• Nathan

New Year's Resolutions With a Groove

We begin with a confession: I didn't practice as much as I should have in 2020.

Among the other half-hearted excuses I could make, one of my 2020 problems was the "Too Many Options" syndrome. I have guitar method books on Brazillian Guitar, Classical, Funk, Country, Jazz- you name it. Not to mention I own and play multipe instruments. I found myself looking around at all my options and got in my own way. I needed to simplify and plan ahead.

As I was thinking about the new year and what I like doing in music, I had an epiphany: I love grooves. I love the way a band locks together and creates a sound that is bigger than the sum of their parts. It doesn't matter if it is funk or bluegrass, I want to know why and how grooves work. Why don't I double down on that?

So here's the resolution:

I chose 50 songs that feel good. They come from very different genres, but I had a few requirements. I looked for grooves played by humans (not loops) and often by people in the same room. I chose songs with traditional instruments (drums, bass, guitar, keys, etc) so I don't spend too much time trying to figure out how they got that synth sound. As interesting as sound design is, I want to play music.

Every week I'll spend my practice time dissecting each song, starting from the foundational instruments (drums and bass) through the midrange (keys, guitars) until I get to the lead vocals and harmonies. As I go through each part I'll sketch it out on staff paper until I have a binder full by the end of the year.

A lot of these songs are very familiar to me, but I haven't "deeply listened" to them (more on that in future posts). Whenever I listen deeply, I discover new things and come away with new ideas.

So here are the 50 songs for 2021:

1. Hey Bulldog- The Beatles

2. Jumpin’ Jack Flash- The Rolling Stones

3. Uptight- Stevie Wonder

4. There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang- Johnny Cash

5. Could You be Loved?- Bob Marley

6. Up Around the Bend- Creedance Clearwater Revival

7. Any Way You Want It- Journey

8. Another One Bites the Dust- Queen

9. Ants Marching- Dave Matthews Band

10. Think- Aretha Franklin

11. I Thank You- Sam and Dave

12. Ophelia- The Band

13. You Wreck Me- Tom Petty

14. Domino- Van Morrison

15. Carolina in the Morning- Dean Martin

16. Let the Good Times Roll- BB King

17. Shake Your Tail Feathers- Ray Charles

18. Love Train- The O’Jays

19. Beautiful Day- U2

20. Funky Broadway- Wilson Pickett

21. I May Not Can See- The Blind Boys of Alabama

22. Hey Pocky a Way- The Meters

23. Gotta Serve Somebody- Bob Dylan

24. The Pretender- Foo Fighters

25. Get on the Good Foot- James Brown

26. Chan Chan- Buena Vista Social Club

27. I Won’t Let You Go- James Morrison

28. Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac

29. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough- Marvin Gaye

30. Rite Away- Dr. John

31. New Orleans- Staple Singers

32. Man in the Mirror- Michael Jackson

33. Shake- Otis Redding

34. Homeward Bound- Simon and Garfunkel

35. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes- Paul Simon

36. Dance to the Music- Sly and the Family Stone

37. Viva La Vida- Coldplay

38. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg- The Temptations

39. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More- Allman Brothers

40. Five Sheep Four Goats- Danish String Quartet

41. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?- Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstandt

42. Belleville- Pearl Django

43. It’s a good Day- Peggy Lee

44. There’s a Whole Lotta Heaven- Iris Dement

45. Stuck in The Middle With You- The Resevior Dogs

46. Reggae Got Soul- Toots and the Maytals

47. Express Yourself- Charles Wright

48. L.O.V.E Let it Do What it Do- Robert Randolph and Darius Rucker

49. Blame It On The Boogie- Jacksons

50. Little Less Conversation- Elvis Presley

That's it, I've declared my intentions. I'll let you know how it's going from time to time. Now if I can keep my other resolutions about exercise and desserts, I might run a Facebook ad congratulating myself. I hold out more hope for the grooves.

Let me know if you have any musical New Year's resolutions of your own, and here's to 2021.

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