New Year's Resolutions

December 30, 2010 8:34 AM

I never keep 'em, but it's no bad thing to at least enter a brand new year with some good intentions.....on that road to hell....

Mine are simple.

1. To exercise restraint in what I "release" in pursuit of critical adoration, fanatical adulation and embarrassingly vast wealth. In other words to upload fewer songs but of higher quality than my usual indiscriminate rag-bag. Rather presumptious of me, but that's the plan.......

2. To continue the campaign to get the MeFi administrators to raise the profile of this part of the site. And let's have fewer wanky-poo novelty songs and more ground-breaking musical adventure in 2011. Yeah!!
posted by MajorDundee (30 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

This year I want to become more proficient in my playing. I've had this book lying around for years and never done much with it, so my plan is to work through the lessons front to back and see where that gets me.

Not sure I like the idea of you posting less Major - even the stuff you disdain seems pretty high quality to me.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2010

This is a good exercise. I've been thinking about it a lot, even before New Year's came along, because I'm remembering for the umpteenth time how good it feels to play music.

1. I want to rehearse my songs more thoroughly before committing them to tape--especially the vocals. So often, I just learn them for the recording, and record the same day, and I think it shows.

2. I want to go back to playing guitar and singing together, and go easy on the multitracking for a while until I feel more solid doing both together again.

3. I'm trying to sit down and play and sing at least three times a week. I'm gathering lyrics and chord charts. I also started an itunes folder called "songs to work on" that reminds me of what I want to learn.

4. I want to stretch my abilities to figure out songs by ear by doing it more often, and trying to do it without my guitar in my hand.

5. I want to get out of debt so that I can justify getting a kala ukelele bass and an amplifier for it.
posted by umbú at 11:33 AM on December 30, 2010

Several years ago I made a New Year's Resolution to have no more New Year's Resolutions, which I have stuck to firmly ever since.
posted by unSane at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here are a couple of mine:

1) I have the opportunity now to use nicer mics and more instruments and other people, and I need to figure out how to still make music that feels like me, since I'm so used to have to make do with whatever was lying around and bad computer mics.

2) Feels like it's been forever since I've written lyrics I like. I've been more consistently content the past 6 months, and I've gotten used to writing music as a way to channel sadness and all that. Need to figure out how to channel contentment and more emotions in general. Maybe write love songs.

3) Take lessons, be disciplined about getting better in measurable ways.

Nice, I like this idea. Felt good to write out what had been bouncing around in my head lately.
posted by Corduroy at 1:03 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Interesting, I think, that there's already a bit of theme emerging here - one of laying back, taking more time, focusing on key things.

One of my swivel-eyed spittle-flumed soapbox issues at the moment is that all this readily-available modern technology makes it too easy to produce recordings that are technically of exceptionally high quality but whose musical content simply doesn't match that quality. In other words, it's very easy now to attempt to defy the age-old nostrum that you can't polish a turd. Unfortunately, a nuclear-powered version of ProTools still won't manage to turn base metal into gold (mixing my metaphors, but fuck it). Add to this that there's a potentially huge ready-made audience on the web and you have a recipe for near-disaster i.e. an awful lot of people are hearing an awful lot of sub-standard music. There's just too much of it, and they're getting bored...

I'm an erstwhile practitioner of this warts and all let-it-all-hang-out approach, and I now think - a purely personal view, of course - it's counter-productive and inadvisable practice. You live or die by your last record - and if you upload every musical fart you record it won't take long for the audience to mark you down as duffer and turn off. I mean, you never hear every piece of crap that your favourite artists ever wrote or recorded - you only hear a fraction of their total creative output. And even that'll have been A&R'd to death before it hits the radio.

Of course, if you're uploading unfinished work for freinds to comment on that's absolutely fair enough and my rant doesn't apply in those circumstances.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2010

I am doing 101 Goals in 1001 Days, starting January 1st, and I think my music oriented goals sum up what I want to do musically:

* write a song every week
* join a band
* listen to 25 albums by artists I've never listened to before
* learn how to write counterpoint, and write a fugue
* compose and perform a saxophone duet
* maintain a music blog
* "complete" Jerry Coker's Jazz Patterns for Treble Clef instruments
* write an SATB choral song
* teach piano to my girlfriend
* organize my music room
* get all my musical instruments in good working order
* record a song every month
* build a ribbon microphone
* memorize 25 jazz standards for saxophone
* be able to transpose music, by sight, to all 11 intervals
* learn one rhythm a week for drumset

a wee bit ambitious...
posted by baxter_ilion at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2010

- Fewer covers, more from-scratch originals.
- Record more in general.
- Spend more time on a regular basis trying to get better at the bits that I'm not good at.
- Keep pushing on the limb independence in my drumming.
- Try to have at least occasional meaningful musical contact with other human beings. This probably does not mean starting a band, but who knows.
posted by cortex at 9:17 PM on December 30, 2010

Seriously though I do have some aims this year. Mostly to keep up a regular flow of songs and try to do something at least vaguely new -- even if it's just an unanticipated chord change or melodic idea -- in each one. And to work on lyrics that are less about me.

