I’m in a Contest! Help Me Win!

Hey everyone!  I could use your help!  I’m entering the Mormon Times Summer Showcase contest.  The contest goes on for a full month, and I’ve got pretty tough competition –  but I’m competing well for second or third.  You just need to sign up for an account, and you can vote every day of the month if you want!  Here’s a link to the page where you can hear my tune, “Homecoming” and vote.


If I get in the first four, I get to go on to semi-finals.  Thanks you guys!

This could really help me out!

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 14


Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 14

Getting Better
As you find yourself getting a little more comfortable with learning to play a piece by ear, don’t be afraid to stray a little bit from your genre.  While you may not have desire to try other styles, every genre can teach you something that will help you improve your own style.  One potential problem with sticking too tightly to your favorite style is that you may become very repetitive and predictable in your music.  This is especially true as you begin to write your own music.  It is a common trap, and an easy rut to fall into.  Try learning a few different types of music.

I do not suggest by this that you need to master every style, or that you should be equally talented in every genre, but I am suggesting that you try out something new once in a while.  Musical styles are like seasonings.  While you don’t want seasonings to overpower foods and confuse the taste buds, a couple of sprinkles of different seasonings can give your food a unique and enhanced taste.  So it is with music.  Slightly jazzed new-age music is tasteful.  Slightly new-aged rock is actually very popular.  So is pop-tinted African music.  You don’t need to have all your music ‘seasoned’, but occasionally it helps.

Comparison is Poison

Another caution is that musicians absolutely MUST NOT fall into comparison.  It is absolute poison.  You must not compare your abilities with those of another.  Whether a person is better or worse than you in a talent, there is no room for any degree of competition in the world of a true artist.  That is not to say that we should not learn from others.  We should listen to as much music as possible and try to adopt the good things that we find, but we cannot think less of our own music because someone else’s music has more skill or more emotion.

It is true that another person has a better ability to learn to play, write music, and they may demonstrate remarkable skill.  Ought we to wonder about that?  What if some of today’s great musicians had gotten discouraged by comparing themselves to Beethoven or any other great artist?
There will always be someone better than you, and there will always be someone worse (even if you can’t seem to find one!).

It helps to consider the place of music in our lives.  Is one good piece of music truly better than another?  If so, by what standard are they measured?  If you measure by pure skill, you won’t notice the feeling of the music.  If you measure by the amount of effort put into an individual piece, then you won’t notice how much time and effort the musician put into developing his or her ability to write music.  If you measure by the rules of music theory, you won’t notice the development of new ideas and new styles in modern music.
Measuring how “good” a song is compared to another is fruitless, since every piece has a different meaning, a different motive, and a different feel.

It is the same with the musicians themselves.  Two musicians have such different experience and motivations that it simply doesn’t work to compare them.
Do not be discouraged or boastful by comparing your ability to another persons.  It will only lead you away from becoming better at what you do.

People Pile

people-pile.jpgWhen I was in the fourth grade, I was coming in from recess one day with my sister, when we noticed an unusual commotion in the doorway of the school. As we got closer, we saw that there was a large pile of kids stacked 3 feet high, each kid shouting and struggling to get out of the pile. I don’t know how they got that way, but they looked so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. I pointed, saying to my sister, “Look at that! It’s a pile of people!” Suddenly someone bumped into me from behind. The next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of the pile. Well, almost at the bottom – I could feel an arm under me. Kids piled atop me, and I screamed with the rest. It was another minute or so before a teacher was able to get the pile sorted out and the kids all standing again. I remember going to class with a puffy wet face, and a feeling of utter humiliation.

I’ve thought of that situation many times since then, and it makes me laugh nearly every time I do.

It’s easy to laugh at life when I look at it from a safe distance, but when I get shoved into the pile, it stinks. Everyone clamoring to get above me while I’m just trying to get out of the pile. Pounding my fists while my head is being pressed to the floor, I wonder how I ever got myself into this stupid situation.

Sometimes I think of the people pile as an analogy of society – no one wanting initially to get into the mess of it, but once they do, they want to be at the top of the pile. What a strange system we have!

But there is another, simpler lesson that I get from this story. Thank heaven for memory. And thank heaven for perspective, which can turn a horrible situation into a humorous one. It takes work, but it if I’m willing to take a moment to think about it, I can find humor in nearly every challenge, and doing so makes life much more interesting. After I am clear of humiliation and danger, the worst piles in my life make some of the best stories. The worse the fix, the better the story.

So the next time you find yourself at the bottom of the pile, with your face being rubbed into the hardwood floor, just think of what a great story it will make later.