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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Gear Talk: MXR M80 Bass DI+

The MXR M80 is a modest little stompbox with the ability to dial in a HUGE range of tones!!! 

I’ve been wanting to get into the world of music gear reviews for a while now, so I figured, why not start with the heart of my bass guitar rig! The mighty MXR M80.

I am just going to specify, that this is NOT a paid review. I am doing this of my own free will, and any views expressed here are my own. (Although, I am open to having companies send me gear to check out!!!!!)

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Just look at that thing. It’s ready to rock!!

So, why should this be an integral part of every bass player’s arsenal you ask??? Well, let me tell you.

It is the ONLY pedal you will ever truly NEED

I say that, being the owner of many guitar/bass pedals.. but honestly.. it’s the truth. I can go to practice with just this bad boy and be confident that I can get a good Finger style tone, slapping tone, picking tone, or throw some dirt on the signal without needing anything else.  So, I’ll tell you how the thing works, and then give my final thoughts on it!

Let’s talk about features..

First, the ‘clean’ section

We will start with the simple things, on the top left you will see a volume knob, this is the obvious one.. When the left button is activated, the ‘clean’ circuit is engaged. At about 12 o’ clock you can pretty much match the passive volume of your bass.. which means you can use this volume knob as a boost, if you turn it above that point…. Now, if you look to the left of that knob there is a ‘Color’ switch. When that is engaged, it activates a preset EQ setting that scoops the mids, and boosts some bass and treble frequencies to give you, arguably, the best clean tone I’ve ever heard!!! I usually keep that color switch on, and set the volume to match my passive volume… That way I can have a completely different tone with the push of a button!  I have also used this pedal as a kill-switch, when I first created my “Royal Blood” inspired pedal-board… So, Just in this first section of the pedal you have 3 very realistic uses.

The Distortion section

The distortion portion of this pedal is WIDELY adverse. You can get anything from a light little bit of dirt on your tone, to facemelting screaming distortion!!!  Starting with the Volume knob, which obviously determines your output volume, which you can again match to your clean tone, or boost a little louder (I often find myself having to set it a little louder than my clean tone, for the sake of retaining low end.)  To the right of that is the Blend knob. This is key to getting a great tone out of your distortion pedal. I usually set this between 12 o’ clock and 2 o’ clock, depending on how heavy of a tone I want. If you go much further than that, you really start over-saturating your tone and lose all hopes of having some bottom end.  Next, is the Threshold knob and the gate button. The Threshold ONLY functions if you have the gate button pushed in. There’s a nice LED indicator that tells you when the gate is on, and this is a great on-board tool to keep you from feeding back when using heavy distortion. The Threshold controls the cutoff volume for the gate, so the higher you have it set, the faster it will quiet your signal as a note decays… I usually have this set all the way up and turned on.. you may have to set the threshold down a bit, depending on the incoming signal…  Finally, the gain knob which determines how MUCH distortion is added to the channel… I find it funny that this pedal seems kind of backwards, usually the gain is first in the order of knobs on things.. but anyways… Higher obviously means MORE distortion… This works differently from the blend knob… The Blend is choosing how much of the distorted channel is outputted compared to how much of the clean channel is left in the mix. The GAIN is how distorted the distortion channel is! I know that may be a little confusing, but it makes a difference in the overall tone!

3 band Equalizer section

Alright, we’ve dialed in our clean tone.. we’ve got a distortion that will blow the windows out of the club!!! Now, we are on to the final touches of perfecting our tone!  The EQ works with both the clean and distorted channels, so finding a happy medium between the two is a must.. I often find that I need to boost the mids a little and the treble to get the tone i want… You may like a low thumpy bass… So boost it!!  I am not entirely sure where the cutoffs are for the three different knobs, MXR doesn’t really share that information (as well as the EQ curve for the Color switch..) BUT, if I were  to venture a guess the bass would be around 100 HZ, Mid somewhere in the 2.5khz zone and the highs in the 10khz range… It’s not the MOST advanced EQ, but if you’re looking to bring up a certain part of your tone that’s lacking, it will definitely do that.

