Tag Archives: guitar

Recording: The Calm Before The Storm (a Destiny song)

In my recent post on gaming, I posted video with a song I had written at the end. As is my custom, it’s time to tell you about what I did when writing & recording it.

The song, The Calm Before The Storm, is inspired by the video game Destiny. It was written as an entry to a competition for a Destiny podcast that I listen to called Guardian Radio. They have a weekly competition (bounty) for different prizes & when writing a song was one I figured I could have a go at that.

Entering the competition set 2 challenging parameters that I have never had to work with before. First I had just under a week to get it done, I listened to the podcast on the Tuesday & the song was to be submitted by the end of the following Sunday, which also happened to be Mothers Day in the US. Secondly it had to be less than 3 minutes long, including any verbal introduction that you wanted to give it. Challenge accepted!

I wrote the song fairly quickly on the first day, mostly while at work (shh don’t tell anyone), themed around the story of Destiny & also the Guardian grimoire card. The podcast has a feature on their show where they do dramatic readings of the grimoire cards so I thought they would appreciate the nod. I don’t actually recall where the title line came from, obviously it is a well known phrase & is something I had been meaning to be creative with for a good while. Within the context of the song / game, it was a reference to the well known grind in Destiny. Yes you may have finished everything in the game, however don’t get carried away celebrating, because it is always time to go & do it again (and again). It is also a reference to my amazingly inconsistent PvP performances where I can just as easily go 6-16 as I can 16-6, much to my frustration.

With the game being a sci-fi adventure, I felt that the only way to go would be with a prog-rock style of presentation, I mean, what says sci-fi more than prog rock? I had hoped to get a more Dream Theater like vibe going on, but a combo of a lack of time & never having tried to do something prog(ish) before kept it away from that direction.

Fortunately when I was writing I got the idea for the basic melody for the singing so that made the process easier. I put together the chord progression on my acoustic on the Wednesday & then sat on it / rehearsed it for a couple of days. Then it was on to recording. This would be the first time I used my new upgrade to Cubase 7.5, the full version following my experiences with Cubase essentials 5 previously. As with almost all of my music software purchases, I got it on a great discount then didn’t use it for a while. The same went for the Halion Symphonic Orchestra that I bought on a deep discount whim a while back.

One of the things I have struggled with previously when recording is getting the timing right to be able to get a drum track down using EZdrummer. Far and away my favorite addition to the new Cubase is the chord track. This can be used creatively if you want, but for me it was so great to put the chords in place & get them in time right with the song, to allow me to easily see what drum loops would fit. The time saved & frustration levels removed for this little home recording artist was amazing & has me inspired to get back to recording regularly, instead of just wishing I knew how to do it better.

You can use the chord track to then trigger virtual instruments, this allows for a non piano playing person like me to set basic midi tracks much easier & quicker than before. No more googling a chord shape & playing / recording each piece separately. I used the chord track to control 4 separate channels of the Orchestra VST. A violin set, violas, cello & a brass ensemble, the idea being to give the track a movie soundtrack feel through an orchestral backdrop. To add a little variation & used an arpeggiator on the violins & violas, it is barely noticeable in the mix but it does add some nice depth.

Next up were the drums, which I was determined not to fight with & ruin the whole thing. I used a mixed kit of Ayotte & Ludwig pieces from the Rock Solid EZX & as quickly as possible found some fitting, generic rock midid loops to use. If I’d written this closer to the time of recording I would be able to better remember if I had to manipulate the loops much to fit what I was doing, but I honesty don’t remember.

With the drums in place & the orchestra leading the way I took to the acoustic guitar & recorded 2 tracks, one strumming the chords & one playing fingerstyle. To get as big a sound as I could, as quickly as possible, each recording (one take each) was done using 3 channels. I had a direct feed from the guitar’s electronics into the DI and then my 2 mics, one a large diaphragm condenser & one a dynamic, set up a different positions on the guitar to get a nice full sound with as many audio dynamics as possible. These would then be separated out in the mix with panning & balanced to give the best sound.

