Monday, February 27, 2012

Inspiration, Music

Since I became interested in popular music in high school and joined or started plenty of bands, so many changes have happened in my personal style and understanding of how music works. I've learned an insane amount about playing guitar, and about what sorts of things sound good to my ear. I've gone from playing simple "power" chords and not understanding how to form a barre chord to playing guitar in several of my college jazz ensembles. Regardless, all of my change as a musician didn't happen overnight. I didn't wake up one morning knowing how to form seventh chords and feeling like I could express myself through guitar. I started out by listening to other people play the guitar and trying to emulate every intricate detail of what they did so that I could add their technique, style and licks to my internal mental repertoire. Even today, I enjoy sitting own and studying a player to learn what they do. While my other studies limit how much of this I can do, I like to incorporate what other people do into how I play.

Throughout high school, the bands I had been in followed a variety of goals and styles. The Order started out as a "hard rock," band playing plenty of original music as well as covers. We had a somewhat stereotypical "loud" sound, featuring lots and lots of distortion. The band eventually split into a few other groups, which became The Sun Stands Still, which at first played "metal," and The Unsung Heroes, which went from a family jam band to an alternative/country/rock band. We've quite literally covered everything from Radiohead to Big & Rich, while writing in our own style, featuring plenty of intricate progressions and good, fun and emotional music. Since then, The Sun Stands still has become more of an "indie/alt" band that has a very distinct sound. In that band, I now play drums and some backup guitar on songs that require it, expanding my own musical boundaries even further.

Even throughout the course of one band, we've sampled a plethora of styles. Personally, a lot of this has come from the inspiration of the people around me. Even as I listen to this, I'm listening to a mix of my own bands' music and local bands from around home. All of these groups around me that I've seen grow as I have have inspired me to push the musicality of my writing, from simple chords to more intricate partwriting and music. All of these groups have pushed their musicality, tonally and stylistically, as well as how they perform and play off of one another. So many groups have incorporated emotionally expressive dynamics and make their music literally tell as much of a story as their lyrics do.

Since I've come to school, I've seen even more groups perform that have encouraged me to do more musically. Take 6, a contemporary a cappella group inspired me to join Surround Sound, or on-campus a cappella group. Seeing people like Patrick Droney and Chris Cauley perform on campus have inspired me to write more music and seek out vocalists for "acoustic" gigs and re-work some of my and my bands' music to work in different settings.

There's so much incredible music that we've come up with that I want so desperately to get on a stage with a guitar and a microphone and share the beautiful message of everything that we've written. Share my story and be an inspiration to someone else, so that they too could have a revelation that they love an instrument and want to play it.

As much as all this popular music has been inspiring, fellow students and even faculty have been inspiring to me. I love being a member of my jazz orchestra and combo at school. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the strongest player, because I haven't honestly played jazz for that long, but sitting in our rehearsals and performances and hearing Aaron bust out an incredible drum solo, or Trent play a solo, or even listening to Scott improvise or play lead, can be so awesome to hear and see.

I want to dedicate all of my life to this amazing thing that I am so lucky to spend my time doing. It might frustrate me a lot. At times, it's nearly impossible to keep playing and work through how annoying a lick can be. At the end of the day, I improve. I become a stronger person because I can express myself in music, and I become a better musician because I learn more every day. I love everything about what I do, no matter how painful the experience sometimes is. All of it is a growing experience, and I always learn from it. Music is everything that I do.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My wonderful girlfriend, Brandy Kay Riha, wrote this song for me for Christmas :) So we recorded it and put it up on the YouTewbs :)


It took me until fairly recently to realize that perspective is absolutely everything to a conversation. In my psychology class, we've recently talked about how teens interpret the emotions that they see on faces. In most cases, they would see anger where an adult would usually interpret the face as fear. On a whole, teens didn't comprehend the full spectrum of emotions and couldn't see exactly what was meant.

None of this really sunk in until I started noticing how important perspective is to things around me. For example, a friend of mine was late to class once recently. He was running from his room to be on time to everything and had a ridiculously busy day ahead of him. He hadn't slept much and was frustrated. When the professor tried to fill him in on what was going on, and he got snappy with her. Knowing this friend of mine, I know that he wasn't trying to be disrespectful, but the professor noticeably took it personally. My friend had no idea that anything had happened and put his head down and worked forward on our assignment.

From the professor's standpoint, the student was being disrespectful and she didn't know how to handle it. The student didn't have any idea what was going on. The same thing goes for a lot of situations as I was growing up.

For a long time, I didn't realize how selfish a teenager I was. There are so many situations in my childhood that I didn't realize how wrong I took the things my parents said. In nearly every case, they had my best interest at heart, and now, being able to more fully understand their positions and feelings, everything makes sense. I'm sure a fair amount of this is that "hindsight is 20/20," but I'm fairly sure that in growing up, I've learned to take other peoples' perspective into account. Sure, I'm the first person to tell you that I'm not perfect in the slightest. I know that I can't possibly understand what everyone's feeling or what they'll think about what I have to say. In a lot of cases, I can't begin to comprehend how my words and actions will be taken by others, and there are times that I can't possibly understand them until I get to know the people around me better. That said, having some sort of understanding that it's possible for other people to take things differently can possibly make all the difference in the world.

When parents tell us that it's important to think through things before we say them, it's hard to take it completely to heart because we don't fully comprehend what it is to understand other perspectives until a later point in our psychological development. That said, considering how others feel and understanding their position is incredibly important. I've come to the point that if there is some sort of perspective that I don't understand, that I try to ask questions and understand where they're coming from. On a whole, it makes your relationships much more meaningful and deep.