“Everyone has a plan, and then they get punched in the face.”

I’ve talked before the amateur mindset and embracing lessons from temporary setbacks in earlier posts, but there’s nothing like taking a (figurative) punch to the face at a gig to see how much you get rattled.

Last Friday evening, I played the kickoff event for the BuckMoon Arts Festival at Fulton-Montgomery Community College with KoriSoron.  We were experimenting with a new live set up and performing in a theatre we’d never played in as a group before.

The day itself was warm and humid and I was sweating as I loaded things in.  The theatre itself was relatively cool.  We got everything set up and soundcheck went okay, but people were coming in and sitting down during soundcheck to watch us play which is always a little challenging.  Not wanting them to leave, I said that I just needed to take care of a few things and that I’d play a couple of solo pieces before the set.

The reality of the situation was that my hands felt sticky and were sticking a little bit to the back of the glossy neck of the guitar.  This was not a huge problem but was enough of an issue to be disconcerting.  I made my way to the bathroom, washed and dried my hands and came back to give it a go.

The first two solo pieces went off fairly smoothly.  It was still a bit before the set was supposed to begin so I had to pull another piece out of the hat and start playing that.  The spotlights were on and the stickiness got worse.  Having been in compromised performance situations before, I went into “grin and bear it” mode and did my best to get through the piece.  A lot of notes (and a few clams) later the piece ended and I wiped down the neck of my guitar.

One of the other things I experimented with at this show was a longer explanation about the songs we were playing.  In previous shows, I’d just make a song introduction and crack a joke but I realized it was hard for the audience to engage in tunes that they had never heard before and didn’t have a context for.    So I added the context.

As I was talking about the first tune, in the most non-nonchalant way I could imagine I tried wiping down the back of the neck furiously to remove any dried sweat or anything else that would keep my hands feeling sticky on the neck.  I called out the next tune and within the first two bars my hand was sticking again.

There were four things I could have done:

1.  Since I didn’t have the foresight to bring any talc on my own, I could have reached over into Dean’s stash of talcum powder for his tabla and put a squirt into the palm of my hand.  Problem solved.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this solution until 2 days after the gig.

2.  I could have adjusted my playing.  I could have recognized that instead of fighting the situation that I could work with it and just slowed WAY DOWN and played as simply as possible.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this solution until the drive home from the gig.

3.  I could have had a complete meltdown.  Fortunately, this is not a option for me but I’ve been on several gigs where other players have addressed things in this manner and…well…I guess the kindest thing I can say is that once you’ve seen that you’ll never forget it.

4.  I could decide to suck it up.  Grin and bear it.  Refuse to adjust my playing to the situation at hand and then get frustrated that I didn’t play as well as I thought you ought to.

Option 4 meant that we made it through the gig without any train wrecks (we even got compliments on the show) but that it did not go as smoothly as hoped (I have yet to crack open the recorder and see what we have recorded (that’ll happen later!).

The practice room is a critical stage in getting any material ready for prime time, but there’s nothing like a live gig to take you out of your comfort zone and learn where things are really at in your playing.  Every fighter has a plan when they step into the ring, but the ones who typically do well are the ones who can take a punch to the face and adjust appropriately to what’s going on.

Sometimes you NEED to stick to the plan and sometimes you need to adapt to the situation you find yourself in.  That presence of mind comes with experience and even experienced performers will sometimes drop the ball on this.  Hopefully if you find yourself in a difficult situation at your next gig, you’ll remember this tale of woe and be able to adapt and adjust (or just bring baby powder!) and not just swing for the fences!

As always, I hope this helps!

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Acoustic Plugged in – Electric Unplugged

Hello everyone,

I’ve been delayed in posting for a while as I’ve been knee deep practicing material for some upcoming Korisoron shows and recording later this summer.

(If you happen to be in upstate New York, we’ll be playing July 10th as part of the kick off event for the BuckMoon arts festival – https://www.facebook.com/events/792648237521231/)

Some video of one of the songs we’ll be playing is here:

I’ve talked before about some aspects of practicing on an acoustic guitar, but performing with KoriSoron has taught me a lot about what a different animal acoustic electric really is.

