Yes, That was Cool

Getting up this morning was rough.  I got in late from a Tuesday night gig, around 1:30, then finally fell asleep around 2:30.  I really only dozed until my alarms started going off at 6:15.  My a-fib started acting up during the last set and kept creeping in and out while I was sleeping, which wakes me up, so what sleep I had was fitful.  Regardless of playing last night I still had to get up and pack lunches for my daughter and wife, as well as making sure they got to school and the train on time.  I also confirmed a rehearsal for next Tuesday evening and started ticking off my schedule for the next few days in my head, an attempt to stay on track and look at what is coming up next.  My wife suggested I hit the gym today, but I’m seriously dragging and have a rehearsal tonight, some class preparation to do for teaching tomorrow, as well as another rehearsal tomorrow night.  I’m also processing last night’s gig, running over it in my mind and focusing on locking it away into the memory banks.

I have a mental bucket list; it’s in my head and not actually written down.  Last night’s gig was a bucket list event for me at a venue where I’ve wanted to perform for years, and while I performed on my secondary instrument, bass, as opposed to guitar, it fulfilled the requirements I’d set for checking off the list.  Last night I played a gig at Buddy Guy’s Legends here in Chicago, and got paid to do it, the two criteria that I’d set for the bucket list.  There was the added bonus that Buddy Guy was actually at the bar while we were on.  I’d set the getting paid aspect because the venue has an open mic most Mondays where people can come in and jam.  Getting paid makes the gig a professional appearance, as opposed to a recreational one.  From my personal perspective it gives more weight to the performance.

We played two sets, a ninety minute one followed by a half hour break, then closed things out with a 45 minute set ending at 12:15.  The venue is back-lined with good gear which makes playing there a real treat, plus I got to run through an 8X10 cabinet, which can really move some air.  We weren’t overly loud, but I could feel the speaker working and it sounded really good.  One of Greg Guy, one of Buddy’s sons, ran sound, and he had us running with no fuss and a fantastic mix.  He, like everyone else there, was genuinely nice.  He had a clock set up at the front of the sound booth facing the stage, so the performers on stage could keep track of the time without messing around looking at watches, which can sometimes send a mixed message to the audience.

The venue itself is fairly large, particularly when considering that it is right in the Loop where real estate is pricy.  It has a second floor as well, though since we were set up on the stage in the big room I didn’t venture upstairs to look.  The first floor has an open floor plan set up with a large bar at the front and a smaller one toward the back adjacent to the kitchen area.  There are plenty of tables with ample seating as well as a dance floor for anyone who wants to get up and groove to the tunes.  The walls are covered with photographs and guitar after guitar, most with autographs.  Behind the back bar the wall has a series of signature guitars, all signed, including a Jeff Beck model Stratocaster, a Derek Trucks model from Washburn, a Stevie Ray Vaughn Strat paired with a Jimmie Vaughn, a Gibson B.B. King Lucille model, an Eric Clapton Strat and a few others as well.  There are many other signed guitars over the front bar and the entire effect is essentially a whose who shrine to the blues.

All in all, last night was a win on the personal level, and if I get the opportunity to play there again I will quite happily do so.  It’s the kind of venue that is a joy to perform in and they do their best to keep it that way.  I do regret that I didn’t sit down and have a meal there because after looking at the menu I found all sorts of New Orleans based goodness to be had.  Everything on it looked good; even the food items I’m deathly allergic to (shellfish) looked good!  So now that I’ve checked off a big item on the old bucket list, I guess it’s time to revisit it and start looking toward determining the next big item to aim at. Let those good times roll!



Sharing A Stage: Opening for The Tubes

Last night Speed of Sound, a classic rock cover band I play bass in, opened for The Tubes at Tailgater’s in Bolingbrook, Illinois. I spoke to three of the band members, guitarist Roger Steen, bassist Rick Anderson and keyboardist David Medd. All three were approachable and had no problems conversing with a local semi-pro who just happened to be in the opening act. Anderson quietly offered me the use of the bass rig that was rented for the band with two stipulations: that I didn’t play too loud or blow it up before he got to play. I had to smile at that. It was a huge Ampeg head on top of an Ampeg 8X10, which Anderson stated was basically, overkill for the venue; a 4X10 would have been fine. I thanked him, but opted to run with my much smaller rig set up on the other side of the stage where I could hear the band better.

