Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Up to Speed

CJ has had 8 gigs to date (over the last 9 months). It is worth noting that the Pixies played their 11th show EVER on Feb 27, 1988 in Amsterdam...as in...on world tour. And their first show ever was on Oct 31, 1986. Their 8th show was 10/03/1987...just about a year after their first.

Now, granted, they prepared for much, much longer for that first show than we did for ours (we had a month to prep...wiki says they formed the band in January 86 or slightly thereafter...giving them 10 months of prep for the first show) and they were, of course, writing original songs rather than copying from someone else. But it is kind of surprising to me how few shows they played early on...and how quickly they went on a real tour. Now yes...they got "discovered"...and had to put together an album (a serious demo with studio time, really) early on. I imagine though that they probably were rehearsing 2, 3, 4...or more times a week. It's just surprising that, after they finally played that first show...that shows were so sparse for the first year and a quarter.

It's just interesting.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Pick or Not To Pick

I've been sliding along for almost 10 months acting as the Kim Deal in a Pixies tribute band and playing the bass with my fingers. Purist would note that Kim Deal plays bass with a pick (the green ones with the little turtles on them in fact). I was suprised to find that my bandmates had made no note of this until last night, when it suddenly seemed like a big deal. And there was some disbelief that I didn't know how to play with a pick...or that I might play guitar without a pick.

I am a mostly self-taught musician. When I picked up the guitar and the bass in middle school for the first time, I played neither with a pick. I'm not sure if this is because 1) there were no picks laying around our house or 2) I was also playing cello at the time, which even when plucked does not use a pick. Fingers seemed natural.

In the early '90s I got somewhat serious about playing guitar, but I still didn't use a pick. I partly played fingerstyle, which by definition, does not use a pick (except sometimes a thumb pick)...but when I strummed I just formed my hand into a pick-like shape sans pick. At the time I wasn't performing and volume was not a concern...so this worked just fine.

I probably first was introduced to using a pick through the mandolin, which is nearly impossible to play without one. I had all but forgotten this fact until just now. Twelve-string guitar is the same way.

But the pick made headway in my house when I bought my first electric guitar, which was probably about 4 years ago or so now. I don't think you can really play an electric without a pick. I was also singing and playing for other people more often, and so I started playing acoustic guitar with a pick too. I'm still not very good at doing anything with it except strumming...though now that I remember the whole mandolin thing it makes me wonder how I managed to play fast fiddle tunes on a mando with a pick. The answer I suspect is..."not well".

I suppose that I overstated my case last night when I insisted that I never played with a pick...not even guitar. But it is true that I didn't play guitar with a pick for the first 20 or so years that I played, and that the pick still feels weird when I do use it. I still can't properly flatpick a melody line, though I might be able to eek out the passing bass notes to a chord progression.

I've never played the bass with a pick, though. When I picked up bass in 2003 I started by playing with my thumb...but quickly figured out this was super lame...and switched to a two finger method. I never gave it much thought after that. I developed technique without any conscious thought. I've noticed recently that I mute the strings with the opposite finger after I strike. I never realized I was doing that, but it allows me to play more staccato than otherwise possible.

When the Pixies thing came up, I looked into using a pick right around the time that we learned U-Mass...cause she was getting a tone that I just couldn't reproduce without the pick. It was really hard for me though, and since no one else seemed to notice or care, I gave up. I put a pick in my bass case, though...just in case.

And so last night it came up that my intro to Debaser is muddy...and of course it is. Playing fingerstyle is just way more legato than with a pick.

I went and took a look today at Deal's technique...and she seems to only pick with downstrokes and to anchor her pinky finger on the bottom string. The downstroke only thing seems a little primitive...and surprises me coming from a guitar player...but it is certainly easier than playing down/up. It feels like a bad habit to pick up...down stroke only...but it would be faster to learn to do that.

I think that I will likely stick with playing by finger style for most things, cause I frankly prefer the sound and I think it is easier to play that way. But I might try to use the pick just on Debaser and U-Mass and other songs where it seems to matter more.

This is all very ironic because the bass player in one of my other bands (who is way better than me on bass) is forever lamenting that he wants to learn to play without a pick like "a real bass player."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pixies Bass Fakebook

This is probably not ready for prime time yet, but I feel like it might never be ready...or at least not for a long time (like 6 months from now) and I'd like to have access online.

So here it is...draft 12/21/2010 of the Pixies Bass Fakebook (pdf format). All the bass tabs for every Pixies song ever recorded (plus one that was never formally recorded). It's 88 songs. Lyrics too.

It isn't quite ready for prime time for a couple of reasons...one is clunky formatting. I'm fighting with Word over sections and styles and such. The second is that not all of the songs are finished. About half of them are finished and checked for accuracy. The rest are in process. A process that will involve me learning all 40 or so of them. Which will take a bit of time.

But it's still a darn good start for anyone with an interest. It's certainly light years ahead of the tab that I collected...all in one handy location.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And what about the bass...

Yeah. The bass. It isn't quite a neat and clean a story as the drums.

My first instrument was the chord organ when I was about 8 (1978). It was what was available in our house. I still regret that I was never forced to take piano lessons as a child. Maybe my parents didn't have the money or maybe it never occured to them. But when an 8 year old sits down at the crappy keyboard in your house without anyone prompting them to...you'd think this would point to piano lessons. But alas, I digress.

Before you knew it I was in middle school and starting the cello (1982). Why I chose the cello is embarrasing. My mom thinks it is because of the tv show "Fame" and Lori Singer. This is completely untrue. My interest in Fame came AFTER joining orchestra. Actually, I wanted to play french horn. I have no idea why. But I didn't want to be in marching band because I was afraid I'd get my period and bleed on my uniform and everyone would see. Neurosis. So I decided to go with orchestra instead. Violin was my first choice...but again...I was afraid I was too fat and would look dumb playing violin. So I picked cello so I could hide behind it. No joke. I've been messed up a long time.

I bring all this up because cello led to guitar and bass. I had a broken electric bass I trash picked and I'd goof with it because the finger spacing was similiar to cello. Shortly after taking up cello around 1982, I taught myself to play my dad's acoustic guitar from chord charts on pop music. All open first position chords.

I set the bass down for a good long time. Around 1994 I was asked to play cello in a bizarre rock/folk band as a kind of proxy bass. I was living with a professional bass player at the time, so at some point I picked up her electric bass and played it a few times, but it was pretty limited exposure. Somewhere along the line I figured out playing root notes.

In 2003 I accidentally joined The Motor Primitives on bass and played with them for about 7 months before kind of getting kicked out for someone better. We morphed into Pants del Fwego and I continued playing with them until around 2008. All that time I basically did nothing more but play the root, third, or fifth of the guitar chords. I never listened to any recordings of the songs we played. I never practiced outside rehearsal.

In December 2009 RS off handedly mentioned the Pixies tribute band idea after I begged him to led me play bass in the Escapists. I started learning Pixies songs in secret and found Kim Deal's 8th note root based style a perfect match to my limited skill set. By March we were a band, played out in April...and on it goes.

Some time in spring 2010 I took a bass class...and tried to start lessons. But both left me cold. It was like jumping in the deep end of music theory. I could see the value and I could follow along somewhat...but it made it quite a lot of work. Meanwhile I've managed to decifer 3/4 of the bass parts that the Pixies have. Clearly there is a gap between learning and doing here. Granted, Kim Deal isn't playing any greatly complicated bass lines...but she is doing something well that propels the music. And that's the kind of bass I like.

I'd like to get more serious on the bass, but I don't know if it will ever become a priority. Much of what I like about bass is that it is fun and not very stressful for me. There's less riding on you than in the drum throne. While I wouldn't want that to be my primary role...it's a nice break sometimes. It puts the fun back in playing music. It's relaxing instead of stressful.

While technically I've been playing bass off and on for about 28 years now...I guess I'd mark the "real" start as 7 years ago...and the "serious" start as a year ago. Though I'm not sure that I've actually HAD the serious start yet.

Still too much drum stuff to learn.

I will comment, though, that I read often about the benefits of drummers playing other instruments. I certainly value the time I've put in with other instruments when I'm playing drums. And I value the time spent in ensembles of all kinds when playing in bands. But the bass and the drums are certainly the most closely tied of the instruments in a band...and it is really useful to have some language with both when sitting in the opposite role.

5 Year Check In

So I bought my first drum kit on my way to Indiana for New Year's in December 2005. Stopped by Drums N Moore on my way out of town, saw a full kit with cymbals and hardware for about $400...and bought it on the spot. Had to haul it back home before continuing on to Indiana.

It was KIND of an impulse buy and kind of not. I've long had a habit of collecting cheap instruments...sometimes following up by learning to play them and sometimes not. I wasn't the kind of person who was into drums from a really young age. I just wasn't. I didn't constantly drum my fingers on tables and such. I'm not sure when I started to think about playing drums, but I remember wanting a drum kit when I lived in the attic on Willy Street around 1998 or so. I remember thinking it would fit just fine in the storage space next to my room.

A few years later the sweetie, after much arm twisting, bought me a cheapie electronic kit from Sam's club. A table top model, but it had foot pedals. As she expected, I never really learned to play the thing.

When I started playing with The Motor Primitives I started getting interested in drums, though I don't really know why. When the band morphed into Pants del Fwego I briefly considered moving to drums...then decided it better to stick with bass and learn how to "really" play...which, ahem...I have yet to actually do.

It must have been in fall 2004 that we went to the Experience Music Project in Seattle and I sat behind a real drum kit and learned the basic rock beat and a reggae beat. I was kind of a goner after that. I bought my house in fall 2005 and before I knew it I was buying that kit at Drums N Moore "on a whim." I certainly hadn't planned it or researched it. But there I was...led by a current of pent up want.

Given my history, there were good odds that the kit would sit in the basement never to be played. I think I was buoyed by the three free drum lessons that came with the kit. I liked my instructor and that single day at EMP (and year's of playing and listening to music, I suspect) had actually given me the skills to not feel like a total beginner. It didn't work out for me to continue with lessons, but I DID keep playing. Mostly I put on the Motor Primitives cds or Wingspan and played along. That's how I learned to play.

In summer 2006 I had a reality check that it was time I stopped waiting for other people to make my musical dreams happen and start taking responsibility. I started checking Craig's List for bands. I don't know why I thought playing in a band was the next step, since I barely could play a basic rock beat...but there it was. I hooked up with three stoner guys I would go on to call "The Sea Turtles" because they talked like the Turtle in Finding Nemo. They were a jam band...space rock...kind of outfit...and we didn't last long. Maybe four rehearsals. And then they just stopped showing up and never contacted me again.

Back to Craig's List and I hooked up with Jon in August. We added Michael in September and were gigging out as The Lollards by December. We practiced twice a week for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch, and by the time we disbanded in July 2007, we had a 22 song set, 16 of which were original tunes. We recorded a 5 song ep (supposed to be 6, but one got eaten by the recorder). I can't say we were that great musically (though I liked the songs). But it was a fantastic learning experience for me as a drummer AND as a gigging/recording musician. And we had a really good time.

Before The Lollards went down I had already gone back to the Craig's List well and hooked up with what would become Shanghai Party Boss. We started practicing in late summer and gigging in September 2007. We recorded a full length record in May 2008 and I was out of the band by August.

After that I had a real coming to Jesus moment. I didn't feel good about my skills and was tired of feeling that way. In December I signed up to start taking lessons, which I stuck with for a year and a half. I tried to practice every day for most of that time for 1-3 hours a day (outside rehearsals). In February 2009 Seven Stone Weaklings came together on a whim and helped me build back up my confidence.

In fall 2010 I joined The Drain.

Along the way there's been a dozen or so non-starter bands. Things that lasted one or two or ten rehearsals and then fell apart. Most of which I never got an explanation about or any kind of closure. Maybe half a dozen "almost" auditions too. Perhaps 20 or more things that never went past one email. People are hard to deal with and people make up bands. I almost always take it personally and it almost always probably has very little to do with me. I feel blessed to have settled into the three bands I currently occupy (the third on bass, which is another story all together).

This past summer I bought a second kit and upgraded my hardware, cymbals, and snare. It's all still pretty low grade...but many grades above where I was.

So here I stand 5 years into playing the drums. In many ways I feel like things didn't get serious until after I left SPB...but the whole period has been part of the process. I still don't have much confidence in my abilities, often fed by petty people and their thoughtless comments. But I really have come a pretty far way in 5 years. I feel like I'm on the edge of another period of intense study...but you can never tell about those things until you can look back on it.

A couple of Saturdays ago I sat down with the first Motor Primitives album, something I hadn't tried in a very, very long time. I was surprised that playing along to it kind of bored me. And that, as much as anything is a sign of growth...as a drummer and in many other ways.

Ironically, I'm feeling lately like the only way to really advance is to kind of stop worrying about what other people think or say. Most of it doesn't amount to much. The only standard I need to meet is my own...and if I meet that or work hard towards meeting it...other people will be impressed by default. And if they aren't...well...they weren't to begin with...so I'm no worse for the wear.

Groove Essentials

Started working on Groove Essentials Vol 1 last night. I bought Vol 1 and 2 in playalong format this week. I assumed, wrongly, that the cds included would feature each groove played once with and once without drums. No dice. There are no drum tracks at all on the cds. Essentially...if you want to know what it sounds like...they want you to buy the dvd. So I was regretting not getting that at the same time in a package (cheaper). But I didn't think I'd watch the dvds.

But working through the rock grooves in volume 1 last night wasn't as bad as I thought. The recordings really give you the FEEL of the groove, so you almost don't actually need to hear someone playing it. And my reading skills are better than I thought maybe. Of course, I have no idea if I was getting it right.

Igoe is big on recording yourself and listening back, and I suppose I ought to do that more. Now, with the Zoom, this is an easy matter...something I hadn't considered when I bought it.

Moving into funk, r&b, jazz, and world beats, I think the dvd will be more critical. I'll wait and see if Santa brings one or both of the dvds...and if not, pick up at least vol 1 after the first of the year. I do think it will help.

I also like the discussions of each groove at the bottom of the page. I like Igoe's "voice".

It's SO easy to get stuck in what you know and to keep coming back to your signature moves. I have some and I don't know where they came from, but they are there and hard to avoid. Playing to "new" grooves it quickly becomes obvious the things that I need to work on. High hat foot...off beat bass stuff...ride/hat patterns that vary (not just straight 8ths or 16ths). It's exciting and terrifying. There's just SUCH a big world out there to learn. I've come REALLY far in my 5 years on the throne...but there's SO far yet to go.

Monday, December 13, 2010

SSW, 12/11/10, WYOU Fundraiser

I was a little grumpy about having to do this gig, but it turned out pretty great. The folks at YOU are pretty awesome. I feel badly for them that their funding is in the crapper and they got screwed out of their good slot on the dial.

It's weird to watch yourself playing on a tv monitor, though.

Gig went pretty good, I goofed a couple of minor things, but no biggie. We had in studio support from 3/4 of the band "wives" and fabulous volunteer camerafolk. Funny little intro by Ed Sullivan impersonator...he did a funny little thing about drug references and mistaking us for being "stoned" weaklings (Doors tip o hat...nice). And we pledge rapped the crap out of that thing. Hit my knuckle on the rim during sound check...bled like a mother. Been a while since I've bled on the drums. I've missed it. And we managed to load out before the blizzard hit. Bonus.

Setlist:
1. NEW ROSE
2. DANCE (4X) TO THE RADIO
3. TEENAGE KICKS
4. THE WAY I LOVE YOU
5. HATE & WAR
6. I HATE THE RICH
7. BOSCOBEL BREAKOUT
8. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
9. SUSPECT DEVICE
10. WARSAW (dropped for time)
11. TWO PINTS OF LAGER AND A PACKET OF CRISPS PLEASE
12. O' COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

Back to the Woodshed

I bought Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials Playalong 1 & 2 and they are on their way. Tried to play some of the patterns off the poster this weekend and they are hard, which is depressing. I'm hoping that getting the playalong with cds will make it all make sense. I think mastering some of these grooves needs to be a prereq for me applying to go to the Drummer's Collective 5 day intensive. I think I'm giving up on that for this year...but have an eye towards doing it in 2012. And I may need that long just to prep for the audition. But no sense in going until I'm ready.

Also pulled out the Green Day playalong yesterday. I was horrified the other day at how bad my Green Day has gotten, so I went back to basics. After proper warmup and a little time to reacquaint with the patterns...it isn't as bad as I thought. But I'm definitely out of shape.

I really haven't been practicing properly for months now. I got caught up in learning So Dang Yang tunes...and then The Drain...and while both were valuable and important exercises...I really got to get back to basics. Namely independence and playing things outside what I'm used to. I think the Igoe stuff is really going to help with that. But I gotta put the time in.

