Monday, July 20, 2021

How to Choose the Right Beginner Drum Pad

Dedicated practice is the only way for a drummer to gain enough technique and make the whole kit sound right. However, many drummers, especially beginners, don’t have 24/7 access to drum kits. What’s the way out? A drum pad! In this quick guide, you’ll find out how to choose the best beginner drum pad and prepare to rock on like a monster!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kennedy Center Honors 2018 Highlights: Adam Lambert and 'Hamilton'

The Kennedy Center Honors is my favorite awards show of the year. The most extraordinary performances happen here. And this year is no exception. Cher was honored for her contribution to the musical and performance world and I was so excited to see that Adam Lambert was going to be part of that tribute. He did not disappoint with this gorgeous, heartfelt rendition of "Believe".
I do love about a good cover. You take a good song, that might have had some era appropriate bells and whistles of the time (hello auto-tune, wow I can't believe you stuck around for as long as you did!) and pull its soul right out. A talented artist can present it in a new way, and viola! 

He starts sweet and gentle, altering the melody here and there. I love the moment when he pulls his ear piece out, he's just that comfortable and confident up there. He makes Cher shed a tear! The emotion builds and he ends in a dramatic Lambert moment of holding out high note. 

The co-creators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacamoire he creators of 'Hamilton' were also honored, and we were treated to a live performance of the The Schuyler Sisters" by original cast Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Phillipa Soo. 
While there are so many memorial tracks in 'Hamilton', there's nothing better than a female three-part harmony number that pretty reminiscent of Destiny's Child. Especially that run at the end! Work!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mind Blown - Dolly Parton in 45 or 33 1/3 speed

I recently came across these couple videos of Dolly Parton tunes being speed up to sound AWESOME, and then a Bruce Springsteen tune being slowed down to sound, well, like Dolly Parton. And the new versions are pretty rad.

From WIMP:

Dolly Parton's hit song "Jolene" (from her 1973 album sharing the same name) sounds unexpectedly good when slowed down to 33 RPM. Parton has said the inspiration for this song came from a redheaded bank teller who she believed charmed her husband.

Click to Download

And now, Bruce Springsteen, "I'm on Fire" set to 45 RPM, making him sound very much like Dolly Parton.

BOOM! Mind-splosion!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Composer Bear McCreary wins his first Emmy!

Bear McCreary and his first, of many, golden statues
photo from Bear's facebook
Bear McCreary needs to get a big cabinet for this sucker, because there will be many more to come. Many more.

I know this happened a few weeks ago, but I just wanted to post a little ditty saying that that I'm proud to know this guy, and very excited about what's to come. It's been a trip watching from afar as he's composed the scores for Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Human Target, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and now Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and more).

I hope it's okay to say that I see this Emmy as being a sort of "lifetime achievement so far" award for all of the above listed projects. In my humble opinion, the work that he did on Battlestar is enough to earn this award.

Check out my 2009 interview with Bear, post Battlestar

If you're into television and movie soundtracks and fascinated with the whole process, check out his blog.

Raya, Bear & me before their wedding ceremony in Malibu, CA 2010

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two new videos from two bands I hold dear: The Family Crest and The Defibulators

Screenshot from The Defibulator's new video "Let Me See That Ponytail Run"

The Family Crest's new video for "Love Don't Go" - shot in one take on the streets of San Francisco. New E.P. The Headlands now available.

The Defibulators stunningly sexy and sad video for "Let Me See That Ponytail Run." New album Debt'll Get'em here

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

So You're Not Going to Outside Lands Festival? Here's 5 Other Things to Do in the Bay

These Hedwigs really want to see you this weekend
If you will not be joining the throngs descending upon Golden Gate Park this weekend for Outside Lands Festival, do not despair. There is plenty happening around the Bay including 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Live, The classic GODZILLA, a Big Ass Hillbilly show, Cheech & Chong (and War) and the poems of Allen Ginsberg put to music.

(Although this is not to say, going to outside - Outside Lands and enjoying Paul McCartney from a blanket in the park isn't a good idea. Why not? You might even catch a renegade band playing out in the grounds somewhere)

Click here to read the rest of the article

Cheech & Chong (and War) promise a smokin' good time
1) Friday August 9th 8pm - GODZILLA at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. The original, uncut Japanese version (with English sub-titles). Tickets $5.

2) Friday August 9th 8pm - Shelby Ash Presents: The BIG ASS HILLBILLY SHOW at Slim’s with Emily Bonn & The Vivants, The Muddy Roses, and Shani Chabansky. Info and tickets $15.

