Category Archives for "Music"

March 7, 2017

Drummer David Garibaldi – My Most Important Beat

David GaribaldiDavid Garibaldi has played with artists like Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, Larry Carlton, Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, Boz Scaggs, and The Yellowjackets, but it’s his place as drummer for powerhouse horn band Tower of Power that most people know him for. David credits much of his success to what’s known in drumming circles as the “King Kong” beat. He’s since gone on to refine it and add some latin elements, but still believes that knowing this beat is a major reason for his success.

In the video below, David outlines the syncopated beat in a way that everyone can see exactly what he’s doing. This is great for drum programmers, by the way. If you can capture the nuances of David’s playing, you’re a long way on the path to realism.

February 21, 2017

Goodbye Clyde Stubblefield

Clyde StubblefieldSo much of today’s music was influenced one way or another by Funk music of the 60s and 70s. Of course, James Brown could be credited as the inventor of Funk, but the man behind the feel was drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who passed away last week at age 73. He was the backbeat behind such Brown hits as “Cold Sweat,” “I got The Feelin’, “Mother Popcorn,” “Sex Machine,” and many more.

Stubblefield laid down one of the most sampled beats in hip-hop ever on the Brown’s extended jam “Funky Drummer.” The beat can be found on tracks from the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, L.L. Cool J and others. The snare pop is instantly recognizable in songs such as “Run’s House,” “Fight The Power,” “Shadrach,” “F*** Tha Police,” “Freedom! ’90,” “Mama Said Knock You Out” and hundreds more.

Here it is below, but you have to go to 5:22 to hear the drum break. Below that is a Stubblefield solo from the Boston Garden concert from the 70s.

One thing’s for sure, we’ve lost another funk master.

[Photo: MTPhrames]

November 17, 2016

Yes, There’s A Film About The 808 Drum Machine

TR-808 drum machineI’m old enough to remember when drum machines first came out. The LinnDrum (see my Roger Linn interview for some great insight on how it was developed) was a wonder that allowed producers to finally get perfect time while scaring the pants off drummers everywhere now fearful for their jobs. Most of the LinnDrum imitators that followed tried to improve upon the sound and feel, but not all. One drum machine that seemed like a joke to many back then was the Roland TR-808, mostly because the sounds seemed so lame when compared to the machines based around real drum samples. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though, as the hip-hop community embraced the machine as it became an essential part of the sound of the genre.

A new upcoming film called 808 celebrates the machine and it’s influence on a generation of music makers, and it will debut on December 9th exclusively on Apple Music. The documentary is narrated by Beats 1 DJ Zane Low, and features a diverse number of contributors including Rick Rubin, Pharrell Williams, David Guetta, Phil Collins, Questlove, Afrika Bambata, among many more.

Here’s the trailer. Looks like it should be pretty good, and hopefully will finally answer the question why this iconic unit was discontinued at the peak of its use.

November 8, 2016

The Story Behind Bruce Springsteen’s Iconic Hybrid Telecaster

Bruce Springsteen TelecasterThere are some guitars that are forever linked to certain musicians. Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” and “Brownie” Strats, Brian May’s home-built one-off, Neil Young’s “Old Black” Les Paul, and B.B. King’s “Lucille” ES355 are just a few that come to mind. But there is another that fits nicely into this category and deserves equal attention because of its backstory, and that’s Bruce Springsteen’s very unique Telecaster.

Like “Blackie,” Bruce’s Telecaster is a hybrid of parts collected from at least 2 other guitars. It’s a 50’s Telecaster body with what looks to be a 57 Esquire neck originally purchased from Phil Petillo’s Neptune NJ guitar shop for $185. That’s only part of the story though.

The Telecaster body was originally jury-rigged with four pickups wired into extra output jacks so that each could plug into a separate channel of a recording console. The thought behind this wasn’t so much for the sound, but so that the session player original owner could collect four times union scale for playing four slightly different versions of the same guitar part. As a result of the modification, a lot of the body underneath the pickguard was routed out for the extra electronics.

Petillo removed the extra pickups and returned the guitar to original Telecaster shape before he sold it Springsteen, but a huge side effect of the routing was that the Tele was now really light, giving it a sound a feel unlike any other (see the picture on the left).

