What To Do

What to do?

It has been such a long time since I published any writings here. I kept putting it off thinking that I didn’t have anything to write. Then when I had something to write I didn’t write it. I would say to myself, “It has been so long since I’ve written something I can’t just write and publish out of the blue. I need to write an explanation as to why I haven’t written in such a long time.”

So, I wouldn’t write because I didn’t know how to write that explanation. And who, exactly, is the explanation for? Who gives a care that I haven’t written in so long? Nobody has inquired as to my whereabouts. Nobody has screamed from upon high lamenting my literary absence.

Nobody has indicated that the lack of my ponderings or musical quips have left a void in their lives.

So, why write? 

There was a void in my life. I wasn’t writting. I write because I’m a writer and to not write is to not breath, not nourish and not be who I am. It does not matter whether or not the writing is read. When you are a writer, you must write. Write something meaningful or crappy. It doesn’t matter.  The athlete must train even if they don’t feel like it. They have good training days and bad training days but they must train.

So, this is my training day. I took a few minutes to write. To let my mind and fingers do their exercises. Muscle memory will take over if you just get up and do it. 

Thank You: Music Post 010

In a previous music posts I wrote about how process is art. A term I borrowed from podcast host James Altucher who borrowed it from another artist.
I believe in that post I wrote that I would start posting the process I go through when learning a new song. (I also said I was going to learn a song per week but we see how that panned out.)
However, here it is my first process in learning a new song to post.
I am learning Thank You by Led Zeppelin. That choice was decided after I heard Chris Cornell’s version while listening to the Chris Cornell station on Pandora.
I really liked his version, so applied it to how I learned to play the song. Cornell sings the verse containing “Little drops of rain” twice. In the original it is only sung once. It is a great verse and I guess Cornell thought it was worth putting it in there twice.
Also, Cornell’s version is acoustic, so there was no background filler with melodic keyboards or guitar solo. In order for the song to not be over so quickly adding that verse twice extends the song nicely.
I broke down my process here. You’ll hear how I screwed up as I attempted to get the fingering right with hammer on’s and pull off’s and unfamiliar chord changes.
Listen below to the opening guitar part. I don’t think I play it exactly as it should sound but I think I pull it off just enough so you know what song I am starting to play.
I think people at a party listening from the next room might say, “Hey, is someone playing Led Zeppelin?”
This next part was easier. A familiar place on the fretboard for mostguitar players. Chords D, C and G. These are usually the first chords a person learns. Many songs are played using these chords in different progressions. Given this song came out on Led Zeppelin II in 1969, Jimmy probably knew these chords very well.  The band was still fairly young; though, they were in other bands prior.
I don’t know if you want to call this a verse or chorus but “If the sun refused to shine” it will still be the same song, either way.
That musical section was supposed to go here but apparently I didn’t record that for upload. So, moving on.
The next verse “Kind woman I give you my all” took me to a new place on the fret board: B minor chord with a progression to E minor and A minor. I continue to struggle with it, as you will hear. I love how terrible it sounds. If only you could have seen and heard my frustration as I was recording this.
Then we go back to familiar ground with C, G and D. See?  Same three chords as before, just in a different order.  Chris Cornell and I liked this “Little drops of rain” verse and strumming pattern so much, we play it twice in our renditions.
Ok, I took it from his rendition of the song. And I can’t truly say how much he liked that strumming pattern.
The process was happening and I was getting better. Somewhat. But it still wasn’t sounding like I wanted it to. Something was missing other than the lack of skill from my playing.
I hit the Flanger pedal (I use Boss), strummed and smiled.  There was the missing ingredient.  Such a melodic sound that ups the ante on any chord progression.
I stomped my distortion pedal (my newly purchased ) and played around.  The mix of flanger and distortion transported me to what my version of this song would be.
See what I’m taking about?  I knew right then and there this was going to be my rendition. However, since I decided I reached the deadline for this post, I laid down a rough cut of the guitar so I could add vocals.
There were a few lyrical faux pas’s. I may go back to clean it up later and add drums. Process is art.
So, here is my rough cut of Thank You, rock rendition.
Nate

