Kevin McPherson / Blog

Why push the envelope

Why should I? I mean there are plenty of easy roads out there that will put out great things and I can make money. Pushing the envelope in anything you do isn't about immediate satisfaction. It's about failing over and over and over, and then doing what you've been fighting for. This can be finally changing your own oil, grinding that rail at your school, or playing that lick that just seemed so out of reach. This is coming from playing an 8 measure part of Fantasia by Terrega over and over and over and over. It never got easier, and I could never seem to make it smooth. First off thank you to my teacher for giving me the tools needed to fix my issue. The issue however wouldn't stop, I'd play then for a millisecond pause and set up for this run. Problem is is that while it didn't sound "bad" it did sound perfect. Then today in the middle of a normal (some bad some good things) day I went for the run and did it. Okay luck I said, so I played again... solid... and again... solid... shoot why not a dozen times and each time solid. Hours and hours of beating a riff to death not only made it solid but made my fingers able to run it at a speed that for me on classical at least was pretty darn quick. Success in the little or big things isn't about a lucky break, and it isn't about knowing the right person. These things help, but "lucky" breaks come from constantly putting yourself to the grindstone day in and day out until you get reward. Not all, but many who are successful got there by making their own success. Working 90 hour weeks, knocking on doors and being motivated. Sometimes you just can't nail a riff one day, so do you quit, no, but put down the guitar play something else take a moment to let your hands and brain rest. Come back the next day slower than the day before and mentally prepared for a battle against your enemy. These things are important. As a guitarist I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to after day after day of classical work to turn around some times and say no classical for today. Grab my electric guitar amp or not and just start playing the things I like. The things that I am good at, and the things that make me happy. It's what you love doing, it still develops your talents, and it is your zen spot. Me personally I don't enjoy TV or video games as something I could just do for hours. Give me an instrument and no interruptions and I will not full scale stop (snacks and water breaks are needed) for as long as I can be where ever I am at. This brings me to my next point of doing what ever it is you are wanting to do. Do it where you enjoy it. Make what ever you are doing your own, and do so with your space as well. Playing outside on a porch watching the sun rise and fall is so much better then sitting in a cramped space where you have to stare at the same wall FOREVER. So if you have to use practice rooms at your school do what ever you have to do to make it comfortable. If that means throw crap all over the room, then do it. You are your best ally and your greatest enemy. If circumstances inhibit you then change your circumstances. If you can't then just hold out. Always always push yourself and strive to do better. The satisfaction after all the effort is worth. The amount of satisfaction follows parallel to the amount of failures before success.

What about when your sad?

Probably one of the most hilarious things I have heard on the topic is from How I Met Your Mother from Barney Stinson saying "when I get sad I just choose to not be sad." Now that sounds so much simpler than it is and sometimes we are just down. Let me offer this encouragement to you. When things get in your way and when things tear your down find something that doesn't. Find your inspiration or your "Juice" (Steve Vai). Staying motivated and inspired is perhaps one of the greatest struggles in life. When you find something that makes your heart just giggle with joy then you can focus. Sometimes "negative" emotions can be used for this but you can accomplish so much more when you have a motivated happy. You will think clearer, act with more precision, and be more productive. Hacking at something when the last thing you want to do is look at it means you are going to possibly accomplish something, but compared to when you are focused and determined for perfection. As a musician I am not saying don't play when you are sad are angry... shoot why do you think the blues exist. I find however when I am upset or experiencing any extreme emotion that the best thing to do is do what I enjoy until it's all out of my system and I am prepped and ready to do the next thing. Life sucks at times and we don't always have these luxuries, but there are ways to put your mind at ease. Find them, if it's pouring your heart into a metal track then do it, if it's listening to Katy Perry then do it. What ever makes you not sad do, and even if it doesn't remove your sadness do things to help you find center again. Sometimes all we have to do is find our center and then we can deal with anything outside of that. Remember you can't help things outside of your control only what you can control. Think about the things in life that either bring peace, or help you center yourself. Then take action and do the best you make yourself better.

Words are the obedient daughter of the music

The title is a quote from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, so it's safe to say he knew a thing or two about music. This is being said in a time period that history will look at and see for it's lyrical, and vocalists and the top 40 will not be remembered for instrumental feats. Do I have a problem with this, well no and yes. I understand that many people nejoy to simply hear singing and the words. After all the Catholic church believes the music should be simplified so that the words would hold greater importance than the music itself. That being said I feel as though as musicians we find ourselves stuck in a rut of comfort and simplicity. I love simple simple is great, but I do believe God made a lot more variables in music that we choose to avoid and that makes no sense to me. Music is a place of free and unlimited expression. Musicians and vocalist should then be knowledgeable about the instrumentation behind their text. Text can be portrayed without music, but it is far more difficult to portray music with text. Imagery, absolutely, but music purely itself with out melody and a rhythm, is far more difficult. I would challenge those as singers to seek out bold new worlds of music and find ways to expand their expressive qualities in music. I don't think every musician needs to be a dream theater instrumentalist, but I do believe that the vocalist as a whole should seek out or rely upon a vast amount of sound that has been discovered in the sound worlds, and then use that to develop a truly inspiring piece. Shoot interesting arrangements can make all the difference, but following a simple formula perhaps gets in the way of what the text is saying, vs. what it could say. Just my thoughts and not a hard and fast rule or opinion by any means.

What do you plan on doing with music?

This question is an incredibly irritating question. This however is irritating because most musicians don't know the answer. For good reason, and that is because music is a freelance world and so you are normally doing a lot of different jobs. Gig's, recording time, teaching, recording engineer, and accompaniment are some of the things that any working musician will do. Music is not a career path that is easy and is for sure note I said working musician. This means free, this means paying, and basically anything to throw your name out. Obviously the more gigs paying the better but either way. On a related note for those that wonder I and other serious musicians put in about 4 hours give or take a bit a day into our craft learning songs. Not just for our personal development but that means worship music, pop tunes, random classical pieces, or what ever else. Normally these things are well within the player's means, but that doesn't mean it doesn't take work. So next time a musician says ya that'll be 600 or 500 bucks remember for 3 hours of music he put in probably close to 200 hours of work, so 3 bucks an hour is a steal not to mention his own expenses. Anyway that's my take on a working musician y'all have a blessed life.

The Quality of Music

So the argument has been brought up about good and bad music? What is art and risque, and what is just plain out wrong? Well to be honest that depends on certain factors, and those factors vary from person to person. I believe we are all created differently to make some fantastic little puzzle. There is of course the controversy over Miley Cyrus' recent antics, but then we forget the leather buttless chaps that were sported by David Lee Roth. Now I don't know if that comparison should be made or can be, but it is something to consider. As far as music goes what makes something good or bad music is people saying it is. Some music is just good no matter how simple or complex. I would argue some is made for people who have no interest in actively listening, and then there is music for active listeners. I don't listen to Sum 41's "In Too Deep" for music brilliance, but in the same breath I will deep into the Symphonie Fantastique which requires intense active listening to understand there's a plot. So music can be good or bad, but is dependent on the listener. The only request I have to make of the listener is that you can always find bad, but you should instead find what is good in the music and say what's good, and make sure that is actually what is good. This action alone I believe will create an atmosphere of maybe not active, but intelligent listeners to bring music to a new high point.