Two hours of guitar practice per day did not seem unreasonable when I made the commitment, but some days it takes until 10:30 to get it done. This was one of those days. Other practices, meetings, exercise and family time must be honored also. I am a fortunate, but tired man.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Today was a day where my attention was on the music of life. Today is one of those milestone Birthdays for my wife. Lots of last minute stuff getting older people the technical help they need for posting to a Kudo Board and Zoom. Family and friends have been so sweet and supportive in the spirit of celebrating her. Harmony has arisen between some dissonant players as a result. That’s the best notes of all.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
I Found a photocopied page from W. A. Mathieu’s book Harmonic Experience that I have worked with at various times to little avail. The page is from a chapter titled Dronality in Equal Temperament: Mixed Modes. Blending Mixolydian, Harmonic Minor and the Phrygian Mode. I know I’m in over my head. Smiling I dove in one more time. The following came out after a couple hours exploring options.
Maybe I should go back to page 1 of this book someday, instead of opening it up every few years. But hey Life is short.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all, but we are not constantly and readily available to music. From an Introduction to Guitar Craft.
As a musician, a guitarist my work is to make myself available. This can take many forms. All is interconnected. My morning practices inform my ability to be present. These practices nourish my energy. How I do one thing, open my case, carry my guitar and take a seat on my chair make a difference. When I honor my commitments over time I prepare this musician for those moments when music whispers.
I still need to honor my guitar practice commitment so back to work.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Morning practice set the tone for my day. As we completed our Qi Gong practice my wife choose Focus as the word for today. With this as my guide I honed in on the subtleties of When Am I? Also focused on some difficult transitions in Searching. An email arrived with a challenge from one of the members of the Ravens which had me hooking up some effects to a mixer in the basement. I'll see what arises. Been a long time since I played with effects but always did love the process.
A session led my Curt Golden in the afternoon gave me some ideas to pursue that will strengthen melodic construction. Great to have some many people in my wife that work at their craft and generously share with others. After dinner I taught our Five Animal Play Qi Gong class and have one to teach for the AAD in the morning. Life is good. Need to get in 10 more minutes of practice before bedtime.
Monday, January 25, 2021
Sunday, January 24, 2021
On Wednesday 1/20/21an International At A Distance Guitar Course began that I am participating in. My commitment to my guitar practice for the duration through 2/28/21 is to practice 2 hours per day. Normally this is not a problem for me.
But today … I practiced an hour in the morning. It was good. Then some important tasks needed to be addressed. Which of course took longer than expected. A wonderful walk with family for a couple hours. A nap. Dinner. Then my regular commitment to practicing with the Washington Mindfulness Community. Suddenly it is 8pm. I’m tired. And I still need to honor the other hour of practice. The resistance began rationalizing. For the first 20 minutes my practice was great. Moving forward on learning the ending of When Am I?, the guitar was sounding great. Pride swelled a bit at my tenacity of putting in my other hour. A short break and then the middle hit. Negative thoughts, poor execution of the notes and on and on.
Experience told me to simply persist. While being gentle with myself I knew the middle would pass and it did. Normally I do not practice when I’m this tired, but the practice of honoring commitments is vital to success.
As the Guitar Craft aphorism states: With commitment all the rules change.
Photo by Tim
Saturday, January 23, 2021
After I journaled this morning, renewal leapt off the page at me from a passage I was reading. I decided this would be my word for today. Usually we end our Qi Gong practice with a word. Today I offered the idea that we also begin with the word - renewal. After all we cultivate our Qi to nourish and/or renew our energy.
Settled on the ending for When Am I? Next I need to learn to play it. Reviewed the form of Day Two in the morning as I had to perform it in the afternoon. Joined a group practice session with a seminar I’m involved in. Reviewed basic picking technique which was fun. Seldom use a pic these days but good to revisit. As I write this I saw how renewal slipped in to my practice unaware.
Friday, January 22, 2021
Though it is tempting to think of yourself in small integrated parts when playing your instrument, think of yourself as an integrated whole. And that “whole” includes your not just your body, but your thoughts, as well as how you relate to your external environment.
