The New Age of Technology for Learning & Teaching Guitar – Fretlight Guitars, Guitar Pro, MIDI Pickups + Rocksmith

282155_10150255215101956_6265128_n

Okay, so, aside from being on my fourth post and having to jump past the next topic until I have talked to a solicitor about intellectual property rights, which is becoming a growing concern because I have the desire to just shout my ideas out to the world with wanton disregard, I am also starting to run out of vanity images so I’m glad I’ve done a photoshoot or two recently or else I’m going to have to use the same images over and over – somehow I don’t have that many.

So, I see that I’ve set a dangerous precedent by making the last two posts just over 10,000 words each… but this is because I have the desire to really arm you fully to the teeth on all that I know. I often read things and want more information or wish they didn’t treat me like I can only digest five hundred words at any one time. I also don’t agree with the ‘keep them coming back for more by dishing out only little bits of info at once’ standard so I’m standing up for the all out approach – you don’t have to read it all at once and these pages will stay here for you until the Internet collapses or society breeds a new race of super chimps crossed with honey badgers and they go all Mojo Jojo on us. If anything my attention to detail just showcases my obsessive behaviour and my mania but also shows how much I have to offer. By making you aware of all that goes into being Grayson King I’m shining a light on how I think and behave and why that works for me like it does. Don’t worry though because this post will probably be four times shorter than my previous two (until I’ve edited it for the 100th time over the next month and a half or discovered new technology or something that I feel you MUST know about):

 

I am surprised at how many of the musical people I meet have never heard of Optek and their frankly amazing Fretlight Guitars – I live in Edinburgh (a very international friendly city) and I’ve lived in a hostel for close to two years up until recently and regardless of where people are from virtually nobody seems to be aware of them. I’m practically a Fretlight Evangelist at this stage. But their lack of notoriety in the UK (and the rest of the world) may have something to do with the fact that they are primarily a United States based company and that I have had to have them shipped across, which does incur import charges. Though I’m certain you can get them on this side of the ocean using eBay or whatever. More people will be aware of the fun guitar teaching game called Rocksmith though I feel, which is the next step after Guitar Hero, but with a real guitar! Then there’s all that the Fretlight team has to offer (plus some little hidden gems I’m aware of that are hard to find), then Guitar Pro working with Fretlight and MIDI pickups to consider… first though, Fretlight:

 

 


The Sales Pitch for Fretlight:

fretlight_guitar-normal

Firstly I will outright tell you that I am not affiliated with Optek or Fretlight in any way beyond being a very impressed and satisfied customer. Though I will associate myself with them in the future when I decide to become a Fretlight Certified Teacher (which comes with massive discounts on things – see below). But due to my experiment and my method of learning I cannot do this just yet. Already they have strong support from Orianthi Panagaris and Chris Isaak. Now, I’m a little out of date with celebrities but I sure as hell know who Chris Isaak is! Anyway, on to the stuff that matters… what can a Fretlight do and what the hell is it beyond a kick ass guitar?

This video saves me explaining everything about it:

So, they have done research and they say you can learn a piece of music ten times faster than without a Fretlight. TEN TIMES FASTER! But the thing is the guitar isn’t a toy – it’s a great guitar (and due to the textured plastic polymer fretboard has higher sustain than possible with wood – probably only useful to riff masters but it’s good to know). They also have a bass guitar model now too! And, they also do lefties of all their models, which cost the exact same as the right-handed models though they do stock less of them. I have one of their Pro series electric guitar, which is a gorgeous blue, and an electro-acoustic model left-handed Fretlight guitar which is a slick black. I also recently bought a very rare (especially since they no longer make them) electric left-handed Fretlight that comes with a MIDI pickup built into it from their eBay backlot page!! I already have a MIDI pickup on the blue Pro electric but, and without going into detail, I felt like I needed a left-handed Fretlight guitar for teaching purposes and so I would have a proper electric left-handed to go with my electro-acoustic. For the same reason I shall have to buy a right-handed electro-acoustic model and a bass. Eventually I imagine they might sell classical guitars too…

If you buy from the backlot yo can get massive savings, but, these guitars don’t come with the Fretlight footswitch, which is really bloody useful for making your Fretlight experience much smoother as you assign certain functions to the footswitch that allow you to interact with your software without taking your hands off the guitar. They only cost $24.99 but once you’ve added delivery and import tax it’ll cost you more like $49.45, which is about £30 if you’re in the UK. If you’re buying from the main store at Fretlight they offer you the option to add items such as the Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready software (which is not just highly recommended it is utterly essential – see below), the footswitch, an amp, a strap, extended warranty, etc… it’s the same price to buy a footswitch from their eBay backlot page as it is from their main shop (I checked, since sometimes you can save a few quid here and there) but go ahead and get one.

Ultimately I intend to open up a music teaching ‘school’ using a combination of all that I talk about on this page and in this blog, including Fretlights, Rocksmith, my general creative method & philosophy and The Grayson King Method. I’ll let the students rent a Fretlight from me at low cost so as to help them avoid that huge initial cash burden that can be an issue for new guitar players who either give up shortly after starting, decide they’d rather play drums, or any other factor leaves them losing cash by selling their relatively new guitar as ‘second hand’. If you are planning on buying a guitar and starting to learn (or for someone you know to start learning with) I’d always recommend putting the extra cash into your investment and not buying a ‘cheap’ guitar as they almost always sound bad and this can make it difficult to keep your motivation up since it would require a degree of skill to make a cheap guitar sound even passably okay. You don’t need to break the bank but if your child is playing a guitar that cost less than £100 new it runs the risk of wasting your money, frustrating the student and making an awful sound that you’ll have to listen to. Even worse are £50 classical guitars… It is well worth mentioning that it will cost you the same amount of money to buy a guitar without the Fretlight system as with it. Which really does reduce your options down to Fretlight or Fretlight (if you’re being sensible that is or unless you’ve got a guitar from a mate at low cost). The thing is that if you’re learning you want to have an increase in skill as soon as possible, many a great guitarist never was simply from the frustration of making their new guitar sound good, which is difficult when you’ve just started. I’m learning left-handed now and it has reminded me of just how frustrated I used to get in the early days but I’m advancing a thousand times faster this time around especially as I’m actually using my Fretlight and its software and I’m playing Rocksmith.

Oh, you can also customise the set up of your guitar before you buy it and they’ll send it to you with the perfect action or whatever. It’s a shame they don’t do them to suit your typical Metal guitar design – Flying V or whatever you’re into – though people have been known to swap the body out for one of a preferred design (I personally think they should do a ‘Fretlightalise My Guitar’ thing but I doubt they’ll ever do it). So, in light of all these options, there is a very important choice ahead of you – will you buy a brand spanking new Fretlight? Or will you save quite a lot of money and consider getting a B-Stock Fretlight (models they no longer sell in the main shop), a Factory Rejected Blemish Fretlight (that is guaranteed to work perfectly in every way but the finish might be slightly discoloured in the smallest spot ever, which I’ve never found on mine) or Shop Floor Demo Guitar that has been used… you guessed it… to give demos in shops? I’d say more about these backlot prices but it just depends and the stock changes too much – saw one for $189 the other day! I saved a pretty penny on both mine…

Also, I have had a fantastic experience with their customer services team, which is always nice to know.

Check out their ebay backlot page

Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready Version:

 

 

I am not going to waste much time explaining what Guitar Pro is when you can get a much more concise and accurate explanation from the video above and here on the Fretlight website or here on the Guitar Pro website. You can get so many Guitar Pro tabs online for free – I’ve seen them gathered in one archive online with like 60,000 tabs or something (he says trying to avoid the word ‘torrent’ for some reason). A Guitar Pro tab is a file that works with Guitar Pro software and they can contain many parts of a song – the saxophone line, the bass line, the drums, the piano, the several guitar parts, etc (you’d be surprised how many instruments it supports), that are represented using numbers that tell you which fret and which string to use and when played within Guitar Pro the song is rebuilt in a way that is reminiscent of the old polyphonic ringtones (MIDI) but taken to another level – this is a pretty decent thing because you can take a song apart if the author has been particularly accurate and complete in their approach – which offers you the easiest option to see what a song roughly sounds like without the bass line or to learn about song construction and composition through deconstruction – or you could add your own bass line or just mess around by changing a note here and there and seeing the cascading effect it has on the rest of the song. Or construct a song from scratch without having to worry about a steep learning curve or the time it takes to correctly balance a mix or learn sound engineering and audio design – you don’t need to even be able to play an instrument any more to be a great songwriter (see the Ableton Push and the Kaoss Pad section) but you also don’t even have to have your guitar with you to write a song or even be physically at the level required to play the riff you can imagine or write this way. Each file depends on the person who made it though and that’s normally not an official release – but I’ll do that if I’m ever successful, hell, I’ll do it now anyway since I feel some of my songs are well worth learning – in fact if you check my page here you’ll see that I’ve supplied some of my original songs using Guitar Pro (there are two versions – one is a readable one written by me using their software by hand and the other is made using the MIDI pickup and automated tab mode – which does mean that you need a Fretlight to learn it as it’s often unreadable due to how it achieves this miraculous thing – as I explain below). But I’ve found Guitar Pro files incredible since you can just select which song and which part of the song you want to learn and it will light up on your Fretlight, then you can slow it down by lowering the tempo, loop a section, and so on to help you learn it. You’ll be seeing it in perfect time as the lights are computer created so if the light moves before your finger gets there you know you need to practice that section more. Something like 90+% of people are visual learners above all else. You can slowly increase the speed of the riff or whatever until you’re back up to 100% speed and you’ll be amazed at how much quicker it was to learn this way – Hendrix made easy. The great thing about Guitar Pro – and included in the Fretlight Ready version of course – is the option to have it automatically tab your music (as mentioned a moment ago) – but you need to have a MIDI pickup on your guitar to do this or be using a keyboard or whatever. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know how crazy I am concerning keeping a digital and secure copy of my works. But just imagine that epic riff you’ve come up with being easily saved as a file and then a few years later when you’ve forgotten it you could just open that file and have it light up on your fretboard exactly how you played it. Imagine that in a band situation where you want to share that new rhythm with your lead guitarist (Guitar Pro files are tiny) or a teaching environment. I will repeat this though – that tab won’t be pretty, it breaks each note into like 32 parts or more so it doesn’t miss even the smallest nuance of the tab. Guitar Pro also offer a teaching option but I don’t know much about it – it’s here, anyway. But honestly the free Fretlight Studio software that comes with your guitar (or can just be downloaded for free) is incredible in many many ways, anyway, see below:


Fretlight Studio:

 

As you can see in this screenshot I took of the free software the Chords & Scales option is quite expansive, covering a massive variety of chord forms and then chord tones across the entire fretboard, it also does the same for scales and so on… on that note have you ever seen a Guitar Wheel and how they get a whole textbook of information on one simple double-sided circular ‘page’? They are epic:

Guitar Wheel:

… and the information in the Fretlight Studio program is also epic, but admittedly this information could be better presented like in the Guitar Wheel – but it’s the combination with the Fretlight that matters!

fretlight studio 1
fretlight studio
The splash screen that appears when you open the Fretlight Studio software offers you three options, ‘Create a Solo’, which opens the Improvisor software as in the video below, ‘Chords & Scales’ which opens the main information resource package as shown above and ‘Purchase More’ which allows you to buy specially made Fretlight videos and song packs for the Improvisor and so on. These special videos are a lot like your typical DVD teaching videos except that when they do something or show you something it lights up on the Fretlight. And the Improvisor song packs are comparable to Guitar Pro files though presented differently and with a higher sound quality – I think a well made Guitar Pro file is actually better in my opinion. Yet I haven’t found myself buying any of these, but then I have to wait to utilise the Fretlight for the sake of my experiment and I’m a stingey git. Besides, I honestly don’t feel like there’s much point in the song packs for me when you can use the Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready software. The Improvisor software is pretty cool though for creating an environment for you to learn how to improvise solos and whatnot – a lot like in Rocksmith but it doesn’t have the AI band members (see below).

Improvisor (part of the same package):

Fretlight Certification & GT Control Software:

(Actually, I only just watched this and I’m like – holy shit that’s cool… still not sure it’s fair for the price to be so high for the stand alone software… nope… definitely not)

A teaching option from the Fretlight people is called the Fretlight GT Control software (which is a crazy $399.99 to download!) which does everything it says in the video above but is also associated with the Fretlight Teacher Certification I mentioned above. When I e-mailed them to complain about the price of the GT Control they said the following:

‘When you complete the requirements to become Fretlight Certified you will receive the following:

  • Either a Fretlight FG-400 series guitar OR a Fretlight FG-507 Acoustic guitar ($300-400 value)
  • GT Control Software ($399.99 value)
  • Fretlight Dual Footswitch ($24.99 value)
  • Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready Software (Download $109.99 value)
  • 2x Fretlight Certified Teacher Logo T-Shirts ($29.99 value)

Total package value approx. $960
Fretlight Certification cost: $399.99
Please note – shipping and international freight is not included.

Teachers receive a $550 discount with this deal.’, Fretlight Support Team

Which is actually pretty epic of them. But somehow their two webpages (Teachers and Certification) fail to mention this at all, which I have pointed out to them in my reply so hopefully they’ll make that be up front and centre and in bold soon.

But years before they had all this I had already made the connection between a MIDI pickup, Guitar Pro‘s auto-tab feature from a MIDI pickup and the possibilities this could provide for teachers when combined with the Fretlight guitar but also for keeping a perfect copy of that epic riff you just came up with without having to write it all down (which they forget to mention and is ESSENTIAL to know) or explain to yourself in dictation what you just did (which is my go to method for rhythm guitar at the moment), which is something they haven’t capitalised on yet either – it’s there but they should be making you aware of it! I even messaged the company years back when I got my first Fretlight telling them there was no point in them wasting effort on their own Guitar Pro alternative called Guitarz (which did have some cool features actually) because Guitar Pro is the mac daddy of digital tablature and is going to remain it. I’m going to be honest, I doubt I’ll ever buy the GT Control on its own or that anyone would until they take some serious moolah off that insane price – even having that price as a standard is insulting and I consider it a cheap marketing trick for their certification program. I guess the only option is certification but considering the deal it’s an awesome option isn’t it? But I won’t buy it on its own when I can just play the riff on my electric with the MIDI pickup on it, save it in Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Version, then hit play and the students Fretlight will light up exactly what I want them to practice. Combined with creating my own Guitar Pro tutorial files if I decide the student needs that or there isn’t already an elegant solution – like the actual tutorial Fretlight Studio software that happens to come free with it which is EPIC (minus all the ‘lesson packs’ they charge you for and stuff – which I’ll consider along with GT Control when and if this ‘music school’ of mine ever exists and I’m doing well financially). The Improvisor software has a similar MIDI song reconstruction sound to it and has backing tracks you can play along to whilst it highlights the scale/riff/chords on your Fretlight.

Frankly I’m disappointed in the ridiculous price of this GT Control software though. You can’t claim you want to help people learn with a price tag that high – two and a half back lot Fretlights, that’s what they’re charging. I was annoyed enough to mention it on that YouTube video in the comments. Maybe if you agree with me on there they’ll reconsider how completely over-the-top that is? I mean, imagine you’re just starting out you could easily share a riff with a friend using this – they’ve over-specialised it and made it only for teachers and not considered the options it could open up in a jamming environment.

The Roland G-3 MIDI Pickup I got with my Roland GR-55 MIDI synth board is epic, I think, but they have the Fishman Triple Play in the video above which I’ll look into for myself something similar in the future, I like the Bluetooth aspect over the GK-3 but I bet the sound quality is better for the GK-3, you always lose quality when going wireless and Bluetooth hasn’t gotten over that yet. I think.

 

 

Some small extras to be aware of that are like impossible to know about because they are hidden:

The Fretboard Simulator and Light Show Bundle

Make a light show using the lights in the Fretlight! Shame you’ve only got red at this point…

Guitarz 6.6
The original software they made before they moved towards Guitar Pro. It has the added bonus of being free and also reads ASCII tabs. Worth checking out.

AxMaster 2.2
This software was discontinued and I’m not sure exactly what it does. I think it is very similar to the Improvisor software, or was swallowed by it.

I think that’s about it for Fretlight and the combination of Guitar Pro and MIDI for this post. Oh, and those download links were found here!

Rocksmith:

As is my want in this post I am going to let YouTube save my breath and illuminate you. Seriously, of all the videos this is one that has had my brain go into meltdown with possibilities – but that’s because it is new to me and I’ve had years of time to process the other stuff.

 

Yeah, so THAT exists. Can you even believe it? It works with any typically electricalised guitar too. It has fucking intuitive AI band members for god’s sake! But you know what I thought upon seeing that? Imagine connecting that with a Fretlight and the possibilities a MIDI instrument connected to that offers! You could call your band mate up and he could turn on his PS3 and you could jam out that new idea, or if you’re strapped for time you could still practice with your mates over a game! Or a teacher could teach you something in a GT Control type multiplayer over video chat and then jam out a song and get band playing experience! These days you wouldn’t even need to be on the same console or format either if they were sensible with the coding (it does come for PC by the way – once again trying to avoid the word ‘torrent’ for the option to try before you buy). You could have that Korean guy you’ve met on your travels or something but never been able to play with jamming using an electric violin in his bedroom across the world, whilst that Brazilian keyboardist you met in a music forum or something joins the gaming party and have the whole thing recorded as standard and uploaded to YouTube. If it is MIDI enabled and has mixing options, vocal processors, and all that lovely stuff you’re into the realm of my imagination – but I’m guessing latency/synch issues due to bandwidth limitations exist so that’s why it is only a local multiplayer for now. I already sent a massive email to Fretlight and told them to associate themselves with this as soon as possible, just like I did when I saw the possibility of them combining forces with Guitar Pro (which they eventually did – not saying it was my hundred emails a week that did it but they can’t have hurt lol). Although I do admit that if I were them I would have made it an addon or plugin of some kind so that people could easily make any Guitar Pro be Fretlight enabled (they contacted me and mentioned that they’ll be making an SDK package available so anyone could make their software Fretlight enabled!!! Maybe someone will adapt it to work with Rocksmith or create their own Rocksmith clone?). I don’t know, I just get frustrated with a great idea not being taken to the most logical and ‘perfect’ place that I would push it towards. I’m not a version 1 type guy – I just want the iPhone 50 already and all mobile calls to be over the Internet like messages have almost done now. Hell, I don’t want to have to make a call if I can possibly brain-to-Internet-to-brain the thing I want to communicate amongst other things incongruent to making this post shorter than the others.

So, I bought both Rocksmith games for the PS3 and I’ve got two RealTone Cables (so I can play multiplayer if I want to) and I’ve been playing it a lot the last few days. What I did was to buy the first game for the PS3 that came with a cable (since it was only like £1 more than buying the cable on its own), then I bought a cable on its own (about £20) and then I bought the Rocksmith 2014 game for the PS3 on its own since buying that game with the cable you end up paying like £10 more altogether (on Amazon UK anyway).

I have a few things to say about the first game (my copy of Rocksmith 2014 hasn’t arrived yet). For one, I had to create a new user on my PS3 for playing the game left-handed with as I play ambidextrous (see The Grayson King Method once I release that blog post) and wanted my main user to be playing the game right-handed and I kind of wish they’d taken into account that someone might want to do both and track each individually – since I’m a beginner left-handed but I’ve played guitar for 6 years right-handed the difficulty would shoot up to an impossible level if I wanted to swap between the two. I noticed that if you choose to start a bass career in-game and choose that to be right-handed when your main guitar career is left-handed that it swaps your main guitar career to right-handed even if you go into the options and choose left-handed orientation again. I think a reboot and/or finishing the venue you’re at fixes this. It has crashed a bit on me, but that happens mostly when you’ve come to the techniques menu from the career menu and you keep choosing to replay and not saving the game – which requires you going to another menu. What I do now is to only access the techniques menu from the main menu and once I’ve got past the next level (so once I’ve achieved bronze, or gone from bronze to silver) I then go back to the main techniques menu and it saves it. So, don’t keep replaying until you reach gold, save after each level is passed or it might just infinitely hang on the loading screen with the microphone in the corner with the Rocksmith R on it.

