Friday, September 3, 2021

Book-Smart

This is the only kind of advertisement that you'll ever see on this site. 

I just noticed that the paperback edition of my book happens to be on sale right now on everybody's favorite internet retail monopoly. Part of the proceeds will help an absurdly wealthy supervillain take joyrides in space. 



In any case, if you ever thought about checking it out, this is the cheapest I've ever seen any version of my book sell for--and it's about $150 cheaper than the hardcover edition, which works out to almost a dollar per page. In contrast, the paperback version is currently selling for about $11.

I have absolutely no control over any of that stuff, nor do I earn much of anything from each sale. I simply want people to appreciate my work and share it with others. Besides, this is some grade-A knowledge here, going for the bargain price of about two sandwiches.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Scientific Pitch

If there is a secret to my sound as a musician, it's that I tune my instruments to A=432 hz. Even my piano is tuned this way, which was quite an undertaking. Mostly, I think that 432 hz (sometimes referred to as "scientific pitch") just sounds better. I also find that it's easier to sing along with, plus it seems to align better with the ambient noises all around me: birds, crickets, rain, passing cars, etc. Considering that most of the time when I play music, I am not plugged in, these ambient sounds tend to come through more than perhaps they would otherwise. 



However, my first three albums: Weather Patterns, Mechanical Bull, and Good Night, Fahrenheit (all released in June 2017) each contain multiple tracks that feature a glockenspiel in the background. As I could not tune this instrument to 432 hz, I ended up tuning everything else to the standard 440 ("concert pitch") to match it. Even though the glockenspiel is not in all of the songs, for the sake of continuity, every instrument on these albums is tuned as if it was. 

Conversely, on my three more recent albums: Better Days (2019), Embers (2021), and Petrichor (2021), everything is tuned to A=432 hz. This rendered the pitch correction in GarageBand virtually useless, but I was able to figure out a workaround that I used on some of the backing vocal tracks. Whenever I perform live, even though I often play tracks from my first three albums, my instruments are always in scientific tuning.


There is a lot of debate about whether or not -8 hz really makes a difference. Personally, I think that it's subtle, but to my ear, it does sound better than concert tuning. As a one-man-band, since I don't have to worry about making sure that my bandmates are all in tune with me, I just do what sounds good to me. That more or less describes my general approach to songwriting as well. 


Saturday, August 28, 2021

B-Side Myself

The other day, I went to practice a song of mine that I had not played in a while, and I had to stop for a minute to remember how to form one of the chords in the chorus. In my own defense, it happens to be a chord that I have never used in any context outside of this particular song. For all intents and purposes, I invented the damn thing. Still, this was enough to make me think that maybe it was time to write some of this stuff out, if only so that this doesn't happen again. 

To that end, yesterday, I went through and added a bunch of handwritten notes to my songbook, which comprises about seventeen thousand words in sixty-four songs (not counting the one instrumental track). Remembering how to play all of them without forgetting any of the words or music can be a bit of a challenge, but I also think that it's a good exercise in terms of keeping my brain ninja sharp. 

I wrote, recorded and produced Embers and Petrichor (both 2021) during the pandemic and have never played any of these songs before a live audience. I do practice them, of course, but often, when I am rehearsing, there are only about twenty or so songs that regularly find their way onto my setlists. Basically, I have certain songs that I tend to go back to every other day, whereas the remaining 2/3 of my catalog gets left out by virtue of the fact that I cannot practice for six hours every day. My fingertips and vocal cords would likely not allow it, plus I have other things to do. 

Today, I would like to share with you some of those songs that I tend to forget about. I don't mean to imply that they are bad or anything, just that they rarely find their way onto my setlists, whether I am rehearsing or performing. These are actually some of my favorite songs that I have written, even if I don't play them nearly as much as some of the others. They were also the songs that tripped me up a little when I was going through my full catalog of music yesterday, precisely because I don't practice them as often. Many required that I scribble some additional notes in my songbook.

By notes, I mean descriptions and diagrams of how to play the chords and riffs. I am self-taught. As such, my ability to read and write musical notation is pretty horrible, and my limited knowledge of music theory often functions more as an afterthought. It takes me a minute to figure out what key a song that I wrote is in, because when I wrote it, I wasn't thinking about that. In fact, I wasn't really thinking at all. I was just playing music. 

Three of today's songs happen to be the closing tracks on their respective albums.

First, we have Life/Time, from my 2017 album Good Night Fahrenheit. It's about how sometimes things only make sense years later in retrospect. This is the one with the strange chord that I have only ever played in this song, which I had written down as "Weird D." I have since drawn a picture of the fingering for my own reference. 


    It takes a lifetime to get it right
    And only sometimes do we find out why
    It takes a lifetime, takes a lifetime...

The next song that I would like to share with you today comes from my 2021 album Embers. This one really isn't all that complicated, although it does have some unusual chords whose names I do not know. It's called Mixtape, and it's about expressing yourself through someone else's art. The bassline comes to you by way of a Telecaster that I ran through an octave pedal, as I found that I can play it much faster that way. 

 

    I made a mixtape on my radio
    It can be your soundtrack wherever you go
    I hope these songs will remind you of me
    The good times we've had and those yet to be
    Please take this mixtape when you go...

The third song for today is called Go It Alone, from my 2019 album Better Days. This song is about companionship, and how sharing our experiences can make life's journey far more enjoyable. For whatever reason, I think that I have only played this song in front of an audience once ever. It also contains a chord that is unique to this song, at least as far as my repertoire is concerned. I have no idea what this one is called either, but I drew myself a decent diagram.


    I will take you home, take you home
    So you don't have to go it alone
    I will take you where you want to go
    So we don't have to go it alone...

Finally, I would like to share with you the closing track from Petrichor (2021), called Wasted. This song is about addiction, and the lives that it leaves in ruin. It's one of those songs that is very difficult to recreate as a solo artist on acoustic guitar, as the composition is built upon several different riffs working together (which may be the influence of The Cure shining through). In other words, to play this one live, I almost need a band of supporting musicians to help with the instrumentation. I may indeed pursue such a thing at some point, but at the moment, pretty much the only way to hear any of these songs is by listening to the self-produced studio version. This might be my favorite ending to a song/album that I have produced. 


    It's not what you anticipated
    I know it's always complicated
    But everyone would be so devastated
    Another day, another night, another life is wasted...

Thanks for listening to my music and checking out my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it. As always, thank you for supporting independent art. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday is My Day

[Happy Friday. Here are a couple more reposted articles. Enjoy.]

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When I was a graduate student, the only way that I could make sure that I got everything done was to compartmentalize my time. Monday through Thursday, on two of those days, I taught during the day, and on the other two, I was in a graduate seminar, just as I was for one or two evenings every week during the school year. For about seven years, this was more or less my life.

Throughout both my MA and PhD program, I had to read a book per week for just about every one of my classes. This wasn't usually fun reading, either. It was dense academic prose, where I had to translate everything into common parlance, writing in the margins of the book with a mechanical pencil just to make sense of it. You might be amazed at how much can be reduced to three or four words on the side the page and still make the same exact point.

As you may have gathered, most days of the week, I was pretty busy. In addition to the reading, almost every one of these courses required that I write two thirty-page papers each, which involved research, outlining, thinking through, revising, etc. They also had to be good. One time, my computer died about a week before one of these papers was due, and that one week probably aged me by a year or two. I have since learned to back up my work on a regular basis.  

I kept Saturdays and Sundays reserved for writing lesson plans and grading papers. Not all day, necessarily, but at least part of it. Sometimes, I also had some reading to catch up on, more words to scribble in the margins. I was paying for this education, so I wasn't going to not read the books. Six days a week, whenever the house was reasonably quiet, I was either reading or writing. That left me with Fridays. 

Every major religion has a day of rest, so I figured that even grad students deserve that. Friday was my recharge day, which I did by playing music. See? You were thinking that I was accidentally posting this to the wrong blog, didn't you? Nope. It's about music, after all. 

As referenced in another autobiographical article that I recently reposted, it was on these Fridays that I wrote music with a friend and jammed with him on the porch or in the dining room. After he moved to California, I continued the tradition, and pretty soon, these were my songwriting days. I'd throw riffs together that I had come up with years apart and on opposite sides of the planet, and I would craft them into songs, one at a time. Plus I kept coming up with more. Once I got into it, it became a lot of fun.  

A musician has to practice, so I figured that I might as well practice songs that I wrote. Before I knew it, I had a shitload of songs. I'm not sure what that converts to in metric.

My Friday tradition led to the creation of all three of the albums that I released in 2017:


Over the course of about two years, I wrote thirty-three songs (plus a couple of throwaways that may resurface someday). I also wrote a dissertation, which later became a book... and they say that if you play my music backwards, you can even hear me typing. 

I recognize that a lot of these songs could probably be re-done by other artists and sound a hell of a lot better, but I was just learning how to make an album as I went along. I still do, in fact. Either way, prior to my Friday sessions, these songs did not exist, and one is infinitely more than zero. Always remember that.

Thanks for listening. Happy Friday. Enjoy it. It's yours. 


Break Up/Break Down

Once again, today's songs that I would like to share with you are united by a common theme. It seems like just about every songwriter has a repertoire of break-up songs. Here are a few of mine.

The first one is called Petals in the Grass. It comes from my latest album, Petrichor (2021). The chorus goes like this:

    All these petals in the grass
    Can't answer the question that I asked
    Does she love me? Does she love me not?
    If she doesn't love me, then what else have I got?
    It used to be a daisy, I'm going crazy
    Somebody save me before I stop




Next, we have The Fool, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit

    I was a fool for you
    And everything you do
    You had me under your spell
    And I couldn't tell heaven from hell(o)




And here is Goodbye, from Mechanical Bull, which I also released in 2017:

    Everything looks different
    From behind closed eyes
    There is no innocence 
    In a lie that's in your mind
    So goodbye...




That is all for now. Thanks for listening.