Everybody’s Networking for the Weekend

On Saturday my roommates and I hosted a barbecue at our apartment. As I’ve expressed in blog posts past, I love my apartment and roommates so much. One couldn’t hope for a better household of randomly assembled twenty-somethings. Early in the day, when it looked like our plans were going to get cancelled due to pouring rain, I was really content to just play Nintendo 64 all day with my roommates— that’s how cool my roommates are. But the rain cleared and so the show went on. We fired up the grill, threw down some burgers and dogs, and our guests trickled in and out throughout the afternoon. A core of five of us lasted until midnight, eating, drinking and telling stories— we let our guard down and learned a lot about each other that night. In the immortal words of Ice Cube, “I gotta say, it was a good day.”

The icing on this delicious cake of a day was that I met a cool, kind videographer named Paul. My friend Morgan brought Paul (and Paul’s lovely Labradoodle Ringo) along to the party, and I got to pick his brain a bit about various films and projects he’s working on. Of course I didn’t want to pry to much— I’d guess Paul probably came more for the hot dogs and beer, and less to talk about his work life— however, in NYC it seems like every social event is also a networking opportunity.

A networking opportunity?

Did you cringe a little bit while reading those words? I did when I wrote them. As someone invested in a career path that doubles as an artistic expression, I’m not wholly comfortable wearing the business side of my musical life on my sleeve. After all, I didn’t start writing and playing music because I wanted to open up business opportunities— I think I did it because I was a sensitive child who discovered that music was a satisfying outlet for my creative urges… oh, and also because I just thought it was cool. So it feels corny and insincere to think of an interaction with someone at a barbecue as something called a “networking opportunity” that would benefit my “musical career.”

Yet the truth is, I do want to have a career in music and “networking” will undoubtedly be major part of any successes I have. It is a clear fact of life that people so often get jobs simply based on who they know. This is especially true in the music industry. If you need to find someone to score your film, or play violin at your wedding, or sing tenor in your indie rock opera, you’re first going to think of who you know, and then if you don’t know anyone, you’re going to ask someone you know if they know anyone. Sure, there are less personal ways of finding a musician like posting an ad on craigslist or contacting your local musician’s union, but the vast majority of gigs come to fruition as a direct result of human to human connection.

Thus networking is undoubtedly an essential part of any musician’s career. But personally, I just really dislike the term networking. It is such a lame business-professional buzzword, like “synergy” or “team building.” It makes me want to yak. The term also has an air of objectification. When you are “networking,” it sounds to me like you aren’t exactly treating people as people but as nodes in a cold synergistic digital network built to benefit your career goals— you are using people as a means to an end. Of course this isn’t the whole truth— it probably isn’t even the half truth— this is just the feeling I get from that bogus word.

If you’re like me, and become nauseous at the sound of the word networking, but still want to “make it” in some kind of creative field, I have good news. You don’t have to become some kind of overly enthusiastic, business card pushing, insincere yuppie blowhard to expand your work opportunities. That is, you don’t have to do that unless you are an overly enthusiastic, business card pushing, insincere yuppie blowhard. If that’s case, you do you brother! Because when we’re talking about networking (and I really hope that is the last time I have to use that word in this blog post), we’re really just talking about meeting people, remembering people, and hopefully having them remember you. And you surely want people to rememberer you as you actually are, not as some put on personality that you think will be pleasing and engaging. Granted, it’s probably a good idea to try to be polite and attentive when you’re meeting someone new that you might want to work with, but you don’t have to be spectacularly “on,” and you certainly don’t want to be anything other than yourself. This really isn’t all that different than meeting someone you might want to be friends with or someone you might want to date. Whether it is a potential friend, partner, or collaborator, what you are generally seeking is someone that you enjoy being around, someone that you can communicate well with, and someone with whom there is a degree of mutual understanding. And you can only really find that if you are being true to yourself.

