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If I Was Pat Metheny

One of the most viewed posts I have written was the post about Pat Metheny‘s Orchestrion Project.  Nothing was especially groundbreaking or news-worthy about it, I just thought it was really interesting.  Since that time I have been thinking about what little we know about it and how (or if) that will effect the success of this project.  I have even spoke directly with Pat about this and I am still confused.

I decided to make this really easy for Pat and come up with a few things that he (or his people) can do to help make sure this project attracts not only his core fan base, but new fans as well.

Make it Accessible

I know how difficult it is with the economy and all to make a living on tour.  However, I think it is important to realize that you can’t make new fans when tickets are $60 or more.  Period. In order to get a buzz going about a certain project, you need to identify the influencers and evangelists and make the project not only appeal to them but make it accessible. The youth market is doing all the talking today and you need to convert them.  Student discounts on tickets is a great idea that has been around a long time, but I think you should take it a step further.

Anyone in college or high school comes to the show for free.

Yes, free.  If you really want to reach new audiences and influence the next generation, you need to take away any reason why they SHOULDN”T go to the show.  Let’s face it, this is probably some pretty experimental stuff and you want to make sure everyone in attendance WANTS to be there.  There are a million things to do that don’t cost anything, but if they choose to come to your concert, you know they want to be there.  If they end up really liking it, they are more likely to buy some merch as well.

Spread it Out

For me, the biggest thing I take away from a truly great concert experience is the ability to re-connect with the music when I get back home.  Ever wonder why all the “jambands” are so popular?  They allow their fans to take a piece of their music home.  It not only gives your core fans an amazing memento, it makes it easier for them to turn their friends onto the music as well.

Allow everyone to videotape and record EVERYTHING

From the looks of it, I think that each night on this tour will be completely different both in sound and material. Why not document it all?  Your fans are willing to do this FOR FREE.  Let them.

Tell A Story

I was really surprised about how little Pat really described this music when I spoke with him about it. It not only made me more curious, but it raised a little doubt in my mind.  Is there something he is hiding?  How different will this be from his other material? In today’s “real time” culture, it is important to be up front an honest with your fans.

Create a conversation with your fans about why and how you are doing this project

This could take the form of a blog, a short video(s) or even a column.  Both DownBeat and JazzTimes should be tripping over themselves to help you with this.  The point is to start a dialogue with your fans that is both meaningful and authentic.  Start now.

Be Transparent

This does tie into the point before, but I think you can take a different angle.  What if you made your soundchecks open to the public?  Do you think your ticket sales will suffer?  I don’t. Many fans would love to watch how your rig is setup and then see you make sure everything is working.  Not only would it give them a unique experience, it would make them feel like they are in a “Secret Society.”

Make your fans feel special.  Because they are.

I am no expert on this by far, however I am a huge fan of your music.  These are just a few things I think might help in someway.  In my opinion, too many artists aren’t taking advantage of the new way of thinking when it comes to consuming live music and the feeling of community. Also, any of these ideas I guess would work for any artist.  I didn’t mean to single you out, but this project is on my mind.

Don’t worry Pat, I will come see your new project no matter what.  I feel like I am a true fan.

Now off to listen to my favorite record.

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This Week on Twitter

5 Links for the Weekend

Paul Reed Smith Talks about Ted McCarthy – There is a definite lineage among guitar builders.  Both in style in concept PRS owes a lot to Ted.  From his beginnings at Gibson through his association with PRS, Ted is a pioneer in guitar technology and it is great to see him get his due.

Ethan Iverson Meets Keith Jarrett – Ethan does an amazing job with his blog.  Lately the blog has featured some great long form posts and this one is no different.  Keith is one of the most engimatic figures in jazz and Ethan’s interview is well done.

4 videos from North Texas Lab Band One – It is common knowledge that North Texas has one of the best jazz programs around. These musicians are the future and it is really great to see them get some exposure.

Independent Music Manifesto – Steve Lawson is a great example of how a musician can leverage social media.  Follow him on Twitter (@solobasssteve) and subscribe to his blog.  Thank me later.

Just watch this.  So worth it.

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7 Questions with Oteil Burbridge

One of the best clinics I saw this summer was with Oteil Burbridge and his longtime musical companion Jimmy Herring. Oteil is a master musician and one of easiest guys to work with. From his work with The Aquarium Rescue Unit to his current position in the Allman Brothers Band, Oteil is as versatile as they get.  I recently caught up with Oteil at an Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic show in Hartford.  The show was great and Oteil really gave everyone a lesson on how to lay down the groove with a four string P-Bass and a pick.


Describe your first experience playing music.

That’s heard to recall because it was so early. I remember my first snare drum, a Christmas present. My mom and dad said I was beating on everything so they got me a drum. I was five. My memory is really bad so going that far back is pretty vague. Its something can’t remember not doing.

What has been your most significant musical experience?

