Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Slow and Steady

  I sat down to play some new songs this evening and was pleasantly surprised to be able to work my way through them without a lot of long stretches of staring that alternated between the keyboard and the sheet music. Usually I feel like I'm trying to crack the Rosetta Stone when I look at a new piece of music and it takes such a ridiculous amount of time for me to get through a very short amount of music.

"Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles.

  I'm used to fighting tooth and nail to make progress on every single beat. First I would work my way through the notes, then I'd notice the song had dynamics, then I'd notice some accidentals that I had missed, then oops, this alternates between mezzo forte and pianissimo several times, and at last notice I'd completely overlooked the repeats. It was nice to flow through a song for once and feel somewhat competent at the whole process, being able to take in a majority of the nuances the first try and actually play them where it almost sounded like the actual song on the first go-round. It made me think of those 3d puzzles you'd stare at as a kid, when you'd say, "I think I might possibly maybe see the spaceship," before getting to that point where you could see it instantly, every time, in its entirety.

Hint: not a spaceship.
 Progress isn't something you tend to notice in the present when learning something new. Usually it's only after looking back at where you've come from that you notice the improvements, which I suppose is pretty much what I did today, but it felt more "in the moment", if you will, than I've experienced before.  It made me think that everything was really coming together.

There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave.
You were what I wanted, I gave what I gave. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


  The aforementioned performance has come and gone and I feel it went smashingly. It was a pleasure to meet some of the other pianists that I don't see due to conflicting schedules and to mingle with them a bit. They all seemed like great people, and a few of them can bake their bums off. It was especially gratifying to see my class-mate Suneethi perform and rock her song as well as she did. I was proud to see her do so well. Not that I ever doubted she would.
  As for myself, I had some extreme butterflies going on all day that increased gradually throughout the day and reached critical levels when I arrived at the studio. Yet when I went up there, took a bow and made overly-dramatic coat-flap flourish, I almost forgot about everyone and zoned out. I don't even remember playing through the piece exactly, but I do recall feeling like it was my best run-through of that song to date. I missed one note but I don't think it was noticeable if you didn't know the song. But all of the nuances that really give the song it's variety - the constant shifting crescendo and decrescendo especially - I feel like I nailed just right for probably the first time. I quite nearly felt like I knew what I was doing.

The pose I wanted to make when I finished.

  Looking back over my life, I can think of several incidents where I was required to perform in front of people, or speak to a large group, and I was always sweating bullets until it was time but when the moment of truth came I always seemed to do quite well. There's nothing about my personality that would make you think I'd ever be skilled at either of those. I'm usually quiet, not a very good mingler, and rather shy. But I've been fortunate enough to really pull it together for events like this. I think the adrenaline rush really works in my favor. Perhaps I even have a natural talent for public speaking or performance, but just haven't been in that many situations that require it and thus never realized that fact. I'm going to go with that theory for now and ride it out until I'm proven otherwise. If I am ever proven wrong, I just hope it's not publicly.

  All in all, I think today was a great success not only for myself, but for everyone who performed, and especially my instructor who is doing such an amazing job sharing her passion for music and instilling it in others.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


  Saturday I get to play in front of a bunch of strangers. Uh oh. I didn't really anticipate checking off the "play in front of people" goal from the list so early, nor in this way, but it's probably good practice. The whole "wait until I'm amazing and blow everyone's mind" level I was going to try and achieve first is likely a looooong way off.
  It's a short piece I'm doing, no more than a minute long, and I can play it in my sleep. That's not to say I've mastered it, but I've practiced extensively and know all of it's subtleties and texture by heart. Despite that, I'm still anticipating disaster. Every so often when I'm playing it in front of someone, I start thinking about what I'm doing instead of just doing, and that's when things go south. I do best when I can sort of unfocus my mind and take it all in as a whole, with all the nuances and pieces working quietly and smoothly in the background, out of sight and out of mind, like when you're drawing still-life and you unfocus your vision to zone in on the primitive shapes that make up your subject. My brain isn't being overwhelmed by counting beats and remembering legatos and that I need to alternate between mezzo piano and mezzo forte, etc. My body just knows what to do, and does it.

  Here's to hoping I don't have - as my friend Ashby calls them - a "Classic Nick" moment where I'm involved in a ridiculously extensive and convoluted event that causes me extreme levels of embarrassment. Thankfully I feel like I've always been pretty good at keeping a song going even when I screw up, thanks to my first guitar teacher drilling the importance of that skill into my head so many years ago. It's possible I'm not actually good at it and just think I am, but what I don't know won't kill me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


  Not at all music related, aside from this adorable young lady was keeping me distracted during practice this evening. And I'm pretty okay with that. She's being fostered and I was very close to taking her home with me, but I don't know if my dog, Buckley, is ready for a kitten.

She kept ALMOST jumping onto the keys. I was waiting for it so I could see her run across them and play notes as she did so.

That lady-like hand is not mine. Just want to clear that up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sheet Music Prices

  Having matured from teenager to man - or at least man-sized person who still feels and possibly acts like a teenager - alongside the internet as it was doing the technological equivalent, I would always go online to hunt down tablature for music I wanted to learn while I was learning to play guitar. Even back then, I didn't think much of it and it was always easy to find websites dedicated to people transcribing their favorite songs onto 'paper'. It seemed very natural to me that there would be that sort of community. With those memories cemented for nearly two decades, it came as a bit of a surprise (though it shouldn't) to find that piano sheet music is often locked behind a pay barrier. I would guess 90% of the music I've searched for was locked and around $5 apiece for the sheets, which seems rather steep when you can get the actual song performed by the actual artist typically for a dollar.

The usual view.
  I loved the wild west times of the internet and as such I am very much of the 'content should be free and unrestricted' camp when it comes to the internet (with exceptions, of course), so generally I feel frustration when I run into these pay walls. Mostly because, "gaaaah, I want to learn that song noooooow" but also because it feels a little shady. I would be fine with a charge for "official sheet music" from the artist I suppose, but to be charged by a random person for someone else's music seems very iffy. I'll grant that it's a fair bit of work but it's still not really your work to sell. Sort of like if someone'e transcribed an audio-book onto paper and then tried to sell it to me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"I Got Blisters On Me Fingers"

  I keep falling farther behind on my writing, but every free moment that could be spent writing has been spent trying to master a song that has defeated me time and again. It's a bit out of the range of my meager skills, but I've never let not being good enough at something stop me before. Hopefully "practicing" is one of the few valid reasons for maintaining extended silence.
  Other moments have been taken up by me bringing the guitar out from retirement. Usually when I pick it back up, I feel rusty but competent enough. This time it felt nearly alien in my hands and I realized it had been far too long since I played, a mistake I'll try not to make again. What really drove home how long it had been was that the calluses on my fingers were long gone so after an hour of (very clumsy) playing it felt like my fingers had been taken to a cheese grater. That is a feeling I have't experienced in many years.

