Posts Tagged ‘music’

Parental Discretion

Posted by Brian on 6th September 2012 in General Music, Journal

Nope, that is not an advisory for the content of this post, it is the name of the band I’m in that is playing it’s first gig this Saturday.

We’re a five piece band made up of parents from my kid’s school – hence the name.

If you’re at the Uxbridge Fall Fair this Saturday, drop by the bandshell at 3:45 – we’ll be playing a 50 minute set. I’ll be the one playing bass.

Grace in Small Things – Volume II

Posted by Brian on 9th November 2011 in Grace in Small Things, Journal

1. Students who are accepting the challenge of entering the Sunderland Music Festival.

2. Guitar Night! An all too infrequent gathering of fellow guitarists for the purposes of playing into the wee hours.

3. Pretty much nailing a tune that I’ve been working on for months at Guitar Night.

4. A season of not having to badger my kids to practice piano.

5. This conversation:

Student: [stopping] “That didn’t sound right.”

Teacher: “Even if a note sounds wrong, keep going. Sometimes you have to play the next note to make the first note sound right.”

Student: “So its like life.”


More about Grace In Small Things

Grace in Small Things: Guitar Edition

Posted by Brian on 5th October 2011 in General Music, Grace in Small Things, Guitar, Journal

You are hereby challenged to find the joy in small things, because life is short and love is large.

Grace In Small Things is a website that encourages us to look past the noise in our lives and look for grace in the “small things” – those day to day moments of joy that we sometimes forget to acknowledge and appreciate. This strikes me as an excellent idea, so I am going to take up the challenge with a musical “Grace in Small Things” drawn from the last week or so.

Here we go:

1. The realization that one day soon I will have a Don Ross tune in my repertoire – not there yet, but barring a God-sized intervention, it will be.

2. Being sufficiently inspired to start learning another Don Ross tune.

3. Attending a guitar teacher’s workshop and learning that there is still much to learn.

4. Working on learning it.

5. Jamming until the wee hours with great friends who also happen to be great musicians.

Tone Deaf?

Posted by Brian on 28th September 2011 in General Music, Practice, Rant

Its one of my pet peeves. And it happens all the time. “You teach guitar? I wish that I was musical, but I’m completely tone deaf.”

You’re not.

Not even close.

If you’ve had this conversation, you are not tone deaf. In fact “tone deafness” is a remarkably rare affliction and is usually accompanied by a host of other problems which would make “normal living” an impossibility.

If you can decipher a normal conversation, you are not tone deaf.

And, if you’re not tone deaf, you are overflowing with musical potential.

All that anyone needs to become musical is time and effort… (and a teacher). I am convinced that anyone – yes, ANYONE – can learn to play an instrument well enough to enjoy playing – and have others enjoy listening, if they are willing to invest the time and effort.

Of course, the best time to start learning music is as a small child, but the next best time is right now. So if you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t have what it takes to be musical, I’m telling you to get over it. Like the commercial says – if you want to be musical, then start being musical.

Now Hear This…

Posted by Brian on 19th September 2011 in General Music, Practice

Musicians can hear better than non-musicians as they age.

Its true.

That is, as long as we haven’t done physical damage to our ears.

According to an article in the Toronto Star, that was forwarded to me by a guitar playing friend, playing music keeps the neural pathways for hearing active, which helps us to understand speech in a noisy environment, among other things. Also, the benefit derived from playing music is directly related to how much time we spend practicing – just in case you needed a reason to practice…

“Practice The Piano. Do You Hear Me?” – Toronto Star, Monday September 12, 2011

Playing vs. Practicing

Posted by Brian on 5th August 2011 in General Music, Practice

A lot of musicians I know tend to confuse playing music with practicing music. Yes, playing tunes can be an important part of practicing, but just playing tunes is definitely not practicing. Here’s a list of ways to differentiate playing from practicing:

1. It is remotely conceivable that your family might enjoy listening to you playing.

Video of the Month: Your Brain on Music

Posted by Brian on 1st July 2011 in General Music, Music Theory, Video of the Month

In another departure from my usual video of the month, here is a really cool video that demonstrates differences in brain activity between improvising music and playing music from memory:

I first came across this video on Sean Dricoll’s Blog: So Much Sound. Sean’s comments on this video are worth a read.

This is Cool: Rhythm and the Brain

Posted by Brian on 8th June 2011 in Book Review, General Music, Music Theory

As the result of a recommendation from an internet acquaintance, I’ve been reading and enjoying “Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy – How Music Captures Our Imaginations” by Robert Jourdain. It has been a wonderful read so far. (It’s out of print, but I was able to get it through

I’ve just finished reading the chapter on rhythm and it discusses how our sense of rhythm is predominantly seated in the left half of our brains and provides a neat experiment that you can try: With your left hand, tap out a continuous 1-2-3-4 beat. Now with your right hand tap out a more complex beat. It doesn’t have to be wildly more complex, a relatively simple 1-2&3-4 will do just fine. Most people can do this with very little difficulty. Now, switch hands. Tap out the steady beat with the right hand and the complex rhythm with the left. Much harder, isn’t it? Now, I knew from experience that this would be the case, but I had always assumed that this was because I am right-handed (i.e. left-brain dominant), but apparently, this is the case whether your are left- or right-handed. (Assuming that you have typical brain lateralization – left-brain dominance resulting in right-handedness and vice-versa – which, apparently, not everyone does.) This would explain why so many left-handed people play guitar right handed, the right hand (picking hand) being naturally better at producing complex rhythms.

Try it out and let me know the results – especially you southpaws out there! (And if you’re a left-handed guitarist, let me know if you play right- or left-handed, too!)

How to: Become an Expert Guitar Player

Posted by Brian on 13th April 2011 in General Music, Guitar, How to:..., Practice

They say that it takes ten thousand hours of working on something to become an “expert”. (I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’ve heard it a number of times and have no reason to doubt that number, so we’ll go with it.) The average full time job occupies roughly two thousand hours a year, so I suppose that this is why most job postings are looking for someone with at least five years experience.

Now, lets consider what it takes to become an expert guitar player. Let’s say the budding young guitarist has half an hour a day set aside for practice, and by “practice” I don’t mean playing a favourite riff repeatedly, I mean working on scales, building repertoire, studying theory, ear training, etc. Lets assume that our budding young guitarist manages to practice five days a week on average – so two and a half hours of practice a week, or, assuming two weeks of vacation each year, 125 hours a year. Only seventy-nine years to go before receiving “expert” status. (For the record, its a rare “budding young guitarist” who even practices this much.)

Let’s say that our future expert decides that, yes, music is something that (s)he wants to get serious about. (S)he decides to practice an hour a day, 6 days a week and joins a band that rehearses for 2 hours every Thursday night. We’re now up to 400 hours a year – and a mere twenty-five years away from “expert” status. But take heart, we can get there five years sooner if we can book a 2-hour gig every weekend…

Clearly, this is going to take some time…

Better get started.




Video of the Month: Bobby McFerrin

Posted by Brian on 1st April 2011 in General Music, Music Theory, Video of the Month

Okay, this isn’t my typical video of the month, but it is very cool, nevertheless. In this video Bobby McFerrin (of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” fame) demonstrates to an audience (without speaking a word) how the pentatonic scale is universal and highly intuitive, if not instinctive.

Edit: For those of you who may not know, the pentatonic scale is a five note scale which corresponds to the intervals between the black keys on a piano. It is usually the first (and sometimes only) scale that we guitarists learn.