Monday, February 23, 2009

All Night All Day (bass solo!)

Zach might hate me for posting a video with sloppy intonation, but then, he also likes attention.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Song 7: Song for Galileo

Not so happy with this one musically. It works as either cheesy faux-bossa-nova vocal jazz or a minor Tom Waits ballad, but little in between. Which isn't bad per se, but not something I can work with in any band I'm in at present. In terms of writing for the End Times Spasm band, I think the lesson learned is to avoid vi-ii-V-I progressions on principle.

Song for Galileo

| Fm | Fm | Bbm7 | Bbm7 | Eb7 | Eb7 | Ab6 C7 | Fm |
| Fm | Fm | Bbm7 | Bbm7 | Eb7 | Eb7 | Ab6 | Ab6 |
| Bbm7 | Bbm7 | Ab6 | Ab7 | Db6 | Db6 | C7 | C7 |
| Fm | Bbm7 | Eb7 | Ab | Bbm7 | Eb7 | Ab C7 | Fm |

We never heard the spheres
Like distant tower chimes
We mapped them to our fears
And tied them to our lines

The genius of the stars
Sang order from the pitch
Drew moons down from afar
Set the whole Earth unhitched

When you find it hard to feel uncertain
Remember that quantities can conspire to desert you

If heaven's above, hell is even more afar
Because you are made of fallen star

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two classics

After recording last night, I sat down for disc three of Ken Burns' Jazz, the part which features Louis Armstrong's newfound independence, the rise of Bix Beiderbecke, some classic female blues singers, and Ellington's beginnings. Thusly, I ended up listening to these two songs over and over before going to bed. Both insanely beautiful ways to spend three minutes.

"Singin the Blues" by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra (I believe).

I think I'm going to sit down some day and transcribe Eddie Lang's single-note parts. (I'm not sure it's clear enough to catch the chorded parts.)

And "West End Blues" by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. All copies of the original 78 seem to have been removed from YouTube, so here's a live version from the 50s. (But with a transcription!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Demos (round two)

More demos. Same setup as last night. All of these are "freebies" because they needed to be recorded. "Wake Up Bix" and "When Autumn Blooms" will need to wait until I have a guitar that doesn't lose notes above the ninth fret. There's very little chance that "Gut Rot" and "Before You Go" are going to be performed in the next few weeks, so they're lower on the priority scale.

All Night All Day


Down in Memphis


She Don't Want Me Around


Crocodile Smile

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Demos at last!

They are rough, and they heavily feature a guitar whose tone is fading fast, but here's two out of the 52 songs and one freebie.

Seymour:

(Featuring my patented fake-a-five-string flat picking on tenor banjo.)

North Country Boogie

(Featuring an inexplicable amount of silence at the beginning.)

I Don't Roll Like That

(Your freebie.)

All songs recorded quick-like with one MXL 960 in my apartment using Cubase and a MIDI driven bass. Solos more or less made up on the spot. I know there's some clipping and the mixes are rough, but it was getting late. Better versions may come along when I get the new guitar (which might be Monday if UPS isn't slow), or when either the Shit House Boys or the End Times Spasm Band make it to a studio.

Audio hosted by 7161 for now. Odeo player code here.

Song 6: Gut Rot

Bit of cheating here, but I need to get caught up. The first verse was sketched out a few months ago. Some fleshing out of that and the rest were done today.

Based on true stories.

Gut Rot

Verses:
| Em | B7 | B7 | Em | Em | B7 | B7 | Em |
| Am | G | B7 | Em | Am | G | Am B7 | Em | Am B7 | Em |

End:
| Am | Em | B7 | Em |

Blood, blood splatter on the floor
Stares at me cold and guilty.
I had too much cheap ass wine
And now the box is empty.
All of my worst friends are sleeping,
And all my best friends have been drunk.
Toward the WC I am creeping,
Hoping that I make it before I blow chunks.
Christ I wish that I was still drunk.

I'll regret for most the day,
To only crave more in the evening
When I down a gallon of that swill.
The next morning will find me a-heaving
All of my change I'll be scraping
For the cheapest they have in the store.
The contents I'll hardly be tasting
Until I am reaching for the bathroom door.
Christ I wish that I had some more.

Come drink of my wine.
The pleasure is yours not mine
At least 'till the morning light
When we're feeling not so right.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Song 5: When Autumn Blooms

A simple love song for the universe. I couldn't decide if I was contradicting D. H. Lawrence, paying tribute to Wallace Stevens, or ripping off Ezra Pound. Or none of the above successfully. I'll let you decide.

