Monday, October 29, 2012

Rainy Days: They're a-Comin'

Saxophones Don't Rely on Electricity

     As I write this post, hurricane Sandy is chewing up the east cost, from the south up towards the tri-state area. This one's going to be bad here in New Jersey, as we never really get full hurricanes this far inland- generally, we get the dregs of the tropical storms. With Sandy, however, the eye of the storm will be passing slowly over the state. I imagine, knowing this state's horrible infrastructure, that power will be out- widespread -for over a week, and that life will get pretty dull. This is why I'm deciding to get out and play music every second I have the chance.
    I have the chance now. Well, in a few minutes. The wind is pretty crazy out there, but there's no rain as of yet, so my saxophone will be fine. I often play outdoors, in a dugout of the high school to which I live next door. The acoustics are decent, and it's safe from the elements. Playing there today, as Sandy crawls up the coast, I'll be able to see just how affected the saxophone's sound is by heavy wind. 
     Ultimately, there is no lesson here, not for this post. The Queen Mother of all rainy days is coming, so I'm writing casually about some thoughts before all power is lost and I become one of many living in the stone age. In fact, the only thing I can say to you all (especially you younger musicians reading) is that you should not go out in a hurricane to play music or do anything, as it's dangerous.
     The next two days will be miserable. Trees will fall, windows will break, and power will be out for some time. I can only look forward to the day after the storm, after the rain has finished falling, when the skies are crisp and I consider one spectacular fact: saxophones don't rely on electricity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Blog About Music

Musician's Blog

     I've received a lot of comments recently which, for a brand new blog, is pretty nice. Many of them included questions particularly about blogging itself. A lot of people seem to want my thoughts on blogging about music, or just setting up a blog in general, so I thought it would be a good idea to simply blog about it.
     I'll be frank: going into this I knew literally nothing about blogs. In fact, I was pretty unsure what exactly constituted a blog. Somewhat ironically, I ended up doing some research through other people's blogs in order to answer some of my questions: what is a blog? What makes a blog function? What are the good and the bad of blogging? What's right? What's wrong?
     After finding out what not to do, I figured out what I wanted out of blogging. There were two big aspects to this for me: I wanted to explore this type of media/literature as I see myself as an amateur writer as well as a musician, and then there's the fact that I wanted, in some small way other than tutoring, to spread ideas, facts, and passions about music. I never wanted money, fame, or anything along those lines. In fact, I didn't really want anything. I was looking to write casually about something I love in the off chance that at least one person might find it helpful. Also, I needed something free, as this is my first time blogging. With all of these things, Blogger really helped me out.
     A lot of those questions I mentioned earlier asked me about platforms, namely which I thought were good and which I thought were bad. Well, as I said before, up to about a couple months ago, I knew nothing about this sort of thing. Now, however, I can say that Blogger, the site I currently use (thus the "" part of my site address), is extremely good- it's user friendly, free, and very insightful. I got some good ideas just from the easy-to-use layout templates. The website also gives me a lot of ways to customize my page as I go, which is good. There is, also, an option to have my own domain (no longer having ".blogspot" in my URL). This I would need to pay for, and while it isn't much, it's still something I won't do unless I ever find I need to.
     I hear a lot about WordPress as well, which I gather to be a popular blogging site like Blogger is. The only thing I know about WordPress is that there is a .com and a .org version of the service. The .com is apparently the free and more popular version. As to it's quality, I really cannot say.
     Blogging about music is harder than you might think. I find that I must speak as generally about subjects as I can (though I usually fail at this, especially as I show my bias towards sax players) and must avoid my own preferences to certain types of music. I see a lot of blogs where people fail to do these things and end up falling into a blog where they discuss only their own hate. Hate blogs, as I call them, are, in my opinion, massive failures- especially when they're about music. If you have a hate blog about music, it isn't fair to those people who like the music that you're publicly hating. There needs to be more respect of other people's preferences, even if they aren't your own.
     To that extent, I'm usually pretty good. I like a lot of different kinds of music, and those which I do not like, I keep my negative opinions to myself. Inevitably, though, liking a wide variety of music, and playing an equal amount of it, really helps with writing about it. Even when I'm super busy, which is more and more often these days, I still enjoy writing about music, even if what I have to write about isn't quite as thought provoking as some of my other posts.
     Finally, I have a couple points I'd like to make, in which case I hope many of you who have read my previous posts or were some of the ones to comment on I've Got You Covered are reading this. If you want to ask me a question, I've always said that you may in the comments below, or on the Facebook or even Twitter pages given (on web version only, I believe. I can't fix this problem, sorry), or even my email, which I provide occasionally (again, web version, sorry, sorry). To this extent, the comments you leave are generally anonymous, which is, of course, perfectly fine. However, this means  you probably don't get a notification if I respond to your questions (which I always do). That's why I urge you to email me with anything important you need or click "web version" at the bottom of the mobile version page for links to my contacts. If you provide any information for contact in your comment, make sure it's valid, as I've had some emails provided which were incorrect addresses.
     Anyhow, these are my thoughts on blogging and options for anyone interested. I'll continue Musician's Road for quite a while: I'm really just getting started. At this point, I have 1,171 page views. I'm very excited to have that many, as it far exceeds any of my previous expectations. Thank you all, and I'll be keeping in touch!

