Friday, December 28, 2012

Bass Lessons 12/27/2012

I've given up on the post naming convention of "lesson one...lesson two" because I'm lost as to where I am now. So on to using dates instead.

Last night I had her slowly take me through the major scale in thirds exercise in both one position and also the two octave across all four strings in multiple position thing. I think I get it more now. I really need to work on this. It was funny to ask her to slow it down...because it messed her up. She's so used to doing it fast it was hard for her to slow down and deconstruct it.

She emphasized that the exercise is about keeping your fingers close to the fingerboard to improve efficiency. My fingers do not want to hear that. Especially my middle finger, which seems hell bent on flying up and flipping off the audience constantly. Seriously. It is like it is on a spring.

We spent a little time talking about the blues...and about blues scales and about what the bass plays.  We also talked a little bit about pentatonic scales. I followed about half of what she said. I've pretty much forgotten it all now. I'm really not sure that any of it matters.

I keep thinking that if I just try...that I will understand music theory. But I just don't. I mean I get super simple stuff...but even that I have trouble remembering (like the intervals of the major and minor scales...or what the key signature for various keys are). But the more complex stuff totally goes over my head. It reminds me a bit of electronics...no matter how hard I tried or how much people tried to explain it to me I just couldn't understand. My brain is apparently built for certain things only.

Again I'm left not knowing where to head with lessons next time. Perhaps something will occur to me by then.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Formal Notation

I lament a bunch not having taken becoming a rock star more seriously at a younger age. I knew I wanted to from about age 7...but I dicked around and listened to logic ("there's no chance of becoming a rock star"). More than anything I just didn't realize that all I had to do was...well do it. I guess that I thought I needed permission.

Anyway, I think I discount in this regret that I have actual had a formal musical education. I got a relatively late start at age 12, and it twas merely a public school education...but there's no getting around that I learned to read music and to play in an ensemble. Just facts.

I learned to read music in bass clef. I kind of knew treble too...but bass was my foundation. I played cello. Both the cello and the bass use bass clef. There is some trickiness though. Cellos are tuned in 5ths. Guitars (mostly escept one string) and electric basses are tuned in 4ths. So, even though I read bass clef and play cello...I was never able to read bass clef to play on the bass. It's a weird thing.

Mostly because I'm having trouble thinking of things to do in bass lessons, it recently occured to me that it might be useful to be able to read bass clef to play on the bass. It has very little practical use since none of the music that I play is written in formal notation. It just seemed like a good idea. So I thought I'd bring it to my teacher. But before I brought it to her, I thought I'd take a look at it myself.

So...bored at work with nothing to do since my coworkers are all out for the holidays...that's basically what I did yesterday...taught myself to play bass clef on the bass.

Kind of anyway. It is the kind of thing that requires practice. But when I got home from work I was able to play some Bach cello suites on the bass...slowly. It is a strange kind of transposition that happens in my brain...it reminds me of when I first took up bass. I was always thinking in terms of how a cello is set up and then adding or subtracting frets accordingly. I found myself doing that with the notation too. Like, on cello the top line is A and that's the highest open string. On bass that same note is on the highest string...but the string is a G...so it is on the 2nd fret (up a whole step).  So I'd think...like cello but up a bit.

If I wanted to I could work up the skill. I'm not sure that I want to. I just wanted to know that I could if I wanted to. I think that it could be helpful with the learning the fret board thing. It certainly reinforced for me where C and D are on the G string...something I would have had to think hard about if pressed prior to yesterday.  Oh...and that means that the 7th fret on the G string is E...up two octaves from the lowest open string. Huh. Yeah...useful.

So now I guess that I have to find something else to do in lessons now.

This chart (and other ones like it) was handy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Song of the Year 2013

I'm a little early to do this. Technically it is supposed to happen on New Year's Eve. But I'm just gonna get it out of the way now. If I change my mind between now and next Tuesday and pick a different song I will correct.

Song of the Year for 2013 shall be "Huffer" by The Breeders. Why? The whole thing just feels about right...the non-sense words...the verse...the chorus. "fuck" as a recording remnant. Yeah...that's about right. I'll say here that this is the 4th year in a row that my choice of song relates directly to substance abuse. WORD. I'm really not that quick on the reverse at all.

"Na na na na na na
Ta ah ah ah ah
Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah
Da da da, da da da
Da da, da da da

Toil, toil, toil 'til I get sick
I try reverse but I'm not that quick
Chained to the ground, no flyin' for you
If you want it bad you gotta steal your own fuel

Torn (up)
Toil and troubled (up)"

Here's the usual background:
Since I was 14 years old I've had a New Year's tradition of picking a song to represent the coming year. Sometimes it is a pessimistic song...sometimes it is an optimistic song. Sometimes I am not even sure why I pick the song...but they almost always end up...one year later...to have been an excellent representation of the previous year.

The song is supposed to be the first song that I hear in the New Year (and the previous year's song is supposed to be the last song that I hear in the previous year). Of course, logistically this is not always possible, but usually it is.

Why do I do this? Who knows! But no sense in ruining a perfectly good tradition...

1985 Kids from Fame I Still Believe in Me
1986 Go West Don't Look Down
1987 Outfield Taking My Chances
1988 Police King of Pain
1989 U2 Where the Streets Have No Name
1990 Erasure Hideaway
1991 Aztec Camera Stray
1992 Erasure Home
1993 Kirt Kempter Standing on this Bridge
1994 John Wesley Harding End of Something
1995 Poi Dog Pondering Postcard from a Dream
1996 Indigo Girls Watershed
1997 Poi Dog Pondering Complicated
1998 Michelle Shocked The Hard Way
1999 Ani DiFranco Fuel
2000 The Nields Giving it Back to Susan
2001 Barenaked Ladies Falling for the First Time
2002 The Nields This Town is Wrong
2003 Fleetwood Mac Landslide
2004 Barenaked Ladies Go Home
2005 Barenaked Ladies For You
2006
2007 The Motor Primitives Favorite Dream
2008
2009 Barenaked Ladies Testing 1, 2, 3
2010 Barenaked Ladies Maybe You're Right
2011 The Breeders One Divine Hammer
2012 Anna Vogelzang Heart Beat Faster
2013 The Breeders Huffer

Friday, December 14, 2012

That Thing You Do

For reference








This is only a few of them...there's a whole page of links. Who knew?

Bass Lessons: Sometime After Week Two

Well I suck. I bitch about other people starting blogs that they don't stick to...meanwhile I completely forgot to blog the last 4+ months of my bass lessons.  I only managed to blog the first and the second lesson (and a preamble).  I'm not sure how many lessons I've had since then. They are supposed to be once every two weeks...but we've had to skip some due to schedule conflicts. If July 12th was my first lesson...in theory we COULD be up to 12 or so by now...but it feels more like maybe 6 or 8. I really have no idea at this point.

We haven't really settled into any kind of pattern with lessons. I come in and ask whatever questions are on my mind and she tries to address them. I don't actually play much at all. It is mostly talk. I'm ok with that...because I feel like I never have a chance to ask music questions of people without feeling dumb. So I ask her all of my dumb questions cause she's nice.

This week we talked a bit about building speed by keeping fingers close to the fretboard. We've talked about this before. She suggested playing things really slowly and deliberately to create a solid and good technique foundation. She also suggested playing really fast...faster than I have to...because then you just CAN'T play with bad technique.

We talked about finger patters for major scale exercises where you alternate 3rds.

We talked about 7 chords and dominant 7 chords and 9th chords...and some other chords...and adding those scale degrees to bass lines.

I said I struggle with learning things by ear sometimes. She said knowing theory can help you figure stuff out...but sometimes you just have to go painfully slow and find the note.

She suggested we work on jazz stuff but I said I hate it...so we'll see if it comes up again. We're also debating teaching me to read music for bass. I don't think that I need to learn this...but I'm oddly curious about it. I should be a quick study because I already know how to read music...including bass clef...I've just never done so for bass.

We're drifting a little bit and I probably need to come up with a plan of attack.
  • I think that I really need to be working on playing major scales (and the associated 3rds exercise) with a metronome EVERY DAY. I think this can help with all that I struggle with...speed, knowing the relative positions of notes on the fingerboard, getting used to playing all over the neck. She's already given this advice, but I need to apply it.
  • I think that more important than jazz...I might ask her to help me to know more about blues. I hate blues too, but walking blues bass lines are so useful for so many things. And pentatonic scales...I really don't understand those.
  • I think that I would like to know more about reading music for bass. I could probably teach myself this but I won't.
  • Asking for her help on whatever it is that I'm working on and struggling with at the time. Right now I'm not working on any new songs, so that's a bit why I feel like I'm drifting too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What's in a Name?

The ska band finally has a name...to be known here thus-n-forth as SVFD.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Still more revelations on the 4 to 7 box

I know...I'm an idiot. Everyone else figured this out long ago.

Don't like 4...go to 9.  Don't like 9...go to 4.  Same deal for 3 and 8.  I already knew about 2 and 7.

Holding your instrument outside of rehearsal...it's the new way to learn. Like magic.

