The guitar is often typecast in music for film/tv and other media, and called upon only when a particular sound is needed: your cowboy western needs that Ennio Morricone/Bruno Battisti D’Amario twang. Your Bond-esque spy thriller wants that Vic Flick surf-jazz feel. Your hard-boiled cop movie needs a rough, rebellious, raunchy Eric Clapton lead. While the guitar is really useful in slotting in and hitting these (and many more) on the head, I think it’s full potential is actually overlooked. (Read my full guest article at ComposerFocus.com!)
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Aspects of a Musical Theme
A theme or motif can be thought of as a (simple or complex) musical statement, hook, or sentence(s) with its focus on one or any combination of the following elements:
Singing in the Shower – Melody
Melody is on the one hand the most obvious place from which to approach a theme, but also probably the most mysterious in terms of its emotional impact… [read my full guest post at www.composerfocus.com]
Photo by umjanedoan – http://www.flickr.co…tos/umjanedoan/
Themes. They are what give a musical work it’s signature. They’re what people hum when they exit the theatre, and they can help give your score structure unity. Whether abundant or few, simple or complex, themes can add a compelling layer of meaning to music for moving pictures. (Read my full guest article at ComposerFocus.com)
When learning new skills, our basic mindset is usually “I cannot yet do this, but in time and with practice I will be able to do this.”
What if, instead, your attitude was “I can already do this” – a conviction that you already possess any skill or ability, but you just have to do the work to bring it out?
Painting vs. Sculpting
In painting, one starts with a blank canvas and applies paint, building up layers of color and texture in order to bring forth the image. In sculpting, you have a hunk of material, and you begin to carve away at all that is not the thing you want to represent. Our primary mode of learning seems to be like painting – you start with nothing (no skill – the blank canvas) and you begin to apply layer upon layer (learning and practicing new sets of skill) until you have an image. What if, instead, you acted as a sculptor? In this mode, you imagine that, hidden within the block of unformed stone, is a skill waiting to be revealed. What you are doing, then, is carving away all that is unnecessary for that skill to be realized. So, not only do you improve, but you are sloughing off the unwanted, getting lighter and lighter as your increasing skill makes things easier and easier.
What’s the diff?
It seems such an insignificant difference in perception that could almost be relegated to being an inconsequential matter of semantics, yet I would argue the simple act of saying “I can” vs. “I can’t yet” could have a huge effect on how quickly we can learn new skills. The mind is our conduit to interacting with the world, and all things must go through it. More specifically, all things are interpreted by it. The world is subject to our perception of it (and perhaps even is our perception of it), so how we judge an event has an effect on how we deal with it. Feelings of inadequacy, fear, and ideas about ability vs non ability translate directly into action or failed action/poor results, and the result of those actions create feedback loop which informs our expectations of future events, and thus how quickly we can move ahead.
The sculptor doesn’t look at the unformed stone as a hindrance! It’s simply the work that has to be done.
To put it more simply, focus less on what you cannot do, and more on just doing stuff without impeding yourself mentally with negative thoughts. Hold loosely in your mind the idea that you are sloughing off all that is not the natural state of an ability you already possess. As a neophyte drummer, I often find myself feeling very self conscious of all that I can’t do, especially in rehearsal with other musicians who are competent on their instruments. But this hinders my ability to move forward and improve, because I’m clamping up. I worry about mistakes and in focusing on them, make them. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Focus on mistakes = replicate them perfectly.
Instead, I try to rid myself of these thoughts (carving away at the unnecessary) and just connect to a sense of natural flow (aka no-mind, aka “thinking less about stuff”). I find myself doing very surprising things – there is a more direct path from my mind to my muscles, and fills, patterns, and ornaments spring forth easily and with good accuracy. This in turns creates a positive feedback loop, and helps me improve even faster – the next time I sit down to play or practice, I have that “I can do this!” feeling. I am using the sculptor’s mind – I am moving towards that vision, that thing that I know is held within the stone. Inside of me is a great drummer waiting to get out – all I have to do is GET OUT OF THE WAY.
Monkey visualize, Monkey do
Often, I find myself in situations where I cannot practice certain things due to circumstance – (say, Karate forms because of space restrictions, or drumming because of noise restrictions), I simply imagine myself performing/rehearsing/practicing in my mind – going through the moves, patterns, exercises, etc. If I do this mental work diligently, the next time I sit at the kit or perform Kata I recognize a marked improvement, as if I had done the physical work.
If the brain controls the muscles, then train the brain to the right action, and the result should be a measurable improvement. To even further facilitate this brain training, start with the sculptors mind – imagine that the ability is already there – you just have to uncover it.
Relax, and start carving away!
Sick of the usual musical fare blasted at you incessantly since after Halloween, but still want some, shall we say, “Seasonally Appropriate” songs to get you in the spirit?
Allow me to assist. Here are some of my top picks of sometimes strange but always charming tunes fit for the Horror-days:
Christmas with the Snow – Marah (Last.fm)
This one has it all, but without the saccharine sentiment – snowball fights, merry gentlemen, snow angels, and a rockin’ beat and ridiculously catchy chorus that is a brilliant companion to snarfing heavily spiked eggnog with friends and family.
“3 generations in the kitchen, all at once” From Workman’s great album of Christmas originals, this one beautifully captures those cherished moments with the whole fan-damily when you aren’t at each others throats.
I Haven’t Got You (Anything for Christmas) - Bo Pepper (Youtube)
A holiday break-up/missing you song? Sure, why not! Features the line “when you’re stuffing the turkey, do you think of me?”. That alone should rocket indie Bo Pepper out of obscurity.
Robot Ponies – Laura Barrett (Youtube)
“Christmas eve, 2053. Underneath every little girls tree… Robot Ponies”. This off-kilter, Kalimba based vision of Christmas future is funny and charming, and at the same time a great little statement on consumerism.
I know, right? Fountains of Wayne! From the guys who brought you the Porky’s-esque MILF glorifying ballad “Stacy’s Mom” comes a lovely folkish song that feels just like curling up in front of the fire on a cold Winter’s night.
Not really a Christmas song, but it has the word ‘Holiday’ in it, and it rocks. Blast this at the office party and you’ll be sure to stir things up.