Yesterday my third album – Gratitude – was released. I’m happy, excited, proud, nervous. I have tons of feelings and thoughts running thru me and I can’t sit still for more than a few minutes, before I have to do something to distract my thoughts – I guess you can imagine how it is.
I’ve been working on this album for several years on and off. Actually did I write some of the tracks many years ago, while some of the tunes are totally new, also to me … at least kind of new, after working with them for some time.
When I make an album a lot of things go around in circles.
When you do a guest appearance with a house-band it’s important you know the song you’re singing well. The better you you know the song the more you can assist the band by leading and cueing. If something goes wrong during the concert, you’ll be more on top of what happens the more you know the song.
Conversely, if you do not feel particularly well and relaxed about any of the songs you have chosen, my advice would be to go with the simplest. When the band have the possibility to focus on other things rather than just getting thru, surviving the parts that require virtuosity, they will give you much better backing and that will lead you to a good overall performance. A performance where you will appear absolutely the best and seem more convincing.
Some years ago I did a guest appearance on the America TV format “Studio jams” … actually we all did – and we all showed up with open minds and a positive attitude
I’ve written about some thoughts concerning the length of the song and I’ve written about the style and what can happen if the material ask for a lot of virtuosity from a band member, when you do a guest appearance with a house-band. Today I’ll write about tempo changes and how you can prepare your guest appearance.
Just like some of the other issues I’ve written about, this might not seem like a problem for a person who knows the song well. But it can be … for a whole band, that hasn’t heard your way of going from one part to the other, and who don’t know all their parts by heart, it can be a challenge … Of course everybody will do their best, but if you add eventualities, such as bad monitors, and the fact that the band might have played 10 or 15 songs after your 10 minute rehearsal and before you are playing together again at the concert. Then tempo changes and giant medleys of songs that only you have known for years are a big challenge … At least if you only have one or two play-thru’s at the rehearsals many hours before you do the show.
I did a kind of guest appearance together with Will Lee, when we played with David Garfield at the Copenhagen Jazz Festvial some years ago … great fun
Yesterday I wrote about the style of the song you will perform with. What other things can cause problems for the musicians individually or the whole band when you are about to do a guest appearance with a house-band?
Maybe you know a certain song where you will shine brilliantly, but it might not be the right choice if the overall result isn’t top notch. A song that seems simple and straight forward to you, is not necessarily easy for everyone. An Icelandic or Faroese folk song that exists only on a sheet of music without bar-lines and proper notation, since it never has been sung in time, is almost impossible for a Danish or American musician to feel comfortable with within ten minutes, since the style and the sound just isn’t what we have grown up with. Or if the foundation for your entire song a fast harp-run, an advanced pedal-steel-country-guitar, or a super advanced programmed drum groove, you might want to consider having an alternate song as a back up, which could sound great the first time thru, played by a regular combo.
A photo from the rehearsals to a TV show – Julie Berthelsen played with me and my band, when she did a “guest performance with a house-band” in the program “Danmarksindsamlingen”
The other day I wrote about the length of a song if you are going to do guest appearance with a house-band – today I’ll write some thoughts considering the style … Should it be country, rock, jazz or classical? Fortunately, there are no definitive answers. Basically, it is only your good taste that determines the type of song you should choose.
The style in combination with the type of band
You will never get a four-piece band to sound like either a symphony orchestra or big band – just like you will never get a four-piece live band to sound exactly like a programmed Lady Gaga production. At least not if you only have little rehearsal time. It’s another story if you have budget and time … then almost everything is possible, with sequencers and stuff, but with a tight schedule and budget you have to consider things thoroughly.
A super Big Band track that you think is cool to sing, can often be rearranged so that the development, intensity and energy is conserved. Themes previously played by a huge sax group, may also work as a simple vibraphone, guitar or piano line. If the musicians aren’t stuck to lots of pre-defined roles, and instead can contribute with personal things, you will often get a great result and get more energy across from the stage.
Some time ago I did a guest appearance with a house-band … or more correctly with a big band … Here I did it the other way around, I arranged some funky tracks from my Funky Flavas album for this jazz line up – great fun!! Soren Reiff with Trelleborg Big band
Guest appearance with a house-band … What should you be aware of?
You probably sing because you love singing. If you sing a lot, you might end up singing in different constellations and for different purposes. Perhaps you might appear as a guest singer with a house-band you do not know. I’ve worked as Musical Director for house-bands on TV and live shows for many years. I think there are several things you should be aware of when you do such a guest performance with a house-band – so here and in some following blog-posts, are some thoughts from a M.D.’s view.
Of course, if you’re on tour promoting you latest single, you don’t have to consider which song to perform with the local house bands. But if you’re going to some sort of audition or examination, or performing as the icing on the cake at a venue with a house-band, there are things you should consider. Whether you sing only to please yourself or others, the result will be better and more memorable the fewer elements that can distract the judges or audience and remove focus from the overall impression and your performance. The more everyone on stage work as a unit, focusing on energy, dynamics and interpretation, the stronger the result will be. Therefore it’s wise to also think about the style, arrangement, duration and so on.
“But if the band is a group of serious and professional musicians, who even had opportunity to prepare your song, shouldn’t everything be possible?” In theory, yes… In practice, not necessarily.
Soren Reiff as Musical director. Hush did a guest appearance with the house-band on the TV-show “Danmarks indsamlingen”
The Cioks Ciokolate is a serious and professional power supply – strong as an elephant, available to adapt to different surroundings just as many human beings … and delicious (at least for us guitar players) as a candy bar.
Why should I buy a new power supply?
It makes sense to ask me that, since I’ve written several posts about how fond I am of the Pussy power supply (also made by Cioks). When I returned from the oversea trip, I did with my new smaller board, I wanted to use my bigger board for the final recordings for my coming album. Suddenly I remembered that I stole the Pussy Power from that board right before I left for Canada. Since I’m very happy about my new smaller board, and have no intentions of letting it go, I needed a new power supply for my old board. I was just about to order another Pussy Power, when I remembered something.
An additional experience with the Cioks Pussy power supply
This summer I was invited to come to Canada and play with the great saxophone player Walle Larsson and his band. Since I had to travel overseas I had to resize my pedalboard and make some serious decisions about what to bring and what to leave at home.
Overseas travels and power supplies
Since I’ve been into racks for years I haven’t traveled overseas with a pedalboard before. I’ve heard from several friends that the solution often is batteries to avoid troubles with hum, but since I wanted to bring pedals that needed more power than 9 volts I had to find the a good solution. The solution wasn’t that far away … I looked at my big board, flipped it upside down and looked at my Pussy power supply … it took about five seconds to find the switch that made it possible to work with 120 V main voltage as well. It had all I needed for my new board – isolated sections, 9-15 volts, some of the sections with 400mA and a weight about one kilo … all I needed. (Actually it can deliver up to 24v if you need that!). A few minutes after I started mounting the Pussy power at my new and smaller board. I put some extra power chords in my suitcase, since I would receive the last pedals at my hotel in Canada and headed for the airport … ok, I did this some days in advance of my flight … I like to be organized 🙂
Here’s a view of my new and smaller pedalboard flipped upside down with the Cioks Pussy power mounted with Velcro and a “seat belt” for the plane trip
What does the Empress buffer+ do, and do I really need a buffer? … I mean there are several interesting pedals out there that can do some really exiting stuff, so why spend money on a pedal that doesn’t add a wild distortion or other ‘stuff’ to your sound? Well let me try to tell you about my experiences with buffers and why I just got the Empress buffer+.
When I made my pedalboard a couple of years ago I spent hours reading about true bypass, browsing the internet to find the right pedals, cables and jacks. I was very happy and excited about most of the stuff I ended up buying. But I must admit I was confused and disappointed when I finally put everything together and plugged my guitar into the board and amp … what happened to that nice warm and present tone I just had a minute ago, going directly into the amp?
Overview of my board 2014 with the Empress Buffer+ down in the right corner
After talking to some of my more nerdy friends who have had boards for years, I was recommended a buffer. Actually a guy in a music store already mentioned a buffer to me, when I was complaining about how all the volume pedals choked the tone while I was trying out all the different brands – and back then I replied that I was looking for one good volume pedal … not a volume pedal AND something to fix it. But now I was a bit more ready to hear about buffers. Again I’m not into all the technical stuff … I just want it to sound good.
Let med try to explain very briefly what a buffer does.
I’ve been addicted to delay machines since the 80’s – now I’ve just become addicted to the new Empress Tape Delay Pedal.
I got my first delay fix from a Boss pedal in the late 70’s – the same time the Chorus CE-1 entered the market. Shortly after realizing I had a delay-addiction, I started looking for more serious alternatives to the noisy Boss and bought my first rack unit.
Since then I’ve been through a lot of different units. The TC 2290 has been a favorite and the brain/center in my rack-setup for years. A few years ago, when I decided to go for a pedalboard solution instead of the rack. I searched the market for a while and ended up buying the the Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay, which in my opinion, is the best delay pedal around. It sounds awesome, has tons of configurations, and even the ability to save up to eight presets.
Empress Tape Delay together with the Empress Compressor and the Radial Tonebone placed in my new board – 2014