Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MB & SDY Update

Despite my ambivalence this morning I sent an email to MB and he responded and it looks like I'll have an audition in the next few weeks sometime. Which means that I probably should actually learn the songs.

Young Fresh Fellows

On Sunday I was playing drums...part of my "play/practice more often" push, and I put the mp3 player on random. Came across the Young Fresh Fellows and decided to play through all of Totally Lost.

I've written briefly about their drummer, Tad, in the past.

He plays fast fills on snare. Which I used to suck at. But on Sunday I nailed it pretty good. I was having an unusually good playing night...ending up playing Green Day and even trying Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song (and failing). Still, I was surprised to be able to play Tad's parts. It may be the first time I've been impressed with progress in a long time.

New Drum! Website

One of my favorite parts of Drum! magazine is the letter from the editor. A few months ago the editor wrote that he was stepping down from editing the hard copy magazine to run their online presence. I had forgotten this until he sent an update this month.

I've not been super impressed with the online presence for these kinds of magazines, but Drum! is striving to change all that with new daily content and improved resources. Go check the new and improved at http://www.drummagazine.com/

Mission of Burma That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate

This is really more than I could hope for in a video...fantastic view of the drummer:

Lessons Week 69

We continued with the MB setlist.

I've been up and down on whether I should try to audition. I felt a little discouraged at first because the first few songs we worked on were hard. And then I kind of ignored it for a while. But the last few lessons have been fun...the songs are fun. So I went ahead and sent an email to MB to see where he's at and if the position is even open. I'll need to bust ass to learn the songs for an audition if it comes to that...but I don't think it is out of my range.

I don't know...I'm kind of all over the place about whether I should add a third band to the rotation. But it just seems like a good opportunity and the tunes are good. I'm gonna start trying to actually learn the songs and then just see where the chips fall.

I'm also all over the place about whether I want to be playing more drums or more bass. I think that, until I learn the next 60 Pixies songs there's probably no need to try to pick up another bass gig...but it's hard not to keep looking. I also feel like I need to rededicate myself in general to actual drum practice (not just playing) and that adding more bands (on bass or drums) just takes me away from that. But I think MB would be an easy band to be in once I learned the songs because they are all pros...low drama. Anyway...who knows.

All I really know is that I need to be sitting at my drums more often.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Throat Sprays

I asked about sickness-related throat care at class last night and she highly recommended throat spray...not just during sickness...but as overall throat health care maintenance. She suggested Zand brand, which she said is only available at one store in the area out in Middleton. I've been using Herb Etc's Singer's Saving Grace for a long while, and while she said this was good too, she warned against using sprays with propolis, because it is a numbing agent.

Preparing for the Next Singing Class

So the next singing class isn't for two weeks due to schedule conflicts, but I've volunteered to be one of the first few people to work on a song. I think I'm going to do "The World's A Mess" by X. I thought I'd need help with Pixies songs...but the main lingering problem with those isn't my power...it's my tendancy for my harmony vocals to drift to the melody (and go off key in the process). I plan to ask her about that too...but it feels slightly off topic for the course. And...part of the reason that happens is because I can't hear myself, which is partially about power.

The X song has pissed me off from the start. I thought I could sing it in the beginning, but the more that I worked on it, the worse that it got. Eventually, I had to ask the band to abandon it. And that's annoying. So I want to learn what I'm doing wrong.

From 1983-ish

And 2004...no doubt with less drugs

And more versions:

Singing Class

Originally this blog was about the drums. Then I added bass stuff cause...well it's still the rhythm section. Now I'm adding voice...cause...well it's my fricking blog.

Attended my first "Singing for Screamers" class last night with MDP. I wasn't sure if I'd like the class. The last two classes I took through continuing music education I was pretty disappointed with. The instructors seemed knoweledgable...but unprepared to teach. Disorganized. I felt like they were wasting my time. I wanted them to have an outline...materials to hand out...a direction to head. But they wandered aimlessly. Which, frankly, I could do on my own. My second concern was that I've always kind of disliked the band that MDP is in. I don't like the style of music they play and her stage demeanor is...well...just not my cup of tea. I wondered if I'd be able to take a class from her effectively.

