Friday, September 1, 2017

Music: A Powerful Tool and a Gift From God

While I really don’t “Blog” much any longer (maybe I should start again, but there is this thing called time that seems to be in short supply), I have some thoughts I wanted to share about music today. Not my own personal music, just music in general.
Music is a very powerful form of media. Some would argue it is the most powerful form of media known today. I personally feel that way myself. How much more powerful is an intense, scary or even funny moment in a movie with the appropriate music to back it up? Ever watch a movie scene with the music removed? It’s just not the same.
Music has been the top selling form of media in the entire world, though unfortunately, it is on a decline due to streaming and piracy. Both of those are on the rise though, still keeping music to be the most used form of media in the world.
MUCH of the Bible is devoted to music. We have Psalms, we have Song Of Solomon, and plenty of other passages throughout the Bible that speak on the importance of music. In fact, even Lucifer himself started out as the chief of music. Unfortunately, he perverted it and fell from Heaven. More on that in a bit.
Many Christians feel that the only purpose for music is for Praising God. I am here to tell you that that is only one purpose, but far from the only purpose. Yep. Here are some examples:
Music can be used for Teaching. Think back when you were a kid. How many songs did you learn in school to teach you something? The ABCs for example. Sunday School songs as well. Even the apostle Paul recognized this in Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”
Music can be used for relaxation. Ever get a massage? How much more relaxing is it with the soft, gentle music playing in the background? I get about 1-2 massages a month due to my severe arthritis in my neck and back as the result of a motorcycle accident I had 25 some odd years ago. One time, the music player was broken, and it just wasn’t the same. I mentioned that to the therapist, and you know what she did? She took out her phone and loaded Pandora to play some music. Simple gesture, but much better. In 1 Samuel 16, young David is described as a cunning and skilled musician who, when he played, “refreshed” the King with his beautiful and wonderful music.
See, another positive effect of music. Praising God, teaching, relaxation, what other effects could it have, you may ask.
Did you know that there is even a reference in the Bible to music being used at a party? Yep! Gen. 31:27 says: [Jacob] Why did you flee away secretly and not tell me; that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs with [timbrel], and with a harp?” In other words, Laban would have thrown a party with music to celebrate and honor Jacob!
What about love songs? The greatest love song of all written by King Solomon is an entire book of the Bible. Song Of Solomon. So even Love songs are positive…when used correctly.
So see, music is much more than just worship, however, when used correctly, all of the above things, when used correctly have one thing in common. Whether they are used to praise, express joy, teach, celebrate, relax, express love, or even just to be entertaining, music is a gift from God, so ultimately, if we use it correctly, we are giving honor and glory to the creator of music. More from Ecclesiastes, (3:1, 4) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (I always want to sing “Turn, Turn, Turn” when I read that passage).
Even for pure entertainment, music can be good. The word “recreation” literally means to re-create or even “renew”. God expects us and allows us time to be renewed. To chill, as it were. “EVERY (emphasis mine) good and perfect gift is from above…” – James 1:17a. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.”
On the flip side, music can be used incorrectly in the exact same methods. Unfortunately, there are musicians out there that use music to give praise to their own selves, their twisted lifestyles, their gods, etc. Music can be used to teach incorrect things to people as well. You could literally teach a kid anything at all by setting it to music, even if what you are teaching is total hogwash. Ever listen to hard-core rap? (Some of) It teaches people how not to respect other people. Some music at parties can incite people’s behavior to be less than godly. Let’s not even talk about “love” songs (read “lust” songs) that are used inappropriately.
Some Christians will debate the styles of music as well, but I’m not one of them. I believe music (as a whole) was created by God. Jesus used contemporary means to teach people in His day, and I believe contemporary music fits that mold perfectly. In fact, “back in the day” as it were, the hymns that your grandparents and great-grandparents listened to and sang were put the contemporary music of the day, including bar songs. Doxology, for example. Many, many other examples too.
I believe it was God’s intention with the creation of music, to have it be used as a powerful and positive tool for us in all aspects of our lives, not just in church or for specifically to worship Him. However, understand that ultimately, if we are using it properly, it will give glory to God, and that is a form of worship. We can learn a lot from music. We can learn a lot from the examples in the Bible about music and we should strive to make music an important part of our lives.
Don’t get yourself caught up in the whole debate about what the right styles are, or if it’s “Christian” or “Secular.” The “ABC”s is a “secular” song. “Happy Birthday” is a secular song. They in no way dishonor God, but they are used in a way that it was designed. As long as the music is being used the way God intended it, it’s a positive thing.
I think I wrote a sermon. I know I probably lost some of you about the 2nd paragraph due to length, but if you read this far, I’d love to hear some comments.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Dying Language Of Music

As you all likely know, I'm really into music.  :)  I love it.  It's a 2nd language to me.  I would even go as far as saying that it's my first language. I am fluent in it and could speak it all day, everyday if I could find enough people that would be able to understand me.

Unfortunately, like Latin, I believe it may be a dying language.

Many people enjoy listening to music, but simply listening to it isn't the same as knowing music. There is deep theory behind music.  Many people hate theory.  Not me.  I love it.  The people that say they hate it, say so because "They don't want to be bound by the rules."

