Thursday, February 13, 2020

For the love of Bass

Working out some bass lines for these
songs back in Summer (see insta post below)
At the time of writing, two songs on which I play bass, yes bass! ..are due out tomorrow, or if you are reading this on or after Valentine's Day 2020, you can enjoy them right now (see videos below!).

Tim Lee is a wonderfully talented songwriter of moving, heartfelt music who I've had the pleasure of sharing stages and recording studios with many times. He knew that I was really getting into bass playing and was kind enough to offer me the chance to perform bass guitar on his to-be-released album 'Tulpa'. 

Back in mid-summer; myself, fellow bassist (and another close collaborator) Rob who is also playing on the album (and, I understand,  made the video for 'Love is Easy', below) joined Tim and producer Glyn from Collossus Productions who are releasing the whole thing, for a recording session which I blogged about here.

In a sense, these songs represent my bass debut, so it's an exciting moment for me, though in reality , I have also recorded a solo album of songs in which bass features very heavily some two summers ago (though this is now on the release back burner for a number of reasons, not least because of the new recording project with The Blue Yellows which is now underway). In fact, so excited have I been about my new favourite toy, the bass guitar, that many of the songs which will be on my next solo album have been written on bass, and are very bass-orientated in terms of groove and rhythm. On the experimental ‘Raflessia Dreams’ I ‘played bass’ on the lower strings of a standard guitar, or did a vocal bass thing, and then EQed it. It seems almost impossible to pick the bass up without coming up without coming up with new grooves. Maybe I'll even get to play bass live some day, who knows?

Anyway, enjoy these two great tracks!

Sunday, February 09, 2020

EP Day 3: Keys to a great sound.

Third time in the studio and time for the band’s “secret weapon” according to a recent review, Em.

Both keyboards and accordion were deployed with keyboard sounds ranging from Grand Piano to a Fender Rhodes sound for use with one song, the plan being to record both the ‘natural’ sound of the keyboard through amp and through the infinitely flexible midi, in the end using ‘just’ the midi was fine,  plus the more breathy tones of the accordion caught with 2 mics (or was it 3 with an additional room mic?) through the air.

Emma made fast work of whipping through the tracks, mostly in one take (some tracks being doubled -up in any case). You couldn’t really meet a calmer, more professionally focused pair of musos than Em or José.

Top work!

Sunday, February 02, 2020

EP Day 2: Rock Out with your Sock Out.

Updated 05/02/2020

Although recording full drums would be the ideal way to start tracking-proper, time restraints and a keenness from all concerned meant we wanted to get on with it and record what we can in the hours available.
Drummer Dave, myself and producer José gathered at a José’s brand new home studio to record percussion and acoustic guitar tracks.
Recording sessions always seem to throw up some quirky moments... Dave found that zip-tying a pair of José’s socks to his mallets perfected the tone on the wash effect he was aiming for on the ride cymbal.
José and Dave discuss the approach.

Add caption

Monday, January 27, 2020

EP Day 1: Pre-production & guide-tracking.

*Post updated on 30/01/2020

Our good friend and talented producer José Arteaga offered to record us an EP. José, who started out as an indie-rock guitarist has spent years composing and producing music for Spanish theatre and film, including award-winning productions.
Last Friday was spent making rough phone-recordings of songs we might want to include. We sent these to José after the session and he had a say in which ones we should go ahead with.

Then, last night José worked through finding just the right tempo for each track, by both using some rehearsal recordings as a guide and working with me on whether playing the tracks like this felt like as if they were 'pushing' or 'dragging'.
So, EP guide-tracks done. Next, time, the whole band may be in.
It all starts here!

Post from producer José.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Top Ten Tips to Conquer Stage Fright for Musicians.

One of the music students I’m helping out is anxious about performing in public, so this has inspired me to come up with some tips that work for me in helping conquer stage fright/performance anxiety:

1. Be prepared in plenty of time before the performance (sound-checked, instrument tuned, amp/lead etc in place. Write a set-list out if one hasn’t been done for you, get familiar with your part of the stage) and allow enough time to relax after all this/before the show. At least half an hour. The preparations themselves will also get rid of some of the anxiety.

2. Before the show spend some time breathing in and out slowly and deeply.

3. Look around the audience, make eye contact with them if you can, and think ‘what’s the worst that can happen ‘?! 

4. Tell yourself that the butterflies in your stomach isn’t nerves, it’s excitement! The mind is an amazing thing and you can talk yourself into this and then realise it’s true!

5. For me (and many others) I like to do a mixture of relaxing and using up physical energy to get rid of nerves. So as well as the deep, slow, breathing you might want to run manically, super-fast for a minute on the spot, or jump up and down. I will often go for a walk outside of a venue for a few mins too for a change of atmosphere. Stretching exercises are also excellent for both relaxation and preparing yourself for the physical rigours of a gig.

6. One of the best things is to have a good laugh before you go on stage, brilliant for getting rid of nerves! You could even contrive a completely ridiculous thing you do with your band-mates before you go on (maybe you’re own band-version of the Haka, but a ridiculous version that will make you fall about laughing)!

7. For some people it helps to mingle with the crowd beforehand  so you realise they are nice, and not the crazed axe murderers who will hate your music that you thought they were.

8. Remember, the audience are on your side. They can’t do what you do and they’re looking forward for the gig to start.

9. Don’t worry about mistakes you will make, all the greatest musicians make mistakes. What to you will be a huge mistake, won’t even be noticed by most people. You won’t draw attention to it, just keep playing, smile to your band-mates as they probably will notice because you’ve rehearsed.. if you’ve got lost in the music you will just join back in when you know where you are.

10. The butterflies get easier to manage with the more gigs you do but remind yourself that all the best live musicians get nervous (or excited!) before a gig. Eric Clapton used to play with his back to the audience a lot in his early days because he was so afraid of everyone looking at him. There’s a top opera singer (can’t remember her name, sorry) who actually throws up before every single show, so hopefully you’ll do better than that. Most great musicians are agreed that if you’re not nervous/excited before a show, it’s time to retire! If you don’t feel those butterflies, it means you don’t care enough!

I hope some of those are of help!
J 😊

If this article interests you, you might also like my post on my battle more generally with social anxiety, here: