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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Live recording

My Peach Trio recorded a live soon to be released CD this past Saturday night. We performed as part of the Jazz Masters series at The Old Mill in Toronto. Great audience for the most part with the exception of two really noisy women that came in about half way through our last song. Can't use that one. Jaymz Bee and the Jazz FM jazz safari came by for a set and were a great audience. The jazz safari is something that Jazz FM offers to donors of a certain amount when the station does it's semi annual pledge drives. Jaymz Bee is a popular Toronto personality and DJ at the station and he takes the group of donors on what they call a jazz safari which is basically a pub crawl for jazz lovers. The safari visits about 4 or 5 clubs in a night.

Live recordings are really a crap shoot because there are so many variables, even beyond the actual performance of each musician. Noisy customers, bar staff and drink making noises etc plus the one take aspect of such a recording.
Having said that I am very pleased with it. The band sounds great and Darrel Moen (audio recorder) did an amazing job really capturing the band and the in the moment energy of the music. Mark Dunn (bass) and Dave MacDougall (drums) played there asses off. Looking forward to mixing it with Darrel and releasing it.

I played my Gibson Es 339 through my ZT Lunch Box and it sounded great. The Lunch Box really surprised me how well it recorded. It sounds big and warm. I ran it through a ART reverb mini rack unit and a Boss DDD1 delay pedal and that's it.

Also played with my good friend and great jazz singer Vincent Wolfe today. Nice time. Daytime gigs are always odd but fun.

I've been listening to:

Willie Nelson - It Always Will Be.
I've always loved Willie. A true original and very talented. He is a good guitar player and a good singer and sounds like no one else. He composed "Crazy" and sold it for $50 and a bottle of Jack Daniels rumour has it. Didn't hurt him that's for sure. He has written a lot of big hits and has been an international star for years. This record features Paul Franklin and Dan Dugmore on pedal steel, Brent Mason and Kenny Greenberg on electric guitar, Eddie Bayers and Shannon Forrest on drums, Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf on bass and Matt Rollings on piano among others. Nashville A-team for sure. Willie also plays his old Martin nylon string guitar to great success as usual. Really dig this record and definitely recommend it.

John Scofield - Grace Under Pressure
Big Scofield fan and big Bill Frisell fan and they are both on this record along with Charlie Haden on bass and Joey Baron on drums. There is also great horn writing on this recording and features Randy Brecker on trumpet, Jim Pugh on trombone and John Clark on French Horn. I love that horn combination. This is a great CD and shows why Scofield and Frisell are among the worlds most respected jazz guitarists and are both so unique. Two notes and I know who it is. Great recording!!

That's all for now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pre-fader compression can be your best friend

Busy week teaching. As well as teaching guitar and theory I also teach Pro Tools and the history of music to film at the Toronto Film School. It's a lot of fun especially since it has to do with music.

Here is a recording technique I like to use which I find very helpful. It's called pre-fader compression. Yes the fader is the volume slider on an inline recording console as well as it's digital counterpart but when talking about recording, it has a different meaning. Think of fader as record. If something is pre-fader, it happens before it is recorded and post-fader is after it's been recorded. In Pro Tools and other digital recording/editing software programs the signal comes into the track, recorded if the track is armed and then deals with the plugins on the track before it goes out to the Master fader or speakers. Understanding this is very important because if you are recording on a track and you insert a plugin on that track that effect won't be printed or recorded on that track. It will be post-fader. You will still hear the effect as your track is still going through the plugin but after it's already been recorded. I find if I am going to record a guitar track that might get loud in spots due to strumming or picking hard I use what is called pre-fader compression.

Pre-fader compression means that I am passing my signal through the plugin (compressor) before I record it. I think of it as a little safety net sort of speak. Remember to keep the threshold around 20- to 24ish and the ratio 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. Anymore you will start to hear the compression in your track and you can't remove compression once recorded. The compressor is meant to catch and gently tame any notes that are a bit loud. You want to have the freedom to close your eyes and really play from the heart and not worry about clipping.

