Songs of Susannah: Music is my first language







10/28/2020

My sister and I are trying to pull each other through the loss of our mother.

For almost seven and a half years, I have been my mother's home health aid. Now, this music thing has to move forward. She would have wanted that. She knew that my helping her was taking time away from me pursuing my singer/songwriter career, and there were many times when I worked on sheet music at her house. I always assured her that I would never regret getting to spend that extra time with her. She wasn't holding me back; she was supporting and encouraging me every step of the way.

Now, I have to make much better recordings. I have to get them heard. Not only because I need to for me. Not only because she would have wanted me to. I gave up life as I knew it to help take care of my mom, so she could continue to live in her home. I bought her extra years of life by nursing her when she was sick, and, a few times, by dragging her to the ER when she didn't want to go (she was grateful later, but felt ill enough that all she wanted to do at the time was stay in bed). I did the little things she couldn't do that allowed her to continue to live independently. She had more time on this planet, and lived the life she wanted, because I gave up the life I was living so I could help her.

With her death, I have no more excuses. I am no longer a home health aid. I am now a grieving daughter helping her sister move, but next month, I will just be an unemployed person with multiple disabilities and no trust fund. I must relentlessly pursue my art and try to earn money from it. I will do it for me and for her.

I wish she could be here to see me succeed or fail, but I can't just drop the ball right now. I need to get my Halloween video out and then keep a weekly video coming. I need to record vocals and live instruments, not just MIDIs run through a DAW (digital audio workstation) to make them sound OK. Sometime next month, I need to come through this time and get my act together.

It will be no easier than before. Maybe harder. But it is absolutely necessary. As soon as my sister is settled in the house, then I have to get moving. Get my piano tuned. Get a floor mic stand with a boom, so I can record piano and vocals at the same time. Get the right kind of headphones, and get a better mic and an audio interface if I have to. I have been ready to record my first album since 1996 and I need to finally get this show on the road.




10/23/2020

I won't be releasing a YouTube video today. I have had Trail of Tears almost ready for 2 weeks, but I had zero time to finish it because my mom died on Monday, after spending 8 days in a coma. I have decided to dedicate this video in memory of my mother. It fits, because she loved the Smokey Mountains (which feature prominently in the Trail of Tears video), and, she was 1/16 or 1/32 Cherokee, and, she especially loved songs about love of a place or of home.




10/18/2020

I am my best creative self when I'm not trying, when I'm doing something else (like washing the dishes) that occupies just enough of my mind that a new melody can float into it.




10/17/2020

Check out my latest video! It's a piano and horn version of my swing revival song, My Father Cheats at Solitaire! (I am pretending to be OK to post this even though my mom is in a coma and on a ventilator. My next video will probably be delayed.)




10/9/2020

Check out The Sultan's Bazaar on YouTube! I originally wrote it as a piano solo, but I arranged it for violin, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, oud, and piano for this video!




10/2/2020

My latest video, Half Sick of Shadows (Piano & Cello Version), is now available on YouTube! Go check it out, and be sure to subscribe!




10/1/2020

This is more on the technical side. In order to record music at home, you need a home studio (if you want the recordings to sound decent). This requires not only a microphone and something to record the music onto (such as a computer or a cassette tape deck); you also need all this other stuff, including a microphone stand, a shock mount for the microphone (to prevent vibrations from distorting the recording), a pop filter to prevent plosives (such as the letter P) from making distracting popping noises, the right kind of headphones, and a way to plug the microphone into your computer or tape deck (usually an audio interface).

You also need cables to connect everything up, and you might need a MIDI keyboard and a MIDI interface. You also need a lot of software, such as a recording program or app, a digital audio workstation (DAW) for mixing, and if you're using MIDI, you need virtual instrument plugins to change the instruments from the default general MIDI sounds to the ones you want.

I have almost none of these. I have a USB microphone, in fact, I bought the very first model of USB studio condenser microphone shortly after it became available, unaware that I'd be better off with a regular microphone and a separate audio interface, which would cost an extra $100 minimum. I just recently ordered my shock mount and pop filter. My next step is a mic stand, and I'm seriously considering adding a mic boom to an antique lamp that I've had for 21 years.

There's an interesting story behind this lamp. My childhood piano teacher told my sister and I that we could go shopping for furniture in their attic. We picked two antique chairs that were in a state of disrepair, an antique end table with two missing feet, a wooden TV table, and an antique floor lamp with a broken neck.

Over the next few years, I repeatedly tried to repair this lamp, but it kept breaking again. Then, one day in 2001, I touched it and it electrocuted me. I was lucky enough to manage to pull my hand back after the electricity convulsed my body. It might have killed me if I hadn't been able to draw my hand back. Because the lamp is so pretty, I decided to keep it, anyway, and it has been in my attic for the past 16 years.

After reading reviews of inexpensive mic stands, and finding that even the best of them are pretty poorly made, I keep returning to this idea. All I need is to buy or create an adapter to attach a boom arm to the end of the lamp, and boom! I'll be able to record myself singing and playing the piano with the same mic at the same time.

First thing's first, I'll have to find it and bring it down from the attic.

After the mic stand, my next step will be a pair of the right kind of headphones.




9/25/2020

Today, I uploaded a piano and cello arrangement of my newest original song, The Swallow.

This is my first original song on YouTube!

You can check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7K4MQJlkyY

Be sure to subscribe to the Songs of Susannah YouTube channel!




9/23/2020

Today, I launched the Songs of Susannah Facebook page!

You can go check it out!

Be sure to Like and Share!




9/17/2020

I finished my arrangement of Shchedryk (The Ukrainian Carol of the Bells) three days ago and now I'm working on my arrangement of The First Noel. I have a list of 10 songs (3 originals and 7 traditional carols) for my Christmas album. I made a list of 50 possible carols, picked 5 that I will almost certainly record, and still have another 25 to choose from.

So far, the track list for my Christmas album is:

Wond'rous Star
Hanukkah
Ringing the Changes
Shchedryk (The Ukrainian Carol of the Bells)
What Child This Be? (What Child Is This?)
The First Noel
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
I Wonder As I Wander
The Friendly Beasts
Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow


There are too many on the list of 25 other possibilities to list here. I'm trying to choose the ones that are the most expressive and that are best for my voice and my style. I'll keep an open mind, since first, I have to make sure that all the ones I've already picked will work out.

So many Christmas albums are really overdone, because everyone has to make such an effort to record and original version of music that everyone already knows so well. If my original version of a given carol flops, then I have plenty more to choose from. I will probably rule out a few more and move a few more up in the queue until I have just the right combination.

While many artists add bells and whistles (often literally) to their holiday recordings, mine will be simple. I'll sing the carols just as I would if I were singing in church or going caroling. I'll play them expressively, on the piano or the guitar. This won't be the over-produced Christmas music that everyone gets sick of before December even starts. It will be just like my other music, except it will be carols.




9/13/2020

Today, I created the first-ever prototype for the official Songs of Susannah keychain. I really like the way it turned out, and I hope that I'll be able to find the supplies I need so that all my keychains can turn out as nice as this one did.

I've also been working on the track list for my Christmas album. I'm going to include at least three completely original songs, as well as my original arrangements of traditional Christmas carols. I have it narrowed down to 50 potential carols, plus Wond'rous Star, Hanukkah, and Ringing the Changes. I am planning to include an original arrangement of Shchendryk (The Ukrainian Bell Carol) as well as What Child This Be? (which is an arrangement of What Child Is This? that I wrote as a kid).

It may seem early to start work on a Christmas album, but actually, this is the Christmas album that I hope to have ready this time next year. I'm only working on the preliminary steps right now.




9/11/2020

Today, I wrote a new song called The Swallow. Unusually for me, I wrote an ostinato (riff) and a melody at the same time. I started playing an ostinato and the melody just came to me. I knew it was about a swallow, and I quickly wrote about half the first verse and all of the second verse, then I wrote about half of the third verse, went back and finished the first, then wrote the final verse and then finished the third. I was really happy that it all came together so quickly, especially with how long some things sit around unfinished or with unfinished lyrics.




9/10/2020

Yesterday, I was inspired to write an unfinished song about my dancing dog. My local phone company "upgraded" my home from old copper wire to fiber optic. I don't consider this much of an upgrade, since, in the time that I've lived here, we have had at least three power outages that lasted over a week, and the landline will now only work for 8 hours during a blackout, whereas before it did not depend on electricity at all. Something went wrong, and it took the technicians four hours to get my phone to work. My poor doggies were in their kennel for so long! They were very upset that there were strange men in their house, and that they were in their kennel even though I was at home. (The technicians kept the door open most of the time, and I couldn't have the dogs dashing in and out and getting underfoot.)

They were, of course, overjoyed to finally be let out. My dog Chomska (the one who photobombed one of the photos on my "Photos" page) immediately wanted outside. My other dog, Swirl (named for the ying yang on his back), wanted to dance with me. Swirl is a dancer. He loves to jump up and for me to take his front paws and dance with him. So I started singing, "Dance with me," as I danced with him, and then I realized that it was an original song and I should go write it down.

The song isn't finished yet, but it's always good to add another unfinished song! Eventually, unfinished songs are combined to create new, finished songs (many, if not most, of my finished songs used to be multiple unfinished songs). I currently have sheet music written out for 106 unfinished songs that I've written. That's a few more than the 98 finished pieces of sheet music I've written out so far, though not by much, especially now that I've decided to combine 3 more into one song, making it 103 to 99, hopefully sometime next week.

You can tell by comparing those numbers to the 51 songs on my Lyrics page that I have a lot more still to add! 33 of them are instrumental, but that still leaves 14 songs that aren't on the Lyrics page yet. 8 of those have unfinished lyrics, and 8 have lyrics that I worry are too controversial. Also, two of the songs on my Lyrics page aren't fully written out as sheet music yet (I still have 54 more songs in my backlog).

More importantly, though, when am I going to release some tracks?! Soon, I hope. Perhaps later this year.




9/6/2020

Today, I finally finished writing the lyrics to Wond'rous Star, a Christmas carol that I wrote in 2017. My husband joked that it's a carol about the eight-fold noble path of Buddhism, because it's more about following an ethical ideal (seeking peace on earth and being kind to others) than about following a specific theology. I suppose it's because I wanted it to be ecumenical and accessible to everyone, regardless of their faith or lack thereof. Its message is peace, using the symbols of the Star of Bethlehem and the shepherds and wise men following the star.




9/4/2020

Today, I bought a two-octave xylophone, and when I got it home, I soon composed a new melody on it, and within an hour, I had written out the sheet music as a piano solo.

I have been considering buying the xylophone for about two and a half weeks, but I kept asking myself, "Do I really need a xylophone? Where will I put it?"

I knew that I would not see another deal like this on a good, quality xylophone like this one. It was $11.99 at a local thrift store. It didn't come with mallets, but I have made xylophone mallets before and within a week, I'll no longer be playing it with a dowel rod.

Apparently, I really did need a xylophone, since, without it, my latest song never would have been written. I like to pick up different instruments and see what melodies I can get out of them. That's why I own all sorts of instruments that I'm not proficient with, ranging from a five-hole ocarina to a Celtic harp.




9/2/2020

I uploaded the lyrics to Hanukkah, Gatita, River Swans, (What Caused the) Silence, and Trail of Tears today, as well as the stories behind those songs. Gatita posed some difficulties, because I wrote that song in Spanish; the inverted question marks kept displaying incorrectly. I had also noticed that the accent marks and the tilde over an N on my list of songs with similar musical DNA also displayed incorrectly in some web browsers, so I decided that it was time to solve the problem once and for all. So now, I know how to add á é í ó ú ñ and ¿ to web pages.

When I was a Junior and Senior in high school, several of my friends kept typing, "How do you get the tilde on top of the n?" None of them could figure out how to do this on the computer. I, on the other hand, easily added ¿ when typing because my Smith Corona word processor had a special key for it, as well as special keys for vowels with grave accents (though, unfortunately, not for acute accents, which are the ones used in Spanish).

I got my word processor for my 14th birthday, but I convinced my parents to give it to me 3 weeks early, so I'd have it for the start of the school year. Most of my classmates had a PC in their home, but my parents were unwilling to buy a computer in the 1990s, since the only reason we couldn't use our Commodore 64 anymore was because my dad had tried to solder the cable into one of the ports instead of just replacing the cable when it wore out. They had bought one computer in 1986 (when I was in the first grade), so my dad was unwilling to buy another one (when I was in high school), even though this placed me on the wrong side of the digital divide. He didn't quite understand that computers had come a very long way, and that I would have been unable to get online with a Commodore 64. Instead, I used a typewriter until high school and a word processor until college, when I finally bought my first PC...a refurbished laptop with no optical drive or USB ports. A Pentium with 16 MB of RAM and a 1 GB hard drive.

Once I started college, I immediately taught myself HTML and started building websites. I built dozens and dozens of them between 1997 and 2003. I used those (very dated) skills to build the Songs of Susannah website in 2019. I then learned enough CSS to update the website with a modern flyout menu and to put the text in panes separate from the background, which would have been impossible in raw HTML. I hope that it feels retro, rather than dated.




8/31/2020

Today, I created the sheet music covers for Tenochtitlan and Brigantine Setting Sail. I had been working on the cover art for the past few days. For Tenochtitlan, I actually watched several online video tutorials about how to draw a Mesoamerican step pyramaid, and I also found tutorials for how to draw lakes and mountains. For Brigantine Setting Sail, I took a photo of an antique scrimshaw of a brigantine, traced it, and then enhanced it in GIMP. Once I was happy with both images, I used three pieces of sheet music that I played as a kid as a inspiration for the covers: Bridge over Nishigawa by Dennis Alexander, Turkish Delight by David Karp, and Alaska by David Carr Glover.

I have ideas for 18 more sheet music covers (16 piano solos, one classical guitar solo, and one piece for handbells and organ), and I look forward to creating them and making my sheet music available for sale in the near future!




8/25/2020

Yesterday, I finally finished the lyrics to my song, Tied to the Beauty, which I wrote in 2005. When I wrote it, my last three close friends in Indiana had just moved to Germany, Italy, and California. When we were in high school, many of my friends told me that they couldn't wait to get out of there and live some other place, but I wished that there had been an in-state school close enough for my to live at home during college, and I always planned to move back home right after college.

In fact, the first semester of my second year of college, I actually commuted to out-of-state Northern Kentucky University, which was an hour and 15 minutes away from home, believing that it might actually cost about the same to live at home (and pay out-of-state tuiton) as it did to pay rent and utilities at an in-state school, but ultimately, spending two and a half hours driving every day cut far too much into my time to make it a feisable option.

When I first moved back after college, I'm sure that some of my high school friends were around, but I had lost touch with them. Little by little, I started to run into them. I saw one in the waiting room of the the local ear nose and throat doctor. I saw another at a hog roast benefitting the local fire department. Over time, I found more and more local friends who had moved back to the area after college, perhaps not right away, but they were drawn to this area for several reasons.

One of them was their parents. Many of them had children, and they wanted to raise them in the same kind of safe, rural community where they themselves grew up, where they could play outside. Others wanted their children to grow up knowing their grandparents, instead of occasionally visiting them and not forming the deep relationships that can only happen when you spend a lot of time with someone over many years. Still others just didn't feel like home in the big cities where they thought they'd be happy after college.

Yesterday, I took out that song and considered how I might end it, and it just came to me that I should end it with the friends that are moving back home. I still have friends who have moved to far-off places and will probably never live here again, but the isolation and sadness that prompted me to write this in 2005 got much better when I started to find new friends and reconnect with old friends who had also moved back.




8/16/2020

Yesterday, I started writing a new song, inspired by the verse in the Koran that an angel will not enter a house where there is a dog or a picture. Since I first heard that verse, I have made jokes that my dogs are excellent angel repellent, and that they help prevent angel infestations.

I was playing with my dogs and started singing to them, "I'll stay here instead, where the angels fear to tread," and realized that I had better go write it down. So far, I have three verses, but no chorus or bridge.

Yesterday, I also wrote out the Storytellers section for five of my songs: Gatita, Hanukkah, River Swans, (What Caused the) Silence, and Trail of Tears. I had been waiting to add those lyrics until I completed the Storytellers section.

I've been organizing my original music, and I found that, while there are currently 49 songs on my Lyrics page, I'd completed the sheet music for another 14 songs with complete lyrics that aren't on the Lyrics page yet, plus another 10 besides that which have unfinished lyrics. Additionally, there's another 22 songs with lyrics that I haven't even started writing out as sheet music yet, some of which have complete lyrics, and some of which do not. Some of these are complete songs, others are unfinished songs. I've also written out the sheet music for 54 unfinished songs with lyrics.

I asked myself why I haven't added those songs to my Lyrics page yet, and decided to add those five right away. I'm still considering adding 4 more in the near future, but two of them need better titles, and two of them really aren't ready yet, because I'm not happy with the piano parts for those two.

The real issue is that I've written 8 complete songs that have controversial lyrics. I've addressed issues such as school shootings, suicide, losing one's faith, questioning one's sexual orientation, racism, hate crimes, child molestation, and gender issues. Some of these issues have affected me personally, while others have affected people who were close to me, and still others have neither affected me nor anyone I knew personally. My main concern is that people will misunderstand my meaning.

For example, someone once misunderstood my views on school shootings (that they are usually caused by bullying, and that we could stop the majority of school shootings by stopping bullying in schools). This person thought that I was saying that school shootings were justified, and that I wished that I'd been a school shooter, because I had been severely bullied, whereas what I was actually saying was that other children who had been in my situation had become school shooters because of it, and that effective anti-bullying programs could prevent other children who are severely bullied from getting desperate enough to do such a thing. What if more people misunderstand what I meant, about this or another of these controversial subjects?

It seems easier to work on the unfinished lyrics first. That has much less of a chance of backfiring.

I'm also considering writing Storytellers for my instrumental pieces. I've written out the sheet music for 31 complete piano solos and one duet (intended for a handbell choir and an organ), as well as 49 unfinished piano solos. I've also written at least 24 more piano solos that I haven't written out as sheet music yet.

If you've been counting, or trying to, it appears that I have written a total of 256 pieces of music that I can remember or lay my hands on as of right now.

When you've written that much music, organization is essential. Every once in a while, I update my organization. I used to have no organization at all, which is why there are 46 pieces of music that I've written but can no longer fully remember. 24 of these are instrumental and 22 of them have lyrics. Some of them used to be among the best pieces I had ever written.

I'm sure that there are other pieces of music that I've written that I have forgotten all about. In fact, among the pieces of music that I've written out as sheet music over the past five years, there are at least 14 that I had completely forgotten about until they popped into my head one day. So I continue to hope that the forgotten parts of these 46 songs will one day pop back into my head, and I can get them written out as sheet music as well.

Even though I've written at least 256 pieces of music as of yesterday, practically speaking, I may as well have only written 210, because it's unlikely that I'll ever remember enough of some of those songs to get them written out or recorded, but I'll never give up hope! And, I keep writing new music all the time. If I have managed to forget less than 18% of the music I've written so far in my lifetime, perhaps that is pretty good, enough though it certainly is painful to have lost even that much, especially in the cases of the five of those that used to be among the best pieces I had ever written.




8/16/2020

I have a 1909 pocket dictionary of musical terms. I was looking through it in search of a musical expression that meant, "Intensely," when I ran across the term, "Scotch Scale," which I had never heard of before. I remembered how, back in high school, I sat down one day to try to write something that sounded Irish or Scottish, and succeeded in writing part of I Never Saw A Moor.

I was intrigued that the Scotch Scale (as it was called in this book) omitted the 4th and 7th, so I sat down at the piano to come up with a melody in the key of C without any F's or B's.

Ultimately, the new piano solo that I wrote did not sound Scottish and I ended up letting the music guide me instead of strictly adhering to the Scotch Scale.

I had not written much music since my father's death, and it's good for things to start to return to normal.




8/12/2020

Yesterday, a short melody that I made up as a child popped into my head for the first time in decades, and I wrote out the sheet music, adding it to my folder of 105 unfinished songs.

When I was a child, we ate supper at the dining room table every night, while my father lectured us on table manners. My sister had a particularly difficult time because, before her extensive orthodontia, she was physically incabale of chewing her food with her mouth closed, and since both of us are dyspraxic (clumsy on a neurological level), this was a rather stressful time for us. In fact, at a certain point, my mother put a stop to it because it was so very unpleasant for everyone, and we started to eat in the living room while watching TV when I was in about the third grade.

Meanwhile, things were rather different down the road at my grandparents' house. While my grandmother did insist on proper table manners, my grandfather said, "My only rule is no singing at the table."

Sometimes, I would accidentally start singing at the table, and then I'd clap both hands over my mouth and say, "I'm sorry! I forgot!" My grandfather would laugh, because it wasn't actually a serious rule, but when I was little, I didn't realize that it was a joke.

When I got a little older, maybe 6 or 7, I made it into a joke by walking over to the table, standing there, and singing, "No more singing at the table!" I would then walk away.

I had completely forgotten about that until I was telling my husband the story yesterday. Then, as usual, I immediately stopped what I was doing so I could go write out the sheet music.

My grandfather was a very wonderful person. Among the adults who raised me, he was the kindest, gentlest, most patient, and best humored. He never got angry and he loved to show us how to do things. He loved nature and he wanted to share it with us. He wanted to pass down knowledge he had from childhood, which he knew would be lost if people like him didn't pass it down.

He wasn't a perfect person, though his worst trait was a poor opinion of himself and his intelligence, mostly caused by his dyslexia. Though he didn't have educational opportunities himself, our education was very important to him. When we would come home from college to visit, he would have tears of joy streaming down his face when we walked over to see our grandparents (even though we were usually home once or twice a month).

There's another song I wrote for him, right after he died, and it's not on this website yet. There are actually a lot of songs that aren't yet on my website. There's a big process of overcoming how personal they are in order to share them. I would have done this whole project a long time ago if it wasn't hard to share my lyrics.




8/10/2020

I've taken a brief hiatus following the death of my father. Now I'm back, and I'm ready to launch this singer/songwriter career of mine.

Right now, I'm working on my audition video for Plaid Dog Recording. I'm pretty far from sending it to them, all I've done so far is choose which pieces I plan to include. I need to have my piano tuned before I can create these recordings, and the logistics of having my piano tuned during a pandemic are kind of daunting.

Plaid Dog Recording has a rather unique idea: record a demo, then use that demo for crowdfunding. Fund the process of professionally recording the album by crowdfunding. Right now, because of the pandemic, they will actually mail the equipment to singer/songwriters so they can record in their own homes, then the studio will professionally produce, mix, and master the music. Producing is a lot like arranging; they add things like percussion and additional instruments to make the song sound its best. Mixing is basically changing the volume and other settings of the various instruments to create the best mix, and mastering is the finalization process that involves things like bringing up the volume to make the song radio ready.




6/20/2020

Less than a week ago, I had 20 pieces of music that I thought were probably written in the wrong key. I challenged myself to go through my entire checklist (which I wrote about here on June 18), and now there are only 10! So far, all of them either had a key change somewhere in the piece, or else they were harmonic minors (A minor, F minor, and G# minor, respectively). Maybe next week, I'll get a chance to go through the other half of them and figure them all out as well!




6/18/2020

Yesterday, I talked to my childhood piano teacher about taking some music composition lessons, starting with determining the key signature in some of my songs that appear to have been written in non-existent keys.

When I write sheet music, I am "translating" the music that I hear in my head into musical notation. I think the fact that this is still a translation project, speaks volumes.

It's like when you learn a foreign language. In Spanish II, you're still thinking in English and translating it, but eventually, you dream in Spanish.

I don't dream in sheet music. I'm much faster and more accurate at translation than I used to be, but I'm still translating.

When I try to determine the key signature of a piece of music that I wrote, I go through a process:
  1. I check to see if there is a key change somewhere in the song, or if it seems to be all in one key. If there's a change (other than to the relative major/minor, which would still be the same key signature), that could resolve the ambiguity. If not,
  2. I write down all the sharps and/or flats and note how often they are played as naturals (if at all). Does it fall neatly into a key signature? If not,
  3. Is there a note that I can play through the entire piece that sounds OK? If so, that's probably the tonic (the root of the chord and the name of the key signature). Songs typically begin and end on tonic harmony, so I test the first and last note in the bass clef first, followed by every other note that occurs in the piece of music. If that doesn't work,
  4. I write down how many times each note is sharp/flat and how many times it's natural. If it's usually sharp/flat, it is probably part of the key signature. If not, it probably isn't. This can narrow it down.
At this point, I'm sometimes left with something odd, like all the G's being sharp, and nothing else (all key signatures with sharps have an F sharp, and if G is sharp, C is also sharp), or B being natural but there being 3 or 4 flats throughout (all keys with flats have a B flat). Sometimes, a note will be sharp/flat half the time and natural the other half, and I don't know which ones should be accidentals (marked next to the note instead of in the key signature).

While I know that some 20th century music used key signatures that aren't in the Circle of Fifths (the 12 key signatures and their enharmonic equivalents), in my experience, key signatures are difficult enough to deal with, without subjecting anyone to novel key signatures just to make it easier for myself!

If it sounded dissonant, I could understand why it might not fit into an extant key signature, but it sounds very natural to me; it's what I heard in my head, got down on paper, and "translated" into musical notation.

I don't know what to study in order to learn this, which is why I need a teacher. A teacher can determine what I need to learn; a teacher can tell me what I need to study in order to learn the things that I know that I don't know, and a teacher can also determine what I don't even know that I don't know, and teach me that as well.

I know that I need to learn how to write riffs for existing melodies, and I need to learn how to add dynamics to my sheet music that will accurately communicate how to play the piece as expressively as I play it myself.

I also need to learn how to determine the difficulty levels of the pieces I write, so people who want to play them can know whether they will be able to play them easily, or work hard to master them, and I'm sure I still have plenty to learn about arranging music.

You are never too old or too experienced to learn something new. Even if you have a PhD and extensive publications behind your name, there is still more that you can learn. Learning should be lifelong. If we don't grow, we stagnate.

