Thursday, 2 October 2014

Open Mic October 2014

It had been a dry spell for gigs, I hadn't been away with work for around four months, so I started looking for a new one.  Just cruising the Internet, to see if there was anything going on nearby.  I was quite pleased to find that a tavern near to where I live was hosting Open Mic nights!  I contacted the organiser and he was happy to fit me into a spot, which I played last night.

What's an Open Mic you say?

Just that - a microphone, that is open to anyone who wants to use it.  Generally they will be set up with all the sound system you need, just bring along your instrument and plug in (and sing if you can...)  They are an excellent first step to getting out there and performing.  Polish up your best pieces, find your nearest open mic, and get down there for a slot.

I've been aware of open mic sessions around my town for a while, but the one that I was thinking of going had put me off, they only allowed original material, no covers.  So I'd never pursued any.  The advantage of the open mic over finding your own regular gig is that everything is there set up for you, just plug in and the organiser will set you up.  You don't have to be a professional musician, it's about having a go.  It's also ad-hoc, get a slot whenever you like that the organiser can fit you in.  The disadvantage is that it isn't paid (ha ha) and you only get a short slot (45 mins in my case) whereas I have about 2-3 hours of material.


I surprised myself at how anxious I was. Being up on a stage with bright hot lights in my face, plugged into a big PA system (biggest I have ever played through) with just a small foldback to know what I was doing.  I butchered a couple of songs ("what is wrong with you stupid fingers!" he thinks to himself) but I relaxed into it and played at least 5 or 6 songs at a good performance level.  When I was flicking and slapping the body I was concerned - the big PA subwoofer was pounding out a thump, reflecting off the back wall straight back at me and it sounded out of balance.  But Shaun (the organiser) assured me that wasn't what the audience was hearing.  I like being able to hear exactly what the audience is hearing, so I can play to that sound.  So I felt out of control.  But sometimes it is good to let go of control and trust in others.

There was maybe 20-30 people in the audience, which I found out afterwards that half of them were regulars on the stage too - a ha, so it's a "scene"!  The location isn't exactly Central Artsville, so it isn't currently attracting avid listeners of amateur musicians.  But you know what - a couple of people in the audience "got" what I was doing, and that is enough for me.

After the performance I spoke to a couple who do regular open mics and other musician get together things, and they gave me more insight into what/where/who.  I also spoke to Shaun for a while about what he does - he's a musician/teacher/manager, does gigs, manages some bands, runs two open nights, fills gig bookings.  He is an amiable chap, obviously loves everything about music and the scene and gets behind everybody in it.  He asked if I had cards/photos/setlist, occasionally he gets asked for my kind of gig - just one bloke playing background instrumental covers of well known and popular music.  That's what I would like to do, from time to time nice little gigs, but I have a busy day job and wifey and kids that I want to spend time with.  It's all about priorities huh?

So overall it was good fun, I enjoyed it.  Will definitely do it again.  I watched some of the other acts, there was a boy on before me singing over backing tracks, wow, I wish I had that sort of confidence, he was hitting Jackson 5 type high notes and all - not my cup of tea, but great job!  A guy on after me was playing heavy distorted guitar covers and singing, with backing instruments, a serious rocker from way back obviously knows what he is doing and was pretty good at it, again, not my cup of tea but great job!  After him was a duo, a chic singing and a bloke on guitar.  All original stuff, man they had put some serious work and effort into it from the looks of things.  And it came across great.  I even remembered one of their songs, "Hindsight", a catchy groovy piece.  Well done!  I bailed out before the final act which would have been good to see, a trio.  Next time.


