Me Playing Joe Satriani’s – Tears In The Rain

Hey there, in lecture we had 3 projects to sight read and play, this is my third and is a bit behind schedule. Joe Satriani is a brilliant guitar player and I don’t think I’ve given him justice with this piece but I’ve “Tried,” once more (Remember I said I was good at trying) I’ve attempted to play it with an acoustic.

So to my delight this song unlike study 24 (Lazarus) or my solo piece is slow and relies solely on chord shapes and is played in 6. I’m a guitarist of chords seen as though I love to add tools to my writing so I’ve built a catalogue of chord inversions in which nothing threw me off during the reading of this song. I have to point out my faults though, I’m very hesitant during the diminished section and not very confident during the whole performance but I’m sure it’s listenable… is it?

please give me feedback as it’s much appreciated and I really have to show my improvement to hit those units. Thanks for your time!

Me Playing Melodic Minor

Ahhh, a shabby attempt at melodic minor and a few stock riffs, I’m playing over A – 7 & E7#9.

I think the video should explain itself, as you can see I’m not a comfortable solo player in comparison to my songwriting ability. I fumble too much and I’m not very comfortable as I don’t like being the center of attention on stage, my knowledge of decision making and phrasing is getting better though so I have gotten better over a period of time.

If you’ve got notes on how you can improve I.E practice routines/ exercises then it would be massively appreciated if you could comment with links of you playing. Thanks to bassistchatfield.wordpress.com for the acoustic rhythm work.

Me…. Singing…. What? (Yeah That’s American Beauty!)

So for the past few weeks I’ve been learning how to sing, tough….. all I can say is, really tough!

I used to when I studied Drama & Performing Arts at Solihull Blossomfield College 08 – 10, I really thought in my heart that I would continue in that line of work, real eye opening couple of years as I found myself constantly battling my mind to support confidence in my studies just to carry on. I didn’t find my love for music straight away, I had to work to find what I wanted to do and rarely any support was found from family due to them being old fashioned.

When I was studying Performing Arts I obtained a few skills that have helped such as confidence and the ability to be on stage without major concern, I used to sing all the time but I wasn’t any good, I tried but never got anywhere. So coming back to singing was quite the challenge and due to everyone in the lesson being younger than me I felt pressure, as I tried to get stuck in I was given a warm reception (I guess they’d seen that I was trying) I’m pretty good at that… “Trying.” As the weeks have got on I’m still treated as a guest in the class (which is not on my time table, it’s voluntary) but I really want to improve myself!

This current week, we had to sing “Clocks – Coldplay,” not a fan, but the vocals are interesting and I will certainly be practicing to prove to myself I can accomplish this and also maybe the class will take me a tad more seriously. I feel singing could open opportunities for future prospects, who knows?

Just a quick draft today, I’ll be posting my progress as I go, I also included a Thomas Newman piece in which he wrote for “American Beauty,” a brilliant OST and a brilliant film. I hope you enjoy his work just as much as I do!

My Childhood As An Inspiration

Nǐ hǎo, wǒ xiǎng wǒ bókè shàng de yīnyuè, jìnyībù gǔwǔle wǒ, suǒyǐ méiyǒu huò zuò shénme, huānyíng de yīnyuè wǒ de tóngnián línggǎn.

(Hello, I thought I’d blog about music that has inspired me and so without further or do, welcome to my childhood inspiration of music.)

Well I’ll finish in English shall I? As a child my brother would buy these strategy games imported from China – America – England in which it was the only thing that occupied my time when I wasn’t at primary school or playing football. I’ve posted some music from the most recent of the franchise but here’s my experience with music from China!

Children in my city we’re just being introduced to a new wave of rap and pop, around 1998 + was filled with a change in music form… it was getting terrible, very terrible! As all of this was going on I was oblivious not knowing conversations of Kylie Minogue or Ronan Keating, I was about 16 when I first took an interest into bands and solo artists but the time between me being 7 – 16 all i knew was traditional Chinese scores and how they made me feel.

These scores could range from being very anxious forcing me to concentrate on tactical awareness such as (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAIAK3i5Jzc).
See what’s really going on when getting that traditional Chinese sound is the use of 3 Pentatonic shapes giving off different colors, the use of these in the recording are used by modern instrumentation though (modern orchestra) and are neglecting traditional instrument from China I.E Pipa. There have been many dynasties giving off there influence of where the music should go but as an example of what you’ll hear in the recording I’ve comprised just three:

– A. Yu Colour/ mode = A/ C/ E/ G/ A | Jiao Mode = E/ G/ A/ C/ D/ E

-B. Zhi Colour/ mode = G/ A/ C/ D/ E/ G | Gong Mode = C/ D/ E/ G/ A/ C

-C. Shange mode = D/ E/ G/ A/ C/ E

Okay so for another example (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdCOKgMFCBI)

In this we see vocals and the orchestra using a very western usage of tones but then at 0:32 we come to a solo piece where an Erhu is playing accompanied by string section and then eventually vocals bringing you into another repeat of the beginning but this time staccato rhythm from brass section.

