Dan McKinnon sings

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Instrument abbreviations
(as) - alto sax
(b) - bass
(d) - drums
(f) - flute
(fgh) - flugelhorn
(g) - guitar
(h) - harmonica
(mel) - melodica
(o) - organ
(perc) - percussion
(p) - piano
(ss) - soprano sax
(tb) - trombone
(tr) - trumpet
(ts) - tenor sax
(v) - vocals
(vln) - violin



Tuesday, June 8, 2021
I finally saw the Tom Hanks Mr. Rogers film last night, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Great use of music in it so seamlessly supporting the other content. I had to make an effort to listen for the music and appreciate it on its own merits. (I was disappointed after watching the credits; none of the instrumentalists were listed. The piano and bass players were especially noteworthy.) When one artistic element (music in this case) so powerfully and subtly supports the whole project, I believe it indicates something really remarkable about the music and the team that creates the project.

Fred Rogers was an incredible person, insightful, protective of and nurturing toward children and the inner children in adults. He wrote great songs with powerful lyrics. He made jazz music an integral part of his show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Yesterday was a hard day. I had taken a sleep aide and unfortunately side effects included some depression, tiredness, and disorientation the following day. This makes work a lot harder.

Firstly, I am working on a music project that seems futile. It is a cover of a song no one remembers. Secondly, I work to figure out many things about the song by doggedly playing and notating it, whereas the original—which I will never even get close to matching artistically, spiritually, or technically—remains freely available to anyone via YouTube. And yet I keep at, not sure why. It was after this day that I heard the following Fred Rogers' song.

Check out the lyrics to "You’ve Got to Do It":

You can make believe it happens

Or pretend that something's true

You can wish or hope or contemplate, a thing you'd like to do,

But until you start to do it (!)

You will never see it through,

Cuz the make-believe pretending, just won't do it for you.

You've got to do it, every little bit,

You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it,

And when you're through,

You can know who did it,

For you did it, you did it, you did it.

It's not easy to keep trying

But it's one good way to grow.

It's not easy to keep learning,

But I know that this is so...

When you've tried and learned you're bigger than you were a day ago,

It's not easy to keep trying

But it's one way to grow.

You've got to do it, every little bit,

You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it,

And when you're through,

You can know who did it,

For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Please note the following:

1) If you want to hear the song on YouTube, click here.

2) The person singing is Fred Rogers (not Tom Hanks).

3) The marvelous piano work is by Johnny Costa, Fred Rogers' musical director on the show.

With this encouragement, I will probably keep at doing my cover. I'm 70 years old. I encourage you to keep at whatever it is you're doing. Don't give up. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2021
I'm just going to put some random thoughts out there. They came to me as I was practicing. They are not thought through. (Maybe you can synthesize them into your process if you think they have merit.)

During practice for voice or an instrument, one is willing—willing in the sense of "I will to sing such-and-such, or I will to play this keyboard pattern on guitar or piano"—to do certain things. These require ideas that are executed in the real world via muscles and in instrumental music, mechanical manipulation of machines. (Yes, sadly even B.B. King's Lucille, his guitar, aside from emotional attachments and even attributing personhood to the instrument, was a machine. Almost seems sacrilegious or iconoclastic—tearing down an idol—to mention it.)

Aside from this willing and executing, other important things need to go on. These are the things that become more apparent to me as I gain experience in music and life as I age. The first of these is awareness. This has to do with hearing and listening to be sure, but is not limited to these faculties. One can also listen with one's mind, or heart, or feelings. Part of this listening has to do with getting in touch with the part of ourselves that creates music. (Hopefully more on this later...) It can be a real balancing act to tie into this part of oneself while one is simultaneously executing practice or performance routines. (To say nothing of being aware of any other musicians and singers who may be there.)

Cheers, and happy Thursday. Today I am practicing this morning to play my first paying gig in a year and a half. During this practicing lately, I realize that practice is essential to increase confidence, which definitely has a part in practice and performance.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
I was just doing my vocal warmup today and got some thoughts I will record and share here now, putting aside my practicing a while.

(I have noticed an uptick in the number of viewers on this website. Thank you very much, if it is even real, as there are unscrupulous web hosters—or at least one, that I have direct experience with; in their deception, I was fooled for a time. They padded the numbers of hits recorded.)

Today however, I may be connecting with just a person or two of the about six or seven unique visitors my web hosting company tells me I am reaching per day. That is fine with me, to reach even one.

I learned a lesson and was reminded of it today by remembering a sermon by Pastor Trevor Horn this last Sunday. And that is, at the time you are hearing something, or learning of something, or learning something, it may not connect. It may take a while for it to become real and useful to you.

I imagine that some people who visit this website may not believe in God, let alone be Christians. That's all right. As Ken Kesey famously said, "Take what you can use and let the rest go by." (Did you know Ken Kesey was one of the first pro-life people in the world, aside from Jesus?)

I used to hate lip rolls (or trills) and refused to do them. For a long time. In a vocal warm-up, I just chose a vowel and practiced that instead. These days the vocal roll I believe is the most helpful exercise for improving my singing. Why? because it assures that your breathing is right. I took a voice lesson from the renowned Greta Matassa, and she said, "Don't hoard your breath!" "Sing as though you are sighing." (I believe that was critical in my case.) I believe vocal rolls encourage that needful exhalation via the diaphragm that supports our voice.

The point is that after years of avoiding lip rolls, I now value them above almost all else for voice improvement.

Pastor Trevor was talking about how God's presence helps us persevere. Boom!

Another topic when I heard it on Sunday went over my head, but later I thought about.

"The story is told that The Times of London at one point early in the 1900s posed this question to several prominent authors: "What's wrong with the world today?" The well-known author G.K. Chesterton is said to have responded with a one-sentence essay:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours,

G.K. Chesterton

His witty reply is unnerving and unexpected. But it is also very biblical." (This quotation is from the article "Dear Sir, I Am" by Joe Holland, on the Ligonier website.

Enough said.

Saturday, May 29, 2021
Just listening to and watching "old" vids of Bryan Duncan on YouTube. Wow~

This cat is free in the Lord~ Watching this takes away some fear :)

What a creative, crazy dude! Lots of energy and he has fun when he performs. What a concept.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
A different kind of day yesterday. I don't know if you are familiar with Leland Sklar. He is certainly one of the greatest pop bass players ever, and may well be the most prolific. His recording and performing career goes back 50 years, and he is still going strong. The individuals and bands he has played with is a veritable who's who of the top singers and players in the music industry, and he plays with Christians as well, like Barry McGuire, Kim Carnes, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Matthew Ward, and others.

Sklar posts daily on YouTube about the people he has played with over the years, each day selecting a different person or band. His broadcasts are somewhat impromptu, but also reflect his planning and thought for each, especially in the selection of the artist and the musical clips of the person that he chooses. I don't watch / listen to all his posts, but with some artists I can't help but watch because of my interest in that person.

All that to say that yesterday I had a Leland Sklar kind of day as I reminisced about and watched the great Bryan Duncan in concert and on albums. (This was not via Sklar, but my own thoughts and memories about Duncan, who I've known of since his Sweet Comfort Band days.) (What a resource YouTube has become!! And easy to take for granted.)

Bryan Duncan is just an incredible Christian singer and songwriter. From a young age he gave his talent to God and isn't shy about sharing his faith in his songs and concerts. I watched a concert he did in the Netherlands some years ago. Wow! He was matched with some really, really top musicians, who were also very good singers. There was a big crowd of predominantly young people who were super into his music. If you want to listen / watch, here it is on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Z-qBPcO6iZ8

Friday, May 21, 2021
Sometimes it's hard for me to hear the Lord's voice.

Jesus is real.

There's a documentary worth watching. It's named "The Journey of CeCe Winans". You can see it free on YouTube here.