The biggest thing has been how radically different the experience of a mic’d acoustic versus a piezo-equipped acoustic really is.  With an unplugged acoustic, what you hear is what you get – but unless you’re actually recording it with a microphone – what you hear – particularly for lead playing – is not what comes across in a live room.  This is an even bigger chasm of experience when dealing with a piezo pickup.  This wasn’t a huge difference when playing with my ZT amp but going into a pre-amp pedal and out to a PA (or recording direct) became a head scratching experience.  Now that we’re looking at recording some demo material from live performances (and getting the tablas and percussion a little more front and center) – I’ve been researching  how to get a simple system that amplifies sound and records what were doing.  We’ll do our first live run at Buckmoon this Friday – but I’m feeling pretty good about the initial options here.

For the mixing desk – we’re using a TASCAM DP32-SD.  It’s a standalone recorder kind of like an updated version of the 4 track cassette version some of you remember from your own early forays into recording.  It seems like an odd choice – but here’s why I liked it.

  1. My laptop is a little too unstable for live use.  I tried running some signals from a previous show to the laptop and it look close to an hour to set up and a 1/2 hour to tear down, and I wasn’t psyched with the end result.
  2. Increasingly, I like the idea of a limited function machine.  It doesn’t check email or make videos it just processes audio.
  3. The Tascam does what it does well.  It records 8 tracks simultaneously (more than enough for a trio) to an SD card is is DEAD quiet.  The faders are non automated and old school but useful for my application and it features lots of routing options, some onboard digital effects (compression, EQ and verb are useful for monitoring – in this case going out to the house) and a pretty straight forward interface.  I like the fact that I can set it up and just move on.
  4. The Faders and monitor out allow me to run a signal to a powered speaker and act as a gentle push for live sound.  The ZT amps work great for live use – but sometimes we need to get the tabla and other percussion out in front a bit more.

With that in mind, we’re trying to run the least amount of mics on stage as possible, so we’re currently using some Yamaha gear to help with that.  I’ve been using a Yamaha THR5a in lieu of my AG Stomp and I have to say that I dig the amp as a practice model.  You can tweak the sounds with a computer interface to a much greater degree than just the amp controls – but it sounds quite good for what it does.   I wish they got rid of the battery compartment and added some XLR outs (the only out options are USB and headphone out – the biggest drawback to the amp) but I really cant complain about it as a live interface.

Practicing acoustic plugged in to get ready for the show has really been a revelation.  It’s forced me to make major adjustments in my left hand and focusing on it like a classical player and pay deep attention to the nuances of tone.  Again, playing it acoustic it sounded one way, but practicing it plugged in gave me a much more realistic impression of what the audience was hearing – and that’s making me dig deeper and really tear apart all of my 2-string building block shapes and work on getting them to sound clear with the piezo.  It’s a bear, but that work really pays off and has made a difference in the overall tone of the acoustic playing as well.  It’s the exact opposite of my advice to play electric guitar unplugged to make sure that you could make out every articulation – but both roads lead to the same conclusion.

As before, I need to give a lot a credit here to Miroslav Tadic and Jack Sanders who really did a lot to open that perception for me and make it something I could develop!  I just wish I pieced it together earlier – but better late than never.

So we’ll see how all of this goes on Friday and we’ll see if I’m still chipper about this next week. I guess the lesson here is – don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions – often.  Very often I teach lessons with students who say, “Oh I know that” and when we go deep into it they start to realize just how little they know.  The teacher is also the life long student – so even when confronting something and saying, “Oh – I know that” it’s amusing to see the beginner belt come out and realize that all roads lead to Kata – the basics – the fundamentals – and you can never know them as deeply as you think you do.

I hope this helps!

If you’re in the area, I’ll be playing with KoriSoron at the FM Theatre at Fulton-Montgomery Community College at 8pm on Friday, July 10th.  The event is free and open to the public.

Thanks!

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(The) Primacy of the Ear

Saving Pretty Polly from the train tracks

I left my last post with a little cliff hanger:

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

I’ve talked a lot about the pluses and minuses of going to music school and some of the pitfalls in being an autodidact, so while I’m not going to talk about the big issues behind both of those approaches I do want to briefly outline what the great self taught players and great formally trained players have in common.

Ability to analyze.