Ins and Outs!

Alright, You may notice that this doesn’t just have the standard input and output like most pedals do… You have options!! And we like options!!

The regular input and output are a standard mono 1/4″ jack.. this is what you will most likely use with this pedal. If you’re like me and you run it at the end of your chain, you also have the option to Direct out, which is a standard XLR output with a ground/lift switch. I generally leave that switch pressed down, as it can get quite noisy if you don’t… even with the standard 1/4″ output.  Another fun feature is the Parallel output on the right side of the pedal. You can essentially use this to split your incoming signal, if you like to run more than one channel… but I wouldn’t suggest it.. it gets noisy. This output is best suited to add a tuner to your pedalboard… Especially if you have one of those garbage Fender tuners that sucks the life out of your tone, when used inline!  (Do yourself a favor and buy a snark floor tuner… I’ll do a Tuner shootout in the future.)

So, that basically covers the functions of the pedal…

In closing… The MXR M80 is a modest little stompbox with the ability to dial in a HUGE range of tones!!!  I have been using this pedal live for at least 11 years… It has been used at EVERY gig I have played (Except for one where my power supply shorted out…), and there have been hundreds…  I have never had to replace it (although I did buy a backup once, just in case.)  It is built like a brick shit house.. I have NEVER had a knob, LED, or even a jack go bad in mine… Take it from someone who’s been playing bass for 18 years. If you don’t have an MXR M80 DI+, do yourself a favor and get one!!!

 

Thanks for reading this!!! I hope you enjoyed it!! Should I keep doing the occasional gear review? I have a passion for my gear, and love sharing what I use with the world!

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!

Music Monday… what has Joe been listening to?

In response to a friend’s blog ReadRantRock&Roll, who does ‘Music Monday’ posts Like this one, I’ve decided to give it a go!!!

I am always listening to different kinds of music.. as a musician who often covers other artists, I am always looking for something new to translate into an acoustic version to play!!

My mind has been in a weird place the last two weeks, and I’ve been looking at how other artists cover music.. and I have two extremely different artists I’ve been digging into lately.

First off is Mr. Leo Moracchioli, of Frog Leap Studios… This man has a HUGE talent!! He records his covers in his own studio and plays EVERYTHING!!! My dad actually showed him to me the other day, and the first song I saw was this incredible cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues:

My goodness.. what talent!!  After that, I found a cover of an old song I used to love listening to, where he collaborates with the ALSO very talented Mary Spender

The creativity is amazing!! I’m a huge stickler for metal covers of non-metal songs.. so this one really hit it out of the park for me!!!

As much as I love writing original music, I really enjoy the creativity that comes with a good cover artist… It just goes to show that there isn’t only one correct way to do things… And this next artist shows that in a big way! Not only is the man unbelievably talented, he has a very defined and unique character that makes him both mysterious and enjoyable!!!

I am talking about none other than Puddles Pity Party.
The saddest clown on Youtube, with the most powerful and soulful voice I’ve heard in a long time. His booming baritone just haunts your soul and draws you in… I really can not express how much I love this man’s voice.. I consider myself a baritone vocally… but man.. I can’t even touch the strength he has in his singing!!!

This one hit me hard.. I love this R.E.M. classic, and Puddles brings a certain eeriness to it that just keeps me listening to it again and again!

I mean.. come on… that is raw talent and power there!!!

Another one of his songs that really gets me is this one, which he performed on America’s Got Talent last year:

I absolutely HATE that song, in its original form, but Mr. Pity Party brings it into a whole different atmosphere that is chilling and full of life!

That is the type of cover song that makes me happy… I cover Britney Spears “Baby… One More Time” and I love seeing people’s reaction when I am singing it.. and I often hear things like “I enjoyed that more than the original!” Which is the best thing you want to hear after performing a cover!!!!

