Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trompe le Monde

As mentioned, I've been trying to learn the drum parts to Pixies songs. For no good reason last night I pulled off Trompe le Monde for the first time all the way through. I really don't understand what is going on with me these days. Things that have seemed hard forever are coming easier...things that have seemed easy forever are harder and harder to do. It's like my brain is flipping upside down. Really, really strange.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Went to one of the alternative brat fests on Sunday. Drank when I said I wouldn't and talked too much and probably hurt myself in both cases, but it was fun while it lasted anyway. Had long deep discussions with people who's names I don't even know.

Monday I moped around and felt useless. I'm just not in a mood to practice lately and I don't know why. Perhaps because there's no pending due dates on the horizon. No gigs to speak of and no new tunes to learn really (or at least I've got the new ones in hand as well as they need to be in hand at the moment).

People keep telling me that my drumming is getting better. I'm not good at taking compliments and I keep thinking
  1. I'm not practicing, so there's no reason I should be getting better
  2. Was I that bad BEFORE...bad enough that you NOTICED slight improvement?
I know that this is the wrong way to look at things...but that's me. I don't know if I'm getting better or not. I'm getting better at some things and worse at others. Overall I've got to be better than I was in the past...but it's really hard to judge. I'm stagnating a little bit. I think I'm at that place where the low-hanging fruit has all been picked and there's really no progress to be made without conserted effort now.

On the bass front...I pulled out a playalong bass book and was pleasantly surprised. I remember having trouble with the songs included a year or so ago. My sight reading is marginal...but now there's nothing there that could not be learned with a little practice (Crazy Little Thing Called Love * Crocodile Rock * Maneater * Message in a Bottle * My Life * No Reply at All * Peg * Suffragette City). Was surprised at how awesome the bass line for this song is:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pro Gear

I've always been of a mind that cheap musical instruments are okay so long as they are set up correctly. To that end, I am the happy owner of two totally shitty electric basses (a Yamaha and a Lotus) and have great action and decent sound. I also own two Pulse drum kits...with good quality heads and some hardware updates.

But there comes a time to upgrade. I had decided that I ought to look into buying a "real" set of drums...and that I would make that purchase in spring 2013 with my tax refund. Which gave me plenty of time to research.

But research has a way of leading you places.

Somewhat randomly I've narrowed my interest to Sonor drums. I borrowed a Sonor kit from a friend for about a year and really liked it. And I've heard good things about the brand. That's about the extent of my reasoning.

Similiarly, I've decided that I'd like an all maple kit. I'm willing to settle for birch...but basswood and poplar are out for me.

I am not a fan of 8" and 10" rack toms...what's the point really? I do like the portability and punch of a 20" bass drum though. So my ideal configuration is 20/12/13/16...but no one makes that set up off the I guess I'm stuck looking for a 22/12/13/16. Best case scenario the rack toms would be short in depth to allow for more adjustments. On that topic I've learned the following:
  • A pair of standard depth rack toms are 12x8 and 13x9. This "classic" configuration was popular from the 1950s, and has made a comeback.
  • Power toms are one inch deeper than standard, so a standard pair is 12x9 and 13x10. This depth overtook the classic setup in polularity during the 1980s, and remains popular despite the comeback of the classic depth.
  • Cannon depth toms are an inch deeper than power toms, so 12x10 and 13x11. Once seen as a logical extension of the power tom setup, this depth never gained popularity.
So I guess when I say shorter is better...I'd ideally want 12x8 and 13x9...but in a pinch would settle for 12x9 and 13x10.

It is worth saying that I already own a maple snare drum that I'm pretty happy I don't feel the need to buy a kit that includes a snare. I also plan to one day buy a brass snare (like a Black Beauty of knock off of same) I feel like the snare isn't a deal breaker on a shell pack purchase. If I can exclude the snare to save money I'm all for that.

