August

This month started with a trip to Ihop. I had received a gift card a few months ago for some work I had done. I ran into a former student. I actually don’t enjoy running into former students all that much. It tends to trigger memories of a job I didn’t necessarily enjoy. So I pretended not to see him. He was obviously doing the same thing. I hardly remembered him anyways. While I never played favorites, I definitely had a few, but I never seem to run into them. The food was bleh, but it was free and the waitress was pretty, and nice.

I’ve been pretty good about my practicing regimen and I started learning a new piece, Cordoba by Albeniz. It’s difficult. It’ll be a while before I ever even consider performing this one. I also invested in a new guitar support called Guitar Lift. It’s definitely my favorite of the supports I’ve used in the past. It gives me absolute freedom to position my guitar exactly where I want it.

I almost lost Bella while out working on my chicken run. I usually let her out to walk around the property while I work on the run, but this time, her nose got the best of her so she started to wander to a neighbors yard, even though she knows very well, she’s not supposed to cross the street! It was a bit of a scare but I have nice neighbors and they sent her back my way.

Speaking of, my chicken run is almost done. I just need to put in the chicken wire. This took longer than expected and it ended up being a larger project than I expected too (200 sq ft!). There were a few 10 hour days in the heat along the way, and that was after my morning swim workout while also cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, in efforts to save some income (which I desperately need to do). Now, it’s on to the chicken coop. I’ve decided to make it a mobile coop so I can move the chickens around my property, which means I will also need to invest in a mobile fencing system. But one step at a time. Chicken wire first. Then coop. Then mobile fence. Then chickens (and hopefully by then, the bird ban will be lifted so I can actually get them).

I spent a good chuck of time learning about holistic management. I obviously don’t have any cattle, but I found it to be a very interesting topic, and I learned quite a bit. It’s definitely changed my perspective on how I have been managing the acre of land that I own vs how I should be managing it. To sum it up, a plot of land that’s just dirt is like an open wound to Mother Earth. It’s bleeding. A plot of land with weeds is like a scab. The bleeding has stopped mostly and she’s trying to heal. And a plot of healthy grassland or native plants is like beautiful healthy skin. I’m just trying to figure out the best approach to heal the soil. The chickens would be a start. Maybe some smaller farm animals are the next step?

The month ended on a very high note as I got to see my guitar professor from my time at LMU, Martha, as well as my old friend Ryan, and good buddy A.J. It was an end of summer get together in Martha’s home in Palos Verdes. I shared with them some beer from a local brewery here in town and we caught up over some finger foods and had a fun jam session with her kids and other friends. I even had a chance to see Martha perform. Now that I think about it, I’ve probably only seen her perform a handful of times… two maybe three? So that was a treat. There were a lot of musicians under one roof that night. Most of them guitarists. So I decided to play the cajón for most of the evening instead.

No’s - 1 Yes’s - 0

My brother turned 36 this month. Fun fact… we are both the same age for about a month and a half. I can’t believe we're all inching closer and closer to 40.

I started a compost pile and may be planting some trees and starting a vegetable garden soon.

I’m noticing a bit of an itch to start composing again. Or at the very least, changing up how I spend my time musically.

I didn’t mention this last month, but my guest home is done. Rental income is a beautiful thing.

3’ holes for the 10’ 4x4’s.

3’ holes for the 10’ 4x4’s.

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A skirt to prevent burrowing from underneath the chicken wire.

A skirt to prevent burrowing from underneath the chicken wire.

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Rafters.

Rafters.

Treated the wood, added cross bars for support and 2x4's on top for attaching metal roofing.

Treated the wood, added cross bars for support and 2x4's on top for attaching metal roofing.

It’s hard to judge the size of it without someone standing next to it, but its about 14x14 and about 10 feet tall.

It’s hard to judge the size of it without someone standing next to it, but its about 14x14 and about 10 feet tall.

July

July was hot. Really hot. Luckily for me, I was able to stay indoors rather often… with the exception of the work involved in building a chicken run. No, it’s not done yet, but it will be. My goal was to have it finished by the end of the month, but I had a bit of a bump in the road. So it’ll be done sometime in August. Then from there I’ll be building a mobile chicken coop. I’ll be able to house around 15-20 chickens. I’m wondering if this is the beginning of something bigger. I wonder because while I was looking for chicken run ideas on YouTube, I stumbled onto some videos about regenerative farming and holistic management. I was immediately drawn into those topics and started to become a bit curious about what part I could play in this. I have this notion that raising animals might be quite therapeutic. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to raising some chickens. Maybe I’ll post some photos this time next month.

I had one gig this month at a place called Barret Cellars. It’s a wine lounge tucked away in a small street in Lancaster, and it has a nice vibe. Their mimosas were delicious, and the staff was very friendly. A part of the building is still under construction too so they will soon have a full operating kitchen, which I can’t wait for. Their pizza was quite tasty, and I’m not a big fan of pizza. Weird, I know.

While I haven’t gone out on a hike for sometime now, I am managing to stay on top of my swim workouts. Here it is: (3x week)

  • 200 yards Free (warm up)

  • 200 yards Back (warm up)

  • 500 yards Free

  • 500 yards Back

  • 100 yards back butterfly kick

  • 15x50’s Free on :45

After I finish this set, I simply do it all again, minus the warm ups, and then follow it up with 100 free and 100 back to cool down. So that’s… 4,300 yards if I’m doing my match correctly. It’s definitely not a balanced workout, but I’m not trying to win any races here, or sculpt my body… just staying healthy, while getting really hungry!

Now onto music. Surprise, surprise, I have yet to compose anything new. Not sure what to make of my lack of desire in composition. I don’t feel guilty about it. I did a hell of a lot of practicing though, in preparation for the gig at Barret Cellars. I had to balance my time practicing with my time outside working on the chicken run. The constant gripping on the guitar plus the constant gripping of the wood and tools really fatigued my hands. I’d wake up some mornings and they would be slow to move. Regardless, I’ve managed to learn (relearn, rather) a few more pieces and I’m happy to report that I can now play into a 4th hour without repeating a single piece. And I’m currently working on four more.

That about wraps up the month. Just a few more things:

  • Paid a visit to a local farmers market and had some overly expensive home-made pie that I wouldn’t consider worth the cost.

  • Reactivated my WoW account only to realize days later how much of a time sink that game is.

  • Started making healthy and calorie filled shakes in the mornings for breakfast. It’s faster, and I don’t have to wash as many dishes when I’m done.

June

So the summer is here and the heat has been slow to arrive, which has been nice. I had two gigs this month, one over at Pour de Vino, a little wine lounge in Lancaster, and one for a co-worker’s retirement party.

The gig at Pour de Vino went well. There was a small family get together the night I was playing. I believe it was somebody’s birthday. There were also a few couples out on dates that I noticed over the course of three hours. It’s great spot for that. I had two folks come up to me and thank me for my playing, which is always nice, but not a single tip all three hours. I was a bit bummed about that, so for next time, I’ve decided to bring a vocal mic with me so I can banter with the crowd, and not be completely invisible. That should make a difference.

My co-worker’s retirement party was a blast. I only played for an hour so it was a walk in the park. It was great to see a lot of old familiar faces. The pool table kept giving us some issues and eventually, management simply unlocked all the locked drawers and what not, and we played for free for the rest of the afternoon. I’m horrible at pool, but it was still a lot of fun. The zydeco band that was playing was also a great choice. They had us tapping our feet, and before we knew it, everyone was up there dancing.

The last few days of the month were very busy days, as I was getting the guest home ready for tenants. This has been a two year project in the making, and finally, I’m at the end. I’m just waiting on paperwork from the county to be finalized and it’s all behind me. So there was lots of running around, purchasing curtains, curtain rods, robe hooks, shower curtains, things like that. My mom helped me out a ton, which I’m extremely grateful for. I also had to deal with a few electrical issues that came up with a ceiling fan, and my dad helped me there. A big thank you to him as well.

Overall, it was a good month. A few dates here and there, a trip or three to the local breweries, and consistent workouts at the gym (the pool, specifically). I’m considering planting some fruit trees, and maybe starting a little garden… hell, maybe even raising some chickens. We’ll see how July pans out.

April & May

Well, first of all, I completely forgot to write a blog post for the previous month, April. And I’m one to forget rather easily, so I’m gonna stick to the events that unfolded in May.

