Edublog problems

Well,  I seem to have recurring blog problems due to a software upgrade at Edublogs.   Will be on the beach this weekend and next week, but will try to post if Edublogs ever lets me log in again.

Hey guys,   —  I will be back…don’t give up on me!

The Threat to Wireless Mic Systems…


     MTV, CMT (Viacom?) and the Grand Ol’ Opry filed papers in Washington DC Tuesday to try to stop the impending onslaught of high tech gadgets that plan to use the same frequency spectrum for wireless broadcasting.  According to a c|net report, Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Dell (among others) want to use the frequencies between licensed TV and wireless channels (AKA “white space”) to enable new digital camcorders, mp3 players, etc. to access the internet.  The new devices seek out an “empty” space and attempt to avoid “taken” frequencies, but some of us remember the old wireless days when truckers’ CB rigs could blast into virtually any venue (church, school assembly, rock concert). 

     While proponents of these new devices say it could lower internet costs by increasing competition, it seems like a step backwards to those of us who were finally beginning to trust wireless microphone systems.   What will the future hold?  Will we have to pay AT&T/Sprint/Verizon a monthly fee for a “private” wireless channel or will these new digital spambots threaten all frequencies?  Imagine 5 years from now when wireless “spamming” becomes a closet industry (and your wireless vocal mic’s frequency is taken over by recorded message for some political candidate). 

     Anyone remember  when touring groups actually had to tech. rehearse their movements onstage to avoid tangled mic lines?   

Victor Wooten on Learning Music

Victor’s Forthcoming Book

I heard an interview on NPR the other day and found Victor’s views on music education incredibly interesting(and he has a book available now!  I just ordered my copy!).  I still can’t find the audio, but I found this text from:

Bass Musician Magazine

Jake /Kot (Editor)/: In my interview with Alain Caron, he had very similar things to say about his playing being a language of its own, right down to comparing syllables to phrasing.
Victor: Right! You can move people with this language. The difference is that it’s rare that I’ve ever met a musician that actually treats music like our first language, English. We agree that’s it’s a language, but for some reason we treat music totally differently. Most of the time when it comes to learning music, I would go as far to say that we go about it backwards, in reverse. I’m not saying that any approach is wrong, that’s not my point. Realizing that English, and I only say that because it’s my first language, and music are both forms of communication, it’s easy for me to see that I’m still much better and more comfortable with English even though I’ve been playing for a very long time. So when I look at the approach that we use to learn and speak, and even teach English, and compare it to the usual approach we take to learn music, I realize, wow, it’s a drastically different approach, to the point where I say that we’re learning music backwards. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Lets say that I have a child that I think wants to play piano. My first thought is going to be who can I send her to for lessons—nothing wrong with that. But if I take that same approach—if I have a child that wants to speak English, for me to think, ok, who can I send them to for lessons is an odd thought. We just surround the kid with people speaking that language. We talk to the child and allow them to talk back, uninhibited. They can say whatever they want, and we hardly teach them anything for the first few years, and what I mean by ‘teach’ is teaching in the classic sense of the word as in sitting them down and giving them instructions. We don’t do that for the first 3 or 4 years at least. We let the child fend for itself. We more or less throw them in the deep water when it comes to speaking English. They have to figure it out themselves. I recognize a few key factors when I look at what allows us to get good at speaking English quickly, really quickly. I want to present these factors because as far as learning music goes, we seem to be looking at what, 15 or 20 years to obtain that same skill level communicating on our instrument.

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Economies of Scale -A Night Out with Custer & Foster

Last night we drove a bit to find  Crockmeir’s Pub to hear my old buddy Stan Foster and his friend Mark Custer play a few sets.  They played together in a very successful duo (Custer’s Last Stand) in the mid-1980s but due to careers, family responsibilities, etc… they each followed different paths. This is the first time in 10 years that they’ve done a gig together and they’re doing it out of their home territory, so none of their regular (old) fans are there (except for me and my wife).  Stan’s wife, Donna Hall, joins them for several numbers;  she’s got a good voice with lots of range and control. 

In the opening of the video, you hear Stan say “I’m not sure about this one…” but they were fine. They had a few fakebooks lying around and didn’t hesitate to take requests. It’s good to see them back together!