In a very meta moment, Paul and I spent a portion of our conversation talking about the importance of meeting other people in your creative field and just generally being cool, personable, and easy to work with. We were two people in a similar creative field (he is also a musician, and I am also trying to begin doing film scoring work), being generally cool, personable, and easy going. Perhaps we will collaborate down the road or recommend each other for various projects, and perhaps not. I know that based on my first interaction with him, I would certainly have no objection to working with him. Furthermore, because he struck me as cool and professional (and because he is the only videographer I know in town) I would recommend him were someone to ask me if I knew any good videographers. Yet whether our connection yields professional gains or not, ultimately it was just nice (and always is nice) to have a pleasant conversation with another good human.

just a dude

“Quantity over quality man, quantity over quality…” my friend Jonathan said, distracting me from my writing. It’s a bad idea to invite your friends to the coffee shop with you when you plan on trying to finish a blog post. It’s a bad idea for the same reason that “study groups” in high school were a bad idea. You don’t make a “study group” because you really think it will help you pass the test, you do it because you want to hang out with your friends and still convince yourself that you’re being productive. Sometimes you really did convince yourself— you get your World History test back with a fat D+ on top and say “what!? but we studied for like five hours last night!” Maaaaaaaan, you didn’t study for five hours— you ate Doritos and quoted the movie Half Baked for five hours.

But Jonathan is right. He was reminding me of a creative strategy that I hold dear to my heart. My goal for this blog isn’t necessarily to knock it out of the park every week with a transcendent essay. It’s simply to be consistent in writing. For one of my major motivations for having a blog (aside from being able to exercise my narcissism) is that I just want to become a better writer. And If I write something every week, then I’ll become a better writer. Right?

Well, let’s hope so. I can say that I was really trying to knock it out of the park with my blog post last week, and that it proved to be crippling. I wanted to articulate everything that feels wrong, or dark, or scary to me about the world right now— i.e. Trump, climate change, the threat of nuclear war, diminishing natural resources, prejudice, rampant misinformation, and people’s complacency in the face of all these things. I wanted to offer some small silver linings, and some advice in the face of all of this darkness (oddly my advice was essentially the moral of the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “be excellent to each other”). However, I didn’t post it last week because it felt incomplete and somehow untrue. I returned to it this week, but I found it felt even more false.

In that unpublished post I was trying to preach some high-minded and somewhat self-righteous stuff. All of the things I was going to say were good, but until I start actually living up to those standards, I don’t think I have any right to prescribe anything to anyone else. The truth of the matter is, I am, like most people, majorly self-interested. I’m not anywhere near Trumpian levels of psychopathic egotism, however, when I’m laying in bed at night, typically I’m not dreaming about working to end climate change or lifting up my fellow human; I’m dreaming about becoming a successful film composer and meeting Penelope Cruz. I’m not proud, but it is true.

I do sincerely want the world to be a friendlier, more equitable place. I want us all to work to mitigate climate change. I want everyone to do the inner work of transforming our prejudices into openness, and I want everybody to be excellent to each other. I know that I can do much more in my life to work towards these goals. However, I do not think that we can all make some magical leap towards altruism. We’ve got to acknowledge where we are and what we are before we can hope to progress in any way.

Personally, I’m just a dude trying to come up with enough words to fill out a Sunday blog post. And on the weekdays, I’m just a dude trying to come up with enough notes to fill out a three minute song. I do want the world to turn towards the light, but until I elevate my own activism, I’ll refrain from telling you how to live your life. In the meantime, here are two songs I wrote and recorded last week. Y’all listen in for the sound of the electric saw. See you next week.

 

Sunnin’ and Funnin’

School’s out for summer everybody! I’ve got high hopes and ambitions for this summer season. Ideally I’m going to embark on a daily course of trying to take over the world Pinky and the Brain style. I may have even found my co-conspirator in a Utah born, NYU educated, world travelled, vibrant young social worker/musician/aspiring sports agent named Francesca— unfortunately I may be Pinky in this metaphor— more on her later.

