, I'll go find the answers and get back to you!
A microphone. I want to start recording my acoustic through a mic because I don't like the sound it makes through the pickup. Also I want to add shakers, tambourine and other sounds to my songs which I can do some of through the piano but it's difficult, clunky and sometimes with things like a tambourine 'shake' you just can't. Plus then I can do more cowbell! (I did add cowbell to the song btw and it's cheesy and brilliant!).
So lots to think about and it's going to take time to get it all sorted that's for sure. Going to be fun though :D
Head on over to my Instagram account if you want to hear more of my silly guitar noodling and a taste of the new song and I'll see you tomorrow!!
I'm having a crazy amount of fun with this song, it's a journey and a half. It's got my best piano work by a country mile, it's got excitement, tension and it's up and down.
I don't want to spoil the surprise but it obviously goes BIG!!! 😳
Now for the bad news... this one requires skills I do not yet possess and it would spoil it to finish it without them. For now I've put in placeholders and even with them in it's "Oh yeah baby" - sorry that was naff but very appropriate! So a few teasers, I need to learn how to play some serious almost shredding guitar (or much more likely I need to learn how to fake it!), also I need to work on my drums big time in two seperate areas, this song needs very intricate snare work and huge rock fills!!! Getting the idea yet??!!
This is one I think has real potential to be a song I'm genuinely proud of, I'm proud of them all of course but I know that even if the concept is strong it's let down big time by the execution. This one could be a song that is still weak and naïeve but holds its own anyway. We shall see!
Zak is going to help with guitar, I'm really looking forward to that for three reasons. 1) We go electric for the first time ever, I'm nervous but very excited. 2) It will be the first time we've worked together in any form on one of my songs and I'm keen as mustard to see how that goes. We did the blues thing but that was more general. 3) I get to see him rock out, he's got to have a go over the top of this!!!
See, didn't I tell you this is amazing. There's nothing, then a tiny idea to grow and then the magic happens in the process often without warning and suddenly something special exists. It doesn't matter if it's a great song because it's still amazing to be able to do that, but when it is great even just to you - wow and I mean wow!
Looking forward with a bundle of excitement to showing you this one!
ooh ooh - I've had an idea, I'm going to try and work in some cowbell!! No promises but it might - just might - work!! 🤘🤣
I thought I'd chat a bit about where I'm 'hopefully' going with all this. As well as wanting to write a bunch of cool songs I'm starting to get other ideas about the kind of avenues I want to explore. There are many things I want to try but there is one in particular that gets me all giddy! It's a little (a lot) out there and probably typically for me, a little extreme but it's going to be very fun to experiment with I think. And I'm warning you it's very geeky!
A little caveat before I begin. I'm an ideas person, I have hundreds and hundreds of them, some tiny twinklings of ideas that may grow or may fade, some big whoppers that often are brilliant but I simply don't have the skill set to peruse them. Some are wild and may be disasters, some are growers, the more I explore it the more it evolves, and importantly, changes. But whatever the case my mind tick tick ticks and I've learnt to take each with a pinch of salt because one thing is true of just about every idea I ever had - it will evolve. Even some of the dumbest ideas could work if rethought and reworked and looked at from a new angle (some ideas are just plain dumb though - full stop - and I've had more than a few of them!).
This one is in infant stage and will seriously evolve and change as I learn more!
I want to be able to write for each instrument, we already know that yes. But... I want to expand that by thinking about the individual role of each instrument within a song, in particular within a story. I want to write a song and have a clear idea of the emotion journey, the storytelling and style or genre I'm trying to achieve. Then to take each instrument and push, push, push in terms of the technique etc itself to make it shine but always contained with that same set of rules (the story etc). I want to tease out stronger and deeper stories by using the nuances of each instrument, by giving each room but most importantly, still complimenting the others, to really explore the connection between them with perfect focus always of the main objective. I want to use theory to do this also, not just in terms of note choice but sound levels, dynamics, all kinds of ways. To use psychology & to understand a particular genre. Just to really experiment and push boundaries I guess.
Sometimes the goal will be emotional response, sometimes it will be to drive home a message, sometimes it will just me being playful. But the overall idea is to use music in a fun way to illicit something out of you. Music already does that of course but I want to ramp it up to 11 on the dial!! Just because!
Yeah I know for most people this is nerdy "really? omg that's so sad" territory but for me it's very cool stuff! I know you'll forgive just a bit of geek in me!
