Retro Notes at SoFA Street Fair

Hi everyone! I’m playing bass with Retro Notes at the SoFA Street Fair in downtown San Jose this Sunday September 29th from 7:30pm to 8:30pm.

Mamma Mia!

Hi everyone. I’m excited to be playing once again for Moreau in their production of Mamma Mia! Something new for this year the band will be on the stage rather than in the pit. Going to be a lot of fun.

IndieGoGo campaign for my first solo album!

Hey everyone!
I’m launching an IndieGoGo campaign for my first solo album. I have several songs almost completely written and more ideas coming. I have so many talented friends of varying genres who I’m looking forward to working with as well. Please check out my campaign and contribute if you can. If you can’t, please share. Thank you!

Oklahoma!

I’ll be playing trombone in the pit for Moreau Catholic’s production of “Oklahoma” later this month. Get your tickets here

Time, it’s not just a magazine.

metronomeLike myself, anyone who has studied music in a high school or college environment has heard something like the title above. In my observation, outside of those environments it doesn’t seem to be discussed much especially with rock musicians.

When I was in college all of my teachers used to say “as musicians, TIME is our greatest asset no matter what your instrument”. As much as we were drilled in theory, tone, technique, reading, etc we were drilled in playing with good “time” even more. Now that doesn’t mean to cause your playing to be “robotic” or “stiff”, just that your time is consistent and doesn’t vaccilate. Playing in time doesn’t mean to be absolutely right on with the metronome either. Depending on the feel you’re going for you may play slightly ahead of the beat to give the groove a sense of anticipation, right on the beat, or slightly behind the beat for a more relaxed feel. For a band to accomplish this together, all need to have a solid sense of awareness of what is happening or at least a consensus of the feel they want to go for.

In an orchestra, there’s no question where the tempo or feel is decided. It’s with the conductor however all need to not only follow the conductor, but also need to be in sync with one another. The section leaders will zone in on each other while others in each section will follow their section leader’s feel, phrasing, and intonation. In a big band or as some refer to it “swing band”, the director may or may not be “conducting”. Often they will count off time and walk away or stand and give cues for key entrances. From that moment all are working together to stay in time and not let the tempo sway too much unless the arrangement calls for it. Most pop music has a solid, non wavering “four on the floor” beat that all are bound to. Now I ask you, what is one common thread in these examples? IT’S NOT JUST THE DRUMMER’S RESPONSIBILITY!! Who is responsible for the time? The answer is EVERYONE. One clinician I remember said time isn’t set by the drummer but that the drummer “colors” the time. More of a reminder of where time is.

Now let’s look at the world of rock music. In this world we tend to put all responsibility for time on the drummer. Blaming the person with the sticks for the time being lost but what happens in those parts of the song when the drummer stops and there is no “click” or beat happening? If you’re a basic trio or quartet and either a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, or vocalist have the break on their own then you have the freedom to let the time sway a little and the rest of the band can follow. In so much of today’s rock, metal, pop, or even country music backing tracks are becoming more and more prominent. In this situation, most likely the drummer has a click and backing tracks in their headphones while the rest of the band plays to them. Again, the drummer stops, there’s a droning keyboard part coming through the PA with no “beat” or “click” and other players in the band need to keep time while the drummer has stopped. Will we still be in time when the drummer comes back in with the click? Now we’re in serious danger of the performance becoming a complete train wreck. This happens much more then most audience members (or even in some cases, band members) realize. Guess what folks, the iPod isn’t going to follow you!

So how do we practice to prevent this from happening? First step is to realize the responsibility for time that every musician carries. Next is when something isn’t quite right, assume that it is YOU first then mentally step back in the music, gain awareness of what is happening and adjust to fix it. In Victor Wooten’s latest video he told his students┬áto not only practice with all beats of the measure in a click, but to reduce the number of clicks. Play with one click per measure, then one every two measures, every four measures, every eight and so on. Let’s see how close you are when you only get one click every eight measures to gauge how solid your time is. Now can you still blame the drummer? Or maybe the metronome is off (yes I’ve heard that one!!)

No matter what your instrument, and yes the “voice” is an instrument as well, work on your time. Even though they may not realize it, your time is the most important thing that will make people want to play with you.

Groove well my friends.

Radial Big Shot i/o mod

After much research looking into A/B input switches I decided on the Radial Big Shot i/o. My purpose is in my pedal setup I want to have my Line6 G50 Wireless plugged in and not have to unplug it when I need to go wired. My solution for this was to plug the wireless into one input and keep the other input available for going wired. The only issue I had with this pedal is the lack of any indicator to show if the mute switch is engaged or which input is currently live.

I stumbled upon an ad on Craigslist for “The Pedal Doctor“. He added a multi color LED and a 9 volt power receptacle. Now it has an indicator for three modes. If your pedals need any work see Matt The Pedal Doctor. Thank you Matt for the great work at a very reasonable price!

Muted = No Light

bigshot muted

Blue light = Input 2

bigshot input2

Red light = Input 1

bigshot2

A tribute to my teacher Frank Sumares

The world has lost a great man. Frank Sumares or our beloved “Unca Funk” as many of his students have known him passed away early this morning. The impact he has left on the music community and on the lives of countless students is immeasurable.

I studied with Frank at Chabot College in Hayward, California for several years in the early/mid nineties. I don’t think there has been a rehearsal or gig since then where I haven’t heard his voice or felt his spirit. He had a way of bringing the best out of his students and refining us not only in our performance, but in the way we conducted ourselves as professionals. Leave your attitude at the door and do your job. All the while driving us to be our best and not settle for “mediocre”. Some say “those who can’t, teach”. Certainly not the case with Frank. He was a working musician who shared his love of music with his students bringing that “real world” experience to the classroom.

When I first started music classes at Chabot I had a different teacher for Music Theory. I struggled and just didn’t “get it”. The following year Frank took over the class and brought a practical aspect to theory. That’s when the light bulb came on and my learning skyrocketed from there. Suddenly it all made sense. So many memories of his classes, rehearsals, concerts, and festivals.

Chabot College used to have a Performing Artist Series where big name artists would come and perform. There was one particular Thursday afternoon during a break in rehearsal Frank asked me “are you busy Saturday? Leslie Uggams is performing. Night Band (Chabot evening jazz band) is backing her and we need a trombone.” I said “sure do you have the music so I can look over it?” He just smiled and said “no you’re playing with the big boys now. You will see the music Saturday afternoon and perform it that night.” I tell that story to anyone I meet who doesn’t want to learn how to read music. That concert is a night I will never forget.

The last time I talked to Frank was at the celebration of his retirement from Chabot College. 25 years! It was at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Ledisi, another Chabot alumn heard of the event and said “anything for Frank”. She flew out and joined us on stage or a few songs. I saw Frank right after we finished our set and he told me “I’ve been following you and you are going to be a star.” Coming from him that meant so much.

So many memories. Frank your spirit will be with us forever. Thank you so much for sharing your special gift. We are all better musicians and human beings because of you.

Harmonics Ep 2 from Betty S. Chou on Vimeo.