I'm a cheap skate. I just am. But upgrading has an implied cost.  So I guess I'm looking to drop between $500 and $1,200 but would lean towards the lower end. This puts me in the used market. Drums in this price range aren't going to be top of the line (even used) but I can get a decent "pro-quality" or pro-ENOUGH quality kit for sure. Many, many steps above what I am playing currently for sure. Respectable. Perhaps even a kit to last me a lifetime or at least until I make more money (if that ever happens).

Finish isn't a deal breaker, but I'm partial to a natural or clear finish. So the drums look like wood.

So settling all the issues above actually gives one a pretty good guideline on how to proceed.

Leaning towards modern era drums, I'd be looking for
  • Force 3005 or Force 3007 or Select Force (these are all maple models)
  • Force 2005 or Force 2007 or Force 3000 or Essential Force (these are all birch models)
  • Stage 1 configuration (22/12/13/16) or similiar. The depth varies a bit by year.  The rack toms in this configuration seem to be 12x10 and 13x11 a few years ago and more like 12x9 and 13x10 now.

So...what should I find today on craigslist but a Force 3005 maple in natural clear finish in 22/12/13/16 with no snare for $500 and within driving distance. The rack toms are the deeper ones...but still. I sent the guy an email. I hate to be an impulse buyer and throw out the playbook about waiting until next spring...but DAMN.

Here's the very kit in question in all of its beautiful and tempting glory.

UPDATE 5/29/2012: I emailed the guy about coming to look at these last weekend and he didn't respond so I figured that it was all for the best. But then I saw that he'd reposted the set with a reduced I tried again. He never got my first email. So if these haven't sold I'm gonna go grab them next Saturday on my way to SB unless there's something obviously wrong with them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tribute I'm thinking about it.  Not until Halloween 2013 though. Probably a bad idea...but that's me all over. Anyway, it's a long time away and I'm sure I'll have forgotten about it by then. That said...I had these same fleeting thoughts about Blondie once upon a time.

These guys kick ass though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Somebody's Watching You

I've been blogging since about 2002 and have always had a love-hate relationship with the fact of other people reading my blog. In fact, my first blog had "big mistake" in the title...because I just knew it would be. And though it took over five years for it to be a was in the end. Well...not a mistake...but a problem. Something I posted pissed someone off and there was a spiral of doom that led to me making that blog private.  Unable to contain myself, though, I went off and started two other blogs in which I did my damnest to
  1. be anonymous
  2. not post anything that could possible upset anyone
  3. not promote the blog
I figured that if people happened upon them that was fine...but they'd usually be people I'd never met and I felt best about that.  I realize that the internet is a scary-connected place though...and all that's here there and everywhere will eventually end up here there and everywhere. But I try to play dumb for now.

Anyway, blogger did this remodel a month or so ago and in general I don't like it...but part of what they added was lots of stats (I've largely ignored my Sitemeter) and just some more organization. I happened across comments today. COMMENTS! I had no idea that anyone had commented on anything ever. I don't get an email notice when it happens. is weird to know people are reading this...random people. People who have lots to say about what bass Kim Deal plays and all kinds of other things. Strange.

The Box

Last night I sat down and taught myself the one octave "box" for major and minor scales on the bass. And then I promptly figured out the fancy line in Blue Letter without even trying.

The whole world has changed.

A hot tip on m4a files

Memo to myself...
When you record something on your iphone and send it, the file is "*.m4a" format. This is an Apple only format. So any Apple device can read it...but not non-Apple programs and devices. However there is a fix, which is to download itunes to your computer, import the file into itunes, right click on the file, and select "create mp3". Then you can highlight the new mp3 file, go to file menu and hit "show in windows explorer" and it will show where the new mp3 file lives and then you can import it into any mp3 player or play with any other software.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Go Your Own Way

Crap...this is awesome.

Yeah...gotta get on it. I can do this.

