The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek
30Nov/072

A Fountain Square Vingette

SadieWhile walking the dog you see in this very post a couple of evenings ago, I noticed a large group of folks gathered on the sidewalk, looking rather disconcerted. One of the ladies in the group approached me and filled me in on what was going on - there was a missing puppy. The little thing had evidently gotten scared and bolted, leaving this group to wander around searching for her. She told me the name and asked if I'd look around for her.

While I did extend the walk a bit to aid the search, I just couldn't bring myself to call out for the dog. I wanted to help them return their dog home - Sadie herself was a foundling. I just feared the consequences of pacing through the Fountain Square area yelling "SEXY!!!!" that much more.

I hope they'll understand.

30Nov/072

New Podcast Is Up

You can download the latest IMN Podcast from this link right here, or you can get it from the Flash player on the main site.

With Expert Podcasting Practices For Dummies on the shelves right now, and since I already brought up podcasts, I thought I'd shed a little light on the dark, troubled way the IMN podcast comes together. In this post, I'll detail the tools we use and have used in the past, and I'll look at the actual process next Monday.

In the two years, we've tried a variety of methods in hopes of finding one that produced the best quality of audio in the shortest amount of time (co-host Steve Hayes and I have lives to get back to, after all). We've tried recording directly to a PC using Sonar Home Studio, recording directly to my Mac laptop using Garageband 4, recording to a hard-drive-based music workstation, and a flash memory recorder. We alternate at this point between recording to my laptop or the flash recorder, depending on which one is easier to grab at the time. Both have proven to be fairly stable solutions, barring user error (yes, that user would be me).

Post-production stuff like editing and file conversion is done on the Mac using Soundtrack Pro and a couple of freeware programs: Switch converts the AIFF file to a 128kbps mp3 file, and Musorg helps me edit the ID3 tag for each file. I used to use iTunes for both purposes, but I didn't care for the fact that I had to clear out the library each time I edited an episode. From there, I just SFTP the episode and the XML file for our RSS feed to the server, where it lies in wait for unsuspecting listeners.

In a perfect world, I'd have already upgraded to Logic Studio and use the new version of Soundtrack Pro 2 (my current version comes from the Final Cut Pro bundle), but that's dependent on the budget. And the budget is slowly shaking its head at new carpet and an upcoming trip to New Orleans, so I don't think I'll slide this by for awhile.

So that's the techie side. The planning and scripting part comes next week.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that we've used Shure, AKG and Blue Snowball mics. We've achieved great results with all three, although getting two Snowballs working at the same time required a little tweating in the Audio/MIDI section of the Mac OS - I had to create an aggregate device out of both mic and route the audio through there.

29Nov/072

Well, that’s just insane.

Ouch.  My head asplode.

I'm not sure what to make of this.

I'm not sure at all.

28Nov/070

Victor Wooten “Webinar”

I hate that word.

Anyway, I sat down Tuesday night for a one-hour Internet-based 'cast of a Victor Wooten bass lesson entitled "Slap Fundamentals and Fundamental Groove Concepts." The overly-scholarly title may imply more than could be communicated in an hour, but overall it was an enlightening time. He tackled a few examples (supplied previously to the session via downloadable PDF) and illustrated his lessons with some playing and explanations to questions submitted via text chat (I'm assuming voice chat would have been overwhelming, really). It was fascinating in a few ways:

  • It was comforting to see Wooten have some technical difficulties with the electronic gear and know it doesn't just happen to me
  • It was live, so we got to see him as he rushed a beat or two, explain what happened, and how he adjusts to it - strategies like this can be just as helpful as showing somebody how to play perfectly
  • It got me to break a couple rules - I've been used to slapping only the E and A strings and popping only the D and G strings, and his examples forced me out of that to learn another way of playing the written examples

It was also nice to have this kind of experience at home - it's not the same as working with any artist in person, but it makes information like this accessible in remote places that wouldn't always get such visits (my house being a prime example). Obviously distance learning is nothing new - this type of video broadcast with a chat option is the set-up they used for classes in my master's program 5 years ago. I signed up basically to see how Wooten and Bass Player magazine (the folks putting this on) would handle a session like this, and overall I was pleased. My only complaint is that you can't download the final product, but you do get a series of replays that expires after a certain date. I'll be interested to see who comes up next on the schedule.

One quote that sticks with me is "Bass isn't an instrument, it's a role." It's a good concept to remember - it's not all about the specific bass guitar or upright or keyboard or tuba or whatever. Still, that role has to be there and shouldn't be ignored - White Stripes, I'm looking at you.

27Nov/070

The Home Game is In!

I got my shipment of Expert Podcasting Practices For Dummies yesterday, so it should be on store shelves soon. (I swear, despite the Amazon photo, I'm a co-author on this book. Ask anybody at Wiley. Seriously.) I've just looked through it briefly, but it's looking good to me. I'm calling it "the home game" as kind of a nod to the parting gift game shows in the 70s and 80s (at least those like Family Feud) would distribute to their contestants. Feel free to take the magic home with you.

I've also been informed by a friend of mine that Sam Ash is carrying my my bass book, so thanks! She's evidently been offering to give those who buy it my home phone number so that I can answer any questions. That scamp. Go ahead and e-mail me with any questions, though - ryan AT thebassgeek DOT net. I actually helped somebody who read "Windows XP Digital Music For Dummies" this way, and it was cool to know somebody was actually reading. Otherwise, I just imagine these books going into the ether. That's kind of sad, really.

