‘Rock n’ Reel’ magazine reviews ‘Dangerous Loving’ – 4 stars!

”Smoke-fuelled and chameleon-like, tortured and released, Faye Patton exudes forgotten Jazz. Articulating and punctuating her vocal authority with her independent piano playing, this is a supreme effort of both freeform and choreographed musicianship. Definitely in the jazz pigeonhole, there are elements of highbrow funk in ‘Ripped and Torn’, boogie woogie musical theatre throughout ‘Susan Says’ and lounge blues with ‘A Game'; and more in between.

The beauty with these overlapping and contrasting styles is that there is no great leap from one track to the next and she makes herself an effective gatekeeper to the concept of the album as a whole. With flute, cello, trumpet and even flugelhorn joining the tales of lost love and, well, more lost love, the songs manage to stay intimate and retain the emphasis on her boundless vocal.” (Gareth Hayes – Rock n’ Reel magazine May 2012)

 


 

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ROOAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRHHHHHHH!

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It’s the fag end of August and I’m on the prowl, times are lean and my stomach is rumbling.

This is for my fellow lions and feline relations. Including leonine honorary citizens and ‘Leos rising’, of which I am one. For bob cats, tomcats, alley cats, kittens with mittens. Ancestral, trans-dimensional cats. Ultra, hyper and über cats. Space cats, fractal cats.  Camouflage or Kamikaze cats. Martial cats. Spotted and striped, bright burning cousins, Bengal tygers and Black Panthers. BIG CATS. Catwomen. Rhythm cats or solo cats. Cats who swing, blow croon or strum. Jazz cats and hip cats. It’s about art, pleasure music and self-expression, royalty, nobility and sovereignty. It’s for my fellow female artists of all persuasions, and for those whose art does not fit into a category, or who are inventing a new one and owning it. Anyone feeling like a total diva attack coming on? Anyone feeling severely underappreciated? I need to say the following. I always err on the positive (Of course! Don’t we live to entertain?) But …snarrrrrrl.

Don’t we all want and need some appreciation, some applause, some encouragement, some recognition, some praise, some (yes!) adoration, some reciprocation, some recognition, some acknowledgement? I have an appetite for a little more in return for my art and am considering (yes!) going to live in a different country very soon unless I get it. There is a difference between the genuine humility of being in service to ones art and being a servant. They are different things.

Audiences – I wrote my music with you in mind, to please you, uplift and nourish you. Therefore, please clap. Be bothered. Bear in mind that the music may be free. Therefore I need your applause to continue since it may be all I am getting. That’s the relationship. If you want it, show me that you like it. IF YOU WANT ME, SHOW ME THAT YOU WANT ME. Make some noise. Lifting your hands together to clap is the very least you could do. Can a performing seal not do as much? As a rhythmic, musical task I am actually doing something far more demanding – so could you at least make the effort. If you don’t applaud, at least don’t talk so loud over the music that actually you are drowning me out. If you must look at me like an unwelcome eyesore, rather than warmly into my eyes and soul as I want to do with you…at least don’t talk about me loudly, whilst I’m playing. Especially don’t turn to your neighbour and discuss loudly whether I am a guy or a woman, whilst looking displeased and miserable. (By the way, please cheer up!) Don’t you realise that I can hear and see everything? Whilst you’re watching me, I’m watching you.

Venues/venue managers/bookers/promoters/festivals/industry  - PAY THE PIPER. If you like it, if you love it, if you keep saying how much you like it and love it – FEEEEED MEEEEE. If I bring you the raw material of my soul, consistently, reliably, professionally, punctually…if I deal with your shoddy PA system, (even try to mend it and buy spare parts) lend your other performers my gear, if I am patient and humorous with your late or absent payments…if I bear with all this, at least don’t blank me. At least don’t ignore me. At least don’t ignore me and then hire someone else cheaper in my place without telling me. Do I need to teach you how to treat me, with each and every interaction? Do you forget, in-between?

Funding bodies/Government and Arts organisations –  I know you are trying and I haven’t given up on you. It’s so marvellous that  some of you have special awards for women and women’s art. I do hope your female staff are being paid a decent wage to administer them. Can I just say it…the amounts you offer are derisory. The requirements illogical, the forms incomprehensible. On my current lifestyle I can’t afford the calories spent going through the paperwork and the award, were I to get it, will just about pay for the hours of office work spent trying. And then you want some art on top of it? For me to hire studios/venues/session players…and eat? And also somehow prove (sometimes, in advance!) that I have indeed met the needs of new audiences and am viable as a financial unit? Is proof needed? Is it still about proof? Can we take a moment to appreciate the irony here?

