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 to 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.

NAMM 2013!

Hi everyone,

NAMM 2013 was a blast!  A highlight for me was meeting the fine folks at Vigier Guitars. Not only are their instruments a real visual work of art but they feel and sound amazing! Even with all the other manufacturers displaying some beautiful instruments, I found myself gravitating back to the Vigier booth. That transparent black 5 string “Passion” bass was calling me ;-). Vigier hosted an event at the Crowne Plaza Anaheim featuring some of their artists such as Bumblefoot, The Aristocrats, Cut the Funk,  Thank You Scientist! Amazing players all around. Great instruments, great people. Looking forward to ordering my Vigier 5 string bass very soon.

Also got to try out some very interesting instruments.  The Pratt 11 and 18 string basses were surprisingly easier to play than they looked.  I had to try the 18 (two octave strings for each fundamental) since I’m a huge fan of the sound of a 12 string bass with the octave strings.  The 11 string really surprised me with its wide yet thin neck.  I think the Novax fanned fret system incorporated to that bass certainly helped in its playability.  I don’t see myself playing either of these basses in LoNero’s music but if inspiration strikes and calls for that many strings, who knows?

Finally I got the chance to try Orange Amplifiers!  After a brief chat with one of the reps I was invited into the demo room.  There was a Fender P-bass available to try out the amps.  The first one I plugged into was the AD200B MKIII head driving the OBC810 cabinet.  I have to confess, I’ve never played through an all tube bass head before.  One word…WOW!  Such a rich bass tone.  The tradeoff for that kind of tone and power is weight.  That head alone is a beast weighing in at around 57 lbs.  Doesn’t sound like much but if you’re touring and loading amps in and out of venues daily it can take a toll.  The rep even said for many this was the kind of amp a lot of guys just leave in the studio 😉  The other amps I tried at Orange were the Terror Bass 1000 hybrid tube/solid state head.  Could definitely hear a difference from the all tube head but still a nice warm tone from a head only weighing 11 lbs.  This head was driving the OBC115 cabinet.  Equally rich tone.  Finally I plugged into the Terror Bass Combo.  It uses the Terror Bass 500 head in a 2×12″ speaker combination.  The speakers are in an “isobaric” configuration which places the second speaker right behind the other both facing forward.  Not sure of all the science behind it but all I can say is tons of power and tone in a compact configuration.  Pair that with another 2×12 and you’ve got a mini monster rig.

After months of emails, I was happy to finally meet our friends at Dunlop.  I love their bass pedals.  Spent some time trying out the MXR bass pedal line.  The MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe has to be the best bass octave pedal I’ve tried hands down.  Check out my good friend Uriah Duffy’s review on this pedal.

Speaking of Uriah 😉 we got to catch up a little while he showed me through the line of TC Electronics bass gear.  First thing I have to say about TC gear, pure genius.  A ton of power and just the right features in a lightweight package.  Options for the rig setup are almost limitless as well.  You can put together the massive stage rig driven by the Blacksmith amp which is surprisingly lighter than it looks. Uriah pulled off the other amp which was sitting on the Blacksmith and said “go ahead”.  I was expecting a 50+ pound amp and lifted it off the cabs with hardly any effort.  If you don’t need the power of the Blacksmith you can take one of the smaller heads like the RH750 or RH450 and put together any combination of cabinets (2×10, 2×12, 1×12, 4×10, etc..)

Samson/Hartke/Zoom had some great products on display. I was looking forward to seeing the new KILO 1000 watt amplifier from Hartke but unfortunately didn’t get to plug in. I was able to spend some time with one of the reps and got some great information about the line as well as where I can take them for a test drive.  Stuart Hamm was there to demo the HyDrive cabinets.  He sounded amazing as always.  The one bass product Zoom had on display was the B3 Bass effects and amp simulator pedal. Exactly the kind of unit I’ve been looking for to record and practice at home.  It has USB for connection to your computer for tweaking amp and effect models, programming patches, and as an audio interface to record direct to your computer with the included Steinberg Sequel LE recording software.

Can’t forget seeing my good friend Rob from Furman Sound.  Always a great time hanging out.

There was much, much more but those were the real highlights for me on this trip to NAMM.  The whole band went this year and everyone had a great time.  We’re looking forward to NAMM 2014!