It’s time to jam!

I recently was fortunate enough to see Dream Theater recently with a good friend of mine It was the second time that they’ve been to Australia and also the second time I’ve seen them. They were amazing… we both really really enjoyed the show and were super pumped afterwards. We’ve both been throwing around the idea of jamming together a few times in the past and it just never eventuated. The subject came up again and I’m adament it will happen!

My friend Ivan is a keyboard player and has played Dream Theater’s Erotomania in the past so that was my first sugestion of songs to learn. I love the challenge of these technical songs, but the smart thing would have been to start on a basic tune first. But anyhow this is a song I want us to learn so I jumped in to start learning it. Having been out of practice for a while (again) I had some work ahead of me.

I grabbed my wife’s iPad and bought the song on Jammit which is an awesome app that let’s you play along with the sheet music and create your own mix of the song at the same time so you can for instance listen to just the guitar or turn it off so you can play along with the rest of the band like you were John Petrucci. It also let’s you slow down the song without changing the pitch. The slow down feature paired with the ability to loop any series of bars is so helpful.

I find by just looping a short section slowly and listening so what you’re suposed to be playing ingrains it in your head and gets you half way there. I practice along with the loop and if I still can’t nail it at this slower speed I pause it and practice it VERY slowly until I get it, then I try again … and again… and pause again if I need to and repeat. Whatever it takes. Sometimes even going to normal speed for a few loops can help – you then slow it down again and miraculously it gets easier.

When I first started the song I was pretty rusty and even the intro was sadly a little bit of a challenge. It wasn’t long before this section was a walk in the park.

I’ve also been trying to memorise the parts so they flow naturally from my fingers – the less I have to think about it the better it sounds. When I jam I don’t want to have my nose stuck in manuscript paper. I’ve now got 70% of the song pretty solid (excluding solos) and I’m JAMMING it and feeling great and in the groove.

Now I’m tackling the solos. The first solo doesn’t sound ridiculously hard and it’s nice and short but I had that feeling it might be beyond me speed wise. But I started taking it slowly and looping and sure enough it’s looking distinctly possible I’ll be playing this somewhat confidently before long.

I haven’t tried them yet but I am a little fearful of the rest of the solos…. but the challenge is part of the fun. For me, practicing this stuff is my Guitar Hero video game and I’ve already unlocked a few achievements 😉

Rip out a cover

So I’ve once again been on bit of a KISS kick since returning from LA. I of course visited the awesome Kiss Monster Mini Golf in Vegas, splashed out on a pair of KISS boots for the man cave and then there’s the awesome 180gm vinyl reissues.

Jet lag has had the better of me for the past week so getting back into music has been a little slow to say the least. I’ve got a separate Kiss cover in the works which is a little different but I felt like just bashing out a full cover of Rip It Out from Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo album. I really don’t have a good singing voice at all, but Ace isn’t exactly a singing dynamo but having said that he is just perfect for the style he sings and I think I can pull this one off.

I first dived into programming the drums, if only I thought harder about my song choice since we have the the mighty Anton Figg drum solo in the middle of the song. Instead of dwelling on these hard parts I got all the basics down so I could move on to tracking bass then guitars, thanks to MIDI drums I can finalise the parts at a later date. But having said that, I did get a good chunk of them down thanks to years of air drumming and it really sounds pretty damn good.

I wanted to stay faithful to the original arrangement/mix so I even pulled out my acoustic for that subtle layered effect and it really works great. I love the sound of these 70’s albums and doing this kind of exercise has the side benefit of learning from these masters – in this case the work of Eddie Kramer. I’ll never be able to replicate the sounds of the album but I think I’m getting the spirit of it and it sounds like a good modern take of this 70’s classic. And I’m not over thinking the guitar performances – they need to rock!

At this point in time I have all the guitars and bass done (pending a few punch ins) and I did a sample vocal take of one of the choruses quickly last night. I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and I think I can! It definitely wasn’t perfect but I think with some warming up and confidence I should be able to get some decent takes down. If only I could evacuate the neighbours so I can truly feel free to ‘rip it out’ h ha.

Overall the track is sounding very energetic which I’m really happy about. It rocks! Looking forward to completing the vocals soon and nailing that guitar solo J I wasn’t expecting a cover to be the first thing I’d release but it looks like it’ll be the one – all a bit of fun J

Back from LA

I’ve just returned from my first holiday in USA! Having grown up as a fan of hard rock music it was exciting to visit the home of a lot of my favourite bands. Los Angeles obviously being the home of bands like Guns N Roses, Motley Crue and Van Halen to name just a few, I was very excited to finally see places like the Whiskey A Go Go, the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Roxy.

First impression of LA was that it was old and there were a lot of homeless people. But then you had the polar opposite shiny new and neon lights with a lot of tourist traffic (we stayed just off of Hollywood Boulevard. I’d probably built the place up so much from thinking/imagining the place over the years that it took me a few days to really grow to love the place.

