The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
Ok, so, I "think" yesterday's lesson was a BIG step forward or at least it opened the door that will be. Bless him he's so patient and I'm soooo .. complicated? Promised you a doodle too so there'a a fun illustration of my point at the end!
What's my point? Two things 1) this damned perspective thing, I'm so so close to resolution. However I'm beginning to think that rather than them fixing this for me I'm going to need to find the solution and work it into our routine. I sank like a stone after yesterday's lesson and bless him it was actually a genuinely GREAT lesson, I loved it & it helped tonnes... but I'll save that for another day & 2) soloing!!!! Bet you saw that coming & it's the focus of today's post.
I'm going to be honest I don't know what he wants from me when I solo, I really don't. Well I do and I don't, I "know" what he wants but I just can't seem to compute how to get from point A - being what I'm currently doing, to point B - the cool soloing he wants. I know what I'm doing wrong but I don't understand the reason behind why it's wrong and how to fix it, the steps required to take the motions I'm making and change them into the ones that will be right. I have the same problem with Tom's soloing and that's why my frustration has gone epic. When my frustration goes up my confidence goes down and ... well we know what.
However ... yesterday for the very first time I feel like we took a really really big step forward. And it's all to do with the numbers! Actually, its to do with a lot more than that but it does centre around the numbers - of what? The chord, the scale, the story! In my head I hear a tale when I play, I hear emotion and it's only getting more prominent the more I write and the more I play. That's where Zak & I differ and I think he struggles to understand, I struggle to move away from it & at the same time I really struggle to incorporate it into what he wants which I'm struggling to understand - it's a mess!! When I solo I follow my head "up or down" to where the sound is that I'm "hearing", it makes for nice melody (or at least I think it will when I can really play) but crap soloing.
BUT......! In today's lesson we looked at how to play over a chord, we've done that before but this time we looked at what to start on and why, how to decide on a final end point for the run. What the numbers mean within that and how to make it more interesting to get from start to finish. We looked at using the scale to accomplish it and how to use going up or down in 3rds to add interest and adding rhythm to that to make it sound funky and how just a tiny change can really alter the dynamics. The important words in bold, remember it's not enough to tell me WHAT to do, I get it but I can't apply it. You have to tell me WHY, HOW etc, feed me the science of it THEN I can begin to understand and THEN I can begin to apply and experiment. Connect the dots back to the one I'm on so I can move forward.
So now we're speaking my language. Right there several lightbulbs went on and a few dots were joined, there were a few things we've been over and over suddenly coming together and for the first time making sense. I've talked numbers before in this blog, I've talked rhythm & I've talked about to death about melody (and will continue to do so as it's important!). Can you see how things can be difficult for me, I literally have to understand the detailed mechanics to do the simplest of things. But can you also see how when I understand the in's and out's it opens up far more opportunity long term? It's a harder path with more options at the end... I think!
Where do I go from here? Into intense study mode. No more free passes, I need to learn those scales, I need to learn those chords, I need to know the numbers instinctively, I need to understand the flavour and purpose of each note within a scale. I need to get comfortable with rhythm & I need to know where I am at all times. I need to think about how to get from point A to B without thinking and all while knowing where A & B are within my story if that's how I'm going to insist on playing (well not insist but I can't help where my heart leads!).
It's a lot, it's a LOT. But I always knew this was coming and I actually feel much better about it than I thought I would, it makes more sense now. If I want to play anything like Jimmie Vaughan or David Gilmour I need to crack this completely in order to be able to move on to worrying about skills. I don't know if this is the final angle I'll need to approach this particular problem from. I don't know how long it will take to bring me around and I don't know if there will be one of my *ding* moments when we get there. But let's hope so!
And that's just one thing on one instrument haha - I must be CRAZY doing this right? Good thing I'm hopelessly passionate about it.
Another one fell out of my rather bizarre head! Quick post so you know where I'm at.
