Young T eaching Old What Politicians Can Learn From Music, Education and Medical Fields

Perhaps the most important outcome of the computer age is the reliance of older people to learn from the young. By examining various aspects of society during the first decade and a half of the 21st century, one can clearly see the trend of younger folks teaching their elders.

Nowhere is this practice more evident than in the music business. Just a month ago, veteran rocker Chrissy Hynde released her first solo album at age 62. Her choice of using 39 year old Bjorn Yttling as her producer could not have been better. The younger producer brings in a fresh approach along with a more developed understanding of technology, which teamed with Hynde’s long experience form the perfect combination. The result is Stockholm, the year’s best album so far.

Another music veteran took the same approach ten years ago, when 72 year old Loretta Lynn paired herself in the studio with 29 year old a Jack White. Together, the two made Van Lear Rose, one of Rolling Stone’s top albums of that year.

Four years later Roky Erickson, a 62 year old rock veteran, joined Okkervil River’s Wil Sheff to record a comeback album after nearly three decades of retirement. Any listener of True Love Cast Out All Evil could easily tell that the 36 year old Sheff was able to teach Erickson some of the important technological advances in music, as well as bring a fresh perspective that would have been impossible with a producer of Erickson’s own generation.

Even the most successful songwriter of all time has benefited from the assistance of a much younger producer. Seven years after turning 64, Paul McCartney chose a producer nearly 30 years his junior. The result was the album simply called New which, thanks to the production of 43 year old Giles Martin, was McCartney’s most critically acclaimed album since the 1980s.

More important than the entertainment world, the field of education has also seen improvement when combining the experience of older teachers with the eagerness and technologically-savvy younger colleagues. As a high school instructor for thirty years, I have personally witnessed first hand the improved learning environment in classrooms co-taught by an older and a younger facilitator. Students easily identify with the technology-based instruction from the younger teacher, while at the same time gaining the knowledge imparted by the well-seasoned teacher.

I have seen similar benefits of the combination of youth and experience in medical practices, law firms, churches, and even in sports. Just last year, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series with a perfect mix of youngsters and veterans. Rookie Xavier Bogerts was among the Most Valuable Player candidates, as was the grizzled veteran Davide “Big Papi” Ortiz.

The only aspect of society lacking the necessary interaction between older and younger is in politics. The Supreme Court, perhaps the most powerful governing body in the world, has an average age of about 70. The legislative branch is older than it has ever been, with 60 the average of for senators and 55 for congressmen. Barak Obama has been one of our youngest presidents, but he was still in his late forties when he took office.

The federal government needs to remove the outdated constitutional barriers that prevent young people from political power, especially the current minimum age requirements for senators, representatives and presidents. Those who make the laws for our country should embrace the collaborative efforts of young and old, which have reaped so much success in the areas of music, education, health, and religion. Instead, the median age of our political leaders keeps growing, right along with its degrees of dysfunction.

Every area of American society has seen improvement because of the technology skills of the young and the first hand experience of the older generation, except for politics. Those who govern the country are getting older and more out of touch, so it is no surprise that the government continues to become more and more dysfunctional.

The Healing Qualities Of Music

Recent studies have confirmed what some experts have believed for many years – music has healing powers. The proliferation of diseases, especially the chronic and terminal type, demands that humanity looks for solutions from all viable sources. This quest explains the growth of the alternative medicine industry. Admittedly, there are still many health complications that baffle doctors. There are no cures for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. In almost every community, there are terminally ill people, waiting to die any minute. Many of these are isolated in homes, or taken and abandoned in hospices. For such unfortunate persons, music can bring relief and healing even as doctors continue to search for a permanent cure.

Studies show that music helps to assuage pain. Pain is one of the most dreadful aspects of disease. Pharmaceutical companies discovered this fact a long time ago and created pain-killers. Consequently, every time one feels some throbbing in any part of the body, the natural tendency is to ask for a pain-killer. Music is a priceless but effective method of alleviating pain. Patients listening to music experience quick relief from pain than those who don’t. Next time you experience headache, try music and see the wonders of melodies and beats.

Parkinson’s disease patients also experience better moods and have greater mobility when they listen to music. People suffering from this illness are usually the elderly. Their families undergo a lot of financial and mental agony as they seek to aid patients to live a near-normal life. Music, however, can be used to bring back some life and energy to such individuals. This stems from the fact that music stimulates the brain, where all mobility is coordinated. If you have a Parkinson’s patient, try exposing them to music and you will some transformation.

