Saturday, 10 December 2011

TMBG - Lesson 3: A Student's Perspective

Lesson 3 starts with some information on playing with a pick.

Roy gives a rudimentary lesson in the basics of choosing a pick that’s right for you, and the “studio grip” way of holding it. Then he puts the pick in motion with some drills in quarter notes and eighth notes.

He also talks a bit about why it’s even important to know HOW to play with a pick, as opposed to simply using the finger method. If a person is going to be a well-rounded bass player, it’s necessary to have a variety of playing techniques under your belt. If you are planning to become a studio musician, it makes you more useful to bands seeking a bass player. Be as valuable as you can be.

The lesson then progresses into the business of eighth notes. Roy’s simple visual is to tap his foot and count off beats each time his foot hits the floor. 1-2-3-4. These are the quarter notes in 4/4 time. With eighth notes, he has the student say “and” between each foot-tap…in other words, your foot hits the floor on 1-2-3-4, and when you lift your foot between those beats, you say “and” as you count an in-between note. Thus, you get eight! It’s a pretty easy way for beginners to learn how to keep time and understand the structure of these faster notes.

Then it’s a review of whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes as they appear on sheet music, and the use of the tie to create the same sound using the different note values.

Four quarter notes sounds the same as eight eighth notes tied together in pairs, and so on.

As you go through this section, you start asking yourself, “Why do I need to know more than one way to write notes, since they all sound the same to the ear?

You’ll learn why when Roy moves from these simple, straight forward patterns into the more involved dotted notes. It’s at this point in the course when you start to realise the importance of being able to read sheet music. Honing your rhythmic chops on the bass is paramount, but a solid understanding of the fundamentals of what it looks like on paper is going to be the foundation of your ability to play whatever comes your way.

In this section, I slowed down considerably, because reading sheet music is a weak spot for me. Doing the drills for dotted notes is going to take some effort for a novice, especially if you’re following along with the foot-tapping system! But once you learn the feel, and the mathematics of it are in your head, you can go back to the groove of the whole thing…but now, when you play the notes, you can see the sheet music in your head. Nice. This is one of the beautiful things about TMBG. No rush, no pressure. Just do what you can. Confidence comes as you start to grasp each concept in your own way. I call them “Lightbulb Moments” - those weird, special little Aha sparks that go off when you finally “get it” and start to make it your own.

After the foot tapping drills, we are introduced to Jason, one of Roy’s students. This is a great feature of the course. Being introduced to a fellow student and watching him go through his paces makes the TMBG student feel at ease about any clumsiness or confusion they may be experiencing. It’s the real pat on the back in terms of reminding us that we are new at this and that it’s okay to go slowly on our bass journey!

Roy explains and then has Jason play some triads, in major, minor, augmented, and diminished form. It’s a wonderful lesson in learning the variants of the basic triad - the student hears how the entire sound of a piece of music can be enriched through these single-fret changes. Learning triads opens up the fretboard to all sorts of new possibilities, and, if you’re like me, you start hearing familiar songs in your head and get to feeling a bit itchy to get out there and try them.

One thing I did at this point was to start finding my triads all over the fretboard, and then trying the minor, diminished, and augmented variations - then I drew them all up on charts to keep handy as I practiced. I’m a big chart maker. I love posting index cards all over the walls. Everywhere I look is a lesson.

Once Jason leaves, Roy takes us into the Rockin’ Blues tutorial, and you start to get excited, because you know you’ll soon be playing again with the TMBG Band! Get out your pick and get ready! Once again, the band plays once with and without Roy…and you can choose a slow or a faster tempo as you progress.

The last tutorial of the lesson is called “Improv: You Play It.” Not only does this intense little workout give you an opportunity to take your new skills to the studio, but it also encourages you to start thinking about creating your own sounds within the framework. While the TMBG Band lays down the backing track, you can improvise the bassline! The song has kind of a Doors feel to it, and it’s great fun to play.

I spent a lot of time with this improv thing. So many possibilities, so little…um…no…that’s not right. So many possibilities, all the time in the world to make them happen!

Friday, 9 December 2011

TMBG - Lesson 1: A Student's Perspective

When your TMBG course arrives in the mail, strap on your bass and get ready to learn!

When mine first arrived, I spent but a few minutes looking over the packaging before I loaded up the first disc (which contains Lessons 1 and 2) and was right away introduced to Ashley, who described what would be happening in the course.

I was going to be able to play with a real-time band! I was going to be able to practice with looped music that I could play as many times as I needed to get the lesson down, and I'd be learning from a real pro. When she went over Roy's pedigree in music instruction, I felt really good about the journey I would be taking. Wow. A real bass teacher with many years of experience!

It was very exciting. I'd studied some piano way back in school, but this was different. I was here because I chose to be here. This was not a required course for school credit.

Ashley lets you know right off the hop that whether you are an experienced player looking for a refresher course to get your skills back up to snuff, or someone who's never played before, you will be able to learn a lot from TMBG.

Then you meet Roy. He goes over his feelings about the importance of the bass in music and then gives you a nice nudge of encouragement about the importance of practice and commitment to your own love of music and the bass guitar. You'll be as good as you want to be.

The introduction is only a few minutes, and then you go right into it.

Depending on your own experience, Lesson 1 is either a review of the basics or the beginning of your musical journey.

Roy begins with the anatomy of the instrument, how best to hold it and tune it - he then gives some suggestions on the most effective ways to position your fingers on the neck and strings.

The first thing I noticed was that I was answering him through the TV screen. "Okay, I got it," I'd say to his instructions. That's how intimate it felt. Just student and teacher. Like private lessons in my own home!

After the basics of the instrument itself, it’s some warm-up lessons with the metronome to get the feel of the mechanics of sounding notes. You follow Roy's instructions with the fretboard diagram. When you play along with Roy, and hear the same notes coming from your bass as from his, there's already a sense of accomplishment and success.

The next part of the lesson is the musical alphabet and some of the basic terminology that you will be using frequently. Roy takes you through exercises and starts having you call out the letters/notes on the fretboard.

What's great about Lesson 1 if you are a beginner is that even though you start out with the most basic principles, Roy has you making music right out of the box. If you are a returning bass player, the gratification is knowing that you probably haven't lost as much knowledge as you think you have.

The lesson's about a half an hour and when it's done, you learn about stretches and warm-downs. As the lesson ends, you can go back and try the loops, or watch the lesson again - it's all about working at your own speed.

If you buy the book, this is also a great time to review the material in written form.

Going through TMBG at your own pace really removes a lot of the intimidation a person might feel at starting something like this in a classroom setting. And there's another great aspect. If you take classroom or private lessons, your teacher leaves you at the end of the lesson - with TMBG, your lessons are always available, whether you like practicing first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night.

I'll be updating this feature with my experiences through subsequent lessons.

Ready to learn?  Click on one of the TMBG banners on this page!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

TMBG - Lesson 2: A Student's Perspective

Roy starts off Lesson 2 by having the student do some warm-ups from Lesson 1. This puts you in the mind of where you left off and gives you a chance to relax and get your fingers going. When you start a new lesson by diving head first into new material, it might feel daunting to a newbie, so the fact that you get to touch familiar ground - ground on which you have (hopefully) tread with confidence for a while already - you face the new lesson from a zone of comfort. But the warm-up still keeps you thinking because Roy doesn’t call out the note names this time…I think we should know these anyway by Lesson 2. What the student learns here is the importance of limbering up with some basic moves before heading into the guts of the lesson.

After the warm-up, Roy goes into Time Signatures. Nothing too heavy here - just the 4/4 signature. Roy explains the meaning of the signature’s numbers, and then demonstrates how the notes that we play will fit into that signature, based on what we see in our sheet music. Learning to play in time is important for beginner musicians, especially for bassists and drummers, since they will be “holding down the fort” when it comes to driving the song along.

As the student goes through these steps, the excitement builds as you find yourself hearing that great bass beat you want to be playing in your own music! Boom, boom, boom, boom! It’s a feeling. It’s a heartbeat. It’s 4/4 time with quarter notes. This is where the new student is going to start making connections between the thunder and the discipline/structure that lies within. And Roy’s “open string” practice of whole, half and quarter notes has the new student smiling, bobbing his head, in the groove. The new bassist begins to emerge!

After Time Signatures - and hopefully plenty of practice with the available loops - Roy takes us to Key Signatures. This is the part where the student will merge his new understanding of beats and counts with the business of actually choosing the notes to be played. In other words, SCALES. Roy goes through examples of different keys and some light bulbs should be starting to go off in the students' heads as we start to recognise patterns (moveable shapes) on the fretboard.

The other thing we begin to work into our thought process is the Time Signature info from earlier in the lesson. I am playing a C Major scale…but is it whole notes, half, or quarter? Roy takes us through all three of these, and by the time we’re playing quarter note scales, things are really moving along.

