Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April/May Music Goals

So due to a very busy April and getting ready for my graduation concert, I just sort of practiced my March music goals for April! Now that April's almost over, and I'll be out of town this week (stay tuned for that post next week!), I'm just going to choose some goals for May. But first of all here's how I did on my March goals:

1) Learn new songs. Pretty good. I modified some of them, but at this point in my musical "journey", I don't really see a problem with that. Oh and I did learn Music Box Dancer and performed it in my graduation concert because it's my teacher's favorite.

2) Arranging. I did pretty well on my arrangements. In fact, I played all three of them in my graduation concert! Here's Joshua Fit the Battle:

3) Accompanying. Going pretty well. I spend 15 minutes just playing along to songs I already know or just trying to accompany others by ear. Then I spend 15 minutes actually learning an accompaniment. In the past few weeks, I've done He's Still in the Fire by the Speer Family, Spend a Little Time with Jesus in Prayer by the Mylon Hayes Family and am currently solidifying Will You Go by the Erwins.

Now on to May's goals:

1) New songs. Well, I was going to learn Pink Panther, but I basically did that in like 2 sessions. I'm going to try to find another fun song to learn.

2) Sight reading with a metronome. Okay, I wasn't born yesterday. I know this is how you're supposed to sight read but it's not as fun so I didn't do it for a while. But now I'm purposely reading to a metronome. It actually makes songs easier, especially in cut time. *cries in the corner cuz cut time is horrible to read*

3) Accompanying. I'm going to keep doing my routine from March. So see above :)

4) Arranging. This month is May the Circle Be Unbroken which is basically almost done, Near the Cross which is easy because it's slow, Family of God because I love this song, and *drum roll* Wonderful Time Up There otherwise known as Gospel Boogie!!! I can't wait for that one to come together. It's gonna be so much fun!

5) And for technique, I'm gonna start working on octave scales and runs, particularly in my right hand because those are a weak point for me.

6) And finally, I'm starting to work on shape note singing in preparation for Stamps-Baxter this summer. I'm sticking to songs I know the melody to right now so that I can just read the note names without worrying about the pitch. Personally, I prefer naming pitches by number rather than shape or word (do, re, mi....), and I think it works out better in the long run for musicians. However, it will be cool to shape sing once I master it!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: My Newest Favorite

Consider this an early Star Wars Day post cuz I totally just realized that that was NEXT week!!! (May the Fourth be With You)

2016 just seems to be the year for figuring out favorites! Now, while I have a lot of very good movies I love, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just taken the cake, y'all. It's just soooooo good! I've been planning to review this since December or January after I saw it, but I never got around to it. I've now seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, AKA Ep. VII, four times. Three in a theater, and one in a car after receiving it for my birthday!!!! I also just got the digital copy and am downloading it for a long car ride I have ahead of me today. (JK I have 1.6 gigs free but apparently that's not enough...)

Oh, and this post is also an excuse to use my favorite Ep. VII GIFs. You have been warned!

I don't think I'm ever going to be satisfied with this review because this movie is just too epic and too big to properly review. In fact, forget the review. It's been out for so long, if you're still reading this, you've probably read like 50 reviews. I'm just going to write my thoughts on specific aspects. Also, I know that a lot of you aren't really into Star Wars so feel free to skim or skip or do whatever. Here's a plot summary if you're interested:

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a girl (named Rey) accidentally runs into rogue stormtrooper (bad guy turned good) and tries to find Luke Skywalker (major character from original trilogy who's missing) while saving the galaxy. Basically.

(Oh, and Ep. 4, 5, and 6 were made first, then 1, 2, and 3, and finally 7. I know it's confusing but just roll with it.)

Okay, now that that's out of the way, here we go:

1) This is my favorite Star Wars but not the best one. Woah, woah, woah how can you say that, Ashley? I don't know, guys. It's just a gut feeling. I know you can get better than the original, but this just feels too soon to declare as the best movie of the series. It kind of feels like betraying the originals. And I know older isn't always better, but I'm just not sure yet! I'll probably come back here in like five years and laugh at myself for my "loyalty" but that's how I feel now. I do enjoy this movie more than the originals, even though I still enjoy those a lot.

