Michael Brecker’s Health 2006

From David Liebman’s newsletter:

"MIKE BRECKER'S CONDITION I am thrilled to report the absolute latest news
on Mike Brecker's condition as of today (Dec 30). Mike has shown great
improvement in the blood cell count that is the essence of his recovery
after the operation of several weeks ago which basically constituted a
transfer of his daughter's 'good' cells into Mike. He is out of the hospital
and recovering in an apartment in the city where he was operated on,
expecting to be there for awhile as they monitor the cell count. THIS IS
GOOD NEWS and everyone's positive wishes are with Mike and his amazing
family."

Best/Worst Of 2005

I just picked up a copy of Tim Ries “The Rolling Stones Project”. I have to say, this is probably the best CD I’ve bought in 2005. I can’t think of another CD that I bought in 2005 that was better. Seriously, I think the industry needs to stop doing American Idol and other cheese things, and get back to producing good music.

On the Worst side, the RIAA lawsuits. Here is a great clip of a CNN interview with a person being sued and the RIAA head. Wow, talking about blinking. And here is another guy challenging the suits. I think if an album is good, and reasonably priced, people will buy it (HINT: Around $10). Also, a potential problem for the Recording Industry in the form of Spitzer. What? Price collusion? The RIAA? Never…..not in a hundred years…..

Zinn Practice Regimen For Saxophone III

NOTE – An updated version of this Regimen is available here

One of the most downloaded things on Jazz-Sax.com is the Zinn Practice Regimen. It was inspired by Daniel Zinn, master saxophonist/woodwindist when he took over saxophone instruction at CSUH about 10 years ago.

I updated it a couple of years ago, and I’ve updated it again. Changed the font, clean it up and came up with some new ideas to maim, I mean break, I mean develop fingers and skills. This is probably the last revision of it, as I think it encompasses all that I want it to, and takes about 30 minutes to play through. Enjoy

  Zinn Practice Regimen III (592.7 KiB, 52,678 hits)
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RIP Jazz Font

Since it first came out, I was an advocate for the Jazz Font. I still have the 3.5″ floppy that I bought to use with Finale 3 something. The disc has 1995 written on it. Anyhow, now I see it all over the place. The Jazz text font people use with other fonts. Yikes! And the music produced using the Jazz font is hit and miss. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes not (except like Warner Bros professional scores, those look great). And then there is a variation called Swing Font from the same author, and we won’t go into that goofy looking Sibelius “jazz” font….all these “hand written” fonts don’t look hand written to me anymore. I hate coming into a rehearsal and having to deal with a bad font and poor formatting. I had a rehearsal about 2 weeks ago where someone brought in a Sibelius chart that could have been 2 pages in Finale, but was 4 in that goofy Sibelius jazz font. Looked like crap.

Having been exposed to a “better way”, I’m am leaving the world of the Jazz Font. Too many people use it, and, honestly, it isn’t as cool or as good looking as it once was.

I’ve rewritten my venerable “Zinn Practice Regimen” for sax using Bill Duncan’s Finale Productivity stuff. Amazing. There is no comparison. This new version is easier to read, looks better. Hell, it’s better than some books I have bought. Mr. Duncan is currently working on some Jazz Articulations to include in his package. Scoops, falls, bends and whatnot. Looking forward to it!

It’s been a good run Jazz Font, but, alas, time for you to be retired.

Band In A Box Mac

PG Music’s Band-in-a-Box is a great program. Sadly, it is languishing on the Mac side. After not updating it for about 4 years, the updated it to version 12 to add Mac OS X support. The Windows version was updated to 2004. We are now almost into 2006, and the Mac version is not going to be updated this year. Instead, PG Music did a maintenance release of the existing to allow the use of new styles. No new features, nada. You’d think PG Music would have been working on a new version to add support for Garageband. Or perhaps the ability to use Garageband software synths. Nope. Just new styles.

I really hope they get another Mac programmer there to get this program rolling. When you compare the PC version and the Mac version, there is a HUGE gap.