Bill Plake - Alexander Technique Teacher
This mornings practice was challenged by my thinking. I had a limited time as we were going to celebrate an accomplishment of my wife by getting out in nature for a long walk. Thinking of her and having to perform a piece tomorrow and a couple ideas that arose this morning had me bound up. Body and mind were not in the same place.
I know what to do in this situation - meditate. But there was the time factor. Decided to let go and bring order to some stuff. In the afternoon with better focus I played. Continuing to work with how I relate to the external environment while playing.
Thursday, January 21, 2021
When Am I? took another step forward today. I may have found the ending. Listening to a very interesting solo guitar piece The Behavior of Mirrors composed by Roger Reynolds and then Synchronisms #10 by Mario Davidovsky. Hearing myself ask “How did they do that?” The learning never stops.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle. Brian Eno Oblique Strategies.
As I listened to the notes I had scored from When Am I? yesterday and then played with some of the other ideas I had for the piece, I suspected I was making a mess. Then Brian Eno’s aforementioned Oblique Strategy arrived in my mind. Have I achieved that balance? Do I need to? The Strategy helped guide me to options. That is what’s important and I believe the intent behind why Eno and Peter Schmidt had articulated them. Worked for me today, I think. I’ll have another listen in the morning with some fresh ears… You can have a listen now.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Monday, January 18, 2021
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Saturday, January 16, 2021
A Key Dialogue
After a performance the Musician was approached by a student with questions.
Student: What was the key of the piece you played?
Musician: The key is to be in the here and now when you play.
Student: Yes of course, but what about the key?
Musician: The key is to open your heart when you play.
Student: Yes, yes but mind you I am asking about the key?
Musician: (Smiling) The key is to quiet your mind when you play?
Student: But … but …
Musician: And to listen.
Friday, January 15, 2021
More playing with fun at the beginning of practice today. Keeping it fresh. Might I come back to this later? Break up the practice with joyful playing?
Returned to the idea yesterday I titled Entangled - indeed the notes that I wrote down are. In a good way I hope. Laughing as I thought about choosing Entangled as a working title was perhaps nudged by playing with Wesley Balk’s ideas. After all his work is about the physical, mental and emotional entanglements which arise in music performance. There is something in these notes but transitions between sections are still needed. May I find them.
Fifty minutes helping a friend prep for a gig next week. I played him Day Two. He’s the first person beside my wife to hear this piece. Afternoon was crowded with a meeting and setting up a new television. Then the virtual open mic on Forward Link distracted me from the frustration of dealing with a Smart TV. Wonderful to hear the stories, poems and songs of others here. Looking forward to next month.
The journey may be long or short. I only need to see and take the next steps.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
As I began to warm up this morning I decided to play pieces I know well and allow freedom in my performance of them. What I mean by this is to do things with my body and facial expressions that I do not do in performance. This comes from one of Wesley Balk’s aphorisms “In rehearsal do what you can not do.” This aphorism is paired with “In performance allow what you can do.” Playing A Journeyman’s Way Home while dancing about my studio, then Gathered Hearts and Passages.
Allowing this joy and fun to enter me is something I need to cultivate further. As soon as I began to play Day Two I noticed the effect that my previous fun had on my tone. Searching began with a glow, but by the end I was thinking about playing rather than playing. Not necessarily a bad thing, I’m still learning how to ease into this particular piece. Playing What Is This? while reading the score the thinking amped up. Not in a useful way at all. I even made a note to myself as I paused: Patrick - what makes you think you can play while carrying on this conversation in your head about other people? Fortunately I was able to calm the noise.
Without thought I found myself improvising. I liked what I was hearing and followed along. After about 15 minutes I knew not where to take this, but made some notes. After a walk with my wife I had an appointment with a friend to listen to one another works in progress, but this fell through at the last moment.
How to turn a seeming disadvantage to our advantage arose in my mind. Back to the earlier improv. Moved it forward and gave it a working title of Entangled. Later in the evening another look at this opened up a new view of where to go next with it.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Settling into my practice this morning I wondered if I was ready to play Day Two without the score? How much of this short piece do I know? Is there any doubt regarding the next phrase? The dynamics? Smiling I got to work. Honing a piece is part of the craft I generally enjoy.