So there you go one reason I need to play well and what's cool about it is the combination of instruments I've chosen. I won't be setting the world on fire with this - I won't be trying to haha - but I will have lots of fun!
Told you they just fall out of my head, I really felt lost on ideas this morning and thought that to be honest I've got so much learning to do it doesn't really matter because it will be good to get my head down. A few hours later and I'm writing a new song yay! I love writing, it's frustrating as anything but it's also so much fun and a real journey. From the first few notes or chords to a finished song all done by me (yeah I know broken record, we've been over this but I do get all excited!).
This one is throwing up some challenges but which of my songs didn't? No surprise there then! It does have electric in it, lots of emotion so expect some serious strings in there and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I have an few ideas building I love to pieces, it's very dramatic and very pretty. At the moment my head is leading me to mainly piano to push the new learning I'm doing but it depends whether I can get enough control in there to make it work, it's still very early days.
So much still to figure out like will there be a bridge in this one - probably I do like a bridge! What the chords for the verse will be and verse melody, that might stump me for a while but hopefully it will come out when I noodle.
It's in the key of Bm so a new one for me and will be the first that's really based around piano but I think I will be using both acoustic and electric guitar but not sure exactly how yet.
So there you go - not much to go on but at least you know something is on it's way. I think this one will be keeping me busy all weekend, will I get it done before Monday? hummm not so sure.
As for the other song, I have some finger style techniques to learn and then we're going to think about applying them so that one really will be a long long wait I'm afraid but it will be worth it I'm sure.
Yesterday I was talking about my impro so today I thought I'd put up three audio tracks, one guitar, one piano and one drums. When you hear my songs I often have to hold back because I'm trying to fit my limited skills together but when I'm playing over another track it's just the one instrument I have to worry about. It's still hard as I'm still a beginner on drums and piano and not a confident intermediate on guitar but it does give me a bit more room. I'd say to shine but...! Not yet hey 😬
The funniest and silliest is the drums, I do a wicked Animal impression at one point - you'll know it when you hear it! The best improvement or at least the biggest one is on the piano (I start playing after the intro), it's all very random but it's a long way from where I was. The nicest is probably the guitar. I wonder if you can tell when I was "in the zone"?! Hint listen for that slight hesitation before I play, when I'm really happy playing it disappears, it's subtle but you can hear it.
A bit of background, the backing tracks are all from YouTube a cool account called Drumless Backing Tracks (Drum Drum Drum). I messed around over the guitar one twice then clicked record the audio recording is the result so I really didn't know the tune. The drumming one is practised over maybe 5 times, that is actually the best I'd played over it so I'm glad I hit record! Hopefully you'll notice my timing is improving a little! The piano is a track I've practised over lots, because it's all about following the chords, moving over the keyboard and using inversions, adding in sus chords and melody I wanted to stick to something that would allow me to push without worrying about the tune. It's also the least connected to the actual track. My rhythm I think is getting better though. You be the judge!!
Hope you enjoy at least one! If you're only going to check out one try the guitar it's the nicest 😊🎸
Drums - they are pretty boring but.... wait... give it time and you'll see the fun :) Today was lesson day so I'm up silly hours as usual (remember wired, tired & out of time - see!!). But I had the best time today, Tom is a wonderful guy, as complicated in his way as I am in mine. There is no middle ground it's just hectic and so MUCH fun!! He said one thing today and he has no idea what it meant to me, if it's true which I hope it is! He said he'd played the CD I gave him in his car, I don't care why, just that he did wow, even just because! I'm a simple girl, a complicated simple girl (hows that for an oxymoron!). But I told you the smallest things make me so happy, that he listened, that he wanted to in fact for any reason. WOW! Big smile face! Life has so much sadness in it, take joy where you can, that's my advice!
At the moment I'm really enjoying improvising and what's nice is that I'm now able to do it on three instruments - at least to some degree. This week I've been pushing myself to improvise more to try and free up ideas, get used to playing along to tracks which is helping with my timing and what I want is to get comfortable enough I can stop playing every single note and start thinking about melody building, timing and dynamics.
At the moment though I'm far from that and just pretty much rocking out like a loon playing way too many random notes but I am having some serious fun doing it! I' have actually noticed a change though in how I play and there is some improvement.
On the drums I'm holding a more steady beat, I'm not mixing it up every two seconds and I'm matching the beat to the music a bit better. My fills are improving but we have a longggggg way to go there.
