My guitar buddy Rob and I are always struggling to get a drummer to practice with. So often we end playing to a backing track or more typically no drums at all. Candidly, my rhythm is not particularly excellent, so I prefer to play with a backing track or a drum loop. But when you want to jam, those options often come up short. The smart guys over at BeatBuddy have designed what looks like a perfect solution for anyone in need of a more dynamic style of drum backing: a guitar pedal that supplies a custom drum track.
BeatBuddy looks easy enough to use. Pick your drum style or song, lock in the tempo and then hit the pedal to start the drums. Press the pedal again to add some fills, or hold it down to transition from verse to chorus or vice verse. You can add a second footswitch to vary the tempo, move to next song, add cymbal crashes etc. And unlike old-school looping pedals, BeatBuddy is smart enough to supply the transitions at even measures, even if your own rhythm is a little off.
BeatBuddy comes with 200 songs, and 10 drum styles including rock, blues, pop, and the ability to add more via USB port and SD card. Personally, I will be happy if it has more than half a dozen good blues tracks and a dozen rock tracks. So many of these drum loop devices just put two shuffles and a couple of standard rock tracks and then twenty pop or electronic tracks. My guess is most of the buyers of this pedal are going to be focused on classic rock and blues.
The project is being funded via IndieGogo. While there's always risk of delays or a product that doesn't quite live up to expectations, this one looks to be pretty solid. The price is $199 until Feb 4. That's much less than the expected retail price, with delivery expected by end of April. (Ok, I've never seen a crowdfunded project meet it's delivery date, so maybe just think "Q2 2014.")
Here's an up-to-date video on YouTube with more details:
My other other band, "After Hours Blues Machine" had a successful gig last night at Redhouse Studios in Walnut Creek. It was a showcase for half a dozen bands and things went pretty well. We did a short set with some straight ahead rock songs, and hopefully it came across with a lot of energy. I think things sounded pretty good. There were a couple of minor mistakes, but I'm not sure how obvious they were to the audience.
It's been great playing together with Dave, Jeff and Marc at Redhouse. And we were fortunate to have Assaf sit in on keyboards with just a few rehearsals.
If you're in the east bay area, I highly recommend Redhouse Studios' workshops. They've got a wide range of workshops they run for rock, jazz, Beatles, Stones, metal and more as well as lessons and regular concerts. I'm gonna miss this place.
Musician's Friend posed the question: Why do you love your acoustic guitar to some various folks in the websphere and they must have run out of interesting musicians because they asked me for my comments.
Admittedly, it's been a long time since I've picked up my acoustic guitar on a regular basis. But I do love that guitar. It's a slightly beat up Ovation from the 70s that I bought used from a guy. It was a lot of money at the time, but it seemed like a good deal. Honestly, I thought the guitar was probably hot. Still, I dove in and started learning open chords and then, rather painfully, barre chords etc. It was my first guitar, so I still have a soft spot for it.
You can read the full article over at Musician's Friend Hub. There are also plenty of other good articles on gear as well as a great interview with Paul Stanley from KISS about his career and his line of Washburn guitars.
My "other" band "Numbers Stations" played a gig on Sunday at the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco. The set list was pretty varied including songs by Weezer, Al Green, Lou Reed (of course), The Stranglers, Queens of The Stone Age, Santana and more. I played bass and covered vocals on two songs. This was part of a showcase for the non-profit Blue Bear School of Music. Here's a video from the show.
Here are a couple of videos from our final rehearsal at Lennon Studios.
I've posted a few sample MP3 songs below. You can listen to more over at SoundCloud.
Joe Bonamassa played at Oakland's Paramount theater friday night. It was a very solid show with an acoustic set followed by an electric set. Though I must admit, I did not think the show was as good as the last one I saw in Santa Cruz in 2010. Some of the material felt like generic '80s stadium rock. Still, the blues numbers were great and the set included "The Ballad of John Henry," "Slow Train," "Dislocated Boy," "Sloe Gin," "Dust Bowl," and a nice cover of Gary Moore's "Midnight Blues" among others.
I've posted some photos at PicasaWeb taken with my Sony RX100. I managed to get pretty close for some of these.
While I didn't shoot any video, I've shared a video of "Sloe Gin" from a date a few weeks earlier in the tour.
I had one of those "Oh Sh**" moments yesterday. A friend told me he managed to see Television live on their 2013 tour. I was happy for him, especially thinking he must have traveled to Australia or the UK to see them. And then a few seconds later after searching on Google I was heart broken to realize Television had played in San Francisco, my own back yard, just two weeks ago. And somehow I missed it. WTF?
If you're not familiar with Television, let me just be clear before we go any further. Television is one of the greatest bands ever. This is not hyperbole, it is simply a fact. They are also, sadly, somewhat obscure. They were the first band to play at CBGBs, put out the brilliant debut "Marquee Moon" in 1977, followed up with an almost as good second album the following year and disbanded, seemingly at the height of obscurity. In the most recent 35 years they toured sporadically. They toured in support of a third album in 1992 and did a few dates in 2001 and 2007.
Of all the bands I listened to from the punk / new-wave '70s and early 80s, Television is head and shoulders above all the others. Yes, I love the Clash, The Stranglers (whom I finally saw live this summer), the Jam, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Elvis Costello. Television simply blows them all out of the water. What made Television unique was the ferocity of two guitars fluidly alternating between intertwined rhythm and lead parts. Television, like The Velvet Underground, had a relentless, driving sound, but with a greater musicality. And like The Velvet Underground, Television never sold a lot of records, but their impact on future bands was huge.
