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The connection you make with people VIA music is what matters.

I know the title of this post may appear to conflict with my recent post about taking music seriously, but in my head the two concepts go hand in hand.

The deal is this: I really don’t think music matters in a grand or cosmic sense, at least not music in itself.  The RESULTS of music, however, are incredibly important.  In my mind, the primary function (result) of music is connection with people.  The emotional influence that music has on listeners, and the resulting connection that develops between a performer and an audience – this is what I am concerned with.  Therefore I take playing music VERY seriously.

But… what I don’t take seriously is the music itself, or the idea that music is somehow sacred and important aside from its usefulness to connect with people.  In my mind this concept is very similar to the whole “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it still make a sound” idea.  My answer to that is “no,” at least with regard to the RESULTS and PURPOSES for sounds.  I realize I am taking a very human-centric viewpoint here, but I will go out on a limb and say that sounds exist to be HEARD.  If they are not heard then they do not matter.

I thought about this all night at the U2 show last weekend. That band has an incredible ability to connect with people. Whether it’s through a stereo via their albums, or in-person at their epic live shows… they always connect. They always make an impact. They always leave their audience so affected by their performance that they want to go out and DO something. “Emotional high” was a common description my friends’ Facebook status updates on the day following the show. Many people were so struck by the show that they couldn’t even describe what they were feeling.

This is fantastically interesting to me… the idea that what I do with an instrument can affect listeners so strongly that they can’t even fully process it. Knowing that music wields such a powerful sword makes me want to be very intentional with what I do. It makes me want to choose wisely what kinds of message the music I play sends, and it gives me a lot of drive to see that the performances that I give are effective.

U2 certainly did this last Saturday. I plan on digging into their music even further over these next few months in an effort to learn how they do it.

I went to the U2 show at TCF Stadium this past weekend with my daughter Betty, and we had a GREAT time. I’ve got some blog-post-worthy thoughts about the show, but I’ll save those until tomorrow and instead just post some pictures and stuff for now. This post is simply a diary of the evening for documentation purposes, because I’m so pumped to have found so many pictures and videos online from other people!

This photo to the left is Betty and me at home getting ready to leave for the show and feeling pretty pumped about it. I found these tickets two years ago (the show was postponed from last summer) and we have been counting down the days! Thanks again to Shawn Messner and Greg Stoesz!

Betty and I in the stands. Some friends were randomly sitting just a few rows in front of us and took this photo.

A few minutes before the show actually started a bunch of balloons were released right in the middle of our section. That was an unexpected treat for Betty. We spent at least 5 minutes punching them around. A random fan on the floor caught some video…

The show started with a David Bowie tune as the band took the stage, and they opened with “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” The Edge played the guitar solo at the top of the tune over the drone and it had a tone of vibe. Betty was BLOWN AWAY by the lights as they first lit up that monstrous stage. It was super intense. Again, a fan from the floor got some great footage of the moment.

Mid-show high five...

About 4 songs in it started to rain a little, so these super space-age-looking umbrellas came out of the stage over the drums and guitar/bass rigs. The Edge’s wireless pack had a little trouble at one point, and this video shows both the technical problem and the umbrellas…

About halfway through the show it started to rain SUPER hard, so we retreated into the concourse underneath the upper deck for shelter. We grabbed a good spot where we could still see the show and stayed there until the last song before the encore break.

Betty’s favorite tune is Elevation, and she was super pumped that they played it. My personal favorite tune of the night was the first of the encore, “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me.” Be sure to watch this whole video, because Bono swinging back and forth from the microphone at the end is so cool…

Other noteworthy show moments include Bono’s creative band introductions, K’Naan joining the band onstage, Edge and Bono dedicating a tune to Amy Winehouse, the band just rocking right through some HEAVY rains, and the low cloud cover during “With Or Without You” adding extra visual effect to the mirror ball.

I’m absolutely IN AWE of how much this band affects people through their music. The concept of really connecting with your audience is something I’ve thought a lot about recently, and seeing U2 do it so well cemented a few things for me. Like I said, I’ll post some additional thoughts about that stuff tomorrow.

Last month, when I posted John Hammond’s fill explanation, I mentioned that I’d follow up with some thoughts on his explanation. In fact, I said I would post my comments the very next day, but we’ll pretend I didn’t say that. Anyway, here are my thoughts, and be forewarned, things are about to get technical…

First of all, many thanks to John for his super hip and inspiring playing, and for his in-depth lesson on the fill. I love it, and I love his careful description of how to make it happen. But the thing I love the most is his second email, “correcting” himself on the septuplet thing. His honesty reinforces a theory I’ve had for a while, which is what today’s post is all about.

The theory is this: I believe anytime someone claims to be playing a quint (or septuplet), they are in reality doing what Hammond described and rounding off duplets to triplets or triplets to quads.

This theory came out of my polyrhythm studies back in college, when I was learning how to do 2 over 3 and 3 over 4. I realized one day while sitting in class that hearing the subdivision behind both 2 and 3, which is 6, is the secret. So, triplet 8ths and “normal” (duplet) 8ths would need internal subdividing of 16th triplets, because the counts in BOTH triplet 8ths and normal 8ths are contained in triplet 16ths.

Sidenote: At this point it might be helpful for anyone who hasn’t already read my older posts on counting to do so. Having an accurate understanding of counts and subdivision is essential in understanding what I’m talking about here, and my counting post will at the very least get us on the same page.

Ok, back to the issue. For those who want to see firsthand what I’m talking about with the internal subdividing 2 over 3, try playing triplet 8ths and normal 8ths with 16th triplets also. To begin, play 16th triplets with single strokes…

1 – ta – la -and – le – lo – 2 – ta – la – and – le – lo – etc

Now, accent the 8th counts to hear normal 8ths amidst the triplet 16ths…

ONE – ta – la – AND – le – lo – TWO – ta – la – AND – le – lo – etc

Then you can shift to accenting the triplet 8th counts to hear those within the 16th triplet…

ONE – ta – LA – and – LE – lo – TWO – ta – LA – and – LE – lo – etc

Switching your accents back and forth will help you get used to hearing both normal 8ths and triplet 8ths. The next step is to stop playing all the other counts and simply listen to them internally while you play ONLY the notes that you used to be accenting. Then you can switch between the triplet 8ths and normal 8ths comfortably, all while hearing the 16th triplet internally.

This post is getting long, but stick with me here. The reason this internal subdivision is so important is that it gives guidance and proof to your switching from 8ths to triplet 8ths. Otherwise the switch from 8th to triplet 8th would be merely a guess. When playing 8ths, one doesn’t just switch to triplet 8ths by going a little faster all of a sudden. You’ve got to have a target in mind, otherwise you’re just guessing… which in the long run won’t work out very well. The internal subdivision provides the needed target.

So what does this have to do with the Hammond fill and septuplets? It comes down to the issue of internal subdivision vs guessing. The math behind internally subdividing so as to be able to switch between normal 8ths and quintuplets in the same space is INSANE. One would need to subdivide the quarter note in 10 in order to facilitate 8ths and quints. The more common usage would be 16ths and quints, where you’d need to subdivide the quarter in 20 in order to accomplish, and switching between triplet 8ths, normal 8ths, and quints would require subdividing the quarter in 30. THIRTY… three-zero. I mean, c’mon. Nobody does that.

I feel like Hammond would agree with me on this, which is why he clarified that the “seven” he was playing wasn’t an even seven. The best way to describe what he’s doing, in my opinion, is a set of three triplet 16ths followed by a set of four 32nd notes. I’ve never spent time trying to figure out the name of 32nd note upbeats, but here’s how that would be counted, starting on beat 5 of the 6/8 pick-up measure…

R tom (five) – L tom (ta) – R tom (la) – L tom (and) – kick (32nd upbeat) – kick (e) – R tom (32nd upbeat) – L snare (six)

Does this make any sense at all?  I hope so.  (Btw… let’s just ignore the fact that the time signature of “The Truth” is 6/8, which complicates the counting a little, and just go with the above counting).

Groups of seven could also be played starting with the set of 32nds and followed by the triplet 16ths. Four normal 16ths followed by  set of triplet 8ths would also be a “seven,” but spaced out over a half note instead of a quarter note. Quints, on the other hand, would be two 8ths + three triplet 8ths, or two 16ths + three triplet 16ths, etc.

Again, I know this post is really wordy and super technical, but I think it’s an important issue.

SUMMARY: Quints, septuplets, and other odd groupings are totally feasible and even hip (as Hammond’s fill shows). However, we have to be real about how to play them. Evenly spacing 7 notes (or 5 notes) in the same chunk of time that you’ve been spacing 2 or 4 notes is just unrealistic. In other words, don’t let your math metal friends tell you that they’re playing quints and septuplets, but spend some time exploring the possibilities that come from combining triplets and normal subdivisions within the measure.

John Mayer recently shared some interesting thoughts at his former school, addressing the topics of current social media and the creative process.  Good stuff to think about as I sit here writing a BLOG, having just checked my TWITTER and FACEBOOK… all while complaining that I can’t find the time to get my solo project off the ground.

PS. Those of you who are familiar with John Piper will find his response to Mayer’s Twitter theory worth reading.

I just came across this article on a friend’s Facebook page. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…


I haven’t been posting on THIS blog lately, but I have been posting on my Tumblr page and my friend Bryan’s blog. Another thing I’ve been doing a lot of is listening to new music, so that’s always a good reason to post something on this site.

1. Bon Iver
The self-titled Bon Iver record is pretty great.  The drumming isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s not about that on this album.  Really creative arrangements and song structures combined with beautiful melodies make for a great listen.

2. Leagues
My friend Tyler Burkum started a band last year with some Nashville dudes and released a short EP a few months ago.  It is REALLY great.  Songwriting and tones, performances and parts… it’s a fantastic 3 tracks from all angles.  Jeremy Lutito on drums is just killing it.

3. Bob Marley
I recently picked up a few more Marley albums and can’t get enough of them. The groove and feel of those recordings is so simple yet so difficult to impersonate. A friend’s comment about reggae always comes to mind when I listen to Marley: “A lot of people try to do this and it just doesn’t work, but Bob Marley doing it sounds so legit.”

4. Dogs Of Peace
I revisited Speak because of my correspondence with John Hammond a few months ago, and it is as good as ever. So much pocket, so much vibe. What a great band! I’m putting this album on the list of records that every drummer should listen to once a year.

5. Medeski, Martin, and Wood
Speaking of revisiting albums, last week I listened to MMW’s Friday Afternoon In The Universe for the first time in YEARS. Yep, still rules.

6. Halloween, Alaska
The new single from the upcoming HA record, All Night The Calls Came In, can be heard here. Full album drops August 30.

It really doesn’t get much cooler than this. Well, unless the audio and video were lined up a little better. #whytheamateurediting?

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