Sunday, March 26, 2017

Audacity



For years I have been making videos using video editing software such as Movie Maker and Cyberlink Power Director. I sometimes edit the video sound track a bit with software such as Cyberlink Wave Director or Cool Edit. But making a video hardly involves multi tracking, You just play over an existing sound track and feed both signals into your camera through a mixer. You make a mistake, you have to do the entire video track again ... There's just no way to overdub a video image. So video recording is way harder than recording a sound clip in your home studio.


A friend hipped me to Audacity a while ago and I finally got to try it out over the last few days. It's actually the first time I got into multitracking ever. Can you believe that? Audacity is free open source digital audio editor that enables multi tracking and all kinds of other audio editing features such as:
  • Recording live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
  • Add new effects with LADSPA plug-ins.
  • etc. etc.
Way too many possibilities to discuss here. It's really very impressive that the software is completely free. What I like about it is its simplicity. It does not require a long learning curve like Protools or Cubase. Heck, I hate learning curves (I never read manuals of any kind) and I could work with it within hours. But there's a shitload of tutorials on Audacity too. Tens of millions of people use it. Here's one for beginners (of course I did not watch it):

The first problem I had to solve was the latency problem though. After some unsatisfactory trial recordings I found a good tutorial on Youtube and once I fixed that problem I was ready to record my first multitrack recording. I did a quick take of "Body and Soul." I stole a bass part from the internet and I added a comping track and a lead track. I did not overdub though, just played twice over the bass part (so comping and lead) and then mixed and edited the separate tracks. I ran the sound file into my camera so that you can see what it looks like. No eq was involved by the way, just some compression You can alter your recorded sounds in many ways but I just recorded what came out of my amp.


The comping track was done on my Tal Farlow. The lead track on the 1963 Barney Kessel. The amp was my Mambo 10. To record the guitar sounds I used a Samson USB Studio condenser microphone. Somehow I have not been able to feed my Behringer USB mixer into Audacity (the programme refuses to record with it) but I hope to fix that in the near future.

I realise I just scratched the surface of the recording and editing possibilites but Audcaity looks very promising. To be continued!





The latest version of Audacity can be downloaded here. Make sure you select the correct recording and playback devices before you start. And do fix the latency problem by finding the correct latency correction for your PC. Like I said earlier, you will find many tutorials on Youtube for Audacity.








Saturday, March 25, 2017

Remo Palmier's 1979 album.


Remo Pamier's only album as a leader - Concord Jazz 1979 - remains a gorgeous album and a personal favourite of mine. I have written about this album earlier. Here's a full playlist with the 8 tracks finally ...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Doug Raney's "Back in New York."


Last year Doug Raney died. I never got to write that obituary that I thought I would. Seems I don't like writing them. But there's no doubt that I have been a huge Doug Raney fan for many years. He is one of the few players whose recordings I like ALL. I mean, all his albums are at least very good if not totally great. His oeuvre is so consistent that there are simply no bad Doug Raney albums. I even like all of his recordings as a sideman (not to mention the fantastic duo albums with his father). In total Doug has recorded close to 30 records and has truly established his voice as one of the best of the modern bop guitarists in the tradition — no small feat given his illustrious father’s achievements on the same instrument.

His debut album from 1977 "Introducing Doug Raney" was already great (listen here) but the album that I rank among the very best DR albums is his 1996 "Back in New York" recording. The first track is a stellar rendition of "I'm Old Fashioned" that makes the album an instant Doug Raney classic. Let me quote once again:
Accompanied by pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Kenny Washington, the quartet's head arrangements of the seven standards on the CD seem to come together effortlessly. The intimate approach to "Skylark" starts slowly, but gives way to a brisk, more complex development of its theme. The rhythm section swirls behind Raney in a driving rendition of "All or Nothing at All," and also features a fine solo by Weiss. Of particular interest is Raney's careful development of "I'm Old Fashioned." Highly recommended. -by Ken Dryden
This, my friends, is what a desert island album sounds like.



Ted Greene's 1977 trio recording.


