The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
Back to piano today. This is another piece I’m working on, this particular recording being just the solo section for it. This song is more structured than my others with proper verse/chorus sections but I let myself free on this solo so it goes into “all over the place mode”. I lurve it!
It’s a long way from being done and I still need to let my teacher at it so expect lots of change but for now ... enjoy more of my melodic and emotional all over the place experimenting.
Not me – I haven’t gone anywhere! I thought I’d go a smidge off track with today's post, do something a bit different and bring 5 awesome albums to your attention you may have missed. Some are by bands that are very well known but it may have been a while since you listened, or you may be a younger reader (I’m very young at heart so it’s all cool!) and not experienced these bands – lucky you to have found me! Just kidding of course! Some are less well known but NEED to be heard. If you only try one please try Dirty Sweet.
The Cure – Disintegration
They were truly in genius mode on this album, I know we all know the cure but you need to be reminded – and don’t forget to listen to Mixed Up too which is such a cool album showcasing remixes of some of their best, in fact all the Cure, pre 'happy phase', is amazing (yes in my opinion only!).
Dirty Sweet – American Spiritual
Sadly, this band wasn’t to be – and I MEAN sadly because this album is absolutely amazing stuff. It became one of my sons, my husbands and my teacher’s fav’s after I recommended it. You’ve been warned (haha – you’ll get the joke if you check it out)! DON'T MISS THIS ONE.
Sneaker Pimps – Bloodsport
Not for everyone but well worth trying because it's like marmite this one - if you like it you'll love it. This trip hop band went down a different road for their last album, a kind of bridge between the first ‘”trip hop pop” album and the second more stripped, it was their best, not just their best it was a damned good album full stop. Every song is great and I think it’s held up well over the years. It’s still trip hop (ish) but also a bit rocky, a bit pop, a bit funk – well it covers lots of bases.
Fun Loving Criminals – Come Find Yourself
Naughty language in this one! These guys hit pay dirt on their first attempt, it’s cool, it’s funky, and it’s real good fun. It’s rap, funk, pop but most of all it’s original and even has samples from Quentin Tarantino’s films, how do you get cooler than that! If you missed this one go check it out, they are smoooooooooooooooth!
Cookin On 3 Burners – Blind Bet
Another one I passed on to my teacher that he loves! These guys are an Aussie funk band but they refuse to be typecast. This album starts off with the coolest riff and takes it from there, lots of variation and lots of very very VERY cool playing.
Wow I can't believe how hard I found it to pick just five. I have hundreds that NEED to be on this list but we'll get there. For now I hope you find at least one you like - Enjoy!
Yep it’s theory time. Now bear with me, don’t run away because I’m going to try and bring this to you in a different light – I’m going to give you unbelievable power!
I love theory, have since I first started so the temptation is to approach this from a passion point of view but I can already hear you yawn! Now most people tend see it as either an instruction manual or a rule book and it’s neither. It purely explains what you’re doing in order to give you power and control. That’s what makes me most excited – the more I understand what I’m doing the more control I have over it and the more power I have to decide what I want to say. The only thing as important to me as theory is my ear – which has a longgggggg way to go to be even remotely developed *sigh*.
If you understand theory then learning new pieces becomes easier because it makes sense to you, it’s not just a series of notes any more, they fit together. Think of it as seeing the picture of a puzzle, the more pieces that fit the easier it becomes to fit the next. It’s also far easier and much more fun to “break the rules”! To break away from convention, be different and make it work.
But what really sets my spidey senses tingling is the control element, understanding why two chords sound the way they do, or why playing notes in a certain order makes you feel a certain way gives me power over my music. When I understand fully I will be able to utilise this information at will in anything I write to take you on the journey I want to. Combine that with my ear and my (overly) emotional self and what I hope will happen is the ability to create/design stories, emotions, drama & adventure. At least this is where I’m trying to get to – it’s a long journey but it’s worth the effort. Think JK Rowling of the music world! J
You see – if you understand you can tweak what you’re doing using this information to push the message harder, faster, or slower (you little tease!). Or you can use it to imitate something that already inspires you without copying – what did they do to achieve that very cool sound. You can use it to move something you hear on one instrument to another etc. See, if you think of it not as a boring book of facts but they key to unlocking your creative genius it’s suddenly very very exciting!
