The end…or the beginning??

So this is the 35th of 35 daily blogs which I decided to write on the train to Dublin one Wednesday at the start of April.

It’s something I had thought about doing for a long time, but like most people who think of doing something new, I had concerns and fears which prevented me from doing it. Until I decided to.

I expected it to be really difficult, but it has been easier than that. I have never considered myself to be a writer, but I guess everyone has a voice, and something to say. Writer’s block wasn’t an option – I had to produce something every day, in a short space of time, and I did.

Some blogs were stronger than others, none were perfect, but each one connected somehow with somebody. What’s more, doing it made my day better.

For anyone interested, it took approx an hour a day which included time uploading to the various media platforms. I had 2 blogs written before Day 1, and had also noted down 8-10 ideas for blogs, most of which I used throughout the 35 days. I wrote every word myself.

I wanted to stay away from looking at the numbers but didn’t always succeed.

I have a bit of down time coming up so will consider whether it is something I will do again, but for now I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who responded, in person, by email and on social media.

I haven’t had time to reply to all of you, but it was heart-warming to know that you were reading, and that they were making you think.

Finally – the big lessons I have learned…

Challenge yourself to think.

Give yourself time to create.

Show more of yourself and others will respond.

Just do it.

The small crowd

I have heard it many times after a gig – ‘that was lovely, it was just a pity there weren’t more there’.

I have felt it myself as an audience member – wondering are the musicians on stage annoyed or put out that only a few of us came to see them.

OK let’s clear something up first – any musician worth her salt shouldn’t let the size of the crowd affect their performance. The show must go on. Do your job.

The situation in which that can be most difficult is if the musician is also the promoter of the gig. If she needs 200 people to come to break even, and she hears just before she goes on stage that there are 50 there, she is going to be significantly out of pocket. She must switch mindset from promoter to performer fairly quickly though, as each of those 50 people deserve value for their money.

So next time you’re sitting there wishing there were more people there with you to see the gig, stop. You can’t do anything about it. You have paid your money, so enjoy the gig!

Practice the bow!

There is a lot of children’s music happening in my car these days – it’s the wonderful stage of life we are at. Some I like, some I don’t, and so I try to make sure that the last song played before we get to our destination is one of my favourites, since that is the one that will stay in my head for the day!

The Leinster rugby team play the final of the Pro14 League this weekend. It is the second most important competition for them and they have already won the main one this year. It is their last game this season.

In 2012 they were in a similar position and lost the second final. I have heard their management talk this week about this, saying that despite their earlier achievements, this loss ruined their summer, since the last game is the one that stays with you.

It’s why musicians always finish the show with a big number, because that’s the one that the audience will remember most.

But what about the bow?! How do you take your applause when that big number is over? You can blow the audience away with your music, but if you have no plan for after that, it can look very unprofessional. The crowd won’t remember it if it’s good, but they might if it’s bad.

It won’t take long. Practice the bow.

Just play

Music college was a funny place for me. I was 24 entering while most were 18 and knew a lot more about music than I did. So at the same time as my mind was being blown by everything I was learning and all the people I was playing with, I was experiencing feelings of inferiority and self-doubt.

My teacher was amazing. He could play jazz in a way that made me simultaneously want to listen forever and never want to even try and play again.

It was sometimes hard to enjoy the most amazing gigs because all I could do was think of was my own playing and wonder if I would ever be able to do what the musicians on stage were doing.

Musicians are a funny breed. I have seen people mentally freeze on a tune they would usually eat up just because someone they looked up to had walked into the gig.

Oscar Peterson had these same feelings when Art Tatum entered the room. Billy Joel freely admits to wishing he could do more with his left hand. And as a musician, because your playing is often tied up in your feelings of self-worth, any criticism or perceived inadequacy can hurt all the more.

It hit me when I met my piano teacher from college again, several years later. We had a few pints and a chat and he told me about the the way he felt about other players who he percieved to play better piano than he did….it was the same as I felt about him!

No matter who you are, there will always be someone who you believe plays your instrument better than you do, as well as someone who you believe plays it not as well. It doesn’t mean they are better/worse people, it just reflects the fact that they have probably put more/less time into it than you have, or have learnt in ways that you haven’t.

Just play. Life’s too short for the rest.

Connect? connect? CONNECT!!

So theme night mania has subsided for another few months, and I find when that happens, my mind enters a different state.

While for the last few weeks it has been very much in project management mode (contact/rehearse/organise) – when things get a bit quieter it gets back to being more open and inquisitive (read/listen/think).

One theme has emerged for me in the last few days – common to this article I read, this podcast I heard, and this Ted Talk I watched (thanks to a reader of this blog for sending it on to me) – the theme of connection.

The article says meaningful human connections will help you live longer, the podcast interviewee bases big career decisions on whether they will help him make more, and the Ted Talk speaker says they have made her music career possible.

It’s never been easier to make connections than it is now.

Don’t confuse quantity for quality.

Make some real ones – it’s good for you.

Energy…and a fiesta!

Four things about energy.

  1. It’s contagious.
  2. What you give out you will get back.
  3. Young people have lots of it
  4. It’s good to hang around with them – you will feed off it.

How can you put energy into a performance – well look at this video – notably…

0:03 – Eoin and Paddy running on to do BVS

0:08 – Ollie’s guttural scream

0:23 – Check out the audience responding to the horn section clapping

0:53 – Look at how un-selfconscious Ollie is when not singing. Do you remember how hard that is at that age?!

1:18 – The smiles and enthusiasm of the horn section when clapping along to Verse 2.

1:50 – Look at Ollie’s suit. Thanks EJ!

2:01 – The smiles on the faces of the string section.

2:07 – The obvious craic being had by Fraser and Peadair on saxophones…

2:16 – The bass fill!

2.32 – The contentment on the face of Dave on guitar.

2:39 – The horn section are still clapping!

3:10 – Conor on melodica has been a ball of energy throughout but now look at the extra high leg pumping for the last instrumental break.

3:45 – The spontaneous standing ovation hence heads blocking the camera.

The Reel Movement

Songs and tunes can have all sorts of structures. There are some conventional ones (listed below), which help both the writers/performers and listeners classify, recognise and get comfortable immediately with songs new and old.

 

You have the classic Verse/Chorus structure and variants of it (eg Penny Lane/Happy/Hotel California)

The AABA form of many jazz standards (Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Yesterday/The Way You Look Tonight)

The AABB form of many traditional Irish tunes.

Verse/Verse/Verse and so on with no chorus (eg Heartbreak Hotel/The Boys of Ballisodare/Amazing Grace)

The more recent pop structure of Verse/Bridge/Chorus (eg Perfect/Piano Man/Someone Like You)

 

And then you have pioneers who create new structures.

This is my favourite tune from our album Melodic Reflection – The Reel Movement (written by Seamie).

He may correct me, but I make the structure to be Intro/ABCCDDC/Intro/ABCCDDC/Outro…enjoy it everybody.