The Power Trio Project Goes Live pt.2 (and I do audio & video myself)

The venue, Elkins Park Station, is essentially one large, acoustically superb room, under the direction of a local arts organization. I have performed here previously as a solo guitarist, with my all-guitar trio and with straight-ahead groups. Apparently I’ve earned a good reputation — they’re willing to allow me to book any project I propose. The setting is also great for recording both audio and video — I have simple video recordings from my solo and trio dates as well as audio recordings done by the arts organization. 

My son Matthew set up two stationary Kodak Zi8 cameras, stage left and right, on stands facing the trio. He didn’t have access to a handheld camera that day or we would have used three cameras. The audio was recorded with a TASCAM DR-40, with mics on the guitar amp and bass amp and the onboard mics directly in front of the drums, set A/B. We did record sound with the cameras, though it served only as a means to cue the audio track during post-production. 

We brought home two separate video recordings and a 4-track audio recording. While I have a fair amount of audio production experience the idea of putting together a professional-looking video was something I wasn’t completely certain I could handle, even calling upon my son’s experience. But thinking back to all of my self-motivated ventures (website building, promo writing, album cover design and execution, recording and production) I really wanted to give it a try — if I found myself completely confounded I would call in a professional and humble myself before them.

After trying freeware video editing/production applications previously, I decided on NCH Video Pad Video Editor which can be found here: (https://www.nchsoftware.com/videopad/index.html). It cost $40USD and worked well for my earlier single-camera productions. There was a learning curve to utilizing two video files, but I worked through most of the details in about a day. I made it a point to study other artists’ concert videos and note how many angles the cameras worked from, how the zooms and pans were done, etc. Late one night I just dove into the track Tightwalk and began experimenting with the various functions of the applications and the ideas I had for how the final video should look.

I’m not going to do a step-by-step account of the process — it involved a lot of trial-and-error and taking breaks when I felt overwhelmed. I did quite lot of A/B with professionally-priced band and concert videos. The great thing about the editor is you can edit, cut, trim, delete sections, etc. and your original video file remains intact. This allowed me to create multiple versions with different effects (zoom, pan, closeups, transitions).

My son (who does have some video experience) was able to synchronize both cameras to start and stop simultaneously during the concert — the files from both cameras were exactly the same size and began at exactly the same second. This was a benefit when it came to syncing the two files — they were always perfectly in sync. I won’t go into details here about the audio production (though I can in a future post). I am currently using Reaper as my DAW. Syncing the audio wasn’t difficult — the video application shows audio tracks as graphic waveforms so visually syncing the produced audio track waveform to the camera audio waveform wasn’t at all diffcult. No lags, no out-of-sync moments.

The video of Tin Tin Deo can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Yefr5nyW7kc. As is always the case, with everything I produce I always see things that I could do differently each time I watch this.

I hope this has been informative and encouraging.

The Power Trio Project goes live!

Early in February I performed with the latest inception of the Matt Richards Trio — now known as the Power Trio Project — at Cheltenham Center for the Arts superb venue Elkins Station.

The Power Trio Project – from left, Tony Donato, Paul Albrecht and Matt Richards.

The venue is essentially one large acoustically fantastic room that is an essential part of the Elkins Park station of the local SEPTA train line. In case you’re wondering, the trains are electric and make virtually no noise as they arrive and depart or slingshot past. (There is some off again/on again hum that finds its way into the amps, but that seems to reside in the electrical supply.)

I’ve had the opportunity to perform here at least a half-dozen times, as a solo artist, with my String Theory all-jazz-guitar trio and with Howard Miller/Wayne Palmer jazz groups. The station hosts to a very broad range of performances here, from classical to folk to blues to jazz. It’s also hosted private and community-based events. It is most definitely a treasure for the arts in this area.

My familiarity with the venue, along with their willingness to feature me with a variety of projects, afforded me the opportunity to not only accomplish a memorable first performance with the trio newest lineup, but to enlist the assistance of my actor/son Matthew to record both audio and video of the date. I believe I’ve honed my abilities with audio recordings (after self-producing three of my releases as well as quite a few compositional and soundtrack works). However, previous attempts at producing video that looked and felt professionally-produced didn’t rise above attempts. My son has accomplished quite a few very good single-angle videos over the years, but the ‘standard video’ bar has been raised considerably higher now and videos must look/feel/sound ‘produced’.

Of course, I could have contacted one of several local video production companies to take on the task. Aside from the budget for this date being quite tight, I had some trepidation about working with new people for the first time with the hopes they’d accomplish what I had in mind. If the final product didn’t look/sound right…… So, with Matthew taking on the responsibility of all aspects of the video recording, it became a self-produced project.

Spoiler Alert! Here’s the finished video of one of the songs: Tin Tin Deo.

