1) Music to me is by definition emotions. A song is an island filled with deep emotions and feelings and a song must be able to touch the listener in the heart and soul. 2) I don't believe in simply copying the original. Try to change a song into your own version of it. For instance in the way you play an instrument and/or sing or change tempo or add different musical arrangements, etc, etc. 3) I don't mind playing covers of songs. In the classical music world almost everything exists of covers. The music-pieces of composers are often centuries old. In popular music it is no problem playing songs written and recorded by others. Just add what is specifically your own. 4) Music is always subject to people's personal taste. Your background, culture , the country you live in, your environment, etc, are factors that may influence your musical taste. But all human beings have emotions and feelings. With music you can touch someone in the heart and soul and arouse emotions and feelings. 5) Pure technical skills don't necessarily mean that a music-piece is conceived as beautiful. 6) It are the listeners who will judge your songs and music. Not you as the musician or other people in the music-business.
Music is Feelings
Dare to feel emotions again! That’s my personal motto! It is what is lacking in most contemporary musical expressions. To me music is emotions A feeling you get when you listen to music. A feeling you are left with when the music has finished. A beautiful feeling, a sad feeling, a melancholic feeling, a feeling of being homesick, a feeling of desire, a feeling of passion, a feeling of infinity, a floating etheric feeling. Feelings and emotions are just simply very important for human beings. Emotions you keep inside of yourself or you express them in different ways. One of those ways is making music. Through the music you can express yourself and your emotions very well.
I am a mediocre guitarist or in other words my play is of an average level. With mediocre I mean that I don’t have the skills and techniques of genuine guitar hero’s from the pop- , rock-, or classical-guitar music scene who have my utmost admiration . I shall mention some examples and names later on. I don’t think that it matters in my case, because I am not a classical concert-guitarist or otherwise. I use the guitar only to accompany myself while singing. That’s what it aims at, it serves to play the instrumental melody I create when making a song. I’m a singer-songwriter and no more than that. But I do try to develop and maintain a certain quality in my guitar-play.
I am also not a real well trained singer as Andrea Bocelli or Placido Domingo and in Il Divo
I will not really fit. But I do try to develop and maintain a certain quality in my voice and singing. And I do watch my breathing when I’m singing because breathe-control means you control your voice better. You can control the volume of your voice better and the steadiness of your voice and tone when singing long notes. It prevents you from singing false. But I always try to create in my guitar-play and singing an as best as possible synthesis. A balance that I hope will appeal to the listener. Balance is important to me. I believe in the concept of balance. I wear a yin-yang symbol around my neck. Because it symbolizes to me the sense and concept of balance. It reminds me that everything in nature must be in balance . Not only in the physics of the universe and nature and the natural world around us but also in the human mind and the way human beings relate to each other and behave and react to one another. Nature will always restore the balance if balance has been disrupted. The same counts for us human beings and in our daily social interaction. If we disrupt balance we must restore balance otherwise it will be done for us.
Sometimes an untrained voice might be nicer to listen to. Although I am humbly jealous of someone like the fabulous Sarah Brightman who in one and the same song can switch from a head-voice to singing from the diaphragm. I admire her deeply. And yes I try to sing in tune as much as possible and to lay a lot of feelings in my singing. As I said: emotions are important to me. When people hear me sing it must genuinely appeal to them. They must think: that's nice to listen to. Otherwise it is not good enough to me. But then again: musical tastes differ so very much. Some people only like well-trained classical singers such as opera-singers. Some people only like dark raw scraping voices that seem to come straight from the depths of the earth like Leonard Cohen .
Some people only like black R&B or black soul singers . Some people only like the uncontrolled screaming of singers from Heavy Metal Bands. Some people only like the singing of ethnic folk singers from the inlands of Africa , or from the high mountains of the Andes or the gypsies from the Balkan countries ,etc. There are so many different styles of music. Like I said, musical tastes do differ and there's nothing wrong with that. Besides that, one must always accept the musical preferences and tastes of others. It’s called RESPECT! I miss that a lot in this era. Too many people show too little or no respect at all for the musical taste and preferences of other people. That bothers me. The lack of respect.
