Two weeks ago my family and I went down to Nashville, Indiana for the Indiana Fingerstyle Competition. This was my third year going to the event. In 2013 I came for my first competition ever, which was pretty intimidating. After not making the finals that year, I pulled out my notebook and made notes of things I noticed about all the finalists so I knew what to work on. Last year (2014) I came back with some new tunes and improved technique and took second place. With more experience this year I came back and won!
Aside from performing I am a college guitar instructor. Many of the students I have are beginners and hobbyists. By nature of being in college, these students are looking towards future careers and lifestyles so for these non-music majors, the guitar may not play a vital role for them. Regardless, they are still drawn to it and want it to be a part of their life. Along with seeing this I've encountered many adults and retirees who have told me they wish they stuck with the guitar when they were younger and kept it up. So I feel compelled to develop a motivation for students when they are younger that they can more likely hold on to through their life.
This short blog was actually kind of exhausting to write as I relived all I went through to put this album together. I almost gave up on this album project a few different times but that still small voice kept me going. This has certainly been the most rewarding project I’ve ever done and I’m looking forward to traveling around with the Trust show this next year.
As many competitors commented this year, guitar performance is not a competitive sport. It’s interesting at these competitions because all the players seem to really support each other and want to hear each other at their best. I think it’s a genuine love for the instrument and the inspiration that comes out of each player. You get to see who each person is through there playing. I performed in the Walnut Valley Fingerstyle Competition, the Canadian Guitar Festival Competition, and the Indiana State Fingerstyle Competition this year as well as last year. Being a part of these really pushed me to be a much better composer and player. I felt like my arrangements for the Trust album came out really well because of the influence of the competitions.
I'm so excited to finally get out and perform the TRUST show that I've been working on for about a year now. The first concert was this last week and I'll be performing it through September at various churches. After that I'll take a month before taking it to the road again. The album is very near completion. I hope to release it by the end of August. I'm taking pre-orders at concerts until it comes out. Thanks everyone for the prayers and support to help make this happen. I could not have done it without my loving family and friends.
I just finished up my February shows last week at Ionia First United Methodist Church in Ionia, MI. I had 7 performances around West and Southern Michigan with some really great venues and very enthusiastic audiences throughout. Thanks to everyone who came out.
I'm now back to focusing on the Hymn album as well as booking the summer tour for it. In this article I have three ways that you can be a part of this project. Read on.
I need your photos of God's natural creation
Make a video of yourself saying “Trust in the Lord when... (fill in the blank)”
Request me to bring the Hymn concert to your church
I've been pretty quiet here online but I do have a lot going on with my music. This past year I worked really hard on The Duo Project album and tour. That took up a lot of the first half of the year. Things went really well and we are planning to do another tour this next summer. The album is now available on iTunes and Amazon to download. You can also order the physical CD through CDBaby. Another big thing I worked on this past year was preparing for and competing in three of the biggest Fingerstyle Competitions. This took a lot of extra practice time and mental preparation for me. I also had performances throughout the year as well as teaching lessons. It's been a real growing year for me and I'm excited about the new projects ahead for 2014 including two new albums and a custom guitar. Read on to hear what's happening.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. I had a great time at the festival. Here's a video from the competition. I'll be heading off to the Wallnut Valley Fingerstyle Competition next month.
I had a unique experience yesterday as I was teaching guitar in a lesson so I thought I’d share it.
I have a young girl who has been working on “Silent Night”. She has been practicing strumming the chords while singing. She had a dress rehearsal this last weekend with the song for a performance she will be doing this coming weekend. She told me how she was really nervous so I tried to give her some advice to calm her nerves.
We began talking about what the song was about so she could try to focus on that rather than worrying about what the audience might be thinking. I read one line at a time and asked her what it meant. If she didn’t know I would help guide her to the answer as best as I could.
We talked through the first verse and the student knew of Jesus and the basic Christmas story that Jesus was born in a manger. As we got into the second verse we talked about why the shepherds were shaking and what heavenly hosts were. The student knew about the shepherds seeing angels and being frightened. The end of the second verse says “Christ the Savior is born”. I wasn’t really planning on explaining any of this but I thought, “this is going well, why not?” So I asked if she knew why Jesus is called the Savior. She wasn’t really sure. So I explained how God created man and made man perfect. She knew about Adam and Eve and the snake. I continued telling that man started doing bad things that wasn’t what God wanted. From then on every human would do these things that God didn’t like. I told her that the Bible says that if you do anything wrong you will go to hell. Her jaw dropped and she looked scared. Then I said, BUT!!! I told her that Jesus, who is from God (briefly explained how confusing that is), came and died to make up for all our wrongs and all the peoples wrongs of the past, present, and future. We just have to believe that he did that and we get to go to heaven! She smiled and seemed a little excited about this.
