Happy? Yes Please!

Mike guitar pic #1

Picture by Jamie Croft

So it’s coming up to Christmas an I haven’t really been given any work from my zero hour contract… Yes it’s that time of year when everyone feels like it’s a recession (The joys of holiday).

Fear not though folks for a new lease of life has been shed upon my weak willed mind that has injected some sort of enthusiasm into my music, having lectures on certain career paths and being told that we’ve got to have music on the brain 24/7 has really put things into perspective. I’ve just been getting more involved into studio work (I can finally do it myself!!!) and when I was working the other day a few musicians came in to have a look, one of which (to my delight) complimented the music being produced and also asked if he could be taught the parts, after a few hours of jamming and teaching I walked home that day with the biggest smile on my face knowing that there was a bit of magic that had happened in that lilac/wooden atmospheric cold room.

I don’t know what the future holds but if all bodes well then I’m sure the music I make will more than enough to satisfy the “Goldie Locks Goal,” (Andy Edwards reference) I also worked out that if I earn around £500.00 after  tax per month when I leave university then this gives me availability for my personal art, I’m so psyched to begin my journey, even without the support of the few who really haven’t in the past, the future looks bright as long as I keep optimistic.

Oh an did I mention I might be making more album work with Imagination Amalgamation, those guys are brilliant and I want to return to it with better visions so the final outcome is 110% I’ll be posting all that I’ve mentioned soon.

Thanks

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Venue (Areas of Music)

Venue (Areas of Music)

Venues… The pride and joy of a musicians life? I think not!

This post will focus on a range of venues that I’ve played at, attended, failed at and also been paid at in my recent musical life. I say recent due to me only finding that music is brilliant since I was half way through 17, these are the venues I shall be discussing in my blog:

– Kidderminster College’s Theatre

– LG Arena

– L’Opera Italian Restaurant

 

Kidderminster College’s Theatre

Well this is my most comfortable of the three seen as though I attend the college and I’m used to the setup and way the theatres handled. These are the things that add to how I perform and my stage presence, I’ve done around 6-7 shows now but I’ll be conversing about one in particular which is “Quarantine,” This show is a theme based show centred around a zombie apocalypse and songs that have the same sort of aura about them. Some of the hits on this were;

– Toxicity – System Of A Down

– Killing In The Name Of – Rage Against The Machine

– Creep – Radiohead

– You Make Me Wanna Die – The Pretty Reckless

– Judas – Lady Gaga

So there was a well rounded set list with a variety of tracks, I’ve only added five but we as a class had a set of around 12-15, so let me get into the setup of the performance. We had 2 Laney amps + 1 Laney bass amp with the vocals being hooked up to the couple of grand P.A system, the drums had around 3 crash cymbals and 2 rides turning it into a ridiculous piece of equipment which we will soon learn to regret. As an extra too we had prosthetics added to our faces as we dressed as zombies and had extra skin which we threw at the audience to add to the theme and kind of creep them out, so on with the performance…

After a series of performances from other pupils it had fallen upon my group to sort of shake things up in order to keep the enthusiasm of the audience in our favor, so in the pitch black we start slurring our voices and walking with broken legs (zombies) and grab our instruments, with a massive open D chord combined with a smash of drums an twang of the bass the introduction to Rage Against The Machines – Killing In The Name Of we’re pretty much bouncing off the walls due to the fact that the guitar lines are so simple it gives the opportunity the exaggerate a performance.  Then comes along the bass line which is D to Eb which builds suspense for another hard hitting riff which we execute perfectly and still keeping the performance strong and at a high level of energy and enthusiasm (I think it’s safe to say the audience were captured and that we were enjoying ourselves)

blog pic venueblog pic venue #2

 

 

 

 

 

The next venue I shall discuss is the LG Arena in Birmingham, The pictures are just examples, the one on the right is a stage that is set up as the thousands walk in and have to be sat in an area for around an hour before they get ushered into the arena. This is where me and my fellow singer at the time supported One Direction and performed to around 1500-2000 people, the stage is spacious and the P.A system is quite expensive and the quality good too, the setup was just him singing and me with an acoustic so we were going to need to something special to attract the attention of everyone. First off, the sound engineers were very friendly and supportive which is a first and we helped them set up their gear as we wanted to cement a future placement, so as we waited around, the contact (Charlotte) starts messing with her Ipod playing constant chart music as thousands of girls were all checking out the stage.

On with the playing and my heart was racing as there were a carpet of faces and heads, I looked down and played my first 7th chord for John Newman’s “Ordinary People,” and then realized “Oh, this is easy, yeah let’s kick it up a notch,” so me being a “Not the average beach guitarist,” starts whacking out different chord voicing’s, rhythms and melodies as the vocalist gets more comfortable he also starts altering and improving the feel for songs. The audience’s reaction is phenomenal as we only played a 7 song set we were very much welcomed by the thousand and I assumed they thought we were famous, hence our great reception! honestly I wouldn’t mind playing for pop artists if it meant arena gigs as they really cement your ambition to play music. One of my best gigs to date and the difference between this and the college one is that this was purely foreign, we had no one that knew us that was there we purely had to showcase that we were pretty good to get them on  our side. Quite a challenging objective but we somehow achieved it!