My own musical preferences
I like to play acoustic guitars. I like the tone and sound of a good acoustic guitar. I like to play 12-string guitars because I simply like the way they sound. I prefer 12-strings above 6-strings, but that's personal. I play both and I must say that nowadays I play the 6-string guitars more often than the 12-string guitars. I like nice melodies and prefer ballads and melodic songs and tunes but I do also like up-tempo songs and music-pieces. When I play and sing I like to put some of my own emotions and feelings into that song. I don't think that's bad. Good lyrics are nice too. Could even be a poem.
Writing my own songs. I do think that it is nicer to write, create, in any sense, your own songs instead of only playing covers. Though I have no problem whatsoever playing covers. Or make it a mix if you want. Combine original songs with covers. But to write a song yields so much more satisfaction. It’s like giving birth to your own musical child. Create the music, the melody. Search for the words, the lyrics, make it poetic or story-telling or contemplative. Make it understandable. Combine words and music together. Make the instrumental melody in balance with the vocal melody. The music and words become one, in harmony, in balance. Theoretically it sounds almost poetic. In practice it’s sometimes a disaster and a tiresome process. When I write my own songs I mostly write the lyrics first and only when I finished the lyrics I search for a fitting melody, one that suits the lyrics. And while doing that I do try to create a certain balance between lyrics and music. Or sometimes I first search for a melody on the guitar, looking for a musical theme I can use to create and build an instrumental melody around. Or sometimes I hear the tune already in my head before I start playing the guitar. A guitar however is a very limited instrument as far as using long notes is concerned. You can’t hold the tone as long as you can do with a violin or cello or even a flute. A good flute-player who has a well-developed breathing technique can hold on to a note for quite some time. But nevertheless one can make nice tunes with a guitar though.
I like long notes. I like melodious music, carrying melodies that can carry the entire weight of one’s deepest emotions! You can’t do that with fast up-tempo tunes and songs. Those are just nice to listen to or to start dancing. What I also like, ha,ha,ha! I am always trying to figure out what would be the recipe for making a successful song. I still haven't got a clue. I think that the melody must appeal to the listener and of course nice lyrics would help. But then again, some songs have really stupid lyrics or even total nonsense or made-up fantasy lyrics but they have a catchy melody and for some reason they become world hits. And of course the performer is an important factor. A good playing-technique would help, but some tunes are really so simple to play so you don't need to be a real good guitarist to play them. Bob Dylan wrote simple 3 or 4 chord songs and the whole world still plays and sings those songs. A good voice would help.
But then again, if you hear Joe Cocker sing , not everyone would say that he has a nice-sounding voice. Or Leonard Cohen who says of himself that he simply can't keep tune. Anyway, Leonard Cohen wrote some really fantastic songs. And then again: people's personal musical tastes differ so very much. As for myself, I mostly write a song about a specific subject.
I wrote a song I named “Father I never thought of you a hero”. Which tells the story of prisoners of war during World War II working in the coalmines on the island of Kyushu in Japan. But it is really meant in honour of and in remembrance of all prisoners of war from the past, present and future. I wrote a song I named “Song for Milly” about a 12-year old girl called Milly Boele who was raped, murdered by a 26-year old neighbour, a policeman, who buried the girl in his backyard, just a stone-throw from her elderly home where her parents still lived. I actually sang the song for her parents and brother and sister. I wrote a song I named “Motherless child” about artist/painter LaReinaWilleke, who as a young child was sexually abused and got into some very bad relationships with wife-beaters (and I don’t mean the sleeveless t-shirts) when she was a young woman. When she was in her early thirties she found out that her 12-year old daughter was sexually abused ( raped) by a man and something snapped in her mind. She killed the man and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. She’s currently working as an artist. See www.lareinawilleke.com if you’re interested in her work.