However, it is important to understand that not all kinds of music will create a healing effect in patients. Different types of music have varying effects on people. It is advisable to let a patient to listen to the type of music he or she likes. The sick person tends to associate music with some experiences. Relatives and friends need to help such patients to make person to identify the right kind of music. Generally, though, soft music with moderate beats tends to have a more powerful impact than fast-paced and loud songs. For example, hymns and blues would be more efficacious in this regard, than hip hop. In the final analysis, though, the music that uplifts the patient’s mood and engenders positive thinking and attitude has the greatest healing effect.

The Key Elements That Make Up Good Guitar Phrasing – Part One

Being able to play awesome guitar solos at will is a goal of many guitar players. However, in reality many guitarists will never gain this ability because they exclusively focus on training their technique while ignoring guitar phrasing skills. Don’t fall into this same trap! If you truly want to play great solos, you need to master the skill of playing just ONE really awesome note. Once you can do this on command, you can expand to play two, three, five, ten notes… until every note in every guitar solo you play sounds BADASS!

Being great at guitar phrasing means being able to clearly communicate your thoughts and emotions as you play – similar to how you would have a verbal conversation with someone to express yourself. You’ll never get the attention of your listeners by speaking in a monotone voice, and this same concept applies when it comes to your guitar playing as well. You must learn how to use various phrasing nuances to express yourself with only one note if needed, and more notes in other situations. The most important thing to understand about phrasing is HOW you play your notes (not the notes themselves). Here are the three critical guitar phrasing elements that truly great guitarists possess:

Vibrato:

Vibrato technique is very personal to the guitarist using it, so it is crucial that you create your own unique playing style with this element. Contrary to what many guitarists think, vibrato requires years of practice to perfect (both technically and stylistically). To get started playing with good vibrato for yourself, think about how you want to hear it played. Listen to how vibrato is used by your favorite guitarists whenever they are playing solos. Then go online and find videos of these guitarists playing live, so you can see how they move their hands to create vibrato. Next, do your best to imitate their style in your playing. Eventually, you will begin developing your own style (as you mix together the different styles of your favorite guitarists). As you work on your vibrato, remember this: There are tons of different ways to play vibrato. For example, neoclassical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen has a slow and wide vibrato, while blues guitarist B.B. King has a very fast and narrow vibrato. Think about what sounds best to you, and focus on developing that sound within your style. To get started improving your vibrato technique, practice using it while playing over backing tracks or during your favorite songs. If you want to develop your vibrato much more quickly, work together with a good guitar teacher. Additionally, remember to use vibrato on bent and unbent notes.

String Bending:

Any great lead guitarist with good phrasing is also a master of creative string bending. Make sure not to overlook this crucial phrasing element in your own playing. By combining string bending along with vibrato, you will achieve maximum self-expression in your playing. The great part about this technique, is that there are countless ways to creatively bend notes. You can bend a half step, a full step, microtonally, with ghost bends, bend and release, plus countless other variations. Some players, such as Marty Friedman, bend their notes beginning from out of the key (such a half step below a tone of the scale) to a note that is ‘in key’. This creates a highly exotic sound. A creative and well-timed bend will instantly grab a listeners’ attention, however you must always keep these things in mind:

First, you must make sure you are always keeping your bends in tune. If you release your bends a little too flat or sharp it will be very obvious – and it will NOT sound good! This is a very common mistake that most guitar players make. Work together with a guitar teacher who can hear whether you are in tune or not and keep your playing on the right track.

Second, don’t use the same types of bends all the time. Begin by playing half step bends and move on to include various other types, such as ghost bends and varying the rate at which you bend the string. Work to perfect each type with all fingers on your fret hand. Support the finger that is doing the bending with any remaining fingers you have available, to gain better control.

Third, pay close attention to the bends of your favorite players and copy the licks they use to get a feel for their style. Then work with a guitar teacher to get help with applying your bends into a musical context as creatively as possible.

Ornamentation

By using ornamentation in your guitar playing, you can make every note massively more creative and interesting for the listener. Ornamentation is the general idea of using techniques to ’embellish’ a note.

