Category Archives: Life

Take A Fermata…

musical-27374_180

Have you ever been working on a problem and you can’t seem to find a solution? Or have you been working on a certain section of a piece of music, and you cannot seem to get it right? The answer is simple. Take A Break. In other words, “Take a Fermata – Pause.”

That’s it. When you find yourself stumped, just take a break from what you’re doing and focus on something else for a little while and you will surprise yourself.  I’m not sure why taking a break works the way it does. For me, taking a break is a very useful thing that transcends music.

For example, children have recess at school. I have worked in places where a five minute break is prescribed for every hour of work. Some countries have siestas built into the middle of the day when the temperature is highest. Even musical concerts have Intermissions

I’m taking a break from this blog for today. I’ll be back tomorrow.  In the mean time, take a break and just keep on Playing It By Ear!

Play By Ear in 8 Months…

Play By Ear In 8 Months or LESS!!!
Play By Ear In 8 Months or LESS!!!

What? You can learn to play an instrument by ear in 8 months or less? That can’t be done! It is impossible. STOP! I want to say that it can be learned and it can be done. You don’t have to be a Mozart or some other prodigy. All you have to have is a willing heart, the desire to play, easy access to the instrument of your choice, the right mentor or teacher, and at least one hour a day.

It all comes back to the attitude that you bring to the table. The first thing you need is to make sure that you have the right attitude. This will make all the difference in the world. One of the most challenging things when doing or starting something new is staying encouraged and motivated when progress is slow. Think about learning a new language and how long it takes to master that language. You can begin to have meaningful conversation in 3 months and be able to master it in a few months after that. The same applies to learning to play by ear.

As you learn and master the principles of playing by ear, the process becomes so much easier. I love it when a student gets it. It is a beautiful thing.  I have found that having the right attitude is better than having all the musical aptitude in the world. A willing and humble heart is much nicer to deal with than an arrogant heart. And this goes for everything that you may do in life. I believe that there is a right way to do everything, and having a willing heart will lead you to the right way soonest.

Another way to get to playing by ear in 8 months is to get the right mentor, coach or teacher. This is vitally important. Some people have utilized all the phenomenal wealth of information on resources like youtube.com or some other web resource, but the problem with these sites is that the instructor cannot show you the chords and make corrections when they are needed. The additional thing about the right teacher is that they will be listening to you and giving you constructive criticism. This is vital to your success as you go forward. I will continue this article in another post as I did not want to overwhelm anyone with too much information. Please comment and tell me what you think as we continue to Play It By Ear.

Progressions…

Progessions...

What are progressions? How are they used? What is the meaning of this? This is a very interesting topic and it’s one that I have been thinking about for a little while. And so I have decided to  write about this. Let’s start with a definition from Wikipedia:

  • A chord progression (or harmonic progression) is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that “aims for a definite goal” of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord and that is based upon a succession of root relationships.

This definition is very good, and helps to outline that chord or harmonic progression is based on the fact that they are used in a sequence to help tell a story.  The beauty of chord progressions is that you could use the same chords in a progression to tell a different based on your what you have to say – But that’s another blog post for later – 🙂

Basically a chord progression is a series of chords that are played in sequence that you would play in time. There are so many chords and variations on those chords in that you could take a very simple song and make it very complex by using more advanced chord progressions. Or you could take a complex song and simplify it by using simpler chords and chord progressions. Here’s a youtube clip I made just for this post – Mary Had A Little Lamb:

The object of this post is to introduce chord progressions in a non threatening way and to let you know that now matter how complex and simple your “progression” may be through life, it can still be beautiful. It depends on how you “Play It By Ear”

 

How Bad Do You Want It?

How Bad Do You Want IT?
How Bad Do You Want IT?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? How badly do you want to do whatever it is you have to do. This may be my shortest blog ever. But the question is true for what ever it is you’re doing. I know because I face it everyday. It stares me in the face when I wake up and when I go to bed and all the time in between. For any number of situations that I face daily the question is: How Bad Do You Want It?

Learning Japanese, and losing weight are two examples of things in my life to which this question applies. Take losing weight. When asked this question, the answer is I REALLY NEED to do this for my continued health. But do I really mean it? What steps am I taking to make it a reality. There are certain things that need to be done in order to make this a reality – The Lifestyle changes that need to be made in Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance (Self Control), Air, Rest and Trust in Divine Power are essential to making that a reality.

