Amy Mantis


Practice, Playing, Listening, and Writing

I practiced today.  Like actual practice.  There’s a difference between playing and practicing.  I play guitar a lot, but it’s not the same as practicing.  I’ll often pick up my guitar and go without thinking which often leads to writing.  When I practice, I have goals. I set out to accomplish a few things in a set amount of time.

Tonight’s practice consisted of 3-octave scales in D major at 40 beats per minute (BPM) starting on quarter notes up and down, then eighth notes up and down, triplets - you get the idea.

I also like to learn at least one new song when I practice.  Tonight’s song was “No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who, a band I’ve grown to really love these days.  To quote Lester Bangs in Almost Famous:

Give me the Guess Who!  They have the courage to be drunken buffoons, which makes them poetic!

"No Sugar Tonight" is not a complex song by any means.  Most songs I learn/know are not complex.  It comes with the territory.  They’re far more effective than they are complicated.  I love "No Sugar Tonight" because the verses are two chords.  Two!  You have no idea how happy "Proud Mary" makes me - the verse is only one chord!  That’s a song for another day.  I digress.

Tonight I took it a step further - this is something I have done countless times and still do.  Instead of just learning the song, I started writing a song using “No Sugar Tonight” as a template.  Derek Sivers has an excellent post about this.  My song is far from finished, and equally as far from being comparable to “No Sugar Tonight,” but it’s an exercise I like to use.  Whether or not the writer intends for it to happen, the majority of songs can be traced back to other songs.  Mainly because the best sounding chords progressions have been established.  But that does not mean they all have or that they can’t be improved upon.  Well, both are debatable depending on who you ask.

My time’s up.  Here’s who I listened to today (top five):

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Lissie (THIS)
Florence & the Machine
Michael Jackson
The Rolling Stones 

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