Get Out of Your Way
It is often said that we are our own worst enemies. This is not to say that others never mean us harm. I’ve been targeted by attacks that were meant to be either humiliating or outright devastating. Yes, it happens. Yes, I consider it to be an act of evil. Evil does exist in the world.
That said… I believe in divine retribution or what the nonreligious in the United States call “karma.” (Yes, I know “karma” is a religious concept, but it has been appropriated.) What you do to others will inevitably come back on you. The attacks I mentioned were more a reflection of the perpetrators’ hearts. My success – or rather my potential success – was seen as a threat to their perceived status. These people may have sought to destroy my future, but ultimately they had no power to stop me… unless I chose to give it to them.
In other words: My enemies need my help in order to destroy me. I have the choice whether to assist them with my own destruction.
That makes me my own worst enemy.
The most persistent and lingering damage I have suffered has been because I have let damaging beliefs take root in my mind. Many of them were planted, but I was the one who fed them. I still struggle with them, even after God has repeatedly shown me they were false.
Okay… So “Sunstrike Piano” is more of an inspirational concept. What’s the deal with all this talk about enemies, attacks, and religion?
This is about getting out of your own way and specifically choosing to stop harming yourself. In fact, do the opposite. Love yourself; choose to live.
To be clear, I am not telling you to be selfish.
Say that there’s a man whose table is overflowing with more food than he could possibly eat. If he would rather let that food spoil than share any with the child starving outside his door, does he really love himself?
Truly loving yourself means tending to your needs. All of your needs. Financial. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. There are many times in my life I remember being the “starving child” above… and yet I’m not so quick to admit I have also been the man hoarding food!
How many times have I denied myself the resources to fully embrace life or to fuel a passion? How many times have I talked myself out of something I wanted to do? How many times have I given something up because I feared failure?
How many times have you?
There is a word for these passive acts of (self) harm. Neglect.
Sunstrike Piano was borne out of neglect.
What do I mean?
My preferred way to record an album is to travel to a professional recording studio where I can record on a Yamaha C7 grand piano with microphones that have been chosen and placed by an actual professional recording engineer who knows how to assemble the best parts of multiple takes so I don’t have to play everything perfectly from the beginning. Then, I can send it to a professional mastering engineer to perform the witchcraft that makes each track (provided it is halfway decent) sound amazing on everyone’s speakers. I would also defy “conventional wisdom” and have a run of CDs replicated simply because I have made far more money selling CDs out of my trunk than I have on digital downloads and streaming. That’s my preferred way.
My preferred way costs money. Money that I have no guarantee that I’ll ever make back. Even to record and release my first album (under my own name) back in 2010, I used my car as collateral to take out a loan and had a somewhat decent income stream. I’m still driving the same car and my current “day job” pays half as much as I made back then. While I may want to do it the “right” way, I can’t justify diverting that money away from certain things like car insurance, having a roof over my head, and eating.
Confession time: Yes. It’s true. The man behind Sunstrike Piano likes to eat. Too much. I’ve broken many an office chair… and several toilet seats… and a $750 artist piano bench at an upscale venue where I will probably never be invited back to perform. (And no, I wasn’t paid anywhere close to $750.) And yet, I still like to eat.
In fact, I smashed half a giant bag of potato chips and French onion sour cream dip just before I typed that paragraph above.
Go ahead and judge me; I deserve it.
Seeing as how my “day job” (which I love) doesn’t exactly have me rolling in the dough, I told myself:
- I didn’t have the disposable income/ reserves to professionally record and master, therefore…
- I could not release music.
- There was no point writing it because no one would ever hear it.
- I could not afford to invest the time and money to learn how to record myself and even if…
- I did not have professional recording equipment.
- Everything recorded had to be performed flawlessly to be released.
- Releasing an album recorded in less than a professional studio would irreversibly damage my professional image.
Nice and sensible reasons, right? Although it haunted me, I put the thought out of sight and out of mind.
Kind of. Okay… It was in my mind, but I just resigned myself.
