“A MOTLEY CREW OF HARDWARE”: TALKING TECH WITH TORNADO WALLACE





Tornados generally have a knack of leaving behind a trail of roof tiles and displaced livestock, but so far Australian producer Tornado Wallace has left behind one of the most varied back catalogues on labels like Beats in Space, LateNightTales, ESP Institute, Second Circle and, just weeks ago, delivered his brilliant first full length LP on Running Back. Originally from Melbourne and part of the Animals Dancing crew (makers of the best music T-shirts in the Southern Hemisphere, two years ago he made the move to Berlin.

Seeming to master any style he chooses, from chugging acid electro, stomping Aussie Bush techno or funk that could have been stolen straight from Prince’s vaults, we set out to find out how he does it. You can also sample some photos of his studio as you read the in-depth interview.

Tornado Wallace – Lonely Planet LP is out now on Running Back and available from Juno. Catch TW at Farr Festival 2017 (13th-15th July).

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Hi Tornado, thanks for the photo of your studio. Let’s get straight to business – how do you do it? Talk us through what we can see.

Well this is my studio in Berlin that I share with Luca Lozano. I moved two years ago from Melbourne where I still have a lot of my favourite bits of gear, but I wanted to start fresh as I was finding myself too dependent on some certain sounds. So I have a motley crew of hardware that all has a particular role in doing the things that I want them to. Everything is wired up to the patch bay which I can then send through mixer channels and then into the RME UFX Fireface where I can have the various sounds coming through split channels in Ableton. All midi-synths are running through a MOTU midi-interface and I use the Sync-Gen to sync the drum boxes with the Ableton clock.

Where is your studio located? Do you go for the home studio, making tracks in your dressing gown over breakfast, or do you have your own separate space where you escape to create?

It’s in a separate space behind a bar about a five minute walk from where I live. There are some other studios in there too.

Have you made any special non-musical touches to make it feel like a productive workspace?

Yes my girlfriend and I found a cool fake plant store at this massive Vietnamese warehouse complex in Lichtenberg, so I bought up on the stuff to help create a vibe. There’s very little sunlight and Lucas and I travel a lot so we can’t be trusted to rear real plants. 

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A lot of your music has an abundance of space, something not going short in Australia. How do you go about that? Is it samples, field recordings, or all original copyright T Wallace magic? 

It all comes down to the mix really. Making sure everything has some space to breathe. Sometimes it takes some discipline to keep something you think is really cool very low in the mix for the sake of the track’s sound. But yeah I’m not one to shy away from any audio resource available to me be it phone recordings, samples, EQing, reverbs/delays etc.

What’s your approach to working with samples? Do you build tracks around them, or add them as a garnish to an existing idea?




Yeah I’ll generally find a little something interesting in a record store or online – a little percussion loop or a pad or effect – and switch on the machines and jam over a four bar loop until there’s something worth expanding on. I’m a massive fan of sampling and usually find, ironically, that it’s the best way to make something sound unique. 

Speaking of samples, you were behind the sensational Aussie bush anthem ‘Kookaburra’. What’s the story behind that one?

I was working on a track with Tom Moore (the other half of Coober Pedy University Band) and it was really taking a lot of work and not really gelling together even though we’d spent hours and hours on it. We decided that it might be fun to try make a ‘tool’ version of the track, so we took out the best bits which was some afro percussion loops, a didgeridoo sample that we lifted off a German made Australian library record that I bought in Amsterdam, and then added a big 909 kick drum underneath it all. It was sounding OK but it was missing something so we thought we’d try add an Australian bird sound. Of course we went straight for the most famous Australian bird sound – the Kookaburra – which we ripped from a Youtube video. The idea was to put it low in the mix and have it be a subtle little addition, but when we dropped it into the project, Ableton had automatically tried to quantize it and it sat very up front in the mix. It was never the plan but it sounded great/stupid/ridiculous so we moved it around a bit and it turned out to be the cherry on the cake. From starting the new project to finishing it took about 2-3 hours.

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You made the jump from Australia to Berlin in the last few years. Have the new surroundings affected the type of music you want to make?  

Only in a way that going through a bit of change like moving to the other side of the world has affected me in terms of personal development and maturity. But I don’t think that the specific surroundings in Berlin have had much of an influence on the sound of my music very much.

