Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SSW, March 30, High Noon Saloon

We got added a few days beforehand to open for B'dum B'dum. Hum Machine was supposed to play, but one of its members got a pulmonary embolism. The show started at 6pm and we played first.

I was a little worried how the show was going to go because I've been out of town and away from the drum kit for a few weeks...the band hasn't had many practices since the last show...and I've been super busy this month and not able to practice much. At dress rehearsal I felt unsteady in my playing.

But all was well. I thought we played pretty great. My playing was solid. A few slips, but nothing major. I can tell my endurance is down, but I made it through.

I brought my own kit. I ate a slice of pizza an hour before the show and drank two pints of spotted cow and one bottle of PBR before the show. Drank a second PBR and a glass of water during the show. Got a decent amount of sleep the night before, but no nap day of. SSW made $80, which estimating how much money was taken to pay the sound and door...I estimate we had 50 people in attendance, which is really pretty decent for a happy hour show. Lots in attendance were our people. Also impressive since we were added to the bill just days before the show. One guy was blown away by Helicopter and wouldn't shut up about it.

Set List:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Band Names

I've now been in several bands over the last several years...

Wyrd Tuesday
The Motor Primitives
Pants del Fwego
The Sea Turtles (not our real name, we didn't have a name, this is just what I called it in conversations with myself)
The Lollards
Another Mistake
Shanghai Party Boss
Seven Stone Weaklings
Crackity Jones

As well as some other unnamed short-lived projects.

Of all of those bands, I had very little say in most of the names. Another Mistake was totally my name...but I'm not sure that the rest of the band even knew I was calling it that. The rest were proposed by someone else or evolved organically. I had veto power, I guess, but I didn't much participate in a name selection process. If there was any kind of process at all, it lasted like ten minutes.

I'm playing drums in a band currently that is just starting to think about playing out. We've come to the point where we need a name.

For the first few months of our existance, we've played "grunge" type music...but when we first got together we'd discussed being a classic rock group...or playing Green Day type stuff. I'm not sure how the grunge thing happened, and I'm not sure if it is meant to be permanent or if we will expand into other genres. Not knowing what the final type of music we intend to play is kind of makes it hard for me to think of a name.

I also don't know these guys well. We met over Craig's List, with only two of the five members knowing each other before our first rehearsal. I don't have a strong feeling for their personalities (unlike Shanghai Party Boss, where I knew from the moment I met them that they were total goofballs...or that a couple of the members of Wyrd Tuesday were into medievil things).

There's no one who has taken the mantle of "band leader." We aren't working for one person, like in The Lollards, where it was JA's band (he wrote all the songs and sang lead) or The Motor Primitives (where it was PB's band) and and so we deferred to them on the band name for the most part.

Seven Stone Weaklings started as a band name and became a real band. Crackity Jones was the only logical Pixies song title that hadn't already been swiped by another Pixies tribute band. Pants del Fwego just evolved, no one really ever proposed it. Shanghai Party Boss came out of a five minute conversation..."We need something random, like internet spam...once got an email about the Shanghai Party Boss...done!"

I guess that we have to spend some time together and talk it out. Or start throwing things and see if they stick. Or settle on a genre and go from there. For some reason, the process doesn't seem like as much fun as I always thought it would be. Maybe I'm not invested enough in the group because I'm too busy with other things. I'm really at a loss as to where to even begin.

Lessons: Week 59

I was out of town and missed two weeks of lessons.

He started the lesson by showing me the MuseScore software, which is a free download and, as far as I can tell, totally awesome. It is music notation software, something I've needed. Totally downloading it.

Then we played through three David Bowie songs including Under Pressure.

I asked him to help me with timing open high hats. We talked about ways to practice that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Drummers: Kiel Feher

My new favorite drummer: Kiel Feher.

I caught him at SXSW with Frank and Derol, but looks like he's just a hired gun for them. He and Andrew Perusi made up the rhythm section...and really tore it up. They were great...and looked like they were having the time of their lives.

Here's Perusi with the big hair he was sporting that day, but sans cool oversized sunglasses:

Here's a few samples of Feher's playing, which show off his range pretty well. He really was a joy to watch.

Feher's Youtube Channel has more vids. Search for vids by Persusi

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bass Class

As mentioned, class was cancelled March 10 and 17. Last night we got back to it. Just when my eyes where rolling back in my head again regarding intense theory (when he said "mixolidian" I thought I would vomit), he started to talk about triads and inversions and passing tones, both scalar and chromatic. All of these things made vast amounts of sense to me, being basically how I play the bass. There were fresh things to be learned here, though...including the idea of moving the same pattern around the neck (which is to say, it is possible to find a root, third, fifth pattern that uses the same fingering no matter where you start...this is useful to me because I've never explored this much before). He suggested basically taking a chord progression...say I, IV, V...and playing the root, third, fifth of each chord. Then invert...same chord progression, but now play third, fifth, root...or fifth, root, third...or whatever. Do that for the entire damn circle of fifths. Try to find those fingering patterns you can move around the neck. This is what I need to learn.

