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May 31, 2012

Look for something different here tomorrow. I suspect I'll still be doing a daily "blog" about the studio, but mainly the site is going to be for sponsors. Or call 'em Stokers. Whatever, I need to make this site fit with the idea of the studio being a band incubator, sort of like those silly-cone valley folks had for businesses back in the day. And now I need angel investors!

The original idea for this site was that it would be a great place to visit and discover music, that people would spread the word, other sites would link here, and there would be growth in traffic. Well, there's traffic, but I've been stuck at the same 50-100 visits a day level for a long time. People DO discover new music here, but there it ends. They just can't seem to make the connection between the music and how it got here.

I'm fighting a hundred years of the tradition of bands giving their music away for free (commercial radio) in exchange for the chance of a big score (a hit record). The listeners' expectation is that somehow the bands make money at this. That expectation is evolving, but very slowly.

I once believed that the web would change everything. In a way it does, but mostly the usual rules apply. I'm going to figure out what those rules are and how to use them.

So if you're already a sponsor- great! You'll be getting an email about the changes. And if you're not a sponsor- what are you waiting for?

May 30, 2012

Great day today- the Stray Birds stopped by for a visit.

May 28, 2012

This makes a lot of sense to me- learning to play music should be like learning to talk, not like learning to do math.

Music: It's In Your Head, Changing Your Brain

Maybe it doesn't work this way for everyone, but it worked this way for me. My learning the language of music started very simple, with a blues rhythm riff on the left hand on piano- and doing that riff gave me the positive feedback to continue doing it, to improve my performance of it, and (the really big step) to be able to do it automatically while learning to improvise on my right hand.

This worked, where learning scales and reading notes and playing dumb songs failed. And when I started with other people, playing music I liked and wanted to learn, it exploded. Why is this hard?

Partly because those who first encouraged me to play music weren't players themselves. My parents probably felt, because it was the established and proper way to do things, that if you wanted a kid to learn to play music you hired a teacher to give them lessons. Then you made the kid practice, practice, practice. With a little talent and discipline, they would become a musician.

This is the "learning to do math" approach to learning to play music. Learn the rules, practice them until they are drilled into your brain and muscles, then, possibly, enjoy the ability to deliver a performance. Certainly, this works for plenty of people- but it also fails for plenty of people, who decide that they don't have the talent for it, or aren't disciplined enough, or they get bored with it, or have all the joy of music driven out of them. Ah, but what about the "learning to speak the language" approach?

It involves being with good "speakers" (teachers) some of the time, but mostly having the space to struggle on your own, and to play with others at your own level. This is because only those at your own level will be able to find any pleasure in the tiny little advances and small achievements that occur during the early stages of learning. The positive feedback that happens between players who see themselves as equals (more or less) is much more direct and gratifying (because it is actually a musical communication- dig?) than the well-intentioned verbal praise of a superior "speaker" who is actually measuring your performance against some scale of accomplishment which only they know and understand.

The point is, what is the point? Are we trying to train workers the skills they need to perform some job, or are we opening a door for expression? Should only superior talents be encouraged to make music, or should everyone learn to speak the language as best they can?

May 26, 2012

It's those dern kids again, Martha!"

the Stray Birds

It's great to see this kind of promotion happening for these guys. If you click the image you'll get a really big scan of the thing and you can read the small print.

May 23, 2012

the Stray Birds

There's a nice little review there... lucky for me the Stray Birds will be back here soon to record another song.

Happy birthday, Maya!

Meanwhile, Linzi stopped by last night and displayed a heretofor undiscovered talent for playing small 8 stringed instruments...

Linzi and Mandolin

Her song The Last Girl is coming along beautifully...

May 22, 2012

SpaceX has successfully launched their rocket.

SpaceX control room

Launching a rocket is just technology though. What's really interesting to me is the change in culture that has happened since the rocket launches from the 60's. Used to be buttoned-down... sort of like this scene today at NASA.

NASA control room

You can watch the video here. Oh, you'll see some upper-management types at SpaceX wearing ties, and some old heads there expressing genuine relief that the damn thing worked, but something has changed about the group dynamic. And it isn't just the prominance of computers. The original launch centers were actually completely cyber, when you think about it. Everything was controlled remotely, and observed via sensors. In that sense, nothing has changed in these 50 years.

And it isn't really just the age of the technicians. A lot of the early space techs were in their 20's. Maybe they self-identified as slide rule geeks more willingly than today's techs, I don't know...

Maybe it's the difference between the high-tech business culture and government culture, but because the private sector has been so politicized over the years it's difficult to make that comparison fairly. The success of SpaceX will, no doubt, be the topic for a few books...

May 21, 2012

Workers of the world!

I wuz a worker. Now I'm self employed. My boss sucks though, and I can't get anything productive out of that idiot I have working for me. Why is this hard?

There has been a lot of talk about our economic situation, but no one in a position of power seems to be addressing the real issues. Perhaps Professor Wolff can give us some insight?

Introduction to Marxian Economics

Long but well worth watching.

May 20, 2012

Tell me a story.