As yet untitled and like most of my others in beginner stage but here is the latest melancholy noodle that's emerged from my noggin . On the good side it's much more creative, definitely a fuller sound than my usual guitar noodles, I love those dissonant tones in there and it's got a really nice feel. On the bad, I'm writing way outside of my ability so it's as rough as a badgers arse ;)
Since this vid I've been working hard and it has come a lot further already. The very first note into the chord strum is much faster leaving more space for the first line which feels much better. The slide down to the G now goes straight into the next section which makes it feel much more connected and smoother and I really like it. That whole bar is being worked on still to make it feel more rhythmic like the first two, that's probably where I'm struggling most but it's getting there. Then the single fast notes over the Am chord now have a really cool rhythm based off the sus4 which is really nice especially when it slides into the G chord where it then sort of repeats. It's much nicer. At the moment I'm toying with the idea of using this as an intro and then going into strumming and building the song up off the melodies in there. But that's at pure idea stage. It does feel nice though when I start on the Am and Em chords so we shall see!
That's all folks!!
Remember take all this with a big pinch of salt because I'm pushing myself very very hard on these guitar songs at the moment. Not only have I never written stuff close to this before (as you know if you've been watching and listening over the last few months!) but I've never even played stuff like this before. I'm experimenting and learning as I write which is not easy so the results are still very shaky. You have to use your imagination a lot and pull out the song I'm 'trying' to write.
Terrible night again last night so I'm feeling very tired and that tends to lead to the days that I feel a bit stressed. So instead of wallowing I'm focusing on the songs that made me want to play.
Imagine loving something so deeply but having to wait 30 years to even get within sniffing distance of it and then to have to work all day every day to 'maybe' finally win your prize. Would that spur you on or put you off? For me it's the former, the chance to finally play was what pushed me beyond the initial difficulties and my passion & appreciation for playing is what spurs me on. So what started this crazy passion? Actually I've loved music since I was a tiny tot, I've always revered musicians but there are a couple of songs that made me desperate to play, a couple that touched my heart and stayed with me. I've learn't to play one of them and the feeling was every bit as amazing as I'd imagined.
Now the drums are just about any song on the planet, when I listen to a song drums are and always have been my main focus. Not because they're my favourite instrument but because I like bass and I like beat. It's the first place my head goes! I think that's why I like bass so much although I didn't think I would, now I'm learning it I'm hearing the instrument so much more in songs and realising how much I love bass lines, I probably always did but didn't realise it.
Piano is a funny one because although I've always romanticised playing piano I don't actually like that much piano in songs, not even syth really. But when it comes to playing I love the beautiful melodies that come out of it so this is one where it's about playing not about listening. Probably why I'm struggling with this latest song because it's all piano and I love it to bits but as a song it's sooooo far away from what I listen to. Probably the only songs I grew up with that made me want to play was Hey Bulldog by The Beatles & Patricia The Stripper by Chris De Burgh (yep that ones back!).
Now guitar - ah beautiful guitar. That most definitely 100% comes from hearing it in music and there are a few particular songs that sent shivers down my spine. Anything Mark Knopfler did but the main ones were:
Is There Anybody Out There - Pink Floyd
Bird Of Paradise - Snowy White
Forever Autumn - Jeff Wayne (The War Of The Worlds)
Not the most amazing songs nor the most skilled but there was something in the beauty of the guitar, even the smallest sections in these that make my heart melt.
I was just a little girl when I heard these and I fell in love with the guitar then. I carried that passion for 30 years until I finally began to learn and much to my heartbreak discovered I have NO natural talent. It's been a real battle to play and full of so much doubt but my love for it and my sheer stubbornness pushes me on.
Here I am playing Is There Anybody Out There for you. Not well - every time I click record I tend to lost 50% of my playing ability but never mind :)
I talk a lot about the struggles but you'd expect that it's a lot I've taken on but I don't want to seem like a sour puss because I'm not. Yes I do find it hard, and ok yes a lot of that is because a) I've taken on a lot and b) I push myself ridiculously hard but I also find a lot of joy in the tiniest move forwards although I don't show it enough.
I think at the moment I'm experiencing a growth spurt and I'm confident in saying I do think it's down to the decision to revisit the guitar with Tom and soloing with both teachers. My confidence still has a long way to go but it's ebbing bit by bit which is what we all wanted and hoped for. I think though the key to this bigger than normal step forward is understanding rhythm a bit more and applying it. The key to that is my being more open and giving things a try even though they're outside my comfort zone and my teachers understanding me better and applying that to their brilliant teaching.
