Music Post 005: A New Game

Music Post 005: A New Game

It would seem this learning a song per week has petered out. But I haven’t let it discourage me. I have a new game.

This new game is to practice a handful of songs that I could play at a given notice or while out and playing with others.

I’ve been practicing Plush by Stone Temple Pilots. I keep practicing Times Like These by Foo Fighters. I’ve started to learn Here I Go Again by White Snake.

Some other songs I have learned in the past and want to practice more to get better are:

Promise by When In Rome
Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town by Pearl Jam
Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins

If I can get to know between five and ten songs I will be better about my attempt to learn more songs this year.

I’ll post the songs when I record them.

I may even throw in a few of my own. To play my own stuff live will be fun, too.


Music Post 004a – My 20’s Soundgarden

Music Post 004a – My 20’s Soundgarden

I recently read the Pandora write up on Chris Cornell. I like to read up on the history of bands and other music artists. Whatever is available I’ll soak it up. So, in reading up on Chris Cornell, I was reminded that Soundgarden released an album in 2012, King Animal. I wondered why I had not purchased it or at least try to listen to it.

As I recall, a lot was going on at that time in my life. I believe, I had mentioned it in my post about the Foo Fighters (see Music Post 002). I was busy with life, family and career.

I decided to listen to the excerpts from King Animal on iTunes. The tracks rocked. I enjoyed them. And I felt a pull. A pull back to the 90’s, alone in my dark bedroom with just the light from my TV to illuminate things. Sometimes, I would listen to my CDs on my Sega CD system because I liked the screen saver. I spent many nights like that, alone, pretending to be a drummer, guitarist and lead singer. I’ve been dreaming that dream since listening to Beatles records in my bedroom in the 80’s.

Being taken back to those nights in the 90’s, I realized I wasn’t that kid anymore. Not that I don’t have those same dreams of being a rockstar, at times, but I’m not that kid, now a man. A man who cannot afford to waste my time wallowing in my own self-pity and depressed mood. There was a time I could soak up that music and bathe in the anguish and angst that was so prevalent in my generation at the time.

I wouldn’t have been able do that in 2012. The Nate of 2012 was married with two kids and had a career. As much as I enjoyed listening to the Soundgarden of my 20’s. The Soundgarden of my late 30’s wasn’t a good fit. I just wasn’t melancholy about my existential self anymore. And especially now in my mid-40’s, I don’t think I could grasp existentialism. I’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed. And not only kids to feed, but kids to maintain a healthy relationship with, and I can’t maintain a healthy relationship if I’m wallowing in some type of self induced misery.

At this point in my life, I’ve listened to and read books on ways to get shit done in life. I listen to podcasts like The Art of Charm, James Altucher, Tim Ferris and Marc Maron. The guests and authors of those books and podcasts are people who have chased their dreams and made them a reality. Or they just plain did the things they wanted to do and ended up doing those things for a living. I’ve heard their successes and how they got there. There is no room for quitting (which I do a lot) if you want to succeed.

So, I cannot wallow anymore. That is a form of quitting.

The demons I fight are my thoughts with the voices of others. My fears sound like people I know telling me, “You can’t do it. Life sucks. There is no way out. Nothing will change.”

I fight those voices everyday. The thing about having other people’s voices in your head is they start sounding like your own voice. So you start believing all the negative you are telling yourself. I never told myself I couldn’t do something. We never tell ourselves that originally. That notion doesn’t happen naturally. That shitty advice comes from others. It is their fear injected into us. And once I listened, I let that fear in. It is a bitch to shake. It doesn’t want to let go. I’ve held back doing a lot of things I’ve wanted to do because of it.

Fear doesn’t want to let go because it will die. I wish it would die, but wishing won’t make it die or go away.

I have to keep kicking at it and pushing it. I have to stop feeding it. My body needs to reject it like a transplanted organ. That donor of this fear and bad advice gave me something toxic that my body/brain should be rejecting.