If there is one Television album to buy, it is of course "Marquee Moon", their debut. But there are also two excellent live albums. "Live At The Old Waldorf" from San Francisco 1978 was recorded for radio and captures the band at their edgiest. "Live At The Academy 1992" features the band on their brief reformation from a concert in New York. It's polished, even a bit laid back in parts and absolutely wonderful. Both have excellent sound and are well worth it even for the casual fan. There are still a few remaining dates on the tour in the UK at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (11/23, 11/24) and in New York (11/29, 11/30). Meanwhile, I will be listening to both live albums all weekend and hoping to see the band sometime in 2014.
There are some quite decent videos from the concert in San Francisco on YouTube. Yes, it's a bit shocking to see the band is 35 years older than the mental image I have in my mind. But the music is tight, the vibe is good and how I wish I had been there.
Greenday put on a great show at AT&T Park in conjunction with the Salesforce conference. Loud, wet, cold and fantastic. Despite a few glitches in the audio that resulted in a short acoustic interlude, it was a great show.
Technimo has updated their awardwinning iRealb musical accompaniment application and re-christened it as iReal Pro. The new version is available immediately for Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android. iRealPro remains easy to use but adds several new capabilities including:
Customizable click tracks
Built-in chord diagrams for guitar
Easier song creation and editing
More custom mixing capabilities
AudioBus support for iOS
AudiBus capability makes it possible to use iReal Pro in conjunction with other music apps on your iPhone or iPad, for example, combining iReal Pro with guitar audio from GarageBand, AmpliTube or AmpKit.
iReal Pro has more than 30 different accompaniment styles to chose from (Rock, Soul, Pop, Ballad, Bossa Nova, Funk Rock, Swing, Latin, Blues, Shuffle etc.) enabling a broad repertoire. You can customize the accompaniment by changing not only the style, but the tempo, the key and the bass and piano instrumentation. Also worth noting is there are hundreds of songs available on the forums including the typical Jazz standards, Blues, Beatles, Grateful Dead, Pop, Rock and more. So even if you're more comfortable playing songs than creating them, there's a ton of material to tap into. Take a look at the video below to get a feel for iReal Pro on the iPhone.
If I have one criticism of iReal Pro it's that it is very jazz oriented. So even the rock and blues songs inevitably sound like a lounge lizard jazz combo who wouldn't know how to rock if they were playing AC/DC. I'm not sure what the best solution to this is. Maybe some of the songs are using older styles, or maybe there's a need for more styles and rock instrumentation. Hopefully this is something that iReal Pro can continue to improve.
Overall, iReal Pro continues to get better and better with every release. It's a versatile tool for the practicing musician. iRealPro is just $7.99 for iPad and iPhone via iTunes and $19.99 for the Mac. Best of all, this is a free upgrade for all existing iRealb users.
I'm always on the lookout for good backing tracks. Even if you have a band to play with, it's hard to get everyone together when you need to. And you've still got stuff to work on between rehearsals and gigs. I find that having some backing tracks makes it a whole lot more interesting to practice. To keep it fresh, you gotta have some new takes on things.
That's why I was so impressed with Elmo JK's backing tracks. He's a blues/rock shredder from Finland and has created a number of impressive tracks. They're way beyond your typical I-IV-V blues shuffle. There's stuff in the style of Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, The Who, Joe Satriani, Jim Hendrix and more. Check out the videos on youtube to see get some ideas.
He's also recorded a great album called "Unintelligent Designs" and some extra tracks from that session called "Unintelligent Leftovers" (which sounds like what I had for dinner last night). These are occasionally on sale, so definitely worth signing up for his email list. That'll also get you a couple of free songs from the album.
I'm hoping he gets out on an international tour, but in the meantime, feel free to check out what he's got.
The alternative rock band Buffalo Tree has released their debut album via iTunes and it's a killer. The band hails from Kingston Ontario and has been honing their chops in the local bar scene with a sound that recalls classic 70s rock with a contemporary feel. Great vocals from Shayne Godin and a very strong lead guitar sound from Van Sheen though I dare say it would be great to hear him cut loose on a few more songs. He's got some chops and a unique style.
I can't quite put my finger on all the influences in this band, but there are elements that remind me of The Wallflowers, Madrigal, The Kinks and Lou Reed on an upbeat day. "Golden Dream" and "Fade Away" are just a couple of the standout songs.
They're mostly touring in Kingston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, but hopefully this album will get them some broader exposure.
Stu Hamm was another of the guest artists who appeared at Guitar Workshop Plus in BC this summer. Hamm is a legendary bass player, famous for his own works as well as for playing with some of the greatest guitar players in the world including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, Michael Schenker and others. He helped create and popularize many new techniques in bass playing that enabled the bass to be more than just an instrument of accompaniment.
It was great to have him come out to Guitar Workshop Plus where he talked about his development as a bass player, played an impressive set (solo and with the workshop faculty) playing original songs as well as fantastic covers of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Going to California" among others. He also spent several hours with the bass students.
Here's Hamm playing Vince Guaraldi's "Linus & Lucy" (on request) on bass: