Learning and Lessons
Sitting on my deck looking out over fields that are under cultivation, with an old terraced mountain behind them, I think of the valley that lies between. I got on a bus nine days ago to come to this village in order to write some music free from distraction. Here, at the busiest time of day I might see ten people in a cafe and be passed by three cars and a motorcycle. No need to hurry, the shopkeeper might keep you waiting for ten minutes as they finish a converasation on the phone.
In the midst of this tranquility I wonder about various kinds of internal suffering. There is of course the Buddhist doctrine, “All life is pain.” Today I seem to equate busy-ness with pain. One of my students told me that he has been able to concentrate much better since he had his knee replaced a couple of years ago. He figured it was the unconscious underlying pain that prevented him from paying more attention when he played guitar.
I have spent decades training myself to pay attention, to the music as I learn it, to my students as they play and to the people that share conversations with me. Since reading about the problems of “internal dialogue” in Carlos Castaneda in the 70’s my life’s work has involved managing my ability to focus.
For all these years of work there has been an underlying theme – to communicate something of musical value. One might say this is about attracting a certain kind of attention. Here, I play my guitar, far away from my friends and colleagues: there is no hope for attention. As I was playing the other day something very interesting began to happen: the melody of the piece started to take on another character. In my imagination it felt like a sustaining instrument. Between these medieval walls in this apartment in an old village, the tune came through as never before.
So, as the melody continues in my imagination as a sustained line, I convince myself that it might be possible to project this sense to the listener. They might hear a flute or a violin playing the tune. There might be some sleight of ear taking place – there might be magic.
I only run two sales a year and now is the time for one of them.
Save on almost all the Download Versions for many of the courses I have created for learning how to play blues and slide guitar.
This sale won’t last long so be sure to take advantage of this discount as there will not be another sale for a long while.
Thanks for the support!
Editing creates more and more sense out of a work or text. Everything in a piece is there for more than one reason; a chord might support the melody and develop a counter melody. An inner voice might give breathing room to the main tune but add a small, unexpected surprise to the texture.
I have just re-imagined a set of songs originally written over 20 years ago and observe that the harmonies were chosen often to clash with the vocal line. They were chords and clusters selected with joy, I was happy just to play them so long ago, but now I work to meld them into a cohesive shape.
The tones written must be there for multiple reasons and these rationales often make the music easier to play. A mind perceives the reasons behind those tones, and as it does so, the patterns become more interesting, more musical. The more musical a phrase is, the easier it is to play.
A few days ago, I was playing through the revisions with a singer* who stumbled numerous times on a particular word. Turned out that the composer might have set the syllables in a slightly un-natural way and as we worked through the issue we found a better way to do it and the problem ceased to be. The stumbles helped us fix an issue with text setting.
The set of songs were recorded in one three hour session with a violinist who was sight-reading. Finishing the pieces, I began to embed vocal cues in the guitar part to increase the chances of getting it all done on time. Each wrong note would decrease the chance of getting the right ones recorded. Every cue would help the singer find the correct pitch with greater ease.
I prefer to work from a complete take while editing a recording. There is increased listenability since the performers felt the entire gestalt unfold in real time. This flow is one of those subtle human things that listeners sense on an unconscious level. Performers broadcast all of that subtle stuff and that focus draws listeners in. It is a complex array of big goals and small, note-to-note shaping but also phrase and section shaping. Each gesture will in some way affect many subsequent ones and a small change in dynamic on page one means that others must be altered as well.
The whole and the parts are knit together – all the secrets of the world are in a grain of sand. Adjusting a delicate inner voice means there will be other changes as well. I like to think of this as the human mind working at its best: evolving the macro and micro pictures in a magical simultaneous vision.
One day, Nasrudin went to the local doctor. “Every night for the past six weeks, I’ve had dreams where I am wrestling with donkeys.”
The doctor gave Nasrudin a herb. “Eat this, and your dreams will go away.”
“I will have to start them tomorrow.,” Nasrudin said taking the package, “Because I’m in the championship match tonight.”
I’m going to be extending the Supplement Series to different styles,and keys due to the popularity of the first supplement lesson I put out. The next in the series will be a Shuffle Blues solo that is in the beginner/intermediate category.
This solo will be available soon.
I’m currently working on a few new courses that will be added to the All Access Pass in the next few weeks. One is a Rockin Blues solo where you’ll learn the rhythm guitar and the lead played over the tune.
This lead is an Albert King, SRV, influenced solo with a little bit of my own style thrown in of course. The rhythm guitar is not that hard really but to make it fit and sound good requires the right technique and execution. I’ll be dissecting this as well.
To gain access to this new course when it becomes available, check out the All Access Pass.