Category Archives: Pointless

Ryn’s Musicians’ Support Group ~ #11 ~ Confidence

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Confidence, like grammar, is the difference between

knowing your shit

and knowing you’re shit.

As someone who doesn’t necessarily find confidence easy to come by, as a musician or in general, I often find that when I am actually confident, I fear that I’m coming across as overtly narcissistic and rubbish as a human. This week however, I’m struggling with the opposite end of that particularly slippery spectrum… I notice that my confidence crumbles if I don’t perform enough, and unfortunately, through chance and circumstances beyond my control, my last 3 gigs have been cancelled.

I realised a while ago that in order to be confident, I need to make sure I have given myself the best opportunities possible to actually be good at stuff. This means, as I said in my last post, practise as much as I need to. This also means put myself in places emotionally that make me feel good about my music. I recommend going to open mic nights for this, if you don’t have much of a chance to do regular gigs. I notice personally that if I haven’t performed for a week or two, suddenly I forget that actually I feel natural on stage now, and I revert to my default state of ‘self-conscious-and-rather-chubby-stuttering-paranoid-15-year-old.’ If you’ve never been one of these, I really recommend that you don’t try it any time soon. When I was said painful adolescent, however, I was lucky enough to receive the very best advice about manufacturing confident behaviour that I think I’ve ever had:

“Fake it until it’s real.” 

This is actually backed up scientifically by an amazing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy: ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,’ which I sincerely recommend for anyone who might get nervous about anything ever in the world.

Also, I’ve been super confident at some stages of my life, and at those times I’ve thought to myself: “Yasssss!! I’ve finally managed to be confident! I’m going to be like this for EVER!!”

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And gone around in some variety of glowing chutzpah haze until the next time I don’t perform for a while (or indeed until maybe I look at a picture  of one sad kitten too many on the internet, and find myself quivering in paroxysms of self-doubt for seemingly very little reason.) The thing is, mentally I haven’t done much differently than when I’m a radiant picture of self trust and certainty.

Cultivating a mental attitude of confidence is always going to be a work in progress.

The same very wise and dear man who gave me the wonderful advice on confidence when I was a teenager had something more to tell me in my early twenties. He said that even he (as a successful musician and composer for many years) constantly has to monitor and encourage his own confidence. He said it is a lifelong thing. ~ This newsflash, coming from someone whose work I really value and respect, (who has a collection of rather bodaciously shiny gold disks on his wall) and who I really see as a musical success, works as the ultimate validation for me in times of anxiety.

So actually, the first picture I posted was a big fat lie. Everything isn’t necessarily going to be okay… Confidence will be a constant struggle for some people, and may be a piece of piss for others. There is one thing we can do though ~ we can make it okay in our own minds, by accepting that it will always be a challenge, and that this is normal even for very successful people. So in that respect, everything is going to be okay.

Remember, you are love.

Xx Ryn

(If anyone has anything to add to this, or has any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment!)

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Filed under Confidence, Funny, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, Observational, performance, Performing, Pointless, Recording, Songwriting

Ryn’s Songwriting Suggestions ~ #8 ~ What makes a good song

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A good song is like an ecosystem. It supports growth.

Although obviously ecosystems are vastly complex, and have various symbiotic systems in place to keep equilibrium, they do what great songs do. Every element comes together to create the right environment for every other element, and the cycle of life perpetuates.

Do excuse me if I am overtly verbose this evening, I’ve had a few drinks.

There are rhythmic choices you can make which influence the meter of the lyrics, the meter then affects which kind of melody you can use, which affects the chord choices, thus pretty much affecting the whole songwriting process. And that’s without going into how changing the melody has an effect on the song’s meaning, and emphasis on certain syllables / words rhythmically can totally change the ‘grammar’ of how the song comes across, without changing a word of the lyrics.

Some say I think about this too much. And they would of course be right. But also, other people think about sport this much. Or taxidermy. So.

Anyway, about the thing.

What makes a mediocre song.

