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Joshua Dupont's Posts

I Thought It Was Clever

[Turns out Facebook doesn’t think an article with yesterday’s title is worth sharing (it appeared on fewer than ten timelines – usually it’s in the hundreds)! I’m not going to even include the name in this post, just in case the anti-spam algorithm searches the text of a blog post, too. You can check it out for yourself in the archives. Anyways, here’s the post from yesterday whose title Facebook didn’t care for.] -Josh


[title redacted]

Read, read, read! Keep those grey cells healthy and multiplying.

One resource you may not be taking advantage of is your local library’s e-book services. Here in Madison, our library uses the OverDrive app for e-book borrowing. All of the books that are available through OverDrive (and there are thousands) can be read directly from the in-app reader, and -get this- most of them can be downloaded straight to your Kindle! You get the book for twenty-one days and can renew it if no one is waiting for it. There are many new releases represented on the virtual shelf, and you have the ability to request that new titles be added to the service as resources become available (“resources” = “money.” There is a voluntary donation button in the app.). For those who lean more toward the aural experience, there are a bunch of audiobooks through the service, too. Did I mention that all of this is free‽ What are you waiting for? Hop to it!

Call To Action – Head over to your library or to their website and see if there is an e-book service available for you. Keep reading!

-Josh

Free E-books! (really)

Read, read, read! Keep those grey cells healthy and multiplying.

One resource you may not be taking advantage of is your local library’s e-book services. Here in Madison, our library uses the OverDrive app for e-book borrowing. All of the books that are available through OverDrive (and there are thousands) can be read directly from the in-app reader, and -get this- most of them can be downloaded straight to your Kindle! You get the book for twenty-one days and can renew it if no one is waiting for it. There are many new releases represented on the virtual shelf, and you have the ability to request that new titles be added to the service as resources become available (“resources” = “money.” There is a voluntary donation button in the app.). For those who lean more toward the aural experience, there are a bunch of audiobooks through the service, too. Did I mention that all of this is free‽ What are you waiting for? Hop to it!

Call To Action – Head over to your library or to their website and see if there is an e-book service available for you. Keep reading!

-Josh

Pen and Paper

field notesThere is still plenty of room for physical creative tools in today’s digital world. The weight of a pen and the touch of paper can sometimes be the best conduit for getting ideas out of your head, and for recording and exchanging that most precious and ephemeral of commodities – information. I whip out the notepad whenever I need to make a quick drawing, sketch out a map, or simply to jot down an idea to flesh out later. Something like Evernote or Google Keep can be good for the next step of informational organization, but for the raw idea dump, you can’t beat pen and paper.

I have recently fallen in love with a line of notebooks from a company in Chicago called “Field Notes.” The memo books are the perfect size for slipping into a pocket and are extremely durable. Plus, their mantra of “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now” rings especially true to me. In my line of work, for instance, the best method of memorizing lyrics is to simply write them down. The combination of thinking about something and physically recording it at the same time somehow really cements the information in your skull.

I pair my notebook with the Fisher Space Pen. Yeah, it can write upside down, etc., but it’s the form factor that makes it a winner in my book. The small size when capped is completely unnoticeable in my front pants pocket, and the pen extends to make it a convenient writing size.

Paper is lightweight, never runs out of batteries, and if it’s well-made, can even stand up to the elements. Grab a sheet and keep writing, my friends!

-Josh

Getting the Crowd to Sing Along

While playing on stage, whether solo or with Piano Fondue, I often want to let the crowd sing certain parts of the tunes. This can be difficult to accomplish unless you’re super comfortable with it. I have a couple tips and tricks I’ve gathered through the years to help out. Keep in mind – you are going to be asking people to step out of their comfort zone, so you’ll be walking a tightrope between pushing their discomfort and reinforcing their confidence. It’s an art, so the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

1) Make sure you know the song pretty cold. At least well enough to be thinking significantly ahead of where you are currently singing. If you seem unconfident, they won’t be willing to step up.

2) Make sure it’s a song they know pretty well – at least the part they need to sing. Whatever part you’re super comfortable with is probably the part that they’re super comfortable with, so give that line to them.