Here’s a quote from my interview with Miroslav Tadic that bears repeating:

Understanding what you are playing while you are playing it puts you into a whole different place. This is extremely rare with classical players and this is what marks a great classical player and sets them apart from the other players. You have a player like Glenn Gould who had everything memorized and knew what was going on in every note that he was playing. After he stopped playing concerts he would go to the studio and everything that he recorded (and he recorded a vast amount of music) was all played from memory. The reason why you can have that kind of memory is because you understand what’s going on in the music. It’s not just having photographic memory or sitting there and having a technique for memorization it’s having the understanding of music. Even if you’re only going to play classical music, if you sit down and as you’re playing, go through the piece and ask yourself – what am I playing or what is this?

….You can really make it much more enjoyable and can really help you eliminate the dreaded memory lapses because you know what you’re playing. It’s not just this part that’s abstract to you. If you blank out all of the sudden and you have no idea of where you are. But you can always remember, oh that’s the F major part, before the cadence that takes us back to D minor or whatever. It’s not the theoretical knowledge of someone who’s a music student but the connection between theoretical knowledge and the actual living knowledge of music. The sonic knowledge. This is a really important thing. For example, you can know what a Neapolitan chord is – but you’ve also got to be able to spot it every time you hear it. Those guys who wrote that music – you can bet they knew what it sounded like. It’s not an issue of them sitting there and making calculations or something. It’s a flavor – like hearing a pentatonic scale. If you hear Pentatonic Minor riff, is there any question about what someone is playing? No. You can hear it and recognize it for what it is because it’s the music of our times. The same way, if you’re playing music from some other time well you should know it like the music of your own time.

This doesn’t mean that great musicians are in a perpetual state of constant analysis of everything, but if you have a deeper understanding of what is going on around you, you have a higher likelihood of being able to interact with it on a deeper level.   Some players have an intellectual knowledge of this, “There’s a minor vi to I in this part of the tune.”  some have a sonic knowledge of this (i.e. they hear the chord progression and know what’s going on in a deeper level.)

And here lies the other big similarity between the aforementioned players,

the ability to hear and listen

And, in my mind, there’s a big difference between the two.

Hearing is reactive – (“someone’s playing something”)

Listening is proactive (“the soloist is playing a line based in 4ths, I’m going to play something complimentary under that.”)

I may be in the minority for making that distinction but I think it’s an important one.

At Berklee, the classes that caused everyone to groan were the Ear Training (“Ear Straining”) classes.  The reason for this is because the classes focused on intervallic drills, the ability to hear chord qualities (major, minor, 7th chords in inversions) and transcribe melodies from ear.

In other words, all things that you need to be able to do in the real world – but a lot of the material was not something that would inspire you.

When I went to CalArts for my grad studies the only other school that I looked at was New England Conservatory and their Contemporary Improvisation program.  Ran Blake (the former chair of the program back when it was called Third Stream and a current faculty member there) has just released a book on the methods that he uses to teach there, called Primacy of the Ear.  It’s a thin book, approximately 125 pages of with 30 pages of indexes, sells for $30 and it’s a bargain.  It’s entirely possible that I never would have gone to grad school if I had this book back in 2005  (which would have been a huge mistake for me).

Having met Ran, I can guess that the book is a number of lessons, conversations and observations (you can read a very early pdf regarding this topic back in the third stream days that was substantially revised and expounded upon here) that co-credited author Jason Rogers edited together into a coherent guide-book for those people who want to truly own their music.  What’s interesting about the entire approach is how one he relates this process to creating an original style.

For those of you who don’t want to get the book, I’ll illustrate a process that Ran outlines in much greater detail that will help you with your hearing, phrasing and overall improvisation (I know I’ve done this before).

Step 1.  Pick a tune and a performance of that tune that inspires you.  Don’t pick something you want to learn because you think you should learn it.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with this process, so make it something that you REALLY want to learn.

Step 2.  Passive listening.  Play a recording of the tune throughout the day.  The goal is to start getting the song form in your ears.  This is like when you hear a commercial over and over again and find yourself able to sing back the melody away from the commercial later.

Step 3.  Active listening.  Now you’re only listening to the tune in short intense stints.  This is sitting down at a desk with no other distractions and really listening to what’s going on.  Noticing nuances, inflections, that type of thing.