Bruce wasn’t one to sit still with one version of the instrument however, and over the years had it significantly modified, all personally done by Petillo. He added his patented triangular Precision Frets, a six saddle titanium bridge, and custom hot-wound waterproofed pickups and electronics so they could better survive a sweat-soaked 4 hour show.

Bruce played the guitar in virtually every live show until around 2005, when the wear and tear of the road finally took it’s toll and the guitar was retired. He now plays clones of his original Tele on tour, but still uses his favorite when he records.

Now for really cool part. It’s been estimated that the guitar is worth anywhere between $1 million and $5 million, depending upon the collector that could manage to get his hands on it. For now, that’s not going to happen, since the Tele has been Bruce Springsteen’s partner for more than 40 years now, and that partnership shows no sign of ending.

The 5 Ways To Become A Studio Musician

The Wrecking CrewOn the journey to becoming a successful studio musician, a lot of roads lead to the same place, but the way it usually works is that someone hears and likes your playing and either hires you or refers you as a result. This excerpt from my Studio Musician’s Handbook (written with studio bassist Paul ILL) outlines the 5 ways it could happen (note The Wrecking Crew photo, the most famous group of studio musicians ever, on the left).

#1. Your Band
Your band is recording with a producer. The producer notices that you play really well and have a great feel and he calls you to play on other records. Sometimes it might be the engineer on the session that remembers you (and remember, many in-demand engineers become producers at some point). Either way, in the course of doing your own record, you show up on the radar of someone who can hire you later.

If you’re in a band and working with a producer, really pay attention and work with him to help him make that record sound better. You’re more likely to be called for another project afterwards. He might have had so much fun working with you in your band that he’ll think of you for a solo artist he’s working with. That’s how I developed myself. I worked with Tim Palmer in London with my own band, and that’s how I got the job playing with Tears For Fears. So I’ve developed relationships with all the producers I’ve worked with over the years in my own band.
Session drummer Brian MacLeod

#2. By Referral

If you have a friend who does a lot of session work who likes how you play, chances are that you’ll get a referral at some point. If the player can’t make a date or doesn’t get on with the client, a referral from someone established will get you in the door.

…if you’re looking to get into session work as a drummer, you can’t do it. You just have to play a lot of gigs and wait for the time where you get that opportunity.
Session drummer Bernie Dresel

#3. By Contractor

A contractor is a person that hires musicians for a gig. Most times he’s a musician on the session himself, but doesn’t have to be. Many contractors hire musicians for a variety of gigs, not just recording sessions. If you become a trusted insider for everyday live gigs, chances are that soon you’ll be hired on a studio date as well.

#4. By A Recording
Many times an artist or producer will hear you on a recording you played on and want your style or sound. It’s more likely you’ll be called if the recording you played on was a hit, since everyone likes to use the same team or sound of something already successful. If that happens, be happy that you’ve been lucky twice.

…(producer) Patrick (Leonard) said, “Hey Brian, if you lived in LA I would use you on the records I work on.” Ironically the engineer/co-producer on that record was Bill Bottrell (who eventually went on to produce Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson and Shelby Lynn) and he said the same thing to me. So I had two top-of-the-line producers tell me that if I lived in LA they’d use me on their records. It became a no-brainer for me to run up to the Bay area, pack my things in a U-Haul, and get my butt to LA. Then it kind of expanded from there.
Brian MacLeod

#5. By Association

The old adage “all boats rise and fall with the tide” is really true. If someone within your circle of players makes it “big”, they’ll most likely take you with them, at least on some level. Maybe you have something unique in your sound or your feel that your player friend will remember. Maybe he just wants to help you out because you’re such a cool person. Maybe it’s some payback for a good deed long in the past. Doesn’t matter as long as you’re remembered and get the call. Once you’re called for one session and do well, chances are you’ll be called for another as word gets around and your resumé builds.

You can read more from The Studio Musician’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

October 18, 2016

Frank Zappa Studio And Estate Up For Auction

Frank ZappaEveryone who knew Frank Zappa is shedding a tear at the fact that items from the great composer’s estate, which includes gear from his legendary Utility Muffin Research Kitchen studio, is about to go to auction. The property was on the market for about $5.5 million, and has reportedly been purchased by Lady Gaga.