Unheard Songs Below the Iceberg

After listening to James Altucher’s podcast #340 where he interviewed Don McLean, I got to thinking about music. Don McLean is the guy who wrote and sang American Pie. Of course, he’s had other hits but that is the one everybody knows.
Don is 72 years old and still touring. That is something that should give hope to those of us old, budding artists. However, he made a statement that a person who wants to make it in the music biz needs to do it by age 25 or they “ain’t making it”. He said “young people want a hero”.  They need heroes. They want to see people like them close to their age who are making it in the world.
Don said, “Older people don’t need that stuff. Way older people really don’t need that stuff.”
Is that true?
 –
I don’t think so. I don’t think we stop listening to new music as we get older because we stop looking for heroes. We stop listening because new music from new artists is really just the same old stuff covered with shiny new packaging.
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Pop music is like the pointed comment Matthew Mcconaughey said in the movie Dazed and Confusedabout high school girls, “I get older, but they stay the same age.”
Pop music has the standard topics to cover for each new generation: Love, loss and sex.
Pop music is disposable and remanufactured for mass consumption. That’s what makes it popular. Unfortunately,  it obscures our ability to find new, and old, music out there that could be the new anthem of our age. Whatever age we may be at the time.
I believe there are many unknown songs and artists just as deserving of being listened to as much as what we are force fed by popular media. We might be able to find those gems in the disposable media landscape of YouTube and Facebook, but those mediums are geared towards quick, viral videos of fluff. Entertaining, they are. Fulfilling creatively, they are not.
 –
I don’t blame the pop artists. They all have talent and are trying to make a living doing what they love. It is the money machine of the industry that drives the production of the music we hear on the radio. Mass production of cake music. Sweet. Delicious. Made from a musical recipe just like everything that came before it.
 –
I have aged and I don’t have the same issues as when I was in my teens and twenties. I listen to music from my youth because it triggers within me thoughts and feelings of those times. Some good. Some shitty. I feel younger again for a moment. But I am not that age anymore.
 –
Is there creative stuff out there that would appeal to me at my age? If so, does it have a chance to reach me through the mire of pop culture?
 –
My tastes have matured passed the songs that are about love, loss, and sex in the young adult phase of life. If I was exposed to more songs about what it is like to be forty, separated and struggling with parenthood and a new self-identity, then I would totally be listening to that album or radio station.
 –
I may not be looking for heroes like my younger versions but I still need them. I still want them. And I wouldn’t necessarily call them heroes. Maybe, mentors. Or even more precisely, peers.
 –
Some bands from my youth from back in the  90’s are still around making new music and touring, perhaps, more so than they were at the height of their popularity back then. Foo Fighters and Green Day to name two. And who I didn’t see in concert until within the past three years.
 –
The fact they are still producing good music at ages close to 50 years old is a testament that age doesn’t matter for relevancy. It is substance.
 –
Don stated that if we wanted to see how good songs were made we would have to look back and listen to music before the 1980’s. I don’t think that is accurate. Plenty of good and great songs have been written since then.
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I will agree that good music will stand the test of time and if you to go back to music before the 80’s, you will see that every band and artist after that were influenced by the blues and rock gods of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
 –
Over the years, I have thought about how much music has been made over the decades that has gone unlistened to.  We know the hits but that is only the tip of the musical iceberg. Due to the push for the next person to be heard and the next hit song to be played on the airwaves, we miss out on so much.
 –
And we all have a chance to be heard now.  Our voice and art can be put out there much more easily. There are so many of us creatives that want to be heard. I want to be heard; otherwise, I’d write all this in a private journal.
 –
Hell, I even wrote a post a while back all but asking for people to start a dialogue on my site.
 –
We scream this through the Internet using social media venues, “Pay attention to me. Listen to me so I can believe that my ideas and voice mean something. Comment below. Give a Like. Copy is link to post on another site you visit.”
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So many of us have things to say and we want someone to listen to and acknowledge our work, so that we feel self-worth.
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Don had a great comment that if we put beautiful stuff in us, we’ll get beautiful stuff out.  I believe that goes for a lot of things in life. Good art. Good music. Good thoughts. We reap what we sow. There is a reason for that saying.
 –
I make my art under the iceberg. There is a lot of art made under here by a lot of people and it is worth checking out.  Maybe I’ll check out some of Don McLean’s other songs located under here.
 –
And here you are. Thanks for stopping by under the iceberg.
 –
Nate

Music Post 009: Package Thief

Music Post 009

Finally, my rough cut of Superchunk’s Package Thief. It was a long time in the making. Well over the week time limit I’m supposed to give myself.

