Music Monday Vol 2… also, I know it’s Tuesday

So, I was sitting here thinking about what to write about… and I forgot to do a music monday post!!!

It’s been a crazy week and weekend… and frankly, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block… I think the fear of the Daily Prompt leaving has got me in a tizzy…

Regardless, here’s what I’ve been listening to!!

I recently got asked to sit in for a gig with another local band next month.  They play a lot of great music!!! A lot of which is complex, and actually has me TRYING to play the bass.. which is not something I often have to do… My band tends to pick simpler songs, for whatever reason.. but I love the technical stuff!!!!  So, here are a few of Graces Downfall’s cover songs and originals that I just love to play!

Cult of Personality – Living Colour

What a ridiculously fun song to play!!  Listen to those syncopated parts.  That bass is phenomenal!  There are some pretty complex riffs in there that have to be tight, or this whole tune can fall apart!! I really enjoy flying all over the fret-board for this one:

Such an awesome tune… I hope you enjoyed that as much as I do!

Hysteria – Muse

No no, not Def Leppard… This song by Muse has one of the most badass bass riffs to come out of the last 15 years… It not only sounds hard to play.. it IS hard to play. I find myself having to focus on not ‘tripping’ over my own fingers to blast that bass line out!!  Check it out:

Chris Wolstenholme is one hell of a bassist, and the perfect fit for that Trio.

I Only Lie When I Love You – Royal Blood

Royal Blood is my current music obsession.. I love Mike Kerr’s style of playing and vocals.. the way he makes his bass sound like 3 instruments is unreal!!! My drummer and I also cover their songs Figure it Out, and Out of the Black during live shows in my band Audiobox. This will be my first time playing a Royal Blood song with a 4 piece band, and I still am no less excited!!  This song is both heavy and poppy. The riffage coming from Kerr’s bass, matched with the Ridiculously underrated drumming of Ben Thatcher, just kicks ass from Britain to here and back!!

Guerilla Radio – Rage Against the Machine

Here’s a band who needs no introduction… And here’s a song that just pounds on your ear drums from start to finish. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk make up one of my favorite Rhythm Sections in 90’s rock… I’d say the only other bass/ drummer duo that can even come close to the talent these two would have to be Flea and Chad Smith (of the Chili Peppers).   I love the bass line in this song.. it’s somewhat minimalistic, and serves the rest of the music perfectly. There is so much more that could be put in here, but it’s not necessary. Tim has always been good about serving the music and playin only what needs to be played.

Fight – Graces Downfall

Here it is, one of the (many) originals by the band I’ll be sitting in with… Their bass player Grant Williams, who is a good friend of mine, can really write some wicked bass parts! I am honored to get a chance to fill his shoes for an evening and play one of the songs he helped write!! Kenneth Norton is one of the best singers in the Pennsylvania music scene, in my opinion, and Mark Yanish’s rips on the electric guitar!! If you haven’t had a chance to check these guys out, you really should! They are, without a doubt, the heaviest hitting band in the North Eastern Pennsylvania music scene!

So, there you have it!!!

If you’re in Pennsylvania, I’ll be playing with Graces Downfall on June 9th at the Oak Street Express in Taylor, Pennsylvania!! We will be rocking all of these great tunes and more!!!

Thanks again to ReadRantRock&Roll for giving me the idea to do music monday!!
I hope you enjoyed what I am listening to and have a great week!!!

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Tips for Stage Fright

Tom Pogson, a fellow blogger and musician, wrote a post: Stage fright, comparing yourself and other frets. It’s a good post, and you should go read it!!!

I’ve been gigging semi-professionally in my region for over a decade now, playing music almost my entire life… and I have a little insight on how to get over stage fright.

A. Your crowd is generally not packed full of musicians…

And what I mean by that, is that the only people who are really judging the way you play are yourself.. and possibly your bandmates. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.. I make hundreds of them… It’s being able to recover from a mistake and not look like you’ve made one, that is important… My wife is still new to the guitar, and I am constantly telling her:
“Think of the most average guitar player you know… and remember half of all of them are worse than that person. If you are at the middle of the road, you’re already better than half of the guitarists in the world… and definitely better than anyone who hasn’t even played it.” That type of realization will make playing in front of others a breeze… because what may be “Just Okay” to you, is inspiring to someone who hasn’t even picked up an instrument.