On piano I'm using much more of the keyboard and using inversions more to move around, I'm throwing in more sus chords too and getting better at using rhythmic playing as well as individual notes but I really need to work on mixing chords, sus's and individual notes so it flows better from one chord to the next. I tend to use one or the other which makes it sound blocky or at points a bit empty. I need to think more repetition and I need to put more dynamics in there. Overall though it's ebbing in the right direction.
On guitar it's all about using the fretboard to progress through the song and trying call and response as we did in the last lesson. And about thinking more in terms of phrasing rather than random noodling. But I am noticing that sometimes - not very often - but sometimes, I can call out something from my head and play it exactly as I envisioned. It's instinctive so I'm not thinking oh I want to do this then finding it and then playing it, the whole thing happens as one. I know I'm doing it because a thought pops into my head and my hands oblige. That is very very cool :) I definitely want more of THAT!
Sticking with this for a while will be good I think because it will help with my writing, free up my thinking a little, get me practising techniques and eventually it will build my confidence. Remember I said this year was about trying to build my confidence up and I think we're headed in the right direction at least. So expect a few fun videos and audio recordings of my mad noodling over the next week or two. Unless of course Tom gives me something else to focus on.
I like a lot of music. I can even enjoy some dance, some rap (as long as they don't start the whole N thing I hate that), I like some classical, more and more jazz (shhh don't tell anyone, not that jazz is a bad thing to like but I've always made a big thing out of not liking it haha!). I like country, indie, heavy metal (again not when they start grunting what is with that anyway?), pop etc etc etc.
I do not and will never ever ever EVER like opera. It goes right through me and leaves me wanting to claw at something. *shudders*.
But one style I loathe which is across multiple genres is what I call 'strum strum'. It's that music where the instruments just play one single rhythm, all in time with each other all at the same time, going nowhere except to the next chord or in the case of the drums to the next borrrrring fill. No melody, no funky rhythms, no break, no nothing. It's in dance music, it's in rock it's everywhere and I HATE it.
I was looking through Spotify this morning looking to see if there are any good new releases and you know when you hold down on the album you can preview the tracks (if you didn't you do now, go try it it's very useful). Anyhoo I was doing that and album after album of this strum strum kept coming up even from bands I like. What I mean by that is if you can go through the track previews one by one and it just sounds like you're skipping to another part of the same song it's strum strum. Just one big song played in a different key with different words and a slightly different rhythm, it's lazy music and when it's one one or maybe two songs it can be cool but as an album it's ARGH.
Now yes this may be the muso talking but seriously I've always hated it. My hubby used to be into loads of bands that play this way, he prefers listening to lyrics so it suited him but I wanted to scream by the fourteenth song that sounded exactly the same. You hear it a lot when bands have lost their creative drive. It's why I love everything Dangermouse (the producer not that cartoon character) has ever done. He has a style yes which you can detect in what he does but he's never boring because he always takes what is there and works it, he doesn't rework it which is admirable but just teases out a bit more. Just listen to the latest Chili Peppers album, it's far from their best but it does feel revitalised and a bit different.
I know people do like this so I'm not criticising in that regard, each to their own and all that, but I do hate it personally, I find it obvious and boring. Many of Spotify's playlists are like this too, they take perfectly good songs and mix them with another 100 that sound the same so by the end my brain is numb. I like to take great songs and compliment them with others based within the same genre but off to one side or another. Again I get this is probably just me.
But there you go, a mini rant today :) Why not!
You're thinking ... "she's lost it, yep, finally lost it"!!
Naaaa I'm the same level of loopy I was before, we're safe. And, no, I don't need another teacher the two I have are simply wonderful. But I wish I could have lessons every day! If I spend any more of the little disposable income we have on lessons my husband will bury me alive haha! He's supporting me so much already not to mention all the other lessons for him and the kids.
I wish wish wish I could have more though, the lessons seem to take so long to arrive and then poof they're over *sob*. With the progress we're making there is so much opportunity that we're having to pick one area or another to work on and I'm left at the end pining for more. It's frustrating too because I want to work on each area but some I'm left clawing at the walls over until next lesson .. and then of course it will be something else.
