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Welcome !

Moments, Memories & Jazz site is my “home” on the internet.

Thanks again for stopping by.  To read a little about me and to see how cute I was at around the age of two, please visit my ABOUT page – just click here.  If you are interested in reading more about the freelance songwriting services I offer – then click here. Even if you are visiting on your phone, at the bottom of this page is a link to “FULL SITE” you can click there to see my latest posts.

-Laurie

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Current, Flow, Swing, and Reflection

Big Red Swing “Big Red Swing” 1971 Theodore Ceraldi

Some months speed by, like a rushing river flowing through a narrow gorge. But others crawl along, moment by moment, hour by hour, week by week, with the water of life pooling in unexpected crevices, becoming still reflection ponds. The past few weeks have been like that for me, slow and full of reflection. I have not been able to find a personal FLOW, the term I learned from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for an ideal creative state. Flow always seemed to come naturally to me as a child, yet now it seems to be something I have to schedule for myself.

“Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity… The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described… as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

One of my goals is to post something on Moments, Memories, & Jazz each month, and over the past 4 weeks I thought about many topics, but nothing really resonated with me. And, so the month clicked by with nothing drafted of any merit. Each day I made a note on my “To Do List” reminding me to write something. I fully intended to write on a topic that had meaning for me, or at least some entertainment value, but then each day I was thwarted–an external obligation, or illness, or unexpected  crisis became the priority and I would resolve to write something tomorrow. Tomorrow is now today, the last day of the month.

[photo by april m lee]

I was resigned to search for and post something I had already written, but then a fantastic thing happened—an inspiring friend, April M. Lee, of essence7wellness, posted an article called “currently i am” on her blog yesterday. It woke me up! She was writing about how difficult it was to decide what to write about. The same challenge I was facing this month. She wrote, finally, i gave up on all three ideas and decided to just zero in on the present. on what’s happening right now, during this moment in time.” She included a cool activity–a list of writing prompts. I wanted to take her up on her invitation to mark where I am in this current moment (and I wanted to steal her blog post idea!) I immediately wrote and told her I would be copying her. And, now I am! So, I am currently . . .

  • wearing: warm things – items I have now pulled out of plastic storage containers – gloves, hats, sweaters and scarves, sprinkled with bay leaves to keep the insects away during the warm months.
  • eating: oatmeal for breakfast, in a large ceramic bowl that looks like an oversized teacup. It warms my hands and my heart as I hold it close to me in the morning.
  • listening to: YouTube videos of songs I am learning, Lester Young solos, Charlie Parker’s version of Donna Lee, and a couple of original tunes written by friends that I am writing lyrics for.
  • reading: Believe Me an Autobiography by Eddie Izzard. I say I am reading it, but I had to pause because it has a very emotional beginning. Even though he is mainly known as a comedian, he brought me to tears. The rest of his life story (thus far) waits for me at my bedside and I will continue reading it soon.
  • loving: how my 2 (adult) daughters are finding their voices and working towards their goals.
  • watching: as little TV as possible – the news is especially maddening and disheartening right now; I will admit I resort to watching videos of cute little animals when it all gets to be too negative and I need to smile.
  • feeling: empowered to follow my dreams – I had what I now call a “red swing” moment last week. I sat on the swing and reflected that I could do anything I wanted that day. I sat in that feeling of freedom for quite a while before running some errands and heading back home. (I then found out that a chorus rehearsal had been scheduled so I jumped in a cab and the rest of my day was no longer my own,) But, it was a deep thought for me and I know this feeling of freedom was true at that moment and for the rest of my life as well.
  • studying: Italian every day (piano piano / slowly advancing) – I learn via DuoLingo, and the instructional books that are always strewn about my livingroom and stacked in my bookcase.
  • anticipating: my next jazz workshop trip, in Rome, only three months away now; I look forward to being with my friends as we learn, create music, and celebrate each other.
  • planning: on achieving a daily view like the one in the window image above. It is an excerpt from a photo April took on an abandoned property near where she lives. It gives me hope.

So, to close, I want to send a big thank you to April! She inspires me in many ways, not the least of which has been following the process of her move from the USA to Italy, and the construction project she and her husband Eric have shared online as they renovated and personalized “Villa Magnolia” their beautiful Italian home. It has been a joy to watch the transformation of their villa and the surrounding gardens. In addition to being an international risk-taker, she is a certified holistic life and wellness coach with a background in cognitive-behavioral counseling. She hosts focused retreats in her home (for a maximum of four women at a time). The next one is in May of 2019 so, that’s the place to be if you fancy a deep dive into yourself while you sojourn in Tuscany.

Vocalese 101

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly, live.” ~Dalai Lama

Instead of drafting an October blogpost, I focused all my brain energy on completing my homework for Bob Mover’s Jazz Workshop. (Whatever brain energy was left at the end of each workday, which is not much, let me tell you!)

Bob assigned the class “Donna Lee” (click to hear Bird playing it), and he told us all to memorize the head (the first 32 bars).  I was speaking to him on the phone today and I mentioned that I had completed the song but not the Charlie Parker solo. He reminded me that I did not have to memorize the solo, unless I wanted to (which I do want to memorize, of course!) So, I am happy to be done for now and prepared for the November 1st class.  Bob did not seem surprised that I was done, and he laughed when I told him I had written lyrics inspired by a Dalai Lama quote I had read. He quickly interjected, “Oh, so now it’s, Dalai Lee!”

Here are my lyrics:

Yesterday’s come and gone and there is no way you can turn it around or go back and re-live it.
xxx
And the same is true for your tomorrow, you just have to simply wait and see how that turns out, for there is no way to predict it.
xxx
Live each precious moment! Baby, just stay focused on your dreams and you will find that ev’ry vision you’ve had will lead you to the promised land of happiness, and…
xxx
Maybe then you’ll see that you must live right now; yes, only live in today!
xxx
Yesterday’s in the past that’s where it stays so just give up on the thought that you can ever change it.
xxx
It’s today, today! That’s where we stay. This moment is new. Yes, totally new; it’s true.
xxx
Time loves today, today will stay, there won’t be any other way, and naturally time won’t stop and wait around while you just stand there looking dumb, and wond’ring why, the sky is blue; if I love you? or dreams come true?

There are some other lyrics and vocalized versions of the tune, all enjoyable in their own way. Search on YouTube if you are interested in hearing them. For me, the most effective way to learn a melody is to attach words to it. They don’t have to make sense, or even tell a story; but it’s helpful if they do. The melody reminds me of the words and the words remind me of the melody. Each is a mnemonic device for the other.

Here is a good Donna Lee video for learning the melody – clearly played on the guitar in different speeds, gradually getting faster, so you can learn it.

Signs, Guides, and Flow

You Know You Want To

I really had no clue what I wanted to write about this month, until a sudden epiphany yesterday at choral rehearsal, which occurred during a short verbal exchange, that caused me to think deeper about processes I use to navigate my life now. One of the basses was asked to conduct a piece “rubato” (“out of time“) and we began to sing, but, unfortunately, one choral section was reading the music–not watching the conductor. They were not in synch with the rest of the group. I tried to get their attention with my arms, wildly pointing at him (because, I thought, “Maybe they don’t know we are supposed to be following him.“) But they did not see me at all, so I gave up and just sang along until the song was over. I glanced at the conductor and we exchanged a mutual shoulder-shrug, because it was what it was. What can you do?

Overall, it wasn’t really a big deal, just a rehearsal moment, but I really longed for us to be a cohesive group in order to hear the music as it was supposed to be, not syncopated, but majestically unified. After we ended, I told the section that we were supposed to be following the conductor on this piece, and I was sharply told, “YOU can look at him!” This really surprised me; I did not expect this response. I let it go, but was lead to begin thinking about how valuable established “guides” in life, like conductors, traffic lights, mandated laws, and other guidelines are supposed to make life better and/or easier for the collective, the group. There are so many things in life that we have to navigate on our own, painful personal choices that need to be deeply evaluated, and small moment-by-moment decisions that need to be made every day — how nice it is not to have to think so deeply about everything! How nice that I can learn my alto part and then allow myself to be guided by the creative instincts of the conductor. I can sing and enjoy the creation that we are unfolding as a collective.

