:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chris Says. (Patresa)

Guitar practice time. = 4 hours with a BUT. It is 7:40 p.m. Tuesday night. Although at this exact moment, I have only practiced 4 hours, I will practice at least another 30 minutes tonight before I go to bed. So… by the time you read this, I will have fallen only 30 minutes shy of my 5 hour goal. I'm good with that. 

Of the 10 days since my last post, I have spent 5 on the road. In fact, I just got home from two days out. I actually considered taking my guitar with me, but... Tooling around Iowa in a state-marked vehicle with my guitar sticking up in the backseat? No… the governor would get calls. (The governor already gets calls when state-marked vehicles are parked at malls.)

I've been doing my soul-sucking drills. (I think my soul is still okay. I've been keeping track.) I do feel a little difference even just after 2 weeks. They still frustrate me. It takes 20 minutes to get through all the variations. And when I bobble the notes, I want to throw objects at other objects. I have very low tolerance for frustration. Very low. But Chris says (all my posts will now be re-titled "Chris Says -1," "Chris Says-2," "Chris Says-3"…) that after another couple of weeks of this round of drills, he'll show me a new set. Chris Says… "You have to walk before you run, Grasshopper." Whatever. Eye roll.

Narrative evidence of progress: I just deleted the rabbit ears I put around the word progress. I'm not going to take a poop on it. It really was progress, although I got pretty frustrated this week. Here is why:

a. I broke a string for the very first time. I've been playing the guitar for the past 8 years. But I played it sheepishly and quietly and with little commitment. I think it took me 8 years to bust my first string because I played too hesitantly. I'm playing with a little more oomph now. So… I decided the busted string was progress, and I felt pretty badass about it.

b. But then I had to restring my guitar. Chris taught me a long time ago. (Chris Says) I'd done it a few times, but the last few years, I've always managed to get Chris to do it for me. I mean, people PAY him to set up their guitars; why would I not have him do mine? Now that I've decided to stop being a giant pansy, I figure I should do this myself. So I did. It was frustrating. Slow. Clumsy. It took me an hour and a half. I swore a lot, and I drew blood when I pinched my hand with the wire cutters. Then… I started to tune and realized I had put on the wrong strings. THE WRONG STRINGS, for crying out loud! I'd grabbed a set of "mistake" strings--leftovers from an accidental purchase (I accidentally bought 12-string guitar strings a while back.). I admit: I cried. I cry when I'm tired and frustrated. Terribly embarrassing. Chris stifled his laughter and then offered to restring it. But… I refused on account of my pride.

I took a break. I went out and got a haircut and confessed to Rona, Hair Goddess, that I really hoped by the time I got home, Chris would have restrung it for me out of pity. He did not. (Damn you, Chris, for not being an enabler!) So, I restrung my guitar AGAIN and with the correct strings. It's all better. Progress.

Scheduled free time: You know what? Screw this. I mean, really. What was I thinking? It's f-ing free time, P. FREE.

New Song Development: One morning I found a really cool vocal line to go with some scratchy lyrics of one of my new songs. I played it through a few times and was really excited about it. Then I had to go to work. 8.5 hours later I returned home and could not for the life of me recall the rhythm or vocal line. This burned my buns. (Damn you, State of Iowa!)

Cover Song Development: My goal was to pick one and get started. I had 4 in mind:

1. The Passenger by Iggy Pop, 
2. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) -- Nancy Sinatra's (I don't remember who did it originally.),
3. No One is to Blame by Howard Jones, and
4. …. I dont remember the 4th, but it may have been from the Indigo Girls (predictably).

I picked No One is to Blame. I think this is such a cool song. It's piano-driven, but I can hear a really cool acoustic guitar version in my head. The problem, as I'm finding it, is that I can't get what I hear in my head to come out through my fingers. Chris could do it in 5 minutes (Chris Says), but I should be able to do this myself, so I'm not asking him for help. I worked on it one night and wanted to punch somebody in the face. If I were at the piano, I could do it fairly easily. The piano makes sense to me; it's linear; I know what I'm playing; I can hear something in my head, and I know where to find it in the keys. The guitar doesn't make sense to me. It's too layered, and the intervals seem inconsistent. I don't understand what I'm doing. I don't know where the sounds are. It makes me really mad, and then I swear, beat on my strings, and say horribly degrading things to myself. Really, the things I say to myself… I would never in a million years say them to another living soul. (We really must be kinder to the people we see in our mirrors. They are such good, well-meaning people.)

Goals for the next 10 days:

1. Log another 5 hours of practice time.

2. Scratch out a better vocal line for an original.

3. Figure out at least the verse for No One is to Blame.

4. Create new swear words to replace the ones I've been overusing this week.

Now, I will go practice. While I'm doing that, here's Howard Jones. You should consider his haircut.


Angie said...

They say that nothing easy is worth doing. Of course, I have found that when this idea applies to my own particular struggles, I am apt to be violent toward anyone who shares it with me "in the moment". So I won't share it with you, but I am thinking it toward you in a most supportive way!

I quote yoga teachers about as often as you quote your husband, so it seems appropriate to share this one I heard in a class years ago. It has stuck with me, and I remind myself of it whenever the Inner Critic sinks her teeth into my hide - "Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a child."

Good luck P!

Wendy Jans said...

ooh Angie - I love that advice - never say anything to yourself you wouldn't say to a child!

