Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stanley Clarke, Upright Bass Virtuoso

Mr. Clarke going nuts with flamenco and slap bass licks on the upright acoustic bass:

Monday, October 01, 2007

A practice idea for developing jazz improvisational skills

I've recently started pursuing a practice idea for developing the ability to improvise over a jazz tune. When I take a solo, I have a tendency to rely too much on muscle memory and the layout of the instrument. I want the solo to be created by my imagination rather than mindless movement of the fingers. Here is the idea:

1. Listen to lots of jazz, especially recordings of jazz musicians playing the tune you are specifically working on.

2. Memorize the melody and chords to the tune.

3. While away from your instrument(s), mentally practice soloing over the tune - imagine your instrument playing the notes with an imaginary rhythm section playing the chords for you.

4. When you have your instrument at hand, do this:

a. Make up a melody for a 1-3 measure chunk of the tune in your head, without playing your instrument.

b. Play the melody you made up in 4a. above on your instrument.

c. Repeat 4a. and 4b. until you're done with the tune.

The purpose of this practice is to develop the ability to compose a solo on the fly - ie. improvise. By composing short phrases at a time, the task seems less daunting.
As a demonstration of this practice idea, I recorded myself doing Step 4 above for the tune Blue Bossa, with a backing part courtesy of Band In A Box. I recorded two guitar parts, panned right and left in the stereo field, so that you can hear the two guitars taking turns playing phrases that I composed on the spot.

Some of the phrases required several practice repetitions and re-recording. This is because I can compose a phrase in my head that does not match anything I've ever practiced on guitar before, and sometimes this phrase does not fit neatly under the fingers. Thus it took me about an hour to record this one-minute track. The aim was not to be perfect - let alone impress anybody - but simply to capture the main gist of the melody I spontaneously composed for Blue Bossa. The other reason I did not clean up all my mistakes on this recording was to document my starting point as I journey down the road of jazz discovery - I can't claim progress without showing where I started.

My September 30,2007 solo over Blue Bossa is now up on my MySpace page.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ear training Practice for Parallel Modality

Dave Woods just posted this to the jazz guitar group. Enjoy!

Ear training Practice for Parallel Modality

On your guitar using the open A string as a common Tonal Center, play this

This will play an A Tonal Center on the open 5th str., and the open E on the
1st. string will sound the perfect 5th. These set up an A Tonal Center drone on
the Guitar. The fretted notes give you A D# A, and against the A Tonal Center,
it sounds the Key Tritone of A Major Lydian Key of E.
(A) B C# (D#) E F# G# (A). Strum the guitar, play it with the open A,
open E Tritone drone, and sing the Mode. Then sing The Mode in your mind only,
as you play the drone. You will be hearing the Key Tritone against the Tonal
Center. Nothing cements the feeling of a Mode in your consciousness better than

Next, on your guitar using the open A string as a common Tonal Center, drop
the fretted notes down one fret.

This will play an A Tonal Center on the 5th str., and the open E on the 1st.
string will sound the perfect 5th. This sets up an A Tonal Center The fretted
notes give you A D# A, and it sounds the key Tritone of A Major Ionian (A) B
C# (D) E F# G# (A). Key of E.
Strum the guitar, play it as a tonal drone, and sing the Mode against the
drone. Then sing it in your mind only, as you play the drone. D# is lowered to
D. This gives a feeling of loss of tension.

Next, move the fretted notes down another fret.
The fretted notes give you G C# G, and it sounds the Key Tritone of A
Mixolydian Key of D
(A) B C# (D) E F# G (A). Strum the guitar, play it as a tonal
drone, and sing the Mode. Then sing it in your mind only, as you play the
drone. Here D# drops to D. Go back and forth till' you sense the drop. G# is
lowered to G.

Next, move the fretted notes down another fret.
The fretted notes give you F# C F# , and it sounds the Key Tritone of
A Minor Dorian Key of G
(A) B C (D) E F# G (A). Strum the guitar, play the tonal drone,
and sing the Mode. Then sing it in your mind only, as you play the drone. Here
C# drops to C. Go back and forth till' you sense the drop.

Next, move the fretted notes down another fret.
The fretted notes give you F B F , and it sounds the Key Tritone of A
Minor Aeolian Key of C
(A) B C (D) E F G (A). Strum the guitar, play the tonal drone,
and sing the Mode. Then sing it in your mind only, as you play the drone. Here
F# drops to F. Go back and forth till' you sense the drop.

Next, move the fretted notes down another fret.
The fretted notes give you F Bb F , and it sounds the Key Tritone of
A Minor Phrygian Key of F
(A) Bb C (D) E F G (A). Strum the guitar, play the tonal
drone, and sing the Mode. Then sing it in your mind only, as you play the
drone. Here F# drops to F, and B lowers to Bb. Go back and forth Through the
Modes till' you sense the drop.

A lydian has the most tension, as you go down through the Modes from
A Lydian to A Phrygian, the tension keeps dropping. Keep listening, singing, and
singing in your head as you listen to the Modes against the Drone.. This is
great training for composers, but will be a revealation to jazzers as well.

Dave further elaborates:

The Parallel Modality exercise was invented for a very talented friend who
wanted to learn to hear Key and chord Changes better.
In parallel Modality the Tonal Center is fixed on a given tone and the keys
change in relation to it. As you go through it, you feel the lift and drop
within you as the Key Tritone changes in relation to the Tonal Center and notes
get raised and lowered. Lydian is the most tense and brilliant, and as you go
down the line, Phrygian is the least tense and an angry sad feeling.

I come from a composition background. Grant Fletcher was my teacher at Arizona
State University back in the 60's.
There, I learned a theory of modulation.

Starting from the Key of C, G is 1#, D is 2#'s, A is 3#'s, E is 4#'s B is 5#'s,
and F# is 6#'s. In Modulating from the Key of C, to keys with sharps, the
pitches (frequencies) of notes are being raised (getting faster). .

Starting from the Key of C, F is 1b, Bb is 2 b's, Eb is 3b's, Ab is 4b's, Db
is 5 b's, and Gb is 6 b's. Here, pitches (frequences) of notes are being
lowered (getting slower) Therefor, the body feels a drop in tension.
These effects are best felt when the key changes are heard within the same
octave register.
Gb and F# are enharmonically the same, and here the effect of a lift or drop of
frequenct cancels itself out. raising from C to 5 #'s, or lowering from C to
five b's is the limit of the effect.

In my opinion, such as it is, training your ear (inner feelings) to be sensitive
to key changes is the all important first step.
Whin I hear a Key change the new key opens up within me in all regesters from
high to low at once, and I can just dive in. We hear and sing inside, and that
is projected through the guitar.

Dave Woods

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Physical Training Update

My apologies to anyone who is still following this blog - I've been really slacking off on updating it.

In my quest to rehab my lower back, I noticed that the Yoga routine assigned to me by my last two teachers emphasized the core in some way. I discontinued Yoga lessons because of the need to create some time in my schedule for other things, but carried the idea of emphasizing core work to my regular exercise.

Monday's training, with Intuitive Training scores:

Circuit (done 5x):

Chinups x6, RPT=8, RPE=6, RPD=4
Power Wheel Hand Walk x10 forward and backwards, RPT=8, RPE=4, RPD=4
Power Wheel Leg Curl x5, RPT=6, RPE=5, RPD=3
Power Wheel Pike Up x10, RPT=8, RPE=4, RPD=4
Rest 3-5 min.

Finish with Chest Expander work to compensate for training effects on shoulder. I was experiencing left shoulder soreness from the above routine until I tried the Chest Expander exercises I'd used to rehab the same shoulder a couple of years ago.

This has been my exercise routine of late, with rep numbers increasing as Intuitive Training scores allow. As a very brief recap, if RPT (Rate of Perceived Technique) is 8 or greaters, RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort) is 3-4 or less, and RPD (Rate of Perceived Discomfort) is 4 or less, then it is time to increase exercise difficulty. Intuitive Training is of course from Scott Sonnon's Circular Strength Training system.

The Power Wheel came with an instructional DVD and a brief set of printed instructions, which differ from one another in what exercises are prescribed for each skill level, so I use elements from both the DVD and the printed manual.

I use Lifeline's Jungle Gym 2 as my chinup device. I do chinups to strengthen my back from the top side - so the entire back is covered. The chinup was also one of the few ways to strengthen my arms without negatively impacting my back.

I'll keep doing this routine until I can do 10 Power Wheel Leg Curls. I figure by then the lower back should be strong enough to handle a switchover to Clubbell training.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Allan Holdsworth playing Traditional Jazz in 1978

Allan Holdsworth is best known for his blazing, sophisticated jazz-rock fusion guitar work. Recordings of Allan playing more traditional jazz is rare, aside from the None Too Soon album.

