Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Canada's Music Industry

According to a recent report by the Martin Prosperity Institute:
On a per capita basis, Canada’s music industry dramatically outperforms the US when it comes to the presence of music business establishments (this category includes record labels, distributors, recording studios, and music publishers). Canada has 5.9 recording industry establishments per 100,000 residents, about five times the US figure of 1.2.
However, this appears to really be only on a per capita basis:

Recording industry establishments in the US are slightly larger – they have an average of 5.9 employees each, compared to only 5.7 in Canada. But the difference is dramatically more pronounced when it comes to revenue. US establishments earn average receipts of $4.1 million per establishment, compared to only US$540,000 in Canada.

So Canada has considerably greater per capita musical activity than the United States in terms of record labels, recording studios, and licensing houses. But the data tell us that the United States has much higher-earning businesses that are more heavily clustered in fewer places – especially Nashville, Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent, New York.

While this research is preliminary, we can speculate about what drives these differences. Economic geographers, from Jane Jacobs to Allen Scott to the Martin Prosperity Institute’s own recent analysis, have long noted that growth in creative industries like music tends to be driven by clustering and economies of scope and scale. The concentration of the American music business in a few key cities likely encourages these forces. In Canada, the fact that the music business is more evenly distributed is certainly a positive thing for musicians looking for opportunities in smaller cities. But failure to cluster in a few key centres may be discouraging the Canadian music industry from growing larger and more internationally competitive.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now that's a trick!

A lot of rockabilly players stand on their basses, or put their basses over them, or play with their feet. The list of tricks goes on and on. But this is a real stunt!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Talking Piano

In this truly amazing video, we see how a frequency analysis of an individual's voice can be turned into "music". The result: A Talking Piano.



National Ramones Day

So today (October 8th) is the birthday of both Johnny and C-Jay Ramone. If there was ever an occasion of a holiday in the name of the Ramones, this might be it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Matt Heller on CBC

Matt Heller (double bassist for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra) was on Contrabass Conversations recently discussing the ISB convention.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

John Philip Sousa on the recording industry

I'm currently reading Elijah Wald's book How the Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll. In it he discusses the views of John Philip Sousa towards recording and the dissemination of "machine-made music." The quote below is from Sousa's essay "The Menace of Mechanical Music" [published in 1906]. The essay made me think of Jason Heath's recent blog post on why teenagers don't listen to classical music.

Right here is the menace in machine-made music! The first rift in the lute has appeared. The cheaper of these instruments of the home are no longer being purchased as formerly, and all because the automatic music devices are usurping their places.

And what is the result? The child becomes indifferent to practice, for when music can be heard in the homes without the labor of study and close application, and without the slow process of acquiring a technic, it will be simply a question of time when the amateur disappears entirely, and with him a host of vocal and instrumental teachers, who will be without field or calling.

Great Britain is experiencing this decline in domestic music and the English press is discussing it seriously in its editorials. A recent writer in the London Spectator dwells at considerable length upon the prevailing condition, and points to the novel as a sign of the times. The present-day fashionable writer of society fiction, he declares, does not find it necessary to re├źnforce his heroine with vocal accomplishment, "as in the good old days." He ascribes the passing of home performance, both vocal and instrumental, to the newborn love of athletics among the maids of Albion, together with the introduction of the phonograph as a mechanical substitute for amateur performances....

Under such conditions the tide of amateurism cannot but recede, until there will be left only the mechanical device and the professional executant. Singing will no longer be a fine accomplishment; vocal exercises, so important a factor in the curriculum of physical culture, will be out of vogue!

Then what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink? When a mother can turn on the phonograph with the same ease that she applies to the electric light, will she croon her baby to slumber with sweet lullabys, or will the infant be put to sleep by machinery?

Children are naturally imitative, and if, in their infancy, they hear only phonographs, will they not sing, if they sing at all, in imitation and finally become simply human phonographs -- without soul or expression? Congregational singing will suffer also, which, though crude at times, at least improves the respiration of many a weary sinner and softens the voices of those who live amid tumult and noise.

Just so far as a spirit of emulation once inspired proud parent or aspiring daughter to send for the music teacher when the neighbor child across the way began to take lessons, the emulation is turning to the purchase of a rival piano player in each house, and the hope of developing the local musical personality is eliminated.

The country dance orchestra of violin, guitar and melodeon had to rest at times, and the resultant interruption afforded the opportunity for general sociability and rest among the entire company. Now a tireless mechanism can keep everlastingly at it, and much of what made the dance a wholesome recreation is eliminated.

The country band with its energetic renditions, its loyal support by local merchants, its benefit concerts, band wagon, gay uniforms, state tournaments, and the attendant pride and gayety, is apparently doomed to vanish in the general assault on personality in music.


Remember, his was written in 1906. I, like Sousa and Heath, think that the changes in music listening habits has a large part to do with the way teenagers (and the rest of us) listen to music today. With the easy availability of MP3 players and the internet providing quick access to literally hundreds of thousands of listening options, classical music is just not properly "placed" to be consumed like other genres: the pieces are significantly longer; the pieces vary in tempi, dynamics and other ways that don't catch people's attention in a world where individuals can listen to their iPod for 3 minutes at a time between classes, meetings, and other friendly interruptions.

The way we consume music has also affected jazz. The fact that individual's purchase their music online now (more than ever) suggests that the art of writing liner notes is being lost. For jazz fans and musicians, the liner notes of an album provide important information on, among other things, the side-men on a given recording date. This has changed (I believe) how people listen to a jazz recording: if the side-men are not mentioned, what are the chances that the average listener will be noticing their contribution to the recording. Now it is harder to follow the contributions of side-men like Larry Grenadier, Eric Alexander, or Terrel Stafford in their contributions to the recordings of others. As a result, I think the way we are currently listening to music also has something to do with the perception (real or not) that jazz is in need of saving.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Airline Travel with Your Bass

I recently made an airline trip with my bass in my new Tuff-Lite bass trunk. Overall, the trip was pretty easy (surprisingly). Everyone was nice and my bass was well-cared for by the baggage and airline folks. I've included a few tips from my experiences. Hopefully this blog post will help future travelers with similar endeavors.

Just to give some details, I went from YYC to SFO via SLC and back. I flew Delta. As far as i can tell, the only airlines that are reasonable as far as traveling with a bass are Delta and Northwest. They are in the process of a merger, which I'm not sure is good or bad. We'll see.

I packed my bass in my Tuff-Lite case from the String Emporium. As I expected, I got a lot of odd looks at the airport, particularly from the Delta staff who at first seemed a little unsure as to what to do with the trunk.