I'm never tired of this GIF either
2) I'm not tired of this movie yet. There are very few movies I can watch over and over and over. The Happiest Millionaire, the One and Only, Genuine... Band, and I don't know The Book Thief (probably) are some exceptions. The Force Awakens just keeps sucking me back in!!! Sure, there's always a little part where I'm a teensy bit bored but then it sucks me right back in and I really want to watch it again just writing about it!

3) These actors are geniuses. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and Oscar Isaacs are cinnamon rolls, too good for this world, too pure (That's a thing the kids say.) But everyone puts in a smashing performance! I know that people get on Leia for being a little stilted, but I still think she's pretty good! And then Harrison Ford ermaghersh!!!

4) The characters are so well-written. Rey is just a cute flower and needs protecting and then Finn is just great and all of them!!! Even Kylo Ren is awesome, even if he is a villain. He just has so many layers!!!!

5) Speaking of characters, BB8 is the cutest robot ever and I like seriously need the Sphero version of him!!!!! He's like a robot puppy!!

6)The CONFRONTATION. Okay, every time I watch, I have a small hope that this time it will turn out differently even though I know it won't. It's just like pleasssseeeeee J. J. pleaaaaaasssseeeee!!!

7) Daisy Ridley and John Boyega seem to be great people in general. I follow both of them on Instagram, and they seem to be sincere and funny and just amazing. I now have a favorite modern actress!!! (Idk if John Boyega's my favorite cuz I like Christian Kane in Leverage and a few others)

8) The fan theories. The first three times we watched this movie, all my siblings, dad, and I could talk about were Rey's parents, Rey's dream, Luke's lightsaber, Ren's training, Snoke, and so many other things much to the chagrin of my mother. But it's just so fun!!! Personally, I don't really care who Rey's parents are. I mean, it would be cool if it was Luke or Leia or even Obi-Wan's kid, but I'm sure whoever it is will make sense and just add so much to the story.

9) Rey and Finn are so cuttteeeee. And then you throw in Oscar Isaacs for a good ol' fashioned Three Musketeers and you've got so much potential. Just imagine them all hanging out together!!! (I mean, that's purely theoretical since Finn is kind of in a difficult spot right now)

10) Umm the humor in this was amazing. To me, it felt forced one or two times, but overall it was a great addition. And a lot of it wasn't even spoken!!!!

Well there's 10 thoughts about The Force Awakens. I just love the characters, the plot, and just the MOVIE!!!! Well done J. J. Abrams. I really, really wish you were directing the rest of this trilogy!!!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy 18 Birthdays to Me

Today is my birthday woot woot! I'm legal in the US now!! Yesterday, I graduated high school which was fun. (I'm actually writing this before it happens so I'm assuming I'll think it was fun #TimeTravel (It was)) Anyway, Naomi had a really cool idea for her birthday post that was basically a rundown of all her birthdays. So I stole borrowed it because that's what we do with cool ideas XD

I'm assuming this is me XD
0th birthday - Umm I was in a tiny, warm bubble and my dad was watching the NFL Draft and Peyton Manning was drafted. Then I came into the big, wide world, and someone slapped me, and I started crying.

1st birthday - Ya know, I have no idea what happened. I probably smashed my face in cake because that's what happens on first birthdays.

2nd birthday - I think this was the one when all the family friends came over. It was Pooh Bear themed, and I have no memory of it.

3rd - I have a random vivid memory of walking into our laundry room/office (ikr that's a weird combo) and seeing Barney banners and stuff. I assume that was my third birthday because I actually remember it. I loved Barney as a kid.

4th - Oh, this birthday was fun. First off, we went to a gymnastics center by my house that had a huge play set. Secondly, they had a ball pit. Thirdly, I had a cool butterfly cake. Coolness all around.

5th - This party was at the church/school. I feel like it was supposed to be outside because of the playground, but it was probably raining so we did it inside the lunch room. I got some sweet presents though, including some Sweet Streets sets that I literally played with for like six years.