Feeling better about The Drain. I had stopped practicing on my own for a few weeks. Hit it relatively hard this weekend and feel like I'm back where I was for the show at The Dane. Gotta keep at it. Also trying to add fleurishes that I had skipped when I first learned the tunes...and that's a bit of a one step forward, two steps back process.

Anyway...while it is depressing when things are hard and it makes me not want to play...I ALWAYS feel better after a strong practice session. And practicing every day or every other day for an hour or two always makes me feel better afterwards too.

I don't know why it is that it is SO hard for me to force myself to do things that ultimately make me feel better (practice, exercise). I really am an object at rest that is hard to get started moving. And then it spirals into just feeling terrible. Worthless. Stiff. Lame. Got to push a little bit every day in order to stay feeling good about myself. So hard to remember.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Opinions...Every Has One

Music snobbery seems to know no bounds. I am forever surprised by how matter of factly someone will tell you this or that band sucks...this or that musician...this or that song. I'm the first to admit that I have a pretty high tolerance for...well most things. That is to say...I don't parse things with too fine a comb. Examples...I don't care what guitar pedal you use...or probably what cymbal.

A visual:

The snob's tolerance for "good"
>_<

My tolerance for "good enough"
>__________________________ <
or maybe even
> ______________________________________________________<

And that goes for most things.

I'm not a person of subtleties. I can't see/hear them. I suppose this doesn't make me a very good musician. But as long as it doesn't bother me or those immediately around me I'm not sure it matters.

But man there are people that can tell you exactly what's wrong with Joe Blow's guitar part in measure 37 of a certain tune. How it's out of tune slightly or the effect is off or the timing's wrong or...whatever.

Now, I'm sure there are people out there who have the technical background and skill to REALLY do this. But I get alot of it from people in the general population, which just seems so much less likely that they'd have the ability to get it right. And the people who actually really HAVE that skill are probably off being famous musicians or producers and they probably don't have time to complain about shit they aren't working on.

And so it exhausts me a bit...the snobs.

If I like something and you don't...or vice versa...it doesn't mean you're right and I'm wrong. It's an opinion.

Drum Status

I haven't been putting in the time on the drums that I ought to. There was a little rush in October and November to learn The Drain set...and now I've settled into laziness. I rarely practice SSW songs anymore either. We're two years into existance and the tunes weren't complicated to begin with...and so I've felt it enough to play them with the band once a week at rehearsal. I've started to slip into that with The Drain too...and I'm really not ready to do that yet. I ought to be playing these songs every day...or at least every day that I don't have another band rehearsal...so about 4 days a week outside of rehearsal. And I ought to be working out the kinks in some of them. There's a few that I'm still barely flying by the seat of my pants to pull off and that isn't acceptable. And there's a handful yet to learn too.

And beyond band stuff, I haven't been practice general skills at all. Just total laziness. I found out that there's an audition for the Drummer Collective 5 day intensive and I immediately fell into despair. The audition requires the following:
1. Technique: Single stroke roll, double stroke roll, paradiddles: start each slowly and evenly and increase speed to fastest point.
2. Styles: Maximum of two minutes for each example: rock - funk - swing.
3. Reading: placed in integrated reading program based on a day-one evaluation by a faculty member
It's a good slap in the face. I'm not ready for that kind of audition. And so I should keep my $800 in my pocket until I AM ready. And so that presents a goal...be ready for a real audition.

Last night I took the Tommy Igoe Groove Essentials Vic Firth poster down off the band space wall and put it up on the living room wall...directly across from where I sit to watch tv. I have my fancy HQ Real Feel practice pad and a bass pedal set up here as well along with a metronome. I have another Vic Firth poster with rudiments already set up in this room and have found that, while I haven't been practicing them religiously, I stare at it enough that I've picked things up from it. It's a conversation piece anyway...which gets me talking and thinking about it and attempting the more obscure rudiments from time to time. It's far past time when I ought to have learned the basic styles of drumming. EN certainly gave me an introduction to all of them...but I never REALLY sat down and burned it all into my brain. The repositioning of the poster is a subtle step in the right direction.

I feel my confidence slipping...and the only cure for that in the past has been steady, hard work. It's not unlike how the only way to feel better about your body is to eat right and exercise...but feeling bad about yourself prevents you from doing those things. It's self sabotage. It's your own fault. And the only cure is to press through the discomfort and put the hours in. You can't force yourself to feel better about these things...but if you put in the work you turn around and one day you just DO feel better. I need to get my head back in the game.

The Obsession

I'm not sure that it has ever occurred to me that it might be fun to learn every song a certain artist ever performed/recorded. Well, maybe I thought it would be fun (ala Poi Dog Pondering or the Indigo Girls back in the day), but I'm sure I never thought it POSSIBLE. Until CJ came along. Now it's the central preoccupation of my life. It reminds me of a John Wesley Harding quote that goes something like "I was afraid of dying and had way too many songs." I'm afraid this will all end before we get through the catalog. And so I/we press on as quickly as possible.

Tonight we are reviewing the songs learned to date (since March 2010)...which I believe to be 43 songs (40 of which we have played live for an audience):

Alec Eiffel
Allison
Bone Machine
Break My Body
Brick Is Red
Broken Face
Cactus
Caribou
Crackity Jones
Dead
Debaser
Dig For Fire
Down To The Well
Ed Is Dead
Gigantic
Gouge Away
Here Comes Your Man
Hey
Holiday Song (The)
I Bleed
I'm Amazed
Into the White
Isla De Encanta
I've Been Tired
La La Love You
Levitate Me
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Mr Grieves
Nimrod's Son
No 13 Baby
Oh My Golly
River Euphrates
Sad Punk
Silver
Something Against You
Subbacultcha
Tame
There Goes My Gun
Tony's Theme
U-Mass
Vamos
Wave Of Mutilation
Where Is My Mind?

And that leaves 45 tunes (8 of which are non-album covers that one could technically argue aren't their songs at all, though recordings exist of them playing the tunes...excluding these leaves 37 tunes...but it's a slippery slope as there are 4 more that are technically covers as well but are either on albums or iconic to the band...further exclusion would leave 33...but I can't see that we can leave out Cecilia Ann, Head On, and In Heaven and call ourselves comprehensive...Theme from NARC being the 4th in this category). We could further restrict by saying we're only going to learn the albums and no b-sides/rarities...but that REALLY seems like cheating and I won't have it:

Ain't That Pretty at All (cover)
All Over The World
Ana
Bailey's Walk
Bam Thwok
Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons
Blown Away
Boom Chicka Boom
Born in Chicago (cover)
Build High
Cecilia Ann (album-based cover)
Dancing The Mantra Ray
Distance Equals Rate Times Time
Evil Hearted You (cover)
Hang on to Your Ego (cover)
Hang Wire
Havalina
Head On (album-based cover)
I Can't Forget (cover)
In Heaven (SORT of a cover)
Is She Weird
I've Been Waiting For You (cover)
Letter to Memphis
Lovely Day
Make Believe
Manta Ray
Motorway to Roswell
Navajo Know
Palace of the Brine
Planet of Sound
Rock A My Soul
Rock Music
Santo
Space
Stormy Weather
The Happening
The Thing
Theme from Narc (SORT of a cover)
Trompe le Monde
Velouria
Velvety Instrumental Version
Wave of Mutilation
Weird At My School
Wild Honey Pie (cover)
Winterlong (cover)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CJ, High Noon, 12/4/2010

We played Dane101's holiday celebration along with Black Crows, Pretenders, and Prince tribute bands. Isthmus gave us a back-handed pick of the week...kind of implying the tribute band thing is getting old.

Tell that to the people. Cause they love it.

Pretty full house. CJ walked away with $280...or $70 a person. Other than shows with guarantees...I think that's the most I've ever brought home...especially for what was for us a short set.

I was in the groove, and other than my voice cracking at the start of Gigantic, I can't say I'm unhappy in any way with my performance. Nailed vocal on Bone Machine. Dig for Fire got off to a rough start, but we pulled it together. EH had various drum equipment tragedies...and I feel for him...but I didn't notice it affecting his performance at all. (EDIT: Future me here back-filling important detail. I used someone else's Aguilar AG500 and GS412 bass amp stack at this show...which was really expensive, powerful, and nice...but not as nice in my opinion as the Ampeg BA600 combo amp I would use six months later.)

I had plenty of sleep the night before, a slice of pizza around 9pm, and way too much beer. Not a model show health-wise, but it worked out alright.

