Friday, September 30, 2011

Reading in the Studio

Below is a fairly simple melody. The tempo was 85 bpm. I was asked to play it on acoustic guitar and lap steel, but with not too much sliding. There was no other music just click. The other elements would be dropped in and around it later. So the challenge is to make it musical or "play it with feeling", while playing alone.

When writing for guitar one should transpose up an octave to get the desired pitch. In other words if you want the guitarist to play middle C write the C on the second space from the top as in the first note of the second line in the chart below. But often composers forget to do that so I ask. In this case the writer indeed did want it up an octave.

Also the first note in fourth bar, second line, is a D. I kept thinking Db because normally one would write C# for the note before it.

It was simple but concentration was a must as it was easy to drop into some presupposed timing. Don't predict, just read. Again it was helpful to memorize the melody for the slide part so I could look at my slide for pitches. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading in the Studio

By themselves some charts can look very simple. Until one gets to the job of making it music.

The chart below was for a cartoon, a genre whose cues sometimes make no sense until you see it with picture. Within this cue we "quote" the Beach Boys, Shaft, Eddie Cochran, Motown, Let's Go To The Hop and then into a cool beatnik jazz thing. Easy right? Pulling off a "simple" 45 second overview of the music of the fifties and sixties isn't so elementary.

Sonically the individual sections are quite simple - first, pull out the strat, clean bright electric tone for the first three (not four) bars, kick on the wah for two and a half bars of late 60's funk, back to a clean sound for two and a half bars of syncopated bar chords, to the neck pickup for "Stop in the Name of Love", then back to the bridge pickup for a pick up into the fifties "Hop" classic and lastly change to the neck again and roll off a little tone for some cool coffee shop jazz.

All this to click and with feeling.

Note the key and tempo change at bar 16. As well as the clef change in the middle of bar 11.

The other musicians on the session were more than qualified and the drummer in particular was the one who really made the transitions work.

I think I would've made Tommy Tedesco proud on this one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cool Site #15 - is a great source for cheap, diy legal forms.

Thinking about starting you're own record label? Managing artists? Publishing songwriters? Don't hire a lawyer (at hundreds per hour) go to

Some of the categories are General Music Business Contracts, Distribution Contracts, Live Performance Contracts, Recording Contracts, Songwriting/Copyright Contracts, TV/Film Contracts.

All for under $20!

For example - Film Sync Licensing Agreement, Royalty Release Form, Musician Work-For-Hire Agreement, Band Performance Contract Rider, Finders Fee Agreement and dozens of others.

Check it out. I've used it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Every Gig Is a Job Interview

Most people go on several job interviews, get a job and that's it. But with side musicians, every job is an interview. Generally we are hired one gig at a time. If it doesn't go well we may not get a call back.

There are many things you can do to make sure you "get the gig" or keep the gig...

1. Be on time - I like to be early
2. Have gear/guitars all in good working order - problems happen, but strangely more often to those who don't do the prep work.
3. Turn off the phone - or at least mute it.
4. Know the music - if it's a gig that they get you mp3's beforehand - it's for a reason.
5. Have a pencil handy - make note of changes so you don't have to ask twice.
6. Be flexible - if they want you to use a different guitar or their amp... cool.
7. Be a good hang - No one wants to spend 16 hours cooped up in a studio with a jerk.
8. Access the tempo of the gig - is this "music by pound"? Or "let's try seven more amps"?

I like to think of each gig, session, lesson as an opportunity to get the next one. The people you work for will appreciate this attitude.

I remember hearing great drummer Gregg Bissonette talk about his audition for David Lee Roth. He was waiting in a cattle call situation for his turn. Several drummers were before him. One dejected drummer emerged from the audition.

"How was it?" Gregg asked.

"Man there were some crazy time signatures, 3/4 to 7/8 to 4/4 to 7/8..."

So Gregg got out his Sharpie so he could make notes on his snare head.

The next guy came out complaining that they had a double kick and he sucked at double kick. Gregg immediately started warming up his feet and calves, practicing his double-kick.

Another drummer said they were looking for a heavy hitter. He admitted his jazz chops were not going to cut it. Gregg got out his heaviest sticks. When he sat down at the set with Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan the first thing he did was hit his snare really hard making Steve practically jump out of his skin. Then Steve turned to unknown young Bissonette and smiled. He got the gig.

So I guess another tip would be...

9. Pay attention

David Lee Roth - Eat Em & Smile
David Lee Roth - Skyscraper

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cool Site #14 -

Gbase is a great site for gear hunting. It's connecting point of dealers from around the country. I entered "Gibson 335" and it yielded 206 results. "Fender Telecaster" resulted in 809. Most of the top vintage shops participate.

Bass Book

We homeschool and this year I'm teaching my son Jack how read bass. My friend and great bass player Ron Suffredini recommended this book....

The Evolving Bassist by Rufus Reid

I'll let you know how it goes as we get through the year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reading in the Studio

Just last week I got called for a quick session for a short film (10 minutes). Quick is my specialty. Between lower budgets and greater numbers of wannabe directors makes for many opportunities for the musician who can get things done in a timely manner.

Below is the lone chart for the session. A very simple melody in 3/4. But here's the rub: there was no click, it was suppose to be played free but in a call and response to a sparse vocal. So 120bpm was just a rough guide tempo. The composer wanted this melody on slide. And wanted options to pepper throughout the movie. First on acoustic with a slide, then on dobro with a slide and lastly on mandolin with a slide (that was my idea).

The first thing I did was memorize the melody. It's kind of difficult to play slide while staring at a chart. I like to lock in my pitches visually, as well as with the aid of a clip on tuner  - Intellitouch Tuner

The acoustic was in standard tuning, EADGBE. The dobro however was in open G, DGDGBD. And the Mandolin was in standard tuning, standard for a mandolin, GDAE. So the melody laid differently on each instrument. The composer wanted everything with lots of feeling and slide noise. Then we did passes on each instrument of just making random noises. All done in less than an hour so we had time to go to In-N-Out for lunch!

So get out your slide and read though this one!