Original Entry: The Challenge, The Puzzle

How can one take new information, new lenses, new toys – mechanical and technical practices – and transform them with love into recognizable feelings and sounds?

What is it that is receiving attention?
How does it feel, for itself?

Current Reflections: The Challenge

As we navigate throughout our lives – as musicians, professionals, and as human beings – we encounter new experiences that challenge us to grow. In my own study of music, whether through lessons, performances, or my own exploratory process, I’ve recognized some different ways to encounter novelty, to transform the unfamiliar to the intimate.

But, how is it that we grow?

What stimulates YOU to dig deeper? Encourages you to face your own difficulties? Motivates you to persevere?

I’d love to hear about your process and life experience if you’d like to share.

For me, at some point, I recognized for myself that there was a deeper order to the musical universe than I had initially believed or examined as a kid. It was strange, because I suddenly realized that there was a sort of intelligence informing the artistic expression of some of my favorite bands.

Questions like:

“Wait, what did he just play?” or “What the hell did the band just do?” started popping up into my mind first.

“How do people take such nice solos?”

“Why do some notes feel so good? Why do others sound so awful when I play them?”

“Wait, how would you actually count that?”

“How is he feeling that groove so deeply?”

“How is his rhythm and strumming so smooth?”

I found my self suddenly and starkly aware that was a lot that I didn’t really know about music or the way people created such beautiful sounds.

I wanted to know the how and why.


As I began leaning into the process of music making, I began to discover that I have tons of tiny emotional hangups about experiences so subtle or unexamined that I had never considered articulating them before.

From loud and obvious observations like – “Why the heck is it so hard to listen to a click and to match up simple hand motions?” and “Why can’t I freaking count from 1 to 4 without getting lost?” – to much subtler observations: suddenly realizing that simple adjustments in my posture seem to open an extra dimension musical space before me, noticing the ways my emotions can flare in frustration and scramble my meticulous efforts when constructing a piece, and abruptly hearing or seeing a musical shape in a new way on the fretboard – suddenly, I found myself exploring and training on a whole new playing field in the Universe.

At the same time, in this process of seriously deciding to become a professional musician, I found myself facing novelty of all kinds. This spanned from novelty in academics, where I discovered new instrumental techniques and encountered entirely new lineages of musicians alongside an unending repertoire of new music, to novelty in my social encounters with the world. I suddenly found myself thrust into an entirely new realm of interpersonal communication with my peers, professors, and fellow students. For the first time, I painfully realized how much my timeliness (or untimeliness) effects everyone around me as I awkwardly stumbled onto the bandstand with only seconds before the downbeat.

“And what is all this talk about musical “conversations” happening between the different members of the band as they improvised?”

“And god, how am I supposed to act after I put my instrument down after the gig?”

The more these new encounters washed over me, the more I realized that I needed to change the way that I was relating to new and unknown experiences.

This insight has been one that I consistently fight against on a daily basis.

I don’t know about you, but for me, novelty and the unknown still makes me pretty uncomfortable. Hell, sometimes it makes me downright anxious or even worse.

How can we encounter this discomfort in the unknown, yet continue to fully engage with our life (and all the junk it throws at us) in a way that allows up to show up, to contribute, and to learn?

To me, that seems to be the most important point. How do we face difficulty with dignity, even if that difficulty throws us on our ass, screams at us, or even kicks us when we are down?


My teacher once told that “It’s possible to practice living your life, and to practice living your life well.”

What does that actually look like, though?

Whether on the neck of the guitar, on the meditation cushion, or out in the world, It’s possible to bring our full attention to bear in the moment before us. How do we engage with patience and generosity with others, or perhaps more difficultly, with ourselves?

What is actually showing up for you in this moment? In the moment of your practice? What are you working on in your musical study? At work? In your life at large?

How do we meet ourselves and others in these moments?

In Music

For me, I know I still have a lot to learn. But I have discovered some ways to explore, practice, and actualize new information, lenses, and new mechanical and technical processes on the guitar.

First off, I’ve began to recognize when there is a real need to practice.

What is the edge of your current ability? What can you do without thinking? What takes more effort and time for you to do? What spots do I consistently stumble? When do I get angry?

In my experience, these are all little red flags that serve as markers and deserve a deeper examination. Within these moments of friction and difficulty, often it seems that valuable lessons and insights are waiting just around a corner for us to discover.

I’ve also found that if I can factor out the unnecessary elements of a new technique or passage, this allows me to focus on the core point of my practice. This could be the flow of notes, the intonation, the rhythm, the articulation…

“What am I actually trying to do?

“Where can I realistically start?”

“How can I build off of this place that I am and lean into what I’m trying to do?”

Apply and Contextualize

When I’m really trying to wrap my mind and body around something new, I often like to play it in all keys, play it everywhere I can find it on the neck, and in as many ways as possible.

“Can I play this passage on every string set?”

“Can I play this in another position?”

“Is it possible for me to play this passage on a single string?”

A little bit of divergent, creative thinking can go a long way.

“How do I normally see this? How can I apply effort to see it in a new way?”

Maybe this sounds a little bit like overkill for some folks. That is totally understandable. But for me, I find that the more points of contact that I have with a new practice or technique, the more I can apply this new information, and the more ways that I can see a single new piece of information, the clearer it becomes.

A lot of times, I like to see if I can channel a flow of creativity through strictly defined parameters, limiting myself to the notes in a new shape, an unfamiliar scale, or from a difficult passage of study.

“Can I clearly play the core idea?”

“Can I play this idea reliably in time with a metronome?”

“Can I incorporate a count while I play?”

“Can I introduce rhythmic awareness into my playing?”

“Can I play this idea clearly backwards and forward?”

“Can I limit myself to these notes and create some simple improvised melodies?”

“Can I do this without unintentionally hitting notes?”

And then?

And, after all of this thorough examination comes the most important question:

Can I just forget all of that shit and just show up and play?

Love and Bows



If you haven’t heard this record, do yourself the favor.

Original Entry: Crossing the Void

What feelings do I love to play?
What sounds do I love to hear?
How can one develop a musical experience around the splicing of these two elements?

Awareness of the mind’s tendencies transforms the entire outlook on the practice.

Current Reflections: Crossing the Void

Looks like this week is a short and simple entry.

“Crossing the Void.” This phrase has always struck me as important, or at least intriguing. Because, what does it mean?

Crossing the gap? Bridging the shores? Stepping into the unknown, as life?

For me, when I started really steeping in the imagery that this phrase invoked within me, a deep and almost fundamental importance seemed to arise.


Primordial Oceans.

Darkness, Light, Motion.

Perceiver. Perceived.


Microscopic impulse,

Reaching out into the dark,

Grasping for


A fish biting after a worm,

A swan retrieving it’s precious egg,

A crow collecting shiny trinkets.



And that thing

That Won’t Go Away,

That struggle we can’t escape,

The barrier that we can’t see through,

The void we can’t seem to penetrate.

Just take a step and


Does anyone else every experience a thought or emotion that linear explanations can’t touch?

“Crossing the Void.”


What Feelings Do I love to Play? What sounds Do I love to hear?

The other night, Aleah Fitzwater and I were just talking about the differences in our ways of thinking about music. I tend to have a very thorough and exacting approach to processing, understanding, and deepening my experience of music. Aleah was telling me that, especially when it comes to composing, arranging, and harmonizing, she leans heavily into her sense of feeling, going after the sound until it feels right.

“I could use some more of that myself,” I realized. I often overwhelm myself trying to map, chart, and dissect the musical universe of the guitar; I’m always trying to exhaust every single possibility and permutation when I’m studying. I want to see and intimately know where a single chord lives in every possible iteration I can imagine, and it’s because I want to have access to as many options as possible.

Maybe this is a good approach to studying and learning new things, but when it comes to creating and playing? Naw, get that shit OUTTA here.

What feelings arise the most naturally?

What feels good to play?

What feels good to listen back to?

What harmonies feel the best?

What grooves feel the deepest?



When it comes to creating, sharing, and experiencing music, the feeling that it evokes in us may be the most important.

And if we can share that feeling, enable each other to experience the depths of reality, of the mystery of our own existence… if we can encourage moments of deep awareness, light-hearted joy, deep sorrow, and out into the fringes of language and past words limitations, well, that seems like a worthy practice to cultivate.

So what sounds pull at you? What do you like to hear? What kinds of melodies really pull at your heart? That seems like a rich place of investigation.

Love and Bows



Original Entry: Tips from Ryan

  • Right and Left Hand Interaction – Sometimes my right hand technique is too monotone and unvaried, perhaps explore variations with legato, hammer-ons, pull-offs, as well as feeling right hand variations.
  • “Take something you like and push it beyond your imagination’s limit.” Take something comfortable and mix it with something not so; make it comfortable.
  • I am trying to fill all empty space with notes and rhythm; let time uncover new ideas and sounds. Don’t just compulsively fill space, allow time for ideas to develop.
  • Scale exercise as 3 notes/string arpeggios.

Current Reflections: Gratitude

First off, I’ve gotta send a special and continual thanks to my dude, Ryan Murray who’s out there hustling and working the music scene in LA right now. This dude has been a continual force of inspiration in my life in general, encouraging me to push boundaries, to continue growing, and to keep cultivating my practice. His music is bangin’ so visit his Instagram here or check out the embed below.

This feedback came from Ryan sometime in 2014, definitely after a musical jam/hang, either at school or in one of our practice spaces. It’s interesting to reflect on his advice now from a point further down stream – there are still some juicy nuggets worth exploring inside of this now.

Left and Right Hand Interactions on The Guitar

“Right and Left Hand Interaction – Sometimes my right hand technique is too monotone and unvaried, perhaps explore variations with legato, hammer-ons, pull-offs, as well as feeling right hand variations.”

To contextualize this remark a bit, I think it’s important to know some of the history/background about my approach to playing guitar.

I began my life as a guitarist YEARS ago, in the late 2000’s during high school (2008-09ish), where I was completely taken with metal, alternative rock, punk rock, and the indie scene. Some favorites of the time included Avenged Sevenfold, Blink 182, Sum 41, Shinedown, Linkin Park, Killswitch Engage, Modest Mouse… (Just to name a few) Below you can find a snapshot of my headspace from high school in this little Spotify playlist, for anyone interested.

God, the more I think about this, the more tunes there are

Like many guitar players, I first started playing with a pick. Playing with fingers seemed IMPOSSIBLE to me at the time as I tried to piece songs together using tabs from the internet and hundreds of old issues of Guitar World Magazine. Once or twice I tried using my fingers instead of a pick and immediately thought “fuck this,” deciding that fingerstyle playing was too hard.

This is not to say that I was a stellar player. At all. I’m not ashamed to admit it now. I sucked then. I suck much less now, but I still have some work to do.

As I moved through my late teens into my early twenties and began to take myself a little more seriously as a musician, my relationship to my pick and my right hand began to radically change. In fact, I remember the exact moment that my stance on fingerstyle playing changed. It was early autumn and I was a freshman guitar student at the University of Toledo. My family had taken a trip out of town to visit my grandma for a weekend. She lived a few hours away and so I brought my guitar because I REALLY needed to practice. I had gathered all of my music, my guitar, a little amp, and even a portable metal music stand; but as I unpacked in the early morning on the first day, I realized that I had forgotten something crucial.

I forgot my pick.


In that moment I realized that I was sick of feeling tethered to that stupid little piece of plastic. I felt impaired in the absence of picks and resolved to break out of my unreasonable reliance on them. That day, I awkwardly stumbled through my studies, then, proceeded to stumble through the next year and a half of my life as a college musician, trying to break free of my pickles (Shackles + Pick? No? Okay, understandable.) It hurt, but after thousands upon thousands of continual micro decisions to persevere (and possibly a little stubbornness), I FINALLY got to a place where I felt comfortable playing with my fingers – more comfortable, in fact, than I ever had with a pick.

I’m not here to try and convert you to the church of fingerstyle guitar, but I will say, I absolutely support flexibility in your approach to playing. Picks are useful. Fingerstyle is useful. Hybrid picking is useful (combing both fingers and pick). I recommend checking out these different approaches and getting comfortable with each.

This has been, a long and ambling way to say this: at the time of this writing, Ryan did me the great service of noticing the flat and uninteresting tone that I was producing when playing with my fingers. At the time, I think I was a little irritated; I mean, it took me SO MUCH FUCKING WORK to get my fingers working. Period. And now my sound is BORING?

Well, sorry son, yes.

He was right. I was in the habit of playing things at the same volume, with the same articulation, with the same awkward time feel. After you get the basic mechanics of fingerstyle playing together, how do you continue to evolve your ear and approach?

Articulations bro.

Can you get nice and clean hammer-on’s and pull-off’s? Can you play short and staccato? How about long, flowing, legato? Can you accent only the off-beats? Can you surf the beat and adjust how you hang on the metronome’s pulse – anticipating the beat, nailing it straight down the middle, laying back and swingin’?

These are the kinds of questions that I began asking myself after this entry – questions that I continued asking myself for years; in fact, I still ask myself these questions to this day.

I think that the continued interest, for me, comes out of the dynamic interactions that begin to occur between my right, picking hand and my left, fretting hand. How can we shape the sound?

It’s important to have a good understanding of the basic mechanics of whatever technique you are focusing on, and this can be a PROJECT. But once you get your “sea legs,” so to speak (or fretboard legs, maybe), how can you continue to shape your sound? I think that, at our best and at some level, we all want to keep developing our capacity, whether artistically or otherwise. For me at this time, Ryan helped me notice that I could benefit from exploring some of the nuances of my fingerstyle approach. Thanks bro.

Pushing Limits on the Guitar

“Take something you like and push it beyond your imagination’s limit. Take something comfortable and mix it with something not so; make it comfortable.”

This idea is pretty straight forward. Ryan and I have always enjoyed helping each other push ourselves beyond our perceived limits, always in the spirit of personal development.

There are at least two different ways of practicing present inside of this feedback from my friend. The first that comes to mind is related to a modality of divergent thinking – considering the many possibilities available to us, brainstorming many different ways to think about a single practice or idea, and creatively thinking about new ways to see familiar information.

With this divergent approach, it’s possible to examine, in our case on the guitar, many familiar shapes and sounds, and to consider the many different ways that we could see them.

“Can you think about this shape as notes?”

“What are the scale degrees?”

“What do the sounds feel like in your body?”

“What intervals exist within this shape?”

“Can you play the same shape, but start on a different string?”

“Can you play it forwards AND backwards?”

“Could you permutate the form and run different patterns through notes?”

These are just some of the types of questions you might be able to use when creatively considering how to deepen your understanding of a familiar form.

The second that comes to mind is an approach that I still employ within my own practice, as well as within my process of teaching. I enjoy taking practices that are familiar and easy for me to see and feel, then mixing them with “new” and more difficult practices.

This idea rose quite naturally for me in the process of learning how to juggle. I realized I could start with a simpler and easier pattern to warm up and get my body flowing. Then, I would scour the internet for new ideas for more complex patterns.

“What would it be like to have THAT super complex pattern comfortable in my body?” “What if it felt as comfortable to me as this FIRST pattern?” “What if it was as easy and comfortable as tying my shoes?”

I found myself frequently asking that last question.

“What if it was as easy and comfortable as tying my shoes?”

Then, I encountered the basic premise again and again and music school.

“Start with what you understand and build off of that into what you don’t”

“Take the uncomfortable and work with it until it becomes the intimate.”

By mixing what is comfortable with the cutting edge of our ability, we are enabling ourselves to lean into a space of growth.

What can you do well and easily? What’s something that lies just outside of the edge of your ability? Can you work with your edge in a way that enables you to develop familiarity with the difficult?

Empty Space

“I am trying to fill all empty space with notes and rhythm; let time uncover new ideas and sounds. Don’t just compulsively fill space, allow time for ideas to develop.”