When Autumn Blooms

| Gm | D7 | Bb | C7 | F7 | F7 | Bb6 | D7 |
| Gm | D7 | Bb | C7 | F7 | F7 | Bb | Bb |
| D7 | D7 | Gm | G7 | C7 | C7 | F7 | F+ |
| Bb6 | D7 | G | G7 | C7 | F7 | Bb6 | D7 |

When autumn blooms
Fragile light hangs in midair,
And crisp, sweet smells beckon you
For an afternoon long and rare.
Bathed in red and gold,
Our breath lays bare our desire.
Hands warm hands, socks warm feet,
While the pale sky retires.
How dear to spend the green night
Looking out and above.
How strange to feel unguarded
As the stars stare back at us.
Only sallow leaves
Against a black wet ground
Caught in draft and gentle gyre
As the world spins round.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Behind the Sounds

Via the TapeOp boards, a channel on Youtube has videos documenting the recording process of Pet Sounds, one of albums usually mentioned as the best in rock/pop arranging and production. The videos include audio of Brian Wilson directing the studio musicians and individual tracks played separately, which is a boon for anyone wanting to analyze the vocal harmonies.

Here's A1, "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A word on demos

I was planning to sit down yesterday and record demos of the songs written. With a gig coming up, the musicians I'm playing with need recordings and that was the push that was finally going to get it done.

But the weather didn't cooperate. There was a wind advisory all day, and my mic would have picked up as much howling and rain patter as music.

This weekend though. Guaranteed.

EDIT. Ok. Maybe Tuesday. I'm doing three completely different presentations Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday this week.

The Guitar Update (Part 1)

O the thrills and frustrations of finding a new instrument!

A local guitar shop has a 1960s acoustic archtop by Airline (or at least that's what the headstock says - Harmony, Kay, and Airline swapped parts and guitars more than your parents swap partners). They're asking $400 for it, which isn't bad for the condition, but the setup on the guitar was so terrible I couldn't work out what issues were due to the low action and thin strings and what were due to the construction.

I eventually decided that if there's a strong probability that I'll be doing this music thing for a living, I need a guitar that represents that decision and can hold up. If I'm going to use the guitar for years to come, there's no reason to settle. Unfortunately, not too many folks stock acoustic archtops in the store for me to try them out.

Why an archtop? Although I don't really want to get into an authenticity debate, the archtop was the guitar of choice for early the jazz musicians I want to emulate. While playing with the Shit House Boys on my old Harmony, I rediscovered the projection and tonal properties that set these instruments apart from flattops. Played with thick strings and picks, they punch right through a flat top's chimey strumming just like a twelve string (or Nashville tuning) cuts through piano. Too many two guitar bands settle on using the same tone for both instruments that the mix becomes muddy. Using a flattop/archtop combo is one way to establish different tonal ranges for different purposes.

When you listen to amateur musicians, that's one thing that sticks out: inadequate use of the tone and pitch palettes. Musicians step over each others toes and ranges. If you search for people doing acoustic versions of their favorite rock/pop songs on YouTube, you'll find a lot of guitarists who just don't seem to understand how to back down and end up burying the vocals or whoever else is playing. (I may get into this more in the future, but this misunderstanding of what makes a "wall of sound" work seems to be pretty rampant in rock/indie these days.) Since quite a few normal flatpick techniques don't work so well on an archtop, playing one - and critically listening to what I was playing - helped me develop a better ear.

I think I'll end up getting The Loar, specifically the LH-600-VS. I was tempted to get one of the old models years ago, and I'm glad I held out. It sounds like the materials and methods are constantly improving. I feel bad purchasing a Chinese guitar (made by imported Koreans apparently), but the specs are too good to pass up. I don't really have the funds to get an Eastman or the like in time for some upcoming gigs. The demand for the Loar is also so high and the supply so low that I'll likely be able to sell mine if it came to that.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Potential legitimate delays

So I was on my way to play with some Zombie Nationalists I know, when I slipped on an icy patch outside my apartment building. Normally, I would just weeble and wooble and possibly fall down with no injuries sustained except to my pride, but this time I was carrying an accordion in one hand, a glockenspiel in another, and had a guitar strapped to my back.

The guitar sustained a crack to the top on the opposite side of where it lost one of its two parallel bracings. I fear it's days have gone from numbered to ended.

The guitar was a Frankenstein'd 1948 Harmony 954. The previous owner had made some adjustments to the neck, including adding an old Les Paul's fretboard to it. The top, back, and sides were already settling in bad ways, so I knew sooner or later I would have to buy a new one. Unfortunately this happened at the same time as a tire going flat. So I may be deciding between a tire, rent, or a guitar by the end of the month.

Though I write my songs in my head, the guitar is usually my instrument of choice for translating that into real notes. I still have an electric with me, but if I'm put off from playing music for a day or two, you can understand me I hope.