Cannonball Cover

http://wn.com/Cannonball__The_Breeders_Guitar_Cover#/videos

Holy crap this is awesome.



It's so freaking clear to see what they are doing. Love it.  More here.

Check out this one with him playing in a room with himself

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gigs...Making Ma Head Spin

For some reason this is hard for me to keep straight, so posting here for my own edification:

TBD date likely in Dec...TBD band...benefit for the neighbor's greenhouse

Dec 20, Badger Bowl, Drain w/ hopefully Tiger C and/or Caus and/or someone else. Needs to be a 3 band bill. Waiting for AS and RS to ask bands and then to hear back from other invited bands.

Jan 23, HNS, CJ...all by ourselves...5:30pm-7:15pm. No further action needed.

Feb 15, Mickey's, ska...need at least one other (maybe 2) tba band to play. Need to settle on a band name, settle on who to add to bill, finalize bill.

March 1 or 2 or 8 or 9, Freq, Drain cd release w/ hopefully 4AM and TisT...waiting for feedback on dates from all bands and then finalization on date by DS.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

General Band Check In

Considering that I am in five bands it sure doesn't seem like I'm rehearsing or playing out much lately.

I'm happy to say that CJ is booked for a two set show at HNS Jan 23rd...which means we ain't done yet. I'm negotiating for the ska band's first gig in Feb at Mickey's and with the Freq for TD's cd release (also probably in Feb). I think the ska band will also probably play in April at LRC. Still, it feels pretty sparse.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zoom G2 Pedal

About a year and a half ago one of my bandmates gave me a Zoom G2 guitar effects pedal. It was his dad's and dad didn't like it and he didn't need it and then it was mine.

I'm not really much into effects. I don't understand them and I'm not sure I like them. But at the time I was thinking about recording an album of Breeder's covers and it seemed a multi-effects pedal would come in handy.  Then I figured out that I can't play guitar like Kim OR Kelley Deal...never mind sing like them...and that whole plan went down the tubes (there just isn't much call for an all drum and bass Breeder's cover album). And so the Zoom got packed up again.

Someone recently suggested that I look into effects to add a little something, something to one of my projects, and so before buying new pedals, I thought I'd pull out the G2 again last night.

I'm sure that, in the world of effects pedals, this thing is crap. But I was surprised to find that it models 16 different distortion pedals...as well as just about every main kind of effect that exists. For someone like myself who knows nothing about effects...in the very least this thing could provide an education by trial and error. If I fiddle with it. Of course...I'm historically bad at fiddling.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Speaking of Stretching from 4th to 7th Fret...

I don't remember when I wrote out the part for Motorway to Roswell (it was probably well over a year ago) but I started practicing it right around the time that I joined the ska band. What's funny about that is that most of the ska music I've been playing I've been playing between the 4th and 7th frets in a kind of "box". This was new to me because I never understood enough music theory in the past to know how such a box relates to major and minor scales. But once I figured that out...well I'm kind of constantly playing in that box now.  So Motorway to Roswell, at least the way I wrote the song out...is played in that same box.

When I figure out the bass part to Pixies songs I start by getting a recording of the song...then I search the internet for any and all tab I kind find...I look for videos of people covering just the bass line...and then I look for live versions of the band playing the songs to cross check and verify. I usually only get to reviewing the band playing the song if I'm stumped. The upshot of this is...I end up playing the parts totally differently than KiD plays them. I play the same notes...but in a different place on the guitar. This happens way more often than you'd think possible.  She's kind of a slidey bass player and I think her bass playing is informed by her guitar playing, which seems to involve lots of barre and power chords.  I was never much of a guitar player and I'm not great with barre chords or power chords. I play open chords mostly on guitar. And my bass playing is informed mostly by my cello playing. And on cello if I could avoid a shift I did.

So it kind of cracked me up when I watched this video of Motorway yesterday.



I had seen it before but never watched her closely. She's way up there by the 12th fret...no where near the 4th to 7th box that I'm playing the song in.

I know it's a stupid thing to find interesting. I guess it is just facinating to me how we all fall into our habits or learn things in certain ways that seem intuititve...but everyone's intuition is totally different.

Oh...and they are singing totally different harmony shit than we're gonna do for this song. I really don't get what the hell they are doing in this video at all. There's probably 4 or 5 or more overdubs of vocals at the end of this song on the album...and yet CT and KiD are doubling some vocals here. Seems a waste of two voices. Very strange.

I wish there were more live videos of this and all the other late game tunes to see how the performances evolved. I suspect these songs were written in the studio and not well rehearsed before they trotted them out on tour (unlike things from the Purple Tape, that they worked on as live tunes before recording them)...so they probably changed.  Whereas, when they perform Doolittle today, they work really hard to make it sound like the recording. The songs evolved to the point of being recorded...and then stopped. The late game songs would have done the opposite...been birthed at the recording session and then evolved away from the recording. Maybe.

Ma Hands

So when I started playing in the ska band I noticed right away that there were going to be issues with my hands. I have some undiagnosed Carpel Tunnel Syndrome...and either the speed or fear or whatever of the ska tunes seemed to aggrivate it.  I mostly sovled the problem by playing sitting down, without the strap pressure on my shoulder, and with the neck at an angle that isn't possible standing up. I also tried to take it slow and build strength. Practice ten minutes...rest...stretch...ice if needed...return to pratice. That worked pretty well and I found myself able to extend the periods of practice longer and longer and reduce the rest periods.

Then, of course, I got comfortable and cocky and kind of stopped practicing. I'd convinced myself that I could play the style and so I layed off a bit. So now I'm back to building up strength and endurance.

But there are complicating factors too.

One issue is that I just can't stand the thought of sitting to play bass at a ska gig. I have to be able to dance...and plus I can't imagine room for a 7 piece band in most venues will allow for me to have a leisurely chair.

The second issue is that, since the band seems to have a habit of transposing into different keys, I've begun to try and reduce the open strings that I play. Open strings make transposing hard because it means you have to change your fingering. If you don't play any open strings, for the most part you just move your hand up or down the prescribed number of frets. That means all the muscle memory stays the same. I'm playing really fast and trying to memorize these ridiculous songs...the last thing I need is change in fingering. The thing is, though, when you don't play open strings you get into stretching or shifting a bit more. I didn't think this was a big deal. My bass instructor had warned me months ago that, while stretching from the 4th (with my first finger) to 7th fret (with my fourth finger) seemed totally reasonable to me...that once I had to play for any length of time like that I'd get really fatigued. I didn't believe her. But yes, I realized this week that the stretches are killing me. And so on the songs that hurt the most, I've rewritten the parts to include open strings.

Kind of reminds me of the old joke about bass players. They start by playing 1 and 5...then they spend the middle part of their career trying to get away from 1 and 5...then they spend the end of their career trying to get back to 1 and 5. Everything comes full circle.  So, yeah, I spent the start of my bass playing career playing lots of open strings...moved into trying to avoid open strings...and now I see that open strings have their place.

I was reading an article about Steve Albini this week and noted that he wears a wasteband guitar strap. I'd never heard of those before. I wonder if it might not be a good option for me. I see that they make hybrid straps that are kind of part wasteband and part shoulder strap. 

It is partialy the strap pressure that is an issue, but more than that it is the need to support the instrument. When I play sitting down I put all the weight of the instrument on my right leg and the neck floats. When I stand with a strap some of the weight is resting on my left hand. This is bad for my hand pain...but also slows down my playing because my hand can't shift as freely and my grip is too tight on the neck. I don't know if a wasteband strap would help with that or not. I suspect not.

When I started playing Pixies I had similiar issues, but most all of them were solved by getting my bass set up well to have lower action. It's interesting how much a playing style makes. I can play Pixies for 3 hours with no problems with my hands. It's weird.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Noodling

I've never been a noodler. I like to have a guidepost. I rarely screw around on my instrument. It occurs to me that a little noodling is a good thing though...so I've started doing it on bass in the last couple of weeks. I sit down, pick a note, and then try to figure out what's around there that sounds good too. I started with major and minor "box" patterns, but now I'm venturing out...to see what is outside the box but in the key...and what's outside all logic but sounds ok anyway.

Figuring out the relative placement of notes on the fingerboard seems like such a simple thing. But every time I sit down to noodle I figure out something that I hadn't realized. Oh! I can play that note HERE too. Huh.

I don't know how all of these pieces fit together. How does a lifetime of daily baby steps congeal into skill or technique or knoweldge? It just does. And it is easy to get stuck where you are and never make baby steps towards anything. And then when you make them you think...shit, why didn't I figure that out years ago.  And you also think...huh...not sure if this is useful or not. But the little tidbits...they stick together. And then one day someone asks you "how did you learn to do that" and you think "hell if I know...it just happened".

