Monday, December 11, 2017

BALLROOM DANCING - Discover the Various Types of Ballroom DANCE MUSIC

Big Bay Ballroom - Harbor Hop
Photo  by Port of San Diego 
Ballroom dance music is as varied and eclectic as the dancing can be itself. Depending upon the types of steps that a dancer is performing, the tunes can be really fast and peppy or slow and melodious. Throughout the course of history, the tunes have been meant to be enjoyed whether the listener is dancing with them or not. Ballroom dance music can be listened to for dancing, as well as for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Slow and fluid music is the choice for dances such as the Waltz or the Viennese Waltz. These tunes are melodious and traditional, with most being classical compositions that were written for Royal entertainment several centuries ago. Composers such as Lanner, Strauss, and Shubert were the original composers of music for the Waltz, which was started in Vienna by the Court of the Hapsburgs. With the creation of the American Waltz in the 1800's, other composers were let into the close Waltz circle. Popular artists such as Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, and even Stevie Wonder are now contributing to the types of tunes that are classified as ballroom dance music.

There are also the types produced exclusively for dances such as the Tango. This type of dancing was long thought to have originated in Argentina, but was actually started in either Spain or Morocco and brought to the Americas by explorers and settlers. In the United States, the Tango was influenced by African American and Creole elements and made popular in the early 1900's by Rudolph Valentino's movies.

Popular Tango artists include Gotan Project, Carlos Di Sarli Strictly Tango, and Victor Hugo Morales. When people are just starting to learn the steps of Tango, a slower tempo in ballroom dance music is definitely recommended. Once they get the steps down, then they can pick the speed up a bit and even add a flourish or dip to make it a little more interesting if they like.

Quick and sultry Latin dancing also requires another form. The Salsa, Rhumba, and even the ChaCha require a totally different beat, rhythm, and speed all together. For example, some Latin styles are danced on the upbeat of the tune, while others are danced strictly on the downbeat. Each Latin style is considered unique and usually requires its own style and tempo to be danced to properly.

Latin dancing is extremely hot right now which means that songs are widely available to choose from. Most are only offered in Spanish; however, artists such as Lou Bega sing popular top forty songs in English. No matter what your choice in ballroom dance music, there are several tunes to choose from for every style of dancing.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

DRUM Tips - Dealing with BASS DRUM "Creep"

A Yamaha bass drum pedal on a Tama drum set.
A Yamaha bass drum pedal on a Tama drum set. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bass drum creep does NOT refer to the scary guy with the bass drum, it's the term used to describe the frustrating situation when your kick drum starts sliding further and further away from you with each stroke of your bass drum pedal.

Setting up your kit on a good thick rug or a carpet that the spikes at the end of your bass drum legs can sink their teeth into will generally help keep bass drum creep at bay. (If your bass drum legs don't have spikes, replace them with ones that do. Any decent drum shop will carry replacement bass drum legs at a reasonable price.)

Make sure your carpet is large enough to fit your whole kit, including your throne. The weight of your body on the throne will help keep the bass drum from sliding away with the whole carpet.
Adjust the bass drum legs so that the front of the drum is an inch or two off the ground and the drum is resting at a slight angle. This shifts more of the weight of the drums onto the legs themselves and helps the spikes dig in more effectively, which should put an end to most bass drum creep problems.

Sometimes, especially for those of us kicking the drum pretty hard in loud situations, setting up on a carpet is just not enough!

Here is an additional little trick that will END bass drum creep problems.

Take a three foot long 2"x4" piece of wood. I have some nice fabric glued around it to make it look pretty, provide some protection to the drums, and prevent splinters. Now mark your carpet where you want the front of your bass drum to sit. Drill three quarter inch diameter holes through the wood - one hole in the middle and one near each end.

Using some nice, big, 2 inch washers and 1/4 inch thick bolts - actually bolt the wood to your carpet at the front edge of your bass drum. Make sure to put the flattest part of the bolt on the underside of the carpet so that your carpet still lays pretty flat.  I also like to put a layer or two of gaffer's tape over the end of the bolt so that it does not scratch up any nice wooden floors that happen to be underneath the carpet.

Now when you set up just slide the front of the bass drum right up against the piece of wood you have bolted to the carpet, and it will not slide any further!

It works best if you get the wood wide enough that the legs themselves actually bump up against the wood block although it will work fine with the rim of the drum against the wood block - just be sure to cover the wood with foam or thick fabric to prevent the wood from damaging the rim and lugs of your drum!

Let me know how well it works for you.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The SITAR - 3 Things To Know Before Buying

Photo by aplumb
If you have ever heard of the song "paint it black" by the Rolling Stones or listened to some songs by the Beatles, you probably are familiar with that funny sounding guitar in the background called a Sitar.

