Later on in the conversation


The creative wow

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I have learned a little about the creative process. It seems to me you have to do the rank and file work everyday, staying at it patiently. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you may never produce anything, for all I know.

For me, this creative blast comes seldom. In high school, I did a great many paintings. Some of them I labored over for months. Then one day an idea hit me in the morning. I started the piece that morning and finished it before the end of the day. It went on to win an award in the Governor's Art Exhibition. They chose the piece out of thousands of entries. It made it into the top three hundred, so it was showcased in Columbus. An example of what I'm calling the "creative burst."

I know of a circle where a great deal of value is put on this creative burst. They have a fascination with the idea that God himself breathed through the artist. As though the piece were absolutely celestial just because it came to the artist start to finish in a ridiculously short amount of time. The writing of Handel's Messiah was like that. According to Wikipedia, it took just twenty-four days.

But I'm not so sure that's the best focus, celebrating this piece that flowed out of the artist so easily. It may just be the way the creative process rolls. I think of it this way: you pay your dues, and eventually something really beautiful spreads itself across the page.

“When the creative impulse sweeps over you, grab it. You grab it and honor it and use it, because momentum is a rare gift.”

― Justina Chen Headley, North of Beautiful

A rare gift indeed. But the preparation for it to happen is lengthy and sometimes laborious.


Posted on August 13, 2012 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Counterpoint. I have only done a handful of these, so I'm far from expert. I bring it up because I found it  challenging. Maybe you will, too.

Here is a great intro, as far as I'm concerned. He or she gives you some "bass lines" to build a "melody" line over (very difficult to explain, since both lines have melody aspects to them.) And hey, value for your money (Since it's free.)

This explanation is much clearer than the one on Wiki, but Wiki gets into writing more than two lines together.

I looked around a little more for something to share with you, but this is all I found.

Blues aab form and abc

Posted on July 23, 2012 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I was only familiar with the aab form of the blues. Each letter represents four measures. So you might have heard Jimi Hendrix sing

I might as well go on back down, go back 'cross yonder over the hill.

I might as well go back over yonder way back yonder 'cross the hill, (That's where I come from)

'Cos if my baby don't love me no more, I know her sister will!

Note that for the most part the first two sentences are the same. These are shown as being the letter "a" above. The last line is different, a punchline with different wording than the first two sentences. This difference is represented by the letter "b" as written above.

If you rather get schooled by a class of second graders wielding autoharps, then by all means, avail yourself of the opportunity.

There is also the aaa form. I'm not going to say anything else about that, but you can hear a good example here.

What I wanted to draw your attention to is the possibility of the form being abc. Here each group of four measures is different from the others. It might sound like Charlie Parker is starting with a solo, but that's not the case. Here's another from Parker, same set up: abc form. I can't decide if I find the animated score annoying or engaging. I guess if I have to think about it in order to decide, that pretty well says it all...

Jazz tune: blues by five

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

"Blues by Five" is a piece I love. Probably mostly because it's a blues, but it's really up tempo. You can listen to it here. I have simplified it, and I think what I've come up with works well.

This is the melody, or lead sheet. Give it a minute or two to load - it's a 3 mg file. I've included a couple sheets showing the original changes (chord progression) and the original bass line.

Here are two things I came up with: different changes along with a bass line I like much better than the original.

This last bit is a supplement they provide to go along with the lead sheet.

So knock yourself out. I hope you enjoy yourself with this.

My piano lessons

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I had to be encouraged to take them, but I'm at piano lessons again. My teacher is the very competant Patrick (we're not on a last name basis yet) who graduated from the Dana School of Music.

He has taught me a lot about Roman Numeral Analysis. I thought I knew a lot about chords and how they worked together until I started looking through this lens at them. FYI, there's not much helpful material online about this subject. I should check my local libraries next. I asked him about a good book on it, and he mentioned the textbook he used, but said it was pretty expensive. I thought maybe I could get an earlier edition of it cheaper.

Also he tolerates my forays into jazz. What I'm working on right now is "Blues by Five" by Red Garland. I've set the melody as single notes with a Bb jazz blues progression in the left hand. It runs as follows:


Bb7 / B7 / Bb7 / F-7 b5   bE b5 b9 /


Eb7 / E dim / Bb7 A7 / Ab7 G7 /


Eb7 F#7 / F13 / Bb9 G7 / F#7 F 7 /



I didn't care too much for the bass line they had transcribed, so I wrote a bass line for it. I'm pretty pleased with it.

 My current assignment is to put the chords back in my life by switching them to the left hand and doing some soloing over them with my right. I don't know if I'm sufficiently jazzy enough to pull that off, but you have to start somewhere. I'm liking the Bb blues scale and the C whole tone for the solos at this point.

 Solfege syllables came up in one lesson, and I decided I need to learn more about those - I know the "Do, a deer" song, but not much more beyond that. So I'm taking the bass line I was just talking about and rendering it in solfege syllables.

