venerdì 27 gennaio 2017

giovedì 26 gennaio 2017


I have used (studied with) duolingo for 650 days in a row.

Learning a language is a long journey. Using a language program is just part of what you need to do. I speak to a native speaker on Skype at least once a week, I listen to Radio 24 (Italia) every day and I watch things on YouTube.
Fluent? No, but I can get by pretty well.


The five things you need to do.
Chi va piano va sano e va lontano.

mercoledì 25 gennaio 2017


The 'p' stands for plastic, not the drug.

Nuova Lazio colours.
You'd think that a plastic trumpet would be shit, but it's not. It's bloody good - and costs about $240.

Watch this lady...

There's also another make called the Tromba...

This guy sounds good too on the pTrumpet...

I had fun playing one today - think I'll do some trumpet ptactice. Well, I do need to get ready for Anzac Day.

lunedì 23 gennaio 2017

Jam night tonight.

My son has asked me to go to a jazz jam with him tonight.

These guys won't really be there.

I immediately said, "Yes please."

I've been to a few in the past with him but have never got to play. There are always quite a few young bass players who get up onto the stage really quickly when the bass is offered to the next person.
Maybe I'll be lucky tonight?

Anyway, it's good to see what's happening in the Nuova Roma jazz scene. I might take my own bow - the bass is supplied by the guy who has been chosen to be in the 'jam band' - the guys who set up the jam for the evening. Sometimes there's a bow, sometimes there isn't. Also some basses bow better than others - it depends on the strings.

Baron Oscar Laven (left)

The guy holding the trumpet in the above photo might be there tonight. He is an extraordinary musician. He plays saxes, trumpet and other wind instruments and is a leading light in the Wellington jazz scene. I used to play with his mum and dad when I lived up north in Nuova Verona. It'll be nice to hear him again if he turns up.

Happy jamming to you all.

sabato 21 gennaio 2017

Buon Compleanno Bob.

90 oggi.

* * *

We popped in on Uncle Ian too.

venerdì 20 gennaio 2017

The holidays draw to a close.

I can't complain. Five weeks off.

Being at home is different to being at work. It always takes me a while to settle into a routine, and there is generally some sort of sickness that pops up during this time of destressing.
Then I really get my practice schedule underway.
A piece of advice:
If you want to improvise, study Bach's solo pieces.
Check out how he plays over chords - you'll have to work the chords out first though.
Oops, I've got to go.
I've got a Skype with an Italian friend coming up.
Have a good day.

lunedì 16 gennaio 2017


I popped into work this morning, then realised that I was one week too early.

In this case the 'worm' was more time off.

It's good to see both The Curmudgeon and Robert 3rd being enterprising on their blog posts - HERE and HERE.

I've got a little money making plan for when I retire too. I'm working up a 2 hour repertoire that I can use as a strolling violinist in Italian restaurants.

It's cheaper to hire just one musician and you get a more personal touch with him moving around.
For the musician this means memorising a large number of tunes (20 in my case). You also need arrangements that work well with just the violin playing. I've picked my repertoire carefully - 50% Italian and 50% jazz style tunes. Okay, this repertoire is not going to work so well in a Turkish restaurant, but the solo violin thing is more of an Italian restaurant attraction.
I use a lot of improvisation in my arrangements and try to use different textures - chords, broken chords and arpeggios. Jazz tunes work well for this style of playing because the chords are always moving along.  In a post by The Curmudgeon, about Cream (the band), the bass player says something about J. S. Bach being the man to make note of. This is very true. Study his solo cello and violin works and you'll get ideas on how to make a solo string instrument sound interesting.

It's a sunny day in Nuova Lazio and I have a young man painting two sides of our house. This is the easiest painting job I've ever done - thanks Morgan.

He assures me that, when finished, it will just be one colour.

sabato 14 gennaio 2017

Update from the bag.

Hi everyone.
My Saturdays start with Italian these days.
I Skype my friend Antonio and we talk for two hours. The first hour is in Italian and the second is in English. It's pretty taxing talking in Italian for an hour. At first I struggled but Antonio is always insistent that we keep going. Last week I noticed an improvement and this week I coped pretty well.
It wasn't long ago that Antonio was calling me a beginner. Today he said, "You're not fluent yet."
I guess that means I'm getting better.

I have four other Italian friends.
Francesco Monticelli is my oldest friend. I met him in Dunedin and he stayed with us for ten days. He lives in Roma with his girlfriend Paola who is also my friend. I have another friend named Francesco in Sicilia and a friend in Bari named Filippo.

I started this year with no written goals. Usually I make a practice goal that has usually become a bit unstuck by now and I'm racing to try to catch up. This year I have done more practice than ever. I guess I've internalised it more and I'm really enjoying practising.

Back to school next week, but only for two days. I need to clean up and set up gear. I'll also organise my computer, and buy some gear. All easy work. Then I'll have six days off before we begin in earnest. Only two terms to get through.

Ciao amici. Auguri.

mercoledì 11 gennaio 2017

How to make money.

I left a comment on The Curudgeon's blog about inventing things. He doesn't get much traffic, I think just Robert, so I thought I'd reiterate here.

Cheap nylon string guitars make the best back scratchers ever! Where the neck meets the body, on the opposite side to the strings, there is this little pointy bit. You hold the guitar over your shoulder, by the neck, with the strings facing the sky. Lower the guitar over your shoulder (either shoulder) and let the little pointy bit touch the desired part of your back - the itchy part. Honestly this is scratch heaven! Go into a music shop, ask the shop assistant if you can try a nylon string guitar (the cheaper the better) and try this. You won't be disappointed, I promise you that! When this gets out, every non guitar player will be rushing to by a nylon string guitar. Think of the increased sales!