My email is, for those of you who need it.
My line is always open for questions or comments.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Losing Your Roots

Lack of Concert

     Today, I'm pretty much going to complain at you a bit. Well, there will be a bit of a lesson of course, but regardless, I have something I want to feel sorry about myself for- publicly. It has to do with my origins as a musician and my greatest musical love: concert genre music. 
     Classical and other concert pieces have always been my absolute favorite thing in the world to learn and play, and I've always excelled at them. Throughout high school, I grew on such pieces, performing for four years with an enthusiastic excellence. Such are my roots, excluding junior high.
     After high school, there is college, but as I've explained before, I'm not in school for music. Therefor, my only way of playing my favorite music was through the newly founded community band, run by my beloved high school instructors, two very talented individuals. 
     Last year was the first year of this band, and we played some exciting concert pieces. I played along side some high school attendees, some eighty year olds, and some teachers from the school. The group was new and full of different people, but we all played together wonderfully. It was fun and exciting.
     Unfortunately, this year, the band has been cancelled for reasons which are beyond me. This is a sad thing, as the band, had it continued, could have grown quite large, enabling us to perform some truly intense pieces.
     It is sad, too, because now I have no concert type venue in which to play. Most frightening, is the fact that I have no concert type venue from which to learn. I pride myself, musically, primarily on my sweet tone and near perfect pitch- that which I have achieved through talent, but mostly years of hard work. 
     I suppose, I can only hope that new venues come up for me, as I wish very much to be able to play along side some talented musicians once again.

     I'd like to say that all of you out there should stick with the parts of music that you love most. While it is, of course, great for you to experience other aspects of music, keeping near your roots is also very important. If you ever lose sight of why you fell in love with music in the first place, you may end up lost, or even giving up music- which is a mistake. 
     While I'm very saddened by my current situation, I'm still alright as I look optimistically towards new opportunities. I know that I'll one day join a new and impressive band of musicians. It's just a matter of time.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beat Down


     Today I'd like to talk a little bit about something that includes somewhat of a misconception: that anyone can play drums (by "drums", I mean a kit). This isn't true- well, maybe not to a degree.
     Anyone can do a really simple beat with about ten minutes of practice- maybe not well, but they can. Given this, there are few who can play complex beats to moving music. When it comes to already active musicians, this doesn't change: there aren't many who can play a drum kit, mostly because they have never tried.
     But why haven't they...?
     There really is no reason for this. I mean, sure, you can say you don't have a kit available to you- I'll accept that, but I think you should really look around to see if there is one which you can use, because percussion is a good skill to have, as any type of musician.
     I'm a woodwind player; I play the saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor), and I'm quite good (if I do say so myself...which I do). Despite this, I'm truly horrible at percussion- I don't know why, but I can't get my hands and feet to do separate things reliably. With this, I did what any normal person would do: I gave up.
     But not for long.
     Eventually (recently), I really put in some practice at the local high school band room (as there's a kit there). I actually got a lot better through this practice: I can do some basic rock, swing, blues and bossa beats. I put in this effort, even though I'm a saxophonist, for some very good, yet simple, reasons.

