Everything Music – Rick Beato

Rick Beato has a number of really cool videos on everything that’s music-related posted on Youtube (hence the appropriately named channel title “Everything Music“). You can find videos where he talks things ranging from music theory (such as complex poly-chordal/modal harmony) to studio/recording-related topics.

I think what he says here sums up why all this effort makes this worthwhile.

Starting at the 12:00 mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7SLr5MPkKw&t=12m0s

You can’t describe all of human experience using 4 chords, just like you can’t learn a language using 4 words.

I’m just searching to get the feeling that I had when I was a kid and hearing a Dsus4 resolve to a Dmaj. Now it takes hearing a Cmaj-over-Ab go to Gmaj-over-F#. Six months from now, it may take a cluster resolving to another cluster.

I’m going to keep searching for that feeling, because I think that’s what music is about. It’s about trying to explain the emotional and spiritual condition of human existence.

Reflection: Admiration for my teachers – Ronan and Pat and fond memories attached to “Normalcy Bias”

My teacher, mentor, mastering engineer and friend…

  • I became aware (and now a fan) of Mike Keneally and his work because of Ronan
  • I got into King Crimson because of Ronan, and eventually got me into Stick Men and Adrian Belew
  • Ronan introduced me to Voivod’s music
  • Ronan introduced me to Bozzio Levin Stevens’ music
  • I became aware of Benny Greb because of Ronan
  • Ronan taught me the all fundamentals I need to know in the world of recording from his recording classes and production seminars
  • Ronan mastered all my records, even on earlier songs where I was still trying to find myself as a writer
  • Ronan inspired me to become a better arranger and performer
  • Ronan was always there to help answer questions whenever I got stuck in my work and even offered me a place to stay during my move, in case I ran into trouble with logistics.
  • For the first several years that I had known Ronan, I would learn something new from him every time I met him in person. I might have been casual conversations, but there would always be something to pick up on.

…like a big brother showing me, helping me and teaching me all these things.

When Pat initially agreed to play drums on my record, it was a really emotional moment for me, but things also felt right, once the excitement started to become relatively more…. stable. Pat had known Ronan for years, as they worked together on so many King Crimson ProjeKCt records (i.e., Crimson under a different name, as he calls it). Pat also worked with Ronan on sessions for other artists, and he played drums on Ronan’s solo record too (, which he had been working on for quite some time now). But when I reached out to Pat, it wasn’t based on Ronan’s suggestion (- it was after listening to a Progtopia podcast where Pat said that he’s available for sessions for unknown artists) and I didn’t mention to Pat about “my affiliation” with Ronan initially, since I didn’t want Pat to feel like he was doing it as a favor. I was a bit shy of mentioning it too. But from the moment he agreed, to even now, things still feel right. There’s some sort of comfort – like a family, in a way, because of how everybody was somewhat connected.

Sure, looking back, there are certain things I wish I could have done better on the record, such as the way I mixed the drums sonically and perhaps giving a bit more room for the drum parts to shine. But I had no idea anyone would even be willing to play drums on my tunes, so it wasn’t something I accounted for when I originally wrote the pieces. What I did learn was that it didn’t really matter, because Pat’s background has been in different genres, and progressive rock is one piece (although a large piece) of who he is as a musician. He could make anything sound interesting while serving the song, while being able to experiment with his “traps-and-buttons” (electronic trigger samples and sound effects). Plus, he just genuinely loves music and loves to play – pretty much anything. One occasion I remembered him pointing out, “you’re rushing” – which I did tend to do. It’s something I have learned from, worked on and have gotten a little better at ever since.

I met him twice when I was in Austin for work, just several months after the project. It was around Christmas time and he was gracious enough to take time out of his day to meet me. First meeting was at a local Italian coffee/espresso place. We exchanged hugs and agreed that we had finally met. First comment he made was playing with Crimson in the past at the local church venue across the street, like the Good vs Evil – very amusing. Second thing he said, “So how did you know Ronan Chris Murphy?” (I had told him that Ronan was mastering the record via email several months ago).