TIP #1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK:
Prior to making the trip, I got confirmation from Delta that the bass in its case would make the trip. To do this, I spent roughly 45 minutes on the phone making my reservation and getting all the details ironed out. They asked for the measurements of my case and its weight (84" x 34" x 22" and about 100lbs fully loaded). Although this is in excess of Delta's rules (120 linear inches and 100 lb max), the reservation clerk found out the size of the cargo door on the plane (43" X 22") and told me that "if it fits, we'll take it." The person I dealt with on the phone documented our conversation, including all the measurements, and our conversation was able to be reviewed at the various airports by the Delta staff.

TIP #2: GET THERE EARLY:
Even with this assurance, I was pretty paranoid. At the airport, the Delta staff avoided me, looking past me and asking people after me in line to come up. Finally I asserted myself and asked to be served. They finally checked the bag although they were baffled by how the case would be handled once I cleared customs. The extra time it took to get the trunk cleared and in the hands of the baggage folks was about 40 minutes. Add this as additional time you'll need at the airport.

TIP #3: GET A GREEN CARD FOR YOUR INSTRUMENT:
The folks at US customs (which I cleared in Calgary) asked about the value of my instrument. Once I told them, they asked for a "green card" for the instrument. Apparently, when you're traveling with an expensive instrument, you can obtain a green card for that instrument from your home airport's custom authority. This card indicates that the instrument originated in Canada. In this way, when you return there are no questions regarding where the instrument came from. The Canadian customs people (and those in the US too) are apparently on the lookout for purchases made in the US on which duties and taxes may be owed. The green card avoids these hassles upon return. (Given that I don't have a green card for my bass, I'll deal with this potentiality in a week's time.)

TIP #4: BE NICE TO EVERYONE:
Naturally, when traveling with a bass trunk there is a lot of curiosity on the part of fellow travelers and airport staff. Be nice to all of them. Realize that you're in some sense at their mercy. Given that the bass trunk is over-sized, they can always decide not to take it. Its worth the extra time to talk with them, entertain their inquiries, and open the case again and again (for customs and security checks) with a smile on your face.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ray Drummond's Core 50


I just came back from the Stanford Jazz Workshop. At the sessions, bassist Ray Drummond gave out a list of the core 50 songs every bassist (and other instrumentalists) should know. Here it is for those interested.
1. I can’t get started
2. Body and soul
3. Take the A train
4. Sophisticated lady
5. Chelsea bridge
6. Prelude to a kiss
7. I got rhythm
8. Cherokee
9. Cheryl
10. Now is the time
11. Giant steps
12. Invitation
13. Blue monk
14. Well you needn’t
15. Willow weep for me
16. How high the moon
17. Whispering
18. All the things you are
19. What is this thing called love
20. I’ll remember April
21. In a mellow tone
22. It don’t mean a thing
23. All God’s children got rhythm
24. Scrapple from the Apple
25. Round midnight
26. Sweet Georgia Brown
27. There will never be another you
28. Afternoon in Paris
29. Have you met Miss Jones
30. Caravan
31. Was for not
32. I remember Clifford
33. Gone with the wind
34. Like someone in love
35. Con Alma
36. A night in Tunisia
37. Bebop
38. Yesterdays
39. Polka dots and moonbeams
40. Stella by starlight
41. Love for sale
42. Mr. PC
43. There is no greater love
44. Softly as a morning sunrise
45. Summertime
46. Dolphin dance
47. Lose in the closet
48. Lover Man
49. But not for me
50. Lover come back to me


I think there are a lot of interesting inclusions and omissions from this list. Part of Ray's point here (I believe) is to establish a list of songs which have important forms and changes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ross Hill - Calgary luthier


I recently took in my 1951 Nicola Alagia bass for some work on the fingerboard. I bought this bass from PJ Tan in Edmonton, someone who I've written about before.

I took the bass to Aeolian Strings as I heard that Ross Hill was working there. Ross is a Calgary luthier who I had heard great things about from both jazz players and members of the CPO.

I have been looking for a luthier in Calgary for some time. There are very few places that will take a double bass. There's the principal of the CPO, Charles Garret, who does great work but only relatively minor repairs (e.g., bridges, seams). Then there's VA Hill Strings which was once the namesake of Ross Hill. (Due to a divorce, he's no longer involved with VA Hill Strings. 'Nuff said.) I took in an older bass once and a visiting luthier did a great job done. A second time (with my 1920's King laminate bass), I received a phone call to tell me that the bass wasn't worth the cost of repairs ($600). I had them do the work, the regular luthier did a lousy job, Vicky Hill and the luthier treated me like a chump (rolling their eyes at me as I spoke), and I sold the bass for $2,400. In short, I don't recommend VA Hill Strings for anything. I've had other experiences there while looking at bows and have heard stories that just made me laugh. My general impression is that they are not as informed/experienced as they present or believe themselves to be.

Moving on, I was excited about taking my bass to Ross Hill. From my perspective he's been a bit of a spectre: someone you hear about but never see.

After he looked at my bass, he recommended a new fingerboard. I admit, the fingerboard was getting thin, I just didn't think it needed the whole thing replaced. I opted to have the work done, plus fixing a seam, adjusting and installing some adjusters in the bridge. We talked over the phone about what I wanted, but never got together to talk about different possible shapes for the fingerboard.


I've had the bass back now for a couple of weeks. Simply but: the work is excellent! The bass is a joy to play; its fast; it feels so natural. I'm amazed at how great the bass plays. Its like a new instrument. He even managed to do some work to the soundpost and bridge to even out the tone across the strings. Its deep "Italian oily sound" is better than ever. Incredible!

My strongest recommendation of Ross Hill. He can be reached through Aeolian Strings (403.244.5593).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jazz 50 Years Ago

Here's the article. 'Nuff said. Will we ever have such a landmark year for music in any genre?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Practicing Your Songwriting

I recently had an article appear in the Serve the Song blog (a blog I read pretty regularly and find very useful). Here's the article:

Like anything, songwriting improves as one practices one’s craft. Practicing songwriting can often be a daunting task not only because it seems odd as a concept (What is the difference between practicing songwriting and being creative by actually engaging in the process of songwriting?) but also because it requires admitting that your own songwriting needs improvement.

Many times, once we write something we have a hard time letting it go, admitting that it needs complete rewriting or that may just not be that good to want a live performance or recording. Many years ago, I read somewhere that Charlotte Cafferty (then guitarist of the Go-Go’s) wrote hundreds of songs that never saw life beyond her notebook. She viewed these is not good enough for live performance and use them as examples to learn and practice what worked and what didn’t work.

Personally, for every 10 songs or so I write, one makes it in front of a band; and for every five that I bring to the band, one makes it to a live performance or recording. While this may suggest that I’m extremely prolific or just plain suck at writing, I take a different view: In a sense, all those bad songs I write are practice for the good songs I write.

In any event, admitting that a song you have written requires rewriting/retooling/rejecting can be difficult. Sometimes when I’m just not in the mood to rework my own material, I turn to the work of others. My approach is this: How many times has a song you don’t particularly like gotten stuck in your head? It happens to me all the time. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and one of my kids’ favorite songs is stuck in my head. Sometimes I (inadvertently) hear a song by an artist I don’t like, only to have the song repeat over and over again in my head throughout the day. There must be something about these songs that makes them “stick.” So, I use these songs as material to practice my songwriting. Literally, I take these songs and start rewriting them, taking them apart to figure out what makes them tick and why they are so catchy. At the same time, I’m honing my own skills with melody, harmony and rhythm.

Deconstructing a Hit

When practicing songwriting, it’s useful to think about what it is that makes these songs (perhaps regrettably) so memorable. Is it the melody? Is it the artist’s phrasing? Is it the rhythm or chord progression? As such, rewriting an existing song can serve several important purposes:
  1. By dissecting and rewriting an existing song you can learn a great deal about what makes its melody catchy or its rhythm addictive. I often take an existing song and try to change one aspect (e.g., melody rhythm progression) while keeping everything else constant. This allows me to see how, say, the artist phrasing works within a melodic or harmonic structure.Sometimes I keep the melody and try to change the chords or rhythm in order to understand how a seemingly catchy melody can be supercharged by the right rhythm and harmony to create a monster you can’t get out of your head. Through this, you learn what works and what doesn’t for more general songwriting.
  2. This type of work also gives you an opportunity to step outside of your genre. Maybe you can take that goofy Carrie Underwood song about cheating and turn it into a mambo? Maybe you can really stretch out an do what these guys did, converting a Brittany Spears song into a fugue. By stepping out of your genre and writing something really different, you open yourself up to new ways of conceptualizing a song. You hear new rhythms and phrases that may spark ideas for your own original material.
  3. Finally, by working from an existing song you are not only learning from an example of a “successful” song, but you’re also practicing your own craft. In re-writings say a Beyonce song or something from the soundtrack to bear in the Big Blue House, it’s impossible for you not to interject your own ideas and style. As such, your songwriting, arranging, and your toolkit of songwriting tricks and ideas can only get better.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Calgary Stampede in Review

So the Calgary Stampede is over. For the city of Calgary it meant a boost in tourism revenue (despite the economic and weather conditions). For me, it meant 18 gigs in 10 days. Last year I did 22, the year before 26. From my perspective, there was a real downturn in the number (and lavishness) of the corporate parties. That said, it was fun (most of it) and I earned a good sum money in a short period of time.

I thought it would be fun to talk a bit about some of the things I saw/experienced during my Stampede gigs and mention a bit about keeping your hands healthy during extended gigs. I also included a bit of simple bass playing math.

First, some highlights:
  1. Playing Flames Central as an opening act for Colin James (who I'm not familiar with).
  2. Opening for Fred Eaglesmith (who I am familiar with).
  3. Seeing a 30-foot tall image of myself on the jumbo-tron at Flames Central.
  4. Playing on the roof of a diner.
  5. A wet t-shirt contest for charity.
  6. A nervous burlesque dancer throwing up backstage.
  7. Running through downtown between gigs while carrying an upright bass.
  8. Hearing the "That's a mighty big violin" joke approximately 48 times. (Yes, I counted.)
  9. Explaining to several "sound-men" the difference between mixing as a DJ and mixing live music.
  10. Surviving.
With respect to the latter, Stampede usually takes a huge toll on my sleep and my fingers. Regarding my sleep patterns, I had more than a few nights that I played until 2am and had to be at a pancake breakfast for my next gig at 6 or 7 am.

As for my fingers, the average gig I play is three 45-minute sets. That's a lot of slapping on a double bass. For those not familiar with slapping on an upright bass, its like performing a Bartok slap very quickly and repeatedly. Some people use gut strings or weed whackers. My bass had steel strings (Spirocores) on it during Stampede.

Now some simple math:
13 songs per set at 3 minutes each, average tempo of 160 = 3,120 times per set that my fingers pull up a string.
And that's only if I'm playing I-V's the whole night (i.e., two notes per measure). If I'm walking (which I do about half the time) the better estimate is 4,680 plucks per night. (I just shocked myself figuring this out.) And this isn't even counting the slaps on the string/fingerboard.On the three-set night that means about 14,040 times my fingers pluck a string. Over the whole of Stampede, 252,720 times. Crazy. Oh well my fingers survived.

I've written before (here and here) about the need to take care of your hands. To the right is a picture of my fingers at the start of Stampede. At the bottom of the post is a photo of my hands near the end of Stampede. Overall, I did a pretty good job taking care of them: each night I used some lotion (Burt's Bees is my preferred) and put a band-aid on any cuts. This kept my hands from drying out too much , thereby helping them stay in shape for the next gig. I only had a couple of nights that I was really bothered by some pain and no major cuts or blisters, which is more than I can say for some of my compadre bassists during Stampede. At one gig where many of us were hanging out, some guys/girls had a bit of show and tell regarding their blisters. Regardless, that's the cost (along with the sleepless nights, running between gigs, and listening to DJ's swell a room with feedback while trying to figure out how to set up stage monitors) many of us pay during the Calgary Stampede. Now its time to start training for next year. Yee Haw.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Calgary Stampede

This week starts my annual flood of gigs around the Calgary Stampede. At the end of it all, I'll post something about the whole experience. Let me just say this. The Calgary Stampede is in many ways "harvest time for the musicians" as there are club and corporate gigs everywhere.

Over the 10 days of Stampede. I have 22 gigs. (Not a record. I set that a couple of years ago at 26 gigs in 10 days.) I've even had to turn down gigs due to scheduling conflicts or attempts to keep my sanity. (I can only do so many late night shows followed by corporate breakfasts before the lack of sleep starts kicking in.) In any case, the Stampede is reason enough for every bassist to learn how to improvise a I-V bass line over chord changes and learn a little bit of slapping. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Branford Marsalis on the state of jazz education

Branford Marsalis will be performing at the Calgary jazz festival. Here are some excerpts from his interview in the Calgary Herald:

For the 48-year-old saxophonist, composer, teacher and leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, the importance of learning from those who have gone before--not only with regard to musical refinement but also the spirit of community that lies close to the heart of the jazz music-making experience --is largely lost on the average young, well-schooled jazz musician of today, for whom the rush instead to be considered a new and unique voice is paramount.

"They're not in it for the tradition," the famous musician says, pointing out that the current artistic climate in the United States, which he sees as being shaped by "40 years of cultural narcissism," is largely to blame.

By the time the 1970s rolled round, he says, "the idea of jazz being reflective of a community and jazz being a sound where a solo was an integral part of the music but not the main issue" had evolved (at least insofar as the average jazz student was concerned) into the notion of the solo as "the only part of jazz they were interested in."

"The idea of playing with other musicians and playing together--all of those things had been pushed aside for a more self-absorbed philosophy based on a mastery of patterns and scales that work on chord progressions, et cetera, et cetera."

"It really depends on how the teacher is teaching as to whether it's important, but what I often tell my students is if architecture or aviation or engineering was taught the way jazz was taught there would be planes and buildings falling out of the sky. They'd just be crumbling everywhere, because the jazz version of (teaching) architecture is, 'Sure the Greeks had something important, sure the Egyptians developed certain structural things but we don't need to study it because it's not current. We're going to start around 1970'--and I don't have to tell you the end conclusion to that."

"I was lousy when I started, which the records bear out," Marsalis says. "But when I had the privilege of meeting people like Art Blakey and he would say to me, 'You don't have enough sound' and Dizzie Gillespie would say 'You need to learn the blues,' I didn't just say, 'Oh, they're just jealous because they're old.'

"I didn't make up an excuse to dismiss the central theme of what they were saying--which is something that was popular among my generation, to ignore those guys.

"A lot of musicians were more interested in getting gigs than they were in becoming competent and really good at what they do."

I go back and forth on my thoughts About his views on education and contemporary jazz. I see a point in what he's saying (particularly on the over emphasis of the solo and the importance of ensemble playing), however, as Bill Harrison wrote, there are times when Branford bugs me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bands and Brands

Recently, I've been reading Songs for Soap, a blog fron Advertising Age. Two recent posts caught my attention, both of which I believe have the same (in one case, tacit) message. The first post is by a marketer and gives a glimpse into what marketing people think of the music industry:

People can sift through a site like HypeMachine and read, engage, and comment on their favorite and possibly-favorite artists, all while listening to their entire album (plus remixes). How often do those links to Amazon and iTunes go un-clicked? The enormous ocean of music, sorting through what you do like, don't like, and may-very-well-like-but-haven't-heard-yet is a Herculean task. Once a user finds something they like, they can search for it on a site like Qloud or GrooveShark and stream it instantly. Repeatedly.

Indeed, the current process of discovering music has replaced the need to acquire music. Certainly, there are those remote corners of your life, like camping or swimming, where the internet determinstic argument falls down, but even those areas of our lives are being constantly opened up by new devices and infrastructures. The car has already fallen under the constant "just give it time" umbrella.

Music is sort of like a municipality, like water from a faucet: free, of acceptable quality. If you want a more savory experience, there is always the bottled variety. In fact, this paradigm shift is already behind us.

Given this ocean of music, the second post suggests where a musician's focus should be in terms of getting involved/included in marketing and advertising:

...they consistently ask the same question during or after these panels: "How do I get you and your brand clients and agency clients to choose my song or my band for your next major ad campaign?"

The answer is complicated, but the short answer is this: There is no music-branding silver bullet that will skyrocket a developing artist to stardom and riches. Take your time and focus on your own career and we will find you. It's often not the answer these artists want to hear, but it's the truth.

Coca-Cola, Nike and Gap are not going to place your song in a national TV spot or your artist on their billboards or the print ads they are buying in Vanity Fair unless the brand or its agency understands your brand as an artist.

There, I said it. As an artist, you must become a brand unto yourself. It's only then that a major marketer will desire this transference of values. The values that you as an artist embody and express to your fans and your community must be clear to a brand and must match their own values. The brand will then be much more likely to desire your music and a relationship with you as an artist in order to express its values.

The central message (as I see it) is "get better, hone your craft, discover yourself as an artist."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Music Critics in the Twitter Age

I was directed to this by a friend: Christopher R. Weingarten discussing the role of the music critic in the world of Twitter at the 140 Characters Conference. His talk is funny, witty, and very relevant. I think the most important aspect of the talk is his emphasis on the fact that people using Twitter (and blogs for that matter) don't address the "Why?" questions in the explaining why a band/album is good/sucks. It reminds my a bit of this post.




Learning Tunes

Here's a video about how to learn tunes and songs. The key is letting your ears fully absorb the tunes, going slowly and thoroughly through the tunes. While this may seem obvious, the video gives some nice ideas on accomplishing this.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Record Deal Economics



I have some friends who recently signed a record deal with a "big player" in music. I was asked a bit about my opinions regarding their advance, their cut on sales (i.e., "points"), etc. Having grown up in the San Francisco music scene, I have had several friends sign these type of deals. As an economist, I've had lots of them ask me these questions. Personally, I find the deals too complicated to give any real advice. However, I always refer people to the famous (or maybe infamous) essay by Steve Albini on the "music industry." In this essay, he comes up with the following rough accounting of a record deal.

Since some of you may not read to the end of the quote from his essay (not quoted below), the last statement in Steve Albini's essay is usually what I tell my friends once they have signed these deals.

These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There's no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. Income is underlined, expenses are not.

Advance: $ 250,000
Manager's cut: $ 37,500
Legal fees: $ 10,000


Recording Budget: $ 155,500
Producer's advance: $ 50,000
Studio fee: $ 52,500
Drum, Amp, Mic and Phase "Doctors": $ 3,000
Recording tape: $ 8,000
Equipment rental: $ 5,000
Cartage and Transportation: $ 5,000
Lodging while in studio: $ 10,000
Catering: $ 3,000
Mastering: $ 10,000
Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping tapes, misc. expenses: $ 2,000
Album Artwork: $ 5,000
Promotional photo shoot and duplication: $ 2,000


Video budget: $ 31,000
Cameras: $ 8,000
Crew: $ 5,000
Processing and transfers: $ 3,000
Off-line: $ 2,000
On-line editing: $ 3,000
Catering: $ 1,000
Stage and construction: $ 3,000
Copies, couriers, transportation: $ 2,000
Director's fee: $ 4,000


Band fund: $ 15,000
New fancy professional drum kit: $ 5,000
New fancy professional guitars [2]: $ 3,000
New fancy professional guitar amp rigs [2]: $ 4,000
New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $ 1,000
New fancy bass amp: $ 1,000
Rehearsal space rental: $ 500
Big blowout party for their friends: $ 500


Tour expense [5 weeks]: $ 50,875
Bus: $ 25,000
Crew [3]: $ 7,500
Food and per diems: $ 7,875
Fuel: $ 3,000
Consumable supplies: $ 3,500
Wardrobe: $ 1,000
Promotion: $ 3,000


Tour gross income: $ 50,000
Booking Agent's cut: $ 7,500
Manager's cut: $ 7,500


Merchandising advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000


Publishing advance: $ 20,000
Manager's cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer's fee: $ 1,000


Record sales: 250,000 @ $12: $ 3,000,000
Gross retail revenue Royalty [13% of 90% of retail]: 250,000 @ $12: $ 351,000
Less advance: $ 250,000
Producer's points [3% less $50,000 advance]: $ 40,000
Promotional budget: $ 25,000
Recoupable buyout from previous label: $ 50,000
Net royalty: $ -14,000


Now, on the other hand, let's look at the Record company income:

Record wholesale price $6.50 x 250,000 $ 1,625,000 gross income
Artist Royalties: $ 351,000
Deficit from royalties: $ 14,000
Costs of manufacturing, packaging and distribution @ $2.20 per record: $ 550,000
Label's gross profit: $ 7l0,000


The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game:

Record company: $ 710,000
Producer: $ 90,000
Manager: $ 51,000
Studio: $ 52,500
Previous label: $ 50,000
Booking Agent: $ 7,500
Lawyer: $ 12,000
Band member net income each: $ 781.25


The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/20 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.

The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never "recouped," the band will have no leverage, and will oblige.

The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won't have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Following the ISB from a Distance

I'm following the International Society of Bassists' (ISB) convention from afar, being at home while the meetings are at Penn State. Here's the list of links I'm following to try and keep abreast of what is going on:
  1. Matt Heller's posts form the convention
  2. Jason Heath's blog (I think this is the standard for all bassists to read)
  3. ISB's live convention coverage (set up, I believe, by Jason Heath)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ron Carter Interviews on Artist House Music

There are two great interviews (both in several parts) with Ron Carter on Artist House Music. The first interview features Ron Carter discussing everything from technique, tone, playing with Miles, recording, his feelings about jazz, and much more. The second interview (which may be part of the first, but takes place in a classroom) discusses the role of life in the music industry.

Podcast: Gerard Schwarz

I recently listened to an interview with conductor Gerard Schwarz on a Naxos Podcast. The main thrust of the interview is Arthur Foote (additional information, scores at IMSLP) and why his music isn't played as much as it perhaps should be. However, Schwarz discusses the role of culture, music education, and the role of the arts in American history (or at least its pedagogy) Great interview (and great music).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Rough Day for Music: Sam Butera and KokoTaylor

Both Sam Butera and Koko Taylor passed away today. Below are videos of Butera playing Night Train with Louis Prima (check out Keely Smith's facial expression). The second video is Koko Taylor with Little Walter.




Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More on Goal-setting and Achieving Goals

I was forwarded this post on goals and goal-setting. I have an interest in goals, having blogged about it and done research on goals, and use them myself to try and get things done. In any event, some of the interesting points from the post:

1. Start With An Easy Goal And Complete It

Choose a simple goal and get it achieved within the next two weeks. This will start your momentum and get you feeling like you are in full forward motion.Think of a small, achievable goal that only takes four to five hours to complete. Next, set a date when you will get it done by and go for it.

2. Make Lists To Stay On Track

  • Make daily lists of what you need to do to get your goals met - the night before! Do the hardest thing first in the morning- don’t procrastinate.
  • Do something everyday that moves you towards the goals
  • Delegate the little activities that waste your valuable time to other people (you would be amazed what you could do with the 4 hours it takes to clean your house).

3. Get Help

Build a TEAM to help you!! Get an intern or two - log on to http://www.entertainmentcareers.net and post as an employer seeking interns - you will be amazed at how many bright young people would like to get their feet wet in the business.

4. Remember You Can Change The Goals As You Go

Goals should be looked at as beacons and guiding points for you to keep yourself on track along your journey. I would not recommend changing them every week but the music industry is changing so rapidly it’s hard to know what goals are reachable in this landscape. So if over the course of the year your goals change its OK to cross one off or modify as you go.

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up!

This is a process intended to take a whole year and you will have your days where you may get frustrated, and you will start to beat yourself up (sound familiar?) Self-criticism will interfere directly with achieving your goals and dreams. So, the next time you are making yourself wrong, take a step back and instead acknowledge the good, and celebrate your achievements.

6. Write Down 5 Successes Each Day

I’m inviting you to write down five little victories a day for this entire year. I learned this powerful technique from T. Harv Eker. Once you start getting into this habit, you are training yourself to put the focus on the positive and get your brain to stop being so critical. So put a notebook in your gig bag or next to your bed and each day write down 5 things. Make one or two of them music or band related.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Upcoming Event in Calgary

I've been doing some research on charitable giving, not looking at the motives as much as the mechanisms organizations use to raise funds. So its in this respect that I'm posting the following regarding an upcoming event in Calgary to raise funds for Janus Academy, a school specializing in the education of children with autism:


Upright Bass Health Tips from Randy Kertz

The new issue of the online magazine Bass Musician Magazine has an article by bassist/physician Randy Kertz. Dr. Kertz has written an excellent book on bass playing and health. His current article is specific to the upright bassist:

Upright players will be more prone to have stiffness and tightness in the neck musculature due to the head moving in time with the music and leaning forward to read charts and/or to look at the neck or a conductor while playing. This can lead to soreness of these muscles and often to a pinched nerve. While not always available in an orchestral setting, it is best to have one's own music stand to avoid unnecessary strain while transitioning between these places.

Body weight should be evenly distributed so that it can be shifted as needed to aid the right or left hand. The instrument should be balanced against you so that it can stand without the aid of the left hand (all assuming you are right handed). If the weight of the body is all on the right side the left hand will have no power and vice versa.

When playing the upright, the vibrato should come from the elbow, not the wrist. The hand and arm should act as one in an involuntary motion, using the elbow as a support. The full arm vibrato is a sideways motion and if the hand begins to roll in you will not be able to generate the force required to press the string down. Keeping this in mind can help you to avoid wrist problems.

Make sure the peg height is set correctly so that you don't have to alter your posture, any more than is absolutely necessary to compensate for tight musculature from an uncomfortable stance. This alone can cause you discomfort anywhere in your back which can lead to other areas as the body compensates to try and lighten the load.

Friday, May 29, 2009

This Day in Music History

May 29 is a busy day in music history:
  1. The Rite of Spring premiered in Paris in 1913.
  2. Bing Crosby recorded White Christmas
  3. Birthdays: Iannis Xenakis, Danny Elfman, LaToya Jackson, Mellisa Etheridge, and Noel Gallager.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bass photo of the week (May 25)


This is a picture of the scroll of Charles Mingus' bass. The photo is by (I think) William Ellis. There are lots of great photos on his web site.

Twitter tips for Musicians

I found this post interesting. I've only recently started using Twitter in any real sense. I'm still trying to "find my voice" with Twitter, not to mention my audience.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Charles Mingus Sings

I love this video.





In an unrelated note, today is Marc Ribot's birthday and the anniversary of the passing of Vaughn Monroe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pop's Foster


I didn't have a chance to write about it, but Monday (May 19th) was Pops Foster's birthday (1892-1969). In my opinion, he has one of the great early jazz and blues bassists who helped develop the slap technique that was taken to new levels by Milt Hinton and others. He originally played in New Orleans, later moving on to working in the rhythm sections of Earl Hines and Sidney Bechet. I've always thought of him as one of the "unrecognized greats" of bass playing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Writing Music In Your Dreams

I recently came across this article from a 2006 issue of Consciousness and Cognition. in some of my other research. From the abstract (my emphasis):

Music in dreams is rarely reported in scientific literature, while the presence of musical themes in dreams of famous musicians is anecdotally reported. We did a systematic investigation to evaluate whether the occurrence of musical dreams could be related to musical competence and practice, and to explore specific features of dreamt pieces. Thirty-five professional musicians and thirty non-musicians filled out a questionnaire about the characteristics of their musical activity and a structured dream log on the awakening for 30 consecutive days. Musicians dream of music more than twice with respect to non-musicians; musical dreams frequency is related to the age of commencement of musical instruction, but not to the daily load of musical activity. Nearly half of the recalled music was non-standard, suggesting that original music can be created in dreams.

A lesson from Milt Hinton

Milt Hinton is one of my favorite bassists. Here's a lesson from him from YouTube. I particularly like his "solo" and his comments that precede it about the need for bassists to have a lot of stamina.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 13th Birthdays

Gil Evans, Red Garland, and Stevie Wonder. Today also marks the anniversary of Bob Wills' death.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuff Bag Review (Better than Moorodian?)

After about 12 years, I decided to replace my well-worn, ripped, and beaten Moorodian bass case. I had originally thought of replacing it with another Moorodian, but thought of looking around a bit. I had seen the Ritter cases, but didn’t really liked the way they fit around the instrument. (They seem to be too big and don’t have the padding of the Moorodian.)

After some looking around and some discussions with Steve at the String Emporium (from whom I purchased a Finale bow), I decided to try a Tuff-Bag. Steve insisted that they were as good as Moorodian, and less expensive.

When I received the bag, I was a bit surprised: it looks almost exactly like my old Moorodian bag (sans the rips and holes). The material feels the same, although this is a bit hard to judge given the years on my Moorodian. The padding seems to be about 1 inch and there are ample carrying straps.

The Tuff-Bag has the same set of front pockets: a bow pocket large enough to fit bow in a case and two accessory pockets. The back pocket (where most people put their sheet music) is divided, having a stitch down one side thereby providing a pocket large enough to fit your music folder and a smaller pocket (where I keep various notebooks).

The first thing to go on my Moorodian (many years ago) was the zipper. So that was the first thing I checked on the Tuff-Bag. I'm happy to say that the Tuff-Bag zippers are strong and double stiched in place. Moroever, the Tuff-Bag bag has padding between the main zippers and all points at which the zipper could come in contact with the instrument. This is somewhat different than my old Moorodian which only had padding between the instrument and the zipper on one side (where the longest zipper is) and then only until about halfway down the lower bout.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the Tuff-Bag. The true test will come when I look back (maybe in another 15 years) at how the bag held up.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Guitar Hero Bass Controller


I was forwarded this by a friend. It seems that the makers of Guitar Hero and Rockband have come up with something to satisfy those of us playing the double bass.

Happy Birthday Ron Carter!

Today is Ron Carter's 72nd birthday. I've always been a huge Ron Carter fan. I love his phrasing and his ability to choose notes and rhythms in a walking bass line that literally drive the line forward, embedding a song with an emotional foundation.

I recently read his biography (by Dan Ouellette). I've thought about writing a review of the book, but have avoided it. Overall, I liked the book, but the book never grabbed my like other biographies and autobiographies (e.g., those of Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Miles Davis). At times, the book painted Mr. Carter as a bit of a curmudgeon who feels slighted by his position in the jazz community. Many years ago I had the opportunity to see a masterclass by Mr. Carter and had a short conversation with him (maybe five minutes). The masterclass demonstrated his incredible technique and his desire to help others. In the conversation, he was friendly, kind and funny. The book tells a great story, but I felt it left out some of the story of Ron Carter. At times, the book seems like a laundry list of recordings and accomplishments, without telling the story of Ron.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bass photo of the week (May 3)


Here's an ad for Polytone that I came across featuring Ray Brown.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bass Photo of the Week (April 20th)


Here's one of my favorite photos of Scott Lafaro. It a great photo of him, and his famous Prescott bass.

The bass currently resides at Kolstein's where it was repaired after being in the same crash that killed Lafaro. A photo of the bass as it stands at Kolstein's is below.











Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bass Photo of the Week (April 14th)

I don't know what this is a photo of. I've done my share of damage to basses, but I've never used duct tape.




Miles and Me (Quincy Troupe)

I've always been a big Miles Davis fan. The first record I actually wore out (literally to the point it would no longer play) was Miles' album Tutu. I also wore out (although a few tracks still play fine) Cookin' and 'Round Midnight. I saw Miles Davis live three times in the late 80's and early 90's.In each case, I was completely drawn into his playing and that of his band. I've also read his autobiography (with Quincy Troupe) a handful of times.

Over the weekend I read Quincy Troupe's follow up book Miles and Me. I've had it for years, but had never read it. Let me say that this is a great book. Its an excellent story of the story behind the writing of the autobiography. I loved the stories of Miles and those of Quincy's own development as a poet/artist. I was particularly struck by his use of jazz players to develop the cadences and tone of his writing and poetic voice.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jeff Bradetich Videos

I recently came across a couple of great pedagogical videos by Jeff Bradetich, one of my favorites. While there are several videos of Mr. Bradetich performing on YouTube, I found these videos from University of North Texas very useful. Plus, both videos highlight his great technique and musicality. The first video is about left-hand techniques; the second is on practice methods.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bass photo of the week (April 6)


Here's a great photo of Paul Chambers playing with the Miles Davis group (of whom he was a member from 1955 to 1963). The photo is from the Life Magazine archives. Chambers has always been one of my favorite bassists and I love his bowed solos (many of which are transcribed by Jim Stinnett).

A couple of interesting things about the photo. First, note the carved scroll on the bass he is playing. I'm not sure what type of bass he played (he probably had several over his career; cf. Scott Lafaro and his Prescott bass). Secondly, notice there is a second bass in the corner. On my last trip home I visited my grandmother who lives in an assisted-living community. There I met a friend of hers, Julius Gill, who played piano for some really biggies on the West Coast in the 50's and 60's. When I told him I was thinking about tuning my bass in fifths (more on this in another post) he mentioned that there was a time when many jazz players were experimenting with alternate tunings. I wonder if the second bass in the corner is a spare, someone else's or perhaps an alternate tuning. One can only conjecture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feeling/Finding the Pulse

I came across this nice article on the importance of pulse in bringing musicians together as an effective ensemble. I recently played at a rehearsal for an ensemble. I'm sure I won't get a call back as the band (maybe more precisely, the rhythm section) never gelled in such a way as to find a unique and binding pulse. I'm not sure if it was my sight reading or that of the others, a bad vibe between us, or just ne of those days. In the end, it never clicked.

I got me thinking about how an effective rhythm section operates. One of the groups I play with (a trio) has a great pulse. I'm always amazed at how we click when playing together and how we anticipate one anothers' fills and rhythmic changes.

I think one important part of developing a pulse is having one yourself. This is more than just being alive with your instrument. It takes practice. For this, I think a metronome and the ability to sight read rhythms are essential. Myself, I try to spend some time during each practice session sight reading rhythms. One tool I use is rhythmpatterns.com. This site has lots of rhythms that you can just pull up and read. I also like grabbing books of latin music or atonal etudes as each has its own rhythmic perculiarities. Reading this music (or at least the rhythms) not only improvies your sight reading but also your musical knowledge base.

Another important aspect of having your own pulse is using a metronome. Many people I know eschew a metronome when practicing as they feel it will interfere with there sense of "musical flow" or "swinging". I believe that all music requires a pulse and that training yourself to play with a pulse means using a metronome in the background to, at a minimum, remind you of the need for a pulse. Here's a nice article on the use of a metronome. Personally, I think too many peoiple believe that using a metronome means hearing a click on beats 1, 2, 3, and 4. These people forget the flexibility of using a metronome: putting the clicks only on beats 2 and 4; putting the click only on beat 1 or beat 4. Using a metronome in a more creative fashion can only improve your musical flow and ability to swing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Peter Tambroni's edition of Bottessini's Elegy

To celebrate his 100th post on MostlyBass.com, Peter Tambroni has made his edition of Bottessini's Elegy available free for download. This offer expires on April 3rd so you better move fast.

the R-Word

As a parent of someone with special needs, I always have some trouble with the use of the word retard or retarded, regardless of the context. My friends know this and avoid use of the word.
The Special Olympics has launched a campaign to eliminate the use of the word. I encourage everyone to pledge on their website: R-word.org.


r-word.org

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bass Picture of the Week (March 30th)


Here's another photo from the Life photo archive on Google. The caption reads "A man playing the bass at the Refuge Temple.(New York, NY, April 1958)"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The R-word

As a parent of an autistic boy, I've always been sensitive to the use of the word "retard" regardless of context. With the recent brouhaha regarding President Obama's reference to the Special Olympics, there has been increased attention to the Special Olympics, and particularly their campaign to eliminate the use of the "R-word". Here's the article from CNN, and the web site of the Special Olympics where you can pledge to stop using the word.



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bass Picture of the Week (March 23rd)


I'm out of town next week so here's and early posting of Edith Piaf. I can only hope she's expressing her intense joy over the bassist engaging in what looks like a slap.

Another Great Paul Chambers Video

Here's another video of Paul Chamber (a follow-up to a previous post). This one with the John Coltrane Quartet playing On Green Dolphin Street. Again, check out Paul's acro solo. I found it interesting where he placed slurs and hooked bowings. I'll have to watch it a few more times to get the ideas written down in my transcription of this solo.



Great Video of Paul Chambers

I recently came across the video below of John Coltrane with Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers. I've always thought that Paul Chambers deserves more credit than he receives (something echoed by Marcus Miller in a recent blurb in Down Beat).

What makes this video intriguing to me is that Chambers takes two solos in the video. The first (at about 3:00) is an arco solo. This gives a chance to see his bowing technique. There are books of transcribed arco solos (e.g., Jim Stinnett's books), but these don't tell you much about how Chambers articulated the notes or what his bowings looked like. The second solo (at about 6:30) is a pizzicato solo. Both solos are great, along with the playing of Kelly and the others. Enjoy.



Sunday, March 15, 2009

Solo to Orchestral Transcriptions

I'm often faced with the following problem: I play in orchestral tuning but have a piece I want to play (e.g. Hindemith sonata) that is written for solo tuning. I don't want to re-tune my bass and can't afford the time/money of switching to a set of solo strings (which I think sound much better than an orchestral set ratcheted up a notch) just to play a few pieces. So what do I do?

For Bottesini's Elegy, there is a Frank Proto edition in which he includes two piano scores: one to accompany each of a bassist in orchestral and solo tuning. This seems to me like a great solution. Well, I just cam across Douglas Mapp Music which offers piano transcriptions for many of the pieces in the repetoire. The pieces look good and seem, to me, reasonably priced.

I'll let you know how my first order goes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Double-Stops Masterclass

I've been working on some new techniques, including slapping and developing my technique with respect to double stops. I found a useful "masterclass" written by John Goldsby in several 2007 issues of Double Bassist magazine (now defunct and incorporated into the Strad). The Strad has been kind enough to make these articles available on its web site. The articles by John Goldsby are great. Lots of good ideas for developing a good double-stop techique. I've been doing scales using thirds and fifths double-stops (something suggested by Goldsby). While the articles focus on jazz playing, the ideas are equally applicable to other genres (classial and rockabilly).

Also included on the site is a masterclass by Owen Lee on the double bass solos in Mahler 1 and Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije suite.

Finale Carbon Fiber Bows


I have been using a Finale carbon fiber bow (from the String Emporium) for a while now. I have to say that I am really impressed with this bow. The bow is very responsive and produces a great sound. For off the string playing, its great, much more alive than other synthetic (non-wood) bows. Plus, the price is awesome ($350 or so plus a great case and the rosin of your choice).


Here's a video of Jason Heath (Contrabass Conversations) demonstrating the bow and demonstrating its sound relative to a more expensive bow.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Great Jazz Video Site

Have you ever spent more time than you expected searching through YouTube videos? I've lost hours of time seeking out footage of Mingus or watching Ray Brown's masterclass on YouTube. Well, now someone has done the searching for you. (The viewing is all up to you.) A new site by Brad Sharp lists all sorts of great artists and their YouTube video performance. Best of all (I think), its sorted by instrument. Warning: Make sure you have some time set aside before getting started on the site.

I've suggested that he add Scott LaFaro to his list. Although there is not a lot of Scott on YouTube, there are a few videos. The one below is short, but dynamite! What a bassist!



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And my parents tought a regular degree in music was worthless

When I was an undergraduate, I wanted to pursue a degree in music. My parents were totally against it and, under pressure, ended up pursuing a degree in accounting. Talk about a 180. Anyways, its long story and has a happy ending.

Moving beyond my parents, imaging what they would have thought if I pursued the following:

Liverpool Hope University has launched a brand new MA in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, the first of its kind in the world.

The new course, which can be studied both full and part time, covers four modules with specific issues relating to The Beatles and Popular Music, consisting of four 12-week taught modules, plus a dissertation.

Mike Brocken, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at Hope, said 'There have been over 8,000 books about The Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address.

'Forty years on from their break-up, now is the right time and LIverpool is the right place to study The Beatles. This MA is expected to attract a great deal of attention, not just locally but nationally and we have already had enquiries from abroad, particularly the United States.

''The Beatles, Popular Music and Society' marks a seminal advance in popular music studies. For the first time in the UK and possibly the world, a postgraduate taught course is offered to research into The Beatles, the city from which they emerged, the contexts of the 1960s, technology, sound and songwriting and the industries that have set up in their wake to capitalise on tourism in the city of Liverpool.'

For further information, please call the postgraduate enquiry line on 0151 291 3389.

Bowmaker Zdzislaw Prochownik

I've been looking to buy a new bow for some time now. I came across the bowmaker Zdzislaw Prochownik, who happens to also be the principal bassist in Winnipeg. After I inquired about is bows, he sent me two bows: a 119g pernambuco bow and a 123g massaranduba. Both bows are exceptional: great curve, excellent balance and a real life to them. I ended up purchasing the massaranduba as I preferred the feel of it and it made my bass sing. I really liked the feel of the wood. I was not familiar with massaranduba before.

If you're looking for a bow in Canada, particularly a Canadian-made bow, check out Mr. Prochownik's work.

Monday, March 2, 2009

R. Murray Schafer wins the Governor General's award



Congratulations to R. Murray Schafer who has been awarded the 2009 Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Mr. Shafer is a composer and educator who I first encountered when studying the World Soundscape Project. This project was, at least initially, driven by Shafer's studies of noise pollution. I later read his book The Soundscape which extended these ideas into thinking about an evironment's soundscape as a compositional tool or an orchestral component. (I've tried to use some of these ideas in my own compositions, with much less success that those of Shafer.)

Many of his ideas are included in what I think is his most famous composition, The Princess and the Stars. This piece is based on Native American folklore and must be performed around a lake, therby incorporating the natural soundscape of the lake. In fact, it was once performed in nearby Banff National Park. I've heard that a bootleg recording of that performance resides somewhere on the University of Calgary campus.

Thirft Stores and the Recession

As people start grappling with the recession, they look for means of saving money. This usually means cutting back on purchases and holding on to items a bit longer than maybe one would in more abundant times. As a result of this behavior, thrift stores in Calgary (and elsewhere) are feeling a pinch. Paraphrasing from an article in the Calgary Herald (March 1 2009):

Calgary's social agencies are issuing calls for donations of household items as the recession begins to pinch city residents.

"We've noticed that people are not going out and buying new things; they're hanging onto what they have," said Sparrow. "We're also seeing new faces in our stores." At the same time, the agency has experienced a 20 per cent increase in demand for its Free Goods Referral program. Women in transition or coming out of a crisis are referred to the program by one of 60 community agencies and provided a voucher to obtain clothing and household items at a Women In Need thrift store. Sparrow's organization especially needs dishes, pots and pans, linens, flatware, as well as clothing and accessories, she said. Its Dover-area store also takes furniture. "We're hoping that when people start thinking about spring cleaning, they think about us and donate," said Sparrow.

It's an about-face from the boom, when thrift stores struggled to cope with a flood of donations. Some turned donors away and a few hired security guards to prevent people from dumping unwanted goods on their doorsteps.

Beth Heyd, operations manager of The Salvation Army's Thrift Stores, estimates donations of household goods have dropped by half. Normally, there'd be a dozen sofas in the furniture section of the Salvation Army's Horizon Heights stores at 36th Street and 32nd Avenue N. E., she said, but only one or two couches were available on Thursday. "My theory is that you'll give second thought to buying that new sofa if you're worried about getting laid off," said Heyd. Donations of used clothing remain strong, but she's noticed an increase in professionals, especially women, shopping for used business wear at the thrift stores.

Likewise, the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre put out a call for donations of linens for the 2,000 homeless people who pass through its doors every day. "We are in desperate need of towels and blankets," said Louise Gallagher, director of public relations and volunteer services for the drop-in centre.

Personally, I get most of my gig clothes from thift stores. My wife and I did a big clean out of our closets today, taking several bags of clothing to a local thrift store. Next time you're struggling to get through your closet, think about doing the same.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Max Dimoff interview

I recently listened to the Contrabass Conversations interview with Max Dimoff. I've been using Mr. Dimoff's warm-up exercises for a long time. I like them for the purpose of working on my intonation. I also do the exercises (when I have the time) using pizzicato in order to focus on getting a strong pizz sound.

In the interview, Mr. Dimoff is quite detailed aobut the role of the warm-ups and what he thinks about while going through the exercises. While I worry about intonation, he's considering getting a good sound, how he's carrying his weight, and other more fundamentals on the bass. Great interview.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Double Bass Pic of the Week (March 9)


Here's a photo of a bass belonging to Finnish bassist Alpo Koivuranta. You can read details about him and the bass here and here. I love the inlay work on this bass.

March 16 Bass Picture of the Week


I came across this trading card of Scott LaFaro from the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival. I'm curious if this was a series of cards. If anyone knows, please let me know.

March 9 Bass Photo of the Week


Here's a photo of Henry Lewis (1957, photo by Allan Grant). Lewis was a member of the L.A. Philharmonic, being the first black instrumentalist in a major orchestra. He founded the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in the late 1950's and became the conductor of the New Jersey Symphony in 1968.

March 2 Bass Picture of the Week

Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson in 1955.

Feb 23 Bass Picture of the Week

Here's a picture of Bobo the gorilla from 1953 (photo by Nat Farbman). Notice he's smashed just about everything EXCEPT the bass. 'Nuff said.

Feb 16 Bass Picture of the Week


The Life photo archive has some great photos of bassist. Here's one I find interesting. Its a photo taken by Carl Mydans in New York, 1958. The photo has taken at the Refuge Temple. I love the expression on the kids face.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My favorite Quote of January

Hone your talent and realize there is a place for you. Not everyone is a Quincy Jones, The Beatles, or a Bruce Springsteen, but if an artist like Tom Waites is a vocalist, then there is definitely room for you too. (Peter Spellman,"5 Essentials of Music Career Success," International Musician, January 2009)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leading ther Band

So, for the first time, I've taken the lead on putting together a band to play a series of shows. I've always been a sideman, never really wanting to by in charge. Well, now I have been given a regular gig for a few months and needed to put together a band. I chose a couple of the best players I know and a few sets of material. I scheduled a couple of rehearsals and wrote out some charts.

In short: Man, what a lot of work. And playing a show as the leader, I never realized how much thought you should put into calling out songs to create a flow of music. Plus, singing and soloing as the leader created a whole new sense of anxiety.

My apologies to all those leaders who I may not have been up to par at their gigs. I get it now. I get it.