I was heavy into the music scene in Seattle in the 1970s. I got in a real jam, and when the smoke cleared, I had accepted Christ. I got out of the jam. But I would never be the same. The person most instrumental in my coming to Christ was Ben, a white friend who I'd known since junior high. He'd "gotten saved" years earlier during the hippie days. He was one of the teachers in a predominantly Black preschool in Seattle's inner city. He married a Black woman and attended a predominantly Black Christian church. I accepted Christ in his front yard in the projects. Holly Park.

Eventually I left that church in favor of a Pentecostal Black church. This was in the early 80s. At just the right time, the Winans came into my world. I felt the love of God through their music, me, one of the only white people in my church and neighborhood. I felt it.

You gotta see this documentary. CeCe and BeBe her brother are pioneers. They are strong and good. Listen to them tell how it was as two of the very few Black people in white Christianity! They have integrity.

Anyhoo. Today I played an almost overdone Christian hymn and posted it. I'm sure the world has been waiting for my version, probably the most played song in history. Here it is on YouTube.

Yes, it is derivative. Tommy Emmanuel. Here's his rendition of the same song on YouTube. (Yes, I listened to his version before being inspired to play mine.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
A little over two weeks since my last entry. A lot has happened.

My health crisis got worse. I had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. It wasn't too bad. The medical personnel were not only skilled, but personable and kind. It means a lot. I thank God for them.

For about a month or even more, I composed a song. It went through a lot of iterations. Toward the end, things came together, and even while recording, things happen serendipitously. Leeland Sklar, the great bassist, talks about this in his daily YouTube broadcasts. In each broadcast he picks a different artist that he worked with and describes what it was like to make music with them. Last night I listened to his description of Barry McGuire, a most interesting cat.

McGuire composed "Eve of Destruction." If you were alive in the 1960s (after 1965, when the song was published), you probably heard this iconic song.

McGuire became a born again Christian in 1971.

Back to the song I composed. There are stages when I write a song. It can be real work, but a funny kind of work. It's a kind of emotional / spiritual labor (as in giving birth, not that I know much about that physically speaking). It is kind of an audacious believing in oneself that despite the physical evidence you have as you first begin to get some words and notes, and your feelings about those things, you can keep going, you somehow keep at it. Fighting (or really just ignoring) strong feelings that it's worthless, and that I'm not an artist or musician of any worth. Somehow the song comes out anyway. It's called "My Offering." (click the title to see it on YouTube)

I played guitar and bass on the song, and it's the first time I've done percussion on one of my recordings.

One person described the song as morbid. It is that. When I composed the lyrics, I did not feel like I was long for this world, considering how I felt physically.

After I posted it, I was dinking around with a hymn several days later and recorded it. I posted it, but am dissatisfied with it, and may take it down. It amazes me that I spend time working on something and post it, and then just take it down. It seems like such a waste. (I've taken down probably half or more of my music videos over the years; I just don't think they're very good.)

Regarding my listening these days, I am really into Will McFarlane. He accompanied Bonnie Raitt for years and then gave his life to Jesus. I actually first heard one of his gospel songs almost 40 years ago. I am just amazed at the guy. He can play guitar like a ring in a bell, and he's got a great voice.

Friday, April 30, 2021
My health crisis has lessened a lot compared to what it was, but I'm not fully out of the woods. Let's leave it at that. I read in the Bible this morning that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character. Let that be what is happening to me, please God, because that is valuable.

Last night I performed publicly at an open mic, my first public performance in over a year.

The night of music was conducted under permissions of the current Covid phase we are in in this county. Interestingly, the policy of this venue is, "bring your own mic," (BYOM). Many of the performers sing.

It was interesting to hear others, but the main idea was for me to get back in the saddle. I prepared for the foray, but as one waits to perform, and during the performance, and afterward, it seldom seems like preparation was sufficient. I suppose there is hindsight in this.

Some things went ok, others went well. Other things did not go well, chief among them technical problems in micing my acoustic guitar. This problem was primarily unforeseeable, and it was disappointing. After loud, bassy, rumbling feedback on one side and not being able to hear the guitar at all on the other, the soundman reached a compromise by trial and error during the performance. Performing while this was going on was rough and marred my confidence and the performance. One presses on. By the last song, things were working better.

Did you know that most acoustic guitars can be plugged into amps these days? One sacrifices some warm, woody, acoustic tones with an amp, but that is better than not being able to hear the guitar. Micing an acoustic guitar works in a quiet recording studio, not so much in a noisy club.

There is the possibility that some people in an audience may not listen to a performer, and there was some of that with each performer. But an experienced ear can tell if people are listening, even if there is background noise. There is a hush in the talk.

As I age, I'm realizing the cost of public performance. The stress. The energy needed to proactively analyze and adjust to quickly changing circumstances while under the pressure of people listening to and watching me carefully.

Age and experience have benefits. I thank God my message is clearer, stronger, and more urgent. My skill is increasing, and even more than that, I'm not letting worries about my abilities cloud my music and the spirit as much as previously.

I sang and played guitar on How Great Thou Art, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and God Will Make a Way.

(Afterward, one woman asked if she could buy my CD. I told here that, unfortunately, I didn't have one.)

Friday, April 16, 2021
In the midst of my health crisis recently, a number of things happened. The most important and life-giving were words from the Bible that came to me when the pain and oppression were worst. This was usually at night as I lay hurting and sleepless, and opened my Bible as a last resort.

I got help from Psalm 139, how God promises guidance, but His main focus is holding us close. Verses 9 and 10: (no matter where I am, in heaven or the house of death, even the 'uttermost parts of the sea') "even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me".

I got help from Psalm 30, a promise of healing (verse 2).

I got help in Psalm 25. Verses 16 - 18, among others. God is still my friend and is with me, despite my troubles.

Also during this time I got the idea to reharmonize "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." I recorded it and put it on my phone. Then I went to the beach with my wife and she filmed me lip-syncing it. So for a change you don't have to look at my ugly mug inside, you can look at it outside where there are other things to distract you :)

Here is the reharmonization, which means that I created a new melody and chord structure, but kept the lyrics the same. Reharmonization of What a Friend We Have in Jesus - vox, cello, drums, guitars

I sincerely hope you are motivated by what I've said above, and the advice of the song, to believe in Jesus and pray to Him, and to read the Bible. He is very real, and he loves you.

A parting word. In the song, "trials" means difficulties. I think we can all relate to that. "Temptations" can mean situations we are led into by lust, which don't end well for us. But "temptations" can also mean a very difficult situation where we are tempted to lose faith.

Thank God the Bible lets us know that trouble in our lives does not mean we have fallen out of favor with Him. In fact the opposite is often true. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."

Tuesday, March 30, 2021
A word about this website and blog. (I've noticed an uptick in visitors and want to help orient you.) My goal and hope is that this would be a resource for people of differing backgrounds and interests. I've had many interests, passions, and experiences. Music is one. In the midst of that journey, I found Christ and experienced things regarding the gospel. I am also a person living in the present time, which is without question a period of tremendous challenges.

For example, as described below and other places like FB and an online musicians' forum, I've described a debilitating condition of my fretting hand that eventually required major surgery. Before surgery and during the long and painful recovery, I questioned whether I would be able to play again. But now, after more than a year post-op, I can play again.

I was so pleasantly surprised to get an inquiry about my surgery experience from a professional guitarist named Jim in Texas. He had followed a link I left in an online musicians' forum to my website, and from there dropped me a line. We traded several long emails about my experience as he considers the weighty decision of having an operation like mine, which will impact his life and music in a big way for a long time, hopefully in the long run for the good (if he opts for the surgery). Giving people like Jim resources to aid them in their journeys and decisions gives my life purpose.

I also like to share my experience of God. For example, I've found that God loves to take what seem to be crushing, negative events at the time and redeem them. During the years my hand degenerated and got more and more painful to use for playing, and during my recovery post-op, I worked on my singing. I took lessons from notable Pacific NW singers Greta Matassa and Jake Bergevin (actually only one lesson apiece), sang in two choirs at different times (details below), and attended a number of vocal jams where I performed onstage (when it was my turn). In this way I kept my hand in music and performing, and improved as a singer. God redeemed the negative instrumental experience and expanded my horizons as a total musician.