The gear that The Tubes contracted filled a good portion of the large stage, and as openers we set up our gear in front of their backline after they were done with their sound check. It was quite evident that they had no interest in a loud presence through the monitors and desired a very comfortable stage volume. They’ve been doing this for about forty years or so, thus they are quite familiar with what they want and need versus the “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” perspective that many aging rockers tend to adhere to. That being said, the front of house sound was huge, clean and clear.

It was clear that Tailgater’s had set up for the event as a concert style production with high dollar tables filling the area that normally would be a dance floor in front of the stage. One of the band members noted that ticket sales were down, but he still maintained a cheerful and professional demeanor despite this. The sound check took a while, and it took the sound team a bit of time to get the keyboards into the stage mix at a level that the band was happy with. At the start the keys were washing everyone out except the drummer, and it took about ten minutes to nail that issue down, including switching out a monitor. Once they cleared we set up and ran our sound check. I have such a small footprint that I can set up in about two minutes, so I sat in place and looked out at the venue wondering how many tables were going to be filled.

People were starting to file in while we did our sound check. The doors opened at seven. We finished our prep by about 7:40 and then settled in to wait for our 8:30 hit time. People started filling the place up close to eight while I was trying to find a quiet place to sit down and breathe without anyone talking to me. My A-fib had kicked in shortly after arriving at the venue, putting me in a bit of a cold sweat, sucking my oxygen levels down, and sapping energy away, so I requested a stool just in case I needed it on stage. During sound check I was having difficulty getting enough air to push into my higher register for the vocal backups, while seated so all I could do was hope that the A-fib would pass by the time we hit. I talked to our front man after the check and gave him a heads up to which he replied, “oh no, I was hoping you’d cover some for me since I’m still kind of sick.” All I could give him was I’d do what I could. So there I was twenty minutes before the show, sitting on the stage steps doing deep breathing exercises to try to bring everything into sync.

We hit right at 8:30 to a fairly full house. The more expensive seats in front of the stage weren’t full, but the rest of the place was packed in. We were only supposed to go from 8:30 to 9:30 and that’s what we did, running through our set and roping in the crowd. It’s really nice to play to a good crowd. When you’re playing well, and they like what you’re doing it creates a mutual energy feed. Despite there not being a dance floor, we had people up and grooving to the tunes, dancing in the areas the wait-staff had roped off and solid applause after every song. A guy could really get used to this!

The breathing exercises helped get my ticker back in line, so I managed to hit the high notes when and where I was supposed to and I provided fill in support for our front man when he needed it. It felt good, while I was up there, or better stated, I felt good. I was surprised at the volume we were producing, though. We’re essentially a power trio plus a front man. So our instrumentation is guitar, bass and drums at this point. We’re looking into adding a keyboard player in the future, but our core is pretty basic. Despite this we have no difficulty providing a wall of sound, especially when we’re fully mic’ed up and pumping through an excellent club system. We definitely warmed up the crowd for The Tubes’ performance! All in all it turned into a pretty solid good night. I’m looking forward to many more in the future.

Setting Up for the Gig: Proper Etiquette

Gigging requires a good deal of equipment that needs to be set up before the gig and torn down after the gig is done. If a band plays a venue that doesn’t have a house PA system then the amount of equipment being hauled, set up and torn down increases quite a bit. It’s all part of the job and what gets done by whom is mostly a common sense drill. For bands that cannot afford roadies, which is most of us, the basic tenet is if you bring it, it’s your responsibility to haul it in, set it up, use it, tear it down and load it back into your vehicle. Most musicians would prefer not to have someone else haul their gear anyway. They’ve sunk quite a bit of cash into their tools of the trade and would rather not have someone else bang it around, unless it’s someone they know quite well who hasn’t been drinking all night and even then they’ll often decline assistance.

There are some areas that bands traditionally do combine efforts on and those are primarily things that the whole band uses. When the group is tasked with providing the sound system, has lighting and promotional gear like banners or signs, this is usually the area where the members pool their efforts and usually the drummer is excused from this given the amount of gear he or she has to deal with. Usually the person with the fastest set up takes lead on getting the sound system set up and then as the others wrap up they join in, helping to put speakers on stands and get the lights up and running. Banners are usually undeniably a two-person job and all of the work gets done very quickly when people help.

