Monday, July 27, 2009

Practice and Drills

Lead GuitarImage by Charlie Antonio via Flickr

As of today, my next jam session is scheduled for Thursday evening in Willow Street PA. Thus far only myself, and our bass player have confirmed that we will be attending. Hopefully we can finally get this thing going, and try to turn this thing into something resembling a band.

I know that I need to show up with a solid game plan, so we don't waste time standing around and looking at each other and saying "okay, what do we do now?". I am actually going to go so far as putting a few bullet points on a note card so we can have a clear agenda. Hopefully, I can get the other guys to buy into my game plan.

First off, I actually want to avoid writing songs during practice until we become tight as a band. Everyone already has some material they have already been working on anyway, so we can spend some time teaching each other those songs and riffs. Also, I eventually want to agree on a practice time where we can get together for at least 2 hours every week. I also want to see if everyone is one the same page with our goals. Personally, my ultimate goal is to quit my day job and tour.

If I can't get everyone on the same page, I will just have to keep my involvement limited to occasional casual jam sessions, so I can allocate my time and resources elsewhere. I hope that is not the case, but I am not going to try to push my dreams on other people who don't really share the same goals. In the meantime, I am just continuing my practice routine by myself at home.

As of tonight, I am starting a program of drilling with scales, modes, and arpeggios. Right now, I have a guitar exercise book that uses 25 different scales and 25 arpeggios. This includes 5 major scale positions, and 5 each of natural minor, melodic minor ascending form, melodic minor descending form, and harmonic minor. The arpeggios include 5 patterns each of major, minor, dominant seventh, minor seventh, and major seventh chords. I realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg in a sense, but this should give me plenty to work on for a while. I want to memorize and become fluent with all of these pasterns, and then practice applying them in various real life situations, so they all eventually come naturally to me.

I have definitely been getting into a rut when it comes to composing lead guitar melodies, and I think these exercises will help alleviate this problem. My goal is to break the monotony caused by only knowing a couple scale positions, and not really knowing how to effectively apply my knowledge of most of the scales I do know. I will let you know how this goes.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Week Without Band Practice

Ibanez bass guitarImage by ♫axime via Flickr

Band practice on Saturday got cancelled because my bass player, who was going to be providing the practice space, had to work. I am still having trouble getting everyone together at one place and time for practice. I am not to worried about it at this point though.

Ounce I have all the money I need to provide my own practice space, transportation, and equipment, then I will really start buckling down. At that point I want to set up a steady practice schedule that everyone must commit to if they want to be in the band. It's just not time for that yet. I don't realistically expect people to re-arrange there lives to accommodate a project that has gone no where thus far. It would just be nice if we could get some where.

So tomorrow it is back to my day job. I am going to have to take a look at my schedule and my bass player's schedule, and try to co-ordinate a practice yet again. Hopefully this time I will have better results.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another Day Off

Dara Single Songwriter @ Open Mike night Legal...Image by The Bazddha via Flickr

Part of me feels like I didn't get enough done today, even though I was able to finish a couple loads of laundry before hosting game night. I guess it is just because I didn't work on any music, which is a rarity for me lately. I also never got around to calling some people I have been meaning to call.

I will probably still pick up the guitar for a few minutes here before I go to bed, so I guess it's not a total loss. Yesterday, I had a fun practice. Instead of my usual drills and video lessons, I just picked up my guitar and jammed, playing whatever I felt like playing. I feel like you need to do this every once in a while. After all, this is why we really play the guitar isn't it? To have fun. It is good to take the chops I have been working so hard on, and just let loose and have fun. Grab my processor, and dial up some effects I don't usually use. This is also a great way to help break a song writing rut too. I came up with some really fun stuff last night that I can't wait to record. I will probably record this one riff tonight before I go to bed.