It’s important to go very slowly until you are comfortable with moving your fingers and closing frets with clean, non-buzzing skill. Never rush through these practice scales. Use the loops and take your time. I know, I know, it’s tempting to pick up the pace once you can play different key signatures, but keep your eye on the prize - it’s about getting GOOD before getting FAST.

As Roy moves from scales to TRIADS, the lesson broadens out and the student realises this is a real brainful of new material to work on. In fact, you’ve been playing for about half an hour now, and might want to take a break. Whew!

Once you’ve taken your break, Roy is ready to continue. That’s another great thing about TMBG - Roy is ready to teach each and every time you are ready to learn! Pick up your bass, turn on the disc, and there’s Roy, refreshed and ready to guide you on your path!

The bulk of the TRIADS section is practicing I IV V progressions. Spend some time with the loops on this one.

Once you have mastered the triads…you’re done, right? Wrong! Then comes the tutorial for the Keep It Simple Blues practice song. It’s a very basic number that demonstrates the most common pattern in Blues music. Now we’re cookin’ with gas! There are more loops here, too, so you can drill on this until it feels comfortable. TMBG is all about learning at your own pace, and with Lesson 2 being so much more involved than Lesson 1, you’re gonna be glad for the self-paced aspect!

And what’s the reward? What’s the payoff? You get to play your new song with the TMBG band! Get on your feet and play along with Roy and the boys. Tap your feet, bob your head, and lay down the thunder. There are two loops - one to play slowly and the other to pick up the pace. And when you’re ready, Roy will step off stage and let YOU take the lead. Are you ready?

The next tutorial is for A New Key to Jamming. You get to switch up a whole step and run the same tune as Keep It Simple Blues, but with a new set of finger movements to test how well you remember the keys from the earlier part of the lesson. And then it’s back on stage for another gig with the TMBG band.

Lesson 2 is a heavy-duty workout for a beginner. I spent more than a month on this lesson before I was comfortable enough to move on. But it’s after this lesson that a beginner will know if he’s ready to get with the program and head in to deeper waters.

And I’ll tell you something else…when you take what you’ve learned here and apply it to a couple of simple mp3 songs you've been dying to try, the big grin that spreads across your face when thunder comes from your own hands will let you know…you ARE a bass player!

Wii Games

Endless Ocean

Endless Ocean (also called Forever Blue) was the very first game I bought when I got my Wii.

When I was looking at video consoles, I had pretty much decided on the Wii right from the get-go. I had grown up on the Atari 2600 and so on, and the prospect of using another joystick or control pad didn't strike me as something I wanted to continue using. Went with the Wii for its new-fangled blue-tooth unit instead - henceforth to be called the Wii-mote.

Nuff said.

I finally shelled out for the console and got this game along with it. Boy, oh, boy, was I pleased. It's non competitive, non threatening; there are no monsters or traps. You swim and learn about fish. You can go on missions to find things and add them to your treasure collection, or you can just relax on the deck of your boat, the Gabbiano, and listen to the sounds of the sea.

Go inside the cabin of the Gabbiano and receive the emails from Oceanographic organisations that want to hire you to go on missions to take pictures or find artifacts.

The music is beautiful. There are almost no words to describe Hayley Westenra's singing as you swim the depths.

When you encounter fish you haven't "met" yet, you touch them to reveal their information. Each time you see them afterward, touch them again to reveal more new info! And you can feed them, or get the dolphins and whales to sing with your whistle.

Once you make friends with the dolphins or whales, you can teach them to do tricks and take them with you on dives.

There's a sunken pirate ship to explore, coral forests, caves, ancient ruins, lagoon shallows, marine life (penguins, dolphins, otters, birds) - all to enjoy at your leisure!

The game is all about relaxing and enjoying the sea.

If I had any complaints, it would be that the above-water graphics aren't very good. But like most players of this game, I say, "Who Cares?" Once you get underwater, you get the great graphics you need to make the experience all it should be!

Wii Games

We Ski and Snowboard

Wii first came out with a game called WE SKI, or as it was known in European release, FAMILY SKI.

I bought this game and enjoyed it immensely! But as soon as they came out with the improved version, called WE SKI AND SNOWBOARD/FAMILY SKI AND SNOWBOARD, I lost interest in the original.

The new version just runs better. The controls are more responsive, the gameplay is smoother, and the action is out of this world.

