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A balancing act......

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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264
Topic starter  

OK, at the moment, I'm steadily working my way through MY songs - trying to get some of them recorded, I've got a drum machine, a bass, two electric guitars, an acoustic, and a keyboard. Trying to do one song a day is difficult - there are the obvious interruptions, like food breaks etc and a life (if you can call it that.....) outside guitars.....

So I'm getting there, slowly but surely.....

And then, twice a week, I'm jamming with a couple of other guys - I'm playing mostly rhythm, with another guitarist and a bass player - no drummer, and I still haven't got the hang of programming the drum machine. We're sounding pretty tight in some places, hell most places, we've got a fairly decent set-list.......

Substitute - Who
Up Around The Bend - CCR
All Right Now - Free
Cindy Incidentally - Faces
So Lonely - Police
Stay With Me - Faces
All Or Nothing - Small Faces
Should I Stay Or Should I Go - Clash
I Fought The Law - Clash
Hard Day's Night - Beatles
Badge - Cream
Wonderful Tonight - Clapton
Hey Joe - Hendrix
Roxanne - Police

There are others we've had a go at....but these are basically the songs we know and are getting somewhere close to spot-on.

Problem is - from MY viewpoint - learning the lyrics, making sure I know the chord changes, when to come in for the occasional solo, etc. AND - trying to work on my own songs at the same time.

Anyone else had this problem? Songs you've known for years - hell, Bad Moon Rising's been a favourite of mine for damn near forty years - and years ago, I could sing along with these songs in my sleep, I knew the lyrics forwards, backwards, sideways, whatever.....now I get through the opening verse, and my mind goes blank - is it because I'm concentrating too much on the guitar?

I'm the rhythm guitarist, and although I'm getting pretty decent, I can't yet play guitar on auto-pilot, so to speak - I have to concentrate on what I'm doing. Probably concentrating too much on guitar as opposed to vocals - but when I really try to pu some OOOOMPH into the vocals, the guitar playing tends to suffer.....

It's not a question of keeping more than one thing in my head at once - if I'm recording a song of mine, for instance, I'll find the right drum tempo first and record that. When I play that back, I'll add rhythm guitar next - but I'll have the vocal line going through my head at the same time. When I record the bass line, I'll be listening to the drum track to know when to accent the beat, and following the rhythm guitar at the same time.....

Or could it be I'm just being too fussy? I want everything to sound PERFECT, like it does in my head? Is there such a thing as being too perfectionist? My old dad used to say, "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well...." when I try to record myself, I'm throwing out tracks for maybe one minor mistake that MAYBE no-one would notice anyway - but I'D KNOW!

Sorry for ranting on so long - call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but since the first time I saw the Beatles, about 45 years ago, all I wanted to do was play guitar - now as I'm getting somewhere with it, I want to sound good.....hell no, I want to sound GREAT....but it seems perfection's always just that little bit out of reach......

I know I'll never be Clapton, or SRV, or EVH, or Hendrix.....but I never wanted to be those guys anyway, with the possible exception of Clapton in the Cream days. I want to be ME - to put my own stamp on the songs I/we play.....

Another thing - last few months, I've hardly written anything. I try and keep up with the SSG assignments - I've got some good songs out of there - but lately, inspiration's hard to come by. There was a time a couple of years ago, I'd post a song on Sunday in the SSG and it'd give me an idea for another song that I'd post in the songwriter's forum on monday or tuesday. That just hasn't hapened any more lately - but it's made me look through my back catalogue, and see what I can do with some of the other songs I've written over the years.

Maybe, again, it's just that my personal life has gone to hell - and back, and then it's heading that way again. See week 47 of the SSG - that pretty well sums it up. Although it wasn't meant to be about anyone in particular, it ended up being about us....and although it's a good song (IMO) I just can't get it recorded. TOO personal? I dunno......

Ah, hell, maybe it's time I sorted the mess that's my life out and moved on.....but where am I going to put my guitars, amps, mic, computer, keyboard, etc?

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3454
 

Anyone else had this problem? Songs you've known for years - hell, Bad Moon Rising's been a favourite of mine for darn near forty years - and years ago, I could sing along with these songs in my sleep, I knew the lyrics forwards, backwards, sideways, whatever.....now I get through the opening verse, and my mind goes blank - is it because I'm concentrating too much on the guitar?

Playing two instruments at the same time well is always going to be hard. Voice can be just as demanding as any other instrument. Not so tough to play them both roughly, but getting them both spot on is bloody hard - as I've been finding out as well. What particularly annoyed me (and it's probably partly an age thing too unfortunately...) but I couldn't even remember the words of my own song. The one I wrote that week! :( And I generally have a good memory for words.
Probably concentrating too much on guitar as opposed to vocals - but when I really try to pu some OOOOMPH into the vocals, the guitar playing tends to suffer.....

When I tried to put some oomph into the vocals the guitar didn't so much suffer as completely change - usually to a robotic up and down strum. All the expression and subtlety went right out the window.
Or could it be I'm just being too fussy? I want everything to sound PERFECT, like it does in my head? Is there such a thing as being too perfectionist? My old dad used to say, "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well...." when I try to record myself, I'm throwing out tracks for maybe one minor mistake that MAYBE no-one would notice anyway - but I'D KNOW!

ALL good qualities carry the seeds of their own downfall. The Strong man can be a bully on a bad day. The Gentle man can be weak on an off day. And the Perfectionist might sometimes get good results but it can often be at the expense of being a complete pain in the arse to everybody around, not least to themself. It can even end up destroying the whole project.

