This past October, I traveled to Mexico City to attend and participate in the 4th annual Festival Mexicano de Didgeridoo y Trompeta Maya. I had an amazing time meeting so many warm and welcoming people, seeing a part of the world I’ve never been in before, hearing so much beautiful music and feeling the sweet vibes from everyone who was there. If there is a single festival centered around didgeridoo I can recommend going to for sharing, learning and just plain loving, this is it.
The festival is the loving gift of Omar De la Tejera, a gifted and devoted didgeridoo player, teacher and crafter from Xalapa, Mexico. I met Omar a couple of years ago when he came to America to attend the InDidjInUs Didgeridoo Gathering in Oregon. The deep love affair with didgeridoo and its vibration that Omar expressed then was (and continues to be) inspiring. It’s because of Omar and his vision of healing and opening the heart in a part of the world that has so many challenges that I found myself traveling to Mexico to be a part of this festival. I'm glad I did.
Among the people I met are amazing spirits like Liliane Soares from Brazil who is inspiring a movement of women didgeridoo players at the same time inspiring a collaboration between feminine and masculine energies for a more balanced world. Didge Sisters Tania Veetmaya, Tania Moonsarat and Karo Nacho who played their music with a beautiful vibration that gently touched the spirit. Camilo Para from Columbia an amazing multi instrumentalist and teacher who's sense of humor is infectious. Markus Meurer from Austria, who played with his bandmates, Szabi (on jaw harp) and Döme (beatboxing) from Airtist that had us all dancing and celebrating with such an enthusiastic energy I thought none of us would ever come back to earth. Szabi’s beautiful partner Kristina, who wrapped us all in her sweet energy and presence. Anabel Hernandez who’s magical presence and divine love helped me to balance while I was starting to get sick towards the end of my trip. Thank you my Sister for your light and love and for taking the time to meet me at the airport to say farewell. And our amazing hosts Eduardo Castillo and his roommates, Anna, Juan, Miguel and Vlad who were so generous and so welcoming in sharing their home with those of us who traveled from afar. I can't thank all of you enough!
There were so many other amazing players, teachers and crafters from Argentina, Mexico and Columbia who came and shared their gifts with us. Sebastian, Elias, Carlos, Javier, Havo, Denisse, Matias, Marianna and so many more whose names escape me at the moment and who all shared their wonderful gifts of experience, warmth and generosity. I can easily say I left a much richer person having met and heard all of them. Thank you!
As I mentioned before, Mexico, like many countries, is in a time of great challenge and change. It's a beautiful city in many ways even though there is still so much struggle economically, politically and education wise. I appreciate the chance to be there to witness the struggle and be a part of a group of people devoted to helping to transmute it. This is what playing didgeridoo, or any other instrument for that matter can do - providing connection through music. Many, many thanks to Omar for his vision and for having me to the festival. It really means a lot and I really look forward to coming back!
See you all next year!
So, I thought I would share with you some of the photos from the didgeridoo festival and trip. I hope you enjoy these postcards. Many thanks again to everyone who helped to make this journey possible. I’m honored to have been a part of it!
As an independent artist, it's always a challenge to find ways of getting the music I make out there and find support for that music. For musicians, some avenues can include Youtube, websites, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon Music and a whole host of other online platforms not to mention performing and touring. Since I've never had the experience of being signed to a label, I've relied mostly on performing, personal connection and a DIY online presence through this website, social media and download sites to get the music out there. I've engaged in subscription services like Taxi (and independent A&R for film music), Music Marketing Manifesto and checked out more DIY tips for musicians than I care to admit. There is a LOT of great information out there but it can be overwhelming not to mention time consuming. Since the massive changes that the music industry has undergone over the last twenty years or so, there is no shortage of an ever-evolving plethora of avenues for content creators to get their work out there. Patreon is one of those avenues.
