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4/11/11

6/13/11
9/7/11

4/4/11

A new year always seems to bring new challenges and promise. My biggest challenge this year is to get this record done and out. It seems as though its the last 15% that is the hardest. I always like to push myself and see how far I can drive my patience and musical fortitude. Unfortunatley sometimes this ends up as being a bit of a time suck. Onward...

<moronalogue>Man us music types sure do a lot of work for very little money. I used to play in cover bands years ago and while it was a lot of fun it also required a lot of effort, time and patience. I was lucky enough to have dealt with a bunch of great people during that time and learned A LOT about the human condition and what it takes to be somewhat marginally successful. As a member of the different bands I was in, and it really wasn't that many as I really didn't like playing cover's that much, sometimes I would reflect on how we as a band were treated by club and bar owners. I recently talked to a good friend of mine and we kind of commiserated about the "good old days". I then found a mock letter on a forum that really sums up a lot of the feelings that working bands may have today regarding their relationships with bar owners.

 

Dear Bar Owner,

As musicians who get all the glory, we feel it’s time to thank those whom we rely upon for the opportunity to showcase our talent and express our creative faculty to the local community.

Because, as everyone knows, musicians don't really need the money. We do it all for beer and blow jobs. We're artists. We have no time for such trivialities as kids, mortgages, or car payments.

Some of the things we love:

When you send us home early and pro-rate our pay for the night when it's slow. This gives us a special thrill, since we know that you'll one day give us a big bonus when it's packed. Plus, by leaving early, we can now go watch our friends play at real bars and spend our night's wages.

When trying to book dates, we love when you ask us if we're “free on “the 17th.” Sure, let us check our f*cking calendar. Yeah, we're open that night. Oh…you meant of November. Of this year?

We also love when you say, “Well, we might be doing something next month for Thursdays.” Yeah, we might also be doing something next month. Having our homes foreclosed.

One of our fave questions is, “Do you have a following?” Of course we do! We firmly believe club owners shouldn't have to concern themselves with such banalities as advertising. Or promotions. Or drink specials. The responsibility for attracting customers must fall solely with the band. We have no doubt whatsoever the people who saw us regularly at that bar in Dallas will charter a bus and trek up to Richardson to hear us play Smoke on the Water. Put your minds at rest, o’ troubled bar proprietors.

Just a few of the things we'd like to thank you for:

For canceling us forty minutes prior to our arrival at your bar, because as everyone knows, babysitters are free, and frankly, we have nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

For replacing our four-piece band with the clove cigarette-smoking guy and his $129 Fender acoustic guitar, paisley button-down shirt and soul patch. There’s a reason he works for fifty bucks.

For paying the exact same wage for a duo that you paid in 1986. So now, we have to work six jobs a week instead of four to make a living.

Thanks for not cashing your own checks. We realize how this complicates your accountant's life, and his happiness is all that matters.

And for having the house music set to the local oldies radio station, we salute you. We love following "Unchained Melody" with "Dirty Deeds."

For not having a stage. It’s a real treat to stand on your wing sauce-saturated carpet. And being on the same level as your patrons makes it much easier for drunken assholes to approach us and fall into our equipment while spewing a three-foot stream of vomit onto the drum kit. Thank you.

Thanks for the track lighting above the stage. Makes us feel like rock stars. Especially when they're colored.

Also, thanks for the break on food and drinks. Fifty percent is such a gift. It’s our distinct pleasure to shell out $3.25 for a shot of Jack that costs you twenty-two cents. Grazie. Merci. Domo. Danke.

Thanks for hiring the three laid-off bus mechanics who threw a band together after the economy shit the bed and will now play for $75 a man. Enjoy their ripping 11-minute rendition of “Cocaine,” complete with 64-bar bass solo and fudged lyrics.

Thanks for canceling us on a Thursday night for the Browns-Lions game on NFL Network.

Thanks for putting TVs directly over our heads, so people can watch “World’s Scariest Videos” while we play. It’s always a thrill to hear such expletives as “WHOA!”, “HOLY F*CKING SH*T!” while navigating the soliloquy from “Nights in White Satin.”