Friends/colleagues/ punters, fans – I love you all. I know your intentions are the very best. But please stop asking me what I am doing lately to advance myself. Stop asking why haven’t I done or thought of such and such. Believe me, EVERYTHING  you can suggest, I have already thought of and done, or am doing. To be an artist is to be rejected and blanked repeatedly. Punters, I’m so happy that you enjoyed the music but please stop asking ME why you haven’t heard of me and advising me what to do. Instead write letters to radio/TV/festival/venues asking THEM to book me. If you are dying to see fresh talent, new voices, unusual voices, viewpoints, lyrics and styles break through, (and I know so many of you are hungry for this) then take hold of your power as a consumer and demand that the industry wake up. Then get yourself on my mailing list, and get your bum on the seat and create the demand, which these days I am required to prove, just to get a booking.

A note about wages - Everyone loves music. Everyone agrees that live music is lovely. It’s organic, immediate, irreplaceable, ephemeral, magical, of the moment, uplifting, catalysing and healing. Unforgettable. It gives ones a special feeling. Priceless, one might say. Therefore how ironic that the musicians wages are considered, last and least. Even the toilet cleaners at festivals get a wage, and so they should. Likewise, the toilet manufacturer, the sewage collectors, the electrician, the sales staff and of course the administrators. Never have a I met an administrator who didn’t get paid. Yet the musician comes in, does a skill that no-one else can do and is the thing upon which the whole event rests – and not only is expected to do it for free, but expected to pay for the privilege and do it in a hostile, or indifferent environment. For the joy of it! Did we mention irony yet?

Roar. Snore. Bore. Yawwwwwn…

Give me a reason to get out of bed, shake the cobwebs from my heart and head. In my world I am both King and Queen. I live in parallel, magical realms and dimensions where I am respected and even feted, fed and nourished, shined and polished. I walked the earth before, and am used to self-respect and mutual respect. I give and receive willingly, art with a big heart. I will sing the endless song of my soul, that tells of teeth sunk deep into life, and of pulsating vitality giving itself in sacred surrender to an act of love. But give me a reason. Give me a reason not to retreat into the secret invisible borders where the fairy folk go – unseen, unheard, unloved, disbelieved, uncelebrated. (They are fine. They play for their own amusement and pleasure. They understand themselves, they are not lonely.) But what have you shut yourself off from? I have something you want. I have medicine. I have something wild and golden and beyond riches. It’s worth far more than any coin you care you exchange. Yet I am willing to share my kill. Give me a reason.

 


 

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The Benefits of Running…

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Helping motivate a friend to run, as a skill swap for some motorcycle lessons, is for me, another great insight into the connection between physical exercise and musical expression – particularly singing and breathing. Breath is the key to our energy levels and brain, organ and muscle functions. As potential athletes, we have a huge advantage if we already study and train our breath through a parallel discipline. As singers who train our bodies, we naturally build up a lot of the physical support and lung power needed to sing. Running is also empowering, busts stress, aids mental capacity and floods the system with a cocktail of naturally occurring, feel-good, free drugs. It’s a wonderful resource which is just literally, a breath away.

If you’ve never run before, or want to return to running after years of absence, I would encourage anyone to just do it. I ran out of my house about 8 years ago, in a state of grief and confusion due to circumstances in my life involving a painful break up. The only thing that helped my mental condition, was hardcore, driving physical exertion. It became a habit, fitted well around existing martial arts studies – and I’ve never looked back – to the extent that I would now call my self a runner. Here’s my Top Ten Tips. I like to demystify disciplines which I think can be enjoyed and claimed by ordinary, non-expert people. Be sensible however, and work within your limits. The following is not a medically approved personal training plan. I have always been an autodidact, with some unorthodox ways of learning and of teaching, which not everyone has to agree with. This works for me and is for inspiration only.
*Be sensible and work within a framework that suits you and your current limits.

1. Shoes. Much is made of (and much is charged for) running shoes. What brand, what material, what sole etc. I don’t think anyone needs to spend vast amounts. I’m struck by kids in other parts of the world who learn to play football, in bare feet, starting from nothing, with nothing. If you are a human (or not!) and have legs and feet, (and even if you don’t, but that’s a different blog entry for another day) you are designed to run! Your trainers do not have to be used exclusively for your running, in fact it’s best if they are worn in other settings and are soft and springy, through wear. Make sure they feel supportive and comfortable and can last in wet weather, get them on – and run.

