Tag Archives: Music

C Jam Blues

An iconic jazz chart…   also, an all time favourite of Lindyhop dancers around the world, epitomised by the version on the Live in Swing City CD (http://www.amazon.com/Live-Swing-City-Swingin-Duke/dp/B00000ICNS).

And so, this tune was how little Miss 9 (was little Miss 8) started learning to improvise on her saxophone.

At her last lesson, she was trading 4’s with her teacher and it was so.. cute!  Yes, I had another proud parent moment.  Her improvs were extremely basic and at times awkward, but, hey, it was one of her first times and she’s 9!

Coming from a classical background, I’m not really sure how one starts learning or improving their improvisation skills, but I have a feeling the more you do it, the more you find out what sounds good and what doesn’t, and your fingering becomes more natural, heading towards the point where you don’t even need to think about the fingering but just the notes, or maybe beyond the notes and just how you want it to sound and where you want it to go.

So Miss 9 has been “practising” at home.   I think I’ll have to get my violin and trade some 4’s or 8’s with her at home!

This morning I put on the CD, played C Jam Blues for her and she goes “I can play this!” and grabs the CD cover to look at the artwork and track listing.

Ahhh…  a jazz muso in the making 🙂


Apple iPad – the digital sheet music king?

OK, everyone seems to want to put in their 2 cents about what the iPad is going to kill 🙂

Could it be a Kindle killer?  Maybe?  It would be nice reading books on the iPad.

Maybe it would be a digital comic book killer – not that there is any specific device in that market at the moment.  There are various digital comic book reader software on computers and iPhone devices though.

In today’s SMH, there’s an article saying that the iPad may be the ultimate mobile video gaming device.  Not sure what ultimate means, but I’m sure the kids would love to play on one on long road trips.  They’re already loving their iPod Touch and Nintendo DSi devices.

One market that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is the digital sheet music killer.  Yep – I want to put in my own prediction now and say that the Apple iPad will kill all other digital music reader devices.   Not that the market is very big at the moment – a quick Google shows specific hardware like the FreeHand Systems MusicPad Pro and a range of software for PCs like MusicReader.

But just imagine, you have your iPad with you.  It’s loaded up with backing tracks in iTunes.  You flip open the sheet music application, find the sheet music you want and play along.  Gosh, if it was integrated enough, the iPad could listen to what you’re playing and turn the page at the right time for you, or I guess you could just use the touch display to flip music pages over.

For gigs, you could rock up and have all your music with you in a thin device.   Music would never be lost, it wouldn’t fall down off a music stand out of order or flutter in the wind in an outdoor concert.

Then, in rehearsals, you could write markings and notes on the music with your finger. 

With the iTunes store, if they expanded the digital library section to include sheet music (maybe in conjunction with some online sheet music stores), you could buy sheet music through iTunes straight onto the iPad.  The whole delivery and billing mechanism infrastructure is already there!  If it was competitively priced, because of the ease of buying things through the iTunes store, I’m sure sheet music sales would sky rocket.

And with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in, you could even link up your iPad with other musicians next to you if you’re playing in an ensemble!   Or even better, bowings from the principals of each section could automatically be transmitted to all other desks.  What a time saver!

Apple – this is it!  Imagine the musical revolution around the world to take sheet music to the next level!   Do it!

I’m listening to my daughter’s iPod!

It has come…  that line has been crossed.

When our kids were younger (eg. toddlers), they really only listened to music that we put on.  They might have liked some of the music I liked.  They might have not.  But their music universe was mostly contained/restrained by what Wifey and I listened to and the TV/movies we watched together.

However, this year, I think our little Miss 10 has started her music revolution.

A few things:

Writing out lyrics

I remember going through a stage where I started writing out lyrics to pop music in a notebook.  I don’t know why I did it.  Maybe to learn some lyrics of pop songs.  But in my daggy youth, I must have thought that it was a step to making me cooler.  Or something. 

The funny thing is that when I found out Wifey went through the same stage too!  But she had files and files of lyrics that she had written out by hand when she was a kid.

And just a few weeks ago, Miss 10 started in earnest writing and printing out lyrics to songs – both from her own singing lessons, but also pop songs.  Wifey and I just looked at each other and smiled…

New Music

That universe of music controlled by us?  Gone…  Miss 10 has bought pop music THAT I HAVEN’T EVEN HEARD OF by an artist I HAVEN’T EVEN HEARD OF in iTunes!!!  Am I just getting older and daggier?  Maybe 🙂   But the scary thing is that through her friends at school or media, she is getting exposed and getting excited to new music. 

Reminds me of the days when I would actually listen to the Top 10 countdown on the radio 🙂

Playlists – the Mix Tape of the 2000’s

Anyone made a mixtape?  I thought it was hilarious that the Avenue Q musical had a scene where someone made a mix tape for someone else.  This was how it always was!!  I made mix tapes for myself, but funnier, I made mix tapes for my Wifey when we were going out..  and she made me mix tapes too! 

Anyway, digressing, I picked up Miss 10’s iPod today and noticed that she had made her first playlist… this generation’s mix tape. 

And the funny thing – I’ve been listening to the playlist all today!  It’s a good combination of pop songs (and even includes that pop song I hadn’t heard of previously).
Ahh… growing up.