We went on to talk about how Jesus came not with a triumphal entry making all kinds of noise and commotion about it but as a baby born in the animal stable ... Silent Night. We talked about how when you decide to believe what Jesus did, God sort of gets in our brain or conscience and helps us to make better decisions.
What an awesome experience that just came out of nowhere. I had no intention of doing that but in the moment it was just sort of coming out of my mouth. Thank God for using me in this situation and I pray she comes to know Christ.
I'm so excited to share my new album with you! My fans are so great and encourage and support me in so many ways so I really worked hard at making this album the very best for you guys.
I just played for a private party last night and the party was for a 16 year old Chinese exchange student. She gave a concert through singing and playing piano and asked me to come and play with her and share some of my music. Her approach to music is so inspiring, especially at her age. She is so passionate about music and loving the audience through her music. She had a way of bringing a smile to everyone listening.
As I've been sharing my music in concerts this last year I realized more clearly than ever that the music isn't about me. It's not about money or my gain. It's about the way music can communicate and lift someone up or sympathize or energize or.... Music has a power as I've said before.
The ALIVE album really expresses this. I know this by the effect it has on my listeners and the feedback they give me. I guess I do gain because it is very satisfying to see this happen. When I see people being affected by my music it drives me to make more music and better music.
So THANK YOU to all my listeners and I sincerely hope this new music adds to your life.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
I have 6 pieces recorded now. I've done a few photo shoots and got the shots I need for the album artwork The process has been slower than planned but more than anything I want a high quality album. I've been doing a ton of research on photography and audio mastering to create this album with what I have and the budget I have. So far I'm getting the results I want
Something I'm working on right now is writing a new piece for the album. All of the other pieces for the album I've had completed for a long time. The inspiration was that I thought I should have another 12 string piece on the album. I also thought I needed a more intimate piece. I actually dabbled with this piece a while ago. It started with using the same tuning I use on the piece "Alive" and messing around with different chord positions. I found some that worked with the tuning. As I played around with the chords I came up with the main theme. Only now have I really listened to the piece to see where it wants to go. I know artists are probably the only ones who might get this but to me, if I just listen, it's often very obvious where the piece wants to go. I might hear a general idea in my mind or something specific. So I've basically got the piece organized how I want it and I just need to refine it a bit and start recording.
Thanks for following my journey.
Well I stayed up tonight recording while the family is asleep and I think I got 4 or 5 really good takes of "Alive". I'll sleep on it and listen tomorrow to make sure I like what I've recorded. I think this piece is going to be the hardest piece on the album so it will be nice to have it out of the way. I've been working on it for about 3 weeks in recording and I still had some technique to work out and I got it figure out. This piece has taken a lot of focus to get some good takes all the way through. I don't want to splice in any sections because I think I loose the feel of the piece.
For any of you doing your own recording, here are some things I discovered tonight while recording:
I experimented with mic placement on my Alvarez 12 string. Here's the patterns I tried. I did an XY pattern where the two mics are close to each other and angled in towards the sound hole. They are about 12" away from the guitar. Then I tried moving them wider after watching a video of Tommy Emmanuel explain his microphone setup. So I had a mic out from the 9th fret about 12" and angle toward the 19th fret or so. The other mic was out past the bridge (to my right) and angled in towards the bridge. I tried a few different distances from the soundhole and found I really liked the wide mic technique so that's what I recorded with.
I also found that I was picking up a lot of breathing noise from my nose. Earlier today I used a Neti Pot to clean out my sinuses in hopes of minimizing this but I still was picking up the noise tonight. So I worked on just breathing through my mouth and I think I did a pretty good job of controlling it. I've heard that great studio musicians learn how to control all these extra noises so I figured I better get picky if I want to compare with the best.
My busy month of concerts is coming up so I hope I can get at least a few more songs in by next week.
I've also decided to add a song to the album that I haven't finished composing yet so this will add to my to do list for completing the album.
Until next time,
I was hoping to have the Alive album ready for summer concerts and I'm sorry it's going to take longer. I thought about rushing it but I really want to put out something great. I want to polish it as much as possible.