Those teenaged boys wanking their axes in their bedrooms...that's a whole lot of time and energy I wish I had. I missed the boat. But I'm trying to make up for lost time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mogg Files

So this is interesting...if you search for "isolated bass" on youtube you get all these videos where people have ripped multitrack files off the internet ("mogg" files) from Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They load them into Audacity and then turn down the volume on all but the isolated instrument of interest. Fascinating!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kickstarter

I few years ago I became disenchanted with non-profit organizations. I used to give to several. I stopped all of things. I decided to divert these funds to two places 1) medical expense fundraising for friends in need 2) fundraising for artistic projects.  I know some people don't like the idea of Kickstarter, but I think it is great. I like that people give how much and if they want...and I like that the project doesn't get funded unless it meets its goal. I worry that there are "hidden" expenses associated with such fundraising that not everyone who starts a project understands, but other than that I think it's great.

I have given to...I think...five Kickstarter campaigns so far (and two medical funds). In general, if I know the person or know of them and like what they do...I give.  I have the following observations about these campaigns. This is not meant as a slam on the people I've funded...but rather as a guidepost for myself if I ever run such a campaign.

1) Plan for those "hidden" expensenses. That's the fees that you own Kickstarter and also taxes

2) Don't go crazy on the incentives and plan for the amount of time and money these will take to fulfill. Of the five Kickstarter campaigns that I've funded, I have not yet received my full incentive packet for a single one (three are still in process to be fair). In short...what I thought I would get I did not get. I think this is because people are overly ambitious in what they set out to do. I know from being a fundraiser in the past that people don't give money because of incentives anyway...they give money because of relationships.  To me, for a cd project for instance, this should be the incentive structure:
     All levels: thanks on the cd cover
     Less than $25: nice hand written thank you note on a nice photo of artist
     $25: all lower incentives + digital download of cd
     $50: all lower incentives + physical cd
     $100: all lower incentives + t-shirt
     $500: all lower incentives + something else interesting
     $1000: all lower incentives + house concert (within driving distance)
     $5,000: all lower incentive + house concert (outside driving distance but within USA)
Anything too much more complicated is a mess.

3) Don't tweet or fb or make other notice of the campaign except once a week...maybe twice a week. Every day...and certainly more than once every day...is super super annoying. I get that annoying someone into donating is a strategy...but it is a strategy that I think fails long term. It makes me not like you anymore.

4) Collect all the info you need from me when I pay. If you need a shipping address or t-shirt size...do it when I pay. If you need an rsvp for an event...do it when I pay. Don't send me a message about it later. Or multiple messages. I don't want to have to keep reading your messages to find the hidden one that is important for me getting my incentive. And for sure don't send me an email like this "please get me your shipping info" and then don't include a direct link to where I do that. I don't have time to go digging to figure out how I do that.

5) If I've already sent you my shipping info or t-shirt size...don't ask me for it when you see me in person or by personal email. Check your database first. I already took the time to tell you...don't waste more of my time. If you need to send reminders...do it the official way. This keeps things better organized for you and means I'm treated the same as all donors.

6) If I personally know you, don't cheap out and try to hand me my incentives in person when you see me instead of mailing. Fulfill and mail in a timely manner just like you do for everyone else. Again...this keeps things organized for you and means I'm treated like all donors.

7) I know that you are supposed to keep the fans engaged...but I really don't want dozens of updates on the project after I've paid. Once a month from payment to you finishing the project and sending the incentives is plenty.

8) get the incentives out asap

9) if one of your incentives is to be on a guest list for an event...don't pester me about if I will attend. If you have a limited amount of seating/tickets...set a deadline for rsvp and then stick with it (preferably, again, the deadline for rsvp is the same time that I pay...I say yes or no then and then can forget about it). It is either an incentive or it isn't. If I say I'll come and don't...them's the breaks.

10) don't fail to send something you've promised. Lame.

UPDATE:
11) don't send me a project update that says "I will send you a project update tomorrow". Either update or don't. If I see two emails from you in 24 hours and the first one of them says "I'll send an update tomorrow" I will hate you forever.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Communication

One of my bands worked on a tough song this week and also tried jam writing a new one. We don't typically work like this...we usually gloss over problems and rarely jam out ideas.

This isn't a statement on the people involved, it is a general statement. Communication is the key to a successful and enjoyable band experience. Rarely, however, does it seem that a room full of musicians are able to communicate well. At least not at the level that I'm playing at. Everyone has different language for what they are trying to communicate...the word "measure" or "phrase" means different things to different people. People don't understand how other instruments work. I personally get stressed out because I feel like I'm being challenged more than listened to. I don't understand what we are talking about...problem 1...and I may or may not be able to do what I'm asked from a skill position...problem 2. I like being shown things in writing or being able to listen to a recording over and over. I like to be able to work through things repeatedly...I can't just pull it out of my ass on the first try. You can't explain to me in words usually...my mind shuts down. It is frustrating.

I don't really know how to fix this. I think usually the answer is for me to remain uninvested, which is too bad. The minute I care about understanding others or having them understand me...the game is lost. I just need to do whatever I'm gonna do and let them do whatever they are gonna do and not talk about it. Talking about it always leads to frustration. It's frustrating either way...but better to be frustrated in silence than to get into an argument.

The answer is always to shut up it seems. People who shut up get along better in life. I should shut up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

CJ as Mirror People at Mickey's 10/27/2012

CJ played as Mirror People (Love and Rockets) and played all of Earth Sun Moon at Mickey's for Halloween with Pink Floyd and Nick Cave as openers.

Well...we wanted to play the entire album. Pink Floyd had some set up trouble and started way late and probably went longer than we'd expected. Change over took longer for all bands than expected. In short...for a show that was advertised to start at 10pm with 3 bands...the last band (us) went on at 1:45am. This breaks our previous record of getting put off until 1:40am at Inferno. Luckily bar time was 2:30am...but even so we had to cut the last two songs from the set.

I played pretty well though I was discombobbled. More from quick turn over than from having gone to a show at the Shitty Barn the same night. I still feel like my amp cuts in and out but I can't really narrow down when and how. We played well as a group. The sax was awesome.

I could get all bummed out about the circumstances...but I think I need to adjust my expectations. Or we just need to stop agreeing to go last. It's easy to get upset about putting in lots of prep work into something that never comes to full fruition...but I'm just setting myself up for disappointment if I don't think this won't happen again and again. Some people are inconsiderate or ill prepared...and sometimes things happen that are beyond everyone's control. Either way...shit happens. Getting upset about it just makes me a victim twice.

I had one beer after the show and none before or during. The turnout was really good and enthusiastic and stayed until the bitter end (even 15 minutes after last call). Even though it was packed, we only made $87...which seemed really, really low. I don't know if we got less than 1/3 or if it only seemed crowded cause everyone was in the front room. It was cold so the back patio might have been more sparse than usual.

Setlist:
Mirror People
The Light
Welcome Tomorrow
No New Tale to Tell
Here On Earth
Lazy
Waiting for the Flood
Rain Bird
The Telephone Is Empty
Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven
Earth Sun Moon (cut for time)
Youth (cut for time)






Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recording

The time has come to record again. Not Record...with a capital R...record with a small r.  Basically I've got two new bands where everything is fresh and exciting and they both are thinking
1) we need a demo to get gigs
2) we need to be able to record song ideas to remember them
3) all our friends want to hear our songs!

The first two of these sentiments I can get behind. The third makes me wince. No one wants to hear our songs. They just don't. They say they do, but they are just being nice. I've only really been in this music game for about ten years, but I know enough to know that 1) people say they will come to your shows but they don't 2) people say that they want your record but they will never listen to it. I also know that producing a recording of any kind of quality that is worth more than just a glancing view on Youtube costs time and money. And probably isn't worth it. I like recording my bands to archive that period in my life. But doing it for other people is not that important in my experience.

Anyway, sometime after 2008 my main method for recording, my multitracker, developed a strange quirk and so I stopped using it. It wasn't until maybe 6 months ago that I resolved the quirk. But now I've forgotten everything I ever knew (which wasn't much) about using the thing. But I guess it is time to get back up to speed.

I have two main issues with my setup...one is that it predates USB, so the only way to get files out is by burning them to CD...which takes a long time, wastes discs...and on that fateful day when the CD Rom gives up the ghost (which it surely will) renders the device useless.  It also only has two inputs...which means that I either need an external mixer or to record parts by track. This is fine when I'm alone in my house being a one person band...but when there's a pile of other people sitting there with you who may or may not know what they are doing...well it is just a pain in the ass. Recording is hard work, especially multi-track recording. It takes time and I'm not really interested in spending that time right now.

I say let somebody film us on their shitty digital camera, post it on YouTube, and call it a day. This is good enough to get gigs with and to placate the people who say they want recordings but who are actually full of shit. My main goal with my eager bandmates will be to impart this point of view.

But there's another reason to record...an unexpected one. Which is that yesterday I wrote a song. I haven't done that in about 4 years.  The song is for one of the bands, and I'd like to be able to make a recording of vocal, guitar, bass, and maybe drums to present to the band so that they can go off and write keyboard and horn parts (and probably better drum and guitar parts). And hopefully for someone else to learn to sing it cause I sure don't want to sing it. Having a recording to give them would be way easier than trying to play it for them live and them having to try to remember it. I don't want to be in the songwriter/director mode. I just want to say...here's an idea...go work out the details and come back and let's try to play it.

This project will require the multitracker for sure. Or multitracking at least.  I think I've realized that I may actually be able to use Audacity and a regular plug and play laptop microphone to get this done, as least for a scratch demo track (help on pc mic connections here). I know that having an actual USB microphone and protools would be better...but if I can manage to limp along with what I have than why not? Here's a full step by step on using Audacity to record.

There's no time to test out any of this now...it'll be next weekend probably before I get a hack at it. It puts me in the position of running equipment that I don't really understand and then being percieved as the "expert" but oh well. It is my curse.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuning

I have never had a great ear for tuning. I'm not tone deaf, but I've never REALLY understood and internalized tuning by ear. It is only quite recently that it has begun to make any sense to me at all...but I still have trouble knowing if something is sharp or flat.

This is a case where the public school system really failed me. I played cello in public school for 7 years. For most of that time I was first chair in my section. I was, I'll say with no ego, the best player or one of the best players. But I had no idea how to tune.  It was generally accepted that I did in fact know how to tune though. I don't ever remember being taught. Not really. I just recall an A 440 playing out at the start of every rehearsal and us being asked to tune. Those who had big issues were assisted by the teacher. The rest were not.  I never had big issues. Why? Because my cello was good at staying in tune. Simple as that. I was careful with it and it was a decent instrument and it just didn't go out of tune very far. So I never learned how to tune.

Looking back this really does seem a collosal failure of the public school music educational program. If it was the case with me, it was surely the case with most people. It is such a fundamental skill...why wasn't it called out as such? It seems, in retrospect, that it is a skill that can be taught...but someone has to take the time to teach it. To train a young person's ears.

In any case, tuning doesn't bother me so much anymore because now I have electronic tuners that tell me if I'm in tune (for open strings) and frets to telling me if I'm playing in the right place. But that doesn't mean that it isn't still an important skill.

It often troubles me because I feel like my instrument, particularly my low E string, isn't quite in tune...even though the tuner says it is and I'm playing in the right place. It just nags a little at me.

In Guitar Zero I learned something that I'd never known before...tuning a guitar is not absolute. I don't totally understand, but essentially if you get your guitar in tune with itself it will be ever so slightly out of tune in other ways. This is different than your guitar not being in tune with itself...which can be corrected by adjusting screws down by the bridge and is refered to as setting your intonation. No what I'm talking about is that tuning a guitar involves compromise...it will never be totally in tune for all purposes. From the site I just linked...

Richard Lloyd, formerly of the hugely influential band Television and now a great guitar educator, discussed an interesting way to mitigate the problem:

First tune the bottom E string to a tuning fork or tuning machine. Next, fret the E. string at the tenth fret. This will give you a D. Tune the D string to this note by ear. Next, fret the D string at the fifth fret. Tune the G string to the D string at the fifth fret. Now fret the G string at the second fret. This gives you an A. Tune the A string from this note. Now fret the A string at the second fret. Tune the B string from this note. It will be an octave up. Next, fret the D string at the second fret. This gives you E. Tune your high E from this. Again this will be an octave.


Voila! Strum the guitar. It should sound considerably more pleasing. If you are playing an acoustic or electric guitar by yourself this should work delightfully. If you are playing with other instruments it can take some real effort to find a harmoniousness between all the separate instruments, but I think that if you try this approach you will begin to get a taste of the difference between tuning to a machine and tuning to natural acoustic principles.

Shocking! I had no idea. I think the upshot is...if you tune each string to a reference pitch the strings will be slightly out of tune with each other. If you tune your guitar relative to itself instead...you'll be out of tune with the other instruments you are playing with. This is crazy to me.

But it might explain why things never sound quite right to me on bass...or playing bass against guitars. Or like why no matter how much I try to tune I don't feel like I'm in tune with the recording of Here Comes Your Man (though I also wonder if they didn't tweak that recording and increase or lower the overall pitch, essentially changing the tuning from how I'm tuned...seems like they did to me). Lately in particular I'll feel like the bass note I'm playing clashes slightly against the chord the guitar player is playing...but when we check to see if we are in tune with each other we are. And they don't seem to notice. Our strings are in tune with each other...but their chord is probably out of tune with itself and therefore out of tune with what I'm playing. Maddening.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Measuring Up

It is probably human nature to compare ourselves to others. I have low self-esteem so I probably do it more than the average person. It is both a factor in me pushing myself to be a better musician and also a significant source of anxiety in my relationship to music. I constantly worry that I'm not "good enough."

Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I watch other musicians and make judgements about their ability. People who say this doesn't happen on a large scale are full of crap. My judgements of others tends to fall into the:
1) I'm better than them (I don't feel particularly good about this, usually it means that the listening experience is not enjoyable)
2) I could do what they are doing, we're about equal (this is the most reassuring feeling)
3) They are way better than me (how I feel about this depends on a modifier...read on)

Fortunately, my assessment doesn't stop here. There's a second tier for those that I percieve as better than me:
1) do I like what they are doing (do I want to listen to it)
2) do I want to be able to do what they are doing.

A surprising amount of the time, my answers to this second tier are:
1) no, I don't like what they are doing
2) no, I don't care if I can't do that.

Essentially, I can appreciate skill and talent even when I don't like it. And when I don't like it, it makes me feel less bad about myself for not being able to do it.  Because I'm insecure though, I'm costantly checking in with myself to see if this is all just sour grapes. You know, the "well I didn't want to be able to do that anyway" attitude. Usually I am able to convince myself that it is not, in fact, sour grapes.

It is a great relief to me that, in the vast world of musical styles and techniques, that there are broad ranges that I can check off my list as "not interested." Jazz. Metal. Latin. Prog. Blues. Afro-Cuban. Reggae. I just don't have to worry about it. So reassuring!

Pop. Rock. Punk. Ska. That's all I'm really interested in. And this is enough of an endless list. (Folk? Country? There's a time and a place. Anyway, for the most part I consider these a subset of pop and rock, though they do touch blues too).

So what about in the case that I perceive the person as way better than me and I DO want to be able to do what they are doing. This makes me feel a little bad, yes, but usually it makes me feel more positive about them than negative about me. And it makes me watch them really closely.

It is interesting, because it isn't so much the internal assessment that makes me feel bad...it is the anticipation of the assessment and the potential comparison to be made by others in attendance. Basically, I don't want to go on the same stage on the same night as someone who is a bunch better than me.


Finishing Guitar Zero

I finished Guitar Zero this weekend. I posted about it a little while ago. Yes it has taken that long to read it because I am slow.

I loved the book, though it did disappoint me. I feel like it didn't draw a strong conclusion. He was going gangbusters and then it was like he ran out of steam and just wrapped up the book too quickly. To be fair, there's likely no real conclusion to be made.

Basically, learning music is unique from learning lots of things, but it isn't totally unique. Kids may learn faster, but adults can learn just as well and may have good advantages in interesting ways.

One of the things I feel like he rushed on towards the end of the book is the why. He covered the how pretty well. But with respect to the why...he kind of just said that it might be good for your brain (but then gave lots of evidence that this might not actually be true) and that it might help you make friends. He also touched on the fact that it is rewarding because it allows you to continue working on a skill for a lifetime.

All of this is true. But none of that is why I want to play music.

I've wanted to play music for as long as I can remember. My earliest references to this was the joy I took in making my voice sound (at least I thought) like Paul McCartney's. This was probably around about 1977 or so.  And around then or shortly after I got the urge to learn to play guitar and piano. I think it was because the sounds those instruments made moved me...or I associated them with good times.  As I became a teenager I idolized musicians and dreamed of being a song writer and a rock star (or folk star). I think it was shallow motivation...but strong none the less. I learned chord organ as a child because I was bored. I learned cello in high school because everybody had to learn an instrument. My mom thinks I picked cello because I liked the girl in Fame...but that was total fabrication. I never actually liked Lori Singer. I liked the guy who played piano. No, I played cello because I was afraid to be in marching band because I worried that when I had my period it would show...and because I thought I was too fat to play violin (so much of your body is exposed). True fact. I played cello to sit down and hide. It was a bonus that cello helped me to learn to teach myself guitar a little while later.

Being in orchestra did something for me though...it gave me a taste of what it is to play in an ensemble. School orchestras rarely attain greatness, or even moderate cohesiveness at all, but I had glimpses of what it was to be totally emersed in an ensemble. To forget yourself. To go on auto pilot. To be in the music. Just glimpses here and there...but powerful glimpses.

Today I think that's what drives me...chasing that perfect moment of total emersion. It can happen playing alone, but it is more likely to happen in an ensemble...in a well rehearsed ensemble. People (non-musicians) try to zing me sometimes when I say that I don't like to perform and I don't like to be on stage and I don't like to have attention drawn to me (still hiding all these years later). "Well than why do you perform?" I perform, pure and simple, to play. It is human nature to half-ass something unless you have a good reason to excel. Performing puts the fire under my butt and the butt of my bandmates to do a good job. To practice and to rehearse. And all I want is to play. As often as possible. At as high of a level as I'm able.

BUT ANYWAY...back to the book.

Two things I liked about it is that it sort of outlined how best to make progress (and that it is probably going to be slow) as an adult music learner...and that it indicated that there are all kinds of ways to understand music. I feel self-conscious that I don't know more theory and that I don't have stronger instincts. I'm kind of in the middle...neither a scholar nor a natural. I tend to discount all that I do know though...which in the eyes of a beginner is a considerable amount. Like most things in life, there are many ways of being, and my way is just as legitimate as anyone else's. I shouldn't let anyone else make me feel bad about my way...or let myself make me feel bad about it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Live Sound 101 and 102

Took an all day class on live sound at the Frequency. It was really well done. It was taught by Dustin and Jourdan Hines (who is worth checking out for touch up private lessons in future). Only complaint is that it was too short.

Where to begin? They told us to buy this book: Modern Recording Techniques, by David Miles Huber and Robert E. Runstein and I will plan to do so.  I was also referred here: http://www.bcae1.com/spkrmlti.htm

101 went through signal chain.

102 went mostly through micing instruments.

There was a lot of information and if I wasn't already knee deep in it I might have felt lost. But I felt about right on. I think I talked too much and asked too many questions...but you snooze you lose. So suck it classmates.

The next day I went out to the storage space and tested all of the GRC pas. I feel like I understand the basics of what is going on with them. I'm still not super clear on sending out fx loops...but this won't be an issue really for GRC or even in running sound for a band at a club usually. It is a bigger deal at a venue. There's lot of stuff in the signal chain that I don't really understand...effects, compressors, gates/limiters...etc. But I get that stuff goes out and comes back and where you place it in the chain matters.

I also learned that high, mid, low eq starts from 0 at 12 o'clock...to the left removes...to the right adds. That's important. Never knew that before.


Most of what I'd already figured out about the GRC pas...matching speakers to amps...hooking up speakers...was confirmed though it was sort of outside the class topics.

By the way...
1. Best...amp watts matches speaker watts
2. Ok but not great...amp watts higher than speaker watts (but hopefully not too much higher or you may blow speaker)
3. Bad...amp watts lower than speaker watts (amp can overheat and melt down, literally).

And in all cases gotta match the ohms from amp to speaker (amp usually says how). Daisy-chaining speakers puts them in parallel...which halves the ohms (8 ohm + 8 ohm in a daisy chain puts out 4 ohm). I still haven't really figured out how one puts speakers in series...I think you might have to hard wire them. But in series the ohms add (8 ohm + 8 ohm = 16 ohm). If you do a combo (some parallel and some series)...get out your calculator.

Other things I learned in class:
  • kissing the mic is good. too far away and you lose something and it is harder to adjust sound
  • place mic in center and close to guitar amp. If two speakers in amp cabinet, only mic one to avoid canceling out phases
  • place bass drum mic in center and just barely inside drum. Off to side is ok...but center likely better.
  • Ok to plug keyboard straight into PA, but you'll get a cleaner and stronger signal using a DI box.
  • Mic signal is very low...mixer gain brings it up to "line level". Dynamic mics have low signal, but condessor are even lower...that's why they need phantom power to boost. Turn off phantom power when up plugging to avoid "pop"
  • Feedback is from pointing mic at speaker. Whether you are pointing mic at speaker depends on the pickup pattern of the mic. Cardiod mostly picks up in front and blocks in back. Omni picks up all around. There are variations on these patterns too...so think about where your monitor speakers point related to pattern of the mic.  So this is why you stand behind main speakers but ok to stand with monitor speakers facing you. With a cardiod mic the pickup is pointed at your head...so that's away from mains and also away from monitors. If you pointed mic at floor it would probably feed back through the monitors...same if you stand in front of mains.
  • There's really no reason to bring a bass amp to a quality venue like Freq or HNS. I should consider not doing it.
  • Live sound is alot about isolating each mic as much as possible.
More as I remember it.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Am I?

In December 2005 I bought a drum kit. It was something I'd thought of doing for a long time, but in the end it was a total impulse purchase. And somehow it led to me really wanting to be a drummer. Somewhere in this monster of a blog I probably could pinpoint kind of when I got serious about that, but I imagine it was in fall of 2008 or so.

On an equal whim, I decided to start playing bass...several times. Once in about 1994...once in about 2003...and again in late 2009/early 2010. In fact, I think I got the idea to start playing bass again in late December 2009...perhaps even 4 years to the day after buying that drum kit.

Since spring 2010 I've been doing a balancing act between drums and bass, but I've still been thinking of myself as a drummer who goofs around with bass. I realized kind of suddenly this weekend that I may now be thinking of myself as a bass player who goofs around with drums. It snuck up on me.

Bass has always been easier for me, perhaps because I have some background in cello and guitar. Drums, on the other hand, have always been hard. It is my tendancy to discount things that come easily to me...but maybe that's the wrong way to think about life.

This spring I took an on-line class in drums. It was supposed to be the beginning of me "getting really serious" (again). Instead it kind of demoralized me. I don't have to look much earlier than that to see a time that I started drum lessons that was supposed to be the beginning of me "getting really serious" (again). Instead THAT kind of demoralized me. In both cases I was working really hard and getting nothing but pain in return. And there are many more examples.

Conversely, in recent months I feel like by just putting a tiny bit of effort into the bass I've made huge improvements. And it is still fun. And I now play bass in 3 bands and drums in 2. That's a new ratio...it was 2 drum bands to 1 bass band for a good long while.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not quitting the drums. I still love playing them. And I do think that I'm getting better at them...slowly but surely. But there's something about the bass that feels like fits. With drums I feel like I'm swimming upstream and against all odds and logic. With bass I feel home.

And I've spent my whole life looking for a musical home.

TD, Frequency 9/22/2012 & Mirimar Theatre 9/23/2012

Settle in kids, it is time again for a tale of two gigs. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

On Saturday night we opened for Mr. Fist and Kill Junior at The Frequency. We played great. I played great. The new drums sounded awesome through the sound system. The crowd loved it. We made $110. I had like 5 drinks but shoulda had none...but it didn't hurt my playing. All was well and glorious.

On Sunday we drove to Milwaukee for the Gorilla Battle of the Bands at the Mirimar Theatre. I knew the moment I was asked to play this show that it would be a total cluster fuck and it delivered. To their credit, the venue kept things rolling and on schedule mostly (despite the fact that venue was under new ownership and only honoring an existing committment and didn't want to put on the show)...but not much else positive can be said. Mis-communication at so many levels. No promotional posters up at venue. Link on website to event broken. No audience. Hauling my shit all over god's creation. Hurry up! Now hurry up and wait! Go here...no don't go here...go there. We sounded like shit. I played ok but not great. I had 3 drinks out of sheer boredom and frustration. A real shitter of a day. I'm exhausted.

Let this be a lesson to you. Hear me future self...never ever ever ever agree to do a battle of the bands show again. If you have to presell tickets to something...walk away. If there is more than 5 bands on a bill...walk away. If a promotion company of any type is involved...with few exceptions walk away. Walk away. Just...don't even think about it...walk. WALK.

Setlist Sat:
Sent It
At the Door
Bodies A Burnin
Better N Better
Jack
Gun in Your Grave
Fire Burns
HSUL
Gotta Tell U

Setlist Sun:
Sent It
Bodies A Burnin
Better N Better
Jack
Gun in Your Grave
HSUL


Friday, September 21, 2012

SSW, HNS, 9/20/2012

We played the patio at HNS for happy hour. Cement Pond opened. Later on, the Melvins played inside. There was an article in the paper and everything.

We had the grumpiest of the HN sound guys, but he was better this time, maybe because I had a Sonor kit instead of a Gretsch. Still when I approached him to tell him what our setup was and that I needed a drum vocal mic and RS needed a mic for his small amp he said "Where do you think you are?" like I thought I was the queen or was asking too much. It is hard for me to tell if this is just his sense of humor or what. After the show he informed us that our vocals were clipping throughout. Again I ask...why wouldn't you tell us this as soon as you noticed it so we could correct instead of waiting until afterwards and complaining. I don't get it.

For the record and future reference, the patio PA is 6 channels with no monitors. Normally they'd be able to handle us having 6 mics, but the Melvins had commondeered most of the sound equipment. We were perhaps a little loud as Cathy could hear us from her house. I could hear nothing but my drums and KS's bass...I couldn't hear any vocals...which led me to lose my place a few times, but not badly. Dropped three sticks on I've Been So Mad...not sure why.

The show went ok. I played pretty well. JG and RS couldn't hear their guitars at all which was a factor. We aren't show ready with Mr DNA and I've Been So Mad...both have complicated counting patterns and we just aren't getting them naturally. We should practice them or jettison. I got 2 tacos from Brass Ring for dinner. I had 3 beers before the show, 1 during, and 3 after. And about 4 or 5 waters. I had not intended to drink at all...but I got bored waiting for people to show up and then one thing led to another. But I didn't get drunk at all. For future reference I got there at 4:45pm to set up drums for a 6pm show. The sound guy and opening band did not arrive until around 5:30pm. So don't rush next time.

