Jose at Musika “Luma” Album Launch, March 5, 2016

Jose at Musika - Luma Cover

Jose at Musika, the band that I currently play in, will be launching its album entitled “Luma” on March 5, 2016. The launch will feature guest performances by the following bands:

Antimano
Dhruva Tara
Maryzark
Carlo Ordonez of Kastigo
Clubhouse
Soil & Green
Jana Garcia
Agos
Unmute
Coming Up Roses
Mooncake

The likelihood that I’ll be playing with another band (*ahem* Clubhouse *ahem* among others) is a possibility.

The launch will hosted by DJ Acey and will be held at Mang Rudy’s Tuna Grill and Papaitan, Yakal St., Makati City. There will be an entrance fee of Php 200 (includes one free drink), and a copy of the album costs Php 250 which will be sold at the gate.

Jose at Musika is Jose de los Reyes on acoustic guitar and vocals, Wilbert Tan on lead guitar, Robert Taylan on bass, Jazz Magday on drums, and yours truly on piano/keyboards.

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Johnny Alegre’s Jazz Guitar Workshop @ Tiendesitas Super Jazz Weekend – Part 1: “The Experience”

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(Author’s note: Earlier this week, I asked permission from Mr. Johnny Alegre to post this piece. Last night, I was granted permission to do so and even got help completing the piece in its final form from the legendary jazz guitarist himself. I feel very honored.)

Around 3 p.m. last Sunday (May 25, 2014), I stopped by Tiendesitas to attend a very much anticipated jazz guitar workshop. This jazz guitar workshop was facilitated by none other than one of the top jazz guitar heroes of the Philippines, Mr. Johnny Alegre. I’ve heard of Sir Johnny around the late 90s, but I became acquainted with his work through his CD “Eastern Skies”. The blend of jazz guitar and the sounds of the Global Studio Orchestra (conducted by Gerard Salonga) was captivating to say the least, and I wondered how Sir Johnny was able to do his thing. This afternoon’s event was a chance I took to somehow find out how he thinks musically as well as gain some useful information to improve my jazz composition and piano/guitar skills.

The workshop kicked off with an interview conducted by Zach Lucero (former NU107 DJ and drummer of Imago and Humanfolk), which served as kind of an introduction to Sir Johnny. Afterwards, Sir Johnny tried to figure out what his audience was like that afternoon, a mixed group of people consisting of beginner-level guitarists to people who’ve had many years of experience, such as myself. The key tips in his workshop were:

  1. Be in tune.
  2. Play in time. Have good timing.
  3. Strive for the right tone.
  4. Have good visualization (e.g. practice playing all your modes across the fretboard, draw fretboard charts)
  5. Listen to great works of music.

The workshop had discussions ranging from some of the most basic topics such as getting in tune and scale shapes to more advanced discussions of jazz theory such as modes and the impact of Latin American music.

In terms of jazz guitar playing and composition, one of the points that greatly captured my interest was Sir Johnny’s discussion and demonstration about modal interchange and secondary dominants. Why is it such a big deal? It is because it explained a lot of things such as playing minor pentatonic or the Dorian mode over a major blues chord progression, “out there” soloing, the use of color/passing/approach tones, and other stuff that makes jazz sound like what it is. Modal interchange and secondary dominants make perfect sense as to how many jazz pieces (bebop and modal jazz in particular) start at a particular key signature, drift in and out of different key signatures, and then end right back at the original key signature without sounding jarring like a 20th-century serial composition (Ascension-era John Coltrane is a different case for another discussion). Sir Johnny’s words regarding the matter had confirmed what I have been hearing and trying to do before: Modal interchange has big implications not only in the way we approach soloing but also in reharmonization and composition.

The seminar sort of felt like most of my jazz theory discussions with pianist Steve Nixon, with the exception that this time it’s about jazz guitar. I have been learning jazz through a pianist’s perspective for most of my life as a musician, but this afternoon was the first time that I was able to learn jazz directly from a guitarist’s perspective. For years I have done work to try and understand the theory of jazz through a piano keyboard and have been trying to transfer that knowledge through the guitar. Thanks to Sir Johnny’;s workshop, I was able to confirm that I must be doing something right with all that experimentation and self-learning. More than that, I now have some understanding as to how Johnny Alegre approaches jazz guitar and this big musical language called jazz itself. Would I say that the workshop was a success? I would say yes simply because my understanding of how and why jazz guitar is what it is has improved vastly thanks to Sir Johnny.