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2. Clothes. Again, no special, expensive garb necessary, in my opinion. Be cool enough and lightweight, but waterproof. Wear a hat if you know your ears are going to be sensitive to the elements (Mine are). Gloves always feel like a good idea at first, but usually end up too hot. Tuck keys, braids, laces, jewellery etc out of the way – you want to feel as light, relaxed and unencumbered as possible – especially if you hit psychological challenges.

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3. Where to run. Wherever you can. Make the most of your locality. Some people advise not to run too much on concrete, to minimise shocks through the heels. I’d advise more care over lumpy, country terrain where you have to take care of ankles. Uphill is challenging but worth it, and downhill likewise. Ideal route is a large green city or country park where you can stretch out  for distances but experience a variety of terrain and gradients underfoot. Logs to jump over, railings to vault, dogs to race, skateboard parks, benches, wall and level crossings can all enrich the experience. You want about 3-5 miles worth of ground to play with and the option to extend your route, mileage and duration in a loop.

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4. When to run. There are different benefits to different times. I love to run at dusk – especially when it’s an active release from what might have been a sedentary or ‘all-up-in-my-head’ kind of a work day. I can literally hear the mental dialogue and daily grind flowing out, and away. I love trying to beat the light, and love the company of bats, insects and sunsets. Noon, on an empty stomach is great. Early morning sets the day up, but is not my personal favourite – unless I can do it again in the evening. You can try running if you know you need to calm down, work off a bad mood, alter your perspective, release negative thoughts. (I ran, lifted weights and did martial arts right before my wisdom tooth extraction, as I knew I’d welcome the endorphin blanket.)

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5. How to run. There are many books and thoughts on technique, but I think each body shape finds a way to do what is actually a very normal thing to do. Two main things need your deep focus. Breathing and legs. Your legs need to be in good enough shape to carry you forth. I find it useful to think of running as just dancing, bouncing – then be carried forward and let your legs respond to save you from falling over. Momentum, not speed is the initial goal. Generally speaking, the emphasis should be on the ball of the foot. Keep light and springy. Start slowly and hold something in reserve, and try to distribute your energy evenly and smoothly without sudden, punishing spurts or grinding, stumbling halts. Think: legato. Focus initially on the road ahead and choose goals along the way. The next lamppost, the next bench, as far as the gate etc. When I began, I noticed a lot of tension and constriction across my sternum and shoulders and wondered what to do with why arms and hands. Now I know…let them move, let them swing and express. Bunch them into to pumping upper cuts, (useful if you want to look tough, no-one will mess with you!) or make swimming or flicking motions. Experiment and stay loose. As with so many things in life, small efficient steps strung together can really eat up the road and can be easier on the legs than massive galloping lunges. Only time yourself if it feels like a fun thing to do. I prefer to view the goal as ‘keeping in motion’ rather than ‘finishing’. Nothing every really begins or ends. Including you. All is flow. And anyway, who wants to race to the finish of a process that eventually, (believe me) will become pure fun?

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6. Tools for surviving the run. OK let’s say it again: BREATH and LEGS. You need to breathe. Initially, until it’s second nature (a point that does come and you will notice it) you will need to pay constant attention to your breathing. It’s your fuel upon which everything depends. Obvious, really. Get it in and get it out. The exhalation is where all your tension, lactic acid, and other waste products can travel swiftly out and away, freeing up more capacity. Everyone experiences a stitch at first. A side stitch can be painful and difficult to run through, but keep moving. It’s your body saying, ”lots more oxygen now please” – so listen and get more air in. The other thing that helps a stitch is to engage and support the natural abdominal corsetry in the surrounding area. Bear down, tense and pull in the muscles as you breathe. *Note, as with singing, the breath and the abdominal engagement are independent systems that help each other. Then your legs and feet need to be strong enough to enjoy constant motion. Visual images really help and can transcend and augment physical limits in a shamanistic way. The mind is powerful, and precedes all physical endeavour. When I began running, I envisaged myself as a wheel of fire, arms and legs pumping in circular motion. Do this often enough and the wheel will carry you. Find your own images/invocation and work them until they feel real. Discover the mystical depths of your own power. It’s your quest, your own mythic undertaking and your mental endurance will naturally rise to the occasion.
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7. Motivation.  This will take care of itself, if you give it a chance. The feel-good chemicals will hook you in fairly quickly and you’ll feel weird if you don’t honour your daily or weekly run. The way we build a new habit into our lives, is through repetition. I dislike the word ‘routine’ as it makes me feel numb. When we confront blocks, pain barriers, or inner resistance it can feel terrifying, and exciting. It can feel very uncomfortable and challenging and bring up emotions. But it shouldn’t be numbing or dulling. It should feel like expanding not contracting. Not surprisingly, as a musician, I prefer the concept of rhythm – there will be natural gaps in your week where a run can happen. Just allow it. Some like to run with a buddy. If so, make sure you harmonise in terms of speed, fitness, punctuality and commitment to the task. You don’t want really to be accommodating someone else’s needs or schedule. And in the early days, conversation is not really possible – you need all your breath and will to focus on the running. Don’t be surprised if thoughts such as ‘Please let this end’  or ‘I really hate this’ run through your head. You might want to encounter your demons in private, not in company. Get motivated by watching runners and athletes on TV, or talk to marathon runners – get the buzz by proxy, and let your inspiration bubble away. Imagine what it could be like to be fitter, faster, lighter, happier, stronger and more energised and know that each run takes you closer.