I used YouTube (song video), iTunes (song download), and Songsterr (song chords) as my research references.

Superchunk is such an obscure band from the 90’s that I was surprised to find their song on Songsterr. It was a huge help with finding out the chord progression.

If you are unfamiliar with Songsterr, just Google it and you’ll see that it is a site that helps you learn a song by showing you the chords as the song plays.

I texted a copy of my finished product to my friend who is a Superchunk fan and he dug it. Probably because he’s my friend. He said he sounded darker than the original. It may be that the guitar has a deeper distorted sound from the original.

My plan is to make the songs my renditions, so I guess I accomplished that.

This is a rough cut with many warts. It is complete and I’m moving on to my next song.

Enjoy.

Nate

Music Post 008

Music Post 008

The upcoming post of the Superchunk cover song is close at hand. But I decided to take a listen to some other music avenues I had ventured down last summer.

I had been thinking about the morning recordings I used to do with my unplugged electric guitar and my iPhone Voice Memos recording app. It was a thing I did. Another form of music doodles. I came across this little three minute ditty. It is a rough recording of a very melodic tune. Long enough to be a full song if lyrics were put to it, but I think it stands well on its own as a musical number.

I just wish I could remember the chords I played. There is a part in the song that could be considered the chorus that sounds like two guitars: rhythm and lead. I am impressed. It sounds pretty awesome. I almost can’t believe it’s me playing. If not for the small imperfections I would say it was someone else.

However, I need to shut that part of my thinking down and claim this crafted project that is mine. This is my song. This is me playing. I can get it right sometimes.

Enjoy

Nate

Progress in Steps

In my last post I mentioned I would post my process as art when working on recording my weekly song. Though, I have made progress on my next music post I am not able to post a snippet yet. Recording in GarageBand on my iPad 3 makes posting a snippet of music cumbersome.

However, I post this as a way to keep myself concurrent with previous posts, so as not to come across as some who posts on a whim then moves on to the next irrelevant post with no consistency among my writings.

How could I chart my progress in self-fulfillment if I’m posting whatever whenever?

I don’t even know if self-fulfillment is such a thing. How could a self be fulfilled? If I were ever to be full then why would I continue to do anything? I want to continue to learn. So if that is the case, I guess I will never be fulfilled.

So, with that said: In my never ending quest to fill myself, I was able to figure out the timing for the rhythm guitar on that pesky Superchunk song “Package Thief”. I recorded the rhythm guitar and the basic drum beat.

Next, I will add more drums to fit with the song changes and then figure in the lead guitar.

Many times today, and in the weeks past, I would tell myself, “I’ll never get this. It’s impossible for me. I need to move on to a new song.”

I was even going to get my kids to help me, but I didn’t. They stayed out of my way, which allowed me the alone time I needed to fight through this process.

Something in my mind kept telling me I could figure this timing out. Just keep going.

So, I kept going.

I am so happy I was able to record what I did and I am so close to getting this song done. I know it will have warts all over it. I’ll wear them with pride.

This song has been kicking my ass for over a month and I kept fighting. I feel better for sticking with it. I have seen and heard the progress.

One step closer to completion.

Nate

 

Time is Pricelss

Your attention and time are the most precious things you have. You have given some of that to me and I appreciate it.

Thank you.

I believe that when time is given to me the best way to show my appreciation is to give my time to you.

I have visited some of the blogs of those who have visited mine. I dove into more than one posting by some of you. I really like a lot of what I have read; especially, those posts where you have shared about yourself and your struggles. The most impressive writings to me have been where you have shared what you have done to be good to you.

Choosing yourself in order to be available to others is an inspiration to me. One of my reasons for writing this blog is to be more honest with myself through my writing. I’m still working on this.

Life is tough and rough and we have to treat ourselves well.

If I don’t stop telling myself “I’m not worthy of things”, then why should I expect anybody else to think me worthy. I say some pretty horrible things to myself. If I were to say those things to my friends, I would not have any friends. If I were to say those things to my kids, I would be a horrible father and my kids’ self-esteem and self-image would crumble. Thinking about that happening to my kids breaks my heart. I would want to punch myself in the face if I said those things to my kids. So, why doesn’t it break my heart when I say those things to me? It does break my spirit. I should probably punch myself in the face for having such negativity towards me.