The second meeting was at his house, where he was working on several records. He played me parts of the ToPaRaMa record, pointing out parts he and Tobias were playing. There were sections where they were each playing in different time signatures on top of each other… stuff that’s WAY over my head. He then played parts of the Face record, which he had been working with Markus on for several years. (I’ve just learned recently from the MakeWeirdMusic interview that the record’s has been placed on hold and not to be released for now, which is unfortunate…). But most of the time he was comping drums on his Protools setup in his studio for the record he was working on for the solo artist. He’s quite a ninja on it with his speed. “This works” or “This doesn’t work” was what he was explaining. I know it might be obvious to you reading this, but my thoughts were, “He does the same things that mere mortals like me do – experimenting and just trying out different things to see what works!”. He was listening back to the rough demoed programmed drums part sent to him, analyzing what was being played. It was just really fun and very inspiring watching him work.

Of course we geeked out on his monitors, microphones, preamps, and all the recording-related stuff too.

Later on, he showed me his artwork, how he needed to jump through hoops to get things just right. What really got me to realize is that this man really, really cared about his art. It wasn’t just the music. It was the presentation, the mixes. It was about just getting things done the way he wanted it to be done. So much love and details that go into everything – from the smallest unknowns in the world like myself to drumming legends like himself, when it came to art, it was about dedication, loving it and just getting it done.

Pat introduced me to his wonderful beautiful family as well. His sister was talking to him about things she was doing earlier in the day and his daughter was discussing with him about her plans on an event she had going on with her friends, on whether they were going to rent a limo. She saw my vehicle parked outside their home. “Nice ride,” she said. I said thanks, noting that it wasn’t my vehicle, but a rental my employer provided during my stay in Austin. Not long after, Pat needed to head out to pick up his wife and I was actually running late towards my flight too. He suggested me following his car towards a specific intersection so I wouldn’t get lost on my way, and called me when we got there, making sure I knew where to go.

Only a month later, Pat was in Whittier, CA on a double bill with The Aristocrats at the Calprog show. Of course I drove up from San Diego to catch it! The Aristocrats were playing first and he was sitting on the side of the stage, enjoying the show. Yes, like the rest of us. (Pat’s also a friend of Marco Minnemann, and I remember seeing a copy of the Levin Minnemann Rudess debut record at his home studio). When Stick Men came on, watching him groove and “dance” (move) to his playing was such a treat. His joy and smiles while playing were contagious too, because I couldn’t stop smiling myself either. After the show, Pat, along with members of Stick Men, met and greeted the fans in the foyer. Pat saw me and actually recognized me. I couldn’t believe it. Just before that time, my first ever review (on SomethingElse! Reviews) had been released out, which I was ecstatic about. Pat knew of it because I emailed him, super excited, thanking him for helping me out. After the Calprog show, Pat introduced me to his friends and fans that he was talking to, bringing up the record he did with me, mentioning the review. I was moved (and felt a shy about it). Pat didn’t have to do that, but he was so gracious to mention that. As someone who’s never really been comfortable talking about one’s own work in front of other people, this really meant a lot to me.

While primarily working alone (playing all instruments, writing, mixing), outside of drums and mastering, I would imagine it being quite a different experience than working with band members of your own band. I think these are the reasons that all the types of little moments I described above become even more extra special memories, as they really attach to the records I make.

 

Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto Interview on Efekto TV (Mexico TV Station)

Came across this interview with Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto today:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdBDGZGH4Io

Interesting quotes by Pat:

[Interviewer]: Why did you make a huge jump from pop/ pop rock to progressive music, that is a complicate genre?

Well, I don’t quite view it like that. I just view it as music. It’s pop music, jazz music. It’s electronic music, world music, it’s all music. Mr. Mister, Hall & Oats, many, many things I did. Pointer Sisters, The Rembrandts, who had the big TV song – but I still like progressive music. I like arty music, so even as a little boy, I listened to [King] Crimson, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and these bands, so that’s always an underlying influence of who I am as a person.

[Interviewer]: King Crimson, the most important band of progressive rock – you’re like the survivors of that genre.

Yeah, King Crimson is active again now for the last 2 and a half years. Very different band now, 7 people in the band and 3 drummers. So I hope we come to play in Mexico perhaps next year with King Crimson.

[Interviewer]: How can you define the current sound of King Crimson now?

I think King Crimson is its own genre. People say it sounds like King Crimson when they talk about Primus or other bands, so King Crimson is its own genre.

