Posts Tagged ‘novato’

Hey, what do you know…this blog ain’t dead after all! Well, yes it is. Hard to find time to write about guitar stuff when I got the school and employment stuff happening. But ain’t no one taking me away from the music, so I got a cool electronic-rock thing with a bit of jazz cooked up…

Bad Mood

I posted this on Soundcloud. I used to hate posting my songs on all those band sites, a holdover from the MP3.com/Garageband days where every site was promising the best following as they cashed in on all the content being sent to them for free. And who has time to monitor all those pages? But if you wanna hit that like/heart button on the bottom of the tune so I can attract some groupies I’d be obliged.*

This song took me 18 months to finish. Pathetic, no? I didn’t actually struggle for for 540-some-odd days. More like I worked up a few minutes of sweetness, gave up on it for a few months, listened again realized I liked it enough to continue…then sat on it for months more…repeat cycle until I realized it’s time to COMMIT!

I love the guitar tone of the main riff, cooked up with Logic’s Space Designer and one of the Rammfire patches in Guitar Rig. Along with my beat up Ibanez Jem = CRUNCH! Probably a bit much–and I don’t know how I’ll pull that tone off live. Whatever…I ain’t gunning for awards here.

Terry Bozzio handled most of the acoustic drums here, aside from the intro and bridge. Yeah, seriously! But jeez, if you’re gonna nitpick that it’s actually his drum sample library and wreck my fantasy. Hey, fun TRUE fact…I actually hired Bozzio’s brother-in-law to play on my OOOG! EP years back. Vince Littleton, great drummer, versatile! I gotta his smoking drums on my “One Thing Leads to Another” back into the Interwebs. Point is, in my twisted universe I have family connections…

*Does my wife read this blog? πŸ™‚


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In moment of Google curiosity I looked up one of the more horrible bullies from my childhood. His skills of aggression were so effective that our single encounter the summer of fourth grade still feels fresh in my mind today, over thirty years later.

Well, not that fresh…more like a can nearing its expiration date. But it’s still in the cupboard.

My friends and I went to a video arcade in a pizza parlor where he and his buddy were losing their tempers over their performances in some of the games. I remember the star bully of this story getting particularly angry with his game of Dig Dug, actually rocking the machine back and forth, pulling the its joystick hard after losing another life.

In retrospect, we should have totally left the arcade, gone home to play more Atari 2600 games. There was no way we were going to walk into that kind of aggressive heat and not get burned. But it was my first time seeing Dig Dug–I wanted to play it! So we carefully pretended these predators didn’t exist.

At one point this bully’s friend threatened my pal when he growled, “Don’t touch me!” as they passed by each other. My friend, legally blind with limited eyesite, hadn’t done anything intentional to provoke him, but details like that don’t matter in such youth interactions. As my friend tried to plead innocence, the asshole got more in his face until I stepped up, demanding he be left alone.

The problem with me doing an action like this at the time is I had the balls to stand up for my friends, but when these two thugs-in-training turned their energies towards ME my balls shrunk into the size of Chia seeds.

I start off trying to talk them out of their bullshit, but they keep shoving me, eager for a reaction. At some point my friends convince me to leave with them and as I walk out the door I make the second mistake of flipping them off. I just realized typing that that I’ve never publicly flipped anyone off in anger ever since that incident, the consequences of actions in your childhood having that great an effect on me. Ya see, my action provoked them to charge outside after me.

My bike was locked to a telephone pole, so I couldn’t just run away. They corner me with a bunch of threats and more shoving. After 30 years it’s a bit of a blur recalling exact details, but I know I was provoked into finally throwing a punch at one and maybe even throwing another to the ground. Anyone who knows me beyond that moment to the present might have trouble believing it happened, as I simply don’t have the fighting personality–but I did for that instant. And my friends…they were too shocked to do anything besides watch. And what were they supposed to do?

The bullies pounced on me, obviously satisfied that I’d given them a reason to retaliate with full justification. I remember specifically getting an epic blow to the side of the head that was almost stunning. An employee from the pizza joint stuck his head out the door and ordered us to break up–and specifically for the thugs to beat it. I think the employee knew these two kids (one of their Dads may have owned the restaurant), as he told THEM to get lost and asked me if I was OK. I was already on my bike, taking off.

Because the other two had already gone to the side of the building to get their own bikes and pursue me.