I'm currently working on the title track. After recording it I decided to make some changes to the composition and there were some spots I wasn't playing very cleanly so I've been reworking the piece. I've also been getting over a sinus infection where my left ear is still plugged up so I can't hear if the microphone placement is on or not.
I'll take some pictures or maybe post a video so you can see how I'm recording and miking the guitar.
I've also been getting ready for summer gigs which I'm super excited about. Hope to see you at some of them.
About a month ago I performed my latest composition in an Easter service. I started the project this last winter and was trying to depict an accurate story of Jesus' life through instrumental guitar and a slideshow presentation that included images and scripture. As I worked on the piece, the meaning of Jesus' life, death, and coming back to life took on a whole new depth for me. The piece became so powerful that it was difficult to practice. The music would take my mind to such new and powerful places that I became overwhelmed. I was very surprised and excited to see and hear the impact the piece had on others when I presented the piece.
As Easter approached and I was developing an introduction to the piece I began to wonder how much impact this piece would have on others. It was very powerful to me but would that translate to others? I decided I needed to explain some background of the piece without giving away everything.
Before performing the piece, I explained to the audience how the story of Jesus has mostly been a fiction story to me. I've grown up in the church and have been around Christians my whole life. Through research I've come to learn that there must be a God and the Christian Bible is a trustworthy source of understanding God. Somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10 I began to have a small acceptance that Jesus made me right with God. This belief has remainedrather minuscule until working on this new composition. Somehow the music has taken my mind and emotions to new levels so that this story of Jesus has become much more real to me and not just a story and not just something that happened in history.
(If you are new to some of these ideas, please check out what the Bible has to say or ask me more about this stuff because this is a matter of your life. My best encouragement to getting you to look into this is - if there is a heaven and a hell, don't you want to go to heaven? If you want to go to heaven, don't you want to know how to get there? Also, if there is a God He is going to exist whether you decide to believe in Him or not. Through years of doubt and research all this has proven to be true to me.)
After giving my introduction I gave my presentation of the piece which can be viewed below.
As I performed the piece and followed the timed slides I thought of how Jesus took the punishments I deserved for all the things I've done against God. I imagined that it should be me taking on one of the worst punishments ever known to man. This includes being beat and thrown around, stripped naked, carying a huge wooden beam during all of this to the spot where you will be tortured, being nailed through your feet and hands to this beam, and then hung there while a crowd stairs at you and mocks you.
As the performance went into the part where Jesus died I had a strong realization that Jesus did this in my place so I didn't have to go through that and so I can be allowed into Heaven and be guided in this life to experience greater joy and peace.
The slides and music begin to show that Jesus came back to life. This is something that is very difficult to believe but by this time my heart and mind are consumed by what I've been experiencing and to see that Jesus came back to life to prove that He is God in human form and to prove that there is a form of life after death, I am overwhelmed. I began to experience the greatest and most uncontrollable joy I have ever felt.
As the piece keeps growing more and more joyful and finally ends, I am lost in this realization of what Jesus has done. I hear the audience clapping and cheering but I don't acknowledge them because I know their cheers are for what Jesus has done for them and I didn't want to try to steel any of that credit. I put my guitar down and went to the first open seat I could find and sat down and cried uncontrollably.
(Please understand I am not trying to say how great I am because I have many flaws and my performance included flaws, but I just want to explain how powerful God is and how He can use any of us through our own talents to explain and share His power. This is one account of that in my life.)
After the service I am greeted by people and realize that the power and understanding I felt was translated to many others through this performance and presentation. I can't believe that a weak person like me could create this kind of impact through a box of wood with strings on it and some pictures and words being flashed on a screen.
I have now realized more than ever that God can work through all of us, including me, and that music can be used to say so much. It can make you laugh, cry, be bored, grow tired, wake up, have peace, and so much more. It can do all of this in ways that no words or anything else can do. This is why I love music and why I know it must be God lead to experience the most out of music.
Well I'm basically done building my new studio. I've already explained a lot of what I've included in my studio. I just wanted to post some photos of the finished product. This is pretty much a DIY studio so I'll explain how I built some of the products. I've been researching soundproofing and acoustics for 3 or 4 years now and have finally built everything I could imagine on a limited budget.
One of the coolest things that my wife and I built together was the Skyline Diffusors. The picture above shows a close up of one of them. And here is a photo of my wife cutting some of the 564 blocks needed for four diffusers. The purpose of a diffuser is to disperse sound waves so they don't just bounce back and forth between opposing walls. I could have used some absorptive...