THE ESSENTIAL MUSICIAN’S TOOLS: ACCOUNTABILITY & RECORDING

In a chat with a musician friend today I found myself responding to
his questions with both biblical but also practical input.

In very brief, I shared the following points:

Like a sports team, church, coffeehouse or business staff or any other
group of people who share a common interest and at least generally a
common goal there are several ongoing discussions that must happen for
true unity.

Unless one or more people bring practical leadership skills and
good/open communication to the group dis-organization is likely.

As on a sports team, not all are natural scorers. Some are better
defenders, some better at linking front and back (in soccer,
“midfielders”) and some are better with hands than feet (in football,
perhaps kickers as opposed to wide receivers) or goalies as opposed to
forwards.

Not all have the attitude, aptitude, or natural ability to protect the
goal, likewise to spin and score.

My point is that someone or group of someones -as well as at least a
good number of the rest of the people involved- have to agree that you
or I are at our best in this or that position, serving as part of the
team in this or that role, etc..

It’s a judgment call and I frankly don’t think there is any way around
such a reality.

What has this to do with music?

You may be a singer, but not the best at “lead singing”. You may play
excellent lead guitar but not so much when it comes to songwriting.
You may be a better drummer than a bass player but perhaps you WANT to
play bass… and the others aren’t going to agree with what you want.

Communication- and for serious Christians, stuff like knowing your own
gifts and abilities, humility and the willingness to drop your
defenses, kind and open discussion about how the band, team or
whatever group BEST benefits via your presence are part of the deal.

But it’s at this very intersection that healthy, honest but -kind-
communication breaks down.

A person may live most of their life hopping from place to place and
group to group just because they aren’t willing to face their best
offering or due to the fact others aren’t good at communicating truth
to them or both.

Solutions?

For the Christian, prayer, honest assessment of one’s offerings
whether good, better, best or not-so-good! And then the title of this
blog: recording.

There are so many good and free digital recording programs these days
that it’s nearly crazy not to make use of them. Why, in the context of
what I’ve said here so far?

Like a camera, audio recordings don’t lie. You can use (Mac) Garage
Band, (Windows, Linux) Audacity or any number of Android or
Ipod/Iphone/Iwhatever:) recording programs.

But the most useful programs allow you to use several mics and each
person in the band can record at each (or most) practice sessions and
all can listen not only to things like whether the tempo seems to
really fit the song and band, but the pitch (for vocals as well as
instruments), the basic song arrangements and indeed, whether THAT is
THE BEST bass part, guitar part(s), vocal approach, harmonies working
(or not) and so forth.

Sometimes simple works best. Sometimes a simple part brings a unity to
the song, sound and feel of the tune that an “ultra COOL” riff messes
up. Sometimes a complex part is needed. Judgment calls. Communication.
Humility. The ability to work as a team and face the music (pun
intended) is how excellence happens. It’s really not as mysterious as
some think!

As with a camera, you may love or hate the look, but that’s how you
look at that angle…

With audio, soloing a track up and really paying close attention as to
how it works or doesn’t with the other parts is a huge lesson in our
strengths, weaknesses, what needs work and who brings what to the
table.

Who knows, you might even end up taking up a different instrument. That’s ok!!

Let’s also admit that sometimes we want to put a song on a cd or in
our live setlist not because it’s a great song but due to loving OUR
part in it. The opposite is also true- we dislike and want to drop the
song because we don’t particularly like our part… the song may be
brilliant… but it’s not about the Lord, others or the song… it’s
about “us”, about “me” and so our judgment is not based on quality but
rather on “me”. Not good and such motives shouldn’t win the day when
selecting songs.

Some seven times the term “skill” and associated words in context of
music-making/playing is found in the Old Testament.

Let’s learn with one another how to bring our best offerings to God
and the world- and be willing to make changes as needed so our
offerings reflect both integrity and excellence.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂 -Glenn

Birthday Wishes- Thanks!