The problem with that statement is, they are only scratching the surface of theory.  Usually when they say they don't want to be "bound by the rules of theory" they are nothing more than Top 40 music listeners and they do not understand that even the Top 40 music they say they enjoy is bound by those rules. The sad thing about that statement is, most Top 40 music is bound by the most simplistic of rules as well such as 4/4 time signature, 1, 4, 5 or 1, 6, 4 chord progressions, etc. (Note that I said most, not all).

Once you get deeper into the rules, you find that rules aren't at all inhibiting.  They are freeing.  Without the rules, music would sound like a total mess.  There would be nothing close to what we know music to be.

For example, recently I was talking to someone and they said "I don't like [a particular artist] because their music is all dark, and in the minor key."  The thing is, dark music isn't always minor key.  In fact, the particular artist being referred to writes very little music in the minor key.  It's almost all major key.  It is dark though.  Dark does not equal minor key.   That person then went on to describe artists and songs they did like.  Gotye, "Somebody That I Used To Know", Beyonce, "Crazy In Love", Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball", Ed Sheeran "You Need Me, I Don't Need You", etc.

Funny.  Not only are every single one of those songs in the same key, they are all in E minor.  Not major.  They aren't dark.  But they are minor.

I try to accept the fact that not everybody knows music deeply. Also, please understand that I'm not trying to put myself on a pedestal.

In these times we live in, music is one of the top forms of entertainment.  It's bigger now than it ever was.  Sure, people don't buy records or CDs like they used to, but digital music sales are at an all time high.  (Unfortunately, so is digital music pirating, but that's another subject for another time). In light of this, schools are not getting the funding needed to properly teach music to students.  They barely get the funding to pay their teachers what they deserve.  Unfortunately, music is often one of the first things to go when schools lack funding.

Makes me wonder if this is why we have SO many Top 40 style musicians in this world.  People don't KNOW the deeper aspects of music and have not developed the ear for it as a result.

Let's look back in history.  Believe it or not, Classical music (which surprisingly many people claim to hate) is the foundation of much of contemporary music we hear today just like Latin is the foundation for many of the world languages spoken today.  There was true feeling and emotion in the music of days gone bye.  Musicians told stories, many times without words, through the pieces they wrote.  Listeners were able to feel what was on that musicians heart and mind.  They didn't have to be TOLD how the song was supposed to make them feel.

Much of today's Top 40 is flawless. To a fault.  It's over corrected, and over processed.  This strips out the "humanity" of the music.

I know this seems like a paradox coming from electronic musician. But my roots are firmly planted in classical music and theory.  Yes, I have been known to use digital manipulation to correct vocals, or process effects on them, but I also make sure I keep my music deeply rooted in theory.  There are still plenty of artists today that do the same, they just don't make the Top 40.

My encouragement to you, dear reader, branch out.  Listen to something new. Put down your One Direction, Justin Beiber, Beyonce, and Drake CDs.  Listen to something you have never heard on the radio.  Go back to the 60s and slowly work forward.  Discover new bands and artists that some of your "weird" friends like.  Explore genre's you have not been willing to listen to before.

One band that I can suggest to listen to is Twenty One Pilots if you haven't already.  They refuse to be molded as Top 40.  Yet somehow, they are gaining popularity.

Listen to Midiboy.  He's pretty amazing. (Shameless self promotion).

Just branch out.

Help make music a language that is spoken again.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Beliefs

I am sure this post isn't going to sit well with certain people (I can think of one right off the top of my head), but I am just putting this here just to get this off my chest.  If you don't like it, feel free to unfriend / unfollow / un-whatever me that you like.

Just so you know, none of this is up for debate.  I will not argue it.  I am just sharing what I have settled on, and what I believe God has laid on my heart.

Over the last several years, I have teetered between several different "doctrines" if you will.  Be it Calvinism, Armenianism, Millennialism, Dispensationalism, etc.

After doing a good amount of studying on my own, I have come to the determination that I am a Pre-Trib, Dispensationalistic, Free Will Christian.

In other words, I believe Jesus will rapture the church BEFORE the Tribulation.  If you read Revelation, you will find that the church isn't mentioned after chapter 3.  Why?  Because it's been raptured away.  The elders mentioned as sitting around the throne with the 4 Creatures are representatives of the church.  They are there.  Not here on Earth.

I do not believe in Calvinism, though I do believe in Predestination.  I believe that God gave US the freewill to accept or reject Christ as made evident in both John 3:16 as well as Romans 8:29.

I believe the Bible is to be taken 100% literal EXCEPT where it is clear that symbolism is being used.  (Parables, etc.)   I believe in a 6 literal day creation.  I believe in the Great Flood of Noah.  I believe the Rainbow was a gift from God for us as a promise that He will never flood the Earth again. I believe that Hell is every bit as real as Heaven, and that if you are in Hell, you are there to stay.  Forever.  You are not annihilated.  You are not being "punished for a period of time" and then get to go to Heaven.  

I believe that much of today's church has fallen away from true faith in God and has become complacent in their teachings in order to appear to larger crowds and increase their numbers.  I believe that as Western Christians we have no IDEA what it is like to truly have faith to hold on to.

I also believe that as Western Christians, there will come a time that we will find out what it is like to have to hold fast to our faith. We will be tested.  Many of us (I pray not most of us) will fail.