I don't remember this, but it's dated the same as the other sixth birthday pics.
6th - This was another good one. The day before we celebrated, I went to the library and (apparently) rode ponies. But I mostly remember 1) a dude balancing a broom on his finger, and 2) learning the word "siesta" and thinking it meant "fiesta" Then I had a sleepover with like four friends and watched the Sound of Music #goals. Yeah, that was back when I had friends who lived near me XD

Oh my gosh. That leotard was so comfortable!

7th - I was into all things ballet and princess at this point so yeah. That's what went down.

Look at my brother's face...
8th- I had my best friend come over and for some reason we wore dresses. That's also the birthday when my dad let us walk around the neighborhood looking for friends and we ended up in a stranger's garage with her three year old who didn't speak English...

9th - This was the start of my fairy obsession... I also got a like educational notebook that you could put interactive books in (which I completely forgot about!!!!) so that was cool.

10th - for some reason I was now into horses even though I was scared of them. We had it at the Olympic park which had monkey bars and stuff so we called it that. Then I got my first Lego set. *insert hands raised emoji*

11th - Ya know, I think this was the birthday I got so much Webkinz merch(andise) that I never used XD

12th - Because this was kind of between best friends, I think I just had a family birthday with hot dogs and macaroni. I got a chess set too. #nerd

13th  - Park routine again. Can you tell we like parks?

14th - What do you know, another family party outside. I obviously get more boring the older I get. XD
This is five or six. I don't remember. Probably six.
15th - Ohhhh this is when my friend I hadn't seen in FOREVER (a year) came over and we played hide and go seek at church. And I entered the Internet! Yay for Twitter! (2,000+ Tweets baby!)

16th - At first, I just had a family party, BUT in the summer we went to Knotts Berry Farm, an amusement park in California, with my cousins. That was fun!

17th - Last year, I had just got back from California and was exhausted, so we just went to a used bookstore XD

18th - Well, I sort of had a huge party with friends because of my graduation which was awesome because I hadn't seen some of them in a long time. You know, I have a lot of friends, but I only "see" most of them through text or blogs (like you!). So it was cool to see a lot of them! Today, I'm going to check out computers, watch the Avengers (cuz we just got VidAngel, Eva!), and just chill out cuz I'm skipping school which starts in like 10 minutes. (Also, I got in the Under 301 Club last night on a Blimey Cow video so that's like the coolest thing ever!!!!)

Well, I hope you enjoyed a look at my whole entire life!! Which was your favorite birthday which is a weird question but I'm gonna ask it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Down At Gaither's Pond

A long, long time ago, my family had a tradition. Every Saturday morning, we kids would get up and watch the "Bible channel" (TBN) which had Christian cartoons on all morning. They would show classics like Davey and Goliath along with newer shows like Auto-B-Good. But the show I want to focus on today is Gaither's Pond, that classic of Southern Gospel entertainment that ran from 1997-2003. (I actually didn't watch the show until at least 2005.)

This is not the first Gaither kids TV show. Some other are the Homecoming Kids, Wobots, and Dorbees. However, I only had the pleasure of Gaither's Pond as a child.

I have great, great memories of Gaither's Pond. I loved when they did songs, and I loved Carp Lowry. I also enjoyed how all the creatures looked like their human counterparts. In fact, I still have fun today re-watching episodes just to see who's in them! The only really downside of this show is that there's only a few episodes and the animation just looks really off. At least to me. Here's some clips:

That Bill Gaither fish tho... and Gloria Gladiola what? Ernie Frogboy and Jeff the Easter Bunny XD It's actually a pretty catchy theme song, and they all are pretty recognizable except for David Phelp's fish who doesn't really look like him.

I really like this song, and that frog kind of looks like George Younce. The Rumomill sequence is kind of weird and what's with the back-up chorus?

I love Mark Lowry, and I'm just amazed on how much they got Carp Lowry to look like him! And Jessy Dixon the orange frog who's awesome, and the Guy Penrod the fish!

