There’s some good advice in this article, especially if you are new to the stage. Performing takes courage and a willingness to stumble in pursuit of the magic. You can’t get consumed with mistakes and beat yourself up over bumps in the road. Stuff happens and it’s your flexibility and adaptability that will save you every time. A sense of humor can only make things better and a sense of perspective and gratitude will enrich your sense of self and positively affect how you handle things as they happen. Flexibility and adaptability have saved be both onstage and out in the ocean when I bodyboard. Out there, it’s a matter of survival sometimes.
One of the great things I have learned from riding waves is that each time a waves rises towards you, there is only so much you can expect, as unpredictability is always a possibility in the ocean. As you ride a wave, everything behind you rushes away as you adjust in real time to a swirling vortex of reality ahead of you. It is the wave riders ability to flow in that zone that makes them a great rider. And you can’t look too far ahead but you must constantly assess what is coming your way to make decisions in real time; most built to instinct through experience. To be on a wave is to be of heightened alertness in the NOW, to be so present that there is only the moment, the rider, the wave.
The beautiful thing about the way energy moves through water is the way it grooms itself into sets, almost magnetically lining up into bands of waves that stay in formation as they travel. Water as a medium lies still without this energy that brings it to such life, such power. This energy is molecular, affecting water in tandem as one liquid medium. Now consider that the rider of a wave is made of about 60% water molecules, his brain and heart about 73%, and his lungs about 83%. When you are riding the wave, your body’s water molecules are subject to the same energy and power that the water around you is. Therefore to ride a wave is to BE the wave. It is an indescribable feeling and it is awesome in the true meaning of the word.
So think of music and its vibrations. Think of how sound carries across different medium. Think about the physical effect of sound vibrations on the human body. The vibrations from an acoustic pianos keys up the bones of the finger, radiating through the skeletal system. Energy and its vibrations are the stuff of life and we thrive on it. Whether it’s music or the ocean. may you soak up the waves and radiate your greatest vibrations!
Pretty fascinating stuff! Now, this is just from Spotify but as a a mirror to popular music culture, it’s pretty telling. Something to consider next time you’re looking to create music. Perhaps starting in one of the lesser-used keys might yield an unexpected song or chord progression/pattern. If you find yourself writing in the same keys too much, try working in keys you are less familiar with. Sometimes happy accidents happen while you’re learning how the formula lays out in that key. Remember, there is only one formula for a major/minor scale. It lays down intact in each of the 12 keys but with the uneven landscape of the piano keyboard, it zig-zags a little differently in each key. Focus on the single formula by number and adapt to the shape and chords in each key. The context of formula coupled with the familiarity of the chords of the formula in each key (and their inversions) makes you more adept at playing any song in any key. Transposing a song from key to key leaves each key’s chords for a different set of chords but the structure of the song transposes intact. That is why a song sounds like itself when transposed. So here’s the question I ask every musician I know:
When a song transposes, what transposes?
That is what I teach and it’s the key to understanding the language of music. Interested to learn more? Check out The Key of One book/DVD and info on private lessons with author Robbie Gennet at www.thekeyofone.com
Out of all those wonderful traits, it is curiosity which makes an artist succeed. The curious artist thrives on losing themselves in their pursuit, which is also necessary for success. And flexible! The tree who bends does not break in the wind. Persistent, yes yes yes, until the clock stops, always persist to thrive and keep your nerve alive. Independent, always. There are times when it’s just you and your music. It will always be there for you, right down to your DNA. As to a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play, I would think that would only enhance the experience of heating one’s passion to boil and strapping on wings. Life is for those who grab it and wrangle existence out of it. And so is the piano! Creative people are compelled to create, hence the name. With music, compulsion breeds success and evolution.
Do you want to be a great songwriter? Then you must learn about and listen to great songwriters! When students ask me how they can be a better songwriter, I always ask them who they are listening to, who they are studying, picking apart, digging deep into the catalog of, researching, listening, watching, reading, etc. Curiosity goes a long way in becoming a better musician. If you want to get better, you must listen to the best. Preferably with an open mind, open ear and some knowledge of how chords work.
Here’s a cool piece about the legendary Allen Toussaint and his lost masterpiece~ good to have an appreciation for this man’s contributions! Do you know who he is? You should!
