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Music, Stories, Pictures, and Stuff!

April 2, 2015
by NcStevenB
1 Comment

Cleaning that One Disgusting Place in the Kitchen

Okay, our house is very clean. Catalina is a demon about that. I will clean something spotless, only to have Catalina tsk at me about how dirty things are. “Don’t you look?” It can be frustrating living with a cleaning demon.

But there is one particular place in our house that gets cleaned very rarely, is really dirty, and is used very regularly. What do you guess it is? You got it: the microwave. I mean, that thing is a pit. My bet is that yours is similar. Let’s see: flecks of spaghetti sauce (wait that might be splatters of warmed up Mexican), some extremely crispy rice (no not rice krispies), and what’s that brown stuff over in the corner. But if you try to clean it nothing happens except for disintegrating the sponge you are using. Let’s try steel wool. Hmmm… all the disgusting flecks remain but the steel wool is destroyed. Hopeless! So it goes months without being cleaned.

And this is the way that it’s been all my adult life, until today. Today I cleaned it in about 5 minutes with minimal effort, back to looking like new. How? I steam cleaned it. So I poured two cups of water into an open plastic Ziploc container. Then I zapped it in the microwave in thirty-second bursts so that the water boiled each time, maybe 4 or 5 boils. Then it just sat there for about 5 minutes. Took a sponge and wiped it down. Piece of pie, easy as cake…. No, I didn’t heat those in the microwave.

How can it have taken me more than 30 years to think of this? Duh!

February 11, 2015
by NcStevenB

She Dances with the Moon

She Dances with the Moon – February 5, 2014


Writing this song has been a real experience. Most of the time we write about ourselves, whether we want to or not. But this song came from the memory of a Maxfield Parrish poster that a friend of mine had. The memory is greatly edited as I can’t find what I recall anywhere.  This image is only mildly similar to what I remember, but will suffice.

Writing the lyric required delving into the world of the dyad in the poster. So many questions. Is she a fairy or is she a god? When does her world exist? Who’s in her world? There are three verses. All those questions are answered. The lyrics are included for your enjoyment.

She Dances with the Moon
Steven Burns – February 5, 2015

Amidst a wash of stars
She dances with the moon
Each twist, each turn
To sounds unheard
Guide her in all that’s true

Her life wanders
A moon-lit path between the trees
None can follow
Her way

Behind a misted vail,
She speaks a silent song
Her steps vanish before they fall
Lost to the morning sun


On wings that can’t be seen
She floats into the air
Smiles at the world made of her dreams
Dreams filled with not a care


January 27, 2015
by NcStevenB

Hey Girl

 Hey Girl – January 27, 2015

Okay, so it was written on January 27, 2015.  But that could just as easily have been 1961.  It feels like a late 50’s early 60’s song to me.  I never know what these things are going to be.  Gotta love it when the words just tumble out.  These materialized in three 5 to 10 minute sessions.  Whew-ooo!

It’s full of joy, full of simplicity. I had fun!

December 29, 2014
by NcStevenB

Got No Coffee

 Got No Coffe – December 28, 2014

This may be the first true blues song I’ve written.  Blues, filled with double entendres.

What is often surprising is how songs start.  McCartney’s Yesterday started at the breakfast table “Scrambled eggs, all I really need is scrambled eggs”.  Granted, not as romantic as the words he ended up with.

Catalina had to go for some tests.  No drinking coffee with sugar or creamer.  She was bemoaning this in the morning while I was playing guitar.  Out it came, “Got no coffee, got no cream, got no sugar, life sure is mean”  She pointed out that she could have coffee, just not the sugar or the cream.  Blues is all about need.  So it got switched around in the meaning behind the words.  But there’s the source.

December 26, 2014
by NcStevenB


I’m in bed reading a book. This is a life long habit since I was six, first learned to read. Maybe I should check my Facebook. I did see that MaryLu left a comment. Let’s see, I open it up, go to the notifications and she says, ” I’m listening to Steven’s Go tell it on the Mountains on NPR right now! What a treat!”

What!!? Oh my god! I find out that they played Cata’s and my arrangement that we’d recorded for our new CD. A little over a week ago I sent the Winston Salem station three of the songs from our CD and included a blurb about Brandon’s participation, where we were all from, and that it was recorded locally. Then I forgot about it; I didn’t hear back and what are the chances they would use any of them. Um ZERO.

I tell a few of my friends on Facebook using the messenger. Let me see, Matthew would be interested. He was in my band. Matthew responds. “When and where?” A few moments later he has a link for me. I can download the show and listen. Wow!

I wallpaper the Facebook world with the link. I have to say that this is an unbelievable moment for me; NPR! Wow! It took me quite a while to calm down that night. Here is the link to the recording.

Triad Arts Holiday Celebration

And I still say WOW!!!