The Chinese Theater, a place for many a red carpet event was decked out for the Godzilla movie which was cool but I was hoping to see and get a photo with the original statue as featured in a classic KISS photo, oh well! We did a Celebrity Home tourist tour which was a fun way to see a bit more of LA.

We initially spent only a couple of days in this part of LA before heading Downtown where we would catch the Musicares MAP Fund Benefit event honouring Ozzy Osbourne and Jeff Greenberg at Club Nokia . What an amazing night! We got to check out the red carpet first featuring the likes of Ozzy and Kelly, Rob and Kirk from Metallica, Beth Hart, Keb Mo, Sonny Mayo (Ugly Kid Joe/Sevendust), Steve O, Dave Navarro… the list goes on.

It was awesome to hear the stories related to the night, the battles with addiction be it drink, drugs… whatever and how this program helps these artists. Then there was the performances… I’d heard Beth Harts name a lot but had never heard or seen her before and wow, what a talent! She did an amazing cover of Sabbath’s “Changes” which gave me goose bumps. Keb Mo was just incredible, what a voice and talent – definitely want to hear more of his work. Metallica pulled out a surprise acoustic covers set which was a privilege to witness. One of my favorite Ozzy songs is Diary Of A Madman and it was very cool to hear Metallica perform it. Finally Ozzy took to the stage and performed a great set of classics with Dave Navarro on guitar followed by an encore with Slash on guitar. The way the venue was laid out the front sections was all seated tables and couches with Kelly and Jack Osbourne right near the front. It was so funny to see Ozzy cheekily throw a bucket of water on them.

And I just have to say thanks again to Sonny Mayo who came looking for us after the red carpet. I’d just seen him perform with Ugly Kid Joe in Australia and mentioned it to him as he headed for the red carpet. He said he’d come and say hello, get a photo but got whisked backstage I guess from there. We finally caught up after the show and he was genuinely happy that he got to see us. We had a great chat. Also just as cool was Gilby Clarke who was so patient taking photos with fans after the event. It’s always great when your heroes are so cool.

Next stop was Disney and this place is truly magical. I didn’t get it straight away but when I did I got it big time and I’m hooked. We had a few special moments there which will remain with me forever and I was just really impressed with the quality and upkeep of the place. Can’t wait to go back!

From there we went to Vegas and that place is just insane! I drove there for the first time on the other side of the road… stressful but I did it. There is just so much to see in Vegas, I just didn’t know where to start. We spent some time by the pool at the Venetian… right next to the TAO pool. It looked like spring break in there, I was stunned… I just thought that kind of scene was just for TV, it’s real?!

We did the Neon Boneyard, home to a lot of the classic Vegas signs. Very cool stuff run by non-profit organisation. Very professional and informative tour well worth checking out.

My favorite part of my Vegas trip was going to the KISS Mini Golf course. I’ve been a big KISS fan since age 4 so it was a lot of fun to visit this place with KISS tunes spinning the whole time, memorabilia galore and a glowing, rocking fun mini golf course. Just like Disney I was a kid again and loved every moment of it. I thought this place could be cheesy and I guess it was but in an awesome way.  The crew there made us feel very welcome, Mr Blackwell put on 4 tracks from Kiss Symphony since I was from Australia which was a nice touch. He later took me and my friend Rob into the VIP area to have a look around which was fantastic. Then came the store… I could resist and bought a pair of Paul Stanley platform boots 😉 They look soooo cool.

Although it was nerve wracking it was cool doing the drive between Anaheim, Vegas, San Diego and LA and seeing the classic locations and signs. Route 66, Sunset Strip… even 101 North – a Tomahawk song. So many great songs inspired by this part of the world, I just love it. Maybe I’ll write my own California inspired song now.

When we returned to LA for the end of our trip the Chinese Theater looked different again, this time a red carpet event was being set up for the new Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler movie “Blended”. It’s just amazing that this size event just seems to happen every other day (or perhaps we were lucky!). I must say it was very exciting and cool to see such legends in close proximity.

That night we went to the Rainbow Bar and Grill for a few drinks. There’s so much history in this place and there’s some amazing photos that tell some of the tale. I definitely need to spend more time here next time but for our brief visit it was cool to finally have a real feel for where these legends spent allot of their time.

At the end of our trip we finally got to visit a few of the places on my “must see” list. We went to Amoeba Music which is insanely big, I was hoping to grab some Richie Kotzen CD’s but alas, there was none… I did however grab The Winery Dogs on vinyl which was nice.

Then we swung past Guitar Center and checked out the hand prints out the front. Amazing to place my hands where Frank Zappa had been, and even though I’ve met Steve Vai a few times it was cool to place my hands in his print. It’s amazing the size difference of his left hand, I’d heard the rumors but it was obvious in these prints the difference. I think he said he willed them to be bigger, I guess it worked!

Well that is a very brief run down of the more music inspried look at our 2 week holiday, had an amazing time and can’t wait to do it all again – we really have so much more to explore!

New ideas

In this morning’s session I was working on Drought Breaker (again!). Just as I was about to wrap up and head off to work a simple little lick popped out that I enjoyed playing and liked the sound of it. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a new song with my focus being on finishing my existing unfinished songs.

