Friday, October 20, 2006

Thursday 10/19 - Survived first open mic feature. Set list:
  1. County Down
  2. The Dance of the Capricorn
  3. The Day after the Feast/Kadourimdou
  4. Bright Field
  5. Castle's Call/Pilgrims Flight
  6. Fare Thee Well
  7. (encore) A Smile
I put my strongest pieces at the beginning and end, with the dicey stuff in the middle. And was it ever dicey... I am starting to think that Kadourimdou needs to just be reeled in for a while and polished in the shop before I parade it around town any more. It is just too hard for me in front of an audience right now. It is a pretty avant-guard crazy kind of tune anyhow, and when you aren't 100% on top of it, I fear it does not come across at all!

I think that The Day after the Feast would have gone alright, but at that point I was battling heavily with the sound, which was less than ideal. At first, I couldn't hear anything coming from the mains or monitors, which really threw me on Capricorn, because it is such a punchy rhythmically driving piece. THEN, when I turned my preamp up, this buzz appeared everywhere, so I just killed my pickup and used an instrument mic. So, shaken from my second tune, it was very difficult to try to regain composure for Feast, which requires, as I've mentioned before, a high degree of right hand control.

After that, everything went pretty well. I originally had Chasin' the Groove in there, but bailed because I was still feeling a bit freaked about the sound. I think that was the right decision. I worry that it cost me some energy later in the set, but the response from the audience was good.

This experience was a good one also in terms of tuning my expectations for an open mic feature. The key is that people aren't there to see you, by and large - they are there for the open mic. This is a good thing to keep in mind so that a proper set of expectations can be built.

Other things to work on: my interaction with the audience is very sparse, and I would like to talk more to them, and draw them in more.

That's it for now. Thanks to everyone who came out last night... it was great to see you and play for you!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thursday 10/12 - Played at Amazing Things. Voyage to Ireland (not a train wreck, but close), Frenzy at the Feeder (best I've played it for an audience, but still needs work), Great is Thy (little mistakes and hesitations, but this was the most together tune I played)

Everyone who reads this blog and is free next week should come out to see me as the feature performer at Amazing Things next Thursday 10/19. Even though the bio is talking about someone else, trust me, I am really the feature!

I am looking forward to participating in a guitar workshop given by David Surette later this month at ArtSpace in Greenfield, MA. It should be good - I've heard David's work on the web and on a CD/Book called Pierre Bensusan presents DADGAD music, which features many great players, including Brooks Williams and Phil Keaggy, two of my personal favorites.

A while back I mentioned working out the diatonic scale patterns in DADGAD tuning. I'll give some of my thoughts and maybe a diagram or two here:

The first thing that sticks out at one when trying to work this out, is the two places where intervals between strings diverge from standard tuning (6->5 and 3->2). The 5th from 6->5 is a difficult problem, since it presents quite a stretch to acheive a half-tone or whole-tone interval especially at the lower frets. This problem is easiest solved through the use of the open 'A' string. This solution is unfortunately specific to key (and not applicable to every key), so I'll circle back at some point to address it. For now, I'll deal with moveable forms where the tonic is located on the 5th ('A') string.

The 3->2 whole-tone is much easier to deal with, and in terms of melody arrangement, is one of the reasons DADGAD is such an interesting tuning to play in. The 3->2 transition sorts the scale patterns into two groups, based on whether there is a half-tone or whole-tone interval at the point in the scale where one crosses from the 3rd to 2nd string.

There are two modes where this transition is a half-tone:

Phrygian mode:
Locrian mode:

The remaining five modes all place a whole-tone interval between the 3 and 2 strings:

Mixolydian: mmmmmmmmmLydian: mmmmmmmmmmAeolian:

Dorian:mmmmmmmmmmm Ionian:

A close inspection reveals there are two approaches present for playing across the third and second strings: the most common taken above is to use adjacent fingers (with a bit of a stretch - if you are serious about DADGAD, get used to it!) to play the interval on the same fret; this is used in all but the Aeolian (or minor) mode where a bar of the first finger is used instead. A quick analysis will reveal that this approach is also valid for the Dorian and Mixolydian modes but will not work with Ionian or Lydian at all. Conversely, the two-finger adjacent string approach used in all the other modes may easily be applied to Aeolian as well.