A few months later, while wasting time online, I discovered LANDR. LANDR is an online program that analyzes and compares your track to an online library, sets some rules, and tells its system how to master your upload. (My apologies if I did not describe it correctly.) Their “free” subscription lets you master two tracks for free. I decided to try it for shits and giggles.
I hooked up my banged-up 20-year-old Technics SX-PR51 electronic piano (so old it has a floppy drive) to an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra I got off E-Bay (I think) 10 years ago with a $15 quarter-inch-cable from Guitar Center and recorded a couple tracks on my PC – no, I do not own a Mac – using Audacity, which is a free online recording program. I then exported the files as WAVs and then dragged and pasted them into LANDR’s program… and then waited about seven minutes.
Well… I got the shits, but not quite the giggle I was expecting. I admit it; I was expecting something really bad. It was okay. Sure, LANDR is not an actual mastering engineer performing aural witchcraft, but for my electronic hack job, it was much better than I was expecting. Of course, this now posed more problems than it solved.
By “posing more problems”, what I really mean is “sparked my morbid curiosity.”
I looked up the pricing and one of the options included unlimited mastering and distribution of WAV files. It’s a little bit of a commitment each month, but even one year’s total cost would still be less than what I paid to master my first album under my own name. I could theoretically record, master, and release as much music as possible and it would still cost less than it does to keep gas in my car for one week.
Will it be as good a product as my preferred method of recording? No. A Yamaha C7 (or – my favorite – the Steinway) would sound better than my electronic Frankenstein. Professional mics and a competent recording engineer in a professional studio would do a better job than this pianist in his garage. I would perform better knowing that I could just play three times, get past the mistakes, and then chop and splice and punch in as necessary. There is no question in my mind that investing the money and time would yield a better product.
Yet… I just lost my first six reasons (excuses) for not recording right off the top. I could do it. It just isn’t how I would rather do it. Yet… I could still release it.
Ahhhhh… but the last reason. “Releasing an album recorded in less than a professional studio would irreversibly damage my professional image.” That one’s a bit harder to simply brush off. My professional image isn’t exactly sparkling to begin with, but I just could not get past the notion that this would be the death blow. Is this simply ego because I am releasing in a way other than I prefer? Am I correct to believe that going about it in this manner is indeed a reflection on my (perceived lack of) professionalism?
Honestly, I don’t know. And at the same time and even record/release aside, I had a desire to experiment with Facebook ads and marketing that could possibly be seen in the same light. How would it look to play around with these things – even if it is still at my own expense – and then once it is out there, have it irretrievably attached to my name if it came across as an ego-stroking exercise?
Again… I don’t know. And yes, it felt ridiculous I was considering abandoning my morbid experiment just because I was worried what people would think. Would I really be doing myself any favors by waiting until everything was perfect before I did anything?
If you wait until everything is perfect, you will never get started. If you don’t get started, you won’t ever progress.
Every time you pick up a new skill, you are going to suck. A lot. I tell people all of the time that in order to sound “good” you are going to have to get over sounding “bad.” You aren’t going to get the results you seek if you don’t invest the time or money to get them. Sucking is a part of becoming successful. You need time and freedom to experiment and learn. The morbid experiment was not going to yield anything useful unless I could actually put it out there.
So… I removed the last remaining obstacle standing in my way. Me. I decided to go with Sunstrike Piano instead of my actual name.
Okay… Sure. Anyone with halfway decent Google chops can figure out who I am if they want to. Have at it. I’m not going out of my way to hide it… or promote it. Neither serves me. I’ve mentioned Sunstrike Piano exactly once (as a recommendation) on my personal Facebook page. On Sunstrike Piano, I’ve mentioned surface stuff in passing. That may change later, but for now that artificial line works for me.
If something presents itself as an obstacle in your path, either remove it or go around it… even if that obstacle is you! Especially if that obstacle is you.
Remember what I sad earlier? Nothing can harm you without your express permission.
So… Where am I going with this? Honestly, I don’t know. I could just be throwing away money. Given my various commitments, I don’t even think I’m giving this experiment the time and attention it needs to bear fruit. For now, I’m just going to roll with it, see where it leads, and take notes.
Oh… And release more music. Why? Because I can.
Peace and Light,