Does any of this mean that I don't respect your rights to believe what you want to believe?  Absolutely not.  Do I believe I am right and you are wrong?  No.  I believe that God is right, and we as humans are wrong a whole lot more than we want to believe we are.   Do I believe I have all the answers?  No.  God does.  Do I believe that groups like Westboro are going about this wrong?  ABSOLUTELY.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.  Thank you for taking the time to read them.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Silly Pigs Guide To Building A Dreamhome

Wow.  This is something I wrote years ago and apparently forgot about.  I thought it would be fun to post here.  It's a comic take on the Three Little Pigs story brought around to be an lesson for young Sunday School kids, but it's a whole lot of fun.  Let me know what you think!

The Silly Pigs Guide To Building A Dreamhome
Gregg Hart

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.   They were brothers from the once renowned Bits family.  One was named Porky Phat, another Bay Kin, and the oldest, Hammy Davis Jr, named after his father, Hammy Hagar.  All three brothers got along with each other, but each were pretty set in their ways when it came to certain topics.  For example, they all agreed that it was time to get out of Slopperitaville and move to a much cleaner, and more piglet friendly neighborhood.  Somewhere that "Those With Shotguns And Hacksaws" did not rule the land. 

One day, Hammy saw an ad in the local paper, "The New Pork Times" for some undeveloped land for sale. It didn't take long for him to convince his brothers to move on out of Slopperitaville to a bigger, better and safer place to finally build their dream houses.  Besides, who really wants to get their bacon fried in the hot, sizzling sun of Slopperitaville?

Once our three pigs got situated on their new land, they began working on building their new homes.  Porky called the beach!  "I want to build my house right here, right along the ocean.  I can enjoy the sound of the crashing waves all year 'round!"

Hammy shook his head and sighed. "Porky, I told you several times that you really should check out my book called 'The Silly Piggy’s Guide To Dreamhome Building' by Head Cheese.  It says not to build your dreamhouse too close to the water and definitely not on the sand.  I am not sure that is such a good idea."

Porky, tired of being told what to do by his older, overly-cautious brother snorted back, “Look, Hammy.  If I have asked you once, I have asked you 350 times, please stop snouting around in my business.  I want to build my house right here, and this is where I am going to build it, so just oink off and mind your own slop pile.  I like your book and all, and I have looked through it, I just don’t think it applies to me because it was written for a very specific group of people, and I am no Silly Piggy.”

Dejected, Hammy walked away.  Soon, he came upon his other brother building his dreamhome.  Bay’s house was starting to take shape and was looking very nice, and almost ready to move in.  The only real problem, as far as Hammy could see, was the fact that Bay was using sticks to build his home.  Mind you, it looked really nice.   It was easy to tell that Bay likely spent a lot of time finding the perfect sticks, and the perfect branches with the perfect leaves to make the perfect roof.  There wasn’t a stick less than 3 Hooves long to be found on this house, and they were all tied with perfect hoof hitch knots.

Anticipating what Hammy was about to say, Bay said, “Hammy, look.  I didn’t build my house near water or on a beach, but I don’t see why I couldn’t just put branches no my house. Everybody is doing it.  It’s the trend.  The fad.  Stick houses are the new Brick houses.”

“Ok,” replied Hammy, “But I hope I don’t have to say ‘I told you so’ when the first storm comes along!”

Hammy finally went to start on his house.  He found a nice solid piece of ground far, far away from the water and the sand.  He knew it would take a while to build because bricks don’t grow on trees and can’t simply be found laying about all brick-like on the ground.  He knew he was going to have to make molds and then pour mud into the molds, then allow the sun to bake them for about a week, but he knew that the trouble would be worth the wait.  So, while waiting for the bricks to dry, Hammy went and got himself a room at the Hogstail Inn.

After a few weeks have passed, the Bit Brothers decided to have a Corn Pellet BBQ and discuss home improvement ideas.  Porky, complete with nice suntan, commented that he had been really enjoying the weather and had been laying out in the sun listening to the crashing waves every day, since his house had been built in just a few short hours. 

Bay nodded and said that he is glad that he is getting to enjoy the sun so much, but as both brothers knew, Bay wasn’t an outdoorsy type of pig.  He had been enjoying the cool shade of his stick built home.

Hammy, looking more worn out than ever sighed. “I just got done with my house yesterday.  Let me tell you, it’s been a lot of work, but I followed every rule in my Silly Piggy book, and I can finally rest with the knowledge of a job well done.”  The other brothers just looked at him and tried conceal their snickering as they had been relaxing for quite some time now, and their poor older brother was so tired and worn out and for what?  Just to say he followed every rule in some Silly Piggy book?  Sure his house was the most magnificent house of all three, but was it really worth it?  If you can’t relax and sit around all day, what is the point?

Later that night, Porky volunteered to take all the trash with him because he figured he lived closest the sea, and he could get the trash to the garbage boat fastest and easiest.  Besides, he liked being “the hero.”  Porky put all the trash out in a bag, waiting for the garbage boat, which was scheduled to arrive in the morning.  He hoped the animals wouldn’t get into it, but he figured it was only one night, and he didn’t hear too much animal activity out and about.

Later that night, he heard a soft knocking and a quiet voice coming from his front door.  “Little pig, little pig, let me in!”

Porky, glad he installed that peep hole in his door, glanced out and saw a well groomed poodle standing there.  “Well hey there, Frenchy, what brings you around?”

“Well, I couldn’t help but smell the sweet smell of BBQ ham hoc…I mean…BBQ corn and thought I’d investigate!” replied the poodle, standing on his hind legs.

“Ah, yes.  I’m dreadfully sorry, the food is all gone, all that you are smelling is the left over trash.  What’s your name anyway?”

“My name is Stan DeVille, but my friends all call me ‘Bub.’  I’ve lived around here for quite a long time, and would like to have you for dinner sometime!”

Laughing at the overly obvious pun of having someone for dinner, Porky said, “Oh, dinner sounds fine!  How about tomorrow night?”

“How about…right NOW! Little pig, little pig, LET ME IN!” Bub exclaimed as he transformed right before Porky’s eyes into a big, nasty wolf.

Before the little pig could come back with a clever, poetic reply, Bub continued with “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff…and well…I’m going to create a tidal wave to knock your house down.  Then, I’m going to have some ham and bean soup.”

Screaming, Porky ran towards the opposite end of his house to seek shelter, but before he could get there, he saw the night sky as his house came crashing down around him, swirling in the water.  He ran as fast as his little hooves could carry him through the churning water. Finally, he made it back to dry ground and continued to run until he came to his brother, Bay’s house.  Franticly, he knocked on the door.  Bay opened the door as Porky plowed through screaming at his brother to close the door and lock it as soon as possible.

“Brother, I am starting to think that Head Cheese could have been right!  Maybe I shouldn’t have built my house so close to the water.   There is this big, nasty wolf that somehow was able to destroy my house.  I feel so much safer here since there is no water nearby!”

“Yes, you will be safe.  I followed a number of rules from the Silly Piggy book.  At least, I followed all the ones that seemed practical to me.”

Knock knock knock.

“Go away, we gave at the office.”

“Pizza Delivery.”

“We don’t want any.”

“Yes, you do!”

“No, we don’t.  We ate.”

“Newspaper Collection.”

“We don’t get the newspaper.”

“Wind Insurance Sales”

“I don’t need any.”

“Yes you do.  I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and… get the idea.  Long story short, I’m going to eat you.”

The wolf huffed and puffed, and while this house seemed to be sturdier than the last house, it eventually came down.  Because there were so many twigs and branches in the rubble, the wolf couldn’t find the pigs under the mess.  Rather than digging through them, he discovered that this house wasn’t even built on a foundation so he started digging and eventually found where the pigs were hiding under a bed.  The wolf caught Porky in his clutches and swallowed him up whole.

“Mmmm!” Exclaimed the wolf, “Porky goodness!”

While the wolf was enjoying the fact that he caught a pig, Bay slipped out underneath, using the hole that the wolf dug to eat his brother.

He ran as hard as he could to the remaining brother’s house, yelling ahead, “You were right, you were right…open up, please let me in!”

Hammy, alerted by the sound of his brother’s panicky voice, opened his door, locking it behind his brother.

Bay ran into the library and found the Silly Piggy book, frantically flipping through its pages looking for something, anything that could help them in their situation.

“Ah ha!  Hammy, I think I now realize that Head Cheese was right.  I now know why the rules for building dreamhomes were put in place.  I see here in chapter three that he warns about wolves that want to devour you.  Well guess what…a wolf ate our brother and both of our houses have been destroyed…I sure hope you followed all of the rules!”

“I sure did!  Every last one of them!”

Knock knock.

Hammy turned on the security monitor installed by the front door and saw a fluffy white sheep standing there. “Oh, look!  A little sheep…how cute.”

“Wait, Hammy…don’t open the door.  It says here that wolves like to hide in sheep clothes.  That’s no sheep, I am sure of it!”

“Get out of here, wolf!  I know your game.”

The wolf, knowing he wasn’t simply going to be able to huff and puff this house down, decided that he would come back later with reinforcements.

It had been several weeks since the pigs heard from Stan DeVille so Hammy suggested that they get to building a new house, following the rules, for Bay.

About one month later, Bay’s new house was done, complete with backyard BBQ, a deck, a pool and all the latest security technology available.

They decided to celebrate and have a party at the new place.  Later that night, Bay heard a beeping sound from the security room.  “What is that, Hammy?”

“Oh, that’s your proximity alarm.  Quick, get in the house and lock all the doors!”  They both did so.

“Little pig, little pig let me in!”

“Not by the hair of my front leg!” shouted Bay.  Hammy looked at him strange, thinking that there could have been a better come back, but not worrying to much about it as it wasn’t really important now.

“Well, this time I brought friends, and they are all going to huff and puff and stuff.”

Of course, they all huffed, puffed, and stuff like that.   The house stood strong.

Stan, being clever as ever, mentioned, “Ok boys, start digging!  Sure we can go under!”

They dug to their heart’s content, never finding a weak spot in the foundation.

“Ok, boys, let’s regroup!”

Suddenly, the pigs heard a sound that reminded them of “Those That Carry Shotguns And Hacksaws” followed shortly by whimpering and scampering.

“Run, there is no use trying to get in here, boys.  Let’s go find someone not as prepared for attack!”

Hammy, wondering what happened, look at the security monitor and couldn’t believe his eyes.  For there, standing at his doorway was Head Cheese himself and he was carrying a shotgun.  He knocked upon the door.

Hammy quickly ran to open the door for Head Cheese, still not able to believe his eyes.

“Excuse me, does Bay Kin Bits live at this address?”