So, if you're so inclined, play around with these patterns, combine them into Segovia-style scale exercises with one or more position changes, get comfortable with all the modes of a single major key. In a future installment of esoteric DADGAD fretboard analysis I'll delve into the topic of dealing with that nasty 5th between the 6 and 5 strings, and perhaps even go into scales played "harp style" with maximum use of adjacent strings (DADGAD lends itself especially well to this use).

Enjoy! And come out next Thursday to see me play!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wednesday (10/4) - Three 20 min practice sets (all DADGAD):

1. Exercises - right hand, scales (G major, one octave), run from the end of Kadourimdou
2. New tunes - mostly Merrily/Cunla, with a little Hymn 11 at the end
3. Old tunes - Great is Thy, Frenzy at the Feeder, Rakkish Paddy, Voyage to Ireland

Thursday (10/5) - Two 20 min sets, DADGAD:

1. Exercises, scales, and Kadourimdou
2. Merrily/Cunla, The last pint, the day after the feast (just play at end)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thursday (9/28) - played at Amazing Things. Fare Thee Well followed by Castle's Call/Pilgrim's flight (a Phil Keaggy night!) Both went pretty well - little mistakes, but overall about as good as I can play them, which feels great. Sound was good; talked to a guy who was at the Pierre show in April at Fall River, which helped a lot to loosen me up and relax. Fare Thee Well is a fun and sort of flashy piece to play, but it has the advantage of not being too demanding on the right hand. Pilgram's is a bit more challenging in this area, especially with the Baroque-sounding movement towards the end. The best strategy is to not rush it, but slow down if need be to gain control on the right hand; use the tempo expressively. It is easier to speed up usually than slow down, though both can be used to good effect.

The feature, Dan Gonzalez, asked if I played any Bensusan, so I stuck around for round 2 to play one for him, even though I had not planned to. I picked the Day after the Feast. It was OK, not what I would have liked. There is a lot of control required in the timing of the right hand, because there are all those arpeggios interspersed with melody/bass in Pierre's arrangment. You need to be relaxed and keep your concentration so that the right hand does not rush or lag behind, either of which will throw things completely off. Somehow, it gets easier in the 'B' section of this tune, because it is more straight-ahead chord+medoly arrangement. So, 'A' section is all right hand, 'B' is all left hand, and guess what, that means the piece actually starts out harder and gets a little easier towards the end!

Saturday (9/30) - Drove down to Acoustic Music in Guilford, CT to look at guitars. It was on the one hand a wonderful experience to play so many great instruments. But after a while it leaves me with a strange feeling - a weariness of trying to judge the flaws and attributes of so many amazingly crafted instruments. At a certain level, you know that any one of these will bring you much joy, and will shape your playing as part of the musician-instrument relationship over time. It is not good or bad, just different. How do you decide what kind of different you want? The practical reality of price is one way... can I really afford a $5000 guitar right now? No... I had an interesting conversation with the shop owner, though, where he was telling me about Pierre Bensusan's guitars and how until the Kevin Ryan that he now plays, he was playing pretty standard factory-production Lowdens. Nothing super fancy... it was his playing that mattered. It is still that way, though one might argue that the Ryan offers a kind of expressive range that is opening new doors in his music.

But it makes me tired thinking of all this... I find I am tired of thinking about things recently. Thinking about my calling as a musician, thinking about what is justified in terms of a second guitar, thinking about stage nervousness, thinking about everything. I was once introduced by a friend as "This is Tony; he thinks more than anyone I know" Ha! Flattering and sad all at once. God has given me this intensity of thought and of feeling, and that translates into an extreme sensitivity in both areas. Sometimes it just makes me totally exhausted.