P- I so felt your pain with the stringing of your guitar. I remember one of my first guitar stringing experiences, I tried to tune one of the strings an octave higher than it was supposed to be and when it busted, I was soooo mad because the stinkin' strings were $15! I'm proud of you for all that stick-to-it-iveness. 5 hrs ain't no slouch of a practice schedule and I know it's not easy.

I don't know any of those cover songs, but I will check out that video so that I can bop my head along in recognition when you master your first cover. Yeah!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Man, I love that "don't say anything you wouldn't say to a child." I really love that. I also practice the philosophy of never speak about a client in a way I would be ashamed to hear me speaking. I should apply ALL of this in all venues of life.

P, I am so proud of you! I know I continue to say this, but despite not knowing on iotic inch about music, I am very taken with your dedication and commitment to your growth as a musician! I have always loved your voice, and I've always loved to hear you play anything. This is quite the joy to be a part of while you journey along your success Sister.

You just keep on rockin' on there little missy. :)

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Make that "one" iotic inch about music, and yes, I have no idea if "iotic" is a word, but I like it.

Ok, keep rockin' on P-Diggity P!

Steph said...

Attababy, P Diddy! Way to keep on rockin! I love that you are so badass that you broke a string! I don't really know if it takes a lot to break a string, as I'm about as musically UN-inclined as you can get. I can recall, however, how hard I hit a tennis ball once that busted a string... and I felt like Ah-nold when I did that. SO, I say that makes you one BIG BA! YES! :)
I giggled when I read that your posts will now all be titled "Chris Says." How does HE feel about this??? That's great! I love your posts so much anyway. And I love how you speak about Chris. It's funny but evident that you share a bond on a genuinely deep and real level, which I love, too! SO, to get P's take with some Chris flava in your posts... it's gonna be interesting!
Hope the holiday was great... can't wait for another video of YOU! (and I promise not to "consider" your haircut in it! HAHAHA!)

blj said...

Nice job this week, P! I love that song, No One is to Blame. I have great memories of singing along with that song in high school and thinking I actually sounded really good. Can't wait to see your take on it. Post another video of yourself soon!

amy said...

That is one of my favorite 80's (? 90's? those two decades are just a big giant blur to me). I'm enjoying it right now as I type this comment, in fact. GOOD choice, P!

While at my father in law's this past week, I attempted to strum his guitar (which I bet is very old and out of tune), but I was drowned out by an 8 year old on the electric piano and a 5 year old who's still in love with me for some odd reason (after all these years) making moon eyes at me. Also, the 2 year olds (Melissa and her cousin we like to call "Mooshie", don't ask me why we call him that) were fighting with me over control of this out-of-tune guitar. Mooshie just wanted it because Melissa wanted it. And Melissa wanted it because I had it. And she kept begging "Me. Meee. Teekee guitar. Me teekee guitar. ME ME ME ME!" And so that ended my attempt at brief self-taught guitar playing over Thanksgiving break. Thank god I didn't have to re-string anything. I'm pretty sure a toddler (or two) would have gotten whipped on the head with a guitar string (or ten).

I HATE when I think of something really, really cool, have to go do something really not as cool (ie, work of any kind) and then 8.5 hours later--gone! It's one of Life's cruelties, and I really wish there was a complaint department at the State of Iowa about it.

I think you are making fabulous progress, P. Fabulous progress! I bet Chris would say this as well (I just typed "Christ" accidentally, but I'm pretty sure both Chris and Christ are mightily impressed with all you are accomplishing.)

I will pass on that dude's hair cut, though. I got bangs this summer and it was not pretty.

And in conclusion: I would give a state-marked government car 2 thumbs up if it passed me with a guitar sticking up in the backseat. I'd feel so much hope!

T-Free said...

30 minutes short of your goal is close enough to make you GREAT. Way to go! I am really impressed!

People actually call the governor about state-marked vehicles at malls? Wow. So state employees aren't allowed to take breaks like the rest of the working population, then? *cough*getalifepeople!*cough*

I am so impressed that you have been sticking with the soul-sucking drills. Sooooo boring. But they do help. I'm told. Ahem.

You broke a string! Yeah! ROCK. STAR.

I have always changed my own strings, but when I actually played my guitars in bands, I would also take them to the professional to set them up and make sure the intonation was okay after every harsh season change.

If it makes you feel any better, I have re-strung electric and acoustic guitars more times than I can count, and I still suck at it. I'm slow and I hate it because I'm not good at it. I had a guitar-playing ex-boyfriend who could re-string a guitar in mere minutes, and it kind of made me die a little inside every time I watched him whip out a quick string change. Unfair. The process bothers me because it isn't precise. Too much room for error and I feel uneasy, like I'm not sure it's being done the right way. I want confetti to fly, and a special happy celebration song to commence after every string to let me know I did it right. Or a bell to ding. Or something.

I've forgotten songs too! Grrrr. I used to have a Fisher-Price kid's tape recorder that had a microphone attached. A musician friend recommended it for recording song ideas. I'm sure they don't even make them anymore, since cassettes are no longer popular. But what about one of those hand-held mini voice recorders that doctors and lawyers and such (Willie Nelson is now singing "Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" in my head) use to keep notes? You could quickly record a song idea on one of those so you don't forget it when you have a chance to get back to it.

"We really must be kinder to the people we see in our mirrors. They are such good, well-meaning people."

Oh, girlfriend. I heard that.

Hojo!! He is awesome. I can't wait to hear your cover! :)