Next is learning Japanese. I have wanted to learn Japanese ever since my daughter started and continues to teach herself Japanese. It was simply amazing to see her blossom and find ways to do that. She doggedly took the time to find the right tools and is so good that she is now teaching me. The student has become the teacher. It all depends on what you spend your time on. It’s great to WANT to do something, but until you spend time at it, it will continue to be JUST a dream. So now I have taken steps to learn Japanese, and I know enough to introduce myself to someone. In just 6 minutes. It is is not hard. It just depends on how much you want to learn or do something.

So you want to learn to play an instrument by air? How much do you REALLY want to do it? How much time are you willing to invest in this project? I know that it can take a lot of time to get to the point where you can play out in public, but I know that it will generate a great feeling of accomplishment and joy when you are finally able to Play It By Ear!

Face Your Fears – Dentist

Face Your Fears - Even The Dentist
Face Your Fears – Even the Dentist – They are your friend!!!

This post will be a fun post for me. I happen to like the dentist and every time I go there I get a lot of people who say that I go there too much. I. Love. My. Dentist. Super Fun Time. What I don’t get is people who because they are afraid of the dentist, they don’t go.

It’s like someone having to play a piece for the first time. They may not do it because of fear of failure or a fear of messing up. The only way to get over it is to actually play the piece before an unbiased audience. There is no getting over the fear of performance without performance. So to get over your fear of the dentist, go to one. Make sure that you go to one that has a great reputation as a people person. If you need a recommendation I just comment below, and I will be sure to get the info to you.

I did my first solo when I was six years old. I sang a song in my church because I was told that if I did it I would get a bicycle. I overcame my fear and was able to perform to the satisfaction of everyone in attendance. So another way to overcome your fear is to have a greater reward. Another thing that works for me is to pray. My faith in God has pulled me through many a tough situation.

For me, Playing by Ear is it’s own reward. And I love it. I have even started practicing the same songs on my guitar as I do the piano and then I try to learn the song on guitar and play it on piano without practicing the piano part – Very Invigorating. So whatever it is you fear, know that you can make it through. Just keep on keeping on and keep Playing It By Ear!!!

Face Your Fear - This too Shall Pass
Face Your Fear – This Too Shall Pass!!!

I’m Positive

I'm Positive because A Positive Attitude = Positive Results
I’m Positive because A Positive Attitude = Positive Results

Have you ever wondered why some people are successful and other people are not? What is the secret to their success? What makes them thrive when others are wilting and falling by the wayside? What is it that works so well? Is this something that is easily acquired? How do I get it?

The answer is really simple. They all have this extra-ordinary thing called a positive attitude. People with positive attitudes are more productive and active and are able to improve the moods of people around them. This is so awesome. The inverse is also true. A negative attitude makes you less productive and affects the behavior and moods of the people around us in a negative way.

How do I know this? I have seen it in my own experience. I have found that a positive attitude made a difference in my outlook. I have found that when I am positive I get more things done and I am more productive as opposed to when I have a negative attitude.

Another aspect of this that I have found is that playing music helps to give me a positive attitude. Even when I don’t have my guitar or access to a piano, I find that singing helps to give me the boost that I need to get through the situation that I face on a daily basis. So I will continue to have a positive attitude and continue to play it by ear (literally).

 

All About That Bass

All About That Bass
No Trouble!!!

This title says it all. It’s all about that bass. It’s true. Ask anyone who is serious about music that plays. If they really analyze it most music is written around and from the BASS LINE. The melody is important as is the rhythm. But it is the bass line that drives the harmony.

The most important note is the Key Note. For example you would hear someone say that this or that song is in C Major or E flat Minor. The note that they are referring to is the Key Note or the main note from which the main harmony is derived. This note gets assigned the number 1, and all the other 6 notes of the scale are numbered sequentially.

Songs are generally made up of a series of chord progressions based utilizing the bass notes in the order that the composer or arranger wants to use them. This means sometimes that the same song may have different progressions based on the composer or arranger’s preferences. It is interesting to see the various combinations that can be derived from the same song.

Similarly I like to think of the foundations that we lay for ourselves. Do we have a solid foundation to live our life on? Are you seeking the things that will make it better? What is the thing that drives you, and gives you the will to keep going? Just as you have to have the right bass line for your song you have to have the right firm foundation for your life if you want to keep Playing It By Ear!

