Category Archives: Music

Music Training Beginning in Adulthood

Apparently the plasticity of the brain is lesser in adulthood. Hence; you are going to be more challenged to identify pitch. In fact, musical scholars are claiming that an adult may not be able to develop perfect pitch but with training and could obtain proficiency in “relative pitch”. So, don’t despair, this relative pitch is what we need the most when picking out the next chord in a progression. A key has limitations with respect to which chords are available and consequently the adult brain now gets to work with finite possibilities in relative terms. 

My youtube channel has one song which I posted that I knew didn’t sound right but given the nature of my channel oriented around progress and learning, I didn’t think much of it during the upload. Today, I revisited the song and searched around on “ultimate guitar” (website) to review some reader feedback  associated with the chord structure of the selected piece and discovered two flaws. Somebody with a better ear than mine not only knew it didn’t sound right as scored but he was able to offer the two corrections. I now look forward to the “redo”. The process gives me comfort in that I may be going from the phase of “not knowing what I don’t know” to “knowing what I don’t know” in the context of chord recognition. At this stage of my development, I am still only reaching for a chord because of a memorized sequence and not because of ear sense.  This contrasts to a professional musician who made an exclamation on his youtube channel that he showed up at a weekend festival and was introduced to 18 new songs of which he went right to work on learning and in short order played rhythm for the band in support. The take away is that I must listen more carefully to the sounds instead of anxiously searching my memory.         

How’s The Guitar Coming Along You Ask?

Well, it’s been about 2 1/2 years since getting serious about guitar. This is my old Fender Gemini III from 1987 which basically sat in storage until 2016. Looking back at the “set up” of the guitar and learning much about the “build characteristics” of acoustic guitars, it’s not surprising that I turned away from learning the instrument so quickly back in 1987. The “action” was “high” meaning that it needed a “truss rod adjustment”. Now I’ve made it easier to play and is a nice complement to my new Yamaha FG800. I’ll let the video do the talking from here on out.

Beach House Stirs

Another band discovered by watching a cover over at Youtube. Thanks Ani Lyn for your cover of “Myth”. The genre is described as “Dream Pop” and is strong medicine for those legitimately in need of an escape. If you’re like me and spend too much time enraptured by musicians dallying in minor keys, you will be delighted by this experienced group. Some youtube commenter has referred to the album “Bloom” and going from one great song to a better one.

Two young scholars came together in Baltimore’s Indie Rock scene and wrote music fervently  only to have a block on the defining of a band name. As you would expect with “Dream Pop”, we’re talking organs, synthesizers and slide guitar with an underlying soft mellow beat. Both Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally are versatile musicians deploying various instruments. Can one draw a parallel between “Shoe Gaze” and “Dream Pop”? Well, Scally with Beach House employs D flat tuning as does Slowdive.

As I write this piece, I’m listening to “Wishes” from “Bloom”. I’m tellin’ ya…this group is spectacular.  LeGrand has a soothing voice and fans were avid enough in 2016 to suggest that Pitchfork make them the headliners in Chicago. If distant travel beckons, book your ticket to Beach House and a dream theatre by the water.     

Her Smell

The mere brashness of protagonist Becky in full flight fix is something to behold. This ‘90’s grunge band lead woman exposes the darkness of drug induced euporhia and the consequential effect on close relationships.  This movie’s scenes could have been done in one big take because of Director Alex Ross Perry’s apparent affinity for rawness on set. Fortunately, he found an ideal actress in Elisabeth Moss to play this unique role of a rocker gone bad.   

Backstage glam and drama is raucous . Recovery is a requisite for the real. Despite dysfunction, the bond of band mates is visceral with appeal. You’ll be left wondering about that. You’ll be perplexed by the acquiescent demeanour of a manager in quandary over a recording studio overtaken. Then there’s mom infusing support when she can digesting the chaos in context of her maternal past. 

Oh yes, there’s music but it’s secondary to the lifestyle plot and the preponderance of the prized backstage pass.  Consider the flick one ripe tomato.

Back In Black At The Jack

Once you get past the imagery of hard rock being played in an opera house (Jack Singer Calgary) and digest the signature rasp of Brian Johnson’s sound alike, you’ll be perplexed and comforted that Classic Albums Live has done their homework in covering ACDC’s Back in Black. Why an all black album cover? It’s was produced in memory of lead singer Bon Scott who died of an “alcohol misadventure”. If you’re fifty plus, you danced to the pulsating beat of “Shoot To Thrill” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

It’s worth repeating that finding the on key screech to sing machismo minded lyrics must have been no easy task at auditioning. This man performed with distinction in this difficult role.

The opening was obviously anticipated with the dongs of the bell and the signature opening riff to Hell’s Bells. They weren’t going to master the 1980 studio version considering the work ACDC went through in the Bahamas back in the day to acquire the perfect sound with a real bell and studio tricks at their disposal. However; credit is cast in the delivery of the complementing solo piece which requires precision in developing the riff with timely rests. 

“Shoot To Thrill” is perfectly positioned as the two track. Things really get rumbling with an accelerated tempo and knee quivering trill of this somewhat forgotten gem. 

Having settled in, the next big moment of intrigue was upcoming on track one of the flip side. “Back in Black” has the memorable guitar solo and all three six stringers on stage took their turn on their Gibson SGs –of course. It was evident by now that all three guitarists were versant in playing lead and there was one in particular who was a bit more familiar with particular lead lines throughout the song list.  As we all know, exuberant solos get the crowd going and this rendition of Back in Black had the audience shimmering.

