Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rock and roll! Also vicious dogs, meditation and bowling

Yesterday’s departure from the norm: having just one task be the focus of the entire day. I never do that, pretty much. I chose a song from my current project to work on and got it almost finished. I’m liking how it’s turning out so far...I let myself take breaks here and there for food or just to gather my thoughts or whatever, but I didn’t allow myself to take on any other activity until I’d progressed enough...I ended up working on another song in the evening also, which is technically a violation of the single-task rule, but for good reason. The way I have my home studio set up, I use my bedroom closet as a vocal booth. The rest of the gear is in the front room, but there’s hardwood floors there and it’s not at all suitable for recording vocals. So I have to move my recorder into the bedroom when I want to do vocal parts, which means that it’s a good idea to record as many needed parts on songs as I can while the stuff’s set up there. That way I don’t have to schlep the recorder back and forth and reconnect everything.


By whole day, I mean that I got started at noon. Woke up at 8, had an errand to do and breakfast to get. Stopped to read Facebook, where I learned that my brother John had had to fend off an attack from a pit bull while biking to work. He’s okay, he gave the dog a good kick and managed to get away on his bike, though he did get bit on the lower leg. Apparently the owner of the dog routinely neglects to close his gate. John called animal control, as he should have. I was angry reading this - why wouldn’t I be, a family member was attacked - and a little unnerved. You see, I sometimes babysit my 2-year-old nephew, John’s son Ben. The last time I did so, I took Ben outside for a walk in the neighborhood. Nice sunny morning - I enjoyed the walk and Ben did too, riding piggyback on my shoulders some of the time, getting to run up and down a few driveways and giggle...yeah, well, if the dog had gotten loose and made his appearance, that might have turned out to be the worst day of my life and Ben’s. No more walks for us. I don’t know for the life of me why owning or training a vicious breed within city limits is allowed. Seems to violate common sense.

So I was angry about that, and because I felt anger I struggled to get my mind off it and back to things I could affect. Found a good cure for it, though, and one I’ll have to remember: about 15 minutes of strenuous exercise (push-ups, curls, crunches) followed by a shower followed by 30 minutes of meditative deep breathing. That last part was tough to stick with, but by the end of it I felt much less put upon by what was bothering me before. Sure, the attack dog would still come to mind, and I still felt (and feel) the same way about the matter, but the visceral effects of anger were gone, and I was in a great mood and ready to make music. Note to self: do more of that.


I drank a lot of beer last night, though I'm not much worse off for it. I have experience in these matters. Was feeling a little celebratory, and besides, I like to drink when I record vocals. Makes me feel loose and comfortable. Too much of it and I can’t get quality takes, but by the time I’d passed the point of usefulness I’d gotten down the parts I wanted to on two songs. As difficult as I’ve always found it to get music out of my head and recorded, it’s always an occasion to celebrate when I manage it.

The standard for these recordings at this point is that of full-fledged demos. All the parts are there, the audio and performances are listenable enough to get the idea across pretty well, but if I were doing this project as a commercial release, I’d take it up a notch, go into a studio, maybe hire a player here and there. Drums are an issue, because I’m playing on most of these demos (a couple of the drum tracks are keyboard drum sounds as of now) and I haven’t been playing drums regularly very long. I’m still a ways off from being able to pass my own audition, and the parts are the parts - I’m not going to write around the fact that I’m not yet a pro-level drummer. I’m practicing a lot lately, though. Want to be able to hang for real in a couple of years, and I think it’s doable.

The reason I’ve established the practice of putting up demos for people to hear is that I can put together demos with much less time and effort (and money) than full-blown release quality recordings would require. So I should be able to get a lot more material out where people can hear it, in theory. What I want is speed and volume. I’d rather people hear fifty songs at tolerable quality with some imperfections than just three super-shiny ones, and I can go back and shine demos further and re-post them when I want to. Hasn’t worked out this way in practice yet - I still only have six songs available right now, but I’d love to have dozens. Just need to make the time and fight through whatever holds me back and start spewing out music like a fool...down the road I might go into a studio and make super-shiny definitive versions of some of it. And the practice I’ve had making demo versions will be a huge help if and when I do.

Reminder: I have a page for this current music project on Facebook. Just look up Trembles of Fortune, which is my fake-ass band name. (A one-man band is still a band, though, right? Kinda sorta?)


And for Sunday morning’s departure...I went bowling, which I haven’t done in a long time. Not only that, I bowled lefty, which I haven’t done ever. Why? The main reason is that I’m trying to get stronger and more agile with my left hand, wrist and arm. I’ve never been much ambidextrous - my two brothers are to some degree, but I’ve always been markedly right-dominant. On other instruments I play, I’ve often been able to work around the lack of left-side development, but on drums I’m finding you can’t really hide it. So I’ve taken to doing many routine tasks with my left hand, doing exercises with it, etc. so I can close that gap sooner rather than later. Wrist strength and agility is particularly important with drumming, so a lot focuses on that.

My lefty form is clumsy, having only bowled lefty this once, and my results, well, I bowled four games and averaged a mighty 57. Lots of gutter balls. Not that I’m particularly good bowling righty - I average maybe 120 doing that - but at least I look normal (for a layman; I’ve never learned that fancy curveball that real bowlers use.) It was weird learning to start with the other foot, figure out when to start my backswing, how I should be positioned when I let the ball go. None of it felt natural, unsurprisingly. My form and power improved a little from the first frame to the last and I was starting to get vaguely comfortable, though my left wrist wasn’t strong enough to do the job well even when I was doing better on form. Definitely want to do this more often - it’s bound to help my left wrist develop.

Another thing. Many of you know I tend to be shy in a lot of situations. I’d like to overcome some of that and connect with people a little more. I’ll never be an extrovert, but I would like to be more comfortable in public or socializing. Introversion as a choice, not wanting to interact at that moment, is fine; being avoidant out of habit or discomfort or irrational fear really isn’t...part of shyness or social anxiety is not wanting to embarrass yourself. By bowling lefty, I put myself in the position of being in public doing something very badly - which has potential for embarrassment, though in this case not much. It’s good practice.

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