I'm currently experiencing a health crisis (stomach cramping and diarrhea) that has brought three walk-in clinic visits, one lab visit, and one visit to the ER in the last two weeks. My recovery (I say in faith) is still in process. Additionally, I had one Covid vaccine so far, which my body didn't seem really happy about. Just being honest.

In the last couple weeks, my music involvement has been more limited. I did find a great video on YouTube by Alison Krauss and "her" band Union Station performing "There Is a Reason," a gospel song by one of the guitarists in the band, Ron Block.

I'm also slowly working on a new song. I have such low self-esteem as a songwriter. That is a major hindrance. Sometimes things flow in the creation process. With this one it has not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Here's my newest video: voice and acoustic guitar Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This is my second version of this song. It is in Db, a whole step down from the first version to help me hit the high notes :)

There's a crazy story about how I got a Gibson Gospel acoustic guitar. Suffice it to say that it was at least a couple miracles. The guitar is a lot harder to play than my ES335 copy. No joke. But I like the way it sounds. An acoustic guitar makes a distinctive sound that some players like Tommy Emmanuel feature as their main instrument, though they can play an electric like a virtuoso as well.

I recorded this live in one take. It shows :) In the funny papers, they show a couple versions of the same picture and you're supposed to pick out the small mistakes between the two. There are a number of mistakes in this video. But I hope they don't distract from the general feel.

I recorded this with Reaper and a fellow named Max mixed it for me.

Friday, March 5, 2021
Just finished a song and uploaded it to YouTube. Precious Lord. The lyrics were written by the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, who also adapted the melody. The melody is credited to Dorsey, drawn extensively from the 1844 hymn tune, "Maitland". "Maitland" is often attributed to American composer George N. Allen (1812–1877), but the earliest known source (Plymouth Collection, 1855) shows that Allen was the author/adapter of the text "Must Jesus bear the cross alone," not the composer of the tune, and the tune itself was printed without attribution for many years.

Dorsey wrote "Precious Lord" in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932. (Mr. Dorsey can be seen telling this story in the 1982 gospel music documentary Say Amen, Somebody.)

Mr. Dorsey was a Black man. He recruited Mahalia Jackson to sing the song. It was also Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song.

Two of the first churches I attended and became involved with after I "got religion" in my 20s had predominantly African-American congregations and were pastored by Black men. I heard this song often. (For information about how I got religion, see the About page of this website.)

One night several weeks ago I awoke in the night. I forget what troubles I was going through at the time, but the words of this song came quite simply and distinctly to me. It helped. The next day I began to figure out the chords. This is the result.

This is one of my first songs created with Reaper, a digital audio workspace. I may elaborate at a future date.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021
It's been almost three weeks since I made a blog entry. I promised to talk a bit about performing live (including jam sessions) versus recording in a studio.

I decided to jump back into the live music scene some years ago after I retired. I bought a performance guitar (as opposed to my unamplified acoustic). I practiced a lot, learned a lot of new songs, and listened to music I was interested in online and live. I augmented this with attending jam sessions to listen and participate as often as I could. Occasionally I even got a real gig. I performed either by myself or with a few others at retirement centers. As a kind of internship I played once a week at a restaurant for tips. The pay was lousy, but the experience was priceless. I learned about playing in front of people, interacting with them, and cooperating with the restaurant staff, who were kind and supportive. It was a symbiotic relationship with them—we each benefitted from my playing in their establishment.

Many of the jam sessions were way above my head, as far as the caliber of players. I sure heard some incredible music. I participated occasionally. Each time I found the courage to play and / or sing, it was a trial, a stretching experience. I used to go often to the Owl & Thistle on the waterfront (jam session hosted by Eric Verlinde and Jose Martinez), and the Musicquarium, so called because of the huge aquarium near the stage and dance floor. (This latter jam session was hosted by Brian Nova and his band.)

There are some really great players in the Pacific Northwest. They are as good as anyone in the world. Many are obscure, sometimes really only known by other topnotch musicians. I could name many names.

Of all the hundreds of performances I experienced, three stick out as almost out-of-body. And coincidentally, one person was in two of these three.

There was a jam session for advanced players at the Angry Beaver in Greenwood. One night I came in and two musicians were playing by themselves while everyone listened, a departure from the usual bass, drums, chording instrument and multiple soloists, mostly horn players. Just guitar (Wolf Kienzle) and sax (Darian Asplund). They were playing Stardust.

The next notable experience happened at a jam session that took place on Sunday nights at Darrell’s Tavern in Shoreline—Wolf Kienzle playing Misty. (Of course Kevin McCarthy was probably playing standup bass.)

The third was Eric Verlinde (piano), Dean Schmidt (electric bass), and Jeff Busch (drums) at the Owl & Thistle. They played Henry Mancini’s Charade. Oh for a recording of that!

At a jam session, anything can happen (and usually does! :), and at times there is an art experience that takes place that is indescribably cool. There are some videos on YouTube of this kind of thing happening at church jams, mostly at African American churches.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Hey everybody, happy Tuesday! (or whatever day you see this :)

Wow, Pro Tools has a steep learning curve! Most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing. At one point recently it took me a half hour to get my tracks to play through my headphones. I realize confessing this does not cast me in a very favorable light, but if you are a novice at this or anything, maybe it will help you not to feel so alone.

I suppose it is not the best to be too transparent with some things. On the other hand, sometimes being so may help someone else to have more hope. I just finished another YT video, and this was one of the fastest to produce yet. I read where Miles Davis, in a very prolific period, did three albums in something like four days. Yes, he was creative, but he also owed his recording company that many albums and wanted to get out of his contract as quickly as possible so he could sign with a different record label he felt would be more in his interests.

I did an instrumental version of "Have a Little Talk with Jesus" about four years ago. The video I just posted is the same song with an added vocal.

If you watch the new version, you may notice that I recorded the guitar solo "live" during the vocal take. This more reflects a live performance. Which brings me to a topic I hope to cover in this blog that I've been thinking about lately—the night and day difference between public performance and recording in a studio.

One can go even further in the direction of live performance by including the jam session, which often erases the notion of rehearsal / practice. I have had the most incredible musical experiences at jam sessions. On the other end of the spectrum, recording, just the other day I heard of a well-known studio musician, a piano player, who was working with an incredibly famous artist and they did about 167 takes of the song. The session player got so frustrated with the artist that he asked him, "Do you want me to do the same thing on all the takes and try to get it perfect, or do you want each take to be something different?"

Further, I heard that when Ariana Grande does a song in the studio, they do over a hundred takes, and then use the best small sections of all those takes to create one super track! (They have the technology to do that.) Doesn't seem quite fair to regular blue-collar vocalists. Seems like there's something a bit dishonest about the studio. (A dishonesty that I've benefited from, to be frank.)

At any rate, the preceding paragraphs are a teaser for an upcoming blog post about the spectrum in music with the jam session at one end and many-take studio recording at the other.

.
Monday, February 8, 2021
I waited an eternity to retire. I have time now to follow some interests and passions. But my life is not all easy. There are some terrific artistic and technical challenges in making music, and it is a constant push to meet them. On the other hand, there is inspiration, and grace and gifts from God as resources. And just to have some time is not the end of the struggle. I watch tv and movies a lot. There is some amazing stuff out there. Last night, though, I managed to not settle for mediocre fare and explore some things on YouTube. Here also, there is some questionable stuff, but there is also material that is quite interesting.

Last night I studied about Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, and that led me to the mutual admiration—and outright competition—that developed between Wilson and Paul McCartney. Both artists were inspired, challenged, and even provoked by one another to make great music. It was nothing less than Ford vs. Ferrari.

What especially resonated with me were several clips of Paul talking about his experience of listening to "Pet Sounds," Wilson's revolutionary, symphonic album that came out in 1966 (around the time of the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver"). A number of reviewers feel that "Pet Sounds" was the greatest American album of all time.