I’m currently working on a three year plan that I’ve created for myself. I’ll spare you the details of this plan, both because its boring and I don’t want to reveal my secrets just yet. However, I will bore you with the ideal daily routine which is aligned with my three year plan:

  1. Wake at sunrise, have a cup of tea, and write in my journal.
  2. Go to Central Park and practice/play classical guitar by the lake.
  3. Have breakfast while watching or reading the news (I gotta stay informed about this ongoing no holds barred cage fight between the Trump administration and democracy y’all—I’m really pulling for democracy).
  4. Write/record/produce original music in the world’s tiniest recording studio (my bedroom).
  5. Have lunch while watching something hilarious (there’s a lot of great comedy out there people— I’m currently working through Veep and Master of None).
  6. Go to the gym and workout or play b ball (healthy body, healthy mind).
  7. Go to school and practice electric guitar at the NYU jazz studies building.
  8. Work on my master’s thesis.
  9. Have dinner, have a drink with friends, and relax.
  10. Go home and go to sleep.

If you’re still reading, I want to commend you and thank you for your patience. I’m really pushing this author-reader relationship to the limit by asking you to stay engaged while I throw around phrases like “three year plan” and “daily routine” and then hop right in to obliquely bragging about how I live right next to Central Park. Yet I only did that to demonstrate that I have really high standards for myself, and that I consistently fall short of these standards. That’s right. My plan this week was to execute the above routine every day from Monday through Friday. I basically did it once on Thursday, however I didn’t even work out— I took a nap instead. So what was I doing with my time this week instead of being a self-motivated, music-minded, rigid worker-cyborg? Well, let me give you some highlights:

Monday, May 15

After having spent the afternoon playing music and hanging out with my good-buddy Jonathan in Prospect Park, I met up with my friend Francesca (mentioned above) in Williamsburg and ate some world class shawarma before going to a free comedy show at Bar Matchless. Coincidentally, Bar Matchless is where I made my NYC debut back in the summer of 2015 when I was on tour with the hilariously fun band Swampbird (read about that here if you like). All the comedians were very funny, but the highlight of the show came when a tipsy Michael Che (of SNL fame) decided to drop in for an impromptu set. Actually, calling it a set is a real stretch. He actually just crashed another comedian’s set and spent the whole time bantering with him and the audience about mother’s day, sports, and conspiracy theories. It was great—he’s even funnier in person.

Tuesday, May 16— Wednesday, May 17

Tuesday morning I woke up sick with a sore throat, headache, and heavy fatigue. I literally could not keep my eyes open for any significant stretch of time. Thus, I resigned myself to just resting until I was well and basically spent the next two days sleeping. The only variable during this stretch was where I slept— my bed, the couch, or in the sunshine of the park. I really have no idea what it was I came down with, but it felt like I was sleeping off and fevering out the remainder of a long semester’s demands and stress.

Thursday, May 18

Like I said, I actually executed that daily routine pretty well. Sometimes I can sort of almost be disciplined.

Friday, May 19

After sleeping in, I went to school and practiced sight-reading with my friend and fellow guitarist (read: poor sight-reader) Dan. We then ventured out on a beautiful warm day to watch some fellow NYU jazz students busk under the arch of Washington Square Park. I was sitting cross-legged leaning against a small pillar and enjoying their music when all of a sudden I looked up and saw Jeff Garlin walking towards me. Despite the competing sounds from my NYU friends, the theme song to Curb Your Enthusiasm burst loudly through to my consciousness. As he was walking towards me I tried to think of something to say: Hey, I’m your biggest fan! (No. I’m a fan, but I’m probably not his biggest fan); Hey Jeff, how are ya? (I actually couldn’t remember his name at the time, so that wasn’t an option). Instead, as he walked by me, we made eye contact so I just smiled and said “hi,” and he replied with a friendly “hey.” It was nice.