If you’re a newbie when it comes to set ups and tear downs, it can be a bit confusing, and not all bands do things the same way. Some folks end up with different band members providing different parts of the system and cables might end up belonging to different folks as well. If you’re not sure what goes where, just ask and someone will tell you. Different people also have different preferred methods of cable storage as well, so it’s always wise to check how they wrap them up so you’re on the same page and not putting kinks in the wires that shorten lifespans. Always be gentle with the equipment: tossing a cable might not harm it, but tossing a microphone could kill it and earn you a spot on someone’s shit list really quickly. The same thing goes with lighting arrays. Would you throw a light bulb toward a bag and hope it went in? I didn’t think so.

Problems primarily arise when people don’t pull their weight with set up and tear downs. This can lead to resentment on the part of the people who always get stuck with it, which in turn can lead to some disagreeable interactions. If you occasionally have to cut out before the PA is broken down, your bandmates will understand. They’ll also be pretty understanding if you have an injury or health condition that prevents you from helping, but if it’s just because you don’t want to, they won’t take that well. If you’re one of the vocalists and all you have is your mic and mic stand to set up and you’re not helping haul and set up the PA system, folks won’t be pleased, regardless of what gender you are.

Personally I like to travel as light as I can, which takes some planning as a bass player. I’ve done my research and spent the effort to find reliable equipment that doesn’t take too much out of me getting in and out of the clubs. I run either one or two 15” speaker cabinets with a 500 watt head, and if one cab will do I’m more than happy to oblige. I usually also have a music stand and a guitar stand. I load as much as I can onto my collapsible hand truck, usually my full rig, put my bass on my back and haul everything in and out in one trip each. I can reliably load in within 15 minutes, if that, and be ready to perform. Once I’m set up, I’ll help set up the PA if help is needed. The gigs I usually play are at least a forty-five minute drive from home, so I’ve planned my equipment usage to allow me to hit the road after work as soon as I can. Getting my gear loaded is a priority for me and it’s not unusual for me to already be fully loaded out before some of the other guys have even started breaking down their equipment. If there’s a PA to set up or tear down, I help with that before hitting the road.

The hard and fast rule to all of this is that if it’s your instrument, it’s your responsibility. You should know how long it takes to set up your equipment and have it ready for sound check on time. You should also have a good idea of how long it takes to tear it down and get it stowed away. If you need a little help and your bandmates can and are willing to provide it, just ask. Hauling in a full-scale old Hammond B3 organ, for example, is not a one person job and if it’s part of the act, then the others will expect that you need help with it. However, if you’re a bass player, guitarist, drummer or keyboard player the expectation is that you’ll take care of your own equipment. Don’t expect help. If you get it upon occasion, count it as a bonus.

Fatigue and Illness: Two Challenges for Working Musicians

Two of the more difficult situations that we all eventually face are illness and fatigue; both provide their own challenges but share some similarities.  When we are tired or ill focus can become a major issue as our energy levels plummet and while fatigue is bad enough on its own when combined with illness it can be a real drag.  Not all of us have the iron will that drives surf legend Dick Dale to still get up and give a solid show despite a whole slew of serious physical ailments that would sideline most of us, nor that of Freddie Mercury finishing his last album with Queen while virtually on his deathbed with AIDs.  There are countless examples of performers who have given their all and died doing it, but I’m not going there.  What I’m looking at is how do we get through a gig where we’re exhausted or miserable from some garden-variety virus.

I’ve done my fair share of gigs when I was under the weather and quite a few where I was close to exhausted before the gig started either due to insomnia the night before, a run of late nights combined with early mornings or a ton of other situations.  If I know I’m running on low energy due to fatigue and I can work it in during the day, I’ll do my best to get a nap before I’ve got to leave for the gig, but more often than not this is a luxury I have to forgo.  So I find myself hitting the coffee and diet soda regimen, trying to load up a little to keep the peepers open and the attention span stabilized.  That being said, this is not the healthiest way to deal with the situation because any time you use chemicals, even caffeine, there’s a price to pay, particularly if you overload.  So if you go the coffee route watch how much you drink, particularly if you already have health issues like high blood pressure or something like A-fib.  You don’t want to elevate the blood pressure, nor do you want to risk you’re A-fib getting worse.  One of the worst things you can do in this situation is start drinking alcohol, and if you’re really tired skip that after gig drink.