3) Saturday August 10th 3pm - Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Boxcar Theater. This show has been running to sold out audiences for several months, get your half price tickets on Goldstar! $18-22.

4) Saturday August 10th 7:30 - Cheech and Chong with War at America's Cup Pavilion. Get your half price tickets on Goldstar. $25-35.

5) Sunday August 11th 1pm & 3pm - Ginsberg in Song the Contemporary Jewish Museum. With poems arranged by Conspiracy of Beards musical director, Daryl Henline, performers include Afi Ayanna, Allison Fenner, Berel Alexander Steinberg, and Peter Whitehead. $5 Members; $15 general (includes Museum admission, advance tickets recommended).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gospel CD mixes

The cover of my Gospel Music double disc mix with artist help from Elisabeth Rene
Back in December of 2010, I spent some time in the eco-village of Lynchdoche near Capetown, South Africa. I volunteered there, hanging out with the kids, pretending I knew something about gardening, and having a blast spending time in a country I had always wanted to visit.

I was in love with the music, fascinated by the history and curious to know the state of a country that was only 16 years (at the time) out of Apartheid.

One of the amazing things I got to do was visit Joya Homes, an "unofficial" orphanage, about an hour away. This orphanage is not supported by the government financially. Instead they have become a Section 21 Non-Profit Organisation, accepting donations.

Lydia Tom had a few kids of her own, but she started to take in other kids that needed help. When I was there, I believe there were about 18 children living with her. They relied on what others gave them. Some of these children where found in trash cans, some of them on doorsteps. Some of them are HIV positive. They were well behaved and sweet as can be.

I gave one of the teenaged boys my shoes and entertained the idea (just for a second) of taking one of the babies home with me, until reason set in. When I got back to California later and celebrated my 31st birthday I asked my friends to donate money that we could send to them. I hope they were able to buy something they needed and/or enjoyed.

In one of the last Joya Home newsletters, there was a request for money to buy Gospel Music CDs and DVDs. I sent an email asking if I could make them some CD mixes of American and South African Gospel music. They answer was yes, so I did. I had a blast making these.

The cover of my Mahalia Jackson CD mix
Because I wrote my Masters Report about American gospel music, I have collected quite a bit from the 60s and 70s, Mahaliah, Sam Cooke, the Dixieland Hummingbirds and more. And of course because I love to collage, I made some covers that I am REALLY proud of, and got to hang with my amazing friend Elisabeth Rene who provided help with lettering and decoration.

I hope the kids like them. Selected song lists found below. As usual, let me know if you'd like me to make you a copy.

The cover for the Soweto Gospel Choir's 2005 Voices from Heaven

Make a Joyful Sound – A Gospel Mix CD 1
1. Come and Go To That Land - Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers
2. Amazing Grace - Blind Boys of Alabama
3. Touch Me, Lord Jesus - Angelic Gospel Singers
4. Let's Talk About Jesus - Bells of Joy
5. When the Saints Go Marchin' - In Blind Willie Davis
6. Let Me Lean On You - Brooklyn All-Stars
7. I Won't Be Back - Caravans 
8. Bedside of a Neighbor - Dixie Hummingbirds
9. Swing Down, Chariot Golden - Gate Quartet
10. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands - Mavis Staples
11. Nothing Can Change Me (Since I've Found the Lord) - Pilgrim Travelers
12. Highway to Heaven - Professor Alex Bradford
13. Peace In the Valley - R.H. Harris
14. God Is a Battle Axe - Sallie Martin Singers
15. Rock Me - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
16. Feel Like My Time Ain't Long - Soul Stirrers w/ R.H. Harris
17. Dry Bones - Stars of Faith 
18. Working On a Building - Swan Silvertones
19. This Heart of Mine - Two Gospel Keys
20. Lift Him Up, That's All - Washington Phillips
21. Blind Barnabus - The Golden Gate Quartet
22. Down By The Riverside - Sister Rosetta Tharpe 
23. Oh Happy Day - Edwin Hawkins 
24. We Shall Overcome - SNCC Freedom Singers w/ Pete Seeger

