22
Sep
08

Great quote

I was reading this month’s issue of Recording Magazine and I ran across this line in an article by Rick Barrio Dill (great article, by the way!)

“I realize now that a true mentor’s job is to nurture and unlock the potential that is inside an individual and not force-feed their ideas, creating a clone of the teacher”

Have you had a teacher that has been a mentor for you? I have.

Paul Butcher is his name. He’s a world class trumpeter and piano player, has been ALL around the industry for many years, and yet came to teach at a little tiny Christian School in Lakeland, Florida a few years ago. I was fortunate enough to spend three years with him (which doesn’t feel like nearly long enough, given my stubborn streak, but that’s another story). Everything we ever spent time on in our lessons, whether it was playing, learning how to balance my life, or just venting about the latest trauma, all was incredibly valuable to me. He helped shape me, both as a player, and as a person. One of the most important lessons that I still reference weekly, if not daily, was in regards to practicing and dealing with other issues that came down on me. His advice boiled down to “when the shit falls, put the raincoat on and keep moving!” Can’t tell you how helpful that is to remember that.

The most interesting thing to me is this: Now that I’ve been out of lessons for about five months, normally, I’d be showing some signs of slackness. But, I’m actually totally the opposite right now. Am I as disciplined as I want to be yet? No, definitely not. Am I improving at a much better rate than I ever was? Absolutely! Am I totally engrossed in learning my instrument(s) and music to the most fullest that I can possibly achieve? Most definitely! Why have I never been like this before?

It’s all thanks the instruction of Mr. Paul Butcher. Thank you, so so much! You have no idea how much you’ve shaped my potential and shown me that I really could do this!

I’m gonna go before I cry now. Hehe.

Mike

20
Sep
08

The Reign of Kindo

I just got these guys’ EP and debut album in the mail yesterday. And before I say anything else, I need to say this: Go here and buy their album and EP and come back and finish reading this.

K, money spent? Good. Now, onto what I was writing about.

I haven’t been this excited about an album or band in who knows how long. It’s totally refreshing, brilliant music by guys that obviously know how to play! Anyone that knows me knows that I usually have very few good things to say about most music. ESPECIALLY new music. Heck, even my last post was me totally ripping on JOHN FREAKING MAYER. No one disses that dude anymore, much less gives him a critique. But that’s besides that point.

The EP is really great, and starts off a bit conceptually… well, ya know what… I won’t spoil it for you. Just go get it somehow and listen to it. Out of the 5/6 songs on it, I think they’re all really really good and show a lot of diversity. Great writing, great playing. All that stuff. And on top of that, it’s probably one of the slickest produced EPs I’ve heard. Definitely worth getting. There were even some really nice twists on it.

The album is basically more of the same, only even better, which I was not expecting to be possible. But it is. In pretty much every way. One of the songs on there, I already feel is among my most favorite songs of ALL TIME! That doesn’t happen. And still another is up there.

If you didn’t click on the link above, DO IT NOW AND BUY THEIR STUFF!!! YOU WON’T BE SORRY!!

02
Sep
08

John Mayer Concert 8-30-08

I’m back, and I’m about to write about Mr. John Mayer.

John, if you’re reading this out there somewhere from cyberspace (because I know you’re pretty net savvy and you probably google yourself just like all the rest of us do), I want to commend you on being a brilliant businessman. You come out with great songs that get people singer for no apparent reason, the media loves you and you make money. Then after the second album that was pretty much more of the same, you decided to do whatever the hell you wanted to do. And that was to basically try and be the next SRV. And ya know what? People have eaten that up, too. It’s pretty amazing. So, I congratulate you good sir!

But onto my comments about the show. The openers, Onerepublic were actually pretty good. I’m probably the only person in America that hasn’t heard that “Too Late to ‘Pologize” song. But I’m not surprised about that, either, ’cause like… I don’t listen to the radio, so I’m not hip to what the young people listen to these days.

Then came John. Out with his Strat, and he loaded up and started playing by himself (with a VERY nice classic strat tone, by the way) and played some cool licks, and I thought to myself “here we go, this should be awesome!”

Then he played a couple songs, and then I was done. By the time he got done with about the fifth song, I felt like I heard everything I was going to hear that night, and felt a restlessness that I had never felt at a concert before. And that only increased throughout the night as I realized more and more that I just didn’t care about what he was playing. *gasp!* Cue the tension music!

I didn’t care? Me? I didn’t care about a fellow guitar player? I was thinking it was just me, for a while, but my friend that I was with was sort of feeling the same way. So, then this left the question to be… why? Why did I just not care what he played?

