top favourite music from 2014

1 Dec


1. Wish I Was Here (Music From the Motion Picture) by Various Artists

2. Wish I Was Here (Original Motion Picture Score) by Rob Simonsen

3. White Women by Chromeo

4. Song Spells, No. 1: Cedarsmoke by Sea Wolf

5. Lost On The River by The New Basement Tapes



1. Ancient Light by Allman Brown

2. Live @ Air (Live) by Daughter

3. Wild Desire (Live Sessions) by Sugar & The Hi Lows



1. Stay With Me by Sam Smith

2. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift

3. Sister (Hushed) by Andrew Belle



1. Paul McCartney/Out There/Salt Lake City, UT/Energy Solutions Arena

2. Gregory Alan Isakov/Morrison, CO/Red Rocks Amphitheatre

3. The Eagles/History of The Eagles/Salt Lake City, UT/Energy Solutions Arena

4. The Beach Boys/Salt Lake City, UT/Utah State Fair Park

5. Lord Huron/Salt Lake City, UT/Urban Lounge


music lessons have ruined music for me

9 Oct

I highly regret signing myself up for voice lessons at Guitar Center. I try to avoid confrontation, but maybe it’s time I talk to the manager there.

I’ve had a spew of terrible music teachers, but this has been the worst. I’ve never felt more degraded and worthless as a musician and I’ve been doing music for 21 years.

The first lesson was a half hour long, mostly introductions and I told the instructor of my music background and goals. I’ve been doing this for a long time. All I want is a better, more focused and controlled voice.

The second lesson was an hour long and I thought I could learn more in an hour lesson. But no. The instructor kept going on and on about some other country student he teaches. When I looked at the clock, 5 minutes had passed by. I played a few songs, including “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)” by Jim Croce and I was being asked about the lyrics. He asked me what the lyrics mean and I gave him my interpretation. After I told him, he seemed to be looking for a specific answer. I told him nobody knows what the song really means except for the songwriter who wrote it. What a waste of time. I also told him I’ve read and studied lyrics A LOT. Then we went onto some random sight singing exercise from the Guitar Center lesson book, which I don’t even care about.

The third lesson was a half hour long again and I thought maybe it will be ok this time. A second or a third chance? Again, no. I hadn’t had a chance to practice at all this past week, but I did do the reading from the Guitar Center lesson book. He talked somewhat about the book, then went on to explain how he went to some concert and the singer was terrible. Then we did this yoga/imagining there’s a light/breathing exercise. I don’t know how it’s going to help, but singing isn’t magic in that aspect. I sang “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)” by Jim Croce again. The instructor keeps telling me I should sing differently from the artist who wrote the song, but when I try to sing it in the same rhythm as a cover of “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)”, he says I’m doing it wrong and I need to sing it like the artist. He then asks me to identify the verse and chorus in the song. Again, what a time waster. I am more than capable of reading from sheet music, but my brain doesn’t think of labeling the verse and chorus in sheet music form. I know the difference between a verse and chorus, thank you. I’ve been writing songs for the past few years and I have a self-published and self-released song on iTunes, Amazon, etc. which I am proud of.

Overall, I’ve never had a more negative experience. This has been all talk and hardly any singing. If I wanted someone to talk to, I would have seen a psychologist instead. I’ve spent way too much money at Guitar Center. I’ve purchased almost all my gear at Guitar Center since I got my first guitar 10 years ago. I was a fan. But here’s my middle finger. I am done.

practice magic every day.

7 Aug

Sometimes I find myself complaining about practicing. Practicing piano, practicing guitar, practicing singing, practicing writing. Then I remind myself I get to do this. It has always been my dream to be a musician. To be in a studio recording my first album, to sing my songs in front of a crowd, to be on the road. Practicing is part of what this dream entails.

I like to think music is magic. That my favourite musicians are all wizards that craft magical songs out of thin air. Magic. Then I remembered that even Harry Potter and all the greatest wizards practiced magic. That there’s a place called Hogwarts, where wizards study and practice magic. Magic is learned and practiced. And so goes with music. One must practice magic every day.

red rocks amphitheatre: gregory alan isakov with the colorado symphony

24 Jul



Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Morrison, Colorado Red Rocks Amphitheatre