[Interviewer]: Why make [an improvised] song so long, because they last even more than 5 or 20 minutes?

We don’t try to make a song any particular length. When you’re working up a piece of music, the music tells you how long it needs to be. As you rehearse it, you’d go, “This just feels too long,” or “it feels like it needs to go longer.” You just have a feeling as a musician.

Review: “Truefire Steve Vai – Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare”

Steve Vai has a new instructional video out with Truefire called Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare. Unlike most of the guitar instructional videos out there where the videos typically show note-for-note ideas and specific techniques, this series of videos here consist mostly of Vai talking about his philosophies and approaches in both his playing and compositions.

Many of his things he talked about could be found in his interviews online, his Alien Guitar Secrets seminar, (which I also attended several years ago,) especially the philosophical-type of talk. That content were to be found in mostly the first half of the video series. But the videos were done really well in that they are well organized and focused without going off too much to a tangent. While the philosophical topics were interesting, I found the videos in the latter half with him breaking down his songs from his record “Passion and Warfare” to be fantastic. That record, of course was an iconic record, not just in guitar playing, but the compositions, the compositions/arrangements of the songs, the engineering and mixing part of it were all so perfect. For him to go over the songs, pointing out his compositional and arrangement methods for each was unbelievable.

Here are a couple of things that I remembered, off the top of my head.

  • All the different sound effects he used, such as:
    • Slapping strings
    • Blowing into the guitar on the side against the strings and pickups to get a flute sound
    • Sounds created by tapping his finger on the unplugged end of a patch cable going into an amp.
    • Hitting the strings with the whammy bar
    • Scraping sounds
    • Sound coming from detaching a whammy bar
    • Strumming the strings from behind the nut
  • Reverse technique:
    • Writing a composed part
    • Transcribing each note of each instrument backwards
    • Playing and recording through the backward transcription along with a click for each instrument
    • Flipping the tape backwards to there’s a recorded effect but with notes of the original un-reversed composition

He would use these sounds or reverse effects and sometimes they would appear in just really small sections of songs, sometimes even as a backdrop, and sometimes as the main parts.

Other things:

  • Consciously writing a song that don’t have a melody as part of his vision
  • Chord substitutions
  • Call and response
  • Duplets, Triplets, Quintuplets, Septuplet (which he had also gone in depth in the past)
  • Getting familiar with time signatures that are in 13 (based on the Frank Zappa song “Thirteen”) and the phrasing of the time signature.
  • Getting familiar with Septupets (it’s actually quite tricky when the tempo’s fast, getting that picking/strumming technique down and locked in)
  • Taking a groove off a song he loved, tweaked it to his liking, changed the tempo and used it in his own song.
  • Using sampled instruments (back when samples just started to sound good)
  • Not using vibrato (very minimal) in the first verse’s melody of the song, and then playing with exaggerating vibrato in the 2nd verse’s melody for contrast.

Still a lot of material for me left to watch, but it’s been quite fun and inspiring watching all this thus-far.

Transcription for MakeWeirdMusic.com

Screen capture of video by Anthony Garone (MakeWeirdMusic.com), interviewing Teddy Kumpel.

History and Background

I became a fan of MakeWeirdMusic.com ever since I first watched the site’s video interviews with Mike Keneally and Steve Vai. The interviews revolve around the musician’s upbringing, their philosophies in their work – be it compositions or performance, and various interesting things they have done in their careers, (that you may or may not know about,) to get to where they are. If you ever watched the video interviews, you can really tell the amount of dedication and effort that go into each one of them. The interviews are always conducted in a way that the guest is always relaxed and feels comfortable sharing what “makes them tick” in the most honest and detailed manner. The video, lighting, multiple-camera editing/ captures, transcriptions, preparations, logistics and website management that all go into each interview really show the love that site-owner Anthony Garone puts in. (Anthony also interned at Steve Vai’s studio growing up and is quite an awesome composer in his own right.)

From Anthony’s website:

What is “Weird Music?”

“Weird music” doesn’t have to be unenjoyable, but it should be interesting! Radiohead is very popular and very weird. Dirty Loops does virtuosic covers of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears music. Avishai Cohen makes music that even my wife can enjoy. Being “weird” should indicate an effort to go against the grain a little bit and express your individuality.