So, how did it all end for me? Well, like a star-struck fanboy, I fumbled around thanking the man for the stuff I learned and I asked permission to publish this post (with snippets of the recording and photos). As star-struck as I am, I forgot to introduce myself properly, despite trying to converse with him three times, and I forgot to purchase his latest album (which I will BTW) despite having prepared some cash for it. I even made an embarrassment of myself by asking, “What was that piece you played at the end?” only for him and another member of the audience to tell me that it’s Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” in a tone that seemed like, “Isn’t it obvious that Johnny’s playing ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’? Duh…” Oh well, if I do meet him again, I’ll take note of these things and hope to be a bit more composed and refined in the way I conduct myself in front of him.

If time permits (and if I am allowed to do so), yours truly will  transcribe some of examples Sir Johnny performed in the workshop and make them available here (in standard notation and tab). Watch out for Part 2 of this piece as I try to retell some of the things I have learned from Mr. Johnny Alegre.

For more information about Johnny Alegre, his latest and past albums, and his other projects, please visit this Facebook page or his website.

That is all for now…

I don’t know if I should be happy that my piece entitled Filipino Mediocrity Starts with the Individual is getting some form of attention lately. At one point, it is flattering that some people think it makes sense.  It cannot be helped that there are people who will revile it and/or use it as a jumping point to promote their religious or philosophical affiliations. At the very least it has an audience.

First off, this site is mostly intended to feature yours truly as a composer and musician involved in everyday life. Other than that, things such as my opinions regarding society, politics, etc. are secondary. Don’t get me wrong; I am delighted in the fact that some people are taking my alternative views seriously, happy even that it is creating some form of awareness among readers regarding what are the ills of Filipino society and what can we think and work on as solutions (something that is not my expertise whatsoever).

From time to time, I may write about Filipino society, but I’m guessing it will be from the perspective of yours truly as a composer, musician, and family man and how it affects me rather than launching off into a political agenda of some sort which is very much beyond my capabilities. I’d rather talk about music instead.

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In other matters, Joel de Guzman’s (head honcho of Cycfi Research, Inc.) Cycfi Research Neo hexaphonic pickups have begun to emerge out of his shop. Watch out for those. I hope to have them installed on some of my guitars soon for more musical experiments.

That is all…for now…

LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble Live @ “A Hundredfold for the Lord Music Festival” 03/08/2014

LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble 03-08-2014
Yours truly on classical guitar, first guitarist from the left

Last Saturday’s “A Hundredfold for the Lord Music Festival” at UCCP-Ellinwood Malate Church was absolutely wonderful! I played as a lead guitar player for the group I now dub as the LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble. All instrumentalists, solo singers, choirs, and support staff gave their all for the Lord. For the many people who have missed it, here’s the LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble’s short set:

1. “Introduction” (Improvisation by LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble)
2. “Rock of My Salvation (Music by Teresa Muller, instrumental arrangement by Joel Gervacio)
3. “Salamat Musika” (Music by Gary Granada, instrumental arrangement by LCSMC Stringed Instrument Ensemble)

Some of the things that I hope to have done in the concert include play one of my original compositions on solo piano and perform some piano as well for the ensemble (although this would equate to completely missing the point/concept of the ensemble). Anyway, there were at least six pianists around during the concert, and so it would have been redundant had I been plucked out to play some piano (plus there were much superior pianists around like Rev. Leo Rempola and Rey del Rosario).

I had initially planned to record the entire concert straight from UCCP-Ellinwood’s Main Sanctuary audio board. Unfortunately, technical limitations only allowed me to record the set where I played in. What sort of technical limitation was that? The sound guy only hand one RCA cable which he had to use to hook up mp3 players for first musical offering acts (Christian Pop). Since the group I played with was part of the second musical offering, I could only ask the sound guy to record my group’s set.

