I saw John Scofield & Lettuce last night....oh I learned something

The biggest thing I learned is that people in that music business consultants still don’t know what the Hell they are talking abut. Even though they keep pimping about how forward thinking they about this new music business.

I’ve never heard of a band called Lettuce. How about you? Let me tell you…..they’re good. Like really good. Their genre is jazz/funk/jam band. There was absolutely no singing, hardly any talk between songs. No big boisterous personalities on stage. They all came together and just simply made good music.

They played for about 40 minutes and then the big star of the night came on stage, John Scofield. John is a guitar player by the way. Lettuce essentially then became John’s backing band as they played his songs. Again……hardly any talking in between songs. No stories. Just very simple Thank You’s and the name of the next song coming up.

John doesn’t move all over the stage nor does he really play to the crowd necessarily. He looked mostly at the band member when they improvised and also led the band along while they were playing as he was also directing some of it.

John is an excellent guitar player and Lettuce were also really good. In fact everybody was so good that the only reason why someone would not like this is because of a matter of taste. This genre just isn’t your thing. Cool.

So as I watched & listened, I took a step back and noticed how everybody was doing it wrong. In terms of what today’s music business consultants, songwriting coaches, etc would say. There was no front person for about 40 minutes until Scofield came on. And again Scofield didn’t really engage much with the crowd. There was hardly any talking between the songs and definitely no story telling to really draw the crowd in to make that emotional contact. The songs didn’t have these major hooks nor did they have elements of perfect songwriting craft as many of today’s songwriting coaches preach & teach. In fact every song was instrumental. Not only that but there was tons of improvisation. These are all things which music consultants don’t talk about or bother to acknowledge.

Where were we? At good sized theater in Downtown Los Angeles. 500 or more people in the audience. By the last song, over 75% were standing and dancing. In fact the aisles were filled with people dancing the whole night. People got out of their seats and went to the aisles to dance. I mean it was crazy and cool to see.

Here is what I learned…….99% of the music business websites and consultants are quite clueless. How many of their clients would love to play in front of 500 or more people and then have 100s leave their seats to go dance, move, & drink in the aisles. Hmmmmmmmm, I would say ALL of their clients would love that.

Yeah…..yesterday’s music business was bad. Today’s music business…….even though today’s “consultants” support independent musicians, their advice just sucks. You don’t know any more than your clients.

Lettuce & Scofield may not be your thing, and its not necessarily my thing. But man…..watching really good music making, and watching people dance move and love the evening gives me more hope that there are plenty of people who just love good music and don’t care about all of the trite things every other performer does.

More on Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets

Fun anecdote, Nick commented on how he was never allowed to play the gong on Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun because Roger Waters wasn’t someone who liked to share. :) So Nick was incredibly excited to be able to play the gong for the intro and outro of the song.

This is an example of just how awesome the show was. The small bits from Nick, and the small bits from the band members. Plus Nick’s humbleness and shyness when talking into the mic were really something. You can tell he is one of the few decent characters in Rock. Gotta love him for it.

And just listening to this pyschedelic music I could hear the numerous influence it has had on bands over the last 50 years or so. These were old songs yet they sounded quite modern to me.

I just can’t express enough at just how good this show is. Even if you are not the hugest Pink Floyd fan and the only song you like from Pink Floyd is “Wish you were here”, you should go see the show. You won’t get the radio classics, but you will get a sonic and visual experience unlike any other out there. Guarantee it!

Thank you for reading

I saw Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets! Here's how it went!

Let’s start with this…..GO SEE IT! Its really good!

I’ll put it to you this way….my fiancee, who is not some huge Pink Floyd fan & wasn’t familiar with any of those songs, thought it was one of the best Live Shows she’s ever seen! She was impressed.

The band was really good, and the little bits of commentary from Nick was absolutely priceless. You can tell he has his head on his shoulders. He gave thanks to Syd for creating the early Pink Floyd material, and had some fun anecdotes about Roger Waters and Gilmour.