So many kind wishes were posted to me that I just couldn’t reply to
each one individually.

Thank you each and all for your kind words, sharing memories, stories
of shows and what it seems God did and does in you via our efforts to
love.

I can only say that God’s grace is sufficient- and often you have been
instruments of His grace in my life, for which I am Very grateful!

Another year closer to seeing His face
Another time apportioned to share His grace
Another calendar day, month, perhaps year to fill
With heart, hands and feet:
Your will,
YOUR will.

-Glenn

One Amazing Band.

Just gotta clue you in on my daughter Ami Moss and The Unfortunate-
here’s a clip from their Lincoln Hall (Chicago) show this month.

Yep 🙂 Yes indeed!!!

They’ve more on YouTube, but anyhow… enjoy!

-Glenn

Living Alone -Why Solo?

An old friend recently pointed me to an article that got me thinking.

The issues were all about music-making, what sort of people created
what sort of lyrics, songs and art in a world that seemed (to the
writer) more and more narcissistic.

I think selfishness, arrogance and excess has always been around, but
I also think as large portions -and perhaps the majority- of any given
society loses any sense of restraint, their art reveals what’s in
their heart.

There is no doubt people create art to make money, to become popular,
to feel like they’re successful and so on. Sometimes the shock value
alone brings them some of what they seek.

But it’s like sex for money… there’s no love in it at all.

When self is THE motivating factor, a solo act is what you end up with.

Now I admit that I find it stimulating to see what I can come up with
all by myself, playing solo.

I’m not saying that nobody ever should, nor that any of us -must- have
a band, but one of the points of the article is that we live in a time
when we have the option via computers and the Internet, to just go it
alone as artists… or artist-wannabees.

It’s true that just surviving takes a great deal of time and energy
-and so does relationship-building and doing things together with
others.

We live in a world that seems increasingly more willing to ditch
relationships on the basis of personal desire alone. And that’s why
many end up miserably alone.

It’s simpler. Easier. I don’t NEED you, I just use you and walk when I
don’t get what I want from the link.

We sort of treat people like websites.

Marriage, long-term relationships with others, holding the same job
and other relational links are a matter of choice, sacrifice and
commitment.

Increasingly independent-in-the-extreme thinking, choosing and living
leave us cold… but the hard work of honest, sensitive communication
and commitment that bring and sustain community cost to the extent
plenty of people just won’t go there.

Therefore families, marriages, bands, record companies, booking
agencies and shared community evaporate. It’s about “me”, rarely “us”.

People are dying for intimacy while at the same time often seem less
willing to pay the price for it: dying to self.

Please know I loved and love my mother- but her sad story is a vivid
illustration I’m well acquainted with.

She pretty much lived as a recluse the last 15 or so years of her life.

My brother and sister occasionally looked in on her, my wife and I did
likewise- but she basically had no friends left.

She had been abused as a child, had a child by a married man, married
my Dad and had my sister, had my older brother and I, divorced my Dad,
went in and out of relationships with men (married or not) and finally
between selfishness, guilt and self-seeking destroyed relationships
with nearly everyone she’d ever known.

She was tragically alone near the end of her life, except for the
occasional connect with we three kids.

But she had mostly “run everybody off” by then.

The more one stares in a mirror as opposed to truly caring for and
paying the (admittedly often high) price of relationships the more I
can near-guarantee alone-ness, depression and despair in their life.

Sometimes solo is a blessing. Sometimes it’s a curse.

We were designed by a God who created us for relationship, both with
Him and with one another.

We were not made to pose and pretend or believe our own lie: “I’m God
and I don’t NEED anyone else”!

As painful (believe me, I know) and hard work-laced as life can be
regarding relationships, it’s far worse to torch them with selfish,
biblically sinful desires and habits ruling your life.

This is one of many reasons some of us have chosen stability and
long-term commitment as opposed to cutting and running when things get
tough.