I wrote a song I named “War child, soldier child”, about children who are forced by grown-ups to fight in their rebel militia groups or army’s in Africa, Asia and Latin-America or wherever and are turned into killers and murderers. But writing songs about one of the primary and deepest emotions of human beings also appeals to me. I mean of course: love! There’s nothing wrong with writing love-songs. Love is what really makes the world go round. Love and not money. You can have all the money in the world and no love at all and die lonely. But hey, at least you’ll die comfortable, ha,ha,ha. I think the best love-song I wrote up to now is “Emotionally”. But hey, that’s my own simple opinion. I just mean to say that I like to write songs about sensible subjects or things that have a broader or deeper inner meaning or have a broader social content. Anyway, I just try, ha,ha,ha! You can write songs about almost everything. About the birds and the bees, about the fat lady from across the street who likes to gossip, about your lovers toes, about how you like to eat hamburgers, about a horny cow in the meadow. You can write a thousand songs about a thousand different subjects. Just write some simple lyrics and paste a simple tune under the words and there’s another song. But it’s not how many songs you can write; they must also be good songs. Maybe it’s better to write a few good songs instead of dozens of below the average songs.
I also just mean to say, that I preferably like to write songs that do not answer to the mainstream in the contemporary music-business. If you write a song and add a nice musical arrangement to it with the emphasis on making it “beautiful” you will always find your own public. Beauty and aesthetics in music and art will always appeal to many people from all over the world. Don’t limit yourself to a specific region or town or country or continent. Don’t limit yourself to a specific age-determined group or to a specific ethnical or cultural or language-determined group. Focus on the whole planet, the entire earth. In every country, region, town there will be people who will be drawn to beautiful music. The beauty and aesthetics in music will win in the end. I have something against the mainstream. If you play a certain type of music over all the radio stations then after a while the people will simply become conditioned to “like” that type of music. Like the dog of the Russian psychologist Pavlov who conditioned his dog to physically react when being fed after a bell rang. After a while he just rang the bell but didn’t feed the dog and still the dog reacted physically by producing stomach fluids. It’s called conditional response and it happens everywhere on a daily basis all over the world with human beings who are trained like the dog of Pavlov. They simply don’t realize that it happens to them. The same happens in the contemporary music-business. People are conditioned to “like” the music they are drowned in by the music-industry. It’s conditional response theory in practice.
Having songs written by others
If you can't write songs yourself you can always have a song written by someone else. Dutch singer Marco Borsato has his own songwriter/composer named John Ewbank who writes nice melodic songs that also fit Borsato’s voice like a glove. Katie Melua became world-famous with a song called “Nine Million Bicycles” that was written by the British producer/composer/ songwriter Mike Batt. The Eagles had a world-hit with the song “Take it easy” that was co-written by the American songwriter and performer Jackson Browne. Anne Murray had a world-hit with the song “You needed me” which at first she just didn't like. She got it sent to her and listened a couple of times to it but at first she thought it was nothing. After she had recorded it became one of her most well-known world-hits. But yes, you have to run into somebody who then is also capable of writing beautiful songs and which songs then also fit to your own style and voice and/or style of playing your instrument.
Everybody has his own examples and false Gods. So do I ! Extremely skilful musicians there are many on our planet earth. But a fabulous technique doesn't necessarily mean that the sort of music you make will appeal to a lot of people. Some musicians are sometimes so deep into improving their own playing-technique that the aesthetic, the beauty is gone and has disappeared and the play has become a show off of their own abilities and talent. They’re busy with themselves and not with making music for the people. But sometimes there are among instrumentalists people who compose their own work among of which there are sometimes nice pieces, of which I then think I would like to write lyrics for and turn them into a nice song. Like I said I am not such a star guitar-player, so I will not hide my admiration for virtuoso guitarists. As far as that is concerned I have a broad interest and preference. From classical guitar: Bach transcribed and played by the Spanish classical guitarist Andrès Segovia , "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" composed by the Spanish composer Tarrega , etc, to Flamenco by distinguished flamenco guitarists such as Paco Peña , and Paco de Lucia . "Entre dos aguas" by Paco de Lucia I like, but that is coincidently not flamenco but a rumba I believe.