Another method, which doesn’t rely on chemicals, is get up and moving before the set starts.  This will help get the blood pumping and help you make it into the set.  Between sets find a quiet corner, ask one of your bandmates to come and get you before the next set and close your eyes.  As long as your bandmates know where you are, they’ll make sure you’re up and running for the next set.  The best method is to avoid letting your batteries run so dry in the first place.  Do your best to follow a schedule that permits eight hours of sleep per day, preferably in one block.  I know that this is difficult, particularly if you have a day job, kids that need to get to school and a heavy performance schedule.  Remember, lack of balance is usually what creates sleep deprivation to begin with, and you’re better off pulling into a parking lot to take a nap after the gig than falling asleep at the wheel.

Illness is a tricky one, because we need to be able to determine when we’re risking too much for the bar gig, or not enough.  Honestly, I don’t know how singers do it when they power through gigs with colds, sinus infections and the lot.  If you are a vocalist I highly suggest you ask your fellow singers with tons of experience how they get through the gigs and go from there.  For the rest of the rockers and such, if you can’t get out of the bathroom you need to either find an emergency sub or cancel the gig, other than that if you’re lucid and you’re fairly certain you’re not going to pass out on stage, everyone is pretty much expecting you to show up and do the gig.  In most of these cases it’s a matter of gritting your teeth and getting it done.  Once again, remember that mixing alcohol and cold medicines of various types can create an even worse scenario.  Stick to safe fluids, and try not to give your fellow band members the curse.

The brutal reality of being even a semi-pro musician is that you have to show up for work even when you feel like death warmed over.  You’re part of a small unit that depends upon its components to survive and profit as an entity.  Any time you call off from a gig it puts the group at risk of failure, whether it’s having a bad night for the bad or possibly losing the backing of an agent who could have kept you all working regularly.  It’s not like a regular job with paid sick days and vacation time, plus there really are tons of people just waiting to take your job.  Your best bet is to cowboy up, to use the old phrase, and get the job done.  Then do what you can to get better rested or to recover from whatever ails you.


Ah Yes, Those Excellent Venue Experiences!

Last night was my first outing with a new band that I’ve been working with for maybe three months, a rock cover band called Speed of Sound.  We had the opening slot at a nice venue with a huge stage, the Q Bar in Glendale Heights, IL.  We’re currently a quartet that is essentially a power trio plus one, the vocalist, and it was a ton of fun to get out on a big stage with an excellent sound system and a good audience to support us.  The place is huge, 20,000 square feet, has a large dance floor, plenty of seating, an area filled with pool tables and then a very large bar area as well.  It was really nice to kick off this band in such a nice venue, and great to play live with my friend Ken Erickson again as well as Dave Nickrand on vocals and Herb Barnett on drums.  It was also nice to be able to stretch out, get wonderful tone from my full 500 watt rig and Carvin SB5000 bass, and hear it supported by the venue system in big deep crisp clean sound mixed beautifully with the rest of the band.

More often than not the bands that I work with play venues that are maybe a quarter of the size, or less, than the venue last night.  It is nice playing smaller clubs because it increases the intimacy on some levels, and the smaller size dictates smaller rigs.  However the smaller venues often don’t have house PA systems, which creates the requirement for the band to provide the PA, or hire someone else to which inevitably would come out of the band’s take.  So while I might not need my big bass rig for the smaller venue, I might have to bring and set up part of the PA in addition to my bass equipment.  In those situations the band is also running their own sound which can be a bit of a complication when trying to get the levels set for a nicely balanced mix.

The large venue experience with plenty of room on stage, an excellent house system and good sound engineers is a wonderful one when it all comes together well.  This was the case last night.  The stage was sufficiently large that both bands set up their equipment, ours toward the mid front and the second act’s behind us, and there was absolutely no sense of crowding or loss of floor space.  In fact, when we moved our equipment off stage after the end of our set the stage really looked pretty empty despite the amount of equipment the second band had.  At least it did from the perspective of someone who is used to being crammed into a corner with four other musicians and trying to avoid taking out the front man’s teeth with a bass headstock.

The sound guy was quite efficient, between setting up and dialing us in.  He even switched out the kick drum mic because he wasn’t happy with the tone combined with Herb’s kick and the entire process was extraordinarily hassle free for the band.  It helped that the venue hadn’t cut any corners on the quality of the sound system, but it was clear that they hadn’t cut any corners hiring someone who knew what he was doing.  You can sink thousands into an excellent system, like you can with musical instruments, but if the person running it doesn’t know what he or she is doing it can still sound like crap, just like a great guitar only sings its best when the player matches it.  This guy was fast, without even seeming like he was hurrying, and got everything lined up beautifully with no muss, no fuss, and without ruffling anyone’s feathers.

We did well last night with our set.  There were a couple glitches here and there, but all in all we did quite well on our first public run.  The compliments were flowing and everyone left feeling quite satisfied with how things went.  It was also nice to be able to get home by 11:15 for a change as opposed to the usual two a.m. or so and have the energy to bring my full rig back into the house without too much banging around.  When I get home late there’s usually some thumping of cabs against doorframes and such, or one of the cabs sleeps in the car trunk for the night.  Not so last night.  Nights like last night, where the venue is superior, there is more than ample stage space, the sound system and engineer are excellent and the overall work experience is so comfortable leave me feeling quite satisfied.  May there be many more of them!


Outdoor Gigs: The Good, The Bad and The Memorable

Yesterday I rehearsed and had band pictures taken for the CPC Band, one of the groups I’m working with. It was a lovely afternoon in the upper 60s with crystalline blue skies. It’s a little hard to believe since it’s the first week of November in Northern Illinois, but after shooting some of the photos inside, we adjourned for more shots outdoors and finally made some music outside on the patio. Aside from the occasional train passing by it was a really lovely day. Playing outside is something that I’ve always enjoyed, particularly on really beautiful days. In fact, one of the first gigs I ever played was on a stage created from a semi flatbed at a town fair on a summer’s night when I was in high school. Some of the memories created in these situations are pretty awesome, while others, logically enough not so great.

About the worst memory I have of an outdoor gig was from one I had with a zydeco band in Wilmington, Delaware. We were playing a festival on the waterfront, something that was usually a ton of fun and if memory serves me correctly we played twice that weekend. The back lines were provided for both, so it was really cool all around. The first time we performed was on Saturday and we played the main stage, which was absolutely awesome. It was a huge stage, with a nice breeze and the sun at our backs. We got a steady cooling affect from the breeze and it was another beautiful day, warmer than yesterday but a really comfortable summer day. The Sunday performance was a different story. That Sunday was hazy, hot and humid and we played the southern stage on the docks. The stage was one of those self-contained aluminum truck beds, essentially a shiny metal box that one side lifted on to face the crowd. It was set up facing due west, catching direct sunlight with not a spot of shade in sight. It had to be at least 130 degrees on the stage with absolutely no breeze. When we climbed up on stage I could smell the amplifiers cooking, and my shirt was soaked through before I finished tuning my bass. Thankfully we only had to play an hour, but it was truly the most brutal performance environment that I’ve had to deal with, even taking into account the gigs I did in actual desert environments.

Most of my outdoor gig experiences have not been brutally uncomfortable, and many register as my favorite gigging experiences. While I lived in Tucson, I gigged with a wonderful cowboy rock and roll band fronted by a gentleman named Andy Hersey who still performs regularly in and around Tucson today. We were quite good together and well suited to working together. Andy fronted the band, writing the originals we played and providing guitar and vocals on all of them. Tim O’Connor played fiddle and mandolin while providing back up vocals, Erik Truelove was the exceptional drummer, and at least half to three quarters of the time we had a keyboard player, Greg Robinson, I believe. It’s been a few years. I played quite a few outdoor gigs with Andy and company on ranches, at resorts, on a mountaintop and even in a national forest where we only had power for our equipment and only starlight to light the bandstand.

One gig was located on a ranch southeast of Fort Huachuca. It was just Andy, Erik and I. We met up at Andy’s casita and loaded our equipment into his Jeep. From Sonoita, AZ we took dirt roads and double track through the open valley, passing through herds of cattle to get to the gig, a party for Mexican and American Border Patrol agents. We set up around a campfire ring in front of the ranch house, which was situated on top of a hill facing the southern plains and mountains leading into Mexico, which was no too far distant. There were no provisions for a PA system so it was an all-acoustic night. Andy I had our acoustic guitars and Erik played hand percussion, sitting around the campfire as night fell and the stars lit the sky. The Milky Way shone above us as we made our music, at the nice dinner that our patrons provided us, made some more music as the temperatures dropped and then finally packed up and headed back home somewhere around midnight with fresh cash in our pockets. That night and the experience of that gig is one that I will truly cherish as long as I have the ability to remember things. It was so good that I couldn’t even believe that I was actually being paid to do it.

