Friday, July 30, 2010

Drummer's Guide to Fills Book & CD

Been feeling uninspired and generally down on the world lately. With that in mind and knowing that I need to start a new practice regime, I went digging through my instructional books. I have lots of music instruction books that I've bought over the years. Most were glanced at and then filed. But I've made a habit of forcefully returning to them, and I've actually found several useful.

The latest candidate isDrummer's Guide to Fills Book & CD. I bought this maybe six months ago and never cracked it. But I feel like fills are one of my weakest skills.

This book is actually pretty great. Great ideas, and great exercises. Really useful stuff. I'm hoping to work with it and not give up for a while.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Practice Routine

I really want to get into a new practice routine. Starting with Monday nights after lessons end. Been looking through a book on fills that I bought a while back and never cracked. It's got good stuff in it...including a kind of review of sticking exercises...but around the kit with bass drum added in. Was thinking I ought to make a systemic study of the book. We'll see

Lessons Weeks 73

I've already forgotten the names of the drummers we reviewed. But then we went over some latin-jazz stuff. Caravan and some other stuff. Talked about switching from latin to swing and back within songs. He gave me a latin-jazz solo to work on that he said was an "A class" solo. I guess that's hard for high school kids. It's hard for me too.

Three more lessons left until he leaves town. Gonna miss that guy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Audition Update

Heard back from MB and sounds like he's still up for me to audition. I think I'm almost ready too...or as ready as I'm gonna be in the near future. Some stuff that I was struggling with is really coming along nicely.

In an ironic twist, the other guy that they are considering to fill in on drums sang a song with us last night. Didn't realize it was the same person until he took the stage. Really weird.

SSW, July 25th, High Noon Saloon

This was kind of a weird show. I had been to a party that afternoon outside in the sun and had some beers. So by the time I got to the High Noon I was coming down from that and feeling a little dehydrated and headachy. I also didn't get a proper nap. Got to HNS around 7pm and ate the nice spread they had out for the bands and then took a nap in my car for about an hour. We were supposed to go on at 10pm, but we didn't take the stage until after 10:30pm. It felt like it took a long time for switchover for some reason. I used Underculture's kit...including cymbals. Used my own throne, pedal, snare, and snare stand. The kit had two toms on a stand off to left and ride low on right. Better than the way he used to have it set up. I ignored the left-most tom. Left most crash was a little far away and high hats were really high. But I managed to play it pretty easily.

(note that I couldn't get the high hat to add to the above image for some reason)

I had a couple of cokes and glasses of water before the show. Felt ok by the time the show started. Sound was a little goofy. There's this one sound guy there that I never seem to really like the way he sets things up. Sound in the audience was good...the monitors were just weird. I think it's because we didn't really do a full sound check.

There were lots of odd things going on on stage. Can't put my finger on why, but we didn't seem in touch with one another. I think I played pretty well. Didn't make any major mistakes and got the new tunes off pretty well. I think I might be getting a little bored with our set. I also wish we did quicker transitions between the songs. I tried to force that a bit last night...and we talked about it before the show...but it just seemed to throw people off when I'd start songs quickly. Don't was just a blah night.

Had the required couple of women come tell me how great I was. I'm getting sick of that. They don't know drumming from shit...they are really just saying "wow...I'm too chicken shit to try something like playing rock drums and I'm projecting that on to you." I don't know what's worse...being told I'm great just because people perceive me as female and they don't think women can play drums/bass...or the fact that they assume me to identify as female in the first place. Or if it's just annoying that people...and so many women...are too lame to try to do anything for themselves.

Set list:

13. MR. SUIT

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Singing Class Week 4

Nothing much new this week. My main take home point was the instructor telling me I should work on the "gugs" and strengthen and extend the top end of my "belting" or "speaking" range.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


A side effect of the Pixies having one of the most iconic bassists of all time (sadly, probably just because she was female) is that nearly all of their songs have bass tab posted online. This is pretty unusual. Most of the time, if a song has tab posted at all, it only has guitar tab. Bass tab is rare...drum tab perhaps even more rare. So one of the main reasons that I was able to go from never having really heard any Pixies (except Here Comes Your Man) to being able to play a huge number of their songs in about six months is that I was able to cheat a bit with tab. Don't get me is only right about half or less of the you have to usually make changes. It also doesn't usually have the rhythm included. But it is a starting point that speeds the process along.

There are a few Pixies tunes for which I don't have tab. Subbacultcha is one of them. And now we're gonna play it.

So I'll piece together the guitar tab, listening to the song, and watching videos to get the bass part. I haven't tried it yet. I suspect it won't be that hard. Usually with the Pixies songs if the bass tab isn't posted it means that the bass part is stupid easy.

There's backing vocals to be learned here too.

Brixton 1991

Recorded version from Trompe Le Monde

Recorded version from Purple Tape

Modern day...probably 2004

Another modern day...pretty surely early in the 2004 tour (since KD's hair is long)

Tracking Kits I've Borrowed

On Sunday I'm borrowing a kit. It occurred to me that it is a kit I've used before and that I might have some notes on its ups and downs. Unfortunately, I have an entry about the kit, but it doesn't have details. I was REALLY hoping for a diagram like this one of EH's kit. I guess I was too lazy, or forgot, to create such a diagram for Underculture's (N's) kit. Which is really too bad. So close...but not close enough. This reiterates to me the value of documenting this stuff carefully.

As it is, I'll bring my own snare, snare stand, cymbals, throne, and pedal...and I'll also probably bring an extra cymbal stand. I'm getting used to having things a certain way, particularly for New Rose and That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate. Most of the rest of the songs I can adapt to most kits. I remember that I moved things around on N's kit a fair amount. I think I took away one piece even and moved the right side cymbals. I really like a low and forward ride placement, and that's hard to get with a kit that has two bass mounted toms...which is what I think his might have. I also like having a crash on both sides. The thing that makes New Rose and THIEMCF different is that I also use a forward china-like crash as well. That's what I might use the extra cymbal stand for.

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! BRAINSTORM!

YOUTUBE! this refreshes what I thought was true. He has his ride low on a boom stand, but over the floor tom...which is a little far right for my taste. I think this also means that his floor tom is a little low for my taste. He's got two crashes...they are probably a little high for my taste. Ideally, I'd be able to remove that second rack tom and put the ride where it would have been and move the crash to where the ride is. I think that I will bring the extra cymbal stand just in case I decide to set it up for the "china." Best strategy is to set up the snare, throne, and extra crash stand off stage and bring those up and switch them out right away. Then take off the tom and move the ride/crash stands. Then put cymbals on. I'll watch N and see how the toms go on when he sets up to make sure that I take them off correctly.

Lessons Week 72

We worked on a drum solo piece EN had from high school. It had lots of flams, ruffs, and triplets. Also some alternating bass stuff. He commented that my sight reading was pretty good and we talked some about reading charts for sessions.

I only occasionally think about the impact my years playing cello have on my ability to play the rock and roll. Looking back, part of me really wishes that my parents would have instead encouraged me to take piano or guitar lessons, and that I'd have played in rock bands instead of school orchestra. But on the other hand, it is really good, in subtle ways, to have a formal ensemble training. I learned to read music and to sight read music (granted, it was a different KIND of music than I read now...bass clef versus drum notation...but I think having learned one helps with learning another)...and I learned to play with a group and follow a director or an ensemble leader. These are all things that plenty of folks who play rock never got exposed to, and it is to their detriment. Sight reading music is a skill that we worked on in school for competitions, and while I may not be the best at it, I definitely have the background and am able to do it somewhat. That's a nice unexpected life gift.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Professional Musician: Part 2

I just can't make the two ends meet:

End #1: Rock cover bands playing predictable hits of the 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s who want a drummer who is so good they could have played with the original bands.