You can create your own character, called a Mii, for those not into the Wii thing, or choose from various pre-created characters. Choose outfits, hats, and brand name skis or snowboards. Then you hit the slopes!

You can ski the resort or the mountain, called Mount Angrio. The park is a series of hills and slopes geared to resemble regular ski resorts, with runs ranging from easy to stomach dropping. There is a stunt park, with snow piles, half-pipes, rails, and boxes for the shredders. And there is a monstrous ramp where you can learn aerial tricks and earn points as you advance in skill.

Elsewhere in the resort are scenic, groomed trails for those who just want to relax and travel, forests to test your navigation abilities, and even lookout points where you can stop to admire the scenery! Ski in the daytime, evening, or dead of night, when the trails are lit up with very realistic lamps! The snow crunches and swooshes under your skis, and you can choose music from the extensive soundtrack of tunes!

Mount Angrio is a brutal, untamed wild venue with nail-biting, narrow ledges, ice caves, rocks and slaloms, designed to test your virtual skiing skill.

Whether in the resort or on the mountain, you can choose to play games to earn gear and to unlock secret courses. You can run races against friends or computer characters, take ski or snowboard lessons, participate in scavenger hunts, or go on guided tours with computer characters who will show you around and tell you how the various areas can best be handles.

It's best to take the lessons - the virtual instructor teaches you how to start and stop, how to control your turns and moves, etc.

To participate in lessons, races, tours and games, you just look for labelled characters who stand at various stations at the base of the resort/mountain. As you near a certain character, it will be revealed as to its job - ski instructor, tour guide, a fellow skier who wants to challenge you to a race. Once you click on it, it will reveal what it has to offer, and you either accept it or move on.

In the resort, there are chair lifts and gondola lifts to take you to your chosen starting point. Out on the mountain, it's a helicopter ride! Whether in a lift, gondola, or helicopter, you get a panoramic view of the park as you ride up the slopes. Or if you'd rather just get to it, you can skip the ride and just appear at your starting point.

Once your run is over, you can hit the replay button which will show you a movie of your run, from a variety of camera angles.

To play, you use your wii-mote and the accompanying nunchuk, and you move your hands as if they were ski poles. You steer with turns of the wii-mote/nunchuk, left or right. The buttons on both controllers perform various functions and it is through these buttons that you perform your stunts, jumps, flips, wedelns, etc. Combinations of shaking, jerking, pressing buttons, etc will give you a remarkably invigorating ski or snowboard experience!

You can't die in the game, but if you fall off the mountain ledges into the yawning crevasses, your guy gets renewed back where you were, and you continue on. If you are in a challenge, and you keep failing, the game will reload you past your failure point and just count the challenge as a loss - the idea is that the game doesn't allow you to stall in perpetual limbo if you can't beat a challenge. It allows you to fail and back out of that particular event.

The views as you descend are breathtaking! You really feel as if you are hitting the slopes! The ledge drops make me gasp and reach for something to hold onto!

There is so much to do in this game that you have to go from what I've said and try it yourself. It's good for up to four players - but each player has to have their own wii-mote and nunchuk so a team of skiers or snowboarders can be expensive, accessory-wise. If you're playing alone, you can have a posse of AIs as your team mates. They will follow you on your run. Heh,'s fun to try and lose them on the slopes!

I use a wireless nunchuk, because the corded variety can limit your movement in very elaborate stunts. The wireless nunchuk gets its signal from a dongle attached to the wii-mote and acts exactly as a wired one. Just make sure you get a quality product.

You can also play using the Wii Balance Board, which is a pad-thing that you stand on to move your character. Instead of turning, slipping, and shaking the wii-mote and nunchuk, you stand on the board and actually make the turns and motions with your body, as you would if actually on the slopes.

I have used the balance board a couple of times, but I find I prefer the hand controls. To each his own. some people hate the hand controls, and prefer the more immersive play you get on the balance board.

I'm including some YouTube videos of gameplay and trailers so you can see what's what with WE SKI AND SNOWBOARD, but if you have a Wii, I seriously recommend taking this one home to try for yourself. It is - bar none - the most intense Wii game I have and I enjoy playing it as often as I can!



Wii Games

Wii Music

This is an addictive little game for families to share. You can actually take rudimentary music lessons with it, play along to pre-arranged songs that you can unlock through game achievements, or compose your own tunes and have your onscreen characters play them for you on stage.

