Symphonic Saturday – Unlocked

music1I made, what I think, is some real progress this week with my guitar. For whatever reason, I was able to push passed where I’ve been plateaued for awhile now.

It was like I could ignore the fact that I couldn’t keep up fully with the speed of the song and instead of that upsetting me, I just tried harder.

I’m learning Green Day’s Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life). We learned it in guitar class in high school, but I doubt we were playing it at full speed because it was pretty fast to play along with the YouTube video.

Even though I kept messing up and it probably sucked, I had fun and felt like I’m on the way to improving.

And that’s how life’s river flows today.
R~

Psst… If you’re in Ottawa and looking for something to do this Monday, March 26, 2018, one of my plays is being read by actors for a fund raiser. Some of my classmate’s plays will be read too. It’s all happening at 6pm at Algonquin College in room N112. The cost is $5. There will also be some baked goods available for purchase.

Make It Monday – Frustration

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I’ve been really frustrated the last few days. What has me frustrated? Just about everything.

Music

Yesterday, I tried to play a song on guitar along with the music. It was a song we learned when I took guitar lessons. I couldn’t do it as I didn’t have the right strum pattern for it and it’s actually in 3/4 time with the downward strum on the first and third beats, but then the sheets I have often show a chord change on a second beat when there isn’t supposed to be strumming! I’m thinking something is messed up there somewhere. So I tried another. That one, our music didn’t have the lead in stuff before the chords come in, so I had no idea when I was supposed to play what. I ended up having to go to a super rudimentary song that has two chords and only down strums on each beat in a 4/4 song. At least I was playing along with a song at the speed it’s supposed to be played at, but I felt so far from anything that I want to be playing. I want to make an album someday, so I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Writing

I have so many things I want to write and not enough time to write it in. I want to get my novel done. I want to write songs. I have so many ideas for stories in a variety of mediums that I want to get out into the world. I’m now understanding the meaning of the quote, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” -Philip Roth

I think I’ll feel better once I get just about anything done, but most of our projects are in bits and pieces and won’t be finished until the end of the school year.

Weather

It’s cold and damp in Ottawa today and it has my ankles upset, which is making walking anywhere unpleasant. I’m yearning to live somewhere warmer.

Placement

Placement has been a bit challenging in the social sense. My supervisor was too busy most of the days I’d been there and conversation seemed to be more difficult than I think it should have been. It was better this past Friday though. What it has reinforced to me is that I’m really not wanting a typical 9 to 5 office worker lifestyle these days. I think freelancing is more my thing at this time in my life unless I get on staff for a TV show. I find it annoying to go out to write when I can do it from anywhere.

Home

I’m slowly getting rid of things I don’t want or need, but there is still so much junk to go through. When did I get all this stuff?

I have this urge to paint my connected living room, dining room, and hall/entrance. I’m hating my surroundings, basically. I want a neutral wall colour, but when will I have time to paint? I suppose I might during reading week in between homework. It’s the cheapest home reno one can do and I want my place in a sell-able state just in case.

School

I want to knock anything off that I can without group partners, so I can concentrate on the things that will be important for my portfolio. Also, just to feel like I’m accomplishing ANYTHING.

One of the things I’m working on getting off my plate is a book review. I’m reading Write Screenplays That Sell the Ackerman Way by Hal Ackerman. In it he says, “Your aspirations will nearly always be out of the reach of your ability to attain them, but this is the irritation in the oyster that creates the pearl.” – Hal Ackerman

I’m hoping all this frustration is leading somewhere good. Right now, so much of my future is still murky and it’s a little unsettling.

And that’s how life’s river flows today.
R~

Symphonic Saturday – Dulcet Tones

music1After finishing the writing of Act 1 of my feature film, I decided to squawk out a very poor rendition of Any Dream Will Do on my gunmetal trumpet I’ve dubbed Blunderbuss.

It was a little complicated for where I’m at currently, but fun. Oh, my Trumcor Super Stealth mute lets me play in the condo without torturing everyone else.

I’ve had Blunderbuss for quite some time. Since 2010 in fact. I got him when I visited Montreal in 2010. In Montreal, there is a Steve’s Music that is like an unending music store. One section leads to another and there was an entire brass section. I was in heaven. This Jupiter beauty wasn’t expensive, but it was quite the step up from the banged up one I got from e-Bay several years before.

Blunderbuss

I’m rusty on everything trumpet. I used to be fairly good back in high school. I was part of the brass ensemble. Our band leader wanted us to get into marching, but we didn’t want to go full band geek and refused. We did play at graduations, in the lobby at Christmas, and did some other things like played for the elementary school kids. A lot of what we played was Canadian Brass music and things like O’Canada for some games.