I also need to actually finish my recordings instead of getting them 95% of the way there.
posted by unSane at 5:38 AM on December 31, 2010

my resolutions are, in no particular order...

1. practice

2. practice

3. practice...

this will mean less dicking about on a computer, which will probably mean i'm not going to be posting much here, if at all. but it's a small price to pay if my playing improves...
posted by peterkins at 7:23 AM on December 31, 2010

which will probably mean i'm not going to be posting much here, if at all
Steady on old thing - you must post at least a few of your fascinating bassics for us to relish during the year.

I also need to actually finish my recordings instead of getting them 95% of the way there.
Said it before unS me old tater and I'll say it again, but leaving a "finished" track in a metaphorical drawer and forgetting about it for a few weeks prior to release is a good way of sussing out whether it's really finished or needs a little more. Or, oddly enough, a little less - another of my resolutions is to implement what I've dubbed the "Trevor Test". The celebrated Irish short-story writer (and a bit of a hero of mine) William Trevor's way of working is to write a load of stuff and then whittle it down to the absolute bone, and then whittle some more. His stories are exemplars of nuance, poise, subtlety, emotional impact, all done with absolute economy. He started out as a sculptor - go figure....

It is, however, really hard to resist posting stuff while it's hot, and I have a little belter just out of the oven that's I'm itching to release - but the all-new Dundee zen ascetic forbids it until at least February. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Oh - one other idea I had for a "talk" post at the mo was to elect a MeFiMu album of 2010 - "Now, That's What I Call MeFiMu 2010" - could form the basis of a podcast. Basic premise: just list out your 10 - 15 faves from the year. Anything already podcasted get the elbow from the podcast (obviously). Just a bit of fun, of course. But I've used up my 7 day pass so if someone else likes the idea - be my guest.

Anyway - Happy New Year to all the crew!! And as we say in my much-missed (at this time of year) Scottish homeland - Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi 's nach fhaic (Great health to you every day that I see you and every day that I don't)
posted by MajorDundee at 8:16 AM on December 31, 2010

My resolution is to figure out what the hell I'm going to do for grad school, and when, before year's end. Four years out of school is already pushing it, so I need to get it worked out soon.

(it's music related because I plan to go for music technology/recording)
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 8:47 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Major - what you said about Trevor reminded me of this quote from John Cage...

"One day I was studying with Schoenberg, he pointed out the eraser on his pencil and
said, ‘This end is more important than the other.’ ”
posted by peterkins at 9:02 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

- To get over to Europe and/or the US for some gigs/touring. It's been way too long.
- To learn to play the 6-string guitar, at least passably well. Not for performance, just for... fun.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:23 PM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Flapjax, I'm sure you've tried it but an open-G or open-D tuning on a six string would probably work well for you. And maybe a bottleneck?
posted by unSane at 6:55 AM on January 1, 2011

Actually, unSane, when it comes to guitar I've really never seriously tried anything. But, definitely, open G or open D is where I'm gonna start.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:06 AM on January 1, 2011

With your obvious musicality Flapjax, I doubt if you'll struggle with a 6-string guitar. Not wishing to contradict unSane, but I'm not sure I'd advise starting with open tunings. That's likely, imho, to lead you up a blind alley and cause problems later on. You know as well as me that there are no short cuts to playing any instrument well - practice, perseverence, love of the particular instrument and innate musical ability are amongst the key ingredients. Anyhow - give me a shout if you need a steer on anything. I'm sure plenty of the other plank-spankers on MeFiMu would do the same too.
posted by MajorDundee at 7:59 AM on January 1, 2011

Thanks, Major! Much obliged!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2011

Meant to say in the earlier post Flapjax. Best and "bleedin' obvious" place for you to start is with your beloved blues scales and chord patterns. Because these are very familiar to you, you won't need to suss out what they are in the first place. So you have a head start there. You're a drummer originally (I recall you saying once), so hand co-ordination in terms of picking and making shapes ain't gonna be too much of a problem either. Hell.......I'm getting worried now.....:-)

Also - Peterkins and any other Brit regulars reading this - if Flapjax does decide to visit fair Albion as part of a possible European jaunt this year we must use that as an excuse for a Brit MeFiMu get-together so we can cheer him on him at whatever gig(s) he does and get bladdered at the same time.
posted by MajorDundee at 8:23 AM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I mentioned the open tunings mostly because it's quite hard to get the modal drone thing going in Spanish tuning. On regular 6-string I never play anything but Spanish, but when I bought a lap steel it was a revelation to me that it's quite common to make up your own tunings to suit your own particular style.