Told you theory was cool!
The Men Who Changed My Life
I'm a doodler especially when I get flustered trying to figure something out so expect many of my quirky little illustrations. I also have a slightly odd, very sarcastic humour which is often aimed at myself so get used to that too.
I was actually considering pursuing a career in photography (another passion of mine) when I first started lessons and in walked the first of two people who would change my life more than I ever could of imagined. He was closely followed by the second who would really mess with my mind. He didn't lead me down a new path he dragged me but something eventually clicked and the dream was born. Some days I do think why on earth am I doing this to myself but mostly I'm just beyond grateful. I am a very full on person, if I choose to do something I do it 150% but these two guys saw my drive and pushed and pushed. I don't even know if they realised they were doing it or if they were just blindly following my lead but wow, I'm in crazy town now.
Some days I stop, take a breath and look at what I'm doing, where I'm going and I say WOW. It's something I never saw coming, never even dreamed was possible. And it just goes to show now matter how crazy and odd your life has been there is always the possibility of a whopper of a curve ball around the corner.
Then again some days I feel like I've been led willingly off a cliff or that I'm digging a big old hole to nowhere but that's to be expected. My struggle is 'mostly' self inflicted of course but my mentors are not entirely guilt free, we'll just have to see where this journey leads before I decide whether to hit them with the spade or not! And fellas if you read this ever - I love you both to bits 😊😘
Couldn't resist George Baker...
I was out walking our fur baby (a choc Labrador) when Little Green Bag came on my music, this bass line is just too cool not to learn so I decided why not. Now I don't play bass - yet! In fact this is the second time I've picked it up at all, the first was just to mess about. So anyway I had so much fun yesterday that I had to record the start of it and share. My workload is starting to get a bit crazy but it's all cool because I love it and it gives me a brilliant excuse not to do any housework!!!!
Enjoy my crazy bass playing and watch out for more because this is just too much fun,
My current challenge
The above is my attempt to solo over a progression laid down by my teacher. My instructions are to try and solo but hit the arpeggio notes & guide tones on beat 1 of the chord and beat 3 where I can. We started with two bars of each so I had time to get ready to hit the next chord then just one bar between changes which is the version above. It's a simple F G Am G progression.
OMG this is so hard!! As you can see I've gone into my safe little melody territory, I've tried to add in some variation and flavour but even so I still find it a bit obvious and plain - although I was told by my lovely teacher that I'm over thinking which is probably true because I do a LOT! For now I'm trying to focus on one thing at a time and then build off of that but I have complete admiration for those guitarists who have total control over note choice and can pick at will while still maintaining a rocking sound!
Right now it feels like I'll never get there but a few months ago I couldn't have dreamed of doing even this (the recording) so I'll keep the faith. Push/pull remember 😊
Click here for a little app help part 2
I've already mentioned the ReadRhythm app but thought I would do a full post about some of the ones I use regularly and love. I mean who doesn't love a great app! I have a iPhone so all these will be for iPhone, I have no idea if they are available on android but a few are available online.
I'll put these all in the recourse section and add to it with any more that I recommend. But for now here are my top 10.
I'll be harping on about theory soon enough - I'm a big fan! This is a great app to get you started. Recommended by one of my teachers it's got everything you need to get a really good start.
9). Drum Beats+
A cool drum app that allows you to practice your timing or solos over. Speed adjusts well so for bigger changes I recommend this app over next one. Beats aren't as good though.
Real drumming, perfectly looped in a huge number of styles. Use it to compose over, solo over, to imitate the rhythms etc. There are lots of good drum apps this is my favourite to date.