Two celebrity sightings in one week is very auspicious.

Saturday, May 20

Such a “long week” of “hard work” required some serious rest and relaxation by the time Saturday rolled around. Thus, I again called up my good buddy Francesca to hang out. We were both feeling pretty low-key so we just holed up in her grand-parents’ beautiful Central Park West high-rise, cooked some dinner, ate, drank, and made merry. Now, many of you may be reading between the lines and assuming that this is a new romance, but hey, don’t assume, don’t read between any lines. Actually she and I are developing something that, for a variety of reasons, is much more precious to me right now than romance: true friendship.

We met on seis de Mayo at dawn in Central Park. I had been up all night celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some friends and was finally making my way home, while she had woken up early to go kick a soccer ball around. We had a brief humorous exchange and then ended up walking around the park for an hour or so kicking the ball back and forth and talking before I finally needed to go back home and sleep off my looming hangover. We’ve become fast friends, and I am so grateful for this. The Upper West Side is an amazing, beautiful place to live, yet outside of my wonderful roommates, I actually have not met any young people that I really connect with in the neighborhood. Thus, it is so fun to have what in many way feels like another “kid” in the neighborhood to play with.

Sunday, May 21

I’m sitting here at my coffee shop, writing this blog post, and even now a large part of me truly regrets that I haven’t gotten as much work done as I had hoped. I do indeed feel great when I am achieving things and working towards my goals. Yet something that I and many other Americans frequently forget is that there are things just as important as work. This week was full of rest, friends, and fun, and that is nothing to regret.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day everybody! In honor of this mother’s day, I’ve decided to break my blogging fast and feed you some words straight from my brain to yours. Before I start discussing any musical material, or tell you how to pick up women at the bar (yes that is something I cover later in this blog post), I want to take a moment to celebrate my own mother. For one reason or another, motherhood has been a topic that has come up a lot lately in my conversations. Whether I’m talking with someone who had a very engaged mother, or someone who’s mother was not exactly present for much of their life, I have come away from these conversations with a deep gratitude for my mother. The selfless love and care that my momma has given me is the solid foundation upon which my life rests. She is an amazing, strong, sweet, sensitive, and intelligent woman who has an incredible intuitive sense for the needs of other people (especially children). She is also a talented, and prolific visual artist, who has inspired me in my own creative path (that’s one of her paintings above). She sacrificed so much of her own life so that my sister and I could have a leg up in our lives, and I can never thank her enough for this. Thank you momma! I love you!

I suppose that by talking about my wonderful mother there has been a bit of a topic trend in my last two posts: family. For my previous blog post was not exactly a real post, but a bunch of cute pictures of my niece used as a distraction technique so you’d all forget that I had set a pretty ambitious goal for myself. The goal was to write, record, and release four new songs during the moon phase cycle. Well, that was about two moon cycles ago, and clearly I’ve not released any new songs have I? HAVE I? No, I haven’t.

Not only did I not complete that goal, but additionally I just straight up stopped blogging for like two months. I really went off the deep end huh? Oh man, you should have seen how nice and regular my postings were from August to April. I posted something nearly every week! Oh wait actually you can see. Check out my WordPress stats y’all. Those black blocks are the days I posted something—notice the big conspicuous gap in postings during April and May.

Sidenote: this is also how I try to pick up women at bars. I lock eyes with a lovely lady across the way, confidently saunter over to her, and then seductively whisper into her ear “hey girl, check out my WordPress stats,” unveiling my blog data. Then she’s all like, “Oh my god. 44 followers? Semi-regular posts? I’m yours.” It works every time kiddos. For more on this topic, check out my other blog: how to pick up women at bars. Sadly, I personally won’t be picking up any women at bars until I pick up my pace on this blog.

