Dorico3.5.10, BiaB, and Guitar Repair

I haven’t been able to post for a while so I’m going to catch up with three shorter but important items.

DORICO 3.5.10

Steinberg continues to work at Dorico, and if you have not heard yet, version 3.5.10 was released at the end of July. You can find the official announcement here.

The big news for guitarists has to be the enhanced support for pre-bends in TAB, and the ability to notate several re-strikes while holding a bend. Other smaller enhancements include leaving off “gliss” on a slide line by default, although of course you can add it if you really want it.

Daniel Spreadbury does a great job of explaining the new features, as well as the 140 bug fixes (!) in 3.5.10, so I suggest you read his official announcement here. He also includes John Barron’s DiscoverDorico video dealing with this new version. Don’t even think of skipping this one.

Band-in-a-Box Support

I’ve mentioned the terrific support that PG Music gives for Band-in-a-Box and I really urge you to use it. I am NOT an expert with the program by any stretch of the imagination, so you should watch the videos on the PG Music site, email them, or best of all have a real-time chat with their support staff. They are very friendly, and if one doesn’t know the answer, they will ask around and find it for you.

I mention this because once again some comments are getting through, although I have turned them off because only some were getting through when they were on. Several folks  have asked specific questions about styles, Xtra PAKs, and Loops. Although many of these were very nice as well as technical (thanks Paul) I really do have to pass you on to the experts at PG Music. The Online Program Manual page is here. In the upper right corner of the screen is a green button that will open a real-time chat. They can answer your questions and point you to specific videos for demonstrations of the features you are interested in. In fact, you will most likely find a yellow pop-up that asks if you need any help just by going to their site.

Guitar Repair

I have been very pleasantly surprised at the email I’ve received from readers who have got the Hal Leonard book Guitar’s Guide to Maintenance & Repair, and especially those who have started careers! Remember, please, that I cannot give you advice on starting and maintaining a business. I am most interested in the requests and suggestions for more reviews on other repair books.

How do these people know my email address? Those who used to buy Just Jazz Guitar found it in my column there, and I posted it earlier here as well. I’ll tell you here it in a cryptic sort of way so that the auto-glommers don’t just grab it up. First though, remember that my policy is NOT to keep ANY sort of information about you, which also means I cannot respond to you. I keep no names or email addresses (or ANYTHING else), and I write (with pencil) questions and suggestions for a future post. I read, note, then delete.

OK, so I kept my gmail account from when I wrote for Just Jazz Guitar. Of course it starts with drdave (what else) but for that account I added the 3 initials of the magazine (case doesn’t matter but I used lowercase, if you care). If you managed to figure out the 9 letters in my username, that should tell you how to contact me. Specifically, I’m interested now in what books you’d like me to cover. One suggestion I have already had several requests for is the updated version of Chad Johnson’s “Setup & Maintenance” which I reviewed some time ago in the magazine. It has been updated and greatly expanded, so I’d say it seems likely. Other suggestions are welcome, of course. And for those of you who have a friend or teacher who has written a great book on this (or any other) subject, I cannot put you in contact with a publisher. That’s an important part of an author’s job.

OK, so now we are caught up. I’m going to throw in yet another suggestion to check out Band-in-a-Box if you haven’t got it already. I am slowly working through a printed manual in a room where I have time to take short looks at different features, and the depth of the program is astonishing (and I’m using an old 2015 manual!). If you can afford the program, you should have it. It has so many possible uses that I barely scrape the surface if I say it can be  a practice tool, a songwriting workspace, an arranging buddy, or just an idea generator. This program has depths that probably few users have come close to exploring completely. The better you know it, the more you get out of it. So maybe instead of cat videos, you might want to watch the videos on the PG Music site (or mix them in with the cat videos if you must!).

 

Loops-With-Style PAK 2 for Band-in-a- Box 2020

You may be somewhat confused about the Loops-with-Style PAKs and their difference from just new styles. I was. After all, they are 50 new styles with 100 built-in loops that change at an A/B marker. Can’t you just do this yourself with Band-in-a-Box 2020?



Surprisingly, after that setup, the answer is “yes”. You could do that. If you had the new styles and newly remastered RealDrums and RealTracks that come with Loops-with-Style PAK2  and then made loops using this material! And if you wrote A and B parts that linked seamlessly, especially the drum tracks. And of course if you had mastered the use of A / B markers.

So let’s back up. The Loops-with-Style PAKs are “content add-on PAKs” for Band-in-a-Box that include 100 loops in .WAV format. Then there are 50 RealStyles to showcase the loops and give you a good idea of some things that you can do with them.  And to be sure you get the most out of the PAK, there are 50 song demos to showcase the RealStyles.

Big thanks to Jareth Whitney of PG Music who gave me the following explanation:

None of the contents of the Loops-with-Style PAKs include a new style technology – they use the existing features of Band-in-a-Box. The styles that are included are intended to showcase the loops and give the user a starting point. They are conventional RealStyles with embedded loops. The loops in the Loops-with-Style PAKs offer a simpler alternative to the complexity of RealDrums. This is a quality that is often useful for the production of several genres of music, including pop, R&B, hip hop, neo soul, EDM, etc. It may also be useful to someone who is practicing and wants accompaniment to be as simple as possible (with no drum fills).

We created these loops by carefully picking our favorite segments of existing RealTracks and RealDrums source audio. We then remixed, remastered, and combined these audio segments to make new and creative sounds. The result is a collection of loops that integrate intelligently into Band-in-a-Box and have a highly produced sound.

This is a rather humble way of saying that these are production-ready loops that sound great, and are just waiting for your content. Note that this team of technical and musical brilliance chose their favourite segments from a huge array of excellent material, giving you a best-of-the-best result in both sound and style.  The crucial part of this concept is that the drums match perfectly between A and B sections. In Band-in-a-Box these loops automatically switch between A and B at the part markers, with no more work required from you. This is very similar to how RealDrums work now, so this is nothing that couldn’t be done in BiaB already, but the Loops-with-Style are pre-formatted, designed to loop correctly for you without having to tinker around with them.