We listened to All Blues again...and a minor blues song by Count Basie...and Alison (for passing tones). And probably a couple of other things that I'm forgetting. He actually had us play more, which really reinforced what he was talking about.

Overall, a good class. Maybe the best yet.

Recording Class

I was out of town for the March 16th class and freshly back in town and unable to bring myself to sit for a three hour class on March 23rd. Hope to make it back next week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bass Line Class

Our instructor has cancelled the next two sessions (one of which I was already going to miss) due to gigs. He didn't seem all that apologetic...kind of defensive, actually. An indignant "I'm a working musician" line of talk. Sure...fine...but didn't you commit to teach a class? Anyway...I'm not that upset about it...and he did offer to have make up sessions. We'll see. He just doesn't seem like he was prepared to do this.

Recording Class: Week 5

There was a longer than normal blathering session. He's starting to repeat himself more often. I forget alot of the details of what he said.

At the very end he sat me down at the board and let me set up the drum tracks for a project.

We got out at 10pm.

Lessons, Week 58

Showed me some Dave Weckl stuff. Went over Samba foot pattern.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I haven't blogged about this topic much here, but I'm going to SXSW...or at least NEAR SXSW (I don't have tickets). My main goal is to watch as many drummers and bass players as possible and to take something away from that. Listening to the music overall is kind of secondary...cause I know that I'll get bored of that quickly and want to go take a nap. Intensely watching people play tends to hold my attention more.

I have another blog going about the trip itself, but I'll likely cross post here things of specific musical-technique interest.

It's a car trip and I'll be stopping in Memphis, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Memphis is essentially a musical trip in itself, and I'll be there for a day and a half. Lots of rock and soul museum stuff and probably live music too. New Orleans will also probably involve some live music. Live music possible in Houston/Dallas too.

To pass the downtime, I'm bringing a practice pad and sticks, as well as a ukulele tuned like a bass.


Played some non-Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim/Greatest Hits tunes.

Also...unexpectedly sang Gigantic for RS last night.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bass Line Class: Week 4

Listened to multibass song from last week...and two Luther Allison blues tunes...a couple of Miles Davis songs (including, ironically, Footprints, which was the subject of this week's drum lesson), a Herbie Handcock song, and Everyday I Write the Book by Elvis Costello.

Reviewed and expanded on the concepts of the blues structure, exploring some of the variations that the above songs present.

Things got a little deep in the theory pool and I was hanging on by a thread. Only myself and one other student showed up, and she obviously knew more about theory than I did. I wasn't totally lost, but I wasn't comfortable either.

Lots of talk about dominant 7th chords versus naturally occuring 7th chords...stuff like that.

I played like two notes on my bass. I'm not bringing it next week, too much of a pain in my butt for how much we use it.

It's hard for me to say how much value I'm getting out of this class. I think I'm going to mostly let it wash over me. I think it is a case of having to hear something seven times before it sinks in. This is maybe my fourth or fifth time hearing this stuff. Which is my whole problem with the bass...that I don't have this stuff down well enough to think on my feet and make choices.

I'm not really sure how the class could be approached differently to help me. I'm not sure what I need.

I was pretty depressed when I left class last night actually.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Recording Class: Week 3

Class was a little disjointed, but I suspect this will be par for the course. Started losely with him talking about voice lessons. He played a Taylor Swift track (the original) and then one of his vocal students singing the same song. I think the point of this was to show an example of autotune. I had recently heard that Taylor Swift wasn't actually a very good singer, so this was interesting. Indeed, you can hear that they've micro-tuned her voice on the recording. When she goes from a low to a high note it steps up robotically. The vocal student sang it for real. The vocal student sounded better. More human. Interesting.

He then played a track with a singer and string section. I think his point was that this track hadn't had much done to it and was good as is. But one of the students thought there was too much "sss" on it...which led us off on this whole discussion of how people hear things differently and how it depends on where you sit and what speakers you have. And how there are natural, smooth "s" sounds and more ragged "s" sounds. And how, once you start focusing on the "s" that's all you can hear. And that to mix you have to be able to choose to focus on something like that...but also be able to choose to STOP focusing on it.

I mentioned how Justin suggested we listen to our mix in a car and Randy didn't like this idea. He thought a car was too perfect an environment because it is one of the few situations where the stereo is designed for the situation you use it in. He seemed in favor of mixing to the best speakers you could find in a room situation...with the assumption that quality can only go down from there. I still think Justin's strategy makes sense, especially given that we didn't have access to an expensive studio situation with perfect speakers. And, frankly, yes, many people listen to cds in their it is a fair test situation.