Anyway, I pretty much need to start from scratch. I remember some notes and I can get almost musically sounding noises to come out, but it’s really rough. I’d like to get better than I have ever been at it and see where that could lead.

I think the only way to get better at guitar right now without a budget for lessons is to play along with a song until I get it down path. Then slowly move to another song. Plus regularly practice scales and patterns, of course.

And that’s how the river of life flows today.
R~

Symphonic Saturday – Transposing for Fun

music1I started this day listening to the latest play list, Static, from Fringe Music Fix. I enjoyed it though I found there’s a large electronic component these days with drum machines and whatnot instead of a drummer with a kit. I prefer the real sound.

I’ve been checking blues out recently and I’m not sure it’s blues guitar I want to learn. I think it’s jazz that I want to play actually. That shouldn’t be that surprising given my fondness for the trumpet. I’m listening to some Andy Brown on YouTube today and that’s more the sound I want to learn.

I have a jazz book for trumpet and I could easily use for guitar by dropping the pitch by one step. I say easily, but it’s actually not. I have to transpose it and the fun comes when you have sharps and the like. It’s almost like math in a different language. I’m not sure I’m doing it correctly, but I think I have a circle of fifths somewhere around here to help me out. I guess I’m starting that goal of an hour of music theory per week early.

It was actually pretty strenuous on my mind, which is a good thing. I’m doing this while my clothes are in the wash. Changing them over to the dryer will give me that brief break before I come back and test the song out.

And that’s how the day flows.
R~

Symphonic Saturday – A Sad, No Music Day

music1I’ve wanted to do something musical ALL DAY.

There’s been no time to though as I’ve had homework to do.

I’m fairly busy tomorrow and may not get to do anything musical then either.

I really want to learn blues guitar soon. I don’t know if I’m ready, but it’s fun to play what I can pretend I know of the blues hahaaha.

It’s getting late, but maybe I can quietly play my guitar anyway…

I think I’ll do that.

Then off to bed. I have an early rise tomorrow and a long day after.

By the way, I’m in no way complaining that I have homework. After the strike, I’m happy to be having so much to do!

Guid cheerio the nou,
R~

Symphonic Saturday – The Languages of Music

music1I have a number of instruments, but none I can currently play well. Learning an instrument is much like learning a language.

Piano is the one I find most difficult because it is like learning more than one language at once. I’ve always struggled with bass clef and my head might explode if I tried to play pieces written in some of the less common clefs. When I look at the keys from a treble clef view, I almost always know where to put my fingers. Especially on the major keys. The keys don’t change, but when I see the notes on the bass line, I have to chant, “All Cows Eat Grass” or “Good Boys Do Fine Always” in order to have a hope of knowing where to put my fingers.

I’d probably be much further ahead had I stuck with piano lessons, but they were expensive and my teacher was trying to convince me to go to church with her. At that time, I wasn’t one for church. Today, I enjoy it. Life is like that some times.

The other instruments I attempt to play are all in treble clef. I enjoy electric guitar, but haven’t gotten anywhere near proficient. I yearn to be able to play blues on my guitar. The bonus with guitar is that there is a volume control, but I’m really talented at cutting my fingertips, which screws up any kind of practice schedule I try to put myself on.

I have a ukulele as well and its notes are different from guitar, so that is again like learning a different physical language in terms of where to place my fingers.

I still have my recorder from 25 years ago, but I’ve never enjoyed the sound of a recorder. Perhaps the sound memories of 30 or so kids in a room all trying to make music for the first time ever have traumatized my ears when it comes to recorders.

I enjoyed playing clarinet in high school, though I’ve never owned one. I think I may want one again some day though a saxophone might be more my style now. Probably a soprano sax despite them not being recommended for newbies. I have some experience with embouchure, so I’m not worried about it.

I’ve noticed that learning an instrument feels the same as trying to learn to speak a new language. There is that same frustration of desperately wanting to express myself, but being unable to do so. In language, it’s through words. In music, it’s through wanting to play my favourite songs or a particular genre.

Trumpet is my preferred instrument, but I needed to get a better mute that didn’t have a ton of back pressure, so I wouldn’t drive the other condo owners crazy. The Yamaha silent system I have just didn’t work for me. This morning, I ordered the Trumcor Stealth I’ve been eyeing for at least a year now. It’s expected to arrive in about a week and a half! I’m excited to get back to my main instrument. I can start doing some old exercises to get my embouchure back like lip buzzing while I’m waiting for it to arrive.