“Um…yes…that’s me.” Bay said, meekly from behind a couch on the opposite side of the room.

“Well, I wanted to let you know that if you choose to accept my free gift, you can live with me forever in a house free from all animals, storms and whatever else could come your way.”

“Um…ok…how did you hear about me though?  I never signed up for anything?”

“No, you never did sign up for anything, but your brother Hammy has been writing to me for the past few years now.  I have tried to get your attention many other times, but you never saw me.  I thought I would try knocking just one more time.”  Head Cheese stood there smiling at Bay, and Bay had never seen anyone so wonderful, and so glorious in his life.  He accepted the free gift and lived forever in Pig-sty with Head Cheese and many other pigs that accepted the free gift.  He was thankful that his brother got that silly “Silly Piggy” book after all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You're Calling

I'm just putting this out there to get my thoughts out.  I'm not looking for compliments, I'm not looking for pity.  Just perhaps a good discussion or even just something to get off my chest.

Have you ever felt like you know what your calling is?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, you know you are meant to do something almost like it is a built in "no-brainer."  When you are doing that thing, know that you are doing what you were created to do.

That's how I feel about music.  I've recorded 7 albums now.  My second album, "Synthpops" had a few songs that were even played on underground radio.  There was a song on that album called "I'm A Pop Star" which has proven to be my most popular song ever.

I've always gotten very positive reviews on all of my albums (except for Fluffy, which has received 0 reviews, positive or negative).

Yet, in spite of all of this, in spite of the feelings that I am doing what I am called to do, I feel that it goes mostly unnoticed. I have a few faithful fans, and I really love and appreciate each and every one of them for all they have done with funding various albums, with helping to spread the word, etc., yet, I have a meager 128 "likes" on my music page. (As if Facebook is the end all / be all of popularity).  I get very few hits on my webpage.  Very few listens on Spotify, Rhapsody, etc.  I've tried to run various promotions, none of which succeeded.

Basically, this is leaving me with feeling that "My calling" is nothing more than "My hobby."

I know I'm not the best vocalist out there.  I definitely wouldn't have a place in The Voice, or American Idol or even America's Got Talent, but I have perfect pitch, and I can hear harmonies like nobody's business.  Also, not to "toot my own horn", but I'm an excellent song writer, an accomplished arranger, and a decent producer.

I've gotten a few minor music jobs on local TV for advertisers, and have done soundtracks to several local indie movies.  (all to great review).

Yet, I still feel mostly unnoticed in "the music world."

Mind you, I'm not looking for notoriety or fame, just some people that are touched by my music.  Some people that can identify with it.  Relate to it.

Appreciate it.

Again, I know the few fans I have do identify with it and love it.  I guess I'm looking for that on a larger scale.  Rather than the maybe 15 people that feel this way, I'd like to see 15,000.  Even 1500.  In fact, let's start small and get 150.

The 15 I have are amazing, wonderful fans.  They truly are.  I couldn't even do any of this without them.  My family has been amazingly supportive as well.

Any of you that may be artist, maybe you can understand how I feel.  Artists are very emotional people.  We want to create our art not only for ourselves, but for others as well.  Not necessarily to relate to them on an individual basis, but to relate with them corporately, so to speak.

You know "that song" that you hear, that has always meant something to you.  "That song" that speaks to you like few others?  Or "that story" that means more to you than mere words can describe? What about "that painting" that somehow captures your very being and places you right there in the scene?

As an artist, I strive to create "that moment" for people.  I have one fan, my #1 fan, Naomi Hanvey, that has expressed a "that song" of mine.  It's a song I wrote called "Cannot Look Away."  She has told me that she would listen to "that song" over and over and it would give her strength.  She also has a "that album" of mine as well, called "Stating The Obvious."

It's an amazing feeling as an artist to know that someone has connected with my music, and ultimately me in "that way."

But I have to say, it's like a drug.  Not that I'm not happy to have made that type of connection, I just feel that since I believe this is my calling that I'd like to make more of those connection.  No, I wouldn't "like" to.  I need to.  I need another fix.

Does any of this make sense at all?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bad Reviews

If you are an artist, I am sure you know what it is like to receive a bad or negative review on your work. Yesterday, I was bombarded with bad reviews.  And I paid for the "opportunity" to be reviewed by 20 "random people" in what is called a Crowd Review which is a service by Reverb Nation.

The thing is, I guess I misunderstood the fact that I thought they were going to be from people that had some kind of "professionalism" and the ability to give constructive criticism as it is called a "Radio Test."

I am really regretting that I did this Crowd Review. I feel like I wasted not only my money for this "opportunity" but almost feel like I wasted my time writing the song.  I've never been so discouraged about my music before. Now, not all the reviews were terrible, but the bulk were, and honestly, to me, they have more weight than the few good ones.  Not that I agree with the weight, but it always seems like the bad things people say stick with you more than the good things, right?

I'm probably going to kick myself for doing this, but I'm going to share the reviews and my comments on each.  The ironic thing is the song is called "Never Give Up" and these reviews almost make me want to. haha.

First, here is the link to the song.  If you want to listen, please do (it will open in a new window):

Here goes...(in the order I received them)

Review 1: Odd, in a good way. The track doesn't feel like it matches the lyrics. I actually wanted to skip this one but, after letting it play and listening to the strong, positive lyrics, I like it more.
Ok, not too bad, actually.  I don't think that being "odd in a good way" is bad.  He says the track doesn't feel like it matches the lyrics.  I'm not really sure what he means by that.  I wish I could ask him.