Here’s an example of an Erhu (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxlz1jBEoL8). An ehru is a Chinese instrument that has two strings. It is played by using a bow to resonate the two strings while fretting the neck of the instrument to change its pitch, much like a violin. However, the Erhu is not held; instead, it rests on the floor and the player sits next to it. Tuning these two strings is much like tuning a guitar or violin and is accomplished through the tightening of tuning pegs and is usually tuned to D or A.

To end on a good note, these links are from a film called “Red Cliff,” which is a blockbuster devoted to the fall of the “Han,” dynasty which I used to study and are both great demonstrations of how my musical inspirations as a child weren’t poisoned by charts or drum machines (not that there’s anything wrong with that) so here’s a link to a beautiful piece of music. There’s a specific point in which I love hearing 2:43 on the first track but go ahead and indulge yourself to both!

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSJ6afXS20M)
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZRi7Z52B1k)

I’d love to talk about the history but it doesn’t fit the itinerary of what this blogs actually for, I hope you click on the links, you might like it!

Ibuprofen And The Third Album

Click On Title For Album!

With great pleasure and slight anxiousness I present to you, the third album (applause) yep that’s right but there’s something different about this one which I’ll get down to. So if you haven’t already followed, my fellow musicians and I produce these ambient albums which are completely improvised with one rule, “When we stop the recording, nothing is to be altered to the track, no pitch control, no edited drum track, NOTHING!!!” We’ve been getting great feedback and have some great ideas running around at the moment in which I’ll discuss at a later date but for now, let me pick apart and analyse this one for you shall I?

 

The title is because at the time of the album I had pain everywhere at the time of the recording and as I prepping for the recording (gear, tuning, stands, mic positioning and little bits and bobs) I took an 2 over the usual dosage of Ibuprofen in which changed my playing dramatically during the recording. So there I was at first feeling fine until 15 minutes later my head started swinging during our conversation over where the Rode NT-1 mic which is supposed to be recording trombone should go, luckily I had set everything up before my body started to shut down. Funnily enough this “Method,” made me use abnormal choices when playing in which you might hear as being chromatic runs, notes that weren’t in key and also not playing (on purpose) to listen round the room. You’ll hear this example 10:30 into the second track in which I’m really using different decisions in comparison to the box I give myself when soloing or improvising, this box is what guitarists use when they’re not comfortable in a key or simply out of ideas so we (I) use our “Stock,” riffs in which we always go back to when soloing.

Anyways back to the album, James Chatfield (bassistchatfield.wordpress.com) shows up with some of his younger sisters toys and a shaver, me and Carl ask “Why?” he replies with “Just listen.” He assembles his pedals and flips his bass on his lap then starts using the shaver and various toys on the back of his guitar which then gives off these absolutely brilliant and different sounds, the shaver is the creepiest so if your listening to the album and get thrown off by a piercing swell of volume then  at least you can recognize what your listening to. Me an James are also barring our 7th frets with capo’s along the line on the third track giving a brighter feel and as we we’re ending the track Murphy starts singing through his trombone giving this pure magnificent sound but before that I’d like to highlight my favorite part of this album!

Third track, 5:25 in you’ll hear a solid drum beat, my trilling at the top end of the guitar (Picking real fast) with bass volume swelling with a contribution from trombone giving the fullest and most solid performance of improvisation coming together in my opinion. If your interested in how we get our sound too, here’s our microphone placement:

C2 x2 – Drums

AKG Drum Clip – Snare

Rode NT1 – Room, but mainly focused on Murphy

SM57 – Guitar

SM57 – Bass (plus direct DI output)

SM58 – Drum sampler guitar amp

 

The next set of objectives for us shall be to gig for an arts festival or gallery as background noise in which we’ll strip almost everything to match their appropriate volume and these are two ideas for the next recording. The first of which is to try and play as quiet as possible which would be brilliant as I’d like to see myself playing something along the eyes of a Thomas Newman piece or Brian Eno. The second is a piece by chance, where we roll and every combination for two dice has an outcome in which we have to follow, so I’ll be sure to blog about both in the next 2 weeks! Thanks for the interest!

 

Jazz & The Beginning Of A Wonderful Thing

My Jazz Gig With Rosie Mountjoy

Hey there… once again I have a tale of me doing something a tad interesting, I’ve also made a photo click link to My Funny Valentine by Chet Baker, I feel that my cover’s a bit more accurate to his version.

