domenica 27 maggio 2018

Un piccolo concerto.

Un piccolo concerto is a little concert or gig.
I'm off to Newtown this evening suonare il mio violino in un piccolo concerto.

This is the place.

The plan is to play two solo violin pieces - originals that I wrote.
They are called Nefanie and The Immigrants.
I originally wrote Nefanie for the double bass many years ago and I think that I've only ever played it once in public. The name comes from what my daughter (Stephanie) called herself when she was a toddler. One cold morning, when she was in her early teens, I was practising this tune in the living room. She came out of her bedroom and huddled by the heater.
I seized the moment and said, "I wrote this piece for you."
She was quiet for a while and then she gave a considered reply, "One of these mornings, if you don't shut up, sonebody's going to break that bass."

True story.
So why am I playing the violin and not the double bass? Simple -  the violin is easier to carry.
It's also a fun instrument to play and playing solo is a bit of a challenge. I've worked a lot on my tone and vibrato lately and am looking forward to the challenge. My playing is in the jazz style - I use a lot of improvisation, but I have some important tools:
  • I always make sure that I know the chord progression back to front because this is what gives shape to what is going on.
  • I have different ways of playing over the chords  - chords, arpeggios, varying textures and a few other little tricks.
  • I try to make the tune stand out.
Nefanie is a slowish piece that relies on tone and a wide vibrato. The Immigrants is faster but I generally use a rubato intro and / or outro. I like to have a bit of fun with that tune.

My long term plan is to have 24 solo violin tunes that are up to speed. That would give me enough tunes to play solo (with no music) in a restaurant for two solid hours. If people liked my playing, then maybe I could get a gig for the Testore Trio.
I'm not very good at getting gigs. Maybe I should have worked on that skill first?

sabato 26 maggio 2018

The Scotsman is back.

Twisted Scottish Bastard is back!


This is up there with such events as Batman Returns and Die Hard 2!

I hope our little blogging community is prepared for a bit of a jolt because TSB doesn't do nice or gentle. Some of you will be too young to remember how it feels after reading a TSB blog, but you'll learn.

Welcome back TSB.

giovedì 24 maggio 2018

The pub with no beer.

I noticed this interesting shop name in Nuova Lazio. In English it would be Beautiful Beauty and in Italian it would be Bella Bellezza. "Unusual combination of languages and words." I thought.

Bella Beauty with car.
I'd stopped to get a coffee from our local coffee shop. It has strange opening hours and, when one feels like partaking in a little cafine, it's often found to be closed. I've stopped for a coffee three times.
Here are the results:
  • The lady apologised and said that they were out of coffee.
  • I got a coffee.
  • The lady said that they were having maintenance carried out on the coffee machine.
Okay, Monty Python's Cheese Shop skit probably pops to mind pretty fast, but I actually thought of this song...

mercoledì 23 maggio 2018

Stop crying, accept Jesus you fools.

Sorry, I stole today's post title from Robert's blog (though I did add a comma for better grammar).
I always get a bit worried when I see rugby players thanking god (or Jesus) after scoring a try.

It's like armies who claim they have god on their side.

Is god like a super hero?

Personally I think I prefer Zeus,


and Angry Jesus.

Angry Jesus

lunedì 21 maggio 2018

How to make a blog post interesting.

I'm writing this to help out a friend who is struggling to write interesting stuff on his blog.*

Let's start with the don'ts:
  • Don't talk about gardening and don't blame tools that you don't know how to use.
  • Don't show pictures of kayaks.
  • Don't show pictures of household windows.
  • Don't talk about community work, especially when people like Robert are still going off to real jobs. Remember too - how many people in The Salvation Army have interesting blogs?
  • Don't talk about what you had for lunch or dinner. If you need to tell people, put up a picture on facebook.
  • Don't give details about what wine you're drinking. Just drink it because readers don't care.


I've taken three pictures to give you three examples:


A bad storm has hit! It blew over this (heavy) outside chair, so just imagine what damage was done to the house! Thank heavens you thought to store first aid supplies and water! You're presently sleeping at the local Marae. All roads out of town have been washed away.


