Category: Actor/Musician


Medeli AKX10 Review

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?

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A Moment Of Gratitude In Honor Of My Past Self

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.


A Tale Of Two Roles

…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.


The Iconic Fender Stratocaster

Let’s talk about my new guitar. Did I need this guitar? Absolutely not. My Variax will always be my number one and can get the sounds of so many amazing guitars all in one plus so much more (I could go on for days but that is not the subject of this post). Plus I have two other amazing electrics already. So why did I buy this guitar?

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Setting Up My Behringer Xtouch With Reaper

I have used Reaper as my Digital Audio Workstation software for about 15 years now and absolutely love it. Recently I decided it might be nice to get a physical control surface to use with it. I initially got a Korg nanoKONTROL to dip my toes in the water. It’s a decent little surface, but I very quickly realized that if I was going to go this route I wanted to go all the way and actually have motorized faders and all the bells and whistles, so at the suggestion of many other users I got a Behringer Xtouch. The Korg unit had taken a lot of setup and tweaking to get it working with Reaper. The Xtouch works right out of the box though with only basic functionality mostly. I thought I’d document my journey for posterity in case I ever need to remember what all I did or in case it can help anyone else.

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My Journey As A Singer

Tonight in the shower, which is where I seem to have so many important thoughts, I was thinking about my journey as a singer. A lot of the things on my mind were things I detailed in my post summing up my 7 month adventure as a singer on a cruise ship. One particular lesson rose to the top though. To put it very simply, the thought that singing higher isn’t singing better.

I started singing somewhere around age 16, and at first I was timid, shy, and not very good. I still remember my first real public attempt at singing. I was auditioning for a local musical and we needed to bring a piece to sing. I had a little Casio keyboard with these music cards you could slide through a reader and it would play that song, so I picked one (“You Must Take The A Train,” which I was completely unfamiliar with other than the Casio rendition) and practiced it. I brought my keyboard to accompany me and auditioned for the Music Director, Mrs. Kosztolnyik and the director. I was nervous and horrible. I did not get cast.

Eventually I developed my voice, and more importantly, my confidence and became known as a “power tenor” who could belt Journey songs and rock a mean falsetto on “Kiss” by Prince. While I’ve been lucky enough to receive many compliments over the years, I’m fairly positive I’ve received the most by far on being able to sing high and powerfully. The Journey thing really sticks in my mind as that was a very common comment. “Whoa! I can’t believe you sang Journey! You sounded just like the record!” or other similar things. This common feedback trained me like one of Pavlov’s dogs to “value” singing high and powerfully. It conditioned me to think that it set me apart and made me special.

While on my cruise ship adventure, I was singing 6 nights a week, battling cruise ship air and circulating colds and such, and trying my best to be a good vocal athlete and keep my voice in shape, but much to my frustration, I feel like most of my contract was spent performing well, but sub-par to what I knew I could do. Somewhere along that journey (no pun intended) I learned the concept of “Fach,” which, to put in overly simple and possibly not entirely accurate terms, is the sweet spot of your voice. I had noticed that singing so much had really honed my tone and accuracy and there were nights when I would think “Hey, my voice sounds really good in that sweet spot range when I’m not trying to perform amazing spectacles of vocal daring!”

I’ve always appreciated emotion and soul more than anything else, but this was a deeper epiphany than that and it has stayed with me. I still love that feeling of being able to belt out something impressive and sound good doing it, but I can equally appreciate singing something that feels effortless to me just as much for other reasons. There are so many singers I love who don’t necessarily sing anything technically impressive or set any records for sustained high notes. I guess I’ve finally learned that those vocal highs are like those crazy flashy guitar riffs that make someone seem like they’re from another planet. I can appreciate and be very impressed by the technical prowess, but I can be just as moved or more by someone who can play one note in just the right way, in the just the right place and knows just how much silence to leave between it and its neighbors to reach inside you and pull out an emotion like pure magic. I’ve learned that, yes, many times those high notes will get more comments, but that’s ego singing. That doesn’t actually mean anything or impart any more inherent value. Another example I always remember from my days on the ship is that I sang “Take On Me” by A-Ha which has that last really high note in the chorus, but it’s falsetto and for me it is almost completely effortless. In my mind, there is absolutely nothing “impressive” about it as it’s “easy” for me, and yet that note, on multiple occasions on the ship got spontaneous applause from the audience, something that I don’t think has ever happened to me before or since. Smoke and mirrors. Illusions. Show business. I also had some of my worst nights ever on that ship. Fighting to get anything worth a damn to come out of my throat and while feeling absolutely mortified and wanting to curl up and die, yet for the most part, no one else even noticed. “Great show! You were great!” they’d still say.

So I write this mainly to remind myself but also for anyone else who needs to hear it: singing higher is not singing better. As with every area of life, a lesson I learn again and again is that literally everything is made better by getting the ego out of the way. Find your Fach, and revel in it.


Beez McKeever

Sure most people are probably asleep at 6:40am. Some are even getting up or already up. Me, I’m laying in bed trying to sleep but instead getting an idea for a very silly song about having a crush on the Prop/Costume Diva for #MST3K and singing it into a voice memo in bits and pieces so I’ll remember it the next day. Quite probably the most niche song I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something.

I then also decided to record a full studio version and video for that version in all it’s power pop glory!