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When Correct Isn’t Right

I met up with a friend of mine, who is a great musician, for lunch.  I was telling him about being stuck on what to write.  We talked through some ideas, but nothing really grabbed me.  We continued talking and catching up, and then we latched on to a topic that most people would consider a small thing, but ultimately can lead to huge disasters, or subtle victories.

Here’s a scenario that happens quite often in shows:

There are 4 people on a rectangular stage measuring roughly 8′ x 16′.  The guitar player is on stage right, towards the back.  The two singers are up front.  The percussion player is stage left, even with the guitar player.  There are 2 wedges (monitors) for all 4 people.  The percussion player has a metronome, that he has plugged normal headphones into (read that: NOT in-ear monitors).  The percussion player has the tempos saved, and is using primarily a djembe and a shaker.  The percussionist starts the metronome and counts in a song.  The guitar player immediately begins to slow down.  It’s not a major difference at first, but as the singers begin to sing the first verse, the tempo drags a little more.  As the song gets to the chorus, it’s dragging a lot.  Stop.

What do you, as the drummer with the metronome, do?  Do you stay with the metronome, which you’ve kinda lost already?  Do you turn off the metronome and keep pushing the tempo?  Do you stop playing and get frustrated?

I think we all agree that in a show, you cannot stop playing, so, option 3 is immediately off the table.  Now you’re left with 2 options: force the guitar player and singers back to tempo, or, turn off the metronome and follow the guitar player (but stay on the front end of the beat so it hopefully doesn’t slow WAY down).  What do you do?

The answer is: it depends.

Whether you’re a guitar player with great tempo, or a drummer with great tempo, or a piano player with great tempo, you’re gonna play with people who aren’t strong in the time area, or situations will make keeping time difficult.  You must evaluate and make a decision…is your goal to be correct or right?

“Correct” in the situation presented above is the drummer stays with the metronome and plays the song.  “Right” would be for the drummer to turn off the metronome and follow the guitar player.

Next time you’re in a similar situation, ask yourself this question: “Is it more important for me to be correct or right?”  Often times, the answer is to be right, not correct.  Your job as a musician is to play the song and make it sound the best it can.  If you’re in a band setting, everyone must work together.  Listen to each other’s parts.

I’ll close with this: being correct can make YOU sound wrong.  If no one else is staying with you, YOU need to adjust.  Listeners will say, “that guitar player was off,” or, “something didn’t sound right.”  But, if everyone works together, the listener will have a far more enjoyable experience.

Artist Nights…Are You Ready?

I am very pleased to announce that I have 2 artist nights coming up.  One will be country artists, and the other night will be for other genres.  Each artist will have 30 minutes (5 songs), and will perform with a basic 3 piece band.  It’s gonna be lots of fun!  Mark your calendars now!

 

Country Night

Date: April 3, 2012

Venue: Rooster’s BBQ, Nashville, TN

Time: 7:30 – 10:30 pm

Other Night

Date: April 5, 2012

Venue: The Listening Room Cafe, Nashville, TN

Time: 8 – 10 pm

I hope to see you all out there!  Come enjoy an evening of great music and great food!  NO COVER CHARGE!

The Cajon and You

No matter what your role in the music industry, from a manager to an artist, from a songwriter to someone who just enjoys pickin’ on the guitar on your porch, the cajon is at the very least an interesting instrument, and possibly an important part of your live show or recording.

Originating from the Peruvian Andes Mountains in South America, the cajon has been around for a very long time.  Just like the djembe was popular a few years ago, the cajon is beginning to take over.  It is a versatile instrument that is also very portable, like the djembe. The main difference between the djembe and cajon though is the cajon can emulate a drum set. There are various manufacturers and models of the cajon, ranging in price from around $100 up to $800+.  Depending on your purpose for the cajon, the basic models may be just what you need.

So, how can a cajon help you?  I’m glad you asked. Each one of these examples comes from personal experience, so, it CAN be done!

Managers, you would find the cajon perfect for your artists who are going out on a radio tour. A few weeks ago, I was up in WI and MN doing a radio tour with a country artist.  We performed on air, as well as for a few listener appreciation lunches for the radio stations.  The cajon translated well over the air, and also was a great conversation piece at the listener appreciation lunches, giving your artist “memorability.”