And let us not forget the bartenders, who listen to us all night without once clapping (if for no other reason than to induce the comatose people at the bar to clap).

And thanks so much for cutting off the jukebox 10 seconds into "Sweet Home Alabama," so that we can hear that collective "AWWWWWW...." from the audience as we hit the stage. Most inspiring.

Thanks for waiting until you've served all drinks, lit every cigarette, wiped off the bar, stocked the coolers and done your side work before moping toward the cash register with the quickness of a tai chi instructor to give us our meager salary while muttering, “They make as much as me, and only worked four f*ckin’ hours.”

Yes, it’s a travesty, but most high-level universities no longer give out bartending scholarships. And please note that it took us slightly longer to learn our instrument than it took for you to make it through Billy Bob’s Bartending School. And we doubt seriously that you sit at home practicing bartending in your spare time. So thanks for handing over the dough and shutting the f*ck up.

 

While its a bit brutal there are definitely some kernels of truth in the above letter. A lot of what was written made me laugh and made me think. My father was a club owner in the 70's. A good friend of mine often played at that club. He always said that my dad paid a fair wage and was very fair in their dealings. My dad ended up having a very successful business owning two clubs and did pretty well for himself. Cover bands would get paid in the thousands back then. Nowadays most bands don't get anywhere near that. I personally think that there is more than one party to blame. Let's start with the band.

Some bands are comprised of amateur musicians who have professional day jobs (lawyer, corporates, doctors etc etc). These guys don't really need the money so they'll come in and play for beer. They're just getting their rocks off or trying to re-live their youth. Is there anything wrong with this? No. But...what happens is that since they're playing for practically nothing the bar owner begins to think that all bands should play for practically nothing. That's bad. Also these guys don't have the time that the or semi-pros have to put into their show. Its one thing to be able to deliver the music but another to have the sound and attitude.

Another portion of the bands are made up of youngsters. This subset is happy to play for practically nothing 'cause they just want to play. I find this admirable. Playing in front of people and working on the entertainment factor is very important in becoming a compelling live act. Again club owners will think that the more experienced and polished acts should get the same wage...wrong.

Another party to blame, I feel, is the club owner. The live band is the catalyst for a good time. A great band = dancing and general carousing which = beverage sales. A band who feels appreciated by the club owner will deliver a more compelling performance. A relationship of mutual trust has to be maintained between the band and the owner in order for success to be had. Granted business is business but a good business relationship can prove to be more fruitful then an apathetic one. Also just as the above letter says the band should not be responsible for how many people show up. Most good bands have a following but that following isn't going to drive 50 miles for a show. It's up to the club owner to properly advertise and create hype around his place through drink specials and assorted hedonistic activities. Remember the band is ONE ingrediant of many that can make or break a club.
</moronalogue>

 

I was lucky enough to pick up a new guitar. Here's a copy of my post that I made on sevenstring.org. It tells the tale of how I originally picked up an Agile with a Kahler bridge but sadly had to send it back:

Agile Pendulum Pro Dual 82728 EB Nat

Multi-Scale design with scale range of 27" to 28.625"
Angled nut and pickup for improved intonation and sound
5 piece neck thru design with ebony fingerboard
Dual Angled Cepheus 9 active pickups
Custom Agile Bridge
Mahogany Body
Ebony fretboard with no markers. Position markers are located on the side of the neck.
24 Extra Jumbo 2.9mm frets and a 13.7" (350mm) radius neck for fast play
Grover Die Cast tuners
Width of the neck at the nut: 2 1/4"
Uniform Neck Profile - For ultra fast playing - 21.5mm at the first fret and 22mm at the 12th fret.
Overall length, including the strap button: 41";
Actual Weight is only 10 lbs

Yep I'm back again with another guitar and another review. So here's what happened: I may have been in a mild state of denial regarding my 8 string Interceptor Pro. I truly loved the guitar! It looked great and sounded damn good as well. The reason why it went back was that I couldn't set up the Kahler bridge to my liking. I don't know if it was the particular bridge that I had or what but I just couldn't get the action to an acceptable level for me without causing the string to either rise out of the roller or get a strange twangy type effect with no sustain. It only happened on a few strings at a time. And it was intermittent. I read up on the forum and ordered the flat head screws to replace the dome capped ones that came with it. It was better but still no dice. The bridge is a cool piece of hardware but as time went on it ended up not being for me. That said I was very bummed when I finally decided to send it back. I emailed Kurt and he was totally cool about it. After I got back from my UPS drop off I figured I'd go to the Rondo site and get even more depressed but something told me to go to the multiscale page...and there it was. Same finish, same everything except no Kahler and it was a multiscale. So onward and upward!

This one came packed a bit better. One large cardboard box with the Agile box inside it. Styrofoam ends and foamy sheet around the guitar. It took 2 days to get to my house. It came by Fed Ex. Not bad. Guitar was in great shape, no dings, dents, scratches, bird poop etc.

Since the finish is the same as the previous guitar it has a nice silky feel to it. Great feeling behind the neck. The frets were the same as the other guitar as well. I wish they were bigger but its all good. Since its a neck-thru the heel is minuscule and the large lower horn cut out allows my hand to very comfortably access the upper most frets. Like I mentioned in my other diatribe the hardware is quite adequate. The machines are smooth and everything feels solid and relatively high quality. I tuned it up and adjusted the truss rods to straighten the neck a bit and I got some very reasonable results with only a little tweaking. I let it set up for a day and then I came back and adjusted the string heights via the bridge. The action at the 12 fret is at the very most 2mm which is a good deal better than my previous bouts with the Kahler.

The only thing I was reticent about was the fanned fret idea. I thought it was cool and I saw the benefits as far as string tension but I had never played one before so I didn't know if it would work out. Well I have to tell you not only did it work out but I actually prefer it to standard fret set up. My other guitars are Carvin's and I feel that the Agile, while a much larger scale, is just as comfortable to play. And its MUCH more comfortable than the Interceptor Pro. The Pendulum came with active Cepheus pickups. They are a relatively benign pickup. No real specific character or color. They seem to sound very even across the board and work well clean, over-driven, and with high-gain. Compared to the passive Cepheus they seem a bit less scooped, more neutral sounding, a little airier. I ran it through my AXEFX and they sound quite good! I'll have to make some time and dial in some patches more tailor made for the guitar.

Pics:

Progress is painfully SLOW with the new disc. Solos are wrapped up for seven tunes. The eighth tune is a pain in the ass. I wrote out 16 bars of solo over a 15/8 part and I've been toiling over it for a while. It still ain't ready for primetime, or anytime for that matter. Very frustrating. The devil is in the details and he is been puttin the screws to me. I've been working pretty steadily on the artwork for the disk and put together a promotional video for it. Check it out below:

Posted some more mixes here.

 

Things at UMusic have been good. We had another recital and some open mics. Check out our videos here!

 

If you're on Facebook check out my page for more info and to listen to some new tunes! Click the link below and "like" the page if you like what's on it!


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6/13/11

Feels nice to finally dry out. Here in the northeast USA we had a challenging winter and a very wet spring. So far we've hit the mid 90's for a few days so I'm thinking summer is officially here. I even put a coat of stain on the deck. Needs one more though. My son's soccer and baseball activities are well underway and I've been a lot of fun checking out his games!

<moronalogue> This edition's moronalogue is going to be about ego and how it relates and manifests itself in the guitar player. You know we're gonna have a little fun with this one. :-)

I've been playing for a long time and I like to think that I've gotten better over the years. Heck, I've toiled on this chunk of wood and wires since dirt was young. I've had a great teacher and I've found many profound influences regarding this instrument. Many of these influences have propelled me in different directions and have helped me re-prioritize my goals, for better or worse, as a guitar player and musician. As time has gone on and I've checked out different players, local and non-local, Its kinda interesting how you can witness that common inverse relationship between skill and humility. Its of course common with most things in life, sports, acting, money etc. But as a guitar player I really see how it plays out in the music industry.

