#27 Discover Your Voice
I have been contemplating the moment to write this chapter for some while. My approach is to write chapters at significant moments, usually memorable milestones and accomplishments. I envisioned the milestone at which I would write this update being the completion of Week 12 of Chris Liepe’s Discover Your Voice course.
But I find myself conflicted, my focus on that final week is vacillating. The first lesson is complete. Now I find a combination of my not finding the next two lessons inspiring plus the choice to turn my attention to Simple Blues Lead (you can follow that here if you have nothing better to do with your time) and ongoing work to develop my Camp-Fire Repertoire (those songs I can play for a live audience from memory) which takes me quite some effort to learn the lyrics, practice and rehearse to my own sense of acceptable performance-grade, has delayed and shifted that expected milestone (at this moment I may not complete those two lessons).
Then MGF @brianlarsen
You may be familiar with the TLA BFF (Best Friends Forever) which seems inappropriate here but MGF (My Good Friend) works for me, as I have many MGFs here. We may never meet face-face in the physical, but should you find yourself in Jhb, I would love to meet and would offer you a sofa (best I can do at this stage) without hesitation.
brought Neil Gaiman into focus. I have known of Neil Gaiman for some while, though am yet to read any of his books. I did read a wonderful foreward he wrote for a re-print of Terry Prattchet’s Good Omens (if I recall correctly). And given that he is the principle of the first part of this update, it feels like now is the time.
MGF @sairfingers you probably have already made yourself a cuppa or poured a dram (depending on time of day) should you have come across and opted to give it a read. But if not I suggest you do, perhaps snacks as well, as I fear it will be another long one (hope it doesn’t break the platform).
So let’s get on with it …
If you have never watched Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Address delivered to the 2012 graduating class of the University of Arts I suggest you do. In fact, if pressed for time, I’d recommend that over reading the rest of this.
In it he talks about finding your own voice as an artist. He speaks about how initially we copy, that it is an essential step in an artists development. And eventually we find ourselves out there, feeling vulnerable, wondering if we are exposing too much. He says this is a good place to be. I, in my own limited way, relate to this feeling when I produce a rare original song. It makes me feel OK when I perform covers that are a relatively poor rendition of the original, both in playing and singing. On the singing particularly in the way in which I alter the original melodies. MGF @Richard_close2u highlighted this after hearing me have a go at a Neil Young song in Community OM6. It also became a line of patter at my local face-face OM last Thursday night, when playing 3 more from my repertoire. Gaiman is inspirational to me and my artist brother. Our weekly WhatsApp get together, generally ends with the call to “Make Good Art”.
Continuing in this vein of discovery, MGF @SS7 made mention of Philip Toshio Sudo’s wonderful book Zen Guitar. It is about mindset. A mindset based on Zen philosophy. There are so many quotes, even just in the Welcome, that I find inspirational. It all begins with:
Zen Guitar is nothing more than playing the song we’re all born with inside us - the song that makes us human. Any one of us can do it. The music is waiting there to be unlocked.
This dojo will give you the key.
Sudo speaks of his Zen Guitar Dojo, dojo, the "place of the way’. JustinGuitar is my dojo. Justin and Richard being my sensei, the “ones who have gone before”. That said I learn much from fellow unsui, “literally truth-seeker or travelling monk” who have also gone where I am going.
As I was sitting outside a pharmacy this morning, passing the time till opening reading the Welcome and Beginner’s Mind chapters again, I kept mental-noting quotes to share. Rather than share more quotes, if you are still reading, then maybe now is the time to leave me and spend some time on the website.
Both Gaiman and Sudo inspire and encourage me to keep learning, discovering, playing, that never-ending adventure to discover the music within me, to discover my own voice, to make music that brings me joy, and maybe others who may hear it.
And it brings me to the third and final part of this update. This is now no longer the grand reveal I’d anticipated since I shared my decision to focus on my singing ability in my last chapter. I had anticipated completing week 12 before Dec 16, 2021 but it didn’t turn out that way. And that is fine, the path to “the mountain”, that Gaiman spoke of, is not a linear simple path, it winds it’s way, many unexpected twists and turns.
