Bass Grooves (Book on Learning to Play Bass Guitar)

March 11th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | 1 Comment »

I have quite a few bass tutorial books and Bass Grooves by Ed Friedland is by far my favorite. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is who wants to learn how to play bass guitar.

What I like most about it is that it focuses on the importance of timing and how to play different types of rhythms. This focus (and the helpful information on how to count different types of rhythms) has not only helped my bass guitar playing but it’s really helped my musicianship in general.

The importance of timing cannot be overstated when it comes to musicianship especially because so many people overlook it. There’s a tendency to think it’s all about the chords and/or notes but really if you’re not playing with a good feel (or “groove”) it’s going to sound like crap no matter what chords or notes you’re playing.

I find that too many music tutorial books (and I have a ton) sort of skip out when it comes to timing. Even the books I have on drumming don’t spend enough time on timing and how to count different types of rhythms.

For example; I have a drum book that mentions the common count for straight 16th notes (1-e-and-ah…) but which then introduces triplets with no mention on how to count them. This is an absurd oversight.

But Bass Grooves goes into every different type of rhythm that you are likely to play (including 16th note triplets) and teaches you how to feel the groove internally so that you can play in time.

Of course there’s more to the book then just the timing instruction, there’s also some great examples of many different styles of bass guitar playing (with tabs, a CD to listen to, and thorough instruction.) It doesn’t really go in-depth into any one particular style, but it introduces a lot of them.

If you’re looking into learning to play bass then I think it would be wise to start with this book and once you’ve really mastered it then look for a book on whatever kind of style you are most interested in.

I really like the stuff on timing so much that I almost want to recommend this book to anyone who feels they have any kind of issues with rhythm even if they don’t want to learn to play bass.

And that leads me to one last thing; Rhythm is a skill like any other. You can significantly improve your sense of rhythm with practice. I did a post on “becoming a drum machine” last year that goes into some details on some practices you can get started with now (this is good practice regardless of what instrument or style of music you play.)

Another good basic rhythm practice is “making the metronome disappear.”

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Mixing with an Avantone Mixcube is Like Using a Microscope

March 6th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing | No Comments »

I bought an Avantone Mixcube to use for mono mixing last month and I used it to mix a song for the first time over the weekend.

I had the song mixed to the point where I thought it sounded pretty good on my KRK5s when I decided to flip to mono playback on the Mixcube.

Right off I noticed all kinds of things that I hadn’t noticed when mixing in stereo on the KRK5s. It was like putting my mix under a microscope. At first I was a bit deflated by how terrible my mix sounded in mono on the Mixcube but then I realized this is a good thing, it’s giving me a chance to hear what’s wrong so I can fix it.

There were timing issues between two guitar parts that weren’t really obvious when they were spread left & right but when they were laid on top of each other it was a bit of a mess. I didn’t have time to re-record for this particular project so I used Melodyne‘s quantization to tighten up the timing until it sounded good (but I didn’t push the quantization so far that it sounds robotic.)

I also used EQ more aggressively because I was trying to get the different parts to sit comfortably on top of each other in mono (which is of course much more difficult than when you have the advantage of stereo.)

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I muted a couple of tracks that I realized weren’t adding enough interest to make up for the mess they were adding to the mix.

Once I had it sounding how I wanted on the Mixcube I switched back over the KRK5s and I was instantly blown away by how great my mix sounded. It was a clear improvement over where it was at before. All the parts were clear and it really packed a punch as well.

At this point I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be doing a lot of my mixing in mono. It really does feel like using a microscope to me, it just seems to make it so easy to see (hear) where the problems are and if you know where the problems are, you can correct them.

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Ableton Live 8

February 11th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Ableton Live | No Comments »

I suppose I’m late to this one but I’ve recently purchased Ableton Live 8 and started to learn the program and I’m finding it pretty exciting.

I’ve been using a guide book called Producing Music with Ableton Live to learn the software and I highly recommend it.

When I first got Ableton Live last week I tried to just sort of figure it out on my own as I figured my long experience with other DAWS (REAPER is what I’ve been using over the last few years) would make it a cinch.

But this software is different enough that I really didn’t make that much progress going this route so I decided to get this guidebook and that was a great decision. Last night in two hours using this book I learned about 50 times more than what I did when I just messing around with it for two hours last week.

And the things I’ve been learning are very exciting. I can see why this program is so popular for what it’s meant for. For me electronic music is sort of a side interest but I want to keep my options open and I want to stay up to date with what’s possible.

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Avantone Mixcube for Mono Mixing

February 11th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing | No Comments »

For now I’ve decided to go with buying one Avantone Mixcube and using it for mono mixing. I’ve read a lot of great things about this approach as far as creating mixes that translate (no matter where they are played back.)

I’ve also read some things that are making me question the monitors I have been using (KRK 5s) because of their ported design.

According to what I’ve read in this book I should go with an unported 2.1 system (Blue Sky Media Desk is recommended) and use mono monitoring with an Avantone Mixcube as a secondary monitor system.

Considering how much less expensive it is to go with buying just one Mixcube, I’m going to go that route first and then possibly add the Blue Sky Media Desk 2.1 system later on.

In the meantime I may also try putting socks in the ports of my KRK5s to dampen the bass ringing that is apparently a big problem with comparatively inexpensive ported monitors.

I’ll be sharing my experience with mono mixing (which I’ve never really tried before) and putting a sock in my ports in future posts here.

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Two Sets of Monitors

January 26th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing | No Comments »

Up until now I’ve only used one set of monitors in my studio (the Rokit KRK 5s) and I’ve always ignored the advice to use multiple sets of monitors (partly because I’m not made out of money.)

But recently it’s sort of clicked for me just how important it is to have two sets of monitors, particularly two sets of monitors that are reasonably different from each other.

The idea being that if you can make your mix sound good on both of these sets of monitors then the chance of your mix working just about everywhere in the “real world” seems like it would increase significantly.

I’m considering the Yamaha HS50Ms based on some online recommendations.

I’m also considering getting a single speaker to use for mono monitoring (maybe this one.) Perhaps going back and forth between my KRK5s in stereo and another monitor in mono is the way to go? (I also check my mixes on my ATH M50 headphones.)

I am interested more recommendations on where to go with this. Share yours in the comments. Thanks!

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Wisdom from Jillian Michaels “Ripped in 30”

September 27th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in General | No Comments »

I was following week 2 from the Jillian Michaels “Ripped in 30” DVD with my wife when something Jillian said struck me as being wise. As being something that doesn’t just apply to working out, but also quite directly to music (as well as many other things, I’m sure.)

I’m paraphrasing from memory so this may not be exactly what she said but it was something like this: “If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable then it’s not helping.”

I think this is so true when it comes to improving as a musician. For years when I would play guitar I would just play whatever I already knew, whatever was comfortable and easy. Even though I played guitar quite a bit during this time, I never really improved my playing much at all. I had very little improvement over the course of about 7 or 8 years of playing because I didn’t push myself to learn new skills.

Over the past year or so I’ve been actively trying to improve my skills as a musician and the difference is night & day. Now that I’m practicing daily with guitar lessons that often make me feel “uncomfortable,” instead of just playing around, I become a much better guitarist.

I’ve also been playing guitar more often and for longer periods (I think this is mostly because I find it more enjoyable to play when I can play better) but I think the big difference between now and before is that I’m now actively practicing to improve rather than just playing. It makes all of the difference in the world.

This goes for more than just playing guitar of course. It goes for all musical skills, including songwriting (and drumming: from a background of having never played drums in my life, I’ve become a decent drummer over the course of the last 6 months by practicing about 30 minutes a day on average – by the booksee my post from early March on my new drum set.)

Before, I would “write a song” by just singing whatever came to my head while I was strumming some chords on my guitar. I still sometimes get initial ideas that way. But now I push myself much farther. I study the musical structure of songs I love (and those that I hate – it’s good to know why things don’t work too.) I write down my melodies and try all sorts of variations with them on the piano (which I’ve also learned to play, at a basic level, this year.) I’ve read books about lyrics and lyric writing and study the lyrics of songs I love.

This can be quite hard, quite uncomfortable. But I find myself understanding music at a much deeper level than I ever did before. And I think my songwriting is improving significantly.

Another important point that I think goes hand in hand with this is that everything is difficult at first. No one is born a great guitar player for example. When Jimi Hendrix first picked up a guitar he sounded like crap. Even a skill we think of as being something someone is “born with” like singing is mostly a learned skill. The people who we say are born great singers simply learned to sing at a very young age.

And no, getting better at something hard doesn’t happen overnight. But if you keep at it every day, you will notice a few weeks later that you can do all kinds of things you couldn’t do before. And then a few months later you will barely recognize the blundering fool you were before. It’s an amazing thing!