Thus, it was a pleasure to discover a 1978 recording of the Allan Holdsworth Quartet playing traditional jazz, which was posted to the discussion forums on Allan's website. For this gig, he opted for a guitar tone that is as close as he's gotten to the traditional jazz guitar sound. The performances are fantastic, and the sound quality is incredible.

Update: Here's a song list:
Scatter - Kenny Wheeler
What Am I Doing With You - Fran Landesman & Hod O'Brien

There are plenty of other recordings by fusion luminaries as well on that site. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ozan Yarman's 79-tone Qanun

This is the first batch of audio demos that I have encountered of Ozan Yarman's 79-tone Qanun. Qanun, as I may have previously mentioned, is a Turkish zither that is played with fingerpicks and has little levers to instantly retune certain strings. Ozan's 79-tone tuning is a recent invention.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Video: How To Upgrade a Macbook

This video shows how to upgrade the RAM, hard drive, etc. of a Macbook:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Charles McNeal

To be honest, I only just now heard of Charles McNeal and I certainly haven't heard his music yet. But his website came up in a thread about soloing - it was mentioned as a source for transcriptions of solos by some great jazz players.

Transcribing the solos of the masters is often recommended to jazz students, but not everyone has time to write down these solos onto paper - I find it a MUCH slower process than learning the solo by ear myself and I suspect I'm not the only one. Enjoy Mr. McNeal's work!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guitarists' Secret Weapons for Textural Effects

Check out this discussion thread on the Gear Page Effects forum for ideas on achieving textural effects.

Some of these ideas will work with just your guitar and bare hands! My favorite, courtesy of the great David Torn:

light taps on the back of the neck (or, the body) whilst the lefy hand holds chords.
alternatively, tapping on the bridge itself (or at the base of the bar, if the guitar is whammified) with the thumb, a sharpie, etc.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Phil Keaggy demonstrates E-Bow technique

NFL Linebacker In-Season Training Program

It is highly unlikely that I would ever follow such a program myself, because I am not a football linebacker. Still, it is interesting to see how a real NFL linebacker trains during an NFL season.

Check out Joe Defranco's program for an unnamed NFL linebacker.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bjork on Modern Minimalists, Pt 1

Tobogganing Safety Tips by Rush's Geddy Lee

While I haven't kept up with Rush much of late, as I prefer the warmer sound of their Moving Pictures album and other albums from around that era, I'm still an admirer of the band, particularly lead singer/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee. So I know I can always count on Geddy to give me great tobogganing advice!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Notes from the Janos Starker Masterclass

These are my notes from the Janos Starker Masterclass at the Hungarian Embassy in DC, in which which we watched Mr. Starker instruct two talented young students. No doubt I missed something, but I wrote down what I could.

All opinions expressed in these notes are Mr. Starker's alone. Both students were right-handed, so right-hand = bowing hand, left-hand = fretting hand.

The first set of notes are his comments directed at the two students (keep in mind both are advanced level, not beginners!):

- Beware of rigid thumbs. Thumbs need to be loose on both the fretting hand and the bowing hand.

- A practice to try with the bow: Hold bow in bowing hand with palm facing up and play with the balance.

- Beware of tension in non-playing fingers of the left hand

- In thumb position, "lean back" the index finger. I think he didn't want to see the index finger perpendicular to the fingerboard.

- "Hitchiker's Thumb" is not desirable in thumb position

- Practice slow vibrato technique. The demo of this slow vibrato practice looked similar to the latter half of the "Beginner 1" lesson on

- Less vibrato is preferable on notes with more natural overtones

- Tense right-hand thumb causes aggressive bowing

- Pressure on bow should come more from weight of arm, not the fingers. The forearm should "roll". Use knees to turn cello for more (volume? tone? I don't remember)

- Use less thumb pressure on bow. Arm should be suspended.

This set of notes are from Mr. Starker's responses to questions from the audience:

- To improve your intonation, work on double stops

- Use breath control to anticipate phrases

- "Accent" of cello playing is related to language (Russians play this way, French play that way, etc.)

- Two styles of vibrato: 1. Thumb is anchored 2. Thumb ??? (my note is unreadable, sorry) with arm

- There is nothing "natural" about playing the cello. The thumb opposes the 2nd finger because of the rotation of the arms to play the cello, not because of "nature".

- In thumb position, do not leave the thumb in the air ("Hitchhiker") or lying on the fingerboard if you are not using the thumb. Anchor it to the side of the fingerboard, from where it can be readily deployed when you need it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Improving Your Learning

Learning is a way of life for me. I'm learning how to play the cello, guitar, and other instrument, learning Yoga, etc. So, here's a relevant article I found, entitled 7 Little Known Ways To Drastically Improve Your Learning.