So, I've learned (and am learning) a lot. The bitter pill (should I take the blue one or the red one?) is he leaves after this summer. He's going to grad school which will take him out of state. If all goes well (for me, not him +smirk), I'll have his influence until August. We'll see if I continue lessons after that. I've probably missed church several times because I was tired after what I had to do that week and the piano lesson on top of it.

Just felt like sharing what I'm working on right now and so I did.



Strong and weak basslines, consonance and dissonance

Posted on December 14, 2011 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I want to give you a little more on writing bass lines. This doesn’t come from the book on bass lines I mentioned.

There are at least two types of bass movement:  weak and strong. A bass line can move a half step, step, or a third. This interval is a weak one.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth are strong jumps. Don’t be fooled. You want both types, weak and strong, to round out your bass line.

Piano players can benefit from this idea by using different pitches in the bottomost note of chords played with the left hand.

I don’t remember where in the continuum sevenths and tritones come into play.


A slightly similar idea is consonance and dissonance. These ideas give variety and contrast to the chord progression you are writing. One author I read stated variety isn’t the main purpose of dissonance. He said it imparts a sense of movement. Maybe many listeners hear a dissonant chord and desire to move on to a more consonant one? Not sure on that one.

Consonance and dissonance relate to value in visual art. Black stops the eye, white makes it move. You create eye path by using varying shades, the eye moving all over the piece, stopping and going. In my mind consonance and dissonance work the same way.



Connections between art and music

Posted on November 22, 2011 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

In this blog we explore connections between visual art and music.

Arthur C. Edwards' The Art of Melody influenced me to think along these lines. Specifically I mean the elements and principles of art as I learned them, and their counterparts in writing music.

I had a great teacher in high school named Janis Yereb. I’m proud of her. I knew she was a good teacher by my experience with her, but she also was Greatest Teacher All Ohio my sophomore year. The principles and elements she taught me were

Elements.                                                        Principles.


Line                                                                 Balance

Shape                                                              Dominance

Form                                                                Repetition

Value                                                               Eyepath

Color                                                                SpatialRelationship

Size                                                                 Unity

Direction                                                           Rhythm(?)

Texture                                                             And I forget the last one of these.


Eye path would transfer nicely to rhythm. You carry the listener around a musical piece by emphasis of certain lines or sections. By using dynamics, for example.

Line, especially with the idea of varying line thickness,could become texture in music.

The principle of dominance could relate to which instrument has the melody or to the way certain instruments can overpower others.

Size could correlate to large and small intervals. Not just the sound of them, but the shape they occupy on a piece of written music as well.

Repetition could be thought of as literal repetition of notes, phrases, and chord progressions.

I didn’t find any of these art concepts to transfer over to the ideas of retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion. Maybe you can think of something that would work for that.

These days I don’t do any art, really, unless you count arranging leaves and pine needles on my piano bench. Which I count. But I’m not painting, that’s all I mean to say. These days I’m writing and making music at my piano.

Hope you are, too.


Taking the bass out for a walk

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Today I'm going to talk about a book I just bought. It is a tutor to teach you walking basslines (you know, for jazz music).


They give four foundational approaches: 

Use scale tones. If you're working in the key of bB, you can use bB mixolydian mode for content of the bassline.

The second idea is to arpeggiate chords. I know, hardly a new idea. Stay with me, maybe we'll learn something as we continue. In fact, I know I did.


The third idea is to use chromatic approach tones. This was new to me. On beat four, you use a tone that is a half step away from the first note of the next bar. So you're playing along over a bB7 chord, and then you stick an "e" note on beat four, anticipating the resolution on beat one of an "f" note (over a F7 chord).


The last idea is V to I movement. I play piano, not bass, so this too was a novel idea to me. You are playing over an F7 chord, and you want to go back to bB7. On beat four, you play  a "c" note, and c being the fifth of F, the note forcefully presses in that direction. Giving a sense of resolution.


Walking the bass on piano can be interesting, because the bassline wasn't prepared with the piano in mind. I find I often have to make all sorts of awkward fingering changes to follow along with the basslines written in the book.


If it makes any difference to you, the book comes with a cd of Fuqua playing bass with a jazz trio. You can turn off the bass track and play along with the rest of the group. Probably ten or twelve different sets of changes for you to walk on.


There's a lot more - this is only a start, but I thought you might like to look at it. The book is called "Walking Bassics," and it's by Ed Fuqua et. al.


Happy Hunting.


Or, "Lord bless you."


Or (if you prefer), "Resurrection blessings."


Or, "I'm going to go sit in a closet now."

Music and Fibonnachi's scales

Posted on September 26, 2011 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a string of numbers called "Fibonacci's sequence." It comes from a problem generated by two rabbits and their offspring. You don't need to know that. I threw it in for no additional cost to you, seeing as we are having these troubling economic times. See how well I take care of you, gentle reader?


