You Raise Me Up!

imageI could never do what I do without great support. I’m just saying. You are usually able to do better when you have great support. When I’m out front on stage singing or playing it’s usually the result of the support of my support network.

Who is my support network? My support network is my wife and family. As today is my wife’s birthday and it’s also the weekend we celebrate the armed services of our country, I want to say thanks. To all who wore and who wear The Uniform I say, “Thank You!” To My family and friends, I say “Thank You!” To my wife I say, “Thank You!”

I. Thank. You.

And to you I sing this tribute, You Raise Me Up:

And that’s why I’m able to Stand On Mountains as I Play It By Ear.

Memorial Day – I’m Free!!!


Memorial Day –  A day that means a lot of things to people. To some it means a day of barbecue. To others it’s a day of hamburgers and hot dogs. Yet to others it is a paid day of vacation from work. Some even consider it the first day of summer. What do you think of it as?

I think of it as a day to remember the great men and women who died to give me freedom. But not only for me, but for my family and friends, and yes, even for us all. I think of Memorial Day as a day thank those who put their lives on the line every day. It’s a day to recognize the sacrifices of our soldiers in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. The dawn’s also a day to remember your local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and personnel. Tell your local firefighters and Emma that you

It is a day when the citizens of this great land can come together and sing

O say, can you see
By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
Through the perilous fight
What so proudly we hailed
Were so gallantly streaming
And the Rockets red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there
O say does that Star Spangled
Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free
And the Home of the Brave

As I sang the Star Spangled Banner for the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Graduation:, it reminded me of what it meant to be free. I’m free from the bondage of slavery; free to pursue life, liberty and happiness; and I am free to continue to Play It By Ear!

When the car won’t start


So I got the kids to school today. I had to run inside to update the dismissal sheet. I came back out to my car to head on to work. And then the car wouldn’t start…

It’s good to have a plan for when life throws you a curve ball you didn’t see coming. What do you do “when your car won’t start?” Does it become the end of the world? Is there another reaction? How do you deal with adversity?

To put it in musical terms, what happens when the piano you’re supposed to play is woefully out of tune, your B or E string breaks just before you’re supposed to play, or your snare drum skin gets busted the first time you hit it?

A passerby, Karl, came by and tried to jump start the car. That did not work. Eventually I had to tow the car to my mechanic, and I was able to get a ride to work from one of my friends, Jason, who just happened to be passing by. #GodIsSoGood

How do you deal with things when your “car won’t start?” I hope you just roll with the punches as I did while you continue to Play It By Ear!



Melody! How important is it? What is it? Is it the most important thing in a song? According to Wikipedia, “a melody (from Greek μελῳδία, melōidía, “singing, chanting”), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment.

In other words, the melody of a song is the main theme or the main tune of a song. It may be sung with vocals or it may just be instrumental in nature. But it is the main tune or idea of the song.  The melody has been touted as the most important aspect of music. It is considered by some to be more important than HARMONY or RHYTHM. But as with all art forms that is subjective. The main reason I would put the melody as the most important, is that it helps to tell the story of the song. It gives the story the initial voicing and forms the basis for what else the song or story needs to be complete.

What does your melody say? Is it telling your story? I love to tell the story. In music, if you are not telling the story then your melody is just noise. Some melodies exhibit more variation based on the style of music as in Jazz, Country, Rock, Indian Classical Music, or Balinese Gamelan.  I’ll expound on this in a later post. There’s so much to explore with melodic concepts and how it relates to the other elements of music.

So we have seen HARMONYRHYTHM and MELODY. These three are what the main elements of music. They are the pieces that when they come together, they can tell a beautiful story. They all help to shape our world view. I will use them to help me continue to tell my story as I Play It By Ear.



Rhythm is the life force of Music. It drives the music and keeps it moving along. In reality you can’t have good music if your rhythm is off, especially in a band, group, or orchestral setting. But what is rhythm exactly?

According to Wikipedia, Rhythm is defined as “the timing of events on a human scake; of musical sounds and silences.” This means that rhythm encompasses what you do play as well as what you do not play. It is just as important as what you do play. I’ve even had one drummer tell me that the spaces of silence is more important than the spaces of musical notation. This really needs to be expanded on. Managing silence – what a concept!

This concept of managing silence as it relates to rhythm is something that a lot of musicians would do well to heed. In a lot of instances just knowing that “you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. For a lot of musical situations, the old saying of,” Less Is More,” is true. The older I get, the more this concept resonates with me and I hope it resonates with you as well as you continue to Play It By Ear!



Harmony is one of my favorite musical terms. When I think about it, it brings joy on so many levels. But what is harmony? According to Wikipedia, Harmony, is defined as the simultaneous use of other pitches and chords. Now these pitches and chords are used to support the melody.

From as early as I can remember I have  always loved harmony. I grew up in a house where we always sang in harmony. We would gather around the piano for family worship and sing together. While listening to gospel choirs and quartets, my brothers and I would pick out the various parts and sing them. My ear training started way before I could talk.

