Pentatonic Box 2 – Revenge of the Major

Hello, darlings!

If you haven’t read the last blog post on pentatonic boxes… literally the last post I made. Well, then I’m gonna do a little self-promotion and tell you to go back a post and give me a click. Seriously though, I suggest you go back there, so everything makes sense from here on out!

So here we go…

BOX 2 MINOR PENTATONIC

Or is it

BOX 1 MAJOR PENTATONIC

Well, actually, it’s both! And all you have to do is set where you place your root note. Dude! What a comforting feeling to know that you don’t have to learn all of these new shapes! We do need to learn a little theory and some notes on at least the 6th string (and therefore, the 1st string… damn, we’re really cooking now)!

But wait, does this work with all of the boxes? IT SURE DOES! I said this in the last blog, but learning these skeletal shapes will CHANGE YOUR GAME!

Honestly, it only takes a few weeks to get it down if you’ve been playing for a while. Maybe a touch longer if you haven’t played for long. But that’s okay, and it should be something that grabs your attention either way.

After another week of studying this stuff, I see that although it does have its drawbacks, most of the folks that complain about it are Jazz freaks (I say freaks in a positive way here) because it does limit your thinking towards major and minor. But if you’re only playing pop/rock music, I don’t see the downside to that. You’re not usually adding “crazy” chord extensions over the top of a Dua Lipa song.

Let me take a quick paragraph and talk about how much I like Dua Lipa. Is that annoying? Idk. Every couple of years, I will hear a deeply pop-rooted artist and gravitate towards them. It’s refreshing to hear something that knows what it is! It’s a good time! That’s all I need to hear right now! Plus, the timbre in her voice is money. Let this be a quick lesson in songwriting and marketing. If you’re trying to get onto a top 40 Spotify playlist and you’re writing/producing a singer/songwriter smash hit… it seems a bit absurd when I write that out, doesn’t it (Say this with a British accent) If you want your song to be on a playlist, be smart and write a song that actually fits on that playlist based on style… not because it’s a good song.

Soapbox dismount.

Okay, here’s our box 2 – Where does this start? It connects to the SECOND note that you’d hit in box 1. Start box one. What’s the note your pinky hit? That’s where it starts.

Take note of where the root notes are here, and remember this is the root of the RELATIVE MINOR of a major key. The relative major key would be the first note you touch in this box.

What does relative mean? It means it shares ALL the same notes of that key. So, for instance, F minor and G# major share all the same notes in their respective keys.

Boom goes the dynamite!

It all comes down to what feels like home in that song! The sixth note in G# is F.

Now you might say, “Ahem, well… Technically, you can break it down into an E#!”Woah, Woah, WOAH!!! Does that make sense to you? No, so why are you breaking it down that way? No, let me remind you that music theory is all language to convey what interval or chord your expressing. So if you want to think of it as E# then by all means… but for most of us. It’s just F, and that is okay. When you’re personally working with John Williams, you should know the difference. But if you’re trying to get paid by at a bar gig. You don’t need to know.

Screw it… let’s do C… that’s an easy key.

C, D, E, F, G, A, B

A is the sixth note and the relative minor key.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G

Same damn notes, different emphasis. Is that comforting? Doesn’t that take some of the mystery out of this thing?

Box 2 is the most important box to learn! So study up and meet me back here next week!

Notes to rememeber.

When you start box 1 of a MINOR pentatonic scale, the second note you hit is the relative MAJOR key.

If you start box 2 where you started box 1, you’re now playing the major pentatonic scale in that key. Box 1 sits just as nicely underneath it in the relative minor of whatever major key you’re playing in now. Box 1 and 2 are always connected.

Here’s why pentatonic scales are SO important (and how they are so easy to learn)

This week’s post is on Pentatonic scales and just how easy it is to learn! I was honestly scared to learn more than I knew when I started guitar.

Let me paint a picture. I was two years into learning guitar. I knew a bunch of songs, and I had a couple of boxes filled with printed chord sheets. I was set! I was writing (terrible) songs. I head a heart full of dreams. I would go to open min nights and get more than a little intimidated (a medium intimidated) by these “monster guitarist.” I put that in air quotes because they perceived that way. I’m sure they were great, but they were doing anything that you can’t do with a year’s worth of an average amount of practice.