There is this obscure trio recording of Ted Greene on guitar with Chuck Domanico on bass and Shelley Manne on drums. I downloaded it quite a few years ago but for those of you that still haven't done so here's a reminder. The information surrounding this recording is unclear, but it was made around 1977, possibly to be used as source music for a movie but was shelved and never used. It seems to have been recorded in a studio, the sound quality is very good. And the music is simply gorgeous. 10 standards a la Ted Greene in a trio with Shelly Manne on drums. What more do you want?

You can download the 10 tracks from this studio trio session here. The tracks can be downoaded individually or the complete session in its entirety. It's free but a donation is welcome according to TedGreene.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ted Greene's Blues in G




I have been going through my external hard drive with old videos and I stumbled upon a blues arrangement by Ted Greene that I studied and recorded about 11 years ago. In the video I am playing three choruses. There's no Ted Greene "feel" at all so I probably only had the notation and just strummed the chords in my own way. I leave out certain bass notes that are on the notation that I have found on the web today. I may have used a different source.

This jazz blues appears to have been an actual lesson that Ted did in 1978. It features mainly chords and showcases some interesting harmonic choices.

I had completely forgotten about my old Ted Greene video but it sounded cool enough. I wondered where I got the notation from at the time so I looked for it at at tedgreene.com but I did not find it in the blues section there. Well, Tedgreene.com probably did not even exist at the time I studied it. 

I did find a later video of Tim Lerch playing it and explaining what is going on. He studied with Ted and plays it like Ted would have done. I did not have the video at the time I recorded the vid unfortunately. Tim's video is from 2010 and mine was recorded in 2006. Anyway, here's Tim's tutorial. Now go and get your Telecaster.





Sunday, February 26, 2017

Freddie Green Style Comping


Frederick William "Freddie" Green (March 31, 1911 – March 1, 1987) was an American swing jazz guitarist. He was especially noted for his rhythm guitar playing in big band settings, particularly for the Count Basie orchestra, where he was part of the rhythm Section" with Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, and Walter Page on bass. His comping style can be explained simply as: "hold down a chord with the left hand and strike the strings with the right hand on every beat of the tune." The voicings that were used by Freddie and other rhythm style players primarily used basic 3 or 4 note voicings without extensions and alterations. You can see a few here:



A big issue in style of comping is volume and sound. You need a sound that does NOT muddy the sound of the bass player. And the volume should be so low that the guitar is rather "felt" than "heard." The sound should be acoustic rather than electric and it is essential to avoid boominess.

I found a few good tips by Tim berens on freddiegreen.org on time, volume, sound and voicings. His page is a must for everybody interested in the style. Some quotes:



Time
Rhythm guitar is about time, not about voicings. Voicings are a detail, but they seem to take up a great deal of space in discussions about Freddie Green comping. If you are just learning the basics of swing rhythm guitar, pay little attention to the discussions of voicings. I suggest that to learn this style you should first concentrate on time.
Volume
A big issue with Freddie Green comping is the volume: how loud should it be? The answer is just loud enough. Not particularly helpful, but completely accurate. Here are things to consider when deciding how loud to play:
  • The guitar part must be just barely quieter than the drums. 
  • The guitar part should be felt not heard. 
  • If anyone in the audience (except other rhythm guitarists) actually noticse the guitar, it is too loud. 
  • The guitar part is often times more for the benefit of the other musicians (to help drive the rhythm home for them) than for the listeners. 
  • As the band gets louder, so should the guitar, but not too much. 
        Sound
The realities of most live performance dictate the use of an amplifier. But the typical amplified jazz guitar sound is too "thick" to properly play Freddie Green comping. The big fat jazz box sound will simply muddy up the rhythm section because it will interfere with the bass player's lines.
           Voicings 

Do not get obsessed with voicings as a beginner. Remember that you do not have to play voicings exactly like Freddie Green to play good Freddie Green comping.
Here are several guidelines for voicings:
  • Primarily use three note voicings on strings 6, 4, and 3; and four note voicings on strings 6, 4, 3, and 2.
  • Avoid barre chords. They take up too much space in the sound spectrum.
  • Avoid perfect fifths between strings 6 and 5. This sounds muddy and will interfere with the bass player's sound.
  • Don't add extensions past the 7th, unless specifically called for in the chart.
  • Don't add your own extensions, as they will likely conflict with the piano player's part as well as the horn parts.

