Kill Your Phone

Each week there seems to be new information regarding our current presidential administration and ties to a certain foreign government. How fake news stories were spread to undermine our electoral process and ultimately subvert our democracy and how our current president colluded with this foreign government to make it all happen. Regardless of the veracity of said collusion one thing is abundantly clear. This would not have been possible if so many of us were not addicted to Social Media and 24 Hour News Channels.


As a family we do not receive newspapers or magazines. Many years ago we decided we would be happier if we didn’t know the daily bad news so we cancelled all of our subscriptions.


As a family we have never had any cable or broadcast television in our house. When you turn the TV on there is nothing unless you choose a DVD or the Apple TV. We do use Netflix and Amazon Prime but no news and no sports. The important thing here is we chose what content we are going to see.


And now that we have significantly reduced our Social Media use (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, maybe 10 minutes a week) our exposure to the sea of attention sucking garbage has been dramatically reduced.


Even without cable news, newspapers, magazines, and severely limited social media we still know that there was another school shooting in Florida. And guess what? Our lawmakers are still not sure whether or not there should be any sort of limitations on guns in this country. I don’t need to have a Facebook argument to know how messed up that is. We still haven’t solved DACA, we’re still blowing stuff up in Afghanistan, and our relations with North Korea are still ridiculously close to nuclear war.


How is it possible to know this without the 24 hour barrage of news? For 20 minutes of my drive into school I listen to Vermont Public Radio. The rest of the drive I listen to music on CD, sometimes I just listen to CDs. If it is important you hear about it. If you want more information you can get it, but you don’t need a bunch of people discussing it from every angle trying to squeeze out every possible bit of drama.


So maybe the foreign government colluded with a candidate and influenced our election, but we let them. We gave them our eyes and ears and we made them rich in the process. We trusted all the shiny new platforms designed to make us addicted to the likes, the hearts, and the shared post. We allowed our phones to notify us of all that we were missing while we were away. Yes, we are slaves to the shiny screen and until we walk away from it for something real it will be our master. Because that is what addiction is – a Master / Slave relationship and we, as a culture, are addicted to our technology.

No I am not ready to smash my phone like those awesome bumperstickers that say “Kill Your Television” but I can SHUT IT OFF.

Shutting my phone off, I am going to record some music.

Thanks for reading,



In the Between Time

In the Between Time


Right now I am in this weird space between a finished project I am “promoting” and starting “something new”. Creativity requires fuel and promoting, although certainly important, doesn’t supply the depth of experience that leads to making art. So I am practicing music I love. I dug out my “Real Book” and started playing Jazz Standards like Monk’s “I Mean You” and Parker’s “Ornithology”. Getting these tunes under my fingers again lead me to the classical guitar standards of Villa-Lobos’s “Preludes” and Barrios’s “La Catedral” which has been my wellspring of inspiration for years. In fact, these four composers have had more influence on my art than anything else I listen to or play.


Even though my creations do not sound like what I listen to or practice, their influence is like fingerprints. My hands know this music so well that I’ll find elements in a chord shape or in a right hand finger pattern. Even if it is just in passing and even if know one would recognize it unless I told them, it is still there. In many ways it is unconscious, like how we speak with the same cadence as our parents or close friends.


Going back to the source, to those tunes that I first taught myself to play because the magic was so enticing I needed to unlock the mystery, is how I refuel. Combined with daily meditation, walks in the woods and gazing at the river recharges the batteries of creativity that I drained. It wont be long before the siren song starts urging me to make something new but until then I’ll plunge deep into these waters and loose myself for a while.


Thanks for reading,



You Decide

After a 3 month span of very limited social media use and intense creative work producing an album, I have been on social media (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter) promoting the album’s release. What follows is a part of a Facebook post I made that ironically attracted significantly more interaction than my usual posts.


I am pretty close to leaving Facebook for good. Recently, I have been going on almost everyday to “promote” my new album “This Side of the Mountain” which is available everywhere one can listen to music. It is the most I have been on Facebook in months. I barely went on Facebook during the creation and recording of the album. But now I am using it because “That is what you are supposed to do” to promote your work. I recently learned Facebook is adjusting their algorithm again to show you only posts that receive high quality interaction. Now I am not sure what constitutes that but I am sure that the already tiny window Facebook decides to show me in my newsfeed of the hundreds of friends I follow isn’t worth daily time. Facebook developed their app to be addictive, to keep you coming back, but like many things that are addictive it is an empty fix. Going on Facebook instead of getting into my studio is like going through a withdrawal. What filled my soul during the months leading up to the release of the album was watching the rivers outside my house, seeing the trees, the birds, the sunrise, the moon, the wood, the cold, the snow, the rain, the warmth, and trying to put those experiences into my fingers and capture them with microphones. That was a fulfilling experience, one I can share with you, one you can hear. Facebook posts? Not so much. I may not delete my account just yet but you know how some people do “meatless Mondays” well, I figure one day a week is plenty of Facebook.