Rodney King asked “Can’t we all get along”?

My response is that we indeed can- if we’ll grow up and put away our
“adult children” attitude.

It ain’t about me… it’s about Him and us!

Thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Cornerstone Festival 2012 GK Promo Video

Building cigarbox and found-object guitars and basses, the basics of
music-making, art and creativity are all involved in what I get to
share at this summer’s Cornerstone Festival.

Here’s a video clip the Cstone folks made of a recent high school
class I taught.

Hope to see you in July! -Glenn

Glenn & Joe Filikso Shows

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Exciting news- myself and my friend and harmonica master Joe Filisko
are getting very close to booking some shows together.

Joe has taught a weekly master class for years at Chicago’s Old Town
School of Folk Music, teaches and performs at many harmonica and blues
festivals world-wide. His sense of tone and feel in both acoustic and
electric harp playing are immense. He can demonstrate and dead-on
sound like most any harmonica “great” you’d care to mention and has
himself manufactured (with his own patented tuning system no less!)
top-flight harmonicas for decades.

Joe has graced stages from Germany’s annual Hohner Harmonica World
Harmonica Festival to Buddy Guy’s Chicago blues club.

He’s a “harp player’s harp player” and garners great respect from
fellow players as well as students of the instrument.

Joe has also guested on several Glenn Kaiser Band recordings and most
recently on two tunes from my Cardboard Box project.

Just have a look/listen at:

http://filisko.com/ http://www.hohnerusa.com/index.php?1846

Here’s a slew of Joe Filisko clips via YouTube (here’s a TinyURL I
made to link to those): http://tinyurl.com/8xmn7dr

I’m looking forward to some shows with Joe this year!

Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn

Not Solitary: TEAM!

So Tim Tebow and his team were soundly beaten by Tom Brady and his team.

What both Tim and Tom knew before and know after such games, both the
heights of miraculous victories and the depths of humbling, difficult
defeats is the very same truth:

Football is a team sport.

You don’t play it alone. If you do, even if you win you lose.

I have never seen, heard of nor had a broken relationship that didn’t
at least to some degree depend on the people involved (or myself)
recognizing that fact.

At points along the path too many people bail on the relationship
because it’s easier than embracing the crosses.

Think of it -even God- Father, Son, Spirit though One are -in a sense-, a team.

When God tells us “two shall be one” in a marriage commitment, we see
“team” rather than merely and only either individual.

Any sort of musical group- even if they hate each other and don’t all
love the same style of music or the particular song they’re playing at
any given moment cannot succeed without playing together as a team.

At some point in life we realize that “no man (or woman) is an island”
though there are times we’d rather be on one, alone by ourselves!

I’m not saying there aren’t times we need to be alone but pointing out
that “us” is a great deal more healthy than “me” in the every-day of
life’s journey.

Whether or not we’re followers of Jesus, we’re still never alone in
the sense that God is always near, with us (the very meaning of
“Emmanuel”).

We may be surrounded with people who can or could love us, can or
could forgive us, can or could help us in areas we lack and are in
need.

Often- and more often than entire teams, individuals give up. They
just want the pain to end and so they quit on the relationship.

Life has it’s disappointments. Nobody can escape all of them. All of
us encounter some of them.

Some are expected, some are not.

But without a team, trying to go it alone, depression and misery are certain.

One of the handful of things I have learned in my years is that
without close and committed family, my local church family, any band
I’ve worked with, any job I’ve taken, usually sooner than later I’ve
had to rely on them for help for my own contribution and at times even
survival to actually occur!

Win or lose, mountain-top or valley experience, no matter the details-
I NEED God, family, friends and certainly the family of God- my
Christian brothers and sisters- to complete the journey -well-.

Life is a team sport. I believe the Lord designed it that way because
He’s not just about love, He’s all about SHARED love, shared and
active unity and intimacy.