First of all, let me get this off my chest. I have never liked the idea of having to EARN the right to unlock game content that you've paid for. Once you buy a game, the entire body of content should be available for you, without all the farting around and hoop-jumping. What if you're not good enough at a game to unlock anything? Then you're stuck not being able to play it beyond Level One or however it's gauged. Or you're going online looking for cheat codes that unlock the content. I bought the game. Just give me the content, please. That doesn't necessarily apply to this game, which is relatively simple to play. That applies to all games people buy. Just quit screwing around and give me what I pay for. So there!

Okay, back to the game. I have two kits of plastic instruments - they can be used by all, but are sized for children. As an adult, you can skip them and just use the wii-mote and nunchuks as needed.

The first kit is called Wii Music Orchestra. The drumsticks are really cool - you do air-drums with them, and the sound made onscreen is based on the standard positioning of a real kit. They are great! The black handled thing on the right is a baton, because you can also be the conductor!

My other set is called Wii Music Concert. It's similar to the Orchestra kit, but has other goodies as well - Maracas and a mini guitar for the kiddies. The pom pom shakers are insane - they allow you to be the cheerleader. When you shake the pom poms, your character cheers and jumps about in support of the band. They're hysterical, if you know how to use them effectively. Heh, heh.

You create your band, give it a name, assign instruments. If you play solo, the other instruments are assigned to the computer. You choose venues, whether an elaborate concert hall or a bucolic grass meadow. You can make recordings of your songs and design album covers. Once saved, the videos are ready to be replayed at any time for friends and family.

I’m not going to give you the whole nine yards in terms of gameplay and such. If you want the detailed poop, check out this WII MUSIC REVIEW. Just a warning - a lot of people badmouth this game. Ignore them. It’s fun. You can even play the bass. YAY!

Anecdotal Larfs

The kids I've played this one with love it - not because of its alleged entry to the world of music, but because of the stupid things you can do with it. Of course, I’m an adult, and I holler with glee at the stupid things you can do with it!

If you want to be a prude, you can play the songs as they were meant to be played, or you open up a little and make it a real party of silliness. For example, (besides a completely out of control cheerleader) if you choose HAND CLAPS as your instrument, your onscreen character is assigned a rather huge set of exaggerated mitts. You know? The kind that could slap the freckles right off of Pippi Longstocking's face.

So, with hands like that, you ask yourself, “Why would anybody waste these meat hooks by clapping along in rhythm to the song? I think I’ll turn my character into a giant-handed slapping machine.”

But back to the normal.

Here is a YouTube video of somebody’s band - they’re doing The Loco-Motion. There are no lyrics, since the game knows only sounds and tones - instead, you get a kind of synthetic humming. Check out the hand-clapping guy. So straight forward, but also very cool. This is the game at its best.

I love this game - it’s corny and slightly this side of lame, but it can be a lot of fun if you go into it with the right spirit. Thinking outside the box really helps with this one.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Butterfly Effect

I've been watching a lot of documentaries on Netflix lately. Here are a few of them.



I'd seen some of them before, but decided to have another look as part of a run-up to this post.

The following are a couple more I've watched recently (docs in a different vein).

I'm probably not going to say anything here that hasn't been pondered by other viewers of these features, but this is my take on the subject.

If I watch a documentary on butterflies, I can be reasonably sure that I won't find a group of humans who will make a counter-documentary against the material in the film. "No, that is NOT how a butterfly uses its pro-legs! That's just what the government wants you to believe!"

I guess the idea is that there are documentaries that rest easily in every viewer's heart as being true. A butterfly starts out as a caterpillar and goes through a metamorphosis to become a butterfly. Pretty irrefutable.

Fact: In the documentary, "Young at Heart," a troop of Senior Citizens travels about the land making music and entertaining audiences. Also pretty believable as true. If 100 people watched the documentary about butterflies and the one about Seniors, I think I can say with reasonable certainty that fistfights or screaming matches would not break out over the hidden truths behind the surface.

But if you go back to the first batch of documentaries, you'll find a different story. OJ Simpson, Myth or Monster? What is the truth? Well, in the case of THIS show, the man was sadly misunderstood; he killed nobody and acted in violence not at all. He is a peace-loving soul who would never be so heinous.

But what about this book?

In this book, OJ Simpson confesses to the crime; he sets it up as a hypothetical scenario. But who would do that concerning the murder of his wife? "I didn't kill her, but if I DID, I would have done it like this..."

