The Birthday Blog Top 10 Countdown

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY! Generally, I post a number of things that I’ve learned based on the number of my age (i.e. – “21 Things I Learned In 21 Years”, so on and so forth). This year I’m just doing a top 10 countdown. Therefore, here’s the beginning statement…

THE TOP 10 THINGS THAT I HAVE LEARNED SINCE MY LAST BIRTHDAY ARE…

10. …TO ESTABLISH PRECENDENCE. I know that I learned way more than 10 things in a year, but the major thing that I learned is that the future is important. In other words, would I really be able to write about “50 things I learned in 50 years” or “100 things I learned in 100 years”? Ummmm… that would be a no!

9. …THAT GYM MEMBERSHIPS STILL DON’T MAKE ME LOSE WEIGHT. I’ve said it before, said it again, got a new gym membership, and cancelled aforementioned new gym membership. Yeah… no weight lost. As a result, see #8.

8. …THAT I NEED TO EMBRACE THE “CHUNKY MAN” ON THE INSIDE OF ME. I like to eat. In fact, I’m a fan of eating well (which doesn’t help with the point I made in #9). I just need to accept that… and some chicken… and collard greens cooked in fatback… and mashed potatoes with gravy… and hot rolls… and macaroni and cheese… and potato salad… and pound cake… and apple pie… and ice cream… and a diet soda (for justification).

7. …THAT I NEED TO EMBRACE THE “OLD MAN” ON THE INSIDE OF ME. As I’m getting older, I’m noticing that things are starting to annoy me in the same manner that old people get annoyed. Since I’m not going to pull a Benjamin Button and get any younger, I might as well get settled into my “Old Man-ness”.

6. …ACCEPTANCE. Everything that happens can only happen the way it happened and can’t happen any other way.

5. …THAT MY TIME IS IMPORTANT. It is… it really is… therefore wasting it is not an option.

4. …TIMES CHANGE, TECHNOLOGIES CHANGE, BUT PEOPLE GENERALLY DON’T. Enough said.

3. …THAT FAMILY AND FRIENDS ARE IMPORTANT. Family, friends, family that are like friends, and friends that are like family are so important to the whole of a person.

2. …THAT I LOVE MY WIFE DEARLY. I do. I really do. I couldn’t imagine doing any of this without her love and support. Moreso than that, any lady that can hang with a guy like me definitely deserves a whooooooole lot of love. LOL!

1. …THAT GOD IS EVERYTHING. It is oh-so-true, but the Bible says it best. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” -Revelation 22:13

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Record First, Ask Questions Later

I have a digital recorder on my cell phone now. Before then I had an actual digital recorder with a USB port. Before then I had a mini-tape recorder. Before then I had the old-school TDK tape recorder. And if all else failed, I had pencil and paper (but nowadays I use “Post-It’s”). Why? Because you never know when a spark of musical inspiration will hit. I’ve learned that as quickly as an idea can pop up in your head, it can disappear. Case in point. Have you ever had that genius idea… but you were sleep at the time… then you told yourself “I’ll remember it when I wake up”… and as soon as you do it’s gone? So simply put, make sure you have some kind of recording device closeby (from something that runs on batteries to a pencil and paper). Get your ideas down and even if you don’t use them right away, they might come in handy down the road when you need that smooth groove or that funky tune. Simply put, record first and ask questions later.
 
What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

The Hunt For Great Music

Every generation thinks that their music is the best. Everyone from your grandparents, to your parents, to you, to your children, to your grandchildren think that the musical results of their generation are the best. I remember back in the 90’s when The Fugees came out with “Killing Me Softly” (two time… time) and I thought that was the hottest song around until I listened to it in the car while riding with my Mom who, upon hearing it, simply said “I didn’t know Roberta Flack did that song again.” So… yeah… that wasn’t the “coolest” ride home after that particular statement, but it got me to thinking at a young age that maybe great music goes beyond generational boundaries. That’s when I really started to study music comparing current pop music to past music and it was soon after that I realized how much music gets recycled into various other genres of music (Gospel, rap, hip hop, R&B, elevator music, TV commercials, etc, etc.). As I continued to study and research music past and present, the most interesting thing that I found was that the music that was recycled was the music that could stand the test of time. So perhaps a great song is one that is relatable to any generation or perhaps has one of those undeniable grooves. Just a working theory, but it seems to fit the facts.

