Working with Headphones

“To can or not to can THAT is the real question!” Hamlet

Sure, we use headphones to record but the question arises if you should just always use them?

The sound in the headphones is so focused and if you get good ones then they are really great for one of the most important things a musician does…transcription.

Transcription is basically learning a song by ear. Now here they are really good because you are not competing with local background noises and you are right inside of the engineer’s mix as it were.

I am practicing, writing and recording in a apartment as well, so for me they are great as I dont live alone and sometimes I want to work early or late. Cor songwriting they can be quite good in that kind of environment because you are literally creating within your own little world.

I use a Zoom L12 mixer and multitrack which is pretty intuitive and I did record my first cd on it. I’d say it’s only two weaknesses are that the effect you chose for that song is the only onboarding affect you get. You should vary effects per instrument preferably so I also use a few other exterior pedals and keyboards often have their own onboard as well.

There is, of course, different recording software out there like Protools and Reason but I presently dont have the money or time to invest in them. I do want to but it will sadly have to be later.

Where headphones fall a little I think is for the organic feeling of creativity and for rehearsing for a show. Especially for guitarists (and bassists like myself) you want to get closer to the feeling of not using them and the amp is part of your sounds creation. The headphones give you a sense of security that is going to be lost when you hop stage. I have found that as you go from headphones to not to rehearsal to gig to recording studio the stress naturally rises with the highest at a live recording. So for these you want to practice as close as you can get and leave the headphones for more coming up with ideas or study.

Getting ready for a show on this Friday out in Langford, British Columbia so my practice quickly popped through the other instruments before staying on bass. And yeah I did the exact same thing, standing…using a mic…no headphones…everything to recreate the same environment. You dont have to stand too but I find it does just for going over your set, give you that same angle that changes when seated.

So have a look online for what is good and within your price range. I use Audio Technica M40s which have a great sound and durability.

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,

Tom

Challenge of digital songwriting

Oops I did it again – B.Spears

I could have just as easily called this confessions of a songwriter in 2020 or oh to be young in the nineties again but there you go.

I had this song about helping people with universal basic income (dont @ at me please, I think ubi could work, especially for our lot who have lost gigs, street performing, and some have even lost teaching gigs).

So, this…I’ll call it a song…was literally written and improvised in two takes after it “happened”. The germ of a song is that moment when you (or I, anyways) suddenly realize there might be something before me.

This song I titled “Give People a Chance”.

I hadn’t planned that Lennon connection…maybe it was playing a song like this on the black and whites…

Then after I recorded a phone video of me singing and playing it on my Yamaha keyboard, I loaded the second take into an app called Powerdirector. I had done editing a long time ago when I worked on my first film Bass Line so for me this app is a easy simple version of using something like Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro.

Even with having a very simple idea (I used Canva for the final image) the process of that took about 45 minutes which is a sizable chunk of a morning’s practice routine. I don’t do this full time and I have from nine to about 1pm to practice keys, guitar, bass and drums.

But, I suppose you can absorb that. One easy rationalization is that being creative with music that you make is surely the point of what you are doing, especially if you start bringing those other instruments in. I play bass in a band, but my other instruments are all about making music at home.

So that should be perfect, right? I mean, that is what all the practice is for. It’s applying the craft.

Well, there is a problem and yet again I got excited and swept up in all that excitement.

It was way…way to soon to launch into the public consciousness.

Glen Hansard (Once, The Frames) said it in this absolutely amazing YouTube broadcast that you have got to watch…

click here !

…songs shouldn’t be put out there until they’re ready.

You’ve got to be able to let them grow and develop. The best songs resonate with you on a personal level. They are an organic thing that grows from the first moment you conceive them.

The challenge which I swear I am trying to push towards is not so easily falling victim to just launching it out for that immediate fix. We have this same, almost flipside problem with studying music with YouTube and Instagram lessons.

Scott Devine of Scott’s Bass Lessons has said this repeatedly, that it is so easy to bounce from YouTube video to YouTube video and think that you’re practicing. You’re not, you’re watching videos.

Even if you went to a traditional music lesson I wouldn’t call that practicing. Practicing involving YouTube would be to watch a video, get the information down, and then put the device aside and actually work on what you just learned. In a way it is an extension of how we all learned back in the day, playing along to music. Only thing is, we didn’t just stop playing and stare at the radio.