There are better metronomes but this one has a sequencer which means you can programme in a couple of bars you're struggling with and hear precisely what the timing should sound like then practice along to it. Great if you struggle with breaking up four beats and for early learning stages but make sure you still use your other favourite metronome normally as this is a tool not a solution to timing difficulties.
6) iReal Pro
Your own personal backing band with chord charts, change key, tempo, style and choose from hundreds of tracks. It's brilliant, I love how much this helps with my soloing and learning new chords.
A practice record app that allows multiple categories, instruments, even users. You can archive old tasks only to revive them later. Set your target, time etc on each of your practice subjects. It will tell you how long you've practiced on each item and much more. If you're good at monitoring yourself this will help tonnes.
We've already talked about this in my timing post. It's a great tool that can be used in a multitude of ways to help with your timing. It's versatile and easy to use.
3). Anytune Pro
Slow down any song in your library, loop a section, speed it up, change key and so much more. A must must have for any musician.
A tabbed library of songs which play to show you how they should sound. Very cool app with online access included.
1). Ultimate Guitar (tabs)
Similar to Songsterr but with a few things l love, more versions of most songs. Often if I don't get on with one version another will do the job. Lots more songs, if you're like me and your taste deviates outside the norm Songsterr can come up short but Ultimate Guitar usually comes through for me. Has tabs for drums and bass too - can't live without this one and it's super easy to use. Only negative is when you pay for app you don't get online access to pro tabs too.
Im not the smartest person but I'm intelligent enough to grasp most concepts and understand most things (eventually!!). But due to my strangely wired mind I find it easy to perform complicated tasks but the simplest of things throws me. I've had a multitude of meltdowns during lessons because I don't understand what my teachers want but can make huge leaps in progress suddenly where everything comes together. I am not an easy student to have but my mentors have amazing patience with me.
What precisely is going on in my head I don't really understand but I have worked out that I need to fully understand a concept before I can apply it. Then suddenly everything becomes much clearer and because I now know how, why, when, where (at least from a foundational level) I can become experimental and much freer in my thinking.
So the purpose of this post is to try to make you think about learning in different ways. The more creative you can be the more it may help long term, and music is all about being creative so giving that part of your brain a workout is no bad thing!
Ive done a lot of self teaching, again through necessity. I couldn't afford a web designer or graphic designer of marketing expert so I had to figure it out. It's not easy - what is? I never became an expert at any of them but I did develop some invaluable skills that really help me learn music. Above are two of my 'inventions' (and a couple of books as an example!). I believe in learning visually, aurally, through writing, reading & playing (games as well as my actual instrument) and any other way I can think of. Reinforce the message, to look at it from a whole new light. For me there is a VERY VERY big difference between understanding a concept and knowing a concept. When I understand it, I can follow what is happening but when I know a concept I can apply it. Knowing sometimes takes me a long time - soloing took me forever because I had to have purpose I couldn't just noodle to me that's not soloing.
The tool I use most often is my magnetic board, it's just some cards, magnets with stickers on and storage tins but it's helped me a lot. Second resource I couldn't do without is the Internet. Bugging my teachers constantly would do the job in a fraction of the time but it's not an option so I'm trying to be more self sufficient in my learning and everything I could need to know is already out there, people approach things from lots of different directions so one is bound to resonate. Then there are books, I have a tonne and I love them, YouTube, music forums etc.
If you're like me and you struggle to get that "ding" moment sometimes then using these concepts as a tool should help. Don't forget to make up your own, even if it's rubbish or fails to do what you intended you're still exercising your creative mind and that can only be good.
A bit of a weird heading but you'll see where I'm going with this. I'm a music nut, a completely obsessed 'muso', I love to play it, write it , learn it and buy it but one of the biggest buzzes I get is discovering it. Recently a relatively unknown Aussie funk band I happen to LOVE had a surprise hit with a song I'm not amazingly fond of (how's that for ironic!) but what I noticed was that on Spotify they were suddenly something like the 35th most played band (band not song) in the world on there. Because of one song - it shows just how little music people really listen to and it makes me sad and MAD (of course very happy for the band in question who deserve a wide audience!).