With this being a time crunch Sunday I went ahead & recorded the vocals next instead of the bass. We had family coming over that I would need to visit with & also I wanted to get anything that required the use of a microphone out of the way before the house got noisy.

Usually when recording vocals I record at least 4 takes & comp the best of them together. There was no time for that this time so a “good enough” take was recorded on 1 track. I tackled each section separately, cutting in with the recording. That way I could get my focus before the verse or chorus to try make sure I at least got a usable track. The same process for the harmony track was also used.

I resisted the temptation to apply any auto correction to the vocals, even though they started a little shaky. I added minimal processing to the vocals, mostly due to the time crunch. Using only the Nasty VCS (channel strip), a vintage compressor from cubase & a little reverb from Room Works.

With the vocals down I didn’t have long before our guests started to arrive. The rest of the recoding would be done in hurried breaks between visiting with family (I know, I’m bad). As always I ran the bass direct to my USB interface and used the Amplitube Ampeg plugin with my favorite preset, Comp Rock. One day I may actually work on bass playing, but for now I basically follow the chord progression and drums fill out the sound.

Finally it was on to the electric guitar parts, always my favorite part of the process, yet the most stressful sometimes as it is the only part I expect myself to be able to do really well with. I recorded 2 tracks of chorus laden clean sound with the Stratocaster, one strumming & one picking the notes. Then to actually give the track the rock feel that I wanted I ran a distorted track with the strat, before switching to the Les Paul tuned to drop D to try & give it some chug. The lead track was a one take hurried affair, but I think it actually fit quite well.

Running out of time before the deadline & also not wanting to neglect my wife & family on Mother’s Day 🙂 The editing process was done quickly & simply. I could have easily spent another week eq’ing, rerecording & editing. There are a couple of vocal parts I really wish I’d touched up, also the EQ on the toms is not quite right to me. However, considering half the challenge for the song was the time frame, I was really please & quite proud of it. Early in the process I realized I was going to have to save often, apparently having reached the limits of what my old laptop could handle, I was getting the blue screen of death every 20 minutes or so. It just about survived the recording session, but it was clear that I needed an upgrade if I am to actually continue with my occasional hobby.

If you were wondering if I had somehow won the contest, err no. Dustin Griffith won with a quite brilliant entry made about the podcast itself, certainly a worthy winner, the song is so good they really had no choice 🙂

Anyway, that’s about it. If you want to listen to the song again the video is here.

 

In A Mess – a new old song

There are some inescapable facts about music. One of those facts is that every song has a story. Sometimes that story is told through the lyrics, an autobiographical window into someone else’s world, or maybe it’s a fictional world created just for you. Sometimes it is in the music, a mystical tapestry of sonic stimulation that takes you to a place that words cannot. Frequently with commercial music the real story is that someone wants to make money, they have a hook a line & a catchy melody that is carefully placed together and given to someone to sing & play. Regardless of how good the story is, or is not, each song still has a story and so it is with the song I am about to share with you.

 

This is a bit of an odd one, writing this post in November that is, you see I recorded this song mostly in June, tinkered with it a bit in July & then had every intention of writing this post at the beginning of August. Then doubts crept in, it’s no good, it’s not representative of what I can do today, I don’t really like it, why would anyone else, you know, that BS that we all get when we create something. So it has sat, until recently & then I just decided, what the heck, share it, maybe a couple of people will listen, maybe one will like it, it doesn’t matter, the point is to not allow those fears to build back up. The main reason I ever share anything on here is to fight those internal fears that tell me I am no good, even though I know that is a lie.

 

In A Mess - original paperSo the song, it was originally titled “I Need You”, I changed it to “In a Mess”, which is one of the very few things I changed on it, I’m not sure why I changed the name but the new one seems to fit better. I wrote this song on April 19th 1995 (yes 1995, that’s not a typo), the note on the paper states that it was written in 38 minutes, between 10:19 & 10:57pm. That would place me at 18 years old at the time of writing and a little over a year into my guitar playing journey.