I heard about Patreon about two years ago while taking a webinar. Patreon is a platform where patrons and creators can connect to bring music, art, dance, comics, great ideas or what have you to an audience. It's kind of like Kickstarter but instead of funding one project, Patreon is an ongoing effort where patrons opt in at "X" amount of dollars a month to support creators in their ever day work. This great news for creators and independent artists because it smooths out and otherwise sporadic, if not unreliable, income base that most creators experience. So, if you're an independent artist or content creator, you may want to check out Patreon as a possible avenue for your work. For patrons, it can raise some question like:
"This sounds great but isn't it a bit like online begging?"
If a creator works things right on their profile page then, no, it wouldn't be online begging. The reason why are the rewards that patrons get for their money. These rewards can vary greatly but ultimately, it's up to the patron to decide if they are worth contributing to. This is where the term ROI comes into play. For those of you who are not really into economic speak ROI is "return on investment." There is considerable investment on both sides. From an creator's standpoint, the investment is time, effort and thought that goes into making a viable package that hopefully appeals to potential patrons. It's also the time and effort into making doable deliverables (i.e. music downloads, high quality photos, helpful blog posts, tutorials that help patrons, etc). From a patron standpoint, those deliverables have to be worth it and on time if a timeline is specified. If a creator can't deliver then they run the risk of losing patrons and gaining a bad reputation. The end game is that creators and patrons work together in bringing more art into a world that can definitely use it. This is especially vital now in a world that is changing so fast and can be very stressful.
I've been on Patreon now for almost two years and have learned some valuable lessons, the biggest of which is maintaining a consistency. I admit that I am not the most consistent or willing marketer of my wares on the planet but getting a patron here and losing a patron there has taught me that being consistent in getting content out there and letting people know about it is vital to success. With that said, I've been taking some time to focus on narrowing things down to a few avenues to bring in a more consistent income with the music I make and I've chosen Patreon as one of those avenues. This is because it gives me a different way of getting the music out there. For example, the "traditional" way of buying music has been through either purchasing a CD at performances or online or downloading albums on the web. The way I've worked Patreon however, is for $5 a month, patrons who have signed up can download a new song each week. Just prior to releasing these songs, I will put out a video of the piece in my patron feed so patrons can hear it. It's simple and easy and folks who have signed up can get the music before it's available anywhere else. If you can't afford $5 a month then I also have a $1 a month tier where you get featured videos, tutorials on making music, photos and blog posts on didgeridoo, composition, creating musical content and more (the $5 a month tier gets all this too plus the weekly downloads). Patrons can adjust their contribution to fit their budget and can opt out any time.
I have no idea if this strategy will work. It all depends on how all of you like to get their music. I know some of you will really be into this and some of you would rather buy a CD or a download. But it's one more way of getting the music out there. The pledges I receive from Patreon has so far have helped to maintain a web presence but I would like to do much more. Some of my goals are to purchase musical instruments for ever expanding creative ideas, upgrade equipment to bring better quality sound to album production and to grow my audience through email, ad purchases and memberships. down the road, I would love to start creating multi-media events with a message. More on that later. All of this leads up to to the end game of putting the best quality music I can out there to help make this a better and happier world for you, my audience. I know it sounds a little cheesy but this is my ultimate ROI. As an independent artist, I can't really think of any better way to be of service.
Thank you so much for reading this. I know it was a long haul but I hope you find this information helpful either as a supporter or as a creator. I'm grateful to those of you who have signed up already or who have found other ways of supporting the work I do. I seriously couldn't do the work without that support so thank you, thank you, thank you! I really appreciate it!
If you want to check out my Patreon page you can do so by clicking here or the Patreon logo above. If you found this article helpful or if you have any other questions , send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Many thanks and take care Everyone! Peace!
Your Didge Servant, Pam
Life is meant to live in Love. The only power anyone needs is the power that's inside. It's not power in a sense of ruling over something but rather a generation of energy that finds its place with all other energy to make life.