And in my much diminished way, so much so that it is hardly worth noting, McCartney touches on something that I can relate to. A friend, Thomas, remarked on YouTube that with my last song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," that it grabbed his heart. McCartney said of Wilson's "Pet Sounds," I found myself driving in my car with tears streaming down my face [listening to "Pet Sounds"]. It wasn’t really the words or the music, just something so deep in the song that touched me."

I mentioned in a previous entry in this blog regarding my rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that a couple times in rehearsing it I broke down crying. I was by myself. I couldn't explain this. So if this song that is very humbly crafted and full of technical deficiencies moves you, let's attribute it to God and how He has given us a great gift in the language of music, and uses weak, broken, fragile vessels in His generosity. I so desire that my humble musical efforts, and whatever I do, points toward Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2021
For the last period of time I've been thinking about, playing, and even preparing to record "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I was practicing "The Christmas Song," and noticed that two songs begin identically—a jump from the first note (tonic) up an octave to the same note. I recorded and posted "The Christmas Song" (actually two versions), and because it was no longer Christmas season, began dinkin' around with "Somewhere."

In the last week I seemed to get the go-ahead from the Boss and a key (the original, e-flat), even though it was at the upper verge of my range. Whatever.

I am changing the way I record songs (see posts below). At any rate, one has to make all kinds of decisions about how to go forward. "Will there be drums?" is one of the first big questions I often ask myself at the start of a project. I could literally write a book—or at least a longish short story—on this subject alone. It continually blows my mind that as long as I've been dinkin' around with music (which has also involved some serious study and exertion at times), there are some really basic things that I've missed. I confess that I have greatly undervalued drummers, for example. (That is putting it in a way that gives some grace to me.) I am sorry, drummers! I really am. (Even now I'm just learning about the relation between the bass line and the kick drum; some people learn this when they're teenagers.)

I read somewhere that "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" may be the most listened to song ever written. I came from a pretty strict religious (what would be the right word here?) "something". It was about 20 or 30 years ago in the midst of this that "Somewhere" entered my world. It sure seems like a spiritual song.

When a song becomes extremely popular (and some do), I believe that it touches some fundamental human issue. In this case, a kind of knowing that this present world falls far short of a yearning each of us has inside us for something better, even a sense that we were created for something better and grander and nobler than what we presently call life on planet Earth.

And isn't music crazy? It is just not formulaic. It moves in realms beyond logical and predictive ways, a really crazy, powerful language God has given us.

Now comes the time for me to be vulnerable. If you've read this far, congratulations (if you like this sort of thing).

Two times as I was rehearsing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (rehearsing by myself), when I got to the bridge, I broke down and could not continue. Isn't that weird? It's also a little scary.

I read up on the song. It was written by Harold Arlen. He and a lyricist, Yip Harburg, wrote it for "The Wizard of Oz." Later Arlen's wife got a brain tumor and was institutionalized for seven years. Then she died. After that, wikipedia says, "He lost interest in life." My eyes moisten when I read those five words. It is scary to me as I realize that I am also losing interest in life. It is a result of all the hard knocks and pain. I mean things that just floor you. Sometimes through people close to you.

I yearn for the next life. Jesus is the door to that. It is not a religious life. It is a loving life.

And I did record it: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Sunday, January 24, 2021
We went to church this morning and worshiped Jesus. There's nothing like it. He is the spirit of the living God. Sherry and Tim Muchira make a powerful worship duo.

My wife and I came home and ate our Sunday dinner. The Bucs beat the Packers. Not sure Aaron Rodgers will be able to get another SB ring. And at this point it looks like Kansas City will win over the Bills. I was pullin' for the Bills.

One thing I've learned: No matter how beautiful a Christmas song, it has a short shelf life. Who wants to listen to Vince Guaraldi's and Lee Mendelson's "Christmas Time Is Here" in February? July? September?

I learned "The Christmas Song" this year and uploaded it (vox with guitar, bass, drums) to YouTube. I worked out another version, a chord-melody solo on my guitar and recorded it recently, before I forget everything in the Christmas-drought months ahead. If I'm still around and playing next Christmas season, it will be easier to pick it up than to learn the song from scratch, but sheesh. All that work to play the song for a couple months at most. Here is the new chord-melody version: The Christmas Song by Mel Torme and Robert Wells.

Monday, January 18, 2021
Much has happened since I last updated this blog. Our national troubles, after so much turmoil through the summer and fall with disease and political and racial unrest, have only gotten worse with the storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. I lie there and my mind starts going, pondering and imagining many things. Occasionally I muster the strength to get out of bed and pray. I have a blanket handy and wrap that around me so I don't have to deal with the cold.

On such a night, the song "Sweet Hour of Prayer" came to me from my past. I sang it to God. It stuck with me the following day and I've been working on it for some time.

After working with a Zoom H4N mini recorder for almost ten years in posting my music videos on YouTube, I was ready for a change. The H4N is only about 8 inches by 4 inches, and 2 inches thick. Though a powerful and valuable tool for recording despite its size, I was ready for something easier to use and with more features. With the H4N, many aspects of recording are like "shooting in the dark" regarding features, resources, settings, and knowing what's going on while recording. With the advent of the use of computers in recording, along with tech gear that continues to get cheaper and cheaper, there is no reason not to upgrade to better recording tools. The use of a graphical interface for recording and mixing makes things much more manageable. (There are also a lot of complexities that come with digital recording, but that's what YouTube is for!)

I bought a relatively inexpensive audio interface (Focusrite Scarlett) to put between my voice and instruments and my computer. It came with free recording software. Influenced by Graham Cochrane, a freelance recording and mix engineer, who records free recording advice through videos on YouTube, I learned much about recording oneself at home. This is my first digital recording using a digital audio workspace, also known as a DAW (Pro Tools First, that came free with the audio interface).

It was a lot of work getting up to this speed, which is still just beginning. I'm a novice with training wheels. But in the long run I will have more control over my recording and can get a better product, I believe.

Here it is: Sweet Hour of Prayer

Thursday, December 24, 2020
I decided to do a version of "Christmas Time Is Here." I contacted my friend Darian Asplund, a musical prodigy, and offered to give him some dough in exchange for accompaniment tracks. Over the course of a week, the project developed into 10 tracks, with four of them drum tracks contributed by Robert Seager, a cohort of Darian's. I was so thankful for Robert's contribution and know that his tracks helped make this track sound great.

You can read below in previous entries how I warmed up to the song, first because of an experience I had with the song in the 1990s, and more recently first with Lauren Daigle (her version on YouTube), and then with Michael W Smith and Vince Gill (their version on YouTube).

I can't say enough about Darian's and Robert's tracks. I have worked with Darian a number of times. On one gig he played only piano. On another he played bass, piano, sax, and flute. He seems equally at home with any instrument. I was especially astounded by his piano on this current project. If I had heard the piano part without knowing who played it, I would have guessed one of the premier Pacific Northwest players like Darren Clendenin. The advantage he has in playing several instruments on a project is that there are no clashes in fills and complementary playing together, enabling the instruments to work as a unit, like an orchestra.

Monday, December 21, 2020
I was fascinated by some more music. Christmas music. I heard Michael Bublé and Lauren Daigle sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" individually. Since hearing this song years ago, I always like the lyric, "From now on, our troubles will be out of sight" and "From now on, our troubles will be miles away..."

What is this thing about trouble coming into our lives? It happens to everybody. "Into each life, a little rain must fall." Despite our hopes, it doesn't take long for trouble to find us.

I used to go to Eastside Foursquare Church in Kirkland, which had so many great musicians and other artists associated with it through the years. Gary Verrill (p), Michael Peterson (v, g), Don Lanphere (ts), Jonathon Pugh (tr), Matt Simmons (v, ts, g), Byron Prather (v, g), and on and on. In the 1990s I got a CD from a musician at church and took it home. I recall putting the CD on and looking out the window, seeing snow on the ground set against a grey, lowering sky. Christmas was approaching quickly with all its frenetic activity, but for a time that moody day there remained a stillness. In this context I heard for the first time "Christmas Time Is Here." I felt God's peace and presence, a gentle, sweet, simple feeling of the spirit of Christmas that had little to do with my usual thoughts, perceptions, and responsibilities.