Step 4.  This is the actual bear.  You start learning the components AWAY from the instrument.  So you learn the melody by ear.  You learn each phrase away from the instrument and get to the point that you can string it all together.  You want to be able to pre-hear the melody in the song.  Once you have this material mastered (i.e. can sign any part of the melody from any point in the tune), then learn it on the guitar using your inner hearing to guide the process.

Step 5.  Repeat with the bass line of the song.

Step 6.  Repeat with the chord progression of the song.  LEARNING EACH INDIVIDUAL VOICING of the chords one at a time melodically.

I’m sure that some of you at this point are thinking, “this is insane.”  If you’re thinking, “Oh I could do that.”  it’s very likely that an attempt to do this at this level will have you also come to the conclusion that it’s an act of insanity.

But it’s not insane.

This is a DEEP methodology to get into what is really happening in a song.

This process basically ensure that you know the song at the microscopic level and have a much deeper likelihood to engage with it at a core level.

This process has been adapted to all kinds of music.  In this video, Ran combines the music and biography of Mahler with film Noir to create a performance that is a true synthesis of styles.

This is only possible with an intimate understanding of Mahler and film Noir music.  That comes from deep engagement and deep listening.

How would you do it now?

Coming back to the original cliff hanger:

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

Knowing what I know now – if I didn’t go to undergrad –  here’s how I’d do this from scratch.

1. Get great teachers.  Yes plural – Teachers.  I’d take some classical lessons to get proper technique.  I’d take some lessons on theory to augment my own study.  I’d take lessons on any specific style I was interested in for as long as it made sense.  If I was interested in rock playing, I’d get some rock approaches down and if that got me what I wanted I’d move on from there.

2.  Take some classes at a community college.  College really isn’t for everyone at every time of their life.  There are people at 18 who are just not in the headspace to commit to full-time enrollment in college.  But try some courses in music theory or liberal arts to expand your horizons.   IN GENERAL – try a number of different approaches to learning and LEARN WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.  For me, being at a college surrounded me with other people and that immersive process was really important for me at that time in my life.  Now that I know how to teach myself, I can learn things on my own time and it’s more efficient.

3.  Get good materials to study on your own  I’d look on Amazon for the best reviewed books and order them through inter-library loan.  The ones that resonated with me I’d buy.

4.  Listen to as much different music as possible (preferably live music) and go out of your comfort zone whenever possible.  Expose yourself to things and find out what resonates with you – and more importantly WHY it resonates with you.  This is also where teachers/mentors/peers are critical because they can help articulate things going on in the music that will help you determine why something is cool.

5.  Perform in low risk setting at first to get your footing and play with people better than you.  As much as possible.  Determine from those experiences what you need to work on and work on them in a focused, deliberate way.  It’s a “7 times down 8 times up thing.”  Great teachers will help you here too.

6.  I’d learn as much music as I could by ear.  I’d transcribe anything that interested me.

7.  I’d continue to try to find favorite authors and artists and engage in their work in a deeper level.  Go deep with what you know and keep your eyes open for new things.

8.  Since this is about what I would do rather than spending 60k at a private undrgrad college – I’d go to a community college and get at least an associates degree in business and/or communication.  I would do this with the filter of learning anything that would help me become an independent musician.  I’d augment this with interning at a PR company or something similar to gain any insight on monetizing what I did, promoting it or drawing customers to whatever services (like lessons) or products (like mp3s, cds or dvds) I’d be providing.

9.  I’d make connections with other people and connect with existing community or create new communities.  Find like minded people and develop an inclusive scene.  There’s nothing wrong with online groups, but if they don’t have a component (or at least the potential component) of engaging face to face it’s not going to help you in the long run.

10.  Don’t lose the forest in the tree.

There’s a teacher at CalArts that had my favorite quote about the biggest potential pitfall that students can engage in.

“CalArts….come here as a decent reed player and leave as a mediocre tabla player.”

The biggest challenge with self-study is that you need 3 things to ask a question:

1.  You need to know that something exists to ask about it.

2.  You need to know that asking a question is an option.

3.  You need to have someone to answer the question in an intelligent way.

When you self study, you’re often missing most (if not all) of these factors.  It’s the “You don’t know what you don’t know” paradox.  The last thing that I would do all over again if I could instruct an 18 year old version of myself, would be to tell them that learning is a process not a destination.  You will always encounter things that, at the time, will seem like things you should have already known.  Don’t get hung up on should.  Realize that you are on a spinning ball, spinning around another spinning ball that’s spinning around an infinitely deeper structure.  Where one is physically appears to be the same place but is always changing.  Understanding where you are in music or life is the same thing.  I’m always surprised at how different perceived knowledge is from real knowledge is.  Don’t let it beat you up.  Just re-assess, adjust and keep moving forward.

Now back to that ear training.

As always, I hope this helps!

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Practicing Performing

As musicians, we spend a lot of time practicing things but a lot of us don’t ask WHY we’re practicing.  We have vague notions of things like, “to get better” but nothing concrete.

This leads to things like shred guitar groups on Facebook where it’s a constant one-upsmanship of technical skill.  And while that’s a natural phase of skill development, it often doesn’t have a whole lot to do with making music or being musical in a band context.  Paul Gilbert once talked about how he had to completely change the way he soloed when he toured with Mr. Big because the highly technical things that blew people’s socks off in 500 person clubs in LA were completely lost in arenas with cavernous reverbs washing everything out.

Why we do something can inform both what we’re doing and how we’re doing it as well.

Last night, I played a gig with KoriSoron, the band I play in with guitarist Farzad Golpayegani and percussionist Dean Mirabito.  The money was negligible and the audience was small but that gig was more informative that a month in the practice room because I had real time analysis of what worked and what didn’t work in a live setting.  Furthermore, when I looked back at my improvisations I could determine what I thought I was playing versus what I was really playing.

If you want to play live music, you should play live shows as often as possible and see live music as often as possible to see what works.  I’ll add much better clarification of this idea with a quote from what I would say is a must-read  interview I did with Miroslav Tadic:

Performing has both a physical and the mental aspect to it. They’re connected but people have different levels of reactivity to each of them that can only be tested in performance. The good news is, you don’t need to be in a club or a concert hall with a bunch of people who have paid for tickets to see you to develop that skill. All you need is for a couple of people to actually sit down, listen and pay attention to what you do.

Most people, including myself, have found that there is really no difference in playing for ten people in your living room or playing for 2,000 people in a concert hall you’ve never played before. Mentally it’s the same thing and in both situations you go through the same kind of reactions. Once you learn those reactions and observe yourself in that situation, those reactions are not going to surprise you when you’re on stage and this is the most important thing.

For example, lets say the physical reaction is that your hands are sweating, shaking or cold. These are all physical reactions to this mental state of performing for people. You don’t experience that in the practice room, but if you go in front of people and all the sudden your hands are sweaty and you’ve never played with sweaty hands, it’s a terrifying experience. But if you know that your hands sweat when you go in front of people and you know how that feels you will know that you’ll still be able to play. It’s not going to be as enjoyable as when your hands aren’t sweating, but you’re not going to be completely thrown off by that because you’ll have already had experience with that. Eventually they’re not going to sweat, because what’s making them sweat is going to go away. That terror of being in front of people will turn into inspiration.

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Owning What You Do

Getting Past “Jazz”

A friend of mine posted something about working on the changes to “Giant Steps” the other day, and all I could think of was, “man better him than me…”

There was a long time that I lived under this weird misconception that I had to like jazz. That if I just listened a little deeper and learned a little bit more that there would come a moment that “stella by starlight” was going to speak to me.

And so I listened to a lot of jazz and spent some time on II V’s and other related jazz theory items and I came to some realizations.

  • Informed Aesthetics are defined Aesthetics.  I credit Susan Allen at CalArts for really making me think about my aesthetics in a deeper way.  It’s not enough to simply be dismissive about things.  When students tell me that something “sucks”, I force them to explain to me 1.  What sucks means and how this sucks and 2.  what about it they don’t like 3.  what about it could be better?  Sometimes they can really articulate something substantial, but a lot of times it’s a knee jerk reaction and diving into what is aesthetically displeasing about that yields some deeper insights.
  • Related to that examination, I tend to follow musicians more than genres.  I don’t like a lot of shred guitar but I’ll stand behind Yngwie’s work with Alactrazz (or the first Rising Force record) until the end of time.  I don’t know that “autumn leaves” will ever be a song I want to listen to but I can always find a reason to seek out recordings or performances by players like Ornette, Trane, Bird, Monk, Frisell or a couple dozen other musicians that are lumped in that category.
  • A lot of the music that moves me is melodic and rhythmic rather than harmonic.  I find myself going back to the melodies of favorite works from traditional Arabic music or traditional music of Japan, Korea, Turkey or Iran.  I’m sure that it’s been done, but I have yet to hear one of those songs performed with ii V I’s superimposed over them that made them any “better”.

You might play what you practice but you perform what you know.

At Berklee, there was a lot of pressure to become a Jazz guitarist, and I felt like a failure for a long time because it seemed beyond me.  Eventually, I realized that the issue wasn’t that Jazz was some pursuit that was intellectually beyond me, it was that I had no interest in Real Book tunes so there was no fire inspiring me to learn the vocabulary or put the time in to developing those areas.

While classical music was interesting to me, I realized that I am never going to out perform the recorded works of Bach interpretations from the guys who lived breathed and ate that music 24 hours a day.

I doubt that I’ll ever have the passion necessary to be a traditional jazz guitarist any more than to be a traditional classical guitarist – but realized that there was a lot from both disciplines that I could integrate into what I’m doing.

As guitarists, we talk a lot about skill sets (both physical and mental) but we don’t talk a lot about passion and at the end of the day that’s the thing that really matters the most.  People don’t buy into your performance based on the number of notes that you play, they buy into how it makes them feel.  If you’re not passionate about it, they never will be either.

What are you doing to achieve your goals?

If you’re having trouble reaching your musical (or other) goals – take a moment and examine what you’re actually doing to achieve them. 

If you feel like you’ve hit a rut in your playing, take a hard look at what you’re actually doing to get out of it and readjust if necessary.  For example:

  • Did you just buy a book or did you actually read it?
  • Did you really sit down and work on your picking or did you just play the same thing that you always play?

Like I’ve said before, It’s easy to confuse doing something with getting something done, but if you don’t feel like you’re making progress taking a close look at what you’re doing an excellent place to start.

(A teacher can also help you get get on track to get where you need to go.  If you need help in this area, feel free to email me for in person lessons or Skype lesson information!)

As always, thanks for reading!

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Teacher’s Circus And The Seeming Disconnect Of Events In TIme

Hello all!

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything.  KoriSoron has been more active and we’ve been playing more shows and working on new material and it’s been great for my acoustic playing.  Working with players like Farzad Golpayegani and Dean Mirabito lights a fire under my seat because if I’m coasting on something – they’ll run right over over me.

I find that pushing myself live and coming to gigs without preconceived licks or approaches and trying to make something happen in the moment brings out the best and worst moments in my playing.  Typically it either sounds great or I wipe out and have to try recover as quickly as possible.  It highlights the chasm between the things I can imagine and the things I can execute in a live setting and gives me a lot of things to add to my “to do” list of things to work on.

I found myself getting frustrated with one particular idea that wasn’t coming together this evening and I thought of a particular event from my wayward youth that reminded me of a lesson I learned about the perceived disconnect of events in time.

Teacher’s Circus

I went to a small town high school.  I think this happend whenI was a sophomore….maybe a junior.  We weren’t seniors so we had some status in school but we were pretty far down in the pecking order.  There was a lot of trying to look “cool” around the “cool” kids.

We had a small computer lab at the school.  I don’t remember the deal, but if you took a programming language or a class that involved the use of said computers, you could get a pass that would allow you to hand out in the computer lab with your friends rather than study hall, which was just a large room with everyone in it.

It was a status thing and, it’s worth mentioning that the administration hated the computer room.  They didn’t hate the room itself but they recognized that the people that were hanging out there were going to be the type of people that were smart enough to clean up after the mischief that they created and make it more difficult to catch them in their troublemaking.

So one day I, again wanting to be cool and being one of the people who thought he was funny, went on the computer and in about 10 minutes wrote up a little ditty called, “Teacher’s Circus”, which invited people to come out to an imaginary circus featuring several faculty members, the superintendent and a fellow student engaged in unnatural and illicit acts for public amusement.  One of the older students thought this was hilarious (as did my friends) so she asked me to print out a copy.  No problemIt’s funny right?  We all had a good laugh.

Fast forward to about 2 months later.

I’m in a choir rehearsal on a Friday afternoon just waiting for the day to end as I have some friends coming over later to watch horror movies.  In the middle of the rehearsal, the superintendent comes in and says he needs to see me.  I walk out with him and ask what’s wrong.  I didn’t do anything wrong that Friday, so I figured whatever the issue was –  it wasn’t something I did so it would get resolved.  He doesn’t say a word until we get to the office.  He closes the door and pulls out a well worn and wrinkled  piece of computer paper and starts to read, “Come one come all to the Teacher’s Circus….” and I feel my heart sink to the floor because I’m busted.

I try to interrupt him (and avoid further humiliation) by saying, “You don’t need to read anymore – I know what it says.”  but he reads the entire page and concludes by saying, “We know you wrote this.”

I should mention a few small facts here:

1.  My school size was something like 800 students K-12.  Our graduating class had over 90 people and some of the staff were freaking out and wondering how they were going to graduate a group that size.

2.  The town I grew up in had about 2,000 people.  Everyone knew everyone else’s business.

3.  My father was a teacher in this microscopic public school system.

4.  My love of books had, at this point in my life, extended to philosophy.  In particular, I was reading what I could about Stoicism and somehow (probably through a comic book) got very interested in the code of ethics surrounding the Samurai.  I had read the Book of 5 Rings and the Hagakure and there were a lot of thoughts in my head at the time about concepts like honor.

So, I didn’t deny it.

“We know you wrote this.”

“Yes I did.  I wrote it.”

At that point my dad was brought in.  He wasn’t sure why he was summoned to another building in the middle of the working school day but when he head the thing I wrote he slapped the glasses off of my face.  Then he backhanded me and I saw the superintendent smile, and I was enraged that he was taking delight in my misfortune.

The rest of the story I’ll leave out here.  Let’s just say that the situation deteriorated from there and after I got home, certain disciplinary methods were employed that he’d likely be arrested for employing today.

In the recovery period from said discipline, it was then revealed to me that my punishment would be my dad driving me to each one of his co-worker’s houses that weekend where I would then apologize to all of them in person.  That was done on Saturday.  We spent about 4-6 hours driving in the car over that day and not talking.  Finally, at one point he said (in complete seriousness), “Well I guess it could have been worse…you could have murdered someone.”  In his mind, that was the enormity of the crime that I committed. I was embarrassed and felt dumb and was also well aware that if this was anyone else – they would have been suspended and that would be the end of it – but as my dad taught there – well – we had to make a Federal case out of it.

Now let me tell you something.  That experience really screwed me up for a while.

The big lesson that I learned at the moment was that I needed to be paranoid   because there was a complete disconnect in my head from the thing I did and when I got busted for it.  Whenever someone asked me a question after that day, the first thought that went through my head was, “What did I do now?” and then a running inventory of any real or imagined thing I did would cause extreme nervousness.  This went on for decades…

Now perhaps I’m just rationalizing a pretty horrific memory with my dad, but this event may have been one of the first things that got me to start to think about long term implications of things.

So what does this have to do with guitar playing?

As the thing I was practicing this evening was getting frustrating I thought about this story and my perception of disconnect of events in time.  You don’t always get rewarded now (or punished now) for the things you’re doing right now (unless you post them on YouTube).  Those things generally happen later.  Sometime, much later.

The things you play live don’t just magically happen.  They come from years of concentrated work to develop the skill set to a level where the execution is innate.  The gigs that people get generally start with connections that have been developed over time and are kept based on the well honed skills that have also been developed over time.  Yes – sometimes there’s luck – but the purely lucky fade almost instantly.  The overnight success is a myth that usually built on a foundation of years of work that seems fruitless and unfair at the time.

So the reminder to myself?  Don’t get frustrated.  It’s a temporary setback.  Show up.  Put the work in now and see the benefits later.

It’s good advice.  (I’d also recommend not saying or putting anything in print that you wouldn’t want to be quoted on later. If something you say can be taken out of context and used against you – be prepared to address it later on.)