All of them have been so valuable. Any time that I get to play with my brother Kofi is a peak experience because he’s so musical in so many ways and to such an extreme degree. Playing with Col. Bruce Hampton totally changed me forever. It was my first “born again” experience. Playing with the Allman Brothers has been so influencial because I now think that they might have been the first true Fusion group to start from rock and go towards jazz succesfully. Jazz Rock Fusion artists rarely had vocals except for occasionally like with Allan Holdsworth, Tony Williams Lifetime, Brand X or Andre Cecarelli. Now I just to work with great singers. that’s what gets me off the most, especially gospel and blues.

What is the best advice on pursuing a career in music you were ever given?


Just kidding, but seriously, making a career out of it can really take the fun out of it. You really have to be realistic about it. I think the best “career” advice I was ever given was a comment that Col. Bruce made once. He said, “99 percent of success is just showing up.” What he meant was that so many musicians show up late, drunk, not at all, or are hard to work with. If you are an amazing player, what does it matter if you are late, absent, too inebriated or difficult to work with? Its the basics that really matter. I want longevity so I have to take care of my body, mind and spirit to have that to its fullest, not just practice. But the best advice I could give is to not let anything come between you and the joy of music. When its not joyful anymore, you’re robbing yourself, and everyone else.

What is your favorite sound?

My fiance laughing. Babies laughing. Motorcycles engines.

Name some of your biggest non-musical influences.

Everything should theoretically influence your music. I’m aiming for my music to reflect my life. Sunrises and sunsets, being in love, friends, family, politics, religion, motorcycles, books, comedians, animals, plants, nature, etc.

What was the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Sun Ra and Bobby Blue Bland, both for obvious reasons. I saw Jaco in his prime when I was seventeen and that made me decide to take the chance on pursuing music as a career. I would give anything to have seen Charlie Christian, Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. James Cleveland, Bob Marley and Howlin’ Wolf live. Fortunately there is great video of Howlin’ Wolf, James Cleveland and Bob Marley.

Put your iPod on shuffle and list the first 5 songs that appear

I do Pandora internet radio now and its programmed to two stations; Bobby Blue Bland and Rev. James Cleveland. I lost all my itunes when my last computer crashed but it would have bounced between Charlie Christian, James Brown, Ralph Stanley, The Meters, Miles, George Jones, Mahalia Jackson, Weather Report, Blind Willie Johnson, Stravinsky, Ravi Shankar and tons of Bob Marley. Family Man might be my all time favorite bassist by the way.

Check out Oteil’s website at myspace.com/oteilburbridge

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7 Questions with Jake Cinninger from Umphrey’s McGee

Jake_Umphreys_NewOur next participant in the 7 Questions project is one of my favorite guitarists on the “jamband” scene.  Jake Cinninger is currently the guitarist in jamband via prog rock outfit Umphrey’s McGee.  They tour A LOT, so make sure to check out a show next time they are around.

An interesting side project for Jake has been OHMPHREY which pairs him up for an improv heavy album with Chris Poland (OHM, Megadeth).

Describe your first experience playing music.

The first real memory I have is when I was about four years I played with Tommy Shaw, from Styx.  He was living in my hometown of Niles, MI and my parents were friends with him.  There was a party at my parent’s place and Tommy was playing Beatles by the campfire and I dragged my whole drum set out from my bedroom and joined in.

What has been your most significant musical experience?

I have had a lot of significant experiences, but just this last summer, two late night shows at Rothbury Music Festival.  As far as the eye could see were little heads and Umphrey’s never sounded so tight and proud.  I remember walking off the stage at 5AM feeling like we had connected better than ever, it was great.
What was the best advice you pursuing a career in music you were ever given?

To create something new, you have to fall on your face once in awhile, get up, scape off the bad bits, and go back to the drawing board.  Great songs are like great stories, you need more than one draft.

What is your favorite sound?

My dog does a mean John Coltrane impersonation, she sounds just like a sax when she is happy to see me, it is my favorite sound.

Name some of your biggest non-musical influences.

My parents and wife, the rest really are musical.

What is the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Todd Rundgren’s Adventures in Utopia Tour 1980 in South Bend, IN.
Put your iPod on shuffle and list the first 5 songs that appear.
She’s got Balls, AC/DC
Great King Rat, Queen
Nobody’s Fault but Mine, Led Zeppelin
Brand New Morning, Bob Seger
Burnin’ For You, Blue Oyster Cult.

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Is Rhythm The Answer?

Image by volume12 via Flickr

I just finished reading a great post by Ronan Guilfoyle about the (over)use of complicated rhythms in jazz today.  Ronan is an excellent bassist, amazing jazz educator and real authority on rhythm (he literally wrote the book on it).  It is interesting to me that Ronan isn’t criticizing the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation, but the idea that modern jazz musicians use those techniques as an end in itself.

Via Ronan’s Blog

Instead, it seems to me that often a new explicit statement of the form seems to have appeared. Rather than having the form be something that is invisible — a guiding structure that only the musicians are aware of — the new orthodoxy seems to be to create music that is not only rhythmically complex but is explicitly so — wearing its mathematical heart on its sleeve so to speak. Pieces are played with mathematical precision, and having achieved the technical wherewithal to deal with these new complex rhythms a lot of musicians seem to be happy to leave it at that. They seem to be proud to be able to play five over three, for example, as if the act of achieving an accurate representation of this is an end in itself. The fives and the threes are rigidly marked off and flagged, as if the musicians want to display the nuts and bolts of their achievement to an admiring crowd. It’s a reversal of the other tradition i mentioned — rather than have the form act as a kind of internalised guiding principle, the form of the piece in this more recent approach is used as a kind of exoskeleton that is worn proudly by the musicians as they negotiate the treacherous twists and turns of their rhythmic high wire act.