I have been learning through trial and error since 1997. Now, I will have someone to guide me through those places where I could not find my way on my own, and my music will be better for it.




6/15/2020

Among the songs I've written, I have 18 piano solos fully written out as sheet music that I'm not entirely sure I wrote in the right key signature. They all either seem like they should be written in key signatures that don't actually exist, or else a specific note (or three) is natural half the time and either sharp or flat the other half of the time!

There are several techniques you can use to determine what key a song should be notated in; none of them seem to work with these pieces. However, I've always been weak on key signatures, so maybe someone with formal training in music composition could help me determine whether or not they are already in the right key signature, or what key signature they should be in.

I showed my husband the Circle of Fifths and joked, "Apparently, if you stare at it for hours while chewing peyote and chanting Bach backwards, its mystical knowledge will be revealed to you, but I've never done that, and just copying it and memorizing it never did a thing for me."

As a kid, I could never seem to train myself to glance at the key signature before I started playing a new piece. I would only remember to do it when the piece sounded wrong because I hit a natural that should have been sharp or flat. To compensate for this, I used to go through each new piece and circle all the notes that were sharp or flat per the key signature.

I eventually got to the point where I could keep the sharps or flats of the key signature in my head while I practiced a new piece, as long as there were no more than 2 or 3 of them. Any more than that, and it was too much for my dyslexia; I would have to circle them.

However, for many years, I wrote all my original music in C Major/A Minor (the only two keys with no sharps or flats in the key signature), and made every single sharp or flat an accidental (placed next to the note instead of in the key signature). Later, I actually studied music theory voluntarily for the first time in my life, and I realized why I needed to notate my original music in the correct key signatures instead.

(Previously, I believed that the only reason for key signatures was because it made it easier for the composer to write out sheet music by hand, and was a holdover from the days before the printing press.)

These 18 songs are the leftovers of that process. The correct key just seems too ambiguous. Can you really write a song in E Flat Major in which every single E Flat is natural? When one or two or three of the notes are sharp half the time and natural the other half, how can you tell which should be in the key signature, and which should be accidentals? I appear to have invented several new key signatures, but the Circle of Fifths dictates that there can only be 12 of them (or 15, if you count the ones twice that can be written with either sharps or flats). Mathematically, there shouldn't be any more key signatures.

New songs just come into my head, and when I hear them there, my only thought is to get them down as quickly as possible, before they get away. I don't think about the key signature, the time signature, or anything else besides preserving them.

Maybe I just need to learn more about key signatures. So, today, I e-mailed my childhood piano teacher, and asked him about possibly taking some virtual lessons during Shelter In Place. If he had to stop teaching because of COVID-19, it could really benefit both of us.

Most kids taking piano lessons don't have the benefit of a teacher as good as Mark. Most piano teachers don't actually have a degree in music, and most are not as patient or as good with children. Most are not as encouraging or as flexible with what the student wants to learn and is interested in. I could not have asked for a better teacher than Mark, and he probably learned what I need to know now in college.

You're never too old or too experienced to learn something new from music lessons. Perhaps it is time for me to take my first lesson since 1997.






6/14/2020

I created a test file of one of my piano solos in LMMS with piano, flute, violin, cello, and melodic toms (drums). My husband says the piano solo version is much better. I thought, "Why not do some remixes?" I thought it sounded really epic, like a movie soundtrack.

But then again, I always remember what my college roommate said about, "Impact from simplicity," in music. Too many instruments can ruin an expressive musical experience.




6/13/2020

I just got a great review of my music from Sarah Robinson, who has been a long-time fan of my music since the 1990s!
"Listening to Susannah's music is a unique experience. She's a born storyteller and has created a sound all her own. Be ready to feel a wide range of emotions and to be moved deeply by her often very personal lyrics. A natural talent, Susannah is one of those true artists whose light is strong enough to change lives."
Thanks for the awesome review, Sarah! This is definitely going on my Testimonials page!




6/12/2020

Since my right vocal cord became completely paralyzed over 12 years ago, I've learned that some things (such as second-hand smoke, dust, pollen, car exhaust, and wood smoke) are really bad for my voice, while other things (such as fog, the steam from a shower, and even the moisture in the air above a swimming pool) make my voice quality a lot better.

Because I'm sure no one would let me bring a full-sized cold air humidifier into a recording studio, it occurred to me about a year ago that some kind of pocket-sized personal humidifier might be a good idea. I saw a lot of people using vape pens, and I wondered if it was possible to vape pure water. However, I was really off-put by the fact that vape pens benefit the tobacco industry, and I had also read about them sometimes exploding, so I was reluctant enough that I never really researched it, until yesterday.

For some reason, it had never occurred to me that vape pens get really hot when you use them. It turns out that it would be dangerous to vape pure water, because the boiling point of water is lower than the boiling point of the products they sell to use in vape pens. However, when I searched for pocket sized cold air humidifiers, I found that they do exist; they even make ones with a mask attachment that fits over your nose and mouth, so they are clearly designed for the exact purpose I intend, and I'm much more likely to be allowed to use one inside a recording studio than I would be with a vape pen.

Since the cold air humidifier with the mask attachment is made for my intended purpose, I'm probably also much less likely to accidentally give myself pneumonia while using it than I would with a vape pen.




6/11/2020

On Saturday the 6th, I bought a used Laserjet printer at a thrift store for $25.99! I immediately ordered ink, not knowing for sure if it would even work, but this morning, I loaded up the ink...and it didn't work.

But I had already read the manual. The manual, which chiefly told me that hot water sets stains. No, really! It said that, if I got toner on my clothes, to wash it in cold water, because hot water sets stains. It...kind of hung me out to dry in terms of showing me how to actually install a toner cartridge.

I correctly installed the toner cartridge, however, the printer insisted that it had a paper jam, even though there was no paper in it. I was instructed to remove the toner cartridge again, and get the non-existent paper out of the printer.

Well, that was about ridiculous. So, instead of removing the imaginary sheet of paper from the printer, I removed the toner cartridge and used my air compresser to clean every speck of dust out of the printer.

I put the toner cartridge back in, and this time, it worked! I was able to print out the score (sheet music) for one of my songs, and it looks great!

If I'm going to sell sheet music, I'm know that I either need a Laserjet printer at home, or I'll have to pay a copy store to print everything for me. At this point, it was cheaper to buy a used LaserJet printer and the toner, than to have Kinko's print just one single copy of the 601 pages of sheet music I've written so far.

It was a no-brainer, and fortunately, the $48.12 I spent on the printer and toner was well-spent, and the proceeds from the cost of the actual printer go to the local battered women's shelter, so even though I saw one with a brand new toner cartridge for $40 on Craig's List, I know I am helping people with my purchase instead of just getting something I need.

The reason I'll need my sheet music printed with a Laserjet printer rather than an Inkjet printer is because musicians take their sheet music everywhere. You might carry it through an unexpected rainstorm, spill your water on it, or sneeze on it, and if the ink runs, it's ruined.

Now, all I need to do is invest in some binding materials and the right paper. I read that something between 60 lb and 80 lb paper is ideal for sheet music.




6/8/2020

I did it! I did it! It worked! I finally successfully "recorded" a MIDI performance, and it sounds great!

I have 29 piano solos ready to record. I've been working with my 35-year-old Yamaha Clavinova CLP-30 MIDI-capable electric piano, and I finally found software that will actually talk to it. This means I'll be able to create MP3's of my piano performances at home, instead of having to hire a recording studio.

My Clavinova is really limited. It was the last Clavinova that used FM synthesis instead of real instrument sampling. Half the reason I wanted a Clavinova for so long was because I love the clavichord sound on the models I played in the 1990s, so I was disappointed that the model I could afford didn't have any real instruments at all, but if it saves me from paying a fortune to record my piano solos and the piano parts for my piano/voice songs, it'll be well worth it.

I am planning to run the MIDI files through two digital audio workstations. First, I'll run it through LMMS to change the soundfont from FM synthesizer to grand piano, and then I'll convert it from a MIDI to a WAV sound file, then use Cakewalk by Bandlab to add reverb with the Breverb 2 plugin.

Hopefully, the resulting MP3's will sound exactly as if I played them on a grand piano in a room with perfect acoustics. If not, I'll try again.

With a newer Clavinova, I wouldn't have to mess with any of this. A 21st century Clavinova would allow me to record my piano performances right on the Clavinova. With a seriously legacy instrument like the CLP-30, I have to do considerably more work to end up with the same thing, but it should be perfectly possible, as long as I have the right soundfont. The computer will record every nuance of my performance, then place that performance on the best possible piano in the best possible room.




6/5/2020

I have now written over 600 pages of original sheet music! (601 pages, to be exact.)

On May 31, I wrote a new song, by combining two unfinished songs I wrote a long time ago. The title (for now) is San Pellegrino. This is because, though it is a piano solo now, when I wrote it, it had lyrics.

My husband really likes drinking carbonated water. Perrier, LaCroix, store brand seltzer water, it doesn't matter; he just likes the bubbles. In about 2006, I saw him with a San Pellegrino for the first time. Not realizing that it was Italian and not Spanish, and noticing the similarity between Pellegrino and the Spanish word, "Peligro," which means, "danger," I started singing,

"Cuidado!
Peligro!
Yo tengo
San Peligrino!"

This was clearly a nonsense song; in English, it means,

"Caution!
Danger!
I have
San Pellegrino!"

In about 1992 (give or take a year), we were talking about fire walking in my Jr. High English class. Although I now know the trick that allows people to walk on burning embers without getting burned, at the time, I accepted my teacher's assertion that it was a matter of belief. If you believed you wouldn't get burned, you wouldn't get burned. Mind over matter.

Even at the time, I realized that remaining calm was part of it. People who didn't really believe that they wouldn't get burned would panic and move wrong, thus getting burned.

Sitting in class during this discussion, a melodic phrase floated into my mind with the lyrics,

"Those who truly believe
Can walk on ___________."

Of course, the word, "Fire," did not really fit, and neither, "coals;" "glass," never really felt like the right word, either. It always came out as, "Ice," but that didn't make any sense, because anyone can walk on ice, and anyone can fall on ice, and anyone can fall through ice if it's thin enough and if there's a body of water under it, whether a puddle or a lake.

On the 31st, I finished writing out the sheet music for my song, (What Caused The) Silence, while my husband slept in, then I started working on San Pellegrino. Unfortunately, I would be interrupted, over, and over, and over again, by various emergencies, over the next five days. I didn't get it fully notated until the day before yesterday, and even then, there were two transitions that weren't quite right yet, and a few measures in a row were too slow. I finally got a chance to fix it this morning, by slowing down/speeding up several measures by half and by adding three tempo changes.

The original San Pellegrino was very perky and upbeat, but I changed it to something very slow and evocative, that slowly gets faster and faster as it goes on. It reminds me of Enya, in that it paints a picture with sound. I might change the name to San or Santa someone else, if I find someone more appropriate, or if I find a place named after a saint that evokes the image I have in my head: seeing the mountainous shore from the the deck of a ship on a turbulent ocean, with the waves crashing up against an old, stone lighthouse. If I can find a place that matches that image, I'll change the title. Nothing wrong with naming a song after a place. I already named one Tenochtitlan!




5/30/2020

The day before yesterday, I wrote out the sheet music for three unfinished songs that I wrote a long time ago and had forgotten all about. Every year, snippets of music I wrote as a child or teen float through my head, and if I get a chance to make note of them, I write them out as sheet music. Otherwise, they float away again, and I hope to catch them next time.

With these pieces, I know I’ve written at least 251 pieces of music, because that’s how many I can lay my hands on now, although there are 23 of them that I can’t identify at all, and another 22 that I have forgotten parts of.

It’s always good to remember music I had not thought of in years, it gives me hope of remembering the rest of the 22 pieces I can’t fully remember anymore. If I had a time machine, and I could go back and tell myself just one thing about my music, it would be, “Make cassette recordings of everything as soon as you can after you write it.” If I had done that…instead, I created one cassette in 1997, heard how horrible the sound quality was, and never made another one. Instead, I made a lot of RealPlayer recordings, which are still trapped on the hard drive from my first computer, which has not been booted in 20 years now. I know I could get at least 7 of my “lost works” back if I could play those files now, and if they were on cassette, then nothing could have happened to them (apart from proximity to magnets and getting eaten by a tape player, but that’s why I would have made redundant copies and stored them in different places). Alas, I can’t hit Rewind on my life, so I am stuck with only my memory and my music shorthand. Still, my memory is excellent, and I do live in hope of one day getting all my “lost” songs written out as sheet music and recorded.




5/27/2020

Today, I finally got my “new” swing song written out as sheet music, combining two unfinished swing songs I wrote in the 1990s into one finished song. Swing is certainly not my usual genre, but every once in a while, I end up writing some swing music.

The finished song is called My Father Cheats At Solitaire. You can read about it in the Storytellers section, but, long story short, in 1996, I wrote a song called Medieval Aire. In 1997, I realized that I could play the first 14 measures in a swing style, but the rest of the song didn’t really work as a swing piece, so I gave these 14 measures a working title, Cat On A Wire, and moved on to something else.

