|"I don't Know.....People who need HELP!"|
This is so timely for me, George. I am on the road with Shunzo Ono in Japan, and using one of Gene Jackson's USB keyboards . I am using ProTools sounds because I have Logic in my other computer, not the one with me. I don't do this often, so I am kind of lame at it (and fortunately, there are pianos on every gig, which of course I am relying on), but I want to get better at this. Gene said to buy the Apogee and probably Mainstage is the way to go, and here you are saying the same thing. Thanks for posting this--it's a great wakeup call for me, and reinforces what I need to do to get more in the game.
By the way, do you carry a mixer also?And also, I wanted to ask you...any advice about good USB controllers? I'm using Gene Jackson's CME (M-Key) and it's a little unresponsive. Do you have one with an action that you particularly like? I mean, I know it's not gonna be a weighted controller or anything, but maybe some are better than others, eh?
David, I don't carry a mixer, because you can mix everything in Mainstage, and it stores the levels. You let the sound man do the rest. (Hopefully he is competent. Or, if you are running it through an amp, you can set that main level. The computer generally sounds better in the monitors and/or the house speakers.) It's funny because I did a tour with Shunzo myself many years ago, and I did have a mixer. I think that was the early 2000's, around the time I was just starting to use soft synths. Truth be told, I mostly did piano, Fender Rhodes, and Yamaha Motif on that tour, but I did have my own mixer, which they provided. But it shouldn't be necessary with this set up I'm suggesting. (Which is Midi USB Keyboard to USB/Computer to Apogee(using the second USB slot) to mini plug/1/4 inch cable/ Direct Box/ House System.) Sometimes I think I should use a volume pedal, but honestly, it actually seems to make it more confusing for me. Unless it's a lot of organ sounds or very complicated two handed parts. When I toured this summer with Jack DeJohnette, I had a volume pedal in my suitcase but I never needed it.
This next letter is from one former student at the University of Manitoba, where I taught for 2 years....
Hope your summer back in city is going well, it's probably hot down there.
I was wondering if you might be able to shed some light on some practicing issues I've been having lately. As you know, I had been spending the last year and change playing predominantly pop gigs, and my gigs playing jazz seemed to have been getting few and far between. As a result, when I find myself back into jazz context I get this feeling of "What am I doing??". I've been trying to discipline myself to be practicing jazz again, but having a lot of difficulty prioritizing areas to practice without getting overwhelmed by all the many things I should or could be practicing. Sort of resulting in a "I have so much to do to catch up" feeling. I'm wondering if you might have any insight or any ideas to give me a push.
Aaron, this is a common problem, regardless of whether you are playing primarily pop gigs, or playing jazz every day, or not playing at all; the idea that there is so much to practice, that one can never catch up, is prevalent with almost ever musician I know! I don't think there are any musicians that don't feel this way at some point. Sometimes, it can be motivating to be overwhelmed. I felt overwhelmed the first time I heard Geoff Keezer play piano, because I could envision what amount of practicing it would take for me to approach that level. I practiced 4 to 8 hours a day for a few years after that. I never really attained his level, but it pushed me to be a better jazz pianist.
There is no substitute for discipline and drive to improve, and in that sense, there is no easy answer. If you aren't in a musical situation that is pushing you, it has to come from within. Keeping a practice journal helped me a lot in those early days. It's like trying to lose weight or get stronger in the gym; it takes a long time and you have to be patient. It might take months before you see real progress. And if you look at music as a lifetime pursuit, it may become less daunting. (Unless you are planning on living a short life!) And also, knowing that you aren't alone helps: even "successful performers" are teaching or perhaps doing gigs that are not as "creative" as they would like them to be. So many of us have to view our musical development as a "side pursuit". There's so often a disconnect between developing your own abilities and getting gigs. (This is what they don't tell you in music school!)
The good news is that many of the concepts you might be trying to work into your playing are applicable across the board. Basically, any melodic, rhythm, or harmonic idea can be worked on in the context of any tune. Therefore, you might want to try starting with a handful of abstract ideas, and then work them into a tune. Or, you could work on ONE tune, and try to find a whole bunch of concepts within that tune and then extract them , and then put them into another tune. Monk used to practice
But the prevailing message is patience: you can only learn one tune or idea at a time. The risk of being overwhelmed is that you never really develop anything perfectly. I think it's better to focus on a handful of things as opposed to working on a million things and half-ass all of them.
Above all, be patient. I'm 41 and there's so many things I still want to improve in my playing. I have so little time to practice(between teaching and daddy duties), I have to steal time: I might find 5 minutes here, or 10 minutes there....but I try to make it count.
I hope this helps!