I had a chance to play a number of gigs this month. Twice I provided background music for a paint class held at Butler’s Coffee. They all were very grateful for the music, as was Nataly, the paint instructor (actually, this might have been in April). If any of you are interested, I believe the class is officially called Nataly Paints. She has a Facebook page for it so look it up. I also was able to play a three hour set at Zelda’s 750 West, which is a nice little bar and lounge directly beside — err.. a part of, rather — the Lancaster Performing Arts Center. All three gigs went well, as I met a number of really cool folks, and passed out my business cards to as many people as I could. I have a few more gigs slated for next month, so it seems like it’s picking up steam. Although a few venues have turned me down since they tend to look for something a bit more upbeat. I’m strongly considering hitting up the Santa Clarita area as well.

A friend of mine invited me to join him and his mother to see a Mariachi show at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. It was a great show, but a tad too loud. I didn’t think to bring my earplugs, because I wasn’t going to go see a rock band… but they were LOUD. The sound guy turned them up much louder than was necessary. They performed a couple of favorites of mine and overall, I had a great time, minus the ear fatigue. They did a really good job with keeping the audience involved. They cracked some jokes, featured some soloists, and played amazingly well. Mariachi Sol de Mexico.

While I continue to neglect my YouTube page, I’m still managing to get a healthy amount of practice time in (2-3 hours daily). My classical guitar repertoire continues to grow as a result - 3 hours and counting. I won’t bother listing everything here, but it’s all the pieces I listed in the previous post, and then some.

My Ableton Push has been gathering dust, meaning I still have no new compositions to share… BUT! I was contacted by one of the guitar teachers I met at the LMU Guitar Festival in March and was delighted to hear that his high school students had performed one of my ensemble pieces that I had given to him for his students. Apparently they all had a lot of fun learning the piece. I actually didn’t expect them to learn the piece until next year, so it was a very nice surprise.

March

March was a good month. I didn’t practice for about half of it, but I have a good reason… I injured my thumb on my right hand while working out in the yard. That was a bit of a bummer as I was really being consistent with my practice routine. I had to stop cold turkey, and that killed my momentum. I still managed to reach some of my goals for the month, but not all of them, obviously.

I’m beginning to see that I may be spreading myself a bit thin with all the pieces I want to be able to perform at an acceptable level. It requires constant upkeep, and I may have to begin padding my repertoire with simple etudes that don’t require much practice, and that can pass as performable pieces.

I visited the California Poppy Reserves and it was wonderful. The sight of beautiful orange poppies over rolling hills is not to be taken for granted. I said hello to just about everybody I walked past, and some seemed a bit startled and defensive, which I found a bit surprising. I met a woman journaling atop one of the hills that didn’t seem like she wanted to be bothered, which I can understand. Another was reading about a quarter mile down. When I asked her what she was reading, I could sense this mental struggle of “should I say something other than the actual book I’m reading? I’m kind of embarrassed to reveal it. I’m not sure how this man is going to take it, what should I say?” She looked to the left and then the right before answering. It was a bit humorous. I also came across a group of older Asian women into photography taking photos of the butterflies they encountered. One woman stepped beyond the well trodden path with one foot creeping into the preserves to get that perfect shot of a butterfly. I almost said something, but realized they would not have understood a word I said. And I wasn’t there to start confrontations, but to just enjoy the morning. And I did.

The last weekend was my favorite part of the month. I attended LMU’s 15th Annual Guitar festival, and I had an absolute blast. I met fellow high school guitar instructors, we shared our highs and lows, and I ended the conversations with a gift for them to take home… my music! They were very grateful, and I was just glad to be sharing my work with others so they can use it in their classroom. I met a number of other folks, including the guitar students studying at LMU under Martha Masters (who was also my professor), a student I actually taught in high school and his buddies from Vanguard University, and the four international guitarists that performed in concert over the weekend for us all. We spent the final evening at Martha’s wonderful home, and it was great conversations (and wine) all around. I left the event with renewed inspiration and it was a great way to end the month.

As for my health, I’m keeping up with my swimming, and my workouts are just about where they were before taking a two month break. I’m also long overdue for a hike somewhere in the mountains. It’s the perfect weather right now… but my lower back is a bit stiff and I need to go visit my chiropractor first.

This coming month, I am again participating in the 21 day video game music challenge. I plan on taking advantage of this dose of inspiration from the festival and putting it to good use.

In the meantime, it’s back to practicing on a regular basis (as my thumb has healed), teach my private students, (while continuing to market myself and find more students) and stay on top of my YouTube channel (yeah, its been neglected).

List of performable pieces

Rosita - Tarrega

Maria - Tarrega

Libertango - Piazzola

Tears in the Rain - Satriani

Pavana Tarrega

Capricho Arabe - Tarrega

Las Abejas - Barrios

Julia Florida - Barrios

Sunda Morning Overcast - York

Mazurka in G - Tarrega

Marieta - Tarrega

Adelita - Tarrega

Estudio en Em - Tarrega

La Paloma - Yradier

El Columpio - Tarrega

Romance - Anonymous

El Testamen de Amelia - Llobet

El Sueño de la Muñequita - Barrios

Prelude No. 1 - Original

Study No. 3 - Original

Married Life - Giacchino

Revior a Paris - Trenet

February

This month I spent most of my time practicing again. While there are still many home projects that I need to finish, I felt it best to tackle them one at a time and at a more leisurely pace compared to last month. While I certainly managed to get a lot done on the home last month, I felt it was too much of a sacrifice not playing and practicing my guitar.

So my goal at the moment is to have 2.5 to 3 hours worth of classical guitar music that I can play cleanly, and comfortably either through memory or with sheet music as reference. Once I’ve achieved that, I can start to play out in local restaurants as background music and gain traction as a local performer for hire as well as gain prospective private students. I’m pacing myself with the music and making sure to play cleanly and to my personal standards, so it’s taking a bit of time. I’m currently sitting at about… 30 minutes. I have a ways to go but I’m enjoying my practice sessions quite a bit and am experimenting with different approaches to practicing (none of which I’ll go into detail here, as it’s rather boring to talk about to anyone that’s not a classical guitarist).

I spent a good chunk of time on my guitar ensemble compositions as well. I’ve started rehearsing with some fellow classical guitarists (there’s five of us) and I brought in some of my music which they seem to enjoy. They had questions about the layout of the sheet music and things so I had to go back and rework it to alleviate any confusion they may have. That kind of work takes a lot longer than I realized.

I still haven’t had the opportunity to compose much this month. Between practice (four hours minimum), swimming, teaching, a few home projects, music engraving, YouTube video uploads, and of course some leisurely time to myself, I haven’t had much time for anything else. But, it’s been written onto my schedule for this month so I’ll be sharing something for all of you at the end of March.

I had fun with my 3 wheel Honda S200 ATC on numerous occasions as I use it to clear my acre and a half lot of weeds. I drag a heavy 2-3 foot metal beam with two cinder blocks drilled on top of it for extra weight. It kills everything just by the sheer weight. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun!

I’m back in the water again. Swimming that is. I took December, January, and most of February off, so I’m a bit out of shape. Glad to be back at it. I should be back at 4400 yards per workout by the end of March.

I, again, managed to spend some quality time with my nieces. This time we melted marshmallows over the fireplace on a rainy day and banged on the piano in my parents dining room. I then proceeded to play the piano with the side of my head in a bout of silly playfulness. Arielle then exclaimed," “You’re weird!” I guess it’s safe to say she’s now beginning to understand societal norms, which apparently, are rules that I do not abide by.

List of playable pieces:

Marieta - Tarrega

Adelita - Tarrega

Estudio en Em - Tarrega

La Paloma - Yradier

El Columpio - Tarrega

Romance - Anonymous

El Testamen de Amelia - Llobet

El Sueño de la Muñequita - Barrios

Prelude No. 1 - Original

Study No. 3 - Original

Married Life - Giacchino

Revior a Paris - Trenet

January

Hardly practiced this month. I worked on the home instead. Here’s a list:

  • Unclogged laundry drain that runs to septic tank

  • Patched leaks on roof and all vent pipes

  • Repaired duct work in the attic

  • Added extra insulation to water pipes in attic

  • Covered all exposed cables in attic

  • Repaired doorbell wiring and replaced fuse leading up to transformer (I have a working doorbell for the first time in 10 years!)

  • Removed linoleum flooring in kitchen as well as adhesive underneath

  • Floated a thin cement layer in kitchen

  • Sanded down all kitchen cabinets in preparation for paint

  • Cleaned all kitchen cabinet hardware (whoever installed these had the hinges and handles put on before staining so I had to remove the wood stain from the metal)

  • Finished guest bathroom

  • Moved electrical outlet in bathroom to match residential code guidelines

  • Painted small spots on walls within home

  • Replaced single wall water heater vent pipe with double wall vent pipe

  • Repaired switch within ceiling fan in master bedroom that was preventing from switching fan speeds

  • Repaired water line break in yard outside of home

    There’s still plenty of work left waiting for me.

