Wednesday, November 13, 2013

words & melodies

I am a classically-trained musician, a super-sight-reader.  During my wild days in college, a star-struck groupie for a funk band, I realized the deathly fear I had of "jamming" with others, although what I wanted more than anything was to be on stage entertaining with them.  I could let go on the dance floor, my hips swinging, hands and arms twirling, singing harmonies.  At the piano- my instrument- I'd have frozen in fear.

That summer, I took every chance possible to play with people at Many Glacier, writing down chord progressions, playing chords and scales, and learning to improvise.  Finding the unique joy of playing away from the page, communicating through the language of music with folks that don't read a note, is one of my favorite accomplishments.  Besides falling in love with James, which happened at the exact same time.  Imagine that!

Since then, he and I have played open mics, the market, a show at the Top Hat, had a musical wedding.  We recorded an album together of 8 songs, half originals/covers, and mailed it as a thank-you to the guests and loved ones who supported us in our marriage.  We loved it. (Check out "Love Grows" here)

Now, three years, 1.3 babies later, we are ready for more.  To write.  To record.  To make another album!

Playing covers is easy for us, we learn the words and chords to songs we already like, play them enough until they feel like part of us.

Now that we've dug into this writing music thing again, I see why I think it's so hard.  It takes focus, collaboration, an open mind.  It takes trust.

My classical training combined with my excellent taste in music makes me question the potential corniness of everything: chord progressions are at the top of that list.  I know all about the "4 chords of awesome", and the fact that almost every folk song consists of the same few chords.  So, when we start to compose, I see I ii iii IV V vi vii and I try to figure out if it makes sense, rather than just going with it.

It's a process, and it's one worth pursuing, worth reflecting on.  It's worth spending time on, every damn day... stay tuned and maybe we'll have a song to share before Christmas!

Circle of Fifths
Image source


  1. Ooooh... music is such a free falling am-I-gonna-fly experience. It's so cool that you can do that with your husband. :)

    1. yes! you are right! sometimes i don't remember how lucky i am for that. thank you. "free falling am-I-gonna-fly". keeping that in mind next time I'm at the keys.

  2. Funny, I was kind of "classically trained" too-- Suzuki violin all growing up, then orchestra and duets and so on all through high school.... but I FOUND myself as a musician when I started improvising. I LOVE nothing better than to improvise, take solos, do fills, take off from the melody. I was not ever very well-trained re: theory (which I blame on the fact that violin/fiddle is not a chordal instrument, and my teachers played to my strengths--- which are my heart and my guts when it comes to music, not my brain. :) )

    1. "your strengths are your heart and your guts". love that! my mind gets in the way of those two things sometimes. thanks for the reminder. we will play/sing together someday. i'm sure.



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