Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blisters On Me Fingers

For some reason, I decided all the stuff I was working on just wasn't enough to keep me busy, so I ended up buying a ukulele to fool around with. I figured having a fair bit of experience with stringed instruments, it would come to me more naturally than piano did. And for the most part that is true, but having big hands and trying to play this tiny instrument is certainly a learning experience.

For all the years I've loathed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", it has rapidly become a secret favorite after playing it on the uku. With that easy chore down, I decided to skip all the logical steps and try and master "Bohemian Rhapsody" which is clearly a ridiculous move.
...but can you blame me?

All I've managed thus far is to blister every single finger even with the ukulele's nylon strings. Thi is clearly showing a lack of practice on the guitar of late.

Difficult as the song is, it has been a lot of fun to play. Try to play, rather. After a bit of concentrated effort, I have the first 30 seconds handled...only about 5.5 more minutes of song to go. I should have it mastered in a few years at this rate.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Various Happenings

It's been a busy year. Keeping an updated blog that only ~3 people read is more work than anticipated, especially on a topic that doesn't lend itself to being put into words.

Here's what has been going down.

1) I've had two recitals since the last time I updated, which tells you how far between my updates have been. Or that I have recitals too often. But I've grown to enjoy the recitals. After all, one of my goals was to play in front of people, though a recital isn't exactly what I had in mind, nor is playing a piece out of a lesson book. Still, it's progress and a step toward one of my goals.
The last recital I played my most challenging piece thus far, an upbeat ragtime song. And while I'm not a ragtime fan, I loved playing the piece, especially in front of a bunch of strangers. I get the expected butterflies before a recital but when I actually play I completely zone out and forget about everyone else. I didn't even notice a cameraman got right in my face. I'm told my gaze gets "focused, intense, and angry". The furrowed brow isn't anger, just concentration. I don't really recall being up on the stage except for feeling completely in sync with the piece, and that was a nice, rare moment.

2) I was in New York for a week this month for a wedding and made some pretty great new friends. I danced terribly out on the dance floor and had a great time when I was finally able to not worry about other people and just enjoy myself. Who knew dancing (even badly) was such fun? Have I really been missing out all these years because I was embarrassed? One of my new goals for the year is to learn to dance with some fast tempo songs so I can keep up with one of my new friends, Justin, who danced everyone's face off.
My other new buds are a husband and wife duo who are both musically inclined. When they found out I played a few instruments, they wanted to break out the instruments. He plays bass and she the violin. I played them some pieces I'd done before as well as a new one I was working on, and they played me an incredible cover of a Coheed and Cambria song that they are doing for an upcoming talent show, which I desperately hope they record. After that we just sort of goofed off, singing songs and jamming. I was reminded just how much fun it is to play music with people. It'd been far too long.

3) I played a ukulele for the first time and found it to be quite the pleasant little instrument. Playing it felt very naturally and I taught myself a few songs in an hour or so. I think I might pick up my own for fun.

Speaking of which, after I found out they had a uku, I shared with them a fantastic player I had just seen a few weeks prior.

All in all, a very eventful few months and I'm feeling quite inspired. Can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I was thinking about some of my goals from when I started this whole process and it made feel that my progress has been craaaaawling by. I've accomplished a few of my objectives, but my most important ones are yet a long way off, though they shouldn't be as far off as I am making them.

I've always had a bit of a problem with being a jack-of-all-trades type of person. I know a good deal about a fair number of subjects and have experiences with many of them. I can draw decently. I can paint okay. I can play guitar alright. I can have basic conversations in a couple of other languages. I'm not a terrible rock climber, I'm somewhat talented at Aikido, etc. I find all of that satisfying in some ways, yet at the same time, I would love to be simply incredible at something. I'm interested in so many topics that I want to dip my toes into all of them, often forgetting that my life - as far as I'm aware - is finite and I probably need to have more focus.

I was discussing a favorite author of mine today and how in his podcasts about writing he constantly recites the importance of a motto that you may have heard, "BICHOK", which simply means "butts in chair, hands on keyboard." Likely this is obvious to you, but it's the idea that, as a writer or someone who wants to be a writer, you need to always be writing. You don't talk about it or don't think about or say "maybe when I'm in the mood." You just do it. He always stresses how it's almost more important to write when you don't feel like it than it is when you are inspired to do so.
This concept sums up some of my problems/limitations. No one who has had great success in any of my areas of interest have done it by doing it my way. "My way" being to extensively read and discuss a topic but rarely getting around to actually putting the time into practicing a given craft. If I spent the amount of time at practice as I do researching "how to", I would probably have mastered several skills and talents by now.

We can take one of my goals stated on my first entry as a prime example. I've always wanted to write a song, and writing a complete one was an aspiration when I started getting back into music. That was a year and a half ago. Guess how many songs I've written? Actually, guess the percent of a single song I've written? Either question you answer, the number is the same. Zero, if that wasn't obvious.

This is even after I was challenged by my vocal instructor to write one "no matter how terrible it ends up." Which is honestly a great way to start, probably. I always wonder, "how does someone even start writing a song" and the key probably is very simply, "they just do it" and there's no real magic to it. Any musician I admire surely started out writing terrible songs, despite their talent level, and they continued writing terrible songs until they started writing less terrible songs, and then they started writing amazing songs. And likely the secret to all those amazing ones is that they started out as terrible songs that slowly became amazing songs as they tweaked them, not unlike how a painting starts as a bunch of colored shapes and blobs and then suddenly you have a beautiful landscape or portrait.

I'm sure part of my problem is that I'm scared of making something terrible and then becoming disheartened. The obvious issue here is that if I never try, I'll never even get that far. Besides, I've made plenty of terrible things in my day, what's one more thing? I can't start improving on it if I never make it happen in the first place.

Dave Grohl has a great quote that sort of relates (though it's overall in reference to how ridiculous music reality shows are):

“Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a f'ing computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”

Maybe this will be the year I can really display how much I suck and maybe by the end I'll suck a little less.