How I got involved

I reached out to Anthony couple of weeks ago asking if there’s anything I could do to help out. I got to help transcribe the Teddy Kumpel interview, which you can check out here. If you prefer to watch the video, you can find that here too. It was a really fun interview to listen to and there were some really cool quotes. Teddy’s response to the final question where Anthony asks about being “weird” and finding one’s own voice was fantastic.

Hopefully I’ll get to continue to help the site in the future. Anthony’s always looking for more help (be it labor, finance, sponsor support, publicity, or anything else you can think of). So if you enjoy the content as much as I do, reach out to him. But most importantly, please help spread the word about the website!!

 

 

Consulting with Bryan Beller, Part 2

(In case you missed it, you can find part 1 here.)

On the topic of promotion

One thing I mentioned to Bryan was my discomfort about self-promotion. It’s something that I just very much dislike doing, but I wanted to hear his genuine thoughts about it.

Nobody owes you their time.
Nobody owes you a thing.
You’ve got to go get it. Every time.
You’ve got to go out and tell people about you, because nobody’s going to advocate for you more than you are going to advocate for yourself.

If you think that you’re for whatever reason not worthy of shouting from the rooftops about what it is that you’re doing, then that’s what other people are going to think too.

Part of it is crafting materials that you’re proud of.

– Bryan Beller

Other cool clinic/consulting interviews of Beller can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-GY6aY1mKc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr-xVodrpgo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwlYXqKnPyk

Consulting with Bryan Beller, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I scheduled a consulting session with one my favorite musicians, Bryan Beller. Bryan needs no introduction, but he’s played with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mike Keneally, Dethklok and of course his own superhuman band, “The Aristocrats”. He has a solo career too, where his own touring band members are the exact same members as the Mike Keneally Band. I’m a huge fanboy, and always found his bass tones ridiculously amazing. I’m not even really a bass player and I’m a fan. Go figure. While some of the conversation topics shall forever remain private, there are other things that I can share here that may be of interest to folks out there.

On how he got his bass tones from the studio, on the latest Joe Satriani record “Shockwave Supernova”, as well as on his own records (solo, Aristocrats).

For the recent Satriani record, he used the A-Designs REDDI. Distortion came from the Sansamp plugin. The recording chain was decided by the staff, rather than him. There was an AMPEG rig in an isolation room, miced up. DI was duplicated, and SansAmp bass-driver plugin was put on one of them.

On his own records (Aristocrats, Solo), he decides on the recording chains. The signal path is not the same as his live rig. On records, they’re typically DI – one clean DI, one dirty DI, blended together. The dirty DI is done using overdrive pedals.

For the song “Oh No” from The Aristocrats “Culture Clash” album, he used a combination of overdrive/distortion pedals – the Dark Glass Electronics B3K overdrive, and the Dunlop M80 distortion DI together. No mic cabs were used.

On whether the Aristocrats albums were mixed In-The-Box (ITB) or Out-of-The-Box (OTB)

First two albums “The Aristocrats” and “Culture Clash” were completely done ITB – i.e., within protools. The third record “Tres Caballeros” was mixed hybrid – i.e., with both protools and the console. I have always been curious about this because I’ve always really enjoyed the sonics (and the songs) of the 2nd record (“Culture Clash”).

If you’ve watched some of Bryan’s DVD extras for his solo records, you would notice that those albums were all mixed ITB as well (AND sounded awesome).

On how he works through writers block

Time. When forced a deadline, you’re just pushed to write. There was one song that he wrote in 6 hours because of this. But he recommends going away and coming back to it.

“Sometimes you need to live through the life experiences to be able to have something to write about.”

On how he keeps himself from repeating himself when coming up with new parts or contributions (on his own records or records for others).

He doesn’t really think about it like that. He just writes whatever works. The parts would always be like “different children from the same parent”.

This is an interesting answer, because I know Mike Keneally has mentioned publicly that he really puts emphasis into not repeating himself. These are very different approaches from two people that have worked so closely together for 20+ years! Fascinating indeed.