Around the same time, I also wrote My Father Cheats At Solitaire, which was also in a swing style and was written in the same key. I always knew they were meant to be together as one song, but I kept playing them back to back, and it never worked.

Then, earlier this month, I suddenly got the idea to play them simultaneously. I could play Cat On A Wire as the accompaniment while singing the melody for My Father Cheats At Solitaire, and it worked! So I got to work practicing it and figuring out exactly how the different sections should be joined together, and this morning, I finally finished what may well be my first complete Swing Revival song!

I’ll tell you just a little bit of background. When my dad’s mom came to Cincinnati to visit, she always stayed at my aunt’s house, and on the weekend, my dad and his brother would come to visit, and we’d all meet at my aunt’s house and eventually go out to dinner at a restaurant. During this visit, my grandma, dad, aunt, and uncle sat around playing Solitaire. They never played cards together; they sat separately, each with their own deck.

Once, my uncle accused my father of cheating at Solitaire, and I thought, “Why would anyone cheat at Solitaire? You wouldn’t be fooling anyone but yourself.” Later, though, I reflected that, whenever I asked my dad to play cards at home, he would quit playing as soon as he lost. So I played to lose. I would start with the game King’s Corners, because it was easy to lose on purpose, and I always saved Crazy 8’s for last, because there was an element of chance in that game, and sometimes, I accidentally won.

At home, my dad played game after game of Solitaire every day, but we only played cards together a few times a year, mostly because I knew how much he hated losing.




5/22/2020

Composing music, writing sheet music, and recording music are all different skills. Some people can do all three, but I am apparently only capable of two of these. I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong with home recording, but my best guess is that I just don’t have enough of the right equipment.

Everything I need to do builds on other skills, some of which I don’t have yet. I know I’ll get there eventually, but I had hoped to release my first MP3s by now.

In order to record my original music, I have to know how to record music and how do be a sound engineer. I know this is something that I can do, but, just as I did not learn how to read music in a day, nor can I learn sound engineering quickly.

When it came to learning to read music, I had piano lessons. I am not taking sound engineering lessons. I’m trying to learn everything from books and videos and websites. I’m trying to learn to be the wizard behind the curtain, while trying to do everything else I was already doing on top of that, so it’s no wonder it has been such slow going.

I am particularly frustrated with MIDI right now. I have a 1985 Yamaha Clavinova CLP-30 electric piano with MIDI ports, a MIDI to USB cable, and I have tried 10 different MIDI sequencers and DAWs (digital audio workstations) and none of them will work with my Clavinova. Only one program that I have made even one MIDI file, and that was after hundreds of tries, and I didn’t do anything differently the time it worked versus all the times before and after that it didn’t work. Plus, the file was very choppy. There was a lot of lag between some notes that had not been there when I played it.

Maybe my Clavinova is just too old to be compatible with a modern MIDI sequencer, or maybe I need to buy a more expensive MIDI to USB cable. I bought the Clavionova about five years ago to help me write sheet music, unfortunately the MIDI implementation is so limited that it put all the notes on one staff (instead of splitting them into the treble and bass clef), so it was completely useless for that.

It also lacks the awesome Clavichord sound that all the Clavinovas I used in the 1990s had; it was the last model of Clavinova that used FM synthesis, so it doesn’t even sound like a real piano, which was a real disappointment to me.

If it will just create MIDI files, though, it will have made itself worthwhile. I can change the instrument on those MIDI files to a real acoustic piano soundfont for demo recordings, since I apparently don’t have what it takes to properly mic my piano.




5/19/2020

I started writing a new song today. I hadn’t written anything new in about a month (the last things were my arrangements of Auld Lang Syne, Loch Lomond, and Skye Boat Song). Then, today, I was driving through flash flooding when a new melody, accompanied by something I wrote in 1991, popped into my head.

I hit Record on my Smartphone at a red light, and you can hear the torrential rain in the background over the lyrics and melody I sang into my phone.

In 1991, I was learning a piece of sheet music called Turkish Delight by David Karp, and I really liked this one chord near the ending, but I wasn’t very happy with the ending itself, so I wrote a new one. I did not, of course, write it down, even though my piano teacher told me that, if I was going to change the music, I really ought to write it down. Wise words, but I was only eleven and writing out sheet music correctly was really beyond me; even though I had a notebook of staff paper at home, I had only ever written two pieces of original sheet music in my life, and both of them were very short.

The new ending I wrote was only about 9 measures long, and it sounded more Spanish than Turkish. I never forgot how to play it, but I had never written it down until May 10 of this year. Then, on May 19, probably because I had been playing through it a lot in order to get it notated correctly, all of a sudden, this melody that goes over the top of the piano piece got in my head.

The lyrics are about a rather odd occurrence in my life. When I was a little girl, people often commented about how I talked all the time. I have pressured speech (a thought disorder, often associated with manic and hypomanic phases of Bipolar Disorder), and I also have another thought disorder called circumstantial thought/circumstantial speech, so I always had a lot to say about whatever the subject was, since my thoughts go around in a labyrinth of related ideas that are all interconnected. I wasn’t that great about explaining the connections within my web of thoughts as a young child, so people thought my speech was tangential; my second grade teacher was the first one to realize that, if she asked me to explain how what I was saying was connected to the subject, I could easily explain it. I thought it was obvious to everyone else, being unaware (at the time) of how differently my mind works.

Anyway, I was frequently called a motormouth by another girl on the school bus, and people often commented about how I never stopped talking. Then, when I returned to school for fourth grade, I didn’t communicate at all. In fact, shortly after the school year started, my parents signed forms agreeing that I would be warehoused in the Learning Disability Resource Room instead of attending regular classes. My parents thought I would get extra help, but instead, I was placed in a regular-sized classroom with children grades K-8 with only one teacher, in what I consider a warehouse of undesirable children. We were there because they did not want us in the regular classrooms, and we languished, learning little or nothing, doing work that was far too easy and not encouraged to challenge ourselves or live up to our potential.

Before the school year was over, I was back in the mainstream classroom, though I never caught up in certain subjects (grammar and math), because I was allowed to do such easy work in the Resource Room.

I attended the same small school for K-8, then our school fed into a large, consolidated high school that combined four public schools and two local private Christian schools that did not have a high school (a Catholic school and a Lutheran school). I went from being in a class of 40-some students to being in a class of over 230 students, and the majority of the kids I interacted with were ones I had never met before.

When I was in my late 30s, a girl who sat next to me in choir my Freshman year and who was in 10 plays with me during high school, and who was the only friend who asked me to go see a movie with them, got in touch with me, and we met for lunch quite a few times. She told me that, in high school, I never talked.

I was so surprised by this. I was totally unaware that I never talked, yet I wondered why I felt so isolated. I knew that it was hard for me to initiate conversations, yet I was surprised when a football player who had been in my Health class spotted me in the grocery store parking lot and came over to talk to me. He said that he always wondered how I always knew all the answers in class, and how he thought I was so cool and he always wanted to talk to me, but he felt intimidated because I never talked. He didn’t know how to approach me, even though he really wanted to ask me what my secret was for learning all the answers, since he thought he’d get Straight A’s if he had my brain.

Other people I went to high school with have also told me that I never talked. This makes one wonder…how was it that I was the girl who never talked, and I was also the girl who talked all the time?

The answer is, “Trauma.” Late in the third grade, my parents were told about a summer camp for, “Children like her,” and that this camp would, “fix everything.” The problem was that this was not a camp for children like me; it was an academic and behavioral remediation program for at-risk children, disguised as a summer camp. I was not the kind of child that is usually sent so such programs, and the trauma I experienced during that program caused me to stop communicating. That is why I was warehoused in the Resource Room. That is why a lot of things happened that would not have happened to me if my parents had more accurate information about the program I was sent to. (In reality, it was a lot like Gay conversation camps, except that most of the kids weren’t Gay and virtually none of them would have been sent there for that reason.)

The song is about how I was the girl who talked all the time, and then I was the girl who never talked. What caused the silence? Trauma. Silence then leads to isolation, which leads to desperation for connection with others, and it is very difficult to deal with the trauma when you can’t really connect with anyone to talk about it.

Then, my Sophomore year of high school, my friend Chris’s suicide lead me to becoming completely incapable of initiating conversations with my friends. I thought that they didn’t want anything to do with me anymore, because they thought I was a sociopath because I didn’t attend the funeral and wasn’t upset at the concert the night after his death. These things happened because I didn’t know he had died until the night before the funeral, and my parents were out of town the day of the funeral, so I couldn’t contact them to get permission to leave school grounds.

In reality, everyone else knew that I was deeply upset about his death, and they thought I wasn’t ready to talk about it or deal with it yet, so they all gave me space. Meanwhile, I longed for anyone to even just say hi to me. This was the second time in my life that I stopped talking.

The third time, of course, was when my right vocal cord became completely paralyzed when I was 28. I fought a hard fight to regain my ability to speak and, eventually, to sing, and even though every word is painful, I refuse to be silenced again.




5/18/2020

I’ve written 572 pages of sheet music. At this point, it’s cheaper to buy a used LaserJet printer than to pay Kinko’s to print it all out, so I’m trying to find a used printer that can print 9” or 10” width paper, since standard sheet music sizes are 9X12 and 10X13, but I think I’m going to be stuck with 8.5” by 14” legal size paper and a paper cutter.

439 of the pages of my sheet music are finished songs, the other 157 are unfinished songs, plus there are 24 pages of works in progressed (finished songs that I don’t have fully notated).

I briefly explored the possibility of buying a cheap 10” tablet for my original sheet music, but I think that, even though I will have to print multiple copies for editing purposes, paper is probably the way to go. Paper, after all, is a much less volatile storage medium than electronic sheet music. If the James Burke apocalypse happens, I can still play from sheet music printed on paper.

Having lost so much data at various times in the past, I keep redundant backup copies of all my original sheet music, but still. I wrote an entire book manuscript and lost both the backup from my thumb drive and the entire contents of my hard drive within 48 hours of each other (before I got a chance to buy a new thumb drive), and I can’t risk that happening to my music.




5/15/2020

Yesterday, I wrote out the sheet music and guitar tabs for my guitar arrangements of Loch Lomond/Skye Boat Song and Auld Lang Syne (I Dream of Auld Lang Syne), and I also finished the sheet music and tabs for #metoo. #metoo still needs a little work, because I've changed how long some of the melody notes are sustained since I first wrote the song over a year and a half ago.

I find that it's not at all uncommon for some of the melody notes to change after I write a song. Sometimes, they change in duration, and occasionally, they change in pitch. Over time, I find that sometimes, a slight change makes the song more natural to play, and I always find that these changes improve the song, and make it more musical. If I try to force a change on a song, it never sounds better, but if I pay attention and allow the song to change organically, it's always better for those small changes.

Today, I hope to write out the sheet music and guitar tabs for my arrangement of Streets of Lardeo, and finish making those small changes to #metoo.

I'm also working on adding the Songs of Susannah symbol (just above my name) and a subtle version of MusiCat in Cheshire form (centered at the end, under the last staff line) to each piece of sheet music. I think I will add these images to each piece of music to signify that this is the final version and no more edits are needed before I make it available online.




5/13/2020

I'm planning to test an idea of mine that would allow me to record my piano solos without going to a recording studio. This is a little bit technical.... I have the second model ever of Yamaha Clavinova electric piano, I believe the model number is C-50. Honestly, I've always been disappointed in my Clavinova; in the 1990s, when I was in a lot of piano competitions and played in monster concerts (7 pianos, 14 pianists, playing the same duet simultaneously), nearly all the practice rooms had Clavinovas, and I even played in one monster concert that used Clavinovas instead of acoustic pianos.

While I have always felt that nothing sounds like an acoustic piano (and no two acoustic pianos sound exactly alike), I really wanted a Clavinova, because of the way the clavichord sounds. With the push of a button, you could switch between a piano that almost sounded as good as a real piano, to a harpsichord or clavichord, among other sounds sampled from real instruments.

I wanted a Clavinova then, but when I started to write out sheet music, I wanted one even more, because I found out that it was possible to play a song and have it appear as sheet music, and that would be huge, in terms of how much time and effort it would take me to write out sheet music. All I would need would be a full-sized weighted keyboard (like a Clavinova) and a MIDI to USB cable.

So I looked for a used Clavinova until I found one within my price range, and I bought it. Unfortunately, the first two models did not have real instrument sampling; they had FM synthesis instead. Mine does not even have a clavichord option. Also, apparently my Clavinova is too primitive, because all the notes appear on one staff, so it was also useless for my intended purpose of using it to write sheet music. I ended up setting it up at my mom's house so I could play for her there, and that's where it remains.

So this is my plan now. If I use my MIDI to USB cable to record MIDI files of my original piano solos (and the piano parts for my piano/vocal songs), then run it through a DAW (digital audio workstation) and change the instrument that the MIDI is played in to a realistic acoustic piano VST (virtual instrument plugin) or soundfont (which is like a font, but for sound), then save it as a WAV (which is like an uncompressed MP3), then add reverberation, it should sound like I played it on an acoustic piano in an acoustically-appropriate room! (Without actually paying $50/hour to actually do so in a recording studio, and without any risk of COVID-19 exposure.)