Time will tell, I guess, but if the first class was any indication...this will be useful and relatively pleasant.

MDP was VERY well organized. She's been teaching related classes for 8 years (though this is the first time with this particular focus). She had a study cd all ready for us (at a cost of $15, which I don't begrudge her, but the course description ought to mention that you will be required to purchase this). And it wasn't just a generic cd, it was one she'd crafted just for our topic. I'm sure it draws heavily from the cds that she uses in her other classes, but at least she took the time to reorganize the material and put a new cover on it.

She got right down to business. Gave us a brief, but detailed, background on how she came to teaching...and took all of our info on where we're at and what we're trying to do. She really listened to what each person said and tried to tailor her response comments to their situation. She gave us a good idea how to prepare for each class (listen to the cd...and that we should prepare a song to work on) and told us what to do if we arrive to class early, which she highly recommended.

She's a little new-age-y...which isn't my favorite...but I think she's appropriately applying it to the philosophy of singing...which is tied in closely with the breath. She talked about singing out of your third eye...which was a red flag for me...but when I mentioned this to RS he said that other vocal coaches that he's had in the past have talked about "singing out the top of your head"...which is essentially the same thing. So this must just be part of the shpeal.

Her demeanor was good. Very casual. Very..."anybody can sing...singing is awesome...we're gonna help you reach your potential."

So...yeah...high hopes. Obviously it is only a 5 week class...so there's only so much we can accomplish...but the cd effectively extends the class for as long as we choose. And she teaches other classes (and perhaps private lessons) so if I find it to be useful, there's a way to revisit.

In any case, the first session has revived my faith in the UW continuing music education program...and in music instruction in general.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Marques Bovre and So Dang Yang

Okay, this is a little bit of an obnoxious post(due to length) but I'm gonna post a bunch of song videos for future reference (all videos from October 29, 2009 and taken by Johnny:

Julie Patchouli


King James

All Gonna Die

Perfect Nude

Different Kind of Fool


Drunk and Disgusting

Washes Everything

God on Our Side

The Twain

Mall Cop

Big Rain


Sam's Song

Dry Bones

Lessons, Week 68

EN helped me resolve the Hate and War issue...which is to play the triplets on T1 and the part after the triplets on the floor tom instead of the high hat. So the position stays open instead of crossing. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like it will work really slick.

We also talked for a while about "big rock endings." I always feel lame and whimpy when I try these, so I wanted to know his strategies. Essentially he said to take your time, communicate with the band, and build in volume. I think mostly I just need to improve my around the kit rolls, but his ideas will help too.

Then we played through half a dozen Marques Bovre songs that EN found on Youtube. And that was fun.

My last lesson with EN will be August 16th. I've decided to take a break from lessons for a while, for the main reason that I have slacked off in practice over the last six months and feel like I need to get into a personal regime again. I think that I'll return to lessons eventually, but I just feel like I totally neglected the followup on lessons and it's probably time to return to the basics...rudiments, playing with metronome, basic exercises. These are things that are really hard to stay motivated on, but when I was working on them every day I was making steady progress. I feel like my progress has stopped, and entirely because I'm just not practicing anymore (and for that matter, rarely even playing these days). I don't know if it is a bad move to remove the "whip" of having an instructor, and I wouldn't if EN weren't moving, but it seems like a natural transition time to re-evaluate and set a new course. I think what I'd like to do is take the time that I was at lessons (5:30-7pm Mondays...if you count transport) and make that "fundamendals" practice. That way I ensure one day a week that I am working on this stuff. I have tons of books and videos I can use for this...though honestly all I need is a chart of rudiments (or the stick exercise book). Then I can feel less pressure during the rest of the week...if I feel up to practicing fundamentals on other days I can...but if I don't I'll at least be assured of getting it done once a week on Monday nights. Then the rest of the week I can work on learning tunes for bands, playing at rehearsals/gigs, or just playing for fun.