Another thing you’re really going to want to consider is buying a dance mat for controlling the menus with your feet – which I’m surprised they didn’t think of themselves and create a kind of stompbox similar to the Fretlight Footswitch. I managed to find a Dance Dance Revolution one for the PS3 (without the game) for like £3.50 including delivery on eBay somehow, and since it is USB it’ll work for the PC (or has a workaround/driver that allows it to work with PC) but it wasn’t exactly a quick find as on Amazon a similar one costs like £20 and on the site I linked to a second ago they cost like $80 for the non-slip ones (think mine was the plasticy cheap one and I’ll update this page with my experience once it arrives – if it doesn’t feel right or work right I won’t mind since it cost next to nothing – you could always buy one from CeX or similar and try it out and take it back if it doesn’t work to your satisfaction – or even do that and then buy one on eBay for much less once you know you it works right enough – either way, any dance mat has to be better than trying to use the controller with your feet, which will make it smelly and possibly damage the analog sticks since feet are less nimble than hands). Apparently when using the riff repeater (which allows you to learn sections of songs in loop mode and so on) having the dance mat turned upside down (since they are quite large if you sit when playing like I do you’ll understand why turning it around makes sense) will make life a lot easier. From what I read of recommendations for this idea I found using Google the same is true for Rocksmith 2014 as well. Buy a dance mat, but you probably don’t need the metal wireless one that costs over £100. It’s just that the first Rocksmith game, which I’m playing now, does tend to get locked down with menus a lot and it’s a shame you can’t play a certain note to continue or play the guitar to control the menu. I’ve been using my feet to press X a lot and knock the analog left and right with my big toe and it is annoying.

Also the techniques mode is annoying to me as it doesn’t allow you to quickly redo the song, which leaves you pressing start then restarting a lot to save time when you get near the end of the song. Just have a look at the score required to get to the next level and restart if you know you won’t make it. I’m pretty sure this has the cost of not adding the Rocksmith points you would have gotten from letting the song finish to your total points though… which is annoying to be honest since those points unlock new things. You decide which you prefer, but it is a lot of time to spend in menus just to gain a few points when the whole point is to master a new technique which will ultimately make your scores much much higher which will grant you significantly more points. Another thing I have noticed and might suggest is to avoid the temptation to repeat the techniques it suggests all to gold level through repetition right at the start as this increases the song difficulty drastically. Either that or the first game isn’t as well balanced as it could be for a nice learning curve during the career mode.  One other thing, if you’re using a Fretlight with Rocksmith the increased sustain from the plastic polymer fretboard caused me issues in the sliding technique mode and I had to abruptly end the note when the slide had ended on-screen to get my points correctly – but in the actual game mode it tends to always give you an ‘epic sustain’ bonus, which is nice. =P

Rocksmith will force you to look away from your fretboard and that’s a bloody good thing because the Fretlight’s whole method ingrains the bad habit of looking at your guitar neck whilst playing into you and that’s a serious disadvantage, especially for stage presence (doubly so if you’re as blind as I am and can’t see your fretboard without glasses). It’s virtually the only downside of using the Fretlight though. Due to the way I taught myself right-handed I hadn’t realised how badly I would play if I wasn’t looking, so that opened my eyes somewhat (even though some of my songs are close to impossible to play otherwise – just too much going on).

I feel perfectly fine torrenting and cracking the PC version of the game now that I’ve bought both the games for PS3 and it comes with the option to download a bunch (like, 800+) of custom songs created by a website/forum dedicated to that. Here’s the link to the custom song maker software that makes custom songs that work for all versions of Rocksmith 2014, PS3 included – but I think you need to use that program to convert the Rocksmith file to be PS3 compatible and you have to have a custom firmware on your PS3 and I don’t at the moment – see here and this YouTube video for making and putting custom Rocksmith 2014 songs on your PS3 and you’ll have to Google to learn how to hack your PS3 since it depends on what model you have and stuff). I found these on thepiratebay but you’ll need to combine this torrent with this one to get all the goodies for your PC.

But remember, even though I have a few concerns this is with the old game and I’m more than happy. I’m certain that the newer game Rocksmith 2014 beats it hands down! Even if you do still need a dance mat.   (=.=; )

This game (which is available for PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PS3) also has a 2 player multiplayer option, though you need one extra of their Truetone Cables for it to work. Buying the first game also makes Rocksmith 2014 install all the old songs but with new updated gameplay interactions.

 

Afterthoughts on the future of Fretlight:

They released a five-fretted version of the Fretlight because ‘beginners only initially need those first five frets’. Don’t buy into that – it is ridiculous for them to offer this in my opinion. If you’re learning 10x faster I promise you that you’ll wish you just bought a full one. It will quickly become obsolete and you’ll wish you didn’t waste your money.

Instead of this I wish they would concentrate on taking their existing design to the next level. But what is the next level? A built-in MIDI pickup as standard for one (which they actually did do and I was lucky enough to get the very last one as it was a limited run series, but perhaps they’ll bring it back some day). But that’s not as important as making the Fretlight more intuitive to your interaction with it. It’s the master of being intuitive for you but not by you. How do they achieve that? Simple – a touch sensitive fretboard that provides the software with feedback on your playing, keeps a record of your ‘mistakes’ and then tracks your progress and intuitively, and possibly automatically in a certain mode, offers you the option to concentrate on that piece you’re having difficulty with – probably using their proprietary footswitch – which needs a volume pedal for digital wah or whatever. If the fretboard is pressure sensitive it could even possibly tell if your technique is ‘bad’. Eventually of course your webcam could analyse everything you do including playing posture – especially with this new generation of gaming consoles and the now standard webcams/interactive expression cameras. Fretlight needs to put their product in as many homes and be as accessible as possible – that’s what Rocksmith offers them – genuinely fun, compelling, intuitive learning – like how Koe will teach you Japanese whilst you play an RPG (an awesome project that is a great idea for non-calligraphy based languages – but I found this because I’d already had a similar idea called Words of Power and frankly I was glad someone else will actually make headway on it as I don’t have enough time to do everything all at once in my life – oh, you should also check out the LaMP media player if you want to learn another language by watching films and stuff as it allows you to load two subtitles at once!). You know it wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of vibration in the fretboard for keeping time or to let you know that you’ve made a mistake on that last lick along with the LEDs changing colour to represent a bad note or pulse to indicate timing and rhythm – it could go from bright to dull to bright, or it could change through orange to red to orange to indicate the heartbeat of the song. I would also like a travel friendly version of the Fretlight (see this article) where the neck board detaches from the body and maybe the solution to connecting the LED fretboard is a simple USB connection at the end of the neck into a USB port built into the wood of the guitar body followed by a simple locking mechanism for the neck to be stable. Or an actual travel guitar (like Traveler Guitars do or Journey Instruments with their carbon fibre guitar). You can also check this article out.

 

 

Kaoss Pads and Ableton Push:

I’ve decided to add a short section introducing these two things just because they are awesome and takes a step away from purely guitar based technologies. If you can tap your finger in a beat it can be made into a song!

Kaoss Pad:

Ableton Push:

I wanted this post to concentrate on learning tools but I’m adding this last section now whilst I remember to and maybe I’ll move them once I come across a blog post topic they’d be better suited in. The Ableton Push costs less than my guitar did. It has the advantage of being natively supported by the high quality Ableton sound engineering software Ableton Live. Honestly, I think the Ableton Push beats the Kaoss Pad hands down and it’s on my list of things to buy next. I may even sell one or two of my guitars. But I’m not going to describe these two things here in any detail. I just wanted you to be aware of them. Besides, it leads me onto the Kitara nicely!

Kitara:

 

The video isn’t nearly epic enough to describe what can be done with this instrument – it’s a computer for MIDI built into the shape of a guitar.

It’s almost criminal that with all the gadgets, guitars (I have ten) and other awesome stuff I own that the music scene in Edinburgh hasn’t seen more than my one favourite guitar… one thing I’ve been hiding is the Kitara. Which is a MIDI instrument and computer shaped to look like a guitar that has no strings but instead has buttons. Wrote a great disco riff on that thing actually. But I admit to having not utilised it much yet – once I start sound engineering, which requires me to stop being so eager to help people long enough to afford a new computer, I’ll find this bad boy infinitely more useful and then the music scene can be impressed with it and my Roland GR-55 – which nobody seems to own or make use of on stage at this point. In many respects I admit to having too many options and of trying to go in a hundred directions at once and it can be detrimental to a stable and focused increase in one specific skill but then I’m not all that interested in specific skills – I’m interested in new and exciting ways to express myself and further enhance my creative options. A steady and stable increase sounds boring to me. Snoozeville. If it ain’t epic it doesn’t catch my attention or enflare my appetite. Which is a motivational method of mine – finding the epic in an attempt to trick myself into doing something essential but boring to me, like practising scales. I do wish the fretboard was touch sensitive like an iPhone rather than with buttons but that’ll happen eventually.

 

Summary:

You may think that with all this talk on technology that I’ve left no space for learning by doing or using the ‘traditional’ method. Poppycock! Boulderdash I say. Hell, I learned everything I know on guitar entirely by trial and error and experimentation using only my creativity and instinct as a guide – no YouTube, no chord diagrams, nothing external to myself. I still haven’t learned music theory in even a rudimentary way and I think I’m a significantly better songwriter for it at this stage – plus it gives me something to aim for and you cannot experiment on the level that I have if you have had the ‘rules’ hammered into you – yet I can learn all this at any time I desire and at an alarmingly faster rate than your traditional method allows – and believe me the traditional method is not the best in any way – you are smarter and faster than the traditional method can ever hope to take advantage of even if you think you’ve no musical talent at all. And yet it’s all about choices and finding a way that fits your personality and your constitution (but these options I’ve discussed here also happen to be more efficient AND cost much less than hiring a teacher to come around your house, just saying – actually this all depends on what you want to achieve – if you want to be a classical musician and opera singer you’re probably going to need tutoring). But when I do start learning I’m not going to struggle – I’ll step into the realm of ultra fast, amazingly intuitive and highly intelligent learning. That’s what this all is, learning minus the frustration I’ve suffered my whole life of only going as fast as the slowest person in the classroom offers. Oh, and with Rocksmith it’s also actually fun. Killer.

Random thing that just popped into my head – from now on I’m going to call it yuffling when someone tries to speak whilst yawning and also refer to any speaking scenario interrupted by a bodily function as ‘chunking’… the amount of times I’ve been chunked by a sneeze when I’m trying to explain something is incredible.

I will stop here for now before I melt your brain along with my own. Hopefully I have made you aware of the options available to you not just as a learning guitarist (which is every guitarist on the planet) but also a possible teacher. Please do every guitarist and musician you know the favour of letting them know about these things and consider attacking Fretlight and Ubisoft (for Rocksmith) and Guitar Pro with emails that ask for the features discussed here. At the least by making more people aware you’re helping make the items cheaper, better, more available and ultimately taking the musical experience one step more in the right direction.

 

| (• ◡•)|

Grayson King

The Grayson King Method

IMG_5890


I’m going to have to make this two posts long I think. I’ve realised that I have two Grayson King methods. One is my creative method and one is my teaching method. I shall also have to include little videos as examples of my progression… it may require re-writing this.

Over the last few posts I have referenced to My Big Musical Experiment and that is what this post is going to be about and how that experiment developed into The Grayson King Method. I am writing this at 3am and a friend is sleeping on my couch so I can’t record the example videos I want to create to accompany this. I’ll add them later. =)

 

 

So, where to start in explaining my method, or how I came upon the core of this method via my experimentation and why I believe it is a worthwhile thing to dedicate myself to and a valuable thing to both share and ultimately to teach to anyone who will listen?

 

What is The Grayson King Method?

I believe that there is something fundamentally missing from the traditional teaching approach of music and that the rigidity of such is actually detrimental to creativity and so this method concentrates on creating options for students who are just beginning that might better match their personality or philosophy for learning, by which I mean to make the student aware of their options and how each might better meet their goals with music. Though it is not limited to beginners the effect gets diluted the more technically minded you become, as technical knowledge is counter-intuitive to the first stage of the method and is in fact a skill to develop several years after you’ve had the chance to see how your own sense of music and style could develop. Rather than accepting the notion that the best and only method to use is a traditional teacher-to-student design of passing on information it is based on an experiment that I am still in the thralls of conducting that concerns originality, creativity and instinct first over technique. I believe I have discovered something interesting and that what I have achieved as a musical artist showcases the clear possible benefits of the method. I am often acknowledged as an incredibly diverse vocalist, songwriter and artist – normally in reaction to first being exposed to the range of songwriting and ‘voices/registers’ I allow myself to express and how I utilise each register in different ways and forms – and this method, along with my philosophy on experimentation and creativity, goes a long way to explaining how I have achieved what I have achieved and why. Of course, I go a long way to ensuring that this is the case and I’ve only just begun so expect me to continue down this road since I desire to be writing music and pushing my boundaries even when I’m 90 years old, which is luckily a long way off.

There are different stages to my method but mainly the core of the idea keeps me motivated towards my goals, plus it’s important that my attention span has always been an issue. But more than that I simply love a good challenge and music has been the greatest challenge of all, most especially because I have figured it all out myself up to this point with minimum influence from external sources. Of course by this I mean that I haven’t learned any cover songs that could dilute my originality or go against the code of my experiment. To benefit from my method though you don’t need to take it to the extreme that I have, just being aware of it will help you decide if the approach suits you or not.

 

 

The Grayson King Method:

There are two parts and several layers or stages to the method – there is the experiment that started it all (which is a description and extension of my overall approach since the first day I played guitar) and there is the method itself developed from that experiment (in which I took my philosophy and approach to the logical end I saw possible for my philosophy in music). Since I started with the experiment first I shall explain that first.

I picked up a right-handed guitar when I was 21 and I had virtually no musical know-how to begin with (at least, none that I could remember or use on the guitar but that’s a separate thing since I was in a choir for a while so I developed a sense of ‘tone’ at least, vocally). At first there was just a notion, which was just the belief that if you are capable of identifying great music that you are capable of creating it.  And that everyone is capable of being a good musician. I believe that now more than ever, along with the belief that each musician is capable of creating at least one album that either changes the world or changes themselves. Probably several if they are willing to experiment in every part of the creation process and refuse to stand still or brand an identity into themselves (which is a massively restrictive thing and many a great band have fallen from). Rather you want to create as many brands as you can from yourself (a baritone rock voice, a falsetto pop voice, a moderato jazz voice, a soprano reggae voice, etc – have fun with it you don’t have to play these outside your bedroom if you don’t want to but allow yourself to discover things about yourself and allow yourself to play with different tones and you’ll be amazed at what your voice is actually capable of doing – plus, the more that you do this the better your voice will become and the stronger your vocal control will become – just, don’t strain your voice too much, don’t force it, is my point). Creating powerfully moving and emotional music just requires the willingness to be truly honest with yourself and to have openness with the world even when you’d rather not be honest or open and especially if it is difficult to deal with or you’re ashamed of it and I’ve dug very deeply into my issues, my past and those things that affect me to achieve my art and I have a lot to express and more still yet to experience. I believe there is a meme that basically says, ‘My girlfriend cheated on me but at least I got a good song out of it’ and that’s pretty much what I’m on about. Use whatever you can think of or draw from to help your write songs. If you don’t like how a certain group of people behave, write a song about it. If you heard a funny story or did something romantic then write a song about it. If it hurt like hell then write a song about it.

In general, to start to overcome my severe apathy I found just talking about how I felt and what I had been through began to help me connect again and this made me able to start to overcome that complete numbness, just by simply sharing myself with other people who had faced similar issues and had experience and ideas to share that I hadn’t thought of myself and probably never would have – certainly I discovered that I wasn’t alone, even if my personal history is somewhat unique in its tragedy (but it’ll make a great book one day, I promise and I consider it a positive story since I’ve learned so much along the way). I lived in a hostel for two years and I found that kind of environment very safe to share myself in since 99% of the people moved on within 6 months or less so it was a very low-risk place to begin telling people what kind of life I had lived and why that had led to me having the intense desire to end my life since before I was ten years old. The more people I told and connected with and experience I could draw from, whilst surrounding myself with people that had a positive impact on my life, the less I was able to attack myself with those facts I had kept mostly secret (or at the least refused to let the outside world know the truth of, or of my struggles, unless there was no way they couldn’t know or got exposed to my family life and thus needed to know) and the less powerful my depressive cycles became and the more I have been able to actually feel close to other people, since that whole process was like creating a wall of information that I used to keep people out with since by wrapping myself in secrets I was ensuring that they couldn’t connect with me as the me they were interacting with was an illusion of myself built by the need to protect myself but just served to isolate me further and further, making me colder and colder the longer I did it. By holding it all in I was overloading my emotional circuitry and so those memories and events had absolute power over me (and to some extent always will) and led to me perpetuating a cycle that shut my emotions down completely (creating the illusion within myself that saw myself as a potential monster as I compared myself to socio-paths, and worse, when horrible things happened and it completely failed to affect me) and when I cycled into a depressive mode I would use those secrets to attack myself  with. I was an emotional cutter (which is a phrase a friend came up with) and something about hopelessness makes you need to feel worse, just so you know you can feel something, anything, and is your only option since if you were capable of making yourself feel better you’d just do it. None of that is a part of my method or experiment and I could go on about that stuff at some length – and will do in a following post dedicated to that topic – but it is a good thing to share and sneak in here (besides, it is all connected to how I function). So along with the systematic alteration of my behaviour and obsessively driven injection of positive world connections, that is a core part of my multi-tier attack on suicidal ideation and horrible, stubborn, life-long depression, sharing is step one to the path of at least partial recovery (besides the more you share your story the more people it can potentially help and that takes us back to the forcing positive connections thing, seeding goodness is a powerful tool for changing your thought patterns into something more positive).

But despite all this talk of strife and personal suffering not all music needs to be tragic to be worthwhile since just making someone dance or smile is massively important as well. I knew this ideology wouldn’t be easy because music as art and music as entertainment are often considered as far apart from each other as you can possibly get – which is also why I have the tendency to split them in the creation process and treat them as two different entities though I do believe a middle ground exists and so that’s why Backyard Superstar is in the form that it is in now, amongst many other songs that I’ve written. I have always had a deep-rooted belief that I can write music that means something but I also love to entertain. I see no shame in writing music purely as a form of entertainment but if that is in fact your only goal you’d probably be better off learning as much as you can about pop rhythms and chords from the get go and for that I’d suggest YouTube or getting a teacher or something along those lines. Don’t get me wrong, you can easily figure it out yourself (and I have done for many songs) but I’m not trying to convince you that this method is better for everyone. Different people need different ways to succeed. Despite my rhetoric please don’t think everything I write is invaluable or fantastic to listen to, even for me that isn’t always true. Though each song inevitably leads to the next and so is completely worth writing (and worthy of keeping a digital copy of like I won’t shut up about in this blog). My method requires patience and a firm belief in yourself and your abilities to create music – and yet was developed because I had no patience for traditional learning or traditional methods of ‘practising scales’ and so on as I found it dull. No patience and no concentration for the ‘boring stuff’ – I just wanted to write songs and play and so that’s what I did from the first day.