Let that be enough
Every musician goes through changes in their career and I'm no exception. I've been playing didgeridoo now for over 12 years which is really not that long considering how far I've come. But there is a new (or not so new) love on the horizon to go hand in hand with didgeridoo. Chanting. I've listened to chanting now for a few years and have grown to love the art of singing love-based mantras and songs of peace. I'm by no means quitting didgeridoo but rather adding to my repertoire as an artist.
I have Tim Feetham to thank for this. Tim and I made a CD together about four years ago called Journey Inward: the Practice Sessions. Since then, Tim has gently persuaded me to start singing more to add my voice to a growing number of artists who are in the chant world. I've been reluctant until I started hearing from other people as well that they would like to hear more of my voice so, I'm starting to sing more and finding my way through the chant world with mantras based on peace, collaboration and harmony. The take away for me has been a deepening appreciation for what I can do and what I can give. I've been finding a peace in myself that i haven't known for a very long time. To be able to bring that out in music means a lot to me. I'm in deep gratitude for this rediscovery. Where this road leads to I'm not sure yet but it doesn't really matter because you can bet sure that I will enjoy the journey.
To lead all of this off, I would like to give to you the Green Tara chant that I recorded a few months back. Relax, breathe it in and enjoy. Thank you!
This post was originally posted on Patreon for the patrons that support the work I do. If you would like to learn more or if you would like to become a supporter you can follow this link. https://www.patreon.com/pammortensen You have my eternal thanks!
So what do you think of when I say the word practice? Does it make you scrunch your upper lip up in dread or does it thrill you with the chase? In, talking with so many adults and even some kids about practice, many tend to share with me a certain visions of sweat, blood, slaving and slogging through material or a technique. While there is always some degree of discipline and putting in the time, there are ways to make practice a bit more manageable. Here are six things you can do to help make your practice a bit more stress free.
1. Don’t Worry – If you don’t get the material or technique down today, don’t sweat it. You may get it tomorrow or the next day so don’t worry about what you don’t get and simply focus on what you do get. Just trust your baby steps and remember that Divine Order is crazy like a fox and everything works out.
2. Give Yourself Permission to be a Beginner – This is an especially hard one for adults because we are so conditioned to get it right simply because we're older and "should" know better. Just know that this is BS. Everyone starts somewhere and even the experts are at the beginning of some level. It also helps to remember that all great masters are lifetime students......That’s what makes them masters.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Learn – So many people expect themselves to get something right the first time but few of us are lucky enough to be instant experts. Giving yourself time to learn will, a lot of times, mean taking baby steps and that's ok. That’s all you need. Just keep breathing and you’ll get there. Oh, and don’t worry (see tip #1) about those who learn faster because it doesn’t matter because everyone learns at their own speed.
This brings me to
4. Be Patient -
5. Be Persistent -
Engage in these two habits and you will have won 9/10ths of your game.
6. Enjoy the Journey! – A.K.A. Enjoy the Ride because you won’t ever experience this moment in the same way again………ever……sorry.
These tips are brought to you by The Learning Curve. helping humans to be their best since the dawn of time. If you have any questions, please let me know. I teach this stuff and I love helping people sort out the snags in their practice! Many thanks for reading!
P.S. - There are likely to be more tips showing up as I think of them so stay tuned! :-)
This post also appears on Patreon to honor the patrons that support the work I do. If you would to learn more about Patreon or become a supporter you can find my Patreon page by following this link https://www.patreon.com/pammortensen Many thanks!
