Category Archives: Making Good Music

The Feel versus The Mechanics of Music

Today I want to explore this topic call the feel and the mechanics of music. It is two elements that go hand in hand but they are very different components. One makes the sound, the other one makes the feeling.

When a note is being played in music, there’s the sound. The sound can be of different pitch, frequency or quality. It is heard but it’s not felt. The sound is only felt after the sound is being made.

The feeling of music is more important because it’s the part of the music that moves us. We cannot have the feel of music without the mechanics of music. And you cannot have the mechanics of music without it generating a feel of it.

Why is it better to have BBKing play one note than a teenage shredder play many notes? Because BBKing’s one note generate more feel than the latter’s many notes. The difference between both their playing is one is confident and not in a hurried, the other is nervous trying to prove him/herself.

The quality of the sound is how the note sounds, the quality of music is the feeling it translates to the listener after it is played.

That’s why it is important to observe the spaces between the notes and study how it impacts us than the note itself. The note is important to invoke different feeling by how’s it played, but it is the space in between that gives room for the feeling.

John Cage wrote a piece music called 4’33” filled with complete 4’33” worth of silence. For the listener, if that silence is lead to a feeling of peace then that’s music to them. Or if the listener is lead to irritation because no notes are heard, then its music in itself by what it caused the listener to feel.

Of course, I’m speaking in extreme terms because that piece is a controversial piece and discussion on it and arguments can be made of it for days. But it’s to prove the point that the feel of music when nothing is heard is a key component to music.

Let’s explore further this concept using different effects we can make to the notes we play. These are common effects we can make either naturally or through using guitar pedals.

1) Vibrato

Play a note and play with a strong vibrato. How does it impact the note and the after effect?

2) Tremolo

A tremolo is similar to a vibrato but yet different. If you could play it in your instrument, try it and what do you think is different from a vibrato? One deals with intensity, the other with frequency. It’s different and how different does it make you feel.

3) Distortion

When a note is distorted, it will sound harsh and intense. What is the feeling after hearing it? How does that compare to a normal undistorted note?

4) Compression

Now play a normal note but apply compression so that it sustains longer. How does that impact you? Are the silence and the space delayed? How does that delay impact how you feel?

5) Major chords

After the major chord is played, the after effect is the feeling of nice, yes that’s music. Fundamental and as simple as it can be.

6) Minor chords

After the minor chord is played, the after effect is the feeling of melancholy. That’s because of the quality of the flatted 3rd give us that effect.

7) Jazz 7th chords

Flatted 7th note in a jazz chord is what causes that pleasant “jazzy” feel after it’s heard.

8) Delay

Now let’s explore delay. The delay effect is when a note is being played and the effect echoes that note and in subsequent lower intensity as it’s repeated. That intense feeling after the note is repeatedly felt and in lesser and lesser intensity is what makes the effect so pleasant.

Now later, we are going to explore your signature sound. The question is will you choose this to be your signature sound? But before that, let’s ask us how everything we hear makes us feel.

People don’t enjoy music anymore because people don’t let the music move them.

Sometimes because of our hurried contemporary life, we hardened ourselves. We keep feelings in so that we don’t appear weak by being impacted by something that is seemingly trivial as sound. But the sound is not trivial, it is a gift from God and it should affect us. Now the question is how it affects us. The mechanics of music tells us how it played and how it sounds but it’s the feeling of music that makes it enjoyable and a pleasure to be a part of.

From today on, value the feeling of music as you value the mechanics of music when you play it.

It makes a big difference to the quality of life in the world that God has given to us. One that is filled with beautiful sounds and beautiful feelings it invokes.

I hope you enjoy this article and find it insightful to how you hear music from here on. Thanks and I would love to hear your comments about this topic. Please share how sounds affect how you feel?

Great Sites To Learn To Play Good Music

OK, I started a guitar site but I’m for not just playing the guitar but be musical and play music. Here are some great sites to learn to play good music, picked from sites that impressed me a lot.


Justin Guitar

Want to learn to play guitar. Justin Guitar is the one stop shop. One of the most popular guitar sites run by a great guy with a very approachable happy attitude. Love sites that are free and only if you’ve been served and found it helpful to make a donation.


Zebra Keys

Many free lessons for learning piano. I like the way the introductory class is about learning the black keys. Having known how the black and white keys on the keyboard is organised, you get a foundation of how every key in the keyboard works. Simple and effective.


Teoría

Hundreds of classes, exercises and articles available for learning theory. I learned it from a book, you can now do the same online.


Scott Bass Lessons

The bass version of Justin Guitar, Scott runs an amazing site for bass guitarist from beginners to advance. Great place to start to groove at the lower registers.


The Ukulele Site

It’s a ukulele store but they have a great section on resources you can learn to play it. Well organised and very attractive video lessons.

That’s it. All the sites that has all the good stuff.

I will be updating this page regularly when I discover others that are better than this list I have.

So let me know which sites work for you and how it has served you?

How Do I Improve My Guitar Playing?

The simplest answer to the question of how do I improve my guitar playing is practice. Yes, we heard these 3 words enough “Practice, practice, practice”. We know and are all guilty of not doing enough. But when we do play or practice, how do we ensure we’ll improve? Is there a strategy how to practice such that it’ll improve our guitar playing?

Of course, there are so many ways to do it. But most of the time, it’s very technical. I believe highlighting those technical requirements stresses more than help. My last post is about setting the right goals to improve our guitar playing and maybe that didn’t help.

So today I want to give you my take how I improve my guitar playing in a very not technical way. You’ll be surprised, a lot of these tips don’t even involve playing. I believe the song, knowing and listening to it is a big key to unlock this. So here are my recommended ways how to improve our guitar playing.

1. Establish Liking Your Basics

Modern western music essentially consists of only 7 notes (or 12 at most). Master these 7 notes., eg. A to G.

Know intimately what is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 note of a song?

What is Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti?

Learn to like those notes as every scale and chords are built on those few notes.

Also learn your major scale and chords. Enjoy playing them. If you enjoy the basics and use it for the most basic of songs (for example”Ba Ba Black Sheep” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. You’ll most definitely improve your guitar playing.


Discover the joy of playing your first song


2. Get Your Confidence To Play Way Up

You have to be sure that there is a music or song, you want to play. A lot of players develop a fantasy of wanting to be a guitar player but do not have a song or music they want to play. It’s not sustainable. It is like for example to want to be a teacher but not passionate about imparting anything specific to the students.

The song and music you want to play is key.

Not only that, but that song has to be ‘you’. You have to own the music before you can get your confidence right.

So many times we play other people’s songs and we imagine we can play it like them. But in all honesty, we can’t and shouldn’t be able to.  Our confidence gets affected.

Get your confidence right in that you have picked a song that is personal to you and that you can call your own. And then believe you can bring it out … your own way. And that’s the basis of the confidence you need.

You are not doing to do it any other way other than your way.

3. Invest In Feeling the Music First Before You Play It

Feel the song by studying it. By studying it, I don’t mean with your intellect or your mind. I mean just listening to it and feeling it.

If you know how the song affects you, you will know how to play it to affect other people. Knowing what is the impact you want to bring across is crucial to playing. So invest in feeling the song first.

One of the strategy of learning to play is to listen to as many versions of the song as possible. I’ve listened to at least a dozen version of Autumn Leaves before I learned to play it. And my guitar playing improve as I feel the music I play (with the guitar) with.

So yes, If the song moves me, I’m ready to invest to play it.

4. Ask How Do You Play The Music Without Using A Guitar

Not yet. Hang on to the guitar first. There is one more step that is still not about the guitar playing yet. It’s still about the song and how you play it without a guitar.

Ask yourself how do you play it if you don’t have a guitar? Maybe you can sing it just with a metronome or a beat. Maybe you can accapella it. Or swing to it with just your body.

It is always good to know the tune and able to hum it or sing it before you start to play it. If you have another way of playing it without the guitar, how will you do it.

I always have a cajon, or a rhythm machine or even a metronome ready to play the song without the guitar.

5. Now With The Guitar, How Should You Play It Better

Now, with a song that you know, feel and are able to play without a guitar, you can bring your guitar into the picture.

With the guitar, explore if I should strum it, pick it, or just tap on it to add to the song you already have in you.

This is a tough part as you will explore the chord progression or the notes to the song. You’ll spend time here but if you do the first few steps, you’ll going to improve how you play already by a mile.

6. Play It Like No Other People

With the guitar, just play it like yourself. Don’t try to imitate anybody. Just be yourself and let the guitar be the instrument you were never born with and never had.

Now that you have it, make it a worthy extension of you. Play with your style and don’t let anyone judge you for how you play it.

What do you think? Does the article help you? If so great, if not, how do you improve on your playing?

How To Write A Song For Beginners

writing songs

Many of us start our learning journey by playing popular songs. These are songs that’s written by others. While it’s a great way to start, it’s not where our musical journey should end. We should in one way or another end with trying to bring the song we have within us out. Today I want to explore “How To Write A Song” for those who are beginning.