The lighting and visuals were exactly what you would expect since this was a performance of pre-Dark Side of the Moon material. Very psychedelic and such fun imagery!!!!

It was apparent the guys in the band were truly enjoying each other and making music with Nick. This just added to the magic.

I wanted to keep this brief, but I’ll tell you that this homage to late 60’s early 70’s music was incredibly refreshing in today’s music. Really something actually!!!!

I don't know where I'm going.....

but I’m on my way.

As it turns out, you don’t need to have the exact answer before you even start. Unlike what we were taught in school, its perfectly ok not to know the answer. In fact by taking your journey you will find the answer. This is especially true when doing something you haven’t done before or when doing something most people haven’t done before.

Truth is that you don’t have writer’s block…..just put your thoughts down on paper and then later on worry about how it should go together.

Only in the last few years have I learned to stop overthinking and just put it out there. It doesn’t matter that its not perfect or perfectly thought out beforehand. You can mold it, massage it later. Just get it out there….. you’re on your way.

Guitar Truths: This may be why you practice so little.

There I am watching a Guitar Player on Youtube play something for their audience (that includes me), and I asked myself if that is how they sit when they practice? Their body was twisted in a way which made me think there is no way they can really sit there for long periods of time in that position. In fact during a Q&A, this particular player stated that they practice about an hour a day.

It made total sense why only about an hour. Its probably because this player has such bad posture and sits and practices in such a bad position that naturally the body will start to hurt and become fatigued.

It may not seem like much, but I bet you will be more productive by analyzing your posture when playing and learning a more proper way to sit which will be less fatiguing and in fact will allow you to play longer because you will be more comfortable.

By the way, the way play Live shows how you practice. When I watch a guitar player play there music live, I can tell how they practice. Their posture shows it, and I don’t think its good for their bodies to be in that twisted “typical” position.

Is there a better way? Yup. Take a gander at Classical players. Or find a guitar teacher who actually understand and advocates proper sitting position when practicing.

And you thought guitar playing is really all about the fingers. Nope.

The caveat to having a good amount of volume for music

We determined that having music louder really exposes dynamics in music and allows the loud parts to really punch through and effect you emotionally.

And as it turns out as humans we perceive louder as sounding better. Well doesn’t that mean you should just turn it up louder and louder and it will just sound better and better?

Of course you know that at some point the answer is NO. Besides the fact that you will annoy those around you, there is a scientific reason as to why turning it up and up will no longer sound better.

Your ears try to protect themselves as sound gets louder. They start to naturally compress the loud sounds. And some of you might know that compression reduces the amount of dynamics in music. So now that the music is really really loud, you probably won’t notice the difference between soft and loud nearly as much…..because its all so friggin loud!!!

And as you get louder and louder there is a point where there will be hearing damage.

So at least we know we surely can’t blast music too too loud because that will also ruin our experience.

For a pleasurable music experience we must have some reasonable amount of volume. Whisper quiet volume may be nice for our workplace or for when you don’t want to wake up family members or neighbors at night. But there has to be a decent enough volume to really experience the music the way it was meant to be experienced…..yet it can’t be so loud that it damages our ears or gets us in trouble with law enforcement.

So what I’m saying is if you can….crank it up! Just crank it up with reason.

Eureka!!!! This is why Volume is important in music!

There I was playing a piece of music from Beethoven to my little music students. Classical music tends to have lots of dynamics. And in this case the melody is played softly a couple of times with the third time rising in volume and really popping forth for the climax.

Yet the climax just didn’t pop this time. It was like nothing. The only thing you could tell was that more instruments were playing and the overall timbre had changed. Damn….what a letdown. Well my students left and were happy with a great music class. Yet I pondered why the music just didn’t pop this time.

The one difference is that I had the volume on my amp (playing the Beethoven piece) set lower than usual. And in a couple of minutes I figured out why at a lower volume the dynamics just won’t work.

There’s a little math here, but its simple. Loudness is typically measured in dB or decibels. Normal conversation is about 60dB. A loud lawnmower is about 90 dB. A very loud rock concert is about 120dB.