So when I first started playing I was curious as to how far I could figure music out on my own – ‘obsessed’ is a more accurate word. To achieve this I chose to learn entirely through experimentation, which in reality had me avoiding YouTube, chord books, or anything like that, and putting my fingers in as many random places on the fretboard as I could and striking the guitar in as many ways as I could. I developed several styles of songwriting and guitar playing in the early days that allowed me to get writing songs immediately but that also took advantage of my lack of knowledge or ability; Forever Happy, Broken and Fallen Friends for the most part all require only one finger on the fretboard and to strum open bass notes with the thumb (as I hadn’t figured plectrums out yet) whilst doing simple scales on the G string, the D string and the A string respectively. I also hooked my fingers into the strings I didn’t want to play with my rhythm hand to mute them, which I still do when playing those songs. Simple intervals also only require two fingers and to pluck both strings at the same time so I began with rudimentary chord shapes and patterns (not that I knew then what their names were, in fact I still don’t at this point) and most of that music was sombre in tone as I could only play slowly and a happy song requires a certain tempo and rhythm (in general), also it requires less fingers on the fretboard or dexterity to play most of your simpler minor chords (also being horribly general) and I wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time or going through anything that was easy to deal with. Writing songs such as Alone, Bad Company and Hide Behind the Stairs I managed to slowly start to get through those difficult emotions (and my extreme numbness) and begin to fight those trials and tribulations I was undergoing on a daily basis, but even with a form of expression I was massively suicidal at the time and it took some years before I even began attempting to express anything lighter musically or in any other part of my life for that matter. By the time I had been playing for about a year (and was still unable to play many of the songs I had written – always aiming higher is a large part of who I am) I recorded the album Broken, which was released in 2009 and is in the Bandcamp widget at the top and bottom of each of my posts, that contains the songs mentioned above and that I’m immensely proud of (even if my perfectionism makes me want to add a series of notes that begin with ‘but…’). On the train home from the first meeting of my long time friend and sound genius Peter James (who recorded, mixed and mastered the album), and my first taste of recording, I had an incredible sense of being able to let a lot of my angst go and had quite a large physical expression of relief, like a kettle whistling on the cooker to reduce the pressure boiling within and on that train I wrote the title song for my next album for the second half of the story that Broken had begun to tell, called Someone Stronger (which is only roughly and very quickly recorded on the page I just linked to). My songwriting then took a drastically different route and began to diversify, and so my first musical reinvention began with songs such as No Harm, Puzzle, Embers, Be Happy With Me and so on. I’m yet to record this material properly or enter into the stage of mixing and mastering it and since it is now several years old the songs have moved on some distance from the recordings I’ve linked to but I hope to get to do this soon. Even though my songwriting had started to move on I hadn’t really started to overcome my issues, or at least be able to live with them until I moved to Edinburgh in 2011 to finally kill myself, having taken a turn for the worse after a series of events took place that I won’t go into detail with. Instead of killing myself like I intended, which I truly believed I would eventually do (rather than allow myself to become dangerous to anyone else) since longer than I can remember, I ended up reinventing myself instead (much to my surprise) and it was shortly after this that I became known as Grayson King and have since grown happier than I thought was possible for me. Here’s hoping for more of the same and I’ll happily discuss my drastic and obsessive change in behaviour that has led to me being able to think of the future in a positive way in a later blog as I fear it will take over this post if I let it.

I believed that by learning on a completely trial and error basis and avoiding any genre in particular unless my hands happened to come up with it on their own and instead allowing my instinct to dictate my development that it would allow me to stop thinking (like practising hours of scales made me feel) and to start feeling and expressing myself through music as quickly as I could and this would ultimately serve to maximise my originality as I wouldn’t be adopting the styles and choices that a possible teacher could pass on, or that learning a bunch of songs that every successful bar performer knows would inevitably instil within me and my playing style (which can be soul destroying – ask any performer how they feel about the song ‘Wonderwall’ for example – even Oasis won’t play it any more). Also, my little brother is a very technical based guitarist and songwriter and I wished to be the opposite to him (but also I find his music heartless if I’m honest, in him, so far, anyway – though I have the firm belief he could be globally successful one day) and so I had very little interest in following his path since we’ve always been competitive with each other (which is more on his end than mine as I always just wanted to share what I knew and help him in whatever pursuit he desired to take on and he liked to loom his ‘knowledge’ over me and claimed that I was a terrible player and would never be good in any way, pushing me further from his path and causing more than a few arguments – but I think I’ve proven him wrong at this stage with songs like She Wants to Sound Like a Native under my belt) and most especially because being a virtuoso, as he is, hasn’t helped him write ‘artful’ music or come up with ‘genius’ lyrics or original song concepts that would show the extent of his diversity and talent or a maturity within him and his songwriting, or a sincerity in evaluating and expressing the hard truths or deep-rooted issues he has yet to truly accept or face within himself (which all of my siblings have thanks to our family life). In fact, despite his incredible ability to play any style and the way he can apply his knowledge to any stringed instrument he touches his songwriting is surprisingly single-minded and I always feel that he’s copying Jack Johnson (a favourite musician of his) but without the poetic and clever turn of phrase or heart (like his later albums make me feel, it’s formulaic). Hey, I’m allowed my opinion and I didn’t say he wasn’t good at what he does, it’s just what I feel – he’s a phenomenal musician (both my brother and Jack) and I have more faith in his ability than my own concerning physical playing ability or the ability to emulate patterns. I started a year after him, but there’s a rather large gap between us (in terms of ‘technical skill’) but also I knew that I could rely on his knowledge at any point if I needed to so there was always the idea that at some point we would work together, as it wasn’t all bad between us, and that I could rely on his expertise and we would work together making the most of both our expertise and we were going to live together before I learned the extent to which he hated me (in part to the emotional torture I put him under as a child, bullying is not the right word for what I did to him and it’s why I knew I was potentially dangerous and hated myself for so long – the zeal with which I made him suffer will stick with me as an example of a person I will never allow myself to be again, no matter what kind of childhood I was going through) and when I confronted him on his actions, words and feelings (since living together was a big step and I thought we were finally going to start to overcome our issues) our relationship broke apart completely (which was his decision and in which he achieved in a most dramatic and irreversible way that makes him a serious threat to my safety if I’m sensible, and besides I can hardly forget what happened or choose to think he isn’t dangerous –  that would be very unwise – not that I judge him, I understand and sympathise but that’s put an end to any possible reconciliation – as has my mother’s actions, my sister’s actions and my older brother’s unfortunate situation but I’m genuinely better off without their day to day crap weighing me down, to put it bluntly, reducing stress is another massive part of my day to day fight to remain positive). The combination of my disinterest in practising, my desire to be original, the challenge of my approach and not feeling like I had to concentrate on technical skill as I thought I could always rely on my brother’s in a pinch only to have that removed has all influenced me into designing this methodology. The loss of the possibility of relying on my little brother created the need for me to gain that technical knowledge he owns for myself and ultimately the creation of Stage 2. Which had only existed as something I might eventually get around to up until that moment made it a requirement. I was always going to eventually do it but I came up with a little idea that makes Stage 2 possibly revolutionary. At the least it has revolutionised my own life and I’m determined to prove my point no longer how long it takes. To be honest, I can’t lose. It’s a complete win/win scenario.

From having talked to many classically trained musicians before I began, and throughout my life, I discovered that they often find truly creating music from instinct almost impossible as they know so much about music theory that they know what key they’re in, what style they are playing and what the next ten chords were likely to be as they followed the pattern to its conclusion. Plus the focus with classical training is to learn compositions and orchestra pieces, in general, which is a very different discipline.  Besides, I can learn all the theory I desire to know at any time I like or at any time when I run out of ideas or creative options or just decide that it is time to learn these things (and thus achieve the conditions required to begin Stage 2 of The Grayson King Method, which I have just recently begun using a Fretlight guitar and the Rocksmith game to make the transition fun and to make my development as efficient as possible – see The New Age of Technology for Learning & Teaching Guitar) and that it is time to develop the skill to emulate patterns and harness the options that knowledge and training has going for it. Music can not be an unknown or exist in pure creativity when you are able to identify what you’re playing on that level and there’s almost something cold about generating a rhythm that I don’t like without a strong foundation of trusting your instinct to draw from first. You can’t do my experiment the other way around either, you can’t see what you can create or figure out using instinct alone and get to know the sound of your emotions in the way that I have done if you’re thinking in terms of scales and timing and all that lovely musical mumbo jumbo or even if you’re aware of them consciously or subconsciously. At least, that is what I think and you’re allowed to disagree. It simply wasn’t right for me at the start of my musical path. The idea that I would mentally choose a pattern to represent myself felt somehow detached from the feeling I’d be trying to express in that moment. Think about how hard it is to express your feelings in a foreign language to start with (and for a long time afterwards in many cases). Music is a language and it takes a long time to develop the skills to be able to speak music fluently without processing it first and in the meantime you’re thinking and analysing patterns rather than simply expressing yourself in the most natural way. My method has allowed me to always trust my ear, trust my instinct over any knowledge I may have. By wandering in the musical wilderness I’ve found a sense of direction that I could not have otherwise. I felt that developing my self awareness by getting in touch with my emotions and learning to express them in all the ways that I have and could come up with was by far a more important skill to have for a songwriter than any physical musical knowledge every could be for me and in Stage 2 all that knowledge opens up options for me to take rather than overwriting my core musical instinct, which I believe we all possess that allows for as much uniqueness as you have individuality, with ‘technicality’. And like I said, I have the choice to learn ‘correct technique’ at any time I run out of ideas or directions to go in (which isn’t the only factor I take into account – when I’ve finished Stage 1 I’ve simply achieved all that I hoped to achieve in that stage and this could have taken me 10 years or even 3 years, it just happened to take as long as it took and I expect this to fluctuate with each person).

Though I have gone on and on about Stage 1 characteristics this method does eventually lead to the inevitable time when you will begin to actively learn all that music theory and practising scales has to offer (for me at least – Stage 1 can be infinite if that’s your desire). Stage 2 is outlined below but before I will resort to that, which I believe should be a second consideration not the first thing you do with music. Stage 2 is the cherry on the pie so to speak, rather than the pie itself (which, if you’ve being paying attention is a combination of creativity, instinct, experimentation and originality). So before I truly move on from Stage 1 I will create at least one album out of pure creativity and instinct where I don’t think about the drum patterns based on the rules of the genre (or whatever else analysing the mathematics of music makes you do) and I’ll just hit a drum and see what feels right for the song. It’s a conscious thought versus sub-conscious thought debate and I believe instinct can be developed and is more powerful and a more untapped resource than most people consider when learning an instrument.

Stage 1:

The below instructions are to be taken as a given on following in my steps. I follow all of these (almost religiously) and they are insanely important for doing what I do and I have had insane results from them. You may differ or disagree, that’s fine and go with your gut. Each to their own. It might seem like too much effort for you or maybe you don’t see the value. I’m cool with that because my results make me a true believer.

  • Learn guitar either right-handed or left-handed (whichever feels right but don’t learn both ways, not yet – see Stage 2). Learn entirely through trial and error, experimentation and instinct.
  • Try to stick with your instinct when songwriting and see what comes out or pops into your head from the music you play but don’t force it to be this way, any way you can come up with ideas is a good thing.
  • Routinely in your day use the power of randomly singing (as an example) to create things to enhance your output, come up with new lyrics (for example) and program idea generation into your brain. See Enhancing Creative Output & Finding Inspiration for a lot of advice on this.
  • Record everything. Even your first day. Use Evernote or something similar. Explain how to play your songs after you’ve recorded them to yourself so you can reconstruct them later. I tend to repeat the song a bit to make sure it’s definitely safe. See Capturing & Organising Your Ideas for a lot of advice and a full tutorial and explanation of how and why you want to do this.
  • Avoid cover songs and the influence such things have on your creativity and originality (this supposes you agree with me and my reasons for this – you’re allowed to disagree with anything said here, just so long as I’ve made you consider the pros and cons I’m happy).
  • Avoid directly learning a genre or technical knowledge – if your hands figure it out then it’s fine.
  • Cover songs can be learned if they don’t really teach you anything you haven’t figured out – also sometimes you’ll notice the piece you are playing fits a song you already know (I Can See Clearly Now, for example).
  • A capo is your best friend in being able to change the sound of your guitar drastically
  • You’ll no doubt discover your basic chords no matter what you do – A, B, C, D, E, F and G. I don’t consider it a bad thing to know these.
  • Experimentation is key – even vocally. Especially vocally. I can sing powerful rock in a baritone or tenor then completely change my voice and sing a soft pop song in soprano or falsetto. Or sing a folk song in moderato and all of them are very different from each other (especially after you’ve recorded, mixed and mastered an album and accentuated the differences you can appear as several different artists at once – and this great for creativity). What can your voice do?
  • Ultimately the goal for Stage 1 is to be as diverse as you can be and to just try everything you can think of.
  • Stage 1 is complete when you have decided it to be complete. In some ways it can be an infinite length since you gain time travelling abilities.
  • Stage 1, at least for me, is fully realised once you take all that it embodies and create an album entirely using your instinct, feeling the sound of the supporting instruments rather than calculating it.
  • I will also be able to achieve making at least five different bands/brands from my experimentations as I can achieve so much difference in variety that you wouldn’t know it is the same songwriter, guitar player or singer from album to album.
  • Consider learning keyboards and/or piano the same way at the same time. Best time to start is when you’re just learning guitar. It’s something I’ve not done and I wish I had.

The great thing about my method, especially if you’ve been recording everything using Evernote as I suggest, is that at any time you can rewind back to a Stage 1 creation and apply what you’ve learned in Stage 1 (as you’ll build a personal knowledge of the fretboard and know your methodology, and therefore style, down to the smallest detail as you’ll have had to create it yourself to write your songs – which means you will trust what you’ve come to know innately). You can either finish a song based on your Stage 1 understanding and methodology or you can analyse the music and finish it using the technical wizardry that a Stage 2 know-how can imbue. Or completely rework it into something unrecognisable if you so desire. The longer you play the harder and harder it becomes to make a bad sound on your instrument – that sounds like a good thing, and in many many ways it is, but that’s also restrictive since you’ve gone from creating virtually anything to only creating what you pre-suppose will sound good. Once you are more technical minded you will be so very glad that you captured those moments of pure creativity where you didn’t know the rules so anything was possible. I promise you that and I experience the benefits of such every single day. Once you are taught to think you know the rules you can only create what you know to sound good within the limit of your knowledge and true experimentation goes right out of the window at this point – that’s inevitable even if you stay at Stage 1 forever (which is an option of course). I often say that if I feel that a song should go from light jazz to ultra death metal then I’ll happily make the changes, even if I fully mixed and mastered it twenty years previously.

The way I first wrote songs was to put my fingers in a random place and to shift the positions in what I considered a simple way, which is up and down the fretboard whilst remaining in the same couple of chord shapes mostly on the same two strings whilst strumming others open, and see what sound it made and to open my mouth and see what came out or to sing about the first thing that came into my mind. I also routinely attempted to think of good lyrics or themes for songs during the day and keep them in mind/keep them in my digital notation software (my phone, normally), so that if the guitar piece I was playing brought that idea up in my head I could look it up and continue from there. I also used the voice recorder app that came with even the most basic old Nokia phones to record the song and to tell myself exactly which fret I had each finger on and what my rhythm hand was doing at each part. I literally recorded every single original thing I have played since the very first time I played the guitar. This allows me to time travel into times when I felt differently, which allows me to get in touch with myself at a later time and I can then feel the same way I felt and use that to write new songs as if I’m still 21. By refusing to lose any idea I expect I shall be able to take many many songs that had something great to them but I wasn’t able to take at the time to their completed sound. In a way I have given myself a perfect, digital, memory for my creative pursuits (and therefore my emotions or past selves) and all I need to remember is just one word or phrase or small detail about how it is played (capo 1, Em chord, whatever – as I explained in the second post of this blog) and in less than a minute I can hear that song and a few minutes after that I’ll know exactly how to play it. I can also show a potential student what I sounded like and how long it took me to go from that to the sound I could make even a short time later. The thing is that you can never know if the lyric or piece you just came up with will ultimately prove to be the best one you ever do come up with or be able to remember every song or great riff you ever play. Why even run the risk of possibly forgetting it? I’ll stop on this line of discussion as I am at risk of going over the same ground as covered in my second blog post. It’s just a massive part of my day to day life, recording my ideas. Seriously, give that post a read as it covers all the ways I consider it utterly essential and all the things I could think of that a digital treasure chest of creativity has to offer you, which is a lot.

Stage 2 is when things start to get interesting and up to now I have left out some very important stuff that comprises what I consider to be the possible true genius of my method; in Stage 2 I chose to play left-handed. Even though I’ve played right-handed for six years. You see, I have several reasons for this and mostly it is in response to the wide spread statement that says that 90% of your style is muscle memory and so once you’ve developed your own style like I have there is the fear that training correct technique into your hands will overwrite your existing style which would affect your future ability to create songs and further your original style. If 90% of your style is muscle memory what is the other 10%? Methodology. Stage 1 is exactly opposite from Stage 2 in approach and I’ve chosen to see if by starting Stage 2 left-handed I am able to program a noticeably different style (and muscle memory) into my left-handed playing. It stands to reason that it is possible and that is My Big Musical Experiment (when combined with The Grayson King Method at large and all the blog posts up to this point). I’m convinced that by having two drastically different methodology’s per hand and by refusing to play any song/riff/phrase/rhythm I’ve written right-handed with my left-handed guitar and vice versa each hand will diverge in their development and basically I will become two different guitarists at the same time, each depending on which guitar I use; a lefty or a righty. The differences boil all the way down to the way I write songs. Right-handed is creative and spontaneous but left-handed I will pre-define the entire song before I touch the guitar – 3/8 timing, 1930s New Orleans Jazz, Key of F Sharp, about American apartheid during the era. Left-handed I will learn to emulate great guitarists like Jimi Hendrix by mastering their riffs and songs. I will learn flamenco, classical, slap bass, metal, funk and all that the freedom to explore the world’s existing songs, artists, styles and genres offers me. Which should keep me busy for quite some considerable time and why the experiment is ultimately so ‘big’. You see, it is impossible for my right-handed style to develop the skill to play flamenco properly if I never practice it right-handed, and why would I want to? What’s the point in being able to do exactly what I can do left-handed, right-handed? And if the experiment fails? Then I can play ambidextrous and do whatever I want. I can’t lose. I already know my experiment will work because I recently discovered that I can naturally do flamenco hand rhythms left-handed when I simply can’t do them the other way around (though I could learn, you can always learn). The more I learn about music the more options I’ll have for both writing approaches and for both hands but if a song is finished right-handed and I’m happy with it then learning more can only help take it further and I can master a song using the Stage 1 method just as much as I can choose to analyse it using Stage 2 knowledge. But this is why Stage 1 includes me mixing and mastering at least one album on my own. In actuality I shall create four or five albums that you wouldn’t think at first that it was the same songwriter, musician or vocalist by utilising my vocal elasticity (hard earned through constant experimentation) and range and differences in tone across each register I can isolate to basically become my own record label. It will take some time for me to gain enough ability left-handed to even consider being able to write songs in a way I never could right-handed and so I can create these albums whilst getting Stage 2 off the ground. I’ve already written all the songs, and then some.

Initially I considered learning left-handed as a way to start from the beginning as every time I tried to learn the basics my hands were far ahead of the lessons and practice sessions that a beginner needs to play. Despite having some impressive and intricate musical creations to my name I am still a novice and I know virtually nothing on rhythm patterns or any musical theory. I was hoping that by playing left-handed it would slow my hands down enough to make practising a simple 4/4 up down up down up down and one and two and three and four rhythm (amongst other things) less of a chore and more of a challenge for my hands and therefore more enjoyable too. Besides from that I’m naturally ambidextrous (and recent research suggests that my mood disorder may be massively linked to the formation of ambidexterity during pregnancy) and wasting such a natural talent is criminal. Being able to play both right-handed and left-handed enticed me (read Finding the Epic in Everything) and would no doubt make people take more notice of me as a musician (these things tend to generate respect – and for good reason as it’s a big thing to achieve even if you’re ambidextrous). But being ambidextrous just made me consider it seriously. Trust me, when you first start playing it doesn’t matter much which hand you prefer or which hand you use for most things. If you are right-handed and play a right-handed guitar you are using your left hand to do all the hard stuff and in some ways you are training your left hand to be more dexterous than the right. You can probably learn to play left-handed you just haven’t really tried for long enough or got frustrated and gave up. Or maybe you have and you really can’t figure it out and that’s fine too since it isn’t required.

Stage 2:

  • If you started right-handed then buy a left-handed guitar, I’d suggest a Fretlight. Or, rent one from me if you’re in Edinburgh for half what you’d pay for a guitar lesson every week, I’m happy to do demonstrations to show the technology off and convince you of their worth. You’ll need Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready Version as having that will save you on buying their song packs since you can download any tab on the Internet for free. (See The New Age of Technology for Learning & Teaching Guitar).
  • If you’re playing with your opposite hand now avoid playing anything left-handed that you’ve written right-handed and vice versa – they say 90% of your style is muscle memory so it stands to reason with a completely opposite methodology and following this rule that you might get to become two noticeably different guitarists at the same time. At the very least you get to play ambidextrous and most people wouldn’t do it – which for me makes it the only option I’ll consider.
  • Buy Rocksmith and/or Rocksmith 2014 (also see The New Age of Technology for Learning & Teaching Guitar) as it is a genuinely fun, interactive, and fast way to learn guitar. It’s like Guitar Hero but with a real guitar.
  • Consider getting an actual teacher if you’re going to try and learn flamenco or classical, or even just to help you learn correct technique. In this stage the idea is to start to learn all that you don’t know. I’m also a guitar teacher (to guide you through Stage 1) and I’m working towards correct certification (so I can teach you through Stage 2 as well if you desire to learn that way).
  • Genuinely practice. See your playing time as practice time – when in Stage 1 practice time is actually playing time. Or, right-handed playing is playing and you actually do practice left-handed. There is a difference between practising and playing.
  • Consider the use of a metronome, consider training your ear to have perfect and relative pitch, try to become the best musician you can be.
  • Pre-define everything in the songwriting stage left-handed before you touch the guitar; 3/8 timing, 1930s New Orleans Jazz, Key of F Sharp, about American apartheid. This covers the last 10% of what makes your style, since muscle memory is 90%.
  • Don’t stop recording everything and make sure to organise your notes in Evernote so you know which hand wrote what.
  • Eventually work towards writing an album where you use your knowledge to analyse the music and compose based on what you’ve come to understand. After that, compare it to the album you made in Stage 1 and see the difference.
  • It doesn’t matter, ultimately, when you choose to learn musical theory, whenever is right for you is the right time. I just think it is a great challenge to have to given yourself time to see what your instinct could develop.

 

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve come up with. I’m sure that I’ll edit and tweak this here and there in time and I could probably present it better also but I’m hoping this has made you aware of the great things I think I’m aiming for. This is something I can’t help but try, simply because I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before. People play ambidextrous but for the most part it is a gimmick, a very cool one at that, but one that has missed the chance to experiment in the way that I have. Also, I’ve given myself long term goals to achieve and that keeps me on the path to success since I can clearly tick off each achievement and still know where I wish to head.

By all means share your thoughts, disagreements, questions or anything else you wish to share. I’ll happily clarify anything or discuss anything.

| (• ◡•)|

Grayson King

 

Enhancing Creative Output & Finding Inspiration

1522216_3804140959361_2037644688_n

In the last post of this blog I covered, somewhat exhaustively, the first two items listed just below. I’ll be concentrating on the third option in this post because it’s logical and why wouldn’t I do something logical? Besides, I already listed it as the next thing. I didn’t need to say that… moving on:

 

 

I don’t know about you but I think. I think a lot. In fact I constantly have thoughts, whims, musings and a myriad of other things running through my mind, often analytical and very often creative. I analyse everything… why did they choose that design? Why doesn’t the Google Glass ad campaign make use of the amazing coincidence that Google can be easily split into ‘Go ogle’? Why did they decorate this pub so badly? Why don’t they sell this particular sandwich in this café and how far away is that thing across the road in steps? Do I know the way home if I close my eyes and walk backwards? Why do ‘all’ the musicians I know live up to a certain expectation of what it is to be a musician? Why am I like the only fully sober person I know? Why should love only be one person with another? Can it be any different? What do I know – have I ever been in a three/four/five/ten person relationship? No, I haven’t, and I’m betting you haven’t either. Why isn’t everyone curious enough about having sex with their own gender to try it even if they aren’t gay? What bad could come from being different? What could possibly go wrong with trying different things even if it’s only once? Why can’t shy people just simply try not being shy (this actually worked for me, even if it does sound mental)? Why do we put so many damn limitations onto ourselves and each other? Why do people get jealous? Why do people cheat? Why don’t people treat their partner like their best friend? I mean really treat them that way. Why do people care about nudity when we are all always naked anyway? Why don’t people seem to challenge everything like I do (by everything I mean every single tradition, social construct and belief system – I don’t mean it to sound like I think people don’t think, I’ve just always seen things differently to the majority of people I have met)? Or decide what reality is for themselves based on their own experiences and nuances – why let anyone but yourself define the world for you? Do I really want the Christian God to exist or can I think of one I would prefer? How can He be perfect if I can think of one I would prefer (I actually created my own god called Happyface, who for me personally is a god I actually want to exist – see ‘personalisation’ below)? And so on and so on, I won’t share them all or expand on them here… this would become quite a large, somewhat eclectic stream-of-consciousness book rather than a blog post and would probably come off as the rantings of a mad man. Not that I promise that what I’m about to share won’t.

Endless streams of ‘What if this?’ and ‘What if that?’, ‘Why this?’ and ‘Why not that?’. Often I feel like I have a hundred thoughts in my head all at once all rushing to take centre stage for a moment before being overpowered by something completely irrelevant to the thought it succeeded. But is this why I’m so creative? No… and yes. That’s mania at the least and that’s why it’s 6am and I’m writing this instead of sleeping and it’s why it’ll be 12pm and I’ll still be writing this, correcting that, re-phrasing something else (edit: you have no idea how close I called this lol). I’m obsessive and a perfectionist. But even if you don’t break everything down and analyse everything that you come into contact with you’re still a creative person, an analytical machine. Regardless of your degree of rationality or sanity. Or even energy levels. Whilst I can’t give you a tutorial on how to get a brain disorder like mine I can share my thoughts on creativity and my life methodology, because whilst my condition enhances creativity (sometimes in ridiculous and overwhelming detail) and whilst I can and often do hallucinate virtually anything on a daily basis I also have developed a lot of habits and behaviours and nuanced stratagem that I believe truly help in my creative pursuits and I believe they could also help you. Maybe. Probably.

A lot of people are under the impression that being creative is in your blood – it’s either there or it isn’t – and another group of people seem to think that logic and creativity are mutually exclusive traits (a classic example is the notion that a truly creative person can’t stay organised). Sometimes people fall into both of these categories. Honestly, I can’t express how mental that is to me. It’s also wildly inaccurate. Go look in a mirror. Are you human? Then you’re the creative type. But creativity isn’t just innate, it is also a skill and this is something I don’t hear people talking about, and I don’t see written anywhere (not that I’ve looked either because my life philosophy is to think and analyse the world and develop ideas, thoughts and beliefs that represent myself rather than largely adopting others’ constructs – which is why I have always had so much ‘personal wisdom’ to share on certain subjects and why I can write this for you now).

Frankly nothing I share here isn’t something I think you couldn’t have thought of yourself (especially if you had followed a life philosophy like mine or were anti-conformist enough). Not that I think nobody has ever come to the same conclusions and theories as myself, in fact, I rather seriously doubt that. I’m not that smart, and I’m not so original as to make this exclusive to myself by far. Now, onto the juicy stuff.

How can you train yourself to be more creative?

We can’t all be lucky enough or cursed enough to have a brain like mine where you’re in the middle of a film/cuddle/conversation/shower and all of sudden a fully formed, often insanely complex, piece of art (or entire film or whatever) pops into your head out of nowhere that is completely unrelated to whatever it was you were just doing or anything around you. But the majority of my ideas are not from these ‘creativity attacks’ (known as creative ideation, a symptom of my mental disorder). What does it take then? Practice. That’s right. Practice being creative. But how? In a word – conceptualisation. I’m going to break this down into the simplest explanation I can think of – regularly try to think of concepts that you haven’t seen or heard before and/or improve or personalise the things you do see and hear. Think of it as writing a program into your brain that reminds you to try and think of something new or adapt something that exists. Hell, program your phone to remind you every hour and then write something random into your Evernote when your phone buzzes at you. Write a poem. Write some lyrics. Write a possible song title. Write ANYTHING. Record ANYTHING. It won’t take long if you do this before your brain will start reminding you automatically and you’ll soon be on your way to building your very own impressive database of creativity such as I have (I’ve mentioned it before but I have recorded over 400,000 minutes of raw ideas in the last 6 years). This doesn’t mean that you’ll write something great every time. I don’t. Not nearly. Not even my creativity attacks can promise that in review the idea isn’t boring/obvious/lame/whatever. But it’s not about writing something good. Sure, that’s the ultimate goal, but what is more important is creating as many opportunities for your brain to come out with something worth working on as possible. Then you can choose the crème de la crème. Having concepts to work on is step one.

My problem is in getting a break from creative rushes long enough to actually get anything done. That and being stable enough to work on things. Le sigh. =/

I know that ‘practice creativity’ sounds obvious but when I say I have written thousands of songs I truly mean that I have conceptualised thousands of possible songs and continued that train of thought into a finished product on a very small number of those concepts (technically none really as I haven’t learned how to sound engineer yet – but I’m onto that step now), which is still in the hundreds for myself personally (I’ve broken a thousand or so songs if I include half-written songs in the count). The easiest way to do this in music (though not limited to music) is to simply think of a song title you’ve never heard before or you think is cool/interesting/lyrical/poetical/observational/whatever. It gets even easier if you just start randomly thinking of phrases, words, or sentences. I often just strum a few chords on the guitar and just open my mouth and start singing, without any clue what might come out. You can also just start vocalising random sounds (nice sounds), harmonising with the instrument and before long you’ll have rhythms that can make syllables and it’s a very small step to a sentence from there. They don’t even need to be real words. I make words up all the crumtum. I even just randomly burst into song whilst walking down the street – you’d be amazed at what can come out. Or sing along to a song when you don’t know the words. Some of my very best ideas have been created this way – a lot at the bus stop or whilst shopping. You’ve just got to start willing yourself to do it. Rappers are EXPERTS at this (in general) but also they have practised the ability to spontaneously or observationally write lyrics and rhyme and therefore construct songs. If you start singing random things eventually you’ll narrow it down to a theme, you’ll naturally repeat good melodies/lyrics (often writing the chorus by accident), you’ll pick up on the emotional tone of the song and you’ll soon discover the core concept/story. Once you have the core concept it is just a matter of working on the idea until you’ve finished it. And that’s easier than you’d think. But it can also be seriously frustrating if you’re aiming for something special or fresh or unique and the lyrics you have in front of you just aren’t quite right. But be a perfectionist. But don’t forget to allow yourself to recognise what you have accomplished. Don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself if you have created something great or performed particularly well. Even if by accident. The difference between confidence and arrogance is being able to back it up or not – I feel that’s important – if I say I can do something you better be damn sure I’m prepared to prove it (a side effect of my ‘upbringing’). Don’t destroy your confidence by being overly critical either. Personally I treat the creative process like a game I play with myself and allow it to amuse me or even frustrate me but it’s a game I know I’ll win in the end. Or like a war and each creative pursuit is a battle. But aim high if you’re aiming at all. Aim for Da Vinci. In fact, shoot Da Vinci, I want to be known as THE Grayson King! It may be mad but that’s only a short step away from genius anyway and I have long legs and a history of mental instability. Doesn’t mean I think I’ll ever be him, probably wouldn’t recognise it if I was – as I’d be aiming higher than the current achievement. Dare to dream. You already are the great artist you are willing to create within yourself, it’s convincing the world that is the difficult part. Well, it helps me sleep anyway… wait… actually… it doesn’t. =(

Some of my songs have literally taken five or six years (played hundreds of times) to get to the point that they are at now and I’m still not satisfied (even when people congratulate me on it – which always makes me feel awkward but I can use that to know whether or not it’s objectively any good – but so long as I’m happy their opinion is second to mine). Some will take twenty years. I’m actually happy to turn down applause if I feel I didn’t do myself justice, not that I’ve ever actually done this – I like to earn applause but then everything I do is for me – I’m my own target audience and I’m hard to please especially when I’m trying to satisfy myself. Phrasing. Ha! I’m not changing it, moving on! But even when something is ‘finished’ every now and then I either forget the lyrics when playing live and have to improvise mid-song, get a spark that breathes new life or takes the song in a new direction, make a mistake, decide to experiment or just decide that the ending is wrong after-all and replace it. With music this gets easier the more you learn/the more you play, because the more you know the more options you have and the more tricks/chord changes you have under your belt. But creating something truly new becomes harder and harder which is why I recorded every single twitch on the fretboard since the day I started so I can go back and infuse that core newness into anything I do after that recording. A lot of my unfinished songs from the start of my guitar career will be very easy to complete these days because I have more experience with the guitar so I will know what chord or progression should come next when I play it again one day or go back and try to finish it but creating music from the point of view of pure limitless possibilities is something you move away from day by day, kind of. It’s a complicated thing and I am fighting the urge to let it take over this post (see the blog post Capturing & Organising Your Ideas). Similarly, if you exhaust your vocabulary or even just realise that you’ve used that rhyme one too many times you can easily just read a dictionary or Google for synonyms and rhymes of the word you’ve overused. It’s that simple in some cases. Thoughts create actions, everyone knows this. But actions also create thoughts. And feelings… and all that other grey matter stuff. Not just in reaction to the world and its events but also from your own behaviours. So it stands to reason that even physically trying to create more concepts will inevitably lead to more concepts being created within your own mind. And it also stands that if you vary the things you work on or conceptualise then your creative thoughts will diversify and multiply (not every great concept has to be a song, it could be a movie or a poem, or a novel or a painting, or anything). I hate the phrase ‘think outside the box’ – why is the universe box shaped? As soon as I began diversifying my conceptual designs it started a process in the back of my mind that has begun going through my life history of quips, random ideas, silly conversations, odd observations and confusions, jokes, puns and everything I’d ever said that was creative in some way and it started applying them to possible projects. For example, I often thought it would be a good idea for a group of friends who often visit nightclubs to learn sign language so they could communicate over the noise – the other day I had the connection that this could be in a film about the rise of Dubstep in London. This is why I’ve been trying to get you to save your Tweets, to save your funny status updates – because you never know if that could be used for something later on – maybe you meet a guy who needs dialogue for a film at some point and you can only vaguely remember that funny conversation or situation that would fit. I know a lot of people who put a lot of effort into making their updates creative and funny and I just feel that they’ve let them be expressed without the possibility of being used for anything again because it’s gone shortly after they hit ‘post’…

As a side note – if you are just learning an instrument now I absolutely recommend that you immediately start writing songs. Great song writing is not a skill that will automatically follow hours and hours of technical practice. I have known many classically trained musicians who can’t or haven’t created their own music – not that all of them, or any of them, couldn’t. Do it as soon as you pick the instrument up. I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t experiment. Which nicely leads me onto:

Experimentation:

Experimentation is the key to skill and diversity in creative pursuits. Experimentation is the key to everything except your old granny’s pre-war liquor cabinet (ain’t nothing cracking that safe, it may be made of glass but she has her eagle eye on it – that’s why she naps in her front room chair when you visit, to lure you into a false state of security and the second you even breathe near it she’s up and spry as a lamb, a wobbly new born lamb but still, countless decades have fallen off her bony frame in those few moments and she raps your knuckles with her walking stick just for even thinking you were getting anywhere near her favourite older-than-you-are booze. No? Just me then? Actually that’s all a lie, for the shits and giggles, my gran let us do whatevs man). *Ahem*. Experimental thoughts, experimental actions, experimental beliefs, it doesn’t matter, just keep experimenting and you’ll learn something more about yourself with each attempt. Even if that thing you learned was that actually you really don’t want to jump out of this plane. Snakes or no snakes. The more you know about yourself the better you can represent your natural individuality in art and creativity. That includes what you are and what you aren’t and you can only definitively know what you aren’t by trying new things and pushing the boundaries. This is easier, I think, if you have no religious background holding you back (as I see it religion offers me nothing but restrictions, no offence to anyone religious, it just denies the natural law of adaptation equalling survival and I see that as the ultimate of mistakes) or macho bravado or preconceived concepts of what is to be anything. So if you’re having trouble with writing new things go and do something new, learn something new, watch something you’d normally never watch (perhaps in a language you aren’t familiar with), visit somewhere you’ve never been, listen to music you haven’t heard before or just take a different route when you walk home – it doesn’t need to be drastic. Whatever it takes for you to find inspiration or get the creative juices flowing. Go and pretend that you’re somebody else for a night, create a vivid back story and dress completely differently. They call this method acting but you can use it too. Try behaving differently than you normally would do, just to try it out and see what happens. This sometimes leaves me spinning in a circle whilst half-playing/half-cradling my guitar just because – you need no other reason – just because for some reason it helps or standing in a corner rocking back and forth for an hour (don’t ask, I don’t fully command this ship). But if I stuck to social convention or worried about being weird I wouldn’t have come up with three films, five songs and a handful of interesting paintings/drawings in that time. Plus I wouldn’t have gotten dizzy and I like being dizzy. I also love to sometimes act like a kid, to shrug off my years – run around the park being a plane, lick the TV, whatever man, loosen up, kids are complete creative GENIUSES that live ENTIRELY within a world of imagination – see how easily kids can enter the imaginary world of another person and you’ll know what I mean. You may be older but you’re not so different to a child in the grand scheme of things – you’re still the same basic species. Allow yourself to act like that from time to time and I promise you that you’ll get in touch with your inner wizard… and you’ll probably laugh more too. Kids question EVERYTHING – I haven’t stopped but I think I know things and that gets in the way of creative thoughts – obviously not much for myself personally, but that’s beside the point. Why not spend half a day pretending the sky is orange and purple and rain is candy and the elephant you just saw crossing the street was wearing a hat (where did he get that hat?!) then treat people like they’re crazy for not being able to see the world as it truly is? Why not flap your arms once in a while just to make absolutely sure you can’t in fact fly?

 

Personalisation:

Experimentation is an obvious one. How about personalisation, how can that help? Personalisation equals exploration (and the other ‘ation’ words) plus randomness plus analytical decomposition plus play time. I explore my world (and hypothetical worlds – I already build vast virtual realities and universes that I have desired to explore when the world finally catches up to my imagination) and expand on my options. I’m constantly personalising the world around me and you are too. We can’t help it, it oozes from our pours. See an unhappy friend, we tell them our perception of why their partner cheated (and if we don’t we think it) and I just capitalise on that thing we do in every second of everything and write it all down and recognise when I should write it down.

Note – The examples I share here below are purposefully non-epic because it’s easy for me to share any number of epic ideas (and any one of them has the potential to add tens of thousands of words to the post and I’d rather not do that to you since that’s basically writing the book) I feel are awesome but they’re all BIG and it’s not actually the big stuff that is only important, it’s the small stuff that you maybe wouldn’t otherwise think would have the impact it does. So I chose a very small few of those background things to show how my behaviour bleeds down to the almost pointless and utterly random and I’m telling you that these creativity games I play with myself generate the epic ones. There’s a connection there, free form thinking being the foundation. Refusing to limit what can hit me in the head is vital, so, a new genre of music is epic but a random and seemingly pointless new game like lip flipping (in which I wait for a persons lips to be touching and they’re relaxed and not expecting it and then I quickly pull down the bottom lip and let it flip back up creating a little ‘bloop’) is the very type of thing that I’m sharing because it’s that behaviour of creating that game (and the myriad things I’ll avoid mentioning) that generates the big ideas because a big idea is just a series of smaller ideas tied together. Unless we’re talking about concepts because they’re always massive and ultimately we choose a small thing to represent the whole thing because it’s too big to handle on its own. The largest magnum opus is still small in the face of a concept.

To continue and start exampling my ‘personalisation’ (but realise that personalisation isn’t necessarily always individual or private to you – we all can and do arrive independently to things but there are too many people who have existed and do exist for me to think I’m the only person who ever lip flipped anyone); People use < 3 to represent a lovey heart. I use <4 because 3 doesn’t seem enough for how much I love my girlfriend. Some days that can be a <4.5 or even a <4.9! Yes, that is a very cute game and I don’t care how cheesey you think it is. Love can never be a cliché and neither can the pursuit of true romance be either. Life is a game I play in which I personalise everything. Comedians, for the most part, personalise their observations.