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

“When I Get That Feeling…”

For all the seasoned musical veterans reading this blog, you can probably imagine Marvin Gaye singing those first five words and be able to IMMEDIATELY end the phrase. Marvin Gaye knew what he needed when he got that feeling. YOU knew what Marvin Gaye needed when he got that feeling. The whole world knew what Marvin Gaye needed when he got that feeling. Music is closely tied in to your emotions. The right song can make you happy, sad, laugh, cry, dance, ponder, amorous, scared, excited, or a whole host of other feelings. So think about your own music. When people hear your music, what feeling do they get? Do they feel anything? Don’t get it wrong, there is a time and place for technique and education, but when it comes down to it, music should equate to a feeling. One note played/sung by the right person at the right time and held for just the right amount of time can do more than a blur of notes played at top speed within a minute. While the latter is technically impressive, the former achieves what all musicians hope to achieve… an emotional connection. Your music should have the power to connect to the human spirit and invoke at least one feeling. If it’s not doing that, then it’s just notes on paper.

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

 

Embracing Mistakes?

The true test of whether a musician is worth their weight in gold is whether or not they can deliver musical excellence. Regardless of your training, education, or experience, the final product is what most people care about. As long as the final product sounds great, then people will pay attention to what you have to offer. When you are working towards that great final product, I encourage you to embrace your mistakes. That sounds odd, but think about it like this. If you never made a musical mistake, how would you ever grow as a musician? A clear example for me of embracing mistakes is when I’ve done studio work. The recording studio is such a different animal than a real life performance that it requires a different set of rules. Once I realized that it required a different set of rules through many, many mistakes, studio production became easier and easier. There’s still a lot to learn in that arena, but I can hold my own a lot better now than when I first started. Therefore I encourage you to do your musical work, but embrace and learn from your mistakes as well. American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard said it like this: “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually afraid you will make one.”

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Have you ever heard the saying “Practice makes perfect”? Well, I want to challenge your thinking with this. If practice makes perfect and you’re practicing wrong, then does that equal out to perfection? I challenge you to adopt this phrase in your practice (whether it be music or anything else): “Perfect practice makes perfect”. Perfection is always a goal we should all strive for even though we will never reach it. The idea is that if you want to get better at what you do as a musician, then you need to make “perfect practice makes perfect” your goal and your mantra. In order to get better at what you do, keep a challenge in front of you. That passage of music that seems impossible is only impossible until you attack it one note at a time. That complicated fingering to make the right notes come out gets easier as you do it. Repetition the right way is the key to success. Here’s some additional fuel to your practice fire. If “perfect practice makes perfect” then does “average practice makes average”? Or “bad practice makes bad”? One thing we all know to be true and easily achieveable: “No practice makes nothing!”

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

 

The Power Of The Choir

When I was growing up in the country under the musical tutelage of my Mom and Dad, the church choir was THE THING! Every church had at least one. Every church had that one choir that (seemingly) always traveled with the Pastor. Every church had that one Sunday where congregants and visitors would adjust their Sunday schedules to make sure they were at THAT church because THAT choir was singing. Please understand that I have played for both church choirs and praise teams (in fact, still do) so I take nothing away from the power, purpose, and functionality of a Praise Team. However, I think we sometimes forget the power of a large group of people lifting their voices in harmony to make one voice as a musical offering to God. There is so much power in just the corporate aspect of it alone, but I like the way Dr. Cornel West put it:

“A praise team is qualitatively different than a choir. A praise team is stimulating. A choir is stirring your soul. Do you all see the point I’m trying to make in terms of what it means to stir the soul? To touch you at the deepest level so you want to be a different kind of person? A better person. A more loving person. A stronger person. That’s the kind of music we need. We don’t have a lot of music like that nowadays. I mean it’s a sad thing. The point that Jay-Z made [is that] hip hop does not have spaces where there can be a variety of voices singing at the same time in harmony. Do you know what that means not to have the discipline to learn how to have your voice fit in with another voice so that it has a collective expression?”  -Dr. Cornel West, “Left of Black, Episode 35, 05-23-11”

And just in case you don’t believe me, check this out:

“Soon As I Get Home” sung by the UAB Gospel Choir:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q59JWAS5YLg

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.

For the full Dr. Cornel West interview, please go to:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcTf7QrRGhE&feature=related