Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Having tendinitis yet again is really making me question the viability of doing this as a career ... I don't think there is anything that I'm doing wrong technically/posturally (if... it appears to just be from over-practicing & demanding too high of a standard of playing from myself (relative to my ability level) & also from increasing my practice time dramatically in the span of about a week and a half (from almost not practicing daily to 3-6 hours per day)

It's just very frustrating, because everytime I seem to be making substantial improvement I run into this roadblock ... it's also frustrating, because before that first time I got tendinitis in college (from doing yoga) - I never had a problem with this (and I used to play 3-6 hours every day then too)

I know I'll find a way to get through the concerts I have this week & all the way through the Quebec gig in the middle of may (assuming this even lasts that long, which I doubt it will) ... but I'm really scared that I'm going to keep running into this & I just don't know what to do about it ...

Maybe part of the solution is mandating 2 days a week where I don't physically practice no matter what ... or setting some other cap on my practice time ... but on the other hand, I know there are people who practice 4+ hours daily who don't seem to have this issue, so why do I??? And more importantly, how do I overcome it?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Recording Session That Changed My Life (Recording With Richard Martin)

Every so often in life, something happens that completely alters our course or perspective in a very substantial/meaningful way.

I had one of those today ...

For the very first time, I did a recording session in a completely analog studio. I also worked with a producer who was very calm about taking as much time as necessary to get something done properly.

But anyway, working with analog was completely eye-opening... I record myself pretty frequently, because I'm frequently jamming or improv'ing or writing music & garage band is essentially my musical notepad (after all, it's much easier to record to jot something down than it is to transcribe it). In Garageband (or ProTools/DP/Audacity or any other DAW), I can look at what I'm doing visually. I can also record take after take after take & replace individual notes with relative ease & have an unlimited amount of tracks and data manipulation within instant control.

Recording straight to tape is a whole different story. First of all, this recording setup did not go through a computer, and that's a revelation in itself. It went straight to tape - meaning the visual aspect of editing is just about non-existent. This was a completely different world for me, considering the most recent session gig I did before this involved a *ton* of editing & looking at waves & matching stuff, etc., etc. (as does my current editing project). The second thing was that there were very few remaining tracks to use for each song, and the producer did not like punching in/out. What this meant is that I had to get a really great whole take.

This was a revelation for 3 reasons: One, this is how bands like Metallica (and everyone else) used to have to record. Two, it makes a *huge* difference in the outputted track ... it forces you to take more time to work on a track & the track really develops a character of its own .. something often missing in modern recorded music. Three, It forces you to actually play well, which led me to realize that (in addition to just not accepting mediocrity in my playing), I need to look at The Whole, instead of pieces when I'm practicing (and aim to play the whole perfectly, instead of just the parts). Some people have this rule that you have to play something x times perfectly in a row before moving on (where x is a number 10 or higher) ... I think this is a good rule, and plan to apply this in my practice from now on.

I also learned about some things I need to work on technically - for one having spot on pitch (I have decent pitch, but it does not cut it for recording ... One method I'm going to work on is shifting/doing scales without vibrato). Two, playing every note in the left hand like I really mean it (meaning having my full weight down into the night). Three, being able to shift with ease from any note to any other note (I also remembered that the way to develop this is to start with shifting so that you hear the entire gliss. This means that all your weight is down & helps you develop the proper motion/method of shifting). Four, remembering to shift with the upper arm first. Five, being able to consciously choose whether I'm playing flat-fingered or curved-fingered and being able to do both with ease. Five, counting/feeling syncopations with ease.

On top of all that, I actually had to play to a track that wasn't metrically perfect/consistent. I am sad to say that that was actually a challenge! I'm so used to striving for rhythmic/metric consistency that (like playing with vibrato) it actually became a challenge to turn this off & to really feel the track.

In general, I feel like I have a pretty good/developed innate sense of music/musicality (at least in rock music), I have lots of ideas & feelings, etc. ... But, I often lack the technique to really put them into use. This session took substantially longer than it needed to (about 9 hours), and there were a variety of reasons for them, but one of them was that I was underprepared. You hear stories about session players who come in and just nail the tracks on their first or second take. That's what I want to be ... not what I am.

So, Final Lesson: I need to consistently practice more ... more as in 4 hours everyday ... It's time. Because if I don't do it now, I won't ever be that good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I love Random

So, Yesterday I was pretty burnt out and depressed as a result of some bad home stuff that had happened throughout the week and just not having had any kind of break since tuesday (going straight from work to rehearsals (Newbeard & Edensong) & having late nights working on other stuff) ...

Then I had to go into the city to check out The Duplex (b/c I'm organizing a concert with a few friends & that is a place we're considering booking & while there, I ran into Phil Smith (the bass player from Sweeney Todd). It was great to see him & get to chat a bit, etc., etc.

If that wasn't cool enough ... after leaving Duplex, on my way to the subway, I ran into this cool-looking cellist & singer-songwriter. So I chat up with them & find out they're playing a gig 3 blocks away at Cafe Vivaldi & decide to go check it out ... well, first of all, turns out that they're very friendly folks, and I got to meet a bunch of other cool folks they're friends with & second, it turns out that they are both amazing musicians & amazing songwriters (I mean seriously, I've heard so much singer-songwriter stuff that I'm really desensitized to much of it & they did some amazing stuff). They played cello/piano together & sang together and it was just so beautiful.

They were: Martha Colby (http://marthacolby.com/) & Anna Dagmar (http://www.annadagmar.com/) & you should check them out ... Martha (the cellist) writes this very jazz-influenced, yet very organic music with lots of focus on nature/natural images & it was a real treat to get to see/hear this ... plus, she has a BLUE cello from Grace Music ... cool ... Anna's stuff is also really beautiful, and she is an amazing pianist (and balances the instrument amazingly well with her singing ... never overpowering or being lost)

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see them ... also learned that Cafe Vivaldi is somewhere I want to book a show!

After that, I ran into an old friend on Metro North ... cool night!

That's all for now ... so much work to do & I have a sorta day off (meaning I can practice!!!!)