But physical violence only begets physical violence. We see it happening every day. Negativity begets negativity. It happens in my head all the time. That negativity has kept me from striving to do more. I have backed away from many challenges in my life because I didn’t fully believe I was worth it.

Personal examples in my creative life:

I’ve written two novels and a script for a graphic novel. I’ve attempted to get agents for one of my novels. I even knew someone who worked for a literary agency and she submitted my manuscript. It never went anywhere.

I reached out to a few artists to collaborate on my graphic novel. One artist just stopped communicating with me and another did not get back to me. It never went anywhere.

So, I’ve been knocked down and was left rejected. However, there are two points about the above.
One, I could have done a better job of following up by asking more questions. I wasn’t told my work sucked. I just wasn’t told anything. What else could I think?

Two, my passion level was not high for what I had created and promoted. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my creations to go to the next step. I just didn’t believe in myself enough to advocate more strongly for them. I didn’t give myself enough worth. I didn’t give my work enough worth.

This is something that I recently began to understand about myself. I’m a low-key guy most of the time. I can get heated and excited but mostly I try to keep my “cool”. This is not a good thing when I am trying to promote myself and my creations. How can I get others excited about what I created if I’m not getting excited about it?

I would smack my forehead, if violence didn’t beget violence. And you know what, passion and excitement begets passion and excitement. It’s those mirror neurons everybody is talking about. (You know, everybody.) If I’m acting excited then it is almost (almost) impossible for someone in my presence to not feel a little bit of that and not get a little excited themselves.

Time for low-key Nate to get out of my way to make room for passionate Nate. Excited Nate. Enthusiastic Nate. The Nate who believes his work has worth. My work does have worth.

Your work has worth. Why create it in the first place if it didn’t?

Let’s be good to us. Keep writing. Keep creating. It is worth it.

Nate

 

Music Post 007: Music Doodle

My music posts started out as songs I learned to play in one week. Those posts have been sporadic at best. While that is still an ongoing project, I wanted to also use my music posts for my original songs. This is one such post.

This past Friday I decided to lay down some tracks in GarageBand on my iPad as a way to nurture my inner artist. I wanted to complete a short improvised session from start to finish in one sitting.

The point to this was to make something creative that was a musical equivalent of a doodled drawing.

You know how you might sit down and draw something on a piece of paper, napkin or whatever is near you? The pen or pencil is already in your hand and you absently let your hand move to see what transpires? I kind of wanted to do that musically.

I would strap on the guitar lay down a drum loop and just start doodling.

Sure it was planned out a little. I’ve done planned doodles in the past, too. I used to take doodle breaks while at work. A quick moment to draw something on a 3×3 yellow sticky note. Then I’d take a pic and post it on Twitter with #DoodleBreak.

My plan with the musical doodle was to come up with something that is brand new from start to finish with drums, rhythm guitar, a baseline and lead. It had to be short and simple so it could be done in less than an hour.

So this finished product is just that.

Perhaps, I will try my hand at doodling a complete song with lyrics. Apparently, John Lennon did something similarly and came up with the song Come Together. I’m no John Lennon, but I’ve been writing songs since I was in the fourth grade, so I’ve had a little practice at it.

I’ve even have some recordings of original songs, which I will post in the future.

Enjoy this one for now.

Nate

My Artist’s Way

The awesome book by Julie Cameron The Artist’s Way was a gift to me by my wife, with whom I am separated. We still love and care for each other and continue to offer support in many ways. This kind of relationship with an ex is crucial, especially since we have two young children together.

She knows my desire to be a writer who can make a living wage from my creative endeavors, so she was kind to give me this book by Julia Cameron.

I had been searching for a means to get myself back into writing daily. Writing creatively and with purpose.

I am more fresh in the mornings to do my writing and I know that is the best time to do it, but I have lacked the discipline to get up and do it. I was unable to focus my mind on purpose. I kept putting it off for years.

I would still write. I had written a few new short stories for a writing class I took back in the fall of 2016. That was over a year ago. I haven’t finished a story since.

My mind flows with ideas of stories, a podcast with my kids, and a podcast for myself. I thought of editing a young adult novel I had written many years ago that has been in the editing stage for just as long.

I just could not focus or find a way to get my mind to stop wandering the trail of “I’ll get to it if these particular things are in order.”

Excuses.

Then I got Julia’s book. I read the first chapter on the basic tools. The two most important tools being the Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date. They are crucial, according to Julia, if I was to truly let my creativity flow.

That was one of the most powerful chapters I have read in any book in a very long time. Years ago, I had read a book about writing and it had suggested that I write three pages a day double spaced and soon I would have a completed novel within a of couple months. But I went one step further with that and I wrote three pages a day single spaced. I had completed my first adult novel in a month and a half.

It felt great to have accomplished that feat that I had been wanting to do for so long. I spent another month or so editing and revising. I gave it to two friends and an aquantance to read. They gave good feedback. I attempted to get an agent and even knew someone who worked for an agent but I was met with rejection.

That is besides the point. The point is that I had disciplined myself to write everyday in the morning and I finished a novel.

The young adult novel came a few years later, but I wrote that whenever I had a moment to write. I also finished a script for a graphic novel around that same time. For both of those, I had an outline that helped to guide my writing and so wrote whenever I got a moment to type something up.

It also helped that I worked at a job where I had a lot of down time and access to a computer.

So, all this rambling. Sorry.

My point is that over the past few years I didn’t have the discipline to get up in the morning to write. I didn’t have the outlines for a story. I had nothing.

Then I read one chapter in The Artist’s Way and it changed the way I thought about the process of writing.

Two things: writing three morning pages in a note book, front page only, and take two hours out of my week to treat the artist within me to something artsy.

Starting December 27th, I got up at 6:30am and wrote my first three pages. The best part of this is that it is stream of conscious writing. All I have to do is just start writing. No expectations. No direction. Just write. Like going for a run to get back in shape. No direction. Just run to build up the cardio.

So I started running. I’ve written everyday since.

I took myself on my first Artist’s Date to the Philly Art Museum the day after New Year’s.

I’ve started to edit my young adult novel two chapters in the evenings that I don’t have the kids. I don’t have them this weekend so I will be editing more chapters at B&N on Saturday. It will be my artist’s date this week.

I’ve only read the first two chapters of The Artist’s Way. The next chapter is Week 2. I’m not sure when I will get to that chapter. And it doesn’t matter to me right now if or when I get to that next chapter. All I know is that I am being good to my artists right now by doing these two simple things. Those two simple things have made a huge impact on how I think about myself as a writer and have freed him.

There is another book I have read over these past few weeks that has presented me with a new way to think about myself and the world with which I interact. It is Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. I’ll post about that another time.

My next post will be another of my music posts, but this one will be different. It will be a song I composed this evening as a way to let my inter musician out to play a little.

Stay tuned for that.

Nate

Here I Go Again: Music Post 006

 

Here I Go Again by Whitesnake was a pinnacle song of the 80’s hair band invasion. I considered Whitesnake a Heavy Metal band but looking back maybe they weren’t.

My criteria for a band to be Heavy Metal was for memebers to have long hair, wear spandex pants, sing in falsetto, have one song that rocked with shredding guitar solos and one song that was a ballad. Whitesnake met that criteria.

Having Tawny Kitaen sprawl across the hood of a moving car put the cap on the needed criteria for the band to solidify their Heavy Metal status. It also helped with the popularity is this song.

I did not included that bit of criteria with my version of the song; thus, keeping it from solidifying my spot in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame.

I had not posted a song in a long time. I was supposed to be posting weekly a song I learned in a week. I got caught up in trying to make the recordings sound close to perfect. That totally defeated my purpose of posting songs with mistakes included.

I had practiced this song for a bit longer than a week; though, it doesn’t sound like it. I still seem to get too distracted with thoughts about how I’m playing while I’m playing and it screws me up. Fingers don’t go or move where I want them to.

Well, at least I posted.

The prompt for this post was born at lunch the other day with my brother and sister-in-law. The conversation turned to my plans for the rest of the day. I didn’t have an answer. We had been talking about our creative endeavors and my blog, so this primed me to think about posting a song.

Thank you, guys, for helping me get motivated to post this. As I say, warts and all.

Nate