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Ever Just Take A Break?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by stephanie, Sep 26, 2003.


  1. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    ...from composing that is.

    I've realized I haven't written any full songs in a few months. It's not writer's block or anything (though I think some of it may be caused by a lot of stress and personal things). It's just that I've become frustrated with it. I used to maybe a write a song every 2 months and that built pressure on myself. I needed to get away from that. I'm a little tooorganized sometimes. The pressure is still there a little because I want nothing more than to someday record my songs on CD. And I know that's not gonna happen just sitting around dreaming about it.

    Lately I've been "exploring", going as deep as I can into the sound of a note..and then another..and then another. Blending colors and creating sceneries. It's enjoyable and refreshing trying new things on the bass. I've written phrases here and there and gotten a few ideas for songs.

    I don't know if I'm asking any questions here or expecting any answers from this thread, but I thought maybe there's a few of you that may be going through or have gone through something similar. And I'm hoping I'm not slowing down my progress by taking a break like this. In the meantime I am focusing a lot more (more than usual LOL) on my lessons and theory, learning new songs and stuff.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Steph,

    worry not - we're all in the same boat. Any musician goes through cycles in her or his playing. Sometimes you're all about writing, other times it's about practicing new concepts, sometimes it's all playing with other people, or getting your chops together, or just simply consolidating all the info you picked up in your last info-spurt. Cut yourself some slack, play for the fun of playing, whatever comes to mind. Release yourself from the pressure to produce something, and if you want a creative exercise try arranging someone else's tune.

    As you've been exploring sound, try picking a single line melody and making it sing with no accompaniment. Think of it like an accapella human voice - no double stops, no chords, no looping, no nothing. just a single line. Even finding a tune that stands up like this can be hard, but some standards work well like this, and a lot of folk melodies.

    that will perhaps kick you off in another direction, and other ideas of your own will come out of it, or maybe you'll want to write a more complex arrangement of it afterwards. Who knows, what's important is that you're enjoying playing, and you're not feeling pressured to do any one thing with your instrument.

    I've spent a large part of this year putting my bass 'n' looping schtick into duo, trio and band situations, trying to work out how it interacts with other people. At the start of the year I did a load of trio dates in California with a guitarist and percussionist, and some duo stuff with Michael Manring. Following on from that, I started a semi-regular gig with an improv singer and pianist over here, which has just added a drummer to the lineup. I did an improv gig with bass, tuned percussion, midi guitar and voice, duetted with vibes, pedal steel, piano, and finally did a lot of duo playing with Theo Travis, who's the other half of my latest record - on Alto Flute and Soprano Sax. Every situation brought something new to my playing, I learned about listening, about playing more or less, playing melodies over someone else's textures, playing grooves underneath my own ambient loops, and how to play the world's most inappropriate arrangement of 'autumn leaves' with michael... :D

    all of it has fed my solo playing, and I'm getting some great ideas now for my next solo record, have a bunch of new sounds and techniques, and feel broader as a musician...

    cheers

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net (advance order the new CD here!)
     
  3. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks for the heads-up Steve. I appreciate it. :)

    There's also the pressure of doing so many things at once. For the past few weeks, like I said, my practice has mostly consisted of the exercises I get at my lesson. They're Simandl pieces and they're getting a little bit harder and so I need to practice more (ok, so I've become a little obsessive over practicing them hehe, but oh well). That has led me to skip some other things in my practice routine that I used to practice daily and made me feel like I was ignoring composition. There's just not enough time in the day it always seems, doesn't it?

    (By the way, can you tell I'm unfortunately a perfectionist? LOL) :D

    This is something I have actually tried...and of course slacked off doing...but I'm going to get back to it. I was working on a certain tune as a matter of fact. :)

    Thanks again,
    Stephanie
     
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I’ve actually come to think of “down time” as essential to the creative process. My assumption is that creativity works through a combination of conscious and unconscious activity. A pattern that seems to work well for me is to work on something very hard for a few weeks and then let it go for a while. Sometimes more growth takes place when I’m not working on something than when I am!

    I am, however, looking forward to working very hard to perfect the World’s Most Inappropriate Version of “Autumn Leaves” with Steve! We’re close…
     
  5. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    So true.

    I know deep down that I am gaining something in this "exploration" phase I'm going through so then when I come back to writing an actual song it will be refreshing and one I can be happy with (maybe even one I can someday record...).