That was part of my insight – the true creative power of one’s own knowledge being guided to join with others to create something greater, in this case, the song.

Additionally, I thought about how often I now rely on my intuition and observation of signs around me, physical signs (like the images I have chosen to include in this post “RISE” and “YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO”) that seem to appear to answer specific questions I am pondering at that moment, and the intangible signs and directions I see or hear in my mind – based on memories, or intentions I have set for myself, synchronicities that motivate me to choose a direction or tasks over another. I hope I am not being too vague, but it is difficult to write about a “gut feeling” process, or a intuitive feeling in my mind that I can also feel in my heart or chest.

So, as I live my life in a rubato flow, I am grateful for the signs and guides the universe provides me. I find that the more I surrender to these prompts, the more happiness and fulfillment flows to me.

 

Ten Years After

Anniversaries are a natural time of reflection. So I am commemorating ten years of my new life in jazz. Ten years since I was told that I could sing in the jazz style – that I did not sound horrible and that I could confidently go forward with my studies. Yes, ten years since I learned about the Jazz Foundation of America and I met a group of musicians there that became a new family to me. Ten years since I met a certain pianist at the 802 Musician’s Union Hall, a man that I now consider one of my dearest friends. Last month, we counted how many countries we have performed together–Six including the USA. (That is amazing to me since I have only been to seven countries in my entire life.)

It has been ten years since I started studying with Dr. Barry Harris, and through him, was introduced to so many new friends around the world. (I feel so lucky!) And, next month, it will be ten years since I was last able to embrace my friend and teacher, the late Ulysses Slaughter. I miss him so much.

Sometimes song ideas come to me while I am sleeping, fragments, or snippets, motifs and melodic shards, but ten years ago, shortly after Ulysses passed away, he sang this song to me in a dream. I felt like he was telling me that he had done everything he had wanted to do in life, that he had no regrets, that he had other things he needed to do now, but that he would continue to be there to guide me. I woke up, still hearing the song playing, almost like it was on the radio. I quickly wrote down all the lyrics I could remember. One day I will record it.

It is not really in a jazz style; it is a slower, more theatrical kind of a song. But, he was a very theatrical man, lots of drama. These words did so much to soothe my raw emotions at that time and as you read them, I hope you can hear his voice in the statements. I still do.

I’ve Taken My Bow
(It’s Time to Move Along Now)
©2008 Laurie Early

I’ve heard that life’s a stage
and we are but players
Well, my life’s been a musical
each act conquered in layers
but I’ve taken my bow, I’ve taken my bow
It’s time to move along now.

I’ve said all my lines
I’ve hit all my marks
I’ve heard every whispered cue
and seen the footlight sparks
but I’ve taken my bow, I’ve taken my bow
It’s time to move along now.

I’ll miss the company,
the hands, the crew, the show,
the final curtain call
has come for me, yet I know,
it’s all part of the blocking
as I exit to stage right
and now I’m in the audience
watching over you each night

Man! The applause was loud!
I still hear it from the wings
They loved my heartfelt songs
and my soul still sings
but I’ve taken my bow, I’ve taken my bow
It’s time to move along now

Yes, I’ve taken my bow
I’ve taken my final bow
It’s time, to move along now.

Ulysses’ Shoes – September 2008

Moments of Silence

Silence can be the loudest sound in the world, especially if you are longing to hear the next note, the next phrase, the next part of the story. And…“Silence is PART of the SONG!” (Dr. Barry Harris shouted this pearl of wisdom at his classroom full of singers a couple of weeks ago.) It is such a simple thing to remember. So true!

I saw a similar thought attributed to Thelonious Monk. He is recorded as saying, “Don’t play EVERYTHING (or every time); let some things GO BY. Some music [is] just IMAGINED. What you DON’T play can be more important than what you DO play.”