See the sharp bit at the bottom where the neck joins the body.

martedì 10 gennaio 2017

I thought this was The Curmudgeon when I saw the top photo!

Hey Preston, what's cookin'?

I take my daughter to work most mornings. This task involves getting up at 5am, so that we can hit the road at about 5.55am - Steph puts on makeup (long job) and I check for blog activity and practise a bit of Italian before we head off.
When one does the same trip many times, it becomes a bit like that movie The Truman Show.

In case you haven't seen this movie, it's about a guy who doesn't know he's really the star of a reality show. Every morning, as he goes through the same routine, he passes people (actors) who are put there on cue.

Steph and observe regular events each morning as we head to our destination - the Nuova Roma railway station.

Our first regular sighting is of a woman walking huskies as we drive through Nuova Lazio.

Not the actual woman, but you get the idea.
There are various vehicles and people that we see on a regular basis. We also pass a sign that annoys Steph because the slogan gets stuck in her head.

Steph took a really bad photo of it this morning.

The sign reads - Sugar, sugar everywhere, especially in your drink.

Nuova Roma's smart motorway is an important part of the trip.

They spent ages building this smart motorway, but it doesn't seem to do anything smart. There are a few speed signs and a few instruction signs that always say the same thing. There are also a few lights that always seem to be malfunctioning.

There is one truck that is the highlight of our trip. I noticed him behind me yesterday as we climbed the Nuova Lazio hill. I was very excited because I hadn't seen him for months and months.

I carefully timed this morning's trip so that we might see it again.

Low and behold there it was, right in front of us!

I guess it's not really the truck, or it's oblivious to his fame driver, that does it for us.
It's the slogan on the back of the truck.

I mean, some advertising guy was probably paid big bucks to come up with this,

Hey Preston, what's cookin'?

Steph and I always vocalise the sign together whenever we see it. Then we laugh.

I guess that, at 6pm in the morning, we are people of simple pleasures.

domenica 8 gennaio 2017

Blogging; there's more to it than meets the eye.

Everyone likes to settle down to a nice read, to find out what people are up to, and our little blogging community certainly contributes towards reader satisfaction by the tireless efforts of our bloggers.
Two regular contributers are G Watkins III and, the leader in its field, Richard's Bass Bag.*
Blogs sometimes tackle the big issues and, at quieter times, just give a portal into the blogger's private life or his practice schedule.
G Watkins III is famous for it's ability to go off in tangents and to explore new approaches to grammar. So how does their editor in chief, Robert, get into the zone?

Robert likes to start with a supermarket beer to get the creative juices flowing. He says that a few wine chasers certainly help, especially if the evening is to be finished off with a few Facebook comments.

For Richard (of RBB) it's straight to the wine.

He finds that a Clearskin is very capable of producing controversial writing that sometimes might need a quick delete or, at least an edit, in the morning.

Robert and Richard (of RBB) both laugh when asked about some of their rather hostile exchanges both on each other's blog and on Facebook.
"A blogger has to know how to take a punch." says Robert.
"Yes," Richard (of RBB) adds, "people want a bit of excitement - a bit of controversy - and we try to give them that. You get bloggers like TSB who tries to do it with pictures of semi clothed young ladies and that older guy The Curmudgeon who seems to always be upsetting the old girl or going on about climbing hills up north somewhere. Robert and I like to put it together pretty quickly and give the reader some exchange follow up, as we call it, that cuts straight the chase."
"Yes, people even comment that they enjoy getting up in the morning to see if all my posts have been deleted again. That really annoys other bloggers who have left long thought out comments on them." Robert says with a smile.
"Yes, Robert is a genius at the art of drawing out comments and then, bam, they're gone!" adds Richard (of RBB). "You've got to give him respect for that."
"And Richard (of RBB)'s special talent is that he can create a blog post out of nothing. Just think how many times you've sat there reading about what he is going to practise today?" says Robert.
"Yes," adds Richard (of RBB). "and I'm always surprised how so many non musicians will wade their way through it! To be honest, if someone is going to give me details of how they practise the trombone, I don't want to know."
"Hard hitting, but fair." concludes Robert. "I might post a video of me practising violin tonight, just to annoy Richard (of RBB!"
Both gifted bloggers laugh.

* * *

The dedication that these two guys put into their art makes you want to stand up and salute them. Let's remember too that this form of blogging is totally unpaid and these bloggers buy their own wine and beer.
So, next time your in some poncy art gallery where someone is asking for $4000 for throwing some paint at a canvas or the plumber gives you a $400 bill for simply unblocking your toilet, think of the pleasure you get out of these spirited bloggers who do it all for (and after) a wine or a beer.

* the original bass bagging site

martedì 3 gennaio 2017

2017 - year of practice.

Okay, this year's immediate plan is sorted.

Sometimes Often I don't get many gigs and this can make motivation hard.

Well, this year I've got my practice off to a flying start.
Last year you may remember that I played 24 solo concerts for my lovely neighbour who passed away. I really got my solo playing happening with these concerts and I had the idea to build on that.

I've put together a 12 piece repertoire for violin and and a 10 piece repertoire for double bass. There are 7 tunes that cross over, so that's really 12 pieces to work up.
With solo repertoires one can go out and play on one's own. I know, that's pretty obvious. The repertoires will be completely memorised so that no music will be required.

This means that I could do roving jobs.

Or solo spots at concerts.

I have played solo quite a bit in the past, so I know the terrain.

Maybe I'll work up a solo guitar repertoire too?

Actually that's a good idea; but maybe a little further down the track.

domenica 1 gennaio 2017


Happy Retirement Year New Year!

Sorry about the crappy photo.
Buon anno a tutti!

It's a very wet and windy day. A good day for kicking off some practice and Italian study for the year.