Among the items available include Harrison and Neve consoles, tape machines and gear from his studio, all his touring and rehearsal gear from Joe’s Garage, and a wide variety of musical instruments. A full list can be found here.

As often happens when the parents die and money has to be split amongst the siblings, Frank and Gail’s children have been particularly divided over the sale and auction, which has led to much acrimony between them. For anyone who has spent any time at the estate, it’s a particularly sad way to see it go. One can only hope that their differences can be resolved so that Frank’s memory can continue unimpeded by anything but peace, love and music. Check out the video below for a look at the estate.

An Interview With Drummer And Bassist Charlie Drayton

Charlie DraytonCharlie Drayton is a unique and special player in that he’s equally adept and in demand as a drummer and as a bass player, so his perspective is that of the total rhythm section. Charlie’s long and eclectic list of credits includes such names as Herbie Hancock, Keith Richards, Johnny Cash, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Michelle Branch, Seal, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Janet Jackson, Courtney Love, among many others, and he laid down the beat for the B-52’s irresistible hit “Love Shack.” In this excerpt from my Studio Musician’s Handbook (written with Paul ILL), Charlie gives us a look behind the curtain of his session work.

“Give me some background on how you got into session work?

My father guided me toward the studio at an early age while watching him produce jingle sessions in NYC. He would occasionally have me sing on spots which featured a young voice, either in a group chorus, or solo performance.

Before a session would begin, I would usually find a seat between the drum booth (this was back in the 70’s) and the bass chair and B-15 amp (which was the standard bass amp in any NYC studio back then). It only took sitting through a few sessions to know that being in the studio was like being in the best classroom you’d ever walk into, and your dad is the principle. My father then took the band I was playing in into the studio to nurture ourselves and grow in the studio environment. What a trip it is to hear yourself played back in high quality audio for the first time! I can still remember the first time experience, vividly.

If I remember correctly, my first professional recording session was playing drums for John Sebastian. He was brilliant and a huge supporter. Walking into the studio was easy, but that first day of tracking was one hell of a ride in my life! The scary part was trying not to be to overwhelmed that the bass player was Anthony Jackson (a highly regarded New York session player) and the guitar player was Steve Khan (I think Steve recommended me for that session). Needless to say, I was hooked and still am.

What do you bring with you to a session?

It depends on what the music or the producer requires and what hat I’m wearing on the session, but I’ll just list some of the items at random. I come with a sense of humor, an open heart and mind, and great deal of patience. If I’m a principle player or producer on a session, a song is also a wonderful thing to bring with you.

I also bring a hot water kettle and assortment of herbal and black tea, an endless amount of sugarless mint candy, some incense, chop sticks, cayenne pepper, hot english mustard, crushed red pepper, and fresh ground cardamom.

Also, there’s nothing better then having your own gear on a session! For me that could consist of, drums, cymbals, rags, hockey tape, bullet mic, Line 6 Bass pod, iPod for drum mute, and a few of my favorite pieces of hand percussion. Also basses, guitars, pedal  steel, amplifiers, stomp boxes, and a really good cable. I also bring my own headphones (Sony 7506 or Audio Technica TH-M50) along with an extension cable,

Sometimes I’ll bring my Black Pekingese,”Holiday” too. My introduction to her was during a session I was producing.

Do you tailor what you bring according to the session?

I try, because I’m lucky to have access to a large selection of gear which I would love to see as often as possible.

Is your stage rig different from your recording rig?

This depends on what will inspire me to execute a performance or what I have access to at the time. Sometimes I may reach for some piece of gear that does not belong to me, so basically anything that will guide me to feed the music.

What do you like in your headphone mix?

The freedom to dial it in myself. My first preference though is no headphones whenever possible. I like to sing with the speakers at low level. If playing live with a band, I’ll dial the entire group into the mix. If playing against prerecorded tracks, it’s possible that I may not play along with all of the elements on the track. I will try different combinations of elements in the mix until it feels good and I’m the most comfortable.

What do see that’s common with all good session musicians?

A good session player is not necessarily a better musician than a player with no session experience, but a good session player has the advantage of having more tools to choose from and is used to narrowing down the options. Dealing with adversity is key. If your talent is on loan and you’re having a shitty day but you’ve committed yourself to a session, guess what? You’ve got to show up and play the music!  The more I do it, the better I get at it.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

That we would come to live in a time where you would not need to have much talent to be successful in the music business. The art of playing music and being commercially successful in the music business are now two entirely different things.