Black Crows and Prince smoked the stage. Dare I say, though they were perfectly good musically, the Pretenders group was the weakest link? I think they were maybe a bad match for the rest of us genre-wise. Of course, I thought that would be true of the Black Crows and really...they kicked ass. But I could also just be a bitter old bitch and being petty. In any case...there was no drama and I didn't even feel self-conscious...which is many steps forward in life. Time truly does heal all wounds...even the self-inflicted dumb ass ones.

But enough sub-text. CJ is hitting the wood shed over the holidays to reinforce the 43 song list of knowns. We shan't be booking again until the new year.

Set list (from memory...might need to correct):
Debaser
Bone Machine
Wave of Mutilation
Alec Eiffel
Nimrod's Son
Here Comes Your Man
Dig for Fire
Allison
Gigantic [dropped last two times through outtro for time]
Hey [voluntarily dropped this from set so that Prince band would have more time]
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Where is my mind?
Gouge Away

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Learning By Ear

Our goddaughter's dad is taking guitar lessons and learning to play songs by ear. It reminded me that I AM capable of this. I've learned most of the Pixies songs by starting with bass or guitar tab and correcting it to what I think is right. It seems a little like cheating, but I feel like correcting the tab and memorizing the songs...plus trying to master the vocal parts while playing...is challenge and reward enough. Plus, at the breakneck pace we've gone at, it would have just taken me too long to learn everything by ear. I did purposely learn the very first Pixies song I learned to play by ear...Nimrod's Son...mostly to convince myself that I still could do it and that I still knew how to play the bass.

But I'm coming to the end of the line with the Pixies songs. To be certain, I've still got half the catalog...around 40 songs...to learn. But I've gone ahead and have gotten tab for most all of those and am even beginning to work through correcting the tab. I won't be memorizing the remaining songs any time soon, but I'm setting myself up to have written music for all of them so that when the band decides to add a new song that I can just whip out the music and start memorizing the song.

All that's left to write out (though many still need correcting or compressing...ie taking a 4 page tab and converting it to its basic repeated parts that can be printed on a single sheet) are the songs for which I can't find any tab at all. Not bass nor guitar tab.

These are the remaining tunes.
Boom Chicka Boom (early rarity, not actually sure if this is a cover or an original)
Video is from one of their first shows (October 31, 1986), I believe the very first.


Theme from Narc (sort of a cover, its an interpretation of a video game song)


Ain't That Pretty At All (Warren Zevon cover)


Born in Chicago (Paul Butterfield Band cover...this is your basic blues tune, so all I REALLY need to do is figure out what key it's in and then it'll fall into place)


Best get crackin'!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Steinberger

This is the kind of thing that only a true geek cares about. In this post I tried to put up a photo of all of Kim Deal's basses. I couldn't find a photo of one, the Steinberger headless, and that kind of drove me nuts. I finally figured out today that the weird white bass she is playing in the Brixton Academy gig videos from 1991 is indeed the Steinberger.
I finally saw a wide enough shot to see that this bass is headless.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kim Deal on Playing the Bass

I've been trying to find this article online for some time now and it magically popped up yesterday.

"The Pixies' Kim Deal Turns A Modest Approach Into A Big, Big Sound", Bass Player, November 2004 by Bill Leigh

"No chops" demanded the Boston-area MUSICIANS WANTED ad seeking a female bassist with vocals. It also mentioned an odd combination of preferred influences: folk trio Peter, Paul &Mary and punk rockers Hüsker Dü. "I thought that was funny," grins Kim Deal, recalling how her response to that 1986 listing led to the formation of the Pixies, a band that so inspired a generation of alt-rockers that 12 years after their last album and breakup, the recently reunited group's tour dates have been among the hottest tickets of 2004.

"I think they were really looking to meet rock chicks."

"No!" replies Kim's twin sister, Kelley, her bandmate in the Breeders, the side project turned successful main focus after the Pixies' demise. "You think?"

"Joey once told me so," laughs Kim. "Little did they know they'd end up with a married woman!"

Serially puffing smokes at Kelley's kitchen table, Kim simultaneously exudes a relaxed ease and a slightly nervous creative energy, not unlike her complex contribution to the Pixies' distinctive sound. On song after song, Kim pumps out picked eighth-note lines with a top-of-the-beat steadiness that both upholds and upends the jagged phrasing and bipolar dynamics of vocalist/guitarist Charles "Black Francis" Thompson, guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering. At the same time, she counters Francis's frantic whispers and screams with her own bright, almost girlish vocal harmonies and leads. The mixture brings as much earthiness and charm to the Pixies onstage as it did on their five albums, the first two of which credited Kim only as Mrs. John Murphy. "I lost my identity," she explains, smirking. "Not really. I was pretending that I lost my identity."

Deal had come to Boston with her then-husband, Mr. Murphy, from Dayton, Ohio, where she now lives a few neighborhoods away from her sister. It was in Dayton, as a 13-year-old, that Kim taught herself guitar by picking through her dad's tablature books. In a few years Kim and Kelley were performing covers and originals in bars they were too young to be in.
Soon after arriving in Boston, Kim answered the ad that led to the Pixies, but she hadn't really played bass before. She laughs, "I probably said, 'I play guitar but I'm sure I can play the bass-it's only got four strings!'"

The Pixies used their relative inexperience to develop a musical style that deliberately departed from the Spandex-wrapped rock chops prevalent in the late '80s-just like the ad said. "We weren't really good players back in the day," notes Kim. "And I think that's a good thing." Another ingredient in the Pixies recipe was a conscious eschewing of rock's blues bloodline as a way to avoid clichés. "How many friends do you have that pick up a guitar and start playing the blues?" she complains. "And I don't mean the rhythm of the blues-that stuff's cool. I'm talking about those little pussy two-and-a-half-second licks. Aaarggh, they make me cringe!

"But I guess it's more than just 'No blues licks,'" she continues, trying to clarify the Pixies philosophy. "It's 'Nothing standard.'" Odd-length phrases, strange lyrical themes, and a do-it-yourself attitude was the result, and Deal's own creative imprint was always there, from her bass-craft and vocal contribution on Pixies albums like Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, and Trompe le Monde to "Bam Thwok," the catchy, download-only Pixies ditty Kim wrote earlier this year.

Today the 43-year-old not only has years of bass-playing experience, she also has the knowledge that there's something about her playing approach that has inspired others to play and learn bass. "I tell you, for what I don't play on the bass, I can actually hear people making those same decisions on records. And people say nice things; [Concrete Blonde's] Johnette Napolitano told me she started playing bass again because of me. Even guys; they think, If she can do it, I can do it. That's a good thing, and if girls think the same way, it's really good. I think a lot of people say they learned to play bass because of me because there are plenty of songs on the records that are pretty easy to follow. It's not like I started with Rush songs."

Pixies songs have such a range of dynamics. How does that play out in your bass work?Not much. I don't play any harder or quieter. When you're building a song that has dynamics changes in it, the last thing you want is for people to actually play quietly on the quiet part. You just take stuff out. You build the song so the part is quieter; you don't play quieter. At least I wouldn't.

So it's a matter of layering.Exactly. As a bass player, I'm either in or out. The drums are either in or out; I don't think David is bashing any harder. He might use more cymbals on something that's louder, though.

You excel at one of the harder things to do as a bass player: to play eighth-notes really steadily. I am good at that, aren't I? It's not easy to do. A lot of players lag behind. It's so irritating. And they're playing with their fingers, so they never really get a good attack at the top, and one hit is louder than the other.

When you started out, were there certain things you were listening to that helped you develop that kind of playing?Since we started in the late '80s, I think we had a Joy Division or a Cure-like keyboard bass thing going on. Mainly I knew what I didn't like. I didn't like going with the kick drum. There are songs I do that with, but they don't irritate me like bar bands where the bass is constantly going with the kick drum, even when it's supposed to be a rocking number. I knew I didn't want to do whatever that was.

So early on you were thinking about what kind of a bass player you wanted to be?I wasn't really thinking about me as a bass player-it was more like I couldn't participate in a band that's going to sound like those bands. I knew there was no possible way I could stand there and do that. I would quit. I'm not a musician like that.

So that meant deciding not to play with the kick drum?It was more of an automatic knee-jerk response. I didn't want to just go with the kick drum because that's what the bass is supposed to do.

But you chose not to go with the guitar, either . . . .Oh, you mean doing the heavy metal riff when they all go together? That kind of stupidness is sometimes kind of fun. There's one song we do, "Planet of Sound," where we do that. It's fun. But it's supposed to be dumb fun.