Band in A Box 2006

PG Music has released the latest, greatest update to it’s awesome Band in A Box program. Version 2006 includes these features:

  • Live looping and playback control (for people who perform live with BinaB. Though I don’t think I’ll be using it)
  • Enhanced TC-Helicon Audio Harmonies (???? ok….)
  • New notation symbols
  • (woohoo..lead sheets!)
  • ASIO Audio/Software synth driver support, VST synth/plug-in support, Three new DirectX plug-ins, PG Vinyl, PG RTA and PG Vocal Remover (*yawn….what?)
  • Direct open or import of WMA, MP3, and CD-Audio files, Half-speed (and slower) audio playback (Interesting feature to allow you to load an audio file in and transcribe it)
  • Support for different instruments (patches) for the “a” and “b” substyle (this is neat!)
  • Multi-channel Leadsheet display and specific channel recording, MIDI normalize option, Piano Roll improvements, Bar range for MIDI file creation (Um…..won’t ever use them)
  • Two new ear training games (Games? Someone say games?)
  • 11th chord support (FINALLY!)
  • Batch conversion from Band-in-a-Box songs to MIDI files (Could be interesting…)

PLUS………

You get Styles 58, which sounds damn good. If you opt for the MegaPak ($99 from a previous version), you get ALL the styles. Some of them are very nice, like Styles 53 to 57.

Sadly, the Macintosh version is now seriously lagging behind the PC version. The Mac version is 12, the PC is on 2006, and they have been through 12, 2004, 2005. So we are three version ahead. Sad. PG Music is promising some add-ins soon for the Macintosh version. We will see.

In all, if you don’t own Band in a Box, get it. It is the best practice tool out there. It beats Smartmusic with both it’s arms tied behind it’s back, both legs tied, blind-folded, and suffering from the flu. Yeah, no comparison. SmartMusic does not let you print anything from it. Band in a Box will let you print lead sheets, piano parts, drum parts, solos, EVERYTHING.

My former teacher, Guido, has put away his Vinyl (yes, he uses records…..poor guy….probably also has a leisure suit somewhere as well that he wears, but I digress…..) Aebersold LPs in favor of Band in a Box. This version does not add a lot of really NEW features, but it is worth it just for the styles.

James Newton Howard On Scoring For King Kong

KongisKing.net has a couple of interesting videos about the post production of the new King Kong movie. Of interest are the post production movies of weeks 4 and 5.

Amazing that he does about 2 minutes of music a day, and then the copyists come in at like 4am to write out parts for the orchestra to play in the morning. Also amazing the amount of Macintoshes used 😉 Also of note is that it appears that Finale is used, by the look of a couple of the pieces of music in the videos, specifically in the Week 4 video, about 4:21 into it. Looks like Finale using Bill Duncan’s Finale Fonts

Smartmusic 9.0

SmartMusic has been updated to version 9. MakeMusic is hyping it with Wynton Marsalis who gives little “talks” about how to use the software. If you have used SmartMusic before, you know how the interface sucks. It still sucks. The sounds still suck. However, they have added some jazz things.

A couple of things sounded interesting, so I downloaded (finally!) the upgrade (500+ megabytes) and installed it. First off, NONE of the jazz exercises are printable. In fact, hardly anything is printable. In my opinion, it cripples the program. How can you promote the “on screen drum charts” when I doubt anyone can get their computer anywhere close to their drum set. Also, on the Mac Mini system I tested it on (1.42 gigahertz), the follow cursor (line or whatever you want to call it) seems to be behind the music, which kind of blows the whole reason for having the cursor there. SmartMusic needs to be able to PRINT examples, exercises, lead sheets. Adopt a print feature like MusicNotes.com has and print an “authorized for use by So and So” on the bottom right of every page.

SmartMusic has a lot to offer, such as great backgrounds to all kinds of Classical literature. Avoid the Beatles stuff in there, as it’s super cheezy. The Jazz stuff has a long way to go. There needs to be the ability to create loops, and perhaps freely take patterns and combine them with other patterns and create a practice loop. I’d recommend Band-in-a-Box over SmartMusic for Jazz any day of the week. Not only does Band-in-a-Box allow you to create progressions of any length or style, but you can PRINT out charts.

I give SmartMusic a 5 out of 10. It’s a love/hate relationship with this program. I like the classical pieces and hate the interface and sounds.

Sax Amplifiers??

Pimsoul writes “I play in a band, on alto sax. The think is, because the drums are loud the bass and guitar is loud, so i have to play loud too. But I can’t always keep up with loudness, so we thought about amplifieing my sax. Because it isn’t good for a normal guitar amplifier to use it for saxophone i’m looking for an alternative. I thinking about an amplifier for sax, but do they even exist? So yes, are these things expensive (when you compare it with the quality)? If they don’t exist, what are the other alternatives?
I would appreciate replies very much, thank you!
Kind regards, Pim
(excuse me for my bad English)”

There is not a “sax amplifier” per say. What you can use is pretty much any type of amp you want. Or a self powered speaker. Keyboard amps work great, something like Rolands KC350. Really depends on how much money you want to spend. And you would need a microphone as well, something like a Sennheiser 421.

But you might consider asking the other guys to play down at 11 rather than 13. If you can’t hear yourself play in a band, you have to wonder what the long term effects on your hearing (not to mention sanity). Is it worth losing your hearing to play really, really, really loud?

Boycott Sony Music

If you haven’t heard, Sony is installing DRM on its CDs. This DRM has also been exploited.
In fact, there is even a lawsuit over it.

Now, it seems even Mac OS X gets some sort of DRM with a Sony CD.

It’s time to boycott Sony Music.

Update: 11/13 20:27 GMT by E :There is an interesting discussion about Sony’s End User License Agreement on Slashdot.org. Amazing how this company is protecting it’s profits.

Xmas Guide 2005

Yes, it is only November. But there is no time like the present to start thinking of presents for people (woohoo, good play on words there E).

To start things off, iLounge has a very good, free, Holiday buyers’ guide available. Of course the guide is for people who own an iPod. And if they don’t own an iPod, that would be the #1 thing to get people. An iPod nano is only $199. Amongst the things they recommend are AKG’s new K 701 headphones. I own a pair of AKG 271 headphones, and they rock. The 701s are around $399.

Other things to consider getting a musician are:

This is just a start…..I’m sure there are other potential presents out there.

Jazz Saxophone Etudes By Greg Fishman

Greg Fishman has released a great new book titled Jazz Saxophone Etudes. What sets this book apart from others is the addition of two CDs, one for Alto and one for Tenor. You use the same etude for both instruments. So, you don’t have to deal with bad transposition jobs that you find in say, Bob Minzter’s books. Plus, the CDs feature extended rhythmn section only parts that allow you to stretch out and play on the tunes.

The tunes are based on standard changes. There are two blues etudes, two rhythmn changes etudes, and etude based on the changes to “A” Train, etc. All the etudes are named after streets in Chicago, which figures as Greg Fishman is from Chicago.

The one thing I would want more of in the book is voice leading. It would have been great to include the voice leadings to the solos, along with some analysis of what was used. It was mentioned briefly in the front of the book, then….nada. It would really make this book stand out if it had detailed, one page sheet on the voice leadings used in the solos. Anyhow, I’ve done a bunch of them for my students so they can see how he constructed the solos.

Rating for this book. 10/10. For $20, this book rocks. You get excellent solos, great sounding CDs, and a lot of information. Go get it!

Metal Mouthpieces and Spoilers

pika writes “What do people think about the metal mouthpieces with spoilers? How much louder do they make you sound(tener sax) because i was thinking about getting one for marching band. Email me if you know anything.”

First off, we don’t “email me if you know anything”. That also goes for people who “please email your XXXX arrangement”. You won’t believe how many times a week I get that. It is so Middle School.

Back to your question. A baffle indeed makes your mouthpiece louder. I think that is what you mean by “spoiler”. It would make a metal mouthpiece louder obviously. However, it does change the quality of the tone you get out of the mouthpiece. I tried Power Tone Baffles briefly on alto, and did not care for them. I got more volume, but the tone just didn’t sound good.

There is another thing you could try. If you put some paper underneath the reed (where the reed and mouthpiece contact), that will give you a little more buzz and power.