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New Release: Outro in D minor (No.1)

Yeah.. well.. An early version of this was intended to be a song back in the day. There were lyrics. I remember that during a holiday in Rome, Italy, some years ago wandering around the city with the tune in my head working on them. The rhymes… the “scanning”. Some musings on dancing were part of them; “Won’t you teach me to dance?” was a line. I eventually wrote a full set of lyrics down with a view to practice and revision. But it didn’t come to pass. I don’t really know why; I have a suspicion that the lyrics didn’t “scan” right. When sung over the guitar part, it didn’t feel comfortable. Anyway, I had already written down the guitar part and that was how it stayed. Until…

Realising that, like some of my songs that did make the cut, the melody was being defined by what was being played on the guitar. In fact, the guitar “accompaniment” could happily live without something sung on top of it. So, with a little arranging on-the-sly I turned it into a guitar piece: an Outro.

Have a listen here!

Playing, or listening to it now I think I can still hear why it sounded evocative of a dance to me. And why, in Rome, I should cobble something around the idea of dancing, albeit that dancing has never something I’ve done often, been good at, or enjoyed. Maybe that’s why I wanted someone to “teach me”.

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The Purpose of Guitar Practice and Performance

Well that sounds easy enough. Pick up the guitar and practice.. Well. what do you practice?

In my view there – and I admit I say this as a performer – are two types of guitar practice. On the one hand there is the work to get stuff “under the fingers”. That is to say, to memorise and execute the left-hand fingering and right-hand picking. On the other hand, there is the practice of performance. You might say that if you are not playing in public then “practice for performance” is irrelevant to you. That’s not true, in my opinion: what is the point in learning to play something if not to play it to someone? You might reply that you play it to, and for, yourself. For your own pleasure. So you practice and “get it under your fingers” so as to please your own ears. Well, if you succeed and you become virtuosic in your playing you will have endless hours in the echo chamber of your virtuosity. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s the pinnacle and height of the musical spirit: to practice and play the best you can for its own sake. With no audience or applause or criticism. Practice the scales and arpeggios and all the other stuff so you execute a performance with nobody – except yourself – listening.

Every time I play anything on the guitar, it’s not a just a sound. It’s a potential. It’s a preparation for the next sound. And I take into account how it might – one day – be heard by somebody else. Indeed it’s my intention that it is heard by somebody else.

By all means get your stuff under you fingers – but share with others that you did it. And be proud.

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Depression and the Musician (Part 2)

Back in 2007 I wrote about this subject. You can read that post here.

Since then there has been, what seems to me, an increasing willingness of people – I’m thinking here of famous people in the entertainment industry of sports – to “come out” and discuss their experience with depression and it’s insidious sister, anxiety. A lot has changed and these people, advantaged as they might be by their fame and wealth, have nevertheless to be applauded for candour and for exposing their personal vulnerability. Whoever they are and where they come from – it’s not easy.

15 years have passed since I wrote that earlier post and while my experience has evolved, the generality of the experience has not changed: it’s still a challenge. Hitherto, I was able to lean my experience of it as offering a particular way to channel an aspect of my creativity. And maybe, to a certain extent, that had utility. I would certainly not have been able to express myself in song or in music in the way that I did without that experience. Whether it was worth it, or not, is perhaps for others to say.

As I get older, though, I become aware that I’m less able to mitigate against, or compensate for, the symptoms of depression and anxiety with creative drive. I think that’s because simply getting older and whatever powers of creativity I did have are diminishing. I’m not ashamed of this although, of course, I regret it and it makes me frustrated. But I’ll keep on keeping on. As they say. Having reduced powers doesn’t mean I have none left. There are still chords to be played and tunes to be found. I’m certain I’ll still stumble across one or two.

One thing about “depression” is that it’s a relative concept. It entails a previous state. And therefore a future state. A “before” and an “after”. It describes a dip.

I’ll revisit this maybe in 2037. I will, somehow, have been “cured” by then.

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The Tale Of The Fly And A Window

The following took place in the summer, but it has stuck in my mind.