My brain should be screaming, “These are not my thoughts! These thoughts do not belong here! They are killing us! Get them out of here!”

. . . Wow, I didn’t know that is where this post was going. But here I am.

I will go back and finish listening to the King Animal excerpts and most likely not do more than that.

The three Soundgarden CD’s I own from the 90’s will continue to be my Soundgarden. I think I’ll learn one of those songs to include in my year of Learning a Song per Week (sort of).

Music Post 003 – Revolution Radio

Music Post 003 – Revolution Radio 9/11/17

I took my son to his first concert: Green Day, the Revolution Radio tour. He has been loving Green Dayfor the past year and the timing was great. Serendipitous, in fact. I like when these things happen: when you are into a band, movie, comic book series, TV show, podcast, and then there is a tour and it comes to your town just at the right time because you’re so into what is happening with it you gotta buy a ticket. This has been happening to me for the last 6 years or so, as I’ve mentioned in my last music post. (See Times Like These – Foo Fighters). I stole from my own writing and used it here. I think that’s okay. I probably won’t mind the plagiarism this time.

I had never seen Green Day live when they were at their height of popularity back in the 90’s. However, I could be totally wrong in saying that. The concert I went to a few weeks ago was packed. Park was an insane nightmare. But, anyway, I enjoyed their radio played songs over the years. I had the Nimrod CD that I bought some time in the early 2000’s. It was the only Green Dayalbum I ever owned. So, I was more of a passive listener.

Then American Idiot came out and I became more of an active listener. It is still my favorite Green Day album to date. I feel to this day that it is their opus. That is strictly my opinion. Some may feel 21st Century Breakdown was another opus. I could agree, but it wasn’t made into a Broadway musical. The documentary, Broadway Idiot, about the making of the musical is a great watch. I highly recommend it. I wish I had gone to see it when it was playing, especially when Billy Joe took over the role of St. Vinny. It would have been worth it.

As far as having learned Green Day songs in the past, I started out with “Brain Stew” and “Basket Case”. When I started to learn guitar back in the late 90’s, those two songs were in my learning book. They became the Big Two that I could play and sing along to with consistency. I say “Big Two” meaning I could play and sing to myself, in my room, with nobody else around.

I attempted to learn a few songs from American Idiot. I learned the title track, but never to the point that I could play comfortably from beginning to end. I didn’t learn the lyrics fully, either. I did that with many songs. Classic me.

There will be room for another Green Day songs along this trip, but I chose Revolution Radio for two reasons. It’s is a fun song and I recently saw Billy Joe and the boys (like I know them like that to make such a reference) in concert. It helped that my kids kept singing it, so I guess it was sort of chosen for me to learn.

I screwed up a lot on this recording. I recorded a few times but there were parts that I struggled with and it sounds horrible, but I only give myself a week before moving on to the next song. I kept procrastinating on this one because I knew where I sucked and that the final product would be rubbish. I didn’t bother with the lyrics. It’s just my version, the guitar only. So, here you go warts and all.



Watch Anything

After watching another two episodes in Season 2 of Game of Thrones and not blogging about how I continue to fail at learning a song per week, I decided to watch a TED Talk from the TED app on my Amazon Fire Stick. (Shameless plugs or just part of everyday lexicon?)

I was feeling frisky and in the mood for anything, I chose the Watch Anything option. Why not let TED pick for me. It chose Esther Perel’s The Secret Desire in a Long Term Relationship. I looked forward to uncovering the nugget of information I’d get from this talk. Though, I had watched it before I thought I might be inspired by some new, personal interpretation. So, I paused the talk and started writing this post in anticipation. But I took so long constructing this introduction that the Fire Stick screen saver came on.

I had been booted out.

When I went back into the app Esther’s talk was gone and I had to chose the Watch Anything option again. This time Aakash Odedra’s A Dance in a Hurricane of Paper, Wind and Light came on. I figured since I was in the mood for anything, I would accept this option.

