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2/23/09
6/17/09
9/28/09
11/23/09

2/23/09

Wow. A lot has happened in the last two months. The political scene is jumpin' and while Bush had all of his problems and screw ups it looks like Obama is trying to catch up with some of his own. How 'bout those cabinet appointees? Eric Holder for US attorney general? WTF? He provided clemency for terrorists (FALN, Los Macheteros). He's also not really into cracking down on voter fraud (acorn etc). He also played a huge role in getting Marc Rich (fled the country to avoid racateering charges) pardoned. Steven Chu got appointed as Energy Secretary. This dude once said that we should have the same gas prices as Europe ($8.00/gal). Timothy Geitner? He has a problem paying his taxes. He kinda forgot for like 4 years to file. Leon Panetta to head up the CIA? The dude doesn't know diddley about intelligence gathering and analysis. I dunno man. Bush was a bit of a knucklehead, I guess being a knucklehead is part of a politician's DNA. How about the stimulus package. Lets tally up what we've spent so far shall we? Under Bush: 700 billion to bailout the banks/wall st. About half of it has been spent. The economy still sucks. The other half is on deck. Now we have the stimulus package. Basically this 825 billion behemoth is to help jump start the economy and grease the wheels. They're saying that only 3% is to be spent this year. I don't get it. If you're going to help the economy, help the economy. They're also saying that this package is going to be for the country's infrastructure. But in reality only 3% is being spent on roads 'n stuff. Then there's the promise of green jobs and investment in alternate energy solutions (wind, solar etc). Yet only 2% is dedicated for that. There's 53.6 billion in direct aid to states for education. Increase in monthly food stamps. Unemployment benefits get an increase (It'll provide an extra 33 weeks of unemployment benefits). Seven billion goes to providing broadband to communities. A shit ton goes to scientific research. Five billion to help weatherize low income housing. Granted some of this stuff is important but don't try and lump all this shit into a "stimulus package". All this aid and programs should be on there own bill with their own legislation. It's like a spending free for all. Me, my kid, and my grandchildren will be paying off this gigantic debt. To be honest I think it sucks. Politics is frustrating, I guess I'm just an ill informed glutton for punishment :-)

 

The new material is going well. I'm in the midst of writing/arranging the sixth tune. This stuff is sounding quite a bit different from the other disks. Believe me it's still very progressive and crazy but the guitar sounds and synth sounds are very much new. Some influences include bands like Planet X, Tool, Led Zeppelin, Yes and probably a few others I can't think of. :-)

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6/17/09

Time for an update.  I tell ya I really have to get back into swing of things with the site.

Anyway, as I'm searching the deep recesses of my currently dessicated brain matter I've come upon a couple of faulty synapses that I hope you may find enlightening.  As I fall deeper into the trap of trying to become a better guitar player I've come across the following. Practicing is hard, tedious and a bit unrewarding. Don't get me wrong, I love playing, but I have some fairly lofty expectations of myself. (don't we all)  I pretty much want to be the best at the stuff that I want to do.  For instance who wouldn't want to have the legato prowess of the great Allan Holdsworth or Greg Howe?  Or how about the pinpoint accuracy of Steve Morse's alternate picking technique?  Or the effortless sweeping of Frank Gambale or Michael Romeo?  The sheer speed of Rusty Cooley anyone?  How about the sincere melodicism of Brett Garsed or Scott Henderson?  This is where my moronalogue ensues.   I think this is where YouTube can become a bit of a detriment.   As an anorexic gazes into the mirror only to see a candidate for Jenny Craig us guitar players gaze into our computer screens and are dumbfounded by players like Guthrie Govan who is absolutely frightening on all fronts.  We see all our faults through another player's greatness.  I know I do. I find that this can really alter the perception of ourselves as a players.  We begin to lose our identitiy as we jump on the eternal treadmill of playing catchup to all these great players who we idolize. These idealist fantasies can lead to some really serious incidents of depression. A shame really.  I find that it really comes down to maintaining a healthy sense of who we are and how we want to express ourselves through our playing. Now I'm not saying that we should ignore everybody else and become isolationist because we really do learn a lot from eachother. I just think that learning/memorizing a bunch of other people's music is somewhat counter intuitive to developing your own style. Lets face the facts, as instrumentalists who create and play challenging music we probably won't be on Clear Channel or MTV anytime soon. You might as well stick to your guns and express yourself your own way and not through someone elses's licks and ideas...but I digress.   Personally my goal for myself has been that I want to be able to play whatever I want.  I don't want any technique based crap holding me back from expressing my ideas. If I hear something in my head, I want to be able to replicate it on the guitar, period, end of story.  And over the years through practice and sheer masochism I think I'm getting closer to that goal, but man is it slow going.

 

I'd like to talk about a new piece of gear I picked up a while back. If you play guitar and your a bit of a gear nut like me I'm sure you have heard about Fractal Audio's AXE-FX.  Very interesting piece.  Essentially its a preamp with built effects. The thing that's extraordiary about it is the integrity of the amp simulations.  They are absolutley light years ahead of any other modeling gear out there.  This is truly an amazing preamp! I use it only for direct recording, not for live purposes so I can't attest to its performance in a gig situation but I am comfortable touting it for studio applications.  The layout is very intuitive. You basically have 12 columns of 4 routing blocks that you assign a particular amp, cabinet, or effect to and you chain them together in any order you wish. That's how it works in its simplest form. You can set up two amps with two different cabinets each with their own effects and either sum them to mono at the output or go stereo. It has the obligatory analog and digital I/O and effect send and returns if you want patch in your favorite box.  In addition midi and 1/4" I/O for assorted controllers and foot switches. For me the real treat are the amp simulations.  These are super high quality, high fidelity sims that really sound authentic to me.  The tube behavior and essence I feel is represented very well.  The list of amps is extensive and has all the biggies with a ton of boutiques as well.  Each amp's interface is well thought out from a guitar player's perspective and you can go deep and I mean real deep into tweak city with these things.  You can even adjust the bias of the tubes in the power amp section. The cabinet and mic simulations are awesome as well.  My favorite mic is the Royer R-121 ribbon mic which offers so much detail its mind boggling. I feel bad for the competion, they have quite a bit of catchup to do to even be on the same planet as Fractal. Also the support is fantastic.  Cliff is always on the forum and is constantly updating the firmware, offering new simulations and effects for free. Yep for free.  No model packs here. Once you're part of the AXE-FX family its like Christmas with these new updates!

AXE-FX Wiki

AXE-FX Site

AXE-FX Forum

 

In other news the new cd is humming along well.  Working on the seventh tune, currently laying down bass tracks.  No solos cut yet as I'm always trying to improve so I can do a good job. Some of the changes are going to prove challenging to play over and I'm pretty excited about that.  Like I said before the tunes are heavy, very progressive and melodic.  I want the songs to carry their weight even before any solos go down. I feel that quality songwriting is paramount in instrumental music. So I'm doing my level best to make sure that the writing is adventurous and fun, I'll leave it up to you to form your own opinion when its done.  I'm thinking of maybe uploading some demo quality rhythm tracks as a bit of a preview of what's to come.  I don't know if that would be a good thing or not though so the jury is still out on that.

 

Things at UMusic are going well as we start to head into the summer season. I have to say that a few of my students have really stepped up and are turning into monsters.  I'm really proud of you guys, you know who you are.  We just had a recital and it turned out to be a great show!  If you're interested in checking out some of the videos from the show, click here.

That's all I got for now.

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9/28/09

Hey all! I hope everyone has had a nice and relaxing summer. Things have been busy. Trying to get a lot done and sometimes motivation can be hard to come by sometimes. I did manage to take a very short weekend vacation with my son a few weeks ago to Raush Creek Off Road Park in PA. We had a lot of fun and I got to try out my FJ Cruiser on some green and blue trails. It frankly amazes me what this vehicle can do! A lot of off camber, deep water and big rocks. Took a bunch of pics and had a great time with my boy. Projects around the old homestead are ongoing. Right now working on staining the deck. I'm hoping to get that done before the cold weather sets in. Other than that...<moronalogue>

The practicing has been going pretty well. I've been working on a lot of new techniques and trying new perspectives to add some depth to my playing.  Its pretty slow going. It seems like when you first start to be able to play a bit you want to move up to the next thing that you can't do. It's a vicous cycle that never seems to end. Also its the last 10% of the technique that is the hardest. You can go through the moves but its the feel and attitude that you want to exress through that technique, that is the hard part. You want the line to come off natural and spontaneous, not forced and contrived. Then once you finally have the technique nailed you have to somehow incorporate that line into your musical vocabulary. That again is another hurdle to jump. Guitar playing is VERY frustrating sometimes.