Not surprisingly, the main benefits are most useful in BiaB, but you can actually use them in any DAW as long as it support loops. However, in doing this you lose the benefit of intelligent part marker switching (which is built-in to BiaB). Still, all of the loops are “acidized” so that if your DAW supports this then it can automatically detect the tempo and key.

For those of you who are expert, and are willing to forego the new styles, go ahead. But I should warn you that the new styles are terrific, and are not taken from Xtra Styles PAK 9. Once again, they go deeper into certain genres, and they sound amazing. And for most of us, who might think we would dig into the A / B thing on our own, you know we won’t. At least not until our current project is finished. So here is a great gift to give a loop-based song or just a looped section of a song a step up, ready-to-go loops just waiting for your own chord progression, melody, tempo, etc. Once again there is a demo video to show you the breadth of these loops and give you an idea of which ones you want to start with. And for me at least, they are a real impetus to go further with the concepts of different sections with their own marker points. So don’t forget the online manuals here, which can also be downloaded as PDF files.  I like the online manual because it can be corrected and updated immediately, but the PDF version is handy too, especially if the internet goes down or your computer has to be offline.


With money being tight for most musicians, this is a wonderful gift for those on a limited budget. At $29, it offers months and years of fun and experimentation, bringing many ideas to fruition as songs with enough variation so that your audience doesn’t jump to “aw, that’s a computer!” while still keeping the power of the software in your hands. (Yes, most people know that music is made on computers now, but there’s no need for it to sound like it was!)

Again, as long as the rent, utilities, and food are paid for, this is a great bargain for musicians. For parents of BiaB 2020 users, this is an ideal gift for graduation, birthday, or just any ol’ day. This goes for significant others and would-be significant others as well. Bravo to PG Music for keeping their styles fresh and helping their users to get professional-quality results with a minimum of effort, allowing us to concentrate on the music!

A Book That Can MAKE You Money

I have shown you a few books that will pay for themselves, most in a short period of time. Guitarist’s Guide to Maintenance and Repair is just such a book, and potentially much more.
book cover
First, how it will pay for itself. Most guitarists have more than one guitar (to say the least) and every one of them has to be maintained for its lifetime and will probably need a few repairs during that time as well. Given bench prices at even the cheapest decent repair shop, the price of this book is a fraction of the cost for one hour’s work; one hour being the standard starting rate.

Why pick a book by Doug Redler? He has worked with some of the top names in guitar music, and has learned on the job, in classes, and from other great guitar techs. He is not only secure enough to ask other top techs for their help and opinions, he’s also generous enough to share his acquired knowledge with you via this book.

I’ve been playing guitar, and working on my own guitars, for over 50 years and I still learned new things about stringing some of my guitars, why a Stewart-MacDonald string action gauge metal ruler is a must-have, as well as many new uses for toothpicks and old toothbrushes. The list continues, but you get the idea. Redler even gives you a handy list of all that he takes on the road with him, and you will need every item if you plan to go on the road with even a brand-new band. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The book has the standard chapters on stringing, adjusting and doing basic fixes to the neck, setting up the action properly, adjusting the pickups, and extra chapters on bass guitar and properly humidifying an acoustic guitar. There’s even a chapter on basic amp care and maintenance. Some of the best parts are  in his “Tales from the Road: Troubleshooting and Quick Repairs” that give you a great look into the need for versatility and ability to make do with whatever you have when you don’t have what you need.  At the end is a chapter with other great resources to check out; nobody knows everything, but this book has about everything you really need. Of course if you go pro, read as much as you can and talk to other techs!

The content of the book makes it so valuable. There is no chit-chat, just the facts in a straightforward, easy to apply way. If you think you may have just over-tightened your guitar neck you want the facts, not some self-serving anecdote, and those facts are right where you need them. A good writer puts in everything you need, and a great one leaves out everything you don’t. One thing I especially credit Hal Leonard with is their editing, and this is a well-edited book. Nothing extraneous.

Now comes the MAKING MONEY part. You and I both know that not every guitarist reads this blog. I also don’t know many guitarists that can do much more than string their own guitars, often not even doing that properly. If you use the techniques from this book to work on your guitars — successfully! — then you will be in a position to help your friends. Just doing basic setups and changing your strings correctly will save you a lot of money and help whoever you choose to. Your friends may thank you in different ways, but cash is always an appropriate thank you gift, even if it is less than a professional tech would get. Like most pros, you are learning as you earn. Even if you stop here you have saved a lot more than the cost of the book.

If you like it, and if you are good at it and willing to keep learning, there is enough information in the book to get started on a lucrative hobby, which could even become a full-time job! I know people who would rather pay someone to change their strings than do it themselves. Word-of-mouth is great advertising, especially where there is a smallish, close-knit music scene. You can progress from simple things like changing strings, cleaning necks, setting the action, and correcting pickup heights. If you plan to do these for other people you should have done them several times on different guitars (and basses) and developed some confidence with your competence. Be sure that you are up to a job before you take it on, especially for money.

This is not the place to learn about setting up your own business and all the financial implications, but depending on where you are you may have a great potential client list. I can tell you that you might have to do a few free jobs to establish your reputation, and you should do these as carefully as if you were being paid. Consider them a “job interview”. It is a great help if you do this for someone who can and will spread your name around as someone who is good and can be trusted with a beloved and often expensive guitar. Prepare to make mistakes, because you will, so learn from them. If at all possible, fix the mistake, and cut the price or make it a freebie. And if you do a good job fixing it, it will make a great story for the client and your name will get out there even more. I hope that it is obvious that you would want to start on less expensive models and work your way up, although there are exceptions. In my case I had a rare guitar that suffered irretrievable damage, so I let a journeyman luthier try his hand at make it playable. It looks awful but it is completely sound structurally and sounds terrific. He did a great job, and I didn’t pay him a cent. However, I did write a grant proposal for him that he felt was beyond him, and it resulted in his being awarded $5,000 so we both got lucky doing favours for each other. He was able to launch a new line of his own guitars with the grant money, along with a lot of bench work that he got from word-of-mouth.

Doug Redler tells you how he “got the job”, especially going on the road with The Black Crowes, but more importantly, how he kept the job and went on to further heights. And now he’s living the dream, both good and bad parts, which he explains in vivid detail in the intro. You may decide to go that way, or to be content with “just” having all of your guitars in great shape. You can pick where to stop, but you never know how far you might go.

So I very highly recommend this book as a fantastic resource that will teach you how to fix and take care of your own guitars and basses. The satisfaction of doing a good job is its own reward, and saving money is a great bonus, especially now as gigs dry up. Stepping it up to a hobby is a much better use of your time, hands, and brain than playing video games or watching cat videos. If you decide that this is a career you want to pursue, do what you would do for a playing career: practice, practice, practice.

And good luck to you!

 

Xtra Styles PAK 9 for Band-in-a-Box 2020 – Worth It?

I’m a skeptic concerning add-ons to products that seem like they should have been included in the first place. PG Music’s “Xtra Styles PAK” series seemed to be the kind of thing I was against,  so I was impressed when PG Music invited me to comment on their most current one, Xtra Styles PAK 9 for Band-in-a-Box 2020. I gave it a thorough test, trying every one of their styles and … I was amazed at how good these styles are. This was quite a change in my thinking, so I’ll explain how that happened.

First, I did what you should do if you even consider buying this PAK, and you should. I went to the PG Music videos page and watched the video Xtra Styles PAK 9 for Band-in-a-Box 2020, which gives quick demos of all 220 new styles. Having worked with many of them, I have to say that these rarely give the best impression of the styles but you do get an idea of the diversity as well as what BiaB is capable of.

I took notes on just my very favourite ones to investigate in depth. I chose slightly over half! I only came across half a dozen that I don’t really like, mainly due to certain instruments I don’t care for or certain genres. You will probably think differently, which is good.

Next, I tried each of the 110 or so favourites on a song I’m writing to spec. It combines some odd chords (e.g. it’s in C but starts on an A major) with some basic chord progressions (e.g. Dm-G-G7-C). I got some great sounding background tracks as well as a couple of perfect solos! I also heard this song in several versions I would never have thought of, giving me the idea of presenting the client with several versions.

So why not do that with the regular BiaB styles? It’s not as if they aren’t terrific; they are. But PG Music has gone deeper into several styles, using more or fewer instruments, adding unexpected ones, and giving some surprising make-overs. Others are more focused versions of particular styles with more extreme attention to the best of that genre. Other ones combine styles that sound great, such as adding a banjo to a rock or blues track, or a jazz sax to a folk style. There are many wonderful combinations to try out that will expand any songwriter or arranger’s palette. These are the things that make certain songs stand out, and experimenting with them is not just fun (a lot of fun!) but it will expand your horizons on what is possible and even excellent. For instance, my light jazz arrangement worked very well as a country song, which floored me, and also as a folk-alt-jazz fusion. One sax solo was worth the price of admission alone, as it sounds terrific in any of the arrangements.

As I said, the styles included with Band-in-a-Box 2020 are terrific, but I usually feel the need to tinker with the styles to get a particular sound, like a tinge of jazz in a rock song, or some country-folk to add some weight to a pop song. It’s as if the PG team anticipated many of the things I wanted, and even some I hadn’t realized I wanted yet. Many of the jazz styles fit several different decades, as well as blending with different genres. Gospel vocals add depth to many non-Gospel styles, while banjos and mandolins are given workouts in almost every genre. Even supposed “pop” styles have unusual depth for the genre, and you can feel some hits just ready to be made. In short, I felt little need to tinker with these styles to get top-notch results. But of course I’ll still tinker with them, but only after I have thoroughly worked through the possibilities already there. That will be some time in the future!

And speaking of the future, this is the first review a an Xtra Styles PAK, but not the last. I wanted to get this out while the special pricing for June is in effect, so you can get all of these styles for $29, a fantastic deal! I will soon be reviewing their loops PAKs, which can be added to the Xtra Styles PAK 9 for a little more.  Also,  I have been given access to all of PG Music’s style PAKs for Band-in-a-Box, so I’ll be reviewing them in a later post.

For now, check out the videos of the Xtra Styles PAK 9 and Loops-with-style PAK2.

As with Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Mac, these extra PAKS have my highest recommendation They are just an amazing deal at the current price.

John Entwistle Hot Licks DVD

With such a great roster of artists, Hot Licks has to be flexible to accommodate different ways to get across the most valuable information from each person. Emily Remler was a lucky find, because very few of the top artists are actually great teachers. John Entwistle is a case in point. While not a great teacher, he is probably the greatest electric bass player of the 20th century, changing the way the bass was used and perceived, and inspiring generations of great bassists. So the problem was how to get his ground-breaking style across in video.

DVD cover

What we get with this DVD is more of a demonstration-type master class than theory, which suits Entwistle’s style perfectly. His enthusiasm and virtuosity is very inspiring, and you really do have see what he is doing with his right hand — while he explains it — to get the brilliance in his approach to the bass. He is musician, playing trumpet and French horn before starting on the bass, and he continued to play the French horn (an occasionally trumpet too) with The Who. From the lewd sounds in Pictures of Lily to full horn arrangements on Quadrophenia, he remained a consummate musician.