A few years ago I touched on this idea in an introductory verse I wrote for my song, “I Lied to Myself”. It begins, “There’s a limbo in this world where the silence is so loud….” This phrase was my attempt to capture in words the desire to hear someone speak to me again, and that feeling you get deep in your heart when you miss the sound of someone’s voice. The silence that summer was deafening, but this time of isolation also seemed to bring other parts of my life more sharply into focus. I was able to pinpoint what was really important to me. (I was also grateful my quiet reflections yielded a song that spoke to my truth.)

So, here’s to SILENCE! I dedicate this month to its beauty and perfection. I vow to listen more than I speak, to rest more than I resist, to learn more than I teach, and to better appreciate every refreshing pause that life offers.

Epilogue:
As I sit here in Barry’s late night horns class (also known as “Improvisation class”) writing the last few lines of this post, I am happily surprised to hear him say: “The silence is full of sounds.” Wow, does he KNOW what I am writing about? And, yes! The silence is waiting for us to really listen.

 

Lyrical Triggers & Process

Sometimes it is as simple as a title I have no control over; an inspiration that opens a floodgate of lyrics. A poignant melody combined with the title “Charlie” inspired these words:

I once was young
I was new
we shared a kiss
that’s what you do
I didn’t know
you’d go
Charlie

A tender branch
on a tree
will bend not break
that once was me
but now
I am old
I’m not so free

My brittle heart
will surely break
it only takes one small mistake,
I know,
so…..
I’m careful
And if I try,
I’ll be strong
and I won’t cry
I know, this feeling will go

I’ll hold this thought
in my mind
of innocence,
and love that’s kind
of youth
and truth
Charlie

CHARLIE
©2011 Laurie Early
[Based on melody by Johannes Faber, as played on: Artram-Mantra by Fausto Ferraiuolo]

The original musical piece is a tribute to the saxophonist, Charlie Mariano, but Charlie was also the name of my boyfriend when I was 13-years old. So, my lyrics reflect the contrast between taking risks when your heart is naive (a sweet unknowing naivety), as opposed to when you have the knowledge of how love will impact your life (yet still summoning all your courage to express that love through actions and words.)


Lyrical triggers can be anything that inspires song lyrics, poems, or other writing projects. I remember an exercise from kindergarten where classical music was played for us and we were told to think of a story that was happening. What words came to mind? What story was the music telling us? Around that same time in my life, I recall a similar experience in art class, listening to music and painting what we heard. I still use these techniques today when I am writing. Here are a few other examples of techniques I sometimes use in my writing process, which is never the same from one piece to the next:

This is the basic clustering process: You write your central word or thought in the center of the page and circle it. Then you just let your mind flow, writing down connecting words and/or phrases as they come to you. Do not edit yourself! Just write! Keep going until you sense a shift, or the words stop. (In the video he uses a timer, I have never done that.) As soon as you feel this shift write a first draft of your piece. Do not edit it as you write! As soon as you have written your draft, you can begin to edit and reevaluate or make your ideas fit a melody.

remembrance 3 with dove

  • David Bowie’s Scissors Technique – Always an innovator, Bowie’s creative process sometimes meant taking lyrics and cutting them into pieces and throwing them down randomly. (I think he threw them on the floor.) Then he would rearrange the pieces and come up with totally unique combinations that emphasized different. I found a short video of him demonstrating his “cut-ups” on YouTube.

remembrance 2 with pine

  • Images – When I am writing about a specific place, type of weather, color, or even a time of day, I find it especially helpful to go online and search for images. I look at them and write down words and phrases that occur to me. (I used this technique when I wrote words about Isfahan.)

remembrance 5 with apples and birds

So, take a risk, try looking for writing triggers in the magazines on your coffee table, or Google a word and look at “images” or what comes up for it in the “news”. You might even decide to reimagine something you have already written–print out one (or two or three) of your old poems, then cut up and rearrange the pieces. What new message do you have for yourself?

Have courage fellow writers!

P.S. Photos on this page were taken by me a couple of years ago at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, part of the National Museum of Rome. It was an incredibly hot day in September and I sat in this lovely cool (air conditioned) room for hours writing in my journal. The lighting in the room was configured to reflect a 24-hour cycle over 24-minutes, so the walls looked slightly different from minute-to-minute. I often think back on my time in this reconstructed room. It was one of the most tranquil spots I have ever encountered.  There is an interesting video about these “painted gardens” linked here.

Sometimes I’m Happy

Things are getting really interesting this year! I am taking an improvisation class with saxophonist, Bob Mover, and have started to re-learn all the basic music theory I had forgotten. Bob has been really kind to me by tailoring his instruction to my level of understanding. He does that for all of his students, even though the class has a mix of fully-informed professional musicians and musicians such as I who have compensated for a lack of technical knowledge with many types of audio-focused “work-arounds”. (Which in my case means trying to hear what’s needed in a particular composition – playing “by ear”. Or, it means trying desperately to pull up, from the deep recesses of my brain, theory and voice leading concepts I foolishly suppressed years ago during a musical “dark night of the soul”. I had mistakenly thought I would never have music in my life again.) I appreciate the fact that Bob “dumbs it down” for me without making me feel dumb. Thank you, Bob.

One of the best parts of the class for me has been Bob’s emphasis on focused listening to Lester Young’s solos. These cool homework assignments have led me to greater appreciation of many songs that I already love in their standard form. I have expanded my knowledge of the structure of these songs, and Lester’s seemingly effortless phrasing has been inspiring me to write lyrics. I want to sing along with him! (I mentioned a bit more about my affection for Lester in my previous post about his solo on “I Never Knew“.)

I recently wrote a bunch of nonsense lyrics to his take on “Sometimes I’m Happy“. I do this occasionally when I write lyrics for a tune I am unfamiliar with–It helps me to get an idea of the rhythm of the phrases. I recently re-wrote the lyrics, better ones that I will not be ashamed to sing in public. I share those with you below. I also wrote some fun words that go along with Slam Stewart’s cool bass solo, but I will keep them to myself for now (*big smile*).

For those of you who are curious, the funny “placeholder” lyrics began: “Barbara wrap that steak up! I’m taking it along with me, don’t you see, now I can’t eat it? I don’t need it. But over on the East side, the people are so hungry; they’re crying out for milk and bread and all that I can give them is steak, cheese, and coffee…”


NOTE: If you are in the New York City area and would like to study with Bob Mover, I have scanned a copy of his current information flyer – click on the image below. Please feel free to contact him directly. www.BobMover.com


Sometimes I’m Happy
lyrics to Lester Young’s solo
© 2018 Laurie Early

Sometimes I am happy, and
sometimes I am oh, so blue over you.
Baby, the truth is
I’m crazy about you!

You know my disposition depends on your condition.
I’m always looking at your face
to see what mood could be rising
up to the surface. Oh…

Sometimes I love you,
but you know that there are times when I
start to sigh,
“Baby, oh how I hate you!”
But, I don’t hate you;

It’s only ‘cause I love you so much,
and I am trying not to cry.
I’m in love with you baby
you make me happy,
Yes! It’s time you knew,
so happy when I’m with you!

Tag:
Sometimes when I’m blue
and I’m thinking of you,
the things that you do,
the things that really make me happy,
I get a thrill inside,
(you really blow my mind!)
Every day is heavenly
now that you are mine.

Lester Young

April Showers of Poetry and Prose

Do I have regrets?
Yes, I do.
I do.
I regret every lost opportunity
to look towards you
and to smile,
(instead of looking down
at my feet,
or at your feet,
how lame!)

I should have
gazed more deeply into your eyes.
I should have
tried to say what I feel
but without words,
with a glance;
words were not needed.
(Are they needed now?)
Oh yes, I regret
that I was shy.
I regret
thinking that you could
read my mind,
thinking that you understood
that I could not
bear to look at you.
It was pure fear
you would see
how much you meant to me.
(You mean so very much to me.)
Do I have regrets?
I used to say, “No.”
but I realize now, that’s not true,
I regret every lost opportunity
with you.

Laurie Early, 2018 [Regrets]

Sorrow’s Garden – mixed media collage (c. Laurie Early)


He says: “the sun doesn’t know anything,
it’s just a stupid star.”

I die a little inside.
No poetry remains in his heart.

He doesn’t realize
all those “stupid stars”
know everything!
They know I fell in love.

-Laurie Early, 2018 [The intelligence of stars]


 

My fears are not about who you are or what you might have done in the past.
I see your light, your goodness, your passionate heart and creative spirit.
All of us have made crazy choices in life – that is how we learn what we truly want,
so, I find no fault in choosing to spend any time possible with you.
Do you wish to spend time with me too?
Oh, I would be filled with joy just to sit beside you in silence.
If you wish to fill that silence with conversation, or song,
then my heart will overflow.
If you wish to fill that silence with an embrace,
then my soul will forever be joined with yours
and my mind will bend to my heart’s determined longing.
My fear is that this is all a dream.
My fear is that if it is not a dream, that I will disappoint you, or cause you pain.
My fear is that I am not worthy of your affection.
My fear is that you have experienced so many things
and I have no experience in many things.
I fear I am ugly and old,
but if this is what I am, what choice do I have?
I can only be myself.
My fear is that myself will not be enough.
My fear is that I will give my life to you and you will abandon me.
My fear is that I will fall apart into a thousand pieces—
that I will beg you not to abandon me
as I watch you leave.
But, my greatest fear is not having you in my life at all.

Laurie Early, 2018 [My Fears]

“No Promises” collage by Laurie Early (c. 2017)

 

Roman Moments (I Never Knew)


I am back in New York now after a particularly poignant Barry Harris Jazz Workshop in Rome. It was really special being there with so many people that love jazz, Barry, and maybe even me a little too. At one point I was overcome with emotion as I looked around the room and realized I knew almost everyone by name and that some of the dearest people to me were there. People I truly love and cannot imagine living without.

At a casual “picnic” dinner a couple of days later I mentioned this epiphany to Barry and I thanked him for bringing so much joy and love into my life. After we finished eating he asked us to sing and I did an a capella rendition of one of Lester Young’s solos on “I Never Knew” – not as fast as Lester blows it out, but fast enough (I include my lyrics below). I had joked with Barry earlier in the week that Lester was my new boyfriend as I had spent every evening with him for the past couple of months. Barry laughed out loud at this revelation — he thought it was funny I was “hanging with the Pres“.

“Now I really know what love does–
Wakin’ us up like all those cars honkin’
(and they were really honkin’ man.)
I never really knew that life could be so sweet, but
now that I’ve got you here with me
I know how good my life can finally be.
I never knew, I never knew,
Oh my God, I really never knew.”

-Laurie Early (March 2018)


Here are some “snapshots” of the week:

Of course there were jazz cats, playing late into the night, making us happily sleep-deprived.

 

And, there were house cats, street cats, and cats keeping watch over storefronts.

 

 

I stayed in the San Lorenzo area of town. It rained and rained and rained this month. It was also unusually cold. But I did not mind because my heart was warm.

 

 Rome –  it is never the same two days in a row. The day it stopped raining this impromptu chess game appeared near my ATM (Bancomat).

 

 

💙 Yes,  I was very happy on Via dei Sabelli 💙


One of the cool things that happened in San Lorenzo was meeting the artist/sculptor, Franchina Casella, as she was decorating the outside of her studio on Via dei Reti.

 

She had a effervescent spirit that instantly lifted my already happy mood.  Her website is: www.franchinacasella.it

 

 

 

 


 

I NEVER KNEW
lyrics to Lester Young’s solo
© 2018 Laurie Early

Over my head, and I’m goin’ round in circles;
am I seeing clearly? (Everything is spinning…)

I never knew that roses grew,
all around the world, every single day.
I never knew, anytime breezes blew,
all the little birdies flew around me, and it didn’t mean a thing.

I never knew, when dreams come true,
I’d lose my cares like they never were there.
Now I’m aware your love’s a magic deep in my heart (yes, it is)
and baby, it’s good! (You know it)

Every little breeze that whispers ‘round me in the summertime,
or night-time, when the moon, is shining above,
blows all my cares away!
Now, the way I feel about you, baby, shows.
I cannot hide it, so what!
I don’t care now who knows.

Grab your coat I’m takin’ you out on the town,
out where all the music’s crazy, and pulsing;
Baby, hold on to me and never let me go!
No! I don’t want to lose you!

When you’re in my arms I know you hear my heart,
it’s beating now like there is no tomorrow
waiting out there for you and me.
Listen to the beating of my heart!
Listen to the rhythm of all that we share.
Baby, don’t you think it’s time that we just go
(where lights are turned down low?)

Baby, watch out for all those damn honkin’ cars!
Not up at stars!
Now, just look at me babe.
Won’t you trust in me? Please, baby.

Now I really know what love does–
Wakin’ us up like all those cars honkin’
(and they were really honkin’ man.)
I never really knew that life could be so sweet, but
now that I’ve got you here with me
I know how good my life can finally be.
I never knew, I never knew,
Oh my God, I really never knew.

[I never knew life could be so wonderful, No, I didn’t.
Just let those cars and breezes blow around us now.
Ain’t nothin’ goin’ stop us now that we know
.]


Melograno e Pera

Tips and Tricks on YouTube

YouTube is an inspirational online platform for musicians and songwriters. It is so much more than an online-radio. We know it is an easy, free, way to simply listen to a song, watch a movie, or listen to a “TED talk” but I suspect that many of us do not explore other ways it can serve us and our musical lives.

In this post I will list some of the things I do that work for me, but I wonder how other musicians use YouTube, and other free online tools, to assist them in honing their craft? (I would love to hear your tips and tricks. Please email me or comment.)

Okay! Let’s get cracking!


Tips and Tricks for Musical Studies on YouTube

YouTube Playlists: I use the playlist feature every day. You can create 3 types based on the privacy level you want:
* Public lists can be seen by and shared with anyone;
* Private lists can only be seen by YOU and the users you choose; * Unlisted lists can be only be seen by you and anyone who has the direct link.

Here is a list of some examples of musical studies playlists I have created (along with links to some examples on my channel). This is NOT all of them! I have too many personal lists to name; they inspire me, make me laugh, teach me how to speak Italian better, how to cook something the correct way…you name it, I might have a playlist for it!

  • Songs referenced each week in specific classes I attend – Great for reference and refreshing your memory, or, when friends ask what the song was last week, or last month. I try to find the most accurate version of the song, with as little embellishment as possible – unless a class assigns an instrumental version, or particular solo to study.
    See: “Jazz Standards – Barry’s Class
  • Backing tracks  – even though I love my iReal Pro for writing new tunes and practicing, there are some cool backing tracks on YouTube as well
  • A collection of songs that are in a particular book – I add them in the order they are listed in the book so I can listen while I review the sheet; this is not always possible to maintain as YouTube often deletes videos – so sad.
    See: “Italian Standards” Book referenced is: Italian Jazz Standards
  • Personal performance examples – build your brand! Create an unlisted playlist you can share with prospective venues/contacts; and/or a public collection to build your fanbase.
    See: YouTube Channel – Laurie Early
  • Jazz Theory classes – I will admit that I am WAY behind in my theory studies. Since I cannot physically attend classes everyday it is fantastic that they are always available when I have time. I especially love the classes posted in the last couple of years by BarryHarrisVideos: part of a collection of videos which Frans Elsen recorded during workshops that Barry Harris gave at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague between 1989 and 1998.
    See: “Jazz Theory
  • Lists dedicated to particular musicians and/or songwriters
  • Songs I want to learn – I actually have 3 types of playlists to keep track of cool tunes I want to learn:
    1. Basic “mixed” playlist where I save examples of a bunch of different songs I have heard.
    2. A playlist that is dedicated to one song, where I collect versions from various musicians, and in different musical styles. If it is a vocal song I usually include instrumental versions too because those are full of rich musical gold – magical phrases to inspire my vocal interpretation. And,

3. MY FAVORITE private playlist, a “faux-loop”. I love these! I create them all the time. Find the perfect version of the song or solo you want to study and create a new playlist with it. I usually name it “LOOP SongTitle”, something like that, and then I add it to the same playlist over and over as many times as I need it to repeat. Because I like to listen and study on my phone while I am walking or on public transportation, this saves me having to hit replay each time the song ends — or worse yet having it jump to another random song.
Once and a while you will have to endure an advertisement between plays, but to to me it is still a great timesaver. (And, depending on how well I have learned the piece, I adjust the speed of the playback using “Slow it Down” — described below.)
I have taken a a couple of screenshots of what this playlist looks like. You can even add a description – in my example “Sometimes I’m Happy” I needed to have Lester Young’s solo memorized by a class scheduled for February 1st, so I noted that for myself as a reminder.

  • In addition to the personalized View All Playlists page; I want to mention that there are a couple of built-in Playlists that require very little effort to use. (If you already have an account, you can easily reset or set the privacy.)
    1. “Liked” videos – saves everything you click LIKE on; easy peasy;
    2. “Watch Later” – Click the tiny ADD TO icon underneath the video window, click the “Watch Later” tick-box, and YouTube saves it for you to …surprise…watch LATER! If you don’t have any personal Playlists created it is a great way to collect a bunch of things quickly and look at them now or later. It is really easy to delete items too. And, then, last but not least,
    3. “History” (which updates automatically whenever you watch something) – you can clear it out whenever you feel so inclined, but if you are searching on a particular song and want to go back to one you listened to earlier but can’t remember how how you found it, it should be in your history. You can turn your history on and off

Slow it down*:

When trying to learn a solo, or to transcribe a phrase that flies by too fast for your brain to register, make use of the “Playback speed” function that is accessed by clicking on the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the video window.

In my “Sometimes I’m Happy” example, I found the 0.75x (3/4 speed) best for me as it did not distort the sound too much and I was able to more easily hear Lester Young’s triplets. For other songs I am studying, I have to listen at half speed in order to hear the full phrases clearly.

*A special thanks to Roger Crosdale, Saxophonist-UK, for telling me about this feature.

Subscriptions:

Subscribe to your friend’s channels  – Support your friends by subscribing to their channels and keep up with the types of things they are playing, check out their playlists, and see what channels they recommend.


Share cool stuff you find:

There is a famous line from Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” that goes “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” It pops in my mind now as I think about how I now rely on certain friends to point me in the direction of amazing songs and solos to listen to, study and inspire my writing. I depend on them now, and I say: “I can always depend on the kindness of my dear friends.” I try to share things with them too, and I hope they find what’s exciting to me to be equally exciting to them.

Change the start time:

Is there a specific section of a piece you need to reference, or share with a friend? YouTube has a way to narrow down where your video to start.

Let’s say you want to share Barry Harris’ version of “Un Poco Loco” from his “Live in Tokyo” album with a friend who is interested in that Bud Powell classic. It starts at about 36 minutes and 57 seconds into the full album linked here: https://youtu.be/N8UP7oFXeMw. Select “SHARE” in the bottom of the video window, click the little square that says “Start at” and then click on “COPY”. (The url will now look like this:  https://youtu.be/N8UP7oFXeMw?t=36m57s ) After you have your final url you can “paste” this address into a reference list, an email, or a social media post.

Problems you may run into:

As with everything in life, some things need to be tended, they cannot stay intact on their own, this is true of YouTube playlists as well. If you do not regularly listen to a public playlist, something you have created to share with your friends or the world at large, you should check it once and a while to make sure that videos have not suddenly been deleted or become private. You will need to manually delete them from the list so it flows easily from one video to the next. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what video has become unavailable AFTER it has “gone gray”, so if a particular list is needed for any reason it is a good idea to keep a record of what you had there, either in a real notebook (I’m talking hold in your hand, made of actual paper notebook), screen shots of your list, or other note-keeping app. This way you can search on YouTube to see if the video can be replaced by another version that IS available.

Another issue that I have experienced is getting an error message that a video is not available in your country. Make sure you test videos for proper playback before adding them to your playlist; if it doesn’t work for you, search for a version that does.

**NOTE: Mosaics featured on this page are of, and by, the artist Chuck Close (and others). They are photos taken in the 2nd Avenue subway stations. It was a special joy to visit there and see the wonderful, George Braith, and his “Braithophone” double-sax, immortalized in beautiful tile.