I’m Trying To Get Funkier!!!

What it says on the tin, I’ve been listening to various artists and funk tracks via you tube to make sense of where I’ve been going wrong with my feel when playing guitar.

This link should provide a part of my soundtrack for the past month as I’ve journeyed into unfamiliar territory, hopefully this will give me a platform as I take influence from everything I listen to an use it to create riffs and songs. So the main aim is to concentrate on how to utilise the “Feel,” from other musicians and absorb that into my playing.

Benevolence (Recovery Of The Writer’s Block)

Above is the link to my fourth album “Benevolence,”

So returning to blogging from my recent break away, lacking inspiration until I got back into the studio to make some new improvised treats, Using the usual microphone placement we got back to work, this time … without Murphy (Bass Trombone).

Microphone Placement:
C2 x2 – Drums
AKG Drum Clip – Snare
Rode NT1 – Room
SM57 – Guitar
SM57 – Bass (plus direct DI output)

The usual set up for us basically, it always gets a nice clear sound and gives the recording a lot of natural space, really capturing each player. I listen back to the music I’ve already made and sometimes I forget that we actually manufacture everything, the fact that it’s improvised too adds to my pride that I have for the music. The stimulus for this piece is the fact that a week beforehand our lecturer Murphy suggested we tried a quieter approach which worked but only for so long, I’ll lay down my thoughts into why we couldn’t resist riffing and jamming with a bit more “Oomph.”

It all comes down to choices, choices as a musician! when playing on this album the first track is a mixture of volume swell and drum warm ups (getting ready for the endurance that is ambient music), so after 5 minutes or so I decide to start using drop D (tune low E string a tone down) using add 9 chords to get certain flavor for the creation, this creating tension within the group due to the fact that I’ve ignored the quiet instruction given and done my own thing I.E Improvisation! Yes I notice that I’m slightly out of tune too, this could be thought of as a mistake but in my defense, I’m looking to give something a natural & organic sound, it’s a hit and miss technique of trying to see what’s right & wrong in music, sure it stresses me a bit because I notice it whilst grinding my teeth but it’s interesting to see what the audience think, most non musicians don’t even realize or notice.

20 minutes now after a lot of nice chords and steady drums and things are starting to become more and more abstract as the drummer decides to do his own thing, this gives me and the bass player room to try more abstract ways of thinking such as trying new options on pedals/ playing different styles/ hitting more chromatic notes.

28 minutes, my chords are Db Add 9 with open strings/ A add 9 with open strings/ F# major with top two open strings. This is the bit where the drummer is having fun mixing time signatures as I’m trying straight rhythm but still matching whatever time the drummer throws at me also accompanied by bass. Jams like this make me happy as this is what we normally do as a warm up or a mess around but then still sounds great on the recording. As we break away from the conventional 3 chord trick things change as it seems as if the key has been thrown out the window although me and the bassist are still respecting appropriate riffs into the “Avant garde,” drums at this point, I’ll explain more about choice now.

Every album has had a stimulus which generates ideas as we’re all relatively creative with our instruments, in improvisation the choices we make don’t necessarily falter other musicians but can inspire new threads of riffs and ideas. In conventional songwriting the composition is law and you must follow the letter (if your the session player) as well as bringing your own ideas to the table you have to be 100 % into your clients work, you need the work! Whereas with our current situation our material gives way for more comfort and our choices don’t really affect the music in a bad way, just a different way. Choices mostly come into the form of constant evaluation and decision making (asking 1000 questions from “Why did I play that the way I did?” “Should I take a step back?” “Should I take the lead on melody?” ) all of this comes into play when decision making.

I almost ruined this recording, later int he recording the music will reach to a part full of tension and climax, I decide to use the condenser mic (Rode NT1) as my tool as I start grunting and crying down it, this clips the sounds drastically and we all didn’t know whether this would be a valid recording. Luckily it was salvaged but with only minimal editing to volume, remember the deal was no process changes or alterations were to be made once the final product was created.

“The Red Door,” – my favorite thing ever!

This track comprises of me using octave work, the bass making an under laying volume swell filling the spinal work of the track, the drums come in with clicks to cause intrigue I guess? all I know is that I’m proud with this piece and I listen to this the most out of the album, Carl starts using percussion such as a rainmaker to add to the mix too. As the track progresses consumers can assume that the track is over but instead the group walks round the studio and breathes down the microphone, after this choice I resume with my octave work as the bass player loops his volume swell he can start on new ideas whilst we occupy the listener with a steady riff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tB0th8vNLxo

This link represents our inspiration for the titles to the album and track, we watched the film after the piece was created but for inspiration of title names and future stimulus’ we decided to watch “American Beauty,” this film has wonderful cinematography and Thomas Newman takes the helm with the OST (Soundtrack). The film is a gold mine for stimulus as it contains art/ monologue/ music & story line, a fan of the film it was my pleasure to introduce it to James, I’m sure this film will come in handy for future projects.