So if you have a recording of music and the loud parts are let’s say 10% louder than a softer part, we can do the math.

If you play a song at a low volume of 50dB and the loud part jumps up by 10% you get a decibel increase of 5dB. So now the music is 55dB. Not a huge increase but noticeable.

If you play the same song at a louder volume of 80dB and the loud part jumps up by 10%, you get a decibel increase of 8dB. Now the music is at 88dB. Notice that decibel increase is bigger in this example as compared to the other one.

In my first example I had the volume knob of my amp low, so when the music part got louder I only heard a 5dB increase in loudness. But if I had my volume knob set higher, then when the music got louder I would hear an 8dB increase in loudness. Indeed my perception would be that the louder part of the song really popped out!

So if you listen to music at a very low volume, it is probable that you are missing some very important dynamics which the songwriter/producer really thought would help make the music more interesting.

And last but not least…..as humans we think everything sounds better when its louder. Soooooo there’s that.

We live in abundance now....

No really…..the internet truly changed everything. I was thinking about way back in the day when e-mail was king, but the World Wide Web had barely emerged. I asked my college professor a question and he didn’t have detailed enough answer so he suggested I look it up.

Oh goodness, back then it meant I had to go to a library about 20 miles away because the library at my University didn’t carry books with that particular topic.

And now to think that most of that information is available for free on the internet. Or at the very least its a quick Amazon order with the book being shipped to me in no time.

But truly we live in an abundance of information. This is both good and bad. Bad because you can waste a lot of time consuming massive amounts of information going from one link to another and another until you realize…..How the Hell did I get here?

Good because the amount of amazing connections and the amount of sharing of good information is intense and exciting.

And in this age of tremendous abundance, you could be looking at millions of different pieces of information out there. So thank you for choosing to read this, I appreciate it.

Today is indeed my Birthday.......

I’m so busy with so much on my mind in terms of music and this music business, I tend to forget its my Birthday. In fact I’m sure I will forget today is my Birthday shortly after typing this. :)

So today I want to reflect a little deeper than unusual about how lucky I am to be able to wake up and deliver music every single day. I’m grateful to even physically do it as I remember times when I couldn’t even play guitar.

And thank YOU for being here with me on this ride. :)

Music made by committee

oy vey! Do you work for a company and the company regularly holds meetings which you have to suffer through? Where they make decisions with the whole group? Or perhaps a small committee was formed to produce a new strategy or research a new strategy or product.

You will notice government does the same thing. The put committees together to research possible new ways of doing things or to research current problems and present possible solutions.

This is how today’s music is being made by record labels. Its a whole committee of different people researching and deciding what kind of music people will buy into and stream in droves.

Yet is that what people really want? Music made by committee? It is my opinion but actual art is not made by a committee of non-artists. In fact that doesn’t make any sense to my mind.

Its insane to see artists not actually creating until they get approval and direction from committees and authority figures. Just sad in my opinion.

At least as consumers we do have a choice. A choice to say NO to committee made music. We want something fresh and exciting. Something created and directed by music people, not executives and committee members.

Are guitar players relying too much on technology?

It appears Joe Bonamassa seems to think so. In other words lots of guitar players today rely on pedals to give them a sound rather really learn how to play the instrument.

You know, most people who pick up guitar aren’t doing it to become players for a living. Most just want to play for fun. And since there are so many pedals which can take you into places of sonic goodness without spending enormous amounts of time learning how to play the guitar well….I think it makes sense.

But I shall go out on a limb and say that I do wish more players actually cared about the artform of playing the guitar and playing it well. To perform vocal parts with the guitar. To write and perform amazing melodies with the guitar. To really get that baby to sing like the many greats before us. But it takes a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and not looking for short term gains. The pedals help accentuate what you already have. They are like the frosting on the cake below which took you a long time to make.

Yeah……Electric Guitar is an artform to my ears, mind, and eyes. An artform many new players aren’t that willing to pursue. But for the few that do, I hope you will share the work and their journey with your friends. Especially if its something which really reaches in and effects you.

How the Universe became my guide

I never gave much thought to planets or the Universe when I was a kid until 4th Grade. My teacher just loved telling us the latest news on Voyager as it reached Saturn. He would show us pictures and talk about the Voyager Spacecraft. This led to other talks about landing on the moon and rockets etc etc.

As time has gone on over the years, the access to information about our Universe has increased due to the internet. Oh and also I got a degree in Engineering back in the 90’s. Followed by a music degree. So while watching videos and reading articles about our Universe, I could relate to scientists because I had to work with these types for a bit. I understood the basics of the math which is truly an extension of one’s own imagination.

Ok, but why is it so important to me???? I find it fascinating that the Universe is something way beyond our wildest imagination. In fact its wild imaginations which have helped us to uncover what its all about. There is no political ideology at work. A star located 10 million light years away does not care whether you are to the left or to the right. It was there before you existed and will continue to be there. Its as if our worries and expectations are absolutely nothing and quite insignificant.

And I find this be quite rewarding and fascinating. Its wonderful to know that we can talk about the Stars without worrying about anything except, “What’s out there?”.

I let the Universe be my guide because it represents a freedom unlike anything else. And the amount of curiosity it stirs in me keeps my hungry for more. And those pictures…..holy moly! Mother Nature can’t disappoint!

Why I'm not a huge fan of Jazz Music

Before I start, please don’t interpret the title to “I hate Jazz.” I do like some Jazz especially when it involves great players. In fact earlier this morning a friend had his Playlist going with some Jazz and the playing was phenomenal to be sure. The guitar player and the keyboard were just killing it!

I listened and wondered why am I not a huge fan of this music even though I do like and admire the playing? Then it hit me……Its not hitting my soul the way other music or certain other players do. I like Wes Montgomery, but it strike my soul the way David Gilmour would. I admire Frank Gambale improvising over a Jazz standard, but it doesn’t touch me the way Joe Satriani does. There are other players whose music hits the very core of my emotions and soul in just the right way. These are mostly rock and blues players.

I like Jazz, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it because it just doesn’t touch me the way the music mentioned above does.

How about you? Does Jazz hit your very soul and touch you in just the right way that you are a huge jazz fan? Let me know. And Let me know who you really dig. :)

Making music for Oligarchs

I read this quote last night, and it got me thinking for a bit about this business of Music.

First, one of the definitions of an Oligarchy: “A government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes”. In this case the government we are talking about are Major Record Labels, RIAA, Billboard, The Recording Academy(Who runs the Grammys), and music media.

So artists/musicians are making music for a small group of people who exercise control for corrupt and selfish purposes.

‘Tis true in my opinion that that is a very accurate description of the music industry today. You have artists who aren’t that interested in their fans, but spend most of their time making and producing music for approval from a select few. Once you’ve been “picked” by these authority figures, fans will automatically buy into it even if its not that good. And they will do it every single time.

There is your real business. Artists deal with music business people to get their attention and blessing. And whatever time is left over, they will pay attention to the actual fans.

However I will say that there are a few major artists who don’t like this at all. They are truly bummed that there is so little interaction with their fans.

If you are reading this, you probably don’t listen to today’s modern music. And most likely don’t care. I don’t think we are missing out on anything amazing.

“Making music for Oligarchs.” What an interesting sentence which is so sadly true.

I watched the Master on Saturday night, Carl Verheyen

Most people have never heard the name Carl Verheyen, but every single one of you reading this has heard his playing because he’s playend 1000s of other people’s song, commercials, and films.

Carl has such a great and unique style. What’s more interesting is that his unique style was something he has worked on. He didn’t just pick up and guitar and became instantly unique. He worked hard at making music sound different, fresh, and exciting.

After watching he and his band perform, I was struck at how the art of improvisation and communicating with the other musicians while playing is a lost art form. Today’s bands and artists don’t communicate much on stage because they have rehearsed themselves to perfection and possibly boredom.

How refreshing it was to see guys play around with dynamics, signal to each other when the improv was about to be over or when the ending would come. Here is the interesting thing. They have smiles on their faces, and so did the audience.

