musician, Uncategorized

The Art of Learning Music

Hello. I am back after a break where I assisted in running a fabulous writing conference and completed two major work projects. During these events in my life, one thing remained consistent: my effort to learn music.

Through my full immersion into learning bluegrass banjo over the past year, followed by starting down the path to electric and classical guitar, I have learned more about myself as a person than ever before, including the following:

  1. I have a remarkable work ethic and a dogged desire to keep at something until I get it right, and
  2. I have a knack for finding the right people to be partners in my learning.

I am sure some people are born with a natural fluency for music, and they quickly find the right strings, keys, percussion points, and breaths of air to produce beautiful noise. I, on the other hand, liken my fingers finding the right strings and frets on my banjo and guitars to drunk giraffes (nice, longish fingers with decent nails) wandering the Serengeti aimlessly, eventually becoming entangled in the chaos. So, I have to work really hard at learning, and I rely heavily on daily practice and various resources to learn. There is an art to learning the art of music, and here are the mediums I use to learn.

I practice, on average, one hour a day. As often as I can, I try to increase this by a half hour to one hour or find moments in the day where I can pick up an instrument and perform one piece of music or an exercise (even scales) quickly between life’s activities. I use a metronome for a portion of all practices, and I touch all three instruments daily. It is my labor of love, and one I have been engaging in for nearly 365 days straight since 2/7/2015. Doing the math now, and I’m going to guess I have practiced between 450 and 500 hours. This would equate to me practicing for nearly 21 days straight at the high end if somebody locked me up and threw away the key, and I did not sleep or eat or etc. I am not planning on this by the way! Music is life, and you must live life to make music.

I also find time to read music theory books and relevant magazines and newsletters as well as watch YouTube performances or lessons to learn from those much more talented than me. I am never without tunes in my ear whether at work or play, and I study and listen to the greats for each instrument.

All of this is wonderful, filling my soul cup daily with bourbon, and I am making significant progress as a result of the effort and focus. There is something much more important than this though. I could not do this without the help and guidance of two talented, interesting, and dedicated instructors for helping me along the path to playing music beautifully.

Recently, I was given the gift of an interview with my classical guitar teacher, Roger Humphrey. I will be sharing his story, wit, and wisdom in a two part blog special starting tomorrow. I hope you will stay with me on this journey.

In the meantime, please check out Roger online:

http://www.rogerhumphrey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/

http://rhumphrey223.blogspot.com/

 

 

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Mourning Sir Bowie

There is not much I can say about the impact of David Bowie’s life on the music, art, and fashion worlds as most of it has already been said in the wake of his passing. I can share my personal experience of what he meant to me as a musician, a writer, and a person with artistic and quirky tendencies though.

I started listening to David Bowie’s music when I was nine years old. It was before the days where you could Google an artist or follow them on the web  and social media to find out everything you wanted to about them, whether truthful, exaggerated, or just plain wrong. I will even admit to watching Labyrinth more than once, entranced by everything about his presence. He created what he wanted. He dressed how he wanted. He acted how he wanted. To me, he did this in a bubble with little regard for convention or social norms. He was a hero to me not for his art, although I loved it, but rather for his passion and unique presence. He was not afraid to be who he was at a moment in time, and he rocked it.

I had insomnia when I picked up my phone to find David Bowie had left us. I had just listened to his new album on its release day and thought it was a beautiful, melancholy masterpiece, and I wondered who he was at this moment in time to make such an album. I now understand. He was the David Bowie about to leave us, and he was fully in charge of how he would do so even in the face of an unpredictable disease. His death was almost one year to the day I spent perusing the masterfully prepared art exhibit called David Bowie Is in Chicago on its last stop and last weekend before leaving the United States. This timing was not lost on me.

In mourning someone I have never met, I have learned Sir Bowie was not just an a person to me. He was an idea I could define myself, break convention, and determine a direction which was not in line with current practices or fads. David Bowie was living art recreating itself on the fly. He was change. He was color. Most importantly, he was an inspiration to many such as me who never quite fit in with the rest. He was an inspiration to not care about being a piece of the puzzle. Rather, he was the inspiration to create the puzzle and determine how you fit within your creation. As a result, I find myself today peacefully standing out from the herd, and this fuels my creation of novels, music,  and fashion which often delightfully stand out from the rest. I don’t do it for fame or money. I do it for the love of it much like I believe David Bowie did, and I will continue to do so in his honor. David Bowie Is Art.

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musician, Uncategorized

Late is the New Early: Better Late than Never to Learn Music

blog post 2 pic

ACDC Thunderstruck Tab from electric guitar lesson this past Saturday and a guitar aerobics book I love.