December

I was really excited to be gifted the complete works of Agustín Barrios Vol. 1 and 2. and I have been learning new pieces from the books and revisiting pieces I had learned in the past. I didn’t have much of a Christmas budget this year, but my family understood, and I love them all for it. The food my mom made for Christmas dinner was unbelievably delicious. It’s the best part of family gatherings, hands down.

I’ve been practicing regularly (2-3 hours a day minimum… sometimes 6-7) and it feels fantastic. Sometimes it’ll all be in one session and I can notice the difference in my playing very much. Everything is cleaner, and I feel like my hands/fingers are able to do exactly what I want them to do… even more so than before. I’m also being mindful of any tension in my body while playing. I notice it in my back of all places. Unfortunately, I’ve had to take a few days off due to a finger injury while working on my bathroom.

Speaking of which, the bathroom is finally nearing completion. It’s taken much longer than anticipated due to errors on my part and having to borrow tools from folks only to have to have them returned while I wait to borrow them again. Regardless, all that’s left to do is the mud and paint around the tile edge. The tile is in, the grout is in, and it’s looking really nice! I didn’t think I’d enjoy the work as much as I have.

And to take my mind off of things, I’ve been playing a little bit of Smash Ultimate here and there. It’s such a good game.

November

The year is winding down and it comes sooner than expected every time.

I spent some time this month learning some pieces by Fransisco Tárrega. I pulled out an old compilation of his that I’ve had for years and just dug in. The majority of them are shorter pieces that wouldn’t necessarily be a part of concert repertoire, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautifully written. There’s just something about these pieces that give them this charm, elegance and grace in their sound.

I also went over quite a few studies by Fernando Sor. It’s amazing how he managed to squeeze out so many original ideas without straying from 1st position. While I prefer the music of Tárrega, or Sagreras, the studies by Sor do present their own challenges and charm. Also of note… my sight reading has improved tremendously, to the point now where memorization has become very difficult, as I no longer need to remember the pieces since I can read the notes on the fly. It’s allowed me to learn many pieces quickly, but memorize virtually nothing. So in essence, Ive traded one problem for another.

I’ve been rehearsing a few duets with a good friend and former student, Sebastian. He’s a great guitarist, and we currently have our first gig set for Dec. 22nd at a private dinner event. We’ll be providing two hours of classical guitar music, possibly three. And the goal here will be to pass out my business card to as many people as possible in order to gain more clients for future gigs. I look forward to it.

As for my composition workload, I’ve recently come into contact with a potential client for a short five minute animation about a cute devil child kicked out of Hell for being too nice. It’s a cute story and I’ve begun tackling the music with a rough (almost storyboardesque) animation. While I’m not officially contracted, hopefully this demo, once completed, will get their attention.

Well, that’s about it for November. Looking forward to December and a fresh start in 2019.

October

Another month is in the books. Let me break it down for you.

The highlight of the month was my participation in the 21 Days of Video Game Music Challenge run by the Video Game Music Academy. The challenge was to compose something every day for 21 days. While the challenge offers specific guidelines/goals when composing (as a means to get me out of my comfort zone) it wasn’t a requirement. On some days, I followed the guidelines, and on other days, I wrote whatever came to mind.

Very few of the pieces I wrote I would consider complete, but almost all of them are worth taking a second look at to develop further. It was a really fun challenge, and it forced me to get creative with my approach.

You can check out all the pieces on my YouTube channel.

I recently decided to renovate my guest bathroom in my home. This is definitely not my line of work, so one can imagine the trials and errors I’ve gone through so far. I’ve torn down the walls and old tile down to the framing, and have been learning as I go, with the help of my good friend and neighbor, Jaime.

I’m still hiking and swimming regularly. While I didn’t match last month’s hiking mileage, 45+ miles is still enough for me to be happy about. It’s getting colder in the mornings too, so I may need to invest in some gloves.

And lastly, most Saturday mornings have been spent at the park watching my 7 year old niece play soccer. Believe it or not, the games can really be very exciting and I enjoy cheering her team on, win or lose. It’s all in good fun.