If there is too little in the way of melody, or if the melody is too repetitive, then I get bored easily. If the rhythm is lacking in drive, same thing, however this doesn’t always have to be the case. (With any so called ‘rule’ in songwriting, the opposite can often be just as true. It’s a personal preference thing really I guess, as it is with all art forms.) If the chords are too obvious, I tend to think I’m listening to Oasis and I start to want to stab pens into my eardrums, however, a two chord song is one of the hardest things you can pull off as a songwriter, and I thoroughly recommend that you try it! If the lyrics don’t quite catch my imagination, because they are not as visual or sensory as they could be, or they just repeat or bumble around a topic without any real insight or self discovery, I get bored. Basically, I get bored of songs really easily. What makes a GOOD song, then, is something quite rare.

~ On a side note, I just called my cat a “little Honklehooter.” Just thought that was a particularly good term for that reprehensible animal as he bit my sleeve. If you should need it, I give you my express permission to coin the term. ~

 

What makes a good song.

If the song supports growth in the listener, it has done what it is supposed to do. If it has connected the listener to a previously unacknowledged aspect of their emotional reality, and increased their insight just a little, however consciously acknowledged that may be, the song is working. If the song makes someone happy, it is doing a good job.

All of the elements of the song supporting each other, but still leaving enough space for it to breathe.      1064-claude-debussy-quote-music-is-the-silence-between-the-notes

But equally…

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Unless of course you DO live more than once, but that’s not a good enough reason to cop out, so just get on with it already!

 

Balance is key.

Art reflects life innit.

More alcohol for me. My cat has shunned me. I think I got sweetcorn on him.

The Test Of Time.

If you can get to the stage where you can write from a place that is so true to you that you can engage emotionally with the song EVERY time, for years, then you have won at life. If you find your songs going in and out of relevance, that’s fine, as long as you can convincingly deliver them with consistent emotional presentation. If you find other people’s songs that resonate with you in a consistent way, then THEY have won at life and you need to try and figure out just how the shiny great fuck they did that! I guess my advice for figuring out how to write coherent and emotionally congruent songs would be: Get to know yourself better. Simply that. If you can meditate, do that as often as you think of it. If you can’t, don’t worry. You’re already doing what you need to do. Just write as much as you can. Be where you are in life and try to hold yourself in equal regard to your loved ones.

Remember, you are love.

My cat has fallen asleep on my feet.

Ryn xx

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Ryn’s Songwriting Suggestions ~ #7 ~ Symbolism

Symbolism ~ a really good way to say what you mean without being super obvious.

Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with hidden meanings. It’s always seemed to me that there is so much MORE to the world if you just take the time to look for it. That could be summed up by the phrase: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” And I both love and hate not knowing things. I suspect that is because I am a human.

When I was 16, one of my teachers was showing us how to analyse TV adverts. He said that the script, the colour schemes, the little pauses in the speech, the font and size of writing, the choice of camera angle, lighting, music, background sounds, the race, age, costumes and face types of the actors had all been designed specifically, methodically and deliberately in order to target the emotions of their purchasing demographic ~ to get their audience to want to buy their product. Now, I realise that in one way, this is a totally fucking obvious thing to say, but at the time, the idea, to me, that so much thought could go into something that taps into people’s minds on a subconscious level was a total revelation. It seemed way more significant than my previous understanding of advertising, which, until that day, went like this: “Here’s a thing! Buy the thing!” The fact that psychological human truths were being exploited by these companies to say such fucking stupid materialistic bullshit blew my furry little mind. They can affect people on an emotional level very easily. For me, it’s mainly their use of music. That was the day I began to discover what a big, powerful (and terrifying) machine the media really can be. Over the course of the next decade, watching the media affecting people in various ways (6 years ago my TV broke and I haven’t missed it) I had one thought which has surfaced again and again regarding symbolism and its affect on people, namely: “If the media can do it, so can I.”

I will never forget that day at school, or the teacher who helped me to open my mind.