End #2: "Artists" who say that say that rock cover bands playing predictable hits of the 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s are lame and evil.

I'd LOVE to be a drummer in a rock cover band playing predictable hits of the 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s if that band got to play out like weekly and make decent cash (for me, more than $50 per member per show). I've attempted to audition for several such bands that didn't even have a current they never played out before. And I've been universally rejected either before I ever even got to audition...or in one case only...after the audition. I don't suck at drums...but I don't have a huge rock sound either...or know every classic rock tune in the fake book...or lots of experience in the genre. Basically, I've been rejected out of hand for not having a huge reputation.

So which is it...these kinds of bands demand greatness or these kinds of bands are lame? Guess it depends on who you ask. But it's weird. Catch 22.

Of course...both sides are deluded and ego-maniacs. People who really have their careers together...either in a cover band or original...don't sit around posting ads on Craigslist. They focus on their own work and don't really worry about what everyone else is doing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ultimate Tribute Show

I just worked it out after wondering for a while.

To play every Pixies song ever recorded would take about five 45 minute sets. Just a little under 4 hours of music.

It could be done in a single evening.

7-7:45pm Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa (both albums together are about 53 min, but one relatively long song is could do it all in about 45 min)
8-8:45pm Doolittle (albume is about 39 min)
9-9:45pm Bossanova (album is about 40 min)
10-10:45pm Trompe le Monde (album is about 39 min)
11-11:45pm Rarities and B-sides (I haven't actually checked timing, but there are about 22 would be tight, but probably could be done in under an hour)

By extension...just the albums could be done in four 45 minute sets...or about 3 hours of music.

I definitely want to LEARN all of the songs (and, as such, be able to play random requests)...but I wasn't even sure if it was POSSIBLE to play them all within a single show. It appears it is indeed possible.

No traditional venue would ever give you this much time. More than three sets in a single evening isn't likely. But at a house party or a special might be possible. I think it would be a ridiculous and hilarious thing to do and I'd probably have to sleep for a week afterwards. RS would never speak again.

Still...kinda a cool idea...

In Heaven

Something to work on vocally:

Pixies Live 2004:

The original:

Singing Class Week 3

We continued with the exercises as per her cd. Essentially the cd IS the class.

I've made a point to interject questions...and try to get feedback whenever possible...because that seems to be the real value here. Otherwise I could just listen to the cd and not come to class.

Yesterday one of the people who sang was the girl who has a theatre Broadway musical type stuff. She's been talking alot about "head voice" versus "belting voice" and the "break" between the two...and I've only been vaguely sure what she's been talking about. Yesterday was great because the instructor had the girl sing a song first in her "head voice" and then in her "belting voice." So I could see the difference. And then I asked...which is better? Do you use both? Etc.

Essentially...the "head voice" is what I think people like RS call "falcetto"'s higher in your range. "Belting voice" is lower in the range. I've always assumed the "belting voice" was more desireable...but apparently this is counter to classical teaching. Classical voice instructors WANT you in your head voice. Which seems weird to me. The "belting voice"...that which is more in your natural speaking range and is more powerful seems like it would be better. And there's the whole issue of the part of your range that falls between these two places...the transition...or "break"...and how to navigate that.

So the real life example for me is "Levitate Me".

Live version 1988:

From album:

At 0:30 in the live video (0:32 in recorded version)...where he sings "If all and all is true"...that's a place that RS has struggled with. It's too high for his "belting voice" and he hasn't wanted to sing it in his "head voice" ("falcetto to him). I would argue that Black Francis actually DOES sing this part in falcetto in the live version above. But from the discussion about it I figured out that I naturally drifted to my "head voice" for this bit. I then forced myself to do it in my "belting voice" instead and found I was able to do it. And in this illustration...yeah the head voice sounds sweeter and more classical and the belting voice is a little nastier and more rock and roll. But both work. Both are in pitch. And, yeah, the belting voice is more Pixies-esque. But that said...he (Black Francis) never sings this song live anymore as far as I can tell. So he could belt it maybe in his 20s...but not so much in his 40s. So RS, who's pushing 40, shouldn't feel too bad.