Artists, the cajon is perfect for those shows where you can’t afford, or don’t want, to have a full band. Maybe the venue is a small room, or it’s not paying enough to bring out your band.  I just played a few one-offs with a CCM artist.  There was a utility player, the artist (who played guitar/piano), and the cajon.  The cajon added rhythm like a drum set, but since there wasn’t a bass player or lead player, a drum set would have been too much.

Songwriters, you need the cajon at your rounds. How many of you are getting tired of just having your guitar or keyboard? Add some extra energy to your songs and round! A great cajon player will automatically add that extra “umph” to make your round, your songs, and YOU stand out among the mass of songwriters.  I play songwriter rounds all the time.  It’s amazing the difference between songs that have rhythm to compliment them, and songs that don’t.

If you just dabble in music, the cajon would be fun piece to have around a campfire, or on your porch.  I’ve done many little house concerts, or just messed around with friends on a porch.  The cajon makes it more fun for everyone.

The cajon is also great for recording!  I record full drums, but occasionally the producer or artist wants a more “organic and raw” sound on their song.  Last week I was at the studio recording drums on some demos. The producer wanted to do a song that wasn’t gonna have a lot of production, driven mainly by vocals and an acoustic guitar.  I ended up using the cajon, and it was perfect for the song.

Whomever you are, no matter what your role in the music industry, the cajon is a great addition, and will help you reach your goals.

Rhythm in Conversation

This is the second blog in a series I have entitled, “Everywhere Rhythm.”  Have you been listening to YOUR world?  If you haven’t read the first entry in this series, I encourage you to take just a few minutes (literally), and take a look at what I wrote.

It’s been two weeks almost, and I have been trying to listen to my world.  I am at Panera Bread Co. right now, and the rumble of conversation, the occasional clank of a spoon hitting the bowl, and the blender making smoothies in the kitchen, all create together, a rhythmic ebb and flow of sound.  It’s kind of cool!  Currently the sound is at a “low” volume, but by the time I finish writing this sentence it will have escalated due to people laughing, and people talking louder.  I find it fascinating!

Did you know that on the average, every 7 minutes of conversation between a group of people, there is a period of silence, or a little bit of time where the conversation stops, or slows??  We all have experienced it.  At certain times with our friends, our conversations seem to flow seamlessly!  Then, at other times, they seem to be forced, or even non-existant.  In one part of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Blink,” he talks about various studies done by researchers and scientists, trying to dissect the parts and rhythms of a conversation.  Researchers have found that there is a rhythm in our conversations, both verbal and non-verbal.  Have you found yourself standing with your arms crossed, and then you notice that the other person has their arms crossed too?  Have you noticed that you and the other person/people are in a similar stance, leaning on one foot?

As a drummer, and in my personality in general, I have developed leadership.  I am a leader.  I want to set the non-verbal communication in my conversations.  Instead of following what the other person does, I want them to follow me.  When I put my hands in my pockets, I want the other people to put their hands in their pockets.  When I shift my weight from my left side to my right side, I want them to do the same thing.  I want to lead non-verbally.  I want them to take the cues from me, not the other way around.

Next time I will discuss how the different rhythms in music play an important role in evoking different feelings and emotions in the listener.  Be sure to keep checking back.

Everywhere Rhythm

A washing machine…a car going over rumble strips…vibrations from your phone going off…sweeping a porch…an oscillating fan…a skier going down the mountain…a bird singing…

What do all these things have in common?  Rhythm.  Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.

I think it’s important that we take a second and listen to what’s going on around us.  I’m not talking about the politics of the world, and I’m not talking about listening to your wife or girlfriend talk about her day (although it certainly would benefit the relationship if you did).  I’m talking about listening to the sounds of the world.  As I am writing this, I am sitting outside.  I hear ambient noises: a car driving by, an engine starting, a motorcycle accelerating through it’s gears, a horn, the wind moving a sign, an airplane overhead…each containing a rhythm…it’s own individual rhythm, yet somehow working together to make music!  True, it’s not chords and it’s not something you’d hear on the radio, but, it’s still music.

