New Shifting Exercise

Was watching this beautiful video earlier & practicing this piece (which I taught myself from the video a while ago):

Anyway, between that & playing Prayer all the time, I was thinking that my upper register on the A string really sucks … so I thought I’d do some practicing, which meant a combination of scales and arpeggios (which I found infinitely more challenging & useful) …

“Scales” are basically practicing 2nds … usually with alternating fingers

Shifting 2nds is fairly easy for me … now shifting 3rds, and shifting 4ths a bit harder …

Right now I was working on same finger shifting (ie 1-1 then 2/3/4) … eventually, working on different finger shifting will be a thing …

My favorite way to practice arpeggios is diatonically … C Eb G  D F Ab  Eb G Bb  etc. taking time on each one to make sure I’ve gotten the shift

The challenge for me is getting a full sound out of the cello without excess tension & getting tired (and of course, accuracy of pitch, along with directness of shift) … not sure I succeeded

One thing I did a decent job of though is shifting by feeling, rather than by sight … I find this much more boring/challenging than watching … but also, ultimately more useful…

Music is the sound between the notes…


Tales From The Road #4 – NERFA Recap

This past weekend was a weekend FULL of awesomeness I have not experienced in a *long* time.

I was up at a folk convention called NERFA, with Eli August & The Abandoned Buildings.

It was like being a little kid in a room full of toys …

Full of musicians jamming everywhere, showcases, cool people, DJs, promoters, great panels, great vendors … it was just non-stop talking, jamming, etc.

I ran into some folks I knew from the NY scene – Allison Tartalia, Anna Dagmar, Carolann Solabello, and Laura Joy (who I met *years* ago at a random gig in Yonkers … the same gig where I first met the guys from The Rose West who were then called Tryptic) … I also ran into the folks from BOBTOWN, who I had met just a week ago & got to meet Madalyn Sklar of GoGirlsMusic … Rob of EA & Rob of ilyAIMY had a bonding moment over Coheed & Cambria

I was playing mostly with Eli August, but also joined Allison Tartalia for an instrumental set, after she came down with laryngitis

There were also a ton of cellists up their with their respective bands … think there were 10 of us in total!! (I did not meet everyone this year, but there is talk of a Collective Cello Jam/Showcase next year!! I *can’t wait* for that!!)

Didn’t take too many pictures at this (Mell of The Abandoned Buildings took some more…) but here’s a few:

The Army of Basses!!

Sleeping Mell

Full band shot taken by ilyAIMY

The sign outside one of the showcases…

Playing some music in the Lobby
Late night Cello Jam – featuring Kristen Jones of ilyAIMY, and Katie Chambers of Victoria Vox
A moment of humor
Robare playing some guitar

General Thoughts/Reflections:
LOTS of people from Philly & NYC area
Met a few folks from Nova Scotia
HARP!! (though we didn’t get to Jam)
The Sound in the Main showcase room was *amazing* … the setup actually had depth to it & was *so clear*
Panels were rather cool
I need to learn more fiddle tunes
We stayed at a Dude Ranch
Cool or interesting Bands:
Rick Drost
Deni Bonet
Rorie Kelly
(Many More…)

Bands with Cello
Eli August & The Abandoned Buildings
Miles to Dayton
Putnam Heights
Victoria Vox
(There’s more too…)

Writing Music

I was rewatching “A Year & A Half In the Life of Metallica” last night …

It’s so interesting watching things multiple times … particularly now that I’ve had the experience of playing frequent gigs & writing songs & have a bit more maturity and self-awareness to go along with it.  I can watch the vids. with more understanding and less romanticisation (while still getting the inspiration from them) … anyway, at one point Kirk & Lars & Jason are talking about the songwriting process & explaining riff tapes … you know, when you’re on tour you record riffs at 3 in the morning or whenever on whatever instrument … (which we now do to cell phones half the time)… It got me thinking about my own writing process…

I tend to write acoustically a lot (usually more as a default than on purpose), and I sort of expect a song to just come out on the spot & be amazing a lot of the time… I end up rejecting a lot of ideas, a lot of riffs … a lot of things that sound “whatever” acoustic sound worlds different & more exciting when you plug in and put some gain on, or fuck with the sound a little bit.  This sort of judgemental approach in early stage writing is really not a good thing … guess how many songs I’ve written like this … wait for it?  None.

What does work though is when I just jam & record & loop and get excited & don’t necessarily expect perfection, but instead follow things where they go … even then I get stuck at times, but that’s how it’s got to work … you just flow first, and then you can be all cerebral and analytical after (at least that’s how it goes for me) …

On top of that, I tend to write best when I’m practicing 3 hours a day & watching vids & listening to cool music & messing around on different instruments … in short, having fun (through working).

It’s good to keep this all in mind … On a not so positive note … My hard drive just died, and I’ve probably lost everything I’ve written for the last year or two (most of it anyway) … back to the chopping board!

FUCK the Internet Radio Fairness Act

(Copied from my Tumblr)
Just read about the Internet Radio Fairness Act, um, allow me to say, FUCK NO!! – this is from the people who are supporting it (you can also read the Summary & Text of the proposed legislation there)
These are the people supporting it:
VERY NOTABLE is the inclusion of Pandora
According to these folks, the IRFA will:
Give consumers more choices and more robust products for listening to the music they love;
Enable artists to earn increasingly more money as Internet radio grows and to better connect with their fans to market their music, merchandise and tours;
Create a sustainable digital marketplace that makes it possible for entrepreneurs to start new services and invest in new, innovative ways to deliver music to the public, and;
Drive higher revenues for the record labels themselves.
point 1 – Give consumers more choices and more robust products??  Consumers have never had so much choice about where/how to get their music … you can listen to almost any music for free at will at any time you want … consumer choice is NOT a problem in the music industry right now
point 2  – Internet Radio is not a bad thing, but more of it is not going to be some magical panacea where artists connect with their fans better.  It will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns (this second sentence is my opinion)
point 3 – There is more and  more Internet Radio everyday … could their profits be higher?  Yes!  Would this be a good thing for them & possibly artists too? Yes!  Is the inability to create new tech  startups a problem in the music industry right now? NO
point 4 – That depends on which version of the bill we’re talking about … Also, it bears the same problems of: Does that money get used in ways that are fair & beneficial to Artists.  Also, what about Independent Artists?
This article is worth reading, and aligns well with my feelings on the Bills:
“Westergren is absolutely correct that it’s unfair that Pandora pays artists while AM/FM radio doesn’t; but that disparity doesn’t mean that everyone should pay artists less. And Westergren’s claim that Pandora cannot afford to pay artists fairly doesn’t add up either. The company just completed a wildly profitable IPO, has an explosive user base, maintains one of the world’s most-recognizable music brands, and remains the industry leader.
Moreover, paying royalties to musicians isn’t stopping new Internet companies from entering the market, as Westergren argues. The Internet radio market has grown 33 percent over the past five years. Westergren suggests that artists would actually earn more if Internet radio stations paid them less, because there would be more Internet radio stations. To me, it sounds more like a clever way for Pandora to make billions in profits by cheating artists out of their fair share of the internet radio revenue pie.   Excuse me for being cynical about that kind of thing – it’s a tough business”

Tales From The Road #3 – What do a Turkish Cafe, A Fantasy Ball & A Cemetery Have In Common?