We played some other really fun and memorable gigs together as well. There was the welcome home party for a young soldier on his father’s ranch outside of Sonoita, Arizona where the band tucked in together under a tarp stretched from a shed beside the corral and plywood sheets provided the bandstand. Once again in perfect weather with a super appreciative audience that fed and paid us well to do our business. Then the wedding on another ranch where we set up in the shade next to the ranch house where the groom wore starched jeans, a crisp white shirt and black Stetson and the bride wore a pretty gingham dress. The 50th birthday party we played in the dark outside of Phoenix where they carried the host in a chair down to the cattle pond while we did our thing barely able to see each other. I took my fretless bass that night not realizing it was going to be too dark to see the fret markers, so I ended up clipping a music stand light onto my headstock to try to see enough to stay in tune.

Years and years of memories keep cropping up every time I do another outdoor rehearsal or gig. My first classical performance after leaving the military was an outdoor gig at the University of New Mexico Hospital for a lunchtime music series. I was playing duets there with another guitarist and right in the middle of my single solo piece a Canadian F-18 flew over from the air base, tearing the sky apart with the roar of its engines and drowning out the Fantasia that Weiss had crafted 300 years before. I’m sure that as long as I perform as a musician I’ll collect more experiences and memories, both good and bad. It’s part of the joy of being a performer, that and sharing them with others and having a good belly laugh from some of them!

Creative Music: Making the Old New

Last night at rehearsal, the newest group I’m with started working on a new tune. We decided to do The Beatles’ tune “Taxman” but wanted to come up with our own version that presented a different take on it. We’d talked about Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version, as well as shooting our own recorded ideas back and forth through the modern marvel known as the internet before actually meeting up for rehearsal and working out an entirely different take. What we eventually went with was copping the feel of another tune from the same era but a different group, mashing it together over a fairly simple I IV V blues progression, while essentially maintaining the melody line pretty close to intact. Voila, we had our own version of a “cover” tune that we’re pretty pleased with and that really works within the stylistic palette the band is attempting to focus on, a funky blues-rock combination.

Working with covers is the meat and potatoes of most bar band combos, as well as wedding bands and various other local professional groups. All too often if you want to make money playing on the local circuit these tunes are what is needed for repertoire in order to get the gigs and build a following. It has also come to be a major source of contention between musicians, dividing them into two primary camps and spawning endless debates over originals vs. covers. Many of the cover bands do their best to make a product that is as close to the original version of the chosen piece of music as possible, becoming essentially live juke boxes that copy solos and approach the music in pretty much the same manner as a traditional classical musician does. A smaller number of the bands deal with covers but deal with them as standards, in the same manner that jazz musicians have for decades. Yes, it’s a cover but they make it their own through their own solos and small deviations from the recorded versions. Then there are the covers that border on originals, which might seem like an odd thing to say.

Often the groups or individuals who break down and rebuild covers are also heavily vested in their own originals. They straddle the original vs. cover band divide by doing some altered covers, some originals and maybe some close to straight covers. These folks love their craft/art, and don’t sneer at the concept of getting paid at the end of the night for their work; they expect to be paid. They also tend to step outside of the debate between the integrity of doing either or. Interestingly enough, if we really dig in and take a look at what bands that “made it” have done, we’ll often see that they got their start working with covers, then gradually came up with their own material to work with. There are even many high profile folks out there who have recorded hit records using other peoples’ materials, either as is or creating their own version, as the Atlanta Rhythm Section did with “Spooky.”

Personally I really enjoy the process of rebuilding a cover, particularly in a collaborative situation such as last night’s, and last night’s was a true collaborative effort the whole way around. The guitarist kicked out an idea early in the week. I’m playing bass in the band, but sent out my own recorded idea on guitar. The drummer tossed out a suggestion at rehearsal, which really kicked us into a solid direction in terms of a feel that was different from the guitarist’s and mine. No egos got in the way; we simply ran with it, creating the progression quickly along with guitar and bass parts. The melody just synced right in with it all. We spent close to two hours on the process, locking things in and getting it squared in our memories as well as doing some on the fly recordings to help keep the concept intact. All in all, it was a very satisfying creative experience for all four of us before we went on to work on a few closer to the original version covers.

Making music should always be a creative venture, regardless of the format, genre or process. Whether you’re writing your own pieces, performing ones created by others or revamping an existing arrangement, there is always going to be a creative spark present, and when that spark is missing the music dies. Sometimes the creativity rests in the presentation of a pre-existing line, the interpretation of the feel, phrasing, or purely emotional content. Other times it is creating the actual line itself, writing the piece, and making it make sense to the listener as well as the musician. Regardless of the approach you choose to take, remember to do more than just play the notes.