Like somebody would pay to read my barely coherent rumblings. Yes, I said "rumblings," and not "ramblings."



Fibonacci's sequence is as follows:




If you want to know more about where this bunch of numbers comes from, look here.


There's a lot out there on this sequence, and its kissing cousin, "the Golden Ratio." This ratio shows up in nature and other places.

Divide any of the above numbers by the number that immediately precedes it, and it  generates a number that is close to two-thirds - the Golden Ratio. It approaches .6180555, give or take.


The scales based on this number are below, starting with the words, "I came up..."



This number pops up all over the place, including nature and art. It may be where we get the idea to break up a work of art into the rule of things, sorry, thirds. Rule of thirds.


How does this number relate to the Fall? Was this number different prior to that, and all nature different because of it? What do you think?



I came up with a couple pentatonic scales based on the sequence.


c, d, f, #f, and b flat. This scale is very close to the Iwato scale. Change the d to a #c, and you're in business.


Another scale: c, e, a, f, g. My made up rule is you have to play the "a" anytime you cross it. So you're playing the "e" and you want to go to "f." In between the two, you must play that "a." See what you can do with it.


Another scale is simply the note, "b." The last scale I'll give you is #c, be, e natural, g, a flat, a, and b. Has a minor sound to it if you play all the notes in a row.


So now you know a bit about that!




Visualizing scales

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Hey. Today I want to share with you something a way of looking at scales. You need a number of blocks, or failing that, some coins.

I haven't seen this anywhere, though I'm sure it is out there somewhere. Let me show you what a major scale looks like using this system and then I'll explain it.

each O = a block


If we were visualizing a C major scale, the first block would be the note "c," the next block would be "d," and on up the major scale. This set up also shows us the steps or half steps between each block. If there's a space, that means the next block is a step away. If the blocks are pushed together, the distance between the two blocks is a half step.

Dorian looks like this:


A very symmetric scale. I was studying it a few nights ago and wondered what I'd get if I slid the two middle blocks together. It looks like this:


Yet another symmetric scale. IF you start it on "d," the notes are: d, e, f, #f, b flat, b, c, d. This held my interest for some time. I like the mode that starts with the "e" note. Still exploring the other modes. I call it my Bipolar scale since it exists as a collection of extremes on one end and the other, like Bipolar Disorder tends toward depression or mania.

So there's something for you to think about.

Turning words into melodies

Posted on August 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Here's something off the beaten track. Strictly for fun, as I see it. It assigns pitches to the letters of the alphabet. You could use it as a tool, I suppose, but my experiments along those lines have left me unsatisfied.

And hey, it's the Internet. If someone can think it up, no matter how bizarre, somebody else has already put it up on a web page. So here's my little contribution along those lines.

There are eleven discreet pitches on a piano or many other instruments. To do my little game, you set up the letters of the alphabet and match these pitches to them. Like so:










 J..a (b flat)


Once you reach this point, you can do a number of things, I suppose. I start the whole thing over, so with my system you get










V..a (b flat again)


And now I start over again:



This system gives you a pitch for each letter of the alphabet, but it's unbalanced in a couple ways. Say you are turning the word "aardvark" into pitches. The note "c" will show up three times in your translation. More broadly, vowels and certain consonants will show up more often. You almost never get a "K," which I notice because it's associated with my favorite prime number (ask me about that later).

I've done something to rectify that situation, but it will have to wait until I do another blog on this subject (yes, I'm that much of a music geek that I have more ideas on this subject.) Speaking of more ideas....

Each letter of the alphabet can also be assigned a pitch using "The A.B.C's." (Also known as "the alphabet song.") The gif on the right shows which pitches are assigned to each letter. Again you get double assignment, although here it's A B and C that get a second possible pitch.

So there's that. Don't say I never gave you anything.






Posted on June 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM Comments comments (0)

Let's talk about yet another of the many topics in music I don't know anything about. Today we discuss counterpoint.


Writing counterpoint requires a good bit of mental juggling. The best definition I found was this: "counterpoint. The ability, unique to mus., to say two things at once comprehensibly." I found that definition at this site:



I have a book called "Counterpoint" by Walter Piston. I did not find it nearly as helpful as the following pdf. Search for (I used the Bing search) "davesmey pdf first" The first result is the one you want. The book I mentioned is pretty complicated and you don't get off and running for some time. The pdf gives an example or two and a number of rules, and then encourages you to write your own counterpoint. I got a couple short lines composed (did I mention he or she presents a LOT of rules?). If I knew what I did with them, I would post them here. Alas, I am chronically and simultaneously organized and disorganized.


Take the following link (it will say it can't find what you want and then redirect you to a page. Select "counterpointer." ;

This software looked interesting but they want 65 dollars for it, and they offer no free trial. I don't know, I migh try it some soon day. Just seems a lot of money to plunk down without really knowing what you're getting or how many times you'll use it.


Have a pleasant day today. May all that's dark be light for you.