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

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. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Embers Aglow

Happy Friday to my fans, listeners, and random stumblers upon this site. Welcome to the thing that I do when I'm not doing other stuff. 

Today's songs that I would like to share with you all come from Embers, which I released in January of this year. While Original Miles remains by far my most streamed song on Spotify, these are some other tracks from this album that you might also like:

Mixtape. This song is about the delicate art of making a mixtape.

Tunnel Vision (Out of Habit) This song is about why it is important to get news from multiple sources.

Going Nowhere. This song is about growing up in a small town.

We Are All That We Need. This song is about companionship.

Thanks for listening. Be sure to exercise your mind, body and soul, today and every day. If available where you live, I also recommend some fresh air and sunshine. When out in nature or anywhere else, remember that we are all just expressions of life, all of which serve an important function and are products of the same incredible universe.

Friday, August 13, 2021


Happy Friday, everyone. I've been doing exhausting physical labor in the sun for much of the day, so I'll keep this brief. In fact, I was actually thinking that you should just scroll down toward the bottom of the page, where you'll find links to all of my previous posts. I've written 170 of them. This makes 171. There's bound to be something interesting in there. 

I have other blogs as well. The links to a few of them are in the left column near the top of the page. Thanks for reading my work and listening to my music. You are the reason I do it. Well, that and my innate compulsion to create.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Taking the Lead

When I first record a song, I sometimes leave room in there for a lead guitar part. However, by the time the song is done, I have usually cut that part completely. More often than not, after listening to a song repeatedly during the mixing process, the lead part starts to seem a bit gratuitous. Here are three songs where that was not the case, so I left it in.

First, we have Life Preserver, from my 2017 album Good Night, Fahrenheit. This is probably my favorite lead part in any of my songs. I remember that it took three takes before I had one that I liked, and that was the one that I stuck with. This song is about wanting to save the people we love. If this isn't "dad rock," then I don't know what is. (About two minutes in is where I tear shit up.)

Next, we have Parallel Lines, from Embers, which I released in January of this year. This is one of those songs that started as a banjo riff, and then I added other layers to it until it became a song. It's about sharing the experiences that comprise a life. (The lead guitar part comes a little over two and a half minutes in.) 

Finally, here is Plastic Flowers, from Petrichor, which I just released in June of this year. This song is about reimagining the American Dream to adapt to a changing cultural context, just like we always have. In fact, this is exactly what makes it so resilient. (The lead part comes in just past the three minute mark.)

Thank you for listening and for supporting independent art. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Philosopher's Rock

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are all about big picture kind of stuff. Think of it as philosophy with rhyming words and musical accompaniment. As you can see, that PhD of mine is paying for itself already. 

These songs were all among the first that I recorded when I started producing my own music about four and a half years ago. As such, the learning curve in my work may be rather apparent. I've had to figure a lot of this stuff out as I go, so I tend to think that my newer albums, like Embers and Petrichor (both released this year) have significantly better production value than the songs that I am sharing with you today. Nonetheless, I hope you will agree that the songs themselves are good, as are the ideas behind them. 

The first of today's songs is called Particle, from my 2017 album Weather Patterns. This song is about contextualizing our place in a very big universe. It is inspired by looking at the nighttime sky with the understanding that just about any one of those stars could host a planet on which some intelligent being is looking up at their own sky and feeling all alone in the unfathomable emptiness of space.   

    When I look up at the stars
    So far away
    God, I feel so small
    Who am I, anyway?
    Just a particle of light
    In the sky tonight
    Is that a shooting star
    Or a satellite?

The second song that I would like to share with you today is called Cold Blooded, from Good Night, Fahrenheit, which I also released in 2017. This song is about how human beings are fundamentally social animals, and that sustained connection and regular interaction with one another are basic human needs. It's up to us to keep each other warm.

    We are cold blooded
    Holding onto each other
    We are cold blooded...

Track three of today's selections is called Still Life, which also comes from Weather Patterns. This song is about recognizing how big and diverse the world actually is. Even our own little planet is so large that a person could never possibly see it all, so perhaps the best we can do is to share our experiences with one another through artistic expression.   

    We're just living in a still life
    We waste away our days and dream away our nights
    There's got to be something better than this
    But what we've never seen, we can never miss

Thanks for listening. I hope that every decision that you make today comes not from your ego, but from a place of love, as our choices are the closest thing we have to any real sense of control over our destinies. Beyond that, we are little more than reactive particles floating around in an incomprehensibly vast universe.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Invisible Audience

Happy Friday to my fans, listeners and people who have never heard of me but somehow landed upon this site. Welcome to what I do. I hope you dig it. 

Today's songs that I would like to share with you are all tracks that I practice regularly but have never performed live. They all come from the two albums that I released in the first half of this year, both of which I wrote during quarantine. For what it's worth, I also wrote a novel in that period, which I am presently revising. 

Welcome Back, Jack Kerouac comes from Embers, released in January. It's about the role of improvisation and experimentation in art. Fitting with this theme, I wrote the lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness and recorded the lead guitar track in one take. The entire process of writing and recording this song took about a half hour... which is fast, even for me. In all honesty, I didn't really like this song when I first wrote it (probably because I scribed it so quickly), but it has since grown on me considerably. 

    Where have you been?
    Were you on the road again?
    Say hello to Carlo, Moriarty and Old Bull Lee
    We're still looking for the beat

Next, from Petrichor, which I released in June, we have Dandelion Wine (If Only...). This might be my favorite song of mine at the moment, which changes fairly often as certain songs work their way in and out of my regular rotation. This song is fun to play on both guitar and piano. I'm kind of proud of the rhyme scheme in this one, too. It's about making the most of what you have, which more or less describes my entire creative process when it comes to making music (and movies, for that matter).

    Planted like a wallflower
    Sipping dandelion wine
    Daydreaming about tomorrow
    When everything is fine
    If only...
    If only in my mind

Here's another one from Embers. To date, Original Miles is by far my most played song on Spotify, with over 50,000 streams and counting. This one is also fun to play on both piano and guitar, although the DIY-studio version is pretty much all electric piano and upright bass (which was also played on a keyboard for this one), with no guitar whatsoever. This song is about loving each other despite our inevitable imperfections.   

    These are all original miles
    Some city, mostly highway
    You could even say
    I've been around a while

Finally, here's one more track from Petrichor. It's called Holiday. I have yet to work out a guitar arrangement for this song, but if I'm sitting down at a piano, then there's a pretty good chance that I'll play this one at some point or another. The chorus is particularly fun. It's basically about going stir crazy, which, after over a year of quarantine, is probably something that a lot of people can relate to. I also happen to like the way that the drums turned out in this song.  

    Let's take a holiday
    Pack your bags, we'll leave today
    Don't know how long we'll stay
    But I've got to get away, got to get away, get away
    Got to get away, got to get away, get away now!

That is all for now. Thanks for listening and for checking out my blog. You rock.  

If you like my music, please share it, add it to your playlists, and follow me wherever you listen. This is how my songs find their way onto automatically generated playlists and online radio stations.  As a one-man-band, I need and appreciate your help in reaching a broader audience. 

Thank you for supporting art that is not corporately sponsored.