Archive for March, 2010

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March 19, 2010

Dismay and disappointment will take this post from observation to rant to lecture.

Just grin and bear it. 🙂

On February 11th, our band, Powerline, had “the conversation” with our original drummer. (See Letting Go.)

We posted an ad on a couple of different sites.

Our first audition was six days later, February 17th, and we found our drummer  nearly a month after that.

We wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t just lived through it. The five of us auditioned so many unskilled drummers, we were starting to wonder if we shouldn’t program a good drum machine.

True, we are not playing run-of-the-mill classic rock, but we stated that clearly in our ad. You certainly wouldn’t know these drummers lacked the requisite skills to play at this level, based on the introductory comments they sent us.

“30 years of experience, great equipment , Very good time and groove. Jazz, rock,r&b,funk,country no metal. I am looking for a band that plays with some dynamics and a great overall sound. Very quick study I will learn your tunes on my time. Rehearsal is for putting the music together. Lets talk see if we can make something work”

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“I want to play rock music that people want to hear and sound like the original when we play it. I do read, so if I get stumped on a song I can usually find the sheet music and figure out the time changes and breaks.”

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“I’M CONFIDENT I CAN PLAY ANYTHING. SOME OF THE SONGS ON YOUR LIST I’VE PLAYED BEFORE. I GUESS IT WILL BE UP TO YOU GUYS TO SEE IF I CAN `BRING IT’ WHICH I AM 99.9% SURE I CAN.”

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“hi  g——  here semi pro drummer . lead and backup vocals pro dw kit  pro  rehersal studio  30 years experience / connections for gigs  if intrested  call or e mail thanks for your time. G——,  —/—/—- . i know  most of what you do”

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“I promise It would be worth your time to have me come and play with you.”

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“if I can hear it, usually I can play it.”  

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“I am a seasoned percussionist…” 

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End result? Out of 32 possible drummers, 15 auditions scheduled and 13 auditions held, only 4 actually qualified, based on their skills. One of the four was eliminated because he wouldn’t commit to the project. The other three were the last to audition. Of those three, one would have to travel over an hour each way to rehearsal, twice a week. From the two remaining drummers, the one we selected was the only one who came to the audition completely prepared, knowing all the material well and having the skills to execute the “signature” parts with authority. His congenial personality and willingness to commit to the project was obviously second-to-none.

ONE out of THIRTY-TWO!

We learned the hard way that much of the musical talent in this city – a city with so many excellent players when I first started performing – has become very mediocre. After doing some research, we discovered this “shrinking-pool-of-skilled-musicians” phenomenon is not unique to Columbus.

The Local Music Industry  across the country does not have nearly as much high-level talent as it did even twenty years ago. This explains why people who enjoy live rock are gravitating to bands that can perform the classic rock of the 70s and 80s well. Back when those original recordings were made, most of the artists were skilled enough to perform in their own recording sessions. In the case of one band, “Boston,” not only were all the musicians high-level talent, but the actual recording itself – which was done in the guitarist’s home – met the standard of quality set by Columbia Records for all their recordings, and was shipped as is – no changes made. It was their debut album and sold 17 million copies.

The musical environment is certainly very different today, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why.

Here comes the lecture.

Pay attention, would-be musicians: if you’re serious about music, this is for you. It’s also for your teachers, if you’re taking lessons and your parents, if they’re paying for those lessons.

Regardless of what instrument you want to learn, if you do not learn it practicing to a metronome, you’re wasting time and money. You will not learn meter (playing in time) by just playing the correct notes, or in the case of drums, the correct hits. Meter has to be engrained in your sub-conscious or you will never be able to play at a high level and/or with top-notch musicians. They will spot your lack of skills in a heartbeat, especially if you’re a drummer. Any instructor who does not teach with a metronome is doing a great disservice to their students. Any parent that doesn’t demand this in the lesson plan is wasting their money.

To the young and not-so-young musicians who want reward without working for it? Keep reading.

If your dream is to someday get signed to a major label and record your own tunes, you will be very disappointed. Even if you’re fortunate enough to get signed, you won’t be performing in those recording sessions unless you’re an extremely skilled player with extensive experience.

There’s not enough room on this entire blog to tell all the stories of bands that get signed, walk into a studio, only to find their assigned producer saying, “I don’t need you on guitar, I have someone. Same with you on drums. All I need is the singer. If you want a good-sounding CD, this is how we’re going to do it. If not, this session is over. Have I made myself clear?”

I’ve been performing for over 45 years, but that’s not what makes me a good player. It was my initial training when I was an adolescent that makes me a good player. Here’s my State Competition Score and Review when I was in the 8th grade. Those results occurred because I was well-trained, not because I had “years of experience.” That competition was nearly 46 years ago! Family and friends used to say I was “gifted,” but that’s not the case. I was blessed with excellent instructors and had the desire to play well. Truth-be-known, without extensive review, I could not perform “Brahms’ Rhapsody in G Minor” today, even if my life depended on it.

Sitting in your bedroom, playing “made-up” guitar “riffs” for your friends, on your “Flying V” through a “Marshall Stack” means nothing. 

All you’re accomplishing is hearing loss.

If you don’t know what key your in, the time signature (beats per measure) or the chord changes behind those “riffs,” you’re wasting your time. You must learn the “language” in order to “communicate” on a high level with other musicians who are serious about their craft.

No real player wants to babysit your lack of skills.

Thinking you don’t need this “stuff” only reveals your naĂŻvetĂ©. If you’re serious about music, buy a metronome and a few good music books and start learning some scales (or drum rudiments) to develop technique. After you’ve acquired some “chops,” learn a few of your favorite songs’ guitar, bass, keyboard or drum parts – note-for-note. There’s a good chance the people playing those parts are highly-skilled session players – not the artists whose names appear on the CDs.

When you can keep up with them, you’re on your way to being a real player.

Okay, I’m breathing normal again.

Thanks for indulging me.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – The drummer we brought into the band took drum lessons from the 3rd grade through the 11th grade. (He’s now in his forties.) A few months ago, he decided to get some “refresher lessons” from a highly respected drum instructor. To determine his skill level, he was asked to play “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas. (This was also one of our audition tunes.) After he finished playing, the instructor looked at him and said,”You don’t need me. That’s the best I’ve heard someone play that tune in a while. Go home…”

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LIBER-RUSH-E

March 4, 2010

We have all heard of Rush Limbaugh, the radio voice of the Conservative Movement. His rants against Liberalism are well-documented. He is unrelenting in his attacks. It’s what he gets paid to do.

Those in my generation remember Liberace – an incredible pianist and showman with a flare for the ultra-extravagant, to put it mildly. Pictures of his Palm Springs home from many years ago certainly reveal his lavish, ornate and over-the-top decorative tastes.

We also knew he was gay.

Now, take a look at Rush Limbaugh’s Penthouse in New York. It’s for sale so the pictures were made public.

Thoughts?

Anyone?

🙂

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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WHAT’S IN YOUR GARAGE?

March 3, 2010

I’m not sure this falls into the “Time To Laugh” category but I was so captivated by the creativity, I thought I would share.

First, take a look at these.

I know the artwork is good, but not necessarily brilliant. What makes it creative is these are full-sized posters designed to be mounted on garage doors.

Cost: $199 to $399.

I grabbed some pictures of houses off the web, then added some of the posters with a little help from Photoshop.

 

 

I saved my personal favorite for last. 🙂

 

Thanks for indulging me.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – The German firm that makes these posters is called “Style Your Garage.”