This is what I’ve come up with:
John Mayer is not the greatest guitar player since Charlie Christian as most people would have you believe.
I’m just too freaking picky.
Pentatonic Scales are boring unless you know how to use them effectively.
Etheral 6/8 blues jams are entirely uninteresting to watch.
Please don’t solo on every song. Or at least, if there’s a solo, let someone else take it occasionally.
The SRV thing: Drop it. It’s not cool.
Noise and cacophony are great… Your style of music does not allow for a noise jam… Please do not ever do that again.
The Tom Jackson Method: Use it. Learn how to build a killer show.
Entertain your audience at all points… You should not allow there to be time when someone can even feel like they can sit down, much less go to the bathroom and get a fresh drink.
Please stop soloing until you learn to play more interesting things.
Play more old stuff. Room for Squares was freaking amazing. I know you don’t want to have that pop image anymore, but there were some really, really great songs on there. Like Neon. Play Neon. A lot. Matter of fact, play that all day.
Also, when you do play the old stuff, don’t just play it straight down like “OK, there’s like four people here that remember these songs, so I’ll just do halfway versions of them”. There’s some great progressions on there that’d be awesome to solo over… Oh, but wait, then you can’t just wail on the pentatonic for 15 minutes can you? Hmm… what a dilemma. But seriously… Everyone in the Amphitheater was singing along with No Such Thing and Why Georgia. Play more of those.
Did I mention fewer 6/8 blues jams?

Ultimately, I feel kinda disappointed with something that I really was looking forward to enjoying quite a bit. I had fun, though… So that was cool. Also, I’m not saying that I can do better by any stretch. It just felt very amateurish and self-indulgent, and that’s not cool for a show that I spent a decent amount of money on.

On the subject of pentatonics, who do you know that can take just a pentatonic and make it totally interesting and awesome to listen to for however long they play for. Eric Johnson tries to, but he’s too inconsistent and “meh”. Eric Clapton… he does a good job I think, even though he repeats licks a lot. Joe Satch plays the pentatonics a lot, he repeats his licks a lot, too, but it doesn’t matter because the material surrounding it makes up for it, I think.

Anyone else you can think of? Do tell.

29
Jul
08

The Pandora Experiment

The Pandora Experiment

So I was listening to some Pandora Radio on my new iPhone 3G. Because it’s super cool to do stuff like that. (Also, interestingly enough, it doesn’t work well on a wi-fi connection, but on the 3G network it works great). Anyways, I decided that I’d listen to something different, so I threw on some Michael Jackson radio. And since Pandora is cool, it tells you why it’s playing something, I of course, looked at why it played the song it did. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” was the song. Great song off a great record. And so I read what it told me. And I noticed something interesting.

It had a laundry list of reasons it played the song. I thought it was interesting, because I realized that what I usually listen to has a very short reasoning. For instance, for Dream Theater radio, I’ll usually get something like “minor key tonality, electric guitar solo” and so on.

Here’s what I got for MJ.
—–
basic rock song structures
r&b influences
call and answer vocal harmony
repetitive melodic phrasing
demanding instrumental part writing
a busy horn section
extensive vamping
a clear focus on recording studio production
heavy syncopation
major key tonality
groove based composition
prominent bass riffs
an emotional male lead vocal performance
use of ambient synths
subtle use of render rhodes
angry lyrics
vocal harmonies
and many other similarities identified in the music genome project

So, then I decided to conduct a little experiment. I let the next song play. Up came Another One Bites the Dust. Interesting choice, I thought.
Looked at the reasoning…

—–
repetitive melodic phrasing
minor key tonality
and many other similarities

Interesting. So then I loaded up Dream Theater radio and did another experiment. It wasn’t the best song for an example, but I took it.

One Last Time
—–
Subtle use of vocal harmony
acoustic rhythm piano
demanding instrumental part writing
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
major key tonality
prominent organ
many other similarities

So there were more things in the prog rock, but still not as much as MJ. So then I went to Kurt Rosenwinklel radio. For those who don’t know, Kurt is one of the baddest jazz guitar cats out there right now. And yet, this is what he comes up with…

The Cloister
—–

an outside electric guitar solo
acoustic piano accompaniment
jazz waltz feel
other similarities

Three things? Really? Well, I’m getting more and more stumped. So now, I wind up going to my good buddy Joe Satriani to see what his is going to say. And I get this.

Theme for a Strange World
—–
electric rock instrumentation
repetitive melodic phrasing
demanding instrumental part writing
minor key tonality
electric guitar riffs
an electric guitar solo
an instrumental arrangement
many similarities

So here’s what we have.

MJ, DT, and JS are complex music according to Pandora (but the latter two are not as intricate as MJ), while Queen and Kurt Rosenwinkel are rather shallow comparatively speaking.

What does this mean? I have no idea. In the back of my mind this idea that most music genuinely is shallow and the stuff that’s really involved is REALLY involved. But why does Thriller have that many reasons why it was chosen? Yes, it’s masterfully produced and an excellent album on top of that, but is it really that deep? Likewise, is very well performed and intricate jazz really very shallow and only good to those who play it?

In other words, do people still even care about jazz enough to put the laundry list of what’s happening musically or can people simply not understand it? Whereas people can understand Michael Jackson, they cannot comprehend bebop? Is jazz now forever doomed to be the “musicians” genre? I don’t know. I do know that I’m listening to John Abercrombie right now, and I can see very few other people that I know listening to this and even enjoying it, much less understanding what’s going on.