RA held an interesting round table about ‘Process vs inspiration’ – where does your inspiration come from in the studio? Do you have a process that you follow? And how do you go about balancing the two? 




I go through phases where I’m really influenced by something and for a few days or a week or something I’ll get really caught up in an idea and experiment with that sound and usually wind up with a few new tracks. But that doesn’t happen too often and usually I follow a loose process like the one I mentioned earlier about finding a weird sample and building ideas around it. It’s a nice way to create something unique when the inspiration just isn’t making itself too aware.

What was your original set up when you first made tracks? Were you a laptop only wizard, or did you go straight for hardware?

I was 15 and I used my school laptop with a demo copy of Fruityloops and Cool Edit Pro I got in a Computer Music magazine. I could move around pretty well on those programs but it wasn’t until years later when I added a bit of hardware that I started making music that I felt was good enough to be heard by other people.

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What was the first serious piece of kit you bought?

I had bought guitars and drumkits and various percussion instruments and effects pedals throughout my teens but the first electronic piece of kit I bought was a microkorg.

Do you fetishise that old sound, or put your faith in new technology? What’s your current split like between software and hardware?

I like technology that has its limits. The problem with some newer technology is that there’s so much you can do with one machine, but it doesn’t necessarily do any one thing particularly well. Developers have realised this along the way though, which is why you now see the main manufacturers remaking older gear that have their limitations and their strengths. I have various bits and bobs in the studio that can do their one thing particularly well, whether it’s the Cruise for it’s strings, the Kurzweil K2000R for it’s digital pads/leads or the Chroma Polaris for analogue SFX and basslines. I use some software for effects but I don’t use VSTs, purely because I like generating sounds with a more tactile approach rather than a belief one sounds better than the other.

What kit do you think is a modern classic? 

I don’t have too many new bits in my studio nor have I played around with many new pieces so I don’t think I can think of one.

Are you always seeking to experiment and develop your studio? If money were no object what would you add?

Yes definitely, there’s always more money that can be spent, mostly on more cables and cv/midi converters and things that make the process a bit smoother rather than anything particularly interesting. But I’m pretty happy with the way things are at the moment. If money were no object I’d probably just get some things I still have in Australia sent over like my Prophet 5 or my Arp Odyssey.

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What impact have some recent changes made in your approach and sounds?

The patchbay is a new addition. And for the first time I can easily patch things through an FX chain without having to muck around for ages. So it’ll be nice to incorporate the Filterbank, Space Echo and DPX into the workflow more easily.




You must have a most treasured bit of equipment. If you had to keep just one piece, what would it be?

Maybe the Matrix 1000 or the 808. They’ve been with me the longest and I’ve used them the most so there’s that sentimentality value as well as both being badass.

The new album is a masterpiece, something not just inside the club walls. A first album is a big step for any artist, but it must be especially hard when it deviates from a club-centric sound you’ve made your name on. What were your sonic intentions with this album and what else were you listening to during its inception?

The LP is a product of several years of working on music for both listening at home and dancing to in a club. Along the way some of the tracks that I didn’t want to previously release started making sense together and the idea of making an album formed and then it was just a matter of finishing it with a couple of extra tracks and some mixing down. So along the way I was listening to lots of different music but I think the most influential on how it ended up were artists that I’ve been listening to over many years, like Dire Straits, Wally Badarou, Daft Punk, Sade, Boards Of Canada.

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How involved was Gerd and Running Back in the creative direction of the album?

Gerd came in late in the picture actually. I had finished the album before I approached him. We had talked about doing things in the past but it hadn’t worked out so this time we were both keen and we had pretty much informally agreed to do the LP before he had listened to the tracks.

The guest vocal with Sui Zhen is a real highlight. Do you take a different approach working with a singer? And do you have more plans to go down that route?

I’ve never really worked with a singer before but I had an idea for this track to be like a wavey, 80s synth pop track, and to really bring that home I felt a vocal was needed. Sui Zhen is a very talented vocalist and can pretty much twist her voice to how it’s needed and for Today we felt like a Nina Hagen/Laurie Anderson sound would be cool. She got the vibe and we had a chat about how it should go with the track and she came up with a really cool lyrical direction and that was that. She recorded it with quite a few variations and I arranged it in the studio. I don’t think it would normally be that cool/easy working with someone, so I’m not in a hurry to try it again (unless is was Sui Zhen again). That and generally I have a habit of listening to mostly instrumental music.