It wasn't until this year I discovered the song was written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson. They wrote it in 1965 for the first animated Peanuts Christmas special. I was already familiar with Guaraldi's great jazz work before his untimely death at a relatively early age.

I listened to the song on YouTube, vocals and instrumentals. Then one day on a lark amidst the strangling Covid constraints, my wife and I began to drive, not knowing where we were going, following our noses. We found ourselves in Snohomish. We went into a bakery to order hot tea and pastries. A jazz rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here" came on. It seemed like more of a sign than coincidence to hear that song at that time. We sat outside under a tent (no inside dining) with our hot tea and muffins.

I listened to Lauren Daigle do this song, and then noticed it was also on a CD by Michael W Smith that featured his duets with various artists. My wife asked, "Do you know what the "W" in Michael W Smith stands for? *Whitaker!*

I listened to the song. Because we happened to be listening to the song on an inexpensive player, I thought Smith did the vocals and his featured artist on that track, Vince Gill, did the guitar break. Later by accident I heard the song on YouTube on my computer with the good speakers. It was a whole 'nother thing!

Smith and Gill trade vocals and then sing together. Gill finishes that section by singing an octave above where he and Smith just sang together. Then a great guitar break, and more vocals to finish the song. So glad I found this a second time.

I have a remarkably high opinion of these musicians (Daigle, Smith, and Gill). For more info on Gill, I recommend listening to this interview in which he describes the times he was really stretched as a musician / singer. "How Vince Gill was in Over His Head - Talking about Sting & Brian Wilson". (I've skipped ahead in the video to the part where he talks about Brian Wilson, but feel free to watch the whole thing :) If you're interested, do a search on "Surf's Up Radio City Music Hall Vince Gill David Crosby" on YouTube and hear the song that stretched him so much.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
A while back I finally got the courage and time to study and learn some guitar luthier things. During this Covid time I find a measure of peace watching a good luthier practice his craft, and there are a number of them on YouTube (for example twoodfrd).

I committed to intonating my guitar and watched a number of videos until I understood the logic of the procedure, which is not that rocket science-y after all. Previously I thought it was not something that could be changed with any degree of accuracy or improvement. This negativity had been building for some years, especially in light of a certain guitar I used to play.

When I first considered a musical "comeback," which in my case was humble, playing publicly in some manner (I thought about retirement centers as a way of hopefully giving seniors joy and improving as a musician and performer), I decided the guitar sound I liked best was that of a nylon-string guitar. This came about pretty much by just one cut from Eliane Elias's album I Thought about You, There Will Never Be Another You, which featured Oscar Castro-Neves (since deceased) on guitar (and a kick butt trumpet solo by Arturo Sandoval, as well as really good singing and piano by Ms. Elias, not to mention the bass playing :).

I won't dwell on the one-to-two years' struggle I had trying to make this guitar (Taylor nylon-string with piezo pickups) work in public performance. All the subtleties of the nylon-string guitar were lost trying to be heard on the bandstand even at a level equal to the other instruments, let alone when soloing. And the feedback problems were horrific. I gave it a good shot, but by the end of two years I gave up, discouraged. (I did however buy an Ibanez steel-string electric hollow-body, which it turned out had its own feedback issues, though less than the nylon.)

Aside from the issues just mentioned, there was also a pretty big intonation problem with the nylon-string guitar, which I believe is well known. I like to play octaves (ala Wes Montgomery) and the further I went up the neck—ascending or descending the neck is more likely with octaves because of the physics involved—the more dissonant this problem became. Steel-string acoustics and even electric guitars (as well as fretted basses) can have intonation problems as well. People told me that a guitar is never fully in tune, and cannot be. I used my energy to study theory, ear-training, and develop a repertoire, as well as get experience performing (and getting gigs and opportunities to play, like jam sessions), and leave guitar setup to the pros.

But recently I did intonate my guitar. (The biggest issue I had were that some of the saddles would bind when I tried to adjust them, risking stripping the flats of the screw heads; I ended up having to take the bridge off to get enough leverage on it to avoid this stripping.) Just last night I took the bridge off again and lubricated all the saddle nuts and bolts, which helped a lot.

The results of all this work were worth it. I have more confidence that wherever I play on the neck it will be in tune (considering I hit the right note :)

Live and learn.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020
I discovered a remarkable musician, Valentina Lisitsa. Here she is playing Mozart's Concerto in D Minor. Aside from her playing, I am struck by her artistic disposition. She and her husband had a struggle getting her recognized, but today she is a true YouTube star with 50,000,000 views. (Something about watching her as a sensitive artist, her exquisite playing, and the music itself--Mozart died at age 35 and was a true prodigy--makes me emotional; tears come to my eyes as I watch this.)

Monday, December 7, 2020
Inspired by the content of the previous entry, I worked up a version of The Christmas Song and posted it.

Friday, December 4, 2020
It happened again. Got a song caught in my head. As I go to the YouTube landing page, behold, like everyone else in the world, I am offered many, many videos to watch courtesy of YT's algorithm that accesses the songs and artists I've viewed in the past.

I saw a picture of Nat King Cole and the words "The Christmas Song" underneath. One hears it so much this time of year, but I am seldom given the opportunity to watch him as he sings. Something new happened as I watched, a new appreciation of the man and the song.

When that one was over, I saw a picture of Judy Garland and Mel Tormé and a bunch of people around a piano and clicked that. I sat with my mouth open hearing two great musicians sing the same song, and I remembered as they talked that Tormé wrote the song, along with Bob Wells. In the video he played piano very well, sang lead and harmony with Ms. Garland, and kept things lively.

I also found this story.

"The Christmas Song" (aka "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or, as it was originally subtitled, "Merry Christmas to You") is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by musician, composer, and vocalist Mel Tormé (aka The Velvet Fog), and Bob Wells. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool," the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song was born.

"I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil," Tormé recalled. "They started, 'Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob (Wells, co-writer) didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics."

I've heard and read about Tormé in the past and marveled at his talent and ability. (I also remember that he detested his nickname "The Velvet Fog," which I believe was coined by a disc jockey.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
I put a new video on YouTube (YT) a week or so ago. It's a solo guitar chord melody arrangement of "Alfie."

(Invariably, after I work up a song and post it on YT, I get better at performing it, and then wonder if I should record a new one, post it, and take the first one down.)

For the story behind my guitar playing these days, please see my FB page (the new post with a picture of my hand in a black cast).

I posted a comment on Leland Sklar's YT video about his playing with the contemporary Christian band the 2nd Chapter of Acts. Leland Sklar is one of the best pop electric bass players of all time. (that video on YT is here, and I've skipped ahead to where he begins talking about 2nd Chapter of Acts) My comment, if you want to read it without jumping around: "I listen to some of your vids, interested in your bass playing and the stories. Some of your featured artists I do not know or listen to much, but this one…

You are a great artist. God has given you a love for people and animals, a gentle spirit, a remarkable life, imagination, artistic abilities, a love of music, and skill in laying down inventive groundwork for much remarkable music. You are also humble. (I loved your story in this vid about when they gave you room to stretch out and you commented, “What were they thinking?”)

This video took me on a journey into some of my stories and memories. Thank you for posting it. Our pastor was an especial friend of this family and brought them to our church on a number of occasions to perform. Each one was a special person. The life they transfused into the music, their creativity and technical abilities, never eclipsed the content of their songs: Jesus. Matthew Ward is a true freak in every good sense of the word, musically, creatively, and technically. His song “Love” brings tears nearly every time I hear it: https://youtu.be/z9J5qZdMfM4

Friday, October 30, 2020
Hi Everybody!!

