Making Music from the Present Moment

Next week I’m teaching a class at the Nashville Jazz Workshop called Soul Song: Setting your Inner Musician Free.

The purpose of the class is to explore the blockages that keep us from practicing and playing/singing from a place of pure joy.  Once those roadblocks are known, they begin to let go of us.

Kenny Werner has a magnificent book on the subject called Effortless Mastery, and this text, along with Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson, will be our texts for the class.

I also add music exercises involving visualization of the keyboard from Marianne Ploger’s work, and some of Byron Katie’s self inquiry process called “The Work.”

It seems that the most pressing issue we have as a collective species is the matter of evolving into a more mature consciousness.

With the world experiencing so many manifestations of escalating chaos, it might be more imperative than ever to take responsibility for our internal states of mind.  As musicians I believe we have the opportunity to experience presence through the performance of music – because music can only be experienced in the present moment.

Think of music as something that we channel.  If our channel is not clear, or rather we are resisting the flow of the present moment, we cannot fully experience music. Or, share it with others.

When we go back and remember why we started playing music in the first place, we find clues about our BEING which is the foundation of literally everything.  Including music.

In a mind-bending blog post by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, I’m reminded that instead of trying to reach goals we could just do things out of the love for doing them.  Would Kenny Werner agree with this perspective as it pertains to playing and singing?

Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing – you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion. -Leo Babauta

Click here for Leo’s full post called: the best goal is no goal

If you play music of any kind, you are welcome to join the Soul Song class.  Even if you can’t make the class, please enjoy Kenny Werner and Victor Wooten’s books. 

Here’s to more allowing, especially as we play and sing music.


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What is Vocal Health?

We talk about vocal health a lot, but what does that mean, exactly?

Since the vocal instrument is the body, vocal health in large part addresses physical health.

Is a singer getting proper amounts of . . .

  • Sleep?
  • Water?
  • Nutrition?
  • Peace of mind?
  • Exercise?
  • Medical attention?

Think basics of decent physical health, and you can deduce much of what you need for “vocal” health as well.  For example, fatigue or lack of sleep is a huge factor in vocal function.

Didn’t sleep last night? 
The voice may fatigue more quickly than usual, and tonight’s gig might not feel as easy to sing.

To me, vocal health also encompasses how the voice is engaged or exercised, and special considerations for singers based on how the voice functions.  This “vocal health” topic is endless, so please use the following ideas as a jumping off place to do more research for yourself.

1. The Vocal Folds and Anything You Inhale

The vocal folds, or vocal cords, sit on top of the trachea acting as a cap to the airway down below.

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Listening to Your Voice: 3 Ways to Get Instant Audio Feedback

There are arguments for and against listening to the sound of one’s own voice.  The biggest argument against listening to how we sound is the innate tendency to dislike our own voices.

Do you remember the first time you heard your voice on a recording?

If you are like most people, it was a strange experience and not altogether believable or pleasant.

For now, let’s assume a healthy, balanced perspective on listening to the voice, and discuss how learning to hear your own voice “in the room” can make a difference in your training goals.

Why listen in the first place?

Since the voice sounds very, very different inside our skulls than “in the room,” it is important to both become comfortable with the sounds we are producing and to realize what sounds we are actually making.

Audio feedback mechanisms are like mirrors for the voice.  Sometimes it helps to look at what we are doing so we can make adjustments faster and with more precision.

3 Voice Feedback Tools

1. The Smartphone

Most smartphones have a voice memo app.  These built-in apps capture great sound and don’t require much memory.  Use your app to sample a few seconds of singing or speaking and then listen back with an open mind.  You will most likely hear all kinds of interesting things, and you can also re-investigate to your heart’s content.

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There Are No New Thoughts

How liberating to know there are no new thoughts!  Everything we ponder has been pondered before.  Think about it.

Barring great pioneers such as Albert Einstein, the rest of us should not expect to bring brand new knowledge into the world.  New collections of ideas maybe, but not new ideas themselves. We all borrow or steal ideas from each other as a matter of course.  This is the way of it – across time and across the human condition.

Both Byron Katie and Elizabeth Gilbert discuss this topic in their work.  “There are no new stressful thoughts,” Katie says.  Gilbert agrees: creative work consists of recycled and re-purposed thoughts uniquely brought together.  We are not working with new materials here, people.

So, why would the idea of “no new thoughts” be liberating and not depressing?

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The Gift of Limitation

“It is amazing what can happen if you force yourself into a limitation.”
Iris Scott, Fingerpaint Master in 60 sec docs

Life can seem like a series of limitations.  We often don’t have what we think we need or want.  (Notice the word *think.*)

But, as it turns out, what we have is exactly . . . what we need.  Because we have it.  In the moment, we can perceive something as a limitation, or we can become friends with it – stop fighting against it.  This is the only way to find peace.  Because peace happens in the moment and no where else.

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