Take a hymn or other traditional melody you’re familiar with, and try writing lyrics to fit the existing phrase. If you know it well, you’ll be able to try different ideas without needing any music playing in the background. This is a great method if you do your best thinking in the shower or while walking, for example.
The story behind this obscure mid ’90s musician is almost as good as the music. Brian Shimkowitz, a blogger at the time, found Ata Kak’s cassette at a flea market in Cape Coast, Ghana in 2002. “You may never hear anything like this elsewhere,” he declared in his very first blog post. “No one I know in Ghana listens to this frenetic left-field rap madness.”
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Far too many first-rate bands can’t seem to make the leap from playing great shows in smaller clubs to playing big rooms on bills that people are actually excited about. A few years of playing smaller rooms and your band should be ready to start making a name for itself. But toiling away in obscurity, waiting for someone to discover you isn’t a viable way to make it as a musician. And if you live in a hyper-competitive music market such as New York City (like I do), you really can’t just wait around.
I might have been able to dig this deep into the chaconne from regular listening. I could even imagine learning how to play it on guitar, though only after my kids go to college. But being able to play around with the music in Ableton Live accelerated and deepened the process enormously. We should consider remixing to be a core competency for music educators, not just because it helps them understand all the music of the present (which is reason enough) but because it’s a superb tool for understanding the music of the past, too.
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