We all love music, it fires us up, makes us emotional, gives us hope, takes us on a journey and so much more. So why when offered a giant wonderful buffet do people insist on the same one boring thing, I get it's nice, they like it but you can like other things too!!
Now my obsession with music is a little (haha) nuts but even so..! Come on open your minds, it's for your own good people.
Now a side rant .... I love Spotify and I have bought a tonne of new records, CD's and gone to concerts directly because I found music through it, most I never would have found otherwise. So artists - don't hate Spotify, hate the laziness of people who can't be bothered to listen to anything not on the top charts playlist and who don't care enough to support you. Or even better make a big effort to share your own musical passion and inspire your fans to listen more through your tastes.
This is a bit of a self indulgent post however.... it's just to get you ready.
Ready for what?
So glad you asked!
Well as you have guessed, I love love love music be it pop, rock, blues, funk, soul, reggae, metal ... even jazz (some!) and rap. I only hate opera. My passion will be a regular feature of this blog although I promise self indulgent posts (mostly) won't. I will be sharing some great bands that fly under the radar with you and I will also be giving some tips on how to find them yourself. My teacher recently commented that he had no idea how I found so many great unusual bands. I love sharing so I'll go over some of my tips so you can too 😊. Then we can all go and get far too well known at our local record store!
What happens when you don't have one?
I have a difficult history and I've been terribly hurt by those I trusted most. Believing in myself is not something that's easy to do. Against all the odds I did and pushed myself far beyond my comfort zone only to completely crash and burn. Now picking up the pieces again feels next to impossible. So how do I pursue such a big and unlikely dream without any self belief?
By having a husband who refuses to allow me to give up and teachers who go beyond the 'job' and see potential in me. I think that's key here, I don't need to believe in myself because I trust in their belief in me. As long as they have my back I will use their confidence as my fuel. Yes, putting so much trust in my teachers is terrifying for me and a risk but I choose to open my heart because this means that much to me 😊.
So... how do I practice 8 hours a day 365 days a year and still stay focused, fresh and driven without belief in a successful end? For me the answer is two fold - the first being my passion for music, for learning, for the challenge. And secondly, no matter how hard I am on myself (very or so I'm regularly told) or how overwhelming the journey sometimes appears I do try to focus on the smallest successes. Can I play a little faster, a little more accurate, did it take less time to learn the song, is my technique a little better, am I understanding something quicker. I ask... Is it a little better? Because logic tells me enough 'betters' will get me where I want to go. That's how I do it, push/pull - the drive to always do more pulls me, appreciating the little successes pushes me. Perspective is of vital importance to me. Fortunately both my teachers (or friends & mentors as I think of them) try to understand me and my needs and are wonderfully supportive and (personally) of far more critical importance, they believe in me - I don't really understand why but I am very grateful that they do.
Also there is always hope, hope can be far stronger than belief and I have plenty of hope to help me along the way.
So ideally you'd have both belief and drive but if you don't then trust in those closest to you for belief and work on determination because you can never have enough. The more you have the easier it is to get through the tough times in life and frankly I should know!
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Stage 1
First off, I am so sorry if there are any huge Elton John fans listening to this awful attempt!
So far about 4 hours practice.
I'm going to push myself on a piece on piano, guitar and drums and update on my progress so you can follow as I go. Certainly not every day, that would be very boring but at intervals where there's enough progress and I'll include total practice time on each update. This is the first one, I want to play this especially for my teacher so I'm learning it independently, don't blame him for it ok!!