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8. Self-maintainance. Stretch or move before and after, whatever areas you think might be problematic for you. Hamstrings, Achilles tendon, quads, buttocks, hip sockets, are all areas that might speak to you loudly the next day, if they’ve not moved for a while. Pace yourself  as you build up strength. Good hot baths can help. As with music practice, sharp, sudden pains in joints mean stop immediately. Joints to watch out for are ankles and knees. Massage and move both just as a daily practice. Gradual, steady pain in muscle group means work through it. Any other parallel exercise you can do – yoga, martial arts, Pilates, dancing etc will help. Having strong abdominal support is vital and makes everything easier and safer – it’s a subject worthy of a separate article. I recommend Pilates. Get a book, read it, try it. What is Pilates? Briefly…Joseph Pilates  invented his own exercises to heal his own illness, during wartime  privation and (according to some accounts) captivity. From a place of extreme weakness he built himself back to health by training his body to lift its own weight. The appropriate muscle group to do this is the abdomen, the core, which contains many muscle groups and strands. It supports the organs and back. Many injuries and problems are to do with lack of  core support. It’s much easier to run, when you feel supported, contained and held in your torso area. Pilates exercises are done slowly, with focus and concentration, and even in small amounts, constitute a phenomenal workout. The principles are very practical and very simple, so don’t be mystified by the vast amount of info out there and don’t feel you have to shell out money for expensive classes. I recommend the training tips of athletes who have applied and interpreted Pilates in a way that shapes their own art in a relevant way, such as ballerina Darcey Bussell and tennis player Martina Navaratilova.

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9. ‘Don’t’s. Generally speaking, don’t eat before a run, not even a small amount. In fact it’s best if you have a slight appetite as long as your run is not likely to exceed an hour. You don’t want anything weighing you down, and even a snack will make its presence felt. You also want to give your body a chance to burn off existing calories. Likewise don’t go crazy on food immediately afterwards. Let the run ‘feed’ you for a while. Also, don’t worry, watch or compare too closely the speed or quality of others’ running. Your journey is your own.

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10. ‘Dos’. Do smile like a maniac at passers-by. Do show off by having subtle races with and overtaking other runners, especially by taking the inside of a curve. Play around with the mysteries of broken rhythm, pace and personal limits. Notice how it takes less energy to leap, not just avoid obstacles. Notice how much fun it feels to sprint the last 100 yards of the return journey, when logically you should be too tired? Listen to your instincts and discern your own energy levels. Feeling a bit reluctant or resistant? Run anyway. Feeling so exhausted by life that you are tripping over your own feet and need a nap instead? Leave it for another day.

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(Warning – like all physical exercise, running can be hypnotic and addictive. I use it as displacement activity and escapism. (What was once a block can become a safety net – interesting, no?) But as vices go, it’s not a bad one to have!)

 

Some inspiring resources:

Exorcising Ghosts A great website containing Haruki Murakami resources in English.

(As well as being a well-known author, Murakami is a serious runner, with a memoir entitled: ‘What I Talk About When I talk About Running.’)

Fast Girls – hip British film about running, with a line-up of fabulous female protagonists.

Kenichi Ito  – Japanese athlete – who runs on all fours. Maybe not quite my ambition, but points for dedication and self-mastery!

Official website of  400 meters champion Christine Ohuruogo.

 

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am a ‘Nu Jazz’ singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist, based in London, UK. You can can check out my tunes and videos on my WEBSITE and come and like my Facebook Music page. Come and say hi…I would love to hear from you!)


