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March 15th, 2013

It’s not All Persecution and Fasting

Sorry for staying away so long. I will try to catch up.

The music is going incredibly well. I haven’t done much in the way of composing over the last week or so, but I have a good reason. I have realized I will never get anywhere until the music–notation as well as sound–is in my head. Therefore I am going back to various exercises intended to improve my ear, familiarize me with rhythm, and help me sight-read.

Sight-reading is important because, like transcribing, it helps you see music instead of notes when you look at a page. Some people get to the point where they hear music as they read it. That would be a great thing to have. Whether I get it or not, I am determined to get to the point where I’m not totally dependent on notation software to tell me what my written music will sound like.

I’m studying intervals, or at least, I was. I’ve been learning to recognize the twelve basic intervals by ear, using an incredible phone app called Interval Recognition. It plays an interval, and you have to push one of twelve buttons, identifying it.

I used this a while back, and it worked well, but this time, it’s going way better. Over the last week or so, I’ve improved a lot, and today I reached the point where I don’t get any questions wrong. I am also replaying the intervals forward and backward in my head after I hear them, involuntarily. I think that represents a big improvement in my musical memory. Things are going so well I’m going from 15 minutes a day to 5.

Rhythm…what a pain. The first time I studied piano, my teacher–swell guy though he was–did not push rhythm study much. He was a classical pianist, and although I may get yelled at for it, I’ll say it: I don’t think their timing is that good. I think you can learn a lot more from someone who teaches a drum line in a public school. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but you CAN’T PLAY DRUMS IN A GROUP UNLESS YOU CAN READ RHYTHMS. Or you have to have a flawless memory. Am I right, or what?

My current teacher, who is, for good reason, incredibly opinionated, says the wrong pitch in the right place is a right note, whereas the right pitch in the wrong place is a wrong note. He’s right. Pitch is much more easily understood than rhythm. You can memorize all the intervals by ear in a couple of days. Try that with notes and rests. Good luck.

I fired up Musition, a training program made by the Sibelius people, and for the first time since I’ve had it, I got it to work with no latency. In the past, the sound didn’t work right, and the notes played late, and it was useless. I downloaded an upgrade, and I was off..

Musition has a PHENOMENAL rhythm-teaching tool called “rhythm tapping.” It shows you a few measures of notes (all the same pitch), and you have to tap out the notes as a “metronome” plays. You have to screw around with it to make it fast, so it moves from one exercise to the next quickly. Once you figure that out, it’s blazing fast. It has one major problem: the jump from the fifth level to the sixth level is impossible. You go straight from eighth notes to sixteenth notes, and it throws them at you in 9/8 and 12/8 time, at high speed. You can get around that by creating a custom level. Which I did. So now it’s perfect.

I happened to come across an old floppy containing a program called Note Play. This works with a MIDI keyboard. It puts notes on the screen (different pitches), and you have to play them back. It’s a game. You get a score, and you get bonus points and extra time. It’s highly addictive. My PC has no floppy port, but I have an old computer in my bedroom, and guess what it has? I easily defeated the moronic security measures intended to prevent people from installing it without the floppy, and now I have it on my regular computer. It’s very good. You can get it from Alfred Music. Presumably, they have a CD version by now.

I dug out my old piano sight-reading book. I finally realized you don’t need a piano to study rhythm reading. I take the hardest pages, and I sit down and tap them out with my finger, on the book itself. It sounds awful, but it’s actually fast and highly effective. It got me to the point where I could sort of handle sixteenth notes, and today I moved to the custom level on Musition.

I pulled out a few piano pieces I used to play, figuring it would help to look at them. I found out something interesting. I used to play a simple piece called “Walking Bass Blues,” which I really liked, and for which I wrote variations. A lady named Arletta O’Hearn wrote it. I used to think she was just some goofball who wrote practice books, but it turns out she’s a real composer. No wonder I liked that piece. I started fooling with it a few days ago, and my fingers seemed to remember nothing. Every day, I got better, and today I can play it again! I can even play triplets over quarter notes again. I got so excited, I dusted off the grand piano and went to work. I emailed my tuner, and he’ll be out as soon as he can make it.