From there I moved onto What Is This? a very challenging piece of music. Hearing the chatter ‘will I ever be able to play this’ I smiled and paused. Beginning again so did the internal noise. We begin again constantly states the aphorism. Not sure how many pauses I took but finally settled into working on it. Then I switched to Searching.
For the next 90 minutes I danced between working on this three pieces. Noticing subtle improvements each time I returned to one of them. There is still much I do not know. C’est la vie.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Let thoughts fall winds clear our path.
Freedom comes then goes.
I need to give myself permission to pause during my practice session. When I notice my body is tense or the mind dancing with non-related thoughts. Pushing through will not provide me with freedom. Practice is not a performance. I am not in front of anyone, no set time frame for getting off the stage.
If I want to perform well, then pausing during practice is the way forward. When my body and mind are entangled or confused a simple pause for a few breaths invites in freedom. A simple pause for constructive thinking opens the door to letting go of the entanglement. And as Mio Morales pointed out in his Cycle Study session of the Alexander Technique this morning the improvement arrives here and now but also better prepares me into the future. As the Guitar Craft aphorism aptly describes: Small incremental changes are transformative.
Pauses open me to how I am using myself right now. Guiding my nervous system to find ease. And then repeating the questions or directions again. Bringing my hands to the guitar and noticing how I am using my body. Pausing again and then again. Noticing the energetic shift to freedom and then noticing again, when I am diligent, that habit has returned. Will I remember to pause again? Will you?
Monday, January 11, 2021
Sunday, January 10, 2021
As I sat down with my guitar this morning I did not want to launch right into practicing the set for tomorrow for Homesongs For Life gig at 3pm EST. I needed to open this session with an improvisation. Fifty minutes later I had written down some notes and needed a break. Then another 30 minutes of playing with this idea and then a walk.
After the walk I ran the set. Felt good about how I played. Addressed a few of the difficult transitions. A little more time with the new idea. I knew I needed to hear the arpeggios but did not have time to put them in the scoring program. Decided I would use my time in the silent zoom work session in the afternoon to score the notes. I did not score the introduction, just the arpeggios. As I listened to them I heard where they wanted to go next.
Without the introduction here part of what I was working with:
Would you like to here some completed recorded works? Go to:
Saturday, January 9, 2021
How we do one thing is how we do everything is a concept I was introduced to in Guitar Craft. Am I paying attention, present with the task I am performing? Can I be aware of my body, mind and heart while playing one note? While playing a piece of music?
For myself the answers depend on my foundational practices. Reflecting on my thoughts and actions in my journal sheds light and insights into my being. Practicing Qi Gong in the morning serves not just my health and spirit but informs how I use my hands. Without my sitting practice I’d be lost in monkey mind and emotions.
Every day I root myself to the Creative Spirit and the Universe with these practices. Then when I open the guitar case something becomes possible.
After breakfast I had Brian Eno’s Shutov Assembly playing as I was trimming my nails and taking care of a couple things. My wife was writing. As I went to practice I was about to turn it off and decided it would be a gentle distraction for me to help get me ready for the gig. As I settled in, I decided to improvise some single line melodies through the ambient soundscape of Eno. Liking what I heard, I got out my phone to record myself. A sweet melody emerged.
Then I moved onto Searching. And decided to video this also. As I brought my hands to the guitar I realized my palms were perspiring a bit. Just like a performance. I out a small amount of talcum powder on. The challenge of Eno in the background was helping my focus. With a quiet mind I was moving through the piece when the thought arose about the difficult phrase coming up. I told myself “let it flow” but playing with those few seconds of anticipation were enough to blow the line. More thoughts arose and it took me a couple breaths to return to the present moment of my playing. Where would I be without my foundation?
Friday, January 8, 2021
I now know Searching well enough to know what I do not know. Focused my practice on a few transitions that needed work to develop ease. Always amazed how anticipation introduces tension. Grateful for the recent work I’ve been doing with Mio Morales Cycle Study to foster constructive thinking ala the Alexander Technique. Progress.
Explored the idea from Wednesday to see if I could take it further. Still on the fence.