 

I was just pondering on this snowy Sunday evening regarding my “late” start to  musical pursuits. I use the word late because this is what I heard many times over when I picked up my banjo and made my way down the bluegrass trail one year ago. It almost made me put the banjo back on a peg. I had people telling me children have a much easier time learning. I had others say it did not seem worthwhile if I could not do something with it. I am happy to say I was wise enough to employ a filter which has come with wisdom. And here is what my filter said…

Late is something you are when somebody assigns a time to an activity, and you arrive beyond this time. In my lifetime so far, I was late for parties (we could debate whether you are supposed to show on time). I was late for work. I was late for my period, and we all know where that led! I could not be late for my return to music-making because I was in charge of the arrival time. I own my time now more than ever, and I have assigned a sizable portion to learning music.

On the matter of children learning music more quickly, there is science to back the amazing capacity of a child’s mind to learn. I have a lot of noise in my life, and I have for sure altered my brain chemistry on occasion whether with medicine or a youthful & free night out. My brain still has amazing capacity though, and when I exercise it with music or reading or writing, I can feel it gain power. Our brains can still exercise as adults. Also, I would argue most of us have developed more discipline and passion for pursuing art and other challenging and/or relaxing activities. Finally, I find not having to balance intense schooling with other learning frees up brain waves for music.

On the final topic of what I will do with my music, I have little patience for this discussion. I learn and play music for the love of it. No matter what age you are and what you are pursing, if you are not starting from a place of love and passion, you are not giving your true self to the opportunity. The only goal I have right now is to love what I am doing and learn to do it well.

Late is the new early in my date book. I do not waste time thinking about why I did not start earlier or where I am going with music. I just pick up my instruments every day and learn to play better than I did the day before.

I want to leave you with three practical tips if you are down the same path, even further along than me, or if you are pondering a pursuit of passion on this very day:

  • Make sure you find time for the pursuit daily, even if for a few minutes,
  • Be rigid about practice time, giving what you can and maintaining focus during practice,
  • Find all resources (people, books, online) to help you learn more quickly, and
  • Tell your friends, family, and colleagues you would like their support, and what you are doing is important to your happiness.

Good luck. Shred it. Roll it. Pluck it. Play it. Do it.

Nice article to read:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/playing-an-instrument_n_4903835.html

 

 

 

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musician, Uncategorized

The Novelist Musician

I have been a writer since I was a little girl. From plays to songs to poems to books, it was my favorite thing to do. In fact, I make a living from it today. I also had a passion for music though, and at one point, I found enough time to take piano lessons. There were not enough hours in the day for me to pursue both artistic paths to the level I wanted, so I kept writing through undergrad and two advanced degrees, and the piano became decoration until it was sold. I was still an avid music listener and concert attendee, and no moments passed where I was not exploring music in all of its forms. I just did not make it myself. Don’t lament! Let’s fast forward to one year ago.

I found myself finally landing in the career I wanted in January of 2014 after a disappointing (actually, downright terrible) fall. It had the right mix of challenge, writing, and life balance. I could breath. I was happy. Inside of me the desire to make music rested waiting for a spark and was no longer impeded by stress, lack of time, and sadness.

The spark was a simple visit to a local music store to browse. A banjo caught my eye. I don’t know why. They say instruments find you, and this one jumped off the peg into my arms. Of all forms of music, country and bluegrass were not forms I frequented on playlists or through purchases. I did sweet Jesus knows what with the banjo as I had nary a clue on how to play it, and it still made a beautiful, joyous sound. I went home, did some research, discovered Earl Scruggs and old school bluegrass. I also discovered the key of sweet, sweet open G. I bought a banjo and started lessons in February of 2014. I chose to learn Scruggs style which I will discuss more in a future post and became a bluegrass mama.

When I had about seven months of banjo under my belt, it did not take long for the guitar bug to bite me. I was crazy for strings, and I wanted to explore another instrument with a different range of sound. After much research and testing, I bought a Fender Telecaster with dual humbuckers and began electric lessons with my banjo instructor, who I am convinced could make a cardboard box with strings sound good.

This brings me to yesterday. I went to my first classical guitar lesson after receiving a Cordoba C5 nylon string guitar for Christmas. That’s right. I’m taking banjo, electric guitar, and classical guitar lessons. I practice all three every day, rain or shine, happy or sad, healthy or sick, calm or chaotic, and I take lessons twice a week. And, I am still writing novels with a plan to put the final polish on my current manuscript and find an agent in  2016.

I have risen to a level of dedication, study, and hard work where I am comfortable calling myself a novelist musician.  I plan to keep sharing the story of my journey here so I can marry my passions in one small place in the digital world. I will also share tips and resources for anyone looking to explore similar passions. I’m going to be honest about both my achievements and my opportunities for improvement (we won’t use the word failure here). I can be pretty damn funny at times, and I hope to meet some new people of all skill levels in these two wonderful realms of my life.

My ultimate goal is to convince people sitting on the fence regarding their passions to pursue them with vigor. I’m not the most talented novelist musician. I have a truck ton of passion though. I hope it lights your fire.

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