I can’t help but think of the movie, “August Rush.”  The scene I’m thinking of is towards the beginning of the movie, when the young boy (later to be called August), first arrives in NYC.  He’s in the back of a box truck, you know, one of those local delivery trucks, and the driver let’s him out.  August just ran away from the orphanage where he was living, and had obviously never been in NYC.  Here, I must pause and say that I have never been to NYC either, but hope to one day go.  I want to be enamored with The City just like he was.  The scene continues with August hopping off the back, looking up and all around, and he’s intently LISTENING to the sounds NYC has to offer.  The honking cabs, a piece of paper being blown across the street, a shop owner sweeping his part of the sidewalk, birds flapping their wings and singing, and sirens…all the “noises” of a city.  August then begins waving his arms, conducting the music being made by what others would call noise.

I am going to write more about this over the next few entries.  Start listening to YOUR world.  When your coffeemaker beeps in the morning, listen to the rhythm.  While you’re driving, and you turn on your blinker to turn, listen to the rhythm.  If it’s raining one day, listen to your wipers cleaning your windshield.  LISTEN to the rhythms in your world.  Without them, our world would be continually lacking something.  Without the rhythm of your heart beating, you’d be dead.  Instead of getting annoyed by little sounds, take the extra second to listen and appreciate what they add to your life…and keep checking back as I keep adding to the idea that there is: Everywhere Rhythm…

“The Outlier…”

“The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

What you just read is one of many “one liners” in the book entitled, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  I encourage you all to read it.  It’s well written, and I read the whole thing (285 pages) in 1 and a half days.

An outlier is something (or some people in the case of the book) that stands out from the average or normal.  The term can be used in statistics when analyzing data and drawing conclusions.  While in most cases the outliers are dropped (as in a curve that a teacher gives after most of the class performed poorly on a test), Gladwell decides to study them; to try to understand them.  Bill Gates is one example used in the book.  He is basically the richest person in the world.  He founded Microsoft.  He went to private school, the PTA raised money and decided to buy a computer, the school started a computer club, he joined, he was at the school all the time programming and learning about the computer, started working for a company that wanted to test programs on their computers at work (while still in hs), graduated, ended up starting Microsoft, RICH MAN!  Gladwell takes the end result (RICH DUDE) and goes back to Gates’ childhood and starts re-tracing his steps.  There are other examples in the book…Gates isn’t the only oustanding person in the world with this type of story.  If you want to know other stories, buy the book.

Gladwell surmises towards the end:

“It is impossible for…[Gates]…or any other outlier for that matter, to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, ‘I did this, all by myself.’  Superstar…software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But the don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy.  Their success is not exceptional or mysterious.  It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky — but all critical to making them who they are.  The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

In the music business, it’s the same way.  Michael Jackson didn’t get famous because he just decided to wake up one morning and be famous.  It started with the Jackson 5, but, even before them, there were circumstances, or inheritances as Gladwell would say, that allowed him to be at the right place at the right time for him to succeed like he did.  Keith Urban didn’t just decide to be famous.  He has had a tough road, worked hard, and owes a lot of his success to his current producer.  Check out the band called “The Ranch” from back in the day.  Keith Urban was the lead singer.  If you listen to those songs, and the songs off his first major album, there is quite a difference.

I don’t ever want to think I can do it on my own.  Thanks to my family, and all the “history and community” I have in my life, I have had those “inheritances.”  So thanks to my family!  But, to make it in the music industry, it’s all about who you know and relationships.  What better example to use to show how we all need each other than the music business?!  I can’t make it on my own as a drummer, and be famous.  I need a band.  And vice versa.  As a side note, I don’t wanna be famous.  I just want to play for a famous person.  🙂  We all need each other…

As always, if you would like to contact me, click on the contact page at the top, and feel free to leave comments!

Different Position = Different Perspective

As I have been working through the idea of “positioning” myself to succeed, many ideas (both good and bad) have gone through my mind.  I find myself quieter than usual, and more reserved…pensive.  I think it’s important to remember that as we look for ways to “position” ourselves differently, our perspective on the situation changes.  When we open our minds and eyes to different possibilities and opportunities…decide to widen our scope of vision…we need to recognize our perspective into situations and opportunities changes.