I thought I’m a rhythm guitarist. I don’t need to work on that. Or “I have a cool voice. I will just get someone else to play that hard parts.” I didn’t have a good voice at the time, so I don’t know why I thought that would work, and honestly, it’s a pretty piss-poor excuse to not get better at something I loved. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S SO EASY TO LEARN!

Hey… you’re not even the most talented sister! Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’ve alway been more of a Mary Kate guy myself….

Scales bleed their way into everything we do with our instrument. The C chord you’ve learned on day one is made up of three notes from the scale.

1 – 3 – 5

The way you learn ANYTHING is by talking about it a little bit every day. It’s not sitting for three hours once a month working on it. It’s 15 minutes of, let me remind you, doing something you love, EVERYDAY (or 4 times a week, I get it and I space on playing sometimes too).

Thanks to the CAGED system it’s super easy to learn this stuff. We break the neck down into 5 simple boxes. Learn these boxes just like how you learned your C chord, or your E chord.

Then relish the fact that you can move these simple boxes and play that same shape in ANY KEY! That’s right! All you have to do is learn five boxes!

It gets better! All those boxes are really just a skeleton for bigger boxes. So you’ll never be too far from what you’ve learned!

Them bones them bones them dry bones now they’re the workings of the lord

Do you need to learn a Locrian scale? Not right now! How about a blues? not so fast! You just need to learn the 5 boxes. I promise it makes the whole thing easy!

Take a quick look, and if you want it broken down for you even further, we can have a quick 30 min lesson, and I’ll teach you the first one for FREE! WHAT THE HELL?! I know! I just want you to get better that much! I want you to feel happy and love what you’re doing!

Here we go! First box…

Anyone can learn this in a day! It’s simple! And after you learn the notes on the 6th string, you can improve a solo with just about any group. Sure, it’ll be a boring solo, but you can do it! Hell, with a little delay, drive and verb it’ll sound just as good as any Guns and Roses solo.

Shots fired! Just kidding, I’m not jumping on the hating Slash bandwagon.

Get this down this week! I’ll post the next box next week and go into some cool details on how this fits into major scales and you really don’t have to learn 7297423 scale shapes, you only the the skeleton of 5 and you can play most things you want to play! Its that damn easy!

Lastly, here’s a video of me showing you a trick I’ve learned that helped me to memorize these (and other) shapes. It’s about 30 seconds long, so don’t worry, you don’t have to stare at this ugly mug for too long. Have a good week and keep playing!

I’m not sure if the video will come through in the email, so if you’re reading this from your inbox, you might have to click a link to see the video! Just FYI.

The Revolving Door

Growing up, I knew the name of every single member of my favorite bands. I could have told you about their favorite movie and what their sign was. The band was a family, and I was a second cousin in my mind. There was something sacred about that. 

Now I’ve been playing around for a while, and I have played with more than a few different folks over the years. When the band started to pick up some steam, someone would have a problem and drop out (or be insufferable to share a name with). Someone quitting the band can be a real show stopper (pun intended). Every time we start picking up the pace a little, a part of me gets fearful it won’t last. Truth be told, it won’t last. But that’s okay! I have learned to adopt a new attitude towards my community. One that looks a little more like a revolving door. 

This has a negative connotation. But I want to brush it off and give the concept a good shine. 

A better sense of community

I feel that this way of thinking can actually promote a healthier scene. Instead of being so closed off and jealous of someone using “your bassist,” understand that if you are playing with someone who is uber-talented, they might be beneficial in another group. By playing with other groups, they will sharpen up on new sounds and techniques. By locking someone down, you will be depriving that musician of some great opportunities, which will probably benefit you in the long run. By offering to play in other groups, at the very least as a fill-in, you are strengthening your ties in the community. It’s okay to not be at the helm all the time. In fact, I would say it’s good for you!

Better music

I want to touch on this again because it’s just that important to me. In playing around with a few different groups and artists from time to time, you’re going to be a better musician. You’re going to learn new leadership techniques in practice and during gigs. You’re going to open more doors for yourself. 

It isn’t a plan until it’s written.

Most of us don’t need to have six months planned out ahead of time. But consistently planning your month out will only help you. I’m not saying you should fill every free moment. You just need to actually have it written/typed out on an app or a calendar. Don’t assume you’ll remember, you will forget something, I promise you that. 

