The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
The Story Of An Unlikely Dream
To Become A Musician
Today has all been about building a song on guitar and it's been incredibly slow going, two bars of music slow going. The reason is that I'm thinking about a lot more, I'm trying to get that melody I'm hearing in my head translated onto the guitar and then I'm thinking about how I can really give it substance and body. How I can add bass notes to thicken it up, are the notes close by that would work as passing notes or extra. Then I'm thinking about whether I need all the notes, does it need a pause, is the rhythm right. I'm thinking about finger picking patterns and whether there are other options to copying each chord the same way.
Then there's looking at rather than treating each chord as a separate entity trying to blend them together within the song and so much more. Add to the mix lots of technique, faster playing and thinking which I'm not used to especially on guitar and it's been a real kick up the bottom.
However it's been great, I'm thinking about new things in a new way and incorportating all the work I've been putting into numbers, chord shapes etc. I'm using my little movable fretboard to look when I find a run I like to see what exactly I'm playing and is there anything that's not quite right. For instance I had this cool like but I was playing the minor 3rd, it sounded good but when I switched it to the major third it sounded much better. I'm also trying to think about how the chords interact with one another so yes it's cool to play a line over the C chord but then how does that lead nicely into the D.
I know that's all boring as hell - not to me but to read about anyway!
So to soften the blow how about I share the latest update of Escape To You. I've been working my butt off on the piano and I'm really happy with it. The same cannot be said for the drums!!!
I hope you enjoy seeing the progress on this song from quick 4hr throw out to a fully grown song and it's still got a way to go yet!
Working on the piano song (Escape to you) and I'm trying to start thinking more about how the story works between the dynamics of the chords, the rhythmic parts and the notes and playing more thoughtfully. It's slow going but I'm building it bit by bit, the other thing I'm doing with it is looking around the chord to see whether I can use a sus or go from the next chord up or down into it for extra tension/relief. It's really interesting to see how just a second more space or going into the chord from the one below it can really affect the song.
On guitar I'm looking at building off of a finger picked pattern by adding in a riff then hitting the next chord with fingerpicking then the next riff etc. It's hard but even as a starting point it's further than I've ever been able to get before so it's progress. I think this will help in my song building and also my soloing. The way I'm doing it is by starting to think about arpeggios and where I can find them, thinking about rhythms, hammer ons and bends etc to push them and playing quickly so I can get back to the next chord.
I went out today - yeah really I did, I left the house! But I did take Jimmie with me :) The two of us went with my eldest daughter to our local park and I enjoyed a relaxing few hours out playing and noodling and just chilling. It did me good, we got some photos and a vid too and I'm currently TRYING to upload it to Instagram without much luck grrrr. It'll get there eventually I guess. I'm hoping to do it again tomorrow but maybe the beach this time.
Nearly time for me to indulge my inner geek with some Dr Who! I really am getting excited about that piano song though, as I'm building it the story is coming to life and it's really beautiful. I'm very proud and once it's all done and Tom has helped me pull out the best of it this will be another to add to my list.
Writing these songs lately has pushed me incredibly on all instruments, I've been trying to do things I never would and pushing myself to get the best results. I've thought in new time signatures (just!) and dynamics, I've been looking at the interaction between the instruments, playing around with genres. Pushed my soloing on heaps (although sometimes I really doesn't feel like it) and boosted my confidence.
I think the time has come to scale back that side of my learning and return to traditional technique. I plan to follow both paths always but sometimes one will take more priority than the other and now I feel it's time to get back to really pushing forward on my skills so that when I swing back to the song side I will have more I can apply. I hope when that happens my Instagram little songs should step up a gear. That does include recording better too so I will still like I said be doing these songs I just won't do them as often (every couple of days at the moment!) or put as much effort in. The idea will be to find a way to a) put together these in a more efficient way and b) push technically on an element.
I'm going back to learning some old material and trying to push it on so on piano I'm going back to Maple Leaf Rag (ARGHHHHH) and on Guitar I'm running through a number of songs trying to get confident. I plan to reintroduce my rudiments a bit more, practice my drum fills and timing again (go back to basics and see if I can push my confidence a little further), I'll be looking at drum beats to try and grow my knowledge and bass will be about learning songs and trying to improve on my technique (again).
Like I said the music won't stop but I think it's important to realise when the benefit of what you're doing is waning and to then push into new territory to get a fresh kick. My head is telling me this is for the best so we'll see if I can behave and focus enough to get on with it.
Oh and I got a slide - fun fun fun! Man is that going to take some practice but I'll get there!
Hope you enjoyed the silly vid yesterday and happy Eater to you. I'll still be posting tomorrow as always but just a quick update I think - however you never quite know where I'll be going haha!
Well the good news is I tried something different, the bad is it ended - I wouldn't say poorly but it's not great that's for sure! The piano is cute, the bass is fun but the whole thing just didn't come together right in the end. But I'm wearing bunny ears so what's not to love right?
Seriously though I tried something different and wrote a song in a 6/4 time signature which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be however.. it's got first try written all over it and the whole thing is very messy. There comes a point though when you have to admit defeat and move on, I'll still Instagram it after all my posts are only a bit of fun anyway, I'm not exactly promoting myself!
Despite the failure I did enjoy working this way and I'm definitely starting to think more about the dynamics between the instruments so I trimmed the bass in places to fit with the piano and allow certain sections to shine un-muddied by other instruments.
Lesson yesterday was good, they're hard at the moment because I'm a little uncertain about things but I'm so determined to get past this section and really start to improvise properly. It will make me so happy. We looked at going from one line straight into another and not thinking about it. At the moment obviously I'm thinking a lot which creates pauses and when I don't think I do god knows what but a few weeks ago I couldn't have even done this so I am moving forward even if it's at a snails pace. I'm so desperate to get through this so we can move on to new challenges.
Two weeks now until next guitar lesson so there is time to practice and I shall endeavour to do so as much as possible.
I already said yesterday how I didn't realise I'd find a song behind the beat I laid down and for me a really fun, upbeat song too with my first kind of fast bass work. Anyway I've been listening to it an I'm really thinking there is so much potential in it.
The bass itself obviously I've just looped the riff but it has so much room to move and expand, keep the riff yes but add some extra little flourishes to pad it out and add more interest. Then the guitar, at the moment it's straight electric with a funky feel but I'm really feeling slide guitar on this one. I've never done it but that's the way I push myself with these is to try something new and learn how. Even if it's bad it will be on step closer anyway.
The piano is really fun against the bass and I reckon there could be some opportunity to flesh that out too. The drums I think I might need to change the kit as although it's fun it's not right and then add some really cool drum fills that I would need to work on rather than my bog standard go to ones.
Then ... the bass solo, my first. It's going to be hard to figure it out but again it's all about pushing right. I'm sensing so much that could happen with this song and it would definitely be a step away from anything I've done to date and that's probably one of my biggest inspirations for doing it.
Today is Zak guitar lesson day *cue massive grin* and I'm going to be trying hard with the soloing. It's baby steps and on this I'm going to need him to be so patient with me, it's starting to come together but it is so so so frustrating like having the answer on the tip of your tongue but not quite getting it no matter how hard you try. That's exactly how I feel with this, I understand but when I start to play my head and fingers just lose it and out comes the noodling or worse. But every now and then I do a fun little line - every now and then - and that's more than I was doing before so it's starting to seep through subconsciously and that's actually better than thinking about it. When I do one I stop and try to think about what I did so I can build on it. At the moment it's all good then 20 mins later I've totally forgotten but the more I do these the more I'll remember, recognise and understand and the more they'll become second nature.
I will be 100% honest I'm getting a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of songs that are now in progress stage with more finding their way out but I just think it's more value to chase 100 ideas that are incomplete than to have 5 that are complete because this is how I'm learning and pushing. Eventually I'll have the skills to get these to a stage very quickly where it's full concept and then it will be much easier to dip back in and rework the individual parts. Until then I just need to keep practising and working hard.
It is a lovely, lovely feeling to be finally doing this. It's been a constant frustration for me as you know and I'm a long way from being finally through that particular barrier but even just being able to do these quick Instagram songs and then recognising where they can go is a big leap forward. The next step is to be able to structure them to a full song as fast as I build the quick song because that's when Tom & Zak and start to push me technically within what I've already built.
Soloing Moving Forward Though!
Got a couple of hours sleep again then got up to practice and this time I started with soloing. I think I'm really making some progress, today was the first time I could do anything over Zaks fast funky strumming so that felt good. I'm definitely following the numbers a bit better it just going to take a lot of time there.
Then I decided to have a quick drum and I got distracted messing around on a dance beat setting. I laid down a fun beat but thought I'll never do anything with this but the second I started over it with the electric the dynamic totally changed. I then sat at the piano and gradually that revealed itself too. I kept it simple but tried to shy away from my classic rhythm or noodle piano and although I didn't stray too far it's a bit different.
Then the bass! I cut back to just the beat and found a few notes that sounded cool and the rhythm sort of popped into place automatically. Then it was a case of figuring out the sections and going back to the piano with just the bass this time to match them.
And ta da!! Another quick song again different so I've added that on.
So yesterday's lesson!!! It was wonderful and I wish it was every day. He picked "The Mind Maze" to work on and we set to it. He mapped out the sections and we redid all the parts that needed it (all of them!!). But it was so much fun and by the end we had a song I'm really proud. It's VERY Pink Floyd but with a trip hop vibe and a Tash style - haha can you picture it?
He's going to master it for me and then I can reveal it!
Here you go this is my fun bass quick song from today.
It's boot camp day, I don't know what Tom's got planned and I'm filled with a mix of fear and sheer excitement. I am hoping that I can get things sorted with Zak for one of these too because I know it will do us the world of good.
I failed miserably in staying focused but that new song is something I'm so so incredibly proud of even if it still has a long way to go. I've worked out a big chunk of the piano, it has some beautiful finger picked guitar over the top and soft falling drums giving it a lovely relaxing groove. Strings of course haha - well it is a soppy song! The bass I haven't got worked out yet but it will be simple and then there is the strumming for the chorus - ARGH why do I have to be so bad.
I'm so proud of it I'm not going to preview it and spoil the finished song :) Yesterday was a mammoth day and today's going to be another one but I'm really loving it. The only problem is once this is all done coming down the other side of this manic high will be very painful especially as I'm still very delicate. I'll just try and keep myself busy and focused and I'm really looking forward to Zak's lesson too on Thursday so that will be great. Plus I have a concert to go to on Wednesday so that's going to be wicked fun too. Easter is coming up so egg hunts with the kids and hubby has a few days off. So lots to keep my chin up with.
So sorry nothing to listen to today but trust me it will be worth the wait. I'm not saying it's amazing because I'm obviously still learning but I do think it's going to be the best I've done yet. These recent songs I'm so pleased with, it really feels like I've taken a big step forward especially as it was only Christmas when I finally managed to get through that "Great Wall Of China" sized barrier to writing my first structured song so to come from that to here in 4 months is something I should be happy with. At least for now haha! But that's what drives people on, always looking for the next step to be a little better.
Have a great day and I'll report back after my mammoth Tom lesson!!!
I can't seem to keep my eyes forward at the moment, I created a backing track to solo over and got carried away again. In my defence it is pretty cool though! Then today I sat down at the piano to get the one bar things done and suddenly my fingers found a new song. I've put both up for you to see.