Is it bad to have an ego as a guitar player? In my opinion...yes and no. Let me explain. Yes: well depending how mammoth their self love is. It can and will refect on the kind of company they keep, if any. People may think that they're a complete idiot and won't want to collaborate. Or, if they are indeed that good they'll have people wanting to collaborate but they would never really get their respect as a person. They'll simply be treated as more of a resource, something to be used. Also they may fall into a relationship with other egomaniacs and they'll all have voodoo dolls of eachother with assorted sharp pointed objects stuck in them.

In moderation ego can be a good thing. I think it can give you a sense of self respect. It also can give you perspective on the type of musician you are and where you stand in relation to your goals. More importantly it can give you confidence in the area of performing and entertaining, if that's your thing. I think it can also give you confidence in your own ideas. Sometimes sticking to your guns in a collaborative effort is necessary. A healthy give and take of ideas and pushing eachother usually leads to a pretty inspiring outcome.

The internet has made the world a pretty small place. I can go on the web and find players who simply blow me away. Players from all parts of the globe, living in all sorts of different conditions. When I see these players I get inspired and realize that I still have a lot to learn. Also I think if you have a bit of confidence in yourself and put yourself out there you may inspire others to become better players as well. As a teacher that is where my priorities lie. I'm not really one for the whole competition aspect of playing ie. who's the fastest picker, sweeper, tapper whatever. To me that really isn't what music is all about. Guitar is not an olympic event, its an expression of who we are. Is it fun to play fast? Sure, it creates excitement and can be a great contrast in one's playing. Is it nifty to do all the sweeping and tapping stuff. Hell yeah, but moderation is key. Technique is only one facet of a guitar player's arsenal. There is so much more to do and explore. </moronalogue>

 

Soooo...speaking of putting yourself out there I figured I'd work on a couple of videos. Now granted I'm 5 years or so late to the party but I figured I'd find some space in the pool and dive in.

Betcha CAN Play This! ep.1

Betcha CAN Play This ep.2

These videos were a lot of fun to make. And obviously a lot of fun to edit. I think us guitar players sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously. Also I was getting kinda tired of people telling me what I can't play "Bet You Can't Play This" (although it is a bit tongue in cheek) I figured I'd like to have players go after some stuff with a more positive vibe. There's more to come!

 

Been doing a lot of transcribing lately with the new tunes. I find it helps me write somewhat more coherent melodies. One song to go then its all over but the mixin' and masterin' and artwork and new website and more transcriptions. :-) We're getting there. I'm pretty much dead sick of the material now so I can't wait to finally get this musical monkey off my back!

 

Things at UMusic have been good. We had another great recital. Check out our videos here!

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9/7/11

Seems like every time I update I begin by bitching about the weather. Hrmph. So Irene came and went and boy was I lucky. Only a short time without power and it was a controlled outage by ConEd to fix a line down the road. No major trees down on my property, just some debris. No wet basement or major water related catastrophies. Man, luck ain't the word. Whew!

<moronalogue>I think this moronalogue is going to be me ranting a bit about letting go. Letting go of music. Let me explain. Since I'm coming to the end of recording my latest project I've been revisiting each of the tunes and finding a few of the parts shall we say, less than stellar. So I start re-recording them. Then I hear a little blip here and there and say "oh shit, I gotta fix that too!" and that's where it starts to get a bit out of hand. I feel a sense of pride about my work and I want it to show. I want the melodies to be good, the riffing to be tight and the production to be as best as I can get it. So when I hear shit that ain't right I start getting a bit crazy. Now... to put things in perspective, Led Zeppelin recorded their first record in about 36hours, not days, hours. Pretty amazing. Their album Presence took about 18 days. All the guitar parts in Achilles Last Stand were done in one night. That goes to show you how talented and fast Page was able to work. In addition he was not really in the best condition in that part of his career. Also everything was done on tape which made punching in much more difficult and time consuming compared to today's modern computer recording rigs. Off their first album you can hear some of the timing issues that popped up. Did they fix 'em? Nope, they left 'em in. Why? Because that take was the best take. Also Bonham's famous squeaky bass drum pedal heard on Since I've Been Loving You, The Ocean, The Rain Song, Houses Of The Holy etc. Did they protool that out? Spectral editing? Hell no they left that in! How about the massive sounding drum intro to When The Levee Breaks (which was recorded with two mics placed up the foyer stairs in that famous decrepit house called Headley Grange. Today that shit doesn't really happen anymore. Recording in a dilapidated farmhouse with a mobile recording studio? I think not. Thinking about stuff like that helps put things in perspective for me.

Now I don't have the talent that would be found in Jimmy Page's little finger but it does make me realize that music should not be perfect. It's not a perfect artform. In fact I'm not sure if any artform is considered "perfect". With a lot of artists "protooling" and noise gating and lining up everything you start to get this really cold, sterile type feel to music. Believe me I am certainly not a purist. I do take advantage of a lot of the technology out there (Computer based DAW, AxeFx, plugins, synths etc). Afterall I'm just one person wearing many hats. But I've learned to try not to let technology get in the way of the music or rule the day. The technology should enhance the music making process, making it less of a pain in the ass. </moronalogue>

 

Since the last time I was here I've managed to corrupt the ether with two more "Betcha CAN Play This! videos. Let me present the 3rd and 4th installment of this ludicrous folly!

Betcha CAN Play This! ep.3

Betcha CAN Play This ep.4

I like to think I'm getting a little better with these videos. People seem to like them and hopefully they are somewhat entertaining as they are helpful. Like I said sometimes we guitar players take ourselves a bit too seriously so it's nice to have humor give us a bit of perspective.

 

The record is in the mixing and mastering stage at this point. To paraphrase my moronalogue, enuff witda feckin' around!! Artwork to wrap up and to decide on how many hard copies to get and how and where to release this thing.

 

Things at UMusic have been quite exciting. We moved to a new location: 20 Welcher Ave, Peekskill NY (A&P Shopping Center)

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12/23/11

Well in order to combat my flagrant ineptitude in keeping up with my updates I figured I'd try and squeeze in one more entry before the end of 2011. I'm hoping to upload this before the new year...we'll see.

I'm thinking a very brief synopsis for each holiday/event is in order since I've not had the joy of ranting about them due to my lackadasical attitude.

I do hope everybody's Halloween was fulfilling both in body and spirit. We have to keep the dentists pockets full this season so eat up! I dropped my son off with a bunch of his hooligan friends for some fun and frolic. My boy managed to procure a nice hall which could possibly induce a diabetic coma. He had fun with his soccer buds and for that I am quite happy. (plus since my boy is lactose intolerant guess who got first dibs on all things chocolate :-)

Thanksgiving was nice. We had to travel to Brooklyn to meet up with family and friends. The food was good and fun was had by all. We played a few rounds of "Catch Phrase" which was actually quite fun. It didn't involve shooting, blood or assorted gibbets but my son and I still had fun.

Flash forward it is now 12/26 and Xmas is pretty much officially over...at least in my eyes. Went to my family for Xmas eve. Hung out with my grandmother, who just got a new car incidentally. She just turned 90 and she's living on her own and continues to defy the aging process as much as humanly possible. Dinner was great, as usual. Although my mom won't profess to being a good cook I do really miss her culinary adventures. We had the usual Xmas fare, turkey, stuffing (two types), potatoes, greens, 3 types of sweet breads, and at my request this great hot cider she makes (which involves periforating an orange with cloves). We have a fairly small family so it was a relaxed, quiet and a relatively tranquil day. For that I am grateful. My parents are snow birds so they are only up here for part of the year so to actually be able to sit down with them, eat something, and hang out for an extended time is nice. As far as gifts the boy got a soccer goal, some silly stuff and a bit of money. Not bad. We got home early but somehow ended up going to bed late. Thankfully my son is generally into not getting up early anymore so we had a bit of a reprieve the next moring. The boy had a quite a nice little haul by the time all was said and done Xmas morning. Afterall Xmas is for the kids. Since he is a soccer beast he picked up some swag from his two favorite teams, Barcelona and Brasil. In the pile was a scarf, a hat that was a combined effort of family members (mainly my mom and Mary), a new soccer ball, training jacket, sweatshirt, some stocking stuffers and additional hoohah. Oh a really cool gift he got was a swimming shark. Basically its a helium fillled shark shaped balloon that is remote controlled. You're able to make it swim through the air by swinging its tail fin back and forth. The freakin' thing is huge!