We'll see. It's a nice plan anyway. It's kind of like a weight loss regime or quitting smoking...time will tell.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Funky Drummer

Here's Clyde Stubbelfield illustrating how to play Funky Drummer:

I Hate the Rich

I haven't been practicing drums much, but I've been meaning to learn I Hate the Rich by The Dils for a while now. It is deceptively easy...except there's this triplet tom thing. I can't figure out how the hell you get from "the groove" such as it is to the triplets. No video documentation that I can find to help. Will ask at lesson today...but stuff like this baffles me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Learning and Memorizing

I've always been someone who kind of leaned on written music (or tabs/chords) perhaps more than I should. I had trouble memorizing songs I'd play with bands. This was the case even on drums, which you'd think were pattern based enough that you wouldn't need notes.

Over the last year I've gotten better at remembering drum parts. When I started playing bass again, though, I really worried that I wouldn't be able to remember my parts without notes. Back in the day I ALWAYS used notes for playing with the MPs/PdF.

Turns out that a funny thing happens when you play a song every single day, though...you remember it. And now I remember 29 Pixies songs (plus parts of a few others). And this fact truly amazes me.

So much has changed in my approach over the last few years that it kind of amazes me. I was thinking how I only played root notes or easy argeggios with the MPs/PdF. I never looked up bass tab and I never listened to recordings of songs that we played...or watched videos. I just found out what the guitar chords were and played the root notes of the chords. In lots of cases we were playing songs that I had never heard before...and I never bothered to find recordings to listen to the songs. I was flying blind...not only of the original bass part...but of how the original arrangement sounded entirely. AND I never...NEVER...played the songs outside of band practice.

The Pixies have taken me in the direction of the exact opposite approach. I find the bass tab, I listen to the recording, I watch videos of the parts...and I try to copy it exactly like the original (at least the same notes, anyway...sometimes her habit of always sliding annoys me and I chose to instead play everything in the same position). Then I play it every day until I have it memorized.

I'm not sure that one approach is any better than another...and both have served their purposes. I guess that I'm just surprised that it never occurred to me to do a little more in the past. Of course, now I'm suffering a little from copy-itis...and the fear that I won't be able to write my own bass parts when the need arises. But I'm not too worried because copying for a while is a great way to develop the skills to write your own parts.

Lessons, Week 67

He wasn't able to get any additional recordings, so we went over the same four songs again. He copped to the fact that he isn't playing straight bossa nova on that one song...but like half a bossa nova. Which is one more contributing factor to my frustration...though I'm slowly actually getting the normal bossa. We also went over a little bit of fast bass doubles.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fan Boy

It's been a while since I've been totally obsessed with a band. It happened alot in my tween, teen, and young adult life....with mainstream bands mostly. Then I kind of stopped listening to music for a while. And then, I got into local music and obsessed about that for a while.

So I'm 20+ years late to the party, but I'm deep into a Pixies situation at the moment. A short six months ago I knew almost nothing about the band except the names of a few albums and possibly that they did Here Comes Your Man. I can't even remember now if I just knew the song, or if I actually knew that they did it. Now, I own all of their albums and some of the more obscure stuff too, and have the bass parts to almost 30 of their songs memorized...with complete intention of learning most or all of the other 60 or so by the end of the year-ish. I've read/watched about every interview I could find of the band...seen two documentaries...and generally gone total emersion.

This all happened because I wanted to play bass in a band. And at this point it is impossible for me to know if I really love the Pixies music...or if I just love playing in a band that plays the Pixies music. The two are conflated. I love the songs because I've heard them over and over now for 6 months. Chicken and egg are impossible to suss out at this point.