Music is a huge decompression tool for me and it’s important to have those outlets. Returning to my trumpet playing roots while also returning to my love of theatre and film is like putting myself back on the path I would’ve been on had I made some different choices in my youth.

Music is the language of my soul.

I’ve pushed the reset button on my life and I feel it’s likely the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

Guid cheerio the nou,
R~

Symphonic Saturday – Writing Songs

music1I’ve been involved with music for decades now. In elementary school, they started us with recorders, which sounded terrible and I am truly sorry for our teacher’s ears that year. I still have my recorder. I should pick it back up and learn to play it properly.

From there, they bused us to another school for wood shop, home economics, and music. I next took up the clarinet. I never got good at the clarinet, but maybe in the future I’ll get back into reed instruments. The following year, I tried the trumpet, but wasn’t given proper breathing instruction and headaches made me switch back to clarinet.

In high school, I took classes in music and also joined music-related clubs. I was a member of the choir, though never a lead singer. I played clarinet in band and in class until the year a new teacher came and formed an all brass band. I picked the trumpet back up and loved it. The months I couldn’t play due to wisdom teeth extraction were horrible. I took a guitar class and almost ended up singing during the performance, but allergies make my hearing not great sometimes and nerves overcome me when it comes to singing in public. I once performed some songs on trumpet solo for an elementary class, though I didn’t feel it was my best work. We had many performances from massed bands composed of music students from all the schools to those at art gallery nights, morning Christmas carol accompaniment, and graduations.

All this to say that I’m happy to be making music a bigger part of my life once again. I’m now writing songs and I’m finding it thoroughly enjoyable. Not only do I get the soulful release, but I create something.

In starting this path, I spoke with a friend who is a music teacher about where to start. I wondered if I should choose my key first, the genre, etc. Where I ended up starting was the lyrics. Then I chose a rhythm. Then I trialed chords. Then I broke the chords down into their notes and played around with that. I’m not done yet. I haven’t added dynamics like loud points and soft points.

I’m mainly using my guitar for this as my piano skills are lacking and it sounds better on guitar. Those two things might be related…

I don’t know when or if you will hear these songs I’m writing, but I just wanted to talk about where I am with music today. I feel more energized and happy than I have in a very long time.

I hope you have things in your life that you can be excited about.

Also, if you haven’t read Onder Magazine Issue #5 yet, you should. There is an article in there where I ramble on about how writing songs and writing stories is similar. The magazine is inexpensive and there are a bunch of great stories and articles to read on writing and music.

Salut,
R~

Fortifying Friday – Calluses

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I first started learning guitar in grade 12. We had a course we could take and get credit for as part of our high school diploma. My then boyfriend was also taking it and class was slightly uncomfortable once we broke up, but I enjoyed it regardless. I had a blast performing with the class. I was supposed to sing too, but singing performances and I are like that Buffy episode “Nightmares” where Willow ends up singing with Pavarotti and can’t utter a word only weird screechy noises… Yeah. Put me in a car with friends and I’m fine. Shower? You betcha. In a musical or band performing in front of people. Nope. Unless I’m just one of the choir and not alone. I did make it through an O’ Canada performance with only two other people one time in high school, though. All our strongest choir members were at another performance and the football team needed singers. Us three thought there would be more, but nope. I’m off on a tangent again, aren’t I? The point I was trying to get to was that my learning of guitar was put on hold, not because of the failed relationship, but because it hurt my fingers too damned much to play the thing.

I hadn’t built calluses yet.

Calluses are a pain in the ass. There’s no way around it. You have to play until it hurts and play a little bit passed that, but not so far passed it that your fingers bleed. Bloody fingertips mean cut fingers and downtime from playing while they heal. We don’t want downtime because we need to build our calluses.

I’m to the point now where I can play for a whole hour before it hurts. My calluses are coming along. Those fingertips feel almost like leather.

They’re frail, though. I have to play every night to ensure they get strong.

I’m not sure what the writing equivalent to calluses is in this digital age. Few people write by hand enough to get writer’s bump today. But I’m not talking about a physical callus. Could it be learning to accept rejection? We build up a tolerance to it and it hurts less each time we are told no. Perhaps it is learning to edit? We get better at killing our darlings as we collect experience. But that may only be some of us. I know I’ve begun asking myself what I’m aiming to accomplish with a sentence, paragraph, or chapter and I’m getting better at cutting when it isn’t accomplishing the objective.