B. Practice in front of a mirror!

This may sound ridiculous, but it helps! I always did this when I was younger, it helped me not look at the headstock of my bass/guitar while playing.. and it made me focus away from myself. It’s a great technique for learning the feel of your instrument, and also being able to look someone in the eyes while you’re playing.. even if it is yourself!

C. Know your parts!

This is key… You have nothing to be ashamed of if you’re playing to the best of your ability!! Nervousness comes from discomfort… Learning to be comfortable being in front of people is a lot easier when you have the confidence in your own abilities!!!

D. Know how to turn it off

Once you have mastered the art of performing on a stage… you need to learn when it’s time to stop. This is as important as performing well!! I know too many musicians who get into ‘rockstar mode’ and don’t know when to just chill out and be human… I explain my ‘stage presence’ to people in the likeness of acting… When I am on stage I am a “Character.” Now, that character may just be me.. but it’s me, on stage, entertaining a crowd of people… I’m quite reserved and relaxed most of the time, and honestly have huge anxiety about crowds of people.. but who I am on stage is a little more personable…
If you just keep on acting like you’re God’s gift to mankind once you are among your crowd.. you are just going to come off as a pretentious fool. One thing I am proud to say that my band doesn’t have, is an overabundance of ego. We know where we stand talent wise… and we know that being overly competitive in the music scene is not helpful.

These may help you.. they may not… but I know in my experience it has been a huge assistance in my musical journey!! You will always find a crowd to be more responsive to someone who can put on a great show, and then come off of the performance and hang out with them. It’s much easier to sell your band’s music, if you are approachable as a human being!

As always, thanks for reading!!! I hope I have shed some insight into the world of performing music for someone!

Peek-a-boo

Today we are supposed to write our feelings on the word Disappear.

I’ve already deleted one blog post on this… it got a little too despairing for my tastes…

So, I’m going to go a different route!!!

My band, Audiobox, is in the studio!!! It’s been about 5 years since we released our first album…. and now it’s time to bring you our second full album!!!

We decided this time around to record our whole album in-house! And I literally mean ‘In-House.’ We bought the equipment, made sure it worked (Check out our single Summer Days, below), and now we’re doing the real thing!

What does this have to do with Disappear, you ask? ‘Disappear’ is one of the new songs on our upcoming album, and my personal favorite!!!  As a bass player, it gives me a chance to do two things:
A. Play some funktastic slap riffs.
B. melt faces with some overdriven bass thunder!!!

It’s so much fun to play, because I get a chance to really show off my favorite techniques on the bass guitar… from slapping and popping like Flea, to playing huge chords and bending pinch harmonics like I’m some kind of guitar player…. Well, enough talking about it.. Here’s Cellphone video that someone got from a local venue of us playing Disappear as a 3 piece, before we hired on our 4th Member:

The quality sucks, but you can hear what I’m talking about there… It’s rock and roll… it melts faces… and listen to those bass riffs!!!

Anywho, as excited as I am to share our new music.. I’m more excited to be at the controls of the studio. I love performing music, but not nearly as much as I enjoy recording it… bringing a bunch of raw files together, mixing them, adding effects, making them sound great together is such a great experience!!!

Are there any other Musicians out there? Do you enjoy recording as well??  I love having a home studio.. it was a dream of mine ever since the first time I recorded a song with a band.

Alright, shorter post today, but I have to get some work done!! Thanks for reading, and keep rocking out!!!

Oh where, oh where has your little Joe been

Firstly,

I’d like to apologize for my absence. Though my followers are few, you’re my followers.

My youngest child was born unexpectedly at the end of June (5 weeks early!) and my life got pretty busy for a while!  My wife and baby are both healthy. Her big sisters are all super proud, as am I… for the strength and fortitude they showed through a slightly bumpy ride.

That being said,

I am going to make a better attempt at writing posts!  There’s been a lot of good going on in my life, and I’ve got a lot to share!

I’ve been playing a lot!

My acoustic shows have been plentiful and full of great crowds of people. I’ve had more people coming to ME for bookings, as opposed to having to seek them out myself.. Which is great!!

I’ve begun teaching

my wife, mainly, to play guitar! She’s a fantastic singer, and she also wants to take on the role of a solo performer. We’re also working on building a nice, completely mobile, 2 channel recording rig, that can be used in studio, or live performances… but more on that later!

I’ve been trying

to push myself back into the world of social media… I’ll be posting some cover videos and even some of my original music, as I get situated with everything..

That being said:

Thank you all for hanging out and not writing me off yet!!  I am going to make a real attempt to update this weekly.. I doubt I’ll have time for daily posts, but we’ll see what the future brings!