The song itself is not, that I recall, autobiographical, it appears to be about someone who is in a relationship that is on the verge of ending, but despite the chaos the person knows that he does not want the relationship to end, because he needs the love of his partner. The real story of the song however is that there was once a young 18 year old kid who wanted nothing more than to be a rock star and every time he tried to write a song it seemed to come out slow & mushy. So this time, equipped with a riff he borrowed from an instructional book & modified somewhat, he was going to write a rock song come what may. The result is pretty much what you hear here.

When I decided that this would be the next song I was going to record one of the parameters I set myself was that I was going to leave it as untouched as possible. The point in recording / sharing this was to do something for that 18 year old, who was to afraid of rejection to ever really share his music, that he was never able to do for himself. Lyrically I left it pretty much alone, a slight edit/delete for a couple of lines that didn’t flow at all, but you can see from the original writing that it is all still here. I resisted changing the key to one that better suited my vocal range, the riff is completely intact, I don’t recall how the solo originally went, but I am please with how it ended up, it seems to fit the song well. I honestly feel that if I had access to a DeLorean & could fire it up to 88 & get back to ’95, my 18 year old self would be thrilled with what I have done with it. That in itself is enough to please my 37 year old self.

When I am recording I have to remind myself that the best I am realistically going to achieve is a decent demo. I don’t have the know how or equipment – yet 😉 to make it sound like I paid big money to visit the warehouse In Vancouver & hire Butch Vig to produce it. That is more than ok, yet sometimes it is frustrating when I just cannot get it to sound the way it should in my mind (I guess that’s why they make the big bucks).

 

in a mess mixer

So anyway, for those who care, here is what I did with the tracks, starting with the guitar (of course). For the main riff you will find 4 separate guitar tracks. 2 each with the bridge pickup of the Les Paul & my HSS strat, yes that is a lot of humbucking! The guitar was recorded running my Boss GT-8 direct to Cubase which is the first time I have done it that way, usually I run it into an amp & mic it up. It is much easier to control the frequencies this way but it does lose a certain je ne sais quoi, I was however happy with the results & will use this method again depending on what the track calls for. The Les Paul was run through a Marshall stack patch that I call my Slash patch. The strat was run through a Soldano SLO-100 patch which has a very different, yet still highly overdriven, sound from the Marshall (digital versions are as close as I will get to them unfortunately), so that is how I came up with the 4 tracks.

in a mess drumsThe drums were as usual created using Ezdrummer. The kit was the main kit from the Rock Solid expansion pack, it has some great sounding rock kits in that one. As always seems to be the case, there was not a preprogrammed midi pattern that would fit my needs, either they provide odd patterns or my tastes are more unique that I realize. Regardless, for the main riff I took the closest thing I could find & then modified it to meet my needs. I think for the chorus & other parts I found something lose enough & then for the fills I merged & edited a few patterns to create something more unique.

In a mess bassThe bass was played through my trusty Ampeg SVT plugin, not I did say player, I might not play bass, but I can play guitar well enough on a bass to get a bass line for a song, lol. However as the bass world is pretty foreign to me I just used a stock pack from the plugin, fortunately al of the provided ones sound & work really well. This particular one, the Dist 810 stack, is based on the SVT-4 Pro amp.

In a Mess vocal plugins

In a Mess reverbThe vocals have a little EQ on them, some compression, a limiter for clipping control & a dash of BBE sonic maximizer & a send to some reverb. No auto-tune, ever, however close I get to signing in tune is what you will get, always, not sure why but that is a house rule in my home studio. I threw a little harmony vocal onto the track right at the end. It is not as tight as I originally intended, but I left it loose as it is because I liked the way it sounded like 2 people singing in a band as In a mess vocal delayopposed to an overdub. A new technique that I had to figure out was automating the delay effect, I wanted it only at certain points & so had to learn the automation of a send effect. It was not that difficult fortunately & I like what it added.