An example, finally:

Outside the topic of music – emoticons (because it’s random is why and that’s almost the point). People know and recognise your regular Western emoticon style:

=)

=(

; )

=P

But those are the same things people always use… snooze… and the Facebook stickers get boring for me quite quickly… the Japanese know how better to emote using ASCII characters (probably due to their pictographic calligraphy) and these are taken from the Japanese Ten Key keyboard on the iOS (which can be added in Settings/General/Keyboards and become just a click away when you click on the little world symbol that appears next to your space bar):

¦     (¬_¬)     ¦     (_ _).。o○     ¦     |( ̄3 ̄)|     ¦

☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・'(*゚▽゚*)’・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*

¦     (⌒-⌒; )     ¦     ( ̄^ ̄)ゞ     ¦     ヽ(´o`;    ¦      ♪(*^^)o∀*∀o(^^*)♪     ¦

Screenshot on iOS:

20140404-180804.jpg

 

That’s just a couple of them, and I admit they look way better on an actual Apple device. What I love about them is the sheer scope of emotions and facial expressions they can achieve compared to the Western approach. But still there’s a problem – why aren’t any offensive or curse word equivalents built-in? What’s with that?! Swear words are a massive part of our fucking language… I hate Apple for this in particular so I rebelled, I made my own. I hate restrictions in any sense. So I created my own emoticons using the iPhone and by adding all the international keyboards. Then I explored the symbols and alphabets available in Thai, Arabic, etc… and in the vein of the Japanese method I came up with about thirty unique and wonderful designs (but these normally only look as intended if you’re on an Apple device using iOS and recent changes have altered how my Zen emoticon looks now so it isn’t included), which you can copy and paste into your Setting/General/Keyboards/Shortcuts so that when you type ‘emoticon1′ it automatically writes it out for you. So here’s a few of my favourites with an iPhone screenshot for non-iOS users:

Essential Curses:

Fuck you – ㅛ(ㅜ.ㅜ)ㅡ

One middle finger – ㅅ(ㅜ.ㅜ; )

Two middle fingers – ㅅ(ㅜ.ㅜ;)ㅅ

Others:

¦     (Ꮎ-Ꮎ, ;;)     ¦     ༺( ར ₹ ཬ )༻     ¦     (ō¯¯ō;)     ¦     |(ᏉᏉ. )     ¦     | (• ◡•)|     ¦    *☆(Ꭷ.Ꭷ, )☆*    ¦     (-õ.õ-)     ¦     *(☆.☆,)*     ¦    (❍ʋ❍)    ¦     (ถ ถ, )     ¦

Screenshot of how it looks on iOS:

20140404-175106.jpg

You may wonder why I bothered to mention that here, aside from being quite proud of my creations, it is an example to show you that I’m never ‘off’. It’s full creative day in day out. Finding my own path, doing my own thing. I will it to be so. Even my name, which as a child I hated with incredible ferocity and even at five I declared I would change some day, was altered and personalised to fit what I thought represented who I am and who I could be. I actually sat down at about 20 and wrote out the person that Grayson King would be. Defined him. Chose to be him. How he would behave from the day I adopted the name, what he would do in various situations, and then I aimed to be him. It’s not like that person wasn’t in me all along anyway… but he was the best version of myself I could be… but this and the name thing is a more complicated issue than I’ll get into now, but it will be explained better in a later post. Other examples include my methodology for learning guitar and my big experiment, the way I will present my novels when I finally finish one, the way I think about love and relationships, my overall approach to things, the list goes on… especially as I disregard virtually all traditions, belief systems and socially accepted constructs and norms in favour of creating my own that best fit who I am and who I want to be… but my point was that even something small like making my own emoticons helps me stay creative in other pursuits – if you can’t write a song maybe you can think of a painting, maybe that painting gives you an idea for a scene that you’ve never depicted in song before and so you come full circle and are able to create a new song. I basically just challenge everything and then figure out how I would have done something if I had been the one in the situation to define it. How would I have created society/law/etc? How would I design a toilet? Why can’t my laptop have this feature? Why can’t I find an app that does this specific thing? Why can’t I buy a Chewbacca sex doll (not saying I want one, just wonder why I can’t buy it)?

Generally my main driving force is a combination of trying to find the epic and whether or not I’ve ever heard of anyone attempting it before. It doesn’t matter if in the end someone beat me to it (which happens a lot), what matters is that I arrived there independently.

Observations:

Observations, personalisations, experimentations. It’s not enough to just observe though you also have to develop recognition that the typing error you just made could be a town name or a character in a novel or even as the basis for a new word in a language they might use in that novel – or even a new English word (I create them all the time). Yep, even my spelling mistakes get noted if I recognise they have possible value. Observation – I recently noticed how my three darling nieces are living breathing characters and decided I would make a children’s book about them going to the zoo to liberate an orang-utan. They would only eat ginger nut biscuits and their favourite fruit would be tangerines, oranges and clementines… they would have a ginger tabby for a cat… needless to say they are adorable and magical ginger girls and my brother (their father) already pretty much brainwashes them into being super proud of being red. But their personalities are so different and I realised that it would be a great Christmas present, and help give them a personal interest in reading and be super fun for them and enjoyable and sweet to make with my girlfriend for them. I also started to create some songs for them to entertain them, and I haven’t really ever done comical songs before, I’ve always taken that craft seriously. So I challenged my own behaviours and preconceptions once I realised that I was restricted in that specifically unique way. The same approach also wrote the song ‘What She Don’t Know’ (or Fuck What Granny Said as the non-radio friendly version) when I realised that I have never sworn in a song before… observe the world but also observe yourself. Be willing to change when faced with the evidence or pattern that show you that you’ve settled into a comfort zone and have stopped pushing your boundaries (you don’t need to be extreme in this – if all you paint is blossoming flowers, albeit in a frantic and beautifully dramatic fashion to the tone of Kira literally writing off every criminal in existence, every now and then decide to paint someone searching for treasure at the very back of their skull). If you’re not being creative it is because you have decided that you either can’t be or you’ve limited your expression in such a way as to ensure that you’ll run out of options by over-specialising (yes, there can be mitigating factors but ultimately I believe that the comfort zone is the box to conformity) and that is eventually stifling for creativity. I have noticed a massive link between noting down every possible thing that could potentially be something (be anything) and the number of great ideas and concepts I recognise as being potentially something very special and worthwhile – often something seemingly random or pointless or mundane leads to something I consider highly valuable amongst my trove of ideas. In much the same way as with inventing a lightbulb – each boring or unusable idea helps take you one step closer to your goal. And having it typed down means you can let it go and this frees up your jelly mould and removes the space that pineapple chunk took up allowing the opportunity for something else to pop in to fill the void. Now I can give you endless advice on staying creative and boosting creative output but I highly suggest you look elsewhere for advice on consistent and disciplined pursuit of a specific skill. I have to make things epic to entice myself to stick with a project. I need that to do all the ‘boring’ stuff like practising scales and so on… I need the end result in mind to combat my nature.

Daddy Doesn’t Want to Be a Ginger Zombie:

Chorus:

Daddy’s trying to breed a ginger army

Just in case there could be zombies

Verse:

He’s got three soldiers so far

And from what I’ve seen they’re indestructible

He drills them in survival skills,

so that they might vanish into the hills

Chorus:

Daddy wants to raise a ginger army

So he can destroy lots of zombies

Verse:

He taught them all kinds of sneak attacks

and how to best cover their tracks

I swear they could survive apocalypse,

and smiling, keep coming back

Chorus:

Coz Daddy really wants a ginger army

Coz Daddy’s so afraid of zombies

Verse:

He feeds them on fish fingers

and the most epic mash

Then plans to invade Todmorden

and then straight on to Halifax!

Chorus:

Daddy’s trying to breed a ginger army

So he can defeat a world of zombies

Verse:

Jessica loves miniguns

whilst developing her evil laugh

Ruby has the intelligence

to become a ninja world class

Tessie will sneak up on ya,

surprise, it’s a super cuddle attack!

Chorus:

Yeah Daddy’s trying to raise a ginger army

So he can take on hordes of zombies

Yeah Daddy really really wants a ginger army

So he can go to war against all these zombies

Daddy wants to lead a ginger army
Against a world of zombies

No, Daddy doesn’t want to be a ginger zombie…

Refrain:

Yeah do the zombie dance
In your underpants
Yeah let’s eat Daddy’s brains
For our breakfast today!

FIN

I’ll probably record that song later as every recording I tried to do had the kids screaming and shouting over me… which was awesome. Back onto topic:

Broaden Your Horizons:

I find it incredibly useful to broaden my horizons. Even if you are only a musician – why only write songs? Why not think of a play you would like to see? Or think of a game you’d like to play but can’t because it doesn’t exist? You don’t have to commit yourself to years of computer code education. It doesn’t matter that the game will probably never get made because it will always exist in your imagination. I normally construct games that probably couldn’t exist. This is from an innate tendency to try and see where technology and existing things are heading. In seeing where they will go next I can often create ideas for that non-existing technically theoretical platform. I call it – trying to see the perfect. You play the game but it is missing something. You see the graphics but they aren’t as great as they could be. Maybe the last game had a fantastic multi-player but this one doesn’t. It’s basically the practise of constantly being disappointed. Hey, I’m a futurist – tell me that I can inject a nanobot into my brain and have Internet access and I’ll sign up right now. I can take this to a ridiculous level but how many of us wish we had been born just a few hundred years later? Basically I believe that most of us have this ability – to look at something and think how we could make it better. It’s a small leap from that recognition to creating your own concept to house the ideas your critical eye helped create.

Creating a concept for a new game (as an example of an unrelated task) will help you write new songs (if that’s your only interest) and overall help your ability to create more original concepts. In fact, I have personally found myself creating ideas on virtually EVERYTHING from following this simple rule. I have more great ideas and concepts to work on than I could ever hope to finish in the next ten lifetimes even if I became the most dedicated and disciplined person in any particular field right this minute. By asking, ‘Why can’t they just…?’ I have invented several innovative products that I’m yet to patent and so can’t go into detail with. It takes one second to have a great idea, a couple of minutes to record it, and countless hours of work to create a finished product that you can be proud of or at the least make some money from. Now, I don’t promise you a path to riches or success. But creative satisfaction? No, I can’t promise you that either. Promise it to yourself. Having an idea is an instantaneous event and it feels AMAZING. I’m so addicted to it, I can’t even describe how much so. The thing about an idea is that it can be immediately perfect. Whenever I think of a painting it is a fully formed creation in my mind and yet it would take me hours and hours to paint the concept. Most especially because I haven’t practised drawing or painting whatsoever in my life so far. But I will, I think, eventually. Either way, I don’t actually ever have to paint it – maybe I put that painting in the office of a character in a graphic novel? Maybe that business I just created is the business this character works for? There’s more than one way to actualise an idea, and it can appear in very unsuspecting and unusual places.

Maximising your creative output:

Harvest EVERY single possible thing from your life that you could make something out of. That cute little joke you just made with your girlfriend whilst you were being all romantic – that’s natural dialogue at it’s best and the kind of thing it can be very hard to force out of your mind when you’re sat trying to write a love story or a play. That funny conversation you overheard on the bus before that other unlikely but hilarious thing happened – bang, just got yourself a scene of a film you’ll probably never make. But still make a note. Harvest from your real life. Make a note of your dreams. If you overhear a funny and witty remark, go ahead and type it down. Especially if it is one of those soon forgotten moments of greatness that pop up constantly when hanging around the Irish. It’s natural dialogue, baby, and that’s the hardest kind to create when you’re hunched over your desk scribbling away. But make sure they don’t write it down or that they’re not a comedian or something testing a new joke or reciting a poem they wrote or something – I ask if I can write it down and I always make a point to credit who said it. Always Google your ideas to see if it has been done before committing endless hours to it – have some respect, honour and virtue. Because nobody will work with you or help you on your way if you get known for ‘stealing’ ideas and it’s a fast way to trouble that you probably can’t afford to be in. Plus there’s just no need. Seriously, spend a little time in my world and you’ll know that original ideas are all over the place.

You probably already think of new concepts all the time. You probably even do this already without even realising it. How many times have you played a game and wondered why they didn’t include a certain feature or plot twist? Or thought of ways that the film you’re watching could have been better or less predictable? Or found massive plot holes in popular media? Critical analysis is a natural part of your mental processes, just being able to recognise that one thing is high quality and another is not means that you are able to create something of value. We are all consuming media in great quantities virtually constantly and we have been for most of our lives. This trains you. The older you get the more times you’ve seen and heard certain things. You could be the best songwriter ever and not know it just because you never tried. They say that all stories told boil down to variations of only 7 plots. I don’t know about that, and this doesn’t mean that people can’t surprise you. But how many times have you been watching a film and predicted the ending? Or even complained because you’ve seen this scene too many times in too many ways. Archetypes, stereotypes, other assorted dramatic and thematic devices, we’ve all experienced so many of these now that we’re the experts in what’s good and what’s bad. The Axis of Awesome did their 4 chord song and everyone suddenly realised that pop is quite simple. And repetitive. Well, not everyone but it became the reference point for that realisation. What I’m trying to say is that the devil is in the detail. Rowling gave every character an exhaustive family history. Before you play chess you must build the board, create the rules, design the pieces and then you get to play. Yes, we each have our own tastes but let’s be frank – you’re not so original that you can’t find a society or group somewhere that also identifies themselves with that character in that one book you thought nobody else had read. Maximising your creative output is all about having the ability to recognise that something just happened that you could use (I was once walking down the street when my hand accidentally merged with this gorgeous lass and we walked a few steps hand-in-hand before I realised what had happened, smiled, and she let go, confused – I created the romantic film Holding Hans from that encounter, that brief moment gave me a possibility for a future script because I’m super aware of these creative possibilities and incredibly obsessed with not wasting natural opportunities for creative expression). It’s also about having the foresight to note every interesting thing you could use and creating the ability to pick the best ideas out. If you keep waiting for your ‘Dorian Gray’ to pop up you’ll never write anything. Similarly stop waiting to write Bohemian Rhapsody and start working towards being able to create a concept as great. Because if your concepts are tired and over-used you’re going to find it difficult to gain satisfaction from it. Never-mind anyone else enjoying it. Don’t rhyme fire with desire. Actually, a neat little trick I figured out was to make things a little complicated. If you’re struggling to be original with song writing first make a sentence, the longer the better, the less likely it is anyone has done it. For example, a song I wrote called ‘I Have a Girlfriend Now So Why Would I Need to Keep Buying Man-Sized Tissues?’. Now, if I just called that song ‘Girlfriend’ it would be much more difficult to make that song sound fresh or original. Look at Alt-J and Breezeblocks and you’ll see how they created fresh lyrics by using phrases and words that had not been used in popular media (no matter what you think of them, some of the lyrics are great). Look at The Arctic Monkeys song Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secured and you’ll see how they harvested from reality.

So there’s three major things (but not restricted to) – creating possibilities,  recognising things of creative value and enhancing the detail in your imagination.

Small Grayson and Improving the Detail in Your Imagination:

So, imagination, that topic had to appear eventually in a discussion about anything creative. The things is that the more you use your imagination, the more you practice adding definition and refined detail to concepts, the more adept you’ll get at creating more complex constructions with it. Every day I mentally build a room or scene or animal or something and add as much detail as I can into it and I’ve done this for years and years, ever since I was a child. This is different from the practice of conceptualisation as this is adding detail to those concepts and mostly deals with visual and auditory constructions. In fact I have an almost constant background imaginary world going on inside my head. It changes shape, location, time, colour, style. It’s in constant fluctuation unless I’m walking down the street and then for the most part it’s the same place I’m actually in. It’s not a dream, it’s not a daydream. It’s built from possibilities. And is somewhat autonomous from my control and is also somewhat a constant in the background of my mind – as soon as I turn my mind’s eye inward I see it (or maybe I create it, I don’t know the technicality of the neuroscience behind it). It’s a kind of sandbox of imagination whose limits are the physical confines of my skull. What I mean by that is that the edges of the camera/world are never outside my skull, it’s a world but everything is smaller unless I zoom in. It can be made from memories, experiences or whatever creative whim I decide to throw at it. I even have a little version of myself wandering around inside my head inside this world who I call Small Grayson. It’s almost like my mind’s eye is a CCTV camera or something… like a third-person view in a game or film or TV series. Sometimes it is animated, cartoon, anime, black and white, real-life, ambient – virtually all choices you could make or have seen before. And for the most part Small Grayson wanders around the same places I am in. Except when I walk past a museum he goes into it. And my mind, expecting to see paintings or sculptures or whatever creates art for him. And then he kind of grabs things and holds them up to the camera (at this point I become aware of the idea and whoever I’m talking to sees me pull my phone out as I type it down in Evernote before eventually looking up and saying, ‘I’m sorry, what were you saying?’). When I am on the bus speeding past the cinema he goes into that cinema and then he comes out and I often have a new film possibility that has never been made run through my head. Or sometimes he watched an old cartoon I loved or even a memory reel. It doesn’t always have audio, unless I give it audio. Or unless Small Grayson gets hold of an instrument. I hate that little guy sometimes because he gets out his saxophone and goes nuts with it. Which irritates me no end because I can’t play saxophone and I’m watching him play it very well. At which point I have to hum a saxophone piece into my Evernote. I’m much happier when he plays guitar or puts a chorus from a song on repeat for an hour. When that’s happening to me I have the visual of him sat in a chair or something listening to music. Either way, by indulging in this I get given a lot of ideas. I actually only recently came to this description of things because I was trying to explain to my girlfriend what it is like for me inside my head and I felt that this Small Grayson concept was worth sharing but I also realised that maybe other people don’t have a miniature world inside their heads. It’s like I have a mind palace (see the recent BBC Sherlock) but it’s a world of imagination and creativity and not an absurd memory technique. Actually I often think my awful memory for relatively mundane things like names and typical day to day events like birthdays actually helps me create new things. I think I don’t focus on them and it opens me up for imagination. Kind of like how Einstein had five of the exact same suit. Now, obviously I can control massive amounts of the world that Small Grayson resides in or even destroy it entirely for a while and just have blackness or other things in my mind but now that I’ve thought about it Small Grayson always comes back and I often can’t block him out. I have full control over colour, style, situation, location, fashion, architecture, time, objects, animals, etc – right now he has a penthouse office with a several storey high glass window with exotic patterns on it (which are actually tiny solar cells in the form of veins in an artistic and pleasing style, apparently) and a breathtaking panoramic view of an imaginary and slightly futuristic city. He has some expensive whiskey and is looking very dapper in his suit and business haircut. He’s also slightly more muscular than I am right now. He’s often ideal in some way. I can picture the pattern of the wood in the desk, the floor, the painting on the wall, the background and architecture of the city, all whilst typing this blog or thinking about completely unrelated things. If only I could draw… I’ll have to sort that out at some point in the future. My point is that I don’t have to concentrate at all to have that level of detail – it just creates itself and is in the background of my mind and then I can change things or completely create something new. But I can’t stop it from creating itself – it’s in the background but somehow also in the foreground at the same time. In this sentence alone it just changed from being realistic to looking like a recent Batman/Superman animated film. I can add a tiger, he interacts with it. I can morph that tiger into a rather large cat shaped steel-frame exo-skeleton robot in which Small Grayson gets into as a pilot and has to move like a cat to control it within the structure (if you can imagine how that works) but with a prehensile and deadly tail. I wish I could draw it, it’s very cool. Luckily that’s something I came up with a while ago and that was in a series of very persistent dreams in a very detailed paracosm I had from about 8 to 19. I kept visiting that place and the stories and characters kept evolving. I used to spend hours remembering the details before I went to sleep hoping it would trigger another chapter. I intend to write those stories out in a series of novels at some point in my life. The valley had a city called Ashalapapanon (that’s what I think it was called, I have very little creative control over these things) and that’s all I’ll mention now or else I’ll be here all day explaining the story and designs and major events as it is very expansive – it’s a whole universe unto itself. Is it possible that you could create your own ‘Small Grayson’ and could this possibly help you be more creative? You’ll have to tell me because I have no idea.