Since I had very little time I quickly fired up a new session, armed a couple of tracks in Reaper (in the morning I record a DI track and a silent output from my Marshall), found my tempo and hit record.  Originally the lick was in B minor (same key as Drought Breaker) so I decided I’d choose a different key so I popped up to E minor instead. I initially just wanted to get that lick down which I did easy enough. From there I felt it could go somewhere else and I just started noodling. I got some very very rough ideas down based on this lick and from there started riffing. I may have enough content there to form the skeleton of a new song 🙂

I’m going to resist listening to it again though until I finish my current tune(s) so I can come back with fresh ears and hopefully more fresh ideas. It’s always exciting when this happens, hopefully the ideas will survive the ‘next day’ test.

\m/

Easter aftermath

Well Easter has come and gone. Unfortunately my plans to finish Drought Breaker over that period did not go to plan due to unforseen personal reasons. Having said that I did get some time in but not enough for me to get back up to speed and get that perfect performance that I was after. I’ve spent sooooo stupidly long on this song that I’m not going to make a last minute rush to the finish line just for the sake of a ‘deadline’. I definitely do not need a deadline to motivate me to get this finished ASAP, I want this badly!

As getting time afterhours to work on my music is erratic at best I’ve had to MAKE time to do my music. I believe it was in one of Dave Weiner’s Riff Of The Week bootcamp episodes where he said something roughly to the effect that you should practice every day, even if it’s short – do it every day! Get up half an hour early… Such simple and logical advice!

For a long period last year I did just that and practiced my bootcamp material. But somewhere along the line I stopped… I suspect it might’ve been to do with late nights doing freelance work making it hard to get up early in the morning (maybe the change of day light saving too?). I think maybe diet and fitness weren’t helping me either with energy levels and being tired all of the time.

I’ve since improved my diet (a bit) and have been getting myself more organised. It really is the simple things that can make a big difference! As soon as I get home from work I make a nice healthy smoothie and pop it in the fridge ready to take with me to work the following morning. I get my clothes ready and anything else I would normally need to do before work. I cook our food, eat, take the dogs for a walk (this sadly is most of my exercise at the moment!). All basic stuff, right? But that’s tasks out of the way routinely that allow me to have a clear head and clear time to focus on my music.

I get miserable to be around when I don’t get time to play my music (just ask my poor wife!) and now because of this routine and organisation and getting to bed somewhat strictly at 11pmI can now get up at 6.30am and get a good hours practice or work on a track like Drought Breaker before work and still have enough energy to get through my day.

So in summary I guess I’m saying things unfortunately don’t always go to plan but if we need to remind ourselves that there’s usually something we can do about it to help us achieve our goals and dreams. Get organised, stay healthy and rock on \m/

Finally…

I’ve had the grand goal of creating some music which I’ve been working on for many, many years (I’ll get into that in another blogpost). The majority of my music I write is instrumental rock guitar based, I just love it. I love playing it, I love the challenge of it and I love listening to it.

Now I know instrumental music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and with this in mind there was a long period where I never even intended for anyone other than my friends and family to hear it. But now we have the global reach of the internet I decided that there’s bound to be someone else out there who would dig my tunes as much as I do.

I’m my own worst enemy in some ways, I am to a degree a perfectionist. I knew in my heart that with attention to detail and patience I could make a recording as good as my heroes. Unfortunately when working full time and doing the occasional freelance job after hours along with household commitments and spending time with my wife, dogs and friends you quickly find the available hours quickly disappear. I spent a lot of time researching and learning to record and mix – both of which are huge undertakings. And for me this tangent was taking away from my guitar and theory practice. But at the same time it’s been essential in giving me a big picture view of what’s required to record a great quality song at home.

Fast forwarding to now I am stoked to be seeing my first song finally near its completion. Drums are done thanks to John O Reilly Jnr, I’ve got an amazing Hammond organ performance thanks to Todd and earlier this week my good friend Joseph Fernand popped over to re-record the bass (which I incorrectly tracked previously – newbie error!) and he did a fantastic job (again!) . My guitars are basically all done but the perfectionist in me strikes again and I plan on doing some final touches over the coming Easter long weekend.

In a month’s time I’m off to California and Las Vegas for the first time, I’m so excited! But equally as exciting is the thought that the tracking of this song will be 100% done before I leave and I can’t wait to finally let you hear the results J

Until next time,
Chris \m/

Welcome to silverbeetle.com

Previously I used this site to promote my web development work. If that’s the reason you’re here please check out its new home at silwedel.com.

Otherwise welcome to the new home of my music and (amateur) photography… and anything else that I care to share with you.

At some point I’ll do a design for the website but at the moment it’s a low priority. In the meantime I’ll be blogging about the creation of my music. The thought process, the technical process, my struggles and my successes. I hope some of you might enjoy the content!

And of course stay tuned to for the release of some of my music… eventually 🙂

Thanks for stopping by,

Chris Silwedel (aka silverbeetle)