 

 

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The Motorcycle Diaries #2

retro Bike colours

 

Oh Yeahhhh…another hot, smokey morning on the bike, with many great insights into the learning process. Universal principles that seem to apply to absorbing new skills – relaxation, trust, and determination combined with divine nonchalance. What is ‘divine nonchalance’? It’s that mindset that says I can do this – millions of people can and do learn this, that means me too. I can just as appropriate for and capable of this task as any other human person – especially as existing stuff that I do such as playing the guitar and martial arts are actually much more difficult. It helps that I have a very patient, encouraging and experienced rider as my informal tutor. (I have true gratitude and appreciation for this and will be sharing everything I know about running and how to run as a discipline and practice for health, fitness and psychological empowerment.) The joy of skill swapping!

I think they are getting used to me now in Morrison’s car park revving up and looking mean. Had a bit of an initial mental block about balancing – solution: leap of faith and more throttle/speed, then I loosened up. I was a lot better today with left hand/right hand intuition and trusting that I can crank it up a bit and still be safe. I managed to ACTUALLY RIDE  a little bit and my parking was graceful and controlled, with no falling off!

Still really early days. Do motorbikes and jazz go together? Don’t know. Not entirely sure where it’s all taking me, but don’t care. Am so looking forward to an entire world of nerdy pleasure opening down the oily, grime, gold and glitter strewn open road of the future. Engines, wheels, gears, accessories, terminologies and vocabularies, pals, maps, journeys, and of course…a whole world of leather. Oh Yeah.

Till next time,

Bye for now…

Faye.

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am a ‘Nu Jazz’ singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist, based in London, UK. You can can check out my tunes and videos on my WEBSITE and come and like my Facebook page. Come and say hi…I would love to hear from you!)


 

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The Motorcycle Diaries #1

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Now that I live with bikers, it seemed only a matter of time before this kind of thing would happen. First basic bike lesson, leather clad in boiling sunshine, courtesy of my extremely patient and expert housemate. I look cheerful in this shot, but inside, am a mass of jangled nerves, shaky legs and alien emotions having just got back from 3 hours of my first tentative inroads into riding this beast –  a reasonably lightweight 500 cc Kawasaki, belonging to our other co-resident – who is going to laugh upon seeing this blog post.

First impressions? Extreme appreciation for the surprising turns of life. Gratitude and celebration and sincere respect for the responsibility, power and precision involved not just in riding the bike, but watching my friend teaching a beginner (me) how to do it. I was in safe hands. I found it quite stressful but also amazing. I could get used to the heat and constant smell of petrol. Yes it is a bit like a pushbike, albeit with the instant death/collateral damage factor looming larger. Yes it is really heavy, but because of martial arts training I am really strong – used to lifting people and objects larger than myself. I only fell off once, (whilst stationary – classic huh?) so all in all, not bad. Note to self, next time, got to be less tense. (Breathing helps. I actually teach people how to breathe so…need to apply that!) More practice needed and more relaxation, feeling not thinking, and getting used to ye olde clutche controle.

Seriously…if there is something you’d like to do, do it today – just for no reason other than to expand yourself. Even if you are nervous, especially if you are nervous, or even mortally terrified. Fear is just energy waiting to be transformed into something useful and hopefully, fun. There’s nothing you can’t do. And if you know others with skills, don’t be too proud to let them show you stuff. Let yourself have some spills, cock-ups and silly questions. I remembered some priceless insights today about teaching music, which I intend to apply immediately. I had forgotten what it feels like to be a beginner diving in at the deep end, whilst the person showing you how is swimming in their element of 20 years. I’m even more aware of the fears, blockages and previous traumas students are dealing with as they walk through my door to sing and play for pretty much the first time. I need to allow more time for breaks, whilst each chunk of learning beds down. I can remember to allow students time to get used to new sensations, time to breathe and shake out, relax, laugh. Make it ok for them to ask questions and to make them feel that what they are attempting is normal and doable. And with each small step, to encourage periods of well deserved reflection, celebration and acknowledgement. It’s ok to feel proud and dazed and humble and a bit overwhelmed at various stages of the leaning curve. It’s really worth it. The great thing is that, in the end, we are all, more or less capable, more or less ok, more or less good enough to have a go.

Mastery starts with the attempt, no?

Till next time,

Bye for now…

Faye.

(P.S. For those that don’t know me, I am  a London-based Nu Jazz singer/songwriter, pianist and guitarist. You can can check out my tunes and videos here, and/or come and like my Facebook Music page. Come and say hi!)