From the French gypsy Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his followers ( I am a fan of the Dutch gypsy Rosenberg Trio ) to modern finger-picking guitarists like the American guitarist Pat Donohue to the German guitarist Peter Finger who writes and plays beautiful pieces and is a specialist in writing open string compositions for the acoustic guitar and up to the fabulous American guitarist John McLaughlin
who is an all-round and fusion guitarist. But also guitar-hero’s like Steve Vai and Frank Zappa and Joe Satriani and Al di Meola strongly appeal to me. A man like the American guitarist Michael Chapdelaine is an example to me. He plays classical as well as popular music and has in former years studied with Andres Segovia. I heard him say in an interview that he didn’t get on well with Segovia because Segovia wanted to teach him the way HE played and that wasn’t what Michael Chapdelaine wanted. And there is a point of certain truth in that, because if I were to be a teacher I would want to not only teach my students necessary facts, but more important, guide them to find their own way using these facts or knowledge or skills or whatever I’d teach them. Because every student is an independent individual who deserves to be able, who HAS to be able to reach his or her own goal in life. Develop your own style in music, develop your own style in art, develop your own style of writing books, or whatever. Chapdelaine currently is the head of the music department at an American university.
The problem when summing up names like this is that you will always do shortage to so many other splendid guitarists . Then there are so many other excellent guitarists who belong to my favourites that the list would be endless. The guitarists I mentioned are yet only examples that occur to me at this moment that I am writing this. It is not more than that.
Types of music I like My preference and interest for music in general is also very broad. From classical music to popular music, I like both and everything in between! I give you some examples of music-pieces I like. The "Gymnopedie " by the French composer Erik Satie I find very beautiful. The melancholy of it. Except for the original piano-version there is also an arrangement written for orchestra by Claude Debussy . I have heard it one time but I am still trying to obtain a copy somewhere from a record or cd on which the piece is recorded. The same counts for "A Serenade to Music" by the English composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams . It appeals to me very much personally. I just find it very beautiful. It holds all voices from tenor to soprano and the libretto is a part from one of the plays from Shakespeare .I love that piece. Fugues I like. For instance by Bach .
Frankly I don't want to be and seem very pretentious. I’m just a simple singer-songwriter. So it doesn't fit to appear pretentious. I also have something against artists who present themselves as so very special. Or who have gotten an attitude. So artificial and fake. Then I think to myself: "What can you really do? You can sing a bit and/or play an instrument. So What? Are you so important" In short I can say, that I can appreciate all artists/musicians who have something original and true and real and specifically their own and above all BEAUTIFUL in their songs and music. I also listen to really all kinds and sorts of music. From ethnic music to world-music, from classical music to hard-rock to jazz, from movie-tracks to blues to acoustic music of singer-songwriters, from vocal to instrumental. It doesn't make any difference to me. I just select on what personally appeals to me or attracts my attention because of it’s originality or just simply because it sounds “nice” . A lot of artists have maybe 1 or 2 single songs I like that rise above their other songs . And the rest of their songs are then again not so special. So it's how it is in that music business.
Like I said I like and play and listen to all sorts of music. From acoustic pop-songs to sturdy electric guitar-bands, from the"Concerto de Aranjuez" by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo up to and including Jimi Hendrix And the last one preferably blaring loud: "Purple Haze"....Yeah!
Some soloists and instrumentalists and vocalists are distinctly recognizable. They have an own way of playing and a specifically own playing-technique and an entirely own style. Nicolo Paganini was a recognizable violin-player. Nigel Kennedy also has an own recognizable style. If you hear Nigel Kennedy play the "Four Seasons" of Vivaldi that is recognizable. Mstislaw Rostropowitsch was a recognizable cellist.
