Seven years ago, at about age 12, senior Bryan Garcia played a bass guitar that was once his brother’s and won by his dad in an eBay auction.
He had just picked up his bass for the first time in years and was able to quickly play again, recalling old songs and riffs he once struggled with.
Now in his senior year, Garcia still plays, writes and records his own music.
His musical journey began when he first picked up the old bass guitar.
“I think it was because I saw my brother playing bass guitar once and I thought that it was really cool. I began playing bass guitar, I just kind of picked it up one day and taught myself to play it. From then on, I wanted to learn other instruments,” Garcia said.
He also plays piano, guitar, ukulele and a bit of drums. Garcia has been playing all of the instruments for at least five years now, spending the most time on piano.
“It was interesting [to learn piano]. I’ve always known how to play it growing up, I knew some of the notes, but I didn’t get into actual chords until I learned how to play bass guitar. I had a friend of mine who would show me a few chords [on piano] here and there,” he said.
Garcia also used a keyboard that read off the chords he played as he pressed down on them. He would spend a lot of time playing notes and memorizing the names.
In a small room in Garcia’s house, there are two pianos, an organ and cello. This room is where Garcia generally starts his writing process. In the past, he may have started with a bass guitar and the Garageband application on his iPad, but since seventh grade he has slowly built up his equipment and quality from a $1 app to equipment worth thousands of dollars.
Garcia will start on the piano, play something he likes and then go upstairs to record it using Logic Pro X, a recording program. Over time, he said he will go back to melodies and beats to add different instruments and layers in the song.
Garcia spent two summers working and saving money in order to buy equipment to record better-quality music. Quality is extremely important for any musician, Garcia said.
He has a high-quality microphone surrounded by foam padding, commonly used in recording studios to absorb sound. He uses the microphone to record vocals, ukulele and other instruments that aren’t able to be directly plugged into his laptop.
Garcia said his recording is based off the time he has; if there are tests or events coming up, it’s harder for him to make time to play.
He doesn’t play every day, but when he does, he tries to make it an hour or two at least.
“On a Saturday, sometimes I’ll spend the whole day working on music,” Garcia said. “It really depends on my mood, some days if I’m feeling tired, I’m not going to get anything done with music, but other days, if I’m awake and feeling pretty good, I’ll get a lot done.”
He usually starts writing lyrics by improvising and taking notes of what he sings. Garcia said he then rearranges parts and adds words to make the verses flow better together.
Garcia generally has a specific theme in mind for the lyrics he writes. He said it’s almost like writing poems or stories then translating those into lyrics. It takes a lot of work for Garcia to write lyrics and then make sure they go with whatever song he’s working on.
“If you look at all the songs together, at least the ones that I’m working on right now, they kind of tell a story of life and death,” Garcia said. “The first song I made is more talking about being young and then one of the last few songs I made is talking more about death and mourning. Looking at all those songs collectively, you can see the growing of age type of story.”
Garcia said he also writes many songs with the general idea of saying goodbye or “save me”. He said that he can’t relate to those topics currently, but they consistently show up while he is freestyling lyrics.
Garcia has instruments in songs that show different emotions, but he said the lyrics don’t reflect that as much and don’t tend to show his own feelings like the sounds do.
“The instrumentals, they mean a lot more to me because I can pretty much play [an entire] song on piano, I know the melody of the vocals, I know which notes I sing on and I can replay those notes on piano. I know all the other instruments that are played in the song,” Garcia said. “When it comes to playing my own music on piano, it feels a lot more personal and I feel more moved by what I’m playing. Just the way that it sounds, I love the way that it sounds. It’s really kind of emotional for me. It feels very satisfying that [a certain] song exists because of me.”
Garcia said he loves playing and writing music, but has moments where a song doesn’t feel new or fun anymore.
“There’s times where I write a song and I really like it and I’ll keep working on it and time goes on. I’ll listen to that song again months later and I don’t like how it sounds. It’s because I’ve gotten desensitized to it, I’ve heard it so many times that it’s kind of lost its impact,” he said.
It almost always surprised Garcia when someone told him a song sounded really cool after he had become desensitized to it.
Garcia said that he can be too critical of his music at times. When other people say they like it, he’ll point out a small mistake such as playing the wrong note. He said he’s generally the only person who notices the small mistakes. This can sometimes drain his motivation and desire of a song as well.
When needing help with his music, Garcia will generally go to his dad or his younger sister, Bella Garcia. She helps him with many different problems he has with his music.
“I point out everything that I love about his music, that’s mainly what I do to kind of boost his self esteem,” Bella Garcia said.
Along with explaining what she enjoys about his music, she will also compare how far her brother has come with his music.
Bella Garcia said that while using an app on his iPad in the past, her brother was already planning for the future for albums he would someday create. She didn’t realize how serious Bryan Garcia actually was about pursuing music until he began working. He soon bought a MacBook and started reaching his goals one by one.
“It wasn’t until I heard his new music with the new software compared to his old iPad music that I really saw he was stepping up his game. He knows what he’s doing now and he’s gonna get somewhere doing it,” Bella Garcia said.
Bryan Garcia has a habit of making sure every single note is perfect on a song. He tries his best to make the songs sound as professional as possible.
“If Bryan wasn’t nitpicky, then there would probably be flaws that I could catch on to. That’s not a quality musician, but sometimes I do have to remind him that if I [don’t notice it] after I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, no one else will or that there are worse people out there and you are definitely not one of them,” Bella Garcia said.
Bryan Garcia said that he can regain interest in a song after playing an entire song on piano.
He will find inspiration by “bouncing around” on different online music outlets like Soundcloud or Spotify, where he may find certain bass lines that trigger an idea. He will also go to some of his favorite artists, like contemporary R&B artist, Kevin Garrett. Garcia said that he’ll even go to “obscure” artists who are widely unknown to people for inspiration for songs.
