Thursday, September 21, 2017

A not so brief introduction – Part 2

I am a self-taught guitarist and musician. I am not so great at either of these. I can’t read music and I don’t know music theory or scales other than some positions of the major and minor scales. I’m not proud of this -- but I know I am a good songwriter. Maybe when the songs dry up, I will spend my time learning music theory and how to play the guitar better.

When I was 15, I taught myself to play guitar just so I could put the tunes and words in my head in some tangible format. I couldn’t get my dad to buy me a guitar or take lessons. I used to borrow my older brother’s guitar when he wasn’t home and teach myself to play and write songs. We didn’t have electronic tuners those days. Someone told me the phone’s dial tone was an A note and you could use it to tune your 5th string. I doubt if my guitar was ever tuned correctly until I had an electronic tuner many years later. I started writing songs almost as soon as I learned to play a few chords. I learned the open chords G, D, Am, E, A and C first. I wrote over a dozen songs with just those few chords in the first year. Even now, I usually start writing in G major and transpose it later.

I’ve tried to teach myself music and to play better several times but within 10 minutes of picking up a guitar, I tend to drift into songwriting. I can’t keep up with all the songs that come to me sometimes. I feel very fortunate to have this gift of words and music. I usually write all my songs completely on my own. I have collaborated with others though. When I was 17, to about the age of 21, my friend Krishna and I wrote about 50 songs together. They were more the Lennon/McCartney sort of collaborations. We each brought words and music to the table and the other person made suggestions to make it better. I recorded a few of those songs as demos that you can listen to on my website. I have also collaborated for fun on music forums many years ago. But I prefer to write on my own.

These days, I produce all my songs on my own as well. In GarageBand... in my garage. I wish I could play better. It would make the process much easier and the songs much, much better. But with modern advances in recording technology, even my playing can be made to sound presentable. I recorded my first CD as well as four singles at a studio with professional musicians. It was quite expensive -- but I appreciated not having to stretch my skills as a musician and sound engineer. Now I record everything on my own. It’s great having the time to try different things instead of rushing along because you’re paying for every minute of the musicians and engineer’s time. My vocal performances are certainly better. Mastering, which was the last barrier to DIY recording, has been broken down by automated online mastering services like LANDR.

I consider myself a truly independent musician. I do everything myself – from songwriting, producing, and playing… to website design, videos, album design, photography, marketing and anything else that is needed. My other career as a creative director and marketing expert supplements the music perfectly. I feel lucky to know what I do. Many of my musician friends are unable to take their songs to distribution because of the expense involved in producing and creating the collateral needed to distribute their music.

To be continued...

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