Music...

Board Recordings from Spring 2012

02012-06-20 @ 12:06

Slideshows

02012-06-19 @ 17:06

LIVE 2005

02012-06-19 @ 17:06

Board recordings from 2005 tour with string quartet. String arrangements by Jon Gagan. More to be added in the coming weeks.

DUNE Availability

02012-05-07 @ 10:05

Digital Downloads:
ListeningLounge (mp3 320kbps)
iTunes (AAC 256kbps)
Amazon.com (mp3 256 kbps)
HDTracks.com (FLAC 24/88.2kHz) – May 8th?

CD:
SSRI mailorder
Amazon.com (May 15th)
+ your local CD store and most national chains (May 15th)

10,000 Butterflies Redux

02012-05-07 @ 10:05

This is Jon Gagan’s 2007 remix of the track “This Spring Release 10,000 Butterflies” from the album One Guitar. You can find the remix here. Ten minutes of mellow. Relax and enjoy.

DUNE

02012-03-13 @ 08:03

I will add another track from DUNE to this SoundCloud set every Tuesday, until the album is released on April 24th. Simply return to this post every Tuesday to hear another song.

Right after we came home from last year’s Summer tour I started working on a new album. I had a photo and a title – the album cover was photographed by Mike Lane in the dunes near Mendocino, California – and a few new songs we had been playing live for several months. So I started writing more music and imagining sounds.

I decided that I disliked the sound of the Line 6 Pod Pro I had been using for a number of years. To my ears it simply does not sound like a “real” guitar amp.

So I borrowed a few amps to try, and ended up buying another Mesa Boogie – I bought my first one upon arrival in the USA in 1979, used it on “The Hours Between Night + Day” and “Opium”, and sold it in 2002, thinking that the digital way would more convenient and perhaps better. My new Boogie is quite small, has a 5W class A tube design and sounds amazing. Unfortunately the model I bought, the Express 5:25™ 1×10 Combo, was discontinued this year in favor of the bigger 12″ speaker.

I recorded all of the electric guitar parts without a pick and without any kind of effect, mainly using my thumb, and sometimes my fingers.

I also decided that I wanted to play guitar melodies that sounded “sung”. For some reason I kept thinking about old jazz and pop crooners. So I sang almost every melody first and then figured out how to play it on guitar. Perhaps this album is about guitar anti-shredding…

The album seems to continuo the idea from “Opium” of contrasting traditional and electric instruments:
percussion : drum machine
accordion : synthesizer
flamenco guitar : electric guitar (my old Vizcarra Strat)
upright bass : bass guitar

We ended up using very very little synth on this album… there are some strings on “Dancing Alone”, but most everything else is processed guitar. On “Horse”, for example, Jon played a guitar chord of mine through a speaker into his piano, with a brick depressing the sustain pedal, miking the piano strings. And there is some classic Fender Rhodes on “Bridge” and in one or two other places.

Regarding the drum machine… I was feeling nostalgic for the old Roland 808, one of the first machines I used in 1984. But since I did not want to pay the going rate of $2,500 for a used 808, and since they are a pain anyway because one has to dial in the tempo with a knob and guess at the tempo, I found a company in the UK that sells 24/88.2 high def samples from an 808 and bought a really nice German app called Geist to program the beats on my laptop. The whole thing ended up costing about $300 and works better than a real 808 would, in my opinion.

01 Falling In
All of the sounds were created from one electric guitar chord and a few Flamenco guitar sounds. Treatment and sound design by Andrew Gaskins. This track is “Falling In”, the beginning of a dream.

02 Shadow
A rumba with a little twist: it switches between a 4/4 rumba section (99BPM) and a 6/8 section (66BPM) that are related because the dotted eighth note of the 4/4 section becomes the quarter note in the 6/8 section. I was doing this naturally, but wanted to know what the hell I was doing – so Jon figured it out. I think it something that is done quite often in African music. Lovely accordion playing by Char Rothschild.