The fact that he inspired some of the greatest bassists like Geddy Lee makes it even more interesting that he was inspired by guitarists, finding the standard bass patterns of his time too dull It is a testament to the change he made in the view of the bass, making it a lead instrument rather than part of the “backup”, that it is still perceived that way today. How many songs of the mid-1960’s are like My Generation, a 2:00 song that has a bass solo as well as several bass breaks? Only The Who played like this, and many budding guitarists decided to switch to bass after watching them play.

On the DVD, Entwistle teaches more by example, but unfortunately not all examples are transcribed.  He is demonstrates the right hand first, and it is very interesting to see how he tends to hit the strings from ABOVE rather than sideways, unless he is using a pick. This lets him switch strings very rapidly, and also to play chords. By setting both treble and volume to the maximum, he can just tap the strings to get his signature sound, the treble cutting through a very loud band.In fact, it seems quite surprising that such a powerful player plays so lightly, thanks to setting his strings very low to the fretboard. But the most incredible revelation is that he uses all five fingers of his right hand “just to add a bit of flash”! This is a feat that few if any other bassists have ever mastered, but he can just toss it in to “show off”.

The left hand is not covered in detail, although it is pretty obvious that Entwistle plays the real blues scale (pentatonic plus flat 5), with freely added chromatic notes. You can see more of his left hand in the exercises.

One  physical issue with the DVD is a noticeable hiss, most likely from the high volume of the amp he is using in the studio. Once again with the DVD versions, the booklet is rather light and a lot of the examples are just not transcribed. Many of the examples fly by on the screen but are not all included in the booklet. The examples are not even numbered, on-screen or in the booklet, but they ARE shown in the table of contents on the main screen. This is crucial, because the table is organized by technique or concept, and so there are many entries. Still, this part takes up less than half of the 45-minute format set by the videocassette original. What to do to optimize the remaining time?

Arlen Roth, a producer of the series, steps in to jam with Entwistle and to ask questions that fans no doubt are dying to ask, which Entwistle answers off the top of his head. Oddly, he switches to a pick here, showing his versatility and discussing the advantages of both fingers and picks. It is here that he states that he keeps his action low and actually hits the strings softly, being careful not to ring harmonics accidentally. Surprisingly, he changes strings every show, every time in the studio, and often even after sound checks. One reason is to keep the strings lively with lots of treble, but he also notes that when the singer uses a humidifier on stage for his voice, the humidity causes corrosion on the strings.

He demonstrates LOTS of chords, both 2- and 3-notes, and some of the tab here goes by slowly enough for us to play along. He prefers 2-note chords and shows some great ways to use them melodically and harmonically.

Many of the demonstrations have been cut into “exercises” that can be played back at both real speed and slowed-down. These are some of the most valuable parts of the DVD. It seems to me to be the best idea to watch the DVD all the way through first, and then having seen and heard the ideas he is getting across, work with the exercises to get the techniques into your own fingers. Unfortunately the exercises are only numbered, not given the names of techniques they teach. Still, it’s a good idea to take notes as you go along, including the exercises you need the most practice on.

While not perfect, this is still a great master class because it is John Entwistle, and he had a lot of great information and insights to pass on before his tragic death. This is one of the best master classes on playing the electric bass around, by the man who completely changed the style of bass playing forever after him.

Every bassist should have a copy of this DVD!

Emily Remler Jazz Guitar Master Class

 Emily Remler was both a great jazz guitarist, composer, and one of the finest teachers of jazz guitar ever, a determined person who fought for her place as one of the jazz greats before her tragically early death at the age of 32. She had to be a fighter: as a jazz guitarist in the late 1960’s to 1990 when guitar gods of rock grabbed the headlines of the music press, those “gods” were almost exclusively male. Not that the jazz world was looking for a female star, especially one playing a distinctly un-jazzy Gibson ES-330. But her determination to master her instrument impressed the best jazz guitarists of her time. After tracking down Herb Ellis and virtually forcing him to give her a lesson, she so impressed Mr. Ellis that he personally presented her at the Concord Jazz Festival.

Book Cover

In a sadly-titled but excellent article “Forgotten Heroes: Emily Remler” for the July 29, 2014 issue of Premier Guitar, Tzvi Gluckin tells us: “perhaps her mastery was most apparent in a series of instructional videos she recorded. Her depth of knowledge was astounding, and even more impressive was her ability to explain difficult concepts in simple, easy-to-understand language. She was clear and articulate. The videos showcased her low-key, self-deprecating, North Jersey sense of humor.” Her most famous quote comes from a 1982 interview for People Magazine: “I may look like a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey, but inside I’m a 50-year-old, heavy-set black man with a big thumb, like Wes Montgomery.” Along with Herb Ellis, the great Wes Montgomery was a major influence on Remler’s style. My own hope is that by releasing improved versions of these videos, Emily Remler’s  status as a teacher, as well as guitarist and composer, will spread far beyond the circle of us who appreciate her dedication and work that resulted in such wonderful music.

She was generous enough to share what she learned with the world, and now we have access to that invaluable teaching. Bebop and Swing Guitar is the first of two master classes by Emily Remler, released first on video cassette, then on DVD, and now as a book & video combination. I hope that Hal Leonard will follow up with its brilliant companion class Advanced Jazz and Latin Improvisation. In Gluckin’s article he tells us that great rhythm, deep in the pocket, was a hallmark of Remler’s playing; he quotes Jazz writer Gene Lees “… she swung ferociously.” So it is appropriate that her class begins with Rhythm. Right away we see the improvements in this version: where the DVD version lets the example that Emily asks you to play along with her flash by on the screen, Hal Leonard transcribes it into standard notation and TAB in the book, so you don’t have to keep stopping the video to try to read the 3-bar demo.

Next we learn her secret of practising with the metronome on beats 2 and 4, the back beats, to fit with a jazz drummer’s hi-hat and get into “the groove” without which “[your playing] is not going to make it.”