You survived a shark attack! You certainly don't get an injury like this retrieving golf balls! It was a great white and it bit your kayak in half! The only good outcome, besides surviving, is that the kayak is now ruined and there with be no more serene pictures of kayaks on your blog. This story is probably good for 3 blog posts (and you'll get lots of comments).


You've entered your name in the 2019 Tour de France! This is exciting, especially when your age is taken into account. You will start your training in your bedroom on the above bike, but readers should not be fooled! The stand this bike is on comes off and two wheels can be fitted. This will be the first time an exercycle has been ridden in the famous race. Once this post is written your readership will skyrocket!

* * *

One last thing. You don't need to have about 18 blogs written by different characters. 
Just try to make it interesting.

* no names mentioned

domenica 20 maggio 2018

For those who missed the point of my last post.

Ab minor is a slightly unusual key. It is the relative minor of Cb major. Cb major is an enharmonic version of B major. Who cares?

Remember this picture from my last post?
I had an ex student come around yesterday. He is in his second year at a university that runs what is called an Industrial Music course - or something like that. The idea of the course is to prepare people for the music industry. It covers recording, band playing and practical musicianship. I think the people on the staff are people who have done okay in the NZ music industry. All good. This young chap is a very talented musician and will do very well because he is very motivated. A little while back his band beat over 80 other bands to win NZ's battle of the bands. Not bad at all!
He has this assignment to do that involves him writing a piece of music. He can use recorded sounds but he must include some live instruments. He thought of me and included 8 violin parts and 4 double bass parts. He asked me to record these 12 parts. He didn't know what key his piece was in when he started writing it - he used his very good ears. He 'wrote' 12 string parts that go from very low on the double bass (what they call 'Drop D' on bass guitar) to way up high on the violin (high on the bass too). This is not an easy task - we recorded 3 of the 4 double bass parts yesterday and it took just under 3 hours. He used some virtual string instruments to find the notes he wanted. I think these are like pictures of the instruments and you touch it in different places to find notes. He was talking of lines that contained notes like D#, Bb, C#, G and F.

Remember this picture?

Whoever wrote this part knew a lot about the double bass.
Whoever wrote this part knew where to find the high harmonics on a double bass. That first harmonc in bar 113, for instance, will sound as B an octave higher when the G string is touched lightly in the right place in the second octave. The next harmonic (E) will have to be played high up on the A string. I have a suspicion that whoever wrote these notes was showing off his knowledge of the instrument because they don't seem very important in the context of the part. Good on him though for making the part fun!

My ex student didn't have a clue how to write for string instruments. If you take all the notes he used in his parts and arrange them into a key, they come out as Eb, Bb, Db, G & F (plus a few others). His piece is actually in Bb minor. This is easy to tell because the last chord is full of Bb notes.
Playing Bb minor parts all over the neck of the double bass was not easy but I did it because I have done a lot of practice in the past. Getting the parts in tune was a real test. Only 13 parts to go now.

As he packed up his recording gear I gave this young chap some advice:
  • Learn how to write for instruments properly (he'd written all the bass parts an octave too low and had used lots of enharmonic notes - eg. C# instead of Db. This does not make the part easy to read).
  • Why use Bb minor when there was really no need? Why not more string instrument friendly keys like A minor or G minor or D minor?
  • Write easier parts and you get better results.
  • Learn a bit about how the instruments you are writing for are played and what is hard to play on them. Think about the poor guy who has to play them.
I wondered why the guys at his university don't teach basic orchestration / instrumentation.

* * *

Yesterday I enthusiastically showed another musician friend the Ab minor key signature. She didn't seem interested but told one of those parallel stories (as people do) about how her daughter had learnt all her key signatures for grade 8 (a music exam). That reminded me of Robert and his playing in a show comment on my last post.

So, what was my point about Ab minor? I guess the moment has been lost. Maybe you had to be there when I first saw it?

sabato 19 maggio 2018

Certainly anything goes in Anything Goes.

Just looking through the bass parts for the show Anything Goes. Here are two things you don't see every day - a piece in Ab minor and some very high harmonics for the double bass (not hard to play, but just makes me wonder if the arranger was a double bass player having a bit of fun).