3) It can be helpful to let them know before you start the song that you’ll be asking them to sing along. Something to the effect of “I’ll be needing your help on this one” can clue them in to paying attention.

4) Cue the crowd a good beat or two ahead of time, either with a “sing it!” or a gesture their way. It also can be clever and effective to come up with a question to ask on the mic that the line they are to sing would answer.

5) Cutting the music short right before they’re supposed to come in gives them an aural space to fill. (Pro tip – don’t cut on the beat. Cut it on the half or another unusual spot to jar them into paying attention.)

These final tips are really important.

6) Don’t try to sing along with them. If they see you singing, they’ll stop to listen. You want them to sing. Let them.

7) If they don’t come in right away, don’t try to fill in the space. They’re feeling the awkwardness too, and most of the time will step up to fill it for you. And if they don’t, make a joke about it. “Well, that didn’t work” or something to that effect lightens the mood, and makes everyone feel a little more confident to sing the next time through.

At the end of it all, sometimes a crowd just doesn’t want to sing along. They’d rather just sit back and enjoy the show. That’s fine. Maybe toss a couple tries at them throughout the show, but don’t push it. Remember, they are there to have a good time. Let them!

-Josh

Musicians – are there any tricks you use to get a crowd to sing along? Music lovers – have you seen someone who was particularly good at getting the crowd involved? Share it in the comments.

Morning Routine

The morning is the best time for getting things done. Your mind is fresh, your body is restored from sleep, and everything seems new. Why not take advantage of the morning every day.

Here’s the morning routine I wish I could stick to. I have designed it around self-improvement and sparking creativity. I’ve been getting better, and every time I do it I feel amazing, but sometimes lazy Josh wins, and I just head out to the neighborhood cafe without challenging my body or mind at all.

I begin each day with my normal hygiene regimen. One thing I’m still trying to puzzle out is how to do good note-taking in the shower, because I’ll be damned if that’s not where I do some of my best thinking! Any suggestions in the comments below would be most welcome.

Next, I start my water heating up for tea and start my workout. I have been trying an app called the 7-minute workout (Google Play Store), and it’s been great. The workout is in thirty-second increments, so when the water is ready, it’s easy to pause the workout and start my tea steeping. (Pro tip – I had been doing it barefooted, and I wound up hurting myself – wear shoes, people!)

The workout over and tea prepared, I throw on the day’s clothes and grab the morning paper. I prefer to only read the local and state section, as well as the editorials. I keep up with national and world news online fairly well, but the newspaper is tops for the local beat! I sit in my favorite chair in front of a south-facing window, soak some sun, sip my tea, and read the paper. Perfect morning.

Off to work!
-Josh

Crash Course on YouTube

Feel like binge watching the history of mankind? How about exploring the cosmos? Ever wonder how the US government is SUPPOSED to work? Look no further than the awesome folks over at Crash Course on YouTube. Devised by the enterprising fraternal duo of Hank and John Green (yes, that John Green), Crash Course offers in-depth multi-episode journeys through (as of right now)…

Economics
Astronomy
US Government and Politics
Anatomy and Physiology
World History
World History 2 (where John concentrates on broader themes through history rather than the specific eras and events covered in World History 1)
Big History (in which the brothers take us on a trip from the big bang to the future)
Psychology
Chemistry
US History
Intellectual Property
Literature
Biology
Ecology

All of the videos are relatively short – hovering around the ten-minute mark, and are very entertaining (in a nerdy kind of way).

You can peruse the entire catalog here, but first here’s a taste of some early World History to get you going. (spoiler alert: the Mongols are pretty much the exception to every rule in civilization-building)

And everything is on the test! -John Green

Enjoy!
-Josh

Onstage Energy

Is this familiar? You are lying in bed or sitting on the couch or driving to work and you just don’t feel like “bringing it” today. You’d rather lay low and fire up the Netflix. Are you ready to have your mind blown? I’ve had that feeling too. Yes, seriously! I know!!!! We have so much in common!

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading into the office or walking onto the stage, sometimes you’re just not feeling it. There’s a mantra for that. “Fake it til you make it.” Get up there, smile, and lie through your goddamned teeth. Throw yourself at the moment. Then the next, and then the next. Hell, tell yourself that you’re having fun. Believe me – our brains are pretty dumb when it comes to this kind of thing.