Are you considering performing the album live? What would you bring from the studio to the live set up?

No I’ve got no plans to do a live show any time soon. I’ve heard too many horror stories from other artists. But I also love DJing and that makes more sense for me relating to an audience at the moment.

Beyond the album, what other plans are afoot for the rest of 2017?

Maybe a remix single from the album, and an EP for Animals Dancing, hopefully something from Coober Pedy University Band. Otherwise I’m going to keep the focus on DJing and traveling around with that for the year.



CITY GUIDE: VLADIMIR IVKOVIC PRESENTS DUSSELDORF





Originally hailing from Belgrade, Vladimir Ivkovic not only has the best name in dance music, but is a long-standing and integral part of Dusseldorf’s club scene. Originally getting into selecting through spending time at his father’s venue ‘Sara and Omen’ back in Belgrade, Vladimir has been at home in Dusseldorf for many years now and is a resident at Dusseldorf’s legendary club, Salon des Amateurs; keeping good company alongside Lena Willikens, Jan Schulte and Tolouse Low Trax. Vladimir’s skills don’t stop at DJing however, he also plays a central role in running the labels Offen Music and Loco Dice’s label, Desolat. We’re thrilled to present Vladimir’s own city guide for Dusseldorf, complete with a dark and experimental mix of 100% local music, and an extensive and oft wryly-written guide of what the city had to offer. 

Check out the map above and interview below for Vladimir’s favourite spots, while you listen to a 100% Dusseldorf mix.

 

Favourite place to buy records?

My favourite place to buy records is Hitsville. The store exists since 31 years, and Ralf who owns it today started to work there 25 years ago. So besides friendly service there is lots of knowledge. There is fine balance between new releases and 2nd hand: punk, rock, pop, reggae, kraut, jazz, techno, house… each have their little sections.

Worth mentioning as another store in the city is A&O Medien. There you’ll find mew release on vinyl and CD, music books, DVDs and more.




Slowboy shop and gallery closed recently, but the music department should open soon somewhere. Until then check their online shop.

Favourite live music venue?

There are always nice concerts and performances at Salon des Amateurs. Zakk is cultural centre established in 1977. Place for discussions, spoken word, concerts and more in an old factory building. Loud live music in AK47, Düsseldorf’s punk rock club no.1. Stone is located in a legendary Rattinger Hof. There are concerts and a chance to meet ghosts of exciting times when Rattinger Hof was artist bar or later the place where punk first happened in Germany.

Then there is Tonhalle a concert hall in a beautiful former planetarium built in 1925, home of Düsseldorfer Symphoniker.

Best soundsystem / favourite club?

Salon des Amateurs. Our home and breeding ground for many good things that happened in the last 13 years. Toulouse Low Tracks, Lena Willikens, Jan Schulte, Rearview Radio… you’ll hear them there. Jondo, DJ Normal 4 and the Aiwo posse are never far away. And there are wonderful guest artists.

Then there is Golzheim, proper club where you’ll most likely hear good house and techno.

Best parties in the city?

Salon des Amateurs, Fridays and Saturdays. ‘Desolat im Salon’ on Sundays, when it happens. ‘Music Is’ at Golzheim. There are ‘Something parties‘ in Tanzhaus NRW. There is also Kiesgrube in Neuss. It’s very close to Düsseldorf, and a perfect place for people into some kind of Ibiza techhouse sound and crowd. It takes place on a sunny Sundays from April until September. But when you visit the city it’s always good to ask someone at the Salon, check flyer and poster at Hitsville, talk to people and find out where is something nice happening. And there is annual Open Source Festival with it’s fine diverse program. This year you can attend on 8th of July.

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Best view of the city?

There are few places that offer best view of the city  – depending on what you want to see. Rhine Tower Rheinturm with it’s 240,50 meter is the highest building in the city and obvious choice if you want to spend 9 EUR to get to the top. The terrace of Tonhalle offers a nice view in summer. Sitting on a Rhine wall in front of Fortuna Büdchen can be interesting. There is great view from Skulpturengang of Kunstakademie, which is located in the Altstadt.

Favourite Cafe’s and Restaurants?

There are lots of places, so this is just small personal selection..