As always, thank you, and have a great day!!

 

Musical Inspirations Vol. 2: Nobuo Uematsu

I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is that?

Nobuo Uematsu is famous for his composition/arrangement works with the video-game company Square. He wrote most of the scores for over 30 of their games, including the core Final Fantasy franchise.

Also keyboard player for “The Black Mages” a group that took music from the franchise and turned it into a rock band.

Okay, but what does that have to do with you?

Glad you asked.
I try to find inspiration in every kind of music I listen to, and some of the best music I’ve ever heard has been written in video-games!

Don’t believe me? Can you recall the music from the classic NES game Super Mario Brothers? I bet you can. How about any music from The Legend of Zelda.. It’s iconic.

Personally, Nobuo is the reason I managed to figure out how to finger-pick on an acoustic guitar, and I’m honestly not too bad at at!
Specifically this piece of music:

It’s a beautiful piece of music and unless you know it’s from a video-game, you would never think otherwise.

His music is very technical and interesting. I think I hummed the boss theme from FF8 all the way through my 8th grade year of school, because it was such a memorable piece of music.

Then there’s the mighty symphonic “One Winged Angel” which sits near and dear to any RPG nerds heart.

I saw an interview once where Uematsu explained the writing process. It wasn’t meant to just be a symphonic piece. It was written in a way that it could also be a Rock piece. A perfect bridge between the big band style & the modern era heavy metal.

Isn’t that beautiful? I sure think so.

Being a long time band-geek has its advantages,

Through my early years of a musician, I learned how to listen to a massive group of people playing instruments, and being able to isolate each individual part, in my mind.

It’s one of the reasons I love modern progressive rock. There is SO much to listen to, I can sit and get lost in the music, without being bored with repetition.

People who arrange pieces of music like this, are the types you should be listening to. They are smart about writing. They know how to take an idea, and implement it through a whole arsenal of tones and sounds.

 

So, I challenge you:

Next time you’re listening to music. Actually listen to the music. Don’t idly drone words and zombie your way through albums. People put every single detail into a song, for a specific reason. It’s our duty, as fans, to find those details and appreciate the beauty of what’s been written for our entertainment. Really think about the way the music feels.

If we had more people like that in the world, music would be a hell of a lot more fun to write!

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re all enjoying this look into my musical inspirations, as much as I am!

Musical Influences Ep1: Victor Wooten

If there’s something I can talk about, until I’m blue in the face, it’s music.  From theory, to its effect on our mood, deep lyrical ideas, to chord changes that give you goosebumps… it’s something that is such a large part of my life, i find a way to integrate it into every part.

I’m going to try a ‘series’ of posts talking about my biggest influences, as a musician. These are in no particular order (well, maybe this one is the most important, but the rest won’t be..), and I will write them as I think of them!

Does the name Victor Wooten mean anything to you?  Funny, that you probably haven’t heard of a guy who is a recipient of 5 Grammy awards; as a bass player, written 3 books, is an all around decent man, and an incredible teacher.

Probably because he isn’t a pop-star. He’s just talented beyond your wildest imagination!

I got to meet Victor briefly, and I promise I’m not going to romanticize this meeting. I was starstruck. My jaw hit the floor as I stood in front of the man who has no idea I exist.  What he didn’t know is this: I picked up the bass guitar from watching a VHS tape my dad had recorded of some Jazz festival in the mid ’90s, of two songs Bela Fleck and the Flecktones played.
After a few brief moments of silence, as I stood in front of my biggest influence, my friend Matt looked at him and said “He’s a really big fan.” I shook his hand, then ran into him later after his show. He signed the pick guard for my prized mid-80’s Fender Jazz bass, and I went on my way.

“The Sinister Minister” is the song that made me want to play the bass. The funky groove, high energy, and that damn bass solo.. From a song that didn’t even have spoken lyrics, is what captivated me to start plucking on a bass.

In fact, here’s the exact video that sparked my obsession:

Now that you’ve seen that… and I really hope you did. Maybe you can understand a little more about me, as a musician.  When I picked up the bass, I wanted to be able to to that.  After years of practice, I haven’t learned all of his tricks, but I’ve taken bits from his style of playing and added it to my own mixed bag of styles to create MY sound.

Here I am, almost 18 years later, hailed (not by myself, mind you) as one of the best bass players in the area. People know who I am, and I have a local “following.” It’s a weird concept to me, because I’ve never really thought of myself as that.