This exotic instrument consists of 18 to 23 strings. There are usually 6-7 main strings on top and 11 or more on the bottom call sympathetic strings. These are meant to be used as a drone to give the instrument more musical depth.

The sitar is made of a large neck and a gored for the base. It is mostly played in a traditional sitting position and played with a metal pick, which is called a mizrab.

If you are serious about buying, please keep in mind these three tips.

Tip One.

Make sure you are familiar with where the actual sitar came from. It's very important to track where it was made. Wherever you buy the sitar, do some research on the Internet as to where it was made. The majority of sitars are mass-produced in Northern India and sell for around $200 to $500, these tend to be fake. If you're a lefty, like me, almost all the sitars out there on the Internet or major music stores are fake. I have had my fair share of fake sitars and that's why I am writing this article.

Tip two

Find out how long its been sitting out. Sitars don't do well with humidity or the cold. They are ideal at around 60-80 degrees. Always keep them away from windows or fireplaces/heaters. To test this, play the instrument and listen to hear it go out of tune. If it keeps going out of tune you might have a warped sitar.

Tip Three.

Always check for loose parts. A well-made sitar that's not a decoration piece tends always painted to perfection and the tuners work. If the tuners don't stay in place, chances are you are getting ripped off. Most of the, general music store have no clue where they come from and order them from a catalog to give the store variety. They should always come in a case and have extra strings and picks. Make sure to purchase sitar grade strings, as they are different lengths and gauges.

I highly recommend doing some concrete research before flaunting your credit card around and impulsively buying one of these cool instruments. Always play before you pay!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Life Story on JIMI HENDRIX

Jimi Hendrix cor 11
Photo  by Luiz Fernando / Sonia Maria 
Who was the greatest rock and roll guitarist ever? Always and forever the name of Jimi Hendrix will be nominated answering that question. A vastly talented musician and instrumental technician, the legendary Hendrix combined the Blues, Soul, R & B and Rock & Roll into an innovative and mold-breaking style. Coupled with flamboyant stage antics and uncharted mixing arrangements, Hendrix became an international, Rock & Roll and pop culture star. 

Unable to read music, and largely self-taught, Jimi became a virtuoso who could play, compose and introduce spell-binding magic that will rock in musical posterity. The life story on Jimi Hendrix played like the comet he was; flashing across the heavens, burning hot, intense and bright - attracting attention, adulation, curiosity, and then suddenly flaming out.

Johnny Allen Hendrix was born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington; the son of seventeen-year-old Lucille Jeter and Army soldier James Allen Hendrix. Jimi's early childhood was marked by poverty and personal tragedies. Of the five Hendrix siblings, three were given up to state custody due to physical disabilities and blindness. Jimi became a shy and reserved boy, isolated and withdrawn. But he loved music and would strum a broomstick as if it were a guitar.

When Jimi was 15 his mother died and he bounced between relatives for a time. The sensitive boy was deeply affected and carried within him a burden of sadness, abandonment, and neglect. Sensing his son's detachment and loneliness, Jimi's father paid five bucks for a used acoustic guitar to replace a one-string ukulele Jimi had bonded for a number of years. At age 17, with his talent blossoming, Jimi received his first electric guitar and thereafter the life story on Jimi Hendricks changed forever,

Jimi began his formal musical career playing with local Seattle area bands, some paying gigs, some not. He was fired more than once for over-the-top stage stunts, but his talent was without question and he played left-handed, behind his back and with his teeth.

Still, in high school, Jimi was an indifferent student who curiously received an "F" in music. He was eventually expelled for attendance and discipline problems and soon found himself in minor trouble with the law. The solution; Hendrix was ordered to enlist in the Army. But he was a poor soldier and was discharged within a year.

After his Army stint, Hendrix went on the road playing small towns, honky-tonks, warm-up, and background for larger, better-known acts. Ever expanding, Jimi was soon playing with notable acts such as the Isley Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and Little Richard.

With his star rising and reputation growing, he traveled to London where he was introduced to the British rock scene. With the help of a few English musical luminaries, Hendrix formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a band that would soon hit the top of the charts and plays to sellout crowds. Their first album, Are You Experienced, became a mega-seller, second only to the Beatles epic Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Back in the United States, The Experience, now a rock and roll wonder very much in demand, played the Monterey Pop Festival, Fillmore East, and headlined venues coast to coast. Hendrix's fame grew exponentially and in the "sex, drugs, and rock and roll", a culture of the times, he was an accomplished practitioner, or if you like - victim.