My personal issues continue to be with difficulty in feeling how to breathe properly. But I think it is just practice. Which I'm not doing enough of.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lessons Week 71

Went over more MB tunes. I kinda felt dumb.

Friday, July 9, 2010

CJ, 7/8/10, Great Dane

Played Great Dane Brew Pub downtown pool hall for the first time last night with CJ. We had 30 songs (set list to follow) in two sets. Sadly, the show start got delayed and we had to cut three songs for time (I've Been Tired, Levitate Me, and Bone Machine)...but we at least had enough presence of mind to cut the three weakest songs rather than the last three.

We had a good rehearsal the night before and then I had gone to a show but still managed to get to bed by 11pm. Had dinner at Coop annual membership meeting around 4:30pm and took a nap for a few hours. I had two Great Dane beers before the show (starting around 9:30pm), one during, and two after. I was drinking shorties, though, rather than pints, and didn't feel drunk at any point. Drank 2 cups of coffee around 8pm...and most of a 32 ounce bottle of water. Also had, I think, three more glasses of water. I ran through some vocal warm ups from my class in the car on the way to load in.

Met the boys at 8:30pm. The opening act, Sunshine for the Blind, went on probably around 10:45pm (we'd meant them to start no later than 10:15pm). It was largely an issue of setting up the mis-mash PA and also that one of the members of SFTB had to run home to get something he'd forgotten. I'm not sure when we took the stage, but it might have been around 11:45pm. We were supposed to finish before 1am...but we started the next to last song (after dropping 3 from the second set) at 5 minutes to 1am. So I'm sure we went over time. I gave a friend a drive home and by the time I got back to the Dane around 2am to help with load out the boys were already gone. Was home in bed by 2:30am.

The performance went pretty well. The sound at the Dane was really weird. Super loud on stage. The monitor wasn't very adjustable, so RS and my vocals were both about equal in the monitor...both loud. I was pretty disoriented until about the 3rd song when I finally got used to the sound and was fine after that. I don't think EH could hear the instruments, particularly the bass, very well, which made the first few songs a little rough...but I think he got used to it too. For the 2nd set I turned my amp towards him a bit. I had the amp pretty much maxed out. KS said the bass amp sounded fine in the audience (and I really trust his judgement)...but the boys said I needed to be louder. At some point in the future I may need a more powerful amp...but I really think it's actually fine. Most venues I will run DI anyway...and for the ones that we have to run our own sound I kinda feel like we ought to not be so fucking loud anyway. I think it's kind of just a pitfall of not having the amps running through the monitors...not being able to hear ourselves when the amps are pointed at the audience.

The bar cleared out a bit when the music started. It was a Thursday night and REALLY busy in town. There had been a free concert early on the square and Fete de Marquette and a couple of other high profile shows going on. The people who stayed seem to enjoy the music. I thought we did a good job. I felt pretty good about my performance, though I'm still not totally happy with the verses on Into the White.

We got paid, though I don't know how much cause I left before cashout. Also free beer. EDIT: Opening band got $100. Main act got $300. This means I personally brought home $75. Pretty sure that's the most I've ever made at a bar and second most I've ever made (got $300 for The Lollards, a 3 piece band, to play final fiesta in 2007).