My kit sounded great and I got several compliments on it from multiple people...including from Cement Pond's drummer, who is a minor local celebrity (formerly of Killdozer) and who said it was nicer than any kit he has ever owned. Someone else asked me if I paid thousands for it...nope...$450 with cases.

It was just a little chilly, but pleasant out. There was a small but serviceable crowd. The Melvins ran people outside during their sound check, so that probably helped us...that and it being the last week of summer.

Amusing side observation: I got there early so I got to see the Melvins load in. They arrived in a Sprinter van and unloaded all of their own stuff. I think it was just the 3 of them plus a merch guy. There might have been one other person, I'm not sure. Anyway...it is just interesting to witness the evolution/devolution of rock stars.  I mentioned this to JG and he said "see we really are all in this together." I'm not sure that's true...but what IS true is that there's less distance between seasoned pros with a following and new upstart bands than ever before.  And any upstart band that wants to really just needs to get dedicated...put in the time.  That means time booking, time promoting, and time touring.

And there's the rub. I think I'd be willing to put in the time, but I have a feeling that most folks that I play with are in a weekend warrior situation...they are more than willing to put in the time playing and perfecting the music...but putting the time in on the business and travel end just isn't either what they want to do or are able to do because of other obligations. In the end I'm probably ok with that...I'm not going to push for it...because I think it is a zero sum gain.  "Making it big" is an illusion these days. All anyone can hope for is to make a living...and probably a slim living at that. This has probably always really been the case...but there used to be that "get signed and make it big" dream. That's gone. You make your own way. It was true then even if the dream was out there...but now it is REALLY true. Cause in the end you could be the Melvins or KeD...but you are still getting in a van, driving around, carrying your shit around, and getting paid probably badly.  All the same...I would like to do a tour...even just for a week...just once to see what it is like.

Setlist:

1. Boscobel
2. Teenaged Kicks
3. We Are the One
4. Political Song
5. One Track Mind
6. Helicopter
7. No Lip
8. Mr DNA
9. Dance 4X
10. Hate and War
11. I Hate the Rich
12. New Rose
13. Too Drunk
14. I Am a Cliché
15. You Drive Me Ape
16. Suspect Device
17. I’ve Been So Mad Lately
18. Fucked Up & Wasted

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The" Bass

A note here that Kim Deal's Doolittle bass is probably made in Japan and based in part on Pino Palladino's bass, which was an original '62 P bass in Fiesta Red with a tortoise shell pick guard. I've seen some indication that all late 80s '62 reissue P basses were made in Japan. The Japanese instruments of this era are well regarded as quality playing instruments. I can't be for sure, but I'd bet that hers is a 1987 Fender '62 Reissue made in Japan in Fiesta Red with dark fingerboard. It probably came with a white pick-guard that she seems to have subsequently replaced with a silver one. It also probably came with a little black finger rest, that she's since removed. (see video for Here Comes Your Man for likely original configuration...photo below). Doolittle began recording on October 31, 1988...so it is possible that it is a 1988 model, but it seems that 1988 and 1989 models might not exist...1987s seem more common. I suppose it could have been a 1986 too. I'm shooting at 1987 though.


This article is a great resource.

"Accordingly, Fender Japan was established in March 1982 and began building quality Fender instruments while U.S production was reorganized. One of the earliest results was the Vintage Reissue series, a high-quality new family that featured two well-built and largely historically accurate Precision Bass models, the ’57 Precision Bass and the ’62 Precision Bass. These Japanese-built Vintage Series instruments were soon introduced into the European market under the Squier name.


The short-lived Elite Precision Bass appeared in 1983 in several configurations with special electronics and hardware, but the concept lasted barely a year.
[...]
The first sign of recovery for Fender itself, on the other hand, came in 1984, when CBS decided to sell off all its non-broadcast-related holdings. Fender was on the block, and Schultz, backed by a group of investors he enlisted, bought the company he’d presided over since 1981 in a sale that was completed in March 1985, ending 20 years of CBS rule.

Owning very little in the way of resources—only the name, distribution and some leftover inventory and machinery (no U.S. factory)—Schultz set about rebuilding and revitalizing Fender. While Fender Japan now became the world’s main producer of Fender instruments, Schultz and his staff established headquarters for the newly renamed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in Brea, Calif., and acquired a 14,000-square-foot factory in Corona, Calif., in October 1985.

It is at this point that the modern-era history of the Precision Bass truly begins.

With that new mid-’80s beginning under Bill Schultz, Fender started by concentrating on quality rather than quantity, beginning with a small number of vintage reissue instruments and redesigned back-to-basics modern guitars and basses dubbed American Standard models. Production began in Corona in 1987 of the first new U.S.-built models, the American Standard Precision and the Precision Bass Plus; the latter of which featured a 22-fret neck (up from the traditional 20), Lace Sensor active pickups with series/parallel switching and an elongated upper horn for improved balance (this last imparted a noticeably odd look to the instrument, but nonetheless remained in place until the model was discontinued in 1993).

Also in 1987, the Fender Custom Shop was established, with one of its very first creations (work order No. 0003) being a 1962 “Mary Kay”-style Precision Bass with an ash body and gold hardware; the instrument was logged in on May 15 of that year and logged out just under a month later, on June 22. From that point onward, the Custom Shop would repeatedly elevate the Precision Bass from workhorse to work of art."


These instruments, especially in this color, seem relatively rare, and can cost up to $5,000...but deals are to be found. I'm kicking myself a bit because an 87 was on Craig's List recently, though in Candy Apple Red, for $450. Candy Apple Red seems much more common.

Here's some gold...a 1987 MIJ Fender catalog. There's a picture of a '62 reissue in Candy Apple Red with light fingerboard.


And finally...in the "no harm no foul" catagory...I could just make my own using this paint for $19 and these pickups for $90. I have a Lotus P style bass with a dark finger board...

Slap Bass

I don't really like slap bass and don't care to play it. But I have to learn a little for this song. This guy does a decent job of showing how it is done. Slap  part starts at 1:25

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pro vs Weekend Warrior

So I don't know if it is my own low self-esteem or a legitimate view of reality...but despite the fact that I am currently in 6 bands, play out regularly, and do occasionally get paid for it...I don't feel like I am perceived by myself or others as a professional musician.

It isn't the fact of having a day job, I know lots of people who are considered pro who have a day job. It's something else. Level of talent? Well maybe, but I know people who aren't as talented as me who pass for pros. Number of shows played? Nope, cause I know folks who never play shows and still get billed pro. So what IS it?

I think part of it may have to do with my role. I am a support player, not a front person. And somehow, unless you are a session musician, this role gets less credit in the world. And I'm not sure why this is.

I was thinking today about all the local star musicians that I know. Most of them play in ONE band. Most of them are singer-songwriters. And they tend to play the same set over and over. There are exceptions...the folks who play in dozens of bands...but they are in a different kind of category (like a session player). Anyway, I guess I don't see the challenge in playing one set over and over...or the interest. Blah. I couldn't do it. But for sure that makes what you are marketing pretty simple. You get to reinforce over and over. The product is defined and so easy to consume.

I'm not sure my point. I'm not bad mouthing anybody else. I just want to end the personal sense that I'm playing on the B team. I'm doing all I can to improve the skill side of that...but in the end it may be more about perception than reality. And I'm never going to be the person who promotes an image...and the fellow musicians that I seem to gravitate towards aren't either. So I guess we're never going to get anywhere.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SSW, Mr Roberts, 9/6/2012

A last minute add-on with some guy names Tim B and the Cutouts. We played second. Mr. Roberts had a new PA that wasn't set up right and it took us half the show to resolve in any kind of way. It was my first show with the new kit, which is heavier and has more components than I'm used to having to set up, which is a bummer. But it sounds good. I couldn't really hear the kick drum...but I don't know if this is because of the way I had it muffled or because the sound in general was all fucked up. It is possible that the maple doesn't cut through as much...more low end, less cut. I skipped using the bags and all was well, really only need to be careful of the bass drum hoops, which could get scratched from laying on ground (especially concrete).

I played ok. I had things set up a bit wrong so kept catching stick on underside of cymbals and had to crank my arm weird to hit the ride, but I worked it out as the set went along. We probably weren't ready to play I've Been So Mad and Mr DNA out, but we made it through. I had one beer right before going on and that's all. The guy in the Cutouts managed to break the two lowest bass strings on a single song...that was something new. Don't know if or how much we were paid.

1. BOSCOBEL BREAKOUT
2. TEENAGE KICKS
3. WE ARE THE ONE
4. POLITICAL SONG FOR MICHAEL JACKSON TO SING
5. ONE TRACK MIND
6. HELICOPTER
7. NO FUN/I WANNA BE YOUR DOG
8. DANCE 4X TO THE RADIO
9. HATE AND WAR
10. NEW ROSE
11. WARSAW
12. TWO PINTS OF LAGER AND A PACKET OF CRISPS PLEASE (cut for time)
13. TOO DRUNK TO FUCK
14. I AM A cliché
15. SUSPECT DEVICE
16. I'VE BEEN SO MAD LATELY
17. FUCKED UP AND WASTED (cut for time)
18. MR. DNA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Guitar Zero

I don't read books much at all really, but I picked up Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus at the local independent feminist bookstore as a way to support them. I'm a quarter way through in no time. I like it, he has a nice writing style. And it combines my two favorite things, science and adult music education.