By the way, not only has Hal Leonard placed the example numbers on the screen when one of the transcriptions is played, but the book itself has the timing of the video so that you can go back and find exactly where the example is found. Very handy, especially since you will be going back to some of these several times to master them.


The next two chapters focus on Guide Tones. Don’t confuse these with the concept of “guide fingers” that anchor finger moves between positions. The guide tones are the 3rd and 7th of the chords, which tell you if the chord is major, minor, or dominant. She demonstrates finding the smoothest line between the guide tones of a progression and improvising around them, so that the progression is obvious even if you are playing a single line. Since jazz assumes that all chords are sevenths, this method guarantees you a solid basis for your soloing.


The next chapter continues work with guide tones using the Bb blues. If you have ever wondered why the blues in jazz (“jazz blues“) sound so different from the basic “blues pattern” that we all learned at first, Remler explains the concepts behind approaching the basic chords in various ways, such as leading into them with their own ii-V-I progression. Her demonstration of playing the blues changes with only two notes (basically the 3rd and 7th with some suspensions and delayed resolutions) is something that every aspiring jazz guitarist must master, and her explanation is the clearest I’ve ever come across. Pure gold!


A side note to Chapter 3: If you are a fan of Martin Taylor’s fantastic technique of playing a very active bass line along with the melody and chords, watch for Emily Remler casually doing exactly that in the middle of her jazz blues line (at 4:25) as just one more style that she has completely mastered! This is transcribed in Example 17 for your playing and learning pleasure.


The exercises and assignments that Emily Remler gives you are not easy, so be prepared to work for your improvements. Example 19 gives you a perfect demonstration of how hard it can be to play just on the guide tones on the downbeat of each chord. Not only does Emily break down toward the end (although of course she recovers) but her natural swing kicks in in several places where she does anticipate the downbeats. Don’t be ashamed to slow WAY down to master this technique; after all, Remler sets her metronome to close to the bottom of the capability of her old-style metronome.  (Since a metronome is so crucial to this course, and to improving in general, it’s vital to have one. If you can’t afford one, Tzvi Gluckin gives a link to a free online one in his Premier Guitar article. And if you have a copy, Band-in-a-Box is a great way to create backup tracks to practise with.)


Chapter 4 is a brilliant illustration of “swing“. Remler is not speaking of simply playing eighth notes as triplets instead of straight, but rather subsumes that into keeping perfect time in any genre of music. The whole idea of staying in the pocket while remaining loose and moving with the rhythm is demonstrated very dramatically in her incredible solo. And do not feel embarrassed if you can’t keep up with Emily playing the transcription; you are playing along with one of the best who has ever picked up a guitar! As she stresses, practice is supposed to be fun! If you want to learn this solo, slow it down, learn it in sections, even just play the top notes of the chords. If you put in the time with the previous chapters and the exercises and assignments she gives you, you will be able to play along with Emily Remler. As she says, in this chapter she’s “holding nothing back!”
 
The next chapter on Octaves also contains a great example of a solo (ex. 24) that Emily changes to “swing” (ex. 25). You may have to listen to each several times to hear the subtle difference, especially as Emily swings so naturally in anything she plays. Her style of playing octaves is to only use her first and fourth fingers on any pair of strings. You should compare this with George Benson’s style, which he demonstrates on his new Hot Licks book & video that I reviewed a while ago. (If you don’t have that one, I strongly urge you to get a copy!)
 
Transcribing Licks is a terrific ending to this jam-packed master class, which incidentally has been brilliantly transcribed throughout. I recommend watching this particular video whenever you get down on yourself for whatever reason about your playing. Emily Remler bares her heart about her attitude toward playing music and practising with some great advice that we would all benefit from applying to our lives. Don’t try to copy someone else exactly, and don’t worry about competition with other players. Have fun. Transcribe small licks, riffs, even short melodies from your favorite parts of your favorite songs and make them your own by varying them to the way that you play. There is already a George Benson, a Pat Martino, a Martin Taylor, and there has been an Emily Remler, a George Barnes, and so many more — but there is only one you. Follow Emily’s advice in this chapter and you will find your own style and enjoy playing it!
 
The outro is a beautiful gift: a solo guitar version of one of my own favourite songs that she wrote and played, Mocha Spice. A fine tribute to the composer as well as the guitarist who was Emily Remler.
 
IN SUMMARY: The best master class on jazz guitar that I have ever attended or watched on video. This is not an easy course, but one of very few that will make a dramatic improvement in your playing, especially your improvising, if you put in the work. If you have been searching for that “special class that will change your guitar life” this is it.
 
My Highest Recommendation, and I wish I had a higher one than that. SUPERB. ESSENTIAL. BUY A COPY NOW.

Dorico 3.5 Update

Today, May 20, 2020, Steinberg is announcing Dorico 3.5. So far they have posted a few videos on their YouTube channel, but at 9:00 am EDT (or 6:00 am if you live on the west coast of North America!) they will unveil the whole thing.

So far the most useful and desired features added seem to be the vast improvement to the VST plug-in playback capabilities. These are truly stunning and should make scores play back much more naturally.

The other is a search field for drop-down and other menus that have too many choices to find the desired one quickly. Now you can search to find what you are looking for. Yes, this is much like the Feature Browser in Band-in-a-Box, but in this case rather than being global, it applies to a single set of options.

If you can, tune in to watch this announcement live. If you have not yet subscribed, go to YouTube and search for “Dorico channel”. If you can’t watch it live, I’m sure the video will be archived there to watch later.

UPDATE

Now that I’ve seen the presentation I’m even more impressed. Wow! They barely got through the MAJOR new features in the one-hour demo with John presenting and Daniel answering questions in the comments section.

I cannot hope to cover even all that they covered in the official announcement so I’ll give you the highlights from my point of view. You should still watch the archived announcement demo on YouTube here.