I don’t know why humans would bring computers into the recording environment for some of the wrong reasons and deconstruct the craft of creating and making music. I’m not against computers, but I thought music was doing just fine without them. Didn’t Milli Vanilli try to hip us to that?

Any advice for someone starting out doing session work?

Don’t lose the connection or spirit of playing in a live environment. Spirit is a key ingredient that enables you to shine and make the right decisions in session.

Embrace the music with your heart, even if it’s not your cup of tea. Be in the moment, and that does not mean play everything you know.

Do you have any session musician tips?

Be a musician first without any title before the word musician. I’ll enjoy hearing your playing more. Don’t limit yourself. Be in the moment, because In the studio, you’re making musical decisions that can last a lifetime on record.

What kind of sessions are the hardest for you?

When the producer’s dreams are unrealized. Sometimes they don’t have the ability to play your instrument so he or she endlessly suggest the worst musical ideas possible for you to play, or how you should be playing them. Or when the food is bad, which in reality is the same answer.

What kind of sessions are the most fun?

When it doesn’t feel like work and you don’t want the session to end.

What do you hate about recording?

Not recording!!!”

You can read more from The Studio Musician’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

September 2, 2016

Sting’s Musical Brain Scan

Sting's Musical Brain ScanDo superstars hear music differently from the rest of us? Do they organize their musical thoughts differently? How much does this contribute to the physical dexterity? These are the things that neuroscientists want to know (as do the rest of us), and Daniel Levitin, a cognitive psychologist at McGill University, managed to go a bit down that path with Sting’s musical brain scan.

Levitin is the author of the excellent book This Is Your Brain On Music, which Sting was a big fan of. The singer skipped a soundcheck for a gig in Montreal to go for an MRI exam to check out just what his brain looks like on music. It turned out that there was a ghost in the machine that day so they didn’t get the info they wanted, but he was curious enough to return for a new scan at UC Santa Barbara at a latter date.

The study resulted in a paper in NeuroCase that probably won’t mean much to you unless you’re in that field. That said, it did discover that Sting identified certain pieces of music with others in an unexpected way, which may explain why he’s as creative as he is. According to Levitin, “Sting’s brain pointed us to several connections between pieces of music that I know well, but had never seen as related before.” For instance, Piazzolla’s “Libertango” and the Beatles’ “Girl” are both in minor keys and include similar motifs in the melody. Also, the Sting-penned “Moon Over Bourbon Street” showed strong connections in key, tempo, and swing rhythm with “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MG’s.

Is this a breakthrough study? No, it’s more of a quick experiment, since there wasn’t a control built in, and it lasted for a very brief period. However, it’s a great start to trying to better understand where our creativity comes from so that we can more easily trigger it at will. Maybe someday we’ll all have a musical brain scan as part of our musical training.

August 16, 2016

“Billy Jean” Played On Beer Bottles

Billy Jean On Beer BottlesOrdinary items in our everyday lives can be used as instruments, and perhaps the best example of that statement is this video from The Bottle Boys. The German group has turned playing songs on beer bottles into a career as they’ve traveled all over the world to give concerts over the last 10 years. Here they show their considerable skill by playing the full arrangement to Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” completely on bottles.

And just so we stay on the tech side for a moment, the whole thing was captured by a pair of Neumann KM184s into an Apogee Duet using the natural reverb of the church that they’re in.

Check it out. Very cool.

August 5, 2016

Mark Knopfler Talks And Plays “Sultans Of Swing”

Mark Knopfler 61 StratOne of the most iconic guitar songs from the 70s is Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing,” which features Mark Knopfler’s soaring clean Strat solos and fills. At one time or another, most guitar players have tried to cop some of the licks from this song, only to discover that you can’t really get the same sound unless you’re using your fingers instead of a pick.

In this video, Knopfler talks about the origins of the song with Straits bass player John Illsley, then we see him move to the stage and actually play those same revered licks on his pristine 1961 Strat (it’s pretty amazing that it’s still in such good shape).

It’s amazing how much an instrument can inspire you, as Knopfler tells her, which is one of the reasons that we musicians all maintain a constant state of Gear Acquisition Syndrome our entire lives.