It makes me realize that, though I feel like I'm beginning my musical journey in mid-life, that's really a lie. I started early...not as early as some or as formally...but I was noodling on the chord organ for sure by age 8. took up cello at age 11 and taught myself open guitar chords shortly thereafter. I didn't really practice much...but I was in the ballpark. I under estimate the value of learning to read music...to form guitar chords...of playing in ensembles.  For the first several years that I played bass (2003-2009) I transposed everything from cello pretty much in my head in a kind of instantaneous process. I thought of things as...it would be HERE on cello and bass is different from cello in THIS way...so it must be HERE on bass. Now, after having played the bass on a weekly or even daily basis since January 2010...I don't think that way any more. Now the bass is the bass and if I think about it in relationship to anything at all it is in relationship to guitar. But even though it is different...cello was a great introduction to electric bass. The note spacings are nearly identical.

I struggle with music theory and get discouraged by it. It is so vast and every time I think that I understand a "rule" there seems to pop up dozens of exceptions to that rule that I don't understand.  I'm finally STARTING to understand major and minor scales...and western chord progressions in those scales. But it is still terrifying and makes me feel dumb most of the time. Like everyone else gets it and I don't. But the truth is that I get more than I give myself credit for.

In the book the author talks about the "12 against 7" issue...which I'd never thought about. There are 12 notes in a chromatic scale...but only 7 lettered notes. The rest are flats/sharps. And for what seems like no reason at all there's no flats/sharps between B and C and between E and F (except when there is...but that's a load of exceptions that would make my mind explode). I've always taken this on faith and it never bothered me really. I knew it instinctually from playing chord organ (keyboard)...but explicitely from cello. But for a very, very beginner...this must seem insane.  So I'm a leg up.  Perhaps I know just enough to be boxed in...just enough to get myself in trouble.

I'm trying not to think so much about theory these days in a way...and in a way I'm thinking about it more than ever. I feel like I have to side glance at it...not make eye contact...not look full on. Catch it by mistake. Key for me these days is relative intervals...and internalizing them. I get surprised every day by notes falling in places I hadn't noticed before.

With drums, the author states something oddly reassuring (and maddening)...that 4 way independence may be amongst the hardest of human accomplishments. He also states that independence may be an illusion of sorts....more an inverse dependence than true independence. Teaching our limbs to move opposite in patterns...but not truly independently.

Anyway...in the land of ego that is music...it's nice to hear straight science from someone who deperately wants to play and wants to understand how that happens. And it is nice to know that you can teach an old dog new tricks...it just might take more steps and repetition.

I still say that every child should be forced to play piano or guitar from a very young age. Then, around age 12, they should be released from that instrument to play anything that they want. There is a danger of running them off from music entirely...but the potential benefits seem so great. Maybe those who start late aren't a lost cause...but I for one am glad that I'm not starting from zero.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CJ, Mickey's, 8/31/2012

We played a 40 song (ended up being 39 actually) show at Mickey's. Wife (metal) opened. We played 5 new songs: Hangwire, Winterlong, Lovely Day, Build High, Dance the Manta Ray. The new songs went over well except Dance MR, which seemed to clear the room. Slow = bad.

Things started well. Good crowd. But something wasn't right with the PA and we didn't figure out until set break that the right speaker wasn't on. So RS and I strained our voices in the first set and the vocals were too quiet and were distorted. I don't know if that's why, but the place cleared out for the second set.

I had one beer before, two during (one per set), and one after the show. And plenty of water. Ate a good meal. Had good sleep.

I played well aside from the strange PA situation messing with my vocals. Once the PA got fixed I felt really good about my vocals. There were some mistakes here and there but they mostly weren't mine. The show went off fairly well except for the technical problem and the audience leaving.  We moved the bench over so that I could put my bass amp up against the wall behind me and I was able to fit in sort of to the side of the PA speaker and I didn't have the troubles with feedback that I've had in the past.

A note too that CT had an excellent Vamos solo...in particular the spring crash from dropping the amp was possibly the most awesome he's ever hit.

Setlist (note that we skipped Rock Music at start of 2nd set because Rick's voice was bugging him)

1st set
Wave
Broken Face
Holiday
I'm Amazed
Brick
Winterlong
Ed
Build High
Planet
Alec
Allison
Dead
Monkey
Blown Away
Hangwire
Isla
Crackity
Vamos
In Heaven
Wave UK

2nd set
Rock Music (skipped)
Debaser
Bone
River
Dig
Subbacultcha
D=RxT
Lovely Day
I've Been Tired
La La Love
Here Comes
Manta Ray
Dance the Manta Ray
Gigantic
Hey
Bird Dream
Nimrod
Where Is My Mind
Gouge
Tame

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Don't Understand Animated GIFs...but


Duh...I'm sure I've seen this video before.

I'm forever surprised about the new things I notice after thinking I know everything there is to know about these songs. Admittedly I noticed her singing on the 2nd chorus months ago. But why did it take that long to notice? Maybe I noticed long ago and just couldn't pull it off with the moving line. Funny to think that this bass line once seemed really hard. I feel like I'm in fast forward with the bass these days.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ska Progress

So just checking in here because I think I tend to underplay the importance of accomplishments like this.

Tonight is the first ska rehearsal. I have no idea how it will go or where it will lead.

BUT prior to that first rehearsal I want to reflect on where I've been and how far I've come in a very short time period.

Late April: I get asked to play bass in an originals band
May-ish: Start playing and writing parts in that band
Early July: I have my first bass lesson, starting sort of on a whim. Start thinking about scales and playing in boxes.
Mid July: I get asked to play bass in a ska band
July/August-ish: Uncover or write ska bass lines for about 7 or 8 songs
August 18th: Sit down and try to play ska bass lines for 3 of those songs and feel like there's no way that I will ever be able to play that fast.
August 24th: totally have the parts in hand up to tempo
August 27th: First ska rehearsal

So let's say...that in about a months time I have become a ska bass player...with about a 3 month prep time of things falling into place to maybe make that possible. More than anything, I am amazed with my progress over the last week. It feels like many, many years of progress condensed into a week. I worked hard, yes, but I didn't work as hard as I could have. So that's pretty cool.

I am, of course, mildly terrified. The next song to learn! How long will I have to learn it?!? Will I be able to figure out the line?!? Hey gang, let's transcribe to another key for shits and giggles cause we're all pro musicians who can turn on a dime! Aaaaaaahhhhh! The house of cards falls to the ground. I'll just be over here curled up in a fetal position.

I must remind myself that no one else knows I'm faking it. They actually think I can play. Never let them see you sweat.  Just swallow the anxiety...shut your mouth...and go work it out. You can probably master anything in a week's time. Really you can. Too hard for a week? Ok...two weeks. Really. Shut up. Do it.

And then pause to feel good about doing it instead of feeling bad that you haven't mastered the next thing yet.

Ya putz.

UPDATE AFTER 1ST REHEARSAL: All went very well. Felt proud of myself for first time in a long time. And also, learned you can slap a capo on a bass in a pinch. Who knew?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scott's Bass Lessons

Happened across this website today. Pretty extensive and 100% free. http://scottsbasslessons.com/

Ska Bass Players

Joe Gittleman is the bass player for Mighty Mighty Bosstones and has been since the start.  Joe plays a 1973 Fender jazz bass with Bartolini pickups and GHS strings.

Kelly LeMieux is the bass player for Goldfinger. He also used to be in Fear (). He plays a Gibson Thunderbird...but I've seen videos of him playing a 4 string Ernie Ball.

Pete McCullough (2006-present) and Josh Ansley (2003-2004) and Chris Paszik (2004-2006) have been the bass players for Streetlight Manifesto. Ansley played on Everything Goes Numb (and also played for Catch 22. He played a fretless bass when he started but later for Streetlight Manifesto he played a five-string bass.) and Paszik played on Keasby Nights. Paszik plays a Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 (a 5 string).

Cymbals

I've been slowly upgrading my cymbals for years now. At some point I decided that I liked the way Sabian AA's sounded...and so I've been looking to pick those up cheap. I think I've completed the set for the most part.  Last weekend I bought an AA medium thin 16" crash.

So now my best cymbals look like this:
-Zildijian 13" New Beat Hi Hats (bought used for $185)
-Sabian AA 16" Medium Thin Crash (bought new on sale for $139...had $30 in gift certificates)
-Sabian AA 17" Medium Crash (bought used for like $80)
-Sabian AA 18" Medium Thin Crash (bought new on sale for like $119...had $20 in gift certificates)
-Sabian AA El Sabor 18" Ride (bought used for like $60)

-Wuhan 12" Splash (bought new at conference for like $25)

I'm gonna take the 17" out of the performance lineup and use it as a backup along with my 16" Paiste Color Sound Crash and my 10" Sabian HH Splash and my 18" Paiste 302 Ride and my Zildijian Scimitar Hi Hats. The HH is a nicer cymbal than the Wuhan, but I really like the sound of a larger splash.