In other words, we love people who are human beings. Not music automatons who recite music perfectly note for note. To watch humans in their essence of being human is a wonderful thing. Something which everyone should have to opportunity to watch and be in that presence.

I can't help it, I'm a tech nerd!

Remember those days where it was so cool to be dumb? Nerds were lame and not popular. While playing in many bands over the years, it was still cool to NOT be smart. Over the last few years watching people integrate laptops and computers into live performance and watching other artists taking the time to understand how gear works, it looks like some musicians and artists are fine with being nerdy about technology.

And I don’t mean simply having a smart phone nor using social media. I mean really getting into how to program music parts, understanding how to sync up and sequence multiple pieces of gear and route things differently in order to come up with new and interesting sounds. I do this quite frequently, and many times its just to see what will happen.

I absolutely love my gear and learning new ways to use it. Its even better if its a piece of old gear and I learn something new many years later.

I hope as time goes on more and more people dive into new places. Perhaps it was cool to be dumb in school, or perhaps even your own teachers told you you were dumb. Time to ignore that crap, engage curiosity and jump in. The good news its safe to do.

I’m going to go experiment with a few things now. Why not?

Uggghhh.....these Space & Astronomy headlines.....

This is what I saw from National Geographic: Our Galaxy is due to crash into its neighbor - But when?

The truth is that none of you reading this will be alive when this happens in about 3.5 billion years. And even if it does happen there won’t be a spectacular explosion like in the movies. No because there is an enormous amount of space between the planets and stars so most of these objects won’t actually collide into one another providing some cataclysmic out of this world explosion.

I know they write these headlines in order to get you to click and read, because clicks are definitely being counted in our internet world. I believe in science and more specifically science dealing with Physics and the Universe at large. So these scary headlines in order to grab your attention with fear is a little annoying to me.

Then again a headline stating that our Milky Way will collide with Andromeda in 3.5 Billion years probably won’t get the clicks.

Yes I’m just venting at ridiculous headlines. Thanks for reading.

More brutal truths about guitar.

I saw someone post on The Gear Page how innovative a guitar pedal manufacturer was in creating a Dark Side guitar pedal. Instant Gilmour/Pink Floyd in a box. He felt more pedal manufacturers should do the same for other guitar players/bands.

Do I understand how as a guitar player wanting to sound just like your hero(s)? Oh yeah…absolutely. But the brutal truth is that a pedal isn’t going to do it. I thought about it further and recalled Gilmour’s opening solo on Shine on You Crazy Diamond. That sound is unmistakably a Strat. And upon a lot of experimentation, I discovered I got a similar response with my Strat by picking softly.

So the question is: If you want to sound like Gilmour, and more specifically his sound on Shine on You, why aren’t you asking for a pedal which sounds like a Strat? For example you have a cheap Ibanez with humbuckers, but you are really gunning for that Gilmour tone. Ask a pedal manufacture to create a pedal which will sound like a Stratocaster picked softly.

Yes of course this is ridiculous. But the Brutal Truth is that 1 pedal will not give you the sound and tone of your hero(s). There is so much more to the story. Saying it only takes a pedal is saying that your favorite guitar player is doing nothing special. Its easily replicated by buying a pedal.

Its easy to spend money on gear, its much harder to sit down, listen, and then try to emulate your favorite player by really listening and working on your skill as a player.

About the Grammy's

I read an interesting article about the disagreements between major artists and the producers of the Grammy’s. Some big artists are choosing not to perform. Now personally I don’t care about the Grammy’s. Even as an artist, I don’t really care who wins what award. Its just not my thing.

However I am fascinated reading about it because it appears the Grammy’s are continually loosing their appeal. So much so that the author of said article stated that it looks like the Grammy’s need the Stars more than the Stars need the Grammy’s.

How about you dear reader, I’d really like to know. Did you watch the Grammy’s? Is it something you are interested in? How do you feel about the author’s statement that the Grammy’s need the Stars more than the Stars need the Grammy’s?