Aside from being a great musician, Wooten is also a great human being. He’s very in tune with nature, one of THE most modest people you would ever want to meet, and very kind.  He speaks to young musicians in a way that will comfort them as they come into their own. One of my favorite quotes of his, that I use all the time “You are never more than a half step from a wrong note” encourages the idea that if you DO hit a sour note, just bend it up or slide down and you’re in the ‘right key’ Now, from a young aspiring musicians perspective, that’s some impressive advice.

His website had (may still have) some of his lessons, when I started really beginning to understand how the bass worked.  A couple were sort of life-lesson sort of things, but a few were very deep into his methodology of the bass guitar.  The one that changed my ideas on the bass forever was the “Thump, Hammer, Pluck” Technique, which took me forever to understand (mind  you I was 13-14 years old trying to decipher the knowledge of a life-time musician.   The idea that you don’t have to play every strike of a note with one hand, is the basis.  Thump – to strike a string with your thumb, Hammer – to hammer a note, and Pluck – to pull a string or ‘pop’ it with one of your other fingers. I would spend hours at school drumming triplets out on my desk in this fashion: Right thumb, any finger on my left hand, then my right index or middle finger. This eventually evolved into the tump,hammer, pluck,pluck, or the thump, hammer, thump, pluck.. or any variation of alternate notation… It’s how he plays so fast- with seemingly no effort at all. It’s genius ideas like that, that have made him the number one bass player in the world.

I hope you’ve learned a little bit today about music, its influences on me, and why I’m so passionate about something other people tend to overlook.

Thank you, so much, for your time! Hope you all have a wonderful day!
-Joe

It’s like they know I need to lose weight

Portion Control

Uh oh… This one’s aimed right at my gut…

Look, I’m not a mammoth of a human being, but I’m a hell of a lot heavier, than I want to be. Can I get an Amen, who isn’t?

Taking a desk job has just about been the literal death of me, and things got very real at my last annual checkup. I’m all about getting high scores in the videogame world, but blood pressure of 165/90-something is not a high score to be proud of.

So, what have I done to fix it?  I didn’t do body wraps, or THRIVE (I have my own rant about that crock of garbage), or any of these gimmicks…. I started exercising and controlling the amount of food I eat!

Now, I love food… a lot.. I love cooking it, smelling it, eating it, everything about the endless combinations is fascinating to me… Unfortunately, when both you and your wife are exceptional cooks, you tend to eat a lot. Here’s a few things I’ve tried, to curb my tendencies to overeat:

  • Buy smaller plates: This sounds ridiculous, but it works. 8″ paper plates, from Sam’s Club, are the way to go. Only fill them once, with whatever you have for dinner, and JUST EAT THAT
  • Stop Buying Lunch: Spending 6 dollars a day for lunch at work, is just ridiculous. Plan something tasty and that is healthier than your current eating habits, and stick to it!  OR, Since you didn’t eat so much for dinner, take some of those delicious leftovers!
  • Cut Down On Drinking: I’m no alcoholic, but I do love to unwind with a tasty beverage in the evening. Whiskey and Vodka don’t have the calories that beer does, but mixing it with coke is waaaay worse. If you HAVE to have a drink, try mixing it with Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, or Sprite Zero. Less calories and sugar = less fat.
  • Stop Eating Garbage: I know, you work hard. You don’t feel like cooking, and it’s just easier to order out. Not only is it expensive, it’s really REALLY REALLY unhealthy.
  • Vitamins & Water: Remember, your body tells you it’s thirsty, the same way it tells you that you’re hungry. I drink about 3/4 – 1 Gallon of water A DAY.  In the same breath, you’re probably not getting all of the vitamins you need.  Find a good well-rounded multivitamin and TAKE IT EVERY DAY!

    Here’s what my wife and I started doing: She did some research and found a pile of delicious crock-pot meals, then made up a large list of ingredients (we stuck to pork, beef, and chicken proteins with similar ingredient recipes). We then went to the Grocery store, spent less than $300 (I know it sounds like a lot, just bear with me.) and managed to make 32 meals out of it, that are frozen and ready to stick in the crock pot. No extra cooking involved, just toss it in, go about your day, minimal preparation, and we eat GREAT.
    * Buy crock pot bags, they make this all so much easier.

So, there you have it. You can do it, if I can. I’m down about 10ish pounds from where I was, and as I get more active in the Spring & Summer, hopefully I can reach my goal of losing 35 pounds.

Have a great day! Sorry I kind of fell off of the face of the planet.