November 26, 2014
by NcStevenB

Try it! You’ll Like It!

This is the week of Thanksgiving of 2014! I feel great. Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a long time. All that food. And pies, don’t forget the pies! But what is most interesting is that it has been a week of giving. I didn’t even realize it until today, the day before Thanksgiving.

A while ago, I’d offered a page to my friend Earl where he could post his recordings. Earl has such a good voice. And his finger-style guitar work couldn’t compliment it more. So Earl took me up on it. He got me a song. I created a page for him and a category for him. Then I added the song with a blurb he got to me. He was so pleased, which really pleased me. That inspired him. He recorded and got another song to me, which I added today. So he has two songs up there at Intended Consequences.

On Monday I went to a jam in Winston-Salem. Joseph, a coworker went too. His daughter wants to learn bass. She already plays flute and piano. I told him that I could teach her, that I’d taught my wife bass. He asked how much. “Free”. “What?!”, he seemed stunned. I have a job, don’t need lesson money. I’d prefer to help others enjoy music more. So we’ll probably set something up for his daughter

On February 8, 2011, I wrote the song Ain’t Always Easy on my Soul. It was recorded by Six Lives Required on our Seatbelts Required CD. One of the lines is “When I give, I get more”. Wow is that true! I’m enjoying this Thanksgiving more than I should. And this time, it’s because I gave. I didn’t give to get a good feeling, but what a great side-effect. Try it! You’ll like it!

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.

October 16, 2014
by NcStevenB

Gather Up Her Tears

Gather All Her Tears – October 15, 2014. For Ioan Cascuescu (Tata)


Catalina’s father died on Thursday, October 9, 2014. It struck a heavy blow to my wife. She talked to her mom and dad ever day either through the phone or the computer. It will take time for her to recover, not to get over, as you don’t get over this.

I was downstairs playing my morning guitar when I heard her cries. I knew instantly what had happened. The song, which somehow I had started the day before demanded to be written. It’s hard to write a song when you are crying yourself. I finished it yesterday, recorded it today at Two Egrets studio. Mike did a great job.

This one is for Tata. I will and do miss him.

October 13, 2014
by NcStevenB

Creativity is a Sometimes Thing

CreativityYou can’t force it. If you force it you get mediocrity at best. Much more likely is that you get real garbage. You can’t follow the rules. Yes music has rules, more like guidelines. But if you follow them, again you get mediocrity or garbage. You never get something worthwhile.

Okay, so how do you find creativity? What is it? And how do you channel it? And the answer is….. I don’t know. Well that’s kind of sucky! What I do know is that it’s evasive, slippery, and demanding. I do know how creativity finds me.

For me creativity is living in the rules, the boundaries, but then stepping outside of them in ways that are unexpected. Go listen to Chopin’s Nocturnes. Each is a gem. They constantly push the rules and boundaries in unexpected ways, creating melodies that pull you uncontrollably. And yet they would not be anywhere as good if, if, if, if they didn’t have endings that push the boundaries even further. They make each unforgettable.

I find creativity when I look at those things that catch my interest. For me, the unexpected is found in a guitar riff or a few chords. I play with them, push the melody in an unexpected way. Or push the chords in an unexpected way. Or better yet, do them both at the same time.  Please, don’t think that just by doing the unexpected you are being creativity. That doesn’t work for me either. Same results; mediocrity and garbage, though more of the latter.

How do I channel creativity? I can’t actively pursue it. No. Look, I practice guitar every morning. Right now I’m working on the mundane of playing the F scale up the neck of the guitar as I try to better master the notes on the fingerboard. And after that I go to work on some of the songs that I’ve already started, playing them over and over, trying modifications of the melody. It is a time when I am still sleepy, more open to whatever, less cerebral. Just the act of playing them, honestly listening to my ear fosters the creativity. You have to take the risk of being honest and revealing yourself. Usually when I’m done, I’ll let my fingers stray to some new chords, often in a different key. Or maybe they will play a new riff. It is in THOSE moments that the seed of creativity is found. From there a whole song may develop.

Now there is one other type of creativity that sometimes happens with me. I wake up with a song in my head. I didn’t do anything to get it that I’m aware of. I have two or three songs that came to me this way. It’s rare. And this morning I woke up with the right words for a song that I’m working on in my head. What a gift to receive.

Playing with sound, creating a new song is demanding and obsessive. It is one of the most exciting things that you can do, even though you can’t force it. So if you are in the creativity business, you’re kind of screwed, as you can’t force it. Also if you are in the creativity business you have the best job in the world.  You know that no computer can replace what you do. Only you can be creativity and only if you choose to be open to it.