None of that happens when we try to exclusively do life alone.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Teaching High School Class Music And…

Basic 1, 2, 3 or 4 string guitar building with cheap or zero-cost stuff.

So much can be passed along if we think about it!

Had fun today and more coming on Wednesday sharing my interest in
cigar box and found-object guitars.

I brought stuff to read, photos to look at and eight of my home-built
2 and 3 string guitars (all fretless for slide playing) including two
canjos in the group.

The students were able to touch, play, mess with both copper and
conduit home-brew slides, a short dowel “beater” for percussive
playing.

I also plugged my 2-string (bass and guitar string) canjo with altoids
tin piezo pickup into my Trimmed & Burnin’ 2 watt amp, ditto my very
first build, the pretty lady cookie tin guitar with piezo pickup.

We broke down the key elements of what a guitar must have (regardless
of number of strings) and I also gave them a sense of how and why we
care about fret position markers of some sort, basic tuning and so
forth.

Educating along these lines is such fun because IF (a large word,
that…) you are inspired and can inspire others, they may give a go
at being creative in both the basics of music, guitar and art in that
beyond the musicality of this, one can not only learn how to play an
instrument, but also decorate (paint, marker, etc.) the guitar.

I so love these things in that little or no money is involved and the
benefits can be quite immense.

So if you’ve read this far you might want to check out
http://www.cigarboxnation.com for more info.

Next, I’m likely building a kalimba (well, my own unique recipe for
one of these African “thumb pianos”) as well as a cajon. and
eventually a nylon-string (4 string) nagoni. African-coolness-r-us!

Kalimba blues… Hmmmm.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

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Political Rant Here!

Political rant alert!! You’ve been warned… read on or not, as you wish 🙂

Tonight while in Facebook I just had to laugh in a sad way at some of
the comments re. the GOP Iowa caucus chatter.

Believe it or not, I am an independent voter and truly have been for
years. I live in Chicago, which is appx. 90 percent Democrat in a
state that beyond the city of Chicago is some 90 percent Republican.
We have independents sprinkled around as well… but I digress.

Tonight two statements came up that I nearly responded to… and
decided I’d just say it here as perhaps the few that come around my
site here on Posterous are really interested in more than just mere
sound-bite stuff which I find is a great deal of what happens (not
always, I know…) in Facebook and Twitter.

One comment that struck me as funny was that Mitt Romney “has friends
in high places…” and I nearly typed in (as a full-on joke mind
you!!) “Perhaps Moroni?”… but talk about not being politically
correct… so no way did I type that.-

And no, I don’t want to offend Mormons or Latter Day Saints though I
truly do -not- believe in the reality of Joseph Smith’s stated
visitations of the one he called the angel Moroni.

The other comment mentioned that my friend Jon Trott (that liberal
rabble-rouser) and I lived too close to poor people (true, re. our
ministry in inner-city Chicago) and his point was that such closeness
affects how we think about politics, the government, taxation, etc..
He is indeed correct.

But my near-response (which I didn’t write in Facebook) might have
been “True! All true! And the fact is that vastly more Americans live
near poor folks… and ARE rather poor… than live next door to
millionaire business persons running for office”. But no, I didn’t
post that either.

1. The issue is not money or power… or is it?

2. The issue isn’t about biblical as opposed to extra-biblical beliefs
(at least among Christian voters) or is it?

These are the very issues that people have consistently raised re.
Obama and I think can be equally raised re. the opposition candidate,
whomever that will be. Don’t you think?

When I consider who I -might- be able to trust more (one candidate
over another in any election), these things do seem to surface.

And then I again consider truth vs. selfishness, fear or just plain old greed.

I consider cartoonish concepts of linking with God as opposed to Jesus
Christ and simple biblical love for one’s neighbor -and I do my best
to vote accordingly.

Mercy on the U.S. and the world we so deeply affect Lord God!

-Glenn