Kind of a side note...EH said something about that it would be nice if we could fill an entire bill at the Dane at some point in the future...which essentially means three sets...or about 2 hours and 15 minutes...and probably about 45 songs. I've also thought that being able to fill an entire night at Mickey's would be great. Prior to CJ, the most songs a band I've been in has ever had is about 22 (about two sets), and that took about a year to work up. CJ has worked up the current setlist of 30 songs in a little over 3 months...and it's as tight as any group I've ever played with. The Pixies only had about 90 songs that they ever at the current pace we totally could learn the entire catalog in less than a year. Not that we are going to maintain the current pace...because it's been pretty intense (though not as intense as the 2 a weeks that went on for a year with The Lollards) and I think we're all getting a little tired. Plus, there's really no urgency now that we have two sets of material to add songs (because the situations in which more than 2 sets are required is pretty limited). That said, adding 5 or so songs per show when we have a month between gigs doesn't seem like too crazy a charge...and that still means it would only take about another 12 months to finish the catalog...and only about 3 months to get to a third set. I guess I'm just shocked at our ability to bang out these tunes...shocked as much as anything at my own ability to remember bass parts and lyrics. I really didn't think I had that much capacity for memorization. The songs are practically on autopilot now...and that's just weird to learn that I'm capable of such a thing.

Set #1
Broken Face
Isla de Encanta
Tony's Theme
River Euphrates
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Oh My Golly!
Nimrod's Son
Ed is Dead
I'm Amazed
Brick is Red
Into the White

Set #2:
Wave of Mutilation
Something Against You
The Holiday Song
Here Comes Your Man
Down to the Well
I've Been Tired
Levitate Me (skipped for time)
Break My Body
Bone Machine (skipped for time)
Crackity Jones
Where Is My Mind?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Clem Burke: Revisited

I've tried not to repeat my series on drummers too often, but sometimes I explore someone and then drop them...or give them short strife the first time around...and rediscover them later. Lately I've been thinking about Clem Burke again.

Listening to the Blondie greatest hits disk on Sunday in the car, I was noticing that, though his beats aren't super complicated (he isn't doing tons of fills and such)...he's got alot of finesse stuff going on. Almost jazz-like. Detailed high hat and ride work. Not typical rock stuff. Just really nice. It's dance music, of course, so a steady/catchy beat is the key.

He's got something going called The Clem Burke Drumming Project: The Clem Burke Drumming Project is based on the pursuit of knowledge through the application of scientific principles to the various art forms of drumming. It is committed to the dissemination of information leading to increased enjoyment, health and well-being of all participants involved in drumming.

Found something on the net that said he played on Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" but I think this was wrong. Sounds like he played on some cuts on the "Bad Reputation" album...but nothing top 40. Also sounds like lots of those tunes were recorded multiple times before the "famous" versions were done.

Rapture live:

The Tide is High live:

Call Me live:

Here he is playing with Eurythmics:

At a solo clinic:

Singing Class Week 2

We went through more breathing exercises and vocal warmups and then two of us (me included) presented songs we wanted to work on. I sang "The World's a Mess It's In My Kiss" by X...which has always been a song I thought that I ought to be able to sing but have struggled with to the point of telling the boys we couldn't do it. I sang it a cappella in front of about 10 strangers. Eyes closed as is our way. It came out pretty good, really. I don't feel like the instructor really helped me with it, though. She made some comments about belting a certain word and reminded me to breath from the belly...but no reall constructive criticism or suggestions.

The breathing is the key to it all...and I really struggle with it. I don't know if I'm just not used to the kind of breathing we're doing...or if my considerable girth makes it hard to expand by belly and ribs. I just naturally breath shallowly and into the top of my chest...and I don't really push with my abdominal muscles at all when I sing. But that's what I'm supposed to be doing. It's hard to get the hang of. I probably should practice every day on the floor. One more thing to remember to add to life's obligations.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lessons Week 70

We went over a handful of SDY tunes that had been giving me trouble.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Professional Musician

I don't tend to write much deep reflection or opinion in this forum. I've been burned in the past by being open on a blog and someone using it against me. This space I've hoped to keep clean of the nastiness.

I'm not sure if this topic falls in the nastiness or not...but it seems worth writing about here. It's something that I think about often. It's the whole concept of what makes a "professional musician" and what is the merit of performance music for fun.

Just got done reading this article that newlow linked to. I'm not sure why this brought me back to the topic at hand. Maybe because Black Flag is both a well known band...and obviously a band that was very DIY.