Understand the 3 Component of a Song

1. Get The Chord Sequence
2. Compose The Melody
3. Write The Lyrics

Step 1: Pick one way to start and the spend the whole day working on it.

The reason to pick one of the ways above is so that your song has a unique element. That element will gives its a unique flavour that people can remember. Some call it the stickability factor of the song.

Do you know songs with strong stickability factor? I remember my favourite songs either it’s strong melody or riff (Wham’s Careless Whisper), or some interesting or memorable lyrics (Sting’s Russian) or a swinging chord sequence (Muddy Water’s Hoochie Coochie Man).

It’s also a good way to start to get us out of the songwriting rut. I recall many times when I’m dry in my creativity juice, I realise I’m only dry in 1 or 2 of the 3 components and not in all 3 areas. So having to choose an alternative way to start writing a song keeps me fresh and ever ready to write one.

Spend a whole day so you give yourself time to come up with the best of many many you have come up with in that day. Once you have a good chord sequence or a melody or a great set of lyrics, you are ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Spend an hour working on the second element

You don’t have to do this on the same day. Give your mind and soul a rest. Attempt this the next day. You’ll find yourself spending a shorter time with it. Your first element is there and has become a strong foundation to guide you. For example if you already have the melody, and your second step is to write the chord sequence, you just work out the chord sequence. It’s more mechanical and is a science than an art.

Or if you already have a strong melody and your next step is to write the lyrics, you fill in words that has the right number of syllable or those with the correct rhyme.

Just get it done.

And the last step is

Step 3: Work out the last element which connects the first two

Huh?

Ok, ok. By now you maybe wondering, have I tricked you into not teaching you anything because it all seems obvious.

Well, it is. But my response to you is to tell you that writing a song is a creative process. It has a structure but the structure only helps you to hold your creativity. The creative work itself depends on you. So at the end of the day, my 3 steps only will facilitate the creativity that is always in you.

What kind of chord sequence, melody or words that come out of you depends on you, not your teacher.

I hope after teaching you the above structure on how to write a song for beginners, that it will inspire you to attempt to write a song.

Many students (or even intermittent to professional) players never got into getting the song out of their heart. They could play many of other people’s songs but never got to write out their own. And that’s a pity because there’s so much joy for us as it is for our listeners when they get to hear it.

I hope this post will inspire you to want to not just play good guitar but to bring out your song.

Let me know what you think? How do you write your songs? What works and don’t work for you?

How To Be More Musical In 7 Ways

My journey of learning to play guitar has brought me to places of frustration and struggle. In those places, I realised that I’ve been alone, isolated with a set of wrong questions I was asking. The questions weren’t about how to play good guitar (like what chords should I play or how do I bend the strings etc) but it is how can I be more musical? 

Of course being able to play chords or bend strings are important techniques but doing those doesn’t mean we become more musical but on the flip side,  being musical inevitably means being able to play good guitar.

The 2 ways of playing is to #1. Use techniques and methods to play back written music. #2. To bring what is already inside of you out. The first way represent most of today’s music educators and schools. They teach you to excel in bringing out the music that is already written or recorded using very precise and delicate skill. However today I’m talking about how to bring out the music or song we already have inside.

I want to explore how we can be more musical and leaving the being technical to another time. Here are 5 ways we can be more musical.

  1. Train Your Self To Listen

    Perhaps this is unnatural to most people. People like to talk more than listen. Developing this ability makes us more anchored to our environment. It makes us present, mindful and happy to be alive. Developing our ears to listen is about being centred and ready to receive what inspiration has to tell us. It is one will discover the most natural instinct of a human being despite our inability to know how to do it.It is good to sit still for a few minutes and listen. Without being too weird to others, focus on whatever dominant what you hear. It’s likely your own breathing or it could be the constant chatter from many parallel conversations in the room. Play the game of identifying which is dominant. Then listen to it intently.

  2. Recognise the Tonal Center In What You Hear

    Develop your understanding of the 7 Tones in this world. (or 3 or 5 or 12 but I’ll be comfortable knowing the 7). These 7 tones are the tones from the Major Scale. (Ok if its 3, then its a triad, 5 it is the pentatonics and 12 its the whole chromatic scale)Then try to map that understanding to your environment with this question.” What is the tonal center of what you are hearing in your environment? “

    Which one is the 1 note or the root note? Try to hum it. What I would do to make this exercise easier is to say if there’s a soundtrack to where you are and what you are hearing. What key is it? Hum that tonal center of that key. Yes, it may sound like a chant, maybe it is one that brings you back to the center of yourself as your music.

    You can check out and savour that note as the home sound.

