Notation Software Community Users' StoriesJohn Laccohee-Joslin, Multi-instrumentalist
John's musical influences started early in life, developing into a love of and fascination with music that still inspires him today. Here, John tells us his story.
I live in a little town called Donnybrook in Australia. My interest in music goes way back to my childhood days in the late forties. My father - who never read a note of music in his life - was a well accomplished organist and piano player and played the organ at our village church. At that time my musical skills stopped at playing the harmonica purely on a self-taught basis. For some reason my father never imparted any of his musical knowledge to me, but I do think he somehow sowed the seed of interest.
I served in the Royal Navy for twelve years and within the first year had learnt again, purely by watching others, how to play a guitar. From there the progression was very quick, first playing to amuse myself, and as my new-found skills improved, playing for the entertainment of others. In the forces there is an untapped supply of musically-gifted people, and it was not very long before I was playing lead guitar and singing lead vocal in our group. The time was the beginnings of the Beatles and other groups, and musically I had taken that big jump from three chord songs the some pretty involved notation.
In 1976 I was in a group called the "The Four Winds" and we were playing seven days a week, sometimes two places in one night. The money was so good we were earning twice as much as the Navy paid us,and I often wonder why we never bought ourselve out of the forces and struck out into the music world. However, we did not have a manager as such and managed ourselves. This freedom allowed us to buy whatever we wanted with regard to equipment, so of course we had the best that money could buy. By this time I had progressed to an electric twelve string and had learnt to use all of the twelve strings for playing lead - a lovely sound! We were still in the forces and based in Hampshire, U.K. where we had built a good following of fans. I still look back on those days with a great sense of pride and sentiment.
It was at this time that I found out just how powerful music is, and to this day I can tell anyone that the biggest buzz you can ever get is applause - it beats any drug you can name. I was also finding out some of the complexities of music itself and the skills involved with arrangement of what we were playing. This very quickly made me aware of the need to read the "dots on the lines", which up until this point none of us had troubled with. For some reason we could all sit and listen to a piece and then go and play it. Once we had the basics of the music, we would sit and arrange it purely by introducing our own interpretations.
From that period there is a jump of fifteen years where the group was split up by being drafted to different ships or places, plus events like getting married, leaving the forces and working. During this time, music took a back seat in my life but was never far away. I still played and wrote stuff, but did not perform. However this pause in my own music-making did not stop me from taking a very careful look at was was coming out in those times. "The Moody Blues" came out, a group I hold in great esteem for their arrangements and diversity of music. I was very struck by their "Knights in White Satin" and in particular the use of the flute, so much so that I decided I was going to learn to play this intrument. I purchased one and spent nearly a year working with it to acheive the sound I wanted.
It was not going as well as I had hoped, so I sought out a teacher, and in this was very lucky because it turned out that the lady played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The first thing she did was make me learn about the written aspects of music, which for her was the hardest thing she had to do. She was dealing with someone who had played music for a long time purely by ear, so once I had learnt the piece there was a great tendency to go back to my old ways and just play. I am very grateful to that lady for her dogged hard work. She would creep up and snatch the sheet music away saying "You're playing by ear again, I can tell." I must have made her life awful for four years, but during that time I discovered the classics, and the meaning of music, to the point that I now cringe every time I hear the head-banging rubbish, despite the advent of synths and MIDI.
In 1980 , married with three children, we moved to Western Australia to live. The only instruments I could bring with me were my flute and harmonica. The lovely twelve string guitar I had was too big to bring, what with all the rest of our luggage. I left this in safe keeping with my brother who had gotten the bug for music from me (I think?). It took us about a year to get on our feet and at this time the kids were taking an interest in music. I bought our first electric organ for the family. When the sales people delivered it they set it up for us and gave us a quick demo (don't forget that this was a new instrument for me too). While there, one of the men noticed my flute case and inquired as to who played. My wife told them that it was me and they asked if I would play something for them, which I was quite happy to do. When I had finished they asked why I did not teach, and more so, if I would be prepared to do so? I told them that I had never thought myself qualified to teach, but they explained that flute teachers were hard to find and that they ran a school and would be happy to have me there. They also asked if I played anything else, having seen the harmonica behind the flute case. From there I wound up teaching flute, harmonica, and guitar.
The organ proved very easy to master and before too long I had upgraded three times to one of the best I could buy and had added this to my teaching list. During my fifteen years of teaching (as well as my own job, energy conservation engineering) I taught music lessons from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. six days a week. I found that the organ did not give me the sounds I wanted, even though it was very costly. I must admit to this day, I cannot forgive the music industry for the bad practice of upgrading costly organs when all the technology was really being put into electronic keyboards and synthesizers that, dollar for dollar, were very reasonably priced and very well made.
Once I had made the transition from one to the other, I quickly found the real value of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and learnt the nuts and bolts of how it worked. I found that MIDI made an invaluable tool for teaching and keeping tabs on how well a student was doing. It also allowed me to show students how the music could be arranged and written. In those days the software was very costly, but is now very well priced with heaps of options.
Regretfully, I also found out that my time in the forces as a saturation diver had been somewhat abused during a period when the first nuclear subs were about, and that during that time we had been subjected to massive overdoses of radiation. This exposure now manifested itself as a bone disorder that was quickly affecting most of my body, my ability to play and even more the chance to carry on teaching. I had always held the opinion that to teach one needed to be able to demonstrate music at its best to students to give them something to strive towards. In the end I had to stop working and also to stop teaching, but I am glad to say I could still play and arrange thanks to the much of the new software that made the whole job so easy. I did until just recently continue to play for my own enjoyment and still had the love of music that had started me off. I had an accident with a circular saw in which I messed up most of the fingers of my left hand, losing one completely. I quickly point out that it was my own fault. However, I have not given up and hope that the will to play will help me through and allow me to find a way of playing again. This does not mean my keyboards will remain silent. Til then, I still have my computer and software to be able to write and hear what I am doing with the assistance of MIDI technology.
If you were to ask me what music is about, I think I would say that it is the mixture of two arts or maybe three. Music tells a story, paints a picture, and tugs on our emotional heartstrings at many stages of our lives in such a way that we never forget why we like a bit of music. I hope that maybe what I have written will make a few people stop and consider where music fits into their lives, and maybe look for the chance to try their own hand at creating it for themselves - it has never been so easy!