In this bizarre alternate reality I’ve just created in which blog-writing is some kind of romantic currency, I very well may have kept up with my posts these past two months. However, living in the actual reality that we live in— the one in which blog writing offers little to no romantic, economic, or social rewards, I just basically stopped blogging when the rest of my life became too busy and full. I am after all not a full time blogger, but a full time student, and late in the semester when assignments, responsibilities, and social engagements were piling up, I could have kept blogging, yet I’m certain either my schoolwork or my sanity would have suffered.

So I forgive myself for the blog hiatus, and I hope you do too gentle readers. If you don’t, that’s ok too, but perhaps you should check out my other blog: how to forgive people. The good news is that now that school is out for summer, I am re-entering the blogosphere! I do this not for any romantic, economic, or social gain, but because this is a personally satisfying and enjoyable practice. This is where I come to organize and articulate my thoughts about my life and my music, its where I come to practice the craft of writing, and its where I come to set ambitious goals that I may or may not accomplish.

I mentioned one of these ambitious goals earlier: I would write, record, and release four new songs during the moon phase cycle. Specifically that was the moon phase cycle from February 26th to March 27th. Well, I obviously didn’t release any new music during that time, but that’s only because I also didn’t record any new music during that time.

I will however give myself a small pat on the back and say that I did write four new songs during this period. Furthermore, I will record and release these songs. For our final project in the jazz studies master’s program at NYU we are required (although it feels more like a privilege) to record an album of original music at NYU’s state of the art Dolan Recording Studio. The four songs that I wrote, which were heavily influenced by my music lessons with Wayne Krantz at the time, are songs that I will record as part of this final project.

Thus, I’ll give myself a D minus on my moon cycle assignment. Yet as classic slacker wisdom states: D’s get degrees, man. In this case, my D-minus execution of one goal, will indeed help me achieve one of my current goals of earning a master’s degree. What will be truly interesting to see, however, is how my life and goals shape up after I earn that degree. For graduate school provides a clear structure and aim for my life right now— yet once I graduate, it will be up to me to blaze my own trail. Whatever happens, I think that this lowly practice of blog writing will remain an important personal tool in my march towards musical success.

Coppin’ Out

Happy new moon eve everybody! I’m writing this post from Mulholland’s bar in Williamsburg with a Brooklyn Lager in my hand, NCAA tournament basketball on the TV (currently S. Carolina 55—Florida 57), and some very special company by my side. My sister Liza, brother-in-law Joe, baby niece Bridget, and our friend Gaines came to visit NYC this weekend so we’ve had a whirlwind weekend of hardcore hanging out. I know you’re all waiting with bated breath for the four songs I’ve written this moon cycle. You faithful readers of course know that my goal for this moon cycle was to write, arrange, and record four songs. You know that right? Right?

Yeah, you know that. I want to tell you a little more about those songs, but first, look at how cute my niece is.

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, those songs I’ve written— I wrote four songs these past four weeks, and my goal was to share them with you all tomorrow. Yes, my goal was to share them with you tomorrow, but my new goal is to share them with you in a week. Is this a cop out? Yeah, a little bit. But I’m a grown ass man, and can cop out of my goals if I want to. Plus, I have a really good excuse. I could have recorded these songs in time for my Monday deadline if I had spent all weekend recording these songs. Instead I’m hanging out with this goofball!

So anyway, you’ll just have to keep that breath bated while I go enjoy myself. See you next week!

The One Where a White Guy Talks About Hip Hop and Jazz

This week, because I enjoy being both efficient and lazy, a large portion of this blog post is going to be the abstract to my master’s thesis. My thesis is due next fall so the final abstract will surely look a bit different than what you are about to see here. This is simply a preliminary abstract that I have to submit tomorrow to the honorable Dr. Dave Schroeder (director of jazz studies at NYU) so he can make sure that i’m not going to do anything terribly misguided or unrelated to jazz in my research. Unfortunately I fear I may be doing something terribly misguided and unrelated to jazz. You be the judge…

“Back in the days when i was a teenager,

before i had status and before i had a pager,

you could find the Abstract listening to hip hop.