It's certainly worth a try. I've already tested this method with four MIDI files created from my sheet music. The problem with these files is that they are essentially music played by a robot.

A robot has one advantage over a human pianist: a robot never hits the wrong key. However, a human pianist has an advantage over a robot as well: when a human pianist plays the piano, they make subtle changes to the key velocity and tempo. In English, that means that, when a pianist plays the piano, without even thinking about it, they play one note slightly louder or softer than the last, and sometimes, they rush or hesitate while playing. This conveys emotion.

I've always been a very expressive pianist, and if I were to try to have a robot play my songs for me, just because it's faster and a robot never makes mistakes, it's like the difference between me playing and a player piano playing the music I wrote. A large part of what makes people want to listen to music would be missing.

Maybe it's a bit of trickery for me to play my Clavinova with FM synthesis and then switch out the tones for those of an acoustic piano, and to make it sound like that piano was played in the best possible room for that particular piece of music. On the other hand, I've been studying the wizardry behind the curtain of sound engineering, and the amount of trickery that goes into most modern music is astounding. And no wonder many people are dissatisfied with the resulting music! Far too much of it is being played by, essentially, robots. It's not just drum machines anymore!

If I had a newer model of Clavinova, I could simply record the WAV files I am trying to create, right there on the Clavinova. There would be no trickery involved at all, and it would probably sound almost exactly like a real piano. It is my hope that, as primitive as my Clavinova is, it still has a good enough MIDI interface that it will record not just my hesitation and rushing of various notes and various sections of songs, but that it will also record every subtle gradient of my key velocity. And MIDI is capable of doing just that, so I think that my plan will work, in which case, I will be releasing piano solos first, before any vocal music, the reason being that I am not a sound engineer and I only own one microphone.

I have not yet managed to learn how to effectively use that microphone to achieve anything that sounds remotely like what my music sounds like live, and until I do, well, I will not release sub-par music. When I release my music, and it goes out into the world, it's going to sound as good as it does when I play it live. That is my commitment. I may need to use a little bit of technology to make that happen without investing a whole lot of money that I don't have, but it's the least I can do, for my music, for my fans, and for myself.




5/11/2020

I've been working on sheet music this past weekend. I gave titles to 6 of the 16 piano solos I've written over the past couple years that didn't have titles yet:

-Tenochtilan
-The Last Aurochs
-The Acrobats
-Trepidation
-Desdemona's Handkerchief
-Lost Civilization

I also notated something I wrote in Jr. High that I hadn't thought of in decades (bringing my grand total to 250 pieces of music). Which means I now have written out 91 complete pieces of original sheet music, I've partially written out another 8, and I have also written out 103 unfinished pieces. I still have over 40 pieces in my backlog that need to be written out as sheet music, but I am not making those a priority right now, in light of trying to record. The ones that are left are ones I don't remember very well, which is unfortunate, since some of them were among my best pieces from high school and college.

My main focus right now has to be preparing to record. It seems like all I would need to do is press Record, but it's far from that simple. I pressed Record in the summer of 1997, and the resulting cassette sounded so awful that I never did it again (I really wish I had recorded everything on cassette now, because I would not have forgotten so many songs I wrote if I could play them back, instead of relying on my memory).

It is not even just a matter of properly placing the microphone and learning how to use the software. I'm learning a lot about what the wizard behind the curtain does.

I keep using this Wizard of Oz metaphor. As listeners, we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. We believe that recording, producing, mixing, and mastering a track is almost the same thing as playing a song live. I'm behind that curtain now, staring at all the levers and buttons and trying to figure out how to use each of them to achieve an effect that is a cross between what I am able to play live at home, and what people expect from a professional musical recording. I'm finding that Oz made it look easy. There is so much to learn! Being a sound engineer is well outside of my skill set, but I'm learning, and I hope I might be releasing my first single by next month.




5/7/2020

I'm having a frustrating time with my DAW (digital audio workstation). If you're not familiar with DAWs, they are programs that allow you to mix your recordings and various effects (everything from reverberation to autotune to entirely simulated musical performances).

I'm trying to find a way to give my digital recordings the warmth of analog, and, if at all possible, the sound of vinyl. To that end, I downloaded two plugins (add-ons) that are supposed to make my recording sound more like a cassette tape and more like a vinyl record, respectively.

Unfortunately, the vinyl plugin gives me a bunch of error messages, and the graphical user interface for the cassette tape plugin is entirely in Arabic (at least, it looks like Arabic to me), so I can't really use either one!




5/6/2020

I'm practicing 13 songs on the guitar pretty much every day:

-Going Home (2020)
-How Many Days? (2020)
-R'lyeh (2020)
-Don't Go (2018)
-#metoo (2018)
-Singing In a Damaged Voice (2018)
-You Inspire Me (2018)
-The Lost Library (2009)
-Guitar Lullaby (1999)
-Who Has Seen the Wind (1990)
-Streets of Laredo (arr. 2020)
-Loch Lomond (arr. 2020)
-Auld Lang Syne (arr. 2020)

I am also considering including the following on the album:
-If Nothing Else (2009)
-For My Grandfather (2001)
-Empty Place (1994)

I am considering taking these off the album:
-You Inspire Me (2018)
-Winter's Day (1996)
-Singing In a Damaged Voice (2018)

Yes, I am actually considering taking off the title track. I think that every song on the album is very relevant for the times we live in (the COVID-19 epidemic), except for You Inspire Me, which is the one love song on this album. Perhaps having a love song is appropriate relief, and a reminder of better times past and better times to come. Or, perhaps it just doesn't fit with the mood of the rest of the album.

I am really not as happy with Singing In a Damaged Voice on the guitar, and, although it feels more in line with the theme of the album, it is more of a stretch than the others.

Of the three, Winter's Day seems the most relevant to COVID-19, so it is the least likely to be cut, especially because the cello part sounds great, so all I have to do is record a good vocal part, and it's finished. It could very well be my first single. However, it would be the only track on the entire album that isn't for guitar/voice.

I recently recorded a cello part for Singing In a Damaged Voice (the part that I would have played with my right hand on the piano). Perhaps it sounds a bit too melancholy. It's hard to be sure how it will sound until I record and mix it, then I'll have a better idea if it will work on the guitar and cello, or if I'll need to record it on the piano.

In the end, if I cut the title track, I will need a new title for my album. I thought about, "Six Feet Apart," but I'm pretty sure that there is a movie with that title. We'll see. Maybe it will end up sounding great, and I won't have to bump it to my second album.




5/5/2020

I always thought the song, "Summer of '69," was hyperbolic, until one night, after a day of very serious guitar playing, I accidentally touched one of my incisors with one of my fingers while I was eating. Ouch! I didn't realize how much my fingers were hurting!

If I hadn't been playing my nylon stringed classical guitar, my fingers almost certainly would have been bleeding. The next day, I gave my hands a rest, and I found that holding a cold can of soda was soothing.

The next morning, I woke up, tested my fingers, and found that the pain had mostly subsided. Alright! Time to arrange more music for the guitar!




5/3/2020

Happy 74th birthday, Mom!




5/2/2020

I have musculoskeletal problems, so I find it interesting that the problems I usually have in my hands have lessened since I started to play the guitar nearly every day. Playing the guitar seems to be good physical therapy for my hands.




4/30/2020

Spoiler alert: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon and Season 5 of the Outlander TV series

The character Roger was about to leave for the Battle of Alamance, and before he left, he played, "Clementine," on his guitar and sang it for his son. Knowing what was coming, I almost burst into tears, but I didn't want to spoil it for my mother, who has never read the books.

There are a lot of book-to-show differences, so I wanted to cry out to the television, "Please, don't do it to Roger. You already did it to him in the book, please, don't do it to him in the show, too!" But I knew it was such a major plot element that it was almost certainly going to happen.

There he was, singing, taking his voice for granted, not knowing that he would never sound like that again, not knowing that he would, forever after this day, always speak and sing with pain. Clementine was the last song he would ever sing with the voice that he was born with, the voice that was such a huge part of his identity.

If it hasn't happened to you, you don't know what it's like to lose your voice. Maybe you lost it for a week when you had strep throat, but you knew that it would come back, and if you didn't strain it, it would be as good as new in a week or two.

What if you got a sore throat, and then you were in voice therapy for nine months learning how to talk again? What if, all of a sudden, you could no longer carry a tune because your voice randomly broke and went off key like an adolescent boy whose voice is changing? That's what happened to me in 2008.

I know that, like me, one day, Roger will sing again. He will never sound like he used to, but I've read the books, and I know that, one day, he will sing Sixteen Tons with his son. Just like me, he will overcome this. He will learn to sing in a damaged voice.




4/28/2020

I recently realized something interesting about one of the songs on my upcoming album, entitled, Don't Go. I wrote it when my mother was having a medical crisis, which involved brain swelling. She didn't know who I was, where she was, who the president was, or any of those things. The doctors said they didn't know whether it would be permanent or temporary.

I just recently realized that the vocal glissando on the word, "Please," in the line, "Please, Mom, don't go," is exactly the opposite (melodically) of the, "Please," kids say when they want their parents to let them go somewhere, or do something, or buy something. At the time that I wrote it, it just sounded keening.

It's fascinating that the opposite sound from begging your mom for something that you want, is the sound of begging your parent not to be gone forever. That, "Please," is one of only two glissandos I've ever written.

Don't Go always gives me chills.




4/24/2020

Thinking about what, "Rock music," means. I didn't used to have a concept that I could verbalize. I used to think that rock music usually uses an electric guitar or two, often an electric bass, and a drum set (all other instruments being largely optional to the genre). But, so do other genres. A genre is not defined by the most common instruments used in that genre, any more than a house is defined by the tools the carpenter used to build it.

At this point, I define rock music as music that...rocks. Meaning, it has a specific shuffle to it. Two of the best examples that prominently feature that rocking sound right at the beginning of the song are, "Revolution," by The Beatles, and, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," by Billy Joel.

I've also noticed that, in rock music, when a band uses two-part harmony, the harmony part is almost always above the melody line. Look at any example of a rock band that uses vocal harmony, or at any rock 'n' roll male/female duet. The harmony note is almost always above the melody line, whereas usually in vocal music, the harmony is below the melody.

In all my years as a soprano in various choirs (over the course of 1989-1999), I literally only ever had one note in one song that was lower than the harmony part the altos were singing. Putting the harmony line above the melody line is a feature of Rock 'n' Roll, whereas you almost never see a harmony line above a melody line in choral or folk music, unless you have a soprano descant.

I am definitely not a rock musician. My music doesn't rock. It does...something else. Something that involves a lot of time signature changes, LOL! Not sure quite what!

What I am terribly curious about now, is how to define alternative rock. What is it that's different about it? There has to be something that all alternative rock has in common.

I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually.




4/23/2020

Does a digitally recorded album really sound better on vinyl? Many people think so. Although I used to play a foot-high stack of 45s every day when I was a preschool-aged child, and have always been very nostalgic about records because of this, I have to admit that I never noticed that music sounds better on a turntable.

Then again, I’ve never owned a really good set of speakers.

It always seemed to me that, if an album was recorded digitally, you’ve already lost the opportunity for whatever superior sound you could’ve gotten from an analog medium. So maybe it’s not that the sound is superior, but that it’s just what people are used to.

Recently, I’ve been learning about these differences. Analog recording creates a certain warmth (called tape saturation) that digital music lacks (it is actually distortion that many people find more pleasing to the ear than a more accurate digital recording). You can add this by running digital music through a tape deck and then re-digitizing it, by using a tape emulator on the music file, or, presumably, you can create it by cutting a vinyl record and then creating the master CD from that record (and then creating the MP3 files from that master CD).

“Is it live, or is it Memorex,” was never anything but an ad campaign, because the warmth people got used to hearing in analog music musical recordings (records and tapes) is caused by sound distortion that is absent in both live music and digitally recorded music (unless you add it by using special equipment, such as tube microphones or tape emulators).

As for whether vinyl sounds better, as it turns out, when music is recorded on a vinyl record, you lose some of the high frequencies and some of the bass, so it really does sound different (though this is because of the absence of certain frequencies, not because it captures something that a digital recording misses). Also, MP3s are not as high-quality as the same song from a CD, because you lose a little bit of the sound quality by compressing the files so they will take up less space on a hard drive.

I remember seeing so many CDs that said, “Digitally remastered,” when, in fact, probably a lot of people thought they didn’t sound as good as they had on LP or cassette, because the distortion that created the warmth had been removed.

These are important things for me to know, now that I’m just beginning to record my music. There are actually home systems that can cut a record. They come with a special needle that actually cuts the groove into the blank record, and it seems to me that using something like that would introduce the warmth of analog and remove the high frequencies and the bass frequencies that are absent in vinyl records. I could then rip the record to MP3 and offer MP3s that have that warm sound that people miss in digital music, without adding the hiss of the cassette tape deck, and with more honesty than using an emulator.

