If you play a guitar with a floating vibrato unit (commonly known as incorrectly Tremolo units as Tremolo is the modulation of volume while vibrato is the modulation of pitch), then you probably know that involves a lot of compromises. Because these units strike a balance between string tension and springs in the back, you can’t change tunings, if you break a string everything else goes out of tune, and if you do a double stop (bend one string while fretting another) the fretted string will be pulled flat by the bending of the other string.Continue reading…
Cerebral Flotsam And Jetsam - My Mental Maelstrom
This one isn’t quite as vivid as usual, as when I woke up, I tried to push it from my mind and not think about it instead of dwelling on it, but it lingered with me the rest of the day and night and so I felt it deserved to be chronicled here.
This dream started with me hanging out with a childhood friend, David Presley (IRL, he friended me on FB for a while but later unfriended me so we haven’t really been in contact since my teens). We were at a bar or a party somewhere and he said he had a surprise for me. Then, there was my ex. She had a fresh new short haircut, dyed red and looked beautiful, fit, and happy in a casual, stretchy black dress. She had come to reconnect with me and catch up.
Then the scene changed. I think we were at her house now. Her husband may have been present or maybe just somewhere else in the house (or maybe not present at all, I can’t remember exactly). It was a big, wonderful house. Very modern, with lots of glass and a view of the city. She was sitting in the corner of a room with a harp. She had learned to play in the years since we knew each other and wanted to play something for me. She was wearing some kind of cardigan, or overshirt which she wanted to remove now before she started playing, and in pulling it off over her head, it got a little stuck and comically struggled with it. In this moment I laughed and smiled because something about it was just so charmingly and endearingly “her.” It somehow just nostalgically reminded me of some aspect I had loved about her.
When she finally started playing and singing her song, I realized it was a kind of summary of her life in the years we hadn’t been in contact. A musical “catch up.” It was just a simple, sweet moment, and I was so happy to once again be in contact with my friend, to have her in my life even we weren’t together as I felt it should have been.
Then I woke up. It was 4:30am and there was a hollow pang in my chest realizing it was all a dream. That we were still completely removed from each other’s lives as if we had never known each other. I tried to shake it off and go back to sleep, the latter part of which at least I was a success. Throughout the rest of my day though it poked at my mind and wanted to be chronicled here, and so here it now lives. It was a nice, warm reunion though, even if only in dreams.
I was just discussing with my Yacht Z band mates how I have a strange and irrational hatred of doing songs in keys other than the originals. I know this will likely get me some flack as so many bands do it, usually to make it easier for vocalists. Now to be clear, this is not meant as any kind of attack on anyone as this is just my personal preference and it is a subjective opinion that is not “right” or “wrong.”
Firstly, if I can’t sing a song in the original key, then I just won’t do it. I subscribe to the school of thought of only doing songs I can do. I find it interesting that altering keys for vocals is a standard practice but yet it would not likely be cool if someone was like “Eruption is too hard to play. Can we do it 20 BPM slower? That will make life easier for the guitarist.”
Secondly, often altering the key makes life hell for other instrumentalists, especially guitarists where chord voicings are often very key dependent. Especially if they use open strings or such. Sure you can use a capo if you’re going up but if you take a song down (usually the way it goes) a lot of guitar parts become impossible to play without completely retuning (a MAJOR issue if you have a floating vibrato system) or using some artificial digital detuning which never sounds or responds quite right.
Thirdly, and this is probably the most subjective of the bunch, different keys just literally have a whole different sound, feel and vibe. I’m always amazed at how altering even a single half step can make something suddenly just feel completely different and off.
One caveat here is when a band plays in a different tuning. For example Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other liked to tune a half-step down, so in those instances if you are in standard tuning , you will actually be playing the song a half-step up if you play the correct chords, voicings, lead lines and such. While that will still be affected by my third point, that’s the least important and it’s far more important to be able to play the parts as they were played. For example SRV’s “Pride And Joy” has lots or low E string and open strings in the leads and such, so playing that in Eb in standard tuning is a ridiculous and impossible prospect. In instances where a band detunes, the playability far outweighs the sonic differences of playing it in standard tuning.
I will admit that one recent gig had a song lowered by a half-step which made the piano part WAY EASIER for me, so I just counted my blessings on that one.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk on Pedantic Music Nerdery.
Let me begin by saying that in general I’m totally fine being single. I’ve never been someone who needed someone else to feel complete or happy or who felt this desperate NEED to find a relationship. I try to focus on the benefits of whatever my current situation is as both have their perks. Going years between relationships is not unusual for me.