The idea behind this is two fold, 1) to take you along with me as I push and work through a challenge, maybe you want to try too, if you do it quicker update me in the comments, if it takes longer then do the same, so I can support you back. This is a wonderful journey I want to share not a contest so join me if you want to, and... 2) to see the progress I make over time (within each project yes but also over the years of learning) both in complexity of the pieces and the speed of learning them, overcoming challenges and the reward of finally finishing before beginning again. It should be a very cool experiment. Or I may just scare you off for life! I hope I don't because as hard as I find these I really enjoy it. 😊
That's it folks! I'll be linking them together under "Projects" in the categories menu so if you miss one you don't need to scroll through my waffle to find it. And remember you were warned in my hello post - I'm not good!! Yet - see thinking more positive already!
Being someone who procrastinates and becomes easily overwhelmed by choice you would imagine that I would NOT be naturally proactive and you'd be right. However, the circumstances of my life (including my husband being totally useless at getting anything done!!), running my business and raising my kids pretty much without any support forced me to change.
Not having a support cushion of friends or family I HAD to become proactive and that is now one of the most crucial skills that is supporting me on this journey.
So how do you 'become' proactive?
For me the biggest and hardest thing was being honest with myself which is something everyone thinks they do but most do not (sorry but it's true). The harsh truth, sometimes life is full on and there's no more room but usually if you want to do something you will & if you need to find time for something or someone you will. If you can't chances are you simply don't want to or don't care enough to (yes of course there are exceptions but mostly this is true). If you accept this and be hard on yourself when you make excuses you will improve straight away. This is not easy but it is true - try it.
Next thing I learned was what I call the 'jump' skill, that hold your breath and just go mechanism that we all use to jump into a cold pool or eat something we really don't want to!! You have the skill already, training yourself to use it at will is hard. Next time you begin to think of a reason you can't or think about doing it later - jump - just do it .... NOW. It really works.
IMPORTANT - A little proviso on the aforementioned tips - If you are not ready, if your heart isn't in it you will not be able to do this properly and it could do more harm than good so make sure your head is in the right place because you will be going far outside your comfort zone. Once you are ready being able to do this is life changing, at least it was for me.
And lastly think ahead, plan, set goals and tell people about them .... commit. Take away the option to not do something. See excuses as something to avoid not something to depend on.
When you learn to do these you will find you can achieve so much more. It's HARD, finding excuses is so much easier and I never ever judge others by what I can or cannot do. Just because I can find the time, I respect that others can't whatever their reason. This is a personal skill to enhance me and help with my goals not a contest. 😊. I am still very much developing this myself especially in areas of extreme discomfort but I am aware of them. I'm aware of the excuses I make, of things I avoid but I'm not ready to confront everything YET! One step at a time and every time you take one be proud of yourself, just always keep your eyes forward.
I hope those few tips helps you in not just your music practice but life in general.
One particular area I've struggled in is timing, I know many of us have/do and it's been a really difficult journey to improve. I have a long long way to go yet (if you've listened to any of my recordings so far you'll already know that) but I have found that 3 things in particular have helped me a lot (I struggled with even 1/8 notes for ages).
1). The app ReadRhythm is amazing, it's simple but you can use it in so many ways to reinforce your learning. I use it to tap out the rhythms, I use it to pick them, practice alternate picking, to practice strumming patterns, funk strumming, I use it to practice over my scales and to build phrases/licks. I use it to practice drumming and on the piano (in similar ways to guitar).
2) Drumming without drums. My teacher had the great idea of getting all his students regardless of instrument to practice drum rudiments as a timing exercise using hands and knees and it really does help. Just make sure to tap the foot and to use a metronome.
3) This one I started doing because I needed to practice picking 16th notes and doing it over a drum beat or metronome was BORING. I simply put on a mix of songs (mixing genres is best) via Spotify, find the beat with my foot and pick 16th notes on a muted string. You can really feel when you lock in the timing perfectly and you get to listen to cool music at the same time. It has helped me with my strumming, it's helped with soloing because I can more confidently play 16th notes as well as swung rhythms and triplets, it has helped me with tempo because I'm really listening now, it's helped with time signatures because I'm trying to find the beat and it helped MASSIVELY with my foot tapping. My foot still acts a bit like a nervous tick and often does its own thing but it is a huge improvement in a small space of time. I say helped as there's a long way to go but his one I do every day because it's easy, fun and really really works.