Open, honest communication

Not one person cares about what you have planned to release four years in the future. They pretend they do, but they don’t. I guess I’m trying to say, don’t overwhelm another musician with a five-year plan. Just be honest and open with them on how you’re feeling right now.

“Are we still good to record this track at the end of next month?” 

“There is a show coming up on the 16th. Are you good for that?”

“I’m having a great time playing with you! Are you having fun too? Is there anything I can do to help make it better?”

Sure, that last one sounds a bit needy for my taste. The point is don’t assume, ask. Let each musician take a walk and carve out their own journey. Release that you might just walk the path for a short time. There are so many talented folks that you can bond with.

When it’s good, acknowledge it’s good and make something special while it lasts! 

To anyone just starting out, be bold and ask to join! If you don’t ask, others usually won’t ask you. Include folks in some projects. You might just be surprised by how much they really add. 

The older I get, the more “MY BAND” mentality can really hurt more than help. I encourage everyone I play with to do their own separate project or play with other people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my “Go-to’s.” I feel lucky to play with these amazing musicians. They are the protagonist of their story. Not me. That’s cool! Actually, that’s really cool! 

All of this sounds great, so what should you do to make it happen?

  • Talk to your friends that also play. Duh.
  • Go out to shows (when everything opens up)
  • Ask to play with other people. It’s that easy. Just ask to play with them and be okay with not taking the lead on a project.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. First, you should ask your friends, but you shouldn’t stop there! 
  • Start listening and trying to play new styles of music on your own. Don’t know where to start? Ask acquaintances what they like to listen to. 

How important is an email list?

Spoilers, everything you’ve heard about email lists, it’s true. All of it! It’s also something I’m really, really bad at collecting. I want to get better at this, so I’m writing this out and coming up with some ideas that might work. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

  1. Blackmail someone until they give me their email.
  2. …. Nothing.

Ok, so not a great start. 

Here’s the big ole thought I’ve been having lately. Numbers are not such a big deal. I mean, I know that quantity is a good thing (I’m not stupid), but when it comes down to it, at least in our field, the quality of that number is more powerful. I am genuinely asking this question,

Which is better – 100 spins from 1 person or 1 spin from 100 people? 

That’s pretty cut and dry. I mean, the best would be somewhere in the middle for sure. I guess what I’m driving to drive home here is what a true fan can do for you. 

Most people will hear your music and not think twice about it. If they know you and what the song means (all those tiny little details), they may stop and listen, but the average person isn’t a music junkie like you are, you dop(amin)e fiend. 

Here’s why I find a disconnect with a lot of those music blogs. If I collect all of these emails and it goes to junk, or unread, or ONLY APPEALS TO AN OLDER GENERATION THAT MIGHT NOT EVEN LIKE MY MUSIC… and why do I feel like I’m trying to sneak something out of somebody?

Just give me your email, please!?! DISC MAKERS told me it’s important!

An email list is directly connecting with a potential fan, more than (most) social media posts. With this, you can keep them in the know. Also, I’ve been told that labels LOVE THAT SHIT! I mean, they swallow it whole (I don’t like how I phrased that). So how do you get someone’s email without being too invasive? 

  1. Just be invasive. The best salesmen are the ones who don’t give a shit and just ask and asks without worrying about burning bridges. You don’t have to chase someone down, but you will have to breakdown some of those walls you’ve put up. 
  2. Give them a reason to sign up. I’ve always hated the exclusive offers that most bands give. I have never once had someone pitch me a great exclusive photo, or song, or whatever the hell they pretend is a good deal that you can find anywhere else on the internet. The reason should be an honest one. If you’re going to like my band, you will want to be reminded when a single is going to drop, where I’m going to play, and hear from me from time to time. 
  3. Ask patrons to sign your email list. I know this is forward, but if you see someone is really digging your set, ask them for their email! Take the initiative! Keep a nice form ready for people to sign right near the merch table or close to your tips.
  4. Talk about your email list often. If you have a list set up and you never tell anyone about it, how the hell are they supposed to know that they should give it to you? Duh.
  5. When someone asks you where they can find your stuff, email them your links. You just got their email, boom.
  6. Post about it on social media. Is it annoying to see it there, sure? But I have signed up for a few different email lists simply because I liked the band, and they asked me to sign up. Once again, you have to get past that feeling of being obnoxious. You’re going to come off that way no matter what. 

Finally, you need content to email! What do you talk about? How do you send it out? 

Talk about stuff you have going on, it can be once a month, and have a list of the upcoming shows. You can talk about the last song you released, treat it as an interview. It can be as short or as long as you want it to be. You’re trying to connect with your fanbase here and keep them thinking about you. Don’t pretend you’re a bigger deal than you are. Just be yourself, and you’ll do just fine. 

What does all of this look like? We’ll you can copy and paste a huge amount of work once a month, which sounds like hell, OR you can use a service (don’t worry, they have free versions) that will take care of all the heavy lifting you have to do! 

Mailchimp and Active campaign are your best bets! 

I like/use Mailchimp best. If you have more than like 2k people you are emailing, it will stop being free. But anything under that is free for your use! They have easy-to-use templates, and it makes this whole thing a lot easier. I highly suggest using these guys! 

https://mailchimp.com

Don’t worry, Gmail has a quick way to export your contacts! So you already have a list you can make up. Will you piss some people off? Yes, but they can put you in the junk folder. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. Also, both Mailchimp and Active Campaign have a feature where they ask if you’ve had permission to email these people. If you say no, which would be true, they have a non-invasive way of email these folks. You will annoy some people, but if you’re worried about that, well, you picked the wrong business (or at the very least, the wrong blog post).

You’ll get walked through how to make a campaign, what the email will look like, and the content therein. It’s not a fun part of the game, but a part that needs to be played.

The danger of buying email lists

Growing up, I heard a lot about email lists and how great it is to buy an email list from this company because they have Scooter Brauns email address, or Jeff Goldblum’s assistant, or blah blah blah… The person selling it to you always does this one thing… and this one thing will let you know that this person isn’t what they’re pretending to be. They pretend that this is a great deal that is quickly leaving your grasp, and even though they might not outrightly say it, they’ll make you feel like you’ll never amount to anything without this list. This person is scamming you. I’ve been around the block twice now, and NO ONE can actually help you acts this way. They are human, sure, they get annoyed and are busy, but they never give you only ONE CHANCE. If you are worth the time, they will come back. So don’t feel like this is a wasted opportunity. 

I’ve bought a list for $150 once, and it wasn’t worth a buck fifty! Email lists only work if you AUTHENTICALLY grew that list. That’s the only way this works. 

In the grand scheme of things, email lists are pretty low on the totem pole, don’t stress out about it. It really just helps you connect with a fan another way. It keeps them in the loop. You could still get signed with zero people on a list. I’ve never heard of a band only getting signed because they have a 50k email list (most impressive). It just doesn’t matter, baby. You just have to keep writing songs and performing. That’s your job. All this other stuff is just fluff. It’s helpful fluff, but fluff nonetheless. 

Dead Weight

We all know that one person that likes to pump the breaks, the one who says “No” all too often. It’s good to slow down a little, but so much of our energy goes into pushing us forward, and as a tiny group that’s trying to move ahead, every molehill feels like a mountain. 

This video from the school of life got me thinking.

I want to be as loyal as a dog! I pride myself on my loyalty. Just like everything in life, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and loyalty can be damning. 

“Someday they’ll change” will leave you waiting a lifetime. 

Waiting for your Drummer to come around might leave you waiting forever. Last year might have been a little bit different than all the other years, but the fact remains that momentum is essential, and without it, you’re going to get frustrated and feel kind of empty inside.

How are these terms defined? Everyone has their own schedule. It is determined by open communication. Someone isn’t wrong by not wanting to commit an undefined (or a schedule sculpted a little too well) amount of time. 

Do you remember when Jason Schwartzman was borderline heartthrob?

Let’s look at it from the perspective of the leader of the group.

Leader:

This person wants to get things moving. They have the vision, well, sometimes. Other times they just have many ideas and have planned out multiple albums for spanning over at least the rest of the year. They are ambitious. They have the drive. It’s hard for them to step away from a project because it has so much of them in that project.

The average band member:

Plays because they love playing. Have a vision of what playing looks like. Have a different level of ownership or skin in the game. It’s a lot easier for this person to walk away from a project. Maybe they have goals outside of music (maybe they don’t). This person is more open to when life presents opportunities. 

I believe that another massive issue is found in the clout vs. compensation graph shown below.

100% accurate, please don’t question this, thank you.

