But Then My Homework Was Never Quite Like This...


Yeah, that’s a Hot For Teacher reference. Get your own blog.

Back in the Stone Age, when I was in school, I tended to play guitar when I should have been doing my homework. Well this week, I had homework to play guitar. How do you weasel out of that?

You don’t, not that I didn’t try. My Internet guitar instructor Adam Levy had a composition challenge last week. Given that I’ve written exactly one coherent piece of music since the Stone Age, this was a bit daunting. So my first inclination was to pass on the homework because “too busy”.

Adam made that harder by demonstrating a method of using constraints to make composing less overwhelming. In this case, by fixing the length at 16 bars, the key to G Minor, and style to blues. One extra constraint is not starting on a G Minor chord. By giving you a constrained environment, composing is less overwhelming. Instead of a blank canvas, you have a faint pencil sketch to color over, as it were.

The problem with having children is you are supposed to model the advice you give them. I’m always telling The (perfectionist) Boy that you have to suck at things repeatedly in order to get good at them. So, daunting or not behold - my second ever semi-coherent composition.

Take 3 is the best recording, but I included all of them because why not? You can tell that while the overall structure is “composed” I still noodled with the details each time.

In a perfect world, I would try and transcribe this into some notation software, but that can be homework for another week. Actually completing a piece of music is good enough for me for now. I actually quite enjoyed it and will definitely try it again with some different constraints. Daunted no more.

Thanks Adam!

P.S. If you play guitar, you should definitely give Guitar Tips Pro a try. I’ve gotten a lot out of it.

P.P.S. The fact I’m wearing my Guitar Tips shirt in the photo above is a complete coincidence.

Jeremy Ulstad

Dad, IT Architect, Musician, Sailor

Minneapolis, Minnesota http://jeremyulstad.com