music music Monday

Music Monday: Opus 5 Playing and Recording

Now that I have written a piece of music, what next? Music, like other forms of artistic expression, is meant to be shared. Not always—some of what I have created will only be seen and heard by myself. Not that I’m selfish, some things are just too personal.

There are two options: Live or recorded. Live music has taken on a whole new meaning in the last year, with streaming performances becoming the new live. I’m not a performer. I have performed, but it’s not my forte.

I suffer from the classic stage fright. If you’ve never experienced it, you are lucky. Imagine playing a piece and all you can think about is “don’t make a mistake” or forgetting the next part—the proverbial “drawing a blank”—and so on. It really sucks.

One thing about learning to play a piece of music is memory: Mental and muscle. There are pieces that I learned early on in my college and university years, I can still remember. And some, if I don’t think about it, will come back like water from a faucet. It’s pretty amazing. It’s also about consistency. Can you play it right the first time (you don’t want to learn mistakes) and can you repeat it correctly?

When I try to learn a new piece, it seems to be more difficult to do those things, and it feels like more work than enjoyment. Since I’m only doing it for myself, there’s not much accountability when I say, that’s enough. Often when I do learn a piece, if I don’t play it on a regular basis, I need to relearn many of the parts. I love to play. I used to be better. I don’t like when it feels like work.

It also takes me a while to record. I can play a piece perfectly (or perfectly enough) until I press the record button and bingo—mistake city.  I’ve been trying to record two of my earliest compositions, so maybe now is the incentive to finally finish them. Since I made a separate page on my website for all my music (plus I put them on SoundCloud), I might as well put those on as well.

Before the availability of computer programs to record, there used to be home 4-track cassette* recorders. Small, compact, and easy to use. Basically, it had four recording heads that divided the tape into four parts. Perfect for voice / guitar / bass / drums. But what if you wanted to add more instruments? Easy! Record tracks 1, 2, and 3, then put those on track 4. Now you have 3 empty tracks. So now you can record on 1 and 2, put those on empty track 3, and voila, you have 2 more tracks.

OK. Not so easy…

I use a free program called Audacity to record. You can have as many tracks as you need, add effects, and edit countless other aspects. Now, that’s easy.

What’s next for this series. Well, I have to finish the composing piece that I started. There are still parts that need to be connected, and parts yet to be created. Don’t ask me the timeline. I have no idea. It still needs a name as well. Stay tuned.


*Remember cassettes? Then you also remember when they jammed, and you pulled out lengths of crinkled brown tape. You also remember having to use a pencil to rewind them.

music Monday

Music Monday: Composing something original

I was thinking the other day (I do that sometimes) how much easier it would have been to be a composer in the early days. For example:

  • Gregorian chant? You hold that low drone for a while, and then we’ll move up and down this scale I invented. Ohhh, I got an idea! Let’s sing in this cavernous church.
  • Traveling troubadours? I can use these same three chords. No one has heard them in every country song written yet.
  • I bet no one said to Bach: “Hey, J.S., I love that tune, but doesn’t it kind of sound like In-A-Gadda- Da-Vida?”

We could have had more or less than 12 tones in western music, but nooo, someone decided to use that division. For you Ancient Alien fans, I think there was a show all about the number twelve. Just sayin’.

Do the math. There are many combintaions you can get with just twelve notes, but ultimately, you are going to write something that will get you sued. Bach then (ha!) everything was new. Oh, I’m sure there was the occasional fugue fight, or arguments on who’s motet that really was, or who was the real father of the symphony (psst–Haydn), but what you wrote was more than likely going to be brand new.

There are times when I am composing that I have to change certain notes because even though they fit and sound exactly how I wanted it to, it reminds me of something else that I’ve heard. You would think that it would happen more often than it does, but I’m sure glad it doesn’t.

The next few Mondays will give some insight into one composer’s process (mine, but you knew that): what I’ve learned, forgotten, ignored, and dismissed. So, you guessed it, sometimes I just wing it.

Tune in next Monday!

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Music Monday: What Music Means…to Me

I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone say the phrase: “I don’t like music.” You are more than likely to hear someone say, “That Ferrari belongs to the mime.

I usually have music playing. Sometimes, when if I hear a new song, I can picture myself in a past experience. It is as if the song was written for me for that event.

Music makes me cry, sometimes. I tried to record a song that I wrote, but I couldn’t get through it without stopping to wipe the tears or catch my breath. There are songs that I hear that still bring a tear to my eye.

Music makes me smile, often. More often than not. Music moves me. I don’t know what I would do without music. Be very sad, I suppose, unless I never knew about music in the first place, but who would want to live in a world like that?

And BTW, can somebody move that Ferrari? It’s blocking my Pinto.

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of two books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. Visit


Monday Music (on a Tuesday…Tuesday Tunes?)

So I dropped the ball this week. I was going to start posting some of my music on Mondays, but got distracted and wrote a cartoon/humor related post. I think perhaps I will use Tuesday as my music related post (should I still tag it as Music Mondays? Can I?)

Short back story: I play guitar.

Not such a short back story: I have always enjoyed music. I took piano lessons as a child/teen, as well as guitar lessons (wanted to be a rock star – How’d that work out you ask?). After bouncing around college for a few years I decided to pursue music studies, and after 6 years I received my Bachelor of Music, majoring in classical guitar. I wasn’t a great performer. Nerves, stage fright, and blanking memory doesn’t make for a successful career.

Life got in the way. I forgot/lost many of my early acoustic pieces, but then began to write again.

As with performing, recording is a difficult process-perfection isn’t an option-but I am starting to get a few compositions recorded to the best of my ability. I hope that you enjoy them too.