This Empty Northern Hemisphere

That Moon Song

Saint Valentine

The Stable Song


Dandelion Wine

Living Proof

Unwritable Girl


Encore: If I Go, I’m Goin with Bonnie Paine from Elephant Revival

To the crowd of 9,525 and more at the sold out Red Rocks show, Gregory said something like, “I don’t really have goals, but this is f*&!ing cool!” And this is what I love about Gregory. There’s nothing pretentious about him. His words are honest and his music is full of heart, of poetic grace on life and with infallible respect for the musicians he plays with. All of Gregory’s songs are my favourite, but my favourite that night was definitely “Evelyn”. Maybe it’s because I have such an affinity with the character of Evelyn, but the live version tells of another story. With the Colorado Symphony, there’s this added energy and element to “Evelyn” and all of Gregory’s songs. The swell of the strings and percussion at the chorus. There needs to be a live album of this. I’ve traveled to Phoenix, Arizona and now Morrison, Colorado to see Gregory. They have been life changing experiences as a musician and meeting forever friends (to Bree and Keith) and the kindest fans of Gregory (thank you to the guy who saved us by getting our car out of a hole in the rocks). I wish I could follow Gregory on the rest of The Weatherman tour to relive everything again and again. Thank you, thank you, thank you Gregory!

being a music teacher (part two)

11 Jul

“That’s what all we are. Amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” (Charlie Chaplin)

Lately, I’ve found myself frustrated and dismayed, having others question my ability and qualification to teach music. I’ve been teaching piano and guitar since December 2010 and recently, I graduated in film. I tell this to people and they have this perplexed look on their face. Although I studied film at the University of Utah, I’ve been studying music for much longer. I started taking piano lessons when I was three, started singing at six, for ten years in the International Children’s Choir, played in the Clayton Middle School orchestra, second chair in the second violin section, a show choir pianist during my last year at Clayton Middle School and seriously started guitar lessons in high school. While studying at the University of Utah, I took Survey of Jazz, World Music and Sound for Film. During this time, I also took online classes from Coursera, History of Rock, Part 1 and 2 from University of Rochester, Professor Covach, Songwriting from Berklee College of Music, Pat Pattison and Introduction to Music Production from Berklee College of Music, Loudon Stearns. In short, I care a lot about music, my whole heart is in music. I spend almost all my waking hours listening to and playing music.

The other day, another guitar teacher, a disbeliever in my music abilities asked me, “How’s your music studio going?” and “What method do you use?” Without a pause, he went on to assume, “Suzuki?” I smiled while in my head, I went raging, “SUZUKI?! Who even teaches Suzuki for guitar?!” That bothered and offended me a lot. I’m sure he went on with his day, all smug that his music studio is going really well.

I don’t trust a lot of music teachers. I was about to take guitar lessons from that same belittling, belligerent guitar teacher. The first lesson, he overbooked and completely forgot about me. I decided to give him a second chance. That was when I played a G chord without the third finger. Still a G chord and he argued that I was playing everything all wrong. The previous guitar teacher before that was all in all, dysfunctional. I learned a few things, but suspect marital issues hindered his ability to function, teach and honestly refund a missed lesson on his absence. And then I had singing lessons, which I came out of, somewhat improved but less confident. I know we’re all human, but the air of superiority and authority, along with these experiences have made me not want to take any more lessons.

At the same time, I have a lot of love for music teachers. I really loved the ones that really cared and taught me everything there is to know. I still think about them, completely grateful I was able to grow and learn from them.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from taking music lessons and going to school for twenty years, it’s that I don’t believe in methods. Everyone is wired precisely unique and I have learned from my students, the various antics of the brain. Some learn by following a book and others not as linear, by learning song after song through means of sheet music, chords, tabs, etc. In all cases, I’ve learned that learning songs we love and listen to, prove to be the most effective way to learn music. And this is how I teach, by starting with basic techniques and music theory, working and building up to playing songs the student is genuinely interested in playing.

Being a music teacher, I emulate what I liked from my favourite music teachers and carefully aim to not repeat what didn’t work from those other music teachers. Teaching pushes me to learn and play new songs. I’ve learned to play songs through online posted chords and tabs, which I annotate, revise, modify and correct. I’ve arranged songs, listening by ear. I’ve learned through YouTube tutorials and YouTube videos of my favourite artists. I’ve learned to steal like an artist and I have benefited the most from going to concerts and watching how my favourite artists play their songs. By studying the details, I’ve been able to play songs exactly or really close to how they are played by the original artists. I have spent hours and hours preparing music lessons. I’ve become a better musician because of this.

I’ve been reading Tracks A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson. Bless her soul, I have such an affinity with her. She dreamed of walking across Australia with camels. She had never seen a camel and had never been trained to work with camels. Nobody had made such a 1,700 mile trip before. But she became an amateur with camels and then grew to be experienced through much adversity and experience. She was never a writer by profession, but became a prolific writer, after her camel trip. We all have our heroes and Robyn Davidson is my heroine. Her story has made me believe that all the possibilities live within us.

I don’t believe we become masters of music or of anything. There is always more to know and more to learn. We are all amateurs.