Looking back, Sunday was a big day. My step daughter came home from her college orientation in Vermont, The Bruins won game six of the Stanley Cup Final and forced tomorrow night’s winner take all game seven, Fear the Walking Dead’s season five episode two wasn’t terrible… it wasn’t good either, but it wasn’t terrible, and there was a band practice. The band practice was the least of all things, by far, so here’s a post talking about it!
It was a weird one. We brought one new song to add to our 80’s mini set. We’re going to play my high school reunion later this year. I graduated in the 80’s. Hence, the number of cliched 80’s songs needs to be increased. We tried out “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls. Not the worst song of the decade, but one I’ve never had to play before.
We played it first and it felt pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Listening back to the tape… ummm… it wasn’t good. It was pretty crappy. From there we went over some older songs and they all felt okay but on the tape they sound kinda bad. We hit on a few of the more recent additions that we weren’t 100% sure of even before we took over a month off, and the rust was thick and heavy.
I had one experience that I have never had before. It freaked me out a little.
I can sing. I don’t like to sing, but I can do it. I can also sing in harmony. I do kinda like doing that but if I am less than spot on it devastates my confidence and my voice gets softer and I tend to stand further away from the mic. It all comes down to me not really wanting to sing in the first place.
We do an REO Speedwagon song. Yes, that is mistake #1 but let’s ignore that. The chorus has a lot of vocal parts and some interesting harmony that is something other than just a line that sits a 3rd above or a 4th below the melody. It’s kind of a cool thing and I want to nail it. Unfortunately it’s really high. Like, castration high. Like, Michael Jackson would listen to it and think, damn that’s high. I can reach most of it, but one note is beyond me. I usually figure out a work around of some kind. I either sit on a lower chord tone, or I sneak into falsetto (which sounds like shite), or I somehow crack into it which kinda hurts but when I hit it, it sounds good.
Anyway, we are rolling through this song Sunday night and we come to the chorus and I reach for the first note and… I missed. By a mile. Like, the note, which is one I normally hit with ease, was in Haverhill, MA and the note I hit was in Tuscaloosa, AL. I missed it by a ton. I missed the first four or five notes by the same astronomical unit before I stopped singing all together. What the hell? The note I can’t reach is in the second line, and I couldn’t hit anything in the first line. Did my voice change? Did I finally, finally, hit puberty? Nope. I don’t think so. I think it was pollen.
The pollen outside right now is so thick you can sometimes see it floating on the breeze. Our white car isn’t white anymore, it’s green. Our black car isn’t black anymore, it’s green. People with allergies must be barricading themselves indoors with a bottle of Clariton in each hand and a blanket over their heads. I don’t usually have seasonal allergies, but over the last few weeks I’ve been having trouble breathing. I’m stuffy enough to notice, but not enough to have issues with it. I think that was the reason I couldn’t sing that line. That has never, ever happened to me before and I hope it never happens again.
We practice at Mike the Bass Player’s house. He had something going on that required him to step away for a short time. That’s when things got goofy. Greg randomly started singing some country song. Kevin played it on his phone, and within five minutes the three of us were playing the song all the way though. Then Kevin started listing off songs that were on his iTunes Rejected Lizardfish Songs playlist. He mentioned a Bad Company song that I used to know and I started playing it. Then we were all playing it. Poorly, but playing it. Then it was a Journey song. I didn’t know it. Kevin played it on his phone and then we were all playing it. Poorly, again, but so what. When Mike came back he joined in. I think we ended up noodling around five or six songs that we either had never played before, or they had never played with me before. It was kind of fun. Hopefully some of them will make their way back into the rotation.
That brings me to the one guitar gear techie note from practice. Last year I bought a digital delay pedal with a tap tempo switch and a subdivision calculator. It’s a Wampler Faux Tape Echo. You tap your foot in time to the music on the tap tempo switch and then select the note duration you want to echos to follow on the subdivision button. It has quarter notes (which repeat at the same time your foot tapped), eighth notes (two echos per foot tap), half notes (one echo per two foot taps), and the magical dotted eighth note (where the echos come at the equivalent of an eighth note and a half). I don’t often use a delay pedal for anything other than gimmicky effects. Noise, mostly. The tap tempo and the subdivision functions are nice to have, but I don’t often put them to use.
Then we played a U2 song. The Edge, U2’s guitar player whose real name is Dave, uses the holy hell out of dotted eighth note delay times. Practically his entire career is based on it. David Gilmour used the same effect spectacularly on Pink Floyd’s The Wall and a slew of other records, but for most of us when we think delay tricks we think of U2. Lizardfish used to play New Year’s Day. That was one of the songs we almost brought back to life last night. I finally had something that required my shiny new Wampler digital delay, and it worked like crazy!
But wait, there’s more! Remember that Flock of Seagulls song that sounded like bird shit at the start of practice? That has some delay on it too. Oh wait, that has dotted eighth note delay on it! We played it again to close the practice, I set up the delay time and the subdivision and HOLY SHIT! All of the gaps were filled in, all of the missing pieces were there! It sounded awesome! Sure, we still screwed up coming out of the first chorus, but damn! Success! Thanks David Gilmour! Thanks Dave The Edge Evans Thanks Brian Wampler!