Here’s an exercise for you to try the next time you are feeling just plain neutral – not down, not up. Straighten up either sitting or standing, take a healthy breath (from down low in your gut), and hold a smile for ten seconds. I know you feel stupid. Shut up. As the ten seconds progress, I want you to take that weak-ass smile (oh I can see you) and gradually extend it first to your eyes (good – it’s getting more believable) then finally to your ears (just do it – you’ll feel what I mean when you try). See! You feel better already! You don’t? Well it works for me sometimes. Just fake it til you make it!

Do you have any tricks to get yourself going when you’re not feeling it?

-Josh

[Side note (or is this a footnote?) – after writing this post and going through the exercise as I wrote the steps, I went back to the top to start reading it back. That’s when I added the silly “yeah, I know” bit with all the exclamation points. My energy had actually been lifted by doing the exercise while writing this! Crazy, right‽]

-I am not saying that this trick can take you from sad to happy, nor is it any kind of treatment for any depression. It is simply a way to give yourself a little bump – a little pump priming to get you over that first hill. Chances are you’ll get rolling from there, but there are always bigger hills, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to talk to a professional therapist or counselor if you need to.

Always Be Learning

I think that we have a responsibility to society as a whole to constantly be trying to improve ourselves. When one person learns, we all learn. When you sit down and read a book, our average intelligence as a species goes up a tick. Think about that – it’s true! You are making all of humanity better and adding a little bit of grey matter to your own head in the process. Altruism and selfishness – sweet! One thing I will be sharing on this site is the myriad resources available so you can sit down and learn something you didn’t know before. In the meantime, get your learn on!

-Josh

Write Every Day

I am not a good writer. I happily admit it. But I do know the secret to becoming a better writer, and it’s kind of what this website thing is all about. Are you ready? To become a better writer – write. Write every day. Your brain is like a muscle, and like any muscle, it can’t get stronger unless it’s worked out. Of course reading a lot and studying others’ thoughts on writing can help, but nothing gets you better faster than sitting down and doing it every day (at least I hope so!).

For example, when I first started songwriting, it was a real struggle. It was difficult to flesh out any ideas I had, lyrics came painfully slow, and it was all pretty cheesy at the end of the day. But guess what. The more I did it – the more I sat down and made myself try to come up with something – ANYTHING – the easier it became. I started writing songs I was proud of and that other people wanted to hear… hear multiple times! I even accomplished a personal life goal of mine and released an album (iTunes, CDBaby). [Quick side note – when I did a Google search to find the links for my album, I discovered that someone is selling a used one that I had signed. Haha! That really tickles me for some reason. Here it is if you want it – Amazon.]

Call to action – If you have something you want to accomplish, don’t just take the first steps. Dive in. Everyone knows the best way to learn a new language is through total immersion. It’s no different with learning to do anything else. (Disclaimer – maybe not ANYTHING else. This is probably not the best method for learning lion taming, for instance)

Have you discovered any tips and tricks for improving your own writing? Share it with everyone in the comments.

-Josh

Connecting with a Crowd

This is a blog post that I made over on the Piano Fondue site (pianofondue.com). I think it definitely belongs here now that I have this site up and running. Enjoy!

-Josh

Playing a show like Piano Fondue, you find yourself in front of a new crowd every night. You want these folks to sing along and have fun, but before that can happen, you have to connect with them. Once you develop a connection, the audience will pay way more attention to you, and they’ll be open to having some fun.

Here is a great trick that I learned early on. Start small. Focus on two or three audience members sitting close to you. Chat with them, ask how they’re doing, ask if they have any requests, show them other people’s requests, cheers them with your drink – anything you can do to involve them in what’s going on. Make sure these few people are having fun, and the rest of the crowd will follow suit. When the crowd is watching you, they’re watching you through the front few rows. They’ll want to have that experience that you’re having with that front table, and once that happens, you’re set! After a few songs, try opening the circle to some other folks in the room. Odds are, they’ll be ready to play along.

See you at the next show!
-Josh