July 30, 2014
by NcStevenB

Some Peculiarities of Song Writing

let-me-out-1Songwriters… we come in all flavors, varieties, and sizes. I’m of the variety that starts with a riff, builds a harmonic structure, adds a melody, and finally finds out what the song is about when the words come to me. At my best is when I listen to myself and discover what the next part of the riff or harmony or melody is. A similar discovery happens with words that just sort of bubble up. At worst is when I try to construct the riff or harmonies or melodies, to force the words. Those songs should be thrown away.

So I wouldn’t make a very good songwriter for a show or movie. That requires being able to write for a specific emotion or to a specific style. That just doesn’t happen with me. Some of the famous songwriters that create this way are Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. Did you know that “Yesterday” started out as “Scrambled Eggs”?

I often find really good riffs, feel like I have something really promising. I’ve lost some really good songs in the past through the conceit that if it is good enough, I’ll remember it later. I almost lost my song Peace of Mind that way. Now I record them on my phone. Some of them I title with notes to myself, “Work This One”. Others are simply “Something in E minor”. And I’ll often sing the chords instead of words. That way I’ll know what I’m playing when I listen to it later.

Some beginnings I don’t record. They just aren’t good enough, don’t demand that I do anything with them. I go about my day and promptly forget those

Now here is where there is peculiarity. There are songs that are full of promise. But they refuse to go past promise. The riff seems right. The chords seem almost right. The melodies are almost there. But no matter how much I play with them, they just never seem to gel, to get over the next hump. I have one song that I’ve been working on for three years. It refuses to finish. Either it isn’t good enough or I’m not approaching it correctly.

And then there is the flip side of this peculiarity. Despite that I’ve decided that the riff and harmonies aren’t good enough for considerations, the song just keeps coming back. Piece of crap… Will that darn thing get out of my head. These fragments just seem to keep cropping up when I’m working on other things. They are truly a pain. One song I even finished up so I could throw it away, get it out of my head: Happiness. That turned out to be one of my better received and most requested songs. I don’t really know why.

Maybe some songs just won’t leave you alone until you write them. They will interrupt the good songs that you are writing. Why? Maybe this is the crux; they are songs that are alien to the ones that you normally write. For me, I love to write a slow song, one with engaging harmonies, chromatic lines. But songs that are bouncy, quicker, simple; those don’t draw me. But what if that is the song that is demanding my attention?

I have a song like that. It seems to require that I finish it. It has a memorable riff with a good ascending middle line in it. It is up-tempo, with relatively simple chords, nothing startling. Why won’t it get out of my head. I’ve even had one set of words that go with a portion. Strangely those words have been there since the beginning, the opposite from the way I normally write as detailed earlier. This morning as I finished a bit of playing and practicing, three finger scales up the neck to help with better learning the fretboard, it circled around to me. This time some other words appeared, words of joy. Suddenly it seemed to have some direction. New melodies became possible. A change of mind set and expectations? I don’t know. Will it finish? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that some songs just demand to be written. If I finish this one I’ll record a rough version and append it to this blog.

Writing music is wrestling, sometimes dancing, with peculiarities.

June 4, 2014
by NcStevenB

What Chords Should I Learn?

So I have a friend that is learning to play the uke. I particularly like the baritone uke because the chords are fingered the same as the guitar. But that is for another blog.

One of the problems I have teaching people is that I want them to learn a bit of theory as they are learning chording instruments. So I came up with this chart that is kind of interesting.



C       V/V V I IV  
D   V/V V I IV      
E V I IV          
F         V/V V I IV
G     V/V V I IV    
A V/V V I IV        
Chords B E A D G C F Bb

Hmmm so if you learn these 8 major chords, you can frequently play the same song in 6 keys. Wow! That isn’t so tough.

What, how do you make heads or tails of this? Geesh, I was just getting to that. This chart shows the grouping of the most commonly used chords for each key and their relationship. If you look at the first row, which is for C, you will see that the main chord are G, C, and F. Additionally, D is used relatively commonly. I might make a chart for bluegrass which tends to use the flatted VII chord quite a bit too.

What?! What use is that? Are you trying to be difficult? Look, the three main chords in a key are the I, IV, and V. In the key of C that would be C, F, and G respectively. If you play each of those chords in that order you will hear how each sounds. You might want to play I, IV V, and I. That way it will feel finished.

Now once you start hearing the sound of a I, a IV, and a V, you are ready to transpose to any of the keys above. Say you’ve been playing a song in C. But that is too low. Let’s go to E. You look at the chart and see that I, IV, and V for E are E, A, and B respectively. Now you play. When you hear I you play E. When you hear IV you play A. And when you hear V you play B. Believe it or not, this is how most people transpose by ear, even though they don’t realize it.

What? You don’t want to play in E, you want to play in G!!! You are trying to be difficult aren’t you? Okay so look at the chart. I, IV and V for G are G, C and D. You can do the rest. I have faith in you, even if you are a pain in the butt!