     I put forth that every musician should learn at least some basic drumming. It builds up the sense of rhythm and gives you some insight into keeping time. Also, being able to have that experience under your belt allows you to understand the beat to which you're playing along- identifying greatly with the music. Understanding all parts of the music you play is very important.
    Now, of course, and as an aside, I'm talking about drum kits, so I'm talking about jazz, pop, rock, or any of the like. A concert setting (concert band, symphony etc.) won't really have a kit in the way that I mean.
    So with this short message, take with you my advice: pick up a pair of sticks and learn some rhythms- it'll truly further your playing ability and style.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Musician's Road: Thank You

Here's to Over a Thousand Page Views!

     Just over two months with this blog, posting (overall) twice a week, I've reached- as I write now -1,067 page views. As I may have written before, I don't do this for money. Instead I do it for this- the fun of it and all the support- as well as the sharing of ideas. I never dreamed I'd get so many views by now. Honestly, I imagined I'd only get a couple per each post via Facebook references or such.
     Actually, that was (mostly) the case, up until I've Got You Covered was posted. For some reason, you readers out there really seemed to like it, as it now has over half of my total views on that one post alone!
     Anyhow, I just wanted to use today's post to say thank you, so I won't write too much. I'll simply leave you with this: I plan to write, every Monday and Friday, for as long as I possibly can. Keep checking in, or subscribe via email; find on Facebook; be sure to comment with questions or anything you need from me. I'll keep the posts coming, and I'm always open to suggestions for post.
     Thanks again!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Testing the Waters

Feelings on Change

     To generalize, there are two types of people in this world: those who embrace change, looking for new things in their life daily; accepting challenges with ease -- and then there are those who fear change and everything it represents. In my case, I am so clearly the latter of the two. I'm afraid of change, almost always. To be honest, my stage fright issues probably have a lot to do with this, but that's not my point here.
     My point is this: as someone who has a deep-rooted fear of change, I can yet say that change is sometimes good- important even -and that there are certain things of which you should move past.
     I'll relate of course to my latest musical venture: the purchase of a trumpet. Now my point about change applies here, as I've always been extremely partial to woodwinds as apposed to brasswinds, in an almost ism kind of way (like raceism, only in this case, instruments). It may have something to do with the kinds of people I've encountered who play trumpet and the like. In my experience, I've met some truly self-centered and pompous individuals on the horns.
     But then it probably has a lot to do with many other things; regardless, I have always almost disdained brass instruments.
     Now that I'm getting older though, I see that this is pretty silly. Instead of wallowing in this childish stubbornness, I've decided to spread my musical know-how; to add a brasswind to my woodwind collection.
     This kind of change is great change, as it makes you better at what you do; smarter; wiser. Okay, maybe not wiser, but it's good for you to consider broadening your abilities. In my case, a trumpet is a good idea, as it's very cheap (just past a hundred dollars), and, if I'm at all decent at it, I'll be one step closer to a mariachi band (which is one step closer to godliness).
     Will I be terrible at the trumpet?
     Well, I like to think I won't for two musical reasons- one: I've played the didgeridoo, quite well, so that gives me an edge on the embouchure work, and two: I've about mastered altissimo- fluently -which means I'm good at harmonics and the like.
     So I've decided to take up a new kind of instrument (not counting the tenor saxophone I recently picked up), which is a good step towards healthy musical change. It's simply what I'm doing, and blogging about (not because I have nothing else to write about), but I suppose what I'm meaning to say is this: You should try new things too. It's a thrilling ride, be it pertaining to music, or not- it doesn't matter. There's no harm in trying.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Featuring: GXSCC by Gashisoft - Japan

A Unique MIDI Player

     I'm going to talk briefly today about something that I came across recently that I, as a child of the '90s, a gamer, and a lover of music, found to be quite exciting: it's called GXSCC, by Gashisoft- a Japanese company, and it converts standard MIDI (if you don't know what it is, click here for some explanation) into 8 bit music (if you don't know what that is, click here)!
     I'm going to let the sample speak for itself, but I want to share a bit of what I thought about this. Mostly, I thought up millions of fun ideas using this software to make game play videos of Pokemon, or something similar, using well-known classic rock songs instead of the classic 8 bit music of the old games.
     Whether it be to make a video, or just have fun with it, GXSCC is cool to try out, and is a lot of fun to play with! Give it a try- the links are listed below (but remember that this is a Japanese beta, so it wont look pretty, but it's safe, I promise):
See bottom of the linked
screen for "I Agree"

An example

     Keep in mind, that to use it, you need to save a MIDI file, drag, and drop that saved file right into the opened program. This isn't all as complicated as it sounds. Here's a good website to find some popular songs:

Just search for a song
and save it to your
computer, then drag
and drop into the opened
program! Have fun!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Heads, or Tails?