Here are the steps to setting this up.

1. Use an Aux track and have your signal coming into this track.
2. Insert a compressor plugin on the Aux track.
3. Have the input of the aux track be the input that your guitar is plugged into ex. input 1
4. Have the output of the Aux track be on a bus ex. bus 1 mono (important to match mono with mono).
5. Have the input of your audio track be the same bus as the bus output on the Aux track.
6. The output of the audio track will be output 1/2 which is the Master Fader and then to your ears.
7. Record Arm your audio track and you're ready to record with the benefit of pre-fader compression.

I've been listening to:

Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West: Stratosphere Boogie:
An amazing record featuring tele great Jimmy Bryant and steel giant Speedy West plus rhythm section. Recorded in LA from 1951 to '56, this is burning instrumental country music. Jimmy Bryant is one of my favourite guitar players and was Leo Fender's Telecaster test driver. Both Leo and his right hand man George Fullerton were looking for guitar players to test out their new guitar and when they found Jimmy Bryant, it became an amazing partnership. Bryant became known as a Tele player rather than just a guitar player and was the first player to play Fender's new solid body. Jimmy Bryant had a lot of bebop in his playing and added a nice flavour to country guitar playing. Buy this record!!

That's all for now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Soloing over I IV V chords properly

Had a nice blues gig this past weekend with my co-lead band Echo and Twang. It's amazing how an attentive enthusiastic crowd really makes you play better. You seem to care more about your playing because I guess you think people actually care.

I have students come to me all the time with questions about how to improvise over chord changes. Big question. I start them out with the minor pentatonic scale over the I - IV - V chords ,which is an easy scale to play on guitar plus one that they are familiar with. They all seem to listen to Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Angus Young etc and they all use that scale to great affect. If you use the minor pentatonic scale (Rt., b3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th) based on the relative minor of the major key you are playing in, the scale will fit over all three chords (I- IV and V). This is a good start as all they have to do is play those five notes and they will all sound pretty good. When they are comfortable with this I take them to the next step.

The next step is adding notes that are in the chord but not in the scale. Let's take the key of C. We would use the A minor pentatonic scale to improvise over the I - IV and V chords. The C chord (I) is made up of C, E and G which are in the A Minor Pentatonic (A, C, D, E, G). The F chord (IV) is made up of an F, A and a C. The root of the IV chord (F) is not in the  A minor pentatonic so you must add it in order to make the chord really sound like it fits. The G chord (V) is made up of a G, B and D. The 3rd (B) is not in the minor pentatonic scale so again you must add it in order to really make the chord fit.

This works in all keys. The IV chord you add the root and the V chord you add the 3rd.

I have been listening to.

Red Garland "Soul Station"
A great jazz record recorded in 1957 at the famous Van Gelder studios in Inglewood New Jersey by Rudy Van Gelder. I love pianist Red Garland's playing. He had such a groove when he played. No superfluous notes, just the one's that are needed and he really swung hard. Red Garland was Mile Davis' pianist from 1955 to 1958 and recorded the famous Smokin', Cookin', Relaxin and Steamin' for the Prestige label. Miles owed the label 4 records but had already recorded Round About Midnight for Columbia but the threat of legal action sent Miles and crew back in the studio to fulfill their obligation to Prestige. The four records were all first takes apparently. Miles even stops the band during Red Garland's piano intro and says "block chords Red". Soul Station features Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Art Taylor on drums, Donald Byrd on trumpet and George Joyner on bass. Buy it if you don't have it!!

Merle Haggard - Greatest Hits
Merle Haggard and the Strangers were part of the Bakersfield sound in the '60s along with Buck Owens and the Buckeroos. Guitarist Roy Nichols was a big part of Haggards sound and was a fantastic guitar player. Merle Haggard sings from the heart and you believe every word he says after all he has seen his fair share of life's hard knocks having spent time in San Quentin. Great country troubadour. Teles rule in Haggard country!

That's all for now!