Archive Page 2

31
Dec
07

cognitive dissonance

My weekend was full of surprises… some very bad, some very good.  Without going into detail, I can say that being caught up in very bad and very good so close together can be an intense and confusing experience.

And it’s not conducive to getting real work done.

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21
Nov
07

returning

Last night, I returned to DADGAD tuning on my acoustic guitar, the first time I’ve played significantly in that tuning for some time.   It was like coming home… I played through my old arrangements of Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood”, Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”, Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control”, and some of my original tunes.  I was surprised and pleased that I could get through all the old arrangements so well.

I’ve been neglecting playing acoustic guitar for its own sake lately.  I should get back to it, in my copious spare time.

21
Nov
07

boggled

I’m not used to feeling boggled, but I’ve had to cope with it recently.  A few weeks ago, I got my first pedal steel guitar – a nice old Sho-Bud 6139 model.   Mine is relatively a simple, a single-neck 10 string.  It has ten strings, three pedals that change the pitch of various strings (sometimes more than one), and four knee levers that also change pitch.  Additionally, in the country-standard E9 tuning, the strings aren’t necessarily in low-to-high pitch order.  It’s very, very confusing.  I’m sure I’ll learn to play it eventually, but for now… boggle.

09
Nov
07

manual

I like manual controls on my tools.  Manual cameras, manual transmissions in cars, footpedals rather than rackmount electric guitar effects, a Unix shell rather than a Windows GUI.  I like interfaces that do what I tell them to do, and don’t do what I don’t tell them to do.  I don’t like machines doing the thinking for me.  I’d rather make my own mistakes. 

29
Oct
07

filler

Over the last couple of years, my primary instruments have drifted to steel guitar and hand percussion, rather than straight acoustic/electric guitar. I’ve also become much more active in group performance, rather than solo.  This means that I’m often taking a supportive and decorative role, playing fills.

There’s a real art to playing good fills.  The goal is not for the fills themselves to be interesting, but rather to decorate and enhance the primary voice of the performance – the singer, other soloists, the rhythm, whatever is central to the music.  So it’s important to contrast the primary voice, rather than competing with it.  Play in the gaps.  And don’t overplay! This can be a real challenge as an improvisor… resisting the temptation to play too much. 

I find it difficult sometimes to fill the gaps rather than playing along with the melody.  That’s because when we hear the song, we hear the melody.  As improvisors, that’s where we hear ourselves.  But if that’s what you DO when playing fills, then you’re probably overplaying.

Phrasing and coloration become very important, too.  Do you want to extend the harmony and rhythm, or reinforce it?  And voicing matters… you should play in a range that is not competing tonally with more solidly rhythmic instruments.

And, uh… when I started writing this I thought I had a point.  But I guess I’m just dancing about architecture.  Sigh.

28
Oct
07

completion

The other day, the Feng Shui Ninjas had a limited rehearsal… only Justin (percussion and accordion) could make it.  So Justin and I had some time to discuss where we’re going musically, and art in general.  One problem we discussed a lot was completion… turning an idea into a finished product.  Part of it applied to the Feng Shui Ninjas… we rehearse most weeks, yet after a year, we have yet to play a real public gig (parties and cons don’t count), and really, I don’t think we’re capable of an hour’s worth of quality, uninterrupted material we play well.  We do play well, and have a lot of fun, but our rehearsals are unfocused, a mile wide and an inch deep.  We need a real repertoire, not just random ideas.

Justin highlighted the problem when he realized he says he’s “going over to Dave’s to jam”, rather than saying he’s “going over to Dave’s to rehearse”.  It’s an important distinction.  We jam a lot, and that’s fun, but it’s not really solid rehearsal, and the results show.  We don’t complete our playing.

And it’s not just this band, either… I have a huge stack of recordings that I’ve started but haven’t finished.  Justin has a novel he’s been neglecting.  It’s hard to get from the point  of playing with an idea, to the point where it’s really polished and ready to share with the rest of the world.  Good enough for my pleasure isn’t the same as good enough for an audience’s pleasure.

Need to complete more things.

04
Oct
07

scarcity in the marketplace

Much has been made of the decline of the record industry over the past few years, particularly the major labels.  And a lot of this discussion revolves around the impact of online music downloads, both legal and illegal.  But I think there’s another limiting factor at work.

I consider myself a pretty avid music listener, and buyer.  I spend $50-100/month on recorded music – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over $1000/year.  But honestly, I could afford to spend more.  My limiting factor isn’t budget.  Rather, it’s how much time I have available to listen to music! 

There are a couple of factors at play here.  First, I don’t like to buy music and not listen to it.  Although I’m a big music fan, I’m not at all a record collector in the classic sense.  I like the content far more than the physical object.  So I don’t buy records for the sake of buying records… I want to LISTEN to them after I buy them.  Second, I own a large and constantly growing collection of music, the result of 30 years of avid music purchasing.  Over those years, I’ve found many of what I call “lifetime albums” – pieces of music I will be listening to for the rest of my life, at least off and on.  So new music listening time must be shared with lifetime music listening time. 

Because of these two things, there is a real, practical limit on how much money I will spend on new music, no matter what its price is or how much I like it.  So in economics terms, my time is the scarce resource, not my budget or the supply of music available.  There’s far, far more music available that I want to hear than I will ever have time to hear.