    Thanks again guys. You are both such an inspiration. :)

    (Haha I'd love to hear your "Autumn Leaves" version someday LOL) :D
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    ...well, we have to get it right, or we might end up inadvertantly getting on the radio with it, and that would mean total failure...

    ...but rest assured, any inspiration you might have gleaned will be sucked from you by the slap 'n' whammy 'n' distortion-fest that is 'Autumn Leaves'... :D

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  7. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hehe, but it sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun with it, eh? :D
     
  8. Now that *would* be something to hide on the Steve Lawson or Manthing websites for the devoted fans!! Hee hee hee...
     
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    that's just great - I've got a new album of finely crafted music out and all you lot are interested in is Michael and I massacre-ing standards! ROTFL

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  10. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    You betcha! Haha j/k :D

    Anyway, I'm not feeling as much pressure as I had been. My "exploring" has led me to lots of song ideas. Doing my lesson exercises slowly and focusing deeply on my mistakes instead of getting frustrated has helped. Plus, I might (finally...maybe?) be getting a new bass amp soon, once I figure which one I want. Thoughts of that and finally getting into a band and/or doing gigs of some sort have lifted my spirits a bit, always making me want to practice more, but without the pressure.
     
  11. Hi Stephanie,

    I know what you're going through myself. I guess to why musicians back then (2 centuries earlier) wrote so many songs and wrote everything out is that because they didn't have as much "distractions" in those days as we do now.

    It's also the "focus" thing that gets you away from song writing. Right now I'm playing lots of classical guitar and I have to admit that I haven't written a new song in half a year. It's bacause I'm too busy practicing....hence the reason to why professional classcial muso's don't write their own stuff, it takes up a lot of practice time to get a concert piece up to scratch. I guess it's the same when you're learning theory, developing your technique, or learning how to transcribe. It's probably a human thing to only be able to do one or two musical pursuits realistically at any one time. But hey, we'll all eventually get there in the end. I'll be patient if you will too.... :cool:

    Have you heard about what Michaelangelo said about his painting mastery? Someone said to him once that his artistic skills were dazzling. He then replied by saying: "If I told you how long it actually took me to be this good, then it wouldn't seem very dazzling then would it?"

    "Musical patience" I guess is easier said than done! Far Out!!!
     
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    LOL! Very funny!!! :)

    So what in the punk style anyone?


    Stephanie, from your posts (not just in this thread) you sound like you work a hell of a lot harder than many (myself for sure) do at developing yourself as a musician. so it comes as no suprise to me that you're not capable of maintaining that same high level of dedication and creativity all the time.

    i have days when i play complete sh~te (there is no better word to decribe it) and feel like quitting. then the very next day I'll be very proud of my playing and i'll come up with a zillion new ideas.

    Example, I had an audition this Saturday and I played dreadfully!! It was like some elf put a spell on me and my ears were full of toothpaste and of my fingers was tied to a splint and then covered in soft blue cheese (or was that a dream I had..?! :eek: ).
    Anyway, the very next day I was jamming with some mates and I played great.

    At first I thought it was nerves, but they rarely get the better of me and the material was super simple.
    Basically I just had a bad day - not ideal for an audition day, but there you go :) I was so depressed about it for a few days, but then what can you do?! :)

    It just happens. Just like somedays you wake up and would rather dissapear into nothingness than get out of bed, and other days you cant wait to get up and start the day. (Weekends I call them :D )
     
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Excellent story. Excellent.
     
  14. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Guitarrista - Yeah, these Simandl pieces do take up a bulk of my time. They take long to master. And getting the notes right is the easy part. Trying to get the transitions smooth and getting the dynamics right is the tricky part for me. So I will work all day on that with some breaks, but at the end of the day not feel like working on composition. I enjoy it, though. This is the major thing I have to remember when saying to myself 'gee I haven't written anything in a while'. I enjoy what I'm practicing at the moment. And also the phrases and song ideas I have been coming with lately are better than I have written when I was too oraganized with writing everything down and hurrying songs.

    Howard K - Thanks for the kind words. :) Eh, I'm just obsessed is all. Maybe too obsessed LOL. In fact, I wish I can practice more and do more...but I know that will cause frustration if I think about it too much.
     
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Do you not work or go to school/college/uni?

    or do you study music?

    :confused:

    H
     
  16. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Nope.

    And unfortunately nope. Would love to go to music school one day, but all I have for now are my weekly lessons. :(
     
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