This is how it felt.

This is closer to how it actually was.

  Of course, it ended up feeling worse than it was and when I looked, there were just slight indentions. It reminded me of the time I went to France and on the first day (out of 14 days) I managed to get a blister on my foot. I was confident my shoe was overflowing with blood from the golf ball sized blister, when in reality it turned out to be so small you could barely even see it with the naked eye.

  I read a quote the other day about how writing about music is pointless, and while certainly people out there with more vibrancy and texture to their descriptions when writing about music would be affronted by that quote, I do sometimes feel as if what I'm saying is very redundant and need not be spoken. I have to try and keep in mind that I'm doing this mostly as an exercise to keep my mind focused on practice, and less for entertainment purposes, which is a struggle for me as historically most things I write I do so with the intention of - if not humor - entertainment
  The biggest challenge I'm finding is that it is difficult to write without giving audio examples of what I want to discuss, but I'm not yet at the level where I'd be comfortable doing that. 

"I can't let you be, cause your beauty won't allow me-
Wrapped in white sheets, like an angel from a bedtime story"

Sunday, November 3, 2013


  Everyone should check out my incredible piano instructor's album:

  A few of the tracks make me feel like I'm listening to music that a love child of Mazzy Star and Sigur Ros might create. And that's hard to beat.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Music and Health

  One of my favorite health blogs had a great post about the benefits of picking up an instrument. Much of this certainly rings true to me after my own experiences lately, with so many points hitting home.  Enjoy:
Making Music: Why You Should Pick Up an Instrument and Start Playing

Monday, October 28, 2013

Knocking the Dust Off

  I dug up some old friends today...

Except the viola, which is a new-ish friend.
    I thought while I was feeling as motivated as I am that I'd whip out the ole guitars and brush up a bit on my skills. "Skills" being the word for lack of a better. I'm a lot more rusty than I'd have expected and, naturally, my calluses are gone. I fumbled through a few songs and it felt like someone was sawing on my fingertips with a knife. I'm looking at you, high E string. Bloody fingers aside, I enjoyed playing more than I have in ages.

  I can say without hesitation that taking up piano classes is the best decision I've made for myself in many a year. I had no idea it would positively domino into so many other aspects of my life. I've felt like my old, long-lost, creative self again that I thought had been squashed under the weight of everyday life. I'm glad to see that's not the case and that I was only lost for a time.

"I can’t pull you closer than this; it’s just you and the moon on my skin."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Deliberate Practice

  It's easy to get caught up in the general day to day grind of life that causes the weeks/months/years to slip away without you realizing it. Focusing on 'just getting through the morning', then 'just getting through work', then crashing from exhaustion at night, only to focus on the same thing when a new dawn arrives. For years I did this and no one pointed it out to me and I wasn't self-aware enough to notice for a long time. That's certainly no way to live life, and that's how I did things for far too long. I'm not sure what snapped me out of this behavior, but I'm thankful for it. I lost a bit of myself during that time but hopefully it's not too late to recover those pieces.

These only go around so many times...who knew?

  I read some articles this week about deliberate practice that were so inspiring I could almost feel the heat radiating from the light-bulb that appeared above my head. The cumulative result of several articles and a few conversations was that I began to think of practice in ways I never had before and to understand why I had failed to excel at skills even when I felt I had the capacity to do so. The concepts are probably obvious and old-hat to most of you but for me, having nothing new to try and improve on in a long time, I suppose the ideas never had an opportunity to reveal themselves in their due time.
  When I would think of practicing, my first thought would usually be, "I'm going to work on this for an hour." I never put more thought into it than that. I figured that an hour of practice was an hour of practice, never considering that I should be mindful when I practice, or prioritizing goals over the time limit. One hour, and I was done. If I even took that full hour. Exhibiting mindful practice seems that it should be a given but for me it wasn't.
  There are so many fantastic quotes I ran across in the last few days related to this topic that I could fill up several pages, but if I average what all of them were trying to say, it's a very simple concept that, no matter how short or long a time you work at something, always devote your full conscious mind to what you are doing. It seems pretty evident that 10 minutes of very deliberate, focused practice is better than an hour of distracted, thoughtless effort, yet somehow that never made itself known to my mind. I can be a bit slow. But thankfully I'm not the only one, because it turns out that most of us don't practice that way, and usually the people who truly excel in the world are the folks who do.

  As motivated as I have been these last several months, I realize now that my level of effort could be greatly improved. I often find myself falling into a pattern of working on something that I've already become decently proficient at because it makes me feel accomplished to be able to perform a task well. Obviously continuing to work on something I'm merely "good" at so that I can become "great" at it is a worthy feat, but when that is all I focus on, that can quickly and quietly become a limitation. I need to force myself into new territory and uncomfortable situations, work on things that I am quite bad at and forcing myself to improve, instead of simply moving on because I am not (yet) that great at it. I realized I need to devote this manner of thought to everything that I do, not simply music. My work, my health, all of it. I need to be that guy who people always say gives every ounce of his effort to anything he does. In some areas I feel people might say that now, but I wanted to be that motivated in all aspects of my life.
  I'm still trying to fit this new inspiration into my days more smoothly, specifically with music. One of the stories I read was focused on a basketball player and while I'm not a sports loving sort of fellow, the message certainly came across. When the player practiced, his goal was a given number of shots. Not "I'm going to shoot for two hours" but instead "I'm going to make 400 shots today." Maybe that can translate as easily as me saying "I'm going to make it through this song flawlessly 10 times" instead of simply practicing for an hour. I don't yet know, but I've been experimenting and though I've not hit the mark yet, I feel like I've made a lot of strides in a short period. And even though I've tackled some things that I am currently awful at, there is a greater sense of accomplishment working this way. I can sense that I'm working towards a long-time goal instead of the need for instant gratification.