Maurice André was a recognizable trumpet-player. Comparably there are numerous examples of musicians that are recognizable by their own style and specific way of playing. The same counts for conductors. The way in which a conductor interprets a music-score of a composition of a maybe already centuries ago diseased composer yields him own insights and makes of his performance of an existing composition something entirely specifically his own and characteristic for that specific conductor. Another conductor would perhaps interpret the same piece differently and give another performance of it. There is nothing wrong with that. The interpretation of Beethoven's symphonies by Herbert von Karajan is recognizable. Vocal soloists are also recognizable. That one voice which you recognize out of a thousand.
You often hear that making covers would be inferior. I don't think so. In the classical music-world often only covers are recorded and performed. Composers who have composed the music-pieces are often already dead for centuries. Symphonic orchestras are really the biggest “cover-bands” in the world to express it a bit disrespectful. Besides that it also is that over the centuries composers have always copied from each other, imitated each other, taken things over, etc. The musicians who play the pieces now also give their own interpretation of a music-piece. With that interpretation the musicians also give something specifically their own to a music-piece. A music-piece is only a piece of paper with music-notes. The way in which you interpret that written music also leaves your personal mark on it. The interpretation of a music-piece could imply among others, where you play louder or softer so crescendo or decrescendo, insert pauses, how certain instruments must sound in some passages, how you translate emotions in the music that is played, etc, etc. What it is about in music is the own interpretation of a music-piece. It's about whether you give something of yourself to the music-piece. Leave your own recognizable touch to it. Your own way of playing an instrument or your own way of using your voice. You have to add something recognizable to the music-piece, something personal. Leave your mark in a positive sense. What counts for the classical music, also counts for the popular music. Popular artists have always made covers. Some famous international male and female singers have only and alone become famous by their own version of an existing song from someone else. Due to covers thus. There is nothing wrong with that.
Like for instance The Beatles and The Rolling Stones From Frank Sinatra up to The Rolling Stones, from The Beatles up to U2 , such bands and/or artists have all made their way to fame by means of recording and performing covers of existing songs. On the "Beatles for sale" album from 1964 there are 14 songs of which 6 are covers.
Rock and roll music" from Chuck Berry ; "Mr. Moonlight" from Roy Lee Johnson ; medley: "Kansas City" from Jerry Lieber and "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" from Mike Stoller/Richard Penniman; "Words of love" from Buddy Holly; "Honey don't" from Carl Perkins; "Everybody's trying to be my baby" from Carl Perkins. On the album The Rolling Stones ( England's newest hits makers) from 1964 there are 12 songs of which at least 10 are covers. "Carol" from Berry; "Not fade away" from Holly/Petty; "Route 66" from Troup; "I just want to make love to you" from Dixon; "Honest I do" from Abner/Reed; "Little by little" from Phelge/Spector; "I'm a king" from Moore; "Can I get a witness" from Dozier/Holland/Holland; "You can make it for you try" from Jarrett; "Walking the dog" from Thomas. Of 1 song "Now I got a witness" I can not trace the writer. There is one song on it by Jagger/Richards : "Tell me". On the second album of the Rolling Stones "No.2" from 1965 there are 11 songs. Of those 8 are covers and 3 songs written by Jagger/Richards. On the album of The Rolling Stones "Out of heads" from 1966 there are 12 songs
of which 7 are covers and 5 songs are written by Jagger/Richards. The song "Little Red Rooster" by Willie Dixon is on 3 different albums as a cover. On the album "The Rolling Stones now! " from 1966; on the album "Love you live" from 1977 and on the album "Flashpoint" from 1991. On the album "Rattle and Hum" of U2 from 1988 are the covers "Helter Skelter" from Lennon/McCartney and "All along the watchtower" from Bob Dylan.
James Taylor had a world hit with the song "You've got a friend" written by Carole King . He became world-famous with it. Mariah Carey had a world hit with the cover of a song written by Harry Nilsson called "Without you". Christina Aguilera had a world hit with the song "Beautiful" written by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes .
Sinead O'Connor had a world hit with the song "Nothing compares 2 you" written by Prince . The Eagles had a world hit with the song "Take it easy" from Jackson Browne . Madonna had a world hit with the cover of the song "American Pie" written by Don McLean . Lucie Silvas had a hit with the song "Nothing else matters" from the Heavy Metal band Metallica. Her version included a string section and a grand piano.
Alanis Morisette, yet already a world-famous artist because of her own songs, recorded in 2005 the cover of a song from Seal called "Crazy". Katie Melua put on her most well-known cd "Piece by Piece" a cover of the song "On the road again" originally recorded by Canned Heat. Jessica Simpson had a hit with the cover of a song written by Robbie Williams called "Angels". Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart and
George Michael have each produced a complete cd and/or dvd with only covers of mainly old American songs from the American Songbook. "If you could read my mind" from the Canadian singer-songwriter/artist Gordon Lightfoot has been covered by many artists in so many different versions. The songs of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, John Denver , Sting, to just name a few examples , have been covered by countless artists in all sorts of different music-styles.
From versions with a complete symphony-orchestra up to jazz-versions, disco-versions, ballads, hiphop-versions and Trance-versions. And according to me there is totally nothing wrong with that. There is only the matter of personal taste. You may like or dislike a certain version of an existing song. If a song rises far above other songs, then it is worth to make an own version of it. After all it is not only about the song. It is also about the way an artist creates his own version of it. Sometimes another arrangement can make a clear difference. Other musical instruments, another tempo, another feeling. Sometimes it is just the specific tone of voice of an artist that makes the difference. Some artists simply do sing more beautiful than others.
The performance of the song "Wonderful life" by Dutch artist Mathilde Santing I personally find much better than the original version by the English singer/songwriter Colin Vearncombe ( AKA "Black") who actually wrote the song. The version of the song "The air I breathe" from K.D.Lang I find personally much better than the original version of the Hollies The songs of Charles Aznavour were translated many times into all kind of languages and then covered. For example, in 2006, Elvis Costello made a cover of the song "She" from Aznavour. The songs of Italian singer-songwriter Zucchero were translated from the Italian into many languages and covered by various artists. It are only a few examples of how it works.
A song is really just a song. But it is just the way how you play and sing that song that could make it rise above the average. Turn it into something “new”. And that personal way must appeal to, attract listeners. They must be touched by it. They must like it.
On May 21 2006 a newsbulletin appeared on the internet about Jazz artist Jamie Cullum- Quote – “Jamie Cullum has enough of all critics who stamp him as a coverartist. The jazzsinger lets to know that it takes him a lot of bother and creativity to blow new life into old songs. Jamie says he likes rewriting classic songs. "It costs as much passion and energy to write a new song or to understand an old song" tells the young jazzhero. "People think that it is easy to just replay a song. But if you want to understand the song, you need weeks or months to put something of your own in it". According to Jamie there are too many artists that rape old songs or just produce it in the same manner “. unquote Now I am not Jamie Cullum, and I really don't need weeks to play and sing an old song in my own way but there is a sense of truth in what is said here. It’s nice rewriting classic songs. If you’re good in doing that is a different matter and it may also depend on what kind of musical style or version you wish to rewrite it in. And I can understand, that if he really gets into a song it will take him some time to put something of himself into that song. And there he makes a correct point: it’s all about putting something specifically your own in a song! It’s like using your own creative process to recreate something which has already been created. It’s like what the ancient Roman sculptors did when they reinvented figurative sculpturing after seeing sculptures made by the ancient Greeks sculptured long before their day and age. And many centuries later Italian renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci again reinvented figurative sculpturing, copying and improving figurative sculpturing like the ancient Romans and Greeks did centuries before . For me personally counts as the most important criterion, that I must be able to bring feelings into a song. That there will also flow feelings out of the song. Flow into the hearts of the listeners. Whether you make or create your own songs as a singer-songwriter or whether you recreate covers in your own style and add to old songs or music-pieces what is specifically your own, it all boils down to the same thing! Feelings and emotions are very important when it comes to making music!
It is the essence, the heart, the core of (making) music.