This is something that I think everybody who embarks upon the journey of improvising encounters at some point in time within their process. After we get a degree of facility and understanding of our instrument and begin improvising, often there is a tendency to cram in as many notes as possible. It’s like we think “The more I can shred, the better I am,” or something weird like this. Lots of notes can sound cool and create neat textures, but I personally think that the most interesting solos and the most meaningful pieces in general have a sense of space within them.

I have a lot of people to thank for bringing my awareness to this tendency to “cram notes” into my solos and compositions. Ryan, in this entry, Dr. Heritage, my composition teacher at UT, Jay Weik and Tad Weed, my guitar teacher and piano teachers throughout college.

You might be able to compare this idea of “cramming notes” to the literary goof of writing run-on sentences. There may be loads of great ideas in that giant sprawling sentences in that Facebook post, but the punctuation and delivery changes everything.

Where do you pause? When do you breathe? What is the point of your idea? Where do you want to put the emphasis? Can you step back and let the listener have their own experience? We all have imaginations, you know – maybe less detail and more empty space will allow your audience to engage more deeply.

It’s really the empty space in our lives that helps bring meaning to the activity.

Sometimes, you need to let the teabag steep.

Can you allow space within your improvisation, whether it be a conversation at the grocery store, jamming with some buddies, or while wailing on stage?

Can you give your ideas room to grow on their own, give your ears a chance to digest what you have shared, allow the band and the room to respond?

Scales and Arpeggios

“Scale exercise as 3 notes/string arpeggios.”

This last point was a technical point for me at the time. I was frequently working with a form of major scales that used three notes on each string.

Here’s a nice video of my teacher talking about this approach to scales, illustrating the various modes of C!

At the time, I often held firm and rigid boundaries between the various forms on the guitar. There were Diagonal Triads and 7th chords, Drop 2 and Drop 3 chord voicings, 2-1-2 7th arpeggios and so on… and each of these different forms were distinct and completely different from each other.

As I’ve continued to learn and grow, I’m glad to report that these rigid boundaries are slowly melting away. It’s becoming easier to see how all of these different forms relate and to gaze from a larger and wider vantage point.

At the time of my original writing back in 2014, I realized that I could play my arpeggios, but limit myself to the form of 3 notes/string scales.

Here’s a little video to demonstrate!

Love and Bows



Just discovered Eleni Drake Today and have been feeling lots of feels


This entry seems to require a little bit of setup to give it useful context, because I gotta say, even to me now, it sounds a little abstract.

It seems useful to mention that the purpose of recounting all of these entries is, hopefully, to share the many perspectives that I found inspiring during my college experience. If it is useful, please take the ideas and run, if not, that’s alright too.

At the time of the original writing, I was quite immersed in actively training for an academic benchmark. I was desperately trying to cross the infinite gulf that I perceived within myself around my musical ability (or perhaps inability). I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again with the intention of encouragement: for me, I felt severely handicapped and out of place in a professional and academic setting. It seemed to take me 4x as much effort than my peers to achieve a baseline sense of stability. Now I recognize that this may, in part, have been a drama that existed simply in my own head, but it seemed to me that I just wasn’t as developed as my contemporaries.

This sense of lack within myself at during college now appears to me to have been a gift. It instilled a deep drive to tame the wild beast of music, cultivated a sense of deep discipline, and helped me forge my own process of growth and understanding in the limitless universe of music.

All of this is to say, at the time of this original entry, I was in the thick of it, struggling to swim on a daily basis, attempting to absorb and integrate as many useful perspectives as I possibly could. As quickly as I could.

Among the many techniques and approaches to practicing that I encountered, one of them (perhaps inevitably) was the technique of visualization.


Around the same time as I was first writing this, I was becoming supremely interested in my own mind, how it functioned, the way that it perceived, and the nature of this perception. I found myself leaning into a variety of meditation practices, primarily focused on the Zen Buddhist technique centered around breath and known as Zazen. Alongside of this more formalized training, I found my curiosity wandering towards the imaginative power of my mind.

Isn’t interesting how vivid our dreams can be? We can intimately feel moments that are generated completely inside of our own minds. Sensations, smells, emotions, the tug of gravity, the dampness of rain, the freedom of floating – the whole bandwidth of human perception (and perhaps more) becomes available to experience every night as we lie dreaming in bed.

“What the hell is that?” I wondered, more than once about my dreams. More frequently still, I began to and continue to wonder if there may be some way to access our capacity to dream while we are awake. Our minds are quite powerful. What if we could harness our innate capacity more fully?

This entire train of thought lead me to contemplate what qualities of mind seemed to characterize our capacity to dream; the presence of deeply detailed imagery and the way that these images shifted appeared as one of the biggest and most obvious observations for me. Naturally, I began to wonder if I might be able to harness the imaginative capacity afforded to me in dreams while I was awake. I began to practice visualizing.

The following entry documents my own scientific method, my approach as I first began to consciously cultivate the powerful imaginative potential that I sensed within myself. I’ll apologize in advanced, because it starts out PRETTY strangely, but if I have your attention, I’ll unpack some of my thinking, develop it a bit (hopefully in a way that makes the information useful), and offer some other resources to check out if you are interested in this imaginative human capacity.

Original Entry: Visualizations

Music as the interacting cosmos; planets, stars, gravity, suns, moons, orbits, rotations, revolutions, space-time, cosmic debris, atmospheres, gasses, life, dissolution.

Observations on Initial Visualizations:

There are many elements to tie together in visualizing; when attempting a run of the Solar scale exercise, I noticed these tendencies in my mind:

  • I want to rush!!
  • I’m easily distracted!!
  • I get lost easily!!

These are habits of an untrained mind.

Rushing: is ridiculous. Where am I in such a hurry to get to? This is my own mind for God Sake. I’ve got endless time!! Nothing lies in the future to rush towards except infinite permutations of patterns. Chill.

Distraction: It’s rough to use my mind in this novel way. I am so accustomed to my body fumbling to train my wandering mind that when I enter my space, there is mental leakage to account for. A vent exists in my mind that ethereal distraction may pass through while I focus.

Lost: Orienting with staff lines, ink, fingerings, picking, feeling, image of fretboard, and sound – this is a whole lot of information to maintain all at once when imagining. With simple exercises I can begin juggling these elements and introducing new variables. Start with three crucial elements: fretboard, sound, and fingerings.

(I’ve been spending too much time on dry cut exercises. Ryan mentioned he spends about 90% of practice time jamming on tunes)

Reflections and Observations:

So what is even happening here?

That’s a fine question.

“Music as the interacting cosmos; planets, stars, gravity, suns, moons, orbits, rotations, revolutions, space-time, cosmic debris, atmospheres, gasses, life, dissolution.”

That’s a little abstract, huh?

Looking back at my writing, then more deeply into the intention that motivated me, I can see that I was contemplating the nature of the universe and considering how the celestial movements of the cosmos related directly to the universe of sound before me on the fretboard.

In a way, I was asking myself “How can I see the fundamental motions of the universe inside of my music?” I was trying to draw parallels from my cursory understanding of celestial bodies and their natural movements and apply that same motion to my guitar.

And it still seems kind of neat to me.

Observations on Initial Visualizations:

It looks like I took a break to practice some sort of visualizing technique, (which I conveniently omitted), the documented some observations on my experiences.

I’d like to point out that I was practicing some sort of scale exercises on the Miles Davis tune “Solar,” which may have inspired some of the cosmic imagery that we saw up front. If you haven’t heard the tune, check it out. It’s damn good. I like this version:

I was likely playing some scales that corresponded to the changes of the tune, practicing shifting my scales with the harmony and staying in a common position on the guitar. I’m not going to go into details about that now, but may at some later point.

Then came my observations:

  • Rushing
  • Distracted
  • Getting Lost

I’ll say, when I did this visualization technique, I’m pretty sure I crawled into bed, covered up, then tried real hard to imagine. I think what most likely happened is I got real sleepy and didn’t know exactly the best way to practice imaginatively, so I floundered around trying to recreate the fretboard, the sound of the chord changes, the feeling of my fingers, the way it all looked, and countless other details that I couldn’t keep straight.