I suppose no one who doesn’t own either $100 headphones or $300 speakers would notice the difference. But some people have those things, and they would notice.

The nicest set of speakers I’ve ever owned were PC speakers with a subwoofer. I really don't own the stereo equipment that I need for editing, mixing, and mastering my recordings, though right now, I'm still struggling with creating decent basic recordings in the first place, so it's not really time for that level of fine-tuning, anyway.

One thing that I must say about this while analog versus digital, MP3 versus vinyl question, is that there is perfection, and then there is art. Sometimes, the lack of perfection is what makes it art. Maybe people like the warm sound of analog distortion because it makes the recording imperfect, whereas other things exist to make a live performance imperfect. Art cannot be mass-produced, and when you try to mass-produce copies of art, perhaps you have to add little flaws to it for people to really be able to appreciate it.




4/20/2020

My sheet music composition laptop is now officially held together with duct tape! The screw on the right side hinge has fallen out several times, so I think the threads are stripped. I’ve tried several different screws, all of which have fallen out and gotten lost.

This problem has been causing the laptop’s casing to pop open when I open and close the lid. I knew better than to ever open the laptop without plugging it in first, but I forgot, and the place where you plug the cord in came unseated. I couldn’t charge it until I took it apart and fixed it.

I unscrewed the bottom and managed to re-seat the place where you plug the cord in (outlet? power hole?). Unfortunately, when I opened the case, the plastic around the screw that held the left hinge in place broke off. This essentially means that both hinges are broken, and the casing comes open on both sides when I open it.

The only solution I could think of was to duct tape the casing together, and to never close the laptop again. This means portability outside of my house is completely gone, but I rarely took it anywhere, anyway, and I can still carry it from piano to couch to bedroom, I just have to be more careful, since I’ll have to carry it up and down the stairs while it’s open.

I need to create a dust cover for it, since it no longer closes. My husband says that duct tape looks like racing stripes (the only color of duct tape I had is a shade of bright blue, very similar to the one I use on this website). And the most important thing is that I still have an outdated laptop to run my outdated music notation software on!

I’d upgrade, except everything is either really expensive, or is free, but won’t support my file format, and since I have 130-some pieces of sheet music written out so far (only 90 pieces are actually finished songs, and most of those still need to have dynamics and tempo markings added, so it’s not like I could just print them all and start using a new program without an extreme amount of data entry happening first).

I’m hoping that my next outdated laptop will be even more outdated. Maybe I can find one that still runs Windows XP. That would be awesome, because the drivers for my MIDI keyboard aren’t compatible with anything except for XP and Windows 9x (95, 98, and ME). And just my luck, I bought it only a couple months before they announced that XP would no longer be supported! It’s still absolutely awesome, though. Google, “Creative ProdiKeys.” It’s a computer keyboard with a musical keyboard attached to it under the wrist support! Just remove the wrist support, and instant MIDI keyboard! Too bad it won't work without a driver.

I’ve been manually entering all the notes for years now, and I’m used to it, but still, being able to enter the notes from a MIDI keyboard would be a huge time saver, and I might finally get my backlog of music I haven’t notated yet all written out if I had a MIDI keyboard that I could actually use.




4/19/2020

As far as I can tell, I've written at least 249 pieces of music in my lifetime (not including pieces of music that I later combined together; I recently said I'd written 250, but then I combined 2 together and it became 249 again). Many of these were never finished, and I've forgotten the majority of 20-some of them, to the point that I might never be able to record them or write them out as sheet music.

There was a time when I had everything I'd ever written memorized, but at a certain point, I reached critical mass, and I started to forget songs I'd written, without realizing it (including some really good finished songs that I wrote in high school, college, and between 2004-2014). At one point, I had RealPlayer recordings of at least 30 of them (recorded in 1998-2000), and had uploaded them to a GeoCities website. (If I could recover those recordings from my first hard drive, which I still have, I would have at least 7 fewer lost works.) Unfortunately, after my computer died, I didn't immediately go to download my songs from my website, and by the time I got everything in order to save them onto a ZIP disk, GeoCities had apparently changed their terms and conditions, because my files were gone. At that point, I probably could still play most of them, but when you've written as much music as I have written, it's very difficult to get around to playing all of them even once a year, and I hadn't yet realized that I was capable of forgetting them.

Despite this, I've managed to get 96 finished songs and 104 unfinished songs written out as sheet music over the past five years. There are at least 52 more. I can still lay hands on 46 more songs that I haven't gotten down as sheet music yet, not even partially, and I can remember 6 more that I can't locate anymore.

7 of the pieces of sheet music I've written aren't fully written out, because I'm stuck on a difficult measure. 15 of the complete ones don't have titles yet, and 13 of them are complete musically, but have unfinished lyrics.

Almost all of them still need me to add dynamics and tempo markings.

At least 30 of them are instrumental, and the rest of them have lyrics, even if there are only a few lines of lyrics and the rest of the song is instrumental.

A total of 21 of the 90 songs I fully notated have at least one mistake that needs to be corrected. Most of these are ones that I wrote out 4 or 5 years ago, when I wasn't as experienced at writing out sheet music as I am now. Often, there is just one measure (or maybe there are 10 different measures) that doesn't (don't) sound exactly the same as they do in my head, and I need to take the time to correct those measures. As the years go by, I revisit these pieces and get them corrected, though it is more difficult to go back and fix one bad measure than it is to pick up where I left off, when I got so stuck that I set the entire song aside until my skills could improve.

This means that I have 69 songs that are ready for me to add the dynamics and get them published as sheet music. Because adding dynamics is much more subjective, I'm reluctant to approach this step. I feel like I need to study how it's done before I just start doing it, because how can I tell if something should be played forte or fortissimo, piano or pianissimo, mezzo piano or mezzo forte, just by listening to myself play it?

I'm also not always sure that I wrote the sheet music in the correct key signature. Sometimes, half the time a note is flat and the other half, it's natural (or sharp/natural), or I seem to have invented a new key signature and I'm not sure if I should mark all of a certain note or two as natural, or if I should have fewer sharps/flats in the key signature. There are about 20 pieces of sheet music in this condition.

All in all, only 45 pieces out of the 90 pieces of complete sheet music are really ready for me to add dynamics markings and publish them (when you take into consideration that I might be too unconventional about the key signatures in so many of them).

I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a child, for good reason. Despite being rather bad at math, I do calculations like this all the time. I never read a book without sometimes stopping to calculate what percent and fraction of the book I've read. I count up all sorts of things. (Sharing for anyone else who is interested in these numbers.)




4/18/2020

Yesterday, I wrote an arrangement of Loch Lomond on the guitar. It was very spontaneous, in fact, what happened was that I made up a new guitar chord, liked it, played it a few times, and then realized, "This sounds very Scottish." My arrangement was short, just under a minute, so I went into some other Scottish music. I played Skye Boat Song, and then I played part of my original song, I Never Saw A Moor, and then, Auld Lang Syne.

Since I'm a teetotaler, drinking to auld lang syne isn't my truth, so I changed it to, "I dream of auld lang syne," and as soon as I did, I started writing these verses about grandparents. My mother had recently told me about a dream she had about being with her grandparents, so two of the verses I wrote were about them. I also wrote a verse about my grandma.

The song brought me to tears. I played it for my mother, and it brought her to tears, too. In fact, if I didn't intend to only put original music on this album, it would be a really appropriate addition.

I'm thinking of also recording an album of guitar/voice folk songs. Even though I've written a lot of arrangements and new lyrics to more recent songs, I don't want to deal with the hassle of releasing songs written by other people if they're still under copyright. It would mean I'd have to calculate what royalties I owe to the original songwriters. Maybe someday, I'll do that, but for right now, it's just unnecessarily complicated, especially when I have written at least 249 pieces of original music and I haven't released a single track yet.

If I play folk music that was never copyrighted, however, I won't have to worry about calculating royalties, and as long as I've changed the songs and made them my own (as I also do whenever I play a cover), there's no reason not to.




4/17/2020

Continuing from yesterday, I have considered removing the two songs that don't fit as well with this album, and putting them on a future album. Both of them are love songs. But then, I think, two love songs on an album that is otherwise really relevant for this COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps they are welcome relief. And besides, as a sleep-deprived Susannah recently said, "I'm trying to make my album seem like a full-length album, by making it a full-length album."

If I cut two songs, even if I add two more, it's still going to be a little on the short side. Still, if I want the option of putting this record on LP, it's going to have to either be on the short side, compared to many albums that were released during the cassette and CD era, or it's going to have to be a double album.

It's essentially a choice between an album that is no more than 36 minutes long, and an album that is no more than an hour and 12 minutes long. Both of those are on the extreme ends of album length, neither of which seems like a good idea for a debut album.

In fact, the songs on this album were written between 1990 and 2020, so it's both a debut album and a retrospective album. The collection of, "Songs of Susannah that work as well on the guitar or cello as they do on the piano."

I hope that my next album will be piano/vocal.




4/16/2020

I decided on the 11th song for my album, "Singing In a Damaged Voice," and I'm considering two additional songs that go along with the theme of the majority of the songs on this album.

This album is really relevant for the COVID-19 pandemic, and so I think my song, "If Nothing Else," which is the imagining of one's own self-depreciating eulogy, and, "For My Grandfather," which I wrote in 2001 in memory of him shortly after his death, would be excellent additions, I'm just struggling a bit to make them work on the guitar.

The song I recently added is #metoo, which is a song about what it's like for a sexual assault survivor several years after the traumatic event, using rain and storms as metaphors.

I am a rape survivor myself, however, this song does not tell my story. Instead, it tells about how, after you have picked up the pieces and put your life back together, there are still times when something makes you remember. Something brings those memories to the surface, and it's as if a dark cloud has been cast over everything, every good thing in the life that you have managed to build for yourself.

I hope that this song will help other sexual assault survivors, and I also hope that it will help those who are not survivors to understand and have empathy for those of us who have survived sexual assault (whether rape or second degree sexual assault). I am sometimes shocked by the lack of understanding some people have, such as a man who told me that losing his wallet was like being raped. Ask any rape survivor, "Would you have rather had your wallet stolen?" Invariably, of course having your wallet stolen is very upsetting and it's a major hassle, but it's much less traumatic than being raped.

I have had my wallet stolen, and I was not afraid for my life. I had my wallet stolen, and I was not worried about A.I.D.S. from that experience. I had my wallet stolen, and I did not have to worry about the possibility of pregnancy because of it. I had my wallet stolen, and I did not need to have surgery years later to correct the physical damage that healed improperly, causing chronic abscesses. I had my wallet stolen, and I didn't have to go get abscesses lanced and drained once or twice a year for the next several years before a doctor finally told me there was a surgical option that would solve the problem once and for all. I've had had my wallet stolen twice, and I lost less money from both those thefts combined, than I spent on medical care after being raped. I had my wallet stolen, and I did not feel like it was unsafe for me to be in public without another trusted individual (because of my lack of social cognition) for the next several years. I had my wallet stolen, and I did not worry that the police would put my character on trial or blame my clothing choices (despite me being a very modest dresser), if I chose to report it. I had my wallet stolen, and I did not think that it wouldn't have happened if I had a Social Signal Dog for Autism, which I had decided against because other people needed them more than I do (even though, as a child, I thought that, while I would not want to be Blind, at least if I were, I could take a dog everywhere with me, which would be awesome). In every way, having your wallet stolen is a much preferable experience to being raped. It baffles me that anyone could think otherwise, and anyone who feels that way is in serious need of empathy.

Another thing that I want to mention about #metoo is that this song is amazingly powerful on the guitar. I was surprised, because I had only ever played it on the piano. On the guitar, this song actually gave me chills, as only two of my other songs do (both of which I plan to include on Singing In a Damaged Voice).

I also want to add here that male sexual assault survivors need to be taken every bit as seriously as female sexual assault survivors. The only difference is that men never need to worry about pregnancy as a result of sexual assault (depending on the situation, women don't always have to worry about that possible life-changing consequence, either). Every other kind of trauma and fear and pain that women experience as a result of sexual assault, men experience, too, plus some issues that are unique to men (and are a result of cultural ideas, rather than any biological difference).




4/15/2020

I've completed the sheet music and guitar tabs for all but one of the 10 tracks I'm practicing for my upcoming album, Singing In A Damaged Voice. Last time I mentioned it, there were only 8 tracks; since then, I arranged Who Has Seen The Wind for guitar/voice, and decided to add Guitar Lullaby to the album.

On April 9, I realized that, despite Shelter In Place, I had not watched any TV at all in over a month, except for one episode of Cosmos. I have been devoting almost all my time to music. (And sleeping, and cooking, and eating, and little else.)

Perusing the e-books available from my library system, I checked out:

-Home Recording for Musicians for Dummies

-PC Recording Studios for Dummies

These books are 9 and 15 years old, respectively, but should still give me a good foundation. I only hope I can get them finished on time! Otherwise, I may be on a waiting list to check them out again.