Sure, compensation can be in the form of satisfaction of working hard and seeing your art come to fruition. But most of the time, that comes in the form of money. You know, like how you want it to be if you’re playing second fiddle in another group.

Boom. Caught you. 

Ok, let’s combine both of those points and summarize this whole thing.

Do you see where there could be some problems? A big reason a lot of people break up is that they feel trapped for the rest of their lives with someone. Even if that’s not what the other side is saying, that idea has still been conveyed. Let me put it like this – You met these people in high school, or craigslist, or an open mic night, and even though the world is HUGE and you have so many possibilities, you immediately lock yourself into a situation where you’re expected (rightfully so) to carry a lot of the weight of a small business. That’s a heavy thing that we don’t always see or comprehend. We need to exercise a little compassion and ask ourselves some of these questions.

  • What is this “band member” (this human) gaining from this project?
  • Do I require too much time, money, emotion from them? Is this equal to the gain?
  • Are they being compensated in another way (maybe it’s just fun for them)?
  • What are their personal goals with this band and with life?
  • What amount of clout do they have to have in this project to make it worth their while
  • Have I had this open conversation with them?

The only way you can mess this up is in not being honest with them!

Summary for the leader – Don’t overwhelm everyone with EVERY SINGLE IDEA that pops into your head! We’re all happy you’re excited and enthusiastic, but it can be overwhelming to hear all of your ideas

Summary for the member – Be honest with the leader with whatever you’re feeling. Think about how you honestly feel when you’re approached with information on the upcoming time frame, then tell them how you feel!

Okay, so we’ve taken a hard look at ourselves and reevaluated the dynamic. So now we can make this simple.

If someone is not being open, is dragging their feet, is consistently being negative. Stop working with that person. I PROMISE YOU that you can find a replacement for that position. Stay friends with the past member (don’t be a dick) but this game is WAY to hard to hold on to dead weight.

Done, now continue making music! We really need your art!

Here’s my song pick of the week!

Another year over, a new one just begun

What a peculiar year. I have a feeling we will look back at this year as the year that showed us who we were. It seemed like we had nothing but time to work on (I hate this phrase) our quarantine album. But most of my “progress” came at the end of the year for me. Sure, I laid down a lot of the groundwork throughout the year. But if it’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it is that TIME is not the issue that keeps us from progressing. It’s simply one of the components for our success (whatever that may look like for us).

Until Christmas comes and I make $1,000,000,000

It’s not about time. It’s about an elongated strong mental constitution. I wrote about this earlier this year with a post called “No, you don’t need to make a quarantine album.”

To create, we need a safe and happy mental space. 

Before you call me on my shit. I know that we can all think of the songs that came from pain. But those songs usually don’t come to fruition in the moment of pain. They came with the passing of time and some introspection. It can even be subconscious. 

Hell yeah these are fun to make
  • Level of skill
  • Time
  • A safe space to create
  • Desire

All of these things combine to create progression. Let’s break each of these things down.

Level of skill

If you only know how to draw stick figures, you will only be able to create a stick figure drawing (albeit a beautiful one). You have to work on each of the techniques that form skills. For your instrument, that is broken down into various methods and actions over an extended period of time (anywhere from a few hours to a few years). This leads us to our next point.

Time 

You have to actually have the time to work on these techniques. But you also need time to do anything. Duh. If you don’t have the time to work on what you want to work on, you won’t get it done. Again, duh.

A safe space to create

This can look like a live stage with improvisation. It can be in your bedroom. I feel that 2020 has proven that this “safe space” is more in your head than physical space (although that also plays a factor). 

Desire

You have to want to create, to progress. Desire doesn’t always mean WANTING to do that thing. It manifests more in energy used to move.

Only people that look like this say that… Hmmm…

Don’t make the mistake of thinking all you need is time. You are the master of your clock. Time is a construct to keep us all on the same page. It’s okay that you skip a few pages (or go to a different book) from time to time as you see fit.

What do to when it’s “not quite there”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “it’s almost there” means. Do you know what I’m talking about? When you’ve got everything checked off your list. 

Vocals – Check

Drums – Check

Guitar/Bass – Check/Check

Digeridoo – Checkeridoo

But something just doesn’t feel like it’s ready. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe some of it is fear of letting go out into the world. But more than that, I feel that it comes down to the fact that something is actually missing! So, when that happens, what do you do?