I pedaled my ass off to my house, which was two minutes away, but it was pointless, as these guys followed me all the way my driveway. At this point I was scared to go for my house key hidden in the back yard because I was afraid I’d be extra screwed if they’d gotten into my house. Kid logic entertains all worst-case scenarios as plausible. So I spent what felt like an hour having one POS ram his bike into me (the one who sucked at Dig Dug) while the other one made all sorts of threats about how he should rob my house, beat me to dust, etc. I may have been struck a few more times, and I recall making some sort of apology for flipping them off, begging to make peace and be friends, all which fueled their superiority. It’s easy to armchair quarterback moments like this years later. Where the hell did my spine go? These fools weren’t marginally bigger than myself. Perhaps if I’d fought relentlessly like a rabid dog they’d have split, thinking I was too crazy to deal with. But no, they eventually left because they’d simply gotten bored harassing a scared kid with tears in his eyes who’d given up fighting back. I ran into the house and threw a paper bag over my head to regain control of my hyperventilated breathing.

Then there’s the incident where this same punk attacked another friend in middle school a few years later because he walked into a door my pal opened, not seeing that he was coming. But I’ll let that friend detail it in his own blog.

You hear the occasional feel-good story or see a movie where the victim stands up to a bully and gets him to back down, the moral being that standing up for yourself always brings about the feelgood Hollywood ending. That might be true if the victim succeeds in putting the bully into the hospital, but the more common reality is that standing up for yourself reinforces the target on your back. Bullies thrive on the energy you give them, be it crying, screaming, pushing back. Standing up for yourself gives them something to look forward to at the next encounter. Who wants to harass someone who laughs them off or goes to the cops? And if by chance you do bruise their egos they only come at you harder, perhaps getting their friends to join them.

So now that I’ve detailed this trauma in a public forum, let’s get back to the Google search. I find an article about Dig Dug Bully in the Marin Independent Journal, dated last year. Turns out he has been the football coach for a highly-regarded team in Marin County. Yeah, go figure, right?

Then the article turns to his battle against cancer. Seems he had a serious battle going on, illness, surgery, a prolonged period of feeling the lowest of low, along with a current clean bill of health for the past few years.

So now I’m thinking…son of a bitch! I’ve wished for that sort of pain and suffering on this guy since our fated meeting in 1983–and he gets it??? What kind of asshole am I to be carrying a grudge through childhood, turning it into my own emotional toxicity well into middle-age? I mean, it’s not like I think about that incident every day, swimming in a pity party. That pool was filled by plenty of other incidents of my own doing! But as I’ve dealt with uncontrollable anxiety in recent years, letting doctors use me as a guinea pig for questionable medications, exploring therapy, acupuncture, journals, the occasional shot of something higher proof so I could get to sleep, I couldn’t help referring to moments like that day with Dig Dug. It was one of those transitional moments in childhood where you learn that not only is the world imperfect; it was actually quite cruel.

There’s no moral here, is there? I’m not taking joy in his suffering, but honestly, I have trouble feeling sympathetic. And I know how much I’ve changed since the day I absorbed all of Dig Dug’s hostility, learning how to function in society, dealing with people. It would be ignorant on my part to assume that football coach is the same vicious bully who rammed the front wheel of his bike into my head 30 years ago.

Can I interpret this as karma? Or does he get to interpret it as one of the greatest lessons of his life?

Somehow I’m still angry, reading his story. I should have gone for the hundredth punch that day, should have gone to the cops, should have broken his neck against his locker door during one of the days we crossed paths in middle school. It annoys me that he’s a revered high school football coach, and it worries me that he’s imparting his thug wisdom upon young minds that don’t know any better.

But now I’m just being hyperbolic.

I seriously doubt the guy has put a single thought into our encounter since that day. Maybe it was merely a youthful act of aggression that was worked out when he got into sports, which ultimately made him a better person. Hell, maybe he’s helping those kids not become the asshole he was when he was their age. Beating cancer is a life-changer, I’m told. He probably has a newly positive outlook few get the chance to experience. That’s the type of person you want in your life when you’re feeling sorry for yourself and your mundane problems.

So I push for a new catharsis by way of this blog post, and get on with the present that is way more important. Truth be told, I actually haven’t thought about this guy in years.

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Warning: Another very basic guitar lesson post–nothing fancy here! So if you’re all ready comfortable with playing in 3/4 time sorry I wasted your seconds clicking on this post. πŸ™‚

But as I’ve introduced students to the concept of odd time signatures I’ve noticed their comprehension is blocked by a very straightforward roadblock…what’s the difference between odd time and common (4/4) time when the building blocks (quarter notes, eighth notes, etc.) are the same? For example, if you’re simply playing a quarter note groove is it in 3/4, 4/4, 6/4, 1,000,000/4 or what? The roadblock is something along the lines that odd time signatures should have, well, ODD rhythms!

And they can, but they don’t have to.

Check out the top example the PDF I put together. A repeating measure in 3/4 followed by the exact same quarter notes in 4/4. Close your eyes and you can’t tell which time is being played. It’s all about how you’re counting in your head. Are you counting “1-2-3, 1-2-3…” or “1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4…”? That’s it.