When I bought this book, there was a disclaimer on the shelf that gave some big, long-winded explanation that even though the subject matter was considered socially reprehensible, they felt obligated to sell it...being a book store and all. At the bottom of the disclaimer was a note that guaranteed us all that OJ Simpson wasn't making a dime off the sale, and that all the money was going into the kitty of cash owed to the Goldmans based on their victory in the civil case...where it was, um, proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Simpson committed the murders.

So one court said he didn't do it, another said he he does a documentary on Netflix that says he didn't do it, but writes an alleged scenario outlining how he wanted to do it.

Pretty elusive in the reality department, hey?

The point, after all this long-windedness, is that when it comes to documentaries, some things are pretty easy to believe (that butterflies will begin life as caterpillars) and some are not. It depends on your own system of thinking. When someone makes a documentary saying it was very important to go to war with this and that country, there will almost certainly be another documentary made on its heels by a group who says the other documentary is just government propaganda designed to sheepify your thought process. So their documentary goes through all the reasons why you are a mindless sheep if you believe the other documentary, and that the serious thinking man realises that the truth lies in THIS propaganda film...I mean documentary.

War all over again. Everybody fighting for our thought processes. The human brain is the prize, and people go to Documentary War to win hearts and minds. Get the truth, read the facts, listen to MY soundbytes and not theirs. Theirs are taken out of context; mine are not.

Some people just shut it off or change the channel if the slant isn't to their liking. Some stay and watch and then bark off at the screen about how stupid the anchors are. You're a fool if you watch CNN. No, you're a fool if you watch Fox. Glenn Beck. Bill Maher. Michael Moore. Dick Chaney. Oh, wait...sorry...NOBODY believes what HE says.

One of the war documentaries said (paraphrased) that the only things people see on CNN are the technologies, the bombs, the tanks, the weaponry, and that the public doesn't realise that in REAL war, innocent people are dying. Women and children are dying.

Really? Nobody who watches CNN realises that people die in war? Well, you learn something new every day, dontcha?

The documentary then says that if people knew the real truth - that women and children die in war - no country would ever GO to war. Well, isn't that good to know? That pretty much solves everything, doesn't it. Just tell people that women and children die in war.

The other side will tell you, "The women and children deserve to die, because they are all wired with explosives anyway, so it's not so much 'killing' them as 'defusing' them." "They aren't human, they want to murder YOUR women and children, and besides...they're hoarding oil."

I am blessed/cursed with an inner duality that allows me to see everything from both sides. Yes, the women and children are dying, but they are brainwashed terrorists in training. Yes, they are dangerous creatures, but would they be a danger to us if we treated them with respect and invited them over for dinner?"

I despise violence, and would do anything to prevent war, but I understand why it happens. I believe OJ Simpson killed two people, but I understand the villainous nature within some human beings. I feel sorry for him that he has to suffer with his duplicity, but I hope he remains in prison for the rest of his life. And I hope he gets a better deal when he's reincarnated. (Why, yes, I do believe in reincarnation). Hell, I hope we ALL get better deals next time around. I believe each life is a struggle or a test or an assignment...whatever. Just another opinion, blah, blah, blah...

Why do groups need me to believe their viewpoint? Are they having a contest? Does convincing me of a certain viewpoint strengthen its overall validity? Strength in numbers? Do you have to have a petition with a minimum number of signatures before a belief turns into truth? Is it sort of like the difference between one single piranha trying to skeletonise a cow versus a mess of about 50 of the little buggers going after the woebegone creature?

Kinda makes mankind look like nothing more than a herd of wild animals, fighting for control of the planet by accumulating enough believers to swarm over and skeletonise things that stand in their way. Things such as...oh, I don't Me. Us. Them.

I know for a fact that if someone attacked one of my loved ones, I would be capable of killing. It's a hateful scenario to imagine, but it could be done to save someone's life. I could take a baseball bat to the head of a pitbull if it was going after a child. And then I would mourn the loss of the dog and cry at its funeral.

I am an animal. As are we all. Okay, perhaps a more complicated animal than, say, a Monarch butterfly, but if it attacked my young, I would take a can of Raid to it. Wouldn't even think about it.

I don't know if I've wandered off the topic. Maybe I've just watched too many documentaries. ;) I think what I'm trying to do is just yap enough and type enough to cleanse my palate of all the propaganda. Butterfly documentaries have no agenda...well maybe just to show us how metamorphosis occurs. But it's no threat to my value as a human if I choose not to believe this blatantly slanted take on life in a cocoon. Well...

I'll stop now. It's starting to feel like I have an agenda of my own.  (The butterfly effect?)