However being honest with myself while all this is very cool I've got a tonne of songs that I need to get finished already. I'm going to try and behave for once, put this idea on ice and try to get more done on at least one of the others today.
Plus it's the holidays so I want to spend a big time playing with my younger kids. Probably play a couple of games.
Tomorrow is my big lesson with Tom and I'm so looking forward to it.
I'm still struggling with the soloing, I have made progress but some of Zaks strumming I just don't know where to start on it. I am beginning to think in numbers though, I find myself landing on a bum note and then thinking ah that's because it's the 4 and it's not a nice note to stay on. Or oops I accidentally hit the 3rd instead of the flat 3. I'm also going with more purpose and my rhythm is improving.
Better get working then. Enjoy the vids!!
I'm really enjoying the soloing practice at the moment, it's very slow going but I think I'm starting to get my head around it and I'm glad that Zak has pushed me. It's going to be so great when I can do it but it's also going to be a long time and a lot of practice before that happens. I think what I need to do is to take it bit by bit, start with the root note and learn where they are in relation to each other all over the fretboard. I already "know" where they are of course but everything from here on out has to be second nature, no thinking, so when I say learn I mean completely. Then I need to learn where the other notes are in relation to the root within each particular shape.
So it will be a case of soloing over the one shape getting from one root to another confidently knowing each "number" of the scale I pass over, then learning the next shape then combining the two and adding etc. Then knowing where all the other notes are in relation to each other so I can solo from any number of the scale to another, knowing what I'm passing over all over the fretboard. Then comes the modes. Some of this (quite a lot actually) I've already been working on in theory, I've dipped in and out but not connected the dots and every time I've tried it's been a mess. But now I'm putting it into practice it's helping a lot and I think I will eventually get there.
While I'm doing all this I'll also be thinking about rhythms and I have a few ideas about that but I'll see if they work before going on about them. And I'm also thinking about dynamics and about playing more than one note at a time, again two things we've been over but I'm trying to bring all the pieces together now. Like I said it'll take time because at the moment I'm noodling then stopping, thinking about how to turn that noodle into something much stronger and then building it until I'm happy. A bit like the electric in this song I guess although there's a tonne of work still to be done it's definitely the strongest electric work I think I've done even though there are less notes. It has purpose and I think it feels like it has.
I also need to get some serious piano practice in as that's gone by the way and get Tom's single bar "songs" down ready for Tuesday. Not to mention I need to put together some quick backing tracks for Zaks solo practice. Once I can solo over different chords and different keys then I can think about just using existing backing tracks save me time but for now I need to do these myself as they're just one chord but it'll be good practice anyway. As long as I can stay focused!
Have a great Sunday and I hope you enjoyed yesterdays music if you tried any :)
Sorry normally I'm pretty good at getting things done but I've been absolutely rubbish lately. Hands up, guilty as charged, but I have finally put together a few artists who follow and support me on Instagram who I genuinely think produce some pretty cool music. This is just a few in time I'll add to it but little and often is always best 😊.
I hope you do go check out at least one because it's always nice to support people who put in real effort to something they have genuine passion about. The music industry is tough and unforgiving, part of the reason I doubt I'll ever think about trying to be commercial so I admire these guys.
Here you go then, enjoy!
1). Goldkey Only has one song out so far but I absolutely adore it. Very chilled, you'll see it's very "me". Indie Folk.
2) Carolina Wray Two brothers with a heavy blues rock sound they are very cool. Naughty words though so not for younger readers (says the woman who calls her songs S**t it out's 😆).
3). A Part Of. Has a few albums out and I'm working my way through them, I loved his first one. Bucket loads of talent here with an experimental indie acoustic feel.
4). Soloman Jakobsson. Stunning and I mean stunning finger style acoustic guitarist who is a genius with harmonics. His music is beautiful to listen to it really is.
5). Brittany Pfatz. Beautiful singer with an edgy style, mainly acoustic pop but really nice.
All these were found via Instagram so it's a lovely way to share music you probably wouldn't find otherwise. It's nice to be able to throw even a tiny bit of support to others who are on the same journey albeit via a different road! I hope you enjoy them.
As for me I'm plugging away so much to do. Tom reluctantly gave me a very general guess about how long it would take to get where I want to go. I understand his hesitation it's a tough thing to answer but his list of disclaimers was hilarious. Anyway he thinks around five years which is fine by me it's what I hoped for, although I did think he would say a lot longer in truth, so to hear him say that helps a lot. Makes it less of a ghost I'm chasing and more solid. Of course it's up to me to keep this momentum going to get there but I honestly don't think I'm anywhere near up to speed yet because we have some barriers still remaining that are preventing me from taking off the handbreak.
Update on the song too, it's really coming together but at the same time is going to require some major effort to get it where I want. Over the verses I've added some really really slow Gilmore style bends & slides on electric with loads of echo which sounds amazing but will require a lot of work to really nail as it provides the atmosphere. I've worked on the piano a bit and I've really worked on the outro to bring it down from "chorus" and that's sounding much better. But to tie the three sections together perfectly is going to be really hard. Worth it though because I have so much belief in this song. It's still not "me" but it's getting closer.
Back to work then and I want to try and get more nice songs for you.
I decided to push this one all the way to a full song and I've added the VERY ROUGH work in progress song below as well so you can get a sneak peak at where I'm going with this but listen with a big pinch of salt because it's very very much WIP stage haha!!
With these songs I'm trying to consciously push myself forward a little more each time. Sometimes it will be apparent but other times it won't be. I'm going to need Tom & Zak's help on this one because I think it's worth getting right and a few sections aren't quite gelling plush I need to push technically as well to get it really sounding great. I'm deciding whether to add two extra chords in for the verses to mix them up a lot more so I'll play with that idea and practice the drums, work on the solo and getting comfortable on the piano so that when we go to lay it down I can do the various parts well enough. That's the theory anyway!