I've added a vid of me playing yesterday, it's a longer version of yesterdays Instagram post and while there is a lot of room for more work 'hopefully' you'll notice a big improvement from when I first started with double stops (none used in this particular version although I am adding them in regularly now). I think a few of the lessons I've had lately have finally hit home. Here my very first solo vid (still upside down!) from when I started this blog too - big improvement on that and that was just over 3 months ago.
What's Helped Specifically?
Double stops, taking away the option to endlessly noodle meant I had to focus on timing and also really focus on the scale and intervals.
Working on rhythms and starting on different beats (still working on this big time!). This helped me think in terms of singing lines rather than just melody melody melody endless melody. Both of them have been on about this for a long time and I think playing over Toms style of strumming actually was the thing that helped because I can't do my melodic smooth playing over it, as soon as he got me playing in a more short, sharp funky way it (I'd say clicked but we're not there yet) made more sense.
Call & response. Once I'd made progress on the other two then Zak's lesson on call and response suddenly popped into my mind and I found myself moving more between the higher notes and lower in a kind of 'singing to each other' kind of way.
Strumming finger style. My hand has finally begun to relax and it's making a big difference to my strumming but I've also been working on a more funky plucking style too with slaps and added notes and moving within the chord which is coming on and helps. That's me doing the rhythm 'strumming' - it's not as good as Tom but wayyyyyy better than my normal backing rhythms!
Vibrato - finally I'm using it although I still feel uncomfortable doing it in front of my teachers it is coming more naturally. Not always but it's a step forwards. Technically there is a LOT to work on but I want to get comfortable using it all the time before I start worrying about that.
I've noticed all this has started to creep in to my piano playing too instead of just writing melody on this latest song or focusing on rhythm like I tend to do when piano comes into my other songs this time I'm thinking about both. So there you go proof all this hard work and headbanging does make a difference - it's just a matter of time. And more than that I think it's important to realise that looking at things in a different way can often be the catalyst. It's often not enough sometimes just to keep trying, you also need to try to discover a new method or way of looking at the problem to finally understand. Hopefully there is more to this spurt but if not then I'll start working on getting towards the next one. :)
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!
This one's going to take a long time to write but I think it will be worth the effort from a learning point of view. I'm trying to think over the fretboard so looking at different voicings for the same chord and thinking mainly arpeggios for the melody. Because I'm working with 7 and 9 chords it gives me a few cool note choices to work with. I'm also thinking about rhythm and trying to push myself technically which will involve writing something then building, pushing and reworking a lot. I'm trying to work in repetition as well to balance the song and not go off on one of my random melody rampages and all this before I even think about how I'll bring in other instruments. Not to mention the slide challenge EEK!
I've not even picked the timing or anything yet I'm still noodling out the initial ideas. That said so far so good, I like the concept and it's definitely different to anything that I've done before. So here is a quick vid of me (right way up!) playing what I have so far. I know I'm illusive but trust me I'm the least photogenic person ever!! You're not missing anything. Don't hold your breath for the finished product but I'll get there!
Looking forward to working in some slide on this one! 😉
Lick n Riff YouTube Channel Link
I've been subscribed to this channel for a while now and of all the ones I've checked out so far this is my favourite. It's predominantly directed and fingerstyle playing but he does do a few electric tutorials.
Easy to follow
I can't always do everything he's teaching but that's because my skill level isn't there yet but I can certainly always follow and understand what he's saying. He often covers things from multiple angles too so if you don't get it immediately you might when he explains it another. He does have some nice beginner lessons but I think this channel is stronger for those who are past that stage.
This channel offers lots and lots of lessons on fingerstyle arrangements of songs, he puts the tabs on the screen so you can see as you watch, no need to download and look from sheet to screen. They're very nice arrangements and most aren't too difficult to learn although I think you'd need to be a late beginner or early intermediate.
He uploads posts frequently and mixes it up so I find myself looking forward to the next video. They vary in length depending what the lesson is but generally speaking they're not too long.
I love his videos on improvisation, it's an area I struggle in and I've found his lessons very helpful. They can be a little vague on the detail but the idea behind them is to get you thinking about what you can do not to give you a lesson to copy. Because of that I tend to watch them over and over picking up new tips each time.
I'd give it a comfortable 8/10. Sometimes I would like just a little more detail, he can be a little too .. "you can do this, and this, or this" and I'm left scratching my head but overall it's a great channel for self learning.