Mark Zuckerberg and company can do whatever they think is best for their website. They get to decide through algorithms what I experience on their platform however I get to decide whether or not it is worth spending my time there. Think of it as a tool. Not all tools are necessary or even good for the task at hand. And when I examine the promises that Facebook and really all social media platforms make about how important their site is for staying connected, being informed, promoting your business, and developing community I find them to ring hollow. Spend some real time away from Social Media, a month or more, and then return. I wonder if you would agree with me?


Thanks for reading,




I have been creating a new album these past 3 months and it going to be released on January 2nd 2018!!  It is called “This Side of the Mountain” and you can hear the first single “Gratitude”  now and it is FREE to download for a limited time just type 0.00 for the price and it is yours!!

I have written a little bit about making the album on this blog Workspace, Time Management, and the Absence of Social MediaThe Secret GlueThe Creative Value of Limited Choices, and Time Spent Well Spent? and I believe the process of creating this music and the resulting album reaffirm all that I have been sharing in this blog. In our daily life, we work hard as a family to be zero waste and embrace a simple life while trying to slow down and notice our consumption habits. I haven’t written about how we try to buy as much as possible from the bulk bins at our Co-Ops recently but part of me wonders how often I should write about reusable grocery bags and jars?? Really the point of all of this is a mindset that permeates our daily life.

We are currently repurposing our new home, a former cheese factory among many other things, and making it through our first real Winter cold spell. Finding all the gaps and drafts, updating heating systems, and making it more efficient is an integral part of how we live. Living in a space that not only supports our needs but invigorates us creatively is a blessing. I can not put this into words easily and that is why I made an album.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Aldous Huxley. 

Thank You for Reading,


Workspace, Time Management, and the Absence of Social Media

The hardest part about practicing is opening your instrument case.


Having an actively creative life requires a certain amount of discipline. You have to schedule time in your life for your art, especially if art is not your full-time gig (ie. What pays the mortgage). You also have to create a physical workspace for you to create your art. Over the years I have created workspaces that have ranged from a bedroom closet to my current space that is the size of a studio apartment complete with a bathroom. No matter what your situation there are important factors to keep in mind so you can get the most out of your time and space.



The first rule in setting up a workspace is it has to work for you. There is little point in having a space that “looks” great but is completely impossible to work efficiently in. Everything needs to be within easy reach so you do not have to move things to get what you need at any particular moment. Having everything immediately available reduces frustration and keeps the inertia of creativity flowing. Over the years I have learned to preset equipment to make the most of what my time and space have offered me.


My second rule is no email or social media interactions until my creative work is done. One difficult email or one negative Facebook interaction can ruin the creative flow and make it harder to be productive. Even having my phone out in the open can be distracting. “I’ll just pop on Instagram” or “let’s see what is happening on Twitter”. Those sites are time and creativity destroyers. So social media and email take a backseat until my session is done.


That is easy to say but let me show you what that actually looks like.


This was my schedule this past Sunday Morning: (any morning really until 6:20am….)

Work before play – get the chores done so you can focus on being creative.

Wake Up @ 4:45am.

Feed the cat,

Wake up the computer and start the recording software.

Meditate for 10 minutes.

Make the bed and shower

Feed and walk the dog, start the woodstove, scoop and take out the cat litter.



Make oatmeal. Eat without distraction – no computer, no books, no phone, just focus on eating. I do this as a spiritual practice. Try it for a few weeks you wont regret it.



By 6:20 or 6:30am.

Kiss my daughters good morning.

Throw a log on the fire


(Time to play)

(During the workweek I am driving to school at this point and up until  3pm my day doesn’t look like this at all. I am teaching music at the middle  school)

Go up into my studio.

Practice what I plan to record. Record it. (The microphones are already set up, the program is already loaded, and waiting for me to set the preamp to record)



Check the fire and talk to my daughters. I might go back upstairs into the studio to listen or tweak for a few more minutes before Angie comes up to make Chai.



Angie is probably making Chai at this point. I go downstairs and we have Chai together.



Listen to what I recorded. If it is problem free then I lay down the bass and piano parts. I probably do not finish them.


9:00 am.

Pick food from our CSA, go to the grocery store for more Soy Milk (for the Chai), or do some other household errand. This is a break. It resets my mind and my ears and allows me to come back to the studio fresh.