When I get that over-pressured “Balancing Act" feeling I try to step back and take a good look at the tight-rope. It usually turns out that I'm holding at least one end of it myself –and more often than not I've constructed the whole rig, and have also been the one that decided I needed to walk across it.

Sometimes the answer is to steady yourself, re-focus on the platform at the other side and slowly keep walking. But at other times it pays to step off the high wire and try something slightly less demanding, or at least drop the part where you also juggle chainsaws while you walk across... (or indeed try another analogy altogether... :roll: ). The second option is definitely the harder one to give yourself permission to do, but sometimes it's the wiser course of action.

I'd drop the idea of re-recording all your songs, at least for now. You don't need to get them all 100%. I'd shoot for just one to be “As good as I can currently get it”, a small handful of others to be just better than they were before, and leave the rest in the “Maybe One Day” file.

Ease off, Superman. It sounds like a temporary dose of self administered Kryptonite there. You'll soon be leaping tall ambitions in a single bound again. Just take them one at a time for a while... Good luck.

Cheers,

Chris


   
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 Nuno
(@nuno)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3995
 

Vic, it is just an opinion but it seems you are forgetting the most basic principle: Have fun! :D

As you know I'm perfectionist, too, so I can understand your perfectly. One song per day, even if you only want to record it, it isn't a easy goal. It's true you are much more experienced player than me but when I record myself playing a very short blues, 2x12 bars, I need a weekend to prepare the backing track with GarageBand (I think it is much easier than your drum machine, real bass, etc.) and several takes to get it "enoughtly perfect for my current level." And you have to add several weeks for studying it.

On the other hand, as Chris said, if you try to sing while you are playing guitar, you really are playing two different instruments. And it is not easy.

One of my friends (lately we've lost the relantionship) used to celebrate a party each other weekend. Several years, we studied at the university and made the Ph.D. together. He works here but he was born and lived in Seville, you know, in the south of Spain, the cradle of flamenco. (Gerry once said something like the site of the world where you can find the greater number of guitars by squared meter.)

Well. We used to sing the second part of the party, while he played guitar and sometimes keyboard. He only sang four, five or more songs, on depending if people sang, women used to know and remember more lyrics, and I only knew the lyrics of one whole song! Sad but true! :lol:

Currently, I can play (rhythm), perhaps 20 or 30 songs. I've learnt them this year. And I know the lyrics of... let me see... one song! Great improvement! :lol:

Nuno

PS. Any chance of hearing your versions of that song list?


   
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(@katreich)
Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 686
 

I echo the others sentiments Vic. Ease up. And I'm sorry to hear that your personal relationship has taken a dip as well. That could be part of the problem, and coloring everything else.Whereas emotional trauma is great for songwriting, I find it a detriment to everything else.Don't sacrifice your relationship for the music, or the music for the relationship. As you say, it's a balancing act, and one that I've questioned myself lately. I'm grappling almost daily about how much time and energy I want to devote to music right now. maybe it's a mid life crisis, who knows?
Yesterday whilst practicing with a friend for this upcoming weekends gig, I forgot the word to several songs., or stumbled over them, or sat for a good thirty seconds trying to remember the first line of a song I've know for 40years....hmm sounds familiar...!
And I just took a crack at recording this weeks SSG, and spent an hour battleing the damned digital recorder again! I'm off to a family function, so I'll have to try and pick up where I left off later. But, I KNEW the odds were that I would not get a decent recording in the hour I gave myself to do it. I think you're setting your goals a bit too high. Like Nuno says, and David reminded me recently, this is supposed to be fun!

Falling in love is like learning to play the guitar; first you learn to follow the rules, then you learn to play with your heart.

www.soundclick.com/kathyreichert


   
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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

It is called "playing." :D

(Except for the old blues guys who'd say "Let's work a while!" before playing a solo.) 8)

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5480
 

Hang in there mate! It'll come out.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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(@colin-rp)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 37
 

As someone who almost only ever browses the forums due my own priorities (My own "Balancing Act" so to speak). I have to say deal with your relationship first. I recommend asking around if anyone around you knows of a good relationship counselor. My wife and I have had situations which seemed unreconcilable sorted sooner than either of us imagined. Moving through your personal life in a way that feels good will probably help you feel better about the things that are supposed to feel fun but suddenly feel unsatisfactory.
I know nothing about being a professional musician or even a serious one. But you say that all you ever wanted to do is play guitar so maybe you need to just focus on guitar. It sounds like you have a band in the making and drummers are players who do seem to like to play in bands. If you really like programming drums then by all means go for it. To me it doesn't sound like you do. Why not pick a couple of the songs that you have written and focus on bring them up to performance level on just the guitar and then actually playing them at parties and open mics and for the other players in your band?
A good friend of mine has a little poster on their fridge that I really love it says "Self discipline is remembering what you really want".
Anyhow it sounds like it will pick up for you soon.
all the best :D


   
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(@twistedlefty)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4113
 

Vic, you've always been an inspiration to the younger players like myself :roll:
that said i would observe that your drive for the perfection that you seek is only another session away.

Maybe pre-record the guitar etc, and voice over the vocals the way you want to hear yourself, then practice with this in your headphones until your inner timing syncs up with the cadence you desire.

#4491....


   
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(@bgdaddy316)
Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 186
 

Hey Vic, I don't have a lot of advice, but hang in there, do your best and have fun. Perfection is very rare, in guitar or in life.


   
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