‘A lot of people will judge me, but I don’t care, it takes a lot to be something different’
Sitting down over our breakfast of hash browns, bacon, eggs and toast on a cold January morning, Dank told me of his passion for music. Dank wears many hats in his day to day life. He plays the role of musician, writer, videographer, father, photographer and artist only to name a few. While that sounds like quite a lot, he manages to balance it all while also giving back to the community as a volunteer at his daughter’s school and at the Ottawa mission.
Most musicians pick one genre in particular on which to focus their talents, but Dank has dabbled in many. He explained that he has a large diversity in his taste for music. ‘I play anything,’ he told me, but ‘I love blues and soul.’ From Tennessee Flattop Box by Johnny Cash, the first song he played on the guitar, to Nirvana, his favourite band, he has a wide variety of tastes and uses them to create his own unique style of music.
‘Life will get you down, but that’s what separates the winners from the losers’ Dank stated when I asked what discourages his ability to continue as an artist. He explained that he has had several friends stabbed after they have attended or performed in festivals around the Ottawa area. The fear that violence like this could occur is present, but his love for music and his competitive nature overrules that concern.
It’s a Family Thing
Growing up and doing something you love is remarkable. It becomes even more gratifying when it becomes a family affair. His father has been singing and writing music since Dank was a child. This gave Dank the opportunity to meet some incredible influences at the beginning of his musical career.
Dank explained that as a child, he was fortunate enough play and practice with musical role models like Rick Danko. Danko was an iconic Canadian musician, bassist and songwriter who was most commonly known as being a member of The Band.
But the family tree of musicians doesn’t stop there. In fact, Dank explained, that he and his daughter ‘jam everyday’. When he is not creating his own music, Dank says he loves to ‘rock with my daughter.’ He challenges her, he says, by encouraging her to make songs from daily events and sing them to him.
Day Job to Dream Job
While Dank is a talented musician and artist, he has not always been in the business professionally. He briefly alluded to a dark past before he became the successful musician that he is today. This change began around the time when he found out he was going to be a father.
He explained that he straightened out his life. For many years, he then worked as a roofer for his step-father’s company. After his long days, he would come home exhausted, but keen to continue improving his musical talents. Throughout his entire roofing experience, he felt that his life was unfulfilled.
He realized that it didn’t make sense for him to continue at a job he hated if he was able to provide for himself and his daughter doing what he loved. Through large amounts of effort, he was able to make a living as a musician. He then made the decision to quit his roofing job in favour of being a full time musician.
As his new career took off, he found that to take it to the next level, he would need to create music videos to accompany his new songs. He then discovered that to have a video created, the price ranged from 1000 to 1500 dollars per video. He couldn’t believe the cost and instead of hiring someone, went out and bought his own equipment. Dank has now created videos for bands like MOP, Young Buck and Deep Well. He is now working for GOOD GUY pictures, a photography and music video company.
Playing Guitar is not as scary as it sounds!
Coming from someone with NO musical talent or rhythm, playing a guitar really isn’t as scary as it seems. If I can learn the basics, you definitely can too. The first thing required to play guitar is…well, a guitar. While the price range for some guitars can go upwards of $5000, most are relatively inexpensive to start out. Long & McQuade sells guitars starting at $120, but you can even find a cheap one on Kijiji or Ebay. It’s amazing to me that for such a low price, you can buy something to create music. Of course there are lessons and books that are also useful to have, but there are incredible free online resources available as well if you are hoping to stick to your low budget.
Acoustic vs. Electric
There are a million and ten different guitars (actually, there is probably more than that) you could buy, so it depends predominantly on what you want to play. I’ve looked through several sources online with varying opinions on which type of guitar to use as a beginner. Your decision on which type of guitar to buy is entirely your choice and mostly has to do with what type of music you would like to play.
Do you want to impress your friends with rock or medal? Perhaps and electric guitar is your best fit. How about sitting around a camp fire playing country music or folk? You would probably prefer an acoustic. Check out Dawsons for a more detailed explanation on the differences between acoustic and electric guitars.
Tablature vs. Sheet music
So now you have your guitar. That’s great! The next step is learning how to play. There are two main ways in which you can do this. One is reading sheet music and the other is using tablature (or tab) music. Sheet music is the way music is traditionally written for any instrument. Each note represents a letter. This is a great video to check out if you would like to learn the basics of reading sheet music.
Tab music on the other hand is specifically designed for string instruments, with fingering displayed. There are numbers that correspond to each fret which tells you where to put your fingers on the guitar. There is also usually and pattern for the rhythm that it used throughout the duration of the song. Check out this video on how to read tab music!
In general, most songs have both plucking (where you strum a specific string) and chords (where your fingers are pushed down in different spots on the guitar at the same time while strumming). Add these together, and you can create a song.
Tuning a guitar
Tuning a guitar sounded terrifying to me when I started learning how to play, but thankfully technology has once again improved our lives. There are several apps that can be downloaded on your phone that actually listen to you play and tell you how to tune your guitar based on what the song you are playing requires. ‘androidauthority.com’ has a great article about which tuning apps are available for android and ‘theguitarjournal.com’ also has a list of tuning apps available for Apple products.
Time to start!
So now that you have a tuned guitar, know the rudimentary basics of sheet or tab music, it is time to find your first song to play. Deciding which one to play first is sometimes overwhelming with the wide variety of choices out there, but there are some songs that help you learn the basics.
One of the first songs everyone learns on the guitar is Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Guns N’ Roses. This song is easy to learn and has a simple rhythm that allows you to learn how to strum a guitar. Check out ‘ultimateguitar.com’ here for this song’s tab. There is also a video available on the website, but you do have to sign up to gain access. Youtube, on the other hand, is a wonderful free resource that helps you work through even the toughest problems on the guitar.
Another relatively easy song to learn is Tennessee Flat Top Box, the first song Dank ever played on guitar. If you want to start where he did, check out the tab music for Tennessee Flat Top Box.
My interview with Dank was an eye opener on following my dreams. He put the effort into following his and is now pursuing it as a career. I’ll take note and keep working towards my own!
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