Jose at Musika “Luma” Album Launch Live @ Mang Rudy’s: The Entire Set on Video

For those of you who missed the album launch last March 5, 2016, there is still yet a chance to watch and listen to our set. We managed to acquire some videos of the entire set we performed that night (eight songs out of nine from the album).

“Jose at Musika” is Jose delos Reyes on vocals and acoustic guitar, Robert Taylan on bass, Wibert Tan on lead guitar, Wowoo Ranada on percussion, Jazz Magday on drums, and yours truly (Mark A. Galang) on keyboards.

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.

An Unexpected Surprise: Fanboy Elation

Lunchtime around this period of my life consists of a single cup of homemade Greek yogurt mixed in with honey and some sugar-free strawberry preserves. As I was eating my lunch and reviewing my GuitarZoom transcription work, I get this friend request from Michael Shawn Turner. After accepting it, he suddenly tells via a private message something like, “Hey are you the guy who wrote this? ” And then I realized I was talking to one of my heroes: Battery’s Mike Turner!

I was very much surprised. I never would have thought one of my heroes would start to speak to me, let alone read my blog! Anyway, to cut the somewhat long story short, it was a very pleasant exchange. He even wished me well in my search for a new drummer. Afterwards, he explained the reason why Battery ceased to exist: he flew to Los Angeles. It was as simple as that!

I remember saying in my blog that I regret not purchasing any of Battery’s albums back in the day. Mike Turner revealed to me that all of Battery’s songs are available via his Reverbnation page: http://www.reverbnation.com/michaelshawnturner/songs. Now I know that I can enjoy Battery’s music via the web.

I cannot thank Mike Turner enough for being an inspiration and for giving me a fragment of his time.

Before I end this piece, I’d like to share with you folks Mike’s latest project called booRADLEY. They started an Indiegogo campaign, so please visit the page and offer your support. I’m very sure that it’s a decision worth taking into consideration:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/booradley-join-our-journey

A Jazz-Prog-Rock Fusion Band’s Early Beginnings

Since going for anything musical full time in a professional capacity, I decided to form my very own jazz-prog-rock band with two guys from graduate school, namely Diamond Manuel on trombone and Jeffrey Abanto on guitar, bassist RJ Sy (Karl Roy Band, Kastigo, etc.), and drumming virtuoso and chef KC Puerto. Together, we’re Hi-5! Nah, just kidding. We’re an unnamed jazz-prog-rock fusion band that is currently in its infancy. The video above is an excerpt from our two-hour first rehearsal session together where we had the audacity to take a crack at Alan Pasqua’s “Proto Cosmos” (popularized by the Tony Williams’ Lifetime band and Allan Holdsworth). I am quite pleased with our first session together as we were able to go through a somewhat tricky piece and survive it, hahaha! Other than this piece, we also had loads of fun with a free improvisation session. Hopefully, we’ll start working on original music as well as a couple of covers to spice things up.

The spark of it, all, however, was this free improv session with Diamond:

Play Blues Now: New Steve Stine Course @ GuitarZoom

Steve-Stine-Play-Blues-Now

A few days prior to Christmas 2013, I was working long hours to complete transcribing the sheet music for this course while juggling other important tasks such as our church’s Christmas concert rehearsals, finishing my composition for the said concert, working on other projects, being a parent and homeschool teacher, graduate school stuff, and others. It was a tough time, and though I’m able to relax for now I do have other things that I have to complete. Anyway, going back to the course, this is a beginner blues course for guitar by none other than in-demand modern guitar pedagogue, Steve Stine.

To cut things short, this is an excellent course (in my biased opinion) for anyone who wants to know the nitty-gritty on the Blues. It covers the essentials of the Blues from the rhythm up to improvisation and soloing, making it a very complete course that will enable you to do what it says: Play Blues Now!

If you want to purchase the DVD and book, please click on the image above. Sheet music transcription by none other but yours truly.

Testing Acoustic Guitars and Jamming at Lazer Music SM Bicutan

IMG_0490

The crazy staff at Lazer Music SM Bicutan: Allan (left) and Mark (right)

Because of the affordable high quality gear and friendly people, the Lazer Music store at SM Bicutan has become one of my favorite places. It’s this particular shop where I usually spend time looking at stuff, talking to the staff, testing a lot of stuff, and jamming with the staff and other customers while my son is sweating it out at a nearby Wushu class by White Tiger Wushu Zhan. It’s also the shop where I purchased one of my electric guitars (the red one with humbuckers). Last March, when I visited Lazer, I was (as usual) acting like a kid at a candy shop and looking at all those guitars with amazement and wonder. I then had fixed my eyes on this particular guitar:

IMG_0596

The nice, shiny all-solid wood Greg Bennett by Samick dreadnought between the classical guitar and the black dreadnought with cutaway. I want one of those!