It's ridiculous to ponder the lives of people that you've never met...but I like the Pixies...in particular I like my doppelganger Kim Deal (and her sister Kelley too). I like that they were kind of average musicians who started this band that got really popular. And that the songs kind of don't make sense but are also oddly deep and funny and sick. I like that they have at times looked kinda dumpy on stage...t-shirts covering beer guts. I like that they didn't always put on a consistantly great live show back in the day. I like that Black Francis got in trouble for saying the reunion is really about money and that he doesn't get why people give a shit about a band that hasn't released an album for 20 years. I like that they seem, as a group, disfunctional and unable to communicate. I like that Joey's parts sometimes seem random...and that David makes a living (or tries to) as a magician. I like that Kim Deal (and Kelley) struggled with chemical dependency and fought it and won...but at the same time was kind of an entertaining alcoholic. I like that they live in Dayton, Ohio. I like that Kim and Kelley seem to play whatever instrument is laying around at the time...whether or not they "knew how" the first time.

I'm not the kind of fan that I was in my youth...not nearly as crazy as I was back then. It gives me something to waste time on the internet doing, though. I'm enjoying the Pixies these days...and hoping for a long, long run for Crackity Jones. I've lived enough now to know that these things come and go (playing in bands)...but for now I'm enjoying it and happy to be in this moment. The songs are fun, the company is fun, and in a rare turn of events, the band actually seems to be popular amongst audiences. Ironically we're cashing in just like the band itself is...setting aside our own "creative" projects to play someone else's 20 year old songs. It kind of makes me feel okay about doing it when the band itself is doing the same thing. It's fun and lucrative (not too terribly lucrative for us, though) and totally worth doing. Art be damned.

I'm so, so glad that I asked about playing bass in The Escapists on that January night. It was an idea that popped into my head just at that moment and a more cautious or intelligent person would have let the idea pass unsaid. But instead I asked. And now here I am. And it is a good place to be. Maybe I'm deluded, but it doesn't seem all that different than answering a classified ad for a bass player (when you don't really play bass) who likes Husker Du and Peter Paul and Mary.

Bossa Nova: Update

Ok, I hesitate to say this...but I think I got the Bossa Nova. It isn't burned into my brain flawlessly yet, but I played it several times in a row last night.

And yeah...it was totally like one moment it was impossible and the next something in my brain just clicked and went "ohhh...I get it now." Which doesn't mean it's perfect now, but at least it makes sense to me on some level.

This is what I call "breaking my brain."

I have to remind myself of the magic of the drums and not forsake them. And the main magic about them is this breaking of the brain thing. I think that humans break their brains all the time, but nothing stands out so strongly in this respect to me than playing drums.

Really what I'm talking about is rubbing your tummy and patting your head...on steriods. Take each limb that you have and make it do something different. Now carry on a conversation while your doing all that and don't mess up any of the patterns. It's hard. What tends to happen is that one or more of your limbs either stops what it is doing...or it starts copying what one of the other limbs is doing. You have to get to a weird point of muscle memory...and unconscious action...but still stay conscious of what you're doing...in order to do it all at once. Literally you gotta break your brain. And that's just so cool.

And one minute it's impossible...and the next easy as pie. It's magic. Total magic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bossa Nova

I've been trying to learn the bossa nova for over a year now. Trying is probably the wrong word...wishing perhaps. I bang at it for a week, get discouraged, and set it aside. It's a mental block. There's something that hasn't clicked for me yet. There's a switch I've got to flip...and once it has flipped it will be easy as pie. For now it feels impossible, though.

I spent yesterday scouring the web for help. I was pretty unimpressed with what's out there. For one thing, I don't seem to be able to find an agreed upon figure. It varies in how it is played and how it is notated. Which is confusing.

