Sunday, November 22, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
Fairly recently, the leader in a big band in Montreal asked me to remotely record a tune with the band. I have certainly done this in the past, and since covid hit it's become a very frequent occurrence. I filmed myself playing the chart we were doing on my Zoom camera ( they wanted video as well ) . I checked it ( I was playing to a click track in headphones ) and it sounded good so I sent the file to the leader. A couple of days later he sends me a message saying that he would like me to record to a click this time. Confused, I checked the recording I sent him. It still sounded fine and I told him i had played to a click. He then sent me this:
Wow! I was flabbergasted! What's especially weird about this is that it sounds like I'm really dragging. Believe me, my natural tendency is to rush, not head the other way! :)
Anyway, other musicians have told me they've had similar experiences, and I've had it described to me as the different programs not being able to "talk to each other" . Apparently these syncing issues are not uncommon, so they're something to be aware of. Just another example of how we can think that a good take is an absolute "truth" and the time can't be messed with after the fact. But nowadays, anything's possible! :)
Stay groovy! :)
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Like many life-long musicians (or really anybody), not everything in my career has turned out exactly as I wanted or expected, One gets gigs, one loses gigs, one isn't called for certain gigs, one interviews for gigs and doesn't get them etc. etc. etc. I don't think I'm alone in that I can get quite obsessed with the things that didn't happen. This is far from productive, so I decided to approach things differently when these thoughts come up. I simply switch my thoughts to "what am I grateful for?". It's easy to focus on the negative, and the music business can be extremely heartbreaking, but it's important to not let that paralyze our creative impulses. Feeling super down and can't think of anything to be grateful for? Here's some examples….
-your family and/or friends
-music you love to play or listen to
-the weather and the natural world
-your resilience in a difficult life-path
I could go on, but you get the picture. Also, often in hindsight, we realize that gig we wanted and thought would be perfect for us wasn't at all, and maybe something better came along (or we avoided something worse) by not getting it. Without getting into it too heavily, I feel that all of us have a higher purpose that we might not be aware of!
The fact that we have been isolation for so long is something that many musicians would see as totally negative, but even that has been very beneficial for me. For sure, COVID 19 is a terrible disease that has killed and compromised the health of many people, and I would never want anyone to think I wish the virus hadn't happened and the effects of the quarantine had been achieved some other way. The quarantine (again, not the virus itself) has changed me for the better in quite a few ways.
-My drumming and piano playing has improved a lot. I can't remember a stretch of time when I've practiced daily so consistently.
-My health has improved. As of this writing, I haven't had any alcohol or refined sugar in months and I'm down 2 pant sizes. I also have been regularly walking 10,000 steps and have also enjoyed swimming and bike riding.
-I have had a chance to listen to a TON of music of all kinds
-I have become somewhat more computer and recording savvy due to remote teaching and recording.
-I have had more time to blog, as my post-lockdown output attests to!
I think a big part of being a creative person is being able to see the potential in something that initially is negative, and like anything else in the arts, it gets better with practice. I implore you to try it. What do you have to lose? I believe we are all destined for great things! :)
Friday, November 13, 2020
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
I've never been one of those " I hate drum solos, I only want to support the band"-type people. I enjoy the challenges soloing on the drums requires.
That said, I don't like many of the drum solos I hear. Why? Because there's usually very little context to them, or the context is, to my ears, flawed….
let me elaborate on things a good solo (on drums or ANY instrument) requires…
1. Thematic material/storytelling
So much of what I see and hear these days involves playing something fast/technically difficult, and then moving onto to some other fast/technically difficult thing and THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT LINKS THE TWO IDEAS! It's like telling a story that only has a bunch of different endings, or a joke that's only several punchlines! You have to get the audience from A to B to C, and sometimes that involves playing things that aren't necessarily hard to play!
2. A reason for the material to exist
This is crucial, and should probably be item #1. What's the reason for what you're playing? If the only reason is because it's difficult and impressive, that's not much to base your narrative on. I think that's why I often find drum solos and clinics ESPECIALLY boring, because they exist only to impress, and really don't take me on any sort of musical journey. ( See item #1)
3. Energy/Interest created from the solo itself
So much of what I hear is a bunch of drum "stuff" played against something, whether it be a (questionable) recorded track, or some sort of vamp. I don't hear a lot of soloing that is compositionally sound in and of itself. Remember, you can use the tones of the drums and cymbals themselves to make melodies, or you can abstractly "represent" a tune through thematic playing etc. Don't get me wrong, soloing over something can be very beautiful, but should never be an excuse to have poor architecture in one's solo.
Now, let's pause for a short intermission while I play one of the great examples of soloing over a vamp Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 2" with Steve Gadd singing/crying/wailing over the vamp! Fantastic! Listen to how it builds!
4. Space, the final Drum Frontier
Mr. Gadd, as usual, provided a perfect segue. The music/solo needs to breathe, so LEAVE SPACE. It makes everything played so much more powerful!
Okay, that's enough grumpy old man stuff for now. Remember when you solo, PLAY MUSIC!!!!!