I tried out this guitar in a variety of tunings and brought out my Zoom H4n recorder. Allan (the manager I believe) brought out another guitar and we started jamming on whatever came into our minds. Occasionally, Mark (a staff member) would sit on the drum kit and play some simple rhythms. If my memory is serving me accurately, I was playing the guitar in an open C tuning while Allan was playing standard. And so, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the kind of mess we had made out of those guitars (The guitar I’m playing is primarily at the left channel of these recordings):

For only around Php 7,000 (about 175 USD), it’s a rather cheap all-solid-wood guitar that sounds amazing. We admit we were making a mess out of that entire jam, but it was all just for fun. We had a blast thus the objective has been met. I was unable to buy the guitar though but what the hey. I’ll find another one like that should I get the budget for that.

How to Prepare a Project and Record Audio in a DAW

Hello dear readers. It’s Mark A. Galang again in another installment of audio production tutorials. This tutorial was written in compliance to the peer review assignment requirement of the Berklee Course “Introduction to Music Production” being hosted by Coursera. I do hope that you all find this tutorial to be informative.

This tutorial features the way how I prepare a project in my DAW for recording. It also gives some insight into how I compose and record music. I use Cakewalk Sonar X1 as my DAW software. Let’s get started.

1. Sequencing the Drums

01 Sequencing the Drums

Before I actually create a project in Sonar, I usually write drum parts, orchestral parts, etc. using Sibelius 6. In this case, I just wrote the drum part for this project.

2. Exporting to MIDI

02 Exporting to MIDI

After writing the drum part in Sibelius, I would then save my work and then export it as a MIDI file to the folder of my choosing.

3. Creating a New Project

03 Creating a New Project

After opening Sonar X1, I make use of an atypical method of creating a project. I close the project creation wizard and then just drag the MIDI file I created into Sonar. Sonar will automatically open the MIDI file as a project.

4. Creating an Instrument Track

04 Creating an Instrument Track

Once the MIDI file has opened, I would then create an instrument track that would play back the MIDI data in the project. In this case, I’m using a VST instrument called EZDrummer. An instrument track is a combination of a MIDI and Audio track. The data displayed is MIDI but the playback comes from an audio source, usually a software instrument.

5. Transferring MIDI data to Instrument Track

05 Transfering MIDI Track to Instrument Track

Instead of assigning EZDrummer as the output for my MIDI track, I just simply drag the MIDI data into the instrument track and then delete the resulting empty MIDI track. The instrument track can read MIDI data anyway so I have no further use for the empty MIDI track.

6. Creating an Audio Track

06 Creating an Audio Track

I would then create an audio track next by right clicking on the empty space where the channels are supposed to be in Track View and then selecting the “Insert Audio Track” command.

7. Labeling Audio Track and Setting Up for Recording

07 Labeling Audio Track and Setting Up Channel for Recording

After creating the audio track, I would then label the audio track. In this instance, I’m recording a bass guitar track so I simply label it “Bass”. Afterwards, I select the appropriate input source for my audio track. In this case, my bass is connected to the left instrument input of my audio interface and so I select the left one in my DAW. If I select it this way, I will be able to record my bass part in mono.

8. Saving as a Project File

08 Saving as a Project File

Because Sonar opened my project as a MIDI file, it cannot save audio data yet. I would then save the project as a “Normal” CWP (Cakewalk Project) file with the “Copy All Audio With Project” option ticked so that I can assign the project and audio data folders for easier file management.

9. Arming the Audio Track for Recording

09 Arming the Audio Track for Recording

Before I begin recording, I then click on the red button in my audio track so that it would be “armed” for recording. Once the audio track is armed, I check my instrument’s recording levels on my audio interface and on the DAW. I am now ready to record my bass parts.

10. Setting up Metronome/Click and Countoff

10 Setting up Metronome or Click and Countoff

Before I start recording, I check my metronome/click and then see if I have the correct settings. I prefer using an audio click rather than MIDI and I set up the record count in to just “1”. Since the time signature in my project is 7/8 with a tempo of 100 bpm (in quarter notes), I expect to hear seven fast clicks before the DAW starts recording my audio.

11. Recording an Audio Track

11 Recording Audio

Once the levels are set and the audio track is armed, I start recording by pressing “R” on my computer keyboard. I count along to the count-in clicks (one, two, three, four, five, six, sev) and then start playing my bass parts. Once I’m done recording, I press the space bar to stop.

12. Cloning an Audio Track for a Second Take

12 Cloning an Audio Track for Second Take

Because I need to have a couple of recorded options, I record a number of takes. To do this, I just clone the audio channel where my bass is recorded. To do this, I just right-click on my audio track and select the option “Clone Track”. Sonar will then duplicate the audio track in its entirety.