I’ll include details in my next post — coming soon!

Beginning a New Year with a new post…..

… would seem like a no-brainer, but that’s too easy.

Solo - East Brunswick Public Library

Actually, I did lay low over the holiday season, only checking FaceBook, Twitter, etc. once a day and mostly just hitting LIKE for others’ posts. I felt some sort of burnout taking hold and needed to reset myself – some intensely determined Buddhist chanting has pushed me back into action. While I am steadily getting back on track I must admit I do feel more focused. It’s usually not a problem being a one-person operation and handling everything every day – but repetition both in my own actions and the responses (or consistent lack thereof) I receive from bookers and promoters eventually wears thin.

I am getting some revamping done, mostly with my website (gradual tweaks and mods which may go unnoticed) and also with my playing (!). I’m actually reviewing the published exercises from John McLaughlin‘s This Is How I Do It DVD educational release from a few years ago. He does work up to his signature approach rather carefully, with simple patterns across scales and builds logically into full-fledged improvisations over chord vamps. The charts do provide a good deal on their own. I’ve also glimpsed some excerpts on YouTube. The DVD set costs at least $75.00 online, though actual retail is much higher. I admit to being hesitant about purchasing the package given the price tag (though I have paid more than that for one lesson). Last year, Larry Coryell had suggested I study the music/playing style of Tal Farlow – of course, when Larry recommends something I’ve learned to take his advice… which I did, obtaining the one technique book on Tal along with a four-album CD collection. While I’ve not only listened to Tal during my lifetime I also became acquainted with him and attended a few performances in intimate club settings. Tal was always somewhat modest about his abilities and admitted that he couldn’t always explain in detail the music he had just made. While musical comrade were busy transcribing and parroting solos I tended to listen closely and let the ideas slowly sink in – these would ultimately surface days/weeks/months later during a gig and cascade out of my fingers onto the strings and into the air as music.

My great pursuit, for the time being, is digging deeper into the music to find ways playing through changes. While I’m always looking to expand my single-line improvising, I’m sincerely attempting to apply the same approach to solo guitar with chord forms and variations. As I’m recording my CD project Balance I’m discovering new chordal ideas/harmonies/lines are taking shape as I play. More importantly, I’m hearing things differently, finding new ways to work through progressions that may seem ‘outside’ on paper but sound better and better each time. I’ve always believed you develop and mature in your ability to apply extended harmonic ideas and make them musically appropriate rather than a ‘high-wire circus act’ (Ralph Towner’s words) of calculated virtuosity. A great example is Wayne Shorter (my Buddhist grandfather, by the way) who seems to be capable of playing any note / phrase and make it work in anything. Obviously, I’m over-simplifying that fact – he is an improvisor of the highest order whose ideas and skills have developed over a lifetime.

So I am digging into the technical and theoretical side of music to do some homework and ignite new ideas and possibilities. While I, like most musicians, listen to/experience music on several levels (artistic/technical/theoretical), I try to come away with a grasp of the spirit that went into the performance – the learning issues get ingrained and permit the artist to express his life easily with a high degree of musicality. It’s that life-force that drives it all and tapping into it makes every bit of effort worthwhile.

See you next time.

Matt

Winter NAMM came and went….

…. and, along with my son, so did I.

The Winter NAMM Show is overwhelming — the very first time you go it will cause dizziness and severely sore feet. Then there’s confusion, disorientation and a feeling of ‘what am I doing over here when I should be over there?’ First and foremost it’s a music industry trade show, intended as a promotional endeavor for hundreds of companies that are involved in businesses relating to music. For the musicians it offers opportunities to connect with companies for endorsements, perform in both formal and informal settings for a captive professional audience and to establish the fact that you are someone worth noticing. (The NAMM Show is closed to the general public — you must have some connection/affiliation with a professional company/vendor to even walk through the doors.)

Playing a Godin Montreal.

NAMM14GGa

While I did meet up with acquaintances and make new friends, this show was hampered by the fact that our hotel (promoted as conveniently located to the convention center) was a 35-minute bus ride away that required a 15 minute walk to the bus stop and between a 30 – 50 minute wait for the bus. Taxi service was at a premium requiring up to 40 minutes wait and a hefty fare. Normally, the hotel is within convenient walking distance to the convention center and I’ve never needed a rental car. But, all things considered, we made the most of the trip, and I did meet Pat Quilter (whose transistor amps are at least as good as my favorite vintage brand (Lab by Moog)) as well as some other nice folks. The details have settled in as the weeks have passed. Rather than rant on here, I’ll get to some timely news.