What is your approach on bass with the Pixies?To play eighth-notes-not always, but most of the time. We're not a dance band. It would be awful to try to play some sort of interesting, intricate rhythm over a 4/4 drumbeat with the hi-hat constantly on the eighth-note. The bass in Pixies is just glue; that's all it is. It's not supposed to be something else.

Both the Pixies and the Breeders seem to come from that "do what you can do" punk style of music making.I'm all about that. If I see somebody up there onstage who's just playing scales really good and showing their dexterity, it's like watching somebody type! It's not like I'm a sucker for a-melodic stuff, either, but if it sounds pretty good, I'm way more into that than the virtuosos.

Is it harder to achieve that sort of visceral, feeling-based thing the more you know about music?I swear, I think I've done a pretty good job of blocking all knowledge from me. I purposely have used a lot of restraint when it comes to theory. I've made sure I did not know that if I played a certain chord, that the 5th belongs there instead of the 7th. Maybe some geniuses can see that a certain note belongs there and then be able to choose not to use it, but that kind of knowledge might just block me. I feel like I'd get lazy if I knew the 5th was supposed to go there. I'd just holler out, "Yeah, it's a 5th," instead of waiting until they make a mistake on it and hearing it. You can hear when something sounds good. Even when it's theoretically wrong, it can still sound really super.

But unfortunately, because I don't know any of that theory, I would barely be able to jam on a blues gig. I would make as many mistakes as the notes I hit.

Do you ever write by jamming?I have, but it's not like jamming on a blues song. It's more somebody coming in with an idea-even if it's two chords together, or even a drum beat-and then you try to find a cool rhythm or something within that. But if I did the other thing, to jam, you almost have to declare what music you're going to be in and the writing is already done in a way. If you're jamming on a blues, you already know you're playing a blues song.

What was your first bass?I borrowed Kelley's bass. It was an Aria Cardinal series. I thought it was so cool because it was just a piece of plank wood or something. It was the weirdest-sounding bass. At first I was always like, I'm playing a dumb bass; it's not a Fender, so it's not cool. But then we played with My Bloody Valentine, and that band's bass player had an Aria Pro, too.

When you first started with the Pixies, how did you decide whether to play with a pick or your fingers?I played guitar with a pick, so I just naturally played the bass with a pick. It was so much easier. At the time I didn't even know bass players played with their fingers so much.

Have you played with your fingers since?Yeah, I can if I practice. There's some stuff on the Breeders' Title TK I played with my fingers. I played standup bass on some songs, too.

Have you taken lessons on upright?No. I just use a little piece of tape to mark things, and then I play my thing.

With the Breeders, though, you've mainly played guitar. Why did you decide not to play bass in the Breeders?Because I write with the guitar, it never occurred to me not to play what I just wrote. The first Breeders thing came out in 1989, and I had been a bass player only for three or four years, so it didn't really feel like my instrument. It still doesn't feel like my instrument.

It doesn't?No, but I think I'm good at it.

Why?I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm not a bass fanatic. Maybe because I'm so detached from it I can step back and look at the instrument. And maybe the bass is the type of instrument that sounds good when people have that attitude towards it. Slapping and popping and all that stuff can sometimes sound really good, but if your ego is only validated when you get a chance to show your skills, you can pretty much ruin a song if the song can't support that rhythmically or melodically. I want to sound good, but I have no desire to show my virtuosity on bass. When I pick up the bass, my ego isn't tied to an attention-grabbing bass part. The bass sound I like is more of a static, groovy thing. I like bass lines that maintain the rhythm of the song. There's other bass playing I like where it's a lot of lead, but the lead is still on the scale of the song.

Like who?Like John Entwistle from the Who. With him, there's a lot of lead playing-there's hardly any rhythm going on-because he's gathered so many notes along the way. There's a lot of movement. I like [Tom Petersson's] bass playing in Cheap Trick, too.

I think my bass playing with the Pixies does sound different. It was in the late '80s before the 808 thing was involved in a lot of stuff, so the bass had a normal, pretty low range that wasn't earthquake-low. It wasn't subsonic stuff. [Ed Note: The Roland TR-808 was a drum-machine whose low, resonant kick-drum sound has been used in a lot of hip-hop, dance, and techno music.]

What's your main bass today?My main bass is a Fender Precision, and I plug it into an Ampeg SVT. I also have an Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay; I try to swap onstage but there's just no time between songs. The Precision is coral-colored, a classic custom color. It's a '62 reissue.

When did you switch from the Aria?We were working with [producer] Gil Norton for Doolittle, and he looked at my Aria bass and was like, "Uh, no." So I had to go to Boston and buy a bass because he refused to record mine!

How did you record back then?I usually brought my Peavey Combo 300, and I think I had a Marshall. I always thought it was cool to have a Marshall bass amp, but it never sounded good. The first two records were the Combo 300 and the Aria bass. I'd have a DI in addition to the miked combo, so I'd have something thin and something thick.

Usually we did what I think most bands did in the late '80s: You all got in your iso booths and played all together, hoping to keep the rhythm tracks. You decided which drum track you wanted, did a couple of punch-ins if the bass needed it, and then started working on guitars, which was a bit of a bigger deal since guitar players are so concerned with their sound. And usually they're stuck with the worst mics in the stupidest booths.

Are you concerned with your sound?Not so much with the Pixies stuff, because I feel like I can't grow. I have to sound like the records. I'd love to play this Gibson Thunderbird I got-it's so gorgeous-but the tone is way too big and beautiful and round. It's just not the same.

Did you keep using the Precision after Doolittle?No. I got a Music Man StingRay for Bossanova because it was active and had a different sound. I was experimenting with bass sounds then. I used the StingRay as my main instrument live, too. I don't know why. I think probably because it was a little less country-sounding than the Fender. And then, for Trompe le Monde, we were doing a song in the studio and whatever bass I was using was out of tune high up on the neck, which was bothering Gil, so I went and got a Steinberger. I played it on one song; it was kind of okay because it had this weird, organ-y sound, which I liked but I was really embarrassed to play it. It's odd; there's no headstock. I don't know why they do that. People were riding me because I didn't have a headstock. But my tech, Tommy, made me a cardboard headstock for it-not to fool people, just to make me feel even stupider!

There was a long break between those albums and the current tour. When you first started rehearsing, what was it like playing these tunes again? It was weird. I'd been playing the bass a little, but it's different than playing it for seven hours in one day like when we were rehearsing. I had these big blisters. I thought I wasn't going to remember the parts, but my fingers were just moving! Muscle memory really did kick in. But it's strange to go back and forth from bass to guitar. I remember when I first started playing guitar after the Pixies, I'd plug in and think, This guitar sounds so high-endy! And-ouch!-I was breaking strings; you have to be so delicate with it. I really missed the bass then. I like playing the bass.

So you hit it pretty hard?Yeah, with a pick you've got to hit it hard.

Do you pick by the pickup?It depends. Usually farther up, but if I'm doing a muffle, I'll lay my hand on the bridge and my pick will end up back there. Or sometimes I'll go back farther, but I'm usually in the middle.

Do you keep the tone all the way on?Yeah. Playing with a pick, and using a Fender in the first place, you can pretty much leave the tone all the way up. With the StingRay I roll off the treble a little.

Do you tweak the EQ knobs a certain way?No, usually the bass tech will. I just need it to be on and reasonably up, and the front-of-house guy will figure it out. It's an SVT-you're going to get the same sound. There's no pedals; there's no outboard gear at all.

Any special picks?The green Dunlops with the little turtle on them.

How about strings?Whatever anybody puts on. Hopefully they're old. I can't take new strings. I think I have a set of Dean Markley Blue Steels.

How do you approach singing and playing bass?It's so hard. It was so much different from playing rhythm guitar and singing. I really had to practice. Since what I sing with the Pixies is usually not the lead melody line, it doesn't always start at the top of the four-count, so that makes it hard, too. Also, for some reason, all of our guitar parts are kind of odd-maybe it's because of our "no blues" rule. So especially live, if we're playing on a stage where I can't hear the band, my bass is just going to sound like [makes a muffled, whooshing sound], and then Charles's guitar is going to sound like [makes a buzzing sound], and then I have the drummer. So the only pure note I have onstage to clue me in on the pitch is Joe's guitar [imitates smearing, twangy, double-string guitar bends]. So yeah, that was hard live. I'm better live now because I wear one earplug. But it was really odd-especially starting "Gigantic." Whatever I was singing would work, until the introduction of an actual note, that is.

As a songwriter, have you ever performed solo? I've never played a show solo. I would feel ridiculous. Why should I put that on anyone? I wouldn't want to make someone sit there for even five minutes. Maybe if I was doing covers, I would faithfully sing covers, but . . . .