Make a Joyful Sound – A Gospel Mix CD 2
1. Last Mile of the Way - Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers
2. Sit Down Servant - The Staple Singers
3. I'm Sealed - Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes
4. What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Aretha Franklin
5. He's Worthy
6. Every Day Will Be Sunday (By And By) - Dorothy Love Coates                                                            and The Original Gospel Harmonettes
7. Swing Down, Sweet Chariot - Spirit of Memphis
8. Wade in the Water - The Staple Singers
9. Steal Away - The Harmonizing Four
10. Let's Go To the Programs - Dixie Hummingbirds
11. Will the Circle Be Unbroken - The Staple Singers
12. I'm Willing - Albertina Walker/Caravans/I. Andrews
13. Move Upstairs - Bessie Griffin & W.H. Brewster
14. Hallelujah - Farifield Four
15. Go Tell It on the Mountain - Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir
16. Christ Is All - The Soul Stirrers
17. You'd Better Get A Move On - Louise McCord
18. Shadrack - Pure Gospel Chorus 19. By and By (part 1) - The Soul Stirrers & R.H. Harris
20. God's Unchanging Hand - Church in Como, Mississippi
21. Samson and Delilah - The Staple Singers
22. Do Your Thing - Marion Gaines Singers

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Power of Beethoven's 9th and Following the Ninth documentary

Bing Concert Hall Opening Night, Stanford University - January 2013
There are few classical pieces of music that have been known to bring me to tears in my lifetime. These are compositions I know well enough, have a personal history with, and know some cultural history about. But they are also simply POWERFUL pieces of music and hold great emotional value, which is the main quality that has made them famous.

So when you experience them live, even this Agnostic says, there is nothing else to do but gaze upwards and bawl your eyes out knowing in your soul that music still exists in this world to make you feel everything all at once and you are ALIVE.

It also helps when you have just found out that one of your best friends is finally getting married and you've had a very difficult month and desperately trying to see silver linings :)

Verdis' Requiem is on this list, and so is Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.

On June 2nd, I had the opportunity to hear Beethoven's 9th in Bing Concert Hall, Stanford's brand new concert space. I have worked there for the last few months and have had the pleasure of spending some time in the new Hall, seeing folks like Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet, NY Polyphony and Steve Reich. The June 2 performance with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra was not only the last show of the season long Beethoven Project, but also the entire the year's season. So there was extra finality to it.

The last movement ("Ode to Joy") is the super famous movement: you know, the one with the melody. But I had forgotten that the first and second movements are so charged with anger, emotion and passion. I think I like those even better.

There are so many memorable little moments including the timpani getting to rock out, feeling a little manic as the mood changes from LARGE to tiny and then building up again. The creepy, crawlyness of the second movement. You want to conduct from your seat.

Beethoven wrote this last symphony when he was an old curmudgeonly deaf man. It made him so sad and mostly ANGRY to be deaf. This medical situation kept him from the music that he loved so dearly. And out of this anger and passion, he wrote an incredibly powerful and beloved piece of music. But even more, the last movement is about Joy, PURE JOY.

This is my favorite bit. Even in his depression and anger, he was still able to bring out the joy of living.

And even MORE, thanks to the documentary I found through kickstarter "Following the Ninth", which follows the 9th around the world and back through time. Where was this symphony used? How was it used? What does it mean to entire nations?

To the Japanese is a tradition like American's worship Handel's Messiah. Students played the 9th at Tiananmen square. It's been used to power rebellions in South America.

Watch the trailer for Following the Ninth here:

  It is with great joy that I bawled my eyes out during this performance. Kudos to the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jindong Cai for providing a beautiful performance.

Following the Ninth has started screening its way across the country. I implore music lovers to check out it when it comes to your town.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Nile Project - follow up web links

I've promised several lovely people that I would post links to some of the follow-up projects that I've found around the inter-toobs. Even after a week I am still processing my experience there, and hopefully I'll share some of my thoughts with you here eventually.

But for now, here are the BBC Radio 3 specials, including interviews and live performances. They're really interesting, and fabulously British. It was fun meeting these reporters, they were with us for a week in Aswan.
This youtube channel has the entire January 31st Nile Project Cairo concert. Click through the entire concert if you feel like it. Here's a selection of Mohsen's "Amm Ya Gamal" (from another youtube user):
I posted all of my best photos on my facebook page if you missed them the first time round, click HERE.

The Nile Project on Al Jazeera Mubashar. For non-arabic speakers, click to 10:40.

This is an awesome little video made by Nile Project volunteers Simon and Akiko featuring Alsarah and Mohsen (this time playing the Egyptian simsimiyya) called "Ana Arous Al Nil", a traditional Sudanese wedding song.
Click HERE to read the article I co-wrote for a Sudan Tribune.

And HERE if you'd like to read German, and a piece by reporter and Nile Project volunteer Andrea Backhaus.