Then we got into a discussion of file formats. And that WAV files are the univerally shared format. So you can have people record parts all over the world and share. He showed an example of this and then we talked about how it is these people synched their parts (answer: they all played along to the same backing track). One student asked how to get WAV files out of his Roland machine, which Randy didn't seem to understand (told him to put them on an external hard drive or dvd)...but I got that this guy's machine was too old for that (like mine) I told him you have to export them to like a thousand cds (which is true).

I asked how the knowledge that whatever you're mixing will be likely turned into an MP3 changes how you approach mixing/mastering. He basically said that, in an ideal world, you remaster specifically for MP3s in order to compensate for how the format changes the sound. He spent a good deal of time taking a recording and converting it to MP3 and showing us how different it sounded and how you might compensate. A student asked about conversion standards...I think he said 192 kps. He mentioned that there are lots of MP3 converters and that they all have their own EQ mix settings. In theory, the stuff you buy off i-tunes has been engineered for MP3 and probably with an eye towards ear buds. The main thing it seems to do was make the recording sound more "dead"...not as spacious. Held up against one another it sounded worse...but I can't say it sounded terrible. I don't think that I have high enough standards to notice the difference most of the time.

He also played us a youtube recording of Carl Beatty, who he agrees with in most matters. It's probably worth watching several more interviews with this guy:

Randy has revealed a few biases as we've gone along...a major one being that he hates Pro Tools. Not the software per se...but it's philosophy...which he seems to think is "all you need is this" and "everyone needs this." I think he's being a bit over the top on this. Basically, this one software has come to dominate the market, yes. It's not really any different than Microsoft. But there are other software packages if you prefer...including Vegas, the one that Randy uses. Randy doesn't PAY for his software, but instead gets it free from Sony. If you aren't paying, I don't think you get to have a big opinion. I just figure...all of these things are tools. Software...tabletop units like the Roland the student mentioned...or full, old school hardware driven studios...whatever. They can all be used well and they can all be used poorly.

He also has a bias against the idea of one person alone in a room making music recordings who "doesn't need anyone else." Now, I get that part of music is the interaction between people. I also get that, if you have a producer or engineer with 30 years experience, you are going to get a better recording. But what's wrong with having a hobby studio and playing music alone in your basement if that's what makes you happy? This harkens back to Michael Iautaro's (my college music professor...who took 4 years of orchestra from and about 4 additional music classes...and who I loved...may he RIP) argument about how cheap midi equipment and electronic keyboards meant that even a plumber could compose music. And he thought that was a bad thing. This made me very angry. Who was he to judge who should be allowed to compose music?

Crappy basement recordings and crappy basement compositions aren't going to climb the charts anytime soon. They may never even be heard by other people. But if they give the person making them joy...what's the harm in that? Not everyone can afford the time and equipment to be great. And not everyone has the talent to be great. But let them have fun.

I still think that Randy has a wealth of knowledge and there are many, many things to be learned from him. But there are areas where things are his opinion and not strictly fact. As is to be expected.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lessons, Week 57

We watched some youtube videos of Tony Williams.

This one I think:

And this one:

And maybe a couple of others. Then we listened to Footprints on the stereo:

He talked about the fast ride patterns Williams does. And the back and forth 3/4 to 4/4 in the song Footprints. He's kind of playing a polyrhythmic 3 against 4 the entire time...but then the song does actually go from 3/4 to 4/4 as well. He got me playing a simplified version. I surprised myself and was able to pull it off eventually. And it was actually fun. Never thought I could play jazz, much less that it would be fun.

We worked again a bit on my right hand bounce techinique. Playing through the cymbal and using fingers to get the second hit. I'm figuring out that this requires the ride to be relatively low and flat...which is the way it is on my kit at home. But often when I play other people's kits, and at the Foundry, it is too high and/or angled funny. I was having trouble getting the technique until we moved the cymbal last night, and then it came easier. Also...I have my ride at home in a position where I can drop my elbow into open space. On other kits sometimes the floor tom is in the way. I moved my ride to where it is long ago basically just because that's where RD had his...but now I can see that it is a much more functional position than where other people sometimes have theirs. Also, often people will have their ride too far to the right for me, so that I feel like I am straining...pulling my arm out of reach it. I've happened upon a happy accident of setup. And one more thing that will make it harder and harder for me to play on other people's kits.

Here's a live version of Footprints:

Monday, March 1, 2010


Jammed with the kiddies (and I do mean kiddies) at Madison Music Foundry on Sunday afternoon. Me and EN on drums...kiddies (about 14 of them) on guitar...another instructor on bass. A decent experience. Made me realize I need to work on my shuffle. I think we played like 4-5 songs.