As for the people I was meaning to call, well, it's to late for that now, that will have to wait. Maybe I will just send out a couple of texts. Well, times a wasting, time to go pick up my guitar.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First Attempts at Recording

Image representing Fedora as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Late last night, after I made my last blog post, I started toying around with some recording software on my computer. My options are a little bit different from most people since I am running Fedora 10, which is a Linux distro. For some reason the new Fedora 11 won't work on my computer. The graphics are always blurry no matter what I do, so I am stuck with 10 until I get a new computer, at which point I will probably switch to a Linux distro catering specificly to recording, with Ubuntu Studio being the lead candidate at the moment.

Anyway, the goal of this recording is not to produce tracks for commercial distribution, it is just meant to be a song writing aid for myself, so I can record riffs that I come up with, without forgetting them. Later, I can go back and add to them, and put them together in order to make songs. This will also help me with writing lyrics, because I have an easier time coming up with lyrics that fit the music I am working on while I am actually listening to the music play, but not physically playing the instruments myself. This allows my full attention to be focused on lyric writing, rather than instrumentals, like it usually is.

My equipment is very limited and my budget is non existent at this point, so I have to take what I have and make it work. My most recent attempt at this involves playing my guitar through my Didgitech RP 90 modelling guitar processor, while using an eight inch Radio Shack stereo audio cable that I had lying around to connect the headphone jack on the processor to the mic input jack on my old Dell laptop. It is a Dell Latitude C640 with mobile Intel Pentium 4 2.2G processor and 1G of RAM, as well as an 80G hard drive. It just uses what ever sound and video came on-board with that chip set. The guitar is a Korean Squire Stratocaster, probably from the 80's.

It took me over an hour just to get my input set up correctly so that I could actually record. Ounce I finally got this in order, I toyed around with a couple different recording programs. First I tried Audacity, which I have had trouble with in the past, and continued to have the same troubles with on this attempt. No matter what I do, and believe me, I followed all the procedures I could find on their Wiki, and elsewhere, the program would always lag and skip to one extant or another. So next I tried Ardour DAW, which I had also had troubles with in the past, but this time it ran incredibly smooth. My sound quality is still pretty crappy, which isn't at all surprising considering the equipment I am using, but I think If I work with it some more I can improve on this a bit.

My next goal will be to figure out how to make some audio clips and post them on this blog for anyone who cares to follow my progress.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Song Writing vs. Guitar Playing

Guitar riffImage by RcktManIL via Flickr

I really want to get back into the habit of writing songs, rather than just working on my guitar playing chops. I am a bit divided on this issue however, because song writing, just like guitar playing, requires time, practice and study. Perhaps even more so.

I have been a bit reluctant to do anything that takes time away from drilling with scales, progressions and riffs on the guitar, or studying general music theory. However, I don't want to become one of those guys that can play guitar, but cant write songs.

I have to find a balance. I also have to become comfortable with the fact that I will never be as good as I want to be on guitar. I just have to keep learning, keep improving little by little, and make time for working on lyrics and trying to come up with simple catchy songs.

It helps writing with other people, that way I can show up at band practice with a riff or an idea, and other people can expand on it. Collaborating with my band mates is one of my favourite things about working with original music. At some point though, I would like to be able to show up with more than just a few incomplete riffs.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Upcoming Band Practice

The last time I posted on here, I started some long rant about my life in music. I am not going to continue that just yet, but if anybody is really interested, just let me know, and I will get back to it. For now, I would like to talk about my plans for the next few weeks with my band.

We haven't been able to get any practice time in lately do to everybody's crazy scheduals, and although this has been a bit frustrating, it is understandable at this point. We are just getting started, and I don't have any paying gigs lined up yet, so I don't expect everyone to just drop everything for band practice. If all goes according to plan, the two Pauls and I should be getting together this Saturday though. Unfortunately, Joshua can't make it because he has a gig in Cape May, New Jersey this weekend.

My plan is to get Paul Baker caught up on the songs that Paul Lambert and I have already worked on, and then show both Pauls the new riffs I have been working on since we last met, and jam on those for a while. If we still have any time left, we can start expanding on some of those riffs and work towards making complete songs out of them. I would also like to get a little free jam in there as well.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]