I should mention that Small Grayson is a completely separate entity from my hallucinations. He exists within my head, they are added to the world. I can’t help you hallucinate and honestly it isn’t nearly as cool as some people think, even if sometimes it is immensely cool. When you do it every day it becomes a nuisance and for the most part I try to treat it as some sort of game and take it in good humour when I lose, but mostly I win and I’m like ‘In your face brain, try to trick me. Take that!’. I’m surprisingly good at recognising what is real though these days. I rarely get caught talking to someone who doesn’t exist or putting a cup on a table I’ve never had in my lounge before. Especially since I’ve been on medication – but I have developed techniques for identifying the real from the fanciful. I don’t just see things though – sometimes I can touch things, smell things, eat things, or hear things that aren’t there. One friend said that it was often like I heard my name and I was looking around for who said it but also that I just drift off or shut down or seem distracted. I see small things a lot, like cups and towels that aren’t there… strangely banal things. I often hear completely original songs as if they are on the radio (a radio or stereo actually appears, or a car drives past, or a shop is playing a song), fully finished for the most part, containing many layers, instruments, lyrics and nuances. Basically if I have ever watched it, heard it, lived it, dreamed it or can imagine it then I can hallucinate it in scary detail. Sometimes I get little scenes happening (often impossible – which is why I recognise them as illusion – horses don’t Rollerblade and I’ve never seen a horse wearing a punk rock jacket with a green spiked Mohawk whilst doing the impossible) and I often have to look around to see if anyone else can believe what is happening… by the time I look back it’s normally vanished. Sometimes it’s really real but highly improbable – like monkeys going wild in a department store. Even if I didn’t have a unique brain I still wouldn’t do anything that could risk triggering these things or worse. I guess my condition has given me a profound respect for just how messed up your life can get if you mess with your brain. Which is why I can’t begin to explain how insane I find it when people willingly abuse drugs of any kind when they normally have a perfectly functional brain. I’m not talking about addicts, just general people. Especially since you won’t know you’re an addict until you’ve tried it. We are all far too comfortable with this behaviour if you ask me. Worse than that some people actually tell me that they wish their brain worked like mine… even though my brain has been trying to kill me for over two decades now and makes basic functionality very hard for me, often impossible (still, I’ve been quite stable lately and I’m gaining confidence in my stability enough to try and branch out). For a few years I thought I had lost my mind, but, you know, that’s another story and one I’ll look into for my other blog that is specifically about my life and condition called To Tell a Tall Tale. I’m not sure when I’ll start it though. A lot of this is fantastic, I know, but some people live this way and I’m one of them. My wish is to demystify mental illness and basically just be upfront and honest about who I am. It has often shielded me, people knowing what to expect. You can’t imagine how freaked out someone can get when an otherwise sane seeming person turns to their friend and offers them a cup of tea when they arrived at your house alone. Honestly, it doesn’t take me long when I meet people these days before I’ve ticked off mentioning a few ‘essential’ things. I love my bisexuality and overall approach to love and relationships – check. Disorder and interesting hallucinations – check. Awkward family crap that’s impossible to avoid – check. I probably overdo it and should concentrate less on these things but honestly I’m my favourite subject to talk about and most people find my history, personal issues and other things interesting. I suppose it is interesting. At the least I like to try and think of new ways to describe things and I see it as practice for writing that best-selling ‘tell-all’ autobiography one day. If I didn’t talk about it I’d forget all the important parts and then I’d get all repressed and end up depressed very quickly. If I’m not talking about this stuff then I’m thinking and holding it in and if I’m thinking and holding it in I have a good chance of shutting down and becoming suicidal – that’s just the mechanism at work. Best just to go with it and let it out. I chill out eventually… eventually. Eventually. Eve and tully. Pop.

So in review:

  • Practice Creativity
  • Refine Your Powers of Imagination
  • Experimentation
  • Personalisation
  • Broaden Your Horizons
  • Harvest Every Possibility
  • Record Everything of Note
  • See If You Can Create Your Own Small Grayson
  • Try to Realise How Much it Can Destroy Your Life to Mess with Your Brain

I think that’s everything I have to say on enhancing creativity and finding inspiration. I hope you found it informative, helpful or otherwise enjoyable. These are my real life experiences and ideas and any concept I named directly is my intellectual property (‘Holding Hans’, ‘I Have a Girlfriend Now So Why Would I Need to Keep Buying Man-Sized Tissues?’ and ‘Ashalapapanon’). There may be elements of repetition in my blog posts concerning my condition but I felt it best to try and lay a base level of understanding in each post rather than assume that each reader had read every post. I’ll try to keep that to a minimum but since I’m discussing a very complex and serious condition I figured it would add context and support – at the least I hope I’ve shown you that I’m not fully mental all the time. In fact I often think I might be the only sane person in the world because I really don’t understand most of you otherwise ‘healthy’ people at all. You confound me in ways you can’t imagine. I don’t understand anyone actually, healthy or otherwise. And you know what? I think I’m fine with that.

Grayson King

Capturing & Organising Your Ideas – Evernote & Dropbox

1005579_3163955075114_597054275_n

As this is the first topical post (and second page of my blog) I had to really think over the last week as to which of the topics this page should be about from the possible avenues I wish to explore in this blog:

 

 

I decided that the organisation and safeguarding of ideas was so unbelievably important that it should really be the first thing I should discuss here. It’s the foundation on which we build everything we will create and since it is the digital age and we all have the Internet (and most of us have it on the go – which I find truly essential) I believe the best option available right now is a combination of Evernote (iOS – Android) and Dropbox (iOS – Android). There are alternatives and that’s cool and all but I won’t be sharing insight into those services as I don’t use them and I have my reasons for choosing the two that I have, which I explain below. Let this page stand as a place I can simply link people to if they wish to benefit from my research and extensive experience in these matters that will save me hours of repeating myself when nobody is actually listening or even taking it all in anyway. Now there is a lot to say on this topic and so this will be a long post, even by my usual standards, but I think it is all important and worth saying and certainly worth you knowing if you’re going to function the way I do and I believe I state a powerful argument for that.

 

So first I shall give a quick run-down of those two services – Evernote and Dropbox – before going into a full tutorial on my organisational method within Evernote that is ESSENTIAL for you to grasp if you’re going to use their service most advantageously.
=)

——————————————————–
Things to Know About Evernote
——————————————————–

evernote

How much are we talking for a Premium Evernote account and what do I get for that?

If you pay annually it is about £35 and aside from a fantastic service you get 1Gb upload per month – unless you are doing mostly photo based stuff with Evernote you probably won’t need premium, though it comes with a bunch of great options that I find incredibly useful. The free option gives you only 60Mb of data per month and that’s just not enough for me but might be enough for you – I suggest you try it out for a month and see if you got anywhere near that limit. Whilst Evernote does have the option to only synchronise over Wi-Fi rather than use mobile data (3G/4G) I don’t recommend this unless you know you’ll have Wi-Fi access all day, or unless you’re going to make sure you switch back to mobile data as soon as you get on the street (using Wi-Fi does not increase your data limit). I’ve only ever lost about 200 recordings because I wasn’t synchronising my data and I lost my phone (back in the old days when none of these great services existed I used a Nokia 3300 and had to manually back up all those sound clips and everything and it was a real nuisance). If you’re anywhere near as obsessive/careful/serious as I am concerning the safeguarding of your ideas you don’t want to go through that painful process of potentially losing the best thing you’ve ever written. Luckily I managed to force my brain to recreate about 75 of those ideas – but that was a horrible three days and burned a lesson into my mind that I will not soon forget.

The triple attack of Evernote with the Windows/Mac/Linux software (which you’d use as your main word processor), the app options for an incredible array of mobile devices and the ability to access all your notes (with a full service equivalent of the software) via their website combined with the ease and functionality of creating public notebooks and/or sharing notebooks and collaborating with an unlimited number of people who don’t even need to have an account with Evernote to view the note makes it a simply fantastic option that allows for more possible uses than I can list. Imagine being in a band (or two, or three) and being able to simply create a notebook that is only shared with those you are in the band with (if you so wish) and whenever you open your Evernote app it automatically downloads the new song your songwriter has come up with so you can think of licks and riffs or drum patterns for it, or the new updated lyrics and changes to the song you came up with on the bus home… I could expand this into further examples but I’m hoping you can see the sheer wealth of possibilities for yourself.

Now,  I have had issues with using the iOS Evernote app with photos taken from my iPhone in the past. I haven’t really used it for photos since I found out how useful and reliable the Dropbox app’s automatic Camera Upload feature is but then I was trying to upload a large amount of images in a single note in Evernote and those issues were on an older iOS and an older model iPhone and a much older app version and so long as you don’t try to use it for more than 10 full quality camera images per note I reckon you’ll be alright. I have been so far anyway. I only add the photos if it is essential for the note in general.

What Limits Exist for Notes in an Evernote Account?

The Benefits of Going Premium with Evernote

——————————————————–
Things to Know About Dropbox
——————————————————–

login-vfl_7epY-

How much are we talking for a Premium Dropbox account and what do we get for that?

The Dropbox 100Gb plan… which, if you refer people and other things can get up to about 135Gb with bonuses – I suppose you could create fake Gmail accounts and install Dropbox through your own referral link on a bunch of public computers or something to get those bonuses sooner but it can only be done once per computer as far as I know, I mean, maybe there’s a workaround but I don’t know of it, which is why I use this self-referral trick with each new computer I get before connecting my Dropbox to my real account… *cough*, as I was saying… the Dropbox 100Gb plan when paid annually with the Packrat option included is currently £83.21 (it’s actually $138 so it fluctuates as currency does, which means the worse the dollar the better your deal. Unless you’re American of course. Same for Evernote too as they also charge in dollars). Also you’re saving 17% for paying Dropbox annually, as I do (which pays for the essential Packrat option). Now there’s plenty of cloud based options similar to Dropbox, but let me tell you a few things that makes Dropbox my choice – aside from well earned brand loyalty and the pain of swapping services once you’re up-and-running with any particular one. I suggest you do a little research yourself before ultimately making a decision. Just know this – Dropbox runs in the background with very low system resources and monitors every file within the Dropbox folder and all sub-directories and synchronises them the moment they change (keep that folder organised, I made that mistake at the start). Most of the cheaper options don’t offer that kind of security and require you to run a program or even use a browser based uploader for your back ups. And others synchronise every 15 minutes or every 30 minutes and in that time if you have a serious computer meltdown you’ve lost data. Also you won’t experience any slowdown in your Internet when using Dropbox and it ultimately uses less Internet bandwidth because it only activates when you’ve changed something instead of having a synch event every 15 minutes regardless of whether you have altered anything. It’s just something to consider – especially if you have a laptop and you’re sat in a café without a plug socket.

Decided on Dropbox? I’m going to assume so and carry on from here as if you have.

I suggest that you download Dropbox now if you’ve made your decision to choose their service (it’s free to download and install but you just get 2Gb with a free account – 2.25Gb if you use my referral). It’s best to have it up and running so that you can get some hands on experience whilst following my instructions as this will make everything more clear, add context to these insights, get you more comfortable with using it and shed light on just what it is that I am talking about. I also suggest that you use my referral link to do this because we both get some extra space – which is another way to max out the possible 32gb in referral bonuses.

The thing is, with Dropbox you can get unlimited data quite easily if you just consider some data as shadow data (or passive data if you like) and some as active data – a point I’ve never seen made in any cloud based articles so far. Dropbox have an option when you go premium that is called the Packrat option and when you have this activated on your account they will NEVER delete anything you upload (as long as you’re a customer, of course). In fact, to permanently delete anything you have to access your account on their website and then permanently delete the file to get rid of it (which only becomes available as an option once you’ve deleted that file the first time). Obviously you cannot use these files whilst they remain in a passive state and you have to restore/undelete them to use them, which makes them active data and takes up space on your data limit. You can delete and undelete as often as you like though so it’s not a major problem. With a clever approach to data management you can have unlimited terabytes of data as passive/shadow data since only active data counts to your data allowance. I personally have about 6Tb of passive data right now and about 84Gb of active data with only a 124Gb allowance. It also offers unlimited recovery of older versions of your files (as does Evernote) – particularly useful if you accidentally upload a file with the same file name which overrides your original file or if you’re dealing with literary projects and you wish to undo the changes you just made or maybe you accidentally saved over Draft 1 with Draft 2 but you later decide Draft 1 was better. But for this to work you need to avoid permanently deleting the older versions as they appear as deleted files once you upload the newest version of the file.

The Packrat option is another one of those essential things, in my opinion, and no other cloud service has this magic trick to unlimited data that I know of. Though, upon review of the article I linked to above I see that JustCloud offers an unlimited data plan for a very low cost, and once I’ve personally tried it out I will edit this page to add a note on my thoughts to this cheaper alternative. I doubt that it integrates into your operating system as easily as Dropbox does though – which is a large thing to consider.

EDIT – No, I don’t like JustCloud. I don’t care how cheap it is, too many features are missing that make it a viable choice for me and downloading your files can only be done one at a time! Which is insane, you can’t just download the folder, oh no, you have to download every file individually! No thanks.
=)

I have more information on Dropbox and Evernote and the basic ins and outs of their services but you can easily learn more about them using Google and that information isn’t particularly unique to myself, unlike some of the insights I have shared and am yet to share.

I will say that whichever service/s you choose you need to make sure that you get it/them both on your home computer and mobile device (and laptop too – stay synchronised across all platforms, is my point). Also, you’re really going to want to get into the habit of making Dropbox your default directory for your projects and programs to save in and start using Evernote to its full capabilities on your home computer. I considered installing Evernote within the Dropbox folder but eventually decided against it for some reason I can’t remember. But it was a good reason, I think. Probably. Ah, yes, Evernote has the option to make the local database folder be anywhere you like but when you choose any directory within your Dropbox it detects that it is a Dropbox folder and warns you that it could cause corruption having Dropbox and Evernote trying to access the database simultaneously. I explored other Dropbox and Evernote integration options such as If This Then That and Zapier (both free and requires only to visit their website and they do all the stuff on their end by accessing your Dropbox and Evernote accounts) but I honestly don’t think I need those (and have since removed them). See my note about Manually Backing Your Data Up below. Also, there is a service available that I don’t want to pay for called CloudWork. I can’t vouch for these last three services as I haven’t used them but I felt it was best to make you aware of them since they seem to be the only option available to link Evernote with something like Tumblr at this stage.

Both Evernote and Dropbox offer the option to easily share your ideas with other people – so for those of you in a band you could easily send your songwriter that great riff you just came up with and they can be aware of it almost instantly. In fact, in Evernote you can create a shared notebook and invite all your band members to that notebook and then as soon as you add a note into that notebook and synchronise it they will have it as soon as they next open their Evernote and synchronise. But it isn’t always that obvious so I suggest you message them or something to let them know to check it. I’m hoping they add a notification pop-up to the next app release of Evernote and/or Dropbox when a shared notebook/folder has any new sharing activity.

I recently found that whilst the Dropbox app for iOS is a great app (it really is very useful and reliable) that the Boxie app for iOS along with a better user interface offers features that the Dropbox app, somewhat annoyingly, does not yet contain (like access to the Permanently Delete option that is only accessible on a mobile device through their website that is not streamlined for mobile use and is a real pain to use otherwise). I can’t speak for the Android app though. Frankly I have both as the automatic Camera Upload feature of the Dropbox app isn’t available in Boxie… yet. In fact, I found Boxie so useful that I actually bought the Powerpack for it to activate the extra features and I almost never do that (it was only about £1.50 though, in fact I think for the option I was after you have to buy it). It allows you to undelete your items within the app whereas the Dropbox app does not allow this and their website isn’t optimised for mobile devices, making it very difficult and annoying to do this incredibly useful task on your phone.

Here’s Some Information on Dropbox’s Packrat Option

And Here’s How You Can Maximise Your Data Limit by Earning Bonus Space with Dropbox

Here Is Another Page About Maximising Dropbox Bonuses

YouTube:

You’re aware of YouTube and you already know it is a great service – but do you utilise it as well as you could? YouTube allows you to upload an infinite number of videos. I use YouTube Capture (iOS) on my iPhone to record every gig I do (comedians or any improvisation should always be captured – which allows you to review the audience reaction). I only recently started doing this since I found the YouTube Capture app (I normally recorded it only in Evernote as an audio note or manually copied the video into my Dropbox where it does me little good as nobody can see it). Then when I get home I upload the videos in 720p overnight through my unlimited data 3G/4G network with the Three mobile One Plan (though you can choose 1080p if you like – but I suggest maybe using Wi-Fi for this). I keep them private until I can review the video, apply my edits, add a description and time stamps and ultimately decide if I want to make it available. By the morning it should have uploaded the video/s and then you can delete it from your iPhone or whatever to make space for something else – just make sure to not lock your phone as it’ll pause the upload after 10 minutes of being locked/in the background. I just put it on charge with the app open and forget about the phone until the morning. You can always download that file from YouTube if you want it later. I just found this the quickest and most simple way and reduces how often you have to manually back data up. Which leads me onto…

Manually Backing Your Data Up:

You might be under the illusion with all these lofty advances in technology that if you adopt all these wonderful things into your life that you don’t ever have to manually back up your data ever again but whilst it is much much less important than it used to be once you’re using these services I still suggest that you do keep a physical backup somewhere safe in your home, away from possible accidental damage and especially safe from any kind of medium to extreme magnetic field. Hell, maybe these companies will tank suddenly and you’ll lose all your data!? So, with this in mind I export my Evernote data into Dropbox from time to time as a secondary backup in four different ways – first as an ENEX file, then by exporting all the notes as multiple web pages (HTML) and then I highlight all the notes and choose to save the attachments into a folder and then I also just copy the entire program folder into Dropbox for safe measure. I use Dropbox anyway for my projects because Evernote doesn’t work with videos (and whilst Evernote deals with images/photos from your camera phone I honestly think Dropbox does it significantly better, faster, more reliably and much more easily – as it can be automated on your mobile device, as discussed above, using Camera Upload). I also keep a regular secondary backup on an external HDD because I’m just that paranoid. Hell, I probably have two more backups of all my Evernote (iOS – Android) and Dropbox (iOS – Android) data on some HDDs crammed in separate boxes somewhere. I’m very much a better safe than sorry personality.

CreativeMind2

As far as creativity is concerned it’s all about the cloud and a semi-decent smart phone. I use the iPhone with the mobile carrier 3 (I’m in the UK) as they have infinite data usage and you can tether your laptop/computer to your phone’s Internet. In fact it’s my main and only Internet service and I’ve used this service a lot, like 400Gb+ per month for two years and they haven’t ever slowed me down and I’ve had virtually no issues with them whatsoever (none related to this discussion at least but from time to time my adult filter decides it hasn’t been removed). Also, they will be releasing their 4G coverage this year (5 to 6 times faster than 3G!!!) and you’ll continue to get unlimited data usage, and, like I’ve said, I have truly tested that claim and found them trustworthy in that statement. Also, due to the details of the laws written they exist in a kind of loop hole for things like ThePirateBay so they don’t block it… yet. But if you’re wanting to get around that just use the Chromium based Torch browser as it routes you through a VPN for any blocked site in your country automatically (opening up Hulu for UK residents, for example)… and it has a reliable media grabbing button amongst other great features. But that’s a side note. See the link.

Why is it vitally important to keep a digital record of your ideas?

Honestly I’m amazed more people I know don’t keep a reliable, easily searched, complete, secure, digital index of their ideas – even if it is just taking a photo of the drawing you just did. I mean, I couldn’t live that way… where you could actually lose the idea that could make your career.

Now as a creative person (and all people are creative – you just need to find an outlet) you’re going to have dry spells from time to time and if you do have one of these you can simply go back and work on something you haven’t finished or even something you had forgotten existed years ago, which will often spark more ideas and actually help get you out of that spell that’s had you so frustrated, or at least get you through it marginally sane. Actually since I’ve virtually always been battered with new ideas day in/day out since my disorder fully kicked in (well, not nearly as much since I’ve been medicated, but still) a dry spell offers me the chance to work on things that have potential but I have let slip by me for whatever reason. I have more to say on staying creative, triggering new ideas and boosting creativity but that’ll be in a later page of this blog as this page is growing more robust than I intended already. At least it’s exhaustive in its detail though, which means I’m covering EVERYTHING so I never need to repeat any of this again. You’re welcome.
=)


Stating my point:

I treat each idea I have as if it is the best idea I might ever have – it’s better to keep all ideas locked safely away (yet accessible at all times) than it is to one day look back and have regret. It also shows you what you have achieved and where you came from and this can not be stated enough – knowing how you got to where you are will support where you want to go next.

I have the option to go through the entire history of a song (or any of my ideas back to the first day I started squirrelling them away) and it takes me less than 30 seconds to get the list of notes that follow that idea. So, if I change the second verse of a song and at a later date decide that I actually made the song worse, or someone outright tells me they preferred it the way I played it that one night 6 months ago I actually have the option to track the developmental progress and undo any changes I have made. Since some of my songs have taken years to grow into what they are today you’d be amazed at how many variations can exist. Especially if you alter the vocal range/style, tempo, rhythm, genre, instrumentation or anything at any point on a whim or in an attempt to breathe new life into it or even just for the laugh to see what that death metal song sounds like in a light classical/reggae style.