  3. Learn To Feel The 7 Notes In the Major Scale.

    There are 12 sounds in the organisation of all western music but 7 are the most important ones. I learned to identify the 7 Notes in the Major Scale from David Reed’s excellent “Improvise for Real”. He describes it as the 7 Harmonic World. I like that because the sound is really like worlds apart if you learn to recognise it. One good way to learn it is to describe how that sound makes you feel. There are 7. You can call it “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti” or you can call it just 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. I used a known person’s name and map that to the 7 notes based on the personality they have and how closely they match with the sound of the 7 notes. You can do anything to recognise who is who in the Major Scale. Just like today if I blind fold you in the room full of the close people in your life, you will be able to identify them based on the sound they make, you can do the same for the 7 Notes in the Major Scale. It’s only 7 you need to recognise. Yes altogether there are 5 more but learning the 7 should come first and once you learn “HOW TO RECOGNISE TONE”, you’ll have little issue with the 5 more.

  4. Listen Intently How Music Is Arranged All Around You

    If you sit down and be still and close your eyes. You may find sounds around you that you normally take for granted. It maybe a background music playing, or the sound of the road or chatter from conversations in the room. It may be the sound of the fan or airconditioning. If you listen intently, you may hear an organisation. Just like instruments played in a band or an orchestra in a concert, you may hear that arrangement in daily life. After you have noticed the music arrangement around you, incorporate one last instrument. That is the sound within yourself, it maybe the sound of your footstep or the flow of blood in your heart, it may just be your heart beat. Incorporate that into your “daily orchestra”.  Learning to listen like that trains your ear to listen. It makes you more musical because you are identifying ‘music’ in your environment and within yourself.

  5. Hum That Tune That Is In You

    You will find out there’s music and a song in you. Everytime, there’s one trying to come out. It may be from inspiration from above, it may be hidden within you or even a tune you heard a while back but it’s stuck in you. Whatever you have inside, hum that tune. Try to bring it out by humming. It’s not a stressful exercise to force out something that is not there. Sometimes that tune may just be a one sound thing. Master bringing out that sound even if its just that one root note as described above.

  6. Invest In A Musical Instrument

    Now that you have cultivated the music that is IN YOU. It’s time to bring it out. Yes humming and even singing is the way to bring out the music in the more musical you. But often we need the help of an instrument. Getting an instrument like the guitar or the piano and venture into learning where each of the note in the major scale is located on your instrument is the journey. That’s the greatest association you need to make when learning. Where each notes fall on your instrument. This is a journey so take your time and invest in that learning.


    3 Ways To Teach Yourself To Play Guitar

  7. Appreciate Other People’s Music

    One of the most enjoyable thing you can do to be more musical is to listen to other people’s music. I don’t mean listen to it in the elevator or the mall at the background. I mean really listen to it. The art of listening to music has been lost in the advent of the internet and easy streaming of music. That is the reason why I invested in a Turntable to play Vinyl LP. This setup has made me slow down in my listening of music. It takes time to select the LP, take it out of the sleeve, ensure the surface of the LP is clean, carefully put in into the platter and then move the needle to the start of the record and press play. Not forgetting having to clean it every time it collects dust after a period of inactivity. This seemingly long process helps myself to prepare to listen. The sense of anticipation does magic to your ear, helping it appreciate the music that is coming up.

    I began collecting back the titles to the music I hear as a child. And it itself is an enjoyable process, I believe will make you more musical if you choose to do the same.

     

That’s the 7 ways to be more musical!

When you could let what you hear touch you or connect with you. You are able to keep it inside of you and will be able to reproduce it freely. Being musical is about knowing what you are hearing in your head and then knowing how to reproduce it and bring it out (with or without your guitar).

One you are able to do that, you have succeeded to be more musical. You can continue to work out bring more music out of what is already in you. Music exists in and around us, we just need to bring it out. That’s the nature of creating music and being more musical.

Simple First Songs You Can Play On Guitar

It’s a myth to think that playing the guitar is difficult merely because a lot of songs you hear over the airwaves were arranged with a band setup.

And because of that it sounds more complicated that it really is as a song. Normally these songs consist of only 3 to 4 chords and If we only learn the chords to play on the guitar and then play them in the right rhythm, we will be well on our way to play guitar that sounds amazing to your friends.

Below are some of the simple first songs you can try to play on guitar. When you get it right, it will sound more difficult to others than it really is. But of course, you will know that its a simple 3 to 4 chord songs and an easy to catch melody.