One of the coolest, coolest examples of switching to lo fi (not that they switched per se but…) songwriting has to be the story of two men who, along with there wives, lived in two cabins in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden.

They would go to one cabin where they would write for eight hours a day with just a guitar and a piano. They didnt record anything. They didnt even bring a pen. They’re attitude was “If I can’t remember it, well…it probably wasn’t any good!” Now we dont all have that kind of time but even still it did work for them.

It gave them songs like Dancing Queen, Fernando and Eagle.

This was the writing process of Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and the foundation of ABBA.

The world of online is a powerful tool and it is exciting, but allow yourself that offline time. It is in the moments of quiet where you can make magic.

Cheers,

Tom

Ok, I can’t resist…here is the guys of ABBA talking about it themselves…

https://youtu.be/FHDRRiX1now

“…it takes time to get through all the rubbish…to make something special…to hear it…that takes time” Bjorn Ulvaeus

Writing ideas

If you can’t write anything, write the truth

Kind of later in the day here on the west coast but I wanted to get going on this idea which I’m presently writing into my phone on a break at work.

These days I’ve been really trying to develop my musicianship to take my sort of songwriting and production to the next level as it were. I have my band so that makes bass have a place of priority, but I’ve also been a writer and songwriter since way back.

I guess for me it’s a place of not quite knowing where to go with that side of me. I have done one album called The Goldblacks and it’s sort of a mix of older songs with some newer ones but I like the idea of my work evolving from there and also creating more songs that are ironically not reliant on a multitrack or a whole band coming with me.

I did one show on the album and while it went ok it was a bit frustrating that many songs from it just didnt work live. So I guess my goal is to develop a sort of best of the different worlds with the good musicianship for recording, simpler approach for writing and also keeping the other fires burning like my band and other things.

Now it’s been recommended that as a bassist I journal what I’m doing and I’m doing that with now keys, guitar bass and most recently my electronic drum kit (I’m in an apartment with fussy neighbors). So I was like if I’m already doing that why not bring it into more regular blog idea?

I could try it like this for a while and see how I and everyone else responds. I’m not sure. It could be like a evolving behind the scenes thing. Maybe I’ll bring it to once a week, or every three days. Daily is possible but I just dont thing that there’s that much material and also some days I have more time than others.

I mean today on keys I’ve been working through two books and I’m actually trying to scale back to basic things that i know will help me and on a recommendation of listening to Rick Beato, trying to not just rip through scales but slow down, feel each note, and get more melodic.

Guitar is the same for that, which I’ve never really practiced until this year. Drums are fun but presently with new car payments and Long and Mcquade payments I’m trying to hold onto it all.

I should probably get back to work especially as I’ll be setting the blog up after I sign off.

Hope you enjoyed this or maybe just got a little curious. What I’d like to almost do is maybe show my creative methods and things for others who want to get musically creative or go into songwriting.

I’ll be studying it and working on it either way and it would be interesting to have the chance to take if beyond just selling my own songs but actually reaching further out. It just stems to stories I’ve heard of people being creatively shut down by so-called authority figures and I like the idea of showing that those voi as are wrong and you can do whatever dream you have.

There’s songs in the wood

-Alan Hutchinson

Cheers,

Tom

Less tower, more square.

Just started two things, reading The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson and looking into selling music clips online and it brought up a thought about creativity.

Due to the way things are, especially in these times, the ability to navigate around any pecking order and connect with both collaborators and consumers is better than ever.  Just from my own research today on selling clips there are so many platforms with different costs and ways to set up that it really comes down to the creator.

There is loads of support no matter what thing you are curious about, wheth its music, visual, performing or what have you. In my experience as a bassist there is not only instruction but boards where you can talk about how to get going out there ( I also have my own joining a band blog at Band survival guide ) I mean, you can connect to lots of folks online but what’s cool is also making connection to other local like minded artists to get you started. I’m thinking of some of the places our band have played which are artist groups, made up of people who connected online. These people can inspire you as well as be there as potential as friends/contacts who can put you in touch with others.

Not all collaborative activities work out, some do, and some are like when Ricky Gervais met Stephen Merchant, when Sting started talking to Stewart Copeland or when Johnny Marr knocked on the door of Stephen Morrissey.

You never know! It’s not about being a super anything either. New Order, members of the Fall (band) and other eventual full time artists were just people who saw the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall back in the late 70s. Some went from the show to the music store, pointed and said “that one, please!”