I highly suggest you record every performance of every song and never stop recording your live sets and shows. It’s not a big task to hit record as you get on stage and is something you should just get into the habit of doing. I have several reasons for this – like becoming more aware of your performances/changes in your vocal tone through a microphone (I have learned that I have a tendency to sing too loud, for example), tracking the development of your ability, working on your stage presence, audience reactions to your art (especially useful for comedians, who should just video record every gig ever – one camera on them another on the audience), or even just your banter with the crowd. None are as important as this last reason because I can’t count the number of times I’ve been playing a song live and maybe I’ve forgotten the lyrics or for some reason I’ve changed or added lyrics or altered something on the fly only to be left scratching my head when I get off stage trying to remember those changes because somehow those new lyrics were the lyrics I always hoped I’d write but never could until that moment. Try remembering those changes if they happen in the first minute or two of a 30 minute set – you can’t exactly stop and repeat it/record it halfway through your set, especially not if you’re getting paid and if you don’t want to get a reputation for being unprofessional. Even if you’re not recording every gig ever imagine the revenue streams you could generate from recording each gig with a video camera and selling them as intimate performances, possibly for foreign markets/fanbases and if you do get famous these could become highly sought after collectibles and add to your legacy – you should always be trying to find new ways to build your legend, to become epic… obviously you choose the best of the bunch, or to save space only choose to keep the ones that were particularly good. Maybe that footage would come in useful for a music video at some point? At the least it could add content to your artist page, YouTube channel or website which can help build your fanbase. The space thing isn’t much an issue once you adopt YouTube Capture as mentioned above.

If I ran an event, and one day I will, being recorded would be something I would offer to all acts. I’d try and set up multiple angles and everything, possibly even desk level recording as it’d be much higher quality (and much more manipulatable than a video camera based audio recording) then I’d simply provide the acts with the option to pick up their data from a quick visit to my flat for their own purposes or provide a download link to a Dropbox folder if they were just passing through town. Hell, you could even edit it together yourself and charge a fee for the effort – though I reckon asking a performer if they’d like this option before they play would save you from hoarding countless sets of different people needlessly. But then a Western Digital 3TB External HDD is only about £90 on Amazon at the moment and it’s only getting cheaper.

Either way, without recording your sets in even a basic manner you don’t have the option to take advantage of any of these things.

Another firm reason to digitally immortalise your every creative notion – imagine you have just finished your third album and now you’ve fallen into that trap a lot of bands/artists fall into, which is to make changes to the sound/formula only to alienate a part of your fan base or ultimately move so far away from what people identify with your music as to make people feel like you’ve lost your roots or worse yet stick with the same formula until you’ve bled it dry and make your fans lose interest (I could name examples but I’d rather not start a war). If you approach things my way you can basically time travel back to the first day you played guitar, those first songs that captivated your soul, or else just jump back a year to those lyrics that randomly popped into your head during dinner but you didn’t have the ability to put music to at that time. And the kicker is it normally only takes a few minutes to Evernote the idea anyway (up to an hour if the juices are really flowing, several if you’re me and suffering a creativity attack) and that’s what shocks me most about creative types who aren’t using these options.

Admittedly I may not actually use my recordings for all the purposes I listed here at all times but at least I will always have those options down the line should I ever choose to reflect because at the bare minimum I ALWAYS record EVERYTHING.

Keeping a record of your ideas is like shelving little bottles of inspiration for future use.

An extra thing that makes Evernote and Dropbox more useful than I’ve already stated:

There’s an urban myth about ‘Poor Man’s Copyright’ in which you seal an envelope with a CD of your song and then post it to yourself. I’m afraid to say that this will not help you in a copyright case these days and hasn’t been an option for a while. However, Evernote (iOS – Android) and Dropbox (iOS – Android) could be used to help show that you had the idea first as the moment it synchronises to their server (automatically) you have a non-biased, reliable, external source that can witness the date, contents and format of the created note. But it would probably only strengthen your case, not prove it, and I’m really not anywhere close to an expert – I just read that somewhere and I suggest you check it if you’re serious about this, especially if you’re not in the UK. This doesn’t mean that the majority of artists I know should be overly concerned with intellectual property rights or battle piracy at this time  – in fact you should just be grateful people are even listening to you and should try to find ways to utilise the opportunity file sharing presents to you. It is something you need to come to a conclusion with yourself and even in this blog I have had to learn to censor myself to protect my ideas before getting advice from a legally qualified solicitor. The number one mistake people make concerning patents is spilling the beans too soon.  But inventions and music are governed by two different protective bodies and I think that copyright is something you automatically have once you write the song. I’ll update this once I have sat down with a solicitor and better know the ins and outs because I would hate to mislead you. I didn’t realise I was confused on this issue until I wrote this. I should probably do something about that. =P

But that’s only a possible side-note to the incredible options that Evernote and/or Dropbox (or anything similar) provides.

 

 

How to organise your notes in Evernote:

This is the true tutorial of this page and for this section I would suggest, if you have the option, that you download Evernote (iOS – Android) for your smart phone (it’s free) and as you get from section to section create your first notebook, note and tag as you follow my advice and instructions because that way you’ll have first hand experience and it won’t be such a burden on you to try and remember all this information in one go.

Notebooks:
It is vitally important to keep your ideas organised. Even if you’re just a songwriter or musician I highly suggest you create notebooks that will cover many categories as conceptualising ideas in different fields will boost your songwriting ability like you wouldn’t believe (see this blog post for more information).

Personally I have notebooks covering the following projects:

  • Music Idea Stream
  • Art Idea Stream
  • Video Idea Stream – TV Shows/Films/Scripts/Cartoons/Animations/Anime/YouTube Series/Short Film
  • Scene Idea Stream – Scenes in Video Projects/Events in Media/Locations for Events and Scenes
  • Literature Idea Stream – Books/Novels/Graphic Novels/Manga/Comics/Stories/Quotes/Dialogue/Poetry/Art Books
  • Characters/Possible Character Names
  • Sculptures
  • Images Idea Stream – Paintings/Drawings/Doodles/Styles/CAD
  • Business Idea Stream
  • Inventions + Innovations Idea Stream
  • Internet – Pages/Websites/Blogs/Articles/Comments
  • Games + Gaming Idea Stream
  • Apps/Software/Programs
  • Memories/Life Events/Stories/Conversations
  • Dreams/Hallucinations
  • Photography + Modelling Idea Stream
  • Acting/Drama/Voice Acting/Plays/Opera/Musicals
  • Comedy Idea Stream – Stand Up/Routines/Jokes/Witticisms/Puns/Gags/Turns of Phrase/Comical Stories/Remarks/Replies
  • Cooking/Food/Recipes
  • Interesting Names
  • Philosophies + Concepts
  • Parenting Idea Stream
  • Literature Project – Novel Series – Ashalapapanon (stack)
    – Book 001 – Ashalapapanon – Drafts (notebooks within stack)
    – Book 001 – Ashalapapanon – Characters
    – Book 001 – Ashalapapanon – Events/Timeline
    – Book 001 – Ashalapapanon – Chapters
    – Book 001 – Ashalapapanon – Idea Stream
    – Book 002 – Hugta Awakens – Drafts
  • Video Project – Film – Holding Hans
    – Holding Hans – Scenes
    – Holding Hans – Dialogue/Script
    – Holding Hans – Directing Ideas
    – Holding Hans – Photography
    – Holding Hans – Casting
  • Audio Project – Music Album – Someone Stronger
    – Someone Stronger – Lyrics
    – Someone Stronger – Examples
    – Someone Stronger – Tracks
    – Someone Stronger – Instrumentation
    – Someone Stronger – Album Art

… and those are just the ones off the top of my head (I have over 100 different project notebooks purely for concepts that require space for their own idea stream and contain at least a decent chunk of notes each). At the end there you see the three examples of my own projects as stacks (explained below) and within that I have put several notebooks that each deal with certain aspects of the project. For a book I would then add my notes about chapters, character histories, drafts and all the stuff I might need for that idea into the correct notebook. If you can’t categorise the note just create an idea stream notebook for that project inside the stack. You’ll notice that I repeat the name of the project in each notebook rather than just simplifying it – that’s because of how the Evernote app works. Trust me, do it this way. I just found this the best way to deal with any project you happen to be working on, you might find your own way. You also might not need so many categories but I have the kind of brain that explodes with creativity on virtually any concept that I come across. Just as if I were to start dancing I expect my brain would force me to create new moves and choreography that would need documenting (actually when I do dance I get sooo manic and I end way funkier than anyone can ever get close to without my energy levels – I hurt for days after sometimes because of how I express music physically). I can’t directly say if my mind works that way because of my mental disorder or because long ago I simply surrendered to every creative notion that popped into my head or if it is just in my family history somewhere and I inherited it. No matter what I am doing or how I am feeling I ALWAYS record every idea (and this has annoyed more than a few people in the past and interrupted more than a few movies and cuddles). I’ll even add this blog to my Evernote (one clean and another version containing all the HTML junk), and then I’ll clip the articles mentioned in it into Evernote because that’s easily done if you have Evernote for Windows/Mac (Google Evernote Clipper for Chrome). The only time this all-out war on losing ideas fails me is when I’m dreaming and then suddenly in the dream I’m playing a song that doesn’t exist and by the time I’ve woken up it is hard to remember or fuzzy in that oh-so-typical post-dream way. But even then I have managed to force myself to wake up (learn about lucid dreaming) and record the idea most times. Sometimes I dream that I’ve woken up and recorded it and that’s a problem I’m yet to figure a solution to – but there’s only so much one person can do (it still ruins my day though). Now that I’m medicated though waking up mid-dream is virtually impossible…

It’s very important to try and keep things like ‘Scenes’ separate from either the Video notebook or anywhere else as it’s a more free-form concept and by coupling it with only videos you’ll stop yourself thinking about chapter events in a novel as a scene. A scene can be an event in your novel or an event in a TV show or film or comic or whatever. A scene doesn’t even need anything to happen, it can be a place you want to make something happen in – take photos of the restaurant you’re in if you think it could be used for a scene in a project down the line and you’ll be able to describe it much more perfectly later on. I especially do this if something happens there worth preserving.

So, back to the topic – notebooks…

Stacks:
You can also add several of your notebooks into what Evernote calls a stack… which allows you to expand on any of your categories, as below:

Stack – Music Projects:

  • Music Idea Stream (my personal default notebook)
  • Live Events I’ve Played & Song History (for keeping track of how often you play certain songs/venues live)
  • Songs I’m Learning/Cover Songs I Know/Cover Song Ideas/Cover Song Chords + Lyrics
  • Locations/Venues & Contact Information
  • Active Open Mics & Events
  • Song Reminders (to easily remember lyrics, guitar work, vocals, etc)

Tags:
Ah, tags. You may very well be aware of what a tag is. If not I suggest you look here. Once you’ve created your first note and put it in the correct notebook you’re going to want to create tags for that note. Rather than tell you how to add a tag I’ll show you how I personally structure them and why.

Example:
Title of Note – /R – These Crazy Games
Notebook – Music Idea Stream

Tags for this Example:

/R – These Crazy Games
\Album.These Crazy Games
@Music.Guitar.Capo 0 (No Capo)
@Music.Tuning.EADGbe (Standard Tuning)
@Music.Guitar.Model.TW46-FMP (Tanglewood)
@Music.Guitar.Right-Handed
@2011

Basically you want to include all the information you might possibly need to locate your idea in the future in your tags. Maybe in a year or two all you’ll remember is that this song had a capo on the 3rd fret or that the strings were tuned to DADGad, or that it was written on that old Tanglewood guitar that you haven’t touched in a while. The great thing about tags in Evernote is that once you have written your tag you only need to start typing the tag in the future and then Evernote will only show the tag options that match what you’re typing. If your tag is @Music.Guitar.Capo 6 you can just type ‘capo 6′ and it will only show that tag. By tagging the model of you guitar you are helping to guide yourself into being able to recreate this sound as close as possible ten years from now after you fell off stage and smashed the guitar or it got stolen and you never really bothered to find out exactly what model it was in the first place. I’ve said it before – it’s all about future-proofing.

If you realise that your song would group well in an album with another song I don’t suggest that you start tagging that note with the tag for whichever song you have in mind as it can get confusing down the line – rather I suggest that you create a new note and give the album a working title and then tag that note with the songs you think would fit together. I would then tag the most recent note of the song/s with that album tag. Also make sure to list the songs in the actual album note, this may seem redundant but it is essential to see tags as an addition to the note for organisation and the note itself as the main hub of the information. You don’t want any information lost in the realm of tags that should be in the note itself – I learned that the hard way.

Other tags I can suggest you create would be:
@Music.Guitar.Riffs + Licks
@Music.Guitar.Progressions
@Music.Guitar.Hooks
@Music.Guitar.Lyrics
@Music.Guitar.Song
@Music.Guitar.Song Concept*
@Music.Songs Waiting to Happen
@Music.Vocals
@Music.Trumpet
@Music.Raps

*Just what do I mean by ‘song concept’? Well it can be a random title you thought of for a song, a note in which you mention that you could create a song from whatever it is that comes to mind. For the most part once you have a song title or concept that’s unique or worth working on you can easily add the music and lyrics at a later date.

There is an art to conceptualising songs but it’s also a skill that needs to be developed and practised and a lot of the notes in my Evernote are song concepts without lyrics or even a single note of music to their name at the moment. Practising your power to create concepts is an absolute must and a lot of musical people I talk to don’t do it enough. I represent a song concept note by putting a / before the note title (/Song Title or Concept Name). Then I tag and copy that post it into the tag slot to be used as the main tag for that project. I just thought I’d mention that and I contain real world examples of conceptualisation techniques and the importance of practising that for maintaining a creative flow even whilst inspiration seems at a low in this blog post.*

Basically, just cover your bases and have a little think. It is far easier to add a tag that lets you know that the note is a riff rather than create different notebooks for each of these identifier labels. Which is why my main notebook is called the Music Idea Stream, as a part of the notebook stack Projects – Music.

Also, I suggest you conform to the following example for note titles:

1st Note of the Idea – /R – These Crazy Games
2nd Note of the Idea – /R – These Crazy Games – Riff Added
3rd  Note of the Idea – /R – These Crazy Games – New Verse Found
4th  Note of the Idea – /R – These Crazy Games – Better Chorus!

But make sure the tag is always only /R – These Crazy Games.

It is better to create a new note after each recording session. What I mean by that is that if you record an idea in Evernote (iOS – Android) and then you come back to that idea the next day with alterations you should start a new note, tag it with the same tags/unique title name as you gave the note from the day before, as shown above, rather than find the note from yesterday and start adding extra things into it. Otherwise you’re going to get confused when you come back and listen to it but you also lose the option to track the development of the idea because you’ve been editing the past versions into the new one.

 

 

Note About Possibly Annoying Problems with Tags in the Evernote App that I’ve Noticed in the Most Recent Update:

The current version of Evernote for iOS has two issues with tags that I feel are worth mentioning. Only one has a simple solution but neither are so drastic. 1) When you choose the ‘More’ option in your note you get the ‘Add Tag’ option and you have to type out the entire tag @Music.Guitar.Capo 6 for it to show you the tag to choose from your many many tags, whereas in the past you could just type ‘capo 6′ or even ‘MuSiC cApO 6′ and choose the tag and then be done with it. 2) They show two tags per line and you only see 12 characters per tag – which gives you only @Music.Guita…. This is very annoying as there are lots of frets on a guitar that can have a capo put on them. At the least it could marquee/scroll to show you the rest of the tag.

I already complained several times to Evernote and their representative told me that he will try to get the developers to solve it and I’m optimistic for it to return to the older method that worked beautifully some time soon.

There’s a simple fix to the first problem which is to simply press the + sign within a circle next to the ‘Add Tag’ text and it opens a little Tags window that uses the old method of tag searches in which you can search ‘Music guitar capo 6′ or even ‘MuS GUI CaPo 6′ and it’ll still show you the tag @Music.Guitar.Capo 6 and then you simply click on it. But still it’s limited to showing only 12 characters and two per line, which is daft.

HOWEVER, even though my way is logical (for me), I have this problem because I’ve been using these tags for the last few years and I designed my tagging system long before they made it a problem. You could always avoid this issue by simplifying your tags to just ‘Music’, ‘Guitar’ and ‘Capo 6′. It’s best you are aware of the possible issues and you can always rename all your tags one by one and this will blanket over all notes that contain those tags. Either way, you’ve been talked through this issue.

 

Note Titles:

Since my main use for Evernote is music I put a / in front so when I’m browsing my notes I immediately know that it is a song idea/concept/title. I’m less subtle if it is concerning stories, films, books, etc (in fact then I just type ‘BOOK – Book Name’, and at first I used different symbols in front, : for films, ^ for books and so on but it got confusing and complicated the more categories I had to contain. I extend this idea for music to albums by putting a \ then the album name. You also might wonder what the R in /R – These Crazy Games is there for. That’s to let me know that I wrote and play this song Right-Handed. This is to do with my Big Musical Experiment and I’ll go into that in a later page of this blog and it will make complete sense at that time. Even if you don’t play both left and right handed I still suggest you future proof on the off-chance you ever do choose to learn or if my experiment inspires you in some way. I also included the tag @Music.Guitar.Right-Handed so that I could easily group this idea with all the other right-handed songs together at the click of a button and not be left scrolling through tens of thousands of note titles. I still put the /R – in the title because that way I can quickly differentiate my notes as I scroll through them without having to open the note. I’m future-proofed for any possible scenario concerning browsing, searching and continuing any idea as easily as possible – because time spent wasted when a creative surge breaks your banks is creativity wasted and that should be a crime. I mean that literally, it should be a punishable offence. No, seriously.

I’ll try that again, but more concise:

A / at the front of the note title tells you it is a song when you’re scrolling through your endless notes by title. The / is followed by a song title or concept (/These Crazy Games). Adding /R  tells you it was written on a right-handed instrument, for me that’s one of my guitars (/R – These Crazy Games). Others I suggest you could use would be /V when the song is only a vocal idea (I’d probably use /VIOLIN – These Crazy Games for a violin piece called These Crazy Games), /L is what I use for a left-handed guitar based song. I also have /K for keyboards and /P for piano… /M for Mandolin? I suppose you could also add REGGAE or the genre but I’d normally keep that in a tag.  You get the idea, I’m sure. It’s just important to have something at the start of the note title so when you’re browsing your notes by title you can identify the idea you want to select without being forced to open the note to figure that out. I actually don’t use /V for vocal only notes I just use / as I let that represent a simple idea such as a song title, song concept, lyrical ideas or something that probably can’t be played as it is without extra work. I just figured I’d mention it for those acapella aficionados and to help you explore this organisational approach in which I would have you try to future-proof your notation methodology by planning ahead and putting systems into place that will save you the headache of having to go back and apply the new device you’ve adopted into your method because circumstances forced you to have to use it.

About the actual recording of your ideas within Evernote:

I’m just going to lay this out in order without much commentary. First, play the song through/dictate the idea. I suggest you repeat yourself at least twice. Then either palm mute the guitar or just sing the vocals on their own. Then play the guitar on its own. Then save that. And in a separate audio attachment within the same note you want to tell yourself exactly which fret the capo is on or isn’t, what tuning, what fret number each finger is on and not on for each chord/position (yes you can use chord names if you like but I still make double sure – I also have my own shorthand that I’ve developed for this because I don’t know musical theory very well or chord names). Then play each chord and position individually and then together in the progression – I tend to do about a barre and then comment and end on a full run through of all changes. I especially take care to speak out all frets within riffs and licks and other fancy stuff like trills, slides and hammer ons. Oh, and include any other useful information that you think might be useful later – like, for example, if you have used a thicker plectrum than usual, or if you’re holding your plectrum in an odd way as an experiment, or if you just changed your strings to a new brand or to 12s rather than 10s, or if you’re strumming with your thumb, or if you’re hooking your fingers in-between the high e and b so as to mute them. Because I guarantee you this – if you come back to this idea two years later there is a high possibility that if it contains one of those nuances (or anything else) and you don’t mention it you won’t be able to recreate that exact same sound. Sure, it’ll probably be similar, but why settle for similar? And what if you can’t figure it out and that nuance is magical? I even take photos of particularly odd hand positions and stuff and keep them inside that note. I also keep a small video and Dropbox it if the hand motions need to be seen to be understood and then leave a note to myself within the Evernote that I have this video in the folder /Dropbox/Projects/Music/Videos/These Crazy Games/ or whatever on my laptop (as well as mention that it is in passive mode on Dropbox if you’ve put the file into shadow – which I explain in the Dropbox section). Even if you’re using YouTube Capture as I suggest above I would still recommend routinely downloading those videos and Dropboxing them in case anything happens to your account ever.