The mix was mostly done in recording, leveling & panning to fit as I go through the process works well for me. Once I had the mix set I exported & then imported into a new track to try and do some mastering. I usually do not bother with this as previously I have had nothing to add at this stage. However thanks to a heavy discount on  Musician’s Friend “stupid deal of the day “ I picked up the BBE Sonic Sweet set of plugins. I tried each of them individually & also different combinations but finally settled on using all 3 in sync with each other. They definitely add some sheen to the track & also enable it to come up close to commercial volume levels without just seeing a solid red warning light from all the clipping.

In a mess master

So there you have it, a new 19 year old song, thank you for reading & if you pressed play, thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed it for what it is 🙂

 

 

Music Update

The thought came to me recently that I have not given much of an update on my music recently. My newer readers (welcome & thank you by the way!) may not even be aware of the musical side of my life. From the outside it may appear that there is not much to share but I have actually been really busy musically, just not in the way that I had anticipated when I first wrote about my intention to record some past songs and share them, in addition to writing new music.

shedding while shreddingThat project initially went fairly well, I recorded a few songs, was slowly learning the process (it’s not as easy to do well as it may sound) and enjoyed sharing them on here.  2013 ended with a renewed commitment to learning to play the guitar better. It’s not that I can’t play well already, but there are some musical ideas that I get in my head that are much more in the Vai or Petrucci territory than the blues rock style that I play. If I am ever to realize these ideas, unfortunately I need to study a lot of theory & practice even more. That all came to pretty much a grinding halt in January when I had a great conversation which resulted in me volunteering to lead worship once a month at a Christian homeless ministry.

Leading worship has been an absolute dream come true, in so many ways. The only down side (if you can call it that) is that most of my musical free time has been dedicated to practicing for worship, not recording music. Not really that big of a deal, more on that later. As I wrote in my first post I was incredibly nervous when I first lead worship. Since then the nerves have gone away and I have slowly been finding my voice and comfort zone.

I hear music well enough to know that I don’t sound bad, I can hear that I am playing and singing mostly in tune yet it is feedback from others that really lets you know if you are doing ok. I have done it 5 times now and every time I have had nothing but positive feedback. It is really, really cool when after leading worship someone tells you they felts the presence of God during worship. One person told me that she felt I should be writing my own worship songs, something I have a great desire to do, yet somehow it has not quite happened yet (I am assuming this is His timing, not mine). I say it has not happened, I do have 1 actual worship song in the works and several songs that while not what you would call corporate worship songs are songs that are directly inspired by my relationship with Jesus & what He has done in my life.

I am not sure exactly where (if anywhere) leading worship will go, it is my intention to enjoy doing it for a good while though. Not only do I get to use my gifts to honor Jesus & hopefully lead others into a worshipful experience. It is also great therapy, the fears that I had of musical rejection are slowly dissipating and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It can be very intense at times, I’ve found myself shaking afterwards, not from nerves but from what I believe is a real connection with the spirit in the moment, I guess it could just be adrenaline but if it is it is unlike anything else that I have felt before.

The slight regret currently with my music is that it is still a very solitary adventure. Don’t get me wrong, great music, music with real emotion, can be made on your own. It certainly doesn’t take a full band to lead people into worship either; I really enjoy doing it on my own. However music is just better when it is a social event, it would be very exciting to get to lead worship with a band one day, with vocal harmonies an option. What I am going to do about this I have no idea. I have no desire to join a band and play bars etc, and as comfortable as I am getting, I don’t feel anywhere close to confident enough to want to try at my church. The band there is made up of professional musicians, great people, but slightly intimidating, besides, the band is full and they have a network of incredibly talented musicians to fill in for vacations already. Maybe I’ll look at having someone join me every now and then while leading worship at Solomon’s Porch.

Outside of worship it would be fun to make original music with people again. Somehow I need to find some folks who want to meet up only when it’s convenient & make original music together, simply for the pleasure of making music. Why do people always want to turn music into a second job or some commercial adventure? I mean, if someone wants to pay me to make music, I’ll let them, but that will never be why I make music. It is an expression of the soul and even more so, when done right, it is an expression of absolute love & worship to the Father.

As far as recording goes, I have recently been working on 1 song which is as close to being done as I am willing to spend the effort on getting it. It is a song I wrote way back in 1995 when I had been playing guitar for just over a year. The challenge I am having with it is do I want to share it on here or not. The original idea was to share everything, just because. However, while it is as good as I can get it, it’s just not very good, so do I share it anyway? Musically and lyrically it is coming from another place than where I am now, do I want to share that? I don’t know.

I probably shouldn’t care, I should just share it as part of the very slow documentary of me learning to record music, even music that oddly enough I don’t like anymore. I do remember being very proud of it when I wrote it.  I suppose letting my light shine should not just be when I feel I have something good to shine, if I am to encourage others to let their light shine, I should probably share when I make something that is more meh than awesome, in a way that might send a better message than only releasing things I think are really good. I still don’t know.

My next recording project after that song will be a song I wrote at the end of last year, this song I love, it is probably my favorite of any song that I have written. I am toying with the idea of documenting the whole recording process. Maybe that will help me to do it quicker than just messing with bits here and there. Maybe I could get tips while doing it.

As for the actual process of recording, for now the 2 real struggles I have when recording are the drum tracks & vocal Eq. As a guitar player my knowledge and understanding of drums, tempo and structure is just not very good. It is a common guitarist problem unfortunately, we are usually off in our own little world playing by feel instead of rules J It should be easy, it’s not like I am actually playing the drums, I am just selecting the drums set, mixing & panning & then picking the best midi loop from the ezdrummer selection. I suppose I could learn how to actually program the midi well myself so that the struggle to find a part that fits would be easier. I always seem to get close enough (maybe with a little modifying), it just takes ages. Unfortunately the drums are the first thing you need to do with a track & the process is a real momentum killer for me at the moment.

As far as EQ’ing my vocals, it is hard for me to get them to sound the way I think they should. The challenge I have too is that I don’t know what is lack of doing it right verses equipment limitations verses that’s just that way I sound & I need to get over it.

So that’s the year in music so far, I’ve bought some new music to listen to and also, attended a couple of concerts that I failed to write about; The Hendrix Experience was guitar nirvana & Jesus Culture was one of the most powerful evenings of worship that I’ll probably ever be part of. I need to get back to writing about music more often; somehow it keeps me more focused on my favorite pastime.

Side Effects

There is something that happens

When you connect that cable

To your beloved collection of wood, metal and plastic

It is not just the transfer of an electric current

There is a connection made to your very soul

In the seconds, minutes, hours that  follow

A release is found

As unexplainable as falling in love

 

What is inside must come out

The soul cries for release through every groan of every day

The release is found with every bend, every triad, every glorious palm mute

How depressing would the world be without a good palm mute?

The intensity builds, volume increases, tempo changes with the mood

Never played before, never to be played again, this is the thrill of being lost in creativity

All too soon it is over, the clock ticks and it is time to return to the real world

Not before what needed to be expressed has been

 

 

This is a gift, not necessarily a gifting

No one will pay you for this, most likely no one will even listen

It matters not, it never did, that is simply not the point

What you experienced was real and true and beautiful

What you experienced realigned the stars

And now, now at the conclusion

All you are left with are the side effects

As you realize your skin was shedding while you were shredding

shedding while shredding

 

Pedal Board

I’ve had the idea for a few years that I need to get a pedal board for my guitar gear. It would make moving things around the room much easier and for the rare occasions when my stuff ventures out of the room it would be a great help for that too. The problem is, a good pedal board costs way more than I can justify spending on one. I’m not a gigging musician, if I were, I’d get something like this piece of awesomesauce

glow_tops_3

But I don’t get paid to play on stages and once a month when I lead worship I only take 1 piece of equipment as I’m only using my acoustic. So how exactly could I justify $500+ on a piece of kit that will help me vacuum my room easier? Well I cannot, I can’t even justify $100 on a piece that would not fit my needs. So (jokingly) what would Jesus do? Well He was a carpenter right? I’m not, but I have saws screws and glue & have the ability to make something “good enough” if not professional grade.

So I came up with a rough plan in my head, bought a few pieces of wood, spend a few hours in the garage making & painting and voilà for less than $50 I have myself a handy dandy budget friendly homemade pedal board. It’s perfect for my needs and has thankfully scratched that itch quite nicely.

 

 

Music 3: The non-adventures of a guitar player

I play the guitar, I have now played the guitar for more of my life than I have not, which is crazy for me to think about. What is also crazy is that there are probably many people who know me who do not know that I play, when I tell them they are surprised. I’ll get to that later.

I made mention in part 2 of my self-exploration of music that I had briefly played guitar when I was around 8 or 9 years old. It didn’t last & I had almost completely forgotten about 08-InTheseArms-BonJovi01-tnit. However, when I was 16 & had rediscovered rock & roll, my desire to play guitar was overwhelming. My hero was Richie Sambora & I simply wanted to play guitar. I had bonded with a friend at college over music, he was as big a GnR fan as I was Jovi, we both decided we needed to get guitars. My friend had his stuff together a little better than I did, he had a part time job & he had some money. I’m not sure I even had a paper round at this point in life, I’m going to go with probably not. My friend got an Epiphone Les Paul & I saw a white Stratocaster that I simply had to have.

The date was February 23rd 1994 (I know because I still have the receipt). It was a white strat, just like the one Hendrix played at Woodstock (I was wonderfully naive) I had to have it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any money to buy it with. The store was a place called Big Deal, it was pretty much a pawn shop in the city center, they bought & sold things, mostly musical or electrical. So no money & a guitar I had to have, I did what any right minded person would do, I negotiated (which in hindsight is hilarious because I don’t negotiate, I just don’t).

I worked a deal out with the place to trade my computer & all my video games for the guitar. Now looking back, this was a really big deal, I love video games, I lose more time to gaming than any other hobby, for me to be willing to give that up completely in order to get a guitar shows how badly I wanted it. I remember going home to get my computer all packed up, going back into town (all on the bus). It was snowing by the time I got back there. They checked every thing over & before you knew it she was mine. A beautiful white Fender Squire Stratocaster.

Now I talked about being wonderfully naïve, it is really ridiculous how naïve I was. Let’s start with the guitar, I had no idea that there were different levels in quality on a guitar, I thought they were all just guitars. My introduction to the electric guitar was on a completely base, entry level piece of wood. That of course didn’t matter; it was the perfect guitar for me at the time. I wish I had taken a picture of it, unfortunately I apparently didn’t think about such things back then – the digital age is wonderful.

Anyway, anyone who knows anything about electric guitars knows that you need an amplifier in order for them to be, well, electric. This concept had completely eluded me & I had no notion as to how I would amplify the guitar. Step in my Dad, this is not the spot for it, but I struggle with finding happy childhood memories, heck I struggle with finding memories period. So happy Dad memory, yay.

My Dad rigged up an amp of sorts, he had a tape deck that would accept a phono input, he then connected that to an old record player from my Granddad for the speaker. There you have it, my first amp. I played either through that or through the karaoke mic input of my hi-fi for almost a year before I got my first real amp. My Dad played guitar at his church, acoustic only, to me he was a master of the instrument. He showed me some chords, let me borrow his big guitar book (I’m still borrowing it) & also showed me how to play the House of the Rising Sun. The 1st song I learnt to play, I still get a kick out of playing that song.

I am completely self-taught on the guitar, other than when I was 9 I have never had a lesson, img019 I don’t count them as anything that I learnt was completely gone by the time I was 16. I learnt initially from the Guitar handbook that I borrowed from Dad. Then from other books, from playing along to music, playing with friends & from just practicing over & over. These were not the days of youtube & free tab, if you wanted the music for a song you had to buy it. Half the time you could only get the piano music for it anyway, for guitar all they gave was the chords, you could tell how tricky a song was going to be by the number of chord boxes shown at the beginning.

So I went along my journey of learning how to play, very slowly figuring things out. I didn’t even attempt to play lead for months, I’m not sure why, but I didn’t grasp the concept initially, on the bright side that allowed me to build a good solid foundation of chords. Speaking of chords, I remember the 1st time I tried to play a power chord, something that is so natural today, was the most painful thing I’d ever asked my hand to do.

On July 19th of 1995; 17 months or so into playing, I got an upgrade on my guitar. Probably the coolest new toy I’ve ever had, simply because of the significance of it to me at the time. Iimg022 got a brand new Richie Sambora signature Stratocaster. Ok, it was the made in Mexico version & not the Fender custom shop edition, but it was & still is, an utterly awesome guitar. What made it even more special was that it is autographed by the man himself. The 1st Bon Jovi concert I went to, June 28th 1995, the guy from the music shop I frequented got to have a dream come true for him. He was as big a Richie fan as I & he got to go back stage & meet the man, also getting 2 pickguards autographed, one of which I still own today.

img020 Here it is (bedroom guitar photos are awseome – in a ridiculous kind of way)

The guy from the music shop, would go on to become the best friend I ever had, other than img023the one I married (hand hint, marry your best friend, it really helps your marriage work), he was the best man at my wedding & for seven years after I bought the guitar until I emigrated in 2002 we would jam together our on guitars. We became friends because of Richie Sambora, that dude has had a huge impact on my life. My friend Scott also arranged for me to meet Richie a few years later courtesy of Taylor guitars, we had a brief meet & greet backstage at a concert – talk about a big moment, that day I started to believe again that things were possible in life. August of 2000, I wonder now how much that seemingly impossible moment allowed be to have the faith to follow my heart & move to Texas in 2002.

img021Ok maybe Scott is a bigger Richie fan than me, he had the double neck custom made, the triple neck he bought from the man himself. that very same guitar is the one Richie used at the Moscow Peace Festive.

So anyway, I’m getting better as a guitarist, writing songs & like any other guitar infatuated teenager all I wanted to do was become a rock & roll star. The thing is though, I never even got started. I never tried. of all the things I have done that I shouldn’t have, of all the things I never did that I should have, my one big regret in life is that I have never played electric guitar on stage in front of people.

Ok, so I did try, just not very hard. Partially due to my naivety as to how the world worked, partially because a few years after I started playing, life got tough & instead of retreating into music I all but stopped playing. Life got real & I had to take care of that. There were other things though, I wanted to be in a band with friends, I wasn’t confident enough to join a band, I needed to start one, yet they never got off the ground. Ultimately though subconsciously I didn’t figure it out because I was afraid. I was especially afraid to go out & try to do it by myself. I remember one time me & a buddy tried out for a band, a few days later they called me & asked if we were a package deal or if I would be interested in joining alone. I politely declined, horrified at the thought.

Why? What causes someone that wants something so badly to not even try to attain it? Quite simply 2 things, a complete lack of self-worth & a crippling fear of rejection. Until recently (a few years ago) my identity, what I believed in my heart of hearts to be true about myself, was built on lies. My identity was that I was not worthy, that I was unlovable & that I would never achieve anything. I learnt to hide these things, ignore them, pretend they were not there, but (and this is always sub/un-conscious) these lies have controlled more of my life than I will ever know.

What causes such beliefs? It’s easy for me to blame it on my parent’s separation, divorce & the fallout from that when I was 13 or being beaten & bullied all through high school. The truth though, is that while they were significant contributing factors, the damage had already begun long before those periods. When I was 13 all I wanted to do was play soccer, yet it took me 2 years to try out for the school team. I would practice for hours, even play on non-school teams, but I wouldn’t try out at school. Why? Because I was afraid they would tell me I wasn’t good enough & it was so important to me that I couldn’t face the chance that they would say that. I was so afraid of the rejection that I did not put myself in a position to be rejected. I’m not going to air what I have discovered about my childhood here, my parents did the best they could, they loved me & provided for me, that is way more than a lot of people get, unfortunately they were not so great at nurturing me, I’ll leave it there. It was not all my parents, so many little things here & there that seem insignificant at the time, insults, jokes, they build up, like a runaway snowball until they are huge & crippling.

So where does that leave me today? Well, I’m comfortable with not being a rock star, honestly it would have been more than I could have handed any way. Was I good enough? Who the heck knows, probably not, but it takes way more than talent anyway. I play guitar for my own entertainment, occasionally I get to play with others, my brother-in-law is a very talented bass player, I have a friend who is a very good drummer. I hope that one day we will all be able to make enough time to get to play a gig together, make that band that I always wanted to make. That’s really all I want, 1 show. I have looked into joining bands, the problem is I don’t want a 2nd job, I already have a job, I have a family, I have a life. It seems that most bands want to play multiple shows a weekend, practice a few times a week & basically want more of a commitment that I am willing or able to give. So if I wind up going through life having never played on stage, while it will be a regret, I am good with that because today, my family is my main thing.

As far as my playing, I enjoy messing around with the guitar. I learn songs only when I really want to, most of the time I like to invent music. I love to sit down & just see what comes out, maybe play a few chords into the looper & just play lead over it. I love the spontaneity of improvisation, I play the same way I write my poems, I just see what is going to come out, there may be an initial plan but it is always a matter of lets see where it goes.

Where am I at with my self-worth & fear of rejection you might be wondering? My self-worth is at an all time high. My wife did wonders for that, the love she spoke into me changed me forever and then there is God. When I was learning how to hear from God, one of the things to do was ask him to tell you something about yourself, something he wanted you to know. I asked and I was told “you are loved”, not an audible voice, but the words appeared in my mind, words that I know did not come from me. At the time I was hoping he was going to tell me something like you’ll be the next Clapton lol. That’s not how He works, he is not interested in the goals of this world, He is interested in the Kingdom & freeing His beloved from the chains of lies. I am loved, I am accepted, I am worthy. If I am all these things to God, then why should I fear rejection from humans?

Easier said than done of course, but I have found over time that just stubbornly defying the fear, putting it out there, at least allowing for the possibility for the rejection to happen is infinitely better than hiding from the possibility itself. That is how I am able to press the publish button after I have written something. Years ago I could not even have contemplated writing something like this.

Where do I go with my music now? Well I really want to start writing songs again, I have over 20 songs I wrote back in England. I figure that my poetry should be the basis for some new songs too. I think that to honor that broken kid who was too afraid to share his works, I am going to make an attempt to record at least a rough demo of all those songs & post them on here, good bad or indifferent. It may be that nobody listens to them, but at least they will be out there & one more shackle from the past will be broken.

To finish up I’ll leave you with these 3 videos of my playing. When I gave my testimony to my men’s group at church earlier this year, was when I realized that I had been afraid to share my music all these years. So I decided to record me noodling around & share it. 2 reasons, 1 so that I didn’t lose whatever I was creating that. 2  just to get over the fear of someone that I didn’t know hearing me play. So here they are, just me in my office messing around, not polished, not finished products, but me playing, so be gentle

This is the 1st one I recorded, the audio was captured using the camera so it’s not great quality

This was me figuring out how to make a video, I recorded the guitar through Cubase & mixed it with the video using Windows Movie Maker

This I came up with playing in an open tuning that a friend showed me. Apparently I am getting more comfortable as I allowed my head to be on the screen 😉

Now I’m going to go & play guitar, maybe I’ll record something, maybe an old song that I wrote, maybe I’ll relearn Johnny B Goode, who knows? …..