Legal and personal entanglements mounted including a drug possession arrest and contractual disputes. During this time of high flying success and excess, The Experience broke up. Other notable musicians joined Jimi and as his schedule excelled and his popularity peaked, so did his use of drugs and alcohol, sometimes affecting his work on stage and in the studio.

Hendrix's signature performance was at the famous, iconic, epic, historically footnoted Woodstock Musical Festival in August of 1969. Jimi and his group played a two-hour set, climaxing in Hendrix's solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which has become a representation and marquee of the turbulent times of the 1960's.
Hendrix played his last concert in the contiguous United States in August 1970 at Seattle's Sick,s Stadium, blocks from his childhood home. He didn't like the area or his memories growing up and he cursed the rain and played badly. He left abruptly, did a show in Hawaii and returned to England. The next time he would be on American soil would be for his funeral. The life story of Jimi Hendrix was over.

Jimi died September 18, 1970, at the age of 27 in the London flat of friend Monika Danneman after drinking heavily and taking a handful of sleeping pills. His sudden, shocking demise engendered speculation and innuendo. Some rumors claimed suicide, others hinted at murder, still, others espoused that he was not dead at all, that reports of his death were only a publicity stunt.

The life story of Jimi Hendrix will be memorialized every time one of his songs is played, replayed, copied, re-copied, stolen or new renditions attempted. There was only one Hendrix and though his legacy may be clouded by his risky, showman's lifestyle, he was truly a man for his times. After all, Jimi was one of the first black Rock and Rollers to capture a predominately white audience while incorporating, mixing, and modifying culturally identifiable genres of American Music and turning out his own unique sound.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Don't Make OBOE REEDS in a Bubble!

As I say time and time again, making oboe reeds is often an experiment, and changing one variable at a time will provide you with a cheap education and useful clues to improve your reedmaking results.

Even though it is important you change only one variable at a time, always keep your EYE on the bigger picture and be thinking, analyzing and scheming about other ways to solve your problem.

In other words, while you have one "experiment" going (like trying a new shape to see if it helps bring down your pitch a little bit), use your detective skills to view the same problem from a different perspective and work to solve it in a less technical way.

I suppose you could just try one equipment experiment after another and hope to solve things that way, but I always like the "detective on overdrive" approach and leave no stone unturned when searching for a solution. I do my best to get out of my "oboe bubble" and try to reevaluate everything I am doing with fresh eyes.

For example, let's take the ever-popular issue of playing sharp. You know, the problem that seems like it just came out of nowhere.

First, REALLY think back and remember when you started to notice that your pitch was high. Was there a weather change, or anything really obvious like that?

Ask yourself some other questions.....

When was the last time you bought a knife? How old is your oboe? Is your oboe sealing well?

There are so many little things that can contribute to a larger problem like playing sharp. Luckily, most of the little things are relatively easy to solve.

So while you are trying a new shaper tip, spend some time playing around with how much oboe reed you put in your mouth while you are practicing. What happens to the pitch now? Or compare the pitch of your best friend's brand new oboe to yours.

Even though I still stand by my philosophy of changing only one variable at a time when making oboe reeds, you can still learn a lot of other things in the midst of your one "experiment." Making oboe reeds in a bubble and believing that problems are caused by only ONE factor is a foolproof recipe for oboe reed frustration.

Even if the shaper tip does end up helping your pitch problem, there are lots of other things that YOU can do to improve it as well.

Making oboe reeds really is an ART. If it was as simple as x + y = z = great oboe reed, then ANYBODY could do it. If solving a pitch problem was as easy as just making 74mm reeds, then NO ONE would ever play sharp.

But that just isn't true. Playing the oboe and making good reeds is always a combination of a whole host of factors working together.

It is very similar to being a good healer. If someone comes to you with an earache, you don't (in my opinion) just prescribe drugs for them. You look at the whole person and see what their life is like and how everything in it is working together (or not). It is really the same with making oboe reeds.

There is rarely one easy fix or answer when you take into account everything that an oboist is, and everything his/her reeds are.

Get out of your reedmaking bubble and make sure you get a good view of the larger picture - how everything is working together.

Your oboe reeds and your playing will reap the rewards.

    By Maryn Leister
      Oboist and entrepreneur Maryn Leister helps beginner, intermediate and professional oboists become happier oboe players.
      She is the owner of the oboe learning company MKL Reeds and publisher of the Reed Report and Oboe Success Tips Newsletters. Each newsletter is full of straightforward tips on becoming a better oboe player and on taking control of your oboe reeds.

      Get your free subscription to the Reed Report newsletter and start your own journey towards a more rewarding oboe future right away. Sign-Up now and get your FREE Oboe Reed Tips!
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