  • Leave it for a week.

I think the first step is to actually take a step away from your project for a week. Come back with some fresh ears. Does a week seem excessive? Maybe it is, but a week will surely clear up all the trouble around the song. Maybe it doesn’t need anything at all! That has happened to me often. Justin Timberlake has said that if he doesn’t remember the hook in the morning, it wasn’t good enough for the song. I think that might be a little extreme, but I like the idea! If you are sure that it has to have that 16th note run and you can’t imagine the song without it, then take it out for a week and see if the following Monday you still feel the same way. Maybe sexy doesn’t need to come back. Maybe it never left at all! 

  • Take Out The Excess

I recently interviewed my good friend Caleb Frieze, and he said something that stuck with me. 

“If the song isn’t good on just an acoustic guitar, it’s not for me.”

Bring the song back to its bare bones and build it up one track at a time. 

  • Review the Verb

Okay, not just the reverb. If you have a chorus effect on something, double-check that you actually like that effect. If I mess with the reverb a little, I find I like the part better, and it helps fix the song. 

I want to point out that I really don’t love the stock effects that come in Logic or Pro-tools. I think buying a package with the verb you’re looking for is really worth the splurge. You’ve heard the adage of polishing a turd. But putting a shit verb on your song is going to make a good song suck. It works both ways here.

  • Mess around with the EQ

I will go on record that 33% of the time, the problem is with the EQ of each of the tracks. Put the time in and find a nice balance in each of the tracks (especially the vocals)!

  • Add a simple hook

A “simple hook” is redundant, but I phrase it that way because I want to really hit home that it doesn’t have to be anything crazy! Just put the song on repeat and freestyle over the top of it a few times. 

  • Vocal Padding

These pads really sell me on a song. I’m not saying it’s always the answer, but I feel like it usually helps a song out a lot! A few oh’s and ah’s. Sometimes you just need to double up on a phrase on a song. Your voice is unique to you, how you approach this is also unique to you. I think that’s why it appeals to me so much! 

  • Production transitions 

A swell before the chorus can help a song feel cohesive. A website called splice has thousands (literally thousands) of different sounds that you can use! There’s a free version you can use first. This has been such a huge asset to me in recording my last album. Here’s a link to splice – https://splice.com

Trust that feeling you have, but remember that art is never complete. There has never been a perfect piece of art. It’s not meant to be perfect. After you’ve spent an adequate amount of time trying to find that missing piece, realize that your listener is probably not going to feel the same way you do. At some point, the best thing to do is release it and move to the next project. If you want to add something later, it’s a pain, but it is possible! So take comfort in that knowledge that something is never finished. 

The Mirror Trick – Learn to sing and strum a new patteren

Alright, you’ve picked up your guitar, you’re learning your new favorite song (or the one you’re guitar teacher thrust upon you), and you want to sing along with the track. You have the chord pattern memorized, and you try to start singing, but you keep tripping up on strumming anything other than an 8th notes strumming pattern. I’ve given a lot of excuses as to why I can’t play that part and sing at the same time. “Keith Richards played the guitar and Mick… Well, he never really played anything, so it was easier for him to hit those notes, right?” 

Moves like Yager(bombs)

Sure, but I have a trick that my good friend and heterosexual life partner/cousin (Spencer Jones) taught me, use this trick to help you learn the pattern AND sing at the same time! 

The issue starts with trying to learn too many things at the same time. We’re expecting perfect form from something we’ve never tried before, and that’s just not reasonable at all! 

SERENITY NOW!!!

From Spencer, 

“The way I break it down for my student goes as follows.”

  1. Chord shapes 
  2. the strumming pattern  
  3. Played together 
  4. Learn the vocal melody
  5. Memorize the words

If we take each of these things part and break them down, then our body will have the time it needs to catch up with what our mind has learned!

We’ve learned the chords shapes and the pattern. Now we have to get that strumming pattern down! 

Take the guitar and flip it around so your strumming hand is now your non-dominant hand (if you’re right-handed, this would be your left hand) is now strumming. Take your dominant hand and cover the strings, so all you hear are the muted strings. 

What is this?

This will feel INCREDIBLY odd. 

Get the metronome out and for 2 minutes, set a timer on your phone so you don’t go short or long on time, and practice the pattern.

Watch this video for a quick visual tutorial.

That’s the trick! Try it out the next time you have a hard time keeping a new strumming pattern while singing! I have used this trick many, many times, and it has helped me to get that “Patting your head, rubbing your belly” feeling to go away.

Got half of it down!

 

Talk isn’t cheap, but it is worth it – How therapy saved my life

Hello, my friends!

I hope you’re having a great day. I have been feeling much, much better this past month, and it all changed when I spoke with my therapist. 

I often feel like I don’t have the tools I need to get through the hell that the mind and consciousness can be, and sometimes enough piles up on me to where I feel like I’m drowning in the middle of a desert. No matter how bright some days can be, the night always comes. I trace these times and feelings and see if I can make out a shape and find the culprit, but I never can find it. 

I look back over my life and grew up in a great home. I f***ing LOVED my childhood! I had an amazing childhood filled with just enough mischief to balance out the laughter and peace my parents brought to our home. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for me, and I do not fault them for any shortcomings.

As the years passed and I moved away and started getting the education the world always provides its inhabitants, I started forming my own opinions on right and wrong, on how to live my life to find peace and fulfillment. In my mostly humble opinion, fulfillment is the penultimate. It’s the star in the sky that I’m dedicating my life towards. Not happiness or a lack of pain, I’m not sure it’s the right and only way to live, but it is the way I have chosen to live, and I feel at peace when I live like this. 

If you had a childhood like mine, you didn’t need therapy. You could pray or talk to a sibling or a parent, and you’d be good.

Huh?

Which is laughable. 

I can get up on stage and act a fool all I want. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel anxious playing the fool or being a fun-loving person. But in the quiet moments of the night, I would start to fall apart. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and either scared the crap outta a family member or found myself in some kind of paralysis. I felt like I was physically going to die from this “imaginary” thing inside me, some emotion that I created. To me, it was absurd that my mind had the power to kill me. Or even worse, lock me into some hell from which I would escape. I even thought death would be the only escape. 

I know how heavy that sounds. I know that you, my friend and reader, probably understand this better than I do. Woah, how did I get to this place? It’s hard to believe it. I mean, three paragraphs ago, I was talking about how great my childhood was. Now I’m reading, don’t-kill-myself books and stopping myself from ending it all by putting the weight on how sad it would make my loved ones. I’m not even focused on my life at this point, and that sentence right there proves that I see the only worth I have is in my loved ones’ happiness. I’m so far from where I want and NEED to be.

I’m not this way all the time. Most of the time, I’m up in the stratosphere or at peace with myself. I have lost friends, I have had the person I loved the most tell me they would rather die than be with me, and I can feel peace with that now. But I have an anxiety attack at 2 am, and I’m feeling like the world is ending, or even worse, that the world is moving on without me and that everything I am inside is darkness and dirt. 

Actual footage from that night

I lack the tools I need to work through this darkness. 

This is why therapy is so critical for our survival. I’m not trying to be poetic when I say critical. What’s the point of life if you’re not even living? You’re taught how to walk, you’re taught how to speak, you’re taught how to write and read. When it comes to working through the things that prevent you from happiness, you’re left to your own devices. 

Sometimes it is just a bad week or month. Sometimes you just need to go to bed and end that day. I’m a firm believer that some days just need to end. More often than we want to admit, we need to ask for help.

Dang puppet time, this is dark.

Why?! Why is it so hard to ask for help? If your arm is broken, you don’t think to yourself, “Oh, it’ll be fine in a month.” Hell no, you have to go get it set! I have a feeling it because of the same reason it always is – money.

It is expensive, it’s also worth the cost of having peace in your life. We can’t keep driving the car with no oil in it. You will destroy the engine. Why am I giving all of these analogies in this post? I don’t know, I just really want you to understand that this is important. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I can say that all I want, but if I don’t act on that, it means nothing. 

I can’t keep hearing people close to me say how bad, hard, or disappointing life is. Life is so wonderful! It’s horrible to you sometimes, but it’s filled with so much beauty. It’s filled with every single thing you love, every damn one of those things you love. 

I lived too long white-knuckling the bad times. Years of this, I missed out on so much because I had my head down running for the next album. The next season of football, the next show, drink, fix, or girlfriend. I was too proud or thought it cost too much for me to talk to someone who knows how to help me. 