Perhaps calluses are really just visible experience markers and as we write more, we can see the progress in the quality of the words on the page. In which case, we should challenge ourselves with stories that make us uncomfortable to write. Stories that push our own boundaries and force us to reach for something beyond our current skill level.

I know, at one point, I was playing guitar and it was all just noise. Now it sounds a lot more like the song I’m playing. I’m not playing with the recordings yet or at the right speed. I’m going to soon, though. In fact, my guitar teacher gave us special versions of the songs we wanted to play that used easier chords because we couldn’t play the advanced ones at the time. If I had the time and the cash, I’d take more lessons from her. She was pretty cool and skilled.

In writing, my work last year felt like a mess of scenes that didn’t necessarily link together. Now it’s got a flow and looks like a novel. There are things like foreshadowing. There are climaxes and there is setup, etc. There’s more to do to make it the best it can be but it’s coming along really well.

I’ve now been playing guitar for over a year. Lately, I play every day. Sometimes only a song or two. Other times I lose track of how long I’ve been playing and suddenly it’s bedtime. I used to have to stop after a short amount of time. Especially songs that used my ring and pinky fingers as those are often on the two thinnest strings. The strings that hurt the most. Now, those fingers have the thickest calluses. They have come farther than my other fingers.

In martial arts, I began barely able to hold the sword in the right direction. Which was the blade’s edge again? Swinging it straight down the center line was hard to do. Harder still was the horizontal cut. Sensei would say things that had deep meaning to someone who wasn’t me. I eventually got the basics to a level that we can now build on the physical skill as well as the mental understanding. Each class I learn something. Often Sensei told me about it last year or perhaps even the year before, but I am only able to understand it now.

Calluses are a mark of experience and while I have a long way to go before I can be called good, I’m moving in the right direction.

I’m targeting my fitness callus next. There will be extra challenges for me with food allergies, exercise-induced asthma, and tendon pain. I discovered I was already in the right weight range for my height and frame size, so my current goal is to tone. I made up my own HIIT routine to help focus on the areas that I use in martial arts. What I enjoy about HIIT is that it is scaleable and you always just do your best. Instead of counting the amount of pushups you did, you just give it everything you have for the duration. I never feel like I suck because I did 20 instead of 25 of something. However, my original goal of doing HIIT twice per week was ambitious because my fitness callus had not been built.

I’m also working on my French callus. Language learning works well a little bit each day. Too much and you overwhelm your brain. Besides, you didn’t learn your first language that way. You saw a thing you wanted and mom or dad told you the name of it. You gradually learned to then describe its appearance, texture, etc. Then you learned to speak full sentences instead of fragments. They were simple at first. “Clifford is a big, red dog.” It’s easy to put too much pressure on oneself to know something after a short amount of time. So I immerse myself a little at a time. I get a library book in French and work through it with a dictionary nearby. I don’t use translation app because that doesn’t force me to use my brain and map the neural connections that will build the callus.

And there’s the geocaching callus. Currently, I have a high DNF rate (Did Not Find) and it’s frustrating. I’ll keep trying, though. I know it’ll get easier at some point. I installed a GPS app on my phone to hopefully get a little closer to the caches than a 13-foot range. After that, it’s honing other skills. I have to train myself to see the single grain of white rice in the salt shaker.

Whatever you’re working on in life, you’ll face tough parts and you have to push through it to build those calluses. Challenges help us build calluses and prepare us for greater things ahead.

Ciao,
R~

Oh, here’s my 7.5-minute HIIT workout in case you’re interested. I just modified one that I found online so it was more martial arts focused. Change the time as needed to scale it to you:

30s Jumping Jacks
30s Push Ups
30s Lunges
30s Punches (alternating left and right)
30s Jumping Jacks
30s Side Kicks (alternating left and right)
30s Front Kicks (alternating left and right)
30s Lunges
30s Push Ups
30s Crunches
60s Obliques (30s each side)
30s Squats
30s Leg Raises
30s Stretches (or as long as it takes you to stretch things out)

Merry Monday: This Relaxation Thang

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

It’s weird “relaxing”. I’m interspersing it with getting things done around the house.

I’ve hung a bunch of things on my walls such as art, medals, and diplomas. I’ve learned not to trust any “damage less” hanging things. Everything I’ve hung up lately in that way fell off the walls on Saturday. It was really annoying. I felt like everything I had worked on had been pointless, but I switched to nails to fix it for good. Really, nails don’t make large holes anyway. I’ve done almost all of my laundry and I’m working through the dishes.  I’ve planted peas, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, scallions, flowers, kale, dill, and basil. I’ve organized my guitar sheet music.

