Monday, January 25, 2021 - The Interesting Music I Find as I Learn New Songs

One of the more interesting things about what I’m doing musically during COVID is all the requests I’m learning and the process of learning them. I’m a solo guitarist and singer for the most part, and that’s how I approach a song - seeing what the structure of the song is and what the signature licks are that I can express on one guitar and with one voice. It’s sometimes a challenge when a song has a full band and even an orchestra. The rhythms can be tricky, and the vocal parts can be challenging figuring out on some songs what is the melody and the harmony. My favorite place to listen is on YouTube because there is not only the original recorded version (usually from the studio) but also various live versions by the original artist and also many covers both studio and live from people all over the world. That’s where it gets interesting - the rest of the world. There are pockets of the world where learning and recording cover versions of songs must be a favorite pastime because I’m finding especially Asian and Filipino versions of some popular songs that are amazing performances. I know that American culture is popular all over the world, but it’s phenomenal when you find performers who barely speak any English who can sing an English song better than the original singer. So sometimes I use these versions to hear and see a great arrangement or better interpretation of a song that I can base my version on. At the very least I can see the chords they are playing and the position on the guitar so I can figure out what the original player was doing. The talent and ingenuity of folks all over the world is just inspiring and sometimes humbling. So I’ll find one of these performances that I can use the lyrics and chords that I find on the internet to map out my own version of a song. There are even many, many people who give lessons on YouTube who show you how to play the main licks in a song. I’ve used those a few times as well. I should also say that I sometimes start from scratch and learn a song completely from just listening to the original recording. That’s how I used to learn all my songs - playing them from the 45 or LP while I scratched out the lyrics and chords on a piece of paper. But I’m more modern now. Once I have it on my laptop and formatted so I can see the whole song on one screen I can determine if there are better chords than the ones I’ve found online or better voicing to pick up some of the other licks by the group as I hear it. Then I have to listen to the song to get it in my head and make notes on the lyrics with chords on my screen so that I can perform it. Sometimes I have to listen to a song 20 times before all the nuances sink into my head so I can remember them. I don’t write out sheet music although I’m considering it since I sometimes am learning 20 songs a week. I’m not very fast with music notation although I have apps even on my iPad that make it easier and quicker to do. With notation I could at least capture the melody better although there are some things you can’t really capture in notation such as the feel of the rhythm or some of the quick syncopations. Lastly, I have to transpose the song and the licks into a key that’s in my vocal range, and then I rehearse it a few times or many times depending on the complexity of the song. I’m a pretty quick study, but some songs take a lot of work, and then I still mess them up when I perform them with the nerves from having an audience. Then before I do a show I pull all of the requests into one folder where I can sort them by who requested them so I’m ready to perform when I see the person on my concert. The worst part is that I hope these songs will stick with me, but I’m finding that when I try to revisit a song I had just learned a couple months before I often draw a complete blank when I look at my music as to the tempo or melody of the song. Then I have to go back and listen to the song a few times to get it back in my head. With 4000 songs in my main list on my laptop I guess I should expect to not be able to remember a lot of them. I like the challenge though. Most of the songs I learn I never get a fully-polished version, but at least I can get them to an acceptable level where I have the right feel of a song and the character of the performance. The rest is usually chalked up to artistic license, and I forgive myself for not getting it to the level I’d really like since I have a bunch more to learn and I know I won’t retain the song for long. It’s fun going through the process, and I’m thankful for the opportunity. So do you have any requests for my shows this week? 😃 

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What have I been up to? 

I was able to do a couple live shows online for my senior facilities last week. I finally figured out how to do good shows from my old computer so I can record them as I perform them and make them available for the facility to use for residents who couldn’t be a part of the live performance either because of social distancing rules or because of logistics. This will make my music more accessible and valuable to my facilities, and that’s a good thing.  

My Thursday show doing old cowboy music was really fun, and I think my audience liked it more than they thought they might. I didn’t do a lot of the sadder songs about dying cowboys and tragedies on the cattle drives - there are a lot of those. We still have a lot of cowboy songs I didn’t get to, so we will definitely do another cowboy song night in the future.  

My Sunday favorites show was really enjoyable as always. I continue to enjoy the camaraderie of my audience and their genuine affection for each other and the music. There are always new people along with so many old and new friends, and it becomes a happening every week! You should join us sometime if you haven’t.  

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What am I up to this week? 

I only have one senior show to do this week live. I’d like to record a few more things to put up on Facebook and YouTube. I think I said before that I’d like to have good recordings of some of these songs I’m learning in case I never go back to them. My live recordings are usually limited by the streaming quality, and I often don’t have the polish on them I’d have on a focused version of the song. I may just be making more work for myself though.  

My Thursday show 7-8:30 this week will be folk rock songs from the ‘70s. I have featured different artists from this period already, but I have plenty of other songs by people I haven’t gotten to yet in my shows. This will be fun to put together, and it should be a really good show of favorites. Please join me if you can. We are also looking at some really fun themes in the future including Bruce Cockburn, Neil Diamond, ‘60s tunes, folk tunes, more standards, and many more.  

My Sunday show 7-8:30 will be the favorites and requests we have come to love. I can’t believe the variety of songs I have built up for these shows that I still haven’t performed, and I always have at least a dozen new requests each week. Feel free to throw some more at me. And then come to the show to hear them!  

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That’s it for this week. LIfe is sure different lately, but at least I have a focus and am feeling like I’m helping and adding to life and others around me. What more is there? 

Best, 

Tom 

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Details this week: 

Who:  Tom Munch  
What:  playing and singing an online concert of folk rock ‘70s songs 
Where:  facebook.com/tom.munch and tommunch.com/online-concerts   
When:  Thursday, January 28, 7-8:30 pm mountain time  

Who:  Tom Munch  
What:  playing and singing an online concert of favorites and requests  
Where:  facebook.com/tom.munch and tommunch.com/online-concerts   
When:  Sunday, January 31, 7-8:30 pm mountain time

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