The dance piece was called “Murmur”.

I won’t try to interpret what he did. He has his message in his language and it should be interpreted by those who watch it to decipher the meaning they pull out of it.

To me, it was a man who put his art out there for anyone to see. He created. For himself. Allowed others to view it. That is courage. That is what creatives are meant to do.

I think this falls in line with a recent post by James Altucher. James said “Process is art.” The act of creating something is the art itself. The product is the end result. Just like learning and education. It isn’t just that you made something and say “hey, look what I did.” Or in the case of education, “hey, look what I know.”

Posting the work as you go. Talking through the work, about the work, is just as important.

I say all this and want to believe it, but I don’t do it. I want to say, “hey, look what I did.” But if I don’t think somebody is watching or going to see what I did, my motivation, or interest, wanes. That is not loving the process of art. That is not believing in the art. That isn’t anywhere near it.

I’ve finished projects. And thinking on it now, I finished those projects because I loved the process. The process of wrighting my two novels. The process of writing my graphic novel. They were stories within me that I nutured as they grew out of me. I wrote out many scenes. I edited, added and cut and deleted. Then added again.

Thought, time and effort went into those projects. And who read them but a few. I didn’t write so others would approve. I wrote because I loved it. I wanted to see what was at the end of the process. I said to myself, “hey, look what you did.”

Of course, I would like for these stories to be out there in the world for others to read. I want others to like them. I think some people would. I think others wouldn’t and I don’t want my babies judged by haters. My work doesn’t deserve that. No one’s work does.

Sending our babies, our children, out into the real world is scary. I mean this in the creative sense for both our flesh and blood children and the children we put our blood, sweat and tears into.

Fear of judgment. How it keeps us from taking those risks that are part of the process to achieve our goals, dreams or whatever you want to call what you are after.

That is what I got out of this TED Talk. So, I’m going to post my process on the Green Day song. It is just the guitar part and it is all I have completed for now.

Will you read the next post and listen to my process? I hope so, but if not that’s ok. It’s not about you.

Emotion Rethink

I won’t get into how I came to listen to The Art of Charm podcast. That is a topic for another time. Right now, this is about their Minisode Monday #73 that I just listened to: The Positive Intent of Emotion.

My interpretation of the message is that every emotion is intended to produce a positive outcome. Our happiness, sadness, anger, etc. are produced in our brains to create a positive outcome for us.

That would mean that our brain is capable of helping us survive. I can see this technique used by people who suffer though trauma. Their strength and resilience lay within their ability to reinterpret the emotional pain they experience in the moments of the trauma and after.

I have lived through my own traumas and the ability to keep moving forward has been key to my survival. But I did not know the science behind it or see what I did as being a positive coping skill. I just did it.

For others, they may need to develop the understanding that a “behavior” their brain is to create emotions so they survive the ordeals in which they find themselves.

However, there are brains, like mine, that don’t seem to work in such a perfect way. Sometimes I act in ways that seem totally selfish and self-centered to get my own needs and wants met.

Maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen. In order for the host body to survive the brain must produce the emotions and thoughts it needs to keep the host body alive.

That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is when the brain produces emotions and thoughts that cause people to want to end their lives.

Why does my brain produce thoughts of self-harm and suicide? That is not going to prolong the life of my brain’s host body. Those thoughts come and go. Even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason. So, why do they happen?

Perhaps, the negative emotion that feeds the negative thoughts can be filtered through a more positive lense. I think that is the suggestion from Jordan on The Art of Charm. He has interviewed many doctors and scientists over the years that study human nature and the brain. They have done the research and experiments. They have written about their findings.

Life changes through explosions. One type of explosion is education. Another is application of what we learn.

I have put forth effort to seek out the books written by those specialists. I have a willingness to try the methods about which they write.