I sort of figured out a while back that what people want is a good story. This may seem obvious to most of you, but I'm a little different. I have German grandparents, and I believe that is why I like to think that there are (or should be!) rational explanations for things. It's a revelation for someone like me that many, many people do not try to analyze and understand the world from some (supposedly) objective point of view, but instead just apply a story to it that they feel comfortable with.

The idea that stories are very important to us is in vogue right now, and I've been struck by the contrast between two recent articles I found online. The first is from a professor of English, Jonathan Gottschall, who has written a book on the subject. In this article he lays out some of his ideas.

The second item is a piece by Adam Gopnik, a professional writer, which indirectly debunks the first, stating that science has yet to investigate the real reason why we love stories so much.

The first piece is flat and poorly written. My analytical side would like a lot more depth to those examples he uses to establish his claims. Every study, every "fact" is piled up as evidence without ever actually being convincing.

The second piece is a good story well told. The point he's making doesn't get stated until near the end, and when it does, he's totally got you. And he does this without referring to scientific studies to bolster his arguments.

Why does any of this matter? I think it is important to understand how we "make up our minds" about things. I think that stories are the most powerful things in our lives, and that we must understand them better if we want to control our future. Scientific inquiry that isn't convincing is not going to help us do this.

May 19, 2012

Big John was complaining that I wasn't updating this page very often (true!) so I'm going for it.

Maloan loaned me a mandolin so I can learn some chords... always useful to know chords. Really what a mandolin is for is for keeping time and playing complicated melody lines. I've just been using it as relief from the accordion so far. With The Sporting Hill Ramblers, anything I play on it sounds good as long as it doesn't sound like an accordion. Here's a little ditty I'm working on.

Blackberry Blossom

There's no way that I could remember that melody, but what works is remembering patterns. Maybe that's the secret? At any rate, I'll keep working at it until the fingers just go where they are supposed to.

That's the English Country Garden tempo. Bluegrass tempo is going to be a challange... That's why you see those bluegrass mandolin players with the far-away look, the 50 yard stare? The brain has to shut down. Might be the same place where runners go...

The one place where the brain kicks in seems to be error correction. When you mess up, the brain engages to find the next place to drop the needle in time with the rest of the band. I hope that this ability improves with practice, because I will need it.

This is the guy what taught me the notes- thanks dude! There's a lot of helpful people with videos, somehow this one worked best for me.

May 18, 2012

Working up some stuff with Matt Dahlheimer last night for the upcoming pub crawl. I'm looking forward to attempting his bluegrass version of Stepping Razor on accordion. We share a lot of the same musical references but there's one record that turns out to be more obscure than I thought.

hillbilly jazz cover

It's still available on CD, but there's not a Wikipedia entry for it, which surprises me. This was one of the records that made it possible to survive the musical wastelands of the mid 1970's.

Here's the last song on the record- Last Song for Shelby Jean

The recording itself is pretty rough. A couple of the best cuts have a strong 60 cycle hum that either they couldn't get rid of or that nobody noticed until it was too late. Thankfully, they released the tracks anyway, because this is some of the best playing, ever. I listened to the whole thing last night and now I realise that it spoiled me for life.

May 11, 2012

Missing links.

There are some big gaps in what I know, and tonight I have partially filled in one of those. I am listening to Wilco's Being There. This recording explains a lot about their later stuff.

The first Wilco record that I ever heard that knocked me out was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I could never understand how that came out of the band that made A.M..

I had the same sort of experience with The White Album. Before that I had only heard the early singles- yeah. I played the shit out of the White Album, and never knew about all the stuff in between til much later. I'm sure people told me that Revolver was a great album, sure, but it just didn't have what those early singles had for some reason, and I was probably bored by it.

Maybe I wouldn't like Being There without having heard Y.H.F., I don't know. But now a lot of those weird Tweedy lyrical indulgences on Yankee make sense- or are, at least, more forgivable.

Anyhow, this "discovering big gaps" thing seems to be a major theme of my life. It's teaching me to remember how little I know... but I gotta tell you, it makes things interesting!

May 10, 2012


I've been going off about the console for a while, the basic idea being that those old stereo consoles from the 60's and 70's were somehow the ultimate sound machines? But really, I know that this isn't true. They have a particular sound that is sort of fun and nostalgic, but hi-fi they are not.

I've found that Radiohead records sound OK through my console, but most other things have a lot of nasty low-mid-range sound that gets to be a pain. Until tonight...

I'm listening to one of my favorite records through the console- the Decemberists' Hazards Of Love. Now, through a "flat" speaker system, this record can sound a little... funny. But through the console, it is perfect.

The console is the secret decoder ring of this album. Must be heard to be appreciated...

May 03, 2012

Here's an infographic!

minimum wage

If my calculations are correct the artist would need to have a song played every three seconds in order to get minimum wage. Or sell a mere 1,161 CDs a month. Of course, if his music is getting played every three seconds, that should be easy!

All of this depends on the artist having decent recordings to play or sell. That minimum wage doesn't cover much in the way of studio time! The answer? Sponsor us!

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