Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Glenn Hardy and piano blues

I just found out about this incredible piano player: Glenn Hardy. He has many albums available from CDBaby and other online stores. In addition to being a great improv player, he's also a composer for solo piano. Check him out on the following video. Be sure to view Summertime Blues; he did a great job there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The official website is up

I deliberated a lot on this, but I've made up my mind. My official website is up, albeit incomplete. Call it a work in progress, a site under construction; whatever you want. This is the official URL,, and it is my third point of presence in the web, along with this blog and my MySpace page.

Truth is, with so many things to do and think about, I cannot afford to wait until something is perfect until I put it out there. Besides, the most important thing is already there: a music player people can use to listen to my work!

I'll keep this post short, at just about... here. But before I go, I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to the real brains behind this web site: my wife! Without her, it would have taken me months to cover all the ground we did in a couple of weekends. She was not only supportive, but also did 80% of the work. ;-) Lucky me... now all I need to do is get some content in there, especially some new songs. So let's get back to work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Drum lessons from WorkshopLive

The other night I was brushing up on some music theory concepts for the piano. Those apply, of course, to most melodic and harmonic instruments. But I wouldn't just write about it if there wasn't something special to it. And that was the fact that I was doing so by watching some video tutorials on WorkshopLive, to which I've been subscribing since January, 2009. In their own words:

"WorkshopLive is for people that are serious about learning to play music. Our online lessons are great for people that want the freedom to study at their own pace, on their own schedule and in the privacy of their own home. (...) Simply put, WorkshopLive is the best music lesson value on the Web!"

In a way, I agree with that statement. Where else can you get quality video lessons for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, AND voice for just $40 for 3 months? I know there are other lesson websites out there, but I have yet to see one that gives you the same bang-for-the-buck while covering so many different instruments. For the all-in-one musician, like you and me, WSL is a great place to learn.

However, this is not a review post for WorkshopLive. For that you have Google.

What I really want to point out is that, as I was browsing through WorkshopLive's extensive library, I realized that which until now had escaped me: that WSL has a whole section dedicated to DRUMS, including percurssion! w00t!!

I saw a couple of lessons, learned a new thing or two, and went to bed pretty confident that, if I put in the hours, my drum programming skills will be on their way to drum heaven. And, since I have an important ongoing project that includes a few challenging drumming parts, I could certainly use a few tips.

If you want to get a feeling of what WorkshopLive is all about, check out some of their Sample Lessons. In particular, narrow the list of sample lessons to DRUMS and watch the absolute beginner lesson entitled "More Advanced Eighth-Note Beat." It contains a nice segment about the Bossa Nova beat, which is as complex as simplicity can be. ;-)

Catch you later. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Drum recording with producer/engineer Ken Scott

A couple of weeks ago I found this great web site that has lots of interviews with professional record producers and engineers. The name of the site, not surprisingly, is... (drum rolls...)

If you haven't done so already, bookmark it. Then, instead of watching those boring late night TV shows, check out a few interviews with some of the world's most renowned names in the music recording industry. The quality of the videos is amazing (none of that crap you usually get from YouTube). By the way, this makes a great supplement to a Howard Massey book that I'm reading:
Anyway, so there I am browsing their selection of interviews and I stumble upon a series of videos with producer/engineer Ken Scott (David Bowie, the Beatles, Supertramp, and Elton John, to name a few). Mr. Scott was recording an impressive drum sample library for Sonic Reality and captured some behind the scenes footage for the rest of us. 

Things to look out for: tuning the drums, mike placement, studio environment, and - above all - drummer technique. Have fun!

Think like a real drummer (even if you can't play like one)

One of the things I struggle with in my home recording sessions is programming drums. I'm not a drummer and therefore don't know how to think like one, but I've been trying to educate myself.

My quest started with a dvd tutorial called Complete Drums. I got it from Barnes & Noble last Christmas for less than $10 (regular price is $18). I suppose, for the money, it's a good place to start, especially because you're learning the very basics on how to play REAL drums.

That's the secret of doing anything convincingly enough when using synthesis or sampling techniques: you must understand the real instrument, how it is played, and what it sounds like.

My MIDI drum programming is done in Logic, my sequencer of choice. The sound libraries I use couldn't be more basic. I either use my trusty Alesis QSR rack synth ('97), which has standard Alesis drum machine sounds, or Toontrack's EZdrummer software plug-in. The latter is not only easy to use, as advertised, but also comes with a very nice library of MIDI drum patterns that helps a lot if you don't want to start programming from scratch.

I know a lot of people love to get into flame wars about the best gear, best sound library, etc., and yet they forget that most of the time what really counts in order to get a great sound is how well you know and use your instrument, not how much you paid for it nor how many gigabytes of multi-sampled hits it has. A few months ago I saw a video of this guy playing crazy drums on a simple drum machine; it was mind boggling and it sounded fantastic.

For now, I'm happy with my drum sounds options. They might not be the best around, but I still have a long way ahead to outgrow them. Until then, I best get my hands busy and my fingers nailing every single hit of those keyboard drum heads. ;-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First contact: is anybody listening?

Okay, is this thing on? Testing... 1, 2...

Hi, folks! Welcome to my blog. This one's about music, more specifically about my own music and how I go about making it.

I'm a songsmith and my workshop is my little home studio. Trying to be a composer, lyricist, arranger, producer, performing artist, and audio engineer all in one package is not an easy task, but I do my best. 

I take much pride in my music. Some of my songs are fun and witty, while others are more emotive. You might hear electric guitars here; perhaps there you might find a piano and a clarinet. 

Read my lyrics and you will quickly realize that I approach my work as a storyteller. Not everything is about me! In fact, a lot of it might really be about you or someone you know. And that's the beauty of music as an art form: it takes us places we've never been to; it makes us laugh or cry; it connects with us on different levels. 

I hope you enjoy the music of Bob Arroway. And, by all means, subscribe and drop me a line! ;-)