He’s responsible for so many great songs in the American songbook, many of them more well-known by other artists performing them. One of my favorite Toussaint songs is “Southern Nights” as sung by Glen Campbell, which is the version that hit on radio. Here it is:
Just for comparison, here’s Allan’s own version, which has its own distinct flavor. It’s great in its own way, but you can see how Campbell’s version was more radio friendly with the funky backbeat. Either way, the original is a treat:
Keep listening to great songwriting so you can hear different paths across the chord matrix, as well as enjoy some truly amazing music awaiting your discovery. Remember: In music, success is for the curious!
This is a really great story from Herbie Hancock about his time with the late great Miles Davis. Herbie was a young cat and played what he thought was a mistake during a show. But astoundingly, Miles changed his melody to give context to Herbie’s “mistake” and pretty much blew Herbie’s mind. Miles doesn’t hear mistakes, just other choices. Good story to take to heart next time you make a “mistake” onstage.
It’s really important to understand and cultivate your process, as the way you approach writing or learning music thrives off an organized path. This is a great breakdown of the creative process so you can assess your own. There are many things which drive creativity but some form of organization of flow helps dramatically with the efficiency of your creative process.
The Key of One helps give you context so you can have a basis for developing process with understanding and depth of knowledge. Writing music shouldn’t be like throwing darts in the dark. There is a simple and easy way to understand the way chords work and with this knowledge, songwriting (and interpreting) is a much easier and richer endeavor.
Back in the heyday of classical music, there were fairly strict rules to composing and the public’s tastes did not allow for much deviation. When composers faced the end of their lives, the music they created deviated more from popular trends. They took chances and let their inhibitions loose, creating some of the more interesting and sometimes strange music of their career, much of it worth seeking out.
“What edifying conclusions can we glean from all this? One is that when you’re an artist you go out doing what you do. After all, making things is a better way to spend your time than staring at the wall contemplating what little time you’ve got left.”
So how loud is your clock ticking? Time to get to work and make some music!
This is truly superb, though incomplete~ where is Joe Sample? Richard Tee? Some giants are missing from this list~ otherwise, a great truncated timeline of piano music. Really interesting, entertaining and informative! How many of these players are you aware of?
There is a wonderful, rich history of jazz piano players, many of whom have deep catalogs and a lot of music you can hear. Finding out about people like James Booker, Roosevelt Sykes and Leon Russell had a huge impact on me. Perhaps some of your biggest influences are out there waiting to be discovered by you~ the more you search for, the more you will find. One of the most important traits of the successful musician is CURIOSITY. That is what compels you to dig and discover all sorts of new things (and old things too). If you haven’t been a curious person so far, time to stoke that fire! This video should at least make you think about what you’re missing…
“To me…music exists to elevate us as far as possible above everyday life.” ~ Gabriel Faure
Make sure you’re not wasting too much time on social media! If you’re not spending more time at your instrument/craft, you are not going to evolve artistically. Facebook can be a time suck and as much as it’s necessary to build an audience/following, what works even better is making more compelling art~ write better songs, perform them better, work on your vision and skills and increase your abilities to make your dreams into reality. Better to leave a little mystery and get back in the lab~ all the game changers didn’t become that way by following everyone else. They fertilized their passion until it bloomed big.
Beginning musicians ask me “How do I become a better songwriter?” and I ask them “What great songwriters are you listening to and learning from?” Studying, listening and exposing yourself to great songwriters and their music doesn’t mean you have to copy them. But all of them left roadmaps across the chord matrix for you to learn from so you can illuminate those paths on your own understanding. Are you ready to up your game? The Key of One can give you the foundation to grow beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is dare…
Don’t succumb to self-doubt, don’t lose sight of your dreams and don’t quit! We can’t wait to see and hear your dream come to life~ the greatness within you is ready to open like a butterfly and soar! Remember that every journey begins with a single step… so start steppin’!
Are you dedicated? There is no greater gratification than rising to (and surpassing) your goals. The Key of One is here to help get you on the musical path! Robbie is available for private lessons here.
Remember that motivation is a daily exercise. Set small reachable goals and take them down one by one. You can reach further than you ever thought but you must be patient. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, you can eat an elephant a bite at a time. No matter how big the task, starting is the biggest step.