Last night we had the second fundraiser for the InDidjInUs Didgeridoo Gathering that will be here in Oregon in August. It felt so good to play and to be a part of a community that is open, welcoming, warm and delightful. I am blessed. I talked with a couple of the other didgeridoo players after the performances and we had a great conversation about didgeridoo and how it’s perceived here in the U.S. We agreed that from a mainstream point of view it’s a novel instrument, a curiosity that’s all at once cool, strange, awesome and out of the ordinary. This point of view of novelty has been on my mind for a long time now and is one of the things I love about didgeridoo but what comes with that is a sense that didgeridoo has something to prove before it’s fully acceptable as a viable instrument. Looking beyond the novelty to the benefits of didgeridoo can help with that acceptance so here are some things that came to mind that may help
Didgeridoo is beautiful in so many ways. Musically, it has the capability to be an organic synthesizer, changing sounds by moving lips, tongue cheeks, or adding voice or changing air pressure, the list is long. It also has the capability of being an instrument to play songs on, to compose structured pieces on giving it a more listenable quality for those who are not as familiar with the didge. For those of you who play and want to learn more about composition you can read this article to get started. There is no reason why the didgeridoo couldn’t be a viable instrument in the musical world. It adds a lot to bands who use it and can span a wide range of feeling as a solo instrument from ambient to dance music and everything in between or as a collaborative instrument with other arts like dance or theatre. I’ve heard it played in so many different genres from death metal to jazz to classical music and much, much more. I’ve played with dancers and have seen it used in theatrical pieces where it has added an atmosphere of earthy goodness that we resonate with no matter what walk of life we come from. For an example of this Dubravko Lapaine's Tellingstories comes to mind.
I see didgeridoo as an instrument of connection between people from all walks of life. It doesn’t seem to matter where we come from, when we hear that low deep drone of didge it reaches to places in us that we didn’t know we had. It may sound esoteric to say that but when I busk or perform, I’ve watched people who have never experienced didgeridoo before or who have had little experience get so drawn in they want to know more and know where they can hear more or learn more. They ask questions and listen intently to learn more about this instrument and when we’re done with our conversation, they leave with a smile. It’s fun to watch them walk away with a lighter step. When i see this, I feel good about the work I do.
I feel this kind of outreach is so important to the exposure of didgeridoo because it helps people reconnect with each other and with themselves in ways I haven’t seen other instruments do. All I have to do is look at my own life as an example. I’ll admit the connection I’ve made with this instrument took me completely by surprise because it was so out of the realm of my musical experience. I’ve always been a keyboard player so to have this most odd of wind instruments come waltzing into my life made me say “WHAAAAAT?” I’d never played a wind instrument before in my life until this one came along so I kept asking why this instrument? I think it’s because there was some deep learning I needed to do about myself and the way I could do it was learning how to breathe. What better way to learn to learn to breathe than to play didge? All of that oxygen getting to my brain has opened up years of stuffy, suburban mindset and blown it all away in a rhythmic song of ecstasy. I know that’s a bit poetic but there you have it. It’s one of the benefits that keeps me coming back to didgeridoo again and again. Perhaps this kind of connection is the biggest benefit of all.
I fully believe the interest in didgeridoo is definitely there and that’s where myself and other performers, teachers and makers of this instrument come in. I enjoy talking to people about didgeridoo and showing them what it can do beyond just a drone and conveying the benefits of playing and/or listening to this crazybeautiful instrument. And I know there are a lot of other really great performers, teachers and crafters that do the same. But here’s the catch for for all of us, as much as I would love to bring the didgeridoo into the mainstream, I think it’s important that it makes the mainstream on it’s own terms. The mainstream has a terrible habit of exploitation and didgeridoo has already fallen too far into this pit through the tourist trade. It’s far too beautiful of an instrument for that. So it’s a delicate balance and I don’t have any clear answers except to keep connecting, learning and sharing about didgeridoo in a way that's respectful and that can bring out its best qualities. This is the best way I can think of how I can do my part to help grow this community. So, with that said, it’s back to work.
Thanks for reading this.
This post originally appeared in Patreon on 9 April 2017 as to honor the patrons that support the work I do. If you would to learn more or become a supporter you can find my Patreon page by following this link https://www.patreon.com/pammortensen Many thanks!
A lot of people tell me how they feel they are too this or that to be able to learn to play music. It’s mostly “I’m too old.” The thing is, you’re never too anything to learn to play an instrument or sing. Allow me to tell a couple of stories.
The first story: One of my classmates at Cornish College for the Arts was this guy named Len. Len was an inspiration to the rest of us. He was learning how to play the viola which is NOT an easy instrument to learn (or maybe it is depending on your approach). It’s got the weirdest clef ever (for you non-musicians, the symbol that establishes where notes go on the staff) and it’s a bit larger than the violin making the reach a bit more challenging. But that didn’t deter Len. He loved playing this instrument and learned everything he could about it and music while he was at Cornish. We even played a couple of duets together at his request and he had me write a piece for his senior recital which we also played together. I love telling Len’s story because at the time he started learning viola he was 72. By the time he graduated he was 76. I remember asking him what he was going to do after graduation and he told me he had the goal of playing in community orchestras as well as for his own enjoyment.
A second story is of a student I had a few years back who had developmental disabilities. She was learning to play the piano. In the beginning, it was extremely hard for her to hit the right key because of her motor skills but with some time, patience and persistence, she was able to play songs like Yankee Doodle (her favorite) and Wheels on the Bus without guiding her hands. To watch the joy she had in playing by herself was so beautiful. The learning went two ways on this one because what I learned from her is that it doesn't matter where you come from or what your circumstance is, you can do it.
No one is ever too anything to learn music. The key is loving it enough to want to do it. When you love it enough, you WILL make time for it because you just want to or in some cases, need to. I’ve known people with family responsibilities, more than full time work and ageing parent responsibilities who still found time to learn and make music. For me, it’s been a necessity first to keep me out of trouble (yes, I can cause trouble) and second to express what needs to be expressed. Writing and playing music have been invaluable assets for me and I can’t think of anything better to do with my life than to make music and share it with people to hopefully encourage them to find their passions and loves.
So what would you love to do? Learn to play an instrument? Bellydancing? Painting? Digital synthesis? All I can say is just do it. There are really rich rewards to learning an art - learning to express yourself in ways that you couldn’t otherwise, building self confidence through building skills and even things like having positive effects the brain that can help us develop to our full potential. For more on this follow this link. Or you can also read This is Your Brain on Music .
For those of you who are really wanting to dip your big toe in, I hope you find this to be encouraging and that you just go for it! If you do, let me know how it goes. I would love to hear from you.
Many thanks for reading and play on!
This post is made possible by the support of magical people like you. If you feel that this is helpful content, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter or signing up for my email list. It's all I ask and they are really great ways to stay connected and help support the work I do. Xoxo
Music composition has always been one of those mysterious things to people. In the “olden days” to share your process of composing was looked on as almost a travesty. People felt that no one would be interested or care about how a composer made his or her music. The only thing that mattered was the end product. We’re a little more curious these days and with the internet age it’s awesome to take a peek into an artist’s process of how they work and learn or be inspired by that work.
How it Starts
I’ll begin by saying there is no one size fits all approach to composing music. For me, most of what comes out is through improvisation – noodling around if you will. I’ll sit with the didge or the keyboard or be messing around with a vocal tune and BAM suddenly something catches my ear. I get it down as quickly as I can either on a page or on a recording (my phone is full of these) because I know if I don’t, I will lose it. I probably have hundreds of little snippets of music ideas like these….
As you can hear, these are raw ideas that have come through in moments of inspiration. Most of these ideas sit and wait for me to do something with them. But others find their way into becoming a song. The time it takes to make a song varies. Sometimes, it's a couple of days and sometimes it's a couple of months. I've stopped worrying about trying to finish a song and figure if a song wants to be finished, it will let me know. I do it this way because it's what works best for me. I encourage folks to experiment with different ways of composing and then observe, make notes (if you like). It's a way of learning how you tick when it comes to creating. When you find something that works, go with it.
So what inspires music?