I have been encouraged to focus on my singing by a number of MGFs over the years. Brian was one, @batwoman and @LBro, two more, and my apologies if my memory fails me and you read this thinking 'here, what about me, I also did?". In mid-2020 I received a link to Chris Liepe’s free training, I suspect from either LBro or Maggie. I watched the first video, briefly tried the first exercises, and didn’t follow through.
No doubt with me, the moment has to be just right. What is ‘just right’, don’t ask me. I am by nature a little spontaneous and unstructured. The moment was not right. At the start of my 2020 summer vacation, I went back to the first lesson and began to practice on a near-daily basis. Just before Christmas I received one of those marketing emails from Chris Liepe, a mailer sent to those on his mailing list by virtue of signing up for the free training.
The moment was just right. I bought the course and it became the focus of 2021, at least until I ran out of steam towards the end of the year, and, post a visit by the muse, turned my attention to producing an original song.
And the focus is yet to return to singing, the process of learning through lessons followed by deliberate practice. Perhaps it is the lack of inspiration when I watch the remaining lessons, perhaps it is the focus on blues lead. It matters not. When the time is right, I’ll return.
For now, I can reflect with satisfaction on the improvement in my ability to sing. I sense it in my own self-assessment. But I am always cautious of the risk of self-deception, so am grateful for all the comments from my wife, MGFs here, friends (yet to become good) at TJs OMs, and (goodness me, how fortunate I am) even Justin after watching my performance in OM6, that affirm my self-assessment.
For those of you out there perhaps thinking that learning to play guitar is a possibility but singing truly is that thing that can only be developed to a reasonable level of mastery by those with innate ability, I suggest that my own experience is a demonstration that it too can be learned. Having said that, I am not suggesting that anybody can become a professional performing singer. And we will all learn at our own pace, based on the ability we have (however achieved) when we embark on the singing path and the dedication and discipline of our study and practice. And in doing so we will develop a level of ability that is better than the current. And that level of ability may be constrained by many factors. But nevertheless, if you want to sing, want to improve your singing, I believe you can without a doubt do so.
Now I continue my adventure, learning to play and sing, currently learning to play the blues, continuing down the path to discover my voice, here in the JustinGuitar Dojo with My Good Friends.
I’d award you a medal if you are still reading, you have stamina that will serve you well in whatever you may pursue.
Till the next chapter, take care, be well, keep on keeping on!
My YouTube Channel | SoundCloud Years Archive
Guitars: Fender Paramount PM-1 Deluxe | Honer Resonator | Epiphone LP Standard Pro | Celebrity CC67 (Nashville strung)
Amp: Blackstar ID15:TVP
Pedals: TC Helicon Play Acoustic | TC Electronics Ditto Looper
Mics: Samson CO3 | AKG D5 | Shure 545SD Unidyne III
AI: Focusrite Scarlet 2i2
Software Tools: Reaper | Guitar Pro
Learning Log Chapters
#26 5th JGVersary
#25 The three types of songs
#24 Biennial (The SoundCloud Years)
#23 About the 3Ps: Practicing Playing Performing
#22 Funny how it goes, just going as it flows
#21 My 4th JGversary
#20 5000th Forum post and 4 keys to learning
#19 My 3rd JGversary
#18 First Open Mic and setting up the Playroom
#17 My 2nd JGversary
#16 First live performance
#15 First two originals and winning the Forum Contest
#14 18 month update
#13 My 1st JGversary
#12 Going beyond my dreams
#11 September songs and success
#10 RC up to date, 8.5 month reflection
#9 A severe attack of GAS
#8 It’s not a linear journey
#7 Consolidation, Forum Contest, and BC Stage 4
#6 The onset of GAS
#5 Joining the Community and my first recording
#4 First time playing in public
#3 Beginning Justin’s BC
#2 Starting the guitar adventure
#1 Discovering a love of music