Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mature And Compassionate Studio Techniques

When I first heard about people using click tracks I was very annoyed, offended actually. Why would a good musician, a drummer, use some electric rhythm generator? It seemed so insulting, implying that the drummer couldn’t do this simple thing from their talent.

First I heard about them then I actually experienced it working with producer Terry Brown. The nerve of him! I was all set to talk critically and angrily to Cleave Anderson the drummer, about this dastardly low blow by Terry. I rolled my eyes and said to Cleave

“I can’t believe he wants to use a click track!”

“I like it. It’s like I have a friend in my headphones and he has perfect time.”

I was a wee bit stunned. I had no clue someone might think like that – and why shouldn’t they?

When I was in high school I had the same response to the invention of electronic guitar tuners. What? Can’t you guys tune your guitars? I can tune my guitar fine thank you. But it’s not about whether or not you can tune or whether you can keep time. It’s just a perfect reference so you can compare yourself to it. It’s just accuracy.

Recently I wrote about Melodyne and how it blows my mind to use this to correct pitch problems while producing music. Among the people who sent me personal messages were a couple hostile weird guys who wanted me to know I was a sell out blah blah blah. It was a bit hilarious to read and a bit ludicrous. Where have I heard such holier than thou opinions before? Realizing how unlikely it was that I could explain to them it’s just a great useful tool, I did the mature compassionate thing – blocked them for eternity.


Breaking And Entering

The offices of Greenpeace were located at Trinity St. Paul’s church on Bloor street when I was 23 and worked there. And I went in after hours and played late at night in the sanctuary where they had an extended Heintzman grand. It was beautiful – a stain glass canopy and playing all night. Often I invited improvisor friends and we would experiment together or just lie across pews listening while the other one solo’d long into the night.

One day word came round that  there was a break-in upstairs and one of the other tenants was robbed. I decided to get rid of my keys. I didn’t want to risk being caught while playing after hours because I knew it was a big no-no in the eyes of the church administration but now that there was a thief on the prowl I thought I shouldn’t play with the odds. I might get accused just because I was guilty of being there after hours. Maybe that’s just how you think when your the youngest of four boys and regularly get sucker punched.

In high school three of us used to walk into Winnipeg’s posh Fort Garry Hotel, take the elevator to the 9th floor, get out and walk up the stairs to the 11th floor ballroom, (elevator wouldn’t stop there during ordinary hours) and spend the evening playing pieces for each other. In that big unlit space we felt the walls for light switches but never figured out where they were so we played in the dark.  I don’t know why we weren’t busted, why people didn’t wake up and complain to the front desk because we played all night and we were loud. We smoked in there too. I was half scared the whole time any minute we would get busted.

There was also a time when anyone could walk into the Edward Johnson building at U of T and grab an empty piano cubicle and play forever. It was super except one time I was asked to leave while playing a piece made up of clusters which was almost as expected as the time a woman stood up during a concert in Hamlilton at a church on Locke street and stopped me mid piece “Stop it! That’s my Piano!” and I did. For years I had been anticipating this – somebody someday is going to think people who play like me are destroying instruments. The audience was liking the show so they started to boo this unfortunate woman for stopping me but I was impressed with her fear and guts. Plus finally one of my imaginary disasters had proven itself. Finally I can scratch it off the list.

Now I am on the board of directors for the Tranzac and I have keys to the building. I haven’t bothered going in in the middle of the night but I like knowing I could.