Thursday, January 7, 2021
My thoughts roll in. Sometimes I observe them. Judgements of others often interfere with my ability to listen. Judgements of myself interfere with everything. Especially when playing guitar. If I lessened my judgements of others would I be easier on myself? Which of my thoughts are constructive and supportive of music coming into our world? How often does my thinking interfere with my playing? This is why it is so important to be present and attentive to my practice.
Focus today was primarily on the set for Monday. After an hour of practice I took a walk. During this time I was able to visualize Breaking Light and parts of Searching. More practice until a meeting at 11:30 to play the set for a guitarist friend and get feedback. Also listened to his pieces. A win-win.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
I worked on Grappling this morning. Have transcribed 75 seconds of these 4 minutes. Then I need to clean up some of the phrases/sections and see what is there.
Continued working on relearning Breaking Light. Met with my friend and played the first three pieces of my four piece set poorly. Opening with what I chose is not working. I saw this clearly after I played the set for my wife later. I also listened to his work and was able to give him feedback. Valuable time. We will meet again Thursday.
I decided to open with Breaking Light and see what works as number two piece. I need to figure out how to get some of my more intense works into this four piece set limit. May I get what I need.
Monday, January 4, 2021
Looked at the improv I was playing with yesterday and it went nowhere fast. So I let it go. Needed to work on material for a set for Home Song 4 Life next Monday. A four song set at 3pm EST/ 8pm GMT.
Wanting to offer a different set than I did for this in December, I have been surprised at the difficulty of coming up with a four song set. Finding how to balance tension and release was my challenge of this day. Decided to relearn Breaking Light which I have not played in over a year to for Monday. Polished up some other possibilities.
I may have a set in place. Felt good when I played it this evening. Playing it for a musician friend tomorrow for feedback.
Sunday, January 3, 2021
Establish the possible and move gradually towards the impossible. - Guitar Craft Aphorism
The possible begins when I open the case.
Having been practicing pretty much daily for the past 32 years I know that every day is different. Today the energy was great. I began with A Journeyman’s Way Home the first piece I ever ‘wrote.’ Most days I begin with this as a reminder of innocence and what can happen when I present myself to the guitar.
With a blank score on the desk I improvised for a while but nothing was there. After playing Day Two, I took a few breaths and let my hands open to the guitar. I heard something that spoke to me. Following it for the next 90 minutes was an adventure. I made notes as I went along. Tomorrow I’ll revisit to access what may be there.
From there I played through a few other pieces. The search continues.
Photo by: Fotocitizen
Saturday, January 2, 2021
“The true use of music is to become musical in one's thoughts, words and actions. One should be able to give the harmony for which the soul yearns and longs every moment. All the tragedy in the world, in the individual and in the multitude, comes from lack of harmony, and harmony is best given by producing it in one's own life.” - Hazrat Inayat Khan
Every year on the first Saturday of the month my meditation community gathers for a transmission ceremony. Always a beautiful and powerful event, this year on Zoom. Yet it was still beautiful and powerful. A bonus was that old friends who had moved away from the DC area could also join us. My heart was full of hope for our world and my body a bit tired after three hours of slowing down.
After lunch we drove to see family for a few hours taking advantage of an unseasonably warm day. To laugh and see the sparkle in one another’s eyes was much needed. Back home we enjoyed a great soup our daughter-in-law made for us. After dinner I talked with one of the most important people in my life who lost his wife in mid December. There is nothing life like death to galvanize my attention as to what is important.
No notes played on my guitar today. Instead the music of life was flowing effortlessly through and around us. And so it goes.
Friday, January 1, 2021
I am grateful for:
Ability to create.
Beauty all around me.
Courage to change.
I began the New Year with my ongoing morning practices of journaling, Qi Gong and Meditation which set the tone for my being. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast of cheese blintzes with an improvised pear sauce and veggie sausage, I opened my guitar case.After setting an blank score on the desk the muse responded with an idea that I think can work with an idea that arrived earlier this week.
Moving onto playing through Day Two … and practicing the middle section of Searching. Both of these are new pieces.Thinking about the set for the Home Songs Forever gig on Jan 11th at 2pm EST. David would like the 4 piece sets to be different each time. I’ll be performing with them 5 times next year. Should I perform Senseless Loss for the first date arose in my mind so I reviewed the piece.