Little Richard

The man who influenced so many died last week. Here are two great articles about his life, career and legacy, and below is a bit of fun I had with one of his songs today – including an iconic guitar intro that was stolen from the horn line from this song.

Help!

I put out a call for a running buddy a few months ago. I did so because I know after years of trying to motivate myself that I find it easier to exercise regularly if I have someone by my side, someone to whom I am accountable, someone who will miss me if I don’t show up. Without this someone I find it hard to stay motivated, to get myself out of the house for a run, despite my best intentions. It’s like the dozens of people who signed up for my free online piano lessons when this crisis began two months ago. Everyone started with a bang, full of motivation to improve but if I look today, I will probably see that most of these well-intentioned students haven’t visited the website since March. No judgement here – it’s the same the world over with online (and other) courses. Many of those who do still regularly engage with the website

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Is that how I sound to others??

Listening back to a recording of yourself is a risky business. Yesterday a friend sent me on the song that emerged from my very first session in a recording studio, and I was pleasantly surprised (Wait till you hear the vocal). But it doesn’t always work like that. My 5 yr-old has recently discovered that his voice sounds different when it’s played back to him compared to what he hears himself when he speaks. And he’s not too happy about the ‘new’ version. And that feeling can be amplified when we listen back to a recording of ourselves singing – because while the sound of our speaking voice is what it is largely, the quality of our singing voice can mean a lot more to us. I have experienced this feeling myself, and I’m sure that many of you can identify with it. Displaying this singing voice for the world to see can bring things to another level for people,

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Be a one-buttock player!

There are two-buttock players, and there are one-buttock players. Two-buttock players can play all the notes correctly but usually fail to connect with an audience. Because while their finger movements may be accurate and technically correct, the music is not moving them sufficiently to budge them from a centred, upright, two-buttocks-on-the-stool position. And so this lack of passion comes through to the audience. A one-buttock player on the other hand is excited, moved, sometimes even physically swayed by the music. It’s not only being played by their fingers but by their whole bodies. And the audience can sense this. And they want to be swept along too. Be a one-buttock player – if not in body, in mind. Thanks to Ben and Rosamund Zander and their book The Art of Possibility for bringing this distinction to my attention! Photo by Nazar Yakymenko on Unsplash

It’s hard to get down from a high horse gracefully…

It’s a popular feature – I have seen a few of them over the years. X (well-known writer/businessman/sports star) turned Y today. Here are Y bits of advice from her – one for each year. I really enjoyed these 44 from sportswriter and Ross O’Carroll-Kelly creator Paul Howard on his 44th birthday. The title of today’s blog is one. Then today a friend sent me an article in which I found these 68 bits of unsolicited advice from a man previously unknown to me who was celebrating his 68th birthday – Kevin Kelly. And there are some gems. Here are my top 10 – some chosen because of the times in which we find ourselves…no. 4 is my favourite! When crisis and disaster strike, don’t waste them. No problems, no progress. If you desperately need a job, you are just another problem for a boss; if you can solve many of the problems the boss has right now, you are

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So what do musicians do now?

Initially it was a bit of craic. Everyone at home watching everyone else at home playing a few tunes. The novelty of it all. And there is still something to be said for that side of things for sure. But almost two months in and with a roadmap detailing the reopening plans for our country up until August 10 with no mention of live music, people in our business are realising that we may not play a gig (as we used to know them anyway) until 2021 at some stage. Albums, tours have been postponed, cancelled. Huge bodies of work thrown out in the blink of an eye. What was going to work this year may not work next year or the year after. And that’s all really tough. As much on the financial side as on the mental side. We love to play. With others and for others. And we can do neither – now or for the forseeable

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Who is your John Paxson?

Up until yesterday, I had never heard of John Paxson. But without him, Michael Jordan may not have won his first NBA championship in 1991, and the course of basketball history could be very different. You see Jordan was without doubt the best player in the NBA in the mid-late 1980s, but was finding it difficult to lead his team to what for them was the promised land – a championship win. Year after year they failed in the latter stages of the competition, and Jordan worried that he would never reach the level of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – great players like Jordan, but unlike him were serial championship winners. In 1989 Phil Jackson took over as the coach of Jordan’s team, the Chicago Bulls, and immediately set about getting Jordan to trust his teammates more. Jackson believed that while Jordan doing things on his own was good enough to win most games, it wasn’t going to be

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Correct your mistakes before they become habits.

So you’re trying to learn a new melody on your instrument. Or a new boogie bass line. Or, less glamorously, a scale. Or an exercise to improve your technique. You want to get playing it up to speed, so you try it faster and faster until you get it once at a decent pace. But you can’t seem to repeat it. Something keeps going wrong. Why? Here’s the why. You have practiced it until you got it right – and that’s fine. But you need to practice it until you don’t get it wrong. So in the above instance, your first priority should not to be able to play whatever you’re trying to play fast, but to be able to play it accurately, and repeatedly. Tempo is irrelevant at this point. It just needs to be slow enough so that it allows you to get the fingering right, get the feel right, in a relaxed manner and in a way

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Something to look forward to…

Back in my 20s, when air travel was easy, a group of us used to head away for a long weekend once a year. Usually somewhere in Europe, somewhere we hadn’t been before, somewhere with cheap flights. One of my friends who was part of this group used to claim that the value in these trips lay as much in the anticipation of them as the craic you would have on them. The excitement of looking forward to something. And this feeling is important. Especially now. I couldn’t get over the number of people who said to me in the aftermath of last week’s theme night that it was great to have something to look forward to, something to break up the week, the days. Because these things, the things we can look forward to, they prevent the days from rolling into one. From becoming just like the previous one, and the next one. And it doesn’t have to be

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Farewell Theme Night #26

It’s one we will always remember. One which demanded different talents and skills. One we all watched together but separately. One where a new generation of twenty somethings stepped up to the mark and delivered. One which put a much-needed smile on people’s faces. I had never watched a theme night live on TV before. Many of the participants have noted that never before would they have had the time required to create and shoot videos of such a high standard. And certainly no theme night before ever reached such a wide audience. If you missed it – you can see all videos here… The Golden Jacket – well the recipient this time will miss out on much of the craic associated with it unfortunately. But his name will (in time) be embroidered into it like that of the others and will go down in Theme Night History! It’s awarded each time to someone not necessarily for the level of

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