What do you mean? I mean that I was surrounded by musical people from my parents to my brothers, and someone was always singing a “second or third” part. So it became a natural thing for me to hear the notes from various harmonies as I grew up.

I would like to think that those early days also helped me learn to live in harmony with my blood brothers so much so that i became My Brother’s Keeper. Living in harmony is even more important than singing in harmony. When you sing or play in harmony you have to listen to the other parts to make sure you blend in with the ones around you. Similarly, we should live our lives in harmony with nature and with each other. Sing in harmony and live in harmony as we Play It By Ear!

Get Some More Rest!!!!

Get Some More Rest

I know this is a blog on Music and life, but occasionally I write about things that affect the music and so I wondered about regaining lost sleep. As a musician I don’t usually go to sleep at a “reasonable” hour. It’s usually pretty late. This is not good. In fact I wrote a response to an article I saw on Time Magazine called It’s Time To Pay Attention To Sleep – The New Health Frontier. My blog called Get Some Rest, really highlighted the health benefits of sleep and how it can really prolong your life if you can get enough of it.

The question that I had today really hits home to me. If you have lost some sleep in the last few years, months, weeks and days the question remains – Can You Catch Up On Lost Sleep? As a musician can you regain the time from Sleep Debt, which is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount of you actually get.  Sleep Debt grows each time you shave those minutes off the time you actually get to sleep to accomplish some task or other.

Here’s what the article from the Scientific American also found: Studies show that such short-term sleep deprivation leads to a foggy brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, and trouble remembering. Long-term effects include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease. And most Americans suffer from chronic deprivation.” YIKES! This is why it is so important to get that sleep in every night.

So the question remains. Can you catch up on lost sleep? The simple answer is YES! You can regain that sleep. But you can’t do it overnight (See What I did there). Here is the direct quote from the Scientific American: The good news is that, like all debt, with some work, sleep debt can be repaid—though it won’t happen in one extended snooze marathon. Tacking on an extra hour or two of sleep a night is the way to catch up. For the chronically sleep deprived, take it easy for a few months to get back into a natural sleep pattern, says Lawrence J. Epstein, medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers.”

I’m glad that I found this article. I know I need more sleep. It is just as important as nutrition, exercise, fresh air, faith, sunshine, and self control. Some may say it is even more important, but everything has to be in balance. That’s why I’m glad I’m going to get my 8 hours of sleep tonight. I will wake up in the morning, refreshed and ready to Play It By Ear!

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes Perfect

Have you ever heard the words You Gotta Practice, and that Practice Makes Perfect? Back in October I wrote a post about practicing and how important it is. There are so many musicians that believe that Practice does indeed make Perfect. They hold this to be self evident. And to a certain degree they are true. However I want to contend that Practice Does NOT Make Perfect! All practice does is reinforce what you have learned so far. Basically it perfects what you’re able to practice.

This simply means that if you practiced a wrong note or sequence of notes in the wrong frame, then you will get it perfectly wrong every time you play that sequence of notes. You’ve got to practice the right thing and be consistent and persistent. If you think about and look to people who have made it big in this world, you will find that they put a lot of time and effort into becoming who they are and what they can do. In other words they practiced the right thing and did it consistently for a long time.

What are some tips that you can do to practice and play perfectly? Well one thing that you can use is a METRONOME. For any musician this is a KEY element for any practice session. Playing in time grows you as a musician in ways that can’t be measured. It is an intangible that is often missed by music teachers and students alike, that is, being able to play in time.

Similarly in life, not just in music, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the world. It shows by what we PRACTICE on a day to day basis. There is a lot of things that we do that could make the world a better place. I want to practice SMILING at my neighbors and co-workers. I want to PRACTICE being a man of my word and always following Through. I want to PRACTICE Paying It Forward just as someone paid it forward for me this week. What have you been practicing this week? I want to be able to continue on my journey to PERFECTION as I Play It By Ear!

I Need My Keys – Part II

I Need To Find My Keys Part II

In a recent post titled, I Need My Keys…s, I explored several techniques for finding the key of a song with and without sheet music. I have tried these methods out myself and have realized that I use these methods extensively. However, I realized that I also have been doing this so long that it comes second nature to me and I don’t really have a clear idea as to what I’m doing. I just do it. I find the key.

Well in doing additional research on this topic I found an interesting video on Take a listen and tell me what you think

Hum the key note! That’s right just hum the note that you think has the  most common tone! A lot of the time the chorus would give you that note. That’s how I usually do it. And as soon it matches the common tone of the song, I know I’ve got it right. It may seem hard and hokey, but it really does work. All you need to do is practice it with every song you can and pretty soon you will be finding your key as you Play It By Ear!!!

My Brother’s Keeper

My Brother's KeeperI’m not the or most organized person in the world. But I have the most awesome family in the world. In fact, they are so awesome, people Hunte them down to talk to them. My Mom is the same way. She is the salt of the earth. However this post is about one of my brothers. I’ll call him Scrawny for anonymity to keep his identity secret.