That being said, sometimes I’ll miss the most strange and random things. I’m sitting in a hotel lobby waiting to be seen for a fitting that’s running late, and I just found myself missing that constant connection that’s always there when you have a partner. Someone you maybe text/chat with throughout your day and just that feeling of always being connected even if you’re not actively communicating.
So yes, basically it boiled down to missing someone to text mundane boring fluff to. “Still waiting. Love you. I need to go get an oil change.”
For the last 8 or 9 years, I’ve used a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 as my audio interface on my computer. It sounded great and basically did everything I needed. Then recently I saw Warren Huart of “Produce Like A Pro” (a really great YouTube channel) review the Audient EVO 8 Interface and suddenly I knew I had to get one.Continue reading…
Recently I found myself needing a live gig keyboard. I have my trusty M-Audio Keystation 88 in my studio that I use with all my soft synths, and on the rare occasions that I’ve needed a live keyboard, I’ve taken it out with my laptop running my soft synths and it’s been fine, but as I’ve started to play more keys in a few projects I wanted a simpler solution. The thing is, I’m still mostly a guitarist and bassist and so that, combined with the fact that I was only playing some keys and I did still have my MIDI controller and soft synths made it hard for me to justify a high end Nord, Kronus, or the like.
That’s when my friend and bandmate David Houston introduced me to the Medeli AKX10 which he had just ordered for the same reasons, as he hadn’t played much keys in a while and had just taken on a keyboard gig. Now like a lot of musicians, I initially had my doubts about this keyboard for several reasons. One it’s sold as an “Accompaniment Keyboard” for one-person band type situations, like bistro singers who want to be able to have features like one-finger left hand chords and backing accompaniment that can follow your chord changes in various styles and arrangements. That plus the fact that any keyboard with built-in speakers, to my experience was mostly a low level keyboard that would make pros would turn their nose up. I found myself falling prey to some of these biases as well. Though to be honest, I do like some of the frills like the pulsing colored lights on the sides of the keyboard and the different color schemes you can choose from for the buttons. I just needed a big variety of great sounds, good feel, and a great usability, so why would I want to pay for a bunch of extra stuff I’ll never use like the auto-accompaniment and such?Continue reading…
As I get ready for some upcoming gigs, rehearsing, organizing sounds and setlists, I had a random moment of extreme gratitude aimed at teenage Heath. I remember as a budding young musician lusting after guitars and equipment that was so far out of my reach that it might as well have been a million dollars. I remember this amazing multi-effects unit, the Roland GP-8 that I wanted so bad. I remember my amazement when Scott Eddy brought over his Roland JX-3P synth and it was like magic to me.
Now I’m a professional musician with 5 amazing high end electric guitars, 2 acoustics one of which is made of carbon fiber, 2 amazing basses, a keyboard that makes that JX-3P seem like a toy, digital models of thousands of synths, effects, guitars, amps, cabs, mics, etc. at my disposal.
I would say I’m living young Heath’s dream, but that’s not accurate as I don’t think he could have dreamed this big or known what would one day be possible and in his arsenal.
…or a journey into my ever-overthinking mind.
I recently auditioned for a play. Because the casting decision have not yet been made and I don’t know how much information is okay to give, I will not be revealing the specific show or roles.
When I was a younger man, I thought the title role (henceforth known as “Role 1”) was one of my “bucket list” roles. Then in 2014, I actually read the play and decided that actually the other male lead (henceforth known as “Role 2”) was really my bucket list role. Meatier, deeper, more complex. I actually identified with both roles in completely different ways.
Cut to 2021. I’m doing another play and one night backstage I just happen to mention that Role 2 is a bucket list role for me. One of my castmates tells me that a local theatre company is actually doing that show next year. When I get home that night, I look up their website and see that they’re actually accepting video auditions at that exact moment and for the next couple of weeks! I video a short monologue and send it in. A few weeks later I get an email telling me they’d like me to come to callbacks! At this point I reply telling them that I’m really only interested in Role 2 and I hope that’s okay. They tell me it’s totally okay and thank me for letting them know. I download the sides and start reading. Once again I fell that dichotomous connection to both roles and end up thinking that they are both really great and might both be “bucket list” roles. However Role 1 says “early 20s to late 30s” while Role 2 is “late 30s to late 50s” so I figure they probably wouldn’t be interested in me for Role 1 anyway.
A week or so later, I get another email about specifics for the callback. On a whim I replied explaining that the reason I said I was “only” interested in Role 2 was because I just figured I was technically too old for Role 1 even though I do still get cast a lot in the mid to late 30s as well, so if they wanted to see me for that role, I’d be happy to read for it as well, or could also be happy only reading for Role 2. They reply that I could definitely read for both roles so that becomes the plan.
Immediately my brain starts wondering if I did the right thing. “Now you’ll have to split your audition time between both roles instead of really digging in to Role 2! The one you REALLY want!” Is it though? Role 1 is pretty amazing too. Getting to read for two amazing lead roles is a GOOD thing, I tell myself.
Callbacks arrive. First I read for Role 2. They give me some notes and a few minutes to prepare and I come back and do it a second time. Then for the next 2 hours and change, I only read for Role 1. I read 5 more times I believe. 3 different scenes with 4 different scene partners. So naturally my brain tries real hard to feel a little bummed that it sure seems like I’m out of the running for Role 2. Despite the fact, that I had an absolute blast in the scenes for Role 1 and felt like I really connected and brought something special to it. Regardless of whether or not I get cast, I felt totally happy and solid with my work in both roles and I had a blast with great scene partners and a director who seems amazing and a kindred spirit. So really, I feel nothing but great but have to laugh at my whirling maelstrom of a mind that wants to overthink and second-guess everything.
It’s up to the universe now. Well, that and the director.
Woke up from exhausting cliché theatre dreams.
In this one I was starring in yet another production of Cyrano (my 3rd, and my 2nd go as the main antagonist, De Guiche). Clare Costello was Roxane. This was pretty much my typical theatre stress dream.I had just come off from a scene as pirate (there aren’t actually pirates in Cyrano, but the Gascony cadets are similar) and had to change to come back on as De Guiche for a scene with Roxane. I couldn’t find my costume pieces so I decided to check the other end of the theater but the only way to get there without the audience seeing me was to go outside, run around the side and then enter this side door that led to a little nook for a Stage Manager or something. When you opened the door, there was a very tall chair right at your level which allowed whoever was sitting there to view the stage through a high window. The floor was a good 10′ or so below. I managed to make my down safely but realized there was nowhere I could go from here without being seen by the audience.
I climbed my way back up avoiding a roach on the bottom of the door frame and ran back, around to the backstage area. Luckily I realized that I had more time than I thought but I had mostly wasted it with my trip around the theater. While frantically searching for anything that might work for a costume, I realized that the next few scenes felt very unfamiliar. It was closing night and I suddenly wondered if we had accidentally skipped these scenes the previous 2 nights. I asked Clare if we had done these scenes the last two nights and she wasn’t sure but also said she wouldn’t mind if we hadn’t or skipped them again because that was less to worry about, then she went on stage for a scene with and older man. I really hoped everything would just come to me once we started the scenes because they were my favorite scenes of the show, and I was also bummed that I most definitely wouldn’t have the right costume but, if I was lucky, something thrown together that would work and didn’t look like a pirate.
I started looking for a shirt that would work thinking that it would be easier and quicker if I didn’t change pants and that these pants could probably work. Someone told me to go check this deeper storage area where some costumers had been putting away stocks of stored unused costumes, but that area was already mostly cleaned out and bore no fruit. Back in the main area some costumers were hanging up some new bulk costumes they had ordered. On stage, Clare’s elderly scene partner was totally forgetting his lines and Clare was trying to help by whispering them to him but since everyone was mic’d up those whispers were loud and obvious. The man eventually laughed and apologized to the audience.
At that point someone decided that since the founders of Theatresports were in attendance, it would be good to maybe take a break and do some comedic improv games. They started calling some of the cast out to play and they called my name. I was standing in a shirt and underwear at the time so I shouted “I’m putting pants on” which got a laugh from the audience. I found a pair of pants I thought would work and I set them down so I could change take my shirt off as well to change. When I then reached for the pants again, I couldn’t find them. I was baffled, I literally had just set them down. There were boxes of new pants arranged by sizes that the costumers were hanging up though so maybe they had just grabbed mine to hang up thinking they were just laying around. Regardless, I couldn’t find them. I saw another few piles of pants of the right size but they were tux pants and not nearly right for the show.
Someone ducked backstage to once again ask if I would come out and play in the improv game break, and I said I was trying but couldn’t just come out in my underwear and was trying to find clothes to get dressed. They acknowledged me and went back to start some games with those already there.
At this point, I woke up exhausted.
I had to bring it into existence.