Buying swing music electronically

I’m a Swing DJ.  Well, I’d like to call myself a Swing DJ.

But what is a Swing DJ?  The word DJ might conjure up visions of 2 turntables, a cross fader mixer, headphones…

In the swing dancing scene, a Swing DJ is less glamorous – no we don’t “mix” one tune into another.  We don’t tamper with the BPM or pitch of recordings.

But we do have the same passion for the music we play and the same challenges of working the floor, choosing the right music for the mood, building up a set, etc.

Buying music is a huge part of being a DJ and the “collector’s” mentality is one element that is required.  Finding new recordings, buying the music.

Some things that set some swing DJs apart from techno/pop DJs is that some of us are on the look out for new remasterings of old recordings, releases of little known bands or hard to find recordings, good liner notes with details of the players and maybe some history of the recording and band.

As it’s a niche market, sometimes recordings are very rare to find and hence the price can be relatively high for a CD (thinking $50-$100). 

Last night I was searching around for 2 CDs that were recommended to me – The Three Peppers chronological, and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band 1936-1937.  Both very hard to find CDs, out of print. 

Luckily iTunes came to the rescue.  I could buy the whole album electronically for ~AUD$16 each.  Bargain! The only thing I’m missing is that physical CD that I can add to my CD cupboard, the liner notes and photos with the recording details like personnel, date, location, etc.

In the past, although I did do the odd purchase from eMusic and iTunes, I tried to buy physical CDs rather than electronic tracks,

But with a more limited budget nowadays, I think my buying behavior has to change.  Buying just the tracks I want, or whole albums electronically that are hard to find as a CD just might be the way I need to go from now.

Dear Dad

Another wonderful Father’s Day has passed in Australia.

I woke on Sunday to whispering and clanging in the kitchen as the kids prepared breakfast in bed for me.  The sun was shining through the window onto the bed, the smells of french toast wafting through the house. 

I lay still in bed pretending to still be asleep when they opened the bedroom door and surprised me 🙂  And then I was bombarded with the many cute little things that the kids made at school and at home.

Dear Dad music

One of my surprise presents this year was a piece of music composed and written down by Miss 10.  According to wifey, she sat down on Saturday and penned it all by herself!  I’m just amazed at the ternary form, the contrasting B section yet retaining similar rhythmic patterns, the phrasing and the balanced line of the melody.  Totally freaky!

Playing the notes vs Performing

We entered our Miss 10 into a performing arts festival – her first one playing on the cello!

She’s not on until next week.  The piece is pretty under control – she’s been playing it for a while.

But what we have been rehearsing on in the last few days is performance.  Walking onto stage, bowing, making sure she’s seated comfortably, thinking about the right tempo, making eye contact with the accompanist to make sure they’re ready, lead the beginning of the piece.   Then play the piece as she does.   Then once it’s over, holding the bow for a second before getting up and bowing and smiling.

I think we’ve got it across to her that performing is not just about playing the notes.  It literally is “performing”!

Orchestra recording session experience

Recording session

I recently participated in an orchestral recording session.  I’ve done a couple before with WASO and the ABC, but this time still struck me as a very unusual experience.  

So after signing in, I walk into the studio.  It’s basically a really large room with very high ceilings, dimly lit and set up for a full symphony orchestra.  But one major difference is the recording equipment.  There are microphones mounted from stands everywhere.  There are headphones and headphone volume controls on every stand.  There are wires running everywhere on the ground.  There are wires from the lights on the stands.  There are extra people everywhere for sound, etc.   Yep, it’s a major spaghetti and I’m glad I’m not in charge of the sound engineering!

As you may have seen on DVD extras, the conductor has a large video monitor in front of him with the movie footage being played, and probably a video link to the sound control room.

So I find my desk, introduce myself to my desk partner, get out the violin, tune up, turn off my iPhone, put on the single sided headphone.

And then it’s go.


I think every take is recorded.  Even the very first one before we’ve even rehearsed.  The pressure is on.  From doing recordings at home, I know how sensitive the mics are – they will be picking up EVERYTHING – every wrong note, every mis-timing, every paper rustle.

Orchestral playing is an unusual job.  It’s a lonely individual pursuit where you have to perform well yourself. You don’t really talk to the people you’re working with at all when rehearsing/performing.  Yet, you have to play with the others in your section like a single entity.  

In a recording session, that’s even harder as you’re wearing a headphone playing a click track – basically a metronome so that the orchestra and the conductor stays exactly in time with the movie.  And so the conflict – do you play with the click, with the section, with the rest of the orchestra or the conductor?  Ideally, all of the above!

After it was all over, I look back and can categorise the two things you do most at a recording session are: 

1) Sit in absolute silence (when other sections are recording, or if you’ve got rests)

2) Repeatedly play the same part over and over until it’s as perfect as time permits

It almost feels like being used and not very individualistic – either play exactly the same as everyone else in your section, or sit in silence.   I find it ironic that there is a lack of artistic individuality in this artistic pursuit!

Quite different to an office environment where…  I sit in front of a computer in silence for hours at a time 🙂   But at least I can get up and move about, am doing my own set of tasks that are different to everyone else, bounce ideas off others, draw upon references when needed, have meetings where we talk and collaborate, innovate…

And so it all finished, I packed up, caught up with some old friends, waited for my lift..  and now I can’t wait for the next phone call…