Review 2: The beat and the melody are okay but the instruments are horrible. The vocals are even worse. This is terrible. I don't think anything can fix this. The chorus is too simple. The lyrics very cliche. It's just lame.
The instruments are horrible?  Ok.  This person obviously doesn't like electronic music.  I get that.  Then the vocals come.  Wow. Are they really THAT bad?  I know I'm not a great singer, but I don't think I'm "even worse than horrible".  And what's wrong with a simple chorus?  And the thing may sound simple, but keep these things in mind...the chorus is based on a simple speech by Winston Churchill.  I wanted to capture the simplicity of what is considered his most powerful speech ever. We tend to over complicate things in life, so I wanted to reflect on this simple, yet truthful message. If he thinks the music is simple, that's his opinion I suppose, but any person that truly understands music can pick up on the quirky sets of three that the chorus is based on where the verse is done in sets of 4.

Review 3: Intense introduction with the heavy electronic beats. Very strong and vibrant sound. The music was very rich and distinctive. The vocals were out tune once the song started. Some parts of the song sounded choppy and cut off, pitch problems and very weak in quality recording. The lyrics were unique, but the chorus parts were very out of tune and repetitive. The lyrics had a good message, but the background vocals were very unimaginative and weak. The song was lacking in professional quality feel. The ending finished in a very awkward way.
As I started reason this, I was happy that this reviewer thought the music had strong and vibrant beat and the music was rich and distinctive.  Then he decided the vocals were out of tune. Really?  I guess I can sorta see how this reviewer might think that.  I didn't use any autotune on this piece at all, but after I read this review, I ran the vocal line through Melodyne (a program that tracks tuning), and it only detected minor variances from on pitch...the thing is, it detects things like that when you slide from one note to another note or even use vibrato.  Almost ALL singers do this, AND on top of that, no signer can ever be 100% right on pitch at all times. It would sound like AutoTune set to "Cher mode" so to speak.  Then he goes and says the chorus was very out of tune.  WHAT?  I can't accept that.  The chorus is NOT out of tune even one little bit.  In fact, it's probably one of the strongest vocal lines I've ever come up with.  Wow.  Yes.  Choppy.  Repetitive.  Whatever.  The "choppy" was intentional.  I think that's the hook of the chorus.  So he doesn't like it.  That's fine.  But it's not out of tune.  The song is lacking a professional quality feel?  Wow.  Really?  Then why is it trending?  Yes.  It ends in a "very awkward way".  OK.  Another hook based on the hook of the chorus.  Oh well.

Review 4: Oh god. is this from the Lonely Island? This song just sounds so silly. The music is alright and the lyrics are good but the way they are sung make it sound like a joke. Maybe if it sounded like you actually meant it would help.
Really? Lonely Island?  Did he actually listen to my song, or did he just decide to write a random review?  Whatever.

Review 5:  The backing track is very good and sounds very modern. I think the echoing on the vocals ruins the introduction. The vocals make the song sound dated and it is hard to understand the lyrics, as the vocals sound very dreary
That's not the introduction.  It's the first verse.  Hard to understand lyrics though?  Really?  Vocals sound dreary?  Good!  That was the point of the verses.  This guy gets it and doesn't even realize it.  Did he listen to the chorus?  Nothing dreary there.

Review 6: Good use of instruments, they compliment the tone of the vocal. The song flows well with a good range of styles and tempos especially the whispering section. This results in the song being kept interesting and fresh. Good work
Thank you. I needed this needed this one.  It seems he may have even picked up on the quirky timing of the chorus.  Thank you very much.

Review 7:  The melody of this song is very peaceful as well very up lifting . The lyrics are very encouraging. The bass is at the prefect level. I really enjoyed listen to the type of instrument that where playing in the background. When listen to this song it make you feel as if you can over come any thing that get in the way of you becoming a better person. I truly feel that this song has a lot of potential and one day it just may very successful.
Again.  Thank you!

Review 8:  Musicality is horrible. Bass beats are not timed correctly with one another. Vocals are horrible. Both lead vocals and chorus. While I appreciate the message of the song, it's very very generic. This is almost a joke song to me. I don't see this song being popular.
Musicality is horrible.  Really?  So you don't like the style?  Bass beats are not timed correctly?  Not sure what he or she means here. They are perfectly timed.  They are a Karma pattern.  They are perfectly timed.  It's not even possible for them not to be.  Maybe this reviewer doesn't like syncopation? They are not on the quarter note and have a lot of nice subtle syncopation. Vocals are horrible.  There's that again.  Am I really that bad?  A joke song though?  That's where it stings.

Review 9: Ouch. I cringed when the first lyrics hit. The singer is terrible. Simply put, there is no way he can be considered talent. It's flat all throughout, and the he can't hit a note even with a homing missile. The song is awkward and the lyrics are just embarrassing. I'm not sure if this done purposely as a joke, or that the singer has no sense of music and is tone deaf. Terrible in every way.
Again on the vocals.  Apparently I'm tone deaf and have no sense of music.  Another one that really stings.

