K.I.S.S. . . . : A Methodology To Help You Get Your Groove On.

Below is an excellent video from sax player/keyboard player Jeff Schneider who has a You Tube channel with a lot of cool information on improvisation, saxophone technique, r&b keyboards and other topics of interests to my fellow music nerds. This video deals with an idea that can benefit all musicians: improving your groove. It’s been my observation that one of the traits that distinguishes the advanced player from the intermediate one is their rhythmic authority, their ability to groove. Jeff presents what I consider to be a simple but effective exercise to help a musician solidify their ability to play with rhythmic confidence. Like many simple but effective ideas, it starts with the concept of less is more or to put it another way, Keep It Simple Stupid (a.k.a K.I.S.S.). Get a metronome, set the click for beats 2 & 4 (so that the click simulates a snare drum) and work on your groove, one note at a time. Jeff also makes an important point: to not just to play in time to the metronome but to learn how to convey feeling in your playing, which is the point of playing music all along.

4 Notes That Will Make Your Groove SOLID!!

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Posted in Improvisation, Music Theory

“I’m Not Dead Yet” . . . : Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun

I recently played in a session for a potential new jam band project where a good part of the time was spent jamming on vamps and progressions taken from the Grateful Dead. Being an old Deadhead and having played in more than one Dead/Dead Adjacent band, I was in familiar territory. Not certain where this project will go but one  possibility is something not unlike Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun.

The band Circles Around The Sun is a direct outgrowth of the Fare Thee Well series of concerts put on as the final live performances of the remaining “core four” members of the Grateful Dead. Justin Kreutzmann (son of drummer Bill Kreutzmann) produced and directed five special films that screened in between sets, incorporating archival photos and footage of the Grateful Dead. Justin commissioned Chris Robinson Brotherhood guitarist and part-time member of Phil Lesh and Friends, Neal Casal, to create the soundtracks. Casals put together a band consisting of CRB keyboard player Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Jonathan Wilson) and drummer Mark Levy (The Congress) and went into the studio and recorded five hours of music.

The music succeeds in walking a fine line of being evocative of the Dead (and in many instances, specific songs of the Dead) while also being more than mimicry. They really nail the spirit of the music while never just copying. In some ways it reminds me of the Beatles parody/tribute The Rutles (see my previous post on The Rutles here: https://roymusicusa.com/2015/04/13/all-you-need-is-cash-the-rutles-best-beatles-parody-ever/). You hear the music and it immediately reminds you a certain song but only for a moment, then it goes somewhere else. To pull this off well, you really need to speak the language of Dead.

The clips below provide the set break music for July 4, 2015 and July 5th. 2015 shows. The July 4th set break begins with a guitar riff that any Deadhead would immediately identify as Ramble On Rose but quickly morphs into something else entirely. The July 5th set breaks starts with a chord progression vaguely reminiscent of Box Of Rain before it too goes off into parts unknown.

Fare Thee Well- Set Break Music 2015-07-05 Neal Casal –

Fare Thee Well- Before Show Music 2015-07-04 Neal Casal –

The set break music Casals and company provided for the Fare Thee Well shows made a big impression on the fans in attendance as well as the fans who were watching the shows on pay-per-view. As a result Rhino records released a 2 cd set of the music and Circles Around The Sun have done a number of live shows. Go here for more info on the Rhino set: http://www.rhino.com/article/now-available-circles-around-the-sun-interludes-for-the-dead.

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Music Appreciation and Analysis

For Mary . . . . .

HUSKER DU – Love is all around (Mary Tyler Moore Theme)

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“Blues for New Orleans” . . . : Duke Ellington, the New York Public Library and Me

So here I am, fourteen years old and just starting to get into jazz beyond the contemporary bands of the day. I wanted to go deeper but the the number of records one can buy on a fourteen year old’s allowance is pretty limited and hell, I didn’t even know if I would like it. The first straight jazz record I bought (based on a glowing review in Rolling Stone magazine) was John Coltrane’s Live In Seattle, not a record for the jazz neophyte and not one I was able to appreciate for many years. Luckily for me, my local public library had a decent record section. I would regularly find records of jazz greats that I would take out and listen to for two weeks at a time. I would soon visit other, bigger library branches to check out what they had, eventually leading me to the mother lode: the New York Public Library at the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. It had the biggest record collection of any library in the city and I would regularly visit it on a two week basis. The importance of finding this music resource on my life can not be underestimated. It sounds melodramatic but it’s true. I would read in a music magazine about musician X. I would see a record by musician X in the library. I would check it out, adding it’s sounds to the wastebasket that is my brain and becoming one of the potential things I can now draw upon for musical inspiration.

One of the first jazz records that I found at that local library was New Orleans Suite by Duke Ellington (1971). I listened to the first cut, Blues For New Orleans and I was there. It wasn’t the electric blues filtered through young white musicians that I was used to. Instead of electric guitars there were saxophones and trumpets and trombones (oh my!). And it was soooo cool! The cut opens with a quiet musical conversation between Ellington’s piano and the organ of Wild Bill Davis before the sax section goes into the first of many cool blues riffs, with the organ playing fills throughout. Another chorus, another cool riff played the band. The tune then flows into a series alternating choruses between alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (in his last recorded blues) and organist Wild Bill Davis with the horns playing interweaving riffs all around them. After not hearing this song for so long, I’m amazed how it just knocks me. If you know someone who says that they don’t like jazz then play them this tune. If they still don’t get it then I say forget them (IMHO of course).

Duke Ellington – Blues for New Orleans


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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

A Haiku For The Holidays 2016

Here We Go Again
Another Year To Give Thanks
Happy Holidays

Silver Bells  on the Chapman Stick Guitar

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Posted in Chapman Stick

The History of Bass: Highly Condensed Version

Continuing our bass theme from the last post, the video below is from CDZA, a loose knit group of New York musicians who produce cool videos. The one below offers a highly condensed history of the bass in music. Over the course of 8 and half minutes, they go through 45 songs and 9 basses to give a overview of the bass, starting with the baroque precursor to the contra bass (or double bass), the viola da gamba, and going up to the present with dubstep. All in one continuous take. Obviously such a overview will leave out some great important players (no mention of reggae being the most glaring to me) but it’s pretty fun. And as the Fact Man “says” at the end of the video, Learn an Instrument Because It’s Fun.

Story of The Bass

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“Tryin’ to make a livin” . . : Berry Oakley’s Isolated Bass Part to Ramblin’ Man

It’s been busy here at Casa de RoyMusicUSA so this will be a quickie (“that’s what she said”). Below is a video of the Berry Oakleys’s isolated bass track to the Allman Brother’s Ramblin’ Man off their 1973 album Brothers And Sisters. The Allman Brothers were one of my favorite bands and were a major influence on both my guitar and bass playing. I don’t know how they are able to isolate the bass and drums so well but I wish I had this when I was leaning to play Ramblin’ Man in cover bands. I have previously stated my high regard for Berry Oakley, who I feel is one of the great unsung bassists of rock so here is an opportunity for you to appreciate his great melodic bass playing without the distraction of those annoying guitarist, vocalists, etc.

The Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man (Isolated Rhythm Section)

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Posted in Bass, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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