I suffered temporary insanity and played a couple of standards I recorded and put on YT. It is crazy that one can do a pretty creative cover of a song and get a copyright hit on YT. Sure, it's intellectual property. I understand that. But how does one get a copyright hit for How Great Thou Art? That's a hymn that's been sung around the world for a long time. Maybe millions if not billions of times? And the person or persons who wrote the song, are they even alive now? Whatever. Anyhoo, I didn't put the names of the songs in the titles to avoid the copyright hits. I was curious to see if they got me anyway. So far so good.
1) Unnamed Standard - Jeopardy Challenge     
2) Name that Standard

Saturday, September 19, 2020
I remember in the early tech days, maybe 2003 or 2005 (which is actually more like the Middle Ages of technology), when desktop applications were still the big thing, though they got a lot of help from the Intermet--I know, it's misspelled for comic effect, people! Anyhoo, I had a website and actually hosted it from my home, paying a huge price for a static IP. I wasn't getting many hits, so contracted with an outfit named "I Need Hits." They were supposed to increase your hit count by marketing or whatever (which in retrospect did seem a little vague). Sure enough the hits on my site went up. But I was sophisticated enough to track the IPs from where these extra hits came from, and guess what... They were all coming from a server controlled by I Need Hits. IOW, it was fraud. (I guess they did increase my hits at that, just not my views by real people.) The web hosting company I have now supplies hit counts, but I don't know if it's legit. If it is, I get about 2 or 3 hits per day. So maybe in a month there are a few people who actually listen or read a little on my site? I can dream can't I?

But in case anyone is listening, I'll continue to share my random thoughts. Since my painful experiences during the Covid months, I've stopped studying jazz (guitar and voice) pretty much, but my energy and focus and passion for music (much more limited than in times past due to age) has transferred to Christian music. Last night however, I watched a video that I think is quite good, whether one is trying to learn jazz, or any kind of music, or any subject, really.

The teacher's name is Denis Chang. I know the middle part especially is pretty technical, but I encourage you to stick with it. He has a lot of experience teaching and his main point is that really each musician, or student in any field, is self-taught, and that one only advances when they take an individual approach, and take initiative, to be honest with themselves, explore, observe closely (which in music involves listening), and work on things that help them improve. This link is a YouTube video.

And as long as I'm preaching, I'll add this. Listening is a lost art, whether that's music, conversations, the Bible, the Lord. God's way is not impossible. He said His yoke is easy, and His burden light (as hard to believe as that is at times).

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
For about three weeks, even while working on my last cover, "God Will Make a Way" (composed by Don Moen), the song "What Can I Do" came strongly to me and was in my mind for weeks. As is my wont, I "reverse engineered" the song in Sibelius by ear, listening to a number of versions, including a tutorial by one of the composers (Paul Baloche). But because I can't hear chords as well as basslines, I settled on chords primarily by the bassline. (I noticed an error in the tutorial tablature and reported it on the YT tutorial page :)

I came up with my own arrangement and played bass (which was really the most fun part of the project for me), guitar chords, voice, and a guitar solo.

Here it is on YT.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Been forever since I posted.

I figured out God Will Make a Way by ear, took a drum track from Band in a Box, played a bassline to it with my cheap Guitar Center bass, and then sang and played guitar accompaniment. For the second chorus I played a guitar solo. It was a lot of work, but fun. I like the song and believe in it.

I'm working on another song. I'll post it when I'm done, God willing. There are some chord issues. I'm figuring out the bassline now. If you're a bass player, I suggest you throw your sheet music away and stop playing 1s and 5s (though I do on some (most) of my YT tracks, as a novice player :). The bass is the most important instrument.

I listened to Stevie Winwood play a gospel hymn named Now the Green Blade Riseth about Christ coming back from the dead. (Listen to the bass and imagine the song without it.) I'm out.

Monday, July 20, 2020
This is my blog and I can say what I want. Why not? Few if any read it, and no one has yet contacted me challenging (or even discussing) anything I've written here. waaa!

Music is a group effort, a team sport. For sure.

But if I had to choose, I believe the bass (bass player) is the most important part of any jazz band, and is absolutely essential to almost all other kinds of music. I doubt jazz would exist as we know it without the bass. I used to have a huge bias toward standup bass, but in the last few years have really come to appreciate the electric bass (guitar, so called). All one has to do is listen to an evening of someone like Tim Carey, or any of a number of other prodigious dedicated electric bass players, to get my point.

Although Dean Schmidt plays upright, I know him as more of an electric bass player. He really shines! Certainly one of the best I've heard.

And if you spend any time on YouTube, and like to play with backing tracks, you can't go wrong with MrSunnybass. A great player!

BTW, I posted a new video, Alfie, the Bacharach composition. It was his favorite of all the songs he composed. Dionne Warwick covered it as an afterthought to fill space on her album--after 42 others had already covered it--but hers was the most popular version. (I think I did my research right :)

Alfie. I've liked (loved?) this song from my youth. The film? Not so much. Never seen it, apparently about a womanizer, which behavior I don't condone. I believe this is a Christian song, per the lyrics pertaining to heaven and kindness, and Alfie being a kind of stand-in for God, a sympathetic ear, as the singer ruminates the basics of life.

Saturday, June 27, 2020
Yesterday I finally got an opportunity to finish Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, after a long week of doing various things not related to music. God gave me space yesterday to finally record this song after working on it several weeks.

The recording process is literally a trip. Often while recording a take of singing or soloing, I think it sucks. So I do another. And then another. Until I get worn out and yet agitated. Later, after I settle for a take and move on to the next thing needed in finishing the recording, it seems it's ok, better than I thought, or even worse than I thought during the recording. It seems there is no predicting this before listening to the take.

I have been reading things about or by Carol Kay the bassist. She is becoming quite popular on YouTube, though the bulk of her prolific work she accomplished decades ago. She said that when she started getting session work, she was shunned by performing jazz musicians, whom she had finally been accepted and welcomed by. She also talks about the random but artsy and even serendipitous ways things can happen on a recording session.

I can really relate to this. With my most recent recording mentioned above, I did the guitar solo maybe four or five times, having to wait several minutes each take for the right place to come in during the recording. All this seemed to take years.

They were all unsatisfactory. Because of my recording technique, I overwrite the previous take with a subsequent one. I was getting tired, and still hadn't mixed the backing track I would sing to. All that was ahead of me. I decided to do one more guitar solo take and stick with it no matter what, which I did. Later during mixing for the backing track, I realized I had meant to do two guitar solo choruses, but had only done one and a half (instead of two A-B choruses, I did the first A-B and stopped soloing after the first A of the second chorus). So while recording the singing, I filled in that blank space with whistling, and ended the song with a vocal chorus. I never would have whistled if not for ending my solo too soon. But now maybe that will be something I do more of.

This reminds me of Trish Hatley (not that I'm comparing myself with this great singer). She is a really good improvisational jazz whistler. But she needed some oomph as she wasn't confident enough to pursue it during a performance. It was an elderly friend whose enthusiasm for her jazz whistling (and she considered it an obligation to honor this friend's request) that she whistled some choruses on her album. It was for him. Without the request, I would never have enjoyed her whistling, which is legitimate jazz art.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
I love stories. It's probably a bad habit to do right before bed, but I go to YouTube and they have quite a number of suggestions of what I can watch. There are a lot of fairly obscure people who post things on YT, and I click and watch a number of them, especially if they have to do with music. I saw a video of a guy who figured out the bass line on Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman," and he performed it on his bass. It was awesome, and I began to follow the meandering and fascinating story of the song.

Creating a memorable bass line on a pop song determines whether it will be a hit or not. It is part science, part imagination, a lot of creativity, and a whole lot of mystery. Basically if you hire someone whose track record is good, they will come up with something that influences the arrangement of the whole song, and could make a ton of money. Several decades ago, that person was Carol Kay. It's her bass line, created on the fly at a recording session, that helped propel "Wichita Lineman" into the big time (along with Jimmy Webb's songwriting and Campbell's voice, guitar, and appeal). Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" ranked "Wichita Lineman" at number 195.

I believe that at least some of the time, popularity equals great art, that common people resonate with something in a song or painting so simply and directly that it can't help but become well known and iconic.

Jimmy Webb wrote the song. Here's what he says about it:

"I wanted it to be about an ordinary fellow. Billy Joel came pretty close one time when he said 'Wichita Lineman' is 'a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.' That got to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I had never really told anybody how close to the truth that was.