I decided this past weekend would be a good one to do some touring.  So I grabbed Robare of The Rose West & headed off to Philadelphia to go play at Cafe Fulya.  We left New York around 5 & got to Philly just in time to start playing.  The show ended up being a small, intimate performance full of geeky and improvisational music, as well as some Rose West tunes & even an Eli August cover (that I really hope someone caught on video!!).  Of course, there was also good wine and *amazing* food.  I particularly love the Baklava there!!  This was the first time Rob & I have played as a duo & we decided it worked fairly well & that we should do more!  Favorite moments for me were getting to play a melancholic improvisatory version of Hava Nagilah, and having a passer-by listen to the music from outside and later tell me that my music had relieved her headache!!
After the Fulya show, we drove down to Baltimore to stay with Eli.  Rob & I spent the day doing some light rehearsal and then heading over to Ellicot city to browse the shops (ostensibly to pick up a mask for the gig later)… We found this one place that was just full of everything Fantastical and amazing … the sort of place you could spend hours in & still not be done … full of pirates and fairies and masks and action figures and tapestries and all sorts of things … I picked up a Frog Wizard and Bootstrap Bill to add to my slowly growing collection of these things.  There was also an *amazing* Antique Mall that was so big we didn’t even explore the whole thing!!  We also ran into Brennan (one of the Abandoned Buildings members) at the music store he works at! (completely by accident)
(The Cluttered, but slowly-growing collection of Action Figures)
After the fun shopping was over, we got in a little more rehearsal and headed to the MS Fantasy Ball – one very awesome event.  To start with, any event with an Open Bar & Free Food is off to a really good start.  On top of that, friendly people and good music.  The night started off with Spider Lilies, Followed by Red This Ever.  Then it was Psyche Corp’s turn.  There were some sound issues (not on our part), but we did the  best of it & rocked out & that was that.  Red This Ever saved me by lending me some cables when I discovered that mine had been misplaced (I found them later).  Both they & the folks from Spider Lilies were awesome.  The event was finished up by Danny Blu, who put on a good performance as always.  The MS in front of the Fantasy Ball stands for Multiple Sclerosis – the entire event was a benefit!!
On to sunday, we’d been hearing about this Hurricane all weekend, and we weren’t sure if the Cemetery Potluck was going to happen.  It did in fact still happen – NO HURRICANE STOPS THIS CELLIST!! – and Rob & I brought Eli along to play some tunes.  It was QUITE cold, which made playing a little bit challenging – no matter … I appropriately ended “A World of Drones” with Chopin’s Funeral March (a melody that’s been prominently in my head since the day I discovered Metallica’s S&M), and we alternated between my solo playing, dueling with rob & playing some of Eli’s tunes.  I have to confess, I didn’t pull out my Black No. 1 cover, or my new song based on Ruby Gloom (they just weren’t ready yet) If you’re in the DC area – the Cemetery Potluck is definitely worth checking out (happens once a year, around Halloween).
Dr. Who Medley from the Cemetery Potluck
Feria Cinerum by 2/5s of The Rose West at the Cemetery Potluck
From there, it was hanging out, eaten’ pizza & sharing good music on the (rather peaceful) car ride home.
For those who don’t know – Eli & band (The Abandoned Buildings) are fundraising for our first FULL BAND ALBUM:
Also, I’ve got a  new video up: 

See you on the road!!

Tales From The Subway #1

It’s been months, but I’ve finally started playing in the subways again.  it feels really nice to get back to it.  It’s amazing how much time of day & location really influence the experience.  My overall favorite spot to play so far has been Union Square – I feel like there’s always a great mix of people there who get into the music.

It’s been a bit slower getting back into it, but also, very refreshing … It’s very interesting for me to see how I’ve developed different music over the last year or two, and how I’ve something I did a year or two ago & added a new twist to it… it’s also interesting to see how everything get’s faster & faster the longer I play it (sometimes that’s good … sometimes not so much) … a lot of the time my compositional ideas come from playing in the subway too (I’d say most of them really…)

Take this video: – I do all the same stuff, but now I have the loop station drone under it & I add a middle eastern sounding section influenced by Gladiator to it

The truly great thing about the subway though is the people you run into – the old friends, the kids, the people whose day you made, the people who dance as you walk by, the whackos, everyone…

I hope to be sharing some of *those* stories in the near future!

Practicing & Scale Methods

Was practicing some scale method stuff earlier (Galamian & Yompolsky) and a few things came up:

1.  Not slurring scale practice – many exercises introduce scales and patterns slurring as many notes as possible.  This is initially a good thing, and great for developing long/legato bow control & beautiful tone…

However, it’s also crippling if one doesn’t practice things with separate bows & bowing patterns.

As a rule, I am working on nothing slurred anymore.  This is important for metal specifically, and other styles.

2.  Minimal movement – as always, it’s essential to find the most efficient way to physically do something… this means the least excess motion… eventually, this becomes natural/direct.  It also means minimal excess tension.  When shifting, keep weight down/keep connected to the cello.

3.  Don’t look down!!  I first really encountered this idea while watching a Steven Isserlis masterclass… when you look, you are not listening, and not learning how things feel & you are trapping your face in your cello, which is terrible for audience communication

I wish there was a method oriented around “progressive/alternative styles”… galamian & yompolsky are definitely great though