Now you’re disappointed. Odd time grooves sound so cool when Rush/Tool/Dream Theater use them. How come mine sound dumb? Because you’re just learning them, duh! Learn every easy rhythm your ears can find and suddenly those complex riffs aren’t so complex.

The second row on my PDF is basically the same riff twice except the second measure in 4/4 has an extra note the 3/4 measure doesn’t. Simple, eh? But now you’re starting to hear the difference.

The first measure of the third row was one of the first I learned where the concept of 3/4 first clicked for me, perhaps because it’s two dotted quarter notes that completely fill a 3/4 space. There’s a smoothness (in my opinion) that has a distinct 3/4 feel without feeling odd to play. The second measure of that row is the same thing with the added note on the fourth beat, a helpful way to compare the feels of similar riffs.

Tip of the iceberg with this stuff. There are so many resources to learn just about anything on this I wouldn’t know where to start. Oh, wait…this link has some cool tips on it.

Not to mention the odd time lessons and other cool chordal tips found my rhythm guitar poster.

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Noticed a few pals on Facebook had changed their profiles to green squares. Why? I think it’s well explained in this Hollywood Reporter article. Basically, the company that did the visual effects for Life of Pi has filed for bankruptcy. Despite winning the Oscar for their work in Pi, the company has fallen apart and won’t get the well-deserved chance to parlay that success into future projects. The film’s director, Ang Lee, was quoted on the subject along the lines of wishing visual effects could be made cheaper, which set off much of the anger online from various VFX artists. Why can’t movie stars–basically glamorous puppets–be cheaper? What about directors…grossly overpaid and still having the balls to take possessory credit for a film they couldn’t possibly make by themselves? And little attention is given to studio executive salaries (which in many cases make actors look impoverished) because, well, the public doesn’t see them enough in front of the camera to care. It’s easy to see why the artists are pissed off, their amazing efforts being cheapened by Hollywood greed.

But I think this goes waaaaaay beyond what happened with these VFX folks. Artists in general have always been among the first to be screwed in all the entertainment industries–except for those actors with the best agents, I suppose. We musician folk have been struggling with crappy pay, royalties that pay higher for vocals than they do for instrumentals and producers looking for the cheapest possible music and sound for their projects…FREE if possible.

Screenwriters? Yeah, they’re paid fantastic money–if the script is actually bought. If the script is actually put into production. But that money still pales in comparison to what the glamorous puppets, the director and various executives get. Why?

Because there’s always another asshole willing to do it cheaper, if not for free.

I remember being at a GDC lecture a few years back and sure enough, another voice in the crowd tried to plead his case that doing work for free was a great way to build experience, connections and credibility. Sure, if you’re doing an indie project where everyone is involved from the ground floor and sharing the success equally. But that’s the exception more than the rule. The majority of projects involve someone paying to get their goods produced. As long as someone is willing to do it for half of minimum wage or less, those producers will always have the upper hand and arts as an industry, whether it’s music, vfx or whatever, will continue to evolve backwards into a sort of hobbyist profession.

I have no idea how to solve the problem. I’m back in school studying Business Marketing in hopes of getting a little more business sense into my game. But I don’t think that’s going to allow me to charge more for my creative services when I’m finished. Right now it seems more like backup skills in the job market as I wrestle with the growing truth that even if I score the ultimate, high paying audio or writing gig it doesn’t mean anything for the long term. There’s always going to be someone else in the wings hoping to cut me out of the loop, offering the same thing for cheaper.

Solve that problem and we might get closer to that respect instead of further away from it.

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Bracing for the latest kick to the chops by Blue Shield, as my rates are set to increase by another $30 bucks a month starting in March. That will bring my monthly premium to around $260 a month, which I know to many is a drop in the bucket compared to many who see their rates jump hundreds a month. Not to mention this is still cheaper than I would be paying had I stayed with the criminals at Anthem Blue Cross, which I’m guessing would have been in the neighborhood of $400+ a month…with a $5000 deductible–a curious figure when you read the fine print and discover that there’s A LOT of flexibility as to what charges go towards the deductible. Found that out when I got my kidney stone from hell a few years back…$2500 deductible and I still owed over $4000 because when it comes to ER visits they only pay a percentage of this and that. The deductible…that only applies to other medical visits hazily defined.

So I’m watching The Daily Show this morning and the guest is this guy named Steven Brill. He just wrote this killer piece for Time Magazine where he gets into an area of this debate rarely covered; WHY are medical bills so expensive??? He was angry that the health care debate a few years back was mainly focused on how to pay for it without tackling that former question. And why is it so confusing trying to understand why you’re being charged.

