Friday, July 20, 2007

Yo Soy El Bajista, Otra Vez

My bass is right now with Stuart at Electromusic in Doncaster, being restrung and having its setup checked.

I've decided to wimp out and change to lighter-gauge strings since Ana's become the regular bassist in the band. It's taken me a while to overcome denial - that I'm no longer as sharp nor as strong as when I used to be, and this step is my final admission.

The change in tension and the settling of the neck (the bass, not mine, silly!) warranted a full check-up, and I expect to have eliminated the spectre of fret-buzz when I get it back. You might think that going for the higher-gauge strings in the first place was masochistic, but in my defence, I didn't really know what I wanted then - being new to playing bass and all.

As you may have guessed, all this is in aid of the recording.

I'd been fortunate enough to acquire the rather fabulous Mark Bass TA501 head and Mark Bass 104HR cabinet, and this has prompted both Dan and myself to decide to re-record ALL the basslines to all of the songs. Mark Bass has made THAT much of a difference.

I'm finding it a daunting prospect, especially since I'm not playing regularly any more - maybe I'll feel better about it once I've got a few songs recorded under my belt. But at least I can start practicing the bass again now that Bembé's progressed to the practice stage, and since Ana's going home to casi-Gijón for a month. It means that I can lay down the tumbaos while Nathan's on lead vocals - playing in the band context will be a great help in knocking the rust spots off.

Hopefully Stuart can have it ready before this Wednesday's practice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Jeremy and I are laying down more guide tracks for El Tambor, El Gallo, Getting It Together, (and maybe more) this Saturday. Then I'm putting down the conga tracks before the bass. At least I'm keeping in touch with the congas - Whib can only make it once a week, so I get to fill in on the other day.

I guess this is my meandering way of expressing regret, of how tough I'm finding it to keep on top of several instruments when I'm not full-time in music.

But rest assured that you would not be able to tell that from our recordings when the album is finally available. We owe it to ourselves not to let that happen.

Yeo Loo Yen

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bembé - The Whole Kaboodle

I finished Bembé a week ago last Saturday. Actually, Jeremy and I got together that afternoon and worked our way through the entire song; intro, verse, chorus, bridge, montuno, coda, breaks, the whole lot. To say that it was one of our better days is an understatement.

Then Ana joined us later and we nailed the basslines, completing both the core rhythm and vocals for the song. It was already sounding great. We introduced it in its entirety to the remainder of 4de12 a few days later (sans Carolyn and Dan who were holidaying), who all quickly got their teeth into it. Despite Bembé's tender age, it's taking shape very quickly which is the mark of a good song. There's even a chance that we could have it ready to debut at our gig in Leeds.

Jeremy and I began the process of recording Bembé with the guide piano, vocals and clave last Sunday - this is the fastest we've ever worked on a song. Conventional wisdom dictates that we should gig a song for at least a year before recording it; to give the musicians time to explore it, for the song to reach maturity. Scheduling pressures on the recording project dictate otherwise.

Where some might think of this as an unfortunate circumstance, I think of it as an opportunity to give Convention a good poke in the eye. Having been through the recording wringer a few times already, I think and feel that there's every chance we can come up with a rendition that will match the others in terms of exceptional quality.

The Fast-track begins here and now!

Loo Yeo

PS. I've recently discovered Facebook and in it, I'm documenting the rise of Bembé in the form of a photo diary. It's a bit of an experiment right now and if it works out as well I think it will, we might publish it on one of our websites.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Timbale Fills... done!

Nathan was on fire last night.

Nueva Generación was the best I'd ever heard him play it: a practice, under the record button, or onstage. As a song that would be made or broken in large part by the timbales, this was the best possible result. And then he went on to add to the feel of Llamada de Ogún; a song that we didn't think could be added to wrt. percussion. Wow!

This was the best way we could have recorded it - the timbales sound as if you're right there playing them. The difference in Sound Pressure Level (SPL) between the rides and the fills was... aww heck! I'll spare you the gory details.

[Get thee hence, recording-tech dweeb!]

Having put all but one of the timbales tracks to bed, we can now turn to editing and preparing to record Harris on bongó; whom incidentally, is so cool he's travelling all the way from Nottingham to lay down the beats. I've set Bobby on the task of getting the Meinl bongó stand for me as I type.

And now that we've been able to pack-down the gear, the front room is available again for band practice. We're all looking forward to playing music together again after a fortnight's enforced watery break. I'm really looking forward to trying out the AMT Roam 2 unit on Jan's violin tomorrow night having already decided to go ahead and get the other Roam units for 4de12. Again, Bobby's on the case.

Lastly, the band (read Nathan) now has a presence in facebook: Cuatro de Diciembre. Pop in, say hello, make Nathan a happier man!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm Afraid Something's Just Gotta Give

And it has to be the website, at least for now.

Readers of the blog should have noticed that the entries are more to do with Cuatro de Diciembre and the music project than anything else, with the odd comment on my dance experiences thrown in. But then, it really should have come as much of a surprise given that I'd mentioned the possibility before. The website development is on hold for now, as I continue to facilitate our salsa band's development in both the recording and live arenas.

It's still my intention to add to the salsa glossary and timeline: there are plenty of entries sitting on my table, twiddling their thumbs as they wait to be put to use. And I have enough material to write the piano tutorial of the highly regarded Salsa Ear-Training programme. I have a forlorn hope that the mobility I might achieve through obtaining a new laptop would help me cobble together enough stolen moments make meaningful advances once again.

Loo Yen Yeo

Monday, July 02, 2007

Just so the Lady could have Hot Chocolate

After having done a good morning's work, I decided to pop by the salsa classes in town on Saturday afternoon.

Unusually, both Helena and Nicolai were there and while the latter beguiled the first class, I siezed the opportunity to catch up with Helena. It's not something I get to do very often, maybe once a year, and we did whilst she was making up for a serious lack of sugar.

It didn't last because soon it came time for the students to partner up, and the class was a person short. The look on poor Helena's face - her hot chocolate had just arrived, and she knew that it would at best, be a 'tepid chocolate' by the time she was able to acquaint it with her taste-buds, caused me gallantly to volunteer instead (and partially redress the gender imbalance).

My reward was being invited to join the more third class; you can tell these participants are much more intent - they all pack a change of shoes. I felt this nagging itch, it felt a little like one was being thrown to the wolves, only friendlier(!) and to music.

Now this was the first time I'd been an advanced learner in ages, and nearly as long since spring-cleaning my dance vocabulary to just the most polymorphic of elements. It was a shock to the system, I can confess: things were happening thick and fast, and in the back of my mind I was thinking, 'we're practicing this right now at 150bpm, how on Earth am I going to get this working at 190bpm?'

So I took a student's prerogative and I cheated. Unashamedly.

After years of dancing the way I do, I'd found myself lately peering over the fence and wondering how well the 'non-me' salseros were experiencing salsa. The teaching was good, spiced up by some badinage between old friends, and sprinkled with proclamations of "my partner wants a new partner" (much to my then-victim's embarrasment); the afternoon passed by most entertainingly. But fun though as it was, I'm happy with my decision, and happier still with my curiousity assuaged.

Yeo Loo Yen