Becoming a Musician

How hard is that?

We were talking the other day about what it takes to be a professional musician. I remarked that being a professional just means that you have had at least one paid gig in your lifetime – it may not be paying the rent. A friend responded that many of the finest players make very little money compared to engineers and computer geeks. He thought this was unfair and I tend to agree. Life is unfair in many respects. Let me count the ways.

If you spend time at any competitive sport you will always find the same small group in the winners circle. When I used to run the Robert Hamilton ten mile event in Calgary I always met the same four or five runners at mile four. They were already at mile six on the return lap. This would happen around thirty minutes into the race. I ran a seven minute pace; they ran a mile in five minutes.

Now a pace of five minutes a mile is world class running so only a very few people out of the thousand or so who enter these events will ever run that fast. What can we say about the folks who were still a minute faster than I was. Well, they were mostly professional athletes, people who could make a living on the the playing field.

The moral of the story is that you have to be very very good to get paid for doing some fun gig like running ten miles, or playing professional soccer or ice hockey. My only claim to being a professional athelete is that I taught skiing at Paskapoo ski hill in Calgary for a few years. I became a Level II instructor. I was not a ski racer or a manual groomer. Those are the real pros on the hill. Level II ski instructors are often paid minimum wage, but they have one of the best jobs in the world.

In my case the difference between my efforts at seven minutes a mile and the pros who were a minute faster was likely wind sprints. To become a Level III instructor, a real pro, would have taken at least a year running race courses and becoming a Level II coach. I thought that was just too much work and besides I had a day job. I was content with my pace; it was about a minute better than average and I was there to have a good time.

Rick Beato says all you have to know to be a real pro, a session musician, is the three hundred or so tunes in the “Real Book” — in every key. These are all Jazz standards so you don’t get to use a capo. I don’t expect to ever be that good but that is the way I’m going.

I Ain’t Marchin Anymore

Phil Ochs
        G            C         D
Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans, 
       G          C             D
at the end of the early British wars 
    G                    C
The young land started growing, 
       Am                Em
the young blood started flowing, 
       Am       C    D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
         G                  C
For I've killed my share of Indians,
       D
in a thousand different fights, 
      G            C          D
I was there at the Little Big Horn 
    G             C           Am        Em
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying, 
    Am        C         D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
          Am     C          G              Em
     It's always the old to lead us to the wars, 
     Am         Em       Am
     it's always the young to fall 
         Am                              Em
     Now look at all we've won, with the saber 
                                          and the gun, 
     C             Am       D
     tell me is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

Chorus

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore

Convoy 2022

This is an annotated protest song. Links lead to the stories in the news that support the text or to documents from reliable sources. Thanks to CW McCall for the inspiration:

  1. A – Its been two years with the place locked down
  2. G – and everybody wearing a mask
  3. D – You meet your friends – you can’t see them frown
  4. A – Are they happy? Don’t even ask
  5. A – John Hopkins says lockdowns don’t work
  6. G – World Health says the same about masks
  7. D – Justin says we’re a tiny fringe
  8. A – We better take him to task.
  • ‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  1. A – The conservatives ditched that fool O’Tool
  2. G – Maybe things are goin right
  3. D – Some say, “What we need is a case in court”
  4. A – Brian Peckford says he’s in the fight
  5. A – Constitution Act of ’82
  6. G – Stick that in yer craw
  7. D – Freedom to Travel is a human right
  8. A – Supposed to be the bloody law
  • So we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  1. A – Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June  
  2. G – In a Kenworth pullin’ logs                     
  3. D – Cab-over Pete with a reefer on                  
  4. A – And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs                        
  5. A – We is headin’ for bear on I-one-oh              
  6. G – ‘Bout a mile outta Shaky Town                    
  7. D – I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck   
  8. D – “And I’m about to put the hammer down”          
  • ‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  • A –
  • G –
  • D –
  • A – more to come put your verses in the comments.
  • A –
  • G –
  • D –
  • A –

       

Stick it to the Man – Feb 9

Protest Songs.

Seems like we all need to vent a bit now and then.   Anyone with a suitable song can protest whatever they dislike the most on Feb 9 at 7pm.   If you  can play a tune, you are welcome to set your favorite rant to music.   

Those looking for a world class source of opinion journalism can hardly do better than to read the Resignation Letter of Bari Weiss from the New York Times.  If you have an hour to spare you can follow that up with an in depth discussion on you tube.

Another Year Another Circle

For the first circle of 2022 I thought it time to “thank whatever gods there be. . .”, with apologies to WEH, for events of the past year, since my GOD is music and his prophet is J.S. Bach.

Thanks to Amanda McClean, for hosting Sharps in Isolation in London during this difficult time. Sharps set the standard for efficient use of time, for recording and cataloging every performance and for grace and tolerance of diverse points of view.

Thanks to Tim Mar and Stoo Born for continuing to host Music and More off main. This is an eclectic collection of musicians who usually allow their features to be recorded and who provide weekly entertainment for the community.

Thanks to John Wade for help and advice with the operations of our circle and for hosting the Brock Music circles in person where possible. We have had many good meeting in the tent in good weather and hope to Zoom on during the winter.

Thanks to Eric Hartman and the folks at PBOMS for keeping music alive on Zoom and for their recent efforts to reopen the ANZA club for music.

Thanks to Steve Deering for managing the Vancouver Folk Song Society and providing much needed technical expertise. Thanks to Christina Rae and Leona Axbey for organizing the bi-weekly Zoom sessions and keeping the folk alive.

Thanks to Watson Seto for suggesting I start a website for beginner guitar players and for his efforts to convince the board of VFSS to consider reopening the Quaker Hall. And a special thanks for continuing to run the in person song circles at Trout Lake. I will try and attend more often.

A very special thanks to John Lyon of the Deep Cove Coffee House. John has provided advice and support to both our circles and our website. He has shown us how to make music together over the internet using Jamulus and Sonobus and he is the most popular performer on the Pickers Circle channel.

Thanks to everyone who attended a pickers circle. Graham Baldwin has attended every circle and has been a valuable source of ideas for the organization. He is a man who will always do a request. Alan Sherman is an amazing guitarist with a fine background in early music. Garth Gibson has an endless repertoire of blues and country music. Don Gilbert has brought us many fine songs from the southern states, Nigel Bell has brought his blue grass collection to the circle and Stoo Born entertains us with country blues and Jazz. Stoo was kind enough to host a workshop on open tunings when our circles were just starting out. William Jordan has played us a tune or two and Amalah and Penelope Johnson have livened up what might otherwise become an exclusive boys club as have Di Skippen, Leona Axbey and Bibien Pierce.

Thanks to Rumi for putting up with the noise in the basement and many thanks to those who simply enjoy the videos and share them with their friends.

2020 Early Circles

Here are the first few circles of 2020.

Dec 23rd Songs for Christmas with Thomas Mathieson. session highlights https://youtu.be/eGbMKohGRf8 

Dec 9 I got Rhythm – session highlights on YouTube

Nov 25 3-5 pm Open Tunings — Stoo Born. Video Workshop and Session Highlights.

Nov 11 Bluegrass — Doc’s Guitar – Video workshop and Session Highlights

Oct 28 Train Songs — Freight Train — Video workshop

Oct 14 – Joe Turner — Lyrics and chords . Session Highlights on You-Tube.

Chromatic Scales The names of all the notes on the Fret board.

Sept 30 – Froggy Went a Courtin

Diatonic Scales Do re mi fa so la ti do. Everywhere in every key.

12-bar-blues

Themes for Future Circles

  • Anti-war
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War

Thanks to Graham Baldwin for the list above.

  • Train Songs
  • Political Songs
  • Blues
  • Country
  • Bluegrass
  • Dylan
  • Joe Hill 
  • Jazz 

More Tricks

A metronome for your phone or computer — https://www.musicca.com/metronome

A tuner for your phone or desktop — https://tuner.ninja/

A free Audio Workstation — https://www.audacityteam.org/download/

  • Listen to the music — what do you really want to achieve?
  • Plan
    1. Where are you at?
    2. Where are you going – folk – blues – jazz – classical
    3. What steps will take you from one to two
  • Divide and conquer – one bar, one lick, one tune at a time.
  • Slow down — practice make permanent
  • Be Accurate — play with a recording or a metronome
  • Record everything on your phone or on your computer – track your progress

Tricks of the Trade

a list from John Lyon


Tricks Of The Trade could be any little thing, any idea of piece of information that helps us provide more depth and variety in our playing.  Examples could include:

  • Turnarounds, the little 2-bar chord progressions and licks that mark the end of a 12- or 8-bar blues progression, or the end of a chorus of a jazz standard like “All Of Me”.  
  • The Circle Of Fifths as used in tunes like “Sweet Georgia Brown”—-how to play the on guitar, and the licks that can be used with these chords.
  • Tricks and licks used when playing the II-V-I chord progression. There are whole books on this subject.
  • Double stops (playing two adjacent strings at once)—-where, when, and how to use them.  Jazz guitarist Howard Alden is a master at this and even teaches a whole class on double stops for Mike’s Master Class.
  • Syncopation—how and why it makes our playing better—-examples of this. You can’t play blues, jazz, or popular music without knowing something about syncopated rhythm.
  • How and how much, and when to practice. How to learn to play fast.
  • Who each of us has learned from the most, and what in particular we have learned.
  • Voice leading, which is the idea of playing each note in a new chord no more than two frets away from the notes in the last chord—-what it is and what it can do for your playing (hint, it sounds great). Bach was a master at voice leading.
  • Key changes and modulations—examples of songs that use them, and how we manage to play them. Coker’s book on chord progressions has many examples of this.
  • Examples of using diminished chords and scales.  Where and when are they used.
  • Examples of using the #5 chord in both major and minor keys, e.g. the chord in “What A Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong where he sings “And I think to myself…” it’s used in the minor blues and other minor songs too, e.g. “The Thrill Has Gone” by B.B. King.
  • Octave displacement, chromatic passing tones, repetition, blues notes (flat thirds and flat sevenths)
  • Chet Atkins and Travis Picking
  • licks,
  • string bending

11 Aug – Jazz standards for Beginners

I’ll start out by saying that jazz beginners are usually pretty good blues players. We have a few of those at the circle but nobody needs to stay on this list. As usual play what you like, just show up to play.

Here are 25 Jazz standards from the teachings of Aimee Nolte. If she played guitar she would be perfect but alas no one is perfect. These are ranked by difficulty for pianists from easy to more difficult. I’ll try to work down the list by linking to examples of performances and tutorials. As I learn new tunes I’ll link to my own renditions.

If anyone has a list that is specific to guitar players please let me know in the comments.

There is also a lot of Sandra Sherman here. She is a terrific teacher for beginning jazz guitar.