I'm so happy with what we're doing in both lessons at the moment and the support I'm getting is incredible. This week I think Zak was practically my fan club bless him but seriously he's so positive and supportive it means the world to me. The funniest thing is with all the lovely compliments he threw at me all I really wanted to know is .. is my soloing a bit better? Remember to me lots of betters will eventually equal good. I can't ever focus on anything except the next challenge or the skill I'm weakest at and how frustrated it makes me, knowing that I've done good, that I'm doing 'better' helps me more than words can explain. I'm so focused on moving forward it really helps when they turn me around and remind me where I came from sometimes.
Anyway, I was so far out of my comfort zone today and yet it was one of the most amazing lessons. He pushed me very hard today and threw lots of little challenges in, I don't doubt for a second that he softened them up to give me room (and he did let me noodle instead of soloing) but it did wonders for my confidence. I'm still expecting to fall over on the next one but each challenge I meet with both these guys is another tiny brick removed from the wall I surround myself with.
I want to note one thing I'm pretty sure he does that I think is very very clever especially with me. When he notices I'm doing something not quite right he doesn't tell me to adjust he will simply include it in the next challenge. So if I'm sitting in one area he'll suggest we open to another, if I'm being too random he'll suggest I try to repeat an idea. If my dynamics are not great he'll suggest we try to put some in. Always positive reinforcement and it really does work for me, I assume he's going it consciously, he's a very smart cookie, but if not then I'm picking up on the message anyway and it's really helping. He will flag when I'm not doing something right but that's when it's technical, so for instance we're learning a line and my timing is off or I'm not quite bending the note right but always subtle, always positive. Very cool!
When I tell people what I’m trying to do I always pay attention to their reaction, I get a lot of surprised looks, some wow that’s cool looks, sometimes an intrigued look but mainly especially from those who play an instrument the reaction is one of scepticism. I’ve even had that from my teachers at one time or another and it’s a perfectly fair & justified one. Yes Tom is a multi instrumentalist (he plays way more instruments than I ever will) but he didn't learn them all at once and he didn't do it in a few years like I'm trying. He worked hard over a long period of time and gained a lot of experience so it makes sense to question my thinking. Zak has put years & years of hard work into learning guitar and is still going, I can understand why he would be concerned about me spreading my energies over so many. But 'I've got it covered' (there's four words that could come back and bite me on the arse!) haha!
The journey I’m on isn’t just unusual it’s daft, why? Because I don’t want to be a guitarist who can lay down a few drum beats or a pianist who can strum out some chords. I want to play all the instruments – not at professional level that wouldn’t be possible but certainly at a highly competent level (and you heard my drumming I've got a lot to do to get there!). And let's face it I may be young at heart but I'm no spring chicken! I have very good reasons for making these choices but that I'll talk about in later posts.
What makes me qualified then to give this a go?
I was talking to my husband yesterday about this and I think what gives me an advantage or at least a fighting chance is that I love each instrument individually, I want to achieve different things with each and when I’m playing each I get lost in it, when I’m playing - that’s the instrument I love right then and there (yes even the bass much to my surprise!). I respect that each has it's own set of exercises that I will need to do, each one requires heaps of practice and dedication. I need to train my mind and body to think in entirely separate ways for each. It's a BIG job and I not only respect that I embrace it (told you I was nuts!). Nuts, determined and most importantly I think passionate.
Personally my goals are as follows, I want to get to an early advanced level on drums, piano and bass. However ... on guitar I’m aiming for the stars, it will take the rest of my life and I will absolutely fall well short of where I want to be but I'm going for it anyway! I do NOT expect to get to advanced level on all of them within the next 4.5yrs, that's a goal for my first song this journey will be a lifetime – I’m no fool, I know where I want to go and I respect what I’ll need to do – the ridiculous level of commitment I’ll need to show every single day.
The reason behind today's post? I wanted to make this clear because over time there will be people who will stumble across this blog and think I’m being a total dingbat (they may be right!) and there may be those who think it’s cool and think oh yeah I’ll do that too (they are definitely wrong).
I fool around but I am extremely dedicated to this and committed to the hard work, to the great length of time this will demand which at my age is a fair chunk of my life! See why I practice so hard ..!! And of course why I embrace it so much, I'm giving up so much for this it can't be about an 'end goal' it has to be about the journey.
Learning Time Log
How long I've been learning as at at the end of Dec 2020.
What's This About?
One fateful day I decided to get guitar lessons. 5 years later I'm learning four instruments and trying to become a musician and songwriter. I've set a five year goal (Aug 2021) to create a very special song for my 25th wedding anniversary and this is a record of my crazy journey, weird thoughts, strange doodles and unapologetic music obsession! Enjoy!