I'm not claiming to be a teacher, expert or even a good musician and I'm still battling away with my own timing issues. But these ideas have really made a difference to me particularly 1 and 3. I'm sure I'll find more on this journey and as I do I'll make new posts. I hope they help you even a little especially if like me you have to work hard.
As an introduction of where I currently am on piano here is an original piece I am still 'writing' called Dig Deep. Once I get these to a certain stage I open them up to my teacher to pull apart so I can learn how to adjust my thinking rather than try to mimic his. I find for learning that way to be more beneficial. I'm struggling with my left hand in impro pieces because I'm concentrating so hard it gets neglected. So to push that I'm trying two new things.
1) I'm going to push myself harder to learn more songs that focus on left hand as well as right (lots of Elton John, Ben Folds & Coldplay then!).
2) I'm going to combine exercises with free playing to try and relax and trust myself more so I think less.
I have literally hundreds if not thousands of ideas and many (ok most!) do not work. But I have discovered if you don't worry about them as failures and focus on figuring out why the concept doesn't (or sometimes yay it does) work then I learn much faster. Then everything is beneficial just as long as I don't over complicate (which I do a lot) or procrastinate (which I also do a lot) but being aware of those things I am making progress to adjust my thinking. It's a long journey.
I am very much looking forward to growing this blog over time and seeing my growth from pieces like this into .. well we'll see won't we but hopefully something fun, exciting and original!
And here is the audio only version for those who's broadband is as useless as mine!
Awesome I'm upside down! It took ages to upload so I'll solve sometime in the future but for now enjoy the "bat style" playing. :)
I wish the strumming was me but it's not! Soloing has been very difficult for me because there are so many things to think about, timing, note choice, melody, repetition, dynamics just to name a few. For someone who overthinks even the simplest of things this presents a real issue! It has taken me months and months of continually practicing to get anywhere with it. My teacher provided me with a backing track to work over as I had been just going over existing songs which is fun but I needed to start getting serious. After some feedback on earlier versions this is the solo/song I finally came up with. It's probably a little simplistic and there are massive technical issues with my playing but I'm very proud of myself and it's another step forward. One thing I need to come to terms with is hating everything I do because it's not perfect (which it never will be of course) and start appreciating them for what they are and that's a step forward and a small reward for the hard work. Lot's of hitting the 3rd of the chord going on but hey got to start somewhere and if it's obvious so what! Enjoy me making a fool of myself for the love of music.
Hey and welcome. I've already put the whole sordid reason for going on this nutty journey in the back story link so feel free to check it out rather than me waffle on again! I'm 40 years old, a mum of several, drastically failed business woman (I worked hard just wasn't to be), loving wife and am now I'm strangely currently 20 months into playing guitar (acoustic at this point but electric will follow), I'm learning with two different teachers who each have a very unique style and come at the instrument from different perspectives. That does throw in some challenges (such as they have very different ways of finger strumming and how to do vibrato) but it ultimately gives me more choice as I develop my own style.
I am 15 months into learning piano and 4 months into learning drums although I've only technically had one lesson on drums I've been working hard and have some ability now to at least hold a steady beat and do some simple fills. We've decided now's the right time to start pushing there too so drumming will now be more frequent. My piano teacher is also my drum and second guitar teacher - he's an amazing multi instrumentalist.
I will be posting fairly (ish) regular videos of my progress on each instrument. They will not be good! It's ok to suck as long as you're trying to get better and I am certainly doing that. But hey everyone was rubbish at sometime and online we only ever seem to see the finished product so take comfort in my crazy playing and enjoy seeing the progress alongside my feedback, tips and 'diary' I guess is probably the right term. I'm shy, very very shy hence no name attached to this blog and no face in the videos! You don't need to see my mug to enjoy the journey but maybe one day, in good time, as my confidence grows we'll get there.
See you soon!
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!