And this dude? He's got more

John McVie

I'm thinking alot about working on my bass scales and learning to write better bass lines. I've become a decent copy cat...but I've got no theory to develop my own lines really. Kim is a grand gal and all, but I don't feel like she is a great example to follow. Or at least...I guess I know all that I'm gonna know about her playing at this point.

I've been listening to Fleetwood Mac and I really like what John McVie does. It isn't crazy fancy...but it feels a bit more complex than what Kim Deal has got going on. And I know McVie was a blues player for some time, so he's got that theory behind him. He's a good supportive player. That's all I want to be. A good supportive player...but I want to do a bit more than root note 8th notes.

I'm looking for how to play Blue Letter...but no luck yet. Here's You Make Lovin' Fun explained ad nasium.

So yeah...I'm still in copy cat mode...but my mind is in a different set. I'm trying to learn the theory behind what he's doing...not just copy it.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I was jarred out of my week of vacation with a planning meeting for the pilot advanced session of GRC. I've been hired on to teach drums and coach a band. I suspect that if the first string drum teacher were available I wouldn't be involved at all...but that's negative self talk...and anyway it is a moot point because here I am. In addition to teaching a break out session on screen printing (another thing I kinda suck at...negative but true) I'll be teaching an ensemble of 4 to 5 drummers and getting them to write an ensemble piece to perform. I'm squeamish about this for a bunch of reasons...
  1. Idea of having to hold together a room full of drummers
  2. Idea of listening to a room full of drummers
  3. I have zero experience playing in drum ensembles
  4. The whole thing smacks of...give the girls hand drums and tamborines and let them fuck around...because ya know...anyone can play drums and all percussion instruments are the same. The whole reason I got into GRC is because I want women to be taken seriously as rock players. Rock players play drum kits. There's a time and place for percussion...but I have no interest in percussion and I also don't think it ought to be a primary concern of a rock camp. The drum kit is an instrument...and it is a totally different instrument from hand drums or any of the other percussion instruments. The kit is a different subject. I play kit. I think they should play kit. I don't know how and don't want to teach percussion. And if someone hands one of those girls a fucking tamborine I am going to lose my shit. If you are going to play tamborine in my class you will screw it to a stand and hit it with a stick.
...but like most things in life I'm sure I'll pull it off just fine and I probably should not have voiced my hesitancy. I sometimes express self-doubt as a way to work through the problem...but the reaction people have to that is:
  1. Try to make you feel better about yourself with bullshit compliments that don't address the issue at hand ("You're a great drummer!" "You'll do a great job!"'ve never heard me play drums. How do you know I'm a good teacher?)
  2. Try to take over and do the thing for you
I don't want either of those things. All I want is to express my thoughts and feelings and be given time to work out the problem on my own. I need to remember that most of the world are extroverts...and they don't understand the way I operate. This is especially true at GRC...which is full of performers and type A personalities. I hate surpressing myself and bowing to the wave of extroverts...but I'm learning in life that it is better to be at peace than to be "right" or to get my opinion in...and so sometimes I need to let things go rather than do battle.

I want to say here that everyone involved at GRC is a super great top notch person. And I think I work well with all of them. None of what I'm saying here is about being mad at any of them. It's just a reflection of my own frustrations walking through this world as an introvert and a person prone to self reflection, honesty, and self criticism. I need to learn new strategies for dealing with the world around me and for how I process the inputs later on. I plan to keep on being very much myself...but to try very hard to worry less about if others "get me"...say less. Everyone need not be made to understand my every thought and feeling every moment that I'm having them's the news...they aren't going to get it no matter how hard I try. And trying and failing to make them understand is just hard on me. I will victimize myself by forcing the issue. And then don't replay every move and every word ad nasium later in my head. That's victimizing myself a second time. Let the situation go. Move on to strategies for solutions. Move forward.