I’ll be performing in my first-ever guitar/vocal duo with the incomparable JayKatz beginning in April. Actually, Jay will join me in a 2-guitar/bass/voice quartet in March at the superb restaurant August Moon. This project is also a first for me — the quartet is a drummerless group and is assembled from my duos. This is the first time we’re all playing together at the same time. In addition to JayKatz, this group includes Tony Hughes on guitar and Nick Krolak on bass.

I’ve been more involved in studio production work, most immediately in mix/edit/master work with duo recordings with Jay, and with solo recordings for my next release Balance. I do go deep when I’m involved with any recording work and 4 to 6 hours in the real world seems like 2 hours in studio time. Of course, I spend a serious amount of time sweating over every note on playbacks — I am excessively critical and I always need to give myself some space after any recording session. So, this means results of the solo sessions are pending…. I will say that I really like ribbon mics now……

I’m working with almost five hours of sleep so I believe I’ll close this posting and come back with a new one when I’ve rested a bit more. Let me offer one of my famous / notorious window shots from my trip to CA. This is just outside Salt Lake City UT.

View from Salt Lake City airport.

View from Salt Lake City airspace.

Peace.

Matt

Back from California.. and more

Warming up George Lowden's guitars in the am at the show.True to form it’s been a while since I logged on to share my thoughts and keep everyone up to date.

My son and I returned from the NAMM Show last Monday evening to face about 1″ of icy slush in the streets of Philly. It turns out there is a priority on Route 76, so at 12:15am last Tuesday we discovered that the expressway in/out of Philly was mostly wet due to liberal salting and service. However, the other roads (not just sideroads) were hideously slippery. Our normally 40-minute drive was close to 90 minutes without traffic. quite a shock from the 75F days in Anaheim….

The show was the usual whirlwind of activity and noise. Highlights (for me) included spending time at George Lowden’s booth, playing and discussing guitars (and many other subjects) and trying to play everything in the Godin room (including the new multiac oud). Of course, I spent time with my friends at Ibanez (where I was elbowed in the stomach by security as Steve Vai walked through) and became re-acquainted with the folks at EMG pickups. I was visiting a lot of companies, too numerous to detail and recall on the spur of the moment. My son did shoot videos of performance and meetings – however the noise level in most of the situations is awful and the soundtracks need quite a bit of work. In may cases I am totally inaudible despite amplification. I was disappointed in the number of companies that weren’t there – I was looking forward to checking out some new gear and gaining more firsthand information about things. It seems the financial crisis is real for the smaller companies (which I can attest to personally).

On the musical side of things I’m finally wrapping up the new CD, getting the post-production finished on the solo tracks from Crossroads and some other recording dates in 2010 — all solo. The trio is still very much in action, though as of this writing we aren’t scheduled to perform until March in Princeton NJ. I’m also beginning a collaboration with a very talented flutist with a focus on an acoustic duet, possibly a trio. Of course my solo work is still very much up front. I’m also considering a power trio…..

I did enjoy spending time with the great Pierre Bensusan last night, hearing him perform and then discussing world culture, politics, music, art and life in general. He’s in the US for a stretch and always worth seeing.

It’s about time to get the real work done — more udpates to follow…. more frequently.

Stay well.

MattReturning from NAMM '11

 

Following a great Group performance…

The Kimmel Center pedalboard

… at Philly’s regional performing arts center (the Kimmel Center) I can’t help feeling very satisfied and inspired. The group sounded and played great and I had the best guitar sound I’ve ever had. My compliments and appreciation to the staff at the Kimmel (especially Megan, Vanessa and Bob) for making this go so smoothly. I’d be glad to do this every week, though in all fairness there are other artists who deserve to get their turn on this stage.

For the guitar aficionados — I used my mid-70s Hagstrom Viking with John Pearse nickel electric strings (.011 set), through a pedalboard (yes, a new one exists) and into the Lab L3 (newly cobbled together after the FedEx mishap). The guitar and amp are a fantastic combination – the amp has the most tube-like sound with a mid-range richness that I can’t describe…. the pedals included an Arion Tubulator (yes, that’s right), Boss flanger, Boss volume, Boss DD2 and RV2. This Tubulator, I’ve been told, has a clone of the original Ibanez Tube Screamer circuit and I believe it.

What really counted was the performance – Adrian and Chris have the best interactive dynamic I’ve ever been a part of. They are the text-book example of a bassist and drummer who really connect on every level… and they’re great guys to work with. I did press Record on my DR1 at the beginning of the set and actually got a fairly clean recording on the stage. Maybe I’ll send out a bonus track for the holidays……

I’m getting deep into Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry book — what a brilliant musician. I’m pondering ideas and clearing a lot of cobwebs out of my mind — it’s shocking how habits get so ingrained but it’s good to give them a hard shake-up now…

It’s been a busy family day and I still didn’t finish painting the porch. (Luckily it’s just some touch-ups.) I’ll be posting again soon…

All the Best!