Review 10:  the sound of this osng is very disitnctive. the music has a robotic sound to it, doesnt seem to evolve. stays the same. not fresh. the organ in this gets to overtake this song a bit.the singer in this has a voice that is not the strongest. it doesnt rise to a higher level. the mix of his voice seems lost in tone and contrast.
(Spelling errors are the reviewers, not mine) This reviewer seems to contradict themselves right away.  Apparently, this osng (sic) is very disitnctive (sic) and has a robotic sound.  Yes.  It's electronic music. Robotic makes sense to a point. But then it doesn't seem to evolve and it stays the same and isn't fresh.  Ok.  I can accept that as a constructive criticism, but it sorta contradicts the fact that they said it was very disitnctive (sic). Maybe disitnctive doesn't mean what I think it means.  Could be.  As a side note, there is no organ whatsoever in this song, though I could see where this review might think there is.  It's all synth and no organ patches at all.  I can also accept the constructive criticism that I am not the strongest singer.  I accept that and can agree.   I'm not at all sure what he means by the last line of the mix of my voice is lost in tone and contrast.  I think he doesn't know what he means.

Review 11: Nice song that demonstrates creative mood. The interlude of the song was fun and spiritually the song has a harmonic, inspired narrative. The rather genuine tune design used in this song is solid and it has a sweet bassline implementation. The tune had a creative mellowness and qualitatively it has deep, uncompromising soul. It can be touching and penetrating with its effortlessly good, astonishing elegance. I enjoy how the concept and timbre grow; the subtlety of the singing was delicious and rhythmic and the instrumentation of this piece was enjoyable. The attitude of the melody was cool though a shorter chorus would suit its imaginative rhythm. Transcendental track.
 Wow.  I actually forgot about this review until I just pasted it in here.  Thank you!  This actually made me feel a lot better.  Wish I could thank you personally. And thanks for the constructive comment about the chorus.  I do appreciate that.  I felt with the song being only 3 min long, that the chorus length was ok  I'll revisit that though and play with that.  Maybe shorten the 2nd chorus to be like the 1st and leave the 3rd chorus longer to end the song.

Review 12: Quite a thought provoking and inspirational track lyrically but the vocals are slightly challenging to listen to. The melody is slightly irritating and I would not choose to listen to this again. The melody seems thrown together without much consideration as to how it sounds.
Hrmmm.  Thanks for your comments, I suppose.  More on the vocals though. Sorry you didn't like my melody.

Review 13:  the background is funky. The lyics are square and bland. I would not want to hear a song like this on the radio. I think songs like this do not have a place in today's radio world. The background is way too loud, and the vocals much to fuzzy and quiet. The proper equipment was not used in the production of this song.
Not at all sure what this guy means by most of what he (or she) said.  Background is too loud and vocals are too quiet?  Did he listen to my song?  The vocals are right out front.  Proper equipment not used?  Really?  Whatever.

Review 14:  This song is hitting home with me because I have had it rough, but I WILL NEVER GIVE UP DAMMIT. LOL. Thanks for this song, it did well for me. Not sure about others though. I like the simplicity of everything. The melody,tempo, rhythm, all that was so simple, but the way they sang it combined with the lower tones in the beat, made it all more believable. The lyrics just hit home with me thats all and I would listen to this daily because of it. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you.  Another good review that honestly, I forgot about after processing the majority of the other reviews.  I wish I could send him the link to my page, but these Crowd Reviews are done 100% anonymously on both ends.  They don't know who they are listening too, and I don't know who listened. I am glad that the song hit home with you.  I pray that you are able to make it through whatever you are going through.

Review 15:  I hear a drum machine. I hear a voice that is rather ban and weak. He's singing "Never give up" That's convincing enough, however somehow I'm not impressed. I like the effect after the bridge. Then he whisper. I'm sure someone will love this production, however it another corny sound. The lyrics are clear English. The vocal is strong in certain areas. It's the little things that makes the difference between sounding pleasing. The lead vocal's delivery is just plain and needs an effect to compensate. Perhaps he should try doubling, echo or phasing. The masters realize this or at least have a producer cue them into it. Look at Elvis. In the beginning, before his voice developed they used slap echo. I'm not saying the vocalist can not sing. I'm only saying his sound can be enhanced for commercial value. It would appeal to even more people.
Technically, you don't hear a drum machine.  The vocals are ban and weak?  Not sure what ban means.  Maybe you meant bad?  Yeah.  I bet that's it.  Ugh. Obviously he can understand the vocals....he says they are clear English.  He should tell that guy a few reviews up that.  He even thinks they are strong in some areas.  Then he says I should try adding an echo to the vocals.  Hmmm...did he not hear the echo? I do appreciate that he said "I'm not saying the vocalist can not sing...but can be enhanced for commercial value."  Thank you.  That's constructive criticism.  Honesty is appreciated.  Thank you for that.

Review 16:  I really like the intro and how the instruments were played together. I also like that the vocalist was clear and also stylish with his lyrics. I also really like the hook because it made a lot of sense. The melody was perfect and shapely.
Thank you. It's funny how some people hear things completely different than others.

Review 17: The electronic synths seem interesting so far. Ah, the lyrics ring true but the vocals can be fixed up a bit. Since this is electronic music the artist can alter the voice to sound better. Oh, the added in instrumentals are horrible. I understand the message of the song, "never give up" and that's great. The lyrics are good but the vocals, arrangement, and instrumentals need to change big time. It will not be a hit and I do not feel someone will listen to this for the full duration. It really needs to be fixed but the artist is on the right track! Keep trying!
 Hmm...thanks...I think.

