Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Performing Insights:

Posted by Brian on 27th November 2014 in How to:..., Journal, Musicianship, Performing, Practice

In one of my very first blog posts, over 4 years ago, I talked about my commitment to performing more often.

Since then, I have performed as an instrumental soloist fairly regularly at 3 different open mics; I have performed at an adjudicated festival 3 times; and I have played at a street festival at least three times. And while I can’t claim to be an expert I have gained some insight into combating stage-fright and getting the best possible musical performance.

The first, and most obvious, one is “practice, practice, practice.” I won’t spend a lot of time on this, except to say that, among other things, you should do your best to mimic “show conditions” when preparing for public performance.

The second, which took me a while to figure out even though it should be obvious, is “get plenty of rest”. It is no co-incidence that car accidents rise dramatically when we lose an hour of sleep to daylight savings time and drop dramatically when we get that hour of sleep back. We function better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The third, and for me this was the real revelation, is “ignore the audience.” I have always been told that you need to engage your audience, and this is true, but you don’t need to pay attention to them. For a while, I believed that engaging your audience meant making eye contact – which almost always resulted in mistakes of one form or another.

I started paying attention to performers that I liked and noticed that most don’t look at the audience much, if at all, when performing. Many actually close their eyes or spend much of their time looking at their instrument – and yet, as an audience member, I was engaged! These performers did not draw me in by interacting with me… They drew me in by interacting with the music that they were playing!

This revelation has had a profound influence on my performances and preparation.

For me, this has meant that I have had to start working on playing standing up. For the instrumental music that I like to play, I have found that I can more effectively use my body language to reflect the music that I am playing while standing up. The irony of this is that, from a technical standpoint, I can’t play as well while standing, but I’m convinced that, overall, it yields a better performance.

Now I wish I could say that I have suddenly become a standout performer, or even that I no longer battle stage-fright – neither is true. But I do believe that I have taken a major step on the way to becoming a better musician!

Recording an Album: #3 – Trial and Error

Posted by Brian on 25th October 2014 in Journal, Recording

Today I took another crack at recording Echoing Wilderness, this time at a faster tempo – though still not near as fast as Gilewitz’s original.

Today’s lesson: Make sure that Audacity is set up to record through the USB microphone. Otherwise, it will be recorded through the laptop’s built in mic and your click track will also show up on the guitar track…

… so the first take (a decent performance) was a write-off.

I did two more takes of the tune, the first one was okay, but the second was riddled with errors. I’ll try again another time…

My "studio".

My “studio”.

Recording an Album: #2 – Using a Click Track

Posted by Brian on 19th October 2014 in Guitar, How to:..., Journal, Recording

Well, I’ve started…

The first track that I am going to record is Richard Gilewitz’s “Echoing Wilderness”. I’ll be playing the abridged version, similar to the one that Leo Kottke recorded, rather than the much longer original.

I’ve decided that I will use a “click track” to record this tune. A “click track” is basically a metronome that plays while you record. There are many reasons to use a click track, most of which are outlined in this excellent article: Why Smart Songwriters Use Click Tracks

Some people hate click tracks, some love them. I think that they are a great tool but not universally required. (For now…)

I timed out “Echoing Wilderness” at about three and a half minutes, so I created a three and a half minute click track [Generate>Click Track] at 72 beats per minute (bpm), which I figured to be about the right tempo.

It wasn’t.

At 72 beats per minute, the song is longer than three and a half minutes. I was still playing the outro when the click track stopped. “Perfect!” I thought, since a wanted to slow down at the end anyways. What I didn’t realize was that when the click track stopped, the recording stopped, so I didn’t actually record the last bit of the tune.

Start again…

This time, I created a 4:30 long click track at 76 bpm and then “silenced” the last minute [select the last minute of the track, Generate>Silence] to allow for slowing down in the outro.

I wasn’t able to get a clean recording with my remaining time and 76 bpm is possibly still a bit slow, but I did get a guitar track that I could play with a bit to see how I could manipulate the recording with Audacity. I played around with adding reverb and experimented with other techniques for “fattening up” the sound.

More to come…

———————————————-

Here is Richard Gilewitz playing Leo Kottke’s version of his song:

(If you care, it’s played in Open D: DADF#AD)

… and now that I’ve watched the above video again, 76 bpm might be a lot slow…

Or not…

It’s interesting how much a tune can change over the years from the time you learn it, if you never refer back to the original.

Recording an Album: Intro

Posted by Brian on 15th October 2014 in General Music, Guitar, How to:..., Journal, Recording

People tell me that the word “album” is out-dated.

My dictionary says an album is, among other things, “a collection of recordings issued as a single item on CD, record, or another medium.”

So its the word I’m going to use.

Anyways…

I’ve decided to record an album. Not one that you are ever likely to be able to buy, but one that I will record simply for the experience of it. I’ve decided that it will be a collection of instrumental guitar tunes that were inspired by nature. It will be a short album – perhaps, half a dozen songs, written by some of my favourite guitarists/composers.

I have a Blue Yeti USB microphone, given to me a couple of Christmases ago, and a cheap refurbished laptop that I recently purchased. I’ve loaded Audacity (free, open-source recording software) onto my computer and I’m ready to go!

I expect that this experience will teach me a lot – and you may be able to learn from my failures!

So follow along…

 

Has it Been That Long???

Posted by Brian on 9th October 2014 in General Music, Journal

Well…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. In many ways that’s a good thing. As my teaching and playing schedule has filled in (not to mention a busier family life), I’ve had less time for writing – though no shortage of things to write about.

Without making any promises, I am hoping to carve out some time for writing again.

Two years ago I was starting to get a decent amount of traffic visiting my blog – so to those of you who were following along, I apologize.

And I hope you’ll check in from time to time.

 

 

Video-Of-The-Month: Fernando Sor

Posted by Brian on 1st November 2012 in Classical Guitar, Journal, Songs You Should Know, Technique, Video of the Month

Video-of-the-MonthNovember’s Video-of-the-Month features a tune that I have just started working on.

I started guitar lessons a month ago (after not having formal lessons for over 30 years) and this is the second tune that my teacher gave me to work on. It’s a tough one! The thing that I like about this piece is that it is forcing me to use voicings that I would not typically use on my own. It also has some very cool counterpoint (bits that complement the melody and harmony).

Here is Stephen Kenyon playing his interpretation of the tune, which differs from the version that I am learning in the way that he approaches the grace notes.

If you would like to learn the piece, here is a free transcription.

And here is another video that better represents the version that I am learning:

Fernando Sor on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Sor

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.

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

Songs You Should Know: Classical Gas

Posted by Brian on 10th April 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitar, Journal, Songs You Should Know, Uncategorized

Classical Gas“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams is easily the most popular and successful instrumental guitar tune ever written. Written during a weekend break from his day job as a writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the tune was released in February 1968 and climbed to the top of the charts, winning three Grammy Awards that year. It has since been performed by countless people and ensembles playing a wide variety of different instruments.

Years ago, my guitar teacher tried to teach me how to play “Classical Gas”, but I was more interested in 3-chord rock at the time. Years later, after hearing Lisa Simpson playing it on an episode of The Simpsons, I decided that it was time to revisit the tune. Its not wildly difficult, but the timing is tricky as it changes time signatures several times throughout the piece.

Here is the original recording:

And here is Tommy Emmanuel’s take on the tune (note the nods to the Ventures and Elton John mid-way through):

And here is the official “Classical Gas” website:  ClassicalGas.com/home.html

And Here is Your Host…

Posted by Brian on 3rd April 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Journal

Acoustic Blend CaféJust a personal plug…

On Sunday May 6th, I will be the guest host of the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association monthly Open Mic. We meet at the Cornerhouse Restaurant in Stouffville (6403 Main St.) from 1:30 pm until 5 pm. I will be presenting a short workshop and there will be a feature set by D’Arcy Wickham.

I’m still trying to decide on a topic for the workshop. I’m thinking either “Working with a Metronome” or “Practicing Without Your Guitar”. Thoughts or suggestions?