 


 

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Some thoughts on the guitar as a ‘voice’…

Blue Songwriter

 

I have been woodshedding and teaching all weekend – including a guitar student who is learning very much from scratch the classical route, repertoire, and technique. Then, another client for whom I provide more of a singer-songwriter consultancy session, overhauling both voice and guitar accompaniment to improve both the technical chops of each and the overall performance. With an end goal of  building a set for busking and gigging everything from Nina Simone to Radiohead.

I always played guitar as a teenager, but in my mid 20’s embarked on a serious revision of my playing. I re-started classical tuition with a film score composer and former student of both Julian Bream and John Williams. In stepping right back to the beginning, I had time and space to really think about the following: tone, space, position, percussion, phrase and phase, dynamics, impact, texture and surface, fingers and fingernails, tension, volume, sound production, light, shade, emotion, narrative , left hand/right hand independence and co-operation – and the importance of every singe pluck and strike.

The guitar has a huge range of expression and I have learnt to play or aim to play as I would sing – aiming to make every note count. Here’s some random top ten tips which can be applied to a range of guitars, genres and playing styles. (These suggestions assume right-handedness – sorry lefties!) Useful for students and for teachers. If you can engage at least some of the time with these, it will add an edge to your playing that makes all the difference. By the way, whilst effects are a thing of joy, I would suggest stepping away (for now) from the SupaHendrixTurboMojoVibe pedal until you can create expression with just the bare basics – acoustic or clean amp sound.

* Don’t let anyone tell you that vibrato is inappropriate or tasteless.(Whilst playing 16th century madrigals for instance – oops!) Practice it anyway as a matter of course until you have the strength and balance and thus choice, to employ it or not. It can be the subtlest, sweetest thing and is a natural part of song. Try telling a bird not to trill!

* A good practice method is to drill a piece of material, taking it through a different sonic ‘rinse’ each time. Be imaginative and have fun. Play the piece ‘like a lullaby’,  or projecting ‘to the back of the Royal Albert Hall’, rising in volume as you rise in pitch, ‘as though your life depends on it’ or ‘with compassion’, ‘sunnily’ in a ‘purple’ way. ‘clean’, ‘dirty’ extra legato or staccato, or with a different tonal weight and colour for each phrase.

* Speed, technical tricks and advanced scale patterns are not as communicative as groove and feel and a simple idea played with assurance and not too quickly. Most listeners are hit by music on a subliminal level first. Relax and they will too. Also, silence speaks. Honour the spaces. Can you say what you want to say with less notes altogether?

* Never underestimate the value of the minor pentatonic scale. Know your fretboard and fingerings and you can build in passing notes, morph into blues or aeolian or relative major territory. Simple tools, infinite expression.

* A decent classical instrument has a big contrast between the left hand ‘tasto’ side of the sound hole (soft, muffly) and the right hand ‘ponticello’  (hard, metallic) area near the bridge. Get your strumming hand used to traversing these areas mid-phrase without looking.

* When playing on electric, experiment with striking downwards with the plectrum and nail simultaneously, literally crash into the string. With quite a lot of left hand bend and enough amp gain, you will get a pleasing pinched harmonic jazz/rock/soft metal effect. (but if this genre is not pleasing to you, avoid at all costs!)

* Make your phrases, riffs, solos and even chords more interesting and clever by looking at the punctuation of how you get into and out of every single note. Can you side up to the note? How about sliding off as you finish the note? How about rapid vibrato followed by fast slide up? Go through your piece with a toothpick and make decisions and fix them.

* A decent semi-acoustic guitar is also a drum, more so when amplified. Use the heel of your right hand to downstroke and damp/chop the chord at the same time. This can be very funky and ‘vibey’ especially when contrasted with more lyrical passages.

* Especially if you are still studying, you might want to remember the following general rule: The left and right hand are like 2 brains with different roles that interconnect but are independent. Both have to be relaxed and precise. The left hand is not there to express or be percussive or forceful or tense or effortful. Its job is to create accurate pitch. I see new students pressing too hard on the fretboard with the left hand, whilst neglecting the dynamic bite and expression of the right hand, which is what creates the tonal expression and velocity. Play like this for too long and you will get very sore left hand fingers and left shoulder tension and right hand fingers that feel ineffectual and weak plus an aching right hand wrist from overcompensating. (Obvious exception to this rule is ‘tapping’, where both hands are fretting, hammering and plucking.)

* Lastly, Silence speaks. Honour the spaces. Can you say what you want to say with less notes altogether?