Back to the shed.  More things coming soon and, as always, thanks for reading!

-SC

KoriSoron Follow Up – Video – New Shows – And A Useful Audio Hack For Piezo Guitars

The KoriSoron Soft Launch

The soft launch went well and to answer the Craigslist Question raised in the previous post, yes we brought people and made money in tips (more than we would have made for the same number of people playing a club with three other people on the bill.

Farzad Golpayegani (the other guitarist in Korisoron) has been editing video and posting them (a thankless job the table he had the camera on had people talking the entire time so finding segments without conversation was difficult but he did manage to pull these together.

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Upcoming shows:

We DO have more shows coming up as a direct result of this one:

  • Friday, September 12 Moon and River Cafe – 8pm-10pm
  • Thursday, September 25th – Proctor’s GE Theatre (as part of Festival Cinema Invisible‘s kick off event) 7pm-10pm full information can be found here!

And more shows coming up in October and November while we prep for a new recording.

The Audio Hack

We have an extra ZT Lunchbox Acoustic coming to us but we weren’t able to coordinate with ZT in time for the Moon and River gig so rather than having one great sound – we ended up going direct to the PA. While that isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world, it was a drag to hear that piezo through a PA tone.  (BTW – We are SO excited about the ZT Acoustic amps because they sound simply AMAZING).  There was no Pie in that piezo….

While Farzad was editing the video he texted me and asked if I could check out the audio from the Zoom H2n recorder I had on site.  I had run a line off the Fender Passport PA into the recorder’s 1/8″ input.  The sound was what you expected by now but then I remembered something…

Didn’t I have a Yamaha AG Stomp, that’s specifically designed to handle piezo guitar signals?

A trip to GC to pick up a $50 Behringer mixer w. an FX send on clearance got me this:

AG Stomp

Here’s what’s going on here:

As I already transferred the WAV file to my laptop, I used Fission to break it the large file up into individual tracks and then ran the signal out the headphone jack of my Apogee Duet (to give the signal a little better sound) and into the Behringer mixer. The Behringer didn’t allow me to run the FX send off of the RCA inputs, so I used a stereo 1/4″ to 2 1/8″ cables to get the signal to the 5/6 channels of the mixer.  Since sends are typically mono on units in this price range and the return is stereo, I set up the gain staging of the unit and ran a single cable from the FX Send to the AG Stomp input then ran the stereo send back to the Mixer.

Funny thing though…..

I couldn’t get the return blend to sound right in the mixer, so I just ended up going direct from the headphone out of the AS Stomp back into the H2N.

I’m guessing that here in our story is where the questions will start.

Couldn’t you (I) have just done that in software?

Interestingly enough, I tried using the Positive Grid Jam Up Acoustic Sim with a Line 6 Sonic Port and it didn’t hold a candle to the AG Stomp.

and yes, I probably could have used a plug in like MonoMaker and just run a signal out of the laptop into the AG stomp – but honestly this was just a much easier solution for me.

How did it turn out?

Funny story…

Apparently I had the wrong setting on the Hn2 which recorded the line in AND anything coming through the PA on the mic. This means it was affecting a wierd mix of the direct signal AND a recorded room tone that was recorded BEHIND US sitting on the piano!

The short answer is it sounds better than the unaffected file bout would have sounded WAY WAY better if I read the manual and had the H2n on the right setting.  As I type this, the audio is still rendering, so I’ll have to post excerpts soon.

You may be thinking at this point,

Oh that might be useful for me later on.

Here’s the thing though….

This process started at 10am.  It’s 12 hours later and I’m still working on it.  Mind you, I DID get a few other things done in that time, but it took a number fo false starts to get it together.  Had I thought of it, I could have run it through the FX send of the PA and saved myself A LOT of editing and rendering time later.

So the lesson I’m really facing here is, do it right the first time because sometimes the cure is just as bad as the ailment!  The good news is that the idea is an interesting one, and I may use this approach for additional guitar processing for recording in the future.

More photos, clips and other miscellany to come!

In the meantime, our website and FB page are in a soft launch – but we’re putting content up pretty regularly now so you should see more things there each day from here on out.

http://facebook/korisoron

http://korisoron.com

As always thanks for reading!

-SC