10:00 am.

Listen to the recorded parts. Dwell on them while I make dinner – chili in the instapot and rice in the rice cooker.



Replay or fix any problems with the bass and piano parts. Record the cello.


11:45 am.

Load the recycling in the car. Take the dog with me and do the recycling.



Eat lunch.

Take the dog for a walk.


1:30 pm. Listen to the recording. Fix any performance issues with the cello. Make a rough master mix down to compare with the other tracks on the album. Read a book while I play the album in the background. If anything stands out in a negative way, I get up and fix it. I keep a notebook by my desk to write down any problems I do not fix so they get priority during the next work session.



Stop for the day and make a CD to play in the car for my morning drive.

Read email. Maybe check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


3:30pm. Our band arrives and we have a kirtan from 4-5:30pm as part of the Yoga Teacher Training.


6:15pm dinner with the band. (This is late for us. Usually we eat around 4:30pm.)


7:30pm clean up after Yoga teacher training and dinner. (vacuum and mop the house, dishes put away) Walk the dog again.


8:30 – have a snack and type this blog post.


9:10 – get ready to sleep. Grab my book.



Saturdays and Sundays often look a lot like this but not always. Sometimes I have other kinds of household chores to do, and sometimes I spend much more time with my family. It depends, but having a basic schedule and a functional workspace makes my time more productive. And choosing not to read email or check social media first but instead last has untold benefits to my creativity.

I hope this useful.

Thanks for reading,




The Secret Glue

In my last post I wrote “I could probably write an entire blog post on the value of having 5 minutes of a stock drum beat already in place the moment I open a new song.”

So here goes…. (Once again this concept probably applies to many things outside of audio recording.)

I am in the process of recording a new album of original music. I am loosely basing the pieces on my daily morning practices. Pieces that are atmospheric representations of the stillness of the morning, the sun coming through the trees, my meditation and mantra practices, the rivers that join in a Sangama on our property, and the gratitude I feel for each day. Each piece has the same instrumentation – classical guitar, piano, bass guitar, cello, and occasionally voice and environmental sounds. There is no percussion in any of the finished tracks however I am recording them with a drumbeat as a click track.


I set up a special template after I recorded the album’s first track. I knew I wanted each successive piece to be sonically equivalent, to exist in the same space and to belong together. So all of the instruments, plug-ins, settings, and my “drumbeat click track” all load up with each new piece I am recording. Because I have a simple drumbeat, I can quickly dial up the right tempo for the piece and record my classical guitar knowing that everything will line up neatly for possible future editing. Once I am satisfied with my guitar performance, I record the bass and piano. I keep the drumbeat playing the whole time. I hear it but no one else ever will. Once everything is locked in and the cello and voice are recorded, I mute the drumbeat track. The drumbeat is the secret glue that holds the sonic collage together.


The results have been very satisfying to listen too, at least that is how I feel.


Why bother writing a stock drumbeat when you could just use the metronome click track included with the workstation? I hate the sound of a metronome. Maybe it was all those years of rigorous training in tiny practice rooms, but as soon as the metronome click comes on it is like an ice pick in the forehead. Maybe it was years of playing with “drum drops” records or keyboard drum beats as a teenager. Stock drumbeats have more “feeling” than a metronome even when they are locked right to the quantization grid. I set up 5 minutes of a stock drumbeat because it lets me get into the feel for how the music is going to go and keeps me honest as my tempo naturally fluctuates faster and slower over the span of time. Trying to play to or edit around those natural fluctuations is incredibly frustrating and can waste enormous amounts of precious studio time. (If you get the chance watch the “Sound City” documentary by Dave Grohl and listen to him describe recording Nirvana’s “Lithium” and the necessity of a click track to keep that song’s tempo reigned in.)


But it is not just editing, although that alone is worth the drumbeat. Opening up the workstation is like diving into a vast universe filled with choices. Many of those choices are completely unnecessary to even consider and will most likely keep me from finishing the project. So with this latest project everything is pre-loaded from my drumbeat click track right down to my FX plugins. Everything still takes hours and hours to create but the time is spent making the music not deciding which EQ plugin I should use. And I am not spending any time doing meticulous timing based edits because I refused to play to a drumbeat (even when the finished product does not contain one.)

It is like a contractor using large 4×4 post supports to hold up a porch roof while they redo the “real” supports. Once the weight is supported by the “finished” decorative column supports, then the ugly temporary ones are removed. Interesting how the word “tempo” is found in the word “temporary”. I guess I am not the only one who removes (mutes) the “drumbeat” once the structure is in place.