Guitar

We guitarists really lucked out with this update! For starters, we can add rhythm to TAB parts now, so you don’t have to switch between staves to play. You can show tapping with a “T” and also with dots. The search option I mentioned earlier can help find the guitar options. and it is a “sticky” search so that you keep the options you searched for on the screen to work with them. Alt-8 brings up the search dialog, appropriate to where you are.

Bends play back using pitch bend. Dorico 3.5 automatically creates the playback bend, but you can edit it as well, drawing with the pencil tool for really fancy bends. Double bends also display and play back too. You can use the popover to choose bends, scoops and other whammy bar techniques, including adding text such as “w/ bar”.

In Layout option you can “show chord diagrams at start of flow” and they show up automatically in the order that they appear in the song. You can edit all of these for fingerings, size, and even add different versions of the same chord. This is a great feature to keep your songs from becoming cluttered.

Note Entry

You can now enter pitch before duration (as opposed to the normal Dorico duration before pitch). The shortcut for this is “K”, and it allows you to hunt around for the note that you want, and then choose it and give it a duration. You can even do this with chords. It’s a very handy feature for composition or for transcribing by ear, and it is most useful with a MIDI keyboard.

Global vs. Local Settings

You can now enter local settings, say to make a change to a part that will not show up in the score. This could be a comment, moving an object for easier reading for the player, and so on. It was asked for and has been provided.

Playback Improvements

There are too many improvements here to list them all, but one of the most important is Mutual Exclusion Groups. Here you list techniques that cannot be played at the same time, such as arco and pizzicato for strings. This allows other techniques to be played together, for example pizz. and con sordino.

Expression maps are probably the most asked-for feature in Dorico, and there are great improvements in Dorico 3.5. The default expression map included in Dorico is for Halion SE which comes with it. However, other sample libraries such as NotePerformer and Garritan provide different playing techniques and options. Because there are so many libraries, and different options even within libraries, Dorico 3.5 lets you create your own expression maps for the libraries you own.  The example in the announcement video has an excellent demonstration of choosing shorter note samples for shorter note values. Since many sample players use one long note sample, they sound great with longer notes, but tend to “bleed” notes together in short note values  (say sixteenth-note) passages. If your library has different notes values to choose from, Dorico lets you choose a short value for a particular value of duration.  This is shown in the announcement video at the 14:53 mark. Quite a difference!

Figured Bass

If you use figured bass your dreams have come true with Dorico 3.5 since it has tons of new features! You can now enter virtually any style possible. You can set these easily in the score or with the popover. Dorico 3.5 will even calculate the proper figured bass for you if you give it the name of the chosen chord! It will even automatically transpose if you change the bass note. You can add hold lines as well, if you use them.

Having said that Figured Bass could cover an entire session on its own, John suggested checking out the Scoring Notes blog, which had a preview version of 3.5 and has a lot more information on Figured Bass (although even the team there said they would need another post to cover all the changes).

And More …

Just some more of the new features:

You can choose different colours or gradients for each mode to remind you where you are.

You can export parts of a piece as graphic; just choose a “slice” (any section of the visible screen) and export it with all sorts of graphic options.

There is now an option for “Hollywood style” final pages, which adds blank staff lines to fill the page.

There are more option for slur positioning, especially when a slur goes past the end of the current line. You can also get rid of some backgrounds if things get too cluttered.

Musicxml has many more features included for both export and import.

Some Indian Drum sounds are now included, as well as some others, in the application.

N.B. This last point means that you DO NOT NEED TO DOWNLOAD THE SOUNDS INSTALLER IF UPDATING FROM DORICO 3.x!

The Cost

I have only scratched the surface of the new features in Dorico 3.5, and with so many major improvements it has to be a paid update. I realize that times are tight for many people, especially musicians, but watch the video as well as Anthony Hughes’ other videos on the Dorico channel on particular features before you make your decision. There are a variety of prices for the three versions of Dorico, as well as educational pricing.

Much more information on individual features, as well as comparisons of versions and costs are on the Steinberg Dorico page here. The most expensive price for updating Dorico Pro from 3.x is $60 (US), so this is hardly a “money grab” from Steinberg.

My opinion is that Dorico 3.5 is well worth the update price, but feed your family and pay the rent first, and if you have anything left over this is a great choice for any musician.

 

Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Mac … WOW!

I reviewed Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac less than a year ago and, being an “annual-update-skeptic” wondered about reviewing it again so soon. No need to wonder — Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Mac is a fantastic leap forward!

Band-in-a-Box 2020  Box

Of course we can expect all sorts of additional RealTracks and instruments and styles, and there are many!, but the additions this year are so focused on truly upping your musical game that it seems almost like a new product. And it replaces the need for some other software and hardware, which I will get to but for now it seems like “Good-bye” to my Digitech Vocalist Live 4 harmony generator.

And before I go any further (in case you stop reading and decide to just buy it) I have to add that my online chats with Sales Support were some of the most pleasant interactions I have ever had with a vendor, even BEFORE it became obvious that I was a reviewer! Amidst ever more shattered nerves than usual, especially for support workers, I was able to have all of my questions answered politely and correctly (even a few moronic ones) and had all of my issues resolved before the chat had ended. Support such as this is rare but it seems to be a feature of the BiaB “family”, as I will mention later with my comments on Stelios Panos, a transcriber of great jazz performances for, and reseller of Band-in-a-Box products.

FEATURE BROWSER

One of the best, most crucial additions is the Feature Browser. Crucial because there are so many new features that even experienced users are liable to need a reminder sometimes, and this is much more. It begins with a list of features from which you can choose, or you can type one in. It tells you the basic information about the feature you enter with buttons to take you to the manual page for that feature and also a video button if it is one of the features that has a video for it.  It also displays the Tool Bar on which it is found, its Hot Key if there is one, where it is on the Main Window (if it’s there), and other ways to launch it. If it has its own window with options and other choices, this is displayed as well.