Finding inspiration for his music isn’t always easy when combatted with the cost of his equipment, Garcia said.
“One of the biggest conflicts that I had to deal with in music was the cost. The setup that I have is not cheap at all, so I had to spend almost two summers working and saving up money, then spending most of that money for music,” he said.
Garcia said that the cost of equipment is reflected in the quality music produced.
“For music production If [anyone] wants good quality music, if they want to really get the nice equipment, they have to be willing to drop a lot of money. I spent over $3,000, maybe $3,500 [on my equipment].” Garcia said.
He also said that it’s really difficult to find professional sounding equipment or apps for less money.
“When it comes to music, you get what you really pay for, so if you spend like five bucks on a music app, your music’s not gonna sound like what they create in the studio. But if you’re willing to spend a couple hundred or a couple thousand, It’ll really show in your music,” he said.
Garcia also struggles with being too busy to work on his music. On more than one occasion, he has had to cancel plans with his friends in order to spend more time on his music, especially if he hadn’t worked on any recently.
Since Garcia writes and records all his own music, he always has something to work on and seeing the constant positive changes in his music has really motivated him to continue working whenever he has the time. Garcia said the entire process of thinking of a song idea, playing it, writing it and adding on to his music brings him to new places and keeps him going.
“I feel like I find myself being more productive nowadays, like I go home and work on music instead of taking a nap or just chilling around. Since I write all my own music, it’s really helped me get better at playing piano, I’m really proud of my ability to play compared to five years ago where I was one finger pressing a note, but now I’m able to use both hands very well,” he said.
Garcia said he can apply the information to all the instruments he plays and has grown in ability.
“[Playing music] has given me something to work on or look forward to each day. Most people go home and play video games or just go on TV, for me, I don’t really do either one of those, I kind of just find myself sitting at my laptop trying to come up with new ideas for music. Sometimes I find myself feeling very excited or motivated by my music, especially when a song that I wrote a while ago that wasn’t very impressive, when I come up with a new part that improves it,” he said.
Garcia once wrote a song that he wasn’t happy with until he decided to have one of his friends come over and record a cello background for the song.
That song is one that really motivates Garcia to do more with his music, he said.
“Hearing the cello blend in with the music, it was one of the greatest feelings. I felt so happy with myself. I’m so proud that I thought of adding cello to that song,” he said.
Garcia puts small snippets of ideas he has on Soundcloud under the name Jamil, which he plans to change since there are many artists who go by that name, he said.
In the moment of posting a song on Soundcloud, he’ll promote it on another social media platform, such as Twitter or Snapchat. He generally keeps it to his friends and family, avoiding going out of his way. Garcia said that he thinks it’s because the tracks he posts on Soundcloud aren’t his full potential, as they only take about a half hour to make. He predicts that once he puts out full songs that include vocals, he’ll be promoting much more on all social media, including some possible videos on YouTube in the future.
At school, Garcia tends to keep his music quiet. He said he generally promotes by word of mouth to his friends when he sees them.
“I release music when I create something that I think is worthy of being posted, but most of the songs that I write and record won’t be released,” he said. “As of right now, I’ve only released like five tracks, and I’m planning on releasing like six or seven, sometime in the future. Compared to the 90 songs that I’ve written, it’s a very small amount of songs that I release.”
Along with using Soundcloud as a musical outlet, Garcia also performs at his local church.
Garcia has never performed his own music for a crowd, but he does play music provided for him at the Alderwood Community church.
At church, he will usually play bass guitar during youth group. He plays piano, ukulele and bass guitar for the larger worship ceremonies.
“I kind of switch instruments a lot, like I’ll do ukulele for one song and then do piano for a different song. I pretty much play the music that is given to me for the church,” Garcia said.
At church, there is a practice rehearsal beforehand. Garcia said he tends to find himself staying at the piano afterwards and playing his own music, as only a few people are around.
He also said that those few people from his church will sometimes ask him what song he’s playing and are really excited or impressed when they are told that it’s his original work. Garcia said he feels that people enjoy what he plays, he even gets asked when they’ll be able to hear the whole song.
Although music is an extremely important part of his life now, Garcia wasn’t always very musical.
“When I was younger I would draw a lot more than I did play music,” he said. “Growing up, my main hobby was drawing and whatnot. I didn’t really get interested in music until six or seven years ago.”
Though Garcia primarily focuses on music, his passions aren’t limited to that. He also finds interest in filmmaking.
Garcia has goals to finish up one of his own songs and use it to make an original film and may do some music videos in the future, he said. At times, Garcia will collaborate with other filmmakers at school and in the community and make music for their upcoming work.
“The films that I’ve done in the past were more like films that just show the world. I did this film two years ago, it was me going into downtown Seattle kind of filming the nightlife and I put music to it… There was no dialogue and nothing scripted in that film, it was just a film that was meant to be pretty,” he said.
Garcia has done films for school as well, showing a bit of humor with a script and story. These were a lot different from films he has done outside of school, where he likes to show the world.
Garcia has posted the Seattle video online, but generally doesn’t show his films to the world, much like his music. He has recently used the Seattle film to apply for scholarships.
Garcia is looking forward to working in the recording industry, but he thinks he may continue to do film as a hobby.
Garcia is planning on going to college in Colorado at the University of Denver next year to major in recording and music engineering. He wants to get the degree in order to ensure him a job in the music industry.
He said that getting a college degree in music production will make him a lot more qualified to work in a recording studio.
“I really want to work at a recording studio because the process of recruiting people, recording, making music, is really cool, and so getting paid to record music for other people – that’s like my dream job. I plan on really sticking with the music field in the future,” Garcia said.