Archive for the ‘General Music’ Category

Parental Discretion

Posted by Brian on 6th September 2012 in General Music, Journal

Nope, that is not an advisory for the content of this post, it is the name of the band I’m in that is playing it’s first gig this Saturday.

We’re a five piece band made up of parents from my kid’s school – hence the name.

If you’re at the Uxbridge Fall Fair this Saturday, drop by the bandshell at 3:45 – we’ll be playing a 50 minute set. I’ll be the one playing bass.

Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 22nd July 2012 in General Music, Musicianship, Practice, Quote Unquote, Technique

Quote, UnquoteThis quote was referred to in a discussion of great rhythm guitarists at GuitarsCanada.com:

“A lot of cats don’t work on their rhythm enough, and if you don’t have rhythm, you might as well take up needleoint, or something.”

– Prince in an interview with Guitar Player Magazine


Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part III: Rhythm & Tempo

Posted by Brian on 28th June 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Practice

Early in May, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. In this, the third of four installments, I am going to talk about working on Rhythm and Tempo without your guitar.

Rhythm

A while ago I wrote about attending a guitar workshop led by David Ross MacDonald at the Eaglewood Folk Festival. In that workshop he talked about how he used a sort of two step to embed various rhythms (i.e eighths, triplets, sixteenths, etc.) into his brain. You can also tap out rhythms in time with your metronome, or even use your left hand to tap out a steady beat while tapping out more complex rhythms with the right (or vice versa, if that’s how you’re wired).

Tempo

One of the biggest challenges for many musicians is starting at the right tempo. As it turns out, our brains have a remarkable capacity for reproducing the tempo of well known songs. For example, according to Daniel Levitin, in his book, “This Is Your Brain On Music”, we can use the following songs to find the following tempos:

“Hotel California”, by The Eagles – 75 beats per minute
“Back in Black”, by AC/DC – 96 bpm
“Walk This Way” by Aerosmith – 112 bpm
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson – 116 bpm

This is a technique that I have found to be very helpful.

Hopefully, you can use some of these ideas to improve your musicianship without building callouses.

Stay tuned for Part IV: Listening and Ear Training

Part I: Why?

Part II: Visualizing

Grace in Small Things – Musical Edition, Vol. 4

Posted by Brian on 17th June 2012 in General Music, Grace in Small Things, Journal

You are hereby challenged to find the joy in small things, because life is short and love is large.

GraceInSmallThings.com

Okay, it’s been a while – not since I found joy in the small things, but certainly since I posted about it. Here are five musical bits of joy from the last week or so:

1. A paying gig!

2. A non-paying gig for a good cause.

3. My kids working hard to prepare for an upcoming piano recital.

4. A somewhat regular jam with good friends that has turned into a band.

5. A rehearsal with the aforementioned band that went shockingly well!

 

More about Grace In Small Things

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part II: Visualizing

Posted by Brian on 29th May 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Performing, Practice

Earlier this month, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. Two weeks ago, I talked about why we might want to practice without our guitar. This week I am going to talk about visualization techniques.

We often hear athletes talk about using visualizing techniques to help them on their road to success. One thing that came up during the workshop was the legendary story of the golfer who kept himself sane as  a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam by imagining playing a round of golf at his home course each day. When he finally did get home, the story goes, he had only lost a couple of strokes off his game. While the veracity of this story may be in doubt, the benefits of visualization techniques are not.

One way that we can use visualization is to play “air guitar”. We can imagine playing new chord shapes or playing a familiar chord progression – maybe playing that chord progression on another part of the neck. We can imagine playing scales – working through the major, and various minor and modal scales, hearing them in our mind as we “play” them.

We can also pick up some sheet music (standard notation or tablature) and visualize playing it. If you are using standard notation, figure out the best place to play each note, and, where applicable, figure out which chord voicings will work most effectively.

Another way we can use visualization techniques is to use our computer or mobile devices. There are websites and “apps” that help you to learn your fretboard. Here is one from MusicTheory.net: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/fretboard/yy998y

A final area where we can use visualization is in performance. Years ago I heard Olympic Gold Medalist, Mark Tewksbury tell a story about sneaking into the, then unfinished, pool in Barcelona and imagining the crowds and walking across the deck to the starting blocks and hearing the starters pistol and how it helped him to perform on the actual day of competition. As musicians, we can do the same by imagining an audience, imagining taking our place on the stage and nailing those first few notes. We can also use this type of visualization with our instrument in hand too – when we are working on performance pieces, we should be imagining our audience and even practicing our verbal bits between songs.

Stay tuned for Part III: Rhythm and Tempo

 

 

Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 19th May 2012 in General Music, Practice, Quote Unquote

Quote, UnquoteI came across this quote reading an excellent article, “How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?” at Bulletproof Musician.com:

“If you practice with your fingers,
no amount is enough.
If you practice with your head,
two hours is plenty.”

– Leopold Auer upon being asked by violinist Nathan
Milstein how long he should practice each day.

The rest of the article talks about the importance of being engaged while you practice and discusses the the pitfalls of the “typical” practice routine and the importance of breaking down your material into small bits and really analyzing your playing as you work on those small chunks.

Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 18th April 2012 in General Music, Quote Unquote

“When I heard those bluegrass harmonies, I just lost my mind. And I also recognized that it was something I could do, which is a wonderful feeling. I thought, that’s how I play guitar, that’s what I do!”

–Gillian Welch, on hearing bluegrass for the first time

Emulation

Posted by Brian on 21st February 2012 in General Music, Musicianship, Practice, Technique

This past week, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to an adjudicator critiquing the performances of young piano players, including my own children. There has been lots of great advice that could apply equally to musicians of all ages and abilities. But one suggestion got me thinking.

As the adjudicator was dissecting performances of some baroque-era pieces, she talked about how piano pieces from that era were, in fact, written for the harpsichord – a keyboard instrument that resembles a small piano, but which sounds much brighter and doesn’t have the volume or sustain of a piano. She then went on to say that when playing such pieces, students should be trying, as much as possible, to emulate, or mimic, the sound and feel of the harpsichord in their piano playing. She then went on to talk about the importance of trying to emulate other instruments too.

This got me thinking about something that I had heard years ago – and I wish my memory was better, but I do remember hearing about a famous guitarist, whose name completely escapes me, who developed his style by trying to emulate the saxophone music of… Charlie Parker… maybe???

Anyways, the point that I am getting to is that, if we really want to hone our expressive chops, we guitarists should not only be trying to emulate other guitarists that we like, we should also be trying to emulate great players of other instruments too.

Grace in Small Things – Musical Edition, Vol. 3

Posted by Brian on 23rd January 2012 in General Music, Grace in Small Things, Journal

You are hereby challenged to find the joy in small things, because life is short and love is large.

GraceInSmallThings.com
  1. Playing Christmas music with good friends at the Windreach Farm Christmas Party. (“WindReach Farm provides an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment for persons of all ages and disabilities by providing opportunities to enjoy experiences in a farm and natural environment. “)

  2. Playing Christmas and other seasonal music with good friends at my kids’ school.

  3. Adding 3 new instrumental fingerstyle tunes to my repertoire!

  4. Getting out to 3 different open mics in one month!

  5. Seeing video from one of those 3 open mics, and not being horrified.

More about Grace In Small Things

Christmas Listening

Posted by Brian on 20th December 2011 in General Music, Music Review, Review

If you’re like me you find it challenging to find good Christmas music to listen to. It seems that most modern Christmas recordings are trying so hard to sound “fresh” that they overlook trying to sound good.

This year a friend introduced me to a very nice Christmas album by The Lower Lights titled “Come Let Us Adore Him”. The Lower Lights appear to be something of a musical collective who focus on performing bluegrass gospel tunes and this Christmas collection is a tastefully done recording of traditional Christmas tunes with a definite bluegrass flavour.

Have a listen:

You can order the album from their BandCamp site for US$ 11.99 or for an extra dollar plus shipping you can get an actual CD which includes a free download while you wait to receive it.

(As always, I have no financial or other interest in this band or recording.)