One way to do this is to use a trill. Trills are (generally speaking) rapid alternations between one note and another using hammer ons and pull offs. Trills were commonly used throughout the Classical music era and have also been used in rock music by many guitarists. The main idea here is to add more interest to the way you phrase your notes, so that they are always attention-grabbing. Another way to embellish your notes, is to play artificial harmonics with your pick. A great artificial harmonic can create a screaming effect, causing your notes to sound much higher in pitch. This will make them stand out from the other notes you are playing. Additionally, using your fingers to create natural harmonics over the fretboard can sound very creative (especially when combined with a tremolo bar). There are endless other embellishing techniques that could be discussed – however, these ones are a good start. It’s more important to master a few ideas first, so that you don’t overload yourself with too much information at once.

So far, you’ve only learned 3 key elements for playing with good guitar phrasing. In the next part of this article series, you will learn new elements to make your lead guitar playing even more unique and self-expressive.

Nick Layton has many years of experience as a professional guitarist and songwriter. He has also written rock guitar phrasing courses to help guitarists around the world improve their soloing.

Interview With Richard Hilton, Musical Arranger and Keyboardist From Chic

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH CHIC

The best things about playing in CHIC include getting to make music with some of the finest musicians I’ve ever known, including the band we’ve had for the past five years, and getting the opportunity to share in the happiness of the audience. I’ve also gotten to see a lot of really amazing places that I’d likely never have seen otherwise.

WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING?

The rigors of travel, which are at an all-time high these days.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH CHIC/NILES? AND HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

I started working with Nile in March of 1988. I had been interviewing for about two years for a number of different jobs with a company called “New England Digital” that made a proprietary computer music instrument called the Synclavier. They never did hire me, but when Nile Rodgers called them (being a user of their instrument) asking about a qualified programmer who could play keyboards, they kindly recommended me and that was it, I was in.

IF YOU WEREN’T WORKING WITH CHIC, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?

When I started with Nile, I was teaching at a small college and going back to grad school to get a master’s degree. I hope to get back to teaching someday. I’m very keen to work with young people.

CHIC ARE ALWAYS A JOY TO WATCH, WHAT’S THE SECRET?

A tireless dedication to delivering the best possible show every night. There’s a lot of trust and love on the stage, and it seems to translate to the audience, based on the things they say to me. One cannot underestimate the value of the amazing repertoire we’ve given to play as a major contributing factor to making all this possible.

RUMOUR HAS IT CHIC ARE WORKING ON BRINGING OUT AN ALBUM IN COLLABORATION WITH DAFT PUNK? IS THIS TRUE?

I can’t talk about projects in progress.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TECHNIQUE?

Adequate, but not great. I do a lot of things pretty well, but maybe none of them “great”. The players in CHIC are all far more accomplished than I. My abilities are spread across a number of different disciplines in my job, so my playing technique sometimes doesn’t get the attention it might otherwise deserve. I’m lucky in that music has always come pretty easily to me.

YOU ALWAYS LOOK SO HAPPY AND UPBEAT ON STAGE! WHY IS THAT?

Because I find the privilege of playing this music and sharing in the audience’s happiness to be quite overwhelming. Playing this music in CHIC is a pretty amazing thing, and I try to let that wash over me as much as possible while we’re doing it.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

I’d try to tap less into anger and more into the love that I feel. There are a few other things specific to my relationships that I wish I’d done better.

IF YOU HADN’T BEEN BORN IN THIS CENTURY, WHEN AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE LIVED?

I’m happy to be here now. I don’t think in terms of “what if” very much. That said, getting to hear Art Tatum, Beethoven, and Chopin play would’ve been very nice.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ARTISTS/MUSICIANS AND WHY?

I’m really no good at favorites lists. I listen to and look at a lot of stuff and really like it. My list would number in the 100’s, and is not limited to a few particular styles of music and/or art.

WHO ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE ARTIST/MUSICIANS AND WHY? (YOU DONT HAVE TO ANSWER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO!!)

Generally speaking, those who contribute with all their power to the degradation of society and people in it. Bigots, pretenders. People who didn’t work for it, and had it handed to them by society.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

Learn more about the world, the people in it, and about my work. I do a lot of learning on my own, not limited to music subjects or technology. I like to cook, and to spend time with my wife and sons. I don’t watch a lot of TV – mainly some sports and historical stuff. I do read a lot and spend a lot of time with computers and devices.