Then I suggest you go ahead and write the lyrics into the note along with a quick ‘Capo on 6′ (or DADGad or anything useful) at the top of the note so you can easily print off the idea and have that reference at hand should you ever need it whilst playing live. Any lyrics in any of your notes, any word in fact, is searchable across all of your notes but not if the lyrics aren’t written down inside the note and are only held within the audio note (it’s possible that all-note searching option is a premium service only, I’m not sure). Also, since I create notes on the go a lot there’s always the risk that the bus that just passed me drowned me out so repetition saves you from that. Damn noise pollution is a constant headache to someone like me, and if you take my advice seriously, for you too.
=)

In the Evernote app you can set a password and have it erase all local data after ten failed attempts (which would not erase any ideas uploaded to Evernote) and if you have a premium account you can also download all your notes to your device which saves a lot of headache when you’re trying to load a song reminder for the song you want to play but there’s no damn signal in Whistle Binkies or wherever you are. I always make sure I am fully synchronised to the Evernote server before closing the Evernote app in any way. Losing your phone is one thing, but losing the ten or twenty minute dictation for a novel because you didn’t have it synched is another entirely more painful thing. I know that may be obvious but I figured I’d just assume you were a novice in all these matters and cover all my bases. Also, keep a phone charger with you at all times because nothing sucks more than not being able to get that idea out of your head because you have no battery power left – I once ran 20 miles in the middle of the night with a song in my head from a friend’s house because he had no iPhone charger whilst desperately trying to battle the creative impulse to enhance the song further whilst also trying not to forget any of the great lyrics, melodies and changes that were popping up…

The thing is, yes, I’m crazy obsessive about this and no, I don’t expect any of you to run 20 miles for an idea you just forget about the next day but someone you’re competing with IS willing to do that (it’s not necessarily me either). I am willing to and that’s part of what makes me different – that’s the cape to my super power (extreme creativity in case you weren’t paying attention – though obsession is a close second I’ll grant you) and that’s why I have so many damn ideas I can choose to work on. And the thing is I’ve been doing this for so long that I can’t imagine ever stopping, nor even ever getting close to desiring to. I am obsessive, I’m a maniac really, and I’ve only just now begun to choose to aim my energy into interacting with the world. Mostly I’ve hid away up until now, afraid to commit to anything because I know I’ve been unreliable but the medication is working and though I have a reduced number of creative attacks every day I feel like I can trust myself with larger responsibilities and if I’m willing to run 20 miles for a song that I happily forget exists the next day imagine the lengths I’ll go to with reaching my new goals – to gain prestige, respect in any particular chosen field and recognition? I’ll happily share those days as they come to pass and share my activity and ideas on achieving this new goal, but this blog is the first step and I feel like I’m stepping into the world for the first time.

We all play the odds, even highly successful bands write like 50 songs before their label tears them apart in review and ends up with 12 or so. If I write 20,000 songs and only 1% have any potential whatsoever that’s still a whole career in music.

So, in summary:

- Evernote
– Dropbox
– YouTube
– iPhone/Smart Phone
– 24/7 access to the Internet
– Surrender COMPLETELY to creativity
– Diversify
– Stay ORGANISED – plan it all out, future-proof the design
– Carry a charger for your devices – or one of those emergency battery devices you can get now

Why did I just try to force these ideas down your throat?

I give this advice to you freely because I have had to learn the hard way. I am in the position where I’ve only used Evernote (iOS – Android) for the last two years and I’ve been recording my ideas for over 7 years now.

Painful to think about, I have 185 folders in my Dropbox that have over 120 sound clips in them each (over 190,000 recordings). Each of those one minute maximum recordings has a generic generated file name of ‘Sound Clip 87′ or whatever at the extremely low quality of 42 kilobytes per minute (not designed for music). These recordings were recorded across several older phones like the Nokia 3300 using their simple Voice Recorder apps and at best keeping track of the contents by creating notes in their equally Lo-Fi notepad apps. I think I can honestly say I only know what is in 2,000 of those clips. And the things is, I bet a lot of them have traffic roaring over my voice, or have bits missing because it stops recording at one minute and I didn’t notice or I didn’t follow all the rules and guidelines I just set out as I hadn’t learned them yet or any number of problems – it’s possible that some of that data got corrupted at some point as I was dealing with manually copying/ripping data from an old phone to a computer through a memory card to USB adapter, manually backing them up into a HDD every week or so as I remembered/got around to it. Then there’s the 40MB+ (minimum) of raw text notes/chapters for novels/random quotes/lyrics or whatever that I also have to battle with some day (2 kilobytes is a page – you can fit 1,048,576 text characters in a megabyte – that’s about a million letters – see here for a proper breakdown and explanation). Hell, this blog post is creeping up to 10,000 words alone – it’s effectively a dissertation at this point. That insane amount of creative output is not me showing off, bragging or otherwise… though I rightly should… it is me complaining at the concept of having to organise it in the future because Evernote simply didn’t exist and trying to further drill the idea that you don’t know how much you’ll create in your life (or how good you’ll be at something until you’ve given it a proper go) so preparation for a creative lifestyle like mine is the most important thing in the world.

You seriously do not want to be in that position. I’ve been meaning to get around to organising that treasure chest cache of creativity for over two years now and still haven’t gotten around to it because it would literally take me 6 months or a year to do if I stopped eating and sleeping and did nothing but organise all day all night. Especially since my brain immediately starts building on these ideas as soon as I look one up.

I hope you’ve learned something here or at the least got a little insight to how and why I do the things I do the way that I do them. If you have any questions, corrections, suggestions or anything was unclear please let me know and I’ll clarify and then edit for clarity the part you had trouble with. I struggle in simplifying this stuff as I’m so immersed and have so much experience that thinking of it from the point of view of someone new to these things is close to impossible. I imagine you’re just a little overwhelmed with information right now but this page will stay here for you to review any time you like.

 

I apologise if I accidentally repeated myself a few times here as for the most part this was written off the top of my head and since I’ve edited it a few times over the last month it is definitely probable that I’ve overlapped but this post is too long for me to consider rewriting it and I’ve glanced through a few times already and if I have it isn’t too bad an issue. I somewhat doubt the majority of people will read this in one go anyway.

I’ll happily do a little tutorial video for Dropbox (iOS – Android), Evernote (iOS – Android) and YouTube (YouTube Capture – iOS) if I’m asked to do it at any time.

Grayson King

Introduction – Music and Creativity

1397486_10153439716475425_1553518197_o

Who the hell is Grayson King anyway and where does he get off making a blog?

I am he, that guy by that name. I even turn my head when people shout it out and everything. I am an experimental singer/songwriter and an all around extremely creative personality, sometimes borderline insane levels of creativity – by any standard you care to define. I will prove that last bit and then some even though some of it is out of my control. I have taken to quantizing the insane in the following way, so as to showcase my ‘talents’ but also to prove the statement (I have a horrible need to be honest and to just state things as they are) – in the last 6 years I have recorded over 400,000 minutes of raw ideas into Evernote on my varying iPhones over the years and if anything I am more creative now than I was up to the day I edited this for the 100th time. That’s 280 days straight of RAW ideas, ie, just the core concept written down or dictated (with the odd chapter draft for my novel series thrown in). You can actually pitch a good novel/game/film/anime in a couple of minutes. I’m here, in this blog, to share not only why I’ve done this (there are great gains from this behaviour and having such a catalogue) but to tell you exactly HOW I did it (and continue to do it) in the hopes that it can help you, creatively (because I also have a chronic need to help people – which sounds good but it can be a nuisance). There are many behaviours and methods that I either naturally fall into or that I have constructed myself – because here’s the secret to my entire existence – I am addicted to that rush you get when you hit that eureka moment and I will entertain any notion, no matter how ridiculous to get my fix. Except drugs of any kind because they aren’t sustainable in the long term and actually damage your brain’s ability to create new things. I also can’t afford the risk since I suffer from a severe mental disorder so even trying them once could put me ‘over the edge’.

I also just really want to create a platform where I can share a bunch of my ideas and concepts and philosophy’s – not the least so that I don’t have to ever verbally explain the stuff I’m sharing here ever again and so I can feel like I can move forward so I can create the space in my head to have even more ideas (brain downloading is a major part of my creativity). In short – this will be a lengthy blog. I have no interest in handing snippets of information out – if I have a topic you can be sure I’ll exhaust everything I have to say so then at least, I can move on. I also don’t agree with this tendency towards making things ‘simpler’, more ‘user-friendly’. I will not patronise my readers and some things are complex. You can absorb more than a couple of hundreds of words. Those of you that can’t should maybe read in short bursts. I just don’t want to be writing this blog for the rest of my life and to hand out only small bits of advice every post. I don’t want to string you along I just want my advice on the topic known. You can decide yourself if it is worth reading or not. =)

I put experimental singer/songwriter first at the top there because this blog is mainly about music, and it starts to look silly when you start an endless list of poet, author, inventor, conceptual artist and all the other things I’m into and create ideas for. But also the great bulk of my works are still at stage one (conceptualised not actualised) and it is only really my music that I can present forward as a completed project at this time because it is an instantly gratifying project to work on – you know your song has potential faster than most other creative forms show potential and I’ve not been stable enough with my ‘Bi-Polar’ until recently to work on anything requiring sustained attention or effort. And even that is only finished as far as playing them acoustically as I’m just now learning about sound engineering and stepping into the electronic and MIDI realm of guitar based sounds and music. My mind is due to explode with creativity at that time and I may never be heard from again… because I’m obsessive and a perfectionist. Everything I do musically is an experiment and a song can go from light reggae to ultra death metal, from a grimy bass to a sweet soprano (vocally), once I have explored the options that sound design can offer. If that is what the song requires to be the best version of itself then I’m not going to fight it. I’ll probably even fully mix and master a song only to decide it should be a completely different genre twenty years down the line. I refuse to stand still.

Always expect me to go in a million directions at once and to be extreme and ultimately attempt the epic in all things – that’s just who I am and I can’t help or control it and honestly I have no intention of ever attempting to change anyway. Hence the insane detail in the post after this. It’s a good thing, I think, and I hope my personality quirks can help you somehow.

Which is why I suggest that you maybe consider reading each post segment by segment rather than attempting to devour it in all one go – unless you can’t help yourself (he says, hoping it to be true haha). The next two posts are 10,000 words each is all… I can’t help but write every single thought and bit of advice down for you (and to release the pressure from inside my skull because if I don’t get this all out my head will actually explode… I can already hear it ticking). I tend to do that – exhaust my entire knowledge on the topic at hand – at least you’re probably not one of the poor people I have just met and have attempted to download my entire life in one go into your head. But aside from the odd joke it’s normally all just sound advice and put there to help guide you with as few road bumps along the way as possible if you decide to take that advice. You are more than entitled to disagree with me but I know what works for me and why in the context of the topics I’m sharing. I can not guarantee you a fix to your creative problems but I’m sure as hell willing to discuss it with you at length if you get in touch. I’m always available for further information or to clarify something that I have mentioned. I won’t be afraid to reply so don’t be afraid to ask. =)

A list of what to expect in this blog:

What will this blog be about?

Creativity. Mostly music. My unique approach (my expansive musical experiment) and how I cope with my extreme creativity as a part of my severe mood disorder. But also about the creativity and lives of the people involved in music that are in the background of the venues in Edinburgh carving out their dreams. From songwriters to guitarists, to buskers and an experienced sound engineer, getting gigs, people to know and doing gigs online through Second Life. I’m lucky to know a lot of people across many walks of life in music and I intend to interview them on their creative process, ask them for their advice and whatever else they might think would be good for other people to know, especially for musicians who have just found themselves in Edinburgh.

A second introduction to myself because the first was convoluted:

Hello. My name is Grayson King and I’m going to warn you right now that I will share aspects of my life and personal history that may not be easy to read or understand throughout this blog but which I hope will provide context for the blog and possibly help those who need it but also those that may be able to help someone like me in their own lives, or even to understand my/their experiences a little better. Maybe I’ll even have a few realisations myself by writing this thing. By writing what you know you find that you gain a new understanding (or get new ideas) so here’s to that possibility! This discussion of my life events will likely occur when I discuss my creative process, the meanings of some songs and other such things and I will not shy away from those details if they happen to be a part of the ‘story’. At some point I may decide that further context is required and then I will probably write a blog post just detailing out what my life has been like. Basically, and very much in short, aside from a difficult and complex family experience (which feels like a drastic understatement), I suffer from what can quickly be described as ultra ultra fast cycling Bi-Polar but more accurately described as a Mood Affected Disorder with Full Sensory Hallucinations and Creative Ideation – those darn doctors and their definitions, eh? I don’t quite fit into their guidelines so they don’t know what to define me as. I’m afraid this aspect of my life is all rather complex and ultimately unavoidable. To be honest they aren’t actually sure what is happening in my brain or the causes for my experiences. Could be a mood disorder mixed with schizophrenia. But, it IS fascinating and my experiences with this condition are quite unique and sometimes almost unbelievable even to myself. I mean, who gets to hallucinate an entire film in full detail down to the title card? I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. I don’t even drink caffeine. Hell, I don’t even eat simple carbohydrates like white rice (though I do have a sweet tooth when I feel sad). So, it isn’t external – it would be less interesting if it was. Yet, for all my creative scope and severe, detailed creative attacks (trust me that description is apt) I believe most of my creativity comes down to my behaviours. Which I can share and you can maybe copy or draw inspiration from. I doubt anyone will ever take what I do quite to the level of extremity that I do but that’s your loss and my personal strength. You probably won’t start hallucinating but I think I can help people that have problems with creative output or that are ‘stuck in a rut’. I’m also an obsessive thinker and I analyse things a lot. A LOT. No… even more than that amount you’re thinking of as a ‘lot’.
=P

I’m not a new age type personality and I won’t start telling you to drink a certain type of tea to achieve enlightenment. But I will say that, scientifically, drug use has been shown to actually decrease your brains ability to make new connections and so that over the years it (depending on ‘it’ and the person) can actually have a drastic effect. It basically disrupts your pathways and weakens the bonds between them along with potentially desynchronising your various lobes and functions that are supposed to work together (very much a layman’s interpretation but you hopefully get the point). Sure, the odd acid trip might force a new connection simply out of shock but it is NOT the long term solution to your creative needs. That’s just my opinion but then I can not understand (not that I judge – do whatever you want) how anyone could ever risk their mental health. From my perspective I’m trapped, albeit in a prison that keeps me entertained. I cannot figure out why anyone would willingly risk it. That’s all. It’s also absolutely not essential. You DON’T need to drink or smoke weed to be a musician. Though, certainly, it seems to be public opinion that in fact you do. One of my main reasons is the cash – I’d rather buy a new instrument than buy a few rounds at the pub. It adds up, quickly. But, each to their own. I won’t preach on it. In many ways I’m happy to be virtually the only entirely sober person I know. I tend to see what everyone else is doing and go my own way – and that’s one of those behaviours that makes me like I am, creatively.

But my condition is not the main focus of this blog, just an undeniable aspect of my life that bleeds into everything and I felt it best I get that out of the way as quickly as I could, like pulling off a BandAid. I may indeed start a blog solely about it at a later date as I am happy to share on this topic and I know how difficult many people like myself find it to tell even their closest friends what is going on and to find a path that is healthier than the one they are on. Personally I find radical honesty the easiest policy since then anyone I spend time with will be better equipped to handle the situation if I haven’t slept in 5 days and I try to feed their pet elephant a banana that they never bought. I am not a doctor though, and if you are experiencing any similar issues to those I describe I suggest you go to a GP as soon as possible. I also haven’t ‘beaten’ my condition (nor is it ever even possible to beat something like this at this stage) so please don’t think this a success recipe in any way, more a discussion on how I dealt and reacted to certain issues along the way, what keeps me occupied, and how that impacted my life both positively and negatively. Many of my behaviours, especially creatively, are actually coping strategies that help me live with this thing my brain likes to do. I coined a phrase a while ago – always coping but never managing.

This blog is about music and creativity, mainly. But I encourage any discussion you feel the desire to create.

About me in relation to this blog:

I said this at the top but I’m saying it again. In the last 6 years I have recorded every idea I have had and use Evernote to keep them highly organised, backed up, in the cloud, and readily available both on the go and at home. In these past 6 years I have recorded over 400,000 minutes (over 280 days straight) of raw ideas (most music), learned how to play guitar (and write songs) entirely through trail and error (and my own exploration) and written/half-written/conceptualised many thousands of songs and still going strong. I have invented many things including what I call The Grayson King Method which on the smallest level contains my musical philosophy but also the many behaviours that perpetuate these crazy levels of creativity I have become accustomed to. Now, everything I have musically created so far should not be considered the final product as I am just now starting the process that will allow me to finalise and fully realise my musical ideas – the art of sound design. Which is stage 2 of my Big Musical Experiment and The Grayson King Method. I am not an expert in music by a long shot, but I am a creative powerhouse. If I live ten lifetimes I will not be able to complete all the concepts and ideas I have created so far, those 280+ days of raw dictation cover over 100 different project types (anime, products, inventions, games, TV series, films, novels, the list goes on and on), coupled with the now 40mb+ collection of raw text of interesting conversations, funny things people have said, witty remarks, drafts of chapters of novels, and all that text only stuff – which may not sound like a lot but it really is for raw text. But that’s alright that I’ll never be able to live long enough to even see the great bulk of my ideas come to life – because my children can inherit the mountain that is my ideas cache and their children can too. I can also open up a shop to sell my ideas on my website some day. Or figure something out.

What do I hope to achieve in writing this blog?

I’ve learned a lot on my way to where I am now and often forged my own path due to my personal philosophy and approach to the world that has given me a bunch of inventions, innovations, The Grayson King Method of Music and Creativity, literary projects, and countless other things I have discovered or created along the way. Not forgetting the existing fantastic gadgets, services or products that I have encountered that will help me in my master plan but that also make this way of life (and one that I am committed to fully) even technically possible and that I’m amazed so little people in the UK seem to be aware of at this point. I can’t actually discuss all of these things in this blog at this time as I have realised that I should get legal advice before spilling the beans due to reasons of intellectual property rights, patent issues, trademarking and all that copyright jazz. I just want to share my obsession with one idea – how far can my own instinct, voice, ear, experience, intelligence and creativity take me in music whether artistically or in technical skill? I simply want to share the wealth of my views, experience and ideas whilst getting feedback on things and explaining why I have to do things the way I do and create a platform for people who are living a musical life to get interviewed and share their valuable opinions. These people are often fascinating and very rarely get a chance to offer their advice in this manner. Who even asks these days? I’d like to give a little insight into Edinburgh’s music scene but also a sort of ‘Welcome to Edinburgh’ for musicians or musical minded people. Plus I can get to know these wonderful people I play with out in Edinburgh that little better and that’s too good to pass on.

Besides that everyone tends to concentrate on the famous people and I’d like to create a place where we explore the entire creative process in those people whose life is about music and rarely get the kind of attention this blog may give them – if anyone even reads it haha. As a bonus I get to know these people better, which is a good enough reason alone to do it.

I’m also planning a YouTube series that includes performance pieces, videos in which I explore the creative process from the beginning to the end, interviews, intimate gigs and explanations or demonstrations to the things I discuss in the blog.

Grayson King.

-
-
-

- Here’s a little song that just has a nice melodic line and I find easy to listen to and fun to play and I just wanted to add for you -

-
-
-

We’ll get into the more dramatic, experimental and painful at a later date. I would like to point out that this is a very rough demo created moments after I had written the idea and is not what I consider perfect by far – for one I play it too quickly in this clip but I can’t find a more recent one. All I ask is if you can imagine the potential of my ideas, even if they are not as yet at the standard I am pleased with. Everything I do is an experiment and the juxtaposition with my perfectionism, as evidenced by my obsessive approach to making this first post functional, streamlined, topical and less than 3588 words, makes it stressful for me to put unfinished works into the public domain. I will systematically begin to make available a showcase of my works which are far more advanced, truer to my ability, and in higher quality in every respect at some point in the near future. Or I’ll do what I did, add a recent live set to this blog post at the top or even just keep editing these pages as and when I feel like it and/or a better example or idea becomes available.

| (• ◡•)|