So for the past week (that’s right, a week) I was given the deadline to learn a 2 hour set of jazz standards for a background music gig at a local Italian restaurant with a lovely singer that I’ve only known as an acquaintance for a few months. We we’re both excited to be playing despite the tight deadline we tried to make as much time as possible through our lectures in the week, luckily we had a third party that had gotten us the gig and was guiding us through what we we’re expected to do. So with our merry gang I we planned a rehearsal!

The rehearsal was due in which I got to college a tad early to prepare for both singer and conductor to attend, I also took the liberty of buying room temperature water (So it didn’t hurt her vocal chords) and set up my sound and sheet music stands. I think little things like this showcase my professionalism, throughout the whole time I spent with them both I tried to make a good impression and show the HND Level 5 Music Performance are very focused and polite musicians that have the tools and skills needed for professional life. Well after already using my spare time as productive as possible I researched most tracks and got them down, as both parties got to the rehearsal room they said “Thank you,” as they actually noticed those “Little things,” I mentioned earlier so I reckon I made a good impression. As we started our first track which was “Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra,” I started smiling to myself as she sung it beautifully, I could only sit and play but admire as she was pretty much doing all the work and I was just following instructions on a piece of paper. “This is what I want to do,” i thought to myself as I was using different chord voicing and adding dynamics such as finger picking, staccato, modal soloing and a gentle riff here and there in my lousy attempt to show to her that I’m pretty good… it sort of worked as she was pleased enough after every song but we both knew near the end of this rehearsal that the pairing was right and that we’d be able to hit that deadline and produce quality songs.

As we got to the second rehearsal my conductor (Also good friend Ollie Patton) had some good notes mainly on my playing giving good direction on certain songs whether to give them more of an upbeat or “Lounge-ish,” feel. I took this in good stead and followed his instruction to the letter… or word, the problem that was arising was the fact that we we’re running out of jazz standards we knew and time was running out for research and listening so we opted to use modern songs in a jazz style which was entirely down to her vocal phrasing and my chord inversions.

I was lucky, my tutor Mr. Phi Yaan Zek gave me a chord sheet on inversions, I thought to myself “This has saved me!” so we had around 2 days left with about 4 hours practice under our belt including private rehearsal so the nerves were kicking in but I had used my chord inversions on all the plain originals of these modern songs so they were sounding a lot better and Rosie and Ollie were loving them. Using this we were able to get about 3-4 hours more practice before the gig!

Gig time! so throughout the day we polished on “Billie Jean – Michael Jackson,” and a few others just to tighten them up but this is what our set list looked like:

– Fly Me To The Moon – Frank Sinatra
– Autumn Leaves – Various Artists
– My Funny Valentine – Chet Baker
– Make You Feel My Love – Adele
– What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
– Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding
– Moving To New York – The Wombats
– Dream A Little Dream – Etta James
– Back To Black – Amy Winehouse
– Someone Like You – Adele
– Killing Me Softly – Roberta Flack
– Too Close – Alex Clare
– Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
– Last Request – Paolo Nutini
– Your song – Elton John
– Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra
– Ordinary People – John Legend

So we mixed modern and classic alike to get a good vibe all thanks to our conductor, Ollie really helped in which I thanked and relied on his direction a lot during the rehearsal period. As I got to the venue I was greeted by the owner who spoke very little English but due to the fact I had my guitar, music stand, P.A, Speaker and my amp he realized who I was ( big thanks to James Chatfield http://bassistchatfield.wordpress.com/ & Daniel Whybrow http://danwhybrowsmusic.wordpress.com/ for the help and equipment). Me an the conductor started to set everything up as the restaurant was beginning preparations for the evening parties, as Rosie got there with her equipment it finally dawned on us “Damn, we’re actually performing!” so we kept asking each other questions about the set and chordal choices due to nerves. As the public started to come in we waited for at least 3 tables to be set up, the back drop is a very vintage Italian space filled with large round tables with a varied wine bottle perfectly centered with sparkling glasses and cloth surrounding, keeping the red white and green (Italian flag) theme across the whole space with the constant smell of beautiful food in which we were to be a part of. As we started our first song we realized that people aren’t really giving much attention but rather conversing between themselves and having a great time, as the space really filled up we relaxed because we weren’t the center of attention although each song was given the kudos we we’re looking for.

As the set was getting past it’s salad days (Shakespeare’s term for beginning, early stages… that’s right, I’m quite the poet) we we’re delved so far into the swing of things that time didn’t matter an I thought to myself “I’m really enjoying this, this is brilliant, I hope Rosie’s enjoying it,” applause after applause after our hard work paid off, then one of the workers (also very Italian) said “Why don’t you spice it up a bit,” so we added tempo and a tad more treble to my toneless guitar in which was well received by the audience. During our set I was greeted by my improvisation guys who I mention all the time in my blog as well as my good friend and fellow musician Mr. Danny Whybrow, this was huge to me as it made me feel comfort and they could see me enjoying myself. Once it was over Rosie smiled to me and said “Thank you,” as every table on the way to the bar wanted to speak to her and ask her 20 questions ranging from “When are you coming back?” to “Next time, could you play this?” so I think she gained a fan base, or we both did?