Bottom line, I believe all of what I see and none of what I see. Must be why I have problems with commitment.

See you on the other side.

Note: Images used in this post remain the properties of their respective owners. I use them only for educational purposes, as defined in the "fair use" definition of copyright laws.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Martin Motnik Invasion

Martin Motnik with Gregg Bissonette - Bass Invader
Album Review
Genre: Rock, Progressive Rock

Though German born bassist Martin Motnik mostly plays live gigs and hires himself out as bassist on other people’s projects, he has released one album of his own. It was recorded back in 2005 and is titled “Bass Invader - Martin Motnik with Gregg Bissonette.” It’s a well-formed combo, with Motnik on bass, the ever versatile Gregg Bissonette on drums, and a few nicely placed guest spots by excitable six-string guitarist, Mattias Eklundh.

Bass Invader is an intense 14-track collection that runs the gauntlet of tonal possibilities; every sound a bass guitar can make comes into play on this album. Most of the songs are originals, written by Motnik, but there are also a few featured remakes, and they are all extremely well thought out and very well performed.

As I put on my headphones, I was treated to a wonderful marriage between the defined, perfected recording technologies of the digital era, and the rich, real sounds of the instruments themselves. For someone like me - a child of the analog age - I am often torn when it comes to the newest computer recording techniques. I worry that the rough-edged reality of music can be lost when washed through a computer that only knows 1s and 0s. The music itself has to be good enough to survive the process and catapult me over the analog hurdles in my mind.

Bass Invaders seems to have done this without much fuss. My toes were tapping, my head was bobbing, and at the end of it all, I found myself ready to recommend it to all lovers of hard rock, progressive rock, Latin rock, and even The Simpsons.

Motnik is the kind of bassist who knows how to draw out each and every sound available from the instrument. He's also wise enough to pair himself up with the finest musicians. As a result, Bass Invader is an evolved, deeply melodic collection of soul moving songs.

Try this one through your headphones. Since Motnik makes use of all the technology available - synthetics, sweeps, pans, etc. - the 3D effect is great and gives your sense of balance a run for the money!

Motnik’s skill shines. Tapping, slapping, plucking, picking, and a seriously impressive use of harmonics - the listener gets a real schooling on the range of sounds available on the bass. As with other albums I’ve reviewed, I enjoy it when sounds are blended and woven into layers that flow into and around each other. No pigeonholes here. Motnik seems to know where the bass is traditionally supposed to be when combined with guitar and drums, and finds as many ways as he can to skirt around that place. In fact, there’s even a sign on the album cover that reassures the listener that all the sounds do indeed come from bass guitars! If you’ve never seen him play, you could be doubting - it’s just that diverse.

But…as I’ve said before, I listen to music as an amateur. I don’t always know the whys and wherefores of the technical stuff and could never slap iron in a showdown with a professional musician. All you gotta do is impress me musically. Does it sound good? Do the passages cause visual images to roil up in my head? Does your music cause the creativity in my own soul to arise? In this case, the answer is...yep.

The Tracks:

Bee On Speed - The opener features a dark, growling bass and great drumwork by Gregg Bissonette. As you might gather from the song title, it’s busy, fast, and hectic, and features a squealing guitar by Mattias Eklundh. That’s the sting!

Delayed - This one is a melodic, sweeping, solo bass number that showcases the computer technology - specifically delay effects (hence the name). Wear a seatbelt when you listen to this one through the ’phones. It’s gonna take a ride through your skull.

Where’s The Referee? - Third up is a heavy, aggressive prog rock song . Motnik sets off the Roya against a six-string ESH Sovereign bass. A hockey game? A boxing match? The two seem to compete for control. Great percussion - Gregg Bissonette knows how to keep up, that’s for sure.

Disease - This is a beautiful instrumental remake of the Matchbox 20 song. This time, the Roya meets up with an acoustic Ibanez bass, and there’s no referee required. Maybe my favourite track on the album. Too smooth.

Arizona Sunset - A moody driving tune. To me, it sounds like something that would go well in a Quentin Tarantino flick. Solo Roya with harmonics. More tasty drumming by Bissonette. I love the subtle underplay in this song. Each layer of bass is exactly where it needs to be. Not a single extraneous note. So precise that you don’t even notice.

Don’t Forget To Floss - Imagine a bass played along with the vibrations of an electric toothbrush to jangle it all up. Short and sweet. Pure experimentation.