Actually, they had one episode I now appreciate about the "movers and shakers" like Jessy Dixon who were stirring things up, and the animals who didn't like that. It's really cool that they were teaching kids that just because someone does gospel music different than it's normally done it's not necessarily bad. (Necessarily being the key word. You obviously need to evaluate stuff by the Bible before making judgment)

Anyway, this was a really cool show that was a big part of my childhood. Have any of you seen it?

Why You Should Get A Keyboard

I started this post two weeks ago, and then there was the poetry tag, and then I was like nah not this week, but then I couldn't think of anything else so here it is! (But then, but then, but then, loverly grammar Ashley)

For Christmas, my parents got me a lovely Yamaha P-115 keyboard which was even better than the one I asked for! I spend a lot of time with P-115. (I actually just started calling her/it P-115 like 2 seconds ago because it sounds cool and Star Wars-y.)

I don't have this stand, just the usual cross-bar one

Anyway, I spend a lot, a lot, of time with P-115. Like at least 90 minutes a weekday. You see, I used to practice every morning and afternoon on our big upright piano downstairs. And by every morning, I mean at 6:30. So to get some peace and quiet, my parents got my P-115! JK but not really. So now I can plug in my headphones and play as late or as early as I want with a guilt-free conscience.

I like P-115 because it almost feels like a real piano. I say almost because I play on a real piano most days and it's different. Mostly just because a real piano is sturdier so I feel I can play more powerfully, and a real piano makes you control your touch more. But overall, it has great feeling. Much better than the keyboard I teach on at school. (arghhhhhhh)

So obviously, the most important part of a keyboard, at least to me, is the touch, but my P-115 comes with a lot of other stuff like sounds! There's sounds like harpsichord, jazz organ, and bass. I mostly use these when I'm tired of playing a song, and I need to change it up. So if I'm practicing a classical piece, I'll use the harpsichord, and if I'm doing a fun, jazz piece, I'll use an organ, and if I'm doing Star Wars, I'll use a vibraphone or something spacey-ish! There's not a lot of sounds, but enough to keep me entertained.

You can record on P-115 which is fun because I have no life and like to do piano duets with myself dreaming of when I can do them with Kim Collingsworth or someone. It's also pretty easy to see if I like how my songs sound too. Unfortunately, you can only have one piece recorded at a time, but it's still pretty sweet.
Black Keys Etude
(cuz it's in Gflat and most of the notes are black in that key)

P-115 will play you a bunch of classical songs AND demo songs for each sound. It's so fun to press a key and all of a sudden hear the "Black Key" Etude or the Entertainer or any other cool songs!

Finally, my P-115 makes using my music-writing software so. much. easier. All I have to do is enter the rhythm and then play the note. Now, it could be easier, but I have the free version so... Anyway, I can write songs ridiculously fast with this!

So that, my friends, is why you should get a P-115 or at least a keyboard. Especially if you're a pianist or writer who is tired of people complaining because your "real" piano is too loud but you can't move it so it's not your fault... Yeah, get it and have fun :D

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Piano Spotlight: Anthony Burger

Now we come to one of the most recognizable pianists in all of Southern Gospel music, Anthony Burger, long time pianist for the Gaithers and holder of one of the most remarkably epic album covers I've seen:

There, you're welcome.

Anyway, Anthony Burger had great arrangements that literally "burned it up" sometimes literally with a smoke machine. I guess that's my only little thing about his arrangements, sometimes they get a little too showy for my taste. But you have to admit a smoke machine is pretty cool!

I actually use one of these licks in my arrangement of Meeting in the Air because it's just that awesome! I love how Anthony's music is so fast and technical. Although, sometimes it's just a little too fast, in my opinion. Playing too fast is also something I struggle with at times...

Here's Anthony's arrangement of Goodbye, World, Goodbye because as I said, every gospel pianist has to play this. Also, Matthew Holt, current pianist for the Gaither Vocal Band, uses this arrangement in Gaither concerts.

Although this clip with the Kingsmen, whom Anthony started playing with at age 16, is hilarious, it serves as a reminder to me as a pianist to just let the singers sing. (Also, that tenor tho!)

I'll probably do a whole blog post on this series of lessons, but boy, are they amazing and helpful! It's so much fun to do songs in different styles, and I've learned so much about different styles from watching this video 50 a lot of times!