Zur Sennhütte, quite small place, friendly staff, great food.  Recent highlights: Rote-Beete-Carpaccio & Semmelknödel mit Wirsing & Trüffel. Check Papella, New Georgian restaurant & Bar. When you’re there, also visit Solobar and check some of their exotic cocktails. Bar Olio, Italian bar / restaurant with tasty food, fine staff and interesting mixture of guests. There are  several good Japanese places around Immermannstr. like Naniwa Sushi or Takumi for probably best Ramen in town. If you’re not into Japanese food, but into toys, street art, caps, and urban wear, pizza and burger you’ll find then at What’s Beef and What’s Pizza. Proper Napoli pizza you’ll find at Di Napoli and more burgers at Feuerstein’s. Simple fresh vegan food for nice prices you’ll find at Butze and simple tasty falafel for unbeatable 2.50 EUR at Falafel ala Kefak – they sell falafel from a trailer located at the front of their future restaurant. Leopold Wagner is 86 and his Poldi, if you’re into authentic Wiener Schnitzel you’ll have quite unique experience there.

Is there somewhere you like going to escape the hustle and bustle and take some time away for yourself?

The best place to escape the city is a walk through Grafenberger Wald, a run around Unterbacher See. There are also kite and surfing opportunities if you travel with your board, maybe a meadow at Volksgarten park. Also you can just go to the Rhine river and walk in the direction of Kaiserswerth.

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Best place to experience something unique to Düsseldorf?

Best place to experience something unique to Düsseldorf is Königsalle also known as Kö. Lots of people of Düsseldorf are proud of their city centre boulevard, mainly for it’s luxury shops. But Kö is also Düsseldorf in a nutshell if you sit somewhere and observe.




First thing you miss after leaving Düsseldorf?

Friends, but they are not things… So maybe this mixture of everything there and not too hectic.

Best place to see another medium other than music?

Düsseldorf offers solid amount of galleries, museums and exhibitions like Kunsthalle, Julia Stoschek Collection, K20, K21, NRW Forum, Black Box cinema in Film Museum. There is also Kiefernstr. with it’s history, former occupied houses and painted fronts.

What are your favourite shops for things other than music?

My favourite shops for other things than music are Walther König and Müller & Bohm book stores. There is Vintage Gallerie Vaseline with it’s objects of virtu . Very close to here is Carlsplatz market with it’s fresh food and gastronomy. Don’t miss falafel at Falafel Haus, but feel free to try everything else like gluten free specials at 100% No Glu or italian food at Casa Cortilla.

What’s your favourite street to walk along and why?

In the right mood and when in doubt, Königsalle.

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Are there any markets in your city worth checking out?

There is the already mentioned Carlsplatz. There are flea markets like P1 at LTU Arena with up to 1000 exhibitors / participants and Radschlägermarkt. They take place once every month from march until autumn. Little record fair takes place at Bürgerhaus Reisholz. Considering the fact that Düsseldorf has something like 2 record stores left, Reisholz is a little music market where you’ll meet local collectors and sellers and practice some digging. Check the dates here. Street Food Thursday at Stahlwerk takes place on every first Thursday of the months begins in April and it’s interesting for it’s local and regional food trucks and mobile kitchen. Worth checking for markets is also Boui Boui Bilk.

Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?

Friendliest most interesting locals to have a chat with can be found at Salon des Amateurs. Other authentic locals are at brewhouses at kiosks.

What’s the best and worst thing about living in Düsseldorf?

Good thing about Düsseldorf is that everything you need is basically around the corner. It’s sorted. Airport is close and you can easily escape the city. Düsseldorf is far from trends and trendy pressure, so that ideas and things have time to develop.

Not so good is Düsseldorf’s very unique pace between slow and stopping. There is lack of free space and most of city’s offerings are quite generic.

Who’s doing good things for Düsseldorf music right now, who you’d like to shout out?

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by talented people and there is so much good happening now. The circle with Salon des Amateurs in it’s centre. There are something like 3 generations of artists that emerged in the last 13 years: from Toulouse Low Trax, Stefan Schneider, Stefan Schwander with all his projects, Lena Willikens (now based in Köln, but who cares), Jan Schulte, Themes For Great Cities, Stabil Elite, Bar, Normal 4 and Aiwo posse, Offen Music. Loco Dice’s Desolat. Marcel Koch for his record finds. There are new kids like Haut & Knochen who are organizing parties and basically doing their thing. There is lots of exchange and that’s definitely the best about the city.




Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? Where and how did you record it, what was the idea behind?

The mix was recorded at home with 2 turntables and one CD player for that one unreleased Gordon Pohl track (that will be released at some point). The idea was to wait until all the useless ideas disappear – like recording Kraftwerk or Propaganda or DAF or Kraut… mix. All that is covered quite well and there is even a glimpse into obscure Düsseldorf tape scene on ‘Elektronische Kassettenmusik, Düsseldorf 1982 – 1989’ released recently on Bureau B – and record something when I’m not really aware of „City Guide“. The mix is a reflection my Düsseldorf the way I play it. Lots of great tracks are missing, but they also fit a different mood than the one I had in those 80 minutes of recording it.

And finally, what’s in the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?

There is Smagghe & Cross’s debut album ‘MA, which will be released on my label Offen Music on 27th of March this year. One 10inch will follow, then a 12inch by Beck, Nash, Reyenga that will close one long circle in my life. I’m really looking forward to it.

There are exciting clubs and festivals ahead: on the 25th of March is Dampfzentrale Bern with Toulouse Low Tracks, 30th Amrch, Listen! in Brussels, 31st March is The Waiting Room London with Ivan Smagghe, 1st April Bunker Turin with Young Marco and so on, 8th April 4 De School for WMMF, 15th April The 20/44 Boat birthday party in Belgrade with Lena Willikens and Ivan Smagghe and I’m looking forward to play b2b with Lena when a bunch of Salon des Amateurs play in Köln at Studio 672 on 30th April.

Tracklist

Maria Zerfall  – Es ist nicht leicht
Toresch – Mojole
Phillip Schulze und Detlef Weinrich – 2015
Neustadt – Neustadt
Der Plan – Leb doch
Toulouse Low Trax – Geo Scan
Toulouse Low Trax – Wooden Words
Toulouse Low Trax – Gang 6
Gordon Pohl – Going (Voxmix)
Francisco Estévez – Phonoson für Flöte, Gitarre, Klavier und elektronische Modulationsgeräte
AI – Anima Itako
Kreidler – Mars Chronicles IV Lo Firer Esplendor
Tolouse Low Trax – Late
The Mogs – Kelly Blame (*ph 606 Inst. Version)




LISTEN TO FATIMA AL QADIRI’S RADIO DOCUMENTARY – THE SOUND OF BOMBS





In her 30 minute radio documentary, as part of the BBC Radio 4’s Seriously series, Fatima Al Qadiri explores the interconnecting parallels in music and warfare. With guest speakers including Kode 9, Matthew Herbert, a former war veteran and game music composer; Al Qadiri touches on the similarities between modern torture and the club experience, the meditative role of warlike game music and how music plays an active role in the moments before combat. Central to documentary however, is Al Qadiri’s own traumatic experience as a child during the occupation of Kuwait, which has and continues to influemce her own music.

Listen here – The Sound Of Bombs.

Source: Seriously – BBC Radio 4



Stratos-Invention Heralds Music Revolution





Over the past eighteen months, trombonist, teacher and bandleader Marcus Reynolds has had his eye on more than sheet music and big band charts. He’s been poring over technical drawings and specifications, in order to develop a simple brainwave into a new training device – a device that could revolutionise the way people learn and develop their brass instrument technique.

THIS IS WHAT SOME OF THE PRO’S ARE SAYING.

“If I’d have had a Stratos before I may not have had to retire so early!”

Terry Lax – Former principal trumpet of the Welsh National Opera (WNO)

“Wow! That was a Eb above Eb! And no mark on my lips so you can’t even tell I’ve been playing”

Stephen Sykes – Trombone soloist, has performed with Black Dyke and the Cory Bands

I believe this to be an invaluable tool for busy educators like myself.

Ld. Chris Jeans – International Trombone Soloist

After only 2 days of trying to play with it on she was making the best sound I had ever heard her make.

“I was so impressed with the result that I have bought one for myself”

Pamela Wedgwood – composer, educator and professional French horn player.

“Since studying with Marcus my range has gone up over an octave (beyond double C), my endurance has increased and my sound is bigger and richer.

Jim Woolley – a trumpet student of Marcus’s

My range has increased from struggling with a top C, which has been blown away with a top F played with consistency and ease. Not bad for a 76 year old!”

John Spruce

“I suddenly found I could hit top notes on top notes!

Ian McKay – a French horn student of Marcus’s

“The STRATOS is teaching me how to play with minimal pressure, and once I had developed my chops to play this way suddenly notes literally went stratospheric!

Marcus has produced a embouchure tool that is sure to revolutionize teaching and practicing brass instruments.

“His patient advice and teaching has helped me at times to produce such a massive tone from the trumpet that I have looked at the instrument in shock and disbelief

James Firmin – a trumpet student of Marcus

I am thrilled with the transformation taking place in my playing through using your STRATOS. My sound is blossoming in the high register (French Horn g2 – g3).
You’ve under promised and over delivered. Thanks a million.

Andrew Joy, Cologne 10thof May, 2013

The STRATOS is a precision-engineered practice-aid adaptable to all brass instruments. lt comes with a DVD that shows you how to easily fit and remove it from your instrument and also how to adapt your embouchure to get the best from your newly-adjusted jaw position.

”If you practice even briefly with the STRATOS in place, its astonishing how quickly your muscle-memory stores the new position. After a little longer going through some of the exercises in the DVD, it becomes second nature. Players develop new muscle

strength in the right places, and instead of exerting unnecessary pressure, you can actually relax into higher notes, and increase the volume without strain “

The development of the STRATOS has been a technical challenge, but a great journey, says Marcus.

“One of the highlights has been the instant reactions of some of my current pupils, trying out prototypes. One trumpet player produced some of her loudest and highest notes even yet with perfect tone and said, simply “lts magic — it’s like all the lessons you’ve taught me coming back all at once”.

It’s astonishing how quickly your muscle-memory stores the new position…it soon becomes second nature.




3 Drumming Tips to Playing with a Click Track





In this video I give you my 3 tips to be able to play along to a click track well!!

I hope you enjoyed the video and gained some useful insight into playing along with a click track!! Thanks for checking it out!!

Make sure you check back next week for another video lesson!!

In the meantime, please sign up for my free program “30 Days to Better Doubles.”

Also check out my website and my YouTube channel for more lessons!!

Stephen Taylor – MU Educator



Altissimo Fingerings for the Saxophone





Most of the time when I am out where other saxophonists can hear me play the question I get most often is how I have such flexibility in the altissimo register. Well aside from the hours I spent developing the range and sound of my altissimo register I think that the fingerings, for me, are the key.

After years of experimenting, these particular fingerings I have found flow easily from note to note and allow the ability to play intervalically. So, I encourage those who wish to learn these notes, start slowly. Beginning in the normal range of the saxophone (high D, E, or F) work up chromatically one note at a time. Get smooth going from the normal range to the altissimo.

Focus on transitioning and maintaining the tone. Pull out your scale exercises and work on playing your scales from within the normal to the altissimo range and when you are comfortable move on to playing entire scales in the altissimo. Once this is working for you, work on the interval studies.

I encourage you to follow this method to become able to play in the altissimo as freely as in the normal range. Above all, do this slowly. It took me nearly 4 years of study to become “fluid” at using the altissimo and I still have some sequences that are difficult to play spontaneously.

If you can get a copy of “The Art of the Saxophone” there are exercises to learn and practice the overtones of the saxophone. Learn and practice this to get a jump ahead on the playing of the altissimo. By the way, I started trying the fingerings in this book but altered them to the ones below which work for me. (All are with octave key.)

 

 

I hope that these charts will help you not only expand your range but expand your mind with new ideas and your heart with new hope for creativity. If you have any altissimo fingerings that work better for you, please share them here at Musicians Unite.

Never let cash money determine your availability. If you have the opportunity to play take it and make it the best gig of your life!!

Have a great week, check out some of the other articles on Musicians Unite and think of ways that you can use the information provided. Spread the word, share the link to us and add your comments below!! Thanks for reading!!

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below or message me on my Facebook page!!

-Frank Valdez – MU Columnist



What Skills Do You Need to Play Jazz Guitar?





A question that came up a lot on one of my previous vlogs on “How to practice” was, “What skills do you need to play jazz guitar??” In this video I am going to try to answer that and open a discussion on what you need to study to learn jazz guitar.

I might have a simpler list of things that you should work on than you expect!!