The sound engineer was getting things figured out a few short chords into You Shook Me. He’d moderated the extreme frequencies certainly giving some relief to patrons like me who had forgotten ear filters at home.

“Have A Drink On Me” exemplified the general sharpness of the band and to keep it tight with three six strings competing for attention cannot be easy.

“Shake A Leg” was played with more vigour here than I can remember on the album.  I believe this cover band turned the studio version into something better – not by making changes to the score but by turning up the dynamics.

Jumped free from my aisle seat right before the intermission and headed home after a long day of doing tax work. The audience would anticipate a second half featuring various other hits.              

Backstage At Loverboy

Forty years ago in Kamloops, B.C. as a teenager when at home listening to Loverboy’s self titled album with my aunt and mother on what can now be described as a vintage cabinet record player enraptured by songs titled “The Kid is Hot Tonight” and “Turn Me Loose” in no way could I have imagined that last night I’d be back stage of a concert in Calgary shaking hands with the lead singer Mike Reno and guitarist Paul Dean.

As if intended through some unknown protagonist, upon taking up guitar and piano there’s been opportunity to circulate in music circles and attend performances which have proved to be sources of inspiration and everywhere I turn I discover fellow amateur guitar players where we share about the instrument’s intricacies. 

Don’t be shy if you’re a single male in the crowd with a backstage pass encircling your wrist. Work it with the ladies preferably in a fashion that at least gets you a date. You see Tom Cochrane was actually the closing act and he apparently offered leverage power to backstage pass holder.

The question I had for Mike Reno last night was, “have you ever had voice training”? His answer was “no”. He still carries the high pitch exemplary of his singing. It’s not falsetto but just a high range he’s obviously carried throughout his career.

It was thanks to a client with connections that made this night out extra special. It was also fun to wear a neck badge with photo of the band purchased for me by my client’s wife from the souvenir stand. In response to perplexed inquiries I represented the keepsake as my “premium backstage pass” much to their astonishment and my silent guffaw.   

No photo….didn’t turn out. 

Obama At The Grammys

I’ll reference the unspoken and unpopular because it’s what I do here sometimes on my own forum. Wives of ex-politicians, ex-politicians, and politicians have no business on the stage of the Grammy’s unless they’ve won a Grammy for their contributions to music. Music is an escape from the tedium of political drama and hence the preeminent event should not become theatre for those who possess a larger agenda outside of the realm of music. It’s one more reminder of why I’ve cut my cable chord.

There would have been individuals in the audience with a life-long commitment to their passion for music who had never gained a whiff of that stage having been overlooked by The Recording Academy despite much success and hard work toward their craft. Society has unfortunately been overrun by elitists with special entry back stage passes who need their ego stroked at every turn. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Michelle Obama. On the contrary, I find her to be articulate and warm with generosity in her heart. This was simply not her place.    

Shoegaze and Slowdive

Shoegaze music became a shadow or back seat genre of the grunge scene during the 90s. Typically played in the minor keys, the name came from lead guitarists’ fixation on their feet due to the operation of numerous effect pedals daisy chained on stage. Thanks to KEXP radio, I discovered Slowdive which may be the preeminent band associated with the genre. To the band’s surprise upon reuniting in 2014 after a long hiatus due partly to unflattering reviews, audiences hailed them dearly in London and Barcelona. Their return has been invigorated with a hot new album self titled “Slowdive”.

 My characterization of the music is “sombre mood”. If you’re willing to go into the darkness, you’ll shimmy in calm. Just make certain you come out while not over cooking your playlist with it. While the distinction of chord movement is oftentimes muddled given the heavy use of reverb, the unrushed melodies can be impactful and pointed.

Much of my attraction to Slowdive is the modest stage presence and obvious band cohesiveness lead by lead song writer and front man Neal Halstead. What his childhood chum Rachel Goswell lacks in vocal range – she makes up for in musicality on guitar and keyboard.  Her voice tonality is actually fitting to the eclectic ambience illuminating live performances. Critical to the sensitive nature of the genre, the rhythm section has a strong feel for dynamics with Simon Scott intuitively in sync with bassist Nick Chaplin. Christian Savill rounds out the troupe on rhythm guitar.                

Wynterland Band Review

With tickets sold out at the Blues Can last night, I headed over to Mikey’s Juke Joint on 12th Ave SW with a friend and enjoyed classic rock from Red Deer’s Wynterland.

This is an energetic cover band that does remarkably well at capturing popular riffs of yesteryear. I stayed for their first two sets and enjoyed classics such from Fleetwood Mac , Boston, April Wine, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto, and Journey among others less familiar. It’s a fun stage presence hosted by vocalist / guitarist Wynette Johnson. The biggest take away of the evening was song selection. I don’t know if they had kicked in all of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams, “Rhiannon”, and “Go Your Own Way” because of the news of FM’s concert postponement but if so, that was intuitive. Patrons obviously took to the rhythm section filling the dance floor from the outset. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” from April Wine definitely had me reeling in Nostalgia as these guys delivered on this track pretty much note for note. 

When coming away from such an occasion, I reflect on the hard work that local musicians put into recreating popular songs for our enjoyment and the breadth of commitment required for band members to operate cohesively in this part time endeavour while maintaining full time careers. Although reduced …thankfully, Calgary has venues still available for these gigs. Go out and show your support. These bands need us.