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this. So who are the most soulful, most expressive guitar players? In terms of resources I would be hard pressed to cite my favourite guitarists for illustration of this – there’s far too many, both alive and deceased and all too different to compare. We should all listen, research and learn widely. But here’s just a few suggestions. Check out: Orianthi Panagaris (herself a keen devotee of Carlos Santana) Malina Moye, B.B King, Albert King (died 1992) and Emily Remler (died 1990).


 

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Dream On…

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(Photo is of Exmouth, Devon.)

Well, this is not the post, I had planned. I had something erudite and scholarly, yet post modern – the musical roots of this, that or the other.  The ongoing political injustice of so ‘n’ so, the joy of Japanese cinema, P-funk, Count Basie, Nu-metal and why we all need to know how to grow a vegetable. I will do that another time and will always have plenty of topics to explore in the ongoing 10,000 things of the Tao.

But right now I’m feeling dreamy, and a bit devil-may-care.

Ever get to a point in your own routines, where you feel, (despite the best will in the world and with all good intentions), in a bit of a rut? That your content schedule, practice regime, professional goals and habits are feeling somewhat rigid? Are you forgetting to savour life? Like Inchworm, ‘measuring the marigolds’ have you forgotten to actually smell the flowers that your creative life and soul has made it it’s business to create?

Small signs can be a giveaway and are in fact a gift from the subtle realms and from your own subconscious. Listen to them, for if you ignore them, bigger signs (illness, exhaustion, tantrums) can ensue. Unexpected internet crashes, flat phone batteries, sudden rebellions against the expectations of others or  self-imposed regimens. A sudden swerve into a much slower mode. Sometimes, in the midst of ‘busyness’, allow yourself to do things at a reaaaallllly laid back pace. You may notice a funny thing. The more slowly you work – you will still have time. And you may just do it better and with more presence and consciousness. As an artist, and as a human, it is necessary to dream. I’m not talking here about sleep dreams, or even the shamanic mode of lucid dreaming (both awake and asleep) that I cover, on occasion, in this blog. I mean…just trust yourself to drift, to muse, to meander, to potter. Have faith in the twilight mode – it’s a supremely rich soul landscape. Surrendering to it seems counter-intuitive for highly functional, motivated, speedy, successful people. But take a moment to remember where your art, your music, your poetry comes from. The soil of this playful, fruitful, non-rational, non-linear, right brain place. Here is smell, memory, free association, being-not-doing, love (lost and found) the murky contradictions of death and sex, decay and novelty, poetry, slang and broken vows, topsy turvy priorities, being enraptured (no, seriously…paralysed with pleasure) by the sunset. The still, yet thunderously present voice of nature, and the deep self that always, always knows and will tell us which way to go, if we just listen. The pregnancy at the funeral. The odd ache of pain that accompanies joy. The deeply intuitive, mystic profanely profoundly sacred mode, and sacredly rebellious, bilious sometimes libellous mode. The solace of silence. The open throated roar. The flood of gut wrenching sobs followed by manic laughter. Sheer bloody release.  The breaking open of the shell of the life you have created to bring forth a new phase. It can be frightening, inconvenient, yet exhilarating and clarifying. Especially if it brings social disapproval.

Once, long ago, I had a rebellion against my routines, against the containers (cages) I had set around myself. Late at night, in a deserted country lane, I lay down on the ground, in the road and took time to communicate with a passing black cat. We spoke, played and romped and I made animal noises. Slightly crazy. But to me, it was a break through back to true sanity and reality. I also have been known to leave relationships because I hear the (piercing, soul-calling, non-negotiable) voices of seagulls speaking truth to me. Let yourself walk in dreamland and receive visions. You can bring these fruits back to the daylight and thus is your art fertilised, revitalised. Descent and return – the eternal cycle. Honour it. Let it have its way with you.


 

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Guest post/infographic: Mind, Body and Jazz.

Mind, Body & Jazz: 
How Jazz Can Improve Your Health

mind-body-Jazz

Mind, Body & Jazz: 
How Jazz Can Improve Your Health

Listening to jazz music has potential benefits for your health as varied as the genre itself. The innovative riffs, cool tones and complex rhythms can bring natural relief for mind & body.

Mind

Listening to Jazz can actually have an effect on the type of brain waves you produce – which can be stimulating or relaxing.