My pops used to say, it reminded him of bebop”

-Q-Tip (Excursions)

The purpose of this research is to examine the connection between hip hop and jazz. Certainly there have been a number of jazz artists to utilize hip hop beats in their songs (notably Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Branford Marsalis), as well as a number of hip-hop artists to utilize jazz samples in their songs (notably A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, and De La Soul). Yet the connection between jazz and hip hop is deeper than mere examples of cross-pollination. Herbie Hancock himself has acknowledged the relationship between beboppers composing new melodies over Tin Pan Alley chord changes and hip hop MCs composing new lyrics over funk grooves from the ‘60s and ‘70s, while the journalist Harry Allen proclaimed outright that “hip hop is the new jazz” (Tate, 388).

There are many similarities between jazz and hip hop. Both hip hop and jazz were created and developed by working class African Americans. Each genre served, and often still serves, as dance music (although jazz has in many cases evolved beyond a danceable rhythm, it is interesting to note that Dizzy Gillespie said in his autobiography: “Jazz was invented for people to dance. So when you play jazz and don’t feel like dancing or moving your feet, you’re getting away from the idea of the music”). Jazz and hip hop also share musical priorities such as an “obsession with syncopation and timbral exaggeration” (Tate, 388).

The above are just a few general connections between hip hop and jazz. Yet during the course of this research, I will attempt to discern the exact degree to which hip hop is jazz. I will do this by comparing and contrasting each genre’s creation, and social function, and aesthetic trends. Finally, I will do rhythmic transcriptions and formal musical analysis of verses by notable rap artists in an attempt to discover the musical similarities between dexterous rappers and jazz virtuosos.

What’s up nerds! It’s me Lucas, back from formal research writing land and back in the cozy casual world of blog writing. Seriously, anything goes here! Watch.

Weird GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

See!

Ok, anyway let me soften the blow of my previous accusation. I don’t think that my research will be misguided or unrelated to jazz. I see clear social and aesthetic connections between jazz and hip hop. Yet I do realize that there is potentially a big problem with me exploring this topic: I’m white. Yes, I’m white. I don’t know if you all realized this from the fact that I look, sound, and act really white, but it’s true, I am white. And yet a foundation of this research is the fact that both hip hop and jazz were created by poor and working class African-Americans. I obviously have no idea what it is like to be black or tan. I’ve never known anything other than easy living on Caucasian lane.

If I were to at all try to explain the subjective experience of the creators of jazz and hip hop, I would be speaking about something I know nothing about. Sure, I have black friends, yes I play jazz and hip hop— this gives me the authority to talk about the African American experience right? Nope. Not even a little bit. White musicologists have a rich history of overstepping the domain of their knowledge and experience when analyzing African American music. Early 20th century accounts of blues, jazz, and African American folk songs are full of simplistic and racist portrayals of black people. I hope to avoid this trend at all costs.

Luckily, my research is redeemed by the fact that this is formal academic writing (i.e. the most boring, soulless, lame-ass writing in all the land). In this paper, there will be no room for subjective commentary, simply objective description. I’ve chosen to write about the connection between jazz and hip hop not because either is part of my cultural tradition, but simply because I really love to listen to and play both. And if you have to write a long-ass boring research paper, it might as well be about something you love right?

Fridays with Wayne

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, my goal for this moon cycle is to write, record, and release four new songs. And the next logical question is “how the hell do I do that?” If anybody has a good answer to that question, please let me know. I’ll be sitting in my room watching Girls (the HBO show, not the gender) until I figure it out. Ok bye!