The owner shakes my hand and thanks us massively for our performance, I was taking a back when he said excitedly “When can I have you back?” with his little English slur, I was massively honored if anything to be given the chance to do it again and as Rosie managed to get away from her new friends we spoke about the future of us playing there in 2 weeks. Last but not least it was time to talk money, we got paid, it was very rewarding anyways to see our rehearsal flourish into applause and congrats but to get paid was just the icing on top of very delicious cake!

I’m not expecting anyone to read it all but thank you for following me this far, if ever in doubt about music, rehearse some songs talk to people and get out there, the enthusiasm you gain from doing a gig is like nothing else so what’s stopping you? I’d like to read about your gigs!

Shadowing A Teacher

Recently my tutor inspired us to be more observant and also suggested that teaching is a great way to eat in our profession, my post today shall be on me shadowing a tutor on his lesson with Level 2 Music Performance (Foundation) at Kidderminster College. This is something I wanted to do for a while seen as though I like to think somewhere down the line I’ll be doing the same, well on with his lesson and what experience it has given me.

 

Friday afternoon, I’m very drained from the morning of continuos jazz rehearsal with my wonderful singer but as I pack I run into my improvisation buddy Carl Browne who cracks on about his experience of teaching drums and various bits of piano and vocal to the Level 2 guys who are pretty fresh at music. Russ Tolley, who is a Goldsmiths graduate and pretty monster bass player is teaching them in about 20 minutes so I decide to tag along, after getting permission of course, so I head in there and what I see are a bunch of very enthusiastic students who are still smiling because they haven’t entered the world of jazz. Russ stays central and confident mixing his direct instructions with light humour which I feel the students respond to with great concentration, a very good display of what a teacher should be like and I’ll take from this for future reference, I commented after about this with which he replied “Ahh, that’s years of acting.” so I feel this can be accomplished due to the fact that I studied acting and am pretty confident, Russ starts talking about what they will be doing this lesson in which all the students are pretty excited about although one vocalist seems nervous (that’s the one vocalist I shadowed). 

 

Before I carry on I’d like to mention that I had started at level 2 due to my theory knowledge and playing not being level 3 “Material,” although it can be criticised and even ridiculed there is talent and potential everywhere. I enjoyed my time and learnt a lot, I feel that to get to the milestone I have journeyed to I’ve overcome obstacles (but who hasn’t right?) and smile to myself that I can witness students with the same mentality I had back then for the constant need to improve and be top of the class. We’re always improving by it’s better when we do it together! just thought I’d add my experience as a level 2 so you can get a feel for my way of blogging and that I constantly hand out nuggets of information.

 

So back on with the shadowing, the lecturer mentions film quotes and that the objective is for the students to write songs based on whatever film quotes they think of, a brilliant stimulus for songwriting in which the class also start to talk between themselves with the reaction of “Yes!,” and “Brilliant,” my exact reaction as I look forward to hearing what they’ve chosen and what they manipulate the quote into. As he sets tasks for the students who have grasped recent songs into physical products he sets them to practice so he can work on the earlier student who was nervous about singing, giving the students that independence tells me that he has a certain amount of trust for his class and that it’s returned due to me observing everyone, they have the sense of individuality so their work will be so much more rewarding to them. So I leave the main class and shadow on the private vocal lesson, I ask the girl if it’s okay first just so I’m not intruding, I can see Russ approved of this as it shows I respect peoples privacy and self esteem (I really hope I do).

 

In this lesson he’s already teaching her small things such as:

– Stand straight for comfortable pushing of the diaphragm

– Meaning for music terminology (Piano = quiet , Forte = Loud)

– Tips on vocals

 

I could see her understanding improving and she already knows a lot more than I did when I was at that level, Russ still keeping his tone direct but light as they start to sing together, with every practice she’s getting the notes more and more clear and perfect, this tells me that private tutoring is very rewarding for the student as they seem to understand the lesson much more clearly and can focus a lot more in reference to when there’s a class. As he leaves my fellow pupil and friend starts to teach her and she’s doesn’t even realise she’s playing harmonies and creating her own style of the lyrics, this is a brilliant sight from a third party perspective as I’m constantly smiling to myself in the corner and writing a lot of notes on how so much little time with constant practice can cause a large improvement instantly.

 

As I had to go I thanked everyone and was happy with the fact that I can take some of the lecturers teaching with me as I start my own journey of teaching and I’m glad that I’m understanding how my small pieces of advice can cause someones potential to become great. If your reading then why don’t you try observing a class, teaching someone or even teach yourself, the college is building something great and if we learn from this we can too.