The Literal/Figurative Theory

     You know you've got a good jam session going when, by the end, you feel like you've just run a marathon with truck horns blaring at you all the while. The other day I had such a session- it lasted three hours, and we had a drummer, bassist, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophonists. Am I going to use this situation to explain how you should bring earplugs with you (or not to forget them at home) to such a jam session? While this is a valid point, I'm actually going to express an opinion of mine, as I usually do in these sorts of things, about something I considered while playing for those few hours.
     This session, like most that I have, took place in my brother's high school, the one from which I graduated a couple years back. I occasionally play with a handful of competent young musicians, as I generally believe that jamming is an excellent way for everyone to learn. And indeed, I did learn something, or rather, realised something.
     Let's call music a coin, for now. Like any coin, this one has two sides. These sides include the literal players and the figurative players. Literal players are those who excel at theory, sight reading, and mechanics- just to name a few. Figurative players are those who excel at playing by ear, improvising, and interpretation (of music), again, just to name a few. It is in my experience that musicians (generally) ten to identify more with one of these sides than the other. In addition, the more to one of the sides a musician is, the less they identify, perhaps, with the other. For example, I identify greatly with the figurative side of the coin. I'm great at embellishing, jamming, and I play many songs quite easily by ear. And yet, given this, I am quite poor when it comes to the literal side's qualities and skills. Sight reading is my greatest musical weakness, and my theory is lacking. Therefor, I am a god example of an extremely figurative bias.
There are a lot of words goin' on, so as a break, here's
a picture of a horse playing a saxophone
(that I totally did not steal from the Internet. . .)
      However, I want to submit that, while you are either one or the other, there is some middle ground- coins aren't paper thin, after all. One might identify with the literal style more than the figurative and be able to play by ear. this example combines playing-by-ear with theory. On the other side, a figurative player might be great with chord arrangements and composition. To re-put it, each side may be mostly in the skill set of one, yet have some abilities of the other (and I'll offer this very brief note of some, professionals really, who rise above and show excellent abilities from both of the sides of the coin. These people are exceptional for a reason).
     To digress, this literal versus figurative player bias theory of mine is evident during an intensive jam session like the one I recently experienced. Members of the figurative side of the coin will take control during a solo, flourishing openly at every turn, and trying new things often, while literal players will keep to certain licks, tricks, and paralleling chord changes more literally than their counterparts. The two are identical in 'jamability' (copyrighted word [...not really...]) -that is that one is not necessarily better than the other in a jam session. In fact, I'd say that a balance of both sides of this coin creates a more dynamic session: figuratives explode while literals stabilize, creating expansion.
     This is simply an opinionated theory of mine, and, as I've said before, I'm speaking pretty generally. This said, it is something I personally hold true and, furthermore, use to identify and work with many players. I think, also, that it is a theory that you should test the next time you're jamming. 

Monday, October 1, 2012


Contents are Delicious

     I haven't much to write about today: I usually get my inspiration from music I've played recent to blogging. Unfortunately, I haven't been playing much lately- only a bit of messing around earlier yesterday. What little I have to say here has to do with that fateful day. . .
     I was playing my curved Opus soprano saxophone in the afternoon as it was getting colder (autumn is starting). Saxophones, and most brass-made instruments, get very cold very quickly. It usually makes the instrument pretty flat, but in this case it didn't matter- I was just being silly (and probably sounding pretty shrill and terrible, A.K.A  fun). Prior to this, however, I had about three or four Coca-Colas (I know, I have a problem). With the mildly cold weather, and the Cokes, you might not see a problem here, other than my dieting, but I assure you there is a problem: my keys were starting to stick- bad.
     As it turns out, the combination of sticky coke and the cold worked together to glue my keys shut. With a pretty new horn (and being in the babying stage of owning it), I was shocked, and immediately cleaned my little Opus thoroughly (weighted-rag and 'pad saver'). I also *folded a dollar bill and closed it in the Ab/G# key (the most common key to stick).
     Luckily, I was casually playing my saxophone just for kicks, and wasn't practicing before a concert. Heed my warning: Sticky keys can be bad in an official setting, so it's always good to know what to avoid eating/drinking before such events.

*The mentioned tip is described at the
bottom of the page- it's a good one!