Friday, April 30, 2010


I had a deep understanding today: I am still carrying on my old behavior and thought patterns that I thought I'd tackled. I guess God gives me multiple opportunities to prove that I'm serious! This may sound complex, but it's actually quite simple, as all spiritual truths are. I had a big epiphany a couple of weeks ago - I realized I'd had this attitude of the struggling musician for so long, it was just engrained in my brain. I teach voice and piano lessons and realized I was accepting students that I didn't want to teach because they were unreliable and flaky, but I thought I needed them because I was feeling desperate to work as a musician and not take a day-job. So I was putting up with all kinds of behavior: constant cancellations, no-shows, etc. and I'd always take the student back, because I thought it was better than no students. Finally I realized I was working from a place of desperation, and nothing good can ever come from being in this place. As long as I have "less-than" mentality or feel a desperate need for something, I'm actually keeping it from me. I started telling the students I wouldn't give them makeup lessons for lessons in which they hadn't given me adequate notice, and telling students who no-show'd that I would not teach them. I stood up for myself! It felt good. Then I realized I'd been doing the same behavior/thinking in other areas of my career. As musicians, I think we are all so desperate to experience success in our field, that we're willing to put up with all kinds of behavior totally unacceptable in other businesses, and/or we are willing to take whatever we can get, even the bottom of the bucket, just to legitimize our craft. I remember telling someone: if I could get at least one cut, ANY cut, even a cat litter commercial jingle, then I'd be happy because I'd at least be earning money from my songwriting. Now I see how limiting that is! How many times I've been treated like a dog in some sleazy club by the management because I'm in the band, or not paid what I was told I'd be paid, or my phone calls never returned after calling 5 or more times. It's just disrespectful, but we put up with it because it's "all we've got". Well I just can't buy that anymore if I want to have success! I've done that in my own bands too: I've taken the little money we were paid and paid the band members but not myself so I could have the best players, or taken gigs that didn't pay at all so I could at least have a regular gig. It's pitiful! If I'd have put half the work in another business as I've put in my music career, I'd be the CEO of a major corporation. Why do musicians not get treated as legitimate? BECAUSE WE LET THEM!!! Don't tell me you've never done any of the things I have done - we all have. You're either nothing until you're big time is the attitude. You're at the bottom until you're at the top - no middle ground, no raises, no climbing up the "corporate ladder"..But if we buy into that attitude, then we ARE nothing! I have to accept only the best, the best students, the best PAYING gigs, the best musicians who treat me with respect, the best clubs and management who treat me with respect, and I have to say a big resounding NO if I don't get what I deserve. They say you get exactly what you feel you deserve....So the poor musician mentality has got to go! If I want the best, I can't be willing to accept the second best, or worse. I have to put my foot down! I feel good now!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

got the song!

Well, after I quickly tried to come up with something this afternoon, I had to leave my house and go to work. But while I was driving home, I started singing the idea again, and by the time I got home, I had the entire song! I rushed in the house and recorded it before I forgot it. Just goes to show that if I push myself to write and come up with something, even if I'm not in the mood or inspired to do something, it is the catalyst for creativity to start flowing. It opens up the space! So I've proved to myself that I can write under pressure...woohoo!
OK, it's late - I'll start picking out the chords to fit the melody tomorrow. But I'm going to bed happy!

pressure to write

Okay, trying to stick to my write-everyday-for-30-days's hard! I should have paced myself better today, but I have to leave the house for work in 45 minutes and trying to come up with a song idea before I leave...It's hard for me to write under pressure! How would I survive if I wrote film scores and had a deadline...guess this is good practice!
I've got a couple cute ideas - gonna bounce them around some more.
I'm still tossing my Dance/Pop song around in my head trying to figure out if it's finished or not..I think it is. That means I've finished 4 songs musically since I started this about a week and a half ago..not bad!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

nothing new today

I listened to my Dance/Pop song again today and decided it was as good as it is going to get. I think it's good, but not sure if it's great. I guess sometimes things are what they are and I have to accept them as is...It may develop more once I add the words, but for now I will leave it. But I'm OK with that, I don't have to write the "perfect" song every day. Just the process of writing brings me joy enough..

I tried to come up with some other ideas but nothing stuck. So I analyzed a song from a major artist to try to understand what made it so great. The chords were complex, but only changed once a measure, so that's not too difficult. It always goes back to the melody for matter how thick the chords are or what the lyric is saying, in my opinion a great song must have a great melody.

I will practice piano today to try to improve my skills...another tool for a songwriter...

OK, gotta practice.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

new tools

Today I'm working on a Dance/Pop song - trying to stretch and push myself to try different genres and grooves.
Here's some more tools I am using:
- writing 2 chords per measure rather than just one
- embellishing chords with extra notes to thicken them up, i.e. 9, and 13 chords, sus-chords, chords with different notes in the bass rather than the root.
- Changing the key for the chorus and then back again for the verses.

I've seen that sometimes I write something I don't really like, such as yesterday's verse, but then it inspired me to write a really cool chorus. So I chunked the verse and wrote another's kind of like life - trying to see the benefit in so-called "bad" things...sometimes they lead to the pot of gold!

Last night I did some co-writing with my friend Steve. We're working on a Motown song - it's really cool! Fun and upbeat with clever lyrics. Writing with someone else is also a good tool for me. Usually when I write lyrics I do stream-of-consciousness writing until something comes to me. But with another person, there's two ideas bouncing off each other. It's a lot of fun for me and things seem to flow quicker than when I'm on my own. However, it's important to find the right co-writer, a balance between "generator" and "editor". I had to go through a lot of writers to find one that I am compatible with as a friend and musical-partner.

I'm still working on my pop song as we speak...taking a little break. It's coming together but it needs to rest, like a stew that needs to seep a little to blend in the flavors. Usually if I keep at it daily, I'll get the results I'm after. I have to pace myself though...If I push too hard, I just get frustrated and get no musical ideas. It's like the Three Bears: not too much, not too little, but just right...I'll sleep on it tonight and see what I wake up with...

More later..