03 Horse
I found the Arabic scale on the Internet and immediately starting playing with it. I might have found it here. I added a couple of 5/4 bars in the chorus. Fun to play live. Great accordion playing, again! The cajon is also excellent and there is a beautiful bass solo at the end.

04/05 Bridge, Part 1 & 2
We have been playing this Tangos (Part 2 is a rumba) live for a year and a half. I love the bass w octave divider in the verses and the break with electric guitar and Fender Rhodes.

06 Sand
This one switches between rumba and tangos rhythms and different tempos that are nevertheless mathematically related. Jon suggested the upright bass which is perfect for the song. A little electric guitar during the outro…

07/08 Dancing Alone
I liked the song on “Petals On the Path”, but had a different vision for it. So we recorded it again and I love the way it turned out. We kept switching between two tempos on this one also. Great accordion playing, again! The ending of the Prelude is also a Flamenco guitar treatment by Andrew Gaskins.

09 Smoke
I love the interplay between guitar and accordion. During the third verse Jon plays three bass guitars and a clavinet!

10 On the Road to Shiraz
Killer bass line!! That bass break after the second verse consists of three basses, the main line, plus a low note to the right and some strumming on the left. At the very end you can hear me “play” a shortwave radio using the fine-tune knob.

11 Five Clouds, Lenticular
As the title suggests this one is in 5/4. The cajon beat is some kind of Eastern European 5/4 riff. Very pretty chorus melody.

12 Night Exhales
Pretty straightforward rumba with a funky ending!

13 Horse Return
A funky section from track 03 with added dry guitar parts and drum boxing.

14 Moon Fragrance
The percussionist is Chris Steele, who is in the new touring band. He has a unique setup with two Cuban cajons, which don’t have snare strings like the Peruvian cajons. We hadn’t recorded a Bossa Nova in a few years and enjoyed playing this.

15 Sliding Out
This is the end of the dream. Guitar treatment and sound design by Andrew Gaskins.

Happy Holidays 2011

02011-12-24 @ 10:12

Le Café – from the album Winter Rose:

Audio MP3

You can download the track here.

Westcoast – from the album Winter Rose:

Audio MP3

You can download the track here.

SD3

02011-10-20 @ 08:10

Urban Flamenco, the third album by Stephen Duros, is now available in the LL. Sometime in late November the album will become available from all the usual digital vendors and streaming services, such as iTunes, amazon.com, MOG, Spotify and so on.

Stephen will sell a small edition of 50 signed CDs from his website. These should become available by the middle of November. Check his website for more information.

Saturday in San Francisco

02011-07-02 @ 11:07

We are in San Francisco this weekend, for six performances at Yoshi’s. This afternoon I will also do a solo performance at the Fillmore Jazz Festival – at 2PM on the Fillmore street at Sutter street stage.

I have been watching Houman Orei play the traditional Persian Tonbak drum with us, a gorgeous instrument carved from a solid piece of Walnut wood. It has a lovely sound, darker than the bright Darbuka, which is also called Dumbek. The playing technique of the Tonbak involves mostly finger slapping, compared to, say, the palm slapping of a conga or djembe. These finger techniques are exactly the same as rasgueados, the strumming technique used in flamenco guitar music. Since the Tonbak is a very old Persian instrument, it seems likely that Moorish musicians in Spain played those, or similar drums. It seems logical to me that guitarists observed these drum techniques and copied them to enhance their rhythmic playing, especially in view of accompanying dancers.

Barcelona Nights 2011 and 2003

02011-06-26 @ 21:06

The first track is the new Barcelona Nights, from this year’s album Santa Fe, and the second track is the older Barcelona Nights, from 2003 album The Santa Fe Sessions:

Audio MP3

Audio MP3

You pay your singers?

02010-12-06 @ 08:12

You pay your singers?
A brilliant little video!