  I didn't bookmark all of the articles, but two of them can be found here if you want to motivate yourself:
1) What Mozart and Kobe Bryant Can Teach Us About Deliberate Practice
2) Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It

"Let me in the wall you've built around-
we can light a match and burn it down"

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Cadence Is Off

  An odd problem I bumped into yesterday was that apparently I have a bit of an issue playing repetitive chords while keeping a good cadence. I'm not sure that's the word I want to use here, but we'll go with it for lack of a better one. Basically in the same way that you might strum a chord several times on a guitar before switching to a new chord, which seems natural to me, I struggle with the piano equivalent because it feels a little unnatural. To be fair to myself, I've only tried it a few times since yesterday but it felt more awkward than I'd have expected. All the songs I've learned up until now have had very limited repetition to them. If you'd asked me which sounded easiest, I'd have said "playing the same chords over and over will be cake" but that isn't turning out to be true for me.

  Form a mental image of playing drums, as if you were alternating a single drum lick back and forth between both hands. That's not something I find very complex to do, it feels natural to my body. But if I minimize that movement and limit it to a smaller range of motion, such as drumming my index fingers alternately on a desk, I can't really do it rapidly. When I try I end up banging both fingers against the surface in unison. I probably look like an impatient kid banging on the table because his dinner isn't ready yet. I'm not sure why, but I've always had that limitation. which I learned many, many years ago when I was in fact air drumming on a desk in school. I don't know why I can do it with full arm motions easily but not with shorter wrist motions. I've been wondering if that would somehow bleed over into playing piano and I figure the repetition I'm struggling with is related to that limitation. 

  I feel like there's some body motion that might be the key to this. When I play guitar and get into a strum pattern, I have a bit of a sway to my posture, a nod with my head, perhaps even a tap with my foot. I recall when I first started learning, I was very rigid and strumming felt very robotic. After I became more comfortable with the instrument, I began to loosen up, though it's not something I actually noticed until I reflected. I haven't really gotten that sort of full-body participation going with my piano playing yet. But I'm still getting myself comfortable with the instrument, just the way I did with guitar, so I'm assuming that in a little time I'll overcome this hurdle the way I have all of the other ones that have stumped me when first presented to me.

"So I'll wait for you; and I'll burn"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Woot, Measurable Improvements

  Shortly after I started this adventure, I removed every app from my phone except a music reading app. I decided that I would spend my downtime in lines and things of that nature being productive instead of goofing off. Here's how bad I was doing at sight reading shortly after I started:

I was doing better than usual that time too.
  I'm doing a little better nowadays. Here is today at lunch:

  To be fair, I was on a roll and I tend to average low 20s of late. I was still pretty pumped. Hopefully sometime soon everything will just be locked in my memory instead of having to find a nearby note that I know instantly, and working my way from there.

"This is not the sound of a new man..."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Delving Into Theory

  I believe I've mentioned this before, but the main reason I started piano instead of picking guitar back up right away is because I wanted to use that as a pathway to increasing my knowledge of music theory. I had no idea that I'd enjoy piano as much as I do, so that is a bit of a side bonus. When I dust off the old guitar, I hope to come back to it with a stronger grasp on the makeup of music and for once do more with it than simply play songs someone else has already written. But for now, my classes are what I look forward to most during my week.

  We've been getting into a bit more theory the last two or three classes, which has been making my day. I love how every week I can return and look at old music with new insight and how mysteries are slowly unraveling right in front of me. It's the same feeling I get when reading a good book and some subtle nuance finally snaps into place in my brain. I spend the rest of the day mostly in my head, pondering the new revelation.
  The catch is that learning to play and learning theory at the same time can be a little overwhelming, especially during a busy week when I don't have as much time to devote to practice as I'd wish. I occasionally find myself bumping against a wall when I'm working on new things and for some reason my brain can't seem to function correctly. Even if I KNOW what I need to do and CAN do it, sometimes my mind just refuses to participate and I just stare blankly at the keys, eyes glazed.
  Quite by mistake, I found a way to help myself around those walls. When I'm overwhelmed, I pull out old music that I've already spent a lot of time working on that I feel very confident playing. Or just taking out the book I use to study from, starting from page 1 again, and playing through everything I've already gone over. What seemed so difficult a handful of weeks ago now seems pretty close to natural, and playing through makes me feel like I actually know what I'm doing. This is how I feel like I look when I'm tearing it up on an old song:

But hopefully I have cooler hair.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Comparisons Are Dangerous

  Anytime I start learning something new, my first thought going into it is, "maybe I'll be a natural at this!" I don't know if that's setting myself up for failure or not. I like to be optimistic, but it might be smarter to go into something expecting to not be great at it and then discover I'm better at it than anticipated. Regardless, that's not how my brain works. Thus far I've yet to be magically amazing at anything from the get-go, but there's always hope for the next thing I learn. I just hope I don't end up being a knitting prodigy or something. That would be sort of a bummer.

  A friend of mine who knows I recently started learning piano sent me a link to a video of a this 5 year-old piano wiz which I fired up so I could see what an actual prodigy looks like. My initial reaction was to throw my hands in the air and shout, "I give up!" That is probably how people feel who've told me they watched that show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" and found themselves lacking. I always thought it was strange people would get depressed by that, though I might feel the same if I'd ever seen the show, who knows. But young minds are made to soak up knowledge. Plus when's the last time you really needed to know the electron configuration of zinc?
  Young, sponge-like mind or no, this kid is clearly a natural and has a gift. Initially frustrated, I allowed myself to be inspired rather than daunted and decided to try and tackle a new song. Then I became daunted when the song said, "nope, you will not learn me for I am far too complex". I've been riding up on my high horse the last few weeks because I've felt my progress has been going really well so it didn't occur to me that something might be beyond my current abilities. This took the legs right out from under aforementioned high-horse:

It doesn't seems so bad now, but in front of me at the piano, it looked like Greek.

  My hands aren't quite ready to do lots of rapidly changing individual notes with both hands yet. Chords with both hands? Fine. Sustained chords with one hand and notes with the other? Okay. But not this. It appears this is the next mountain I need to climb. And it seems a lot higher than the staccato mountain I recently overcame.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flimsy Excuses For Not Writing Lately

  I've decided that trying to blog about every topic we cover in class is a bit too much of an undertaking. I'm already about 7 lesson behind and that is steadily increasing. Often times there's not really a lot to put into words when we have a class that is so focused on just getting through a song. And while I've always thought of myself as a fairly entertaining writer, I've never tried to write on such a focused topic before and I've discovered it's a lot more difficult to make a single topic interesting than it is writing about awkward situations you might find yourself in out in the world, which is typically what I write about. I'm still trying to tackle that problem.
  On the plus side, while I haven't been writing much these last few weeks, I've spent that time instead in practice and I (think) I've made some great strides in that time. Splurging on a better keyboard for myself has made me want to practice all the more and I think it has paid for itself already, figuratively if not literally.