This experiment was pretty much a flop.

So how do we practice imaginatively?

Well for one, if you want to practice with visualizations, I would recommend not laying down in a dark room and closing your eyes on your bed or a comfy couch, because that has NEVER worked well for me in any sustainable way.

Two, playing a musical instrument instrument involves a lot of complex detail; if you are interested in starting some sort of visualization practice, I would encourage you to start with some manageable details. For me, in this experiment, my takeaway revolved around simplifying my approach to include only three details: The fretboard, the corresponding sound, and the fingering.

Performance psychologist and Julliard alumni Noa Kageyama offers a ton of great advice over at his website: The Bulletproof Musician. He offers a 7-point modal for visualization practice called the PETTLEP modal. This approach was developed by two British scientists who based their technique on research rooted in sports psychology, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience.

In a whirlwind summary, this PETTLEP approach uses seven guiding points to help frame your visualization practice, including:

  • P – Physical
  • E – Environment
  • T – Task
  • T – Timing
  • L – Learning
  • E – Emotion
  • P – Perspective

Noa does a brilliant job at outlining these different points, so I won’t go into the details of this particular method, but again, if you are interested and looking for a roadmap to begin visualizing, I would highly recommend you start at his website here.

Thanks Mr. Kageyama for being such a boss and providing so much inspiration.

In fact, Noa talks about visualization a lot on his website, if you are interested you can look around and check out the awesome resources he has available. Another article he has talks about the benefits possible when we focus on the timing aspect of visual practice.

It seems that practicing visualization at several speeds – slow, real-time, and fast – had a massive benefit in a study that tracked an athlete’s baseball bat swing.

The full article is located here.

I swear that the bulletproof musician is NOT sponsoring this post at all. They just do good work over there. I’ll uphold one final article from Mr. Kageyama here – “How to get good at mental imagery.” This article is interesting, because he directly address the problem of mental fuzziness when trying to visualize. Like, how the heck do we work with this if we can’t imagine it.

I especially like this article, because here, Noa talks about building a visualization practice up in layers, likening the process to that of building a house from the foundation up.

Again, I won’t go super deeply into the details because he does a fine job over at his website, but the general idea involves creating a mental image, self-rating the vividness of the image, and then adding a new level of detail and trying again.

The last resource that I’ll uphold is a nice book that I’ve used for some research papers and practice (though I could stand to read through the whole book now that the pressure of school is gone) – Psycho Cybernetics – which deeply explores our internal self image and explores methods of re-framing and empowering us to effectively wield our minds with our ability to imagine.

Final Thoughts

If I’m being honest, I haven’t had an active visualizing practice in quite some time, but in recounting this entry and scouring the internet, I’ve found my curiosity piqued. I’m especially interested in the information within the third article I mentioned “How to get good at mental imagery.” Maybe I’ll practice a some this week and check in over the next few weeks.

Do any of you use a visualization practice of any kind in your art? If so I’d love to hear about your experiences. I hope everyone is staying well and sane.

(I’ve been listening to this song now while I’ve written the bulk of this article, thought I’d share it here)

Eleni Drake – Chemtrails Over the Country Club (Lana Del Rey)

Love and Bows



Listening to Some Anthony Crawford this Evening – Check it!

Original Entry: Bebop Spins

Warm up with bebop spins in 5th position and then take around the circle of 4ths.

I play from my Dharma Eye, Listen from within. Where and whenever I experience uncertainty, I engage with the moment of hesitation and train my body with my mind to completely smooth out uncertainty.

Technical Study: Bebop Scale – What the hell is it?

The “Bebop” Scale is a slightly altered Mixolydian scale that was and is frequently used to generate improvisational vocabulary for the quick chord changes that often characterize tunes composed during jazz’s “Bebop” era and forward.

Arguments could be made both for and against the usefulness of defining this scale, the “Bebop” scale, as a distinct and separate scale from a dominant or Mixolydian scale – there is only one note changing. Some teachers I have studied with swear by it, and with solid reasoning: the bebop scale is an effective way of addressing dominant chords during improvisation (though goodness, simply ADDRESSING the chords sounds so boring).

The “Bebop” scale takes a mixolydian or dominant scale – typically spelled Root, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, b7th, or rooted on C, the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb – and adds one extra note, the natural 7. This note, when played relative to C turns out as a B natural. A C-bebop scale would then give us: C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, and B natural. By making this scale, which is normally comprised of 7 notes, an 8 note scale, and interesting phenomenon emerges, one that was of extreme fascination to early players like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. And they took the idea and ran with it.

This “Bebop” treatment of a dominant scale allowed players to string together flowing lines using this scale, which by it’s nature, separates out the chord tones from the non-chord tones or passing tones. And because there are an even 8 notes instead of they typical 7, a player can start on any note of, in this example, the C7 chord – C E G or Bb – and there will always be a colorful passing tone in between each of them. This is thanks to the addition of the natural 7, or in this case, B natural, which gives us a note between the b7 of the chord (Bb) and the Root of the Scale (C). This means a player could run through the scale in 8th notes, and if they start with any chord tone on a strong beat, (beat 1, 2, 3, 4) each down beat will be a consonant chord tone and every offbeat will be a colorful passing tone.

In the graphic below, you can see a few of these ideas notated out.

First, you’ll see the regular C Mixolydian scale (Major scale with a b7).

Below the Mixolydian scale, you’ll see the C bebop scale (Major Scale with a b7 and a natural 7)

You might see that the chord tones of C7 (C E G Bb), or the strong tones have been highlighted in RED. You’ll notice that these notes, when played as eighth notes, all fall on strong beats – 1, 2, 3, and 4. The passing tones have been left black – these all occur in the space between the strong beats, on the off-beats or the “&’s.”

This eight-note scale, bearing a symmetrical nature, makes it easy for players to start on strong chord tones and virtually guarantees that, if played in scalar cells, the chord tones will always fall on the strongest beats in the bar.

While some players and teachers love thinking of this altered mixolydian scale as the “Bebop Scale,” on the other hand, other teachers have expressed a marked disdain towards the over-classification of scales. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you think of 12 major scales (at a minimum), each possessing 7 different modes (that’s 84 to keep straight, just within the major scales), pair that with Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor in all 12 keys (and all of THEIR modes), 2 whole tone scales, and 3 diminished scales… We won’t even bother with the math on how many separate scales these permutations generate. And then adding even more scales into this proverbial pot? That sounds like a recipe for crushing undergraduate information overload.

Folks who argue against the use of distinguishing the “Bebop” scale, in my experience, have simply upheld that a player can skillfully and creatively use chromaticism in a major, minor, or melodic minor scale and achieve comparable, if not more efficient improvisational framework.

Bebop Spins

Pros and cons aside, here the scale is, existing in sound. And now, we’ve both had a chance to encounter it. I’ll send bows to my teacher for turning me on to this way of thinking, because I was quite taken with it when I first encountered the teaching; and now, I’ll offer it up to you. If it’s useful, please enjoy it, if not, you can pass on by and there is no problem.

The practice that I mention in this original journal entry – of “Bebop Spins” – is built from this slightly altered dominant scale, or “Bebop” scale that we’ve been discussing. I’ve included a picture to better illustrate the process.

“Bebop Spins” are simply a scale permutation – a way to methodically arrange patterns through the notes of the scale.

Now, I talked about playing the spins in 5th position, walking through all keys. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve decided to just stick to root position, I think this will make it easier for our purposes.

So what the heck are these “Bebop Spins” anyway?.

Simply put, “bebop spins” are an easy up and down pattern that highlight the chord tones. I’ll show you.