Really enjoyed writing this blog, I hope you enjoy reading/ listening/ watching it too! be sure to check out the film “American Beauty,” as I believe it may inspire you too.

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!

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!

My First Album I linked the second first because I felt the first was better in quality especially because I got to use my pedal out, anyway this is the first ambient jam that Myself, James Chatfield and Carl Browne recorded which is completely improvised and is again around the 45 minute mark. James took the album art photos at Hurcott Woods which is where we live so it adds a small bit of pride into the work we’ve just created. The reasons why this maybe not as good as the first:

  • The original, although it was improvised, we could pin point what went wrong to make the next better.
  • Lack of pedals, creative ideas were pushed around but maybe we never captured them enough.
  • Lack of distortion, I had fun using a crunchier tone on the second in comparison

What the first album has that the second does not is originality, vocals and a creepier vibe in general. What we hoped to achieve was a Brian Eno ambient masterpiece but what we had instead was our new direction as musicians, I for one I’m really finding myself as a musician through this method of creativity. The first album really has some sort of edge over the second due to its atmosphere that it creates, the chord choices and trills added to my input, the drums are slower and there’s a lot more feedback (intended) from the amps that we wanted. My growth as a musician has been influenced by me learning from the people around me and I’m glad that I can see it come into fruition.

There’s a bit I adore from the second track on the first album (A Lack of Residual Capacity – That Shirt Would Look Great With A Colombian Neck Tie) around 4 minutes in, a great showcase of the improvisation as a sit on a riff then gradually expand an both over musicians really understand what I’m trying to make musically. This is another reason why I like this album, being the first experiment that we’ve recorded I was surprised by the movement of the music in which hopefully showcases that we’re all in key with each other as players.

So if you have time check the stuff out!

My Ambient Album

Yes! that’s right, I’ve been talking about posting this stuff up for a while but what you’ll witness when clicking onto the link will be my very own music, totally improvised, ambient was the challenge!

Carl Browne – Drums

James Chatfield – Bass

James “Murphy” McCaleb – Bass Trombone

Me – Guitar

All of us bringing our own ideas in to the mix, the drums pretty much conducted the thing as we followed to the timbre of what the musician was playing. I was using my space echo (Boss RE-20) and really trying out the repeat rates, the bassist already had his collection of pedals and bass trombonist also had delay and chorus to mess about with, with our toys we started the jam by setting up all the mics. I’m using a telecaster maple neck with 10 gauge D’Darios, also had another guitar in the mix, a Jaxville stratocaster which supplies some of the clean licks later on, I also switch to distortion on the first track at around 13 minutes supplying trills and some high riff stuff accompanied by the “Wah,” sounding trombone. 

The whole experience is brilliant and listening back to it, sure there are problems (mainly due to the whole thing being improvised) but I’m proud of my work in this project. Most of the 1st track is looped bass using digital delay (Boss) (45 seconds per) but by the time we get to the third track we attempted a darker vibe, a lot of scraping the strings and using minor second intervals and minor fifths to create an edgy atmosphere. I’m knocking my guitar about a bit and also using the repeat rate on the pedal to get a “Slurring,” effect out of my guitar, the drums are used not for beats but for more of a different kind of percussion whilst the bass really is giving flavor from those uncommon intervals accompanied by the trombone mainly improvising soloing over the top. You can tell on the third track an assortment of riffs which were used once and then thrown away but if I found something that sounded “Awesome,” then I’d sit on it for a while, I really want feedback on this especially if have some constructive criticism. 

 

There will be a lot more where this comes from so download! 

John Cage and Prepared Piano

A short piece called “Sonata II,” by the masterful John Cage, this blog isn’t to celebrate his work but I wanted to speak about my fascination with prepared piano and the different sound and art form you can produce from it.

The term “Prepared Piano,” comes from when a piano is opened up and altered to gain a specific timbre, you can use different objects to change the sound, these objects can be as bizarre as using forks on the strings and nails, there have been occasions when musicians have used ping pong balls to attain a desired sound.

The first composer to use this extensively was John Cage, who is often credited for inventing the instrument. In Cage’s use, the preparations are typically nuts, bolts and pieces of rubber to be lodged between and entwined around the strings. Some preparations make duller, more percussive sounds than usual, while others create sonorous bell-like tones. Additionally, the individual parts of a preparation like a nut loosely screwed onto a bolt will vibrate themselves, adding their own unique sound. By placing the preparation between two of the strings on a note which has three strings assigned to it, it is possible to change the timbre of that note by depressing the soft pedal on the piano (which moves the hammers so they strike only two strings instead of all three).

Just a tad on John Cage, he was an early writer of aleatoric music, which is music left to chance.