This might be evidence that deep down you actually have more of a bass player's personality than a guitar player's.Absolutely-and whatever that guitar player thing is, I don't think it works well on bass. It's bad enough to do all that stuff on lead guitar, but on bass it's like, Oh, hell no. It's the same thing with funk players. Most of funk is playing where the holes are, anyway, so you have to be restrained enough to have the holes. And even bassists who you think are virtuosos, like reggae musicians, if you listen, there's not a lot of variation. They could play the shit out of it, but they use restraint. And isn't that what makes somebody good on an instrument, no matter what it is?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Logo

I don't think I've posted this here yet. It is my first successful, if slightly jerry-rigged, attempt at using Adobe Illustrator. It is also the first time I've come up with a decent logo concept...even if it is derivative...literally.

The original:


My take:

Friday, November 19, 2010

CJ Videos

I posted a link at the original show report, but here are the videos for the ENTIRE May 19th CJ show at the High Noon Saloon in the order that the songs were played. The videos turned out great and, with the exception of my vocal on Bone Machine (sadly, the first song), I'm pretty happy with my performance. The rest of the band sounds great, except of course, on Levitate Me, the encore, which we really hadn't finished working on yet and had not intended to play.










Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Drum School Short Courses

Yesterday I got to thinking about intensive drum training courses. I don't want to go back to school full time and the whole private lesson thing...though valueable...doesn't provide quite the same sense of accomplishment as going to school. The middle ground would be a short, intensive, course.

It looks like the most of obvious choice is the short course intensives at The Drummer's Collective in New York City. They offer 5 day and 2, 3, or 4 week courses. The 5 day starts at $800 (plus room and board, which they do not provide). Really not a terrible price for such a thing. In fact, it makes paying $400 to go to Bonnaroo seem like a total waste of time.

The other main option is The Musician's Institute in LA, but it seems that their shortest course is 10 weeks...which is too long to be away.

There's also the Berklee Percussion Festival, but it is a little more expensive. It's 5 days, June 20-24, 2011.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tab and Assembling a Fake Book

So this Pixies thing has meant that, for the first time in my life, I've been seriously invested in learning a cover song exactly the way it was played by the original artist. Well...to be precise...in learning 88 songs that way.

The process has been a combination of looking up bass or guitar tab online, listening to recordings (studio and live), watching videos, and discussion with my bandmates. Typically the tab is a nice place to start, but it is usually wrong in some way.

So, in the process I've been assembling a personal fake book for the bass parts for all the Pixies songs. I think it is more accurate than what is currently available online. I'm thinking of cleaning it up, once I've got all 88 songs mastered, and putting it together in a format that I can share. Given that it's all copy righted music, I'm not looking to make money on it. But it was is a labor of love that feels worth preserving.

There's no rush, because we're probably six months away from completing the catalog (my personal goal anyway, don't know when or if the band thinks we'll get through everything). At this point I'm dedicated to learning all of the songs whether or not the band ever plays them all. I'm on a mission. I think that I'm going to start being a bit more careful in the formatting of the fakebook, though, making sure to preserve key bits and keeping things orderly. Then, when it's done, clean the whole thing up one last time and then either print it up at a copy shop, or maybe via Lulu or other outlet (again, only making it available for my personal use...not published with an ISBN and not for sale at a profit to others...I might make a link somewhere that people can buy copies from me at the cost of production and distribute them that way). Might even be worth prettying up with pics and such. Could be a fun project.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Progress

CJ had its first rehearsal March 25, 2010 I believe. I first was aware of the potential of the band forming in January 2010 (prior to that knew nothing about The Pixies). Here's where I am at now:

Songs learned ("learned" means I can play it and have it memorized):
Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons (band hasn't learned it yet)
Bone Machine
Break My Body
Brick Is Red
Broken Face
Cactus
Caribou
Crackity Jones
Dead
Debaser
Down To The Well
Ed Is Dead
Gigantic
Gouge Away
Here Comes Your Man
Hey
I Bleed
I'm Amazed
Into the White
Isla De Encanta
I've Been Tired
La La Love You
Levitate Me
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Mr Grieve
Nimrod's Son
No 13 Baby
Oh My Golly
River Euphrates
Sad Punk
Silver
Something Against You
Subbacultcha
Tame
The Holiday Song
There Goes My Gun
Tony's Theme
U-Mass
Vamos
Wave Of Mutilation
Where Is My Mind?
TOTAL: 41 songs

In process (know how to play but not memorized yet):
Alec Eiffel
Allison
Dig For Fire
Head On (cover)
Winterlong (cover)
TOTAL: 5 songs

Still to Learn:
Ain't That Pretty at All (cover)
All Over The World
Ana
Bailey's Walk
Bam Thwok
Blown Away
Boom Chicka Boom
Born in Chicago (cover)
Build High
Cecilia Ann
Dancing The Mantra Ray
Distance Equals Rate Times Time
Evil Hearted You (cover)
Hang on to Your Ego (cover)
Hang Wire
Havalina
I Can't Forget (cover)
In Heaven (cover)
Is She Weird
I've Been Waiting For You (cover)
Letter to Memphis
Lovely Day
Make Believe
Manta Ray
Motorway to Roswell
Navajo Know
Palace of the Brine
Planet of Sound
Rock A My Soul
Rock Music
Santo
Space
Stormy Weather
The Happening
The Thing
Theme from Narc (cover)
Trompe le Monde
Velouria
Velvety Instrumental Version
Wave of Mutilation (UK)...don't think bass varies significantly from original
Weird At My School
Wild Honey Pie (cover)
TOTAL: 42 songs

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kim Deal's Basses

So I play a Yamaha ATT Plus M bass:

Mine is lime green and a cheap knock off of some famous bass...I think Billy Sheehan's Yamaha Attitude Bass:

Don't know...looks more like a Fender Precision (P) Bass knock off to me. That's what I thought it was when I bought it. And I still don't really know who Billy Sheehan is (well NOW I do). I DO actually have a second bass...but it is also a P bass knockoff (or perhaps an Attitude knockoff)...only crappier (a Lotus).

So how does that compare to what Kim Deal plays? Both are closest, I think, to her 62 Fender reissue (though much crappier). See below.

From Kim Deal Wiki:

Bass guitars
Kim Deal generally plays four-string solid-body bass guitars and always uses a pick particularly the "green Dunlops with the little turtle on them" [28], although since the Pixies' reunion she has also been using custom green Dunlops with "KIM" written on them. She prefers having old strings on a bass.[28]

Aria Pro II Cardinal Series — The Pixies' first bass belonged to Kelley,[28] and is heard on Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and seen on the Town & Country live video. It later reappeared in the Kelley Deal 6000.

1962 Fender Precision Reissue[27] — Acquired for use on Doolittle on Gil Norton's insistence.[28] It appears in the video for "Here Comes Your Man". On the Bossanova album, the Precision was used on "Dig for Fire" for its "lazier, growlier sound" that was "not as boingy-boingy-sproingy".[27]


Music Man Stingray — Added in time for Bossanova "because it was active and had a different sound" and became her main live bass "because it was a little less country-sounding than the Fender".[28] The instrument was afterwards played by Josephine Wiggs in The Breeders and Luis Lerma in The Amps.

Steinberger headless (but full-bodied, two-cutaway) bass — Bought during the recording of Trompe Le Monde because the other basses were out of tune on the higher frets. Deal described it as having a "weird, organ-y sound".[28]
[no photo...edit 12/1/2010...see below and here, this is the bass played on the Brixton shows 1991...white with black edging]

Gibson Thunderbird — more recently, her favorite bass that she did not use on the Pixies reunion, feeling she had to "sound like the records".[28] It is seen played upside-down (left-handed) by Mando Lopez in The Breeders.

Gots no idea what this is (edit 12/1/2010...this is the Steinberger headless):


or this (though this might just be the same Fender from above with a weird reflection on the pick guard)


Here's another Fender looking thing (a 2010 image late in the tour)...different profile from one directly above. Maybe there's more than one Fender floating around now, or she's changed the pick guard. The three red Fenders pictured here kind of look like three different instruments to me...but maybe it's just the angles. Hard to tell:

Allison

I've been working on this for days now and it's driving me a little bit nuts.

Start with THIS bass tab and THESE guitar chords. Now play along with the recording. It isn't quite right in a few spots. But what IS right?

How about THESE chords?

Now...watch this:


At 0:44 there's a key bit. In the bass tab and in the first of the guitar chords the bass would play E up to F. RS said that the piano sheet music HE had said I should play Ab to F. I assumed that he meant Ab up to F, but this seemed really wrong and akward.

But watching the video it is clear to me that there's no way she's playing E to F. Reason? She seems to like playing at the 7th and 8th fret. Most of the song (contrary to the bass tab online) she plays here. If the progression were E to F she could stay at the 7th and 8th frets. But she doesn't. She shifts down. Why would she shift down? To hit a lower note on the E String. So this supports the idea of playing Ab DOWN to F (rather than up). And if you listen carefully to the video, the bass DOES step down here even though the overall feeling of the music is tension and building UPWARD. It's counter-intuitive.

Got to sit down and rehash. But I think it's coming into focus.

Other videos...less helpful:






And nearly super helpful (Allison starts at 1:50...progression in question at 2:34), played on the Ernie Ball. Gots to get me one o them some day:

SSW, Wisco, 11/5/2010

The last of the three shows in 7 days.

Got started at 11pm and played 21 of the 23 songs that we know. Clocked out at an hour almost on the dot. I was pretty spot on. Used my own kit. PA was Wisco's...not bad. No monitors and J's vocals overwhelmed R's again (that damn Beta mic is too good for its own good). K kept the bass down and avoided blowing out his amp this time.

The band that headlined was...interesting.

Brought down $120 for two bands from $5 cover...$60 a piece per band. Wisco also threw in two pitchers of beer (three actually cause they gave us a free bottom of the barrel pitcher).

Setlist:

1. NEW ROSE
2. DANCE (4X) TO THE RADIO
3. TEENAGE KICKS
4. YOU STUPID FUCKING LIBERALS
5. THE WAY I LOVE YOU
6. HATE & WAR
7. I HATE THE RICH
8. MR. SUIT
9. HELICOPTER
10. WE ARE THE ONE
11. DON'T GIVE ME NO LIP CHILD
12. BOSCOBEL BREAKOUT
13. THAT'S HOW I ESCAPED MY CERTAIN FATE
14. SUSPECT DEVICE
15. FABLE
16. WARSAW
17. POLITICAL SONG FOR MICHAEL JACKSON TO SING
18. EVERYBODY'S HAPPY NOWADAYS
19. MANIAC
20. TWO PINTS OF LAGER AND A PACKET OF CRISPS PLEASE
21. FUCKED UP AND WASTED

TD, Great Dane, 11/4/10

My performance went as well as I could have hoped.

Awesome ska band "4am" opened for us and brought in a crowd. I didn't drink a drop of alcohol before or during the set. Pretty much nailed the whole thing. J had some technical difficulties and some nervous energy, but overall we did ok. I really locked in with T and RS. Several songs got played way too fast (not my fault) but I was able to keep up, even with super hard "Easy Life." Still waiting for cash out, but the money will be good.

Debuted the bass drum head. It pleased the boys.

We got offered a house party on Dec 18th and a Jan gig at Dane. My predessor came and hid in the corner, but I'm told he was pleased. I'm glad.

Set list to follow.

Upgrading: The Snare

Picked up a used Pacific LX Maple snare last week. It's pretty sweet. It was the right size, wood, color, and price ($100) for what I'd been wanting. No compromises.

Details I didn't notice until further inspection:
-Ten lug (existing two steel snares I own only each have 6)
-Bearing edge seems to be peaked in center. Don't know what you call this, but I've read about it. The steel drums I have come to a peak at the outer edge of drum...this new one comes to peak in center of drum edge.
-Throw off feels sturdy and smooth

I played it Thursday and Friday night at gigs. Saturday I opened her up and inspected the inside, which all seems good. Lubricated the lugs and put on a newish Ambassador Hazy resonant head and Powerstroke 3 batter head. Also put on brand new snare wires that had been hanging around the house and moved the LX's snare wires to the better steel drum.







Essentially at this point I've done all the upgrading that I'd intended to do. Happened more quickly than I'd anticipated. I'm still trying to decide if I like the Sabian AA El Sabor Ride I picked up or if I want to get something different. That's essentially all I've got an eye out for at this point.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wax and Wane

To top off my suck-tastic bass playing from Saturday night (following a flawless Sat morning run through) and the fact that I didn't sit down at the drums on Saturday OR Sunday...I played a flawless rehearsal on drums Monday for the first time with the new crew.

This music stuff is just weird. I do not get the mind/body connection and how we learn and progress...and then digress.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Upgrading: Cymbals

Picked up two new cymbals off of Craig's List this weekend:

1. Sabian AA 17" Medium Crash, $65 ($189 new). It actually sounds a lot like my existing Colorsound, just a little deeper and with longer sustain. It fits in with the kit well, though I don't know if it was "needed." It allows me to have a crash on each side now if I want. Just seemed like a great deal. I can't pass up a decent cymbal for 60 bucks.

2. Sabian HH Duo 10" Splash, $60 ($139 new). I had thought about buying one of these when I was looking for a new splash (was looking at 12" at the time). I liked this model a lot, but couldn't bring myself to spend the money at the time. So I picked it up cause it was such a great deal. I don't really need a splash, but the 10" I have now is cracked, so it's sitting in reserve. Just couldn't pass it up.

Both in great condition. Passed on a 12" Cherry Mapex Black Panther snare for $100. Decided I shouldn't jump at it since it was a weird size, even if it was a great deal. Also, didn't want to spend the $100 after buying the cymbals. I need to pace myself.

Also, I'm learning more about how to play the Sabian AA El Sabor Ride that I picked up a few months ago. It has a very "tinny" sound that I've had trouble adjusting to. I REALLY love the bell. The bell is awesome. I think I'm figuring out that when I ride it, I need to play more on the shoulder, instead of the edge where I am used to. I like the sound better there. I'm not sure this cymbal is going to stay in the main mix. Again, it was a $60 deal ($245 new) that I couldn't pass up and I thought that I like the El Sabor line...but it doesn't fit well into the kit. Sounds discordant and, like I said "tinny". I'm going to keep my eye out for a Zildjian K series ride (any model). These are pricey (about $325 new for the basic 20" model) and you don't see them used too often. In the very least I want to play them at some stores. I know that will have a deeper, fuller tone. No tin there. I'll have to see if it goes too far the other way.

I am curious a bit about Zildjian A Ping Rides. I hear Ping Rides mentioned often in articles. I should play one and see what they sound like. A 20" is $265 new. The New Beat Hi Hats made me want to go with a full Zildjian A setup...but I kinda blew that by buying some Sabians. I have a feeling that, rather than upgrading my cymbals once, buying used cymbals on the cheap is going to become an ongoing hobby of mine. It's just really hard not to want to jump on a $50-60 quality cymbal...and it is so hard to know how something will sound with your kit until you get it home and try it. Luckily, there's always a resale market for quality...so if it gets out of control I can liquidate some. I probably should get a cymbal vault to store the extras in (or just set up a decent box to keep them in).

CJ, Mickey's, 10/30/10

I was really disappointed about this show. I thought it was gonna be great. But it was just weird. People were really drunk and moshing and falling down through the first two acts and it just was pissing me off. Then we took the stage. We had hoped to start at 12:30 but didn't start playing until about 1:15am. As a result we had to cut several songs.

I was borrowing an amp and when I got up there I couldn't get it to work. I also couldn't get either one of the two tuners I brought to work, and the bass had been in the car for hours in the cold. Well duh...bad cable. By the time I figured that out it was time to start...so I had to delay to tune. Then I was totally freaked out and it fucked with me for the rest of the show. My legs were shaking. I kept dropping notes...getting lost.

To make things worse, the bass amp was set up on the wrong side of the stage, so we stood in the wrong places. And the vocal monitors weren't working. My vocals went ok, not great, in light of this, cause I had the PA speaker right behind me.

Anyway...I was totally disappointed in my performance. Pissed me off cause I played the entire set that morning mistake-free. So it wasn't that I didn't know the songs. I also wasn't drunk at all.

It's so annoying that you work really hard at something and then when it comes time to show other people...all of these external factors fuck it up. You get a late start. The equipment fails. The turnover is too quick and you can't get settled and properly set up. You get freaked out and it blows the entire set for you. Sucks.

RS dressed as "Broken Face" CT dressed as "Where Is My Mind?" EH dressed as "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and I dressed as "No. 13 Baby". Photos to come.