Girls On Hbo GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But seriously folks, most of the modest number of songs that I’ve written, have been a product of pure inspiration. The music flows out naturally and easily, and the lyrics come fully formed as if written in stone. However, this makes for a very inefficient songwriting process. Although my songs have mostly been snapshots of inspired moments, these moments are are few and far between. Using this process of “inspired songwriting,” it has sometimes taken me years to finish a song. It is a very different approach to say “inspiration be damned, I’m going to write and record four songs this month no matter what!” Unfortunately that is exactly what I’ve set out to do, and thus I’ve got to figure out a way to write these songs!

Lucky for me, I am surrounded by brilliant musical minds at NYU and am paying top dollar to be able to ask them asinine questions like “how do I write a good song?” During a show a few weeks ago at the 55 bar, the great guitarist and NYU professor Wayne Krantz told the audience “all you need in a song are two things and an ending.” Like everyone else in the audience, I was amused that someone who plays such creatively advanced music would propose such a simple equation for composition. Yet unlike everyone else in the audience, I get to pick Wayne’s brain every Friday at 3 o’clock (yes i’m bragging) and can unpack his approach to songwriting.

Few would accuse Wayne Krantz of being a pop musician, and yet he claims that he approaches his songs like a pop musician in that everything is either a verse or a chorus. He comes up with a musical idea that he likes and decides if it is a chorus part or a verse part (“is it the comin’ home part, or the storytelling part?”). After he has built either a verse or chorus part, he then uses contrast to create the other part. For example, if the verse part contains mostly short notes, he may change to long notes for the chorus; or if the chorus part is loud and rocking, he might make the verse sound softer and more relaxing; or if the verse part is using mostly one or two notes at a time, he might switch to full chords for the chorus; or any combination of these and other contrasts.

This all seemed simple enough after he explained it to me, so I decided to use this method to write one of my songs. Indeed, one could certainly use this method to write a song, but after I brought in my song for feedback from Wayne, I discovered that he has some other principles he uses to write a good song. In my song the verse material was funky, syncopated, and used just one or two notes at a time. I contrasted this with a more flowing chorus of full, lush chords. Wayne liked it, but one of the things he pointed out was that during my verse section (the storytelling part), I had this two-note chord thing happening which could be heard has a melody, but more would likely would just come off as a vaguely cool guitar thing. He said that most people really just want to listen to a singer, and if they can’t have a singer, they’d like to have a saxophone player playing the singer’s part— it’s a much smaller percentage of people who just want to hear some vaguely cool guitar thing. Thus, as guitarists, we would be wise to play some kind of melody that at least sounds like it could be sung.

The second bit of advice he gave me was to write an ending. I had simply recycled my intro to the song and used it as my ending. He told me that he thinks “the audience kind of appreciates it when you do the extra work— when you’ve put in a little extra detail.” It doesn’t have to be long or intricate, but it is worth it to put in an extra bit of effort and create a definite ending. He told me that when he was in high school, the guys in Steely Dan were considered some of the supreme arbiters of good taste. Thus, years later when Wayne was hired to play guitar for Steely Dan he asked Donald Fagen “what makes something good?” Fagen paused, thought about it, and replied: “the amount of detail that it has in it.” Wayne advising me to write an ending to my song is also him pointing to the larger goal of simply crafting something with a lot of detail.

I am using the Wayne method and his insightful feedback to help me write these four songs, and I am certainly getting a lot of great ideas by sharing my work with him. Yet the usefulness to me of Wayne’s method is not due to the fact that it is the ultimate right way to write a song, but simply by virtue that it is a way to write a song. It is simply far easier to create something if you have rules, principles, and guidelines for creation. Wayne has been developing these ideas for forty years, and thus I am happy to stand on his shoulders and use them for my purposes— it makes my life easier. And yet, embedded in all of his great advice is a nugget of wisdom he shared that destroys all the others: “The more answers that you accept from others, then the less creative your thing is by definition.” Ultimately yes, I would like to plumb the depths of my own tastes, tendencies, and experiences and come up with my won set of rules and guidelines for creation, yet for now, I’m just trying to write four songs. No reason to reinvent the wheel just yet.