That said...with regards to the first response listed above...I think it is legitimate to say that I only have 6 years experience playing drums and zero experience teaching drums and that I'm therefore a little nervous boardering on dread. That's not putting myself's just the truth of where I am at in my journey. If I was sending my kid to an advanced music camp...I'd want someone with more experience teaching them. That's a fact. Blowing sunshine up my ass doesn't change these facts. I admit though...that I need to learn to take compliments and see them as a spirit lifter instead of BS.

The second response enrages me. I'm not good accepting help...but I especially hate help that is really just someone trying to take over. Like just because I have doubts it means you've written me off. I can...and it. I just need to process. And that takes time. Don't try to "solve" my "problem" RIGHT NOW.

I really need to learn to not voice these misgivings because it always ends up this way. Sadly it is one of my natural tendancies that doesn't play well in the real world...and I have to accept that I'm probably happier keeping these things to myself than dealing with the fallout.

SAY LESS...then LET IT GO. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It's been suggested to just let the girls do whatever they want...and this to me seems ridiculous. They need guidance of some sort. I mean what is the point of having an instructor otherwise?

Oh...I forgot to mention...they are supposed to write an ensemble piece for drum kit...but we are only allowed to have two drumkits on stage...not 4 or 5.

I think that my stategy will involve digging out some of the latin and afrocuban beats that I suck so much at and which have led me to total despair in the past...recording each part separately to a track in Audacity...and then bringing that in to play for them. That way I can layer the parts together...or play them separately. And that way I don't have to remember how to play the parts (which I suck at)...I can play the recording to remind myself.

I can then deconstruct the drum kit into the component parts...bass, snare, hi hat, crash, ride (or cowbell)...and have each girl play one part of the rhythm. And maybe we can have a full drum kit there too and there could be some kind of "each person takes a turn" thing going on (maybe playing an improvised solo against the ensemble). This kind of eliminates the part of playing these rhythms that is so hard for me...which is playing them all at the same time on a kit. And it exposes them to the concepts. I probably should stand off to the side and beat a constant quarter note pulse on something that cuts through like a cowbell too...or else the whole thing is likely to go off the rails (or maybe designate one girl to do that).

Anyway...I think I can use this concept as a starting place and then let them evolve it where ever it goes. It solves the issue of only being able to have two kits on stage...and the issue of me not knowing what to do. And it ends up actually being a decent exercise towards advanced drumming concepts. We can talk about how hard it is to combine the parts on the kit too...maybe one of them will even get it on the kit.

And I can spend the next 3 months putting together the recordings and practicing the rhythms so I feel more confident by the time the class rolls around.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


It's been like a week or more now since I've played Pixies music. It'll be another 3 days at least...maybe 4...before I can play it again. It's been two weeks since our last rehearsal and it'll be a solid two more weeks before our next. I miss it. I don't mean the wrong thing by saying this...but the other bands, as much as I enjoy them, I don't mind taking time away from. I'm ok if we skip a few rehearsals or if I don't play the music on my own outside of rehearsals. But Pixies. I miss it.

I need to be thankful for this experience and all the things it has meant to me. I know that it won't last forever. Someday it might even end in a way that I can't really enjoy the memories...or maybe it won't. But someday it'll end. For now...I am so glad to have this thing in my life.

UPDATE 5/21/2012:
Played some tunes on Saturday and Sunday. I do have to say...I've forgotten a bunch already. The muscle memory is there and it does take over...but it is pretty shocking how quickly the total confidence in remembering the tunes fades. It's a good reminder that, as we work up to the full 89 songs (or as close to that number as we settle on getting) it's a good idea for me to try and get around to playing every single song at least once a month or more often if possible. Or they will fade. I'm very glad that I've mapped out the tab so diligently for the day when they do really fade. And it reminds me how important getting the tab correct and as detailed as possible is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Where Is My Voice?