  1. UP – We would start on the root, playing R,2,3,4.
  2. DOWN – Now, we simply start on the 5 and coming down 5, 4, 3, 2
  3. UP – Starting on the 3, we play up the scale 3, 4, 5, 6
  4. Down – b7, you guessed it, we play Descending b7, 6, 5, 4
  5. Up – Beginning on 5, we play 5, 6, b7, nat 7
  6. Down – Now we start on the ROOT, coming down R, nat 7, b7, 6
  7. Up – Starting on b7, we play up b7, nat7, R, 2

And so on!

You might notice a few things in this process: for one, we are always starting on a chord tone, for two, we are always alternating up and down scalar motion, for three, we are almost spinning around these chord tones. It reminds me of a monkey swinging through the branches of a tree. Sometimes I see them as little musical hinges that I can swing around.

Attached is video that illustrates the sound of this “Bebop Spin” pattern over a C7 drone!

Practice Reflection

For me, practicing an exercise like this in all keys is invaluable. If you are just encountering this idea of “Bebop spins” for the first time, I would recommend exploring this, first and foremost, in the key of C using the exercise above with a metronome, most likely in half-time, playing in quarter notes at 60 or 80. Once it gets more familiar, you can start playing with the tempo and the feel.

Once you have a sense of the shape of this pattern in C, I would recommend taking the pattern around the Circle of 4ths, simply moving the root note through the circle and copying and pasting the above pattern in the new position.

In the original post, I talk about identifying uncertainty and hesitation; I like to think of these little stumbles and mistakes as red flags. If I am stumbling over some musical moment, chances are that I need to slow down and really clarify what is happening in this moment of difficulty.

When we run into mistakes and stumbles, we often feel an energy in our body; sometimes it shows up as a feeling, other times as a thought. Regardless of how it shows up, there is usually a heat around the mistake – our expectations are not lining up with the reality of our ability, and this can lead to frustration or even full blown anger.

If you are encountering a discrepancy between your expectations and the reality of your practice, notice it. These little charges of emotional fire are actually a gift. If we can recognize that something is wrong, that things aren’t how we’d like them to be, notice that. Make a note of it. Literally, write it down. This is the fuel for your practice to deepen.

Pull out your magnifying glass, some tweezers, and break out your metronome and examine the SHIT out of the moment that is giving you trouble. Where is the mistake happening? Is it a physical thing? Left hand? Right Hand? Posture?

Or is it a mind thing? Are you loosing count? Maybe mixing up the notes? Whatever it is that is giving you trouble, I’d recommend donning your lab coat and becoming a sonic-scientist. If you can clearly identify the problem and brainstorm possible solutions, you are equipping yourself with a tool kit that will benefit your life much beyond your music or art practice.

You can practice learning.

Love and Bows



Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Preface: Practice Point

Today’s entry actually opens up a window into the way that I practice, into the process through which I’ve grown into my current ability. Just a disclaimer, this post’s core content might be more useful for folks who are actually studying an instrument, specifically guitar.

Original Entry: Agility Training

Target in halftime/manageable subdivision of target speed

⁃ Left-Hand Focus
⁃ Right-Hand Focus
⁃ Headstock Focus
⁃ Body Focus
⁃ Middle of Fretboard Focus
• Target at speed, following above points of visual focus.

This will theoretically train my body and eyes to function independently, yet interdependently with different points of grounding.

Variation: Mix in closed eyes.

Current Reflections:

Let’s take a little time to unpack the contents of this process, which might seem a little unrelatable at first glance.

Target in halftime/manageable subdivision of target speed”

If you are at all like me when it comes to learning and playing guitar, you probably wanna jump right to the cool stuff: face melting guitar solos, crazy cool and intricate rhythm, the prettiest chords imaginable…

And though I still agree with you – yes, guitar is an awesome instrument and LET’S GET IT – might I offer some encouragement that has helped me?


I can NOT overemphasize the importance of taking your time when you are learning a new technique, pattern, or voicing. I know that we often want to skip all the bullshit and get right to shredding, but I would argue that, by slowing down, you are actually helping yourself get to the shredding stage even faster.

If you can take the time to learn how to play with a metronome, to feel time, to count… if you can make that initial step towards crossing the mysterious gulf of training with metered time, then you are giving yourself a gift with unending returns.

This can be a little tricky at first, and if you are really struggling, it might be useful to employ the help of a professional friend and teacher (I know a guy), but once you start to develop a relationship with a metronome, in my personal opinion, you are now equipped to tackle ANY musical passage, technique, or solo that you can imagine.

Heavyweight New York Bassist and YouTuber, Adam Neely, has a wonderful video about practicing slowly where he demonstrates the magic that is just WAITING to be unlocked by taking the time to S L O W D O W N.

Why slow down, you ask?

If you can slow yourself down, you are giving yourself the opportunity to become, in my opinion, a scientist of Time. It is possible to use your awareness to zoom-in on a single moment of time. When you consciously decide to create space IN time, to really pick apart a moment of music, you can begin to dial in on details that you have no hope of noticing when you try to machine gun through the piece.

Can you feel every individual muscle contracting as you move across your instrument? If not, what the fuck would that feel like if you could?

How can you fret or finger the note to give yourself the best tone quality?

How do you want the notes to connect? Are they slurring? All hammered-on or pulled-off? Are they short and staccato? Are they long and connected, legato?

Can you channel the motion of the sound across or through your instrument in a smooth and single flow? Or are you stuck in choppy and jerky movements?

How are you relating to the sound you are creating? What is your mind doing? Are you thinking about nachos? What if you could create a psychic resonance with what you are doing? Can you focus on this specific moment? Can you engage your mind? Can you give yourself a cognitive framework to help automatically regulate the rhythm? If not, what would that be like?

What the hell is this guy even talking about?

That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

Focal Points:

Left-hand focus, Right-hand focus, Headstock focus, Body Focus, Middle-of-the-Neck focus.

What the hell is this all about?

I discovered in college (where I was constantly under pressure to learn new tunes, exercises, and general repertoire) that I could develop my own methods to help myself cultivate intimacy with the music I needed to learn.

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth mentioning again – the guitar is a very visual instrument. The fretboard maps out like a grid that easily conducts visual patterns and shapes. In college, I utilized the guitar’s tendency towards visual focus to help myself ingrain information more quickly.

Usually when I would play, I would automatically and unthinkingly focus my eyes on the neck of the guitar – here I could see the fretboard, my left hand, and where my fingers were landing. I quickly discovered that, if I tried to shift my visual focus, say to my right hand, I would suddenly feel like I was on a different planet and would stumble around trying to remember how to play in the midst of this new visual reality before me. Often times, I would have NO trouble with my picking/right hand when I played, but as soon as I looked at it, my entire process would fall apart. I wasn’t used to seeing what my right hand was doing. When I actually focused on it, it looked so weird. Weird enough that I could no longer play.

This struck me as intriguing. How could I know how to play, yet still be rendered incapacitated if I simply tried to observe myself playing? Quickly, I slowed down (Ha, yup) and started relearning the passage while looking at my RIGHT hand. It took a little effort, but I was able to do it. Good.

Looking back to my LEFT hand, I suddenly realized that, actually, I had been playing the passage pretty sloppily, subconsciously staring off into the ether, spacing out in the general direction of the fretboard. I hadn’t really been paying THAT close of attention.

Practicing with my RIGHT hand in focus, I realized that my LEFT hand hadn’t been quite as clear as I had assumed.

I decided to relearn the SAME passage, again, but this time looking at my left hand, but now more earnestly aware.

Right Hand.
Left Hand.
Going nice and slow.

That was better.

Then I wondered, “Hey, Can I play this same passage, but now looking even farther left? Like, what if I don’t necessarily look at the fretboard, but instead look past it, maybe to the headstock and tuners. Can I play through this same musical moment If I focus my eyes here?”

Turns out – pretty tricky. I relearned the SAME passage, AGAIN, now looking at the headstock of my guitar; but in my mind, I was seeing my left and right hands.

“What about if I invert this? Can I look past my RIGHT hand? At the Body of the guitar? Maybe the bridge?” Rinse and repeat.

I had now learned the same passage four different ways. There was only one obvious way left, so it seemed to me.

“Can I look straight down at the center of the fretboard, in the space between both my hands?”