So essentially I now have two full sets of cymbals. I also have a set of brass cymbals that I probably should donate to GRC but I just can't bring myself to part with them yet. And I have a couple of cheap Zildjian crashes that are cracked that I use at TD rehearsals and that are probably ready for the trash.

In theory, I should not need to ever buy cymbals again unless one breaks. However, I would like to get a different ride. I'm not sure what I want out of  a ride cymbal though.




Ska Progress

It's been a crazy few weeks and so I'd gotten away from practicing bass. I put my nose to the grindstone this weekend though. I discovered two things much to my dismay:

1. 195 bpm is really, really fast for playing moving 8th notes, or even moving quarter notes
2. My carpel tunnel is back and really bad.

I think that either playing hand drums or moving lots of shit aggravated my carpal tunnel...and the fast basslines really are a strain. I'm stretching my pinky alot and also probably holding on with a death grip sometimes inadvertantly. I'm trying sitting down (no strap pressure on shoulder), icing, ibuprofen, and massive doses of B-complex. And also playing less than I'd like.

I can play one of the three songs for next Monday at full speed. The other two are closer to 90%...or even 85%. There's just no getting around that they are fast and there are shifts. I finally understand why you would want a 5 string bass...no shifting down to catch the G and F#. Brilliant. Of course, a 5 string bass has a thicker neck too...which probably slows you down.

I think part of what is messing me up and slowing me down is that the parts for these three songs are REALLY similiar. Same notes played in different orders. So I think the muscle memory is getting confused about which song I'm playing. I get way better after playing a tune a couple of times.

I've been starting slow playing with the recordings...like 60%...and trying to work up to 90-100%. Also using the metronome to work short sections. It's weird that I've never really used a metronome before.

Anyway, it is getting better and I'm sure that I'm getting better...but it is hard work. And every single song is gonna be hard work.

This whole thing reminds me a bunch of learning the harder Blondie songs. Including the whole, "my body failing me" thing. Not just failing to play the part right, but literally going numb. In the end, with Blondie, I had to accept that there were some things that I just could not force my body to learn in the amount of time available. I had to do some cheats. Otherwise I was just going to permanently hurt myself. And maybe it'll come to that now. It is good to have been here before at least and to know that I have options when push comes to shove.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Repairing Snare Drums and Cymbal Stands Part Two

I took apart the two snare drums last night. The Ludwig was an easy switch out with the new throwoff/strainer. I didn't have a new throwoff/strainer for the TJ Percussion (buy one mid-day today).

I took a good long look at both broken parts. The Ludwig I'm really not sure why it didn't work. Maybe a pivot point frozen. It seemed like it should work. The TJ had a rivet that had sheered off. I kept thinking I could fix it, but I couldn't.

I was surprised that there are no springs inside these things. They basically amount to a two stage pulley with rivits at both pivot points. Lever goes down and pushes thing that holds the snare wires down (loose)...lever goes up and pushes the thing that holds snare wires up (tight). The big screw adjusts where your starting point is...tighter means you start higher, looser means you start lower.

The thing is...there's kind of a huge amount of pressure on the system. I'm shocked these don't break ALL THE TIME. Maybe the cheap ones do. Maybe that's why you guy a $60 one instead of a $20 one.

I also went to the hardware store in search of cheap wing-nuts and wing-bolts. Determined that 6mm and 8mm drum hardware is just that...it takes 6mm or 8mm nuts/bolts. But there are other parts of stands that tend to be smaller...and I don't know what size. I assumed they were still metric (which might be wrong) and guessed 4mm (though I picked up some 5mm parts too). I had trouble finding wing-bolts at Ace. I got bolts instead that had these big heads with grippy stuff on them and an allen wrench hole in top. The wing-nuts were easy to find. Not as fancy as an actual drum wing-nut, but good none the less. The prices were steeper than I'd thought...because $0.55 and $1.80 per piece depending on the size. But at the music store two 8mm wing-nuts can cost $7...so $3.60 is still a savings. Not as big as I'd hoped, but a savings. I think that in some cases you can get a better deal at the music store...I'll just have to keep an eye out.

I ended up spending like $40 ($27 at the hardware store and the rest at the drum store) on parts. It'll end up saving two stands that were un-useable and sprucing up a handful more. I also have a goal to get cymbal sleeves on all of the stands. Stands without sleeves will cause the cymbals to keyhole and not last as long. It is an investment in protecting our cymbal stock.  I paid $5 for a packet of 6mm sleeves without bottoms.  I also wonder if I could buy bulk plastic tubing at hardware store and cut my own sleeves. That'll be a future project.

I used the short Ludwig cymbal sleeves with the bottoms and 2 thin felts on the stands with no "tops". Worked great. I'll add the wing-nuts I acquired today and should work great. I wish I knew what parts were in the storage shed and what parts I needed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Repairing Snare Drums, Etc

So I volunteered to take care of the gear for GRC.  We have about 1,000 pieces of gear. I'm not kidding. About 800 or so of those are things like cables, stands, etc. The rest are larger pieces...guitars, basses, amps, pas, drumkits, cymbals.

Most of the stuff is in ok shape. Beginners instruments, but decent. I have some goals, like changing the strings on every guitar and checking the setup. That takes time. I'd also love to put a new set of batter and resonant heads on all ten drum kits...but that costs some bucks. So I'm triaging for now.

I note all this here because I'm learning some stuff. My first repair project is to install new snare throw-offs on two of the snare drums.  And this is where you learn that the spacing for the mounts is important. So far it seems like standard spacing is about 2.5 inches...but some are more like 1.5 inches. And there's probably everything in between. And there's the whole...you can buy anything you want online but can't really look at it and see if it is the right thing...versus...you have coupons for brick and mortar stores but they don't carry every weird size thing that you might need.

With cheaper student instruments...things are built cheaply...and not always a standard size.  Another thing I'm taking on is getting proper cymbal sleeves and wing nuts on the cymbal stands. And, well, crappy drum stands don't always match up to the 6mm or 8mm standards. They get them as thin as possible. I may just go to a hardware store and see what I can rig up.

It's like the old 7/8", 3/4", 1" tom mount tube standards...which break down when you kit is none of those. So there are some challenges ahead in maintaining a fleet of el cheapo instruments for sure.

I'm also thinking about going to the SWAP and buying like a dozen power cords for amps. They are the same kind that computers use and I bet they are like a dollar each at SWAP.

Screenprinting

Not strictly music...but related.  I taught a screenprinting class and I learned a ton. I wrote all that I learned down here...cause that's what I do (also linked at the left there now too). The photos of the results of the class that I taught are posted here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ska Progress

The ska bass stuff has been pretty challenging. I was sort of discouraged for awhile. But like everything else...it really just takes dedication.

There are 8 songs on the list to learn. It is a lot for only 3 weeks of time. I have to figure out the part and then learn to play it. I'm pretty clear on the part for maybe 4 of them (though still mastering), have a start on two more, and a couple I haven't really touched. This stuff is fast...and very scale based. If I knew my scales better and had lots of scale practice under my belt...it would be easy. But I'm kind of starting from scratch.

The Transcribe software has been amazing. It has greatly helped with figuring out the parts, but also been a great way to master then with the speed slow down. I like it better than the Amazing Slow Downer interface because you get the wave form...so you can precisely pin point where you're at...and you can loop. Maybe the paid version of Slow Downer does that too, I don't know. But it helps.

Much to my surprise...if I work hard for 30 minutes or so each day...the parts start to fall under my fingers. Faster and faster each day. It is work for sure, but work that is attainable. Terrifying work...but a little amazing too.

A side bonus to the software is being able to go back and check my Pixies tab. Songs like Letter to Memphis or Mr Grieves that I long ago gave up learning the real part and wrote my own...I can now check and revise. In the case of Letter...I like my part better...but I might change Grieves. There are a couple of others too that I should check...like Lovely Day. Anyway...it is pretty awesome to be able to play just KiD's bass part and be certain what I'm hearing. Maybe in the pre-mp3 days everyone had such a clear shot at the low end. We live in an age of wonder, but we've lost some things too for sure.

I doubt that I'll ever REALLY feel confident about anything musical...but if I play this ska stuff for a year or more I will be in a totally different place in terms of speed and understanding scales and intervals. I hope that happens. I don't remember where my head was on day one with the Pixies. I remember Nimrod's Son coming to me out of thin air and thinking "yeah I can probably do this"...but I'm sure that I never could have imagined having 65 songs figured out, mastered, and memorized...with another 24 tabbed out and just waiting to be memorized. Looking back now it seems like it was easy and I discount it all. But there were so many, many hours spent. And now over two and a half years have passed. I've gone from "kinda maybe wanting to pick up the bass again" to feeling confident that I can reproduce note for note all of the parts of one of the most iconic female bass players in history. I probably shouldn't discount that so quickly. In three years I could feel totally confident playing any ska song you could throw at me...and then what? The mind boggles.