Xmas day we hit Long Island where my wife's sister resides with her husband and two teenage kids. We had a nice time there. The food was good and the kids had a lot of fun hanging out. I was in the game room with the oldest watching him play Skyrim. Man I want that game but I know it'll just leech away my time! We got home real late and crashed. That's pretty much the some sum total of my holiday season. I hope yours was a good one!

Flash forward to New Years eve, today. We have an open mic happening at UMusic this evening and a bit of jamming as well. So I'll be bringing my bass with me as well as my guitar. My boy will be having some friends over to cause all sorts of New Years chaos and cacophony which will be great for him. Me? When I get home I plan on staying home. I won't be going out into that hive of alcohol induced insanity.

 

<moronalogue>First off I'd like to dedicate this moronalogue to a good friend of mine Isaac. He put it in my head that it was time to update this page! Let the hilarity ensue...

So this year it looks like Dr. Dre's, The Beats, headphones are pretty much the rage with the kids this holiday season. Check 'em out here. Ok now this is what I don't get. These are hi def headphones, studio quality listening. I'm thinking that they have a much wider frequency response then normal ear buds. After reading some conflicting reviews it seems that these are genre specific headphones. Being that Dr. Dre has his name on 'em you can probably guess what genre we're talking about. Yep, dance, rap, electronica etc. It seems that the phones hype the bass and high end and leave the midrange a bit flat. Well again for those particular genres I guess that's the way it is. My gripe is this. A lot of kids and adults download mp3s which are by far sub par audio quality. Why would you spend $200 bucks on a pair of headphones to listen to shitty quality music? I don't get it. If you were listening to cds (and maybe they are) I can totally see picking up a decent pair of headphones but mp3's, especially those encoded to 128 or lower? eh, I'll pass. </moronalogue>

 

My video silliness has slowed but I have added one new "Betcha CAN Play This! video for all to enjoy, or throw virtual produce at. Let me present the 5th installment of this musical ineptitude!

Betcha CAN Play This! ep.5

I'm still digging these videos. I have shot a sixth but have yet to edit it down. I've been a bit lazy with the vids as of late due to the...

 

record. As a matter of fact I'm working on this perpetual thorn in my side as I type. Turns out there were some problems with the cymbals. Basically they were too damn loud! I like cymbals, especially chinas, but this shit was just a bit too over the top. So I've been re-mixing, listening, re-mixing, listening...you know the drill. I figure I've spent a lot of time on this project, I don't want to skimp out on the very end. I decided, at least for now, that I'm going to be doing a 12 page booklet with the cd. There are 9 tunes and each tune will have have its own graphic (I'm sure I went over this before). Anyways that's the deal. I'm still working on liner notes and I have to finish working on graphic for on the cd itself.

 

Things at UMusic have been going quite well. We've had some great shows at our new place and people are slowly but surely starting to find out where and who we are. :-) We do have a great show coming up in March, Allan Holdsworth will be officially christening our new place with Virgil Donati and Jimmy Haslip. This is going to be a killer show. There are only 45 tickets available so if you think you may want to check this out I'd give us a buzz at 914-736-7777 and reserve yourself a ticket.

 

If you're on Facebook check out my page for more info and to listen to some new tunes! Click the link below and "like" the page if you like what's on it!

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