 

wpid-img_20140328_091325

 

Last venue of my outrageously long blog post shall be my most recent of gigs (which I’m still currently doing as a regular gig) and that is playing as a background jazz band for an Italian restaurant. Now after doing this like 5/6 times the place really feels like regular work now but I’ll be discussing our first gig when it was just me, my guitar, amp, P.A system and Rosie.

So we had a deadline of 2 weeks to get a set list of 20 – 25 songs all of good quality so we could be the background music to improve the feel and all round atmosphere of a new Italian restaurant, as I got there the owner shown me where we were going to play in the next 2 hours… honest one of the tiniest spaces ever as we set up the equipment we barely had any room to play but then again made for a new experience. So on with the playing, as the tables started filling I put the reverb on the mic and guitar to add an effect and hopefully make us sound a lot better, the first 3 tracks had no applause and were of mediocre quality, we were nervous… very nervous!! Then again it was a “Background Noise,” gig so we continued to play at our best, we come to “My Funny Valentine,” in which we played brilliantly and the vocalist really nailed every section, after playing the last chord I hear “Bravissimo!” shout from the bar, the whole restaurant cheers and smiles at us as if they had been saving their applause for something special. The next 10 songs up to the break were played to a higher quality due to our confidence being lifted from that specific song, as we got to the break the tables were fully filled and the customers all wanted to chat to Rosie “The singer,” I’m never bothered about the aftermath of we playing as long as I know that I played the a high standard. We come back and the crowd are captured by every chord, every vocal line and  every note that was played, me and Rosie look at each other and start rustling up the songs and become a tad more hedonistic with what we were playing. Also a great gig! The difference between this and the rest is that this is a lot more intimate, the crowd are eating so the song choices have to be very quiet and passive because you really don’t want to spoil their evening, also this is a paid gig which is very important.

Paid gigs add a certain amount of professionalism and pressure to any gig, you want that money and you will up the game. The objective set has to be met as well as bringing extra so that you cement your next future opportunities, as my story of the three venues comes to a close, just a note to say that I’m still playing at the Italian place, it’s brought many opportunities for me and Rosie in which we still thrive to become better. Plus there all paid gigs… which is nice!

My Notation… The Need To Get Better

https://bassistchatfield.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/wpid-img_20140405_112010.jpg

I recently jotted down a few ideas in lesson for a short composition as the lecturer explained what we would need to hit our curriculum. During this he mentioned about us writing parts for each other and performing each other’s work like we have been doing recently, my piece was designed for Carl & Alex Nash. Here are the points James posted for me :-

– Improvement from last week, much neater

– Flags are still too small

– Good use of repeats

– There’s an accidental on the fourth bar on section B (treble clef) which is wrong, should’ve been a C flat.

– I don’t think Alex & Carl we’re taken into consideration when writing this piece, on the plus side it has some good ideas

Now this was the most forgiving bit of feedback I’d received, I now realise that I’m struggling with theory a lot so I’ll be posting of my attempt to get extra work from Murphy (Lecturer) and posting my progress as I attempt to catch up to everyone else on my course.

I feel embarrassed to show my transcriptions as they always have something wrong, I’ll be fine tuning this and as I’ve now identified the problem I’ll fix this so I get more confident with my transcriptions and continue to challenge my self.

I photo-linked this to a piece by Yann Tierson who I will be studying soon, french music & Amelie!

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 Playing Today… My Sad Sad Realisation

My Playing Today... My Sad Sad Realisation

Some days when your just not feeling up to it, excited at the beginning of my lectures in the knowledge that I would be starting on a third album got my fingers tingling from another nights practice as I knew I got to try that new riff I’d been working on. As the lecture began on something about french music that I knew I’d be no part of (Well I’ll be studying and showing my third party perspective of musicians in the pit) all I could think about was the music I’d be making at exactly 2:00 PM that very day, 4 hours I thought to myself “I can do this!” but there was something that happened along the way that made me re – think everything.

As my lecturer was talking about “La Mer,” which is the original french “Somewhere, beyond the sea,” I thought to myself “I have 1 year and then I’m in the professional world, what am I going to do?” this question repeats itself over 500 million times disorientating me from everything in front of me as I’m now warped and 1000 miles away from the very room in this state of consciousness where I play different future scenarios of what I’ll be like in the future. Some of these scenarios of my vivid imagination give me comfort in the knowledge that my creativity and need for security will put me at ease in life where I’ll be financially safe and happy but then it came.