27Nov/071

Quick Words of Advice to Young Bassists

Before anything else, I can't believe I just witnessed the Steelers win 3-0 on a field goal late in the 4th.  Against Miami.  A win's a win, but I screamed.  A lot.  Please make it easier on me next time.

So anyway, I was talking with somebody at work today whose young son was taking bass lessons.  He asked a few questions about the instrument that I thought might help other newcomers.  First, he mentioned that he had a good teacher, and that's always a good thing.  I benefitted from a couple of great teachers, but I spent some other years without one, and I think that might have been a bigger benefit if one was around.  As it was, I had to spend a lot more time digging in books and recordings (which is also beneficial), but a guide is always helpful. Just in case you're wondering, I didn't mention that he should take lessons from me, but I did drop the book's name more than a few times.

Second, he mentioned that he didn't think bass was a solo instrument.  I quickly referred him to Seth Horan as a starting point to jump off from there.

Third, he mentioned that his son was taking cello and wanted to know if he should take keyboard. I answered "Absolutely." Any kind of musical knowledge will help, and especially keyboard - harmony concepts are easily laid out on the keyboard, so it's a valuable tool. There's a reason students are forced to take it.

He asked what bassists I recommended, so I gave him the usual list.

Finally, he mentioned the teacher was doing a good job of teaching and keeping it fun. That's a great job there - it can be a hard thing to balance, and any teacher that manages it is a great educator.

Buying my book still wouldn't be a bad idea, though.

25Nov/070

An Amazingly Bass-Free Holiday

I've been without a bass guitar for approximately four days now, and while I managed to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, it still wasn't pleasant.  I found myself contemplating whether my new string orders had come in and if I should try a new preamp with my Jazz bass.  I pondered slapping a graphite neck on my Stingray, and how it would affect the sound.  I contemplated what I should take to a practice on Sunday - the P-bass, obviously, but would I need anything else?  My eyes drifted towards guitar stores, music stores, even pawn shops.  I could distract myself with the iPod and "Spook Country," but it was a temporary solution.  After pulling in to home, making sure everything was intact, and taking everything in, the bass was in my hands and I was trying to pick out some of the lines I'd heard on the trip back.I may just have to get a Steinberger for the road. 

20Nov/072

New Podcast Up . . .

The podcasting book is on the presses and should be out quite soon (they may even have my name up on Amazon soon), and IMN just put up a new podcast episode as well. Finally, I'm loading up the iPod with a bunch of new episodes for the Thanksgiving traveling season. It's fun audio time all around. It's kind of hard to get into the flow of "This American Life" unless you're in the car for a good long time, so this might work out well.

I also just bought William Gibson's "Spook Country" - tried waiting for the paperback, but I just couldn't make it. Couldn't wait for the Kindle, either. The addition of WiFi and the stature of Amazon to back this new device are intriguing developments, but I'm not sure the consumer adoption of the iPod has opened the door wide enough for a better, faster eReader. Hell, I was trying to dodge $10 for a hardcover. The $400 price tag is a bit much to justify, especially when I deal with folks every day who print off e-mail and PowerPoint presentation because they'd rather read them on paper.

This is another device that may take a generation to integrate, as folks get more used to reading off of a screen. And dealing with it when your book's battery dies.

19Nov/075

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 11/18 at The Vogue

It'd be easy to accuse Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings of finding a comfortable niche in nostalgia, except that their music goes beyond its historic soul roots.  The performance Jones and her band puts on transcends a frozen place in history because of the sheer power and energy they put forth.  They owned the stage from the time they first set on it, through the three-song band intro and the set drawn from their new album "100 Days, 100 Nights" and their previous two efforts, right up until they closed the show with a three-song encore/tribute to James Brown that may have featured his songs but put their talent in the spotlight.  Jones was a tornado with perfect voice and timing - she's learned how to carry a show in her 51 years, although her performance would have been exhausting for a performer half her age.  And the band (led by bassist Bosco Mann, always a good thing) managed the tight-enough-to-be-relaxed performance expertly.  This may be the first time Jones and the Dap-Kings visited the city, but they're guaranteed a warm welcome from now on.

17Nov/070

More Music in Fountain Square

I'm trying to pack in some posts before the Thanksgiving holiday comes upon us and I enter into the traditional yearly coma. Tonic Ball went quite well last night, with highlights including:

  • The sly wordplay of Stacia Demos in "La Isla Bonita"
  • The always-solid playing of the Benders
  • Susan and the Desperate Seekers' harmonies on "Rain" and "True Love"
  • Spot-on Clash covers by Jeff Byrd and the Wingmen ("Train in Vain") and The Common ("London Calling")

The crowd seemed much more attracted to the Clash side of things - there were plenty of folks in both venues, but there always seemed to be a line in front of Radio Radio.

Speaking of Radio Radio, proprietor Tufty is looking to open a new all-ages venue just a few blocks from his current venue. Contact him for more info or if you're interested in helping. Tack on the re-opening of Sam's Saloon at the corner of Prospect and State, and you've got quite a few options for venues that regularly host music. Cognizant Coffee Company is also hosting a new open mic night every second Friday of the month. Not that I'll be skipping out on the other Indy venues, but it's fantastic to have so much available within a short walking distance.