If you read the Craig's List ads for musicians long enough (not very long) you'll see a thread of "we're serious, we're not weekend warriors" attitude. In a related'll frequently hear some people complain about how little they get paid to play bars...or about playing charity gigs for free. There was a long thread on the forums at Isthmus about this recently.

Let me see if I can summarize the philosophy...REAL musicians are only people who ONLY play music (don't have day jobs) and who are (and should be) well compensated for their services. Anybody who plays music and plays shows "out" and doesn't fit this description is a hack who is diluting the market and hurting the REAL musicians. And perhaps related to this is the idea that a REAL musician settles into one project, focuses on it, and takes it to the top (i.e. record contract, tour, etc).

As little as 8 years ago I didn't know anybody who played in a band that played shows. I had been in a few groups that played open mics or weddings or community centers or retirement homes as early as 1995 (15 years ago)...but I didn't really know anyone "in the scene." The idea of being in a rock band that played in bars seemed like a fantasy.

But since December of 2006 I've been playing in a rock band and playing in bars about once a month. And after three and a half years of doing that, I know some folks "in the scene."

Most of these people...nearly all...have day jobs. The very few who don't have day jobs teach music lessons (which is kind of a day job too) at least to make ends meet...or they have a supportive spouse. Some play in one band...some play in several...three, four...six...more. Some have had a shot at "the big time"...even been on a major label. Of all the people that I know personally, only one has ever complained about pay/charity events. Most of the complaints that I hear about that comes from anonymous people on the internet. I HAVE been told twice in the last six months that I couldn't effectively split my time between multiple one case by someone who didn't have a problem with me until he found out I was in other bands (that is, he thought I was doing fine until he heard about it...even though nothing changed with me) and in the other case with someone who had never met me or heard me play.

I still think of myself as a beginner musician. I'm improving and I'm light years away from where I was just a few years ago, but I'm still at the start. I think I have a pretty solid musical background, though...I'm reliable and I dedicate myself to things...and I'm pretty good on the business/promo side too. As time moves along I realize that I am more like the average gigging musician in this town than I am different from them. I'd like to bring in more money for playing music...but that isn't a major consideration. I don't mind playing for free as long as people still show up to the gigs with a cover charge. I want bodies in the room...whether or not they are paying. Otherwise you just feel stupid playing to an empty room.

But I don't see how my enjoyable hobby has any effect at all on the REAL musicians. It's a market place out there...and if you're so great, you'll prove it and you'll bring in a following. And if you're willing to quit your day job and "go for it" than you'll find a way to make money playing music.

Charities and bars are struggling to stay open as far as I can tell...most can't afford to pay. Hopefully those that can do. But if they can't...they can keep it.

Is the work of musicians undervalued? Absolutely. And this has never been the case more than the age of free downloads. Music takes years of training and practice and work to produce...and rarely is that compensated for. But frankly, society isn't fair. People get paid lots of money to do lame shit...or bad shit. People get paid to essentially do nothing. People who work hard and deserve more get screwed. If pay was equitable to effort...the entire economy would be turned on its ear.

A complicating factor...what value art? Why should those who produce easily digestable crap get more money than those creating important "art"? What IS important art? Who decides? It's an impossible question to answer. Is value proportional to how many people get enjoyment? Or are made to think?

Also...what I've learned from life is that...once you make something your tend to start hating it. I don't know if I'm good enough to ever be a full time musician...but even if I was...I wouldn't. I don't want to hate it. I don't want to have to make compromises...which is what always happens at a job. Not that I'm some great artist with high ideals...but there are thousands of little deaths by compromise in life. There are probably people who can sustain the joy of a calling through a profession...but the situations where that is the case are few and far between. Everybody hates their least sometimes.

In the end...I think the REAL musicians are full of shit. They are all talk. Big egos...fragile egos. If they were able to make a go of it...they would...and wouldn't complain about the little guys...the weekend warriors.