I know in many ways this is all quite obvious; but I’m sharing it because I know that while it is obvious I somehow didn’t really manage to realize it until about a year ago (you can see the kindling for where I’m at now in this post from July 2010) and I think it may help light a spark under the ass of some other person out there who is going along just doing what’s comfortable with their music. Get better by getting uncomfortable!

Jillian Michaels?

And yes the “Ripped in 30” DVD is pretty good. Yes the target market is clearly females, but the workouts are pretty tough. They kick my ass and I’m a guy in decent shape. And I know that if I do them every day and push myself to the point of being uncomfortable that I will see the same type of positive changes to my body that I’m seeing with my guitar playing and other musical skills.

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The Beach Boys Smile Sessions Box Set

September 4th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in General | No Comments »

As a big fan of The Beach Boys who is very interested in Brian Wilson’s songwriting process (I have this cool book on Wilson’s songwriting) I’m very excited about The Beach Boys Smile Sessions Box Set coming out on November 1.

Not only will it be the first time the 1966 & ’67 original recording for Smile are released in a form something like they were originally intended to be heard but there are also going to be a lot of alternate takes that will hopefully give some interesting insight into how Wilson was writing and arranging his songs during this very creative period.

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Snark Clip-On Tuner

July 18th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear | No Comments »

I just bought my first Snark Clip-On Tuner and I’m extremely impressed with how well it works. It seems like a real improvement over the Intelli tuners I have been using.

It picks up on the note I’m playing much quicker (and doesn’t jump to overtones) and it seems to pick up a wider range as well (picking up low and high notes better.)

Not only that but it’s got a nice extra feature where you can tap out the tempo of whatever you are listening to (and you could even use it as a visual metronome, although I don’t really like doing that.)

You can also flip it over from vibration to mic if you want to. Usually vibration is the way to go but sometimes I like to use mic to see if I can sing a note right on. The mic setting is also useful for tuning certain strange instruments I have that are hard to clip onto.

One more thing: It’s crazy cheap. You can buy it on Amazon for $12. And you can see there I’m not the only one raving about this tuner: It’s currently got a perfect 5 star average customer rating.

Snark Clip On Instrument Tuner

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Ascending Interval Ear Training with Song Associations

March 27th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Music Theory, Musicianship | No Comments »

Melodyne was used to the extreme to get the vocals in tune with the piano. Not only does this make my voice sound robotic, but it also added some strange artifacts to the recording (partly because of how I recorded it.) Hopefully they are not too distracting.

Song Associations Used

White Christmas” for Minor 2nd: “i’m DREAM…”

Frere Jacque” for Major 2nd: “frere-AH…”

Georgia on My Mind” for Minor 3rd: “george-AH…”

Michael Row the Boat Ashore” for Major 3rd: “mic-HAEL…”

Here Comes the Bride” for Perfect 4th: “here COMES…”

The Simpsons Theme” for Tritone: “the SIMP…”

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for Perfect 5th: “twinkle TWINKLE…”

In My Life” (The Beatles) for Minor 6th: first two notes of the guitar riff.

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” for Major 6th: “my BON…”

Star Trek Theme” for Minor 7th: first two notes of melody.

Take On Me” (A-Ha) for Major 7th: “take ON…”

Over the Rainbow” for Octave: “some-WHERE…”

The links take you to YouTube videos of the songs (fast forwarded to the moment in the song where you can hear the interval.)

Learn About EarMaster Pro Ear Training Software.

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Best Free Guitar Lessons

March 24th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Musicianship | No Comments »

Lately I’ve been trying to take my guitar playing to the next level and after trying out quite a few different guitar lessons online (mostly trying out different YouTube channels) I’ve settled on JustinGuitar.com as the best free guitar lessons online (he does sell some advanced lessons too, but he has a ton of really high quality instructional videos available for free.)

I think the thing that really sets these lessons apart is that Justin Sandercoe is such an excellent teacher. He seems to understand (far better than most other YouTube guitar teachers) how to best explain things to someone so that they can pick it up. Too many other guitar “instructors” seem to just be showing off how good they are which is truly obnoxious.

He seems to put in just the right amount of explanation for what he does too. Some other guitar lessons I found online either had way too little explanation (hint: just playing through a song isn’t really teaching it) or way too much incoherent rambling that made me feel like I was wasting my time.

It also doesn’t hurt that his site has a ton of material on it and that his videos are really nicely done (very high picture & sound quality.)

Anyway; I thought this was worth sharing this recommendation for anyone looking for great free guitar lessons online. JustinGuitar.com is definitely worth checking out.

“I Feel Fine”

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