After some practice, the answer was yes. That gives me five ways.

Oh! But one more:

“Can you play it with your eyes closed now?” Apply some effort and time, and yes. Yes I could.

SIX ways.

The result of this way of practicing?

Slowly. Very slowly. I realized that I was stitching together a visual map of my guitar. By maintaining the same practice, looking at five different regions of the guitar (Far Left, Left, Center, Right, Far Right), then closing my eyes, I began to realize I could look anywhere. Eventually, this lead me to realizing, I didn’t necessarily HAVE to look anywhere specific at all. I could see, no matter where I looked.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have to look at my hands to map out what’s happening when I’m learning new pieces, but I am no longer as constricted as I used to be; I have the freedom to direct my attention around anywhere I want, while maintaining my practice. If you are learning to play guitar, this is a gift, in my opinion, that you deserve to enjoy.

Moving through this process, I realized that I was able to learn and integrate passages more quickly. By confirming that I could play a passage in each of these six visual postures, I was giving my self the ample opportunity to constructively overlearn (More about that here).

It reminded me of being a kid when I first learned how to ride my bike. After I got my basic balance down without training wheels, I would shakily pedal around the small block of my neighborhood. With each successive circuit, I found myself getting steadier and steadier.

Each time I would relearn a passage with a different point of visual focus, It got easier and easier to keep my musical “balance” in time.


I’d like to humbly offer these perspectives and practices to anyone who is learning an instrument and who has been struggling with developing a process. I hope that this sliver of experience may inspire you to explore your own approaches to help yourself learn how to learn.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or qualms, I’d love to hear them. I hope everyone is having a nice day.

Love and Bows




Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry: Warm Up

Jam on tunes in the repertoire I have gathered and play with ideas.

Current Reflections:

I’m finding a handful of these microscopic entries in my inspiration Journal. It’s funny, I decided to give them a clear H E A D I N G, a nice colon: then proceeded to write a single line and move on.

This one seems pretty obvious: warm up. But I think there might be some nourishment to unpack in here. If I were to rewrite this entry, now modernized with everything I now know, I might say something like this…:

PS. I’d also like to add, if you don’t care for the technical jargon of a Jazzer, skip down to “Current Reflections Part 2,” There is some human shit there.

Revised Entry: Warming Up

I have a collection of tunes that I’ve assembled throughout my years studying music. Each tune is comprised of a variety of elements that define it’s character – these elements include (though are not necessarily limited to): The Melody, The Chord Progression, The Rhythmic Feel, and the way I approach Improvisation.

It is possible for me to create a routine that helps me warm up my approach to practicing/performing repertoire. From this Warm Up Routine, I want to give myself the experience of playing music; if I was taking a more traditional approach to the jazz idiom, I would want to evoke the melody of the tune, comp through the changes, and take a little solo that expresses the harmony and gets the creative wheels turning.

Beginning with repertoire that is more familiar and comfortable, I can use this warm up as a way to cultivate focus and intention that I can begin directing into new tunes and the novel challenges they bring. As I warm up with these familiar tunes, I can also give myself the opportunity to view the music from new perspectives – I could alter the rhythmic feel, I could interpret the melody more freely or personally, I could play with the harmonic structure and upper tensions of the piece, and I could try new approaches to improvising.

Alternatively, I could use these ‘warm up tunes’ as a launch pad for studying new ideas and ‘vocabulary’ when improvising: What if I treated all the dominant chords with melodic minor to give them a b13 kind of feel? Or what if I try to (god help me) creatively and musically apply the diminished scale to these chords? What If I try to target the third of each chord? How about the seventh? What kinds of ideas might I find if I took the time to become intimately familiar with the Melody, harmony, and rhythm of these tunes?

Current Reflections Part 2:

If you are still here, I appreciate you. I recognize that this entry specifically is starting to get a little niche to improvisation and jazz, which is definitely NOT everybody’s cup of tea. In fact, it’s not always my cup of tea, if I’m being honest.

As I think back to myself, way back there in college, scribbling “warm up,” in a blank notebook, and now, as I try to more clearly express myself in this CURRENT moment, I find the experience in my body quite fascinating.

Part of me LOVES this shit. I get thinking about all the cool practices and applications this simple idea – “warm up” – holds within it. But another part of me feels internally strained, like I am reaching for something just beyond the grasp of my fingertips. This is SO SPECIFIC to my process of learning the jazz idiom, in college, to “succeed.” It’s basically one among the thousands of “good ideas” that I had in my undergraduate process; ideas that I frequently had but never got around to cultivating into a regular or reliable habit.

Of course there is benefit to warming up this way. Hands down. But this is not the only way. I know for me, I have a tendency to get so transfixed, so hooked in, so wrapped around ideas like these – “If I could only force myself to do ‘xyz,’ then I would finally be the player that I want to be.”

The honest truth is I’m afraid.

Afraid of what, Sam?

I do have a sense about what I’m doing with music. I know my way around the fretboard, the circle of 4ths, and across the strings; I’ve walked around the block of playing in all keys. And I know that there is real, honest to god, verifiable benefit to practicing in these ways.

But what is this recurring feeling? What is this fear, this thought that says, “Oh, if only [blank,] THEN…then I would feel like I can trust myself (as a performer)?”

Maybe it’s true for all of us who find ourselves in the performing arts, (and I’m quite sure that it may be true for all of us, at a deeper level) – I know it’s true for me, performing still FREAKS me the FUCK OUT. And it’s for all of the human reasons:

  • What’s going to happen? (Fear of the Unknown)
  • What if I fuck up? (Fear of Rejection)
  • (Pretty much any other unhelpful ‘What If…?” that you can imagine.

And that’s okay.

Music is a process. I am in the process, doing the thing. The presence of fear doesn’t devalue any of us. I just want to learn how to better hang with the fear.

“Show up, Contribute, Learn.” – Jay Rinsen Weik.

From a life-saving conversation that I had with my teacher in college, these three simple practices are a way to guarantee a ‘win’ in life. Even if we are afraid. Even if we don’t know what’s going to happen. Even if we don’t have the PERFECT PROCESS, INCLUDING A PERFECT W a r m u p, WITH WHICH TO DOMINATE THE MUSICAL WORLD AND TO CATAPULT HUMANITY TO THE STARS VIA SHEER SONIC AWESOMENESS.

Let’s just keep practicing together. And yeah, it’s definitely a good idea to warm up.

Love and Bows



Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry:

On Gravity in Sound

Similarly to how Pulse is a center of gravity, so too are all chords their own universes with their own gravitational centers. Chord tones are like stars and planets, with massive gravity and a tendency towards grounding the more ethereal and weaker tones. Of course, one must tune into chord tones of all qualities; to hear and feel them through all changes – subtle and magnificent – is to stay grounded within the natural relativity of sonic landscapes.

It becomes a game. How do these massive points of density interplay and shift? Where does the tension grow? Where does it break?

Arpeggios and chord tones are the world against which all music dances and through which all music breathes.

Current Reflections:

Last week, we considered the gravity that exists within rhythm; this week, it looks like my past-self decided to focus on the gravity that exists within harmony.

If I’m being honest, in my initial re-read of this entry, the language makes me cringe a little. I can see that my spirit was full of fire and my intention was strong, but I’m not sure that I would say this the same way now.

How might I say this now, you ask?

Well, if you aren’t asking, I certainly am.

As I consider this question, I find myself gazing towards my personal relationship with harmony; I think that I left something crucial out of my initial considerations, all those years ago. I completely neglected the importance of melody when considering the musical universe of harmony.