Monday, 25 August 2014

A look into progress on "Get Back"

I owed you all a video talking through an arrangement, so since I'm still playing around with "Get Back" I recorded this after doing a successful take of "Heart of Gold" for YouTube. I put the camera in autofocus (new camera) and it hunted around for focus a lot which is quite annoying, my apologies. I didn't spend a lot of time in post production, sorry if the content and the continuity is a bit poor. As always, I'm rambly and sometimes don't make sense, I really should plan my videos before I hit the record button. One day, when I'm good at it, and I make instructional DVDs for a living hey! :-)



Sunday, 3 August 2014

What's happening August 2014

It's been a quiet couple of months on the guitar front.  No gigs, no new songs, barely playing at all.  I would of course play the guitar all day if I could, but my life is too full :-)

I have however been slightly addicted to "Get Back", it's such a rollickily grooving tune, when I have had a moment to play I'm assembling it.  I recently purchased a little tripod to put my microphone on whilst recording vidoes, I thought I'd try it out by making another rough recording of the song - the microphone is right up next to my right hand pointing at the soundhole.  It didn't make a lot of difference, other than there is a lot less background noise recorded.  (Although a little birdy recording bombed at the end!)

So here is the next stage in the progression of the development of my arrangement for "Get Back", Enjoy!


Monday, 26 May 2014

Camp and 10,000 hours

When I'm at the current remote site that I'm working at, if I'm not building junky bikes out of parts I find in the rubbish bin and riding them around then I am playing guitar.  Usually, sitting with the lads have a quiet beer. It's during these times random songs tend to jump into my head. Yeah, I should be working on my staples, but once a song get right into my head it's hard to let it go. On a general evening playing I'll get requests, so I look up chords and improvise a fingerstyle arrangement, and discover that some songs work really well.

The first is a great song that I've loved for years, but never took it on. Now I have taken it on. The Tab is nearly finished, my playing is starting to smooth out, Heart of Gold by Neil Young. I've kept it pretty low down on the guitar instead of the big full Em7 and D for the theme riff, just kinda brings the tone down a little bit. Enjoying this one, it's a keeper. It fell into my standard bass-two-slap-four fingerstyle, with hand down low against the fact all three of these did...hey, the style is working for me at the moment!

Get Back - The Beatles. We all know it, we all respect it. I've never attempted it. Why? Who knows. This is still conceptual, there are a few signature riffs I need to add, no tab started, let's chuck it out there hey? :

This one, just appeared on the guitar from nowhere. One of the lads said, "Are you playing What a Feeling by Irene Cara?", and, embarrassed, I replied, "Umm, yes, but you recognised it!" I remembered Naudo has a cover of this song on youtube, and had a listen later. I think I am developing Naudo skills, just nowhere near as intricate and brilliant. But this was such an easy song to do at a basic level I may as well finish it, and let's face it, it's good fun 80's:

Speaking of Naudo skills, once again I was asked by someone who hadn't heard me play before - "how long have you been playing?" My standard answer is "36 years* so I should be better!" But it got me thinking, how many hours have I spent playing the guitar? The widely quoted "10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at anything" was interesting. From these three tunes, each of which I spent between 1 and 2 hours playing to get to this starting but reasonable level, I felt that I'm actually getting pretty good at fingerstyle arranging and playing. But had I done 10,000hrs in my guitar life?

I did a very quick and probably quite inaccurate summary of my guitar life, which looked a little like this:

Age   Point in life       Average Time   Hours
7-10  School lessons      4 hrs/week     832
11-14 Some lessons        2 hrs/week     416
15-18 Playing Electric    5 hrs/week     1040
19-22 University          3 hrs/week     624
23-27 Start Working life  1 hr/week      260         
28-31 Onto steel string   3 hrs/week     468
32-34 Song writing phase  5 hrs/week     780
35-38 Youtube Covers      6 hrs/week     1248
39-43 Nylon Fingerstyle   4 hrs/week     1040
Total:  36 years                        6708 hours

This number was quite pleasing. I haven't done 10,000 hours, but I'm doing okay. I am reminded that when I first discovered Naudo I was 37, and he was 47. It's been 6 years and I'm still way off his talent, but I've come a long way, and it feels good :)


* Current age subtract 7, which in 2014 is 36 years.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

DSOTM update

Never to go away, my Dark side of the Moon fingerstyle arrangement/cover is medium warm active at the moment.  One thing that has re-sparked the interest is the many full album covers of Dark Side of the Moon I have been listening to over the past few months, while driving or doing really tedious database work.  Let me give a summary of what I have studied so far:

Listened to more than once:
  • Easy All Stars - "Dub Side of the Moon".  Reggae, really well done.  Have listened to more than ten times.  Note there is also "Dubber Side of the Moon", I found that one too hardcore, more house music than reggae.
  • The Flaming Lips - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Psychedelic/Alternate Rock.  Took me a while to "get it", but it has become good stuff for me.  A few songs didn't work, but overall, two thumbs up.
  • Poor Mans Whiskey - "Dark Side of the Moonshine".  Bluegrass cover.  The voilinist -oops- "fiddler" and banjo players are great.  Surprisingly well done, and you can actually listen to it more than once, it's silly but still musical and pays tribute.
  • Dream Theater - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Only just makes this list, a bit too close to the original, but was well done.
  • "Return to Dark Side of the Moon".  Hit and miss - various artists, some with great covers, others not so much, worth a listen though.  Time/Breathe Reprise I really liked.
  • "Moon8" - Brad Smith.  NES (yes, Nintendo) cover.  Well done, cheesy, some really impressive touches considering the limitations of the NES, but you know what, I've listened to it a few times.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" - Roger Waters live in 2007.  I didn't like his singers much but you can't argue with The Man.  Worth a listen or two.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" - Pink Floyd 1974.  A recording of a live show at Wembley Stadium.  Really good insight into what they were doing with the album after it was recorded and they took it on the road.  Great stuff.
Listened to only once:
  • The Squirrels - "Not-So-Bright Side of the Moon".  Aiming for comedy, but started to come over as a piss-take.  Didn't like it.
  • Out of Phase - "Dark Side of the Moon". Slightly Ambient, I wasn't a fan.
  • "Any Colour You Like" with Alan Parsons.  Old school rock feel, not bad, but the sound recording is too dodgy.  A little bit hacky in the singing and guitar department as well.
  • Trance Remix "Dark Side of the Moon".  Just couldn't get into trance style.
  • "The Moon Revisited".  It was okay, but I didn't feel the need to listen to it again.
  • Phish - "Dark Side of the Moon". Again okay, but only listened to once.
  • String Quartet - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Look it was true to form, it was just what you'd expect from a string quartet.  I guess it's not my thing, I was hoping for more "DSOTM" than "string quartet".
  • "Dark Side of the Moon a Capella".  Yeah, nah.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" Acoustic.  I didn't like it.  The guitar work and the singing were not my style, and too much layering over the original recording. 
  • The Problemaddicts - "Dark Side of Oz".  Hip Hop.  Yeesh.  Please no.
There is a heap of stuff on YouTube as well which is worth a listen to but I haven't yet ripped the lot to mp3 for my mp3 player, all these reviewed here were only from a list I found of "proper CD albums".

For my own cover I have touched every single song.  I owe you guys this year another youtube video of where I am.  The project won't be finished this year, but hold me to another video.  This is where I'm at:
  1. Speak to me - currently just tapping guitar body.  I'm going to have to get more creative.
  2. Breathe - Done.  There are a few ways I play it, and I add lib so the "final", like all my covers, will vary from where I am toady.
  3. On the Run - I have ideas and I've played with some concepts.  It has moved from "don't include" to "will do".
  4. Time/Breathe Reprise - all but done. All concepts are in but I haven't done the Time solo.  I will.  Lower priority, I don't "need" it, but I "need" it :-)
  5. Great Gig in the Sky - Done, pending.  The work for the piano was done years ago, the skeleton is in place for Clare's oo-ah, just needs to be finished.  At the moment I just shorten it a lot.
  6. Money - Concepts are done, except for solo.  I struggle to play it, it's the newest one on my progress sheet.
  7. Us and Them.  Done, no solo though.
  8. Any Colour You Like - All concepts in place.  I struggle to both play it and remember it.  Solo not quite finished.
  9. Brain Damage - Done.
  10. Eclipse - Done.
There you have it, still a long way off, but never forgotten!