4/14/2020

After I finished writing out the guitar sheet music and tablature for R'lyeh, I realized that I have 100 unfinished songs written out as sheet music. That means, at any given time, I have 100 options available when I write an unfinished song, that I could potentially add to it and complete it. That's how I finished R'lyeh, after all. I combined it with something I had written a year and a half previously. At the time, I thought the lyrics were too silly, but then I substituted the words, "Sunken," and, "eldritch," for the word, "pesky," in the original, and it worked perfectly. Two fewer unfinished songs, one more finished one.

R'lyeh was also a challenge to notate, because I had never worked with chord charts or up/down strumming markings in my musical notation software before. It took me much longer than expected (between 5 and 6 hours), because I had to read huge sections of the manual, especially because there was no guitar fretboard diagram for Asus2, so I had to create one.

Now, I have finished the tablature for Guitar Lullaby, and I'm ready to move on to the last song on my list: Singing In a Damaged Voice.






4/11/2020

We had a tornado on Wednesday night, thankfully my home was not damaged, however, just across the creek, a huge wooden high-tension pylon was either struck by lightening or damaged by the tornado itself. Apparently, the electric company decided to make a bonfire out of the remains, because there is a huge bonfire fire that has been burning for days. At first, it wasn't a problem for me, because the wind was blowing to the East, but then yesterday afternoon, it changed direction and blew North, taking the smoke directly into my house.

Who knows what kind of toxic chemicals were on that pylon? Those pylons are older than me. When I was a kid, the chemicals my grandfather used to treat his wooden fences with were banned because of how dangerous they are to inhale.

I had been waiting for over two weeks for my voice to recover from the smokers in the grocery store parking lot, and after 15 days, my voice was sounding great and I was ready to record the next day (today). Then, I breathed in that smoke, and now my voice is in bad shape again.

It has been one thing after another since November. I would have recorded over four months ago if things didn't keep going wrong. It's like I just can't get a break!

On the other hand, this means that now, I have more time to research the best ways to record at home while I wait for my voice to recover again. Maybe my recordings will turn out better because of these delays. It's just so frustrating when I want to launch my singer/songwriter career already!




4/10/2020

Today, I added a new song to Lyrics and Storytellers, tentatively entitled R'lyeh, and I made 8 additional small changes to Storytellers.

The guitar/voice album I'm working on is really coming together. So far, there are 8 songs, though that is on the short side for an album, so I plan to get 3-5 more together before I start working on the order for the tracks and the album art.

I continue to test my home recording setup, trying different recording software and different ways to position the microphone. Hopefully, by the end of next week, I'll begin making the recordings for the actual album.






4/8/2020

New Songs of Susannah T-shirt designs are almost ready! There was a problem with printing; MusiCat and the Songs of Susannah logo were printing out purple! The latest test prints came out blue, so it shouldn't be long now!




4/3/2020

Today marks a momentous occasion for Songs of Susannah! The new version of the SOS website is finally live, and so is the first YouTube video! While mobile phone testing still needs to happen, and a few of the pages aren't quite finished yet, I'm just that much closer to releasing my first MP3!




4/1/2020

Happy New Year! I'm celebrating April Fool's Day by releasing the newest version of the Songs of Susannah website! Check it out, I hope you enjoy it!




3/29/2020

I've been working on doing a lot of test recordings, and I've been unable to record voice and guitar at the same time. I read that, in the 1960s, a lot of singer/songwriters recorded with an upside-down condenser mic. The side of the mic would pick up their voice, and the top (bottom) would pick up the guitar. That doesn't seem to be happening for me. It looks like I'll have to record them separately and then mix them, or else get a second microphone.

I'm also testing out a new vendor (Dizzyjam) for Songs of Susannah T-shirts and tote bags. They haven't done a test print yet, so I don't know if it's going to turn out right yet, but at least it's a step in the right direction! Previously, Songs of Susannah merchandise was handcrafted by me at the Makerspace at the Downtown Cincinnati library and the Hebron, Kentucky library. Songs of Susannah merchandise is not an essential industry, so I can't make inventory on demand right now, even though I do think that fans appreciate hand-crafted Songs of Susannah shirts and buttons and keychains a whole lot more than mass-produced ones.




3/27/2020

I've been working on acquiring all the right software, repeatedly downloading, testing, and deleting digital audio workstations (DAWs) and video editing software. I now have a mailing list, a forum, and a YouTube channel.

One of my main issues is trying to make my microphone sound better. I did a lot of research and I learned that the microphone I'm using (Samson C01U) was the first USB microphone ever manufactured (which doesn't surprise me, since I've had it for about a dozen years). I learned that I don't need an audio interface or a preamp, because they're built into the microphone. I also learned that all DAWs produce recordings of equal quality, the difference being the default settings and the quality of software preamps available in a given DAW.

My biggest issue is that (when I test my test recordings in Audacity), if I use Noise Canceling on a capella recordings, it gets rid of the hiss, but if I use Noise Canceling on guitar recordings, it ruins them. My recordings are either too quiet to hear, or they're recorded too loud for the software and create an unpleasant and unprofessional sound on the high notes. I probably just need a more robust DAW, and to figure out the right settings for my recording setup.




3/25/2020

Indiana Shelter in Place regulations went into effect at midnight last night. My husband is an essential worker, so I am going to be spending my days home alone moving forward with Songs of Susannah. I've already started to do some fine-tuning to the new version of the SOS website, testing the mobile version of the website, and fixing a few formatting issues that didn't work on my Smartphone. I'm also moving closer and closer to starting to record.




3/24/2020

Today, I've been doing research about recording at home. I've been looking at shock mount microphone stands and pop filters, how to make your own sound recording booth at home, video editing software, various digital audio workstations, et cetera. I'm also looking into how to make my music available on streaming services, MP3 sites, and so on. Maybe I can make my first recordings available as soon as next month! There is still a lot to do, but I'm getting there!

I'm almost ready to roll out the latest version of my website! I started mobile testing yesterday and found four things that aren't displaying well on my Smartphone, and I also updated another dozen pages today. I hope to have the new version ready by this weekend!




3/23/2020

I'm really excited about completing the Songs of Susannah website! It's not quite there yet, but I am almost ready to roll out the new version that I've been working on for the past several months! I went through the new version of the website, and (if you don't read the lyrics page, storytellers page, past performances page, list of songs with similar musical DNA, or the news page) it takes 33 minutes to read through the entire site, which seems about right.




3/21/2020

Today, I added MusiCat Gallery and a site map to the Songs of Susannah website. I also made a brief test recording of the first verse of my latest song. I have a Samson C01U condenser microphone that I bought about a dozen years ago. I was unable to successfully mic my piano with it, despite many tries shortly after I bought it; now, I'm going to try to record guitar and voice with it. At first, it made a terrible hiss, but Audacity (a recording program) has a noise reduction effect that cleaned this up. I think it sounds pretty good! I will need to get some more equipment before I can make any recordings, however. Because of COVID-19, recording outside my home is no longer possible, so I'm going to have to make some changes in terms of my plans for my first album.




3/20/2020

Today, I wrote a new song on the guitar, tentatively called, "Something Moving." I combined it with a hitherto unfinished song I wrote a year and a half ago. The first part of the song is for percussive guitar, meaning that I drum on the body of the guitar while holding down chords. It's something I've played around with before, but had never written a song using this technique. I also wasn't sure it was an established technique, or just something I made up, but, as with most seemingly novel things on most instruments, I reinvented the wheel.




3/19/2020

Happy Spring Equinox! Today, I added another page to the Songs of Susannah website: My Calling. It's a short essay I wrote about two months ago about how and why I came to be a singer/songwriter.

My husband and I had planned to go to a sculpture at a park in Cincinnati that is supposed to do something special at sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes and solstices, but because of COVID-19, we are postponing it until the Summer Solstice. We went there during the Winter Solstice, but it was too overcast to see anything. I have now officially written at least 250 songs (including unfinished songs)!




3/17/2020

Wishing everyone a happy St. Patrick's Day! Here in Indiana, and in the entire Tri-State area of Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky, all the bars and restaurants were ordered closed last night, and I think it was really a good idea, since so many people would have otherwise crowded into these places to celebrate. It will be the most Irish St. Patrick's Day that the United States has seen in a very, very long time, since in Ireland it is actually a religious holiday, rather than a cultural celebration of Irish heritage and excessive alcohol.

So put on some traditional Celtic music or some more contemporary Irish music, and, if you have Irish ancestors, maybe do a little research on your own Irish heritage. If you play an instrument, play whatever Irish music you know. If you have the ingredients, cook some traditional Irish food, and end the evening by learning some traditional Irish folktales. Make it the most special St. Patrick's Day America has ever seen, and maybe next year, we will all know a little more about what we're celebrating.




3/15/2020

Today, I wrote a new song on the guitar, called How Many Days. This is the second song I've written on the guitar in the past two and a half weeks. This one is based on my mother-in-law, Azariah, who died of lung cancer in 2008. She loved monarch butterflies, and grew milkweed for them. After her death, my husband and I decided to honor her memory at our wedding by using a lot of blue monarch butterflies in our wedding decorations. I wrote the song using the motif of monarch butterflies.

We made several lengthy road trips to visit her during her nine-month battle with cancer, and when my husband and I went to oncology appointments with her, she kept asking them how much time she had left, and no one would give her a straight answer. I never saw her cry about anything except her desperation to know how much time she had left. The last time we saw her alive, they told her she had at least six months. A month later, she was on her deathbed, and we were both scrambling to get time off work, and rushing to pack what we'd need. At the time, we lived about 140 miles apart. We were both driving on our way to meet up for the long trip when he got word that she had already died. Just before she died, they had told her she had hours left. We believed we could make it, but even if we had simply rushed out of out workplaces and started driving the second we got word, we already would have been too late.




03/14/2020

Today, I added 7 paragraphs to my biography, as well as a list of my past performances, my Storytellers page, a few quotes from fans, and, of course, three new images of MusiCat. MusiCat now reads a book, uses a microphone, and climbs around in the grand staff on a piece of staff paper.

There are many other new updates as well. All but eight out of the 27 pages are now finished, though some of them (such as the News page, Lyrics, Storytellers, and so on) will need to be updated on a fairly regular basis.

All the pages that aren't finished are waiting for me to complete something else first, such as the Videos page (I need to record at least one video for that one), the Albums page, Sheet Music page, Merchandise page, et cetera. I still need to set up a mailing list and a forum, as well as a store. I need to look up a few other small details for Past Performances and I need to decide exactly what to say about Savant Syndrome for those that would like more information.

The latest version of this website is almost ready to launch!




03/13/2020

Now that my voice is finally starting to cooperate, the library with the recording booth (as well as most of the other library systems in my area) has decided to close for a month due to COVID-19. I understand why they decided to do this, and it's almost certainly for the best, I've just been hit with one thing after another since November and now there will be yet another delay with recording Winter's Day.

The irony for me is that I'm pretty sure that I already had COVID-19 a month ago (see my February 6 update). Perhaps it was another bug that behaved similarly, but my symptoms and the symptoms of my husband and his co-workers are a really good match for COVID-19.

I know it's possible that at least one life will be saved because the libraries are closed. I am still disappointed at yet another delay.




03/12/2020

I finally decided to give up on using PHP to add the menu to my website. I'm just going to add the menu to each page, and hope I don't have to make many changes in the future, since, instead of changing it in one place, I will have to change it in at least 25 different places.

I didn't strike while the iron was hot, because I listened to my family's fears about COVID-19, and, right or wrong, I have yet another sore throat now. Maybe in 2 weeks, this threat will pass and my throat and back will all be cooperating at the same time, and I can finally make this recording!

I've now finished all of my guitar tutorial DVDs except the one on fingerstyle guitar. I'm part way through the penultimate lesson now. I hope to have it finished by the time it's due next week, since I already used my one renewal. Maybe I can turn it in and check it right back out.




03/10/2020

I would really like to go record Winter's Day today, but everyone is telling me that I ought to wait until the COVID-19 threat has passed. My voice is finally good enough to record again, and now this happens. It's already been delayed for over three months! But I know they're right. With all the respiratory illnesses I've had over these past three months, my immune system is probably pretty vulnerable, and besides, I still haven't fully recovered from the flu shot I got 13 months ago. It overwhelmed my immune system and congested my lymphatic system. I am clearly one of those people who shouldn't get a flu shot. Despite what my doctor described earlier today as very good health, I know I have certain very weak areas (including my immune system and my musculoskeletal system). He says I should recover from my fall in 4-6 weeks, and that he thinks the COVID-19 threat may pass in about 2 weeks.




03/07/2020

My husband and I managed to record 5 minutes of me bowing the guitar in the woods while holding it like a cello, and I think I got enough decent footage for the music video. Unfortunately, we also went to a park by the river to film another scene, and, due to a drainage problem along the walking trail, I fell on all fours in the mud. My Hand-Wash-Only skirt was covered in mud splatters up to my waist, my socks were so saturated with mud that I had to take them off, and I hobbled to the restroom to wash the mud off my hands, shoes, and legs as best as I could. Hopefully, it'll still be cold enough next weekend to film in a coat. It was absolutely perfect weather for it today. I really don't want to have to wait until all the leaves fall off the trees again in the Fall to film the rest of my music video!