By no means am I an expert in this field. I am still working on a good swing feel myself in this style - and that IS hard - but I did make a short instructional video on how you can apply some common voicings on "There Will Never Another You." I keep the bass note on the 6th string all the time and I use some substitions for certain chords to keep voice leading going. Have fun!



And here's "Fly me to the Moon" in the same style:






Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trying out some ES thinlines

A few weeks ago I visited Dijkman muziek in Breda. I had seen they had both a used reissue Gibson 1959 ES 330 TD and a used 1958 ES 335 VOS for sale and I had always wanted to check these two out. Especially the 330 I was interested in. I first called the store to ask if the used 330 (built in 2012) had the unpopular (two piece) laminate fretboard that Gibson applied in 2012 due to legal issues. I had heard bad things about those layered fingerboards and though I don't know if these rumours are true I simply do not think they belong on a 3k guitar. But the store assured me the ES 330's fingerboard was not layered and told me they had made some enquiries with Gibson even. Mmmm .... OK for now.

I took my trusted ES 175 to the store so I could compare the sounds of the thinlines to my 175. Of course that comparison is not really fair but still ... I thought it would be interesting to see how the full hollow thinline ES 330 would sound compared with a full sized ES guitar . I had also taken my Mambo amp through which I played them all.

So there I was ... The first guitar I test drove was the 1958 VOS ES 335. I owned a 335 earlier (traded it in on a 350t years ago) so I knew what to expect. And yes, the sound of VOS was typically 335. It did have a baseball bat neck though. Huge. Compared to a regular 335 neck not very comfortable. They probably made the 335 like that in 1958 but ... would be a deal breaker for me. The 2015 ES 335 had a much slimmer neck and was way more comfortable to play therefore.

After playing the 1958 VOS, the regular 2015, a reissue 1963 ES 335 TDC and a reissue 1959 335 TD, I had to conclude there was not that much difference to be noted sound wise. They all sounded like a 335 does. I think I liked the 1963 TDC somewhat better but, like I said, the major differences were cosmetic only. Apparently there is a market for VOS made Gibson guitars but personally I would not pay the premium prices these instruments demand. Heck, they ARE expensive at 4-5k euro.


And then I got to the 1959 ES 330 reissue. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a lightweight guitar with a more traditional jazz sound than what I heard from the ES 335s. With way more acoustic volume, because, obviously, the 330 has no full center block like the 335. The full hollow body has mahogany sides, a mahogany tailblock and headblock (so not full) and a 3-ply maple/poplar/maple top and back. A notable difference with the 335 is that the neck of the 330 sits further into the body, joining at the 16th fret. This creates a shorter guitar with a different feel. The 335 has better playability in the higher positions therefore. The neck of the 330 was a bit too clubby for my taste but I guess I could get used to that. The sound I found pleasing enough. A nice traditional jazz sound. I could not find a decent demo for the guitar (nobody plays jazz on jazz guitars in demos ever ... sigh) but here you can see and hear it:


I have to admit, none of the thinlines, including the 330, produced such a woody and classic jazz sound as my 175 but you can hardly expect that from a thinline of course. Still, the 330 is closer to what I want to hear in a jazz guitar than the 335. That does not mean the 335 does not work for jazz, many great players prove otherwise of course. But I would rather use the 330 for that with its hollow body.

Now for the bottom line ....  I think the  ES 330 will make a great guitar for straight ahead jazz. No doubt about it. It does not really sound like you hear on Grant Green recordings of course (Grant used very unusual EQ settings on his amp) but it is easy to get some cool bebop sounds from the ES 330. Definitely one of the cooler thinlines in the Gibson stable and it does have that cool vintage look with the slightly dulled finish, the P90s and the vintage Mickey Mouse horns.