I remember a friend of mine answered this question years ago in a composition class at Cornish College of the Arts. She said “It could be anything, the squeak of a door, the honk of a car horn, anything.” It’s true! I’ve been inspired by many things from train horns to the rhythm of someone walking down the street to bird call, and yep, other people’s music. This world is a symphony of sound and rhythm to me and I’ve found that inspiration means being an open channel to just about anything.
Inspiration can hit anywhere too - in the car, on an elevator, during dinner or even in the bathroom.
Ok, that’s cool but what about developing those ideas
"Where do I start?" is the big question that many people ask when they a beginner composer. Just start where you are. From there you can start gaining the skills just simply by experience. It’s a bit like learning martial arts – you can’t get to a black belt without the practice. Practice though doesn’t have to mean strictly sweating and slaving. I think of it as a balance between knowing what i want to say with music and flowing or being open to where the music leads me, instead of trying to make it where I think it should go. The minute I try to make the music go where I want, is the minute that I start making crappy music. I learned this when I was trying to compose a piece for a national competition in the mid-90’s. I was trying beat the music out to make the deadline and it just wasn’t happening. The result was writing only eight measures of unintelligible music before giving up. The lesson in this? Go with the Flow.
Sometimes, developing ideas into songs comes when I put two contrasting but complimentary ideas together. This happens a lot when I’m composing for didgeridoo. I have a journal and a handheld recorder (Zoom H4n) that I use frequently to either write down or record fragments that I can reference later on. I’ve found that recording is much better than writing simply because I don’t always remember how it sounds when I look back on a written rhythm. Often times, to listen to a fragment later on will inspire something else to come out and if it doesn’t, I don’t sweat it. I just go on to something else. So how do I know when two ideas compliment each other? My tummy tells me. I just listen to what I put together and ask my tummy if it sounds good. If it does, then I just go with it. This alone has been a great tool for putting together rhythms on didgeridoo and songs on the keyboard.
Song structure can be a challenge especially with didgeridoo. How does one make a song without it sounding like a bunch of rhythms strung together or even worse, playing the same rhythm over and over for three minutes? Here’s what one way I think of it when I put a song together for didge.
Chorus – Verse – Chorus- 2nd Verse (variation from 1st)
This isn't by any means the only formula I use but it's been one of the most handy. Again, you can experiment with switching around your different sections to see what works well. One of the best examples I have of using song structure is this song:
There are other tools you can employ into your music too like dynamics (i.e. loud, soft), change of speed (slow to fast or vica versa), texture (smooth or choppy), vocals, pitch (horns or drone) and probably some things I missed. All of these can make a song more interesting and even tell a story (we can get into this a bit later).
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to experiment. Let yourself dabble, play, explore and see what comes out. Use your judgment in a good way to weed out anything that doesn’t seem to fit or make sense (this takes a bit of practice and patience) and most of all enjoy the process, be patient with yourself and throw perfection out the window. You won’t need it. Aim for excellence instead (again this will take a bit of practice). You can read some books on composition if you wish but the best way to learn is to just do it. This way you get to feel out your own learning style and find your own voice. If you do want a fabulous book for a better understanding of basic music theory, I recommend Practical Theory Complete by Sandy Feldstein. This is an awesome interactive book that is chock full of good material which is put together in a way that is easy to understand. There are other great music theory books out there as well. It's a good idea to just take the time to peruse them and see if they would be a good fit for you.
So what is your process? How do you think of music and putting a song together? What inspires you? What do you get stuck on? When works best for you? Feel free to share here because we can all learn from each other. Many thanks for reading!
Originally published in fall of 2016
I've been in Portland, Oregon now for about four months and I've found spaces here where one can go and you feel like you're not in a large city. I'm naturally a forest elf so when I found my way to the Terwilliger Trail, well, I found heaven. Below are some photos from the park I go here when I need to be in the trees. After living on the Oregon Coast for a year, I have to admit, the city has gotten a bit harder place to be. Spaces like this make it a bit easier. Enjoy!