ARE YOU POLITICALLY ACTIVE?

More in mind than body, but yes, I find myself increasingly appalled by the world situation as I get older.

DO YOU DO ANY VOLUNTEER WORK?

Yes I try to involve myself in the aspirations of young musicians as much as I can, I’m sure there’s a lot more I could do. I get involved as much as possible in my sons’ musical adventures, usually without actually directly participating with them. That takes a lot of forms; equipment advice and procurement help, attending shows, sometimes recording the shows. When they were in marching band, I was the unofficial videographer for the band, and posted videos so that the band could benefit from seeing their work.

As a fringe benefit, it turned out that band members’ families from all over the world were watching these videos to see their relatives performing at a high level. I got comments all the time about how “grandma in phoenix” watched every video and looked forward to them every week.

Also, because of my sons’ music, I meet a lot of young people here at the house, and we talk. I like to think they find me easy to talk to. I like talking to them.

HOW HAS AMERICAN MUSIC CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?

This subject could fill a book but briefly it’s gone further down the rabbit hole caused by the democratization of the music-making process. Conversely, there has also been a resurgence of people interested in the live interaction between musicians, so that part is good. We’re still trying to recover from the affects of machine-driven music-making popularized in the 1980s and continued onward.

WHAT’S THE SIDE OF YOU THAT THE PUBLIC NEVER SEES

The angry, bitter, alienated side. At least, I hope they never see it. It’s not doing me (or them) any good at all.

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED AS A PERFORMER/ARRANGER?

I’m more aware of the role that I’m expected to fill as a performer, and more involved in embracing that for the benefit of the whole team. I trust more easily now, and forgive more easily.

HOW HARD DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF?

I insist on keeping active with learning new things. I have a lot of competition for what I do out there from younger, hipper, more culturally-adept people, and the numbers are growing yearly. I meet them at college seminars and at trade shows.

I think the only way to stay current and involved is to continue to grow by bringing to bear my long experience in the business in combination with the knowledge and techniques I’m gaining now. A lot can be done today that, even just a few years ago, was considered impossible. I can’t stand still; I have to keep moving forward with knowledge to stay in the game at my age.

WHEN ARE YOU COMPLETELY SATISFIED WITH YOUR WORK?

I always feel like there is something I could do or have done to make it better. I think being “satisfied with one’s work” is a harbinger of doom, artistically. That said if it all ended tomorrow, I’d walk away feeling like I’d had a pretty good run of it.

WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE SOMETHING OF A PERFECTIONIST

There’s nothing worth doing that isn’t worth doing well. If you call that perfectionism, then I guess so.

WHAT MAKES YOU THE MOST PROUD AS A DAD?

I have two amazing sons, James and Corey. James has just graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, cum laude, from Western Connecticut State University. He was awarded a special recognition from the MIS department for outstanding achievement. He is working in the computer field, and doing fantastically well.

Corey is attending Music College in Ithaca, NY. He is a recording student with percussion as his major instrument. In his first semester, he was made section leader of the symphonic band’s percussion section, and in both semesters he made dean’s list. He played a fantastic recital in his first year, and recorded dozens of concerts. He is also doing amazingly well, and is well appreciated by his teachers and his friends.

WHAT’S THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR SUCCESS?

Find something you love to do, and find a way to make it fit into your life in an appropriate way. That may mean making a living at it, or it may not. Don’t allow others to define who you are and what you should be. Success, to me, is finding a place of comfort and happiness in one’s life without hurting theirs, however that manifests itself. It’s not about fame and fortune – I know far too many famous and wealthy people who are not happy.

Also, for me, having good relationships with people in the world, both at home and out “there”, also helps to balance one’s life and views. In my own life, it’s hugely important.

Note from author: I was lucky enough to be invited to see Chic perform at Kew Gardens in the summer of 2012. The music lifted me off the grass! I met Rich Hilton, one of the nicest, most unassuming guys you could meet, Richard’s joy on stage, and off, is infectious, and he and Nile Rodgers have worked together for decades. What a blessing for soul/funk/disco music lovers like me!

Alice Frances Wickham is a book and music reviewer, she runs a literary agency for new and emerging writers. Alice’s agency, New London Writers, is seeking fresh book proposals.