The scenarios of me not being happy and destroying everything that the world says I need such as money, job, relationships, children and family. This all happens in the space of what felt like 8 hours of solid imagination but was more 5 minutes to the rest of reality, these thoughts really sent me into a depressive state where I had to sit back and constantly chew on my fingers to come back to earth and realize that I’m fine but am I?

As the lecture continues to around 1:50 that excitement of me playing ambient seems less magnificent and more bleak as the question “What can you see us doing in 10 years slips out of my mouth,” the lecturer thinks it over as he doesn’t know how to answer properly but then after 3/4 minutes of the class pushing him he decides to dish out his ideas based on stereotypes and his knowledge of who we are based on an accumulation of knowing the man for around 400+ hours. The room was buzzing at first and full of charisma but as he went round the room, the gleam from everyone’s eyes that hoped for the “Your gonna be famous,” was sorely misplaced as it’s very unlikely for any of us to “Make it.” I’ll blog about that disgusting term in the future but here’s what he had say for me “I can see you definitely teaching, maybe sticking to what some of the others had of still playing in bands to keep the energy there but yeah, you have that certain need for security in which I can definitely see you teaching.” This actually made me happy for the first 5 minutes but then it came to me, his answers for everyone where still very musically entailed, I began to question to myself “Maybe it’s a white lie, we’ll probably be happy and realize our potential if we put our minds to it but the percentage of us really fighting this struggle we’re all so enthusiastic to fall into is extremely low.”

Just a thought, well…. many but this is my first attempt at a very opinionated blog about my future in music and i feel is very relevant to my work as it hints at what I feel is an ambition. I’m glad I found somewhere to actually share this so I really thank you if you bothered to read it.

P.s – I linked Brian Eno’s music to the film “Lovely Bones,” awesome stuff and I was listening to it the whole time I wrote the post, en-captured my thought process at the time.

My Transcription/ Songwriting Attempt

My Transcription/ Songwriting Attempt

Well firstly I was given the task today in lecture to write a new piece of music giving a bizarre choice of what to start with, my lecturer had both a 12 and 8 sided dice in which governed what time signature and key to work in, also what name to give our track unfortunately I got Ab major (4 flats) in 7/8 with the name of “Pristine Odin.”

With the A section I had a few ideas bouncing round of fast guitar picking of 16th notes using minor 9th and major 7th chords, then the same with bass notes then using the same array of chords in the B section but just the chords changing to 4/4. The last section of the B parts is my version of an explosive conclusion going from F minor 7 shooting up an octave twice then smashing the Ab major 7, the drums would be quite funky/ jazzy as well as keeping to modern phrasing. Well….. this was what I had in mind, until I found out what went wrong with my piece once it was exposed to the rest of the class.

My ideas I was told were very creative and would’ve been good if I had laid them out right but here’s whats wrong with my transcription:

– some drum bars were hard to distinguish where snare hits were.

– the flags are very small.

– there’s a bass bar with too many notes on it.

– some wrong note values, making counting very hard on the treble clef.

– the layout is a bit squashed.

Once the guys attempted it, I got feedback from the bass player and this is what he had to say ” ledger lines are hard to read, as they vary in size and are quite a lot of them. The ledger line in the first bar on the bass clef really threw me off, I was confused whether or not it was an E or F#.”

” I attempted to learn it, I got the first 3 bars correct but it was a difficult thing to play as in was sweeping up and down the neck to reach the notes notated.”

” the whole track was really nice and the ideas Michael had were very good and this track could easily be turned into a great track.”

So on the whole I should learn from this when writing notation, especially drum notation which I’m terrible at. On a lighter note I was complimented again on my creativeness but I’m going to have to step it up notation wise to keep up with the rest of the course.

My Recording Setup!

My Recording Setup!

Well I though I’d share just a tad of information on the tedious yet rewarding process that is recording!

Luckily in my HND level 5 music course I have made friends with someone who knows there way round the studio, that being Mr. James Chatfield (http://bassistchatfield.wordpress.com/) now to make the recent albums that have just been added to band camp there’s certain preparation that’s needed particularly with mic’ing everything up as it’s fed into the studio.

These were the mics and the placement:-

– AKG C2 – drum overheads (closer than normal overheads)

– AKG Drum Clip – attached to the snare drum

– Rode NT1 – placed as room mic, facing drums

– Rode NT1 – placed as room mic, facing guitar and bass

– SM57 – guitar amp

– SM58 – bass amp + direct DI output

– SM58 – directed at the PA speakers (which Murphy was plugged into as there were no spare amps)

So after setting this, (just a general note, we have as a trio put the mics in different places every time we record to find better combinations but this is just the setup for the second album) it was time to record! also using Roland Re-20 space echo (as always) we got to it.

So if this mic placement is of any help then I’m glad to of shared this, bare in mind for any other tracks they’re many variations that we’ve tried and so I’ll update on anything else if we differ the preparation in future recording sessions.