I was a 'late bloomer' when it came to playing over songs, I could do far more complicated things long long before I could strum out a simple song. But we all do things at different paces and have different strengths and weaknesses so it doesn't bother me one bit. I'm having lots of fun now though!
So I thought I'd share a few of the first songs I learnt to play along to - not just the first but the most fun ones, as a starting point for any beginners reading this blog. Some are very easy with lots of room between the changes and simple strumming, some will take a bit more work and a couple I found a bit harder but were worth the effort. None of these were beyond my ability (I may not have sounded amazing but the point is I could play along). Also don't worry too much about how you play along, it's more important to have fun first and use that enjoyment to push forward with technique & polish up timing.
Anyway enough waffle, here's the list - happy jamming! If you think of others let me know in the comments and I'll do a second list (Oasis is missing on purpose - I hate them and it's my blog so I'll sulk if I want to!). 😉
Chords & Tabs available at Songsterr or Ultimate Guitar
Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show
Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
Within You - Ray LaMontagne (very easy & lovely song)
Can't You See - The Marshall Tucker Band (easy and very fun)
Closing Time - Semisonic
Speedway - Counting Crows
3 Rounds and A Sound - Blind Pilots
Vaporise - Broken Bells
Toes - Zak Brown Band (a bit harder but sooo much fun!)
People Are Strange - The Doors (watch the timing on this one)
I Remember You - Skid Row
Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits (Great for barre chord workout. Bit trickier though)
I'm currently working on getting to grips with "Let Me Die In Southern California" by The Voyces which is a very cool song to play along too. I'm still a terrible strummer (haha) but I'm improving bit by painful bit!
ps Quick tip, I'm assuming that if you're using this list you're a beginner so listen through a few times doing chord changes without strumming to get the timing down. You probably know this already but no one told me so just in case ...!
I've got so much going on now it's hard to keep track let alone keep on top but this blog is a good way to make sure I stay focused because when I've said I'm going to do something - I do it.
So rather than bore you to bits with tiny updates on each thing I'm doing here is a very quick post on several at once.
I've been playing a collection of blues songs and recording the "rough" drum beats and fills so I have a library that I can use to pick one. I want to try and do that by close of today because I need to start practicing bass over the top. It's going to be poor but it will give me a guide then when I have all components worked out I can go and re-record them properly. At least that's the idea at the moment - as I hit walls my ideas often change and evolve.,
Update: The full drums, intro, verse, chorus, solo & outro (all be it very rough!) are down - see the power of committing really works! They're simple but I've put a few "playful" areas in there to give me room to do something a biy fun.
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I knew I bit off more than I could chew with this one but it's been really tough. Anyway about 7 hours total practice in now (I've been adding bits in small chunks, bar by bar). The timing & dynamics are a "bit" better now but I'll worry about getting it right once I've got the full song learned.
New Guitar Song
I was just sitting there getting lost in whatever came out of my head on guitar and I just started playing this. It's not original, it's not new and it's not amazing - YET but it was so sweet and I think I'd really like to see where I can take it especially as it lends itself to playing with sus's and 7ths so I've set myself another challenge (another long term one) to build this into a full song. I know if I don't say I'll do something with it on here it will end up in my memo "ideas graveyard". So let's see if I can.
Dig Deep Evolves
This is a song concept I've put in a preivous post, I'm now working on spreading out the concept into a song format and am happy with where it's going. This one has a long long way to go so don't expect a finished result but I WILL turn this into a full song by the end. Here is the start of it in evolved format, using the first two sections spread out as a verse structure.
Haunting & Beautiful Music
I've already posted about my guitar muses but every now and then I'd like to introduce one of my musical inspirations not specific to any instrument.
Nick Drake is a beautiful guitarist, often playing in unusual tunings. But it's his singing that I find so amazing, he's haunting and sad but yet so uplifting if that makes any sense. Such a sad story with a tragic end but at least his music lives on in the hearts of those who came after him.
The film above is lovely if somewhat sad but if you don't have time for that check out his albums, Pink Moon is his most popular but Made To Love Magic is my favourite which has some songs that never made his other records including my favourite Joey.
Here is my effort to play the beginning,
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 😊
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.
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!