"What I was really trying to say was, you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what's going on inside him, but you don't. You can't assume that just because someone's in a menial job that they don't have dreams... or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like 'I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.' You can't assume that a man isn't a poet. And that's really what the song is about."

Campbell filled in what might have been a third verse with a guitar solo, one now considered iconic. He still can recall playing it on a DanElectro six-string bass guitar belonging to legendary L.A. bass player and Wrecking Crew member Carol Kaye. It remains Glen's favorite of all his songs. And he played it on an electric bass.

Sunday, June 14, 2020
I spent a lot of my life pursuing things other than music. But I've also spent a lot of time studying and practicing music, especially in my youth and even more so since retiring in 2013.

If I had just a few words to pass on to players of any age, but especially to young players, I would recommend that they focus more on learning by ear rather than with their eyes. Spend a lot of time just listening. Then listen and analyze. Notate and use your voice and / or instrument to play with and experiment and really absorb it.

Some of the best musical experiences I've had is being somewhere and missing or not hearing the melody of a song, and just listening to the chord changes, with the bass line. Sometimes these sound so intriguing and I know I've heard and / or played the song before, and then it comes to me. This makes me feel like I'm getting somewhere. I did this with Stella by Starlight not long ago. For some players the songs would be instantly recognizable just by the changes, but for me it is a big deal.

My current process is to work on a new song for however long by ear until I have all or quite a bit of it. With some songs this can turn into drudgery, but I plug away at it. With some I listen to a song umpteen times just for the bass. (I have a hard time figuring out chords, too many notes sounding at once I guess.) As I work bar by bar, I notate in Sibelius, which allows one to play back the bars one notates.

When I've worked quite a bit on a song, and have it pretty well figured out, I reward myself by looking at the sheet music or a chord chart of the song. Over the last few years, it is surprising and very satisfying to see that this work pays off, that I'm getting better. My ears are better and more reliable than I think. As this happens, one begins to trust one's ears.

I recommend a movie named Hearing Is Believing. It details the story of a young musical prodigy named Rachel Flowers who cannot see. Everything she learns, she learns by ear, including complex classical pieces, jazz, and experimental music. She is also a composer. Additionally, she is a multi-instrumentalist. She learns to play instruments very quickly at a performance level. Although her main instrument is piano, she also excels at flute, guitar, and bass. She even sings well. She also is invited by music stars to perform with them, for example Keith Emerson, Taylor Eigsti, Dweezil Zappa, Arturo Sandoval, and others.

I am in a whole new world now. I just figured out a song using only the melody. Rather than listen to other people do it, I chose chords that sounded best to me. Then, even though I knew the chords I wanted to use, rather than just play the 1s and 5s for the bass based on a mental analysis of the music, I figured out bass lines that just sounded good and melodic--complementary to the melody.

I am working on my patience also. Rather than rush to get something recorded, I experiment more, and try to take my time. Recently I worked about three weeks figuring out and scoring a version of a song I liked, getting all the various parts by ear: bass, chords, electric guitar. Then I created a backing track from all that to sing to. One afternoon after I had uploaded the song to YouTube, I just sat down and played guitar only while I sang. I did this for several days, and one day on a whim recorded and videoed it. I put it on YouTube and I liked it so much better than the previous one, which took hours and hours, that I took the first one down. I really believe, however, that all that first work was not in vain, and contributed to my performance on the second version. (This is one of my principles, and is from Proverbs in the Bible, which says, "There is profit in all labor." Nothing is wasted.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020
For the last week I've been playing around with my looper. This afternoon I created a redo of my last YT video. I hope the Lord can use it.

Sunday, June 7, 2020
I knew there was a Black Lives Matter rally and march in Mukilteo this afternoon. I prayed about whether to go. Donna went with me. I believe it was God's will for my life to go.

There may have been almost a thousand people marching. Many were people of color. It was simply an effort for change against racism. It was not incendiary or destructive.

One of the placards I remember was "All lives don't matter if black lives don't matter"

When we first got there and I was feeling tentative I noticed that the 20s-something man walking in front of me had on a black sweatshirt. On the back it said, "Jesus. People. Church." I took it as a sign from above.

The reason I went to the march today was the hope that by this older white man going, maybe it would by God’s grace make for a safer and better future for my black friends and their children.

Friday, June 5, 2020
I am much attracted to the Psalms these days, and I have discovered The Message translation of them, by Eugene Peterson. Bono of U2 is also a big fan of The Message and Eugene Peterson (here is a YouTube link). (I may have more to say about this in future blog entries; the previous link is just a teaser :)

Here is the Psalm translated by Peterson that spoke most clearly to me: http://biblegateway.com

Friday, June 5, 2020
I have been praying for our country, the people that is. We are reeling from disease of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Almost as many Americans died in the Civil War (over 600,000) as all other wars in which Americans fought combined. Despite all that bloody death, conflicts between the races continue. We are terribly divided. African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Filipinos, South Sea Islanders, Middle Easterners, Caucasians, and others make up this land.

We can't make it without God. For me and my house, God has a son named Jesus. I see in the church examples of unity and division.

For the last several months, I've been trying to do music that more directly speaks of God. Yet yesterday I began to play "I've Got Rhythm" out of the blue. What gives?

Jazz is an African American music. Yet anyone can play it who wants to (barring copyright considerations).

Gospel is primarily African American-influenced music, born of pain and slavery. And it's music for all tribes and tongues according to the Bible. There is even country gospel, and African American country singers. It's hard to make formulas and generalizations. One just has to go with the Spirit.

I was playing with my looper for the first time in forever. Normally in a jazz song, the chording and bass line is slightly different in the first and last choruses than the middle jam choruses. It's probably best not to do that live because if the loop takes too long to make, the audience might get antsy. (One could prerecord a multi-chorus loop with differing choruses, though.)

Loopers are a trip. I'm getting better at using it. There are advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that one can sound like a band even though playing by oneself. The main disadvantage is that one can sound like a band even though playing by oneself. As one comedy duo member said to the other, "Did you see what I did there?" :)

I got that line (or was reminded of it) from watching Holey Moley last night. (It is quite a bit like Wipeout.) I really did not want Frat Boy to win. He won over an Asian woman and a black man. Frat Boy reminded me of bullies in high school. But apparently he was the best golfer on that particular night. (What are you going to do?)

So we took a break from the news and watched regular tv last night. I really liked Young Sheldon. And To Tell the Truth (hosted by Anthony Anderson, with help from his mother) was just incredible. Amanda Seales guessed the right person each time. What I find amazing is that quite often the imposters fool almost everyone, and at times everyone. (That's really scary.) Sometimes I watch shows like Dateline or 60 Minutes where there is someone whose real (wicked) self is hidden, and they pass themselves off as harmless and lovable. It is fascinating but horrible, and I usually regret watching these. It is just so creepy that we are fooled by some people. I have been fooled by hidden people. Years ago my roommate and I let a guy stay with us and he stole my roommate's car. Another time when I lived alone I let a minister stay with me and he stole my car. What a drag. God blessed me to get it back, but it was also broken. A minister of the gospel yet.

My wife isn't like that. She is a gem. I love her.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
This is a website and blog about music, but I find the different facets of my life overlap and affect one another. Today was in some respects a hard day; I had a number of things I had to do that I didn't want to, and the things I wanted to do I didn’t really get to so far. But I’ve always liked to write, so now I've arrived at those better things.

I read and heard the fascinating story by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel about the writing / composing of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Simon had been listening to gospel music at the time, especially the Swan Silvertones. Although the beginnings of the song were fairly straightforward and quick, it was months of labor before the song was released.

I am starting down a songwriting path. Songwriting is a wonder, and that yours truly is on this journey is surprising.

My previous attempts at songwriting, at least before my last one a couple weeks ago, Song of Assents, seemed to teach me that I had no natural talent for it. But in my case that doesn’t seem to matter; I just pray asking God to give me things. And wait. (It feels like cheating, but this is the same way I made it through college. :) With the song just mentioned, I woke with the central motif in my head one morning, and went immediately to my guitar (or was it the small electric keyboard by my bed?) and captured it before it was gone forever. From there I wrote it in Sibelius and figured out chords. Anyway, there is a lot more I can say, but the song went through many iterations and changes before its final form. All this took weeks.