No Kevin, you’re not even a 6 in my book.

If it was ten years ago, I don’t look like the person that needs help. Which is such horseshit. We’ve had fear and anxiety take the lives of people. It takes your life even if you don’t take your life. Missing out on the riches of a day, YOU’RE BEING ROBBED BY YOURSELF! It’s not your fault. You, much like I, need help finding perspective, need help finding the light in the darkness inside of us. 

Therapy has saved my life. It has saved the life of a lot of people. There is one life that is incredibly special that it saved, and I hate being cryptic, but it’s not my place to share their story. All I know is that I would give all the money I have ever made to keep them in this world. Maybe it’s bad that I place so much of my hope for life in this person, but they just mean so much to me. 

You’re listening but you don’t understand the depth of what’s being said.

Friends are great to talk with! Thank God for friends, but there is a depth that they can’t go. If you are the friend in this situation, you need to politely advise your friend to seek counseling. Their life depends on it.

Common Questions

When do you need to talk with a therapist? 

I know this is a lazy answer, but you know when you need to go in. I find myself making excuses not to go in. That’s a HUGE sign that I need to go in. 

What is the typical session like?

It’s not some scary thing; they don’t give you something to take to help you get past the day. They just listen and help you make sense of things. You shouldn’t be afraid of a part of your life. Or not allow yourself to think of certain aspects of existence. 

Will any therapist work for me?

In my experience, no. I have had some bad experiences with some therapists, where I felt like we were not on the same page. Not that they were evil, it just didn’t work for me. 

Why should I pay someone to listen to me?

I think this is a funny question. It makes me think of my Dad. I respect him a lot! I don’t agree with him here, though. This person you’re speaking with, it’s a very unique relationship. They absolutely know what they’re talking about. They talk with people every day, they study fastidiously, they do not see you as a dollar sign. I believe that by paying them, you’re also solidifying to yourself that you want to get better. 

I have a close relationship with my mother. I talk with her about all the issues I’m having.

I’m happy that you both are close! I really think you should reconsider talking with someone. Your sibling or parent, or partner might be a great listener. I have no doubt that they want what’s best for you, but even if they have a degree in the field, they have biased opinions, and if you’re having a hard time and talking to them about these issues for hours on end every week, it would be beneficial for them and you to get in and talk to someone! 

If I could do one thing in your life, it’s get you in to see a therapist. It’s changed my life and helped me to find those tools to navigate the darkness. If you’re hurting, if you’re depressed, if you feel stuck. Please listen. There is help out there for us. I know it might seem like a huge wall to climb over – financially or just expending energy. It might seem embarrassing, but that light in you is still there. PLEASE talk to someone, set up that appointment today. Talk to them about the things you’re afraid to tell, even yourself. Be free from judgment for a little while… especially your own judgment. 

If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, change therapists and try again, please! I want you to see the world the way it’s supposed to be seen and enjoyed. 

Not sure where to start? Here are some listings to get you help! I really appreciate Ashely and Nick for helping me find this information. They are both AMAZING people and therapists. Some of the most kind, caring and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. If they give these links a thumbs up, then you know you’re in good hands

Let’s start with the easiest ones to work with, even if you’re not living in sunny AZ. Most of these website have a search engine that will help make your search incredibly easy as the engine will filter by therapy modality insurance, your location, insurance company.

Private Practice Therapist

Public behavioral health agencies that take AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System):

Please put the numbers of the next three in your phone, even if you’re feeling great!

Crisis response network – If you’re feeling at the end of your rope, this is the place to call. They are ALWAYS available to talk with you –

National suicide prevention line: 1-800-273-TALK or text ‘HOME’ to 741741

If you live in Maricopa county. Maricopa county suicide hotline: 1-800-631-1314 or the above mentioned crisis response network (602-222-9444)

Ashley added this about insurance – “Check your insurance website to find a provider that takes your insurance! Insurance websites are notoriously difficult to deal with, but it’s worth it if you can get insurance to cover! If you’re seeing a therapist at a private practice, sometimes (not always), you can get insurance to help with some of the cost through reimbursement. Ask the practice for a super bill to submit to your insurance. If you have a HSA (Health savings account) or FSA (Flexible spending account) card, sometimes you can use that to pay for private practice therapy.”

You have options, you don’t have to white knuckle your life anymore.