But that’s not all. You can choose the type of features you are looking for by entering, say, “guitar”. This gives you all features that relate to the guitar. Or “video” to find all features that have a video on them.

Getting to the Feature Browser is easy too. If the chord window is open, just type “/” and Enter, instead of a chord. Or, with the Main Window click on the “?” button in maximized view, or in the Misc tab if in Compact view.

This is a terrific feature for a program with so many great features. We tend to know those that we use the most, but sometimes forget about those that could make our work easier or improve our music. Plus you no longer have to feel guilty for not reading the manual.

Try this yourself by calling it up, typing chord, then adding “builder” for the “chord builder” feature to really show what it can do.

Find BEST SUB

Cmd-click or right-click on track button in the mixer > Select RealTracks > Find Best Sub. Not only do you get a long list of possible RealTrack substitutes, but the best ones are close to the top. Each works well with the whole song, but gives you different ways to explore it with different  musical styles and genres, especially if you pick a different player. However, even choosing the same player gives you insight into the subtle changes that can be used by the same person in a different performance but retaining their personal style.

You can even change to a RealTrack if the current track doesn’t have one.  Here you can choose a RealTrack, and choosing “All” gives you a bunch of new options to change even the type of instrument, and I really like the option to choose a family of instruments so that you can try out, say, all sorts of different guitars for a part (and there are a lot of guitars). You can even open an Artist Bio to learn about the player, and once in that browser you can choose any artist to learn more about them. Just one more example of the enhanced usability that has been added throughout this entire release.

Drag-and-Drop File Opening

I particularly like the drag-and-drop file opening, which simplifies all the choices if you just want, say, to load a basic MIDI file to start working on it. Not just BiaB files are supported, but audio, MIDI, and more. If you have a lot of files and need to search for the one you want, it’s nice to be able to just drag it into the app. This improves your workflow and lowers your blood pressure.

Multi-Window Display

Having more than one window open can be a real time-saver. Using the new multi-window display you can easily enter barlines in the audio window with the chord window still open. The demo of this process is particularly interesting, at just before the 27:00 mark of the BB2020 for Mac video referenced earlier. You can enter barlines to fix tracks that were not recorded with a click track by entering the correct spot for a few barlines. I won’t transcribe the process here, but I urge you to watch the video to see how easy it is to correct the timing of a song, as well as to find out how far the tempo changes over time (a lot of performers speed up over the course of an exciting song, or slow down in a bluesy one). Of course, you may want just a little deviance which gives a more human feel to some tracks, while others really do call for a “metronomic” beat. This is especially helpful for tightening up quick demos or just a band’s bad days’ work.

Track Thickening

One standard audio recording trick is to have multiple copies of a single track to give it a “thicker” sound. For example, many singers use double-tracking to make their voices sound better. John Lennon disliked this finicky process so much in the pre-digital age that the EMI engineers created ADT (Artificial Double-Tracking) to create a second copy of the original recording, slightly different by speeding up and slowing down slightly. Like the more modern digital recording studios, Band-in-a-Box now lets you use multiple copies of the same RealTrack on a single track, thickening it further by changing the panning of each (and usually lowering the volume as well). You can even add a different, related RealTrack for greater authenticity. I really like the demo that uses the _GLORY style thickened, as shown in the video on BB2020 for Mac.  The soloist really adds to the depth and realism of the choir.

Note that the video was adapted from the Windows version that has been on the PG Music site for a while now, and there are a few references to Windows that creep in here and there. Remember to substitute Command-click (or right-click) for Ctrl-click, and Finder for Windows Explorer. The folders mentioned are correct,  at least those that I have double-checked.

Thickening is really an extended application of the “Medley” feature where several instruments could “take turns” on one track; now they can play all together.

There are several different ways to start and use thickening:

1) pick a style that uses it (often with “thickened in the name)
2) pick a track from the RealTrack picker that has it applied to it
3) apply it yourself to any RealTrack that you like

There are great additions for blues and other styles with thickened horns forming sections in some truly great styles.

Guitar Goodies

Many of the new features are particularly useful for guitar and some are specific to it. For example, you now have FOUR different views of the Fretboard Window: the regular right-handed one, the new left-handed view, the student view (as if you are sitting across from your teacher looking at their fretboard), and the student view for a left-handed guitarist. 

Jazz guitarists will love the new Rhythm Changes and Jazz Blues RealTracks, the two most important progressions for any jazz player. Combine this with Find Best Sub and you have a serious jazz guitar learning environment.

Other genres are not skimped on. There are great 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s rock guitar styles, and the low-tuned metal styles are amazing with some thickening added to them. Double that for baritone guitar! And many of the new Country and Old-Time Americana styles will open your ears and styles to different and even “exotic” stringed instruments. And speaking of exotic, there are also new Latin American “island” styles and instruments for authentic Latin grooves including soka, merengue, and more. (But personally, I was most impressed by the new Blues RealTracks that really kick it. Maybe it’s my age showing?)

Eliminate Note Overlap

Better control of overlapping notes is vital for getting a true guitar sound. In this version, if you have different guitar strings on different channels you can stop notes on the same string from overlapping but leave notes on different strings ringing through. Fingerstyle players will now be able to accurately write and hear Chet Atkins-style “banjo-roll” runs, while any stylist can combine arpeggios with single-line parts and have the strings ring appropriately. A great addition.

Enhanced Notation Editing

While previous versions had the N hotkey for adding notes, the new M hotkey allows the addition of harmony to an existing note. The note is first presented as a 3rd above, but can be changed using the up / down arrow keys. The R hotkey lets you choose a rest.

So Many More Great Features

The program now automatically checks the key signature and warns you if your song material doesn’t match that key.

Files can now be saved as .xml, .mxl (compressed format), and .musicxml. This last one, musicxml, is particularly useful for guitarists, saving hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.

The intro can now be just drums, or just bass and drums and the notation will reflect that.

