The website has been largely ignored and that’s entirely my fault. This morning, I took a good long look at it and decided it needed a facelift. Right now it is in progress. It may change again according to my whim.
I always make the same promises… I’m going to try and post more. Maybe.
There has been some confusion about where this quote originally came from. It was used in Metal Gear Awesome, by Egoraptor back in 2006.
The quote actually came from an old “Reading Is Fundamental” public service announcement that ran during Saturday morning cartoons in the late 80’s. It’s one of those things that when you are a kid, sticks in your head and for some reason known only to you, it remains funny and one of your own personal inside jokes.
This gets a bit wordy, so if you’re into light reading, you might want to click away now!
My current interest is in the blues. If you’re playing blues guitar, you may never play a major scale in your life, but you should know what they are if you’re ever going to play in more than one key. The blues is usually based on some variation of a 12 bar pattern that repeats over and over. I’m probably not telling you anything new there.
The 12 bars are usually based on a I-IV-V configuration that consists of 4 measures (bars) of the I chord, 2 measures of the IV chord, 2 measures of the I chord, one measure of the V chord, one measure of the IV chord and 2 measures of the I chord. That is probably the most simple pattern and the reason for this article is not the pattern. If you’re reading this, you probably already know about the variations in the 12 bar pattern.
So what is a I-IV-V chord sequence anyway?
Simply put, I-IV-V is the I chord (or the root chord). This is also the key that the song is in.
The IV is the chord based on the 4th note in the major scale of the 1 note (confused yet? It hopefully gets easier).
The V is the chord based on the 5th note in the major scale of the 1 note.
So… First, let’s look at the C Major Scale, since it is undoubtedly the easiest one to follow. The C Major scale consists of 8 notes. They are:
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C. ? The last C is the C that is one octave higher than the first one.
This means a 12 bar blues in the key of C uses the chords I = C, IV = F, V = G.
The construction of a major scale isn’t logical, but since birth, virtually every piece of western music you have heard has been based on it.
So, you know what the major scale is supposed to sound like almost by instinct.
It’s the Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do you probably were taught in elementary school.
It starts on Do, or what you call the 1 note. Fa is the 4 and So is the 5.
Not very helpful since no musical instrument has any of these notes.
They aren’t really notes, but instead they are intervals between notes.
You can’t know what Re sounds like without first hearing Do.
Do is the root or the I. But enough about that. It is a combination of notes and the intervals between the notes that make up the major scale.
Major Scale Construction.
So, now you know how the major scale is built. Which notes make up the major scale?
The answer is, it depends on what your 1 note is.
Quick and dirty… You can memorize this and go no further.
You will be able to play the 12 bar blues in any key you like. The 1 note is the I chord and it is also the key in which the song is played.
|Key Of:||C||D||E||F||G||A||B||C||–||No Sharps, No Flats|
|Key Of:||G||A||B||C||D||E||F#||G||–||One Sharp, F#|
|Key Of:||D||E||F#||G||A||B||C#||D||–||Two Sharps, F# C#|
|Key Of:||A||B||C#||D||E||F#||G#||A||–||Three Sharps, F# C# G#|
|Key Of:||E||F#||G#||A||B||C#||D#||E||–||Four Sharps, F# C# G# D#|
|Key Of:||B||C#||D#||E||F#||G#||A#||B||–||Five Sharps, F# C# G# D# A#|
For the Flat keys it works like this.
|Key Of:||C||D||E||F||G||A||B||C||–||No Sharps, No Flats|
|Key Of:||F||G||A||Bb||C||D||E||F||–||One Flat, Bb|
|Key Of:||Bb||C||D||Eb||F||G||A||Bb||–||Two Flats, Bb Eb|
|Key Of:||Eb||F||G||Ab||Bb||C||D||Eb||–||Three Flats, Bb Eb Ab|
|Key Of:||Ab||Bb||C||Db||Eb||F||G||Ab||–||Four Flats, Bb Eb Ab Db|
|Key Of:||Db||Eb||F||Gb||Ab||Bb||C||Db||–||Five Flats, Bb Eb Ab Db Gb|
More to come in the next post!