Petals On the Path Previews

02010-06-18 @ 20:06

Mono and low-bit-rate, but full-lenth previews nonetheless:


More info about this album can be found here.

New Release

02010-06-15 @ 12:06

Our new album Petals On the Path was released today.

Information about the album

Journal about the process of creating Petals On the Path – with rehearsal recordings and photos

ListeningLounge (our own mp3 download store)

iTunesPetals On the Path

AmazonPetals On the Path

You can find the HD FLAC (24/88.2) version of Petals On the Path at HDTracks

Petals On the Path

02010-05-20 @ 10:05

SPECIAL SHOW – The Best of Flamenco + Arabic Pop
For the last show of Flamenco + Arabic Pop on WYBC, I culled through the sixty shows which came before it for the best songs we’ve ever played, and the ones most representative of the Flamenco + Arabic Pop spirit. It wasn’t easy, turning over sixty hours into almost two and a half, but I’m happy with what resulted, and I think it leaves Flamenco + Arabic Pop on a good note. It also featured a world premiere of Backwards Firefly, a song from Ottmar Liebert’s upcoming album, Petals on the Path; thanks so much to Ottmar for allowing us that opportunity.

Letter to a Young Musician #7

02010-04-18 @ 10:04

Dear Friend,

How to produce a sound, draw a melody from the strings, is a constant question. You can hold a guitar comfortably, which may choke the sound a little, or you can hold it a little less comfortably and produce a finer tone. Somewhere in between those two extremes lies the perfect way to hold your instrument.

In Flamenco, when the guitar was mainly accompanying singers or dancers and when volume was an important concern in the days before amplification, people often balanced the bottom of the guitar on their right leg. The advantage of this position is that the guitar is loud and sings. Unfortunately the guitar isn’t very stable in this position and has to be held up by the left hand, which is not free to move about the neck.

In the last fifty years most guitarists favor this position: cross your right leg over your left leg. Rest the cut-out of the Flamenco guitar on your right thigh. Lean over so that your body is collapsing on the guitar to a degree. This will put your right hand in a good position to strum the strings and your left hand in a great position to play the neck.

Actually, I haven’t done that during concerts for a couple of years. I have been using a footstool, but while classical guitarists put their left foot on the stool and rest the guitar on their left thigh, I put my right foot on the stool and the guitar ends up in the same position as if I were to cross my right leg over my left leg.

The trick, then, lies is finding a balance between holding the guitar securely and thus enabling both of your hands to move freely, and holding the guitar lightly, so that the instrument isn’t choked and can sing. Similar to many relationships, isn’t it? Hold your lover tightly and set them free – at the same time. How do you do that? With care.

Don’t forget to practice.

Letter to a Young Musician #6

02010-03-18 @ 10:03

The fine art of dampening strings, or specifically stopping particular notes from ringing and thereby colliding with the other notes that you do want. I learned much about this by watching Jon play bass. The fingers of both of his hands are constantly refining the sound that comes forth from his instrument, adding a slow vibrato here and dampening a string that would otherwise clash with the next harmony.
You can observe this constant vigilance in classical guitarists like Julian Bream. While one finger of the left hand goes to a fret to define the next note, another finger is poised to dampen the string that rang the last note.

I recommend renting a DVD of Bream playing guitar as it is most interesting and educational. (((You might also observe how he bends certain notes to create harmonies that are in tune… the well-tempered scale is a compromise, especially on a guitar, and you will notice when you play an E major chord followed by a C major chord that the G-string, if tuned for the E chord, will sound off when playing the C chord and vice versa.)))

And the faces he makes while playing guitar are very entertaining, also.

This, of course, is most important when changing keys, but is always a good idea because even strings you haven’t plucked or struck with the right hand will ring sympathetically. By dampening those strings you focus more attention to the notes you are playing. Things become clearer, as if a fog has been lifted.

 


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