Think just a moment about how much economic sense a duo makes;   –plus no lugging a drum set back to the van!  They used hand-held percussion or a rhythm machine to good effect (–just dialed up a beat and faded it in and out).   Mark had a pedal rig for his acoustic that gave him a nice variety of tone.  Stan used the extended range of his 5 string bass to its fullest advantage. Good sound, happy customers, and at the end of the night, you divide the pay in half and head to the house.

I believe that duos deserve special respect;  –it requires a special amount of musical give and take to pull off everyone’s favorite cover tune.  I rarely see solo acts that can (or will) do covers any more.  But in terms of profitability,  it seems a bit strange.  Venues that handle large bands often pay more than smaller venues, so unless you’re a solo act playing a large venue, the money is not much different. 

What is your experience?


Sorry for the lack of posts;  –I’m in the middle of moving my parents to a new home that’s 3 doors down from mine.  It’s a bit crazy this week, but hopefully this will decrease the time spent driving to their house twice a day to give them their medicine and check on supplies, housekeeping, etc…  If I get a chance, I’ll post pics of their new home.  A big thanks goes out to my students, Bill, Tom, and Nathan, for all their help in fence building, painting, and moving furniture.

Art for Art’s Sake – the Carl Vollrath story


 Last December I recorded a solo chamber work for bassoon and piano in my office/studio with one of my former students as a personal favor for composer Carl Paul Vollrath.  The acoustic piano I have there needed a tune, so I played the digital keyboard instead.  The track was shipped off to MMC Records and I was very honored when they decided to include it on a sampler of new music by classical composers.  The track is available via: or

I’m also finishing up the liner notes for Dr. Vollrath’s upcoming release featuring Richard Stoltzman on clarinet.  Scheduled for release next month, the project consists of 2 CDs of clarinet music (recorded by Bob Lord at MMC).  If you’ve ever written liner notes for your own music, you can imagine how tough it is to summarize someone else’s music.  What I ended up doing was writing a layman’s analysis of the character and form of the pieces.  It’s descriptive enough to encourage folks to listen (and hopefully buy the printed music). 

It’s really tough being a classical composer in this age;  ensembles generally are very conservative with their programming choices and if you noticed the program the New York Philharmonic took to North Korea, you’ll see what I mean.  Dr. Vollrath retired from teaching recently and is devoting all the time and resources he has to these recording  projects. 

Think about this for a moment.  Would you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to see some of your life’s work recorded?  This situation is absolutely amazing to me!  Carl gives away many of his compositions to performers in hopes of having them performed;  unfortunately, few are.   It’s not a quality issue, it’s a glass ceiling that classical composers have to find a way to break through.

It works out great for the labels;  think of them as the audio equivalent of a “vanity press”  (those publishers who will publish a certain number of copies of your book for a fee).  But for Dr. Vollrath, these compositions are his “children” and no price is too great in order to see them come of age.   He has already released a 2 cd album of piano music and one cd of chamber music for trumpet and horn.  I won’t begin to speculate how much these projects cost.  

I’ve known many musicians who would play anywhere simply for the joy of sharing their music (gratis).  Classical composers are ‘up the creek without a paddle’ because they cannot realize their works without the cooperation of other like-minded performers.  Either you get really good at writing grants for arts enrichment, playing political games and courting rich patrons or you do what Carl is doing;  –focus on the music and do the best that he can.  You’ve got to admire someone who has spent a lifetime of disciplined composition for the sheer love of the art, perhaps never knowing when or if the notes on the page will ever be heard.  Putting your soul down on manuscript paper because this music that no one else hears is welling up inside you and has to be released.  That’s creating art for art’s sake. 

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3 Good Reads (blogroll)

For you budding guitar players out there, check out Jack Pribek’s post on harmonic cross-relationships, soloing and stress relief:

“You’ve got to be in to go out and you’ve got to be out to go in”

Protooler did a nice “Preview Review” on Digidesign’s Transfuser.  Be sure to read it BEFORE you try the preview!!!

“Transducer – First Look at the Preview”

WiretotheEar satisfies those low bass cravings with a great little post about

“How to place a Subwoofer in your Studio”

Finally,  things can get a little weird for 3 crazy musicians on the road. (Source -J Coulton) Take a bit of portable technology and some downtime and you end up with this: