October 2019 – A Curious Reflection

Hello, it’s Thien The Nguyen. We have much to catch up on.

I took off in October to focus on different music activities. I think the model of alternating months of blogging and not blogging is working for me so far. That means one month of intensive writing and composing (and sharing them on this blog), following by one month of pressure free studying and reevaluating my goals.

I believe that deadline is helpful, especially in art to produce and move on to creating the next thing. If the artist is sucked into the black hole of perfectionism, he will not able to move on to learn the next thing. I’m been there. I’ve been so afraid of churning out a bad product that I let it catch mold in my computer for forever. Deadline definitely help with that, it helps us move on, to quit working on the previous project when they are good enough. This way, we will learn, and be able to churn out gradually better stuff day by day. Just have to accept that sometimes we don’t do well, but it’s important to push them out anyway so we can move on to the potentially better one.

And we should not be concerned with whether this recent product met the expected quality that other people expect of us based on past performance. This is exactly why the movie sequels stuck in a rut of repeating the same thing again, they don’t try to experiment with new things, but stick to the old formula that works to please people.

The month off is still necessary, first to avoid stress of constant deadlines, and to dive deeper into things that require more time investment upfront. For example, I tried out a new notation software and a new Digital Audioi Workstation, That requires time of not being able to produce music. But because of this time investment, I can potentially make better music in the future.

Ok, so what did I do in the October?

In October, I pushed a local music composing group into reality. The group is where people compose to weekly challenges, share, and critiques our work, so we can learn from each other. It takes place every Monday, hence this quirky audio I made for the group:

The music composing group is now the reason I enjoy Mondays.

Throughout this, I learn that consistency is key to starting something, when we know there is a need. I know that there isn’t a composing club or group in my local community, so I stick with it. I only do this for my own need of making more friends who share the same passion as I do. The by product is I organized something, figure out the logistic of making music, sharing music, and commenting on each other’s, at first offline, then online.I take the hard work of organizing so I and other people can have a good time only worry about making the best music we can. I’m by no mean the leader of the group, but I did lead in willing this group from an idea into existence.

Then it dawns on me, I tried so much in high school and college to join club leadership positions, but they all feel bland and I didn’t enjoy it. But now, I see this as necessary to get what I want (a music composing group) since no one else is willing to do it. So wanting to lead is the incorrect desire, incorrectly wanting to do something and, if required, lead people in the process is the correct desire

In October, I went to music jamming sessions for the first time and join a beginner band. It was fun, and eye-opening at the same time. I thought I’m decent at music performance until I’m at the band stand, struggle to jump in at the right time for my part.

While improvising, I learn that if I approach it randomly, I will soon run out of ideas of things to do, I’ve already run up and down the highest and lowest notes of my vocal range and varies tempo, what I’m going to do next? When I tried to approach it like a mini composition, which means I established a core idea and gradually expand on it, introducing new idea one thing at a time, saving my vocal range for later iterations of the idea and keeping it slow at first, so I can make it more exciting later on during my improvisation. Improvisation is still composing, but on the spot.

In October, I tried a Cubase (a DAW or audio software), not liking it a bunch, though, due to the complexity. I find myself enjoying writing notes on the staff paper than arranging sounds. I later discovered Dorico, from the same developer as Cubase: Steignberg. I’m loving it. The ease of writing notes on the staff plus the great sound library available meaning I can create better sounding music. Comparison of Every Journey Ends in the old software and the new software.

Audio from Noteflight (old software)
Audio by Dorico (new software). The violin sound is a bit more smooth. But of course, still nowhere comparable to a real performance

In October, I started to transcribe the music pieces of the level that I want to achieve. Transcribe every single sound. This way, I can learn how the great composers arrange different instruments in their piece, how it all fit together, the dynamic of them, and understand the harmonic structure as well.

In October, I started to train my ear so I could recognize different notes in the Major scale so I can potentially identify the chords in split seconds after hearing them, and not necessarily have to replay the same portion many times. It’s definitely slow, but I can see some progress. I can start to hear the different qualities between I IV and V chords while jamming blues.

What’s next, then?

With the slightly better sound quality, I decided to start uploading my music to YouTube. First, this platform makes it easier to look for and jump between my different music pieces, rather than having to look for specific related blog post on the blog. Second, YouTube is more geared toward sound in compare to a blog. But why not Soundcloud, for example? Each social media platform has its own ettiquet. I’m using YouTube pretty much on a day by day basis and know how to navigate it. Also, YouTube is kinda big, if ya haven’t heard.

And of course, I will keep writing, composing. Prepare thyself, especially, thy ear.


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