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.

Play It For Someone Else

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The month of October has rolled around again. And that means fall is upon us! A new season of beautiful colors and a world waiting for something special to happen.  This month of October is special in many ways, as it signifies many turning points of my life. It is also the month that I wrote my first blog on October 1st, 2013 as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. My blog post was called Play It By Ear.

October is the birth month of my Mother, Father-in-law, Daughter and numerous other friends that mean a lot to me. October is also the month in which some people close to me have passed away  due to different Cancers of the body. Cancer is one of the most insidious diseases that exists today. It is a deadly scourge that has affected everyone. One of the things that I decided to do this year was join my friend Robert Kennedy III in helping a charity and bring something positive to the world. One of these charities is Pink For Pam.

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Here is the mission of Pink For Pam in their own words – “Pink for Pam® is painting a new picture of cancer® for the world.  As new treatments and research extend the length and quality of life for millions of patients, many of whom are younger adults, perceptions of how to cope with the challenge of a breast cancer diagnosis and the new life it brings must change. Pink for Pam aims to help patients, families, caregivers, and the community at large to adopt a new view of cancer that is both optimistic and realistic. Most important, Pink for Pam helps those living with cancer to feel as normal, comfortable and confident as possible in their everyday lives as they work toward recovery.”

WOW! Painting a new picture of cancer – That is amazing. If there was ever a case that anyone could get behind, this is the one.  I Thank you, Pamela Cromwell for creating this vision and seeing it through. You are an awesome human being and an inspiration for all who are struggling with this disease. You show us what it means to live in the midst of dire circumstances. Thanks for being an inspiration to us all and for all who want a better life for themselves. We love you!

But you say, “David, this is great. What can I do to help this awesome charity?” The answer is simple. You can donate to the cause. Here’s how you can get involved. I am running at least 60 miles for the month of October. You can go to the Pink For Pam website and donate what ever you want for each mile that I run. Some people can donate $10 per mile. Others may be able to donate $1 per mile or $5 per mile. What ever you can do, Do! You will be able to follow my progress on facebook.com/david.hunte and you will be making a difference in someone’s life.

Thanks so much for all your help and I hope you continue to Play It By Ear.

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:

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!!!

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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: http://youtu.be/IUsVOr6uCok, 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

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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…

Melody...

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!!

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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

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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!