From James Colby Townsend
(read with a slight taste of humor, ok? )
First and foremost, whether you’re a beginner just starting out on your first song or a seasoned virtuoso, we don’t want to discourage any of you from pursuing your dream. We want to help you to be all you can be. So skipping the obvious things that can undermine your musicianship, other than giving them an honorable mention, i.e. laziness, improper technique, carpal tunnel syndrome, loving baseball, football, basketball, softball, pinball, and everything else under the sun that has balls just a little too much, we’ll move on to something a little more obscure. *3. The Dictator* Probably all of us have run afoul of the dictator. This is a band member who thinks
he’s a solo artist and believes you to be his chew toy. You’re his enthralled automaton, and you are only a small part of the means by which his genius can be shared with the world. You might be fine with that. Perhaps you don’t care anything about writing music so long as you get to play it. That’s understandable. Many of us however get the itch to write and it must be scratched. A truley darkhearted dictator will have none of that. You show the band a new song you’ve been working on and he’ll remind you of your place with a concise, “We’re not playing it,” end of discussion. Or for a lighter example, you show off your new tune and it turns out to be the most awesome sounding arrangement they’ve heard in years. Even your dictator is impressed, but he has other ways of controlling you besides flat out cutting you off. He’ll say, “You’re playing that wrong,” even though you wrote it and there’s no way in Hell you could be playing it wrong. Then instead of writing complementary lines or bothering to learn how you pulled off this masterpiece, the piecemealing begins and when it’s all over your song is not only no longer your song (it’s not the same song at all now) but it’s just another casualty of the dictator’s dicky dickishness. If your working for an actual solo artist or a conductor, no matter how dicky they are, this section does not apply to you. Should the dictator’s ego not be wholly due to narcissism, he does have some real talent, and he was your friend long before he became your oppressor, you may want to try to salvage this mess. There’s only one thing you can do. Solution: Stage an interventional band meeting that’s likely to end in an altercation and prove to be the last band meeting. But if you feel it’s worth a shot, take it. If that fails, seek a replacement and tell Adolf goodbye. *2. Musical Intransigence* When one of us is guilty of this it’s almost certainly our own fault. If you were forced to listen to and only allowed to learn one genre of music your whole life, we all pity you. But if you do that on your own volition for very long you could seriously be screwing yourself over. Unlike having a mere strong personal preference for something, intransigence takes that choice and simply will not deviate from it. Not ever. Thinking back, you can pinpoint the exact moment when you heard that one song from that one band on that one album and you said to yourself, “This is it. This is what I’m going to do with my life.” Well, it’s decades later and that band (living, dead, or disbanded) has changed, but you haven’t. You’ve been transposing and slightly altering the same scales and chord progressions you used on your first 10 songs, and everything you write is a bastardized rip off of everything else you ever wrote. Now don’t take this wrong. If you’re making big bucks doing that, then more power to you. You and your fans all share the same predilection. But this is not about your fans or your money, it’s about your music, which would sound so much more interesting if you took the time to throw a monkey wrench in it every now and again. You don’t have to come out with an album that you know would only piss off your fanbase. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. If you’re into metal, introduce your fingers to some smooth jazz and ancient classical scales. If you’re into country, go hide in the closet and learn you something that’s not in 4/4 time in an alternative genre. Hip hop? Get into some death metal and folk maybe. Try anything outside of your comfort zone and it could add unheard of dimensions to your writing. Solution: Develope a taste for other types of music. If that fails, develope a split personality and find out from your friends if it developes a taste for other types of music. *1. DIY Chemical Neruosurgery* Welp, we’ve rehabilitated or gotten rid of our despot member. We’ve broadened our horizons with musical stylings that are totally new to us. Now what else can I do to better myself? Hmmmmm. How about drugs? How about some hardcore mindbending LSD and some H to come down with? There’s a controversy about this that makes it hard for a fence straddling diplomat to critique. On the one hand there’s the possibility that it will accomplish what you hoped for. It might open certain doors and give you ideations the whole world will marvel at. Unfortunately it can also open you to things that you’ll rue for the rest of your life and that (if it gets out) the whole world will marvel at, but in a bad way. At worst it could land you in jail, in a public service announcement, in a Cracked picture for zany giggles, or at the absolute worst – an untimely demise, thus depriving us of the music you might’ve written (you jerk). It could go either way. We can’t deny there are famous musicians out there who’s work got better after tonguing the blotter. And there are famous ones who started off in that position who quit it, kept the music going, and are better now than they’ve ever been. Here we must abandon the majestic plural, ‘we,’ for the personal pronoun, ‘I,’ for a moment. I was fortunate enough to be counted amongst you that are blessed with an inharent proclivity for music. I was also blessed with passed on traits that make me very susceptible to mental illness and drug addiction. Long story short, I started off dead sober writing and learning whatever I wanted with no problems, ended up with a few really close musician friends and a lot of acquaintances, and we were constantly plotting different projects. Then came the drugs. All of the drugs. The harder, the better. Sweet, sweet drugs. Did this improve my writing? I didn’t care if it did or not, that wasn’t why I started drugs. Before it was over I just wanted to see what the world was like through Grandma’ Q’s eyes, which was a stark raving mad thing to want in the first place because she was crazy. Not funny crazy… Get yourself killed in a fit of dementia crazy. Wanting to experience something symptomatic of a condition that leads to such things indicates you’ve already got a foot in the door. Did it improve my fellow musician’s writing? A few of them, perhaps. There are those of us who managed to escape the drug scene and are still going strong. And there are those still in it to this day still going strong. Albeit, most of those who didn’t escape are either dead now or so messed up they can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Once again, it could go either way. A majority of us are touched with some sort of mental illness to begin with. You can take advantage of this without exacerbating the problem by throwing gas on the fire. There are other ways to nurture insanity. Solution: Don’t do it. Or at least don’t do anything that could get you killed. If that fails – you didn’t learn it from us. *And 0. Screw it, let’s talk about balls* Balls… Balls, balls, balls, balls, balls. Ummmum. You love balls. You can’t get enough of them. The earth is a ball… The sun and the moon are balls… The invisible atoms that make up your body and the sun, and the earth and moon that you look at with your eyeballs are pretty much balls. Reality is a fractal of balls. Microcosmic balls orbiting balls, building up into great big super sized whopper balls orbiting balls. No wonder you love them. It’s alright to stand in awe filled terror at the place God has temporarily quarantined us to for a little bit. Just like it’s alright to watch your favorite ball team when they come on and you have no prior obligations, or you can have them recorded to watch later. But that’s not you. You’re the guy who neglects his duty over every local or televised ball game that goes down… It’s not alright to worship the balls. You’ve taken the love of balls to a forbidden level. Your band mates have been working with you on songs and set lists every available moment. Then baseball season hits and you disappear for two weeks, then two months, missing practice and forgetting half the songs so that everything has to be put on hold for the sake of catching you up. Then football and basketball and whatever ball whisks you away also. You’re an awesome musician when it comes down to it, but now your head is filled with tv commercial jingles and sports scores instead of musical scores. You’re not just undermining yourself, you’re undermining your band. Shame on you. We fear your ever riding in the back of a truck and having someone toss a ball across your path out another vehicle because you might jump out after it. Solution: There is no known solution for this. Absolute zero. If that’s not true, cut your balls off. Or cut yourself off from your balls. Or – something like that. J.C.T.