Keep On Playing

Keep On Playing
You Will Get There – Just Don’t Give Up!!!

I’ve noticed something recently as I have been part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge this year. I have realized that if you keep playing, you are bound to win at some point. This gives me encouragement as I think about taking on my kids on the video game console – The Wii U. I think about playing against them and I realize that I am hopelessly outclassed. Why are they so good? They keep on playing – Even When They Lose!!!

This is important for a number of reasons

  1. You Learn From Your Mistakes
  2. You Learn from the mistakes of others
  3. You realize that if you quit you won’t get any better
  4. You are doing something better than your Dad (Not funny at all)

These principles and attitudes apply to all facets of life, including the mental, physical, spiritual, and social aspects to all of our being. I liken it to when I had to learn a piece by Chick Corea, Spain. The chorus or main line includes a very long line that took a considerable time to master at the speed it needed to be played. But I didn’t quit when I was learning it.

I played it so long that my son heard me play and decided that he was going to learn it. It was very interesting to see this 10 year old trying to play this intricate line. But he didn’t quit either and was able to get it after a while. Here’s a clip of us playing it together:

It just goes to show that if you give it your all and do NOT give up, you too can Play It By Ear!!!

Redemption

Redemption

4 years ago, in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the United States lost to Japan in the final game. To all the players and coaches it was a depressing time. You may even say that they might have felt diminished in their outlook. They were certainly criticized and vilified by all the pundits and commentators of the time. The United States lost the game by penalty kicks after playing to a 2 – 2 tie at the end of the overtime.

However on July 5th, 2015, the team with 9 returning players from the losing team of 2011, they found redemption in the form of a 5-2 win over the Japanese team. The USA team scored early and by the 16th minute had scored 4 goals including a hatrick (3 goals) by Carli Lloyd. What a win!

What’s the lesson that you can learn from this? The answer is, Never Give Up! You keep on trying. You keep the faith. You keep on practicing and one day you will succeed. I believe in God who never gave up on me. So I KNOW that things will get better just as it did for Team USA during the World Cup. This gives me Hope and thus I will keep Playing It By Ear!

The 7th Element

The 7th Element

There is this chord structure in music called the 7th. I refer to it as the 7th element. It adds some beautiful tension to chords that make them pop onto your ear drums in quintessential exquisiteness that makes you go, “AH!” You may see it in chord charts and other musical forms as C Maj7, Am7,  D7, of F Dim7. These chords are examples of the 4 most common types of 7th chords in use today.   But What is it really? What is this thing the 7th?

Let us take a look at some of the chords that exist in common usage today. For example the C Major 7 is made up of C, E, G, and B and is formed when all the notes are played simultaneously. This is how it works. In the key of C, the scale is listed as C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.  C is counted as #1 and each successive note  in the scale gets the next position in the scale. So for the C Major Scale, C is 1, D is 2, E is 3, F is 4, G is 5, A is 6, and B is 7.   C Major is usually C E G (1 3 5)  and adding the B (7) adds a lot more color or tension to the chord.

Before your eyes glaze over with all the the Math of Music I want to let you know I will explore the other types of 7th chords in a later post. Earlier I mentioned that 7th Chords are used to make music more interesting as they add musical tension to the music they are a part of. As the chords resolve to the next chord, they can release or strengthen the tension as the composer or performer interprets it.

Similarly in life you can sometimes see the effects of the “tension chords” of our lives, those intense moments that can be seen as stressors or stepping stones. I view these moments as stepping stones. On of the Stepping Stones is Faith. I have faith that God will see me through. I also Have Hope that when things seem Diminished I know that it is just a passing phase. This is one the the things that make it easier to keep on Playing It By Ear.

FREEDOM!!!

wpid-img_20140526_143756.jpgFREEDOM!!! Here in the United States the Fourth of July is a very important day. It signifies and denotes a day of Freedom. It is a day when we gained our independence, and is called Independence Day. Each country has its own Day of Independence and this day happens to be ours. I am glad for it.

I am glad that I have the Freedom to live in peace and the Freedom that comes from a belief in a loving God that loves every man. That freedom was hard fought for by the men in the Armed Forces and I am forever grateful. They still stand on the borders today to defend the land that I call home. I am forever grateful. I thank you! Happy Independence Day!