One afternoon, I was laying back resting on my bed after some exercises or guitar practice (can’t remember which) and there was this fly battering against the window. This is not so unusual. A barrier of glass against the open sky is not a phenomenon that is within the gift of a fly’s mind to comprehend. Nor would it matter except that I was lying there and the repeated but irregular tapping of fly against glass became irritating. Two solutions were obvious: swat the fly into oblivion or open the window to let it out. Having respect for all life I opted for the latter. So I got up from the bed, walked over to the window and opened it. I thought that the fly would have responded to the draft of outside air entering the space and would then sense escape and fly to freedom. But, no: it continued to attack the glass of the remaining closed part of the window. So, I opened the window to it’s largest extent. Still the fly seemed determined to ignore the yawning path to freedom and persist in its focus on attacking the small remaining wedge of window. It was not until I used my hands to swat / guide the fly to the yawing open gap that it flew – in my mind somewhat leisurely – to god knows where…

l closed the window and assumed my previous reclining position on the bed and thought about my encounter with the fly and the window.

Why did it not notice and use the escape routes offered?

Is it only the fly that is oblivious to the obvious?

What am I missing?

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New Release: Outro in C minor

Have a listen here.

Would I call this contemplative? Or merely a musical musing around a couple of keys? C minor is a strange key for any fingerstyle guitar player to wander about in. But, hey, I was able to find an escape route. Clearly this could never have been a song and was never intended to be – except that often I’ve found noodling on my guitar without any assumptions of what I was going to end up with did sometimes hit upon a serendipity moment and a song-like melody would emerge. But this one always seemed to want to remain a guitar piece unencumbered with ambitions for lyrics to be pasted on top of it. So I let it wander off to see what it could find. So is it contemplative? Certainly. But as I listen to it the predominance of the “Scotch snap” rhythmic turn reminds me of a slow drunken stagger along a street in the wee small hours under lamplight. So, maybe a maudlin meander home after a night of … well, what exactly?

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New Release: Outro in E minor (No.3)

Here’s a jaunty little tune! Fun to play and, I hope, just as much fun to hear. Again, the piece is working together of a couple of things that I came across separately although, more or less, during the same few weeks. The first tune that you hear did have some lyrics attached but I ended up believing that it wasn’t really song-like – so I screwed them up and threw them in the bin. The other tunes that you hear could never have had words pasted over them at all! So here we are: worked together in blissful synergy as one of my Outros.

There’s a brightness and an optimism here I think that I like. Also, maybe, a sense of humour.

Why don’t you go over and have a listen here. Tell me what you think!

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Guitar Player’s Thumb & Guitar Player’s Shoulder

All right, I’ve got issues with both of these. Not crippling or stopping me playing but in need of care and sorting if possible. The thumb in question is my left – or fretting – hand. It’s a tendon thing probably caused by poor posture / technique over the years. I can avoid pain if I’m careful with stretches or barre chords – especially barre chord with stretches! Some of these that I play need a bit of strength to hold down and it can be easily overdone. So I just need to be aware and take care.

This shoulder thing is probably again caused by poor posture. Think about the picking – for me, the right – arm slumped over the body of the guitar for extended periods and it won’t be a surprise. No wonder it’s caused an issue. I feel it now not just when I’ve been playing but it also affects arm movement and strength generally. So I needed to get it properly diagnosed and see if there was anything to be done to mitigate it. A few days ago I took a trip to a local sports physiotherapist and she concluded that there was no problem with rotator cuff or bursitis (which I was concerned it might be); rather is seemed that there was some “tightness” my rhomboid muscles in my upper back. She prescribed me some exercises and a further appointment in a couple of weeks.

Of course, I know this is a common issue with guitar players and players of other instruments. I know I’m not alone. I guess that apart from the direct cause of playing guitar (with a poor posture!) that it’s also to expected of an ageing body. That said, I have been swimming a lot over the years and almost daily have done other stretching exercises so I am a bit disappointed – I naively thought I might avoid this sort of thing. But, nah! Ho-hum.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.