Focus and Energy
Listening to upbeat music can:
• Help you focus and raise your heart rate.
• Provide motivation and reduce fatigue during a workout.
◦ Target beats per minute (BPM) should match your heart rate during workout:
▪ Walking -115 to 118 BPM
▪ Power walking – 137 to 139 BPM
▪ Running – 147 to 160 BPM
• Boost your productivity at work
THETA brain waves (4-8 hertz): Listening to the distinctive syncopation of some jazz can bring about theta brain waves, the most highly creative brain wave. They inspire new insights and solutions to unresolved problems (“Eureka!” moments).

Music Examples for Focus and Energy
“Cavatina” – Eric Alexander (114 BPM)
“Steppin’” – McCoy Tyner (142 BPM)
“Adoracao” – Eric Reed (126 BPM)

Stress Relief

Listening to relaxing music is just as effective at reducing anxiety as a massage.
ALPHA brain waves (8 to 14 hertz): Listening to music around 60 BPM’s can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat, resulting in alpha brainwaves. They make you relaxed but conscious.
DELTA brain waves (under 4 hertz): Listening to calming music in a relaxed position for at least 45 minutes produces delta brainwaves which can induce sleep… better sleep.
Better Sleep: Studies shows that just 45 min of soft, slow music (60-80 BPM) like jazz, before bedtime results in better and longer night-time sleep as well as less dysfunction during the day:
• After 1 week, 26% were sleeping better.
• After 3 weeks, 35% were sleeping better.
Less Depression: After listening to jazz music for an hour every day for a week:
Music Listeners had 25% less depression than non-listeners.

Music Examples for Relaxation
“Blue in Green” – Miles Davis (55 BPM)
“Almost Blue” – Chet Baker (56 BPM)
“Blue Train” – John Coltrane (75 BPM)

Body

Since stress is the root of many health problems, the relaxing effect of jazz music can have incredible healing influence. It physically changes your body by lowering your heart and respiratory rate.

Stroke Recovery
Listening to music (jazz included) directly after a stroke improves verbal memory, focus and mood. In just 3 months after a stroke…
• Music Listeners’ verbal memory increased 60% and focused attention increased 17%.
• Non-Listeners’ verbal memory increased 29% and focused attention increased 0%.
• Audio Book Listeners’ verbal memory increased 18% and focused attention increased 0%.

Pain Relief
Listening to jazz has been shown to reduce time and intensity of both general and migraine headaches.
Study shows that listening to music (including jazz) can reduce chronic pain. After listening to jazz music for an hour every day for a week…
• Music Listeners had a 21% decrease in pain.
• Non-Listeners had a 2% increase in pain.
Music therapy is increasingly used for pain relief in hospitals to…
• reduce need for medication during childbirth
• decrease postoperative pain
• complement use of anesthesia during surgery

Blood Pressure
Studies show that music (including jazz) and laughter can lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to expand by up to 30%.
After 3 months of the music & laughter study…
• music group decreased blood pressure by 6 mmHg
• laughter group decreased blood pressure by 5 mmHg
• control group had no change
Immediately after each session also revealed a short-term dip of 6 mmHg to 7 mmHg.
The range of decline is comparable with someone…
• adopting a low-salt diet
• losing 10 pounds
• taking blood-pressure-lowering medication.
This change reduces risk of death from heart disease or stroke by up to 15%.

Immunity
Listening to jazz for 30 minutes boosts immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels. IgA resides in mucous linings of the body and acts as an antibody; preventing virus, bacteria and infection. The effect on IgA levels continues for an additional 30 minutes after the music stops playing.

Fun Fact

A study conducted by Dorothy Retallack in 1973 played music to plants for two weeks. Plants “listening” to classical and jazz music physically leaned 15 to 20 degrees toward the radio while plants “listening” to rock music grew away from the radio, became sick, and died.

International Jazz Day: April 30th
“International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact” #JAZZDAY

So beat that cold to the punch and crank up some Coltrane.

mind-body-Jazz

Sources
1. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2009-07-16-exercise-music_N.htm
2. http://brainbasedbiz.blogspot.com/2007/01/jazz-stirs-creative-flow.html
3. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/03/19/music-soothes-anxiety-as-well-as-massage-does
4. http://www.unr.edu/counseling/virtual-relaxation-room/releasing-stress-through-the-power-of-music
5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4228707.stm
6. http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/02/20/35390.aspx
7. http://www.rmhp.org/blog/2013/04/jazz-and-poetry-month-rmhp/
8. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060524123803.htm
9. http://spearman101.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/5-medical-reasons-jazz-music-is-good-for-you/
10. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/25/laughter.music.lower.blood.pressure/
11. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/cold-and-flu/7-unusual-cold-remedies?slide=2
12. http://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/music-and-plants


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