I remember reading the five or so bills I got for my kidney stone…one was for $63, another for $400, another for $3200. I look at the back pages and find confusing medical code, look back at the front again and see the bigger number I was “supposed” to be charged, along with some sort of bull discount followed by another adjustment required by Blue Shield. It’s a wildly complex display of smoke & mirrors that I’m just expected to pay without question

Just this one quote (I’m sort of paraphrasing) on The Daily Show got me fired up: “The ambulance industry takes in more money than Hollywood.” A quick ambulance visit of four miles can easily reach $1000. Bizarre that this isn’t questioned–or perhaps regulated.

I’ve read a good chunk of the Time article and it’s a quality read.

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Dude…SERIOUS man crush on Victor Wooten! No…that didn’t come out right. SERIOUS love for his playing (though I’ve never met the man… πŸ˜‰ ) He’s got this killer instructional video where he gets all serious about groove & stuff. There’s this one freakishly brilliant chapter where he talks about getting in tune with the groove that you’re locked in no matter when the beat starts, stops or slows down. Here’s the video.

Badass! Say it out loud–I did.

Lots of ya have drum loops via your drum machine, ProTools, Logic, Garageband. So you don’t need what I’m offering here. But I know lots of ya (including my students) who don’t use any of that stuff–it’s all about the practicing. So I made this simple mp3 to help practice Victor’s concept. The first minute is a four measure drum loop at 95 BPM. The second minute is the same loop except I removed every fourth measure. Next minute I removed the last two measures. Next minute, the last three measures. Then the final minute is simply the first beat of the first measure.

It’s up to you to find the grooves. You’ll notice some rhythms are pretty easy to keep your place in, while some really force you to concentrate. Then you get to Victor’s idea of improvising the embellishments to the groove and you’ve got your work cut out for you! But my opinion is to always work on the simplest stuff first, let natural boredom guide you to the more fancy riffs.

Extreme time mp3.

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This is for the advanced beginner or intermediate players out there. So all you cats comfortable with diatonic harmony can spare me the rants about how easy this is. Besides, you sould be practicing right now!

I often get the student questions about how to play in a particular key or how to make your chord progressions more interesting. They know a bunch of bar chords, maybe even dabbled in the ones with the fancy names like 9ths, 11ths and 13ths. But bouncing around the shapes randomly doesn’t satisfy, so how do you lasso the chords into something decent? Tricky question to the less experienced, compounded by the experience level of the player and how much music theory they have under their belt. But to get the ball rolling I’m going to start with a straightforward outline that will get you making the music first. Then you can tackle other questions later with your teacher…or give ME a call if you’re in Marin County and could use a few more lessons. πŸ˜‰

Let’s focus on the key of C Major. You’re pretty much restricting yourself to the following chords (for starters):

I = C major

ii = D minor

iii = E minor

IV = F major

V = G major

vi = A minor

vii = B diminished

That’s it. If you restrict yourself to playing just those chords anywhere on the neck you’ll be playing in the key of C and it will sound pretty smooth as you switch them around. Get to work, you’re done here.

Or perhaps you’ve come back wondering why things are better than you started, but not quite what you were hoping. Going from B diminished to F major doesn’t cut it for your ears or whatever. Over the years (or more likely the centuries) certain progressions in a key have become so popular to certain styles of music that they’re practically rules of engagement. Arguably the most popular progressions in a key are…

I-IV-V (C-F-G in the key of C). The vast majority of blues uses these changes, not to mention a significant chunk of most of styles of music.

ii-V-I (Dm-G-C in key of C). A HUGE part of jazz, though quite useful in other styles too.

What’s that…you haven’t dealt with Roman Numerals since the second grade??? Then welcome them back, as you’re going to find them useful in music theory. Ya see, it’s a pain in the butt to talk about chord changes with your band in terms of all the chord names. “We’re going C major, D major and G major in the verses, then we’re going to switch to B major, E major and F# major in the bridge.” The brain doesn’t like that, so we’ll typically say, “I-IV-V in C for the verses, then I-IV-V in B for the bridge.” Assuming you’re comfortable doing this in all keys, such a direction is pretty easy to absorb.

What’s that…you’re sick of playing just major and minor chords? Well hey, I never said you were restricted to them! I, IV and V are always major-TYPE chords, so you can start putting those major 7 and major 9 chords to use as substitutes. ii, iii and vi are reserved for minor-TYPE chords, which means minor 7ths and such will also give you the variety you seek.

The V chord is also cool because it’s often (ALWAYS to many players) reserved for dominant 7th chords and other chords in the dominant family. So you’ve got one more option to play with.

Oh, but there are some many other options, so many things to try, rules to break! All in due time. I gotta get some practice time in myself… πŸ˜‰

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