More notes on Music

When we last checked in, we had come to the conclusion that the two “winners,” Spotify and Amazon, were the two services I kept subscriptions to. Both offered excellent coverage, deep catalogs (more on this later), and quality apps for computers and my iPhone (presumably for Android too).

I will admit that I have been listening more to Spotify. Their “Daily Mix,” personalized for my tastes, are outstanding. 6 playlists, that are fresh, and quite appropriate to my preferences. Spot on. Continue reading →

Aryeon: Universe Live

I have mentioned a few times that I am a sucker for ambitious music projects. A few months ago, Amazon Music turned me onto Arjen Lucassen, and then I found his projects, Ayreon. I bought the latest, The Source on vinyl, and holy hell, it was amazing. I bought a few more of the Aryeon project albums (on CD, as the vinyl versions had sold out, and the offered sale versions were for more than $200). Continue reading →

The new king of Streaming – Spotify

Throughout 2015 and into 2016, I was evaluating the streaming music services, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, and Apple. The result of that initial evaluation was that the then new Apple Music plan was the winner. The combination of all my music collection in their cloud, plus the access to their enormous library, and arguably at the time, the best streaming over wifi at home and on cellular data. I ended up keeping Apple, and ditching Spotify, when

Fast forward to today, late 2017. I dropped my Spotify account in early 2016 due to a stretch of unemployment, and grooved on Apple. But lately, I am souring on the Apple ecosystem. Not enough to ditch my Mac and my iPhone, but having experienced iTunes on windows (that is truly a trying experience) I knew I needed an alternative for general use. Continue reading →

Music Appreciation: The Nice

Before Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Keith Emerson was a member of a British band, The Nice.

Having started my Progressive Rock trip in the late 1970’s and really by the fascination of the ELP song Karn Evil #9, 1st Impression, Part 2, that got a lot of airplay. If you click the link, I suspect that you will recognize the song.

After this initial introduction to the rabbit hole of Prog Rock, I chased many of the other big names. Pink Floyd, Camel, Yes, Jethro Tull, and so on. This accelerated when I got my driver’s license and began trekking to Santa Cruz, and the used record stores on Pacific Grove Avenue. My collection grew and grew. Continue reading →

Music Mess

My music collection is a mess. They say that the first step is admitting you have a problem. And boy do I have a problem.

I have nobody to blame but myself.

How did I get here?

I first started collecting music back in high school. Of course, back then, the state of the art was dragging a rock along a jagged groove and then amplifying the signal through loud speakers. But, while that might be the start of my collection, that isn’t the root cause of my chaos today. Continue reading →

If I knew then – Guitar

I was late to learning to play a musical instrument, not being subjugated to lessons when I was a tike, but instead developing a desire to learn when I was in high school. I didn’t really have the funds to pursue this until I graduated, but then I got into playing guitar.

Fast forward 33 years or so, and here I am. Recently, I joined a closed Facebook group called “Everything Guitars”, and I enjoy it, but it seems somewhat harsh. That is a topic for another post, as this one had its genesis in a post on this group that asked: “If you could go back to your just starting out self, what would you say?” Continue reading →

Music, on Vinyl, and cheap sleeves

I am going to admit that I am mostly streaming my music (and I pay for Apple Music and Pandora), so when I come across something I really like, I go out of my way to buy it.

Being an old fart, and having inherited a decent stereo with turntable when my Father in-law passed, I try to buy on vinyl. I know that it isn’t as crisp as a good digital copy, and that in a blind hearing, I probably can’t tell the difference, but I don’t care. I like the tactile feeling of pulling an LP down from the shelf, removing it, putting it on the turntable, using the Discwasher to remove the dust, blowing the dust off the stylus, and dropping the needle on the disc. Continue reading →

Amazon Music – A review

I have in the past blogged extensively around the streaming music services, and my waffling back and forth until I chose my current preferences – Apple Music for the on demand streaming, and Pandora for ‘radio’. Both have a place in my dock, and I don’t mind paying for them.

Along the way, I compared Google Play, Amazon, Spotify (a former winner) as well as the two I settled on.

Amazon’s music offering was not chosen because it had a less than satisfactory web app, and the iOS app was weak. A benefit was access to much free music just due to my Prime subscription, but again, that list and roster kept changing (and it still does). This was before their plan to give access to their whole library “Unlimited Music” (for $7.99 a month – prime subscriber price, or $14.99 for all members of a family). A latecomer, they are entering a crowded market, but have made a solid entry. (Launched on October 12, 2016) Continue reading →

The downside of not playing out

As I continue on my journey to record and capture some of the music in my head, I have come to a realization. Alas, my preponderance of playing solo, and without others, I lack something of the ability to “fit“. This will take some ‘splaining…

When listening to an orchestra, you hear the whole piece together, where all parts fit. From the woodwinds, to the strings, to the percussion, all the musicians have their own part to play. Isolate one instrument, and you might not recognize the piece. But as you add the individual parts back in, you begin to see the thread.

I have long known that writing for an orchestra is an art, and requires more than just musicality, but the ability to spatially separate the instruments, and to visualize (audibleize?) how they will sound together. It is why the greats (Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and on and on) wrote music hundreds of years ago that still captivate and enthrall us today.

But this is much the same with modern music as well. Think of the simple power trio. Cream was Eric Clapton on guitars, Ginger Baker on drums, and Jack Bruce on bass/vocals. The three of them played together perfectly, complementing, and intertwining their masterful musicianship. Each was borderline virtuosic, but balanced each other out, and the net result was kick ass music.

My problem is that I have almost never played with a complete group like that. Sure, I have jammed with a bunch of fellow axe slingers, belting out some simple Dylan or Zeppelin riffs, trading licks and lead lines. Heck, even some original stuff was shared.

But, playing with a solid timekeeper? Not much, except very early on in my journey with an old Heathkit metronome.

Back to recording

It is clear to me that this lack of practicing with a beatmaster is a problem. Laying down a track, and listening to it is getting better (getting around the “blinking red light syndrome”) as I am sounding more how I know I can. But due to my lousy practice regimen, I slow down and speed up during riffs, and as I map it against the measure markers on Garageband, I can see my imperfections.

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have a problem. Or so they say.

Two things are amply clear.

  1. I need to practice more. A lot more. With more structure. I need to work on matching notes to a beat timing, and to become more aware of that.
  2. I need a simple drum machine, or other aid. Yes, I can do the click of a metronome, but something with the ability to accent the start of a measure, or to alert me to the sections of something I am playing is an aid I need.

Fortunately, these are both simple things to address. Well, except for the blood sweat and tears of practicing.

While I have been playing for over 30 years, and at one time was practicing 4-5 hours a day, my diligence has waned, and when I pick up the guitar, my instinct is to play things I know well, and have riffed to for a long time.

I definitely need to expand in to uncomfortable territory to break out of ruts. I need to work on building a composition one track at a time, and to learn to better use the tools at hand.

One last thing: I am clearly not ready to share my work, but I will admit that I am progressing. One day, I will post a song.