Grafton: Sending A Letter

Here’s a cool song from former pupil Phil Grafton. Phil’s unique and funny songwriter.

Check out more former pupils on the Wall of Fame!

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Drumming On The Guitar

Here’s a bunch of guitarists that turn their guitars into percussion instruments – while still playing chords and melodies.

First US busker Reginald Guillaume aka Guitaro 5000 showing you how to play Michael Jackson‘s Billy Jean with a can of tuna and a bulldog clip

A little more hi-tech is Kelly Valleau who has two small drum trigger pads stuck to the front of his guitar which he’s hitting with his thumb and wrist.

Next Gabriela Quintero from the Mexican group Rodrigo y Gabriela who combines spanish flamenco style guitar with a drumming technique used on the Irish Bodhrán drum

Last but not least is the amazing Jon Gomm who hits, scratches, taps and retunes the guitar all while singing at the same time.

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Filled Up With Bad Songs (Or Craft vs Inspiration Revisited)

Songwriting isn’t easy. Who said it should be? One reason to learn the craft is that we are filled with bad, boring and self indulgent songs that we need to force out before the fresh melodies and lyrics can flow.

As Mike Viola sings

Songs, songs, songs, they pour out of me
Not all of them are worth finishing
But you got to finish them to see

Secret Radio

Here’s more wisdom from novelists Ann Patchett and Cheryl Strayed (via Brain Pickings)

Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

Cheryl Strayed: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? If a person … picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!” you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker.

Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.

Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath.

Ann Patchett: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

More on the craft/inspiration battle from Tom Waits, Chuck Close, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein

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New Song: Where Did The Time Go?

Here’s a spruced up version of my FAWM collaboration with Liz Frencham – Where Did The Time Go? It’s a frenetic, fun, slightly NSFW, Jazz Odyssey. Enjoy.

Where Did The Time Go?

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How To Catch A Song Without Killing It

The bad news is – you can’t.

I’ve been thinking about the fear I sometimes have of working on a good song. When I’m uninspired the fear and loathing is easy to comprehend. I’m worried that I’m worthless and I suck as a songwriter and the tune I’m attempting to finish is shortly going to provide solid evidence of that fact.

But why do I drag my feet when I’m working on an idea that has a life of it’s own and is pushing it’s way out of my guitar and my mind? I think it’s because I know, deep down, that the real life song is never going to match up to the fantasy version that lives in my imagination.  But if I want a real song, in the real world, I have to come to terms with the fact that ‘pinning it down’ is probably going to ‘kill it’.

Some recent posts on the Brain Pickings website summed this up beautifully with quotes from authors Ann Patchett and Cheryl Strayed

This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its colour, so wild and loyal in its nature … my love for this book … is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see.

And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure the job is done I stick it into place with a pin … Everything that was beautiful about this living thing – all the colour, the light and movement – is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book.

I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.

I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.

Ann Patchett: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

[I] finally reached a point where the prospect of not writing a book was more awful than the one of writing a book that sucked

I’d stopped being grandiose. I’d lowered myself to the notion that the absolute only thing that mattered was getting that extra beating heart out of my chest. Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be-published book. My absolutely nowhere-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically-memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do.

Cheryl Strayed: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Everybody loves music, but it’s important that music likes you

Read Tom Waits on Catching Songs

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