I love when pianists tell their life story through song. Someone else does this, but I forget who right now. Anthony Burger's story is so powerful, yet he tells it in such a down-to-earth and funny way. Also, playing like Stevie Wonder is like the best thing ever!

My goal is to someday arrange this song as powerfully as Kim Collingsworth and Anthony Burger have done!

Well, there's some of my thoughts on Anthony Burger. While not my favorite pianist, I love many of his arrangements and all he did for putting Southern Gospel piano more on the map, so to speak. I can't wait to see him in Heaven!

The Poetry Tag

When I saw the Hamlette was hosting a poetry month, I though that was so cool! And here's the tag, which is like my favorite part of all blog celebrations, but you already knew that. Be sure to go check out her awesome giveaway and posts throughout this month!

I'm just gonna start this out by saying that I didn't like poetry for a long time. I thought it was boring, and I didn't like having to look for a meaning and read with expression, and not just enjoy the words at face value.  Which I feel is a perfectly acceptable attitude for a fifth grader... I only really liked the "story" poems of poets like Longfellow because they rhymed and bounced and told awesome stories and generally had an interesting purpose. Then, as I got older I began to appreciate the deeper meaning of the words and the poetic language used, and just how much poetry makes me think! I've also come to love slam poetry, thanks to some of my very talented blogger friends! Just the fact that written/spoken words can convey so much emotion is amazing to me! 

By Grant Wood

What are some poems you like? I've dragged out my old literature books for this one :D Probably my first poem love was The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere that I actually started memorizing for fun. It's a rollicking good ride with Paul Revere through the countryside (I'M A POET AND THIS IS A POETRY TAG)! And it mentions my birthday, "The eighteenth of April". It's just really, really, really fun to bounce around with!

Some more are America for Me by Henry Van Dyke, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (because Nevermore), We Never Know How High We Are by Emily Dickinson, I'm Nobody Who Are You also by Dickinson Antony's Speech on the Death of Caesar by Shakespeare, Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott, and the A Tutor Who Tooted a Flute limerick because I'm very, very mature... 

Also, just watch this if you love or hate Shakespeare:

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they? Longfellow because he tells stories, has bounce, and is pretty simple. Tennyson because his work just always, always speak to me. I also really enjoy Emily Dickinson's poems because they pack so much into so little.

Me as an elementary schooler trying to write poems
Do you write poetry? Aside from school-assigned haikus and such not really. (True story: a video class kid used the word refrigerator in a haiku. Also, my real-life classmate just wrote a pretend haiku for a deceased person and included the phrase "Who gets her stuff?") I wrote a slam poem a few months ago. Well, sort of. I don't really like reading things out loud like slam poetry is supposed to be done, so it's like a silent slam poem if that's a thing. I definitely plan on writing more because it's just a really helpful way of getting all my thoughts on paper.

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both? Over the years, I've come to appreciate both, especially slam poetry, but I always love rhyme!

Do you have any particular poetry movements you're fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?) As seen by my love of Longfellow, I love, love, love the Fireside poets! They tell stories and just so. much. love. to my boys the Fireside Poets! (That totally wasn't creepy...)

What are some poems you dislike? Early English poetry is always a little off-putting. The same with early American, even though it's years later than early English poetry. Oddly enough, I like a lot of English poems from the early American era. Also, Wordsworth is sometimes a-lot-of-times lost on me. And sometimes I don't really connect with blank verse.

Have you ever memorized a poem? Yes. Welcome to ABeka spelling and vocab... Actually, most of my real-life teachers have only enforced the poetry for the first half of the year, if that. The video teachers however... Written poem quizzes, really? -__- Also, my weird memory can actually remember most of them, if you get me started! I've memorized most of my favorite poems, although some of them are only favorites because I can recite them. For example, O Captain! My Captain! is fun just because it's fun to tragically recite "But O heart! heart! heart! // O the bleeding drops of red, // Where on the deck my Captain lies, // Fallen cold and dead."

So that's that! I don't talk about poetry much here, but I really enjoy it. Be sure to go check out all the festivities over at The Edge of the Precipice!