Thanks for reading,


The Creative Value of Limited Choices

I write songs and I do most of the work with a pen and paper and a guitar or piano. I’ll have an idea for a lyric or a riff and will develop the skeleton of the song with just an instrument and my voice. Once I have the song in a place where I can sing and play it well, I then open up my recording studio and begin building the arrangement.


This is where things can get crazy. Let’s say I have opened up my workstation and I am choosing a virtual drum set. I have close to 70 possible “preloaded” kits that I can choose from. Most bands have 1 drum set, so you don’t waste time trying to “decide” which kit you are going to use when you are recording. You set up the kit, you mic it, and you record. Done. What if I treated my workstation like that and I reduced my choices so I could get right to work? This mindset has lead to a really important development in my writing and production. I thought I would share it with you.


About two years ago I spent an entire day creating a template for my music in Studio One 3 (my workstation). I went through all of the drum set samples and created “Josh’s kit”. I mixed and matched my favorite bass drums, snare drums, toms, hi-hats, cymbals, congas, and shakers until I had the set I wish was preloaded. I did the same thing for “bass guitar” and “piano”. I have a really nice nylon string classical guitar, a Parker guitar, and a really nice Marshall Amp, so I didn’t have to “create” a virtual guitar or mess with virtual amps. I created and labeled tracks, set colors, added busses (groups of faders) and FX sends that I knew I was going to add, and set up several minutes of a stock drum beat as a click track. (I could probably write an entire blog post on the value of having 5 minutes of a stock drum beat already in place the moment I open a new song.) Basically, I did work that any recording engineer would do before the band walked through the door.



Now when I have a new song to produce, I open my template and I can get right to work. It made it easier to create by limiting my options because the sounds I generally want are already there. The flow of creativity isn’t stopped by the mundane construction of tracks or trying to decide if the bass sound was the one I wanted. It is easier to go from song to song because my tracks are always the same color (rhythm guitar is yellow for example) and in the same location left to right on mixer and up and down on the screen (drum set, bass, piano, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, lead vocal, harmony vocal). And as a bonus, my final tracks are more consistent song to song to song. This is an important outcome when creating an album.


I am sure there are many applications for this kind of thinking. I imagine people who write novels for a living, do not sit around trying to decide what “font” they are going to write in. Instead, I bet they have a favorite and stick with it like an old friend who helps them release the ideas that are in their hearts. The same may be true for wedding photographers. Dealing with hundreds of photos that happened under similar circumstances must get redundant. Or like a fine woodworker having specific jigs for certain situations. Having consistency and reliability helps creativity and allows expression to flow unhindered by mundane technical aspects.


I hope you found this useful. It’s time to get back in my studio.




Time Spent Well Spent?

You probably have something more important to do, but maybe you’ll find these paragraphs Valuable.


Angie and I have been having a lot of discussions lately about the Value of Social Media in our lives. It is quite likely that you haven’t noticed my dramatic reduction in Facebook posts/activity over the last 6 months, but I have made the conscious effort to go on Facebook for less than 10 minutes a week total. I do this mostly because the value of a Facebook discussion (I use that term loosely), for me, is pretty low. Mostly I just find myself getting frustrated, so I deliberately reduced the amount of time I spend engaging with posts on Facebook. Sometimes I would even write a response and instead of hitting the post button, I would delete it. I found that action usually makes me feel a lot better. But your opinion and voice is important!! You should engage. Well, in terms of outcomes, chances are really good that I wasn’t going to change any minds and only would have succeeded in making tempers rise. This was not how I wanted to spend my time.


I know I am not the only one who has felt this way about Facebook discussions and I wasn’t sure what to do about it, but I knew I had to do something.  So, I started viewing Social Media sites as “physical places” that I go to on the Internet. I wouldn’t regularly hang out somewhere if I knew I was going to get into nasty arguments in the “physical” world, so why should I regularly spend my time there in the “virtual” world? Example: If I walk into a bookstore or a library, I might have a conversation with someone about books, but I might not. Sometimes I just go, browse or skim things that interest me, and then leave without buying or checking anything out. So, that is how I have been treating my time on all Social Media sites.


Apparently people spend close to two hours a day on Social Media. ( .


This doesn’t surprise me and many of the kids I teach say they spend “A Lot” more than that. I know Social Media platforms are designed to be addictive and there are many reasons people use them. However, I asked myself  “What other activities am I not participating in that may give my life more enjoyment (meaning) in place of Social Media?” There is a direct correlation between Social Media, Smart Phones, and the Rise of Anxiety in Teens. I am certain there is a similar correlation in Adults as well. Maybe if I wasn’t on Social Media sites, then I might find I am happier with life.


Since significantly reducing my Facebook/Social Media time, I have spent more time working on my house, reading great stories, writing music, spending time with my family and meditating. Notice I didn’t say “write or read tons of Blog Posts.” Am I happier? Absolutely!


If you took the time to read this, Thank You, and I hope that you got something of Value from it. Because I will be the first to tell you that if you are not getting something of Value from your time spent, then in all seriousness stop and move on because you have more important things to spend your time on.



Vegan Family Moves into Cheese Factory

A month ago we moved into a cheese factory. At least that was the house’s first function. Over the years the first floor changed from being the place farmers dropped off their milk to the town garage, a horse stable, a cabinet maker’s workshop, a fitness studio and a custom bicycle shop and now it is the home of Angie’s Yoga and Art Studios. The second floor is the primary living space complete with a wood stove and beautiful woodwork. The third floor was a cabinet maker’s showroom with a gorgeous view of the back yard and is now my Recording Studio. After a month of moving all of our stuff, plumbing, scrubbing, painting, polying, cutting, installing, framing, and putting up molding, we are finally at a place where we can sit back a little and enjoy our new home.

Our third house. It is not the little solar home we envisioned maybe a year ago. It is like we landed in a space that was designed for us. It is like it said “I’ll be your walls if you’re willing finish me and keep me up.” We could never be truly happy in a tiny house, or even in a space that was “just a house”. We have too many space needs. Where would Angie run her teacher trainings and yoga classes?? – Right!! She’d have to rent a space, drive to it, and be restricted by the rules of owner. Where would Angie make her beautiful handmade paper and macrame Art?? Where would I record?? Oh sure I have set up in closets and basements, but that sucked – and where do I keep my gear?? What we wanted was a space that could comfortably hold all of these things and our family. That would be functional for all the elements of our lifestyle. The fact that it is on a main road, has a nice manageable yard that is perfect for gardening with two brooks on either side (a dream Angie has had for years), wood heat, a “basement” that is perfect for our root cellar, and an attached garage is all bonus. It is all the things we wished our previous houses could have been.

When we sold our home in April, we did not know where we were going to land. We had nowhere to move into. None of the houses we saw were right for us.  This house, the cheese factory, was not something we had even looked it. It was a leap of faith to put everything in storage and move in with our parents (thank you Dennis and Maria) while we looked for the right house. Those four months taught us a lot about what we value and the value of faith. That when you put your mind to something and you’re willing to work tirelessly for it and you have the support of your family around you, the right things will come along. For us it came in the form of an 1890’s cheese factory in Brownsville, VT. No, we didn’t downsize……..we upsized the dream and…..

A vegan family moved into a cheese factory……..






We took Isabella and Ellessia to see the Minimalists, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, at the Wilbur theater in Boston this past weekend. Isabella has watched their documentary many times, often requesting it as the movie for our family movie nights. We have been reading their blog for a couple of years and much of what they talk about we have tried to adopt (especially their perspective on debt).

Minimalism, at least the way these guys talk about it, is not necessarily about getting rid of your stuff. It is not about deprivation. Instead it is about making room for the important aspects in your life by getting rid of the stuff that is taking up space. That “stuff” may or may not be physical “things”. What I love about their message is how intentional it is.

All too often when we begin something thinking “it” will make us happy, “it” doesn’t. That “it” is the “secret” to happiness and “it” isn’t. Maybe “it” is a certain salary, clothing style, a car, shedding a few pounds, adding a few pounds, a new phone, a new house, starting a meditation practice, finally going to yoga, taking a trip to a paradise location, becoming a minimalist. Too many times achieving these “things” does not make you happy. “I got rid of all my stuff, why am I still miserable?” How ironic is it that our Declaration of Independence states that our inalienable right to the Pursuit of Happiness may be exactly what makes us UNHAPPY. Looking inside of ourselves and figuring out what makes us truly unhappy, facing it, and making changes is at the heart of their message.

Josh and Ryan talk about making conscious decisions and living with intention and their message resonates with lots of people. There were over 1,000 people in the Wilbur Saturday night to see these two guys talk about how they arrived at this place and time and answer some questions. They recorded the whole show live like one of their podcasts (which are great!!) Hopefully, it will be available soon. The highlight for us was meeting them and giving them a big hug as a family. I am pretty sure Isabella and Ellessia were the youngest members of the audience.

The quote both girls took away as their favorite came from the lightning round where the Minimalist give tweet sized answers to audience questions. The question asked had to do with a family member, spouse, or partner who is unwilling to adopt a minimalist lifestyle.


“People don’t mind change, they mind being changed.” Joshua Fields Milburn


Thanks for reading,

Josh (Hall)