Saturday Run-Through

I did a run-through of the live set for my roommates. It was helpful to have a concert from start to finish with a live audience and feedback:

More relaxed, authentic, less artificial. Had fun. Take the mic out of the stand.

Pick three songs to show my story – Mignon, Pulses, Reverse. Personal experience to let the audience connect.

Use the microphone as a dance partner.

Quicker transitions between songs.

Just You – add later in the set to group guitar with the other songs.

Make the beat ready, then introduce the name of the song, then start singing.

Normalize the instrument levels for all of the songs.

Add more fx with the voice – use options on the TC Helicon. More reverb.


Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – make sure all bass parts are in tune (not transposed – was there a global setting from Pulses that applied to the entire bass track)? Practice when to come in with the vocals so I sync up with the clip. Should I make a transition between each part of the arrangement?

Mignon – loop and overdub the chorus – sing over it.

Morning – strum with fingers, not pick. More tender to match the vocals and lyrics.

Angel – ending – analyze the best way to end it.


Apollo – people really like this one. Go directly from A to B – don’t bring it back to A to repeat the arrangement. It kills the energy. Check the tuning in the bass in the lowest note of the B section – sounds sharp.

Get stems for Just Get Here – Elkin + Alarke – play in the Alarke set.

Sing into the microphone! Maybe take the microphone out of the stand and carry over to the gear.

Good to step back from the microphone and dance. Move more. Move my body while doing the electronics. Animate the DJ element. Reggie Watts.

All fx – launch bass and drums together.

Drums: reverb

Bass: distortion

Synth: delay & filter sweep

Vox: delay

Stand closer to my table of gear so I don’t have to go far away from the mic.

Stay bouncy in my body and dance with the music even when I’m not singing.

Use more vocal effects on the TC Helicon.

Be more elegant. Being elegant never hurt anyone.

Friday Stu Sesh

Studio session. Friday morning. So many ideas and goals. Gypsy jazz gig tonight with Tim at Le Fanfare. Alarke show on Monday at Pianos. 10am meeting tomorrow (Saturday) with Kirk (my mentor / president of Avatar Studios). I need to ask him for help in creating a schedule that I can actually do this coming week. I know this, but I need to understand through experience that baby steps are necessary and that I cannot get too ambitious within a short period of time. I need to strategizeeeeee.

Pianos show prep – can I use Touchable to see the Ableton set so I don’t have to use the computer? At the same time, I could use the iPad to document the performance. BUT – the most important thing is to have a good live show. Why use the iPad to document the show when I could use it to make an ever btter show to document?

Saturday run-through for Gisela – set up table top on the music stand. Check tonight to make sure I have the base of the stand. Time the set. Videotape it. Look into stand carrying cases online. Gig bags for all gear!

– tabletop for gear
– tape controllers to read what instrument their knobs correspond to
– stems for Just Get Here
– getting the NanoKontrol to sync with Ableton – it was syncing before and now it is not
– guitar for Just You, Morning
– play guitar at the Gypsy jazz gig tonight at Le Fanfare to get warmed up. Play with dynamics.
– need more dedicated practice time!!!!
– guitar on Just You – audio is not coming through. Why? Do I need this or will I play guitar? Need to get a guitar stand.
– Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – TC Helicon harmony volume. Using this instrument is a strength. USE IT WELL!! Singing – my strength, over Ableton.
– normalize volume of all tracks. Reverse is louder than others.
– bass for Pulses

Pulses – Getting it under my fingers

Last night I felt inspired to paint. It’s been since the summer since I last brought out my paints. I got a few sheets of framed glass and I’m going to use them to layer colored pointilism paintings. I started with variations in red textures, colors, and shapes. The meaning behind the song Pulses. It all goes together. I’m going to layer the glass sheets and add a backlit light to illuminate them. Maybe also reflect tiny little mirrored glass behind them. I’m inspired to create visual art again.

Now sitting down at the spacious studio with the Steinway and light streaming in through the huge loft windows. Going to practice Pulses again. I booked two Alarke shows in March – March 13 at Pianos and March 24 at Connolly’s. I also am going to record this on video on February 23. It’s time to get this up in action. Fluent under my fingertips where I can sing and play without looking at the music. Starting now. Go!

Update: developed a climbing prechorus for “I cried I love you / into this light / my words burst into / stars in the night” and rolled interludes. Working on getting smoother, more comfortable transitioning between chords.

Next step: continue working on the transitions and getting it under my fingers. Work on vocals with the piano. Then add the TC Helicon vocal harmonies.

Pulses – transposition

Friday morning at the ever-spacious Sage Music studio and this 100-year old glorious Steinway with real ivory keys. The beauty of the keys – I never actually thought until now how they’ve been alive. Growing. On tusks. I mean, I knew, but I am forever seeing things in new perspectives.

I’m going to move Pulses down from the key of E to C or D. I think it will resonate better in my voice and make it easier for others to sing along to the song. I feel eager to find it – but I know that I should take my time and try out both keys instead of making a rushed decision. I just want to get it and move on. However, learning it in both keys will make me a better pianist anyways. I was also considering C#/Db, inspired by Antony and the Johnson’s Bird Gerhl, but it’s trickier to play (so many sharps/flats), which I can do, but it’s harder to link with other musicians and play right away. It’ll take a bit longer for people to get the song under their fingertips. Maybe. For the best musicians, no. But I want to keep options open.

Tried both C and D. Going to stick with C. Video shoot in three weeks. I’m going to practice this piece so I could do it in my sleep. Play it like no one’s business with keys and the TC Helicon vocal fx.

Video idea – start in black and white. The lyrics are about pale colors. Open up to color on “shatter horizons, observe the sight / come to awaken vision so bright.” Then do crazy fx and collages for the chorus.

Pulses – Bird Gerhl Inspo

Feeling inspired by this performance of Bird Gerhl by Antony and the Johnsons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNK6ycMm1YU

Antony changed her name – she’s now Ahnoni. I admire her so much for her courageousness in her representation of her transgender identity and with her openness in her music. I want to be like her, with her amazing music and visual art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anohni. I’m also sometimes feeling bad that I’ve lost time for myself. I’m not the young teenager pop star. I never really wanted to be that, anyways. It’s comforting to know, however, that Ahnoni garnered first critical acclaim at age 34. Makes me feel more confident that time IS on my side and age is a number. IT’s more about mentality.

Ok. Pulses work now. I had written this song in a Gypsy caravan in France and in artist studios in London and Paris. It’s written for guitar and electronics, but I just love the piano and want to play so something with triggering beats, playing piano, and doing vocal harmonies a la James Blake. Yesterday, I cleaned up the chart I had written for it so it makes sense more. I understand theory more when I spell it out on piano, rather than on guitar. It’s easier to count intervals and visualize relationships between chords. Piano’s my first instrument and I love it. Sometimes I regret spending so much time these last few years working with guitar, but time is not lost. I’ve learned so many beautiful jazz harmonies and chord progressions that I can now take with me to the piano.

Today’s studio goal is to work through the piano part more. I scheduled a video shoot with Kwesi Peters (amazing and generous NYC-based videographer) for the end of the month, so this will give me an impetus to focus on this song. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with what to focus on. This will give me a goal to work towards.

Getting the chords in my hands – play them with my eyes closed.

Did it. Pulses on the keys is becoming a part of me. Working on piano. One piece at a time, not getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once. Feeling amazing. I love piano.

First practice session in NYC in 2017

First structured practice session of the new year at Sage. Lofty, airy. 100 year-old Steinway with real ivory keys and a natural wood finish. I am so lucky and I am grateful to have this in my life.

My goal is to develop mastery with the TC Helicon voice and instrument processor pedal by May. It sounds far away, but it’ll sneak up quickly.

 

I’ll start with my song Pulses. My vision for this song is a bit different than how it is on the record. I want to make it a combination of Latin and boss’s nova harmonies with beatboxed percussion going through the TC Helicon. A mixture between Gal Costa & Caetano Veloso’s Baby and James Blake’s rocking style. Not as him as a rockstar, but literally, his music rocks / sways back and forth. Like dancing.

Notes on last night’s performance at Winnie’s: feeling proud. I set intentions during the day and listened to my favorite podcast on visualization while I was getting ready in the green room. I used to have conflicting feelings about gigs. I would treat them differently depending on the venues and repertoire. For example, I would care more about my original music than covers I was playing because I felt a stronger emotional connection to the music. This is all in line with my last blog post about interpreting others’ music. Since I started setting goals in the fall, I’ve been holding myself to a higher standard. Now, every performance is at the highest standard I can give. I imagine myself on stage at Carnegie Hall. When there are lights in front of my feet at the microphone, I imagine they’re the footlights onstage at Carnegie. I stand more still and am more deliberate with my gestures. I have been getting into dance recently. I imagined my vocals dancing in the rhythms and pitches. I think it was one of the best singing performances I’ve ever done. I wasn’t drinking. I think that helps – not so loose. I was on my own tip. A jib jab. If you know, you know. One of my favorite excerpts was a cover of Georgia On My Mind. I want to record this piece. I started it with more of a speech-singing approach with direct vocals that weren’t too “singy.” Honest, real. Not trying to be Ray Charles or others who have sung this song. It was my own. Then, in the B section going into the final A section, I opened up to a chest voice – and later asked Justin, my bandmate, what note that was – it was an E!! Yeah, baby. The technical key to replicating that kind of delivery is to tilt my held back to change the position of my larynx and to stretch far and open in the back of my head. For high notes in head voice (classical style), you stretch up and diagonally back. For high notes in chest voice, it’s a lower position in the back of your head, behind your ears. Most importantly, it’s all about feeling. Being with the music. This technical approach is to just be able to repeat it and to teach others how to do it, too.

 

Me and Ian Hutchinson (bass) at the gig last night.


Maria Callas, one of my favorite opera singers, and one of the greatest of all time, has a few videos up on YouTube where she’s interviewed about her process in getting into a role. The art of performing. EVERYTHING has a purpose. Every gesture. Every look. It’s acting. You know, Beyonce steps into a role onstage. She created a stage persona named Sascha Fierce. The idea is that your character is not the same as your performance and your voice or instrument. I take this in my daily life, too. Even walking down the street, I think about my posture, my arms, the distance between my steps. This attuned awareness informs the performance and also just who I am and want to be.

 

If you’re interested in Maria Callas’ interviews, start here.

 

Ok, goals for today’s practice session:
Warm up on voice and piano – done
Play piano though Lovage (an original piece in development) and the intro to Franz Schubert’s Nacht und Traume – done
TC Helicon pedal —- my main goal, and I should not forget it by being distracted with so many other wonderful things. I need to figure out why my harmony settings change after shifting in and out of presets. This should not happen. Also, why does the stutter function not work properly? It stutters background noises and not my voice. I need to focus on loop and beatboxing practice for Pulses and addressing these two issues.

 

Alright, getting to it. L8r.