Big Picture

How I wrote 100 tunes in a month and why you should too

It was 96 because 100 isn't divisible by 12 and I don't know whether you actually should or not but I do have things to say about what was good about it for me.

Have You Met Miss Jones?

I'm not a jazz musician but I've spent my whole adult life listening to it and have done lots of jazz-adjacent music and occasionally dabbled in bit of capital-J Jazz. I'm thinking a lot about what "repertoire" means in my current practice and although it surely doesn't mean a list of Great American Songbook tunes I might still be able to learn from the way I've interacted with those in the past. (I promise there are Actual Ideas included alongside the navel-gazing.)

Jivari, Sawari, Rustle Noise

This week I started a half-serious project to bring my first guitar -- a cheap Kay acoustic from the 1980s -- back to life. I knew it wasn't going to be a "normal" guitar, since it was never good at being one of those and decades of poor storage have left it warped beyond reasonable repair. If I wanted an acoustic guitar, I'd be much better off dropping £100 on a Chinese one on eBay. I pulled the frets out a few years ago in an attempt to make something vaguely oud-like but that didn't work at all, and since then it's been moping around my studio getting in the way.

I'm taking up guitar again but it'll be different this time

For a start, I'm selling most of my gear. That isn't really it, though.

A Modernist Manifesto

Of course a modernist manifesto in 2020 is a bit absurd (pun half-intended), but something has to be done -- or, to put it another way, we have to start somewhere. Postmodern culture, which has produced so few things that meant anything to me, has been stone dead for quite some time but its ability to envelop and ironize anything makes it hard to transcend. It's a blockage that needs clearing away.

I've always written manifesti of some kind at times like these, even if they were usually private, so here goes.

Found Form

I'm currently trying to prise myself away from my latest project and release it -- more on that soon, I hope -- and thinking about the next one. It got me onto the subject of how I handle large-scale forms and I thought it might be useful to try to set that down. Most of this blog is about the local details involving a note, scale or chord so this is a bit of a departure.

A Change of Emphasis

I thought a brief word was in order to explain the apparent change of direction of this blog of late. This is that brief word. In short, as the heading suggests, a lot is staying the same but the perspective is changing.

Balanced Steps

Just a quick note on something funny I noticed in Richard Cohn's Audacious Euphony that led me to a mild (and daft) reharm of Giant Steps.

Uses and Abuses of Tablature

If you want to follow the fashion of the online guitar pundits, the thing to do at the moment is denounce "tab". It's an unnecessary crutch that stunts your growth as a musician, they say. Eat your greens and learn to read traditional notation instead!

Finding your Voice and Being Contemporary

By chance I happened across three people giving somewhat related advice about learning jazz, but from very different directions.

The TL;DR here is that every musician needs to develop a way to figure things out for themselves in their own way, and that this is a creative process rather than a chore. Formal education can be useful for some specific things but spoonfeeding leads to weak forms of learning that you can't rely on and standardised syllabi produce standardised results. You need to know the tradition but it's raw material for you to form into your own voice.