On the suggestion of a friend, my wife and I watched We Are Together (Thina Simunye) (2006, imdb rating 7.7). This documentary details the story of several siblings of one family and other orphans in the Agape orphanage in South Africa, and how their singing opens doors for them internationally. (This movie can be viewed for free on Amazon Prime.) Their joy in singing is set against the intense suffering they endure as the children of parents who succumbed to AIDS. Spoiler alert: They record with Zwai Bala, the South African pop singer, along the way. So I was introduced to Bala and some of his story. In 1988, at age 13, Bala became the first black member of the then-segregated Drakensberg Boys' Choir School, singing only in English and Africaans. He said he very nearly quit because of how mean the white boys were to him, but his father talked him into sticking it out, which his father said would open doors for other black children. Today half the members of that choir are black.

Saturday, May 30, 2020
I listened to a number of songs I let YouTube play in succession for me that had a common theme: Dallas Holm. Thus I heard a number of his songs I haven't heard before. What a talent and man of God. I also heard a young man named Connor Simpson sing a praise song by the Imperials I used to like and occasionally sing, Praise the Lord.

I like Dallas Jenkins, the director of The Chosen on YouTube (and available on other streaming outlets). I think he walks with the Lord, and is a real pro. This is his time, and he's doing what the Lord created him to do. He has an aphorism (or saying) before they begin a task or start shooting that came about over time, but started from an umpire from his baseball days: "Here we play". He may say it multiple times during a day. Here is a link to his routine on a day of shooting. (this was just posted today and already has almost 5000 views)

I just made up a pithy saying from my experience. "Listen to your ears." I realize it is kind of silly, but maybe that helps make the point. I constructed this by feel because of the truth and my many musical and other listening experiences. (Jenkins trusts his camera guy with the visuals, but monitors the dialogue closely for authenticity, humor, and humanness; that is impressive and important in my opinion, and revelatory, that he thinks the sound is ultimately more important in a movie, which is all about the visuals for most people.) My aphorism was engendered today because of Connor Simpson. If one goes by sight with Connor, one might turn the video off before he even begins to sing, thus missing the great genius and talent he has.

Friday, May 29, 2020
I get songs in my head and I have to work on them to get them out. That's the way it works with me.

I have known about Dallas Holm's A Broken Heart for two or three decades, but it slipped from mind for some time. Holm is a Christian singer and guitar player who made it big in the early Jesus People days in the 1970s and following decades. He has a pretty high voice for a big man. He is a talented singer and guitarist. But his real gift is songwriting.

I attended predominantly African American churches for about seven years after I first got saved in 1979. The musicians in our church and the African American churches we often visited and fellowshipped with were just phenomenal and unknown by white Christianity. For every black Christian singer, man or woman, who makes it in mainstream contemporary Christian music (CeCe and BeBe Winans, Mandisa, Tauren Wells are examples who have made it in the predominantly white market; Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Hezekiah Walker, and others in the predominantly black market) there are probably multiple equally talented African American musicians who are never heard of outside their relatively small spheres of influence.

Dallas Holm was one of just a few white songwriters whose songs were sung in the black churches, especially I Will Rise Again.

These days I gravitate more and more toward the human side of Jesus, and relationships over religion, as portrayed in the series The Chosen on YouTube. Here is a link to a cast roundtable in which they speak on this emphasis.

This song is right there. Instead of an angry and mechanical savior grudgingly fulfilling a necessary obligation for people he didn't much care for, we have a vulnerable and tender man whose love drove him to the cross, and whose heart broke from the weight of everyone's sin and failure.

Not sure what else to say about my version of this song, except that I really like and relate to it. It focuses on Jesus, trying to know and appreciate just what it was that he did for us.

I was disappointed with the final product, especially because I worked pretty hard on it. I figured the song out by ear. I broke down the melody, chords, and each instrument and notated them in Sibelius. Then I created a track for each instrument so I could control volume when I mixed it. Then I created several more instrument tracks with Band in a Box. In all I think I had seven tracks that I created that I then mixed in Audacity. (I probably should have simply practiced my singing more instead of doing all that.) And I should clarify here that unlike some of my videos, I did not play all the instruments, but rather used Sibelius's and Band in a Box's capability of creating .wav files from music I had programmed.

Thursday, May 14, 2020
I've been working on an original song—somewhat in conjunction with our church's arts community group—for a couple weeks that I finally posted on YT today. It sure went through a lot of iterations. At first it sounded like an old-fashioned hymn. Then I made two versions, one with a swing beat, and the other with a bossa nova one. In the end I settled on a rock beat. I first got the melody, and figured out chords to that. I wrote some lyrics in the beginning, but the final lyrics didn't come until the song was almost finished, with melody and chords already done. They were pretty different from the first lyrics. Because the song lyrics remind me of a Psalm, I call it Song of Assents after the Psalms convention "Song of Ascents".

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
I went through a tough time a couple months ago.

During the start of the Covid-19 onslaught in March, I got sick with symptoms like the disease, unlike I could ever remember having: persistent sore throat at the back of my throat under my nasal passages, cough with no phlegm whatsoever, which is very different from colds, coughs, and flus I've had in the past.

After five suffering days, I called my doctor's office and was immediately transferred to a woman who listened to my symptoms and advised me to have a Covid-19 test the same day. She set it up just an hour from the time I called.

Outside at a tent in the parking lot of my health provider, a woman wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) put a swab way up my nose for a sample. I didn't get out of my car. As I drove out, she gave me a CDC document that instructed me how to live until the test results came back, which could take up to five business days (a week after I had the test because the weekend isn't business days). My lifestyle was very constrained. I could only leave our house if my condition worsened to go to the hospital. Stay in one room, use a bathroom not used by anyone else. I was to keep the door closed. I had to wear a mask when I came out of my room. I was not to eat with others or use the same dishes or utensils.

I got the test results back on Saturday, three days after the test. It was negative. But my symptoms continued. (I talked to my sister, a retired nurse practitioner who went back to work to fight Covid in her community, and she didn’t seem so sure that I was free and clear; a doctor who worked with her had tested negative and was even then in intensive care with the disease.) Nevertheless, I was very relieved and thanked God.

Much of my stress came from the fear that I might have infected others. I'd taken risks before getting sick in gathering with others, especially regarding listening to live music (see below), which had become my lifestyle. The thought that I might pass the disease on to others was as frightening and condemning as having the disease myself. I am over 65, as is my wife, and a number of our friends are this age or almost this age, which means that we are particularly at risk.

I have not listened to much jazz since that time. My focus has changed instead to spiritual music. I am a Christian. You can read about my conversion at age 28 on the About page of this website.

Friday, April 3, 2020
My wife and I have been staying at home during the coronavirus per our city's mayor and our state's governor. Our prayers are with the many people who are hurting with the disease and because of it. We have been praying.

I created a couple new videos and put them on YouTube. I also reposted on Facebook a video of an instrumental Christian song, The Steadfast Love of the Lord. I originally created that video about five years ago.

Saturday, February 22, 2020
Entre Mundos at Hotel Sorrento. Adriana Giordano, Eric Verlinde, Dean Schmidt, Jeff Busch, and unknown percussionist. Music was without parallel, mostly Brazilian in Portuguese.

It is a wonderful experience to hear music of this caliber. Four musicians playing together, and yet each a virtuoso. (It is also a little discouraging because I can't help but compare them to where I'm at, and I am just nowhere near their abilities.)

Saturday, February 8, 2020
The most noteworthy band I've heard in some time was the Jazz Misfits with Janet Mudge (vocalist) at Egans. Frontline is alto, trumpet, and trombone. What a sound. Great bassist and drummer, and piano most inventive I've heard in a while. Janet added a lot on her vocals. Great arrangements. A gem of a night of music.

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