If my memory serves me, I remember encountering several critical and life-changing perspectives about harmony from my jazz and history studies at the University of Toledo. This wisdom was transmitted to me, perhaps during my studio lessons with my professor, Jay Rinsen Weik, or maybe in a composition lesson with the gifted Dr. Lee Heritage – both professors heavily altered the course of my thinking about composition. It may be so that each told me the same thing in different moments, or even that these nuggets of wisdom arose from somewhere else in the fertile environment of UT’s music department. Wherever it came from, what I learned was this:

  1. Chords, in and of themselves, in a certain way, are inert. This means that in isolation, chords don’t necessarily lead anywhere or have much to say without a relationship to melody or larger context. (This one definitely traces back to Dr. Heritage. Forgive me if I have misrepresented your words, sir.)
  2. The great guitarist, Jim Hall, had a fascinating concept of harmony: rather than conceptualizing chords as blocks or stacks of notes, Jim Hall preferred to conceptualize harmony as the intersection of different melodic lines, each with their own integrity and direction.

Could I site the information for this second claim? God I wish. I’m going to have to dig around on the internet and in my notes to see if I can trace the source.

In the meantime, lets look at each point, one at a time.

  1. Chords are fundamentally inert.

In many ways, this was a point of contention for me when Dr. Heritage first asserted that chords were basically meaningless on their own. I was studying in the jazz world, and there was a blatant worship of chords and chord changes. Every one was talking about the changes, how the chords were built, what the good notes were, what notes to avoid. This worship of chord changes largely informed my original entry. It was easy for me to get lost in the infinite soundscapes of harmonic drones, exploring tensions and consonances in sound. Droning harmony was and still remains a favorite experimental setting for me to explore the nature of sounds on the guitar. It was from this deep communal regard of chords in the UT Jazz department and through my direct experience of mining sounds out of drones that I began to conceptualize the celestial perspective of harmony that is so apparent in the original entry.

I don’t think chords are meaningless on their own. I don’t think they are inert, frozen, dead, and without motion. I know this, both in my own experience and because droning tones are foundational for the ancient and improvisational Hindustani music.

(Further reading on drones here and here)

But I think what Dr. Heritage was trying to convey was closer to the second point on the list.

Without context, a chord is just a block of sound.

When I use a chord or some stack of harmony as a drone, I am using the harmonic and looping sound as context to explore melodic improvisation against that sound.

So perhaps Dr. Heritage and I agree more than I initially thought. Context is important for harmony to convey meaning.

But you could also argue that people have the capacity to give meaning to anything. If I want to play the same chord over and over again, asserting my musicality, who’s to argue?

Philosophy aside, I think that Dr. Heritage was trying to underscore the importance of melody. Now that I’ve been stewing in this conversation for awhile, I can remember him talking about harmony as the intersection of different melodic lines.

2. Harmony as the intersection of melody

When two singers are singing different melodic lines, there are moments when their voices might sustain and overlap on different notes. The relationship between these different notes create a resonance, a musical interval, a little pocket of harmony.

How interesting.

Melody is often the animating force for musical expression. We love when the chorus hits on the radio, little fragments of songs often get stuck in our heads, playing endlessly – ear worms – and I think that most people have heard a melody that they love so much that they can’t resist singing along in the shower.

What if harmony is a musical phenomenon that occurs when multiple melodies intersect?

God, there is so much I could say about this topic.

What I will share is this: By shifting my understanding about harmony, I have enabled myself to encounter new musical possibilities in my own composition process. Music doesn’t have to be constrained to “theoretically perfect” grids and charts, using the “correct” harmonic voicings and adhering to all the “rules.”

Often when I write now, I think primarily about the melodic integrity of what I am playing or singing:

Does it catch my heart? Does it make me feel?

How can I use the ideas within the melody as a springboard for the rest of the composition?

Can I play a countermelody on the guitar/my instrument at the same time?

Or maybe I could harmonize a line that I am playing on my guitar with the melody I’m singing, using the rhythmic contour of my vocal line as inspiration for my guitar/accompaniment.

Can I make little melodic lines pop out above, below, around, and through the chords I am playing?

Can I make satisfying decisions about voice leading, considering each note in my chord as a separate melody line; each saying something meaningful, each pointing somewhere?

And yes. At the same time, all of my exploration with drones, experimentation with tensions and consonances, and the celestial regard for harmony that I wrote about about in the original entry – ALL of it informs my current process. For me, this is a process driven by the pure love of harmonic exploration, except now it is better informed by the singing heart of melodic intelligence and the driving force of rhythm.

How do you conceptualize harmony? I’d love to hear about your perspective. Do you agree with these perspectives? Disagree? Have information contrary to what I’ve shared here? I would love to hear from you. Drop a comment and let me know how you receive this entry!

Love and Bows




Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Starting off with some older Drake today

Original Entry:

On Rhythm… On Pulse

Rhythm and pulse are centers of gravity in sound. Not only do keys have centers, but so too does pulse.

As I play, I tap on 2 and 4 and engage with the feeling of pulse. As my mind sorts and integrates new information, the energy of my awareness shifts to enable my arms and hands to activate and maintain a pattern; when this happens, my awareness sometimes looses hold of my pulse on 2 and 4, and my imagination slides around outside of a feeling of time, causing me to oftentimes drop my entire act.

This is the moment to become more deeply aware of. When do I drop the whole show and loose track of the ground, the beat? What techniques or feels scramble my mind? These are the moments to realize.

All feelings are relative to a center; where I loose my center is where I work to move more deeply into it, to compensate for hectic changes.

If I continually drop my performance in one spot, this becomes the spot to thread a steady pulse that I can feel with my body.

I am aware of the feeling of my body. I harmonize with center through the feeling of pulse. My foot tends to feel pulse on 2 and 4. My arms, hands, and fingers feel vibrations emanating off of my guitar. I am my ability to harmonize multiple dimensions of feeling around a single unshakable center. My hands and fingers harmonize their rhythm with the pulse of my body, of my feet. I am my ability to smoothly drift through changes while maintaining a solid living root of pulse in my awareness.

Jamming some Papadosio For this Part

Current Reflections:

It’s fascinating to see the language of my mental operating system out of this era of my life. I was really taken with this “I am my ability to…” phrase, like it had some sort of super power. It was a phrase my friend Ryan Murray arrived with at festival when Mark England walked him through a process of examining his language and personal stories. I watched Ryan suddenly become empowered with his words in that moment, and rather than fully appreciating the process that brought him to this personal phrase, I just grabbed the phrase, believing it to be the magic fruit that could help me do anything.

Although I employed this phrase frequently, I’m not sure that it had the intrinsic power that I hoped for.

Do any of you notice features of your language and how it seems to change over time? If so, I’d love to hear about your perspective on your own linguistic process!

Beyond these initial observations of language, this entry is an interesting one. You may know that, Western music especially (as in Western Hemisphere) tends to use tonal or key centers. But at the time of this writing, I was realizing that the beat or pulse of music can also act as a center of gravity.

Here I am talking about “tapping on 2 and 4.” Just in case you don’t know, I’m talking about tapping my foot along with a metronome. Instead of tapping out every beat, I was actively practicing tapping my foot ONLY on beats 2 and 4.

Why? Why would you do such a thing?

This was one of the first and hardest lessons I learned at the University of Toledo in the Jazz department during my 2012 incarnation as a Saxophone Major. My Teacher at the time insisted that I “CUT THAT SHIT OUT,” (talking about me tapping my foot every beat) and “TAP THE 2 AND THE 4.”

I had no idea what the fuck that meant. Though I was quickly and harshly informed that beat 2 and beat 4 were typically the beats that the drummer would pump the high hat with their foot in many styles of traditional jazz.

So, I realized I was going to have to become my own drummer – at least in some capacity.

I smashed my head against the wall with this one for the entire semester. It took five months of continual (and painstaking) practice before this started to become even close to second nature.

Then I dropped out of school and forgot largely forgot about it.

After a year of shenanigans, I gathered up myself and reapplied to the University of Toledo, now incarnating as a guitar player (This had been my original intention back in 2012, although I accidentally auditioned on Saxophone, thinking I was just trying out for the big band or something, ending up lumped in with the other saxophone majors.)

During my year away, I had taken it upon myself to drill all my major scales and basic major and minor triads. Theoretically, I felt ready to hang, but as a player, I knew I had a LOT of mechanical work to do.

But you know what I didn’t need to do?