So when I joined CJ the comment was made that nobody else in the band could make the noise in Where Is My Mind...I stepped into that first rehearsal, nailed it perfectly, and never looked back. Until this past xmas...when I suddenly became really aware of my vocal chords, and my voice started giving out on the sound. I spend the entire song now just praying for it to end. I don't really do vocal strengthening exercises or warmups...and that's probably part of the problem. It is also possible that the last two years of coughing and clearing my throat has damaged my vocal chords. It is also possible that I am just totally psyching myself out.

There's another possibility...which is that it is just a really hard thing to do to your voice. And I wonder about this because the way that Kim Deal sings it on the record is not the way she sings it live on tour. I always kinda thought she was taking the easy way out...but maybe it just isn't something you should do to your voice every day for 3 weeks...or in my case...once a week every week.

The case in point...observe:
Here's the version off of the record:

Here it is live in 1988:

Here's how she sings it live in the modern era:

Ok...I just listened to those three things. And I am an asshole. I've been doing it wrong all this time. I sing three notes...high, low, high. She only sings two...high, low. And that's what I noticed that she did live. But I just carefully listened to the record version...and there's only two notes there too. Where did I get the idea that there were three? There is a little bit of the perception that it goes back up at the end...but I don't think that's her voice...maybe just the interplay of the parts. Frankly I lik my way better...but it obviously isn't working for me anymore. So maybe I'll work it up the correct way. Worth noting that she throws her head back and opens her I think I'm doing that correctly. I've never been able to do it unless I throw my head back and open up to full belt volume. I can't do it quietly or without the music.

CJ, 5/5/2012, Mr Roberts

We were squeezed between a pro quality blues band and a Black Crowes tribute and when we arrived the crowd had a distinct "drunken white trash" feel. We were worried. But we worried for naught because a crowd gathered by the time we played that seemed like they were there for us...or at least liked us. They danced. People didn't leave. Success. It was a weird show for me. My amp was acting up during set up...cutting out. I think it was a bad cable. I switched out the Fender cable that Educational Davis left at my house in 2008 for another and all was well. But it threw me off and took time to diagnose and fix and then I was paranoid whether that was the real problem or not. Started Isla and could hear my own spent most of that song trying to figure out the PA while I played to up myself in the monitor. Got that fixed. In the middle of Bird I realized that we had not set up a mic for spent that song scheming how to get him one quickly. So then there was the "give my mic to him/take it back" thing before and after La La Love You...and so when RS hit the chord for Here Comes Your Man I was totally flustered and not ready. He hit it again and we started. 3/4 through the song I was thinking how that song always feels like I'm about to go off the rails...but that it was feeling really good at the moment...and you know it's KIND of a complicated bass part to sing against but I'm nailing it...and...and...I totally lost my place in the bass line and had to drop out and wait for the next time through the progression. Classic mind games. Drinking is bad, bad, bad...but that doesn't happen when you are just do it. And I'm still getting used to that freedom from thought. So then I felt shitty doing into Gigantic and I guess it went okay...but the vocals felt really dry (as RS commented later about the PA) so it wasn't my best sound. Where is My Mind has been freaking me out ever since xmas and RS told the audience this which I didn't appreciate (never tell the audience that you think you might mess up...because then they watch for it...arrrrgh). I made it all the way through and my voice gave out on the very last a-capella oooo. Fuck. I guess I really need to work it out and figure out why this is happening after two years of it coming off fine with no effort. I'm gonna also watch her live tapes...because she doesn't sing it live the way she did on the record anymore. And I'm starting to understand why. Gouge and Bone Machine went pretty well even though I've messed up Gouge twice in rehearsals lately. It was nice to have a request. We don't have another show on the books and won't have rehearsal for 3 weeks now. Plenty of time for me to work out the kinks...or ya know...forget all the songs. I gotta say...I LOVE being in this band and playing this music...but I DO NOT like performing. Setlist: Isla Debaser Tame Wave normal Bird La La Love Here Comes Gigantic Manta Ray River Monkey Hey Where Gouge Requested encore: Bone Machine