I have been entertaining ideas such as:

  • writing parts for drum lines
  • drum programming
  • recording drums in studios
  • touring or staying put

I haven’t determined which one to focus on or put most of my energy into, or how to divide my energy to still be productive on a few of them, or even if I could feasibly do all.  But as a musician, I need to have my hands in a few different pots.  Your investment manager would call it diversifying.  You don’t put all your eggs in one basket because if the basket disappears, you’re screwed.  As a side note, if you need any of the above-mentioned, contact me…it’s VERY simple.

So while I “position” myself to succeed in music, my perspective widens, and allows me to diversify.  It all works together.  I feel my career in music needs to be run like a business.  Afterall, I have a business degree from a university in Texas, so, if the blogs seem business oriented, it’s important that you see your career, your life, as a business.  Read “You, Inc” if you have any doubts…

A New Year…New Strategies…

Happy 2011 to all y’all!  I’m back in Texas visiting my parents.  Can you tell?

This year I will begin to really work hard at making more connections in the music industry, both in Canada and in the US.  I am going to have the software and the programs on my computer that will allow me to continue doing some drum programming.  I will probably add a page here on my site dedicated to drum programming.  I will upload a few samples and have a little information on the page, and then hopefully I will get a few new people each month to allow me to program drums on their demos/etc.  Still getting my computer completely set-up for it, but, hopefully by February 1, I will be able to offer that service.

When in the music industry, it’s important to have more than one thing going for you.  A good friend told me to have my hands in more than one facet of music.  Performing, recording, road managing, etc.  It may seem like I would be trying to be a “jack of all trades,” but in reality I am trying to develop other areas, besides just being a road drummer, in order to support myself.  If I lose the band, I have lost my musical income, and back to working part-time jobs ALL the time.  So this year, I am focusing on diversifying my areas in music.  A lot of that comes with POSITION.  I will be “positioning” myself in such a way that I can succeed, and begin building key relationships.  My keyword this year will be “position.”

Sports comes to mind when the word “position” appears.  If a player isn’t in position, their chances of blocking the shot, or scoring a goal, or spiking the ball, are not good.  Only when we line ourselves up, and position ourselves in the right area, do we increase our chances of winning, succeeding, etc.  So, this year, I want to “position” myself to succeed.  Join me!  It doesn’t mean making a million dollars…to me.  Small, consistent wins are just as important as hitting it big every now and then.  But, I want small, consistent steps in the right direction.

Position yourself to succeed this year.

A Country Christmas is Almost Done

With the tour beginning to wrap up, it’s hard to believe that a week and a half has flown by already!! We have 3 more shows and then we will be flying/driving back home. Some of us will head further north, yes it’s possible, to La Crete, AB. Some of us will go back to Calgary, AB. I myself will treat myself to a few days in Ontario, in St. Catharines and in Aylmer, for a few days before heading home to Nashville. I’ll be in Nashville for Christmas but will head to Dallas for a quick trip on January 2nd.

The tour has been great. We’ve had good responses, and it’s been great meeting fans.

Tomorrow I plan on going snowboarding here in Kamloops, BC, at Harper Mountain. I will try not to break anything. I will try to get some pictures while I’m out, and possibly a video…we will see how the day plays out.

First Leg Complete

Hello from the Great North!! There was snow on the ground when we landed in Regina, Saskatchewan on Thursday. No surprise as it was already December. As a matter of fact, I would have been VERY surprised had there not been any snow. It has snowed each day since Thursday, and I have been loving it. Today I had the wonderful opportunity to drive a snowmobile. It was the second time I’ve been able to drive one. Growing up in Texas we didn’t get enough snow to ever go snowmobiling.

The next show is Friday, in Lethbridge, Alberta. I’m hoping to see as many of you as possible.

Musically, the Christmas show is GREAT! We have put a lot of thought into the details…the small things that make a huge difference: 1) song selection, 2) stylistic elements, and 3) the overall experience we want you as an audience member to have.

We have included “upbeat,” rockin’ songs, a bluegrass section, and a couple songs on stools to add that stripped down, acoustic, personal feel. The Christmas carols we have added for the Christmas Tour are diverse in style, and will make you tap your feet, clap your hands, and sing along.

For upcoming “A Country Christmas” tour dates and info, go to my “Tour” page. Come on out! I’d love to meet you!