Kill myself to understanding tapping on 2 and 4. Turns out that shit was slowly aging like a fine wine in the cellar of my consciousness while I partied for a year. It happened to be so that I could tap 2 and 4 pretty effortlessly now.

This entry is interesting because I was noticing that, even though I had a pretty solid command of tapping beats 2 and 4, there were still moments in some tunes where I would completely lose the beat or turn myself around. The easiest place to do this for me was during an improvised solo. I always wanted to do the best I could (maybe trying to one-up my friends and peers), but usually I just ended up farting and fumbling around, loosing track of the beat and the form.

It was like: “Solo time? AHHHH!” *Screaming and spontaneous fires, people running in utter mayhem*

My most basic thought was embarrassing: “DO THE THING!” I’d scream to myself, watching my hands open and close like clamps in a claw machine.

Oh yeah.

All of my training went right out the window in panic and I’d just bang on the strings, using wide vibratos and bends when I ALWAYS landed on a b9, #9, b3, b6, or b7 on a major 7 chord (These happen to be among the WORST sounding unintentional tones a person could accidentally resolve to).

Eventually I became aware that it was perhaps, not a wonderful idea to panic and vomit every time I soloed.

Then, a friend, mentor, and wonderful teacher of mine, Mike Cantafio then taught me a way to take my foot tapping to the next level.

“On your left foot, keep tapping 2 and 4, but with your right foot, tap every beat 1, 2, 3, and 4. A teacher taught me this, then I applied it to EVERYTHING, and It’s CRAZY dude, it will help your time SO much. I can tell when drummers are dragging or rushing now. It’ll change your world!”

Bows Mike. That shit fucked up my mind and put me back on square one. It was hard.

Really. Fucking. Hard.

But I kept practicing. This exercise took YEARS before it began to feel natural, but guess what, it clicked together, even for a person as dense as myself.

This new approach to rhythm has changed my life.

It didn’t solve everything, but suddenly, I had much deeper and more stable roots to rely on when site-reading, playing melodies, and improvising solos.

After that, I started to wonder if I could root my rhythm more deeply, using my voice as another anchor point for rhythm.

I started counting the beats “1, 2, 3, 4” out loud. Easy, right? Sure, if you are playing quarter notes or maybe 8th notes. But how about syncopation? Triplets? 16th note syncopation? Quintuplets?

This is the cutting edge of my practice now, keeping my feet tapping and locked onto the beat, counting any subdivision that I choose, and creating musical phrases that have a beginning, middle, and end. Where do I lose the beat now? What moments overload my rhythmic center of gravity and cause me to drift through time?

And you know, maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What if I could use this mistake, drifting through time, and harvest the result of it while still maintaining my grounded gravity of pulse? That sounds like freedom.





Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.

Original Entry:

Too Radical of a Change

I noticed today when practicing material – licks that I can hit and nail at half note = 50, I step in gaping holes wen I immediately attempt it at half note = 70.

This is not, by any means, a new trend. Often I use too radical of a change to express myself; sometimes it’s perfect, but in other situations, it may overwhelm other more subtle energies and shut them down. Not every moment calls for a jarring shift; it would be extremely rude to wake one’s lover from a gentle sleep with a screaming guitar solo.

There exists infinitely subtle energies and dimensions of reality that are dismissed by blundering awareness. I am my ability to tune into these layers of increasing subtlety.

Because I am my ability to tune into the infinitely subtle aspects of reality, I guide my creativity to gently shift and unfold with the natural potential of the universe, introducing massive shifts almost beyond perception.

Current Reflections:

When I first wrote this entry, I was noticing a tendency in my practice of the guitar; I was always gunning for the goal, trying to GO GO GO and GET THE RESULT. I would learn how to play a melody or a line at a fairly pedestrian and accessible speed, and then, I would ratchet up the tempo to THE GOAL TEMPO, which was AS FAST AS I COULD PLAY IT.

Instead of starting with the reality of my current ability level, acknowledging my capacity, working on the edge of my ability to consistently and evenly, building up a foundation that could support my intention, and gradually crushing my goal with tectonic and unshakable force, I instead wanted my results NOW.

I can do it at this slow speed. NOW LET’S BUMP THAT SHIT UP.

It was like I was confidently curling 2 pound weights without a problem, so I decided I was ready for 40 pounds. And I expected that I could probably keep doing 3 or 4 sets of 15 reps each. What could go wrong?

Turns out that adding 38 pounds is pretty heavy if you aren’t used to it.

And based on the false expectation that I was going to be able to perform flawlessly with this new weight, I created quite a bit of suffering for myself.

Because I couldn’t do what I expected. It was way harder than I thought. I messed up and dropped it. And then I would beat myself up for being such a schmo.

“I’m such a failure, I can’t even lift these 40 pound weights 60 times in 5 minutes. I mean, I’ve been practicing with 2 pounds.”

A recipe for a bad time.

Recently I’ve been reading a wonderful book by the author James Clear, called Atomic Habits. The whole premise of the book is built around the idea that small, atom sized shifts in our daily lives can lead to compounding results. I’ve read it through once and I am reading it again, almost like a devotional. It fires me up to touch the inspiration daily – it’s a protein-packed reminder that I can empower myself, set practices in motion that I deeply value, and track and maintain my progress. It’s a wonderful book, and if you are interested in how we, as people, learn, grow, and evolve, I’d recommend it 100 times over.

Small incremental shifts.

It turns out, these little shifts can make a HUGE difference.

This is something I’ve found out of my direct experience of practicing music. Maybe jumping from 50 to 100 on the metronome is hard (especially if you are feeling the beat in cut time or on 2 + 4), but it turns out that crossing the gap between 50 to 100 in small increments doesn’t necessarily have to take forever.

Just as long as we can have some basic information clear, the metronome becomes a powerful tool to deepen, strengthen, stretch, and integrate our experience. It allows us to dig in and increase in manageable chunks without loosing the integrity of what we are doing.

Small incremental shifts. Build on what you have.

There is a wonderful Bill Evans Quote that my teacher had posted in his studio, and that I now have posted in my own studio:

“It’s better to do something simple which is real. It’s something you can build on because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it.

“They’re trying to do a thing in a way that is so general they can’t possibly build on that. If they build on that, they’re building on top of confusion and vagueness and they can’t possibly progress. If you try to approximate something that is very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t advance.”


I couldn’t have said it better Bill. Thank you for your wisdom.

For me, at a certain point in my life, I began to recognize that I was barreling through my days, numb to many of the sensations in my body and perceptions of the world. I found myself needing to slow down, wanting to take the time to notice the little things around me that I had been previously taking for granted: The textures in the bark of trees, the smells of plants and how they subtly changed during the heat of a summer’s day versus the cool of night, the way that sounds seemed to play across my eardrums…

Observations – Papadosio – This record was a staple for me as I began to open and notice

I began to wonder “What is the limit of my perception?” and “How deeply can I notice or feel into this moment?” or “What is the most subtle information my senses can register?”

Is there something I am missing by tuning out and zipping from activity to activity, bouncing from pleasure to pleasure, and recoiling away from the pain and discomfort of existence?

When I remember this era of my life, of noticing the reality around and within me, it charges me up and excites me. These questions are still very much alive for me today, if only I take the time to cultivate and notice them.

How do musicians and artists encode emotions into their artwork? How do they take their feelings and pour them into a medium? How is it that I can feel them? How can I pour this feeling into my own art? What is really happening in that process? Am I really taking the time to savor and appreciate the life around me as it happens?

Recently for me, the answer to this last question has sadly been no.

Maybe more than ever before, I find myself compulsively bouncing from task to task, always trying to either GO GO GO, or when a lull happens, trying to tune out and avoid the junk that I’m feeling.

Let’s face it, right now, the world is a painful place. Quarantine and Covid has been hard on everyone, and it seems to be stretching on infinitely.

It can be painful to stop and notice sometimes.

But I don’t think that is a good reason to avoid stopping or slowing down.

How do we meet the circumstances of the moment unfolding before us? And how do we meet it well?