Now I have a confession to make. I. Forgot. My. Brother’s. Birthday. I didn’t call him on his birthday. In fact he called me as he had got a new iPhone 5C for the birthday. I felt so bad, that I had forgot his birthday. But the thing that struck me so pointedly afterwards was that my brother, Scrawny didn’t cuss me out or have “words” with me. He just wanted to make sure that I was O.K. and that he could share his new toy with me. Now that’s a brother to keep!  🙂

Instead of making it a problem and focus on himself, he reached out and focused on others. I am taking his example and sharing this story hoping that it would reach someone and make a difference in their life. I have a smart phone. So now, I have set all my brothers’ birthdays in their contacts and I’m also going to add it to my calendar as a yearly event so that I will not forget it ever again. I am my brother’s keeper. I Love My Brothers, both the blood kind and others that I have forged through time. I even love my brothers and sisters who I have yet to meet, even those who wish me harm.

I. Am. My. Brother’s. Keeper. It is one of the ways I love them as I continue to Play It By Ear!!!

Pay It Forward


A Beautiful thing happened to me today!

A wonderful little lady paid for me to get my gas tank filled with gas. It was a very beautiful thing for he to do. And so I will look for someone else to help them. Not that I wouldn’t help them before, but that I would make a special effort to be nice to others as this lady was to me. She made a point to let me know that she was having a bad day and was insistent on me accepting the gasoline so that she would feel better about her day and herself. Her only stipulation on this was that I would Pay It Forward for someone else when I can.

WOW! What an attitude to have when you’re having a bad day. If the world could adopt this attitude, the world would be a much better place. I will definitely keep this attitude for the rest of the week and hopefully for the rest of my life – Be nice to others ESPECIALLY when you are having a BAD DAY!!! Oh what a world we would have if everyone thought like this.

I think about some of the knowledge transfer in the world today as well. This attitude can be useful in reaching others. There is nothing better than to help each other out and pay it forward as we go. I know that my world view has been tipped farther toward this concept having experienced it in this way. I’m DEFINITELY going to Pay It Forward as I Play It By Ear!!!

A Mother’s Legacy!

A Mother's Legacy - Can You figure out which one is my mom?
A Mother’s Legacy – Can You figure out which one is my mom?

Every Day Is Mother’s Day! At least it should be, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I’m posting this message today instead of yesterday! It’s because of the hard work of mothers everywhere that we have all the great things in the world today. I am the man that I am today because of the impact that my mother had on me and my life. From my earliest days I remember my mother praying for me, and  encouraging me to excel in school and in life. Failure was not an option. She made it such a part of our framework that I have adopted that mindset even to this day! How does that relate to legacy? I believe that Legacy deals with the positive impact of someone or something on the lives of others. One of the ways this really impacted me, and by extension everyone around me, is in the area of Music. From as early as I can remember mom would encourage music around the house. She was always singing some song, even though she would tell you that she didn’t sing very well. She sang the Psalms that she learned while she was growing up. She sang different hymns that we all sang as a family, which is where I learned harmony. When I was about 8 years old, She actively encouraged my oldest brother to teach me piano. And then she made sure that I practiced and practiced my lessons until i could play them “properly!” I was also called upon to play the piano for our family devotion. And then u was called upon to play for church. And the rest is history. I hope I can pass on my Mama’s legacy as I continue to Play It By Ear!

Get A Clear Picture!

Elevation 1254 Feet - Greenville, NY

While traveling through through New York on my way to Pennsylvania I saw a sign that showed the elevation of how high above sea level we were. I tried to take a picture but it was blurry as you can see from the collage above.

The reason that the picture was blurred was myriad, with the weather conditions as well as the instability of the smart phone camera when zoomed in. But regardless of the conditions it was I didn’t have have a clear picture of how high I was or how much higher I could go.

A lot of people, including myself, are in the same position when it comes to their dreams and goals. The problem for most of is that I believe we have an unclear picture of our full potential and even the way to clarity is blurred.

How do you realize your full potential? How do you get clarity on such a fundamental question of life? I believe that  the answer lies in finding your purpose in life. When you find your purpose, then you will begin to realize your full potential. You may even be able to pick up a musical instrument and Play It By Ear!

Exercise and Music


Music is everywhere! It infuses our life often in times when we least expect it, like when you’re doing something and a song pops into your head and you can’t get it out of your mind. Music and exercise are also indelibly intertwined together. Inexorably linked is another phrase that describes this phenomenon accurately.

One of the reasons I say this is that if you look at all of the workout programs on the market today, from Beach body’s Insanity to Winsor Pilates, you will find that there’s music in the background or even in the foreground of the work out!
I find that if I turn the music off when working out I have less urge to complete the workout as helps to provide energy needed to finish the workout. Fascinating!

Music and exercise in my mind forms a symbiotic relationship in that having music helps you to exercise, but at the same time when you exercise it clears the mind and allows the creative processes to come to the fore, such as playing music by ear or by sight. 🙂

I love it that Music and Exercise formed such a symbiosis to keep us exercising and enables us to Play It By Ear!