I’m thrilled about the rhythm stuff. You can’t do anything with sheet music unless you can read and understand rhythms fluently. That’s just a fact. I have to be able to look at a rhythm and hear it in my head. I started by counting things out, but now I’m switching between counting and feeling the rhythms. I find myself going back and forth, doing one or the other. That suits me just fine, because I want to be good at both.

I’m also remembering measures well. When Musition gives me three measures to play, sometimes I find myself looking away from the computer before the third measure starts, because I know what it’s going to sound like. That’s something I need. You have to be able to look ahead when you read music, especially if, like me, you are having problems remembering pieces you’ve learned.

Franz Liszt could take an orchestral score, play a piano version of it at sight, and provide comments and alterations at the same time. I don’t see that happening to me any time soon, but it shows how far some people have gotten. I wish I had done this when I was six. Reading was a total breeze for me. I never moved my lips. When I was a kid, I had a bigger vocabulary than most adults. I read smoothly. I heard the words as I saw them. I would have been really good at reading music, had I started earlier. I’m hoping aptitude will provide some compensation for age.

I see the things that are happening to me as a release from bondage. Very powerful things are happening at my church. The push for prayer in tongues continues. People keep getting revelation. The other day my pastor prophesied that things would change for us. He said we should not hesitate to plant seeds, because this time, they would grow. Well, now. Isn’t that what’s happening to me? Over the last two weeks I’ve been beating things I couldn’t beat in three years of musical study. I have copyright registrations on the way for six pieces of music. I’m even exercising again.

Funny thing happened while I was using my pricey exercise bike. The pulse sensors never worked right, and Nautilus was not willing to fix them, and when I got on the bike the other day, one of the LEDs on the display had pooped out. Great. I prayed about it, thought. Now the LED works, and the pulse meter is working, too. How about that?

My pastor had a word for us. He preached about “Baal-Perazim,” which means “possessor of the breakthrough.” He told us we were going to experience breakthroughs. This comported completely with things that had been going on with me, and with revelations God had been giving me. I had come to see the earth as surrounded by the lies–the floods or waters–of the enemy, and I had come to see God as lifting me above them, into the area where he works miracles. I believe I have broken through.

My prayer life keeps blowing up. Sometimes it seems like it can’t get any better, but I know it will. The progress never stops.

I’ve learned a few useful things.

First of all, prayer in tongues continues to work. The more, the better. No denying it.

Second, the name of Jesus is important. No Biblical figure ever said God would not hear you unless you used it, but if you’re a Christian, and you are trying to serve, it helps. I’ve found that something very strange happens during prayer in tongues. If you pause once in a while to say you’re praying in the name of Jesus, faith will shoot up inside you in a sort of explosion. It’s wild. It’s as if prayer in tongues fills a bowl with gasoline, and adding the name of Jesus tosses in a lit match. You may not be able to discern it now, but I’m sure it will happen anyway.

Third, you should thank and glorify God throughout the day. In this way, you can hold the windows of heaven open. It’s a challenge to handle daily responsibilities and still stay close to God. If you thank God and glorify him, even a few times every half-hour, you will find yourself drawn back into his presence. It works. Try it.

We expect too little from God. Over and over, he tells us he will do things that far exceed our expectations, yet we think we make him happy when we brag that we don’t ask much. Life can be much, much better than it is. God is a good boss. He does not expect us to be like workers who have unsatisfying jobs they hate, and he is far more powerful than the enemy. A while back, I realized Satan is like a Chihuahua that barks very loud. He’s not a god. He’s not that smart. He’s not that tough. He has to be taken seriously, but he is not as strong as we make him out to be. All that barking has paid off. The Bible says he roams the streets AS a roaring lion. It doesn’t say he IS a lion. And besides, lions roar to make themselves seem bigger and stronger. They even have manes for that.

I think music is going to continue exploding for me this year. God is working wonders. I hope you get the same results, or better ones.

7 Responses to “God WORKS”

  1. Juan Paxety Says:

    For learning to hear the music in your head, and transcribe it, nothing beats sight singing. There are books of exercises, but you can take any simple melody with steps and leaps in the intervals. Play the first note on the piano, then try to sing the melody. Play the last note on the piano as you reach it with your voice. Are you in tune? Play the melody on piano – did you sing it correctly? When starting, it helps to play the melody on piano as you sing.

    As for praying in Jesus’ name, didn’t Paul admonish us to do that?

  2. Steve H. Says:

    RE Paul, absolutely. But this is a new experience. Most Christians pray in the name of Jesus, but they do it as though it were a magical incantation that binds God to do what they want, and they tend to utter really long prayers and then say “in the name of Jesus” once and go about their business. And if God grants their requests, they’re amazed, because they’re used to having their prayers fall to earth.

    Here’s what I’m suggesting: while praying in tongues, stop every “sentence” or so and say you’re praying in the name of Jesus, with the full understanding of what it means. A supernatural eruption takes place. It’s astounding. I can literally feel it.

  3. Gayle Gallagher Says:

    You don’t need to waste your money on getting songs registered with the LOC unless you’re submitting them to a publisher–and publishers rarely take unsolicited music anymore. Or maybe you’re worried about putting your songs up on YouTube and someone snagging them from there without your permission. Even then, you can’t possibly monitor when that happens. Registering with ASCAP or BMI might be better protection. Plus, if someone snags a tune and gets any commercial success with it, you not only have proof it’s yours–you have someone who tracks and collects your money.

    As a fledgling song-writer myself here in music city (Nashville), I’ve been honored and privileged to work with writers who have had multiple hits (from platinum on down), and none of them even fret about registering with ASCAP or BMI until someone shows interest in a song.

  4. Steve H. Says:

    I went into the ASCAP/BMI thing when I first started going to the LOC site, and the info I got from people who dealt with them suggested I was better off avoiding them until someone actually showed an interest in the music.

  5. Gayle Gallagher Says:

    I’d say that’s more true for LOC–and they charge (I think it’s) $30 per song to register. Registering your songs with BMI is absolutely free. And only they (or ASCAP) have a mechanism in place to capture any air play of your music. LOC could care less about that. Of course, both BMI and ASCAP have a hard time monitoring the internet (although they’re getting better).

    I’d say the genre you’re writing in is what many call “spa music” (kind of dreamy, relaxing). So, I guess it’s conceivable some unethical spa owner could find and use your music in her business. But again, what are the chances of her finding YOUR particular music. Thousands of people are doing what you’re doing with their music.

    It sounds as though you’re writing for pleasure anyway and just want to share. It’s unlikely anyone will steal your music and make any money from it. But if that DID happen, BMI and ASCAP can help you and they’re free. LOC can’t and it isn’t.

  6. Steve H. Says:

    It would have been easier to direct you to the earlier piece I wrote than to take this up in comments, but here I go.

    I know about ASCAP and BMI. I read up on them before I went to the LOC. I decided not to fool with ASCAP and BMI because they are useless until someone actually plays your music. I read about people’s negative experiences with them, and I realized there was no point in signing up. If people were using my music on the radio, it would be a different story.

    As a former IP lawyer, I can tell you that a copyright registration is much more powerful than anything you can get from a private company. Unless the law has changed, you can’t maintain a copyright suit in a federal court without a copyright registration. The copyright is automatic, but the registration is still necessary, or it was back when I was practicing. That makes it worth the few dollars you pay for it. If I register a piece, and someone runs off with it, I can sue them here in Miami and get things ASCAP and BMI could never dream of getting me, and the total cost of the suit would be a few hundred bucks.

    As of now, though, I copyright these things simply because I can. I love knowing I managed to write some things, with God’s help, which I am not embarrassed to share with the public. I don’t expect anyone to try to profit from them.

  7. blindshooter Says:

    Hi Steve,
    Glad things are going well with you. Are you still thinking about moving? I spent the last week working in Deerfield Beach at one of my companies branch shops. I could not wait to get back home and I know Miami is probably worse. Don’t intend to disparage everyone in that area but there are a lot of rude people there and the traffic is nasty.
    Hope your music continues to improve.