Anyway back to pushing - on this song I tried a few new things, actually quite a few.
It's is a different key for a change, at the moment it's over two chords ... are you ready? Yes one is ..... Bm hahahah! The other chord is Cm which has a fun sound. But like I said I'm thinking of adding two more for the verses to give it some movement. The rest I like at the moment.
I actually looked for a drum beat to replicate and this was in a Trip-Hop song (I love the lazy funky sound of trip-hoo beats). I chose this one because of the high hat sound as I've been struggling to play with open and closed high hats and I wanted a push. So there was two things here, the skill push and the transcription.
Then the bass guitar again I pushed on thinking dynamics not just notes and focusing on really knitting it to the beat. I also put in a couple of long slides which I love as I haven't done them before.
The rhythm guitar is based off of a funky rhythm that Tom gave me to learn last week and it felt like the ideal time to try and incorporate it. I had to really focus on control to get it sounding nice and clean.
I thought about space so I added a breather in there which became that cool pause with the bass slide - I love that tension & release it's got that really cool "falling" trip-hop feel perfectly.
On the piano I really thought about adding to the song not just playing over the top and it took several attempts to find the right groove and I focused on rolling into the chords to continue that lazy chilled groove that was going on. Even though it's very simple it really adds a complimentary vibe.
The guitar melody I thought of a few things, repetition, finding a riff that I could use as the main hook. Then I focused on rhythm, soloing over the chords, dynamics and getting a few faster runs in there. I also focused on playing more than one note at a time so you've got some double stops and the "intro" i used barring as a means to put in a fuller melodic sound before going into the more funky riff.
So these may only take a few hours to put together and they may not be amazing & they're only 1min long but there is a lot of thought and effort that goes into them so I'm always learning something. I'm pushing myself and testing new areas out. I was listening back over the last four I did and I'm very pleased with these, they are all different and each one has its own area where it shines.
Time to learn some more and get solo practice, theory and lay down some more 1 or 2 bar "songs" for Toms next lesson. I hope my emptying out my brain helps make this journey and these songs a little more interesting if not more fun. 😊
One of the best aspects of my lessons with Tom is they could go anywhere, you can plan, you can have a specific direction you need to go in, he can have lesson plans but the second we start all that goes to pot and we're just rolling with whatever comes out of my mouth.
I should learn to shut up because what tends to come out of my mouth is an idea or something I "eventually" want to do or something I've recently started but needs a lot more practice before I can move on it but when I do I'd like to go ... here. Then Tom goes right then let's go there now!
Que terrified expression from me but he doesn't take no for an answer and he's even learnt to deal with my subconscious redirecting!!! But it's as great as it is hard because I'm being pushed... pushed technically, pushed emotionally and pushed way outside my comfort zone and the more he does it the more I ebb closer to the direction we want to go. I'll be honest it's so uncomfortable but he is doing good by me.
What happened this week and what's it got to do with Trip Hop?! I think we covered a few bases including planning out structurally where I am and what I need to do in terms of songwriting and that helped tonnes - and I mean tonnes. I think we're well on the way to solving that mammoth problem once and for all - finally. Then we turned to what I want to do, I may doubt myself completely but that doesn't mean I don't dream! And for me it's all about the ideas. Ideas for songs, ideas for how to push an existing song, ideas about reinvention, ideas about applying techniques to change things up, ideas about blending, ideas about mixing genres, ideas about simplifying or complicating things, ideas about reworking the same thing and then ideas about what to do with each of those. Experimentation, creativity, playfulness, experience, tradition, history & logic all have a place for me in music. I have a style now, I probably always will but what you're hearing now isn't anywhere close to how I will be playing or who I will be, I know that because I know the styles I like, I know my influences and I'm simply not able to tap into them yet. Not - Even - Close! My "style" is what I can do not what I will do...!
So he ran with it - "fine show me what you want to do and let's do it" (I'm paraphrasing!). So I show him an example of what I'm talking about. Paul Wellers - Wild Wood, a lovely laid back song with cool rhythmic strummed guitar (a song I really want to learn btw!) and then take the Portishead remix which puts a trip-hop element over the top, simple and yet completely changes the dynamics of the song - it's very very cool, go check it out. :)
Then we're in trouble because we are NOW putting down a song, pick a piano riff I like, a bass riff I like, drums is trip hop because trip hop (old school anyway that modern stuff is naff) is all about the drums and then we have the rhythmic guitar. Why do you like this or that - blimey errrrr! That man!!!! I do have reasons but I can't dig them out of my head on the spot haha!!
Anyway I could go through all the details but we veered left of centre again because my head goes that way when I think on a tangent (which happens a lot) and in the end he put together a two bar construct that is the basis for me doing several for our boot camp lesson next week. Once he'd explained it I understood and I hope I can get my head around it because I think this is another big step if I can. It's a two parter, the first is to get my head around song structure once and for all - the second is to take my current song ideas, the way I build them and pull out the melodies, the structures and the ideas. To learn how to recognise the songs from my ideas, then how to build them - then we can start to worry about how to polish them up.
I want to get to a place where every week there are several songs we can push on. BTW Tom's trip-hop song was very funny, it wasn't trip hop but that's because he's new to the genre but it did make it's point and that's what's important. ............ but it was funny!!
And for your entertainment today he's me drumming to AD/DC Back In Black! Timing's improving lots but technique leaves a lot to be desired but we'll get there.
One of the main problems I'm having at the moment is staying focused without denying myself creative license. Both are absolutely critical to my learning and both pull at me, sometimes they overlap and often they don't.
