What exactly is the creative process?

Last night some musical colleagues called around to my house to put a shape on a piece I’m writing for an upcoming show. Afterwards my wife said she really enjoyed sitting in the room with us, seeing how the creative process worked. It made me think about what that process was. Looking back, it was little more than throwing around ideas, and picking which one we thought worked best. A little bit of polishing at the end and we had the bones of our piece. And that’s the thing – there can sometimes be a myth around how certain things are created, but it’s actually not that hard most of the time. It just requires some focus, open-mindedness and some judgement at the end. Also in today’s blog – a chord chart for Mary Black’s version of Carolina Rua – and the answers to yesterday’s questions. In what key is the song? Ab How many beats in a bar? 4 The first

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Carolina Rua and Thom Moore

As Sligo prepares to to pay a musical tribute to one of it’s favourite musical sons – Thom Moore – this Friday, Ken and I jammed out a quick version of one of his most famous songs this morning – Carolina Rua. Every Wednesday for January, the blog has been based on a particular song and I have posed some questions for people interested in improving their ears. This will be the last in this particular series, but I will continue this exercise in a different format next month, as it has proved to be popular among some readers. Stay tuned for news on that. Today’s questions – based on this version. In what key is the song? How many beats in a bar? The first chorus comes in at 0:27 and the first two chords are the 5 and the 1. What is different about this particular 1 chord? The same melody sequence happens again at 0:32 and again

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Revisited: Theme Night #15 (Piano Man)

Part 4 out of a 5-part series: By now the theme nights had a new home. Marie O’Byrne in the Hawk’s Well Theatre had planted seeds by suggesting we try one there, possibly with the Sligo Academy of Music Sinfionetta and a choir. And so we did. It’s fun to see so many current older members of the teenage theme night crew look so young in the orchestra here. Theme Night #15 (Piano Man) took place in May 2016 – it was the third consecutive theme night to take place in the Hawk’s Well, the second with the Sinfionetta, and the only one so far that has run for 3 nights. And it was fun. It featured the music of Billy Joel and Elton John and hence there were lots of great piano lines, chords and improvising to get my head around. And I sang! Followers of this blog will have read recent blogs where I wrote of the mental

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“No dickheads”

In college, some friends and I used ask each other and others who joined our group to name the three people in the world to whom they looked up to most. People like Muhammad Ali, Roy Keane, Brian O’Driscoll, Robert De Niro, people’s Dads and older brothers used feature regularly. I always struggled to come up with names. Because with every musician or sportsman I thought of whose music or playing I liked, I could also think of a story about how he had treated his band badly, or his teammates, or his family, or his fans. And I didn’t want to look up to someone who did those things, no matter how well he played the piano or how good a footballer he was. It was only a laugh really, a conversation to pass some time, and I possibly took it too seriously. But the point at the heart of it remains – is it possible to be a

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The A dream…and when it doesn’t come true.

I remember it well. October 2008. 3/4 years into life as a musician and I felt I had a handle on it. McGarrigles (downstairs). Three good mates (Steve, Dave, Tommy) and I were getting ready to play a gig. We had worked hard on the set, the place was packed, and we just had a feeling we were going to deliver the goods. I remember thinking – I wish I could do this every night. And that’s the dream isn’t it? For most musicians starting out anyway. In the Netflix documentary Hired Gun, Jason Hook (guitarist for Alice Cooper, Mandy Moore and others) calls it “The A Dream – to be in a band, with four or five guys, writing original music – and everyone loved it and everyone wanted to buy a ticket to the concert – that’s the A dream”. It didn’t work out for him – “nobody gave a s**t about the bands I was putting together”

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“I’ll sort that for you”.

Every time you promise something and don’t deliver on it, it makes it harder for us to believe you’ll deliver next time. “I’ll deliver those leaflets for you”, “I’ll score those arrangements for you”, “I’ll take 10 tickets from you for the gig”. Your word is not just your bond, it’s you. Thankfully however the inverse is also true – if you do deliver, it makes it easier for us to believe you’ll deliver next time. If you say you’ll sort something for someone, for your and the other person’s sake, just sort it.


“SOLD OUT” can mean anything these days. Promoters/media often tell us gigs were sold out when they clearly weren’t. But those two words hold such power today, that people use them regularly, even when they aren’t true. Likewise, “Only a few tickets left” doesn’t always mean what it says either – in fact it can often mean “Loads of tickets left but we’re trying to create a need in you to buy some now”. And “Get your tickets now!” usually means “Not as many people as we hoped have bought tickets so now I’m going to use an exclamation mark because I really want people to buy them as soon as possible so I can calm my nerves”. Regular readers and followers of this blog will know that I have a big event coming up – in the biggest venue to which I have ever brought a gig – and naturally I’m very excited about it. However I’m at the

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The difference between 2/4 and 4/4

So – answers to yesterday’s questions first. In what key is the piece? C. What is the time signature of the piece? 2/4 – could be heard as 4/4 either but is usually written as 2/4. In solfege, or numbers, name the 6 notes played in both hands and repeated during the intro. Re-Mi-Do-La-Ti-So OR 2-3-1-6-7-5. The last line of the A section (approx 0:30 on the video) makes use of a common musical technique – the same melody being played over different chords. What are the first four left hand chords played in this line? C, C/Bb, F/A, Fm/A. What is the chord played at the end of the descending sequence mentioned in Question 3? Gaug. Some deeper insight into some of the above questions for anyone interested. 4 – The last three chords in this sequence are known as slash chords, in which the bass note (or bottom note in the left hand on piano) is not the root note of the chord.

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The Entertainer

Scott Joplin’s 1902 ragtime classic is a favourite for piano students and players all over the world. It’s a tune I love to jam with other musicians – it can be great fun to improvise around the melody, find new chords, and be loose with the tempo. There is a C and D section to this tune, but my short video here only features the better-known A and B sections. Today’s questions are based on the above version (not identical to but based on the original). In what key is the piece? What is the time signature of the piece? In solfege, or numbers, name the 6 notes played in both hands and repeated during the intro. The last line of the A section (approx 0:30 on the video) makes use of a common musical technique – the same melody being played over different chords. What are the first four left hand chords played in this line? What is the

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Revisited: Theme Night #10 (Burt Bacharach)

Part 3 in the series… This was one of the 4 theme nights that took place in The Velvet Rooms – Source had closed, and anyway this venue could cater for bigger numbers, which suited us now that the nights were attracting larger audiences. The band was still small enough that we could practice in my sitting room however. We had a lovely night where residents of the Plains in Strandhill gathered outside our window and had an impromptu summer party listening to the sounds of Sligo’s singers and musicians rehearse through some Bacharach numbers. The choice of Bacharach’s music came about when we teamed up with the Sligo Jazz Project for this show. Eddie Lee and the gang launched their 2014 festival programme on the night, and given the pop/jazz nature of many of Bacharach’s songs, we thought it would be a good fit. It was great to have Ciaran Wilde and Cathal Roche in for this night on

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