So, now, my effort will be to rethink my emotional responses (especially the negative ones) to make them work positively for me After all, my brain is trying to tell me something. Perhaps, I should listen.



Important Things

The important things in life are simple: breathe, relax, love, share.

There are others things. The list can grow longer, which can complicate the list and then the important things in life are no longer simple.

Spend time with a friend. A good friend. A friend with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings. Let them critique and give you counsel. When you ask them for their opinion they will feel that you value them. When people feel valued they will trust you to share things about them.

This is a simple post. Hopefully, it sparks thoughts within you to have conversations with others.



In Damon Davis’s TED Talk, Courage is Contagious, he names fear and courage as having a contagious effect on people in groups. I think not only are those things contagious, they also cause movement in people to act. Act is part of action. Action is what people do, even if you think they are not doing anything. Action is walking towards something or walking away. Even inaction is an action. The stillness we exhibit to think or the standing by as something happens and we do nothing. Desicion to do or not do is an action.

Sometimes inaction causes us to jugde and place shame. Shame on the person who didn’t act how we thought they should act. Shame on them. Because if we were there we would have done something.

But what if doing nothing, inaction, is contagious? Then doing nothing can infected those around it. If fear is contagious and we believe that it is, should we shame others for catching it? Was it their fault?

Maybe they were never inoculated from it. Maybe it has already effected them so much their bodies are riddled with inaction.

We don’t shame others when they get cancer. Why shame someone when they are infected by fear? Perhaps, we can help them get treated. We can help inoculate them with courage. That would mean giving of ourselves to infecting another.

Can we do that?

Shame is thrown too quickly onto others who fail to act within at particular time frame; a matter of seconds. Or onto those who don’t act at all. Assumption and shame are precursors to the spread of fear.

Fear has three symptoms: fight, flight and freeze. You don’t know which fear you or someone else will get or how the body will react. All infections are like that. Unpredictable.

If we can see these contagious behaviors as changeable with support, care and love, then the infection won’t spend so much or so quickly.

We can help each other. I believe we all want to help each other. What infection inside of us keeps us from doing that?

My take away from these thoughts and Damon Davis’s talk is that we have the inoculation already inside of us. Courage. Two easy things we can do to get at it: search within ourselves or search for others who have it.

Music Post 003a Pre Revolution

Reality set in early on with learning a song a week. My recording of Green Day’s Revolution Radio was troubled from the beginning. I went into it feeling overwhelmed. It is a pretty basic song with cords I’m familiar with put into a rhythmic pattern that was unfamiliar. I struggled physically and mentally to learn and produce this song. Perhaps it is due to the recording process being added to my learning that has added this element of being uncertain with my abilities to produce a listenable version.

In other words, I was scared. I was scared to fail. Scared to record and re-record the song with every new take being worse than the ones before it. I didn’t practice enough. I wasn’t ready, so I prolonged recording. I know I said I will record and play back warts and all, but some warts are really ugly and when I’m the one wearing the warts I think are too ugly and unexceptable for others to view (or listen to in this case) I won’t show them.

I screwed up on the parts I knew I would screw up on. I would have left it alone if that guitar part sounded anything like it should have, but it didn’t. The guitar part is played during the verse “We will be seen and not be heard”. That part happens twice in the song and the second time the guitar part adds a change up with the lyrics “We are the songs of the disturbed”. I totally fucked that part up. I would have been able to sing along to it.

Those are warts I don’t want to show so I have to go back and re-record those parts. They don’t have to sound perfect or flawless, but I cannot leave them as they are. There was another part where I got sloppy on a riff but I’m willing to let that be heard.

So two songs in and I’m already meeting challenges. Song three will have to wait.

Music post 002 – Times like These 9/2/17

You ever have something serendipitous happen, like when you are into a band, movie, comic book series, TV show, podcast, and then there is a tour and it comes to your town just at the right time because you’re so into what is happening with it you gotta buy a ticket? This has been happening to me for the last 6 years or so. I  listened obsessively to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for a year. On his 2012 tour he stopped by Philly, so I got tickets and went to see him. With that obsession satiated, I’ve since moved on to other podcasts.

