Archive for December, 2007

December 11, 2007

Blahrgh

I haven’t been here in blog-ville in a long time. I can’t even remember what I last wrote about but that’s not really important. I’ve actually been hard at work on my 5-years-in-the-making record but the weather is now starting to interfere a bit. My basement gets a quite frosty around December and so this year I’m breaking down and buying some sort of heater for the studio. Progress on this project only comes in small bursts but thus far my return to recording has been a lot of fun. I have my Wurlitzer electric piano more or less fixed (thanks Peter!) and have the Hammond Organ running well enough (it still needs some hum-zapping) and have come to the conclusion that my $700 acoustic guitar sounds good but my 25-year-old $250 guitar actually records better. Go figure.

Guitars have not been in vogue for a while. After doing a wedding this summer and learning a few songs on the piano (and faltering through them at the show) I decided it was time to live out my fantasy of being a competent piano player. So for the last four months I’ve spent at least an hour a day in the office, banging away on the upright we got a few years back. I’m approaching this in the same way I learned guitar: I practice my basic skills and try to figure out familiar songs. I look around on-line for cheat sheets and it’s the usual hit-or-miss but in this case even the wrong chords can help me find the right ones. And new songs open up new windows: for the wedding we learned “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” which forced me to learn how to do a walking bass line. My left hand was not happy and it made me sort of dizzy but I got it down and now can add that feel to just about anything. Learning “Hello, It’s Me” forced me to learn how to play major and minor 7th chords which helped a lot when I started working on Steely Dan songs (ha!).

I’ve always loved playing the guitar and really felt like it was my calling as a musician. In my late 20’s I actually became a good player but soon realized my limitations. I can’t really play leads, even with a lot of rehearsal. I can play lots of chords and keep my bands from going off the rails by being rock steady but time has not made me into anything fancy. Yet on the piano I surprise myself every time I sit down to play. My muscle memory has really come to life as sometimes when I try a new song I already know how to create an unfamiliar chord. And on the piano there are so many ways to create a chord. On the guitar you have 3 octaves spread over six strings and that limits you to 3 or 4 different ways to make even a three note chord. On the piano there are 100 ways and I’m just starting to tap into that reservoir. Plus all that music theory that I learned as a kid is suddenly so valuable when trying to figure stuff out.

So, sometime down the road I’m going to drag the Wurly out on stage with the Low Czars or whoever will have me. I wish I had a nice keyboard piano thing to tote around but that will have to wait (It’s a shame there aren’t pianos at every venue and bar in the world anymore, but that’s a whole other blog!) My current “figuring out” project is the Zombies’Odessey and Oracle of which I have about 2/3 finished. Look for that one coming to a future rock opera show near you.

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