I'm not sure effectively I'll be able to apply the advice in this article, because, for example, I'm in the habit of diagramming how I play the cello. The article seems oriented towards the acquisition of nonphysical knowledge as opposed to learning how to perform certain physical skills and how to improve upon those skills. Still, I'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

How To Be Creative

This article has been out for a while, but perhaps you might enjoy reading (or rereading) it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pearls Before Breakfast -

Pearls Before Breakfast - describes a social experiment by the Washington Post:

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

The passersby above were people passing through an indoor arcade just outside the L'Enfant Metro Station in Washington, DC. The street performer in question is the famous classical violinist Joshua Bell.

I wasn't surprised to read that Bell was for the most part ignored, despite the quality of his performances. If you read the article, you will find video excerpts from this social experiment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Current State-Of-The-Art Guitar Technique

The number of guitarists who can play multiple musical styles at a very high level does not seem to be high. Most guitarists seem to specialize in one genre or two.

Here is a guitarist who can play really, really fast, but is also willing to take the time to let his guitar sing, demonstrating astonishing versatility as well as skill: British guitarist Guthrie Govan

The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the music world, yet so few players reach this level...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Slide Guitar using a Spoon

Behold, a guitarist who can play melodies with a spoon in his mouth while accomanying himself with chords at the same time:

From the official Karoo Kitaar Blues informational page:

In 2001 David Kramer presented a show called Karoo Kitaar Blues that made South Africa sit up and take notice. It was a concert presenting the eccentric guitar styles of the Karoo the unique finger-picking and tunings of a marginalised people who live in remote villages and outposts of the of the semi-desert areas of South Africa.

"Karoo Kitaar Blues" - the documentary - follows David Kramer on a journey through the Northern Cape where he hopes to find another 'blikviool' player and new musicians whose instruments and songs are still unrecorded.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Don't play nice when house-shopping

Americans love a bargain and come hell or high water, they’re going to do their best to get one….

….Unless, of course, they are making a major financial purchase such as a house or a vehicle. Then they close their eyes tight, hold out their hands, and allow the smarmy guy in the suit to lead them like lambs to the slaughter.

Strong words, eh? Read this house-shopper's tale.

A designer's thoughts on how to fight outsourcing

...or, in other words, things you can try to do to save your job from outsourcing. Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with this designer (it's unclear what type of design he/she does), but the 5 points outlined make sense to me. "Work hard and stay creative"

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hope for aging brains

I actually saw this a while ago, but this article describes how research is now showing that older brains do not necessarily become senile and may even improve with age.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Eyeshield 21 - Anime possibly inspired by Tomlinson

As a Charger fan, I was amused to discover this anime devoted to American football. The main character is obviously inspired by Ladanian Tomlinson - no other running back I know of in the NFL matches his description:

1. Wears #21
2. Wears an eyeshield
3. Has uncanny talent for seeing running lanes around people in front of him
4. Runs freakishly fast.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mexico City - So much for some of my prejudice

Never having been there, I've always had this preconception of Mexico City as an overpopulated, polluted mess. Pretty much like this:

This photo collection presents other, fascinating aspects of one of the world's largest cities. Some examples:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Humanity's Dark Side in 20 photos

WARNING: Some of these are quite disturbing

Edit note: Many of these photos are from World Press's Photo Of The Year collection

52 money hacks - one for each week!

Found this on This article is packed with useful advice for saving money. I've found music to be a relatively expensive hobby and I like to travel on occasion, so I could sure use it myself!

How to Eat Right without Starving Your Wallet

How to Eat Right without Starving Your Wallet

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Cello Rondo

A great multi-track cello composition and video, by Ethan Winer.

Ethan also has a great article for anyone who wants to take up the cello as an adult, drawing from his own experiences in taking up the instrument himself at the age of 43.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Life lessons from a video game

I haven't been playing video games much, due to most of my free time being occupied by music and exercise (mostly Yoga), but I've played them enough to chuckle appreciatively when I read Seven Things I Learned from World of Warcraft.

22 Ways to Reduce Eye Strain at Your Computer

I'm starting to lean more and more on for my daily news fixes.

Those of us who use computers at work on a regular basis can always utilize the info in articles like 22 Ways to Reduce Eye Strain at Your Computer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Advice on Salary Negotiation for Geeks

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Some Turkish music listening recommendations

These come courtesy of Turkish musicologist Ozan Yarman, who has proposed a 79-tone tuning for the Kanun, though he was unable to recommend any recordings featuring that new tuning.

Turkish Art Music Compositions - Instrumental Works Collection

"Life is a song" Huzzam Collection

Turkish Art Music Selections, Kurdili Hijazkar Collection

Songs loved by Ataturk:

This seems to be dedicated to kanun music, but I haven't listened to it

Solo Kanun performance

Turkish Kanun music is something I am not familiar with. Despite the distorted audio quality, I was blown away by this performance. This music reminds me of both Spanish flamenco and Persian music at once.

In case you missed the Police at the Grammys

like I did, here's their rendition of Roxanne:

Friday, February 09, 2007

Book: Creative Rhythmic Concepts for Jazz Improvisation

I took a few Indian tabla lessons and have been to a workshop on doumbek drumming for belly dancers. Thus my interest in this book was piqued - it teaches rhythmic concepts for improvisation drawn from the Indian tala system, as well as other rhythmic concepts that are still not commonly used in jazz.

A sample lesson on improvising with Odd Metres, with Quicktime example, can be found here.

Mac OSX Defragmentation

The official word from Apple is that defragmentation of hard drives under Mac OSX should not be necessary. It seems that the main reason Apple doesn't want users using 3rd-party defragmentation software is most of the software choices are not "Hot-File aware" (Hot-File Adaptive Clustering is mentioned in Apple's article).

In spite of this, a number of people in the Mac DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) community use iDeFrag to defragment their hard drives. I guess sometimes you just have to clear some space right that moment and don't want to wait for OSX to try to do it for you. Hot-File awareness is a selling point of iDeFrag.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Switched to Blogger 2.0, got some glitches

The most serious glitch from switching to the new version of Blogger is the loss of all the links that i had on the right side. I'll gradually rebuild the Links section. Apologies to anyone who was accessing other blogs and sites through this one.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lecture on Microtones in Arabic Music

24-tone Equal Temperament divides the intervals of Western-standard 12-tone Equal Temperament, so that there are 24 equal divisions to the octave instead of 12. The notes between the notes of the 12-tone Equal Temperament scale (aka "Chromatic Scale") are thus referred to as quarter-tones.

This excellent lecture by Sami Abu Shumays explains the problem of trying to shoehorn Arabic maqam into strict 24-tone Equal Temperament, as part of a general introduction into the use of microtones in Arabic Music.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

YouTube - Jazz guitar - walking bass lesson

I've actually gone even further down the road to a back-to-basics approach in my guitar musicianship education, by getting and starting to work with A Modern Method For Guitar , the first volume of which recently became available in a book/DVD-ROM package.

But for those readers who are ready to take on the challenge, check out the above lesson on how to put together walking bass lines and chords.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Nice Ney Impression on Synth

I've been fascinated by the sound of the Ney for a while. High-level Ney players can vary their tone dramatically by manipulating their tongues. Check out this nice synth emulation of a Ney, using a keyboard and breath controller.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How to prevent brain mush and feed your soul

My book-reading has been greatly restricted, ever since I signed up for the free magazine subscriptions that Best Buy offered for the mere purchase of a DVD last year. I chose Entertainment Weekly(which I read the least), Sports Illustrated, and Time. I'm about a month behind as far as catching up on my Time magazine reading.

If I ever do get caught up with my magazine reading, I plan to check out some classic literature. I am definitely ignorant when it comes to Shakespeare. This article, found on the Arts Journal blog, makes a convincing argument to read Shakespeare.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Free Bananas Blog

The song "Galvanize" by Chemical Brothers has been stuck in my head ever since I started seeing those Budweiser beer commercials prominently featuring the song. In doing some research on the song, I learned that the song uses samples from Najat Aatabu's Just Tell Me the Truth, which led my Google search to the Free Bananas blog.

Click HERE for the direct link to the post with the tracklist and MP3 file link for a Middle Eastern-themed DJ set that includes both Galvanize and Just Tell Me The Truth.

Links to various NAMM 2007 Coverage Sites

Sonic State's Winter NAMM 2007 Coverage

Batmosphere Blog

Namm Oddities

I'll either update this Permalink or just add more NAMM coverage posts. The problem with much of the Internet coverage of NAMM is that they are oriented towards guitars, keyboards, and computers - it is harder to find coverage of new products for those who play bowed strings, brass, woodwind, and other instrumentation not typical of the rock genre.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Antonio Gates interview from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

This is an entertaining interview (about 6 minutes long) featuring Antonio Gates of the Chargers