I can play the high hat and snare together...and I can play the bass and high hat together. But I can't play the snare and bass together...never mind all three together. I know that I just have to keep slowing it down and deconstructing it...but I can't help but feel like there's some secret that I'm missing. Some key that would make me go "Ohhhhh...I get it now." Alas...I solider on.

The Drums: Checking In

Back in December 2008 I decided to dedicate myself to the drums in an attempt to finally be good at something. The dedication lasted longer than I expected it to, as I am prone to proclaim such things and then promptly abandon them. For over a year I was pretty focused. Playing and PRACTICING pretty much every day, taking lessons, and getting steadily better.

Along about six months ago my resolve began to slip though. I'm not sure why or what happened, but there definitely was a shift. And before I knew it I wasn't sitting down at the drums at all anymore except during lessons or band practices or to try and learn riffs for band practices. I wasn't really practicing anymore, I was just getting by.

The void has largely been filled with the bass, which I've been playing every day for six months now after not having picked it up for about three years. I've had a somewhat solitary focus on learning Pixies songs, which aren't hard and for which I mostly have had access to decent tab. I've been playing bass, not practicing it either. Mostly I've been memorizing bass tab.

But I don't think the bass takes up enough mental or literal energy (at least not how I'm approaching it) to have been solely responsible for the slacking on drums. I think, maybe, it was just time to slack a bit.

Taking a look at the So Dang Yang tunes has made it clear to me that there are fundamentals that I've not tackled properly, though. I need a bossa nova, and a good train shuffle, and a good regular shuffle. I need to improve my independence. Mostly, more than anything, I need to actually practice...and to play more than I am currently.

What's interesting is that I'm fully aware that my current skill set is a direction reflection of the amount of time put in. I'm confident that I can learn and do all those things I mentioned...I just have to put in the work, which I've not been doing. This is a subtle but importance difference from not being sure I'd ever be able to do such things. I'm getting to the point where I'm sure that I can get to where ever I want to be on the drums...it's just a matter of putting in the time. And the more time I put in, the faster the results. This is hard to remember in the day to day...when things seem impossible and when the couch is calling.

Some of my committments have dropped off of late, and I think it is about time that I got back on the kit for an hour a day. Finally knock out that bossa nova and that shuffle. Do some paradiddles. Work on some tough tunes from the pile of play along books I've gathered. Actually practice.

Lessons, Week 66

EN brought in the proper recording of "Pinata" and we played along to it. It became clear to me that I can't play a bossa nova to save my life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

CJ, 6/4/10, Mickey's

The Type and The No and Maybe Game opened for us. Both sounded great. I ate something, forget what, before leaving for the show. Got to practice space for load in around 8:45pm. We took the stage around 12:30am and played until about 1:45am. I was home around 2:45am (though I didn't drive back to unload with the guys). I had one beer before the show, one during, and one after. All Spotted Cows. Also had a glass of water during the show and one before.

It was completely packed. Hot as hell. Band had very little room to move. Some lady was practically standing behind me. We used The Drain's PA and added two vocal monitors. I could hear myself fine and vocals went well. I used my own amp and no DI. Overall the set went well. It was a little hard to hear each other and I think this was messing with EH. Beat on Bone Machine got flipped and we had a hard time recovering. There were a couple of other little flubs but mostly things went well. I think we brought down $220 between all three bands...that's tips and % of bar.

People seemed really pleased. It is a weird vibe. People are really fanatics. It's nice to have such great energy, but it feels a little hollow cause I know they wouldn't think we were so great if we were playing originals. They are filling in the spaces with displaced affection. But oh well. It's nice to be appreciated anyway.

River Euphrates
Broken Face
Break My Body
Something Against You
Ed Is Dead
Where Is My Mind?
The Holiday Song
Tony's Theme
Into the White
Nimrod's Son
Bone Machine
Oh My Golly
I've Been Tired
Isla De Encanta
I'm Amazed
Brick Is Red
Here Comes Your Man
Wave Of Mutilation