On how he approaches his work differently when it is his own project vs supporting another artists

Doesn’t try to approach anything differently. Some artists might want something a bit more basic, and just to play the song as it was written. It’s just whatever that works to serve the song/songwriter.
It’s usually up to the producer to make the balance. For Aristocrats each member produces his own songs. (Typically, each member contributes 3 songs – and their producing styles are quite different.).

On what piece of work he’s most proud of and why

  • “Love Adrenaline” (which happens to be my favorite song he wrote too). Writing process for that: He had a good idea of where he wanted the song to go, and he just ‘chipped away at it’.
  • “Through the Flower” (Aristocrats).
  • Playing-wise, couple of songs from Keneally’s Sluggo album. “Life’s too Small”
  • Proud of “Smuggler’s Corridor” too.
  • He’s more interested in compositions than anything in his playing.
  • Hopefully his playing makes the song better. Otherwise he feels that he’s doing it wrong.
  • Favorite work of his usually are ones that are the better songs and ones that he has an emotional attachment to.

On how he writes

Yes. He grew up playing piano and his writing always comes from it first. The piano is how he visualizes music.

Bonus tidbits if you’re still reading this:

  • I found out that Bryan went to school with Tobias Ralph from The Crimson Projekct (who also played drums on my record)!
  • Bryan finds my music weird. I was a bit surprised to hear that at first, considering some of his past work he’s done, so I’ll more than gladly take it as a compliment (… even if it wasn’t meant to be one!)!

(Continue to Part 2 here)

Mike Keneally Live at The Alvas Showroom 2016

Last weekend, I went to catch a Mike Keneally show with Gregg Bendian and Doug Lunn.

Watching Mr. Keneally is always a special treat. It was my first time seeing him play a Steinway Grand live. Let me tell you, it was the most beautiful experience I have ever experienced. The sequence of unexpected surprising complex harmony/ note choices, perfect instrument in a great sounding room, amazing touch,… it was as if all planets were aligned for this special moment.

Mike Keneally ended the show with “The Barbarian” by ELP. That was the first time I had ever heard the tune. So badass! Without knowing what it was, I asked him after the show if that final chord he played was a “Tarkus” chord, purposeful played as a tribute to Keith Emerson (who just passed away earlier this year) and he said that whole 2nd half of the tune he played was actually from ELP’s debut record – a tune named “The Barbarian”. He said he started off with his own tune then morphing into the cover. He then agreed that “The Barbarian” is an awesome song with a giddy smile/grin that I’ll never ever, ever forget. 😀 😀 😀 :D. He started off on the Steinway then went over to the the Organ patch off the SV1 and for the explosive cover. Oh, drive level was set to 6 for most tunes. All EQ settings at around 6, with a bit of hall reverb. Yes, I’m such a geek… 😀

Here’s the original tune by ELP (- the first song in this video), in case you had never heard of the tune before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1Robezbkhg

Scott Henderson’s interview on “Tim and Pete’s Guitar Show”

This is a really great episode where Pete Thorn and Tim Pierce interviews Scott Henderson. By the way – Great, great show hosted by two amazing players in their own right. In this episode, Scott Henderson talks about his tone, recording process, pedals, guitars, playing techniques.

Spoiler alert if you’re short on time to watch the full video:

  • He only owns 57s and single-mics his cabinets.
  • He uses different mic placements (in combination of tone controls) for different parts/sections of the song.
  • He would try to use a different distortion pedal/distortion setting from song to song to get a different timbre.
  • He uses different tone control settings for the different pickups – not just to tame the high-end of particular pickups, but so that when switching between bridge and neck, there’s less of a noticeable tonal difference, which suits his tastes better and what he found to be the case in old records he enjoys.
  • In the mix, he would play with low-shelf attenuation at 5K to get rid of the fizziness/brittle high-end, and would also play with boosting 3-5K as needed.
  • In live he uses a wet-dry setup, but the wet (reverb/delay) amp is placed right next to the dry amp, so it’s pretty much mono from distance, and they’re panned mono live. He would have the presence/highs turned down in the wet amp to directly adjust reverb/delays.
  • He goes into detail of how he picks (more side of the pick than the tip of the pick), use of fingers, where he would pick on the guitar, how he uses the whammy, etc.
  • Some of his things he talked about in how other player’s approach are quite fascinating too.

Video here on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko8SrhSXjnU