You will also be impressed by the larger range of singer-songwriter styles that will really fire your imagination.

Multi-Riffs is now available in the full Band-in-a-Box (previously it was just in the plug-in). This creates 7 different “takes” of a section or entire part (like an automated version of a Logic “Takes folder”). These can be used to find the most suitable one, or combined (comped) to make a “best” version from parts of each.

Audio time-stretching has been enhanced to give much more realistic sound easier.

Chord Search has several enhancements such as letting you choose the level of exactness for your progression.

There are also enhancements to chord search,, and many enhancements and additions to RealDrums including many more notated ones.

Several user requests have been incorporated as well, including: drag from mixer to drop station; new options for bit depth and sample rate (as well as in main render dialog); customized track are shown with an “=”, settings in style are ignored for these as well; bar settings dialog lets you change them from within the dialog; new content is displayed when you start the program, with the option to download it before you get into your work flow, and many more.

BiaB Plug-in

The Band-in-a-Box Plug-in is still free with BB2020 and, of course, improved. It works pretty much like BiaB in your DAW, where you can drag the tracks you create in it into the DAW and process them there. You can harmonize in the plug-in and drag back to DAW either a track generated in the plug-in or its harmony in 3rds, 6ths, or both.

But you don’t have to drag any tracks into the DAW to hear them. You can play the music from the plug-in along with the tracks in the DAW merely by sync’ing them!

If you are one of the MANY fans of Stelios Panos, or are a jazz guitarist interested in the Jazz Guitar Masters, check out his “Django-in-a-Box” web site where you can find special deals on bundles of his transcriptions with Band-in-a-box for sale, as well as a page of videos that demonstrate several of his transcriptions as well as display their usage of various features in BiaB.On top of this, you get Skype support after buying a bundle from Mr. Panos! Special bundles that include ALL of the Jazz Greats  transcriptions (including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Louis Armstrong)are on this page, while a special “guitarists only” set that includes even the recent transcriptions of Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow is here. If you have any more questions, need support, or just want to thank Stelois Panos for his outstanding work you can contact him here.

IN SUMMARY: Band-in-a-Box 2020 is a huge advance over even BB2019, with easier to use, more powerful features that give you more information while creating more musical results. You have never had more control of more features which are now much easier to find. The move forward with this version is astonishing. Again … WOW!

My very highest recommendation. Just upgrade! Or if for some strange reason you don’t have it yet, BUY THIS ONE! It will change your musical life!

Stelios Panos – Johnny Smith & Tal Farlow

In my previous post I remarked that Pierre Bensusan never disappoints. The same can be said about Stelios Panos, whose passion for precise transcription of the music of jazz masters keeps their music alive and available for others who want to learn this art. His is a true contribution for all jazz players.

Stelios’ latest collection includes  45 songs/solos by Johnny Smith and 37 Tal Farlow songs/solos for Band-in-a-Box users. This is crucial, since it provides a more complete, immersive experience than any other software. You can hear the transcriptions on excellently sampled instruments with RealTracks while following along with the music in Notation, Notation with TAB, Chords, or on the Guitar Fretboard! I’ve never heard of any other software that comes close to this.

Note that along with the songs there are also several alternate solos from other years. Since we are dealing with jazz, several of the songs were performed (and are available) with different solos in different years. These document the players’ style as well as their changes over time.

The Johnny Smith section highlights his smooth style that made him so beloved, starting with his all-time classic Walk, Don’t Run. This was then covered by Chet Atkins, who actually asked for Smith’s permission to cover it in person. Chet’s version was then the basis for the version that the Ventures took to #2 on the charts! It’s hard to pick from just a few from the standout list of songs here, but there are jazz classics like My Funny Valentine, My Romance, and Swingin’ Shepherd Blues;  folk songs such as Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair) and Shenadoa [sic]; movie themes (Exodus); popular songs (Yesterday); and even classical pieces like Maid with the Flaxen Hair and Romance de los Pinos. And, of course, Johnny Smith’s “signature tune” Moonlight in Vermont.

Complementing Smith’s work is the Tal Farlow part of the collection. While both guitarists share a sophisticated sense of harmony, Farlow tended to be more adventurous. Combined with his blazing single-line playing, this gave his playing an enormous air of excitement that few musicians have matched. This is all the more remarkable since he was a self-taught guitarist who learned while listening to some of the jazz greats on the radio at work as a sign painter. Some of these transcriptions may be a bit daunting, especially for players with smaller hands. Farlow earned the nickname “The Octopus” thanks to his huge hands which not only gave him a huge reach but also moved with blazing speed. His style owes something to fingerstyle guitarists as he played the two lowest strings with his thumb, reserving these for a bass counterpoint to his melodies on the upper four strings (said to be due to his starting with a mandolin tuned like a ukulele!) and also tapping on the guitar for percussive effects. Whatever extra work it takes to learn Farlow’s tunes is more than repaid in your rapid advance in technique and sophistication.

Whether the chordal sections of Smith’s work or the blazing solo lines of Farlow, we have to appreciate the dedication of Stelios Panos in his careful editing of the fingerings which he places on a separate TAB staff (which you may have to turn on in either the Options for the Notation Window or Printing in Band-in-a-Box). Too many transcribers these days rely on the software to generate TAB, where the fingerings can be misleading to downright impossible.

Here’s an example of a software generated chord that I have seen a number of times (including in BiaB):

and a playable version:

You can imagine the hours and days it takes to proof-read all of the songs in a collection, so Stelios Panos deserves great credit for making his fingerings logical and playable. He takes as much care with the transcriptions, so you can be sure of getting the highest quality.

NOTE: This two-artist collection is meant for  Band-in-a-Box users only. (Unlike some previous sets, videos for non-users are no longer included.)

For more information on ALL Stelios Panos transcriptions and to BUY them go to http://www.djangoinabox.com

My highest recommendation for anyone with Band-in-a-Box.