03/06/2020

Yesterday, I arranged The Lost Library for guitar and wrote a riff for Disappear.

The Lost Library was perfectly fine as a piano solo, but I think maybe it works even better on the guitar. Over the past month, I seem to have developed a style of playing the guitar (at least for Going Home, The Lost Library, and The Streets of Laredo): fingerstyle power cords. I'm not sure that anyone else does this. Probably. One advantage to this is that I don't have to write riffs for songs that I'm playing with fingerstyle on the guitar.

Maybe riffs will start to come to me more easily soon. For right now, the only way I can write a riff for an existing song is for a little snippet of melody to get stuck in my head, and for me to realize that it will work as a riff for a particular song. The rest of the time, I write riffs but they don't seem to go with any of the songs I've written.




03/05/2020

When I was a very little girl, my mother was trying to teach herself to play the guitar. She had a 1950s acoustic guitar, with F holes and a sunburst design. She eventually gave it to me, and I keep it at her house so I don't have to carry it back and forth when I want to play her something on the guitar.

I have made a decision. I'm going to stop trying to make a 3D cello sculpture out of cardboard. I'm going to play the F-hole guitar with a bow. I think it will do an even better job of conveying the emotions I was going through when I wrote Winter's Day. The rug was entirely pulled out from under me, and I didn't know how to...be...anymore (as I put it in the lyrics). It was like trying to play a guitar with a bow and expecting it to sound like a cello, more so than it was like trying to play a cardboard cello.

This actually is not the first time I did something like this. For my 12th birthday, I invited some friends over and we videotaped an improv variety show. One of my characters was dressed in what looked a lot like a burqa and played the guitar with a plastic curved sword as part of a musical ensemble (I think everyone was playing a completely unfamiliar instrument). I insisted that I was not playing the guitar; I was playing the whala (pronounced whale-uh), because in the moment, I could not think of the word for cello. I wonder what you call it when something that was originally comedy somehow becomes a serious expression of emotional pain. I'm so glad I got this idea. It will make the video so much better.




03/02/2020

I've been working on lyrics for a couple of songs. For the longest time, Disappear had lyrics that were nearly finished. Now, I just have to choose whether the word 'catastrophe' or 'calamity' is best in the last verse. I also finally managed a second verse for Writing A Song For You, which I had previously thought would have to be recorded as instrumental because it only had one verse. The last verse will still be instrumental, which actually works very well, considering the lyrics I wrote for the second verse. I still have about 13 songs with unfinished lyrics that are otherwise finished.




02/29/2020

Today, my husband and I recorded the first few scenes for the music video for Winter's Day! We took advantage of the light dusting of snow. I was really hoping we'd get a dusting that would allow me to create these scenes. I hope it's still cold enough next weekend for me to wear a coat so we can film the rest of the outdoor scenes.




02/28/2020

I am 2/3 of the way through the guitar tutorial DVD I checked out yesterday. Including the fingerstyle DVD that I'm also not finished with yet, this is the 9th guitar tutorial DVD I've watched this month. My guitar skills are improving by leaps and bounds.




02/27/2020

I wrote a completely new song on the guitar today, called Going Home. I've also written a couple guitar riffs since I started watching all these guitar DVDs recently. I'm going to start on yet another one tomorrow.

I decided to count how many songs (including unfinished) I have written to date, and it looks like 248, if I haven't left any of them out.




02/26/2020

I was really hoping to record Winter's Day today. Unfortunately, just about everywhere I went, someone was violating the smoking ban, including one person who actually walked into a store while smoking, even though it's been illegal to do that for years. I have such a severe tobacco allergy that now I have a painful, scratchy throat and really bad voice quality again. It's so disappointing. I would have recorded Winter's Day over two months ago if I hadn't been sick with one bug after another. I've been waiting 23 years and 3 months to record this song, so I guess I can wait a little longer.

I'm still pretty fatigued from my most recent illness. I went to a music store to buy new guitar strings, and when I got home, I laid down exhausted and fell asleep with the lights on. Perhaps I ought to wait until I have a little bit more stamina before I record, anyway.




02/24/2020

I watched yet another guitar DVD today, and once again I got through the entire course. I learned some new movable chords.

Unfortunately, the instructor didn't think it was important to tell me the names of these chords! He even mentioned one offhandedly and then said that he assumed his target audience (aspiring guitarists) wouldn't care what chords they were playing. I wholeheartedly disagree! Of course I need to know what chords I'm playing! Now, I'll have to search guitar chord charts until I figure it out.




02/20/2020

There are a couple songs I've written that I've always been concerned about. One of these is a song I wrote in 1998 when a few of my friends started coming out. I had lived nearly my entire life in rural Indiana (all but the one semester of college I'd completed in slightly less rural Muncie, Indiana), and many of my friends were from conservative Christian families. In addition to everything else that made coming out difficult in the 1990s, they were afraid they were going to Hell when they died. I wrote a song in empathy for what they were going through. Yet, I worry that the lyrics might convey the exact opposite message, due to words like, "Abomination," which were what the religious environment they were coming from had taught them, and which they had internalized and would have to overcome on their road to self-acceptance.

It finally occurred to me that I could explain myself by adding a few sentences of spoken word over chords at the very beginning of the song. Little did I realize, all those times when I've heard musicians talking over chords, that you actually have to plan what you are going to say extremely carefully, so that the spoken word actually works over the meter of the song. Who knew?

I'm going to test out the spoken word and lyrics on some of my LGBTQIA friends to see how they feel about it. If it passes that test, then I can be fairly well assured that no one will misinterpret the painful internal struggle conservative Christians go through when they realize this about themselves, which I tried to convey in my lyrics, as any anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric or prejudice on my part.




02/19/2020

I always knew I'd never learn all the guitar chords, and that there is always some other way to play a given chord on the guitar if your hand just won't cooperate and contort into the right shape. So I finally looked it up, and apparently there are 2,341 guitar chords! I certainly would love to have a book or an app that showed them all, especially sorted by how many fingers are used. I'd love to learn all the chords that use only 2 or 3 fingers and don't make my hand cramp up.




02/15/2020

On this day in 2015, I was lying in bed with pneumonia, wondering if I was going to survive. That was when I realized that, if I died, my one great regret would be that almost all of my music would die with me. I launched a project to try to get all of my music notated as sheet music, so if I died, at least the music would not be entirely lost.

The next phase of this project is to record all of my music. Despite the many obstacles in my path, I do believe I will finally at least start recording this year.

I've been looking through all of my music, and I think that I really only have about 7 songs with lyrics that are ready to record. While they sound great as piano solos, most of the others sound like something is missing when I sing the melody and play the accompaniment on the piano as written. I think they need riffs or something. Maybe some of them should be played on the guitar instead of the piano.

Just as a coincidence, 5 of the songs I've written had riffs from the start. Hopefully, pretty soon I'll figure out how to compose riffs for the other ones.




02/16/2020

This past week, I've completed 7 different guitar courses on DVD. The three new ones I checked out taught me a few new things, such as how to play the pentatonic scale on the guitar, which I picked up at lightening speed, and 12 bar blues, which I picked up almost as quickly. I took notes to practice from, since this new knowledge could easily fall right back out of my head.

Considering how quickly and easily I breezed through beginner courses, I would say I'm an intermediate guitarist.

I feel like my guitar technique has really improved over the past week. I never had guitar lessons, I just tried to teach myself, and in some ways, I was really successful at figuring out the guitar (such as figuring out how to tune the guitar by using the 5th fret when I was a teenager, despite not knowing this could even be done, and making up two new chords, one of which might actually be original to me). I was just never quite happy with my technique, which is why I stopped progressing after having learned 9 chords and perfected a small group of songs I could play with those chords, occasionally adding another song to my repertoire. I didn't lose any of that knowledge, I just never improved until now.

Up until now, every single song ever I learned to play on the guitar, I had to learn note by note (unless I just strummed the chords). Now, I am starting to be able to play guitar accompaniment by ear. I've been wanting to be able to do this since 1995. I'm finally getting there.




02/12/2020

I checked out 4 guitar DVDs from the library yesterday and I've already finished 3 and a half of them. Two of them were beginner courses, which I quickly breezed through. And no wonder; I'm not a beginner. In fact, the only things I really learned from those DVDs are a few new chords, and the fact that one of the chords I made up in high school is actually called Dsus4 (so I guess I wasn't the only one ever to make up that chord, after all). The fourth DVD is much more useful, because it teaches fingerstyle guitar picking, which is probably the direction I need to go in, though I am dreading developing callouses. What I'm really hoping for is that I'll be able to improvise guitar riffs for the 50 or so songs I've written that need them.




02/10/2020

Yesterday, I tested my guitar skills by asking my husband to repeatedly challenge me to play melodies by ear, whatever songs he could think of. I was able to play all of them. The most complicated one was Streets of Laredo, because it used 4 strings (most melodies only use 2 or 3) and had several sharps. I am probably a more advanced guitarist than I knew.




02/07/2020

I surprised myself today by picking up my guitar and spontaneously playing the melody to Scarborough Fair by ear. I then challenged myself to play a few other melodies by ear, beginning with Merrily We Roll Along and Joy To The World. I was able to speed through these much easier songs.

I knew I could do this on the piano, but I had no idea that I could do it on the guitar. I certainly couldn't the last time I checked, but that was a very long time ago.

I think it's time I devoted some serious attention to the guitar. I think I could really improve my guitar skills if I put my mind to it. The breakthrough I hoped would happen my Sophomore year of high school has finally happened: my ability to play by ear on the piano is finally coming through on the guitar as well. I only know 9 guitar chords, and I've never been happy with my technique. Perhaps my local library systems have some DVD tutorials that would help.




02/06/2020

I can't seem to get over one bug before I get another. I have a slightly sore throat, a slight cough, and severe fatigue to the point I'm very shaky when out of bed. I've had it for almost a week. My husband says it's been going around at work. One of his co-workers was even hospitalized with it, but they couldn't figure out what it was. It seems to be affecting everyone differently.




01/19/2020

I wrote a new piano solo today, and also notated a couple of fragments of music that I wrote as a kid, including one I wrote on the school bus in first or second grade and one I wrote in the sixth or seventh grade. I also almost notated one that I wrote about my cat, Winifred, in 1991, except....

All songwriters sometimes write music and then realize later that they already knew the tune. This has happened to me at least 5 or 6 times, though oddly, it hasn't happened in years. I wrote Winifred in about 1991; the tune was almost exactly like Yesterday by The Beatles. I also wrote a song in 1998, only to find that the tune was almost exactly like No Rain by Blind Melon, and that same year, I wrote a song only to find that I had combined I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles and the second movement of Sonatina 2 by John Robert Poe.

In 1995, I wrote a song that turned out to have the same tune as a Christian song called Step By Step (O God, you are my God), and in 1987, I wrote a song only to realize the tune was the same as I Am A C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. I think it happened one other time as well, though at the moment it slips my mind. Oddly, this hasn't happened to me since 1998, so I suppose I'm overdue.




01/13/2020

I wrote out the stories behind the songs on my lyrics page today. I feel like I'm ready to record my first demo, and I'd do it this week if I wasn't having such issues with my back, and if my croupy cough would just clear up. I'm impatient to get started! I tried to combine the cello part with an a capella version of Winter's Day that I recorded last Summer, but I sang it too fast. I'm just going to have to get well and return to the recording booth.




01/11/2020

Just looking at some stats. I've written at least 66 songs with lyrics, though right now, only 38 songs are listed on my lyrics page. I've written at least 27 complete piano solos, as well as one piece for organ and one for classical guitar. I've also written at least 94 unfinished songs, about half of which have lyrics. This doesn't include the ones I've forgotten. It's about time I started recording! As soon as I'm well and my back is cooperating, I plan to record Winter's Day.




01/10/2020

I finally am happy with the sound of the cello part for my song, Winter's Day! I would be ready to go record it, except that my bronchitis isn't over yet, and I somehow hurt my back again, so sitting is practically impossible. I'll have to wait until both problems clear up first. But at least now, the cello part is ready to go! I hope to release my first MP3 this Spring.




01/08/2020

Yesterday, I finished writing out the sheet music for my song, Without You, which I wrote in November, 1998. As of today, I've written out 82 complete pieces of sheet music, with several more in the works, not to mention the many unfinished songs I've written out in musical notation. Other than a couple that I've gotten stuck on, I've written out every new piece of music I've composed for the past five years.




01/01/2020

I'm Susannah Rolfes, and this is 2020!

The past couple weeks have seen many updates to Songs of Susannah, including a new version of the Songs of Susannah logo with higher resolution, over 25 promotional images, and a comedic twist on a privacy policy for the mailing list.

Unfortunately, November's bronchitis never fully went away, and now it's back! So recording will have to be postponed.

Meanwhile, I continue to develop the Songs of Susannah website and am looking forward to launching my first MP3s later this year!




12/21/2019

Happy Winter Solstice!

I just finished creating the 15th and final image of MusiCat doing something adorable. Now, I only have to create one more graphic for the entire website, plus 5 more web pages. I'm getting closer and closer to launching this website!