Review 18: I think the song's arrangement in the musical composition, needs some work in the vocals, and most definitely in the instrumentals, as well. I think he had heart and passion in his lyrics, and performance in the verse. But it was a total mess, especially with the hook and chorus section of the song. It does not have commercial appeal.
Ok.  Thanks.  You didn't like the song and thought it was a total mess and has no commercial appeal in your opinion.  :/

Review 19:  This song is pretty annoying especially the chorus, Probably will not make it on to the radio, but if these guys try a little harder i see potential. The never give up chorus pretty much killed the song in my opinion.
Ok.  Sorry I annoyed you.

Review 20:  The intro has too much punch on the bass drum sounding part. The overall mix could've been better, I think. I had to crank the low end eq for it to sound decent. Interesting song, lyrically. The mix sounded better at the bridge with less synth. I don't think the vocal sound sounded right for the song. I give it a halfway mark for the genre it represents.
I'm not sure what you mean.  First you say there was too much punch on the bass drum.  Then you say you said to crank the low end EQ for it to sound decent.  What is it?  Too much punch or not enough?

Anyway, I guess the point of this....see how the bad overshadows the good?  Maybe not to you the reader, but to me, the artist.  It kinda stings.  I was hoping was a score of 7 or better.  So obviously, with a score of 4.3, most people voted rather low.  :/

I would have liked to see more encouragement rather than just blatant rudeness and disregard by several of these people.  I've written many reviews, and have never once been critical to the point of being mean.  Yes, I have reviewed things I did not like, but I guess I like to keep the people's feelings in mind.

Oh well.  I guess you live and learn.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fix Me

I'm not sure what it is about the holidays, especially the Christmas season...but people get so irritable.

But this isn't about other people.  It's about me.  I've noticed that I've been exceptionally irritable this year.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the rather large project I'm on at work, that is due by Dec. 31st, but that's not likely it.  It's almost done, and I'm ahead of schedule.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the fact that I'm a musician that is booked solid through Christmas, but, that shouldn't be it.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the fact that everywhere you go at this time of year, the wait times are increased, the traffic is heavier, and other people are also irritable and tired.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the kids arguing or fighting with each other.

But I can't.

As easy as it would be to blame this on others, I simply can't.  It's on me.

I have to do my best to not let things get to me.

I have to remember that the kids are just kids and that they will do like kids do and argue with each other, and be loud, and other kid things.  In fact, I need to hold on to the things they do that are sweet.  And loving.  I need to cherish the fact that they are 14 year old girls who still want to hang out with mom and dad.  Many kids that age want nothing to do with their parents. Not the case with our kids.  They love hanging out with us.  They don't care if we are in public, they love hugs.  I drop them off at school, with all their classmates nearby, they don't care.  Daddy gets a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  They couldn't care less who sees.

I have to remember that while there are some people that get upset at Christmas because the stores are too busy and they didn't get what they want even after camping out for a week in front of Best Buy, it is likely that those people that are that upset have their own personal demons they are battling.  There is no reason for me to be upset with them too.  I should understand that they very likely could be feeling even worse than I am feeling and need compassion.  It doesn't give them an excuse to be angry either, but I have no excuse to be angry with them.  I need to love them and TRY to empathize with them.

I have to remember that I love being a musician.  I feel it is a God given talent and I really can't explain the feeling of completing a song, or an album for that matter, knowing I put a lot of effort into it.  There is no other feeling like it.  I can't explain the feeling of playing in front of other people and touching their hearts through the music I am playing.  For example, I'm performing at a kids event this year called After School Klub (ASK) that reaches out to inner city kids.  We've rehearsed with the kids twice so far, for our performance next week.  Do you know, after the rehearsal, without being prompted, they came up to me (and the other two people in the band) and said, "Thank you!  You be jammin'!"   Seriously.  That touched me in a way I can't describe.  Kids that come from troubled homes showing appreciation that someone cares about them is the most powerful feeling.

I have to remember that this project I am on is helping a lot of people at my work.  It is solving a large percentage of issues we have had for several years here.  I also have to remember that my boss has been extremely encouraging throughout, thanking me, and telling me that I'm doing great.  She knows how stressful it is, and constantly says, "You are doing great, let me know if you need anything at all, and if I can help."  Seriously, she's among the best bosses I've ever had.  She doesn't micro manage.  She thanks her workers. She even sends notes "up the chain" to her bosses and directors to let them know how we are doing, never taking credit for the work we do.  I wish my last boss would take lessons from my current one. haha.

Some might say I can't blame any one of these issue, but perhaps the culmination of all of the stresses is understandable why one might get irritable.

Is it?


We all have a choice.  You.  Me.  A choice to be happy, or a choice to just be a grump.  A Scrooge, if you will.  While I don't feel "Scroogy" really, I am definitely not making the choice to just let it slide off me at this time.  I need to.

God, please fix me.  Help me to make the right choice and not let my current situations overwhelm me, but instead help me to constantly see the good in all of them and to be able to handle it properly when things go awry.

Help me to experience the joy that this season celebrates, and to have that joy all year, and in the years to come.

Sure, there will be days that will be harder, and there will be days when I fail, but gently remind me of the greatest gift of all.  Your Son.