This “listened obsessively to” happened with the Foo Fighters back in 2015.  I have enjoyed the Foo Fighters’ music since “This is a Call” hit the air waves back in the 90’s. “Finger nails are pretty/Finger nails are good” hooked me in. It was silly. It didn’t make sense, but if you really wanted to you could plug the lyrics into your own “make sense machine” to decipher meaning. “Big Me” was another good one, especially with the video’s mockery of the Mentos commercials.
I didn’t own the first album and I still don’t. Not for any specific reason. It’s a great album. My first Foo Fighters’ album was The Colour and the Shape. My favorite song off that album was Everlong. It was the first Foo song I learned to play and sing. I tried my hand at learning Walking After You. I was able to play a rough version. It was the first time I tried to play the guitar by picking the strings. It was difficult and I got frustrated. I should go back and try it again.

For many years, I had no favorite band. The Foo Fighters have been in and out of my life. Until In Your Honor came out, the only albums I had of their’s were The Colour and the Shape and Nothing Left the Loose. I skipped over One by One for some reason. I think it came out when I was in Grad School. I had other priorities. I had stopped watching TV at that time.  Between school and my internship there wasn’t enough time. When Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace came out, I made the purchase. But for some reason, it didn’t draw me in. The Pretender totally rocked and Long Road to Ruin was catchy. Ha! Catchy. But I didn’t appreciate the album as a whole.

Flash forward many years, Wasting Light dropped in 2011. I had heard songs from it infrequently over the next few years. Nothing really stuck. I was busy in my career, raising kids, and just listening to what the radio played. I was into audiobooks and podcasts at the time and listened to them mostly on the short 15 minute drive to and from work. It was the only time I had to myself. Then one day in 2015, at least it seemed like it happened one day, the song Walk got stuck in my head. I don’t know why or how, but there it was and I was singing it to myself. So, I wanted to check out the album, but I didn’t want to commit to buying it. Not just yet. Thank goodness for the inter-library loan system, I was able to get it from the local library. From the start of track one “Bridge Burning” I was hooked all the way to the last track “Walk”. I became obsessed. It was the only album I could/would listen to. I had never loved a whole album in forever. I couldn’t even tell you then or now the last album I had loved completely. In my obsession the radio bored me. Nothing on the radio rocked as much as the songs on Wasting Light. I started listening to my other Foo Fighter albums to get more Foo. I came to love more if not all the songs on Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. I watched music videos and interviews on YouTube. I rented the documentary Back and Forth. HBO came out with Sonic Highways.

In the middle of my Foo obsession, they came to the Philly area for a second round, two night event. When I heard tickets were still available, I called my wife, she said buy and I was able to secure tickets. This was the tour where Dave Grohl sat upon his throne of rock, due to having broken his foot a month or so earlier that summer. That concert satiated my Foo obsession and I’ve since moved on.

Though, there are many Foo songs that I’ve attempted to learn, it was “Times Like These” that I chose. When it came time to start this trip on learning a song per week, this was the Foo Fighters’ song that was playing in my head. I remember finding it difficult to learn years ago. I wasn’t used to pulling my finger off and on during a song. And I found the coordination even more difficult when I would try to sing at the same time. I’ve had some practice since and I felt more confident I could pull it off this time.

I used a printout of tablature that I’ve had for years from Ultimate Guitar. I decided to play it in the clean amp effect on Garage Band to give it more of an acoustic feel. I recorded my voice several times singing in a low, soft tone, but I kept sounding too whispery. The final version is me singing in as less a whispery voice as I could get it.



Music Post 001

Music Post 001

I had always wanted to give myself a creative challenge that involved music. I had a big idea to learn a song a day. It’s bold, I know. My plan was to look up the cords (most likely from Ultimate Guitar), search the lyrics, and look up practice videos on YouTube. Then at the end of day I’d practice a little and then record. It was an awesome, bold idea. This process would allow me to could learn 356 songs in a year. The possibilities were endless. I could turn it into a YouTube show sensation. This crazy guy learning a song a day for a whole year. Are there even that many songs in existence? If you listen to the radio as your primary source of music, you would answer that question with an emphatic “NO!” But 365 songs would equal, like, the complete song catalogues of five famous bands. I didn’t want to do the research on this so you choose the bands.

Of course, I would give credit to the sources of the tabs, online videos and lyrics sheets. I began to have visions of gaining a following. And to keep the folIowing happy I would have to do this every day. I would have to commit. I would have to screw up and apologize for letting my life get in the way of learning songs for like a week. It was a big idea and commitment that I was dreaming up in my head. It was getting way too big. I wasn’t considering the reality at the time. I had two young kids, wife who worked long hours and a full time job. It was way too big of an idea. So, I talked myself out of it. Thought myself out of it.

Some time went by, and I another thought came to me. The idea didn’t want to die. The other thought was, I could learn a song a week. I would follow the same structure as above, look up tabs, video lessons and lyrics, and I could blog about my progress and record the song at the end of the week. Fifty-two songs a year. That was more doable. However, the part of my brain that shutdown the song-a-day idea reminded me, “Hey, remember? The kids, the wife, the full time job, the commitment. Those things still exist.” So, I talked myself out of it, again. Thought myself out of it, again.

That was four years ago. I’m four years older. And I still have not committed to this thing I know I want to do. Of course, now, my kids are older and able to fend for themselves a little more. My wife and I are separated. I’m living on my own and there are days and evenings I don’t have the kids. I have the time. I had the time before, but I wasn’t kind to myself to put that time aside. My job is more complex and it takes a mental toll on me. It can be emotionally draining. When I’m in a bad place inside my head, I will struggle to commit to doing self-care. I put all this other stuff first and fail to commit to myself. I have continued to talk myself out of the weekly song learning and blog writing.

I don’t want four more years to go by and not have done this. I know this is something I can do. I can achieve this. A one year commit. One week at a time. One song at a time. Fifty-two songs.

I know I can do this, because I have committed to other self-projects and completed them. I wrote two books and a script for a graphic novel. I haven’t properly edited them for public consumption, but I did complete them. One part was the commitment to that one thing. I focused on one project at a time and completed them. I, also, let other people know that I was writing. By letting friends and family know what I was doing, I knew they would ask how the writing was going which meant I would have to answer. And I didn’t want the answer to be “oh, I haven’t been writing” or “I haven’t started” or worse “I decided not to do it. I just don’t have the time.”

Thought excuses are my enemy. Being trapped in my head. Keeping the projects secret meant I could quit at any time and not be held accountable. So, I closed that loophole. I told people. I talked about what I was doing. I was able to avoid the excuses.

If I was able to escape excuses before and I know what I need to do to get my projects started and completed, why am I still able to fall into that mindtrap?

It is: Fear of rejection. But fear from who? Fear from the Unknowns. The unknown naysayers. The trolls of the internet. The made up people in my head. Those voices. I let those voices stop me.

I know those made up people in my head don’t matter. I know I can do this. I know what other things I need to do to show commitment to this project. I have to give up the TV shows for a while. I’ve got to get people involved, like my son. He knows what I’m trying to do and will ask me what new song am I learning this week.. I want to be able to tell him what song I’m working on. I want to show him what it means to commit to something you really want to do. I want to be proud of myself like I want him to be proud of me.

I need to stay out of my head and away from excuses. They just make me feel badly about myself . Why the hell do I want to feel badly about myself. It’s a bad loop to be caught up in.

My first song has been recorded. I’m on week two with song two.

It’s a start. And I will post. Warts and all.