How Does Musicianship Happen?

I just re-read my mission-statement for this blog and realized I have a recent dearth of sharing on this topic.

Partially, because I am less personally tormented by this question now. I am less worried that I’ll never discover the secrets of musicianship.  I grew bounds in the last 3 years. Regular group performances in front of hundreds, often thousands, is the best way to learn if you have my demeanor. [For others.. those who are less concerned about analyzing their sound, their musical contributions as they merge with bandmates’.. I think we’d all be happier if they found a different way to learn.. just kidding 😉 ]. Even though this was in the capacity of playing with a band (playing synth, B3, piano) and not in a solo capacity, it has fortified my confidence in my solo abilities. Last weekend I sat down and played through some Debussy and Chopin pieces after a year or so untouched and I believe they were much more persuasive than I’ve ever played them before.

So, I’m now respected by peers, I’m not terrified of performance, and I have a runtime grip on how the music feels. What next?

  1. Keep innovating in this role. I still have bad days. I still have dull days. I still have days where I feel out of my league. I still have too many days where I rely on the chart. I also know that my stage presence can improve.
  2. Dive deep into the music that’s produced today. Become an expert, a critic. Go to shows.
  3. Continue to improve on the B3. I think I need to acquire a professional teacher who can give direction.
  4. Continue to improve on the synth. I think the internet can probably suffice for this one, but I know that my working knowledge is only adequate.
  5. Continue to improve on piano. I always have more to learn, even though I am qualified to teach piano myself. I struggle with deciding between devoting time on jazz vs. classical. At this time I feel I must continue learning jazz through personal study and spending money on a teacher for classical.
  6. Buy new gear.
  7. Compose. Get my hands dirty in all of this professional music software and native instruments libraries on my machine. I’m ashamed at the lack of use.
  8. Join some meetups for classical music performances. Get other kinds of performances under my belt.
  9. Start a band as a creative director. This is my most electrifying goal.

Chord Substitutions

Last night I was preparing for a group set and I got pretty bored with the sounds I was making. I wasn’t feeling particularly smart or creative so I reached out to the internet for some advice. I really liked these articles:

  • Chord Substitution – simple trick to keep up your sleeve, simply substitute in the minor-7 relative chord. E.g. instead of C, play Am7. It will sound good since it contains the C chord anyways.
  • Tritone Chord Substitution – another simple trick to keep up your sleeve, simply substitute in (or follow) the chord with root 1 tritone away. E.g. instead of G7, play D-flat7. Works best with dominant chords.

The tritone idea really got me excited. It has that complex coolness that you hear in gospel church vamping music that I’ve always wanted to figure out but never quite got the hang of. I initially had issue visualizing where the tritone-away chord is. The trick I learned is to see/feel where the fifth is (my hand already knows the fifth interval.. I can see it too from any note) and then grab the key directly lower (one half step lower; the tritone is a diminished 5th interval) and use that as the root.