My attempt at an answer is of course going to be very open. It is impossible to come up with a study plan that will fit everybody (which I am sure you understand). At the same time it’s a good topic to discuss.

It’s not the only way to look at this, so if you have ideas for a different approach then feel free to leave a comment!!

Thanks so much for checking out my weekly lesson at Musicians Unite!! I hope you found it helfpul in finding out what skills you’ll need to play jazz guitar!!

Please check back next week for another lesson, and in the meantime please catch up with me on my website and social media pages!!

Jens Larsen – MU Educator

Jens’ Website
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Music is LIFE – Part I





My wife and I were watching a movie the other day and I caught myself listening to the background music, noticing how it flowed so well with the movie. This got me thinking about how music is everywhere: TV, sporting events, even retail and grocery stores. We use music to mark special events such as birthdays, weddings, and even death. When you really start thinking about how long music has been around, not just in a human cultural aspect, but as a part of life in nature, you can go back not just thousands of years, but millions. Mating calls of the first animals to walk the earth, down to the guttural songs of our oldest Neanderthal ancestors. A single song can transport us back in time to remember a single event or an entire day. Here is part of my musical life journey.

I was born in March 1968. A very influential band in my music career was born the same year, but we’ll get to that later. I don’t remember individual songs of my very early youth, but I do remember my dad listening to his jazz and big band music on a reel to reel. I also remember that my parents bought me a very small record player in pre-school and supported my music development by buying albums of artists that I liked.

Living in Idaho, country music was popular and I remember hearing the music of John Denver and Kenny Rogers on the radio before disco took over. However, I had found my favorite station, which would fade in and out due to living at a distance from it. It was a “rock” station and because of this influence, Aerosmith, The Eagles, KISS, and similar bands made it into my record collection.

In 1977, I saw Star Wars in the theater and like most nine-year-old boys, was blown away. Not only did I get the soundtrack, but also the The Story of Star Wars on record. Thanks to Star Wars, I was introduced to the incomparable John Williams and his compositions. That same year I asked my parents for a mix record of popular rock music. On that record was Foreigner’s Cold as Ice. If I hear that song on the radio today, I’m immediately transported back to my bedroom in 1977 playing air guitar to the solo of that song.

1980 found me in transition. Not only did I move from Idaho to Rhode Island, but my entire music world was changing. I turned 12 years old just before moving and was so completely awe struck by one band that I purchased my first record with my own money. AC/DC’s Back In Black was a pivotal album as both it and the move to RI ushered in a heavier level of music for me as both rock and metal radio stations were more prevalent.

The combination of a new town, new school, and new people left me transitioning from being very popular to being at the bottom. I fell in with a rather tough crew for the rest of my school years. I remember us as the “tough, semi-jock, metal-head crew.” Being in a “tough crew” led to us listening to tough music, laden with tons of heavy guitar, lyrics, and percussion. Judas Priest, Ozzy, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Van Halen became an everyday part of life.




In 1982, I borrowed a bunch of records from an older kid and my life changed forever when I pulled out an album with the words Black Sabbath (also born in 1968) in purple lettering and Master of Reality in black. I put the album on the record player, dropped the needle, and was shaken to the core of my being. Coughing emanated out of the speakers followed by the opening riff of Sweet Leaf. Even though I had some heavy music in my listening repertoire, this was on a whole different level. That day, that song, made me want to play guitar and other than a five-year break in the 2000’s, I have never stopped playing.

Little did I know that that song, and the guitar and amp my mom bought me as a gift (a 1984 Aria Pro II ZZ Deluxe and a Peavey Backstage Plus), would become such important aspects of my life. Around 1984, my world was once again changed when I was listening to the Headbanger’s Ball and heard Creeping Death by Metallica. This experience rounded out my major influences for early guitar playing: Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Metallica with some Ozzy/Randy Rhodes thrown in the mix.

After graduating high school in 1986, I found myself at Navy boot camp just one month later. One of the first things I did when I got to my permanent duty station was to buy a guitar (Yamaha SE250) and a Tom Scholz Rockman headphone amp so I could play on the ship. 1986 also saw the release of Metallica’s Master of Puppets and it is still, to this day, my all-time favorite album from their collection. However, a different influence came out that defined my time in the Navy.