13. Setting up Cloned Audio Track for a Second Take

13 Setting Up Cloned Audio Track for Second Take

The cloned audio track contains all of the data from the previous audio track, including recorded audio. Therefore, I would delete the recorded audio from the cloned track in order to empty it so I can begin recording a second take. To lessen distractions, I would then mute the original audio track before I record my second take.

14. Recording a Second Take

14 Recording a Second Take

Once my cloned audio track is ready, I would then record a second take following the steps mentioned a while ago.

After completing all of these steps, I think the entire effort went well. I was able to set up a project and record an audio track. Upon reviewing the project, I think that I should have saved the project immediately as a normal DAW project before setting up the audio track so that I wouldn’t run into a problem later should the application crash. Some of the steps I took to create the DAW project are atypical. However, this fits my usual workflow which involves composing and notating music first before recording audio.

For those who are interested, here’s the track I recorded for this particular tutorial:

I hope that you all have enjoyed reading and learning about recording audio in a DAW through this post. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you. If you have any feedback, comments, or constructive criticism, please feel free to let me know as I would love to learn new things as well.

“Love Rock” by Emi’s Eve: A Composer/Arranger’s Perspective

About 2 years ago, I wrote some music for Emi Waterson, lead singer and songwriter of Emi’s Eve (an original and covers band from Australia). Fast forward to today, the result of that collaboration is now here for your listening pleasure:

 

(“Love Rock” – Copyright 2012, Emi Waterson/Mark A. Galang/Jeni Wallwork)

 

“Love Rock” is a song that started out as a melody that Emi wrote. She sent me a recording of her singing the melody and I wrote music to accompany that melody. It’s a product of my first musical collaboration with somebody from outside of the Philippines, something that was unimaginable for me prior to the advent of the Internet.

The intro where the strings are sawing away was originally a guitar riff. I even wrote a shredding guitar run in the upper register prior to the part where the vocals kick in. The whole idea that I had in mind for the music was sort of a hard rock song for a pop singer. At the very least I was trying to put some hard rock integrity into the song in the same manner that a J-pop song would have a surprisingly technical twist that you would typically expect from a speed metal piece.

The great thing that I love about this recording is how Emi and the rest of her collaborators have tweaked the arrangement. I think most of the notes I wrote are still there, the most important ones being the riffs, the chord progressions, some of the licks and the basslines. The most surprising thing for me was how the Emi and the other arrangers  turned the main riff and some of the passages into something useful for strings. The string passages gave that sort of chamber music appeal like a Vivaldi concerto.

Since the record is intended for a mass-market/radio audience, I wasn’t really surprised that the guitar solos I wrote were edited although a semblance of which appeared as a lick towards the end. Maybe Emi’s guitar player wrote it himself and could have been influenced by the solo I wrote: I’m not really sure.

To sum it all up, I’m very happy to have worked with Emi on “Love Rock” and a few other songs (regarding which I’ll keep my mouth shut for now). I was really glad how the whole recording turned out. It is a pop song, that’s for certain, but it’s one that requires a good level of musicianship to perform, a rarity in today’s music scene where garbage can produce millions of dollars. Give “Love Rock” a listen and you’ll be happy to hear how amazing Emi and her band are.

To get to know more about Emi and Emi’s Eve, visit http://www.emiseve.com.

Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks Now Available

After two weeks of hard work, I’m proud to announce that Steve Stine’s long anticipated 96 Blues Licks course for guitar has already been released by GuitarZoom. If you’ve ever dreamed of playing the blues and all sorts of its derivatives like blues rock and Texas blues, this is the course that you’ve been waiting for.

Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks course can be seen as part of a continuity of lead guitar instruction courses by the guru himself. If the first Solofire installment and Music Theory Made Easy provided you with the “how” of guitar soloing and music making, 96 Blues Licks provides you the “what”. You can say that it’s going to form part of your ever expanding vocabulary of lead guitar lines.

One of the most awesome aspects of 96 Blues Licks is that it provides some insights into the music theory behind playing the Blues. The introductory material provides a good method into how any guitar player would approach using the licks and putting them in the context of any song. Rather than just being told how a lick is played, the introductory materials actually provide more by helping learners expand the licks into things more than just soloing.

The sheet music provided (transcribed by no other than yours truly) is in the usual standard notation and guitar tablature format. It covers all of the materials in the DVD and we even went far as including all of Steve’s jam track improvisations at the end of the course so that learners can actually gain insight as to how Steve approaches playing the Blues.

So, to cut the long story short, if you’ve ever dreamed of being like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Chuck Berry or Stevie Ray Vaughn, check out Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks. If you’re a blues guitar fan, I guarantee that you’ll get more than your money’s worth just listening to how Steve gets you going with the Blues.

