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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Hell, I even wrote a post a while back all but asking for people to start a dialogue on my site.
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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.
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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.
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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

 

It’s Been Awhile

I have been stuck in my head about a lot of things since my last post because much has been happening.

Financial issues. Moving further in the divorce process. Continuously listening to podcasts on improving my belief in my self-worth. I could not prioritize what to post.

As I type this now, I have no idea what or when I wrote and posted last. I’ll be sure to check on that after I post this.

One of the things I haven’t posted and has been poking me to be let out is Music Post. I haven’t recorded any music. Not even a music doodle, which was my last Music Post.

I’ve been learning a new song but I continue to not post because I don’t like the warts this song has. I am struggling with the timing of the chord changes and how to sing the lyrics. It sounds more like a train wreck than an attempt at a song by a musical novice.

Perhaps, I could post my struggle? Post my process of working on this song?

That would be different. That would allow me to post the train wreck and to formulate it into a piece of art. I’ve read on James Altucher’s blog, and heard him say a few times on his podcast, that “process is art”.

If I can hold myself to use that term, I think I could post my recent musical struggle.

The song I am struggling to learn is Package Thief by Superchunk. It is basically power chords. I just can’t seem to get the timing right.

Take a listen here https://youtu.be/GRQbuWxi0SI to the original song.

I’m not interested in learning the lead guitar part, just the chords and lyrics.

I’m liking this “process is art” approach the more I think about it. I think I will begin this approach this weekend. It is my weekend with the kids and I can get them to help.

Seems I just needed to write this out to gain a better perspective on this issue.

I am thankful for having this space and to make this available to anybody who might find this helpful in their own creative struggle.

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

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

 

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.

Nate

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).