Many times in college we worked on exercises and techniques that opened our eyes and ears to different rhythmic concepts.  Sometimes they worked, others not so much.  I also feel that in order to make these concepts sound natural and organic, you must go through a period of living, breathing and playing them.  Many times when I listen to groups, I feel like when everything they play is in a different time signature it does begin to sound stale to me.  However, I need to side with Ronan on this one.  Lately it seems like in order to be a jazz musician, you need to use some form of rhythmic trickery on every tune. Not so.

I am preparing a blog post on some of my favorite exercises using more complicated rhythmic ideas, but until then what are your favorite ways of “hiding the one”?

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This Week on Twitter

  • @chr1sa Just starting to read The Long Tail. Great stuff so far. #
  • NEW BLOG POST Umphrey’s McGee Gives Control to Their Fans – I just came across a post on the Umphreys blog about so… http://ow.ly/15PUo2 #
  • One of the most creative, inventive things I have ever seen a band do. http://bit.ly/hW60V #
  • Anyone going to see some live music this weekend? #
  • So looking forward to the weekend. #
  • We are going to give away some passes for NAMM in our next few newsletters. Make sure to sign up. http://bit.ly/QgjC5 #
  • RT @premierguitar: New issue! http://www.premierguitar.com or http://digital.premierguitar.com #
  • I have some openings left for guitar lessons. Let me know if interested. http://bit.ly/16VJpG #
  • @iheartguitar Going to NAMM? We should totally meet up. @guitarnoize are you going as well? #
  • @sivers Thanks for your blog. Been really helpful lately #
  • Bloggers – we want to year from you: state of the blogosphere survey: http://bit.ly/RVFi5 (via @technorati) #
  • Working on our NEW National Music Workshop Newsletter with MailChimp. Good stuff. #
  • Just made arrangements to attend NAMM in January. Already? #
  • Feels good to get things done. Look for a new installment of #7Q tomorrow #
  • NEW BLOG POST 7 Questions with Stu Hamm – I wanted to get Stu in on the 7 Questions project from the beginning beca… http://ow.ly/15PcuY #
  • How do you practice with a metronome? #
  • Free lesson on BB King's Style. http://bit.ly/Xnx2D #
  • @solobasssteve I would if I could. in reply to solobasssteve #
  • Creating some mini-lessons from some NGW Books. #
  • Here is Becca Marlee playing an original song during one of the student concerts this summer. http://bit.ly/KCTRi #
  • Some Nice Guitar Lessons Here: http://bit.ly/rlXFt #
  • RT @YEMblog: Scott Murawski Blogs about Mike Gordon Band Tour http://scottmurawski.wordpress.com/ #
  • Anyone ever used Squarespace for a website? I am considering them for my wife's website. #
  • Here are two alums from Mexico City. They sound really good! http://bit.ly/gtaA #

Umphrey’s McGee Gives Control to Their Fans

I just came across a post on the Umphrey’s blog about some new events they are planning called “Stew Art Series”.


Here is the description of the events from the website:

An (S2) event is an experiment in crowd-sourced improvisation. One hundred percent of the music performed at a (S2) event will be improvised, and you are the ones who will serve as directors. Using several communication mediums – which could range from text messaging to prewritten cue cards to chalk boards – you will kick out ideas, descriptive words, phrases, pop culture references . . . pretty much whatever comes to mind. These will be presented to the band who will compose jams on the fly based around those ideas, and ideas will be added to, changed, and deleted as the event progresses. For instance, a fan might toss out the phrase “frightened rabbit,” causing the band the play a frantic, nimble jam and after a period of time, the word “rabbit” might get changed to “brontosaurus” which would take the jam in a heavy, slower direction (though the word “frightened” is still in play). Then perhaps the word “skydiving” morphs the “frightened brontosaurus” jam into a soaring, powerful piece of music that evokes the feeling of being airborne . . . until the phrase “without a parachute” gets tacked on which changes the jam into something else entirely. And so on. No one will have any idea where the music is headed, well, and that’s all part of the fun. The event will also include a Q&A session to provide an opportunity to ask about what you’re witnessing (or ask anything else for that matter). Fans will become a part of the music like never before.

To me this is a GREAT idea that I wish more bands and artists took part in.  Obviously, UM is an incredibly forward thinking band that really looks to push the envelope in order to give their fans the best and most unique experience possible.

Do you think this type of event could apply to different genres of music?

Can you imagine a jazz group using the audience as a source for raw material for their improvisations?  I think this would make the audiences feel more involved and make the live music experience more personable.  If bands want to get people to their performances in this day and age of so many distractions, they need to offer something new.

Well done Umphrey’s.  I look forward to seeing where you go from here.

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