  In non-music related news, life has been keeping me on the move lately. Work has been very productive and I feel like I've gotten 2x better at what I do just in the last month or so. The overwhelming project I've been tackling - which I was pretty sure would make my brain explode - is finally winding down and I've gained so much out of working on something that felt out of my league. That's the way I prefer to learn though...trial by fire. The lessons always stick much better though it can be exceptionally frustrating while you're experiencing it.

  Having decided that I'd be staying at my current house for a while, I've spent some time improving it, mostly via landscaping. Cutting a trees worth of overhead branches, weeding, mulching, and trimming bushes made quite a difference.

Previously you couldn't see any part of the house except the bottom 1/4th.
  Walking out of the house feels a little bizarre now with the yard so open to the sky. And who knew how nice it could be to actually see more than tree limbs outside of my upstairs windows? There's still some work needing to be done, such as power washing those grass stains off of the bottom of the fence. Even seeing them in the photo makes me die a little inside.

  Finally, I saved the most adorable dog from being run over the other day. She was munching on something (that I decided I probably didn't want to look too closely at) in the road when some crazy people came flying up to her and laid on the horn. The dog, apparently not all that bright, just sat there chowing down. No other cars, a wide road, yet these people kept honking and yelling out of the window. I snatched the pup up so I could call her owners. Turns out that despite having a collar, she had no tags. I threw up notices in the area and on Facebook but had no luck, so I decided to run her down to the vet to see if they could scan for an ID chip. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and it took a while to find an open one.
  It was halfway through this adventure that I felt my face itching and noticed in the mirror that I had a flea strolling casually down my face. Turns out the dog was completely infested with them and I guess I just didn't notice, so overwhelmed was I by her cute puppy face. I mean, look at her:

Cute face or no, she was covered in parasites. And now so was my car. And so was I.
  I was already in it at that point so I soldiered on, all the while suddenly feeling every square inch of my body start itching. I should point out that I'm the type of person who will walk into a spiderweb and then be convinced for hours that I have spiders all over me, even if someone looks me over and sees none, and even after an exceptionally thorough shower. I'm itching a little just writing this out.
  So later - after nuking my car, nuking myself and my clothes, spraying down everything I own, and getting a close (clearly VERY close) friend to check my hair for fleas and finding nothing - I could still feel them on me. All in my head, I know. But regardless, the next day I went out and had my hair completely chopped off just to try and silence the ridiculous voice inside my head that said I was covered in bugs. Not my manliest of moments.
  Due to her flea problem, the pup had to stay in my fenced in yard because I wouldn't risk her spreading fleas all over my house and especially to my dog. Sadly, she escaped during the night even though it didn't seem she could fit through my fence. I've been on the look out for her since but have not seen any sign of her. I'm hoping someone picked her up and she now has a happy home. If the groomers had been open that Sunday, I'd have gotten hear groomed and then kept her in my house which, in the end, would probably just end up with me having a second dog.

  With all of that said, it's back to practice for me. We started dipping a little deeper into the waters of theory this week and I'm eager to work on that. I'll touch on that when next I write.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Staccato Induced Health Problem

  I'm not a doctor, nor a "brain scientist" as a friend of mine calls them, but I think today's attempt at staccato may have caused an aneurysm. It's my first time trying [staccato] and while I found the actual technique pretty natural, between the speed of the song, the alternating between hands every single note, and trying to read the sheet music at the same time, I'm confident I lost at least a year off my life from the stress. I'm not sure if my sweating was from the intense mental effort or the light bulb that was in my face lighting me up like a man caught in a prison breakout, but I'm guessing it was probably a combination of the two.
  Despite the trouble it has given me, I'm eager to tackle this new challenge. Not that I didn't have enough of them, but hey, what's one more?

My new nemesis.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slow Reading and Miscellaneous Chatter

  I decided to remove that horribly addictive phone game "Candy Crush" that my friend Bill got me hooked on and replace it with a sheet music reading app, which is sort of a digital version of flash cards that I can use without needing help from someone else. I thought it would be a lot more productive than trying to make digital candy disappear from my phone. Now I can feel like I'm making progress in those situations where I'm stuck doing nothing, such as waiting in the doctor's office or - let's be honest - when there's downtime in the restroom.

  After a very short time of practicing this method, I can already  see an improvement. That's not saying a lot as I went from reading 5 notes a minute to a blazing fast 15 notes a minute. Watch out, Nashville Symphony, I'm coming for you.

  I've not had a class in three weeks and I was already feeling a bit of withdrawal in that first week so you can imagine how antsy I am feeling now. I should have used this time to catch up on writing but the trials of real life have been getting in the way of that more than I would like. At last things seems to be settling down and, assuming I didn't just jinx myself, maybe I can get back on track this week. I'm exceptionally excited for Wednesday

  The hunt for a replacement instrument is still ongoing. My instructor turned me on to a place called Nashville Piano Rescue, which is where she got the piano we use in class. I've browsed around a bit and they have some pretty nice prices. Getting an actual piano seemed overkill to me initially, but with the prices of keyboards, and just the wonderful richness in sound that a piano has vs keyboard, I'm starting to lean towards a small upright.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Piano Class 4: Hottest Class Ever

  (Class Date: 6/26/13)

 Without a doubt the hottest class I've ever been to, and I don't mean 'sexy' hot. High summer and a dead A/C unit at the studio had the building nice and toasty by the afternoon. And yet while I was sitting there jamming away I couldn't help but feel slightly I was really into playing and was just tearing it up so much that sweat was pouring down my face and plastering my hair to my forehead. I was like a guitar player when they are in the middle of a solo under the lights and they make that constipation face. You know the one:

  I like to think I wouldn't make such faces, but I'm pretty confident mine would be even worse.
  I may have even swayed in my seat about. Admittedly that could have been from the onset of heat stroke. It's all a bit fuzzy now...

  As my impatience to learn the musical building blocks increases, it feels like I get to learn it less and less. That isn't actually the case at all, I just perceive it that way. Well, that and the fact I lost my music theory book that I like to read at home. This class we finally dipped the tiniest bit of our toes into the waters of music theory. A little discussion on chord building, which wasn't really in the itinerary but Ariel is great about filling us in on things when we have questions. It was short but sweet.
  Our new-to-reading-music minds were introduced (finally) to the grand staff. Up until now our book had, for some reason, not put notes on ledger lines but instead had them floating in space. I don't know if you've tried to read music like that, but when notes start jumping around and you don't have any lines for guidance, things get a bit confusing.
  And then finally onward to glorious Middle C.