I'm not a massive fan of Open G because it's just too easy to fall into the Elmore James / Keef / ZZ Top kind of riffing thing, and because the low D on the fat string always seems to get in the way (which is why Keef takes it off I think). I settled on A6 for the lap steel in the end because I wanted that cheesy slack key feel, and the fret positions to be similar to what I'm playing on the electric.
posted by unSane at 12:39 PM on January 1, 2011

I'm not a massive fan of Open G because it's just too easy to fall into the Elmore James / Keef / ZZ Top kind of riffing thing, and because the low D on the fat string always seems to get in the way (which is why Keef takes it off I think).

i'm playing a lot of open g these days - yeah, it's easy to do the keef thing, but there are other approaches one can take - the solution to the low d is to fingerpick, which can also take you out of the keef thing

actually, i'm trying to split the difference between the keef thing and the joni thing, which is the thing i tend to fall into ...
posted by pyramid termite at 1:30 PM on January 1, 2011

unSane, I've been using CACGCE a lot lately as well as DADF#BE if that helps. I really like the way open tunings sound, especially in how to rethink chording on the the guitar. Sometimes I just tune it until I like it... usually never to be found again.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:41 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of DADECD, DACGCE, DADGCC and DADGAE, but except for DADGCC, they probably work better for picking than strumming.
posted by umbú at 1:55 PM on January 1, 2011

That's very interesting. I've never used open tunings. Period. Part of the reason for that is basic musical snootiness. My younger self saw open tunings as cheating. And I wasn't going to do that! And it's also partly because open tunings are just not part of my musical scheme of things or palette, not something that crosses my mind. The snootiness is obviously hubristic nonsense. The older I've got the less of a purist I've become (in many respects, not just musical). If open tunings are good enough for Joni Mitchell and the criminally underrated Michael Chapman (if you've never heard "Fully Qualified Survivor" you're in for a treat) they're good enough for the likes of me. Given that I'm always looking for new creative sparks, maybe I'll give it a go. I still wouldn't advise a beginner to start at that point though....
posted by MajorDundee at 2:39 PM on January 1, 2011

I think there is a difference between that form a major chord, and others that don't. If anything, DADECD is more of a challenge to write in, not less.

It is true that it's easy to get caught in a rut with them, though. They can get you out of one rut, and quickly land you in another.
posted by umbú at 3:21 PM on January 1, 2011

I hear you, Major. I do think there is a bit of fear factor if you are very proficient in one tuning but once you learn a couple of chord shapes it generally is surprisingly easy to pick up a new tuning. Solos are trickier but if you have a good ear again it is often not that difficult, especially as open tunings tend to encourage single-string tunes played against a drone (like playing on the b-string in Spanish against the ringing open e).

Spanish is mostly useful because the string tunings provide compact single-position fingerings for pretty much any scale you can imagine, plus compact barre shapes too. But every tuning has some cool little thing about it, and it is particularly interesting to come up with something in one tuning and transfer it into another, in the same way that playing something on the piano that you wrote on guitar or vice versa often takes you to some new places.
posted by unSane at 3:41 PM on January 1, 2011

Well, ya gotta use an alt tuning (C6 tuning (C-A-C-G-C-E)) for Bron Yr Aur... Zeppelin, baby!

Man, my resolution is pretty simple, just to start making some music again, and it just may happen! My last couple of years have been spent gently coaxing my boys into young adulthood, and it's paying off. Theoretically, I'll be having more time for music than I have in YEARS! Woo Hoo!
posted by snsranch at 3:45 PM on January 1, 2011

I have to admit, I've pretty much never used alternate tunings for the reasons of (a) being worried that I'd find retaining alternate chord form sets frustrating and (b) being too lazy to retune that shit all the time.

Having spent some time with banjo and mandolin has disabused me somewhat of that first issue, but I'm still pretty fucking lazy.
posted by cortex at 4:00 PM on January 1, 2011 the same way that playing something on the piano that you wrote on guitar or vice versa often takes you to some new places

That's precisely what I'd use it for. I wouldn't be so concerned as cortex about not remembering the shapes etc - it'd be highly unlikely that I'd ever play any of my original stuff in a live setting so there's no sweat there. I have this weird semi-improv approach to my material which means that I can never remember how to play my own stuff anyway - even very recent stuff I'd have to sit with a guitar and access the multitrack to get the chords etc. Does anyone else work like that?

Experimenting generally with instruments you either can't play or are unfamiliar with is, I've found, a very good way to spark new ideas. I think, unSane, you mentioned recently that buying a new guitar does the same thing. I totally agree and that's generally been my experience too - but it's one hell of an expensive way to write a couple of new songs!
posted by MajorDundee at 2:59 AM on January 2, 2011

I can never remember how to play my own stuff anyway

Yeah, I am just like that. I try to write down all the chords etc but I totally forget how to play the little riffs etc. When someone hands me a guitar and asks me to play something I am usually totally stumped. I have been meaning to work out a little mini-set I could play on the acoustic for just that reason.
posted by unSane at 4:23 AM on January 2, 2011

My resolution is to not beat myself up about not getting better at playing an instrument (again!). I have however also resolved to get better at writing music with the aim of passing grade 5 theory in 2011. Having aced the grade 2 exam last November (in your faces, seven-year-old fellow examinees!) I'm hoping it's not too far from probable.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:19 PM on January 2, 2011

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