So that was long. Thoughts? Am I reading too much into Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project? Or is there something to this?

Post a comment and let me know what you think!

20
Jul
08

Lefsetz Letter

Just sitting here listening to a Giant Bombcast and talking to friends on the IRC (yeah, that’s right, old school) and I realized that I absolutely had to share this with everyone.

Lefsetz Letter is the site. This cat here has apparently been writing and analyzing the industry for 20 years. His style is very straight up “this is what’s wrong with the industry, here’s what we need to do to fix it, why do no one get this?”

If you have any interest in the music industry at all and you haven’t read Lefsetz, do yourself a favor and start reading. It’ll do a world of good. Then share it with your friends.

Happy reading,
Mike

20
Jul
08

iPhone 2.0 Firmware

So this is an entry completely unrelated to music whatsoever.

Basically, ever since the 11th, my iPhone 2G has been working HORRIBLY. Perhaps its my fault, I don’t know. All I know is that everything on the phone has been jacked up since then. It all started when I tried to update my firmware on the release dates, which was of course a huge mistake. But it all finally goes through and my phone is no longer a shiny brick.

So then I download apps. I only go for the free stuff because I simply can’t justify paying money for something like that. Now, there’s definitely some really great apps on there and some that I absolutely love, but hear my plight. Every time I put a new app on, at least one of my apps crashes and then either reboots my phone or just shuts it down outright! WTF?! I don’t understand why this just can’t simply work without crashing the OS?! I mean, it’s not like I’m overtaxing the phone, I’m just putting a new app on there! It should be able to do that.

Then there’s the annoying problem of the Backup. I plug my phone into iTunes to sync it and back it up and it never completes a backup! It’ll get maybe a quarter of the way through (which might I add already took a good twenty minutes!) and then disconnect itself from the computer! The best part is that after a lot of research on this problem, I’ve come to the conclusion that EVERYONE HAS THE SAME PROBLEM and NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO FIX IT!!!! Which leads me to this:

APPLE!!! IF EVERYONE IS HAVING THE SAME ****ING PROBLEM, THEN EITHER DON’T RELEASE THE FIRMWARE OR FIX IT SO THAT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN ANYMORE!!!!

*calms down*
OK, I’m better… But seriously, there’s no excuse for this. And really, the apps are a great addition to the iPhone. Even better than that, they actually work! (Unlike some operating systems that are supposed to have apps that work *cough*I’mlookingatyouWindowsMobile*cough*)

So, iPhone users of the world, I ask of you, if you read this, tell me if you’ve been able to figure out a way around this because I’m flat out ready to go straight to Steve Jobs himself and throw the phone in his face and say “FIX IT!”.

That is all… I’ll write about music at a later date.

Peace,
Mike

06
Jul
08

Amps and stuff

So, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, but that’s a lame excuse. So I’ll start out with something that’s in the title. Amps. Namely Cornford Amps.

I randomly decided to start doing a little digging on Cornford after listening to some clips of the Mesa Mark IV (which, of course, sounds fantastic and I definitely wouldn’t mind having one of those). So I found their website and proceeded to read about how they’re all handwired and such, and I’m like “alright, cool deal, let’s hear how they sound”. Now at this point, I’ve already heard Guthrie Govan’s record, so I know it can get at least an interesting fusion tone. So I dial up the clips, and I must say I really liked what I heard. Until I really thought about what music I play right now… Progressive Soul, Prog Rock, Jazz and pretty much anything else that comes my way. None of which those amp tones they dialed in really suited what I want to get out of my amp. Which is a running problem of mine. No amp I find seems to be able to get quite what I want to get out of it.

I digress. So I listen to lots of the clips, and I realize something else. All they keep doing it making some guys shred. There’s no real good actual demos of what the amps can do. Nobody dialing in settings and just playing chords (the same chords over and over again, mind you) and doing some different stylistic things. Nope… just the samey fusion shred on nearly every demo track. Which there’s nothing wrong with that… but you’d think an amp maker would want to showcase every feature of their super expensive as crap boutique amps. I digress… I just wish I could hear more facets of the amp. I do like what I heard, though for the most part.

Moving on to the second part… Stuff.

Got mahself a couple new toys… The first and most important is my Presonus Firebox which means… that’s right… I CAN RECORD NEW MUSIC!!! YAYYYY!!!! Along with that, I’ve been writing some things.
A new acoustic song, which I rough sketched last week and am now in the process of rewriting it a bit.
A prog song with lots of meter changing, outside harmonies and heavy riffs.
A funk/fusion jam that I’ve entitled “Subterranean Gigapets” just because for some bizarre reason it seemed to fit.
All these will be recorded and released when they’re done.

In other news… The PSO has a couple shows coming up both in NYC and a couple in Florida. I’ll put the dates up as they come to me.

That’s all I’ll write about for now. I’ve also gotten a couple new pieces of gear, so I’ve updated that page. I’ll also be migrating my files over to some new hosting that’s not as dumb as Mediafire.

Take it easy,
Mike