Yesterday they did thankfully although that was blind luck. I'm working on laying down my own backing tracks as a way to give me practice material for my soloing while strengthening my skills on the other instruments, working on the underlying song structure and testing out new ideas. Although every time I do one I find myself turning it into another song, but that's a good thing I think because that's how eventually I'll go from a bunch of ideas into recognising which are worth pursuing properly.
Back to yesterday, I was laying down the drums which I wanted to sound much cleaner so I worked hard on them thinking about technique and structure more. I'm pleased with the result but once that was done I got sidetracked by some funky strumming. A few weeks back that's what we were working on in Zak's lesson so I thought it would be good to try and it sounded cool over the drums. It's HARD to get right especially at 120bpm haha! So that took up a big chunk of time and it sounded really messy but it's all practice. I then moved on to practising the solo work we're currently doing. It's slow going because I can't just solo - I have to build, do a bit, correct it, add a bit, adjust both, add a bit more, record, hate loads of it, redo a load, record, move onto the next bit ....... it takes a while - it's NOT soloing!
In my defence though although I may be doing it bit by bit it is moving away from my "noodling". There is rhythm, there are specific note choices and there is a journey between chords. There is a LOT of work to be done on it but as a start given how hard I find this I'll take it. Zak says I'm on the right path so that's what I'll focus on and build off of.
Anyway long story long I had been building the solo only over the drums at that point because the strumming was a mess. Out of curiosity I added the strumming back on the recording and it actually sounded pretty funky so I thought why not turn it into a song :). A bit of piano later and we're getting close and then I HAD to redo the strumming but with the rest of the song down it came a lot more naturally and took a lot less time for considerably better results. It's another step forward for me, small but important.
From a few months ago when I first started recording my timing has improved massively and you know what a nightmare I had with that. I'm struggling a lot today so I'm doing what I can to keep my chin up, I hate it when my head goes to the "dark side" but I was reading some of my lyrics - I guess I'll have to share some of those at some point, I do write lots of them - and these moods do produce some seriously good songs! See every dark cloud does have a silver lining it's just sometimes that's more like a consolation prize.
I'm going off now to get a lot of practice in :) Have yourself a very great day or night and I'll probably be back writing at 2am assuming lesson is on today!!!! In the meantime here is the song that I accidentally wrote yesterday for your entertainment. In my head I see a time a year maybe two down the line where these will be really really cool to watch. That would be nice wouldn't it, they're fun now of course - what's not fun about a 40 year old mum of five rocking out and making up silly songs on the spot?! But seriously there is a library of ideas in my head and I really hope that I can build the skills to tap into it to make you all smile every day!
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.
Yesterday I was practising like a good girl then spotted my husbands "homework" and a smile grew on my face & a glint in my eye. Hubby was given the bass solo from Ben Harper's "Steel My Kisses" to learn this week and I couldn't help myself so I hijacked it and spent a solid 5 hours learning it - then it took another 1 hour to get confident enough to get a decent recording down!
I'm actually super proud of it, you've heard my bass playing and I'm still a real beginner so to really pull this off in one day was a real (rare) confidence booster for me. Once I decide I'm going to do something it's head down arse up and I don't stop till I get there no matter how many exhaustion barriers I have to push through. It's a blessing and a curse.
As a side note while I remember one area I'm having a lot of fun in at the moment is experimenting on acoustic guitar, using a combination of strumming, fingerpicking and note runs to just let my fingers run free. Funnily enough if you remember a while back that's exactly how I started on piano when the songs and my confidence started to come. Maybe just maybe it's the start of progress on guitar finally?? I really do believe that all this hard work both teachers are putting in with me on guitar is paying off.
I know I praise Zak & Tom a lot, you know I adore them but they do deserve it. I am an incredibly hard working, determined and passionate person but I don't - can't - learn normally, I don't think in straight lines and I do have serious confidence issues (yeah I know duh right!). Then there is the whole autistic thing to factor in, they've had to be really understanding because things that seem silly or even entirely unimportant to others are massive issues for me. These are two teachers who although young still have years of teaching experience behind them & they have both had to drastically change not just what they teach & how they teach but the whole dynamics of the lesson to accommodate me. We've had to build friendships and leave the "teacher hat" at the door for me to be able to pull out of my shell. They've had to let me often lead because I know how I think and how my odd brain is wired better then I've handed back the reins when we're where we need to be. It takes a very special teacher to let a student do that.
Zak stuck with me even when he gave up teaching as he's now a very successful business owner. His confidence in me is something I still don't understand as my playing sucks but it means literally the world to me. Tom has had to suffer through many difficult lessons and make a lot of personal adjustments for us to get where we are, he's had to put a lot of trust in my judgement when he's the expert. He's opened doors I didn't know existed and I'm just starting to see that excited passionate look in his eyes (that same one I feel) in our lessons now we're really working on my songs and it's so so wonderful to see him able to do what he loves most - I want these two to enjoy this as much as I do.
So you can see why these two are so important to me but you can also see why I'm now pushing on faster than ever. The support I've had on Instagram has been amazing, I genuinely expected none for a long long time. I still prefer small and personal and that's what I've got but I still feel I have to keep pushing forward and giving back (I know they probably don't really care but I do - see I told you I'm odd!). My blog is slowly picking up the odd new regular reader so welcome & thank you for becoming part of my wonderful and weird journey if you are new :) I don't really know where I'm going but I do know that it is going to be one hell of a fun adventure - and a difficult one! I will keep pushing, I will keep thinking outside the box and I will keep being playful. I will push technically and I will share it all with you - even my bruised tailbone (whether you want to know or not haha!). And I'll have to do a new doodle soon because it's been a while! Plus I still owe you that post on new cool artists - I will get it done soon I promise :)
So stick around and let's have some fun and even when I'm struggling with confidence or with my depression I promise to find the joy in all this because it's a real blessing to me. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this short solo (which doesn't feel short when you're playing it!!).
I've been practising the funky stuff Tom gave me on guitar and the solo Zak gave me on electric and I'm loving both to bits. It reinforces my idea to play in a style influenced by them both but most definitely me. I can just imagine playing this funky rhythmic guitar with cool little licks and then throwing in just at the right moment some super fast lick - make you look up and go whoa what was that haha. At least that's the dream in my head, it'll be a long long time before I can really see if it will work and a lot of serious hard graft ahead of me.
I hope you enjoyed yesterdays little song, it's done me proud on Instagram becoming my most watched and liked post by some way which is really cool. It also ramps up the pressure but that's one of the main reasons I'm doing Instagram is to force myself into keeping the momentum going. It's very easy now I can noodle on everything to keep throwing out silly little songs that don't really have structure and aren't that thought about but while it's good to keep doing them they won't make me a songwriter. I need to use them to keep pushing technically so that one day most of these quick songs should be great ideas I can stock pile and choose from.
The idea being that I would bang out several concepts in the morning, choose my favourite to work into structured songs and then pick from there what will be worth the effort to really work on. From those would come my final choices and those are the ones I'd release on the world.
The more efficient I can work, the more I've practised the more options I'll have. I want to take ideas from existing songs - just a snippet of rhythm or a melody I can rework, a drum beat or tiny bit of a bass line and then build from that into something entirely new. Take that idea and work on it into a fresh and fun song. That's what's in my head and you can see I have a long road ahead from my silly noodles right now. Let's hope the boys can convince me this week that it's a path I'm really on so I can stop worrying about that aspect of things and move on.
My ankle gave me lots of grief last night, my tailbone is screaming at me today and my eczema has gone CRAZY *sob*. But sleep or no sleep it's back to work :) Can't say I'm not committed!
Last night I went out and had a wicked evening really letting my hair down. Tom invited us to watch his dads band and it was really nice. Coming home I misjudged the steps in the dark, landed hard on my foot and something went twang then in pain I lunched back into my backside and bruised my tailbone. OUCH!!!
Now my ankles strapped it's not too bad but it is double it's normal size and the less said about sitting the better!
But that can't stop me (nor can my mild hangover!) and I pulled another mini song out of my head (bet you thought I was going to say some other place there HAHA!). I really like this one and there are a few things worth mentioning.
1). The drums took a lot of the time because I had to really nail the beat but also I tried to use Toms tips from last lesson to hit the rim for a better snare sound, more force on the kick drum (hard on those double kicks!) and softer and more consistent on the high hat. The result is far from perfect but it's better.
2). The guitar rhythm strumming was HARD and took most of the record time to get right. It's 9th chords I'm using which sound sooooo funky and cool. Getting the rhythm to match the beat leaving room for that double kick to shine through was hard but then having to keep my hand going away from the guitar and move that shape around took a 'considerable' amount of practice. Again not great but better.
3). Then comes the piano and of course it's 9 chords!! Moving between them at speed adding in a bit of rhythm and flavour notes was really hard.
4) And finally bass which technically I did last but I only matched it to the drums so I could have done it second.
The song then felt like something was missing and my head heard a trumpet do a quick noodle later as time was now pressing and ta da! It needed some space so I gave it some and in came the quick bass "solo".
It's super fun this one! Enjoy, I've no time to rest too much to do.
So much going on this week my workload is going nuts.
I'm working on all 6 songs, I have one laid down to metronome (Weather The Storm) and that ones good to go. I have one that I've laid down to time (Old Road Home - it's that bluesy sounding guitar song I put on Instagram a couple of weeks back) but I'm awaiting instruction on whether the structure is ok and then I need to practice the hell out of it to get it as nice as possible because my guitar playing SUCKS.
I have a third that I've worked an intro and melody for (Take It Or Leave It) but again I'm awaiting feedback on it. I also have an idea that I've sent across but I need to see whether Tom likes it and if he does then I've got a mammoth job with both Tom & Zak but it could be very cool and will push my soloing on both electric and acoustic. I'll probably do it as a side project if Tom hates the idea but in simple terms it's a mix of Tom style funky soloing on acoustic & Zak cool style on electric, one low and bassy the other more David Gilmour esk all about expression - where they play off each other and it builds up and up AND UP before falling back into that cool piano then into "something new" as yet to be thought of haha!!
Then there are the other two which are nowhere near record ready. Then there is Zak's solo I've started work on but I need to push hard on that this week especially as I want to work on this electric thing and the skills he's getting me to work on are crucial. There is the drum song which is making progress now - I can actually use both feet (sometimes haha!) but again I really want that down by next week.
A crazy amount of work.
I also figured out the crash/perspective thing finally and it was really simple in the end. In a nutshell, we already know why I crash, the problem is why it's so painful and I think the problem is I look at these guys and they are up in the stars, the stars I'm aiming for but the problem is I really don't think my ladder goes that high. That probably seems like a contradiction to the post the other day regarding finding some perspective but if you think about it, I achieve a big new step and feel hope (hence the post) then we move onto the next thing, I see how far I am from them still and BAM - faceplant!!! What happens at that point is while I don't expect to be in their league what I'm "feeling" is that we're not even in the same universe, not that I won't get there, that it's not possible and my heart breaks. Then we move on, I feel yay I'm closer until I look again and bam...!
It's all in my head and it's because I can't see the REAL problem ..... I can't see the path that leads there - I need them to show me the path and show me that I'm really on it, the steps I'm going to be taking to get there. If I can see what I need to do, if they can convince me I can do it then when I'm struggling I have my..... dun dun dunnnnnn...... perspective - the balance I've been looking for to counter the struggle or frustration. Not compliments just cold hard facts about what I'm doing, what I need to do and the actual path I'll be taking to get there so I understand - so I can visualise it and pull on it at the difficult times. Right now I feel like I'm winging it and sooner or later they'll figure it out, I know they don't see it that way but I do!
Simples! Yeah ok maybe not simple but I'm pretty certain this is the answer that won't stop me headbanging (that is quite necessary I'm afraid) but it will give me something to hold on to stop me drowning while I do my headbanging haha!!
Burning the midnight oil as usual on a Wednesday but it's the one time I don't mind not being able to sleep. Brilliant and very very funny lesson today - I don't know whether my attempt to use both feet at the same time and failing oh so so badly on the drums or Tom's crazy faces was funniest but it was a classic! We even managed to side track to shaved heads and tattoos!
Anyway between the two teachers this week I have really got to pull my finger out, which is a good thing it will keep my brain focused. For Zak I have a guitar solo to learn perfectly to a metronome which will be no mean feat.
For Tom I have a drum song to learn, not a hard one but it's all about doing it right. I have some guitar song ideas to work on to free up my fingers and hopefully my mind. And now I REALLY have to get stuck into those songs I'm working on because I need to get them laid down to a metronome but he really helped me make some progress in my head on a couple of them. Nowhere near enough but that's because there's a lot to cover, so this week I need to focus on the next steps we've laid out and then next week we'll tidy up then we're planning a full days "boot camp". I'm really looking forward to that, it's going to be a little nuts and a LOT of fun.
I love the ideas he's coming up with for Weather The Storm, that's going to be a fun song to put together but there's a big journey ahead there!
This weeks theme then - Timing, that old chestnut has returned to haunt me but from a different point of view. It's all about getting these songs recorded as clean as possible and to a metronome. It will be good for me - painful, often frustrating but good.
These are so much fun to make, no pressure to make a real song just sit down and improvise away till it's done. I think the timing is a bit better on this one, noodling maybe not so much :)
It's a bit late this week but being as I have been knocking out songs like crazy I'm sure you'll forgive me. Actually I didn't really mean to make one I was just laying down drums and piano because I felt like drowning my sorrows in a good old fashioned full on noodle session and thought I might as well lay down my own backing track. Just a simple thing - drum beat and piano but I got inspired by the drum rhythm while I was sat at the piano and of course then I had to add in a little bit of bass, ah but then it needed a little guitar rhythm and finally that all important noodle but by then it was just too tempting not to make it a sh*t it out because the whole thing had taken me less than 2 hours!
So for your personal enjoyment here is me noodling away to a fun backing track!
I'll upload Zaks solo later or tomorrow - in the meantime it's lesson day again *cheesy grin*. I have no idea where we're going to start today but I'd guess drums as none of these songs are ready to move on with although I do need some help with a couple to get them to the next stage.
This is the full draft of the song in it's bare bones state with the bridge and outro.
A few things that are under debate at the moment.
1) Verse 2 is currently 8 bars I'm probably going to make it 12. Should verse 1 be 12 or 16 bars? Humm!!
2) The intro is still under debate as to whether to add another bar or two to build up speed.
3) The outro definitely needs work at the moment it's just me noodling but it won't change much.
4) The transitions between sections need working on and the melody variations as the verse progresses need lots of work too.
5) There are other possibilities within the bridge, structurally I love it but the actual melody and rhythmic side has other ways it might work, I'll be experimenting to see what really sticks.
But other than that at least you have the idea now of where this is going :) I don't know if anyone else likes it so there is always that roof top to fall off of but I do. Long term I have no idea where this is going yet or what other instruments or parts I'll be adding in, when, where or how so an adventure ahead for sure. I think it could be really good though.
Lesson day with Zak was moved to today so I have that to look forward to and a few more hours practice on the solo to compensate for nerves haha! And generally speaking I now have 6 songs I'm working on and I'm really determined to see all of these finished so I'll need to really concentrate and make sure each one moves forward. They are certainly an eclectic bunch that's for sure but that's a good thing right?
I`m conscious that I need to get more dedicated practice time in as well as I haven`t been doing as much of that lately. I am doing some of course but I need to be a little more disciplined so that my writing will eventually get better technically too. I think all in all I took a baby step forward with this project in terms of song structure but until I get feedback I won`t really know for sure or how much of a step it was.
Back to work then, I really do have a lot to do on those songs and they`re all important to me now. :)
I woke up with one hell of a crick in my neck - OUCH - hope it doesn't affect todays practice but certainly no drumming for a bit!
Update on the song, I've popped the file of me playing the song so far (with shortened verses) above. I'm still learning it so there are a few boo boo's in there but I'm sure you'll forgive them as always and hopefully enjoy. The intro did go up an octave but I'm not 100% sure it's going to stay as is, yes up that end but I think I might add another four bars before it to build the speed as it just kind of 'leaps' into the song full speed at the moment.
I was having a debate about where to go for the bridge, I thought I wanted to go with rhythm instead of a solo or another melody. What I couldn't make my mind up about was should I use the verse chords, the chorus chords or new ones. In the end my hands made up my mind for me and although I've added a bit of melody which kind of mimics the verse I've gone for a new set of chords and a different feel but kept it upbeat. That's not in this particular recording because I've only just made it up but you can hear it on todays Instagram post if you're so inclined to check it out :).
Today is lesson day with Zak yay! I'm really happy with the progress I've made on his solo, string noise is down a lot although a long way to go which is why you haven't heard it yet. I'm hitting the bends perfectly 80% of the time which is great progress and varying them better - so sometimes they're fast straight up to the note, sometimes slower, sometimes I'm bending back down sometimes they stop. I love bends - I want to practice bends a lot because they are incredible tools to work with on the guitar, so much sound variation, so much expression - love it!
I plan to keep working on the piano song and see if I can't get that laid down ready to add more. No idea really what or how on this one - somehow I just can't see drums over the top! At some point I need to break away from my theatrical side on piano and start right pop tunes - not because that's how I want to play but it's how I'll build more songs that I can push on the other instruments over.
Hope it's a good week :)
I felt a big piano vibe yesterday so I sat down and started playing around and my fingers and ears took me some place new. The result is this work in progress song, this is the file from Staff Pad not my playing as I have to learn it first but I think it's a good start. So far there's an intro, verse, chorus and then repeat verse chorus and I need to work on the bridge/solo. I'm thinking the bridge will be more rhythmic because there's already a lot of pretty playing going on. I'm toying with the idea of moving the intro up an octave too.
In my quest to try and get my head around writing and song structure I took a different approach. I allowed myself to noodle out the first four chords, that then became the intro. I then took an idea that I liked and made that the first melody and played that over the top of each chord but slightly varied to fit the chord. After the second four bars I changed up the last couple of bars and after the third set I changed up the second bar too to lead into the chorus which I again worked out a melody for and repeated it over the changes.
A few things I like, I've been a bit more adventurous with the chords - yes Bm is in there but only because it creates that wonderful relationship with Bb Major in the chorus when one leads into the other. I like the repetition it does feel like there is more room to add other instruments and I can certainly feel bits that could be picked out and padded out with another instrument.
I need to learn to play it because although I can play most of it now I wrote in staffpad so it's not in my muscle memory yet. As I'm learning it's already changing up a bit and I think the intro might go an octave up but as it stands I Hope you enjoy this one. I haven't forgotten the underdogs post just been busy with this new song - told you I might get distracted!!
Still feeling rough but powering through it hence why my productivity has gone nuts again!
In my head I have this notion - a vague idea of a level I want to get to that I feel I could build off of and until then all my work is building up to it. More than likely once I get there I'll see a new level but I think in all fairness while that may be true it will be fundamentally different.
Because this level I'm trying to get to is where I have the skills I need to build songs at a basic level, regularly and easily. Once that is in place every idea can be quickly thrown down and then it's a case of improving, learning, developing and building on skills to make them better and stronger. As I learn the songs I lay down will get better and then we'll build off of that.
But until I get to that stage I'm stuck in frustration land. Up until now I felt so very far away from that goal but I think with the steps I've taken recently and the improvements I've seen now it's within my grasp. However... isn't there always an annoying however with these things!
However, there are three things I need to do, three walls I need to get past in order to achieve this. The first is to take my ideas and be able to pull out the melodies for verse and chorus and structure the song properly. The second is to be able to solo properly so that I can lay down intelligent solos in the songs instead of random poor noodling and the third is to be able to construct songs on the guitar. The third requires the first two and has it`s own issues in that I need to know my chord shapes, arpeggios and I need to improve on rhythms and speed.
All of these have been things I`ve been working on for the last few months and to be fair I`m happy that I`ve seen progress in all three which is why we`re here now. But if I can finally get past this - IF I can get to that level it`s a game changer. The first of many I hope but it will be the very first step to being the musician I want to be.
Que immense frustration especially as I feel that by now I should actually already be there. The last step is the hardest for me because I can`t get my head around it but it should have been the easiest. We`ve visited this subject before so I won`t harp on but song structure and melody was one of my first lessons with Tom and Zak has tried to cover it with me too but my brain is not computing. I`ve no choice but to get through this so it`s head banging time again and this time it`s going to HURT. And I`m taking my perceived failure to get past this very personally.
On the positive side though ideas are flowing thick and fast and I am starting to build them up quicker and quicker. I`ve also seen a little progress on the structure side although it still takes wayyyyy too long to get from the endless noodle stage to begin to piece it together.
Tomorrow I`ll do the underdogs post so you can enjoy some cool new music! Today I`m working on the electric solo and probably pounding away at that wall - depends if I get distracted by another idea.
The good news? I'm seeing real potential in that new guitar song.
The bad news? I'm seeing too much potential in that guitar song or to be precise too many potentials & I don't know how to write them.
It's like one song 50 ways and I'm not sure which to take! Now one thing that's a recurring theme is my ability to over complicate EVERYTHING and I'm feeling that vibe in this song. I'm treating it like a single "intro or verse" to build upon but there is a whole song in that pile of noodling already. I could spend a whole day explaining all the different ways I'm thinking of taking this but I'd melt your brain and bore you to tears at the same time so we'll leave it there and I'll update you when I'm closer to a decision.
I need to get back to working on the electric solo, today is Friday and Monday is going to come around quick and you know how I hate to let Zak down. I'm having good fun with it and am really looking forward to 'hopefully' showing this one to you. So there's plenty of inspiration.
This weekend then is going to be all about soloing, for my song and for Zak, on both electric and acoustic. Good think I like soloing huh!
I thought I'd also compile another list of "underdogs" for you to listen to from a range of sources as it's been a while since I indulged! Some are really small, some a little more established but all of them should be fun to check out. You know me - pay it back, pay it forward - I like to do what I can to help keep music fresh and fun. Look forward to sharing that one with you.
I woke up today in a massive 'crash' state. They're funny things because on the one hand yes it's horrid to go through, the tunnel vision kicks in and I struggle so badly until I've solved the current problem.
On the other it means two things 1) I've recently made big progress because I'm focused on the next goal & 2) When I get through - eventually - my playing will be well into the next jump. It's how I move on, it's not how I'd choose to move on but this is how I work so we'll just have to get used to it and in the meantime I'll do my best to keep my chin up and my posts fun 😊.
Learning Time Log
How long I've been learning as at at the end of Jun ‘19
What's This About?
One fateful day I decided to get guitar lessons. 4 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!