Another person who really helped me open my mind was Ane Brun. I met her at one of her gigs in Feb ’16 and did a fairly passable impression of a stuttering twat. She is a Norwegian singer and an excellent songwriter, and her work is the most influential art I have ever had the privilege to experience. I don’t fangirl all over the place too easily, so here’s why I mention her. The woman uses the most open language possible, and English isn’t even her first language. Wherever they are emotionally in their lives, she writes in a way that allows the listener to project their own version of events over whatever she is saying. It’s phenomenally skillful. It also only works as songwriting providing the listener already shares a certain level of understanding with her. If the listener isn’t receptive in the right way, it can totally turn them off. I was one of those kinds of listeners when she brought out her It All Starts With One album. Before she had released that, she wrote perfectly nice songs. She has a distinctive voice and a way with visual imagery and melody/harmony and key change that I found very pleasing as a fellow songwriter. When I didn’t understand the album at first listen, I felt disappointed. None of the obvious images were there, and if they were, they didn’t create a linear structure of narrative, they just sort of hung there, awaiting confirmation, disjointedly. Or so I thought at the time. My own misanthropy had led me to such a dark mental place that I could no longer experience the symbolism from her work that I had so thirsted for as a kid. In order to interpret Ane’s new album for myself, my whole life had to be rearranged. This was in 2012.

I went away to another city for a weekend, and in the process had the most profound experiences I could ever hope to acquire! One of those was that I realised I had to start meditating. I’d tried meditation before, but had always hated it and given up within minutes because it seemed pointless. Now, when I tried it, I really needed it. My mind was working at such a pace that I could be having two conversations with the same person at once and they wouldn’t notice. Or maybe I was just going a bit crazy. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The point is, in meditation, I realised that if I focussed my attention on my individual Chakras, (for the non-hippies, this means certain energy-centres within the human body) I could get a whole load of information from them about what was going on with me, physically, mentally and emotionally. The colours of the Chakras revealed themselves to me at the time as well. Suddenly everything made sense about what made each Chakra relate to each colour. Colour symbolism played a big part in my life then. To this day I let my eyes decide which is their favourite colour on which day. It gives me an indication of which areas of myself and my life I need to focus on. That is an example of how symbolism helps me write. If I ever use colours in songs, that will be why. I won’t put the colour meanings I found here, just in case they are different for you if you decide to meditate on (or just think about) them. I’m sure not everyone’s perception of purple is what I would call purple after all, because actually, I’ve decided that my job here is to let you discover this stuff for yourself. If meditation isn’t your bag, then I guess Google can take care of what the colours mean to you!

I was having a kind of mental breakdown/breakthrough/awakening at that time, and Ane Brun’s It All Starts With One album helped me change my life so much for the better! I gained the understanding of myself that was necessary to understand her album… Or maybe the album helped me to understand myself… I’m not sure which! All I know is that there were revelations clicking their way into place in me that I had long since given up on. I still get something new out of that album nearly every time I listen to it. I really, honestly felt like I was reborn back then. Given a fresh start and a hundred thousand new perspectives… And let go of being who I thought I was. Let go of being anyone, really. Since then I have never looked back, and I have even started creating songs which, at least to me, affect me in a similar way and remind me of what I learnt during that time in my life. I had needed more from life than I was allowing myself to experience back before this shift in my perception of reality… And before I stopped taking myself so seriously! (I can’t believe I haven’t said shart for WEEKS!)

Another type of symbolism I love to use is elemental. Air = Thought, Water = Emotion, Earth = Body + Physicality, and Fire/Light = Awareness/Spirit/Consciousness. This gets used in nearly every song by me these days! It’s such a wide field, I love it!

I am also quite a fan of using animals as symbolic elements in songs. There is so much in the realm of animal symbolism that I won’t be able to put it here. There are too many animals for a start! I love using birds, as they are such a perfect mixture of thought, emotion, and body.

Buildings can be used as a good metaphor for the self. A castle, particularly, can be useful, or two castles could represent both the conscious and the unconscious minds of the writer. All of this is dream symbolism as well.

I am constantly attempting to learn more about symbolism, so I may post more about it in the future. If you have any suggestions of your own, or any comments about this post, I would love it if you left a comment at the bottom! If this post was a little “far out” for you, I hope you got something out of it anyway!

Remember, you are love.

Xx Ryn

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Ducks

Duckies!Here are some ducks doing a Jesus impression because it will enrich your life.

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