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's the new way to learn. Like magic.

Cannonball Cover

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 well as just about every main kind of effect that exists. For someone like myself who knows nothing about 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 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 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) 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 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


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 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 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 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


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 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 it when I pay. If you need an rsvp for an 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 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.

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.