In 1987, during one of my tours in the Persian Gulf, Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction was released…and I hated it, until I started listening to it and it became synonymous with my time in the Navy. In 1988 my ship, among several others, was invited to the Rose Festival in Portland, OR. This is a weeklong event held annually to thank the Navy for their service. The first night the town hosts the Sailor’s Ball. As it would happen, I met a girl named Christy that evening who would become my companion for the entire week. Whenever I hear Cult of Personality by Living Colour, I immediately think of that night and the following week.

In 1990 I helped my shipmate drive home cross-country and we stopped to see Christy, who was attending college in Kansas. We stayed the night, talked old times, and I showed off my new guitar, a 1988 USA Jackson Custom Shop. Once again, I think of this time and this girl and I think of Skid Row’s, I Remember You as our song.

When I got out of the Navy in 1990, I moved back home to RI and began college. Over the next six years of school I was playing guitar constantly, even jamming with people at parties. One of my best friends at the time was a metal head as well and he played a song from a new album that had just come out. My jaw hit the floor as I heard Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power for the first time. This was and still is absolutely awe-inspiring to me.

I graduated in 1996 with a dual B.S. in Geology and Geological Oceanography and soon after, started working at a local job site. In 1997 I got a government job at NOAA in MD as an oceanographer. I also started dating a girl I’ll call G who would become my wife a few years later. As I said earlier, weddings are significant events where music was involved and this one had A LOT of music. The big song for us at the time was Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.

In 2002/3, for various reasons, I put my guitars in their cases and set them in the garage for what I thought would be forever. I had hit a plateau in my playing where I just couldn’t move forward and my job was becoming very demanding, as well as my marriage. 2007 rolled around and a game came out called Rockband. I HAD to have it and told my wife about it repeatedly. One day she got irritated and told me, “You don’t need the damn game. You’ve got three guitars in the garage, USE THEM!” So, I went out, bought a very small practice amp (Vox VT20, awesome) and began learning to play guitar again.

There were major changes in my playing and it took me about a year to get proficient again but I kept with it. Somehow, over the five years of non-playing, my ear had gotten very good at hearing music notes so much so that I could play the song in my head and then play it on guitar. I also began writing my own music and lyrics, even writing an entire concept album of lyrics.

In 2008, a new song came out on the radio and the band caught my ear, even though it was never announced on air who they were. The vocals were a blistering roar and beautiful at the same time and the riff and drums were just plain HEAVY. Finally, a DJ said the name of the band, Slipknot, the song Psychosocial. WOW! That same year Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic was scheduled to be released. It was getting a lot of hype about being very old school and I was hopeful as I went to purchase it the week it was released. Sure enough, it had an old-school vibe and I gave it a thumbs up. As time continued to pass, my music was getting back to its old self but my marriage was on the decline. I would need music more than ever for this next stage.

Next week I’ll continue the story. Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment below!!

-Scott Duncan – MU Columnist

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The Importance of Engaging the Fans





A musician’s sole purpose when they’re on stage is to please the fans they perform for. They accomplish this by playing their chosen instrument on a daily basis, by working hard to perfect their craft in all aspects of what they do musically.

One of the most important aspects of a musician’s job is how to engage the fans. Our band’s approach is to ask what their favorite music and/or band is, and we encourage them to come back next week, and we’ll know how to play whatever style it is they want to hear, or we’ll play a song they request by their favorite band. That is how my band works on engaging the fans.

That lets them know that we as musicians care enough to come off of that stage and ask what they want to hear, and that kind of courtesy leaves a lasting impression, whether you ever see them again or not. The fans are who ultimately pay the bills and are the reason we as musicians get on the stage and play our hearts out every weekend, and we would do it seven days a week if we could.

Just like always, if you practice and are dedicated to the music you play you can accomplish great things musically. Engaging the fans is a must in all genres of music you play regardless of the style. If we can leave our fans feeling like they are a part of our music, we have done right by them, and that is one of the many things that make us the kind of musicians we need to be. A musician’s fans are their livelihood, and without them we wouldn’t be anything more than a glorified garage band.

My advice for any musician would be to engage their fans, to strive to keep them happy, and to keep yourselves playing music regardless of what genre you play.

As a musician myself I do my very best to play it all. That way I keep both the fans and myself happy. I’m doing everything I can do to show them I am a caring musician who puts their needs before my own, and that is the way it should be.

Any musician will wind up doing well if they know how to engage the fans!!



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