*Angel chorus sound effect*
  Middle C (or, well, C in general) had become my lifeline and guide to finding everything on the piano at this point, before the location of the keys had become more firmly implanted into my brain. It's also how I quickly discovered that my practice keyboard at home wasn't cutting it.
  I have an old 61 key Yamaha from when I was a teenager and failed to learn (or even start to learn) playing the instrument. Thanks to the shortened length of the keyboard, practicing on it had gotten me used to thinking of Middle C as "Slightly to the Left of the Middle C" since it's about half a foot to the left of where it should be. This would throw me off when I'd learn a song, go to class to play on the piano, and then continually mess up because my eyes and hands were used to looking for the notes/chords I wanted at different locations. It was a good instrument to start with but I've quickly arrived at the point where I want something a bit better. Something full size, weighted, and with normal width keys. The Yamaha's keys are slightly more narrow than a regular piano and playing chords where I need to press between two sharp/flats always causes my finger to accidentally play one of them. As such I've had to come up with some really strange hand poses to play the chords. It looks like I'm trying to do shadow puppets. The way I'm having to play them is a bit of a bad habit born out of necessity but in my short time playing, it's already become exceptionally hard to break those habits and I don't want to wait so long that they are too deeply embedded into my muscle memory that I cannot get them out.

  The (seemingly impossible) hunt for a quality yet not ridiculously expensive 88 key device has begun, and my luck thus far as been exceptionally poor.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Song Writing and Running Out of New Music

  Seeing local live music is a blessing and a curse for me. The regular, everyday version of myself enjoys the break in the normal flow of a week by hearing some music I've never experienced before. The dreamer part of me that still fantasizes about doing music for a living starts feeling negative with thoughts of, "if these people can't do it for a living, how would I?"

  The other night I watched two friends perform at a small singer/songwriter sort of venue. Both of them are talented songwriters with outstanding voices and quite pretty. What else could the world want from their musicians? Yet they both have been doing their thing for many years now, they still have to work regular full-time office hours to get by (acknowledging here that there is also more than a little luck involved in getting anywhere). Granted, that may be all they want to do. I've never asked them since it seemed like a slightly offensive question if they did want to do only music as a living and had been unable.
  While I listened, I was thinking about what it must take to write a song with the power to live in people's memories forever. Here were some songs written from the heart, about love and pain and desires and so much more, yet potentially only a handful of people will ever know them. This further progressed in my mind to the thought that maybe we're running out of new music that can be written, which seems mathematically improbable. In the same way I often think there are no new stories that can be told but I still manage to find new books that entertain me.

  I couldn't really get the idea out of my head and when I got home I started researching it. I found a great video discussing the topic that covers it better than I ever could:

  The part about how we tend to gravitate towards certain sounds especially rang true and goes to show how pop writers keep pulling in the money by making songs that are so similar. And that's not me being snobby towards that type of music as I'm certainly not above getting a pop song stuck in my head for days at a time...or weeks at a time. I'm looking at you, "Call Me Maybe." It's simply not the type of music I would want to make myself, though I honestly have no idea what type I would want to create. Most of my writing experience comes from telling stories of the many ridiculous situations I find myself in anytime I venture out of my front door, or poetry. As such, it's hard to wrap my head around the concepts just yet of what would make a powerful, moving, and memorable song. It's probably one of those things you can't fully grasp until you try it yourself, and I feel like that is still a ways down the road. Still, the thought is often on my mind and I'm eager to try and unravel the mystery when I have more experience to draw upon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nashville Celebrity Sightings

  Living in Nashville, I often see various famous peeps out and about. I don't think much about it these days other than, "oh cool, there is So and So." I don't feel I am easily star-struck. There's a few people out there I'm quite big fans of, but you could count them on two hands. Of those ten or fewer, you could count on one hand how many I'd get actually excited to run into out in the world. So when I tell you that as I was going home today and drove by Joy Williams in traffic that I nearly wrecked my car in excitement, you can guess who one of the handful is.
  Her music in The Civil Wars is what reignited my desire to play and, potentially, create music. I never stopped loving music, but somewhere along the line I gave up on the idea of playing it in any capacity. I can't even pinpoint what in the music specifically did it to me, but I picked up my guitar for the first time in nearly two years the first time I heard "Poison and Wine," which I had on repeat for such an extended period that I was almost convinced it was one giant, hour long song.

  At any rate, I felt like it was some sort of sign. At the very least it made my day, especially when she tweeted me back that she was glad I didn't wreck. I am easy to please.

  On a related note, their new self-titled album is out August 6th. It is giving every indication, of against all odds, being even better than their first.

The Piano is Wooing Me

  When I first started this blog, my initial goal was to update daily, until I realized I had underestimated how difficult it was to blog about one very specific topic. After that realization I decided to update "at least a few times a week". That also, obviously, has proven a hurdle. The bonus to my failure of updating as much as I wanted is that anytime I think "I need to write a bit tonight" I end up practicing instead, which I'm counting as a win. It's been a long time since I've had the stirring in me to work on something as persistently as I have been doing with my music revival. Here's to hoping whatever fuel is moving me along keeps burning.

  I decided to learn piano instead of picking guitar back up (right away) because it felt like a fresh start. When I stopped grabbing my guitar daily, I had become frustrated with a plateau I'd been stuck on for so long. I thought that taking up a new instrument would be like starting as a beginner, and it as been. I believe I'm picking it up decently fast but I still feel almost lost in what I'm doing. And so far I've loved it. The tangible improvements have been nearly intoxicating.
  In addition, I felt piano would be a good way (as I've previously mentioned) to really learn some music theory. I don't want to attempt to write music just by fooling around until something sounds passable. I want to play a chord and automatically know that, hey, I played a Cm, so I know I can play such and such and it sound good. I want to know how everything is built. I never learned that with guitar. And truly, I never learned how to play guitar. I learned how to play songs on a guitar. Other people's songs at that.
  What has unexpectedly happened is that I've fallen slightly in love with playing piano. To such a degree that I've been pondering getting my own - a small upright, mind you, but a piano all the same - as my 61 key, non-weighted keyboard is simply not cutting it to my ears any longer after I started playing on a real piano at the music studio.
  None of this is to say I won't be picking the guitar back up; I fully intend to get back to my sexy stringed instrument. Who says I can't play two instruments?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Piano Class 3: Timing and the Lady with Tourettes Yells At Me

  (Class Date: 6/19/13)

  Class 3 was doomed from the moment I awoke that morning. It was one of those days where everything goes slightly awry. Fast-forwarding through all the unimportant details of work, I made it home uneventfully with a few hours to spare before class. I took a much needed nap that initially started as a simple "I'm just going to lay down for a couple of minutes." Two hours later I snap awake, glance at the clock and realize I'm going to be late. The studio being 5 minutes away made it a less dire situation, but I don't like being even a minute late, especially when people are waiting on me.
  I arrived a few minutes after the start of class but unbeknownst to me I was going to be later still. As I pulled into the lot, a fancy convertible pulled in right behind me. Naturally I thought nothing of it, assuming it was just another visitor. I started toward the building, when behind me suddenly came some of the most vile, foul-mouthed cussing I'd ever heard. It takes a lot to give me pause; I grew up in the era of the internet after all so I have seen some crazy things in my day. But my ears perked up at this. All I thought was, "man, someone is getting it" but it turns out that it was I who was, in fact, getting it.

  I looked back at the car and made eye contact with the lady driving, barely taking note of her extremely uncomfortable looking friend in the passenger's seat. When our eyes locked, she said, "hey you piece of s*** mother f*****!" and, still not grasping I was actually getting cussed out, replied with a very jovial "hey!" and a head-nod at which point I was nearly swept away by the tidal wave of profanity that she unleashed on me. I would transcribe it here but it would require me to use about 100 *'s to clean it up.
  It took my brain a while to actually process that I was not only getting cussed out but that this lady was accusing me of running a 4 way stop and nearly "killing us all", as she put it. For a moment I worried that in my rush I had done that very thing, but looking back to the intersection a few dozen yards away, I noted it was a 2-way stop and I had the right of way with no stop sign in the direction I was coming. If she actually thought I'd wronged her, or if she was just insane, I'm not really sure.
  I attempted to explain that she was mistaken and pointed at the intersection where you can clearly see the fact that it is a two-way stop, but she was having none of the whole "me talking" thing. Realizing she couldn't be reasoned with I attempted to end the conversation, at which point I experienced the classic situation where you can't come up with anything witty to say in the moment but then later coming up with the perfect comeback. The best I came up with on the spot was a smile and a lame "you're a classy lady" before disregarding her and heading inside. That disregard was a little more difficult than anticipated when she decide to peel out as she left - calling me a few more names in the process - and pelted me with gravel from behind.
  While she struck me as a bit of a terrible person, I have to give her props for her boldness. I live in a pretty questionable neighborhood, so following someone and then screaming at them like a lunatic doesn't seem like a wise move. Luckily for her she happened to do it to one of the few people who wouldn't break out the weaponry.

  Unfortunately, I let this person's rudeness set the precedent for class instead of forgetting about her immediately in the way such people deserve, and my practice definitely suffered for it. I found myself a bit amped up for the entire hour and my hands unsteady. All in all it made for what I feel was my weakest progress thus far, and I'm counting all the additional days of which I've yet to catch up and chronicle.  I sadly spent most of the time thinking "I should have said this or said that" instead of focusing on the task at hand.

  As for the content of class, thankfully it was just some practicing on playing along with different time signatures, 4/4 and 3/4 in this instance. Not a new concept to me so even with my limited mental facilities working for me I kept up well enough, but I certainly struggled with hitting the correct keys on the piano, which is probably sort of important to playing well. I wouldn't know but I'm pretty confident in that statement.
  What struck me most in this class is just how much is going on in sheet music and the more impressed I become with people who can seamlessly read a song while playing it for the first time. I never bothered learning to read music when I picked up guitar, but as I'm doing so now, I am discovering that I had absolutely no idea how much is going on in such a small space. The key a song is in, the pitch of the notes, the time signatures, the actual notes with their various times and placements, dynamics, legatos and slurs, and on and on. There's just so much information in such a little space that it's a little overwhelming. Given, what I'm reading right now is only doing 3 or 4 things at a time, but I've seen some pretty intense music that seems akin to juggling 10 objects at a time with one hand tied behind your back. No doubt experience will lessen the intensity but as a beginner, it's a daunting mountain to ascend. And not that I plan to be an orchestral pianist that needs an especially high level of reading skill, but I hate doing things halfway so my natural desire is to master it. If that actually happens is something that won't be seen for a looooong time.
  As a younger person, all of these concepts bored me and I never cared to learn them. I just wanted to learn how to play songs. Now that I'm a bit older, I want to learn how to play music and I find the concepts fascinating, making me wish I'd taken the time as a kid to learn them as a kid. But that can be said for a lot of things I failed to do when I was especially young. I just try to do better now that I am, hopefully, a little wiser.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Realization on Singing

  I've always had a fondness for singing. If you ever pass me in a car, there's a 99% chance you'll see me belting a song out along with the stereo. Or possible without the radio even. In the shower, in the car, in meetings when my mind wanders... I've usually got a song stuck in my head and I'm letting it out somewhere. This stems from all the way back when I was a young kid and I used to love to sing that Heart song "All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You" and didn't at all understand why it made my family extremely uncomfortable. What parent doesn't want their 8 year old boy belting out lyrics like "he brought out the woman in meeeeee, so many times, easily!" in the middle of the supermarket?
  Unfortunately, just because I love to sing doesn't mean I can sing well. I've toyed around for years with the idea of taking a singing class to see if I was a lost cause or not, but I've always put it off. While I can be silly and bust out some terrible, high-pitched rendition of 80s hairband songs in front of people without an issue, the thought of actually trying to sing well in front of someone makes me all sorts of terrified.

  It hit me the other day though that I don't really know if I can sing or not. I know I can't sing other people's songs that well because I'm trying to use their voice instead of my own. I really have no idea what I actually sound like when it comes to singing. I only know I'm not a very good impersonator. I'm not really sure how you shift into your own voice without writing your own song.
  This realization made me again start toying around with the idea of taking a class. Who knows, maybe I have an amazing voice and just don't know how to harness it. Wishful thinking perhaps, but anything is possible. If I can ever get the courage to make the jump, I'll let you know the results.

Piano Class 2: The Alphabet is Hard

  (Class Date: 6/12/13)

  I was anticipating having to learn some sort of mnemonic device for the piano tuning, such as my favorite one (despite the cringe-worthy grammar) for standard guitar tuning, Elephants And Dogs Got Big Ears. Somehow I've made it all these years without realizing that the keys just went in order from A to G. It seems obvious now that I know, but I suppose I never gave it any thought until recently. It makes all those keyboards I've seen with stickers with the notes all along the keys seem slightly silly, though it's still probably a quicker way to learn than my current method, which I'll cover shortly.

  Sadly the most notable thing I learned this class was how hard it was for my brain to instantly recognize what letters are adjacent to one another without running through the song we all learn as children. I don't know if that speaks to the Alphabet Song not being the best method to learn in the long run, or just a failure with my mind, but I can tell you my brain has a miniature meltdown anytime I need to instantly remember "what comes before G?" without singing to myself.

  The book that I am studying from groups keys in two sections. The C-D-E group and the F-G-A-B group. It didn't really come up in class if that was a common method to think of them to help with memorization, but it's probably a lot more efficient than my ridiculous method where I ended up using mnemonic devices after all.
  C is my go-to key which I use to find all other keys. This has made me start thinking of it as the 'first' key.  Going up the piano, D is next which I think of as "D for 'divide'" as it divides the two black keys from each other. And then E for 'ends' because it ends the group of three keys. That's semi-logical, but then next group, all I have is F for 'first' because it is the first key before the group of three black keys. After that, I'm just "uh...and then comes... *sings Alphabet Song*.. G! And H...wait no, it starts over so A...B..."
  This can't be efficient. You'd think I would simply think, "D is after C, E is after D" and so on since I've been doing that my whole life, but no.

  An interesting thing I noticed during this week of practice is that, as I was working on learning a song that was not yet skilled enough to play, I had a moment of clarity where I could just 'see' all the keys without issue. I knew where all the keys were without thinking about it. I felt like a genius...and then just as quickly, that was gone and I almost couldn't make sense of any of the keys even when finding them from C. And I suddenly became completely unable to play even the smallest part of the song I'd been trying to learn all night which I'd been doing decently well on prior to my brain shutting down. I think I was at the point where I'd been messing around so much I sort of went cross-eyed. It felt like those time when you're looking at a word and it suddenly seems foreign to you.
  I decided to call it a night.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Canon in D

  When I signed up for my piano class, there was a single spot left which I tried to get various friends to sign up for with me but it turns out that evidently everyone I know is already piano masters because each person I asked said they'd been playing for years. I had no idea. You'd think that would have come up in conversation at some point. My suggestion of going anyway and then busting out a complex song in the second class like some sort of virtuoso wasn't an idea anyone was interested in entertaining.

  A friend at work was telling me about her history playing after I brought up the subject and she mentioned how the first song she ever learned was "Canon in D". Knowing what I know now, I find this claim unlikely. Chances are she learned "Ode to Joy" and such like the rest of us, but that perhaps this was the first song she sought out on her own to learn. Then again, maybe she's dynamite on the keys and I just don't know it. Regardless, at the time my brain took this as a challenge, and I resolved to learn it that night and rock her socks off the following day, and anyone else's socks who might be in the vicinity at the time. That was me flying a little too close to the sun.

  Keep in mind that at this point I had yet to even use two hands at once on the piano.  So when I tried for the first time while learning this song, my brain almost exploded and I may have blacked out a few times.
My hands work pretty well in unison and I would have thought my years of guitar playing would have made transitioning to piano pretty easy. I mean, the keys are equidistant apart, how hard could it be? Such was not the case.

  When I made it home, I found some sheet music and then I sank my teeth into it. The intro to the song seemed simple enough. It's not until around 0:33 seconds in that all hell breaks loose which is why, after 2 hours of intense effort, I learned to play exactly 0:32 seconds of the song. I use "learned to play" in the most loose of ways. I know what keys to hit in what order, let's say it that way.

  I mentioned my woes with the song on Facebook and my amazing musician friend and piano extraordinaire Kate Klim told me I should have learned it in C first "with the simple arpeggios" and called me a crazy person. With her comments in mind, I didn't feel too bad about floundering at the task.

  Next time, I'll bite off a little less and chew a little more thoroughly. It's not that I don't think I can consume anything I sink my teeth into, I just want to take more manageable bites.  "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is probably enough to fill my plate for now.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Complexities of the Mandolin

  I have an "issue" where I will glance at something and my brain interprets it as something completely different.  Here's a few quick examples:

  Reality: Man holding a bag with his arm draped over the back of an adjacent seat.

  What I See: Man sitting next to a large dog that is wearing a scarf.

  Reality: A random jumble of branches in the woods along a hiking trail.
  What I See: A man wearing a hat and sitting atop a horse.

  My friends have mocked me for years about an incident where I was riding in the front passenger's seat of the car and suddenly folded up, throwing my hands in front of my face and yelling out like I was about to die, which is exactly what I thought was about to happen. Yet I survived the incident with only my pride damaged.
  On the antenna my friend had a piece of tinsel shaped like a stick figure holding on for dear life. When I glanced up this time, my brain decided instead of the stick figure - which I'd seen dozens of times - that it was a guy riding a bicycle who we were about to hit head on.

  This misinterpretation applies to words as well.

  Early this morning, I had gotten lost in Youtube the way one does after looking up a few topics and then following various 'related videos' links from the sidebar. I was watching a video on methods of finding chords faster when I noticed a video, "Mandolin Made Easy" and I decided to see what it was all about. 

  I want to blame it on being 5 in the morning that I didn't notice a few obvious signs that it wasn't a mandolin video. I'm watching and she's talking about tones, then making various sounds with her mouth, and I'm not really getting why she's not using the instrument, all the while thinking, "wow, mandolin is really a different learning process than other instruments." 

  I only watched the video for about 45 seconds, but those were 45 very confused seconds. When she started talking about how you'd end up with a cat if you used the wrong tone, I knew one of the following things must be true:
  1.   I didn't want to learn mandolin.
  2.   This video wasn't about learning mandolin.
  Glancing at the title again, I read the actual name of the video this time, which was "Mandarin Made Easy". I'd like to think this mistake could have happened to anyone seeing as how it was grouped with a bunch of music lesson videos, but I still felt a little silly.

  On the plus side, I now know how to ask for a cat if I ever am in dire need of one while stuck in China.

Piano Class 1: Notes, Measures, and Rhythm

  (Class Date: 6/5/13)

  After making a New Years resolution to start back with music, it has only taken me half a year to actually follow through with it. Unless you count my haunting renditions of pop songs while in the car, in which case I never really stopped. Not that I'd ever admit to knowing or liking such songs.

  While guitar has historically been my instrument of choice, I decided I wanted a fresh start and to reintroduce myself to playing music by learning piano. When I left off previously, I felt like I was stuck on a plateau that I could not traverse, and I didn't want to begin anew only to feel like I was stuck from the onset. Plus I figured so much music is based off of piano that it would help me with the theory aspect. Thus I dusted off my old Casio keyboard, made sure it could still play the midi version of "Green Sleeves", then signed up via The Skillery for a seven-week group class.

  I didn't think I'd enjoy a group class, but right away I took to it. Looking back, my love for playing diminished when I stopped being social about it. I may not get as much practice time in a group setting but I feel the collaborative atmosphere really energizes me about what I'm doing. Watching other's success and failures teaches me a lot more than I would have expected. Everyone seems to get charged up by each other's little victories. Besides, if I was alone, who would appreciate the fact that each time I use the keyboard I somehow switch it into a mode where each note sounds like a tugboat horn?

  Being forced to play in front of others when I KNOW I'm bad will be good practice for playing in front of others - be it other musicians or simply observers - when I'm less bad. If I ever get to such a point. And while I'm not especially competitive, if someone does better than me, I think to myself, "well I can at least do it as good as that," and I feel motivated to try a little harder.

  Much of what makes the class so great is our instructor, Ariel. I've never before seen anyone as excited to teach a subject as she is to teach piano. Super energetic and positive, she somehow makes mundane things like practicing scales seem exciting. Almost. Her positive reinforcement reaches heights I didn't know existed. Even when you completely botch something she finds a way to be positive about it. A direct quote from her that I loved was, after one student finished a piece that they had struggled playing):
"Fantastic! That was beautiful. Your posture was wonderful and I loved the curve of your fingers and your timing was excellent. All I would say is next time try and hit the right notes."
  If we had more teachers out there who loved to share their knowledge even half as much as she does, we'd be in much better shape.

  As far as topics go, there not a lot to discuss yet, as far as class one goes (of which I have completed 4 as of this entry). I don't even think we hit a single note that class. It was the five of us (4 students, 1 teacher) introducing ourselves, sharing our history, and goals. After that, we covered some beginner stuff. Basic note values (quarter, half, dotted half, whole), measures and timing, then rhythm reading. Then we all clapped along to notes in the book to see how well everyone could keep time and read. I felt a little silly because timing seems very natural to me but I thought that, while this part may be basic to me, it won't take long before I'm in deeper waters trying to keep afloat. Most things I've learned over the years I've studied on my own and I always find that there are key areas of knowledge I end up missing. It will be nice to start from the very bottom and learn in a more structured manner for once. And if I have to clap until my hands are bleeding to get the foundation laid right, that's what I'll do.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Safety Goggles On

  This blog is an experiment. Let me clear that up right away. I have no strict structure in mind right now and no real game plan other than wanting to chronicle what I'm undertaking. I'm tossing ingredients together without any rhyme or reason - and certainly without any guidebook - so it could blow up in my face or it could create something worthwhile. The latter would be preferable.
  The only constant in the experiment: music. I'll get to that in a bit.

  The blog itself is more of an aftermath from an idea than anything. It's not an end nor even a means to such a place. It's merely something to lean on as I travel up a path to my main goal. That main goal is something I feel is too ridiculous to really voice just yet and in truth not even something I'm 100% clear on. Whatever it may be, it's fragile enough that I want to strengthen it before it has to withstand a rain of blows from reality or criticism.

  I will give you a quick overview of why I'm here...

  I woke up recently to realize I'm old. Not old by the standards of the world or even people. I just felt old in the way everyone eventually does when they realize they aren't teenagers any longer and somehow their 20s are already gone even though they could swear they were there just a second ago.

  I'm in my very early 30s. Not old by anyone's definition aside from children and aforementioned teenagers. Possibly those early 20s people who don't yet grasp that 20 doesn't last forever. But really, in this instance if I'm actually old isn't all that important. What is important is that I felt old when I woke up that day. Worse than feeling old is feeling old without the accomplishments under my belt that I assumed I'd have at this point. 

  I've built a decent enough career over the years, I do well for myself, and I don't really want for anything. I'm not high rolling by any means, but I get by. By those standards, I can't complain and I try to be thankful. That doesn't mean I can't want for more or - in this case - different things. 

Everything I've done I feel has been attained by taking the safe routes at every fork in the road. What happened to those ridiculous, far-fetched, unlikely dreams I'd had as a kid? They'd been forgotten. They'd faded without even the slightest whimper to signify their passing. And for a while that they even existed was not remembered. It took me years to notice.

  Sitting at a desk 8 hours a day was not what I'd imagined of my life when I was younger. That can likely be said for 99% of the country but I thought it should be stated for clarity. When I woke up on that particular morning, I realized that I'd never really stopped wanting those other things out of life. To travel, to write for a living, to create music. I'd simply allowed myself to forget as I propped the burdens of life upon my shoulders and made my way through life. Living without really living, you know?

  I could say more about all of that but it's all very unexciting. The point is that I decided I wasn't quite ready to give up on a few of those silly ideas. If I had tried and failed, that would be one thing, but all I had done was failed because I'd never bothered to try. That's a pretty sad way to go out.

  This blog exists to chronicle my efforts at bringing my musical side back from the grave, that love of a Younger Me that I have missed most over the years even if only recently realizing it. I'm basically going to be starting over and trying from a clean slate. Those 15 or so years of guitar playing - which make me sound far more skilled than I actually am considering I've played about 5 hours total over the last 6 years - aren't magically erased of course, but I'm going to try to start at a more basic level and see if I can build my foundations better this go-around.

  I can't make any promises other than I'm going to try my best to stick with it, which is part of the reason I'm going to be writing. I figure if I'm learning something new, practicing, reading theory, or even just writing about ideas and concepts and challenges I may be having, I will be keeping the topic in mind and hopefully that will led me to sticking it out even through frustrating period. 

  My overall goals are still unclear, but there's a few things I never really did that I'd like to do:

  1. Learn a second instrument.
  2. Develop a solid understanding of music theory, of which my grasp has always been tenuous at best.
  3. Write a whole song.
  4. Perform in front of people.
  I think that is plenty to focus on for the time being. Of those four, I think I mostly want to see if I have it in me to write a good song. I feel like I do.

  A final thought: it's slightly ironic that when I moved to "Music City", I quit playing music. I think my senses were so overloaded with the sheer amount of music in the city that it broke my brain and I just threw in the towel without realizing that is what happened.