Setlist:
THE SAD PUNK
SOMETHING AGAINST YOU
I BLEED
BROKEN FACE
DEAD
MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN
GOUGE AWAY
ED IS DEAD
LA LA LOVE YOU
NO. 13 BABY
SUBBACULTCHA
BONE MACHINE
GIGANTIC
WAVE OF MUTILATION
HERE COMES YOUR MAN
NIMROD'S SON
VAMOS (skipped this for time)
DEBASER
CRACKITY JONES(skipped this for time)
WHERE IS MY MIND?
MONSTER MASH
MR. GRIEVES(skipped this for time)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Snare Info

Snare tips article

Brass: A very sharp edge to the sound and very rich with mellow overtones.

Steel: A step more towards bright with a very pronounced ring, allot of body and longer decay than brass.

Aluminum: Clear, open sounds with bright, crisp overtones and is capable of incredibly loud rimshots.

Bronze: A close cousin to brass with the overall character of woods, can be loud, a good all around drum.

Copper: A close cousin to the Aluminum drum only slightly warmer.

Hammered: Same overall characteristics as the parent material, only slightly less resonance to varying degrees.

Metal Thickness: The 1mm shells are not as low to mid range resonant as thicker shells such as 3mm plus.

Metal Cast Drums: Very Loud and Resonant due to special cymbal alloys used in the casting process.

Wood Drums: see previous post

Small Diameter: Means higher pitch.

Longer Length: Means more power and shell resonance, longer decay.

Shallow Depth: Means more articulate, less power due to decreased shell area.

Snare Bed: A slight depression in the resonant side bearing edge to allow the snare to ride closer to the head.

Bearing Edges: Less than 45° are not inferior, they simply make for a different sound, usually less resonant and darker in character the less the angle, 35° is popular on Birch Drums. Drums get brighter if the crown of the bearing edge is a tighter radius (sharper) than if the radius is flatter (may be desired on the toms and kick).

Drum Wood

Article on drum woods

Maple:
Maple is a general overall warm sounding product, it can reproduce frequencies of the drum fairly well across the spectrum. True slow growth old forest maple trees are most prized due to the narrow growth rings and straight grain. The wood resonates extremely well and the finishes are well accepted. Newer and reforested trees do not have as tight a growth ring habit and are not as prized as old growth timber. Solid shelled snare drums made of burled or Birdseye maple are very warm in overall tone but also impart a very bright attack. Maple is generally thought to have very even tone across the spectrum and is prized by many drummers.

Birch:
Birch is a very dense tough wood, blond in color that tools well. It will have about a 10% loss in reproduction of low end compared to Maple and about a 20% increase in the high end, with the mid range remaining about the same, so the Birch kit will definitely be a “harder” and “brighter” sounding kit. Birch is derived from fast growth trees that are commonly large in diameter and finish reasonably well. Birch is often referred to as a naturally “EQ’d” drum set. This came from its popularity when used in recording studios where the attack portion of the sound was an important ingredient in recordings dating back to the late 60’s. It made it easier to get the drums to cut through the mix with minimal effort.

Poplar:
Poplar is derived from fast growing straight medium hardwood trees and is a less expensive alternative to Birch and Maple. Its finish can be somewhat green in color and is therefore used in the inner ply layers as substitute for more expensive and less plentiful woods. To my ear it takes on more of the tone of birch or mahogany than maple.

Basswood:
Basswood is a great less expensive hardwood that mimics the sound of Maple to some, mahogany to others. Yet it is more plentiful and gives the manufacturer a price advantage. It in many ways is an upgrade to luaan, or ramin and is often used as a core wood with a bit more of the lower register tone to it than realized out of maple. For this reason I tend to think of it more like mahogany than maple.

Snare Drums, More Research

I think I am narrowing my search for a snare drum. Based on internet research only (haven't actually played anything yet) I think I'd like to get a wood snare...probably maple. It sounds like a solid or block snare is the best...but cost will likely keep me firmly in the plywood department. Sounds like you want a thin shell...but not TOO thin.

Some research (all prices are for new from discount retailers):

Pearl (MCX) Masters Maple Snare Drums
6-ply, 7.5mm shells
$275.00 for 14x5.5 ($219 at Sam Ash), $330.00 for 14x6.5
This seems to be an industry standard. It would be hard to go wrong with this unless something was wrong with the drum.

Mapex MPX Maple Snare Drum
5.1mm
$149.00 for 14x5.5
This is Mapex's attempt to bring maple to the masses. Not sure yet if these are decent or not. I'd like to play a MPX against a Pearl MCX to see how they match up. I wonder if this is too thin and I am in danger of warping it if I tune improperly.

Pearl Artisan II Maple Snare Drum
$199.00
Needs more research

Tama Artwood Maple Snare
7-ply, 6mm thick
$290.00 forn 14x5.5 ($259 at Sam Ash)
Needs more research

Orange County Drums and Percussion Maple Snare
think this is probably really thick
$299.00 for 14x7
I was tempted by an Orange County that was on Craig's List for $150, but the more I look into it, I'm not sure this is what I want. Orange County are notoriously thick shells, which I guess can cause unwanted ringing. The solution is thicker hoops. Also a deep, thick snare is really made, as far as I can tell, to be loud. I think that I'm more of a finesse player than a power player. And I'm never gonna play in a heavy metal band. Any band I play in is gonna have to adjust to me being a more quiet player. A super loud snare seems out of character.

No, I think I want something versatile. I want to be able to tune it high and get a loud and sharp crack and a good rim shot, but I also want something that can be tuned a little lower and have a warm and fat tone. And I want something that avoids as many unwanted overtones as possible.

I think I've defined my price range as $150-$300. I'd like to stick with a well known brand and model. I used to not care about that, but if you are going to upgrade you might as well go with a known quantity...both for quality and, sadly, to impress others that you mean business. The New Beat hi hats that I bought convinced me that there is something to all of this on many levels. I don't need the most fancy or expensive or impressive equipment...but I want time tested recognized quality. It looks like Pearl, Tama, or Mapex will be my best bets to balance cost and quality.

As to size, it seems reasonable to go with a standard size...I think 14 x 5.5 or 14 x 6.5. I'd have to play them side by side to choose. I don't want to get a 13 inch and I don't think I want anything smaller than 5.5 or deeper than 6.5. Again, though, I need to play more snares to know. But it seems that if I am looking for a versatile workhorse, it's best to stay in the standard sizes.

Snares and Ride Resources

Maple Snare Drums (http://www.maplesnaredrums.com/)

and

Ride Cymbals (http://www.ride-cymbals.com/)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Buying a New Snare

So in the process of upgrading heads and hardware over the last several weeks I've removed and reinstalled my heads more often than ever before in my short life as a drummer. What used to feel like a scary prospect is now just a pain in the ass. Mundane.

But this post is about snare drums, right? Yes. See what all that head changing has made me painfully aware of is that not every drum is so easy to tune. And I suspect this is due to imperfections in the bearing edges, the roundness of the drums, the hoops...and various other things related to the quality of the drums. This is fine because they are cheap drums and I wouldn't expect them to be perfect. They tune well enough for me for now.

But if I am going to buy a new snare drum...something that will become the centerpiece of my kit and my sound...and if I am going to spend more than $150...probably more than $200...for it...I want it to be decent. Which makes me realize:
#1 I'm not sure if I can tell what is decent and what is not
and
#2 The way that one buys drums is not very conducive to being able to tell.

The first of these can be solved with study. The second, not so much.

The ways one buys drums are generally:
-used in person from an individual
-used online
-used in person at a store
-new in person at a store
-new online

From my limited experience what I take that you need to do in order to properly test a drum is:
-take the heads off and examine the inside of the drum. Check the bearing edges and that the drum isn't warped or out of round and that there's nothing else wrong
-check the hoops and the hardware for problems (stripped screws, bent hoops)
-put on decent heads, tune them, and play the drum, preferrably along with the rest of your current setup

If one was able to DO all of this...it would take an hour or more probably. Trouble is, one isn't often in a great situation to do all of this.

For an online purchase, of course, all bets are off. Pretty much you are gonna get the drum and have to decide if it is bad enough to return (if you can). Returning it might be at your shipping expense too.

In person, things are better, but still not great. For a sale from an individual, you are relying on their patience with you dicking around. At a shop you might be able to at least take the heads off, and perhaps put on ones you brought with you...but you can't drag your whole kit with you...so you are still shooting in the dark a bit until you get it home. And I'm sure that the store attendant is gonna be THRILLED when you ask to take the heads off. I always feel rushed and nervous in stores anyway...and am rarely planning to buy THAT DAY.

Even with a high quality brand and model...each drum is gonna vary in quality and sound...and need to be tested on its own.

I'm not looking forward to the whole thing.