No doubt about it, I’m not a kid anymore. You know that when people stop referring to you as “wet behind the ears.” I never knew what the meant anyway.
LIfe started out for me with a definite bent towards music. I played accordion for a number of years, until the accordion joined most Americans’ most hated list, right up there with bagpipes. Dick Contino, Myron Floren and Frank Yankovic notwithstanding, the Beatles and the British invasion of the sixties was the death knell for the accordion. Other than John West, playing the Cordovox in Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the sixties were devoid of any accordion heroes. So who was I to fight progress? I switched from being an “accordionist” to being a “keyboard player.” In the mid-sixties, other than Mike Smith, who played a Vox Jaguar for The Dave Clark Five, and Alan Price for The Animals, there weren’t many mainstream rock and roll keyboard players to emulate. My roots with the Natural Music Studios gave me an entré into the world of six stringers, which I immediately loved! I beat my first guitar nearly to death. It was a mid-fifties Fender Esquire, which was given to me by the studio owner so I could learn (and teach) guitar. Along the way, I owned any number of other guitars and basses as I slowly transitioned myself to stringed instruments from the keyboards.
From my first band back in Junior High School, the Rubber Soulz (thanks, Larry Koliha, Dave Goudelock, Gary Case, Mike Sand, Chris Allison) where I played keyboards to my last, Spere, with Monty Spears, Ken McAfterty and Steve Biggs, with me on bass guitar, I had an absolute blast.
But my dad didn’t. He was one who loved music, but not musicians… at least not sixties musicians. He grew up on the big bands and musicians who wore suits. Don’t get me wrong, dad approved of each of my brothers and I learning music and playing instruments. But to him, being a musician was a parlor sport. He held professional musicians in pretty low regard. So while he encouraged me to learn and play “for fun,” when I decided I wanted to try and make money, playing dances, clubs and bars, that was another story.
“You’ll never make a living playing that thing,” referring to whatever stringed instrument I happened to have hanging off my shoulder at the moment. I heard that phrase probably a hundred times, as I was leaving for practice or heading out for a weekend gig. To my dad’s credit, he did co-sign a number of finance contracts or loan me the money to get the equipment I needed or wanted to play. I always felt it was begrudgingly given, but nonetheless, it was almost always given. My dad’s opinion and approval had always been important to me as a kid, so his sudden dislike for what I was consciously trying to turn into a chosen profession was very difficult for me to deal with.
I played and he harangued about how what I was playing wasn’t music. The big bands were music. Guitars were gutter instruments. “You’ll never make a living playing that thing.” It hurt, a lot, but I wasn’t ready to give up.
In February of 1972, Spere broke up. Our guitarist, Monty wanted to play Jazz. We were playing down and dirty power trio rock ala, Grank Funk, Black Sabbath, James Gang and as much Deep Purple as we could squeeze in without an organ. The rent was paid up in our practice hall for the rest of the month and I was confident that Steve, my drummer friend and I could put together another band, so we kept the rented practice space. I was working at my day job, at a hi-fi and electronics hobbyist store when the call came in from Steve. “Hey, how come you’re taking your stuff out of the practice room? I thought you wanted to start another band.”
Of course, I hadn’t removed anything, but apparently someone else had. My Acoustic 360/361 bass amp was gone, as was the amp head for the Plush guitar amp. Also on the missing list was my Fender Contempo organ that I had used to help pound out melodies for our lead guitarist for tunes he didn’t know. So I trudged down to the practice room to find the hasp gone from the door of the room. I went to a local hardware store and got a new lock and hasp and re-secured the room so as to save what I had left there, and safeguard Steve’s drums. The next day I got another call. This time everything they hadn’t taken the first day was gone as well. Steve’s drums were still there, but Steve’s set was pretty much a hodgepodge of different stuff he had picked up over the years and the thieves probably weren’t interested in the return on investment they would get from it. Gone was the rest of my gear, my fretless Precision Bass, another Telecaster I had picked up, our mics, stands and the crude PA I had cobbled together.
“You’ll never make a living playing that thing,” kept echoing through my head as I headed home to let my parents know I was no longer a working musician. In spite of feeling very sorry for me, my dad said, “Now you know it’s time to grow up and be a man.” That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, but I figured he was right. After all, since I was old enough to remember, my dad was always right and always willing to share his wisdom. But that cold day in ’72 was probably the worst day of my life.
After that loss, the idea of ever playing again just didn’t make sense. There were probably people I knew from the 70’s through the 90’s who never even knew I played. I bought a few instruments over the years. I remember probably half a dozen different acoustic guitars, a couple of spinet pianos and a Fender Rhodes electric, but I never really got into playing any of them and they all got sold or traded for something else. I got married, had kids and worked at something where I could make a living, according to my dad’s advice.
For Christmas of 1994, I traded my last acoustic guitar in to a pawn shop as a down payment on an old used drum kit for my youngest son. He was 10 and really wanted to learn drums. I was not going to discourage it, because by this time I knew what a disservice my dad had done to me by not supporting my professional efforts.
Within a year or two my family figured it out before I did. On a birthday, I think it was my 45th, Maurette and the boys got me a Fender acoustic bass guitar. Nice guitar and it got me interested, so I picked up a Squier Telecaster also. But after a few weeks they ended up in cases in the closet. I was too busy and didn’t have any clear path.
Then, back in 2010 after both kids were gone and Maurette and I finally came to terms with being empty nesters, I decided to resume playing the guitar. I scoured the Internet looking for some material I could do as a home study. I just didn’t want to go in front of some 20 something guitar teacher who would make me look really awful in private lessons. I happened upon Griff Hamlin’s Blues Guitar Unleashed course and ordered it. The next Saturday I headed into town and came home with no less than 3 electric guitars (all pawn shop finds) and a new Epiphone EB-3 bass. I think I also picked up a couple small amplifiers that day as well. I made myself a promise that within a year, I would get back to where I was when I quit at 19.
After the year was up, I figured, either I wasn’t as good as I remembered at 19 or re-learning at age 57 is a real bitch! I’m inclined to believe the latter, because I’ve heard crude recordings of my bands from about age 16 through 19 and they weren’t too bad!
Now, I can’t wait to get home in the evening, kiss my wife and head into my practice room. I practice probably over an half hour a day and noodle for another hour or so every night. I’ve played a few jams, but no other public performances.
At 59 years, I know I’ll never be another Stevie Ray Vaughan or Joe Satriani and that’s all right! I’m again doing something that I truly love. It makes me wonder how much different my life would have been had I never given it up. Whether I would have made a living at it or just had it as the “parlor entertainment” my dad always supported, I think my life to this point would have been considerably different. But that’s all spilled milk and I’m not going to look back and wonder what might have been.
With all the joys and pitfalls of career, raising a family and living a life that I have truly enjoyed, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed my life as much as I am doing right now! Most of the people I know well, wife, kids, friends all see the difference and they tell me it’s a good one. And I can’t disagree!
So I’ve become somewhat comfortable manipulating various audio files around and Ardour is a really user friend and relatively easy to learn piece of software… at least relatively speaking. It’s still a beast, but it’s strangely addictive.
After working with Ardour for probably a month or so, I decided I wanted to add something new to the system. I wanted a MIDI Digital control surface. Simply said, it looks like a mixer. It’s a box with a bunch of buttons, knobs and sliders on it that connects to your computer with a USB cable. It is supposed to integrate into Ardour to allow the user to use it as a mixing console. The sliders are even motorized so that when you’re playing back a previously mixed recording, the volume controls will track the positions where you originally placed them. It’s a Behringer BCF-2000. If you would like to see one in operation, just go to YouTube and search on that model. There are a number of people who have done some pretty funky things showing the sliders moving around without human intervention. Pretty cool!
Before I bought it, I checked to see that the Control Surface was supported in Linux and by Ardour. It was. In fact, I saw (via Google) a bunch of different tutorials for setting the control surface up with Ardour.
I ordered one through Amazon. For some reason they had a white version of the controller for somewhere around $30 less than the charcoal gray one, so I ordered it. Turns out there is a waiting period of around six weeks for the white ones for some reason. Finally after about 4 weeks of waiting, I happened to check the prices again. The charcoal one had been adjusted to the same price, so I cancelled the order for the white one and ordered the dark one. Within 4 or 5 days, it arrived. I was SOOO stoked!
I opened it, read the manual (which said nothing about Linux) and then went to Behringer’s website, where I did find Linux drivers. I also looked around and found a couple handy utilities for it that run under Linux.
Upon first attempt to install the Behringer, I met absolutely no success. I tried one set of directions “guaranteed to work” by a Linux user who had reportedly done this on several different machines. Maybe if he had done mine, it would have worked… but mine didn’t. There were several other attempts made, usually after wiping the hard drive and restoring the Linux box to the state it was immediately before the Behringer arrived. Before all was said and done, I’ll bet I did 20 installations and attempts at making the Behringer hook up with Linux and Ardour. All were unsuccessful.
The closest I ever got to making it work was once, I recorded a couple of test tracks and then attempted to mix them. The very first time I tried to move one of the sliders on the Behringer, the Linux machine threw a segment fault error in Ardour. Next time I booted Ardour, there was no link up with the Behringer. Reboot, retry, repeat! No other attempts ever got that close again. This over and over process was carried out in small parts every evening with just one or two hours. All this time, I’m not practicing my guitar and not spending any time with my wife. It got me absolutely nowhere.
After probably two weeks of trying to get the Behringer to work with Ardour on my computer, I finally decided to bite the bullet and try Windows. Off I went to CompUSA and bought a new 1 terabyte drive and a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. That way, if I didn’t like Windows 7 (which I had never seen before), I could yank out the new drive and go back to Linux or even dual boot one operating system or the other.
It took about an hour to install the drive and install Win7. I had several options available then. I have an old copy of Adobe Audition, but it is old enough that support for Control Surfaces was minimal. I installed it. It recognized the Control Surface, not as a Behringer, but as a Mackie board and accepted it. Don’t get me wrong. I love Adobe Audition (used way back when it was Cool Edit, probably back around 1995 or so), but it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Ardour had. So I looked around and discovered that Cubase 6 Elements would probably do about everything I wanted. I went to Steinberg’s website, paid for and downloaded a copy of it. Another 45 minutes or so and I had Cubase 6 Elements installed and working with my sound card. I turned on the Behringer and nothing happened. Then I read something in the manual for Cubase that said any USB devices should be powered up or connected before Cubase is started. Close Cubase, Power cycle the Behringer. Start Cubase. Now, according to Cubase directions, I went to the Devices section and selected Mackie as my control surface. As soon as I did that, the Behringer sprang to life. The sliders followed the virtual sliders on the screen. I was able to create a profile for the surface. The learn function of Cubase let me click on an onscreen function and then wiggle a control on the Behringer and the two find each other.
Since then, I have done literally dozens of different recordings, mixes and various audio manipulation and abuse with Cubase 6 and the Behringer.
Bottom line, it cost me $75 for the hard drive, which I really didn’t need. A hundred bucks or so for the copy of Win7 and another $99 for Cubase. So for less than $300 I could have saved myself at least 20 hours of frustration. At my age, the $300 still isn’t trivial, hindsight always being 20/20, I would gladly have forked out the $300 to save myself the hassle I went through.
Having said all that, I still like Ardour better than Cubase and if I could be reasonably assured that I could make the Behringer (and a few other pieces of hardware added afterwards) work, I’d re-install Linux.
Since I did the Windows 7 installation, my kids bought me a Tascam US-1800 USB mixer/sound card. It’s a great piece of gear in a 1 up rack mount cabinet. It has 8 XLR mic inputs on the front panel and pair of Line level inputs (suitable for direct plug-in for a guitar) as well as 4 channels out. Installing it was as simple as going to Tascam’s website and downloading the drivers for Windows 7 and then plugging the USB cable into my computer. Cubase supports it. I can switch back and forth between it and the in-cabinet Delta1010LT in a matter of seconds via the control panel of the computer. I seriously doubt it would have been that simple under Linux.
For others, Linux may be the answer and I still have to admit, I have a soft spot for it. But the hidden costs of my experience with “free software” has put me back in the Windows camp, at least for now.
So this new computer is happily running Linux and I’m starting to get used to it. It does pretty much everything I ever asked my computer to do. There is Bluefish, an excellent HTML editor, to replace an ancient copy of Homesite (for Windows) that has been on my computers for time immemorial. Open Office does pretty much everything to suit my needs. It opens and plays nice with all my archives from my antique copy of Office XP. Thunderbird is an excellent email program, which has been on my Windows computers for years after Outlook 2002 became outrageously flaky. Everything just works. However, it did take me considerably longer to get everything the way I wanted than it did with Windows.
Now comes Ardour and the ALSA/Jack audio part. I linked up with an excellent support site operated by the electronic music department at Stanford. The site is called PlanetCCRMA (google it) and is run almost entirely by one man, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano. The man is brilliant, both as a musician and a computer geek.?His best quality (from my viewpoint) is that he could explain the theory of relativity to Larry the Cable Guy so Larry could understand it.
I installed Ardour and a bunch of ancillary programs necessary to make Ardour actually do something useful. Also, a 10 channel audio card got installed about the same time in the computer. It’s a Delta 1010LT, made by M-Audio and came highly recommended from the Linux audio community. After installing the software and the sound card, it should have been a simple task to tell the computer to stop using the built-in sound chip and start using the new card… or at least you would think so.
The service used for most Linux audio is called PulseAudio. It was added to most flavors of Linux a few years ago to allow multiple sounds to be played at once, such as playing a mail chime while you’re watching a YouTube video. The service used to support the high end audio that Ardour produces uses a process called ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) and is controlled by a program called Jack (if you’re a Linux guru and my explanation is not quite exact, please forgive me). Apparently the two sound services don’t always play nicely together. Some applications are written supporting PulseAudio and some are written supporting ALSA. Some support both. But if PulseAudio is running, ALSA cannot and vice versa. So if you have Ardour open and need to watch a piece of a DVD, that DVD playing application better have ALSA support in it or you’re going to have problems. In an ideal world, there would be a mediator to allow them to co-exist. It’s being worked on, but it ain’t ready for prime time, yet.
But my problem was even more serious. Since the new audio card was installed, no audio was coming out of the computer. Off to Google-Land I went. Days later, I found what appeared to be the solution. Everything seemed to work on the screen. The right indicators were there, just no audio. The box the card came in had been opened, so perhaps it was returned and was defective. It came out of the Linux box and got plugged into my older Windows XP computer. Installed the Windows drivers and it worked, first time! So it wasn’t the card.
Back to the Linux box. Another day or two went by in Google-Land as I attempted to figure out what the hell was going on. Finally, in frustration, I sent an email off to the PlanetCCRMA mailing list. Fernando suggested that I get something that pretty much was guaranteed to work out of the box in ALSA/Jack. Download a drum synth program and run one of the demo loops while trying to figure things out. Oh, by the way, I should go into the mixer program for the card and turn everything up, as usually all that stuff is muted in Linux. BINGO!!!! For three or four days, I had been chasing trouble when the only thing holding me back was that the volume on the card was turned down. Nirvana had been reached, for the moment.
I played a bit with Ardour. For such a complex piece of software, it is surprisingly simple to learn and understand the basics. Within a few days, I figured out how to import existing audio into Ardour, so I could start with a complete backing track to record my pathetic attempts at impersonating a guitarist. Adding a track wasn’t too tough. I found out a great deal in a very short period of time while playing with Ardour. I was happy!
BUT THAT WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE!!!
Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been a geek for pretty much all my life. When I was 11 years old (back when dinosaurs roamed the planet), I had a workbench in my bedroom, with soldering iron, a Simpson Volt-Ohm-Milliameter and a Knight-Kit oscilloscope (homebuilt). There was always a twin bed rather than something larger, because I needed the room for all the various junk I used to drag in to fix/cannibalize or otherwise tinker with.
That carried over to my later years as well. I worked as a counterman at an electronic parts house for a year and had to regularly inventory several thousand RCA vacuum tubes.
So, when Radio Shack came out with their first computer, the TRS-80 Model I, I had to have one. I even “lowered” myself to go to Radio Shack to buy one. No self-respecting geek would be caught dead in Radio Shack, but with an investment of that much money, I wanted a stable brand for my first computer, and Apple wasn’t it (yet). Since then, there has always been at least one computer involved in my life and usually many more. I’ve been through PC-DOS and MS-DOS and DR-DOS, from Windows 2.0 (sorry, I missed 1.0) through Windows 7. I fooled around with BSD Unix, FreeBSD, and half a dozen different flavors of Linux, Lindows (Linspire), Mandrake, Slackware, Debian, SuSe, Knoppix and Ubuntu. But I found RedHat Linux somewhere around version 5.0 and it always made so much sense to me that it became my favorite.
What attracted me to Linux was the concept of free software. Now, the free software advocates tout it as “Free as in Freedom, not free as in beer.” But the fact of the matter is that it is pretty much also free as in beer. I bought my early copies of RedHat. Anyone could download the software for free via the internet,?but at the time, the idea of downloading a full installation copy of Linux via my 33.6k modem was a non-starter. My first application was to design a PC based router, that would let me use my single modem connection to run two computers on one connection. I had just bought a new computer and given the old one to my kids to “learn” about the internet and I needed a method to get two computers online. That required a third computer, which I dug out of a dumpster somewhere… but I digress. I learned a lot about computing building a web server, mail server and a file server for use on my home network at a time when a lot of homes were lucky to have just one computer. I had 3, even if one smelled like old fish and coffee grounds!
Let’s move forward to late 2010. I’ve been using Linux now for at least 12~15 years and I’m pretty comfortable getting around most of it. It’s improved a lot, but the complaints are still out there that it is not a user friendly environment. Suddenly, I’m playing guitar again and I want to build a Digital Audio Workstation, the heart of a home recording studio so I can record my progress as I learn. Where do I turn? Why, Linux, of course!
There is a program out there called Ardour, which runs on Linux. According to all reports it is the cat’s meow of Digital Audio Workstations, on par with Cubase and several other semi-pro and professional pieces of software for Microsoft Windows or Apple’s OSX. Best of all, it’s available for download via the internet free of charge!
So, off I go to my local CompUSA store (no not the one you remember from several years ago that went bankrupt. This is owned by Tiger Direct and is truly a geek’s paradise) to buy parts to build a Digital Audio Workstation. Within a day, the computer was built and Fedora 14 (RedHat’s experimental, free software offering) was installed. The machine breathed fire, it was so fast! Everything was wonderful, except I had to find modules so I could play MP3 files on the computer… and install another piece of software so I could play DVD’s on the computer. Then there was the issue of getting a Flash animation player to run on the computer. I had to have that, as my son is an animator on the internet and I have to be able to see his cartoons. Several hours were spent online trying to find out how to make that work with Google Chrome, my web browser of choice (which installed perfectly, thank you). Google said they had a self contained version inside the Chrome browser, but it turned out it was only on the 32 bit version of the browser and I was running the 64 bit version. Adobe had instructions on how to cobble everything together. Those directions didn’t work on my computer.
But after about a week, I had everything running on my computer to make me happy. Now was the time to make it into a Digital Audio Workstation.