However wonderful the concert was, here’s are two items that I think could have made the concert a lot better:

1. Improved promotion. Search the Internet for this particular event and my blog shows up as the top result. LCSMC doesn’t seem to be keen on promoting their concerts except using limited exposure via Facebook. I’m not sure if this was done, but perhaps they could have also advertised the concert at 98.7 DZFE, NCCP, etc. You get the drift. I do think that the LCSMC should promote such events to a wider audience rather than to just member churches.

2. An LCSMC House Band. I am very much peeved by the preferences for backing tracks (what we call in the Philippines as “minus ones”) over live musicians by the majority of the pop singers (no offense, okay?) that performed in the concert. Such music could have been performed to a professional standard by a group of musicians available within the LCSMC. I do think that LCSMC has an abundance of instrumentalists that could have been commissioned to become a sort of house band that would play all sorts of Christian music ranging from contemporary to even classical.

Anyway, the most important thing about this concert was it was done as an expression of worship to the Lord through music. It is my sincere prayer that those who have witnessed the performance be blessed.

How to Become a Music Transcriber

There probably is no single way about how to become a music transcriber.

One would say that every serious musician in the planet has had to do some music transcription in one way or another. A good examples would be one of my guitar heroes, Steve Vai, former music transcriber for Frank Zappa. Jazz musicians have been known to do this in order to figure out the improvisation methods of their influences. It’s easy then to say that to be a music transcriber one should start by having great love and dedication for music.

Let me tell you a little story about how I became a music transcriber. As far as growing up as a musician, I had limited access to sheet music and so it was helpful that I relied on my ears to learn new songs. What I would consider my first entry into music transcription would be jotting down chords of various songs I wanted to play while I listened to my cassette tapes. Being able to transcribe music came out of necessity. I am not very good at memorizing pieces (I must have some sort of memory deficit) and so transcriptions of music became great memory tools for me. That was the start of being a music transcriber, the desire to learn new songs.

When my playing skills and my knowledge of music theory further improved, I transitioned from just jotting down chords to actually transcribing songs, whether it be in MIDI or in a scorewriter such as Sibelius. Sometimes, I still do it by hand, especially when an idea for a composition starts popping into my head.

Going back to the topic “how to become a music transcriber”, one may be able to simplify it in a few steps:

  1. Learn and practice how to play a musical instrument – Before you can transcribe, you will need some basic knowledge about how to play a musical instrument or be able to sing in tune. If you are confident in being able to discern that you can follow rhythm and melody, that is a start. You will also need to constantly practice how to play your instrument. You need to develop considerable technique that will make you understand how songs are composed and how they are arranged.
  2. Learn and study music theory – By studying music theory, you get to have a better understanding of what exactly is you are playing or what you are hearing. Studying music theory also helps a lot in how to jot down your transcripts to paper or an application like Sibelius properly.
  3. Start transcribing – Once you have some skill on musical instruments and have a good working knowledge of music theory, you can now begin to transcribe. Start out with transcribing the rhythms of the piece, and then followed by the bass line (to have a good understanding of the piece’s harmonic structure as well as provide a “skeleton”) and the melody.
  4. Practice transcribing – Practice always makes perfect, and so just like playing an instrument, music transcription requires practice.
  5. Keep a portfolio – If you want to earn some money from music transcription, you need a portfolio. Try to select the very best from your  collection. This portfolio would serve as a great way to prove that you can do it.
  6. Be patient – Any aspiring transcriber has to be patient. Imagine having to listen to the same song over again for more than 20 times. I can tire out your ears but it really is part of music transcription.

There’s not a lot of steps, but just as I said in my previous piece about music transcription, it takes a great deal of patience.  If you have a music degree or currently studying in a conservatory, music transcription will always help as an additional skill. If you do not have a music degree, don’t fret. I don’t have one but I sure can transcribe music and play an instrument relatively well. Whether your goal is to be able to study and analyze your favorite artist or composer’s works or to become a professional sheet music provider, the knowledge of music transcription will always be helpful.

So, why are you still reading this? Prepare your manuscript paper or your scorewriter and start walking the path on how to become a music transcriber.

A New Beginning

For the very, very few who have been following me and my journey through music, this is now my new web site. You might have visited chromaticism.webs.com or sterilium.tk before, my previous web avenue. From here on, the latest things going on in my career as a composer, sound designer and musician get covered here.

If you are one who has managed to stumble upon this page or have been following me previous, thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoy your stay,