Playing by ear also comes with its own freedom.  It gives me freedom to interpret songs that I hear and re-harmonize them as I am playing it. Since I have been playing music for a number of years, when I play a simple tune, I have the freedom to play it in a variety of styles, using alternate chords and rhythms. It is awesome. I hope and pray that we will always have the Freedom to Play It By Ear.

 

Play It By Ear – Rules

Play It By Ear
You still have to follow the rules

The concept of playing by ear in music is a very interesting thing. Some people may have the idea that it is a haphazardly constructed process whereby you play notes and chords as you feel like it. I have found that this is not the case at all. In fact the truth is exactly the opposite. It actually mirrors life in a lot of ways.

For example, if you have to do any task in life, you have to follow the rules of completing that task. A GOOD carpenter just doesn’t nail the pieces of wood that he or she has in any manner that he chooses. A GOOD electrician just doesn’t connect wires in any way that he happens to feel like on that particular day. A computer technician just doesn’t create ethernet cables in any color combination that looks good. NO! They all have to follow the rules or the plan that they have been given in order to complete the tasks.

Similarly, playing by ear, whether in music or in life requires you to follow the rules of music. It may be that the carpenter, electrician or computer technician is so good that they don’t need to “look at the paper” in order to follow the rules. This is because the know the rules so well that it seems like they don’t have to think about what they are doing. But they still have to follow the rules.

I have been playing the piano for a long time, and recently I have been playing the guitar as well. I can play the piano much better than the guitar because of the length of time that I have spent learning the rules of the piano – where the notes are; what the scales are; how to make chords using the scales; and how progressions and patterns are derived by playing the chords in different sequences. So to get better at recognizing the patterns, I have to practice the patterns according to the rules of music.

Life is the same way. It’s like the saying goes – Art imitates Life and Life Imitates Art! You have to know the rules intimately and keep practicing so you can Play It By Ear!!!

Diminished… A Philosophically Musical View

Diminished? A Philosophically Musical View
A Philosophically Musical View

What does it mean to be diminished? Does it mean that I’m less than desirable? Does it mean that I don’t belong? Does it mean that it’s bad? These are all questions that people ask all the time, both in life and in music. The answers are actually very similar. I’ll tell you what I mean.

To be diminished in life sometimes mean that you may be in a place that seems to offer no hope. But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, “There’s Hope For Everyone“, there’s always a way out of your situation. You just have to look hard enough, and the answers will be there. In other words, your situation is TEMPORARY or is just a passing phase. Similarly in music the diminished chord is more often than not a PASSING chord! Most musical pieces do NOT end on a diminished chord, but rather on a Major or Minor Chord. I will elaborate on that later.

The diminished chord is a chord that has equidistant spacing between the notes. Each note is a minor 3rd away from the other. For example, the C Diminished 7th chord is made up of the notes C, E flat, G flat and A. Each one of these can be used as a passing chord at least 4 different ways. So the diminished chord becomes the conduit to four different solutions in music.

Similarly I believe that many of the ‘diminished’ situations we face have more than one solution. We just have to look for the way out so we could continue to Play It By Ear.

There’s Hope For Everyone…

There's Hope For Everyone!

Hello World. It’s me again. I haven’t written anything for awhile, not because I didn’t have anything to say. I have a lot to say, but sometimes I don’t get to say it. However I am writing to say that just as I can begin writing again about Music, and Life and the world, then you can know that there is hope.

I have struggled with the thought that I don’t seem to have the time to write and make a statement with my music. I have struggled with the thought that I don’t have what it takes to make a difference with what I am mainly writing about, and that is playing music by ear. I have recently come to the conclusion that you do not have to be perfect to make a difference. You do not have to be the most eloquent person on the internet. You just have to be WILLING!!! So with that thought I have decided to pick up again and write. Who knows if this is the time that it sticks… (I Smile).

The mere fact that I’m here is a testament to HOPE! When I came to this country (USA) I had very little money and no idea how it would all play out. I had the will and the determination to succeed and here I am 21 years later and I think that I have made progress towards my life goals. I have a beautiful family and fulfilling job and my family works together with me to help fulfill that goal. Our main goal is to help people through music and also in whatever way we can, spreading the message that no matter what your circumstances, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how dark it seems, there is a way out. There are people out there who are waiting to help you. Just keep looking and keep on Playing It By Ear.