Thursday, 2 December 2010

Reason 5 - Using Redrum to trigger Kong

I upgraded to Reason 5 last month after seeing how much fun other musicians were having with it. It might not be as big a leap as it was form 3 to 4 (when the mighty Thor was introduced), but the new percussion tools are certainly a welcome addition.

So far I've been using ReDrum as my triggering source, because that's the way I've always done it. In the video I'll explain how I've done it, and demonstrate a few (a tiny few) of Kong's capabilities.

I used a Kraftwerk-style Motorik beat in the demo, just because it was easy to program, and it's got a nice driving sound to it. Since going to uni I've been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk actually, and it seems to be finding its way into my own music. Still, I can think of worse acts to be influenced by...

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Rick Wakeman in Durham

On the 18th of September 2010, something monumental happened in my life, something that I will remember forever (or at least until dementia sets in). I've lead an exciting and surprisingly full life, but none of that seemed to register as I sat in the Gala Theatre auditorium in Durham, waiting for my hero to come out onto the stage.

Forgive the grandiose opening if you will, I'm just getting over excited.

Let be begin by explaining why Rick Wakeman is such a big hero of mine; the man is a keyboard god. He is arguably the best keyboardist in rock music (second only to Keith Emerson according to this poll), who has worked with so many prolific solo artists and bands that they are too numerous to list (plus - I'll be honest - I don;t know them all). He is famous for playing the piano on David Bowie's classic album "Hunky Dory" - most notably the exquisite "Life on Mars". He also worked with Cat Stephens on his version of "Morning has Broken" (something he claims he never received payment or credit for). However, he is best known as the man who played keyboards for prog rock legends Yes, featuring on such classic albums as Fragile, Close to the Edge and Going for the One. The man is a truly versatile musician, and incredibly skilled. I defy anyone not to be impressed by this solo.

Right, back to the matter at hand, his gig at the Gala!

Rick has been doing gigs as a one man act, just him and a grand piano recently, entertaining the crowd with anecdotes between songs. It's a very intimate show, and tickets typically sell out fast. I was lucky enough to get tickets back in February as a present from my Gran - Row E, right in the middle - the perfect place to see and hear everything (I'm fairly familiar with the Gala, I know where the good seats are).

The show was incredible; both musically and comically. He played a mixture of his solo works, classical pieces and bits and pieces from throughout his career as a session musician. The anecdotes were hilarious, and there was even a bit of audience participation - in the form of us providing birdsong for the middle section of "Bird man of Alcatraz". Perhaps the most interesting piece of music he played was an arrangement of his called the "Nursery Rhyme Concerto". In a nutshell, it's several well known nursery rhymes played in the style of well known composers - for example, Baa Baa Black Sheep played in the style of Mozart. It was fascinating to listen to, and a truly fantastic arrangement from a musician's point of view.

After the show Rick sat outside in the lobby signing albums and generally chatting. I stood in line with my vinyl copy of "No Earthly Connection" and waited for my moment. Suddenly, there I was, face to face with my hero. They say it's a bad idea to meet your heroes, but honestly, it was fantastic. We had a bit chat about keyboards and whatnot, and about prog rock in general, and I left with a huge smile on my face. I even managed to get a photograph of us together.

This isn't a review, it's just me raving about my hero. His music isn't to everyone's tastes, but this gig was very special to me, and meeting him was even more special. I just hope that one day we'll see him back on the road with Yes, blasting out mad minimoog can dream...

The Six Wives Of Henry VIIIJourney To The Centre Of The EarthThe Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table
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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Quick update

What a month this is turning out to be!

First of all, my sincere apologies for the lack of new content, I'm in the middle of packing up to move house at the moment, so nothing is happening musically outside of college.

On the keyboard front, I have a new board, a Roland D50. I hadn't paid much attention to the D50 before, but now I've got one I can see why it's gained a reputation as a classic.

I've had voice chip problems with my Juno-106 recently too, chip #2 broke down completely, and couldn't even be saved by removing it's resin coating (as suggested by youtube user rolandsh1000 in his video here. Replacement chips (albeit clones of the original) are available from Analogue Renaissance, and they are amazing. They sound the same as the originals, but are so much more stable (I have one in my Juno already) I'm looking forward to getting it so I can get the board back up and running.

In other, more personal news, I have a conditional offer for Teeside university to do a degree in music technology next year. It was my first choice, so I'm thrilled to be accepted.

Oh, one last thing, Peter Gabriel released his latest album this week, Scratch my Back. It's an album of interesting arrangements of other artists' songs. Some of the songs on there are easily the best covers I have ever heard, especially "Heroes" by David Bowie. It's well worth checking out.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

College Band

I'm a music student, and a big part of the course I'm taking is music performance. We put on two shows a year, each with a theme. Last year's final show was an 80s gig, which was tremendous fun to put on, and I got to play with a Roland Juno 6 on some of the songs, which was great.

Here's a video of the last incarnation of the band playing Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus with me on vocals.

Just before Christmas we put on another show, and this time the theme was unplugged. I don't have videos of the final show, but I have these three recoredings form our rehearsals. I recorded them on my portable minidisc recorder with a pretty basic stereo microphone, but they're not bad on the whole, and I think we sound pretty good on them.

The Small Faces - Itchycoo Park (me on piano)

Itchycoo Park by Matt Harrison Covers
Depeche Mode - I Just Can't Get Enough (me on backing vocals and percussion)

Just Can't Get Enough (Depeche Mode Cover) by Matt Harrison Covers

All of the songs were arranged by Mark Deeks, our course leader. He did a great job on all of the songs in our set, there were some very clever arrangements in there that I don't have recordings of yet. He deserves a mention though, because he's a terrific band leader. You can find his music on his website here and on his MySpace page here.
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Happy New Year!

Hello everyone, happy new year! Quick update on what's going on with me and my keyboards.

I've got the Pianet in better shape than it was, I've cleaned it up, realigned the rubber pluckers, adjusted the key action and re-magnetised a few of the reeds. I really need to sit down and tune it properly, but for now it's good enough. I've been playing it through a practice amp with my Electroharmonix Small Stone phaser and it sounds lush.

I've been exploring the Microkorg and programming a few of my own patches. I'll post some of them at a later date, I have a pretty good approximation of the Moog patch used by Rick Wakeman on "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" that I'm happy to share.

I'm packing down most of my gear in preparation for moving apartment, so I don't think there will be any more videos for a while, at least not from here.

As for me, I had a busy few weeks before Christmas, my college band put on our christmas shows, so I was busy rehearsing for those. I'll have some videos of the two nights that I'll put up on Youtube. I have some recordings of one of our rehearsals that I'll post separately as MP3s.
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