  1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke

Check out the Chords

2.  Wind of Change – Scorpions

Check out the Chords

3. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

Check out the Chords

A Night of Inspiration & Learning A New Song

One of the most favourite thing I do is to be mesmerised and captivated by a performance. Last night I was watching Natalie Merchant with Erik Della Penna supporting her on guitar with of course the rest of the band on Tiny Desk Concerts.

One thing I’m impressed by is Erik’s control and playing that is so fine that it doesn’t overpower Natalie. Erik’s an artiste to know his playing role is to support an amazing vocal talent as Natalie Anne Merchant.

Last night I learned to play the last song on this video “The Weeping Pilgrim”. Love it so much that I have a chance to learn the whole song (yes its simple) in one night of being inspired by wonderful musicians.

What are you inspired by lately? What songs have you been learning?

Remembering Chuck Berry & His Style of Good Guitar

Chuck Berry passed away a few weeks back and the world remembers his contribution to the world of rock and roll.

This video shows the level of showmanship and guitar playing he had to offer to us guitar players. To have Keith Richard playing rhythm to this man attest to his legendary status as the Godfather of rock and roll.

His riffs are his hallmark playing and is recognised and copied everywhere, all over the world.

Eric Clapton says that it has become standard to play rock and roll using his way of double-stops (two notes at once) and to play otherwise sounds thin and not right.

The exercise today for us is to learn double-stops using fourths and fifths and learn to let our solos ring with these 2 notes (rather than 1)… Just like Chuck!

How can you be play better with double stops? What do you think was his style of playing and what attracts you to it and why was it so appealing?

Know the 3 King of Scales – The Major, Minor & Dominant

Music and playing the guitar is like taking a walk in a place called Music Land, a mountainous place where a traveller strolls along to visit.

If the path of The Major Scale gives you the feel of the most natural walk, then the other 2 scales give you one that is sad or melancholic and adventurous or edgy. Together, the Major, Minor and Dominant, they are the 3 King of Scales.

Joe Pass, the legendary jazz virtuoso says that when he plays, he thinks jazz with only 3 types of chords. The Major, Minor and Dominant. The rest are just derivatives of that. So it’s good to get acquainted with them.


Check out the best way to understand the major scale if you have not.


And here’s the plot on how you can understand these three kings.

  • The Major is the Stable Kind King
  • The Minor is a Melancholic Drama King.
  • The Dominant is an Adventure Seeking King.

The Major King
always walk up the mountain from his home like this. This is his groove.
From Home (his palace?),
he will    SKIP  ^   SKIP  ^   STEP  SKIP  ^   SKIP  ^   SKIP  ^   STEP
The way he travels will make him sound authoritative and strong.



The Minor King
 has this groove
From his palace,
he may    SKIP  ^  STEP SKIP  ^   SKIP  ^  STEP SKIP  ^  SKIP ^
The way he moves, it will always sound sadder than the Major King. (It has the stepped back 3rd which gives it a minor sound)

[Image of Scale coming soon]

The Dominant King  has a very different groove
From his palace,
there are several ways but he may SKIP  ^  SKIP  ^  STEP SKIP ^  SKIP ^ STEP SKIP
He will always sound a bit curious but still with the confidence to still go and explore places. (It has the stepped back 7th)

[Image of Scale coming soon]

The key is to learn this, is to recognise how these 3 scales sound like to you. Maybe you have a different way of describing the Kings of Scales.

Exercise Recognising These Kings

  1. Play these scales, up and down the guitar. Get used to the scales and how it feels.
  2. Play each of these scales for 10 minutes each.
  3. Try to describe the scale in your own words.
  4. Find out which note or notes make these scales different with respect to the major scale

 

The Foundations of Good Music When Playing The Guitar

One of the key mistakes I made when I started was playing and practising aimlessly. I wasn’t playing music but just noodling with it. Not either writing my own or playing an existing music. I’ve wasted my years fallen into the habit of just mucking around with the guitar.

I find that finding a good piece of music to play inspires us to a tangible thing we are moving towards. It starts off with finding a piece of music that inspires you and that the melody and words connect and relate with you.

Ever felt that you enjoy a certain song but you can never engage with it when you play it? Chances that the words and melody don’t sync with your subconscious. Even though you consciously want to play it, your subconscious or your spirit is rejecting it.

Finding a good first song is important. It is usually your favourite song which melody or lyrics speaks to you deeply. Normally our first song is one that its so attached to you that you no problem remembering the lyrics of that song.


Check this out:  The First Song To Play On Guitar


Having chosen your first song, go and remember all the chords, followed by the chord sequence, sing or play the melody and enjoy your first song as your signature song.

In summary,







Get one right and repeat for all songs


Check out the other 2 Foundations:
Good Guitar & Good Connection