Category: Inspiration

The Top 3 Things I Learned This Year

The Top 3 Things I Learned This Year

As this year draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on what we have learned. I came up with three important items. Let me know what you think.

  1. My Roland FR-4x has absolutely opened up my playing to levels I have never known before. For one thing, Settings are an incredible resource for musical ideas. The differing sounds from Master, to Musette, from Electric Piano to Distorted Guitar ring so warm and pure and true, I was startled when I began playing them. And that’s not all. The bellowsing feel that you get when you play through the different settings diverges accordionly. Playing on Musette, the Roland feels smaller and more intimate in nature. Switching over to Distorted Guitar on Stadium Filter? For me, a dream come true. Call me crazy but I get a sense of how Jimi Hendrix must have felt when he began developing his new sounds. The freedom to wail on and on is a powerful experience and lately I cannot get enough of it.
  2. The Roland FR-4x gives me another gift as well–the Record Button! When it comes to recording, I go back to the horse-and buggy days. I remember once or twice in my entire youth getting the opportunity to record something on a reel-to-reel tape recorder at the home of a friend. Too much pressure. Not optimum, especially for someone in the beginning stages of learning. That red light goes on and sometimes you even forget the title of the song you want to record. With the Roland FR-4x I am getting past the “white coat” effect of recording. I make sure I am plugged in to an outlet, have a totally blank flash drive in the USB port, press “Record” and away we go. What an immense pleasure and multitudinous benefit to record myself DAILY! Have I created a ton of outtakes? You bet. Have I created another ton of cringe-worthy material? No doubt about it. Will I continue to record myself daily? I don’t see why not! I still find so much good stuff, so many golden nuggets that I make note of, memorialize, and repeat in my playing whether it is a new fill, improvised phrase, or chord voicing that there is no turning back now.
  3. The third big thing I’ve learned this year is the power that lies in daily journaling. This effort sprang out of a small e-book I received from the legendary Jim Rohn. What a difference it makes to write important things down every day and then reflect on them later in the week (or whenever)! I always find several ideas I want to pursue and develop. Once I had a few pages going I began indexing my main ideas at the back of my notebook. (I was remembering something my college professor told us about non-fiction books when he said, “If you are looking through a book, one of the first things you should look for is an index. You would be surprised how many books don’t have them. Anyway, if there is no index it is not worth your time. Again, what a difference! For example, in working up my version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” I find references to it in my journal on 14 separate occasions. Then, I combine those 14 discoveries (settings changes, bass lines. fills, etc.) on one page and really begin drilling down on that one tune. Without the journaling tactic I doubt I could have accomplished this in so short a time. And I always keep the journal close by. Our mind’s potential is great and you never know when some idea will come to us. It has already happened more times than I can count. I really only got into this mode of journaling this past September when some small insight leaped out at me off the page when I reflected on a previous entry. Journaling is giving the gift of a tremendous resource to yourself. And you are the resource. When you cultivate, you grow in a positive direction. There is no other way you can keep all this great stuff in your mind in a workable fashion. Insight by insight, or sometimes-seemingly boring fact by boring fact, we can grow our knowledge.

So, all in all, I find these three items I’ve learned this year have been a revelation. Now, for 2022 I plan on deepening these three and adding to them. You never know where the next dream is coming from. Let me know what you think.

What the Rocky Howard Music Blog Means to Me

What the Rocky Howard Music Blog Means to Me

I was listening to Seth Godin giving a talk about finding your purpose and he made a suggestion that has always stuck with me. He said to make a list of every single thing you might want to do, and then read the list to yourself–aloud. And when you get to the one that catches your voice a little bit or maybe even brings a tear to your eye, that is the one you do.

Well, That’s how I feel about my music and I feel certain you do too. Being an accordionist has its ups and downs in our culture but playing Rock Accordion is always an “up.” Audiences are always so pleasantly surprised to hear a Rock and Roll Tune springing out of the bellows! And the only thing better than listening to it is playing it.

You know, when it comes to Rock and Roll Music, we accordionists have been there from the beginning. If Rock and Roll is a social and cultural revolution, and it is, then “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and His Comets” is the Declaration of Independence. And look who was in the starting lineup from the git go–Johnny Grande on ACCORDION!

The accordion is PERFECT for Rock Music! Certainly the portability of our instrument allows us to roam the stage and play amongst other band members a la Eddie Van Halen. And our instrument is extremely versatile, probably the most versatile in the world. You can solo, you can accompany, and if you are sitting in with a couple of other musicians you can morph into quite the horn section all on your own.

I guess what I am getting at is not only do I love playing Rock Accordion but there is so much more about it that I want to learn. There are so many songs to learn, true. I also want to learn more rock techniques, rehearsal strategies, and exercises to help all of us get to where we want to go.

So, the Rocky Howard Music Blog explores all these different areas of accordioning–including Rock and its sub-genres. And I want to start a conversation with you. I want to know what you think or might suggest. Your comments can leverage the world of Rock Accordion. Your ideas can bring new life to our music.