Dont hold back on your dreams. Where they can go is limitless.

Cheers,

Tom

Creative ESCAPE

It’s hard to escape the news.

Not just because it’s upsetting or unprecedented but because the nature of it connects more to us than it did.

I can think back to even as recent as six years back where I only knew news if it was something truly extraordinary or extreme. Now it seems its hour to hour. I can think of some speakers who I’ll catch on YouTube knowing that due to broadcast timing they couldn’t have gotten everything that happened that day.

I’ve decided that this blog wont go into that stuff. It’s going to go the other way.

It’s an idea that I’ve had for a while and with summer here and a new week starting I would like to take a little more seriously something I had already been doing for fun.

I mean, they say you should do what you would do anyway, so…

This is now a blog on the subject of creativity.

Now, I can hear you, because funny enough, I took a course on creativity that had us asking it. How can you teach that?

It’s true, I can’t.

But what I have done off and on and want to explore now is how to feel capable of it, harnessing it, exploring it and all the other kinds of support I can think of (and pass on that I will learn) to you so that you can be in that best place.

This seems especially fitting now, even with us all coming out of lockdown in places around the world and worrying about this or that. No matter how you view things the chance for stress is all around.

Creativity and the self care that gives you the fuel to harness it are a fantastic defense against this. One bit of instruction you will get from most music teachers immediately would be “turn the phone off”. That’s what this will be. It will be a place of solace.

I know there are things important to you ouf there but you need to be in your best place to deal with those. Most music lessons all speak against the idea of hours and hours of practice. As such we’re not talking about getting up early, but finding 20 to 30 minutes that are yours.

But first you need to feel you can do it and that it’s worth it. I promise you both are true. Maybe mornings are better for you, maybe afternoons. There is probably a time of day when you have more energy and you’re not at work or in the middle of some obligation.

Make that your first thing you will do. Find out what that time is. Mine is morning and I have a whole routine I run through, but even that gets switched up. It use to be early afternoons back when I was younger. And dont forget, it doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. It could be a half hour before you get ready for bed. Maybe you will want to get up a half hour early. Maybe it’s right after school or work. I dont know. But the trick is to lock it in and make it yours.

From there we’ll plan your escape.

Think the end of Shawkshank Redemption.

The guards are sleepy. The tunnel is ready.

See you on the outside.

Cheers,

Tom 🙂

Keep the content going!

Since I posted that other one about “Content Creators” I have been doing a post a day on Instagram and now Tik Tok. I haven’t been on here as much as it is more the hub for my thoughts and what I do but I may bring them over here more regularly as well.

On Instagram I got as tompogsonmusic and it has been one or more songs a day for the two months now which I am proud of.

This one i did as a request and since I was compared to Simply Red long ago.

Cheers,

Tom

Creators, Welcome to Why.

I for one dont have a problem with Bill Maher. I’m also a big fan of Ricky Gervais as my friends have been known to bemoan that I do him. Now what joke am I setting up here?

Anyway, he still never calls.

If a joke is offensive or a song upsets you or someone’s writing made you frustrated, that’s fine. I still believe in a higher power is my point about Bill and Ricky. Just because I dont agree doesn’t mean I can’t laugh. Like one priest my mom knows, he said he like Davinci Code, saying it was fun.

Our job as entertainers, content creators and artists is to get people away from themselves.

People are freaked out as hell right now. Even if you think of yourself as the most level headed there is nothing like seeing those empty shelves for that first time. This is crowd effect. Our species thinks as a unit when the chips are down. Sometimes this can be good and of course it can be bad, but it still is there. I mean, empathy is how we work. As musicians and writers I can tell you we work people’s expectations and things for the most dramatic results.

“People hate this in real life but love it in fiction” Sol Stein on Writing.

Here’s a piece of music I did on the experience of seeing those shelves for the first time. I wrote the lyrics literally on the walk home on a notepad app. It was a bitterly cold day with high wind here in Victoria on the Canadian west coast and my hands were actually cracking from how much I’ve been washing my hands more than usual coupled with work and with performance in my Celtic band during the blur that is St Patrick’s month.

I knew I wanted to keep it simple with two chords back and forth like a heartbeat. I’ve also been glued to the late Mark Hollis’s debut album which probably influenced my choices.

Did the song work? No idea but it takes the viewer away from themselves for a moment.