I ended my Commute listening to one of my favorite bands “Twelve Foot Ninja.” The Australian quintet brings a whole new meaning to the word Eclectic. Their music transcends genre and keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what you are going to hear next!!!

I give you my favorite song of theirs ‘Ain’t that a Bitch’

 

Thanks for reading and checking out some of my favorite tunes for the week!!! What songs are you listening to right now??? Do you have any albums you think I would enjoy? I am thinking about doing some more album reviews!!!

Take care, and many many thanks to ReadRantRock&Roll for giving me the suggestion to do a music monday!!! make sure to go check out her blog!

Place in the World (On Stage)

Place in the World

I grew up in a very musical home. My Father played bass in a very popular local Rock cover band called Night Flight.  My parents were always listening to music. My mother was an artist, who also would sing around the house and plunk on a guitar. Dad also played the acoustic beautifully.  Ever since the first time I saw a concert, I wanted to be a musician. The cheering crowds… doing something you love to entertain others… it was like a little piece of perfection that I had to get my hands on.

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I remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Losch, telling my mother that “If that boy doesn’t grow up to entertain people, he will be wasting a huge talent.”  after my breathtaking performance of Prince Charming in the play version of… ‘Cinderella’ (End Sarcasm)

Performing to a crowd is my place in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small bar packed with people, or a large professionally built stage with top quality sound and lights. As long as I am playing music and making people happy, I am content.

My wife always compares my love for music as being a physical part of who I am. She has said things like “Not being able to play music, would be like losing one of your extremities.” And it’s true… performing music has been my leg to stand on, for the majority of my life…

So, there it is… The awesome picture I used above was from a performance at Fat Daddy’s in York, PA. Photograph Credit to Christine C Photographie, for more of her amazing work, you can look here!

 

Thanks for reading! What are your passions? Where are you the most comfortable in this world? I know it’s the photo challenge, but I want to hear your personal thoughts on this!!

Have a great day!

 

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

Oppression, in Uniform

Uniforms...

Any blue collar worker wears them… I’ve worn many: From Pizza Delivery, to factory work, writing parking tickets, doing maintenance, and now my job as the Dispatcher of the city of Williamsport. Nothing makes me feel more restrained, at my workplace, than not wearing my own, comfortable clothes.

There is nothing like the joy of removing my work boots, pants, and shirt; then putting on my own comfortable jeans, chucks, and a T-shirt, it’s like a small victory every day!

Which brings me to this point: Just another thing I love about being able to do music, as a second job… wearing whatever the heck I want!! There really are a lot of perks to being a “working musician.”

  • I get to do what i love, and get paid for it…
  • I get to dress as I please, and people can’t tell me otherwise…
  • I am the guy with the microphone… This has more power than you can imagine.. I say things, and people have no choice but to listen. I can make jokes, tell them to give the bartender money, entertain them, and they have no choice because I am the loudest one in the room!

Back to the topic at hand… Nothing makes me feel more like a “number” or a “drone” than having to be dressed like the people I work with…

I even have to dress like I”m going out to pave, even though I”m in the office… Bunch of crap, but it pays the bills!

Of course, in the same breath, I played in the marching band in High School, those uniforms were uncomfortable, but damn we looked good as a group.. So, from a “team” perspective, I suppose it makes sense.

Ah well.. I suppose I can’t complain too much.. The real men in Uniform are our military services. Those guys have to endure the harshest conditions our world has to offer AND They have to do it while in uniform. So, hat’s off to the guys who REALLY sweat their nuts off! Just remember that when you’re ready to complain about what you have to wear to work. There’s people out there who pretty much live in their work uniforms, and do so WHILE putting their lives on the line!

Thanks to the great men and women who protect us, once again. It can’t be said enough, especially by people who claim to be artists, and are free to express in this world.

Have a great day, readers!