I've been really enjoying the bass lately. Since I've been playing with the other teachers at UMusic getting ready for our performance (more about that later) I've found it very interesting looking at playing in an ensemble as a bass player and having that unique perspective as opposed to a guitar player. It really is quite different. I do draw some parallels though between the two. As a guitar player I often listen to the drummer when playing rhythm as I feel I'm able to lock up with him better thus fiorming a more cohesive sound. I think most times guitar players generally play along with the bass player. For me I'd rather go directly to the source. But I digress. As a bass player I've really begun to appreciate the role one plays to establish that bridge between the drummer and the rest of the band. Locking up super tight with the drummer is so important. Playing the "right" notes when laying down a groove and playing the right amount of notes I feel is paramount to a performance. Also I feel complimenting the drummer and guitar player is important as well. The bass player should have a melodic role in the band, not just copping the guitar player's lines all the time. In essence I believe that while the bass player's role is mostly supportive in nature I think that while performing this role he should be able to achieve an identity of his/her own. (my .02)</moronalogue>

 

The new record is going well. I just completed the rhythm trakcs for the eighth tune. It sounds pretty cool. I wish I could hurry the process but with all the other stuff going on my time has become a bit limited.  I'm also making sure that all the tunes are high quality and fun to listen to.

 

Things at UMusic are going well. The teachers are finally having a performance on Oct. 3 and 4th. Both days are filled so it looks like we may actually take this thing out into some local venues which should be fun. Our sets will include a Jeff Beck medley (Which includes: Know What I Mean, Airblower, Scatterbrain, Led Boots, Freeway Jam, Bluewind etc) Frankenstein (Edgar Winter), Hocus Pocus (Focus), Riviera Paradise (SRV), Yes Medley (Includes: Long Distance Runaround, The Fish, Heart Of The Sunrise, Roundabout, Tempus Fugit, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, Perpetual Change, plus more). Basically we took all the cool instrumental parts of all the medley tunes and welded them together to create a nice flow. Lou and Tommy will also be playing 2-3 classical tunes as well. It should be a lot of fun. Hopefully there will be no trainwrecks caused by the bassplayer :-).

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11/23/09

I hope everyone has had a great fall so far. Fall is definitley my favorite time of the year. A lot of preparation going on for the oncoming onslaught of winter. The usual raking/blowing of leaves, the cleaning of gutters etc etc. Fun and frolic abound!! (drips with sarcasm)

Making headway on the playing. I've been working through some books by Frank Gambale which has been a lot of fun. While there is a bit of cheesiness in his delivery the concepts are very cool and impart a new perspective. Also I checked out a great DVD of Scott Henderson's on improvisatioin and phrasing. I highly recommend it. While most of the concepts are well known, its the way he delivers the ideas that make it so effective. His delivery is concise and entertaining. I recommend taking notes during the vid.

I've been working very hard on upping the technique level while trying to be melodic and rhythmic. A super tall order as you can imagine. I really want to improve my improvisation and soloing as I want to start working out solos for the new disk. Sometimes I feel like I'm juggling so much shit when it comes to practice. Between staying up and trying to improve my technique while learning new concepts and working out over progressions it really can get overwhelming sometimes (most of the time). Plus bass has its own set of challenges as well. Eh,l enough bitching for now :-)

Also I got the chance to see Dino And The Detonators play over at the Claddaugh last month. My good friend Chris Saas is playing bass with them and they put on a great show! Dino is a fantastic frontman, very charismatic and a lot of fun to watch. They also performed a set of Alice Cooper set as their alter ego "Killer". They had all the props and crazy stage antics that really made it very entertaining. I wish Chris the best of luck with these guys!

 

Speaking of the new disk... things have been going kinda slow. I'm in the middle of writing the drums for the ninth tune. This tune is pretty cool as I wrote it completely on bass. I figured a new challenge was in order. So the bass is essentially going to decide the harmonic disposition of the song. I wrote some parts with some ambiguity so it should be fun completing the harmony.

 

Things at UMusic have been eventful. We completed our October 3rd-4th gigs at the studio and they were a lot of fun. Saturday evening's gig was a bit nerve wracking while Sunday's was a bit more relaxed. It seemd like the material came off really well and the crowd's reaction was great. Since additional people wanted to come and check us out we played again on 11/21. The studio was tightly packed and everybody seemed to have a great time. The material changed a bit for the last show. We put a new intro in the Jeff Beck medley (El Becko) we also cut a little bit of dead weight out of the medley to make is super tight. We added Santana's Europa. We also added Mahavishnu's Vital Transformation, which I played guitar on, which was cool. And we also added ELP's Tarkus.

Our set list:
First Set-
-Tarkus
-Jeff Beck Medley
-Riviera Paradise
-Frankenstein
-Europa
-Hocus Pocus (classical quotes)

Tom and Lou's Set:
-Blue Rondo
-Egyptian Danza
-Hoedown
-Czardas

Second Set-
-Vital Transformation
-Yes Medley
-Black Dog

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