With my band Cookeilidh I have certainly experienced this. We will play a seniors home and there will be a person singing and tapping her feet, or clapping her hands. Afterwards we will find out that is the first time that person has even spoken in months.

No matter what art form you do this is true. No matter what form of entertainment. We are all these gentlemen…

Or as you may know them…

Interesting being a bassist and seeing the bassist’s “White Star” tie. It immediately makes me think of the prep I’ve done before shows. Instagram girls and adult entertainers I’m bringing you in here too. Now some might say I’ve gone too far or revealed something but screw that. Actors, singers, musicians, painters, dancers, writers, poets, adult performers, filmmakers, artisans, songwriters, producers we are all doing the same thing in our way. We put on the best show we can. Sure, we have our hopes thrown into the ring as well, but without what I’m saying we’re not doing the job.

“There’s a job, there’s a gig here” Billy Joel

“Sometimes a fantasy is all you need…” Just a Fantasy – Billy Joel

“Be the sweetest five minutes you ever had…” Tomorrow We’ll See – Sting

Ariana Grande isn’t so into me our most of us out there but when she sings that against Max Martin’s brilliant production you could almost close you eyes and swear you are in some cool hip club and she is actually hitting on you.

Not that I’ve thought of that.

But especially now when there’s self-quarantining on the horizon or in effect for many of us, the need for escapism is stronger than ever. We need you.

I think of how Sting just about cried when he heard some window cleaner whistling one of his songs. He mentioned this in an interview and I think it was about the Police song “Walking on the Moon”

My music was getting him through the day. It became part of his life that helped him even in a small way

And of course this is just one example. One of the reasons I emulate Ricky Gervais so much is because of my day job which is as a cleaner. While I love music of course it can get a bit background-on-background so years ago I added the complete radio shows and podcasts plus Adam and Joe, a comedy team also from the same XFM radio in London between 2000-2006

And now I’m listening to the Adam and Joe sample… Haven’t heard this specific video so…yeah, I’m wrapping this up and checking my spelling.

Might take a while.

Kind of the point.

Get out there and do your thing.

😉

Cheers,

Tom

She Lives There

It’s been almost a year now since the recording of my first official single She Lives There and the rest of The Goldblacks album.

I’m presently working on two projects outside of my role as bassist for the Celtic band Cookeilidh

The first is The Quiet City book project which has a free chapter you can sample here.

I’m also working on developing my studio and new material towards the next album.

I’ll keep you updated as these two side projects grow.

Until then you can get “She Lives There” on iTunes here

Or find me on Spotify here

Thank you for supporting independent artists!

Cheers!!

Tom Pogson

The creative person you become made simple.

I read a friend’s post that was a eulogy for a creative mentor and about the advice he was given. First thing I thought was what advice I would give.

You are the sum total of your daily focus since you started.

There, that’s the condensed soup version but I’ll expand, and keep it short as my time is limited too.

Practicing, working at it, “showing up to the page” or whatever you call it is how things move even incrementally from where you were to where you are. It is really easy to run yourself down, thinking anyone can do what you do, and other kinds of self taught. The truth is you are raising your own kid in your playing (writing, painting. I’ll stick to music from here on and just insert yourself into that as needed). You’re so close that you dont see how much you’ve grown since you’ve started.

The most important thing is for it to be daily, whatever it is. If you can do hours that’s amazing but even if its 30 min do it daily at the same time.

The reason for this is that you are building literally in the day before. I’ve been trying to push for more time with guitar and I’ve been working with chords I never had memorized before. That’s because I did them two days ago, and then yesterday, and then today. Saying I cant during the week but I’m going to go crazy on Saturday just isn’t the same.

Also, not only do we all compare ourselves to that other person, but we do it totally unfairly.

As a bassist, for instance, it is so easy for me to be jealous of guys that can slap and pop and tap crazy notes all over the place or look at a piano player doing a blues shuffle like out of a western until I realize…

I dont listen to that stuff to begin with!

So of course my practice doesn’t focus there. Now I can do some as we all need to do fundamentals or what’s needed, but all of this is about creating and enjoying.

Your joy is what you are harnessing. In songwriting I get that rush of following the conception of the idea and what comes out is a mash of usually what I like to begin with.

Even if you dont sound like the person who inspired you, fear not, their influence is in you now.

Now, in every sense of the word…

Play

Cheers,

Tom

🙂