I’ve played hard too. I watched the Martian and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it was the first new movie in a very long time that I wished hadn’t ended. Conversely, I also watched the new Captain America and was bored and disappointed by what has been done to the character. I’m catching up on Bates Motel. Norman has finally cracked and I’m wondering when the next season will come to Netflix Canada. I’ve also been playing a variety of video games. The list includes Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360), Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3), and Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (PS3). I’ve enjoyed playing Uncharted the most. I’m not generally a first person shooter gamer. Indeed, I often prefer games like Mario, Lego Harry Potter, Little Big Planet, etc. Uncharted has a good amount of non-shooting play time and a great story that has me coming back to it. Confession: I actually like shooting games; I’m just terrible at aiming with a thumbstick. Take me back to the days of Duck Hunt and Virtua Cop where it was a gun pointed at the screen.

I’ve played guitar nearly every day. I’m going to start playing along with videos to ensure I can play what’s already in my repertoire at the proper speed. I want to get an amp for my guitar and a case. The case I need before winter, so I can store it properly with a humidifier to prevent neck twist. I’m getting better at techniques like pull-ons and hammer-ons. They’re fun.

I’m also working on my French learning again. I will speak that language. I’m more stubborn than it is difficult! I have too many French family members to give up. I’ve told myself that I need to remember I wasn’t born speaking English fluently either.

On Sunday, my sensei pulled off a delicious BBQ despite the nobs melting off his BBQ. We cut mats (tameshigiri) with live bladed swords. I will remember to take my socks off in the future as they didn’t provide me with the best footing on hardwood floors. That sword was either much lighter than those used in previous years, or I’m stronger than I used to be. I hit the floor once with it. I need to get better at stopping the blade.

I learned that while I seem to be able to eat most gluten-free foods OK now, cider is not my friend. I’m still ridding myself of a headache that drinking it brought on. Oh well, I’ll just stick to vodka.

I’m already feeling the pull to work on my other novels. This relaxation thing seems to be hard for me. I’m spending a lot of time knocking other things off my to-do list. I suppose it’s because I’m my father’s daughter.

31 days to go.

Ciao,
R~

Funky Friday: Oblivious?

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

I’ve not paid much attention to the news this week. I’ve been focused on getting things done in my life.

Ottawa

  1. Excited: Comiccon starts today! It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. There are lots of fun panels I’m attending, a geek orchestra, Q&As with Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) and John-Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings).
  2. Relieved: I finished a project at work yesterday, so now I am truly unburdened. The actual project is a couple of weeks away from full completion, but my regular role for it is old hat compared to what I was put on to help finish a worrisome chunk.
  3. Happy: My Xbox 360 breakaway cable arrived yesterday and I was able to play some Rocksmith. I bought that game over 3 years ago and I couldn’t play it because I had a guitar with a twisted neck that couldn’t stay in tune, so advancing in the game was impossible.

Ontario

  1. Worried: There’s another wildfire burning around the Ontario and Manitoba border. While that’s not super close to me, there’s also been fires in my hometown 4 hours from here. There’s just a lot of fires all over Canada right now and we could really use some rain everywhere.

Canada

  1. Impressed: I’m impressed with how Trudeau handled the fire situation in Alberta by listening to what the firefighters, a.k.a. experts said. He didn’t go out there for photo ops and instead continued handling the rest of his duties while on standby should the experts decide it was time to call in extra help. Oh, and he didn’t put Canada at risk for being invaded. Autonomy is a great leadership quality. He followed protocol.
  2. Upset: I was attacked on Twitter for tweeting to the PM that he did a good thing working with the UN to eradicate preventable diseases. As such, I no longer allow people who aren’t my followers to see my tweets or interact with me on Twitter. I have no need for trolls in my life or people who try to disguise disrespectful behaviour as “debate”. They made me terribly sad that such rampant hatred exists. I don’t think I’ll ever understand such people.

World

  1. Proud: I’m proud that Canada is helping with the efforts to eradicate tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS from the earth. I’m not sure on the actual dollars that have been committed to it, but I hope there’s part of the budget that already speaks to this. The UN is predicting really bad things if more isn’t done to get rid of these terrible viruses.

Well, I have a few things left to do to prepare for Comiccon. It doesn’t start until 2:30 PM, but I took the full day off. I intend to put Spirited Away on while ironing my costume and cutting up veggies for my snacks.

Ciao,
R~