Defining the Kind of Music Known as Prog

The term “progressive rock” or “prog” as a genre of music is very difficult to define indeed. From 1995 to 2000, I sang and played piano and keyboards in a band known as “Jacob’s Ladder” to UCCP Ellinwood-Malate Church insiders and “Blue Fusion” to very few people, some of which are now prominent figures in today’s  Filipino progressive rock scene (they probably have forgotten all about us by now). It was difficult for me to explain what prog is as most of what I would tell people would deem insufficient. Fast forward to today’s day and age, being way more knowledgeable now than when I was playing back then, I can try and attempt to define what prog really is.

Back in those days when I played with Jacob’s Ladder/Blue Fusion, I recall some people asking me, “Pare, ano ba ang tugtugan nyo?” (rough English translation: “Dude, what sort of music does your band play?”). I would typically answer three words: Gospel, Alternative and Progressive Rock. The followup question to that would be, “Pare, ano ba yung progressive rock?” (“Progressive rock? What’s that, dude?). I would then cough up some cliche answer like, “It’s the most unique kind of rock music there is,” “It’s like classical meets jazz meets rock”, blah, blah, blah. I would also give some examples like Dream Theater, Rush, Yes, Kansas, Genesis, etc., etc., all to the confusion of the person who I was talking to.

Sometimes there are people who would say something like, “Oh, and so it’s like Arkarna, Incubus…,” and that kind of crap. I would respectfully reply, “No. Arkarna is not prog. Think of something like Dream Theater and all the crapload of bands I talked to you about.” I then receive a blank stare afterwards until me and my bandmates  start playing whatever horrible prog composition we had just concocted.

Anyway, before you get sleepy from all my anecdotes, let us examine what people typically say about what prog is and then see if that is really a unique quality in progressive rock:

  1. It’s rock that is heavily influenced by classical music rather than blues – It’s true that progressive rock is heavily influenced by classical music with some examples being Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Yes. However, it would be difficult for me to find a prog fan who would classify Yngwie Malmsteen, ABBA and The Polyphonic Spree as progressive rock acts. Yngwie Malmsteen is obviously classically influenced with his Nicolo Paganini posturing and Baroque-inspired compositions. ABBA? Just listen to “Money, Money, Money” and you’ll hear the classical influence. The Polyphonic Spree have that symphonic flair. The point is that you can argue the classical influence but if you define progressive rock in that manner, you might as well classify all sorts of music as prog. After all, plenty of stuff that you hear from radio-friendly pop to obscure prog basically follow common practice period tonality.
  2. It’s rock that features heavy use of odd time signatures. Okay. Progressive rock does indeed use a lot of odd time signatures like my favorites 5/4 and 7/8 as well as 11/8, 7/4, 15/16, etc. Would you consider a band like Soundgarden to be prog just because “Spoonman” is in 7/4? Many prog rock fans won’t.
  3. Prog features virtuoso musicianship . Again, we see virtuosos even in radio-friendly genres. For example, certain J-Pop songs feature virtuosic musical passages within a radio-friendly format. A die-hard prog fan, despite his appreciation, wouldn’t call that prog at all.
  4. Prog incorporates influences from musical disciplines from all over the world. Isn’t that what people call “World” music nowadays?
  5. Prog music is typically lengthy and would not fit the radio format. So does classical music, jazz, and jam band music.
  6. Prog has lengthy instrumental passages. And so does “real” jazz and a lot of classical stuff.
  7. Prog is the kind of music that the masses don’t hear every day. Hmm, in today’s time, most of what we call “art” or “classical” music fits this description along with avant-garde jazz, “ethnic” music, etc.

I can go on and on about how people would typically define what prog is and any inquisitive music lover will offer up a counter-argument that would state that such a quality may also apply to other kinds of music as well. Have you heard of something called “Pronk” (prog combined with its former antithesis, namely punk)?

As you can see, can you really say that progressive rock is a definite genre? In some respects, yes, but the qualities that are said to make it distinct are not exclusive traits. No wonder why Robert Fripp and bands like The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree have reservations about calling their music progressive rock.

In my personal opinion, if there would be a real definition of what progressive rock is, I would go back to why the term was coined in the first place. I would take into account the adjective “progressive”. I would say that progressive rock is a kind of music that features change and growth. It’s the kind of music that takes you on a conceptual journey. Its artists are not afraid to push boundaries and try out new things and approaches whether it be attempts in using unique/niche musical instruments, extended instrumental techniques and controlled physiological noises. It’s the kind of music that “progresses” that’s why it’s called progressive rock in the first place. It simply cannot be a genre that can be confined within a musicological discourse or a record executive’s marketing scheme.

As a parting word, any serious fan of progressive rock should think about this. If we define progressive rock according to parameters that have been historically established as being prog, aren’t we confining prog into a sort of a box and therefore causing it to stop being progressive at all? Maybe this is the kind of thinking Rush had when they decided to go for shorter songs after finishing “Hemispheres.