Recepción Con Champán - A real Latin fire starter! Incredible beat. The beautiful Ibanez acoustic bass is featured again. Get up and dance! Increíble! Fantástico!

Vinyl Concerto - Originally recorded by Explorers Club, this is a tasty fifty-eight second sampler with some old fashioned vinyl record noise underneath. Remember the scratchy intro on Colin James’ “Just Came Back”? I enjoy this type of sound.

Stages Of Ages - A soothing, beautiful ballad with some riffs to fill it out. This one features both a fretted and a fretless Roya. Remember when I said that Disease was MAYBE my favourite track? The MAYBE was because this one is fighting my senses for top spot. Soulful and penetrating. And because it’s one of Motnik’s originals, there’s a nice peek into the man’s heart.

Pickpocket Prelude - Another short sampler. Classically influenced. I can see this fugue being played on an organ or harpsichord. Playing it on a bass is the epitome of Motnik’s wide field of vision. Love the ending. A lesson in bass harmonics. Wow.

King Of The Monsters - A beastly good rock piece, this was originally recorded by Racer X. Intense and heavy. On the Sovereign bass again - it chugs along at high speed. Another driving song, maybe this time right off a cliff. Grooving all the way down!

Simpsons Theme - Well, what is there to say? We all pay our respects at the altar, right?

YYZ - He who dares to cover Rush must have his act together. This is prog rock at its best. Three instruments as one. Drums, guitar, and bass moving like a well-oiled machine. Mattias Eklundh rides the wave on lead guitar!

Bee On Weed - The closer. 24 seconds of goodbye…specifically, out the left ear. Heh, heh.

Bass Invader has earned its place in my FAVES collection and Martin Motnik a seat on the throne of musicians who have impressed my amateur ears. I highly recommend it!

Martin's website lists all the places it's available for purchase. Just one note, if you choose to buy it from Martin's website, the order will be processed manually by Martin himself, so if you don't see an immediate download link, as you would on iTunes and the like, it's only because he'll be sending you the link himself. Personal service!

© 2011 CL Seamus for Thunder Row

Time And Tide

Wow, it sure has been a long time since I've posted anything.  Some people might think I fell off the edge of the Earth, but this is not so.  I've simply been bogged down neck deep in the quicksand that is life over fifty.  Sigh, since my accident in the Eighties, I have never been able to regain the energy levels I used to have.  I kept up with my bike riding and roller skating, but then I had two separate injuries doing both of these activities, so I have become quite sedentary due to badly damaged knees.  I am to a point now where I have almost no energy left at all.  I can sit and type at the  computer for extended periods, but most physical activity exhausts me after half an hour or so.

Fortunately, I retain a lot of mental energy, so when I actually do get down to something that requires only brain energy, I can handle it.

It finally happened: I lost my home.  The move itself started this past Summer, when I began the process of packing.  It took me three months to pack, since I had to do it alone.  My place was only some 1000 square feet, and I really don't own very much, but dragging everything out of closets and cupboards for all those months damn near killed me.  My stuff is now in storage, and I have a few bundles of things with me in the basement room where I have been graciously afforded a few months of shelter.

As the exhaustion of moving calms away, I am trying to get back up to speed on a few things - updating my blog and webpage are on that list...hence, I am here now.

I'm also trying to get my novel re-formatted for Kindle.  Nobody is buying it as a book on Amazon, so I might as well try the electronic version.  As well, I've been working on a couple of my newer projects.

One of the things I most enjoy doing is creating content for Thunder Row.  Album reviews, interviews, and other general stuff.  It's fun and keeps things brassy and warm in the gulliver.

I'm going to get caught up with bringing some of the Thunder Row stuff over to the blog and the website.  When renewal time comes, I'm not sure I'll be buying more time with GoDaddy.  Their web design process is slow and unresponsive to a large degree.  It doesn't work with Chrome, only works part of the time with Internet Explorer - it seems to calm down with Firefox...this in itself makes it something that's more fuss than it's worth.  Plus, there is no place on GoDaddy sites for comment boxes, so my friends and visitors cannot leave any remarks, except in the Guestbook.  I might just let the webpage expire and bring everything over to the blog.  Google's blog system allows for pictures and comments - pretty much everything I need.  I paid a lot for the GoDaddy pages, so if I don't renew, it will be an expensive lesson learned, but I have wasted so much time trying to overcome its flaws that it's left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, I guess that's it for my first blog entry since September.  Now I'm off to gather up some stuff from the Row to slide on over!