Is Your Repertoire Defined by Your Memory?

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I had lunch the other day with a very good friend, a career musician, performer, teacher, adjudicator, and otherwise multi-faceted and brilliant thinker.

She was telling me about her plan to add 40 new pieces to her repertoire this year. I asked how she intended to learn to play, and memorize a new piece every 9 days. I added, that it typically takes me 40 hours to learn to a 3-4 minute song with lyrics. For me, the music comes fairly quickly. It is the lyrics that take the greatest part of that time.

She reminded me that when preparing to perform a song I memorize the lyrics word-for-word. This is in sharp contrast to coming up with my own interpretation of the guitar part with a great deal left to be improvised in the moment while performing.

She is a wonderful pianist, and a gifted sight-reader.  When I considered how differently we approach performing, I wondered if learning 40 pieces included memorizing them or preparing to perform them well while having the musical score in front of her.

Is Memory a Defining Skill?

We discussed:"Is having a great memory a core skill, a required attribute of a professional musician”. As wildly different as our musical worlds are, it seems that the opinions on this are as firmly held in her circles as in mine. And Oh! There’s a lot of pride, guilt, and shame associated with this question.

Here are some of the ideas that came up during our conversation. I will use the term “the music” to refer to sheet music or lead sheets or lyrics in physical or electronic form

Performing with the Music 

(On the piano, or for me on my computer on a stand on the stage)

  • I am much more likely to play the song the way it was written:
    Instead of making-things-up on the fly when I can’t remember. You could think of this as being faithful to the song-writer, and living up to the expectations of the audience.
  • I can focus on the performance and the song instead of the effort of trying to remember.
    I have on occasion thrown in an extra guitar solo or sung an extra chorus to give me time to remember the next verse.
  • I can have a much larger, more varied repertoire because it takes less time to prepare if I’m not trying to memorize material.
    40 hours preparation for a 4 minute song is 600:1 preparation:performance ratio. That doesn’t include the time it takes to maintain that song in the repertoire (rehearse it to keep the song fresh in memory).
  • I am not limited to playing what I can remember.

Performing from Memory

  • I am able to perform without having to set up tools (sheet music, tablet, computer, music stand). 
    I have spent a lot of time and money over the years to make this activity and the tools as unobtrusive as possible. This includes hardware, software, local backups, synchronizing multiple machines, access in the cloud. There was also packing, setup and teardown.
  • I am able to move around on the stage without being tethered by my line of sight to the music.
  • I am committed to the music that I am performing, at least to the extent that I was willing to invest heavily in learning it.
  • I have a clearer line of sight from me to my audience and I am not shifting my focus from the music to my instrument, to the audience, to wherever I go with head and heart while performing.

It’s not about Music Stands

This discussion could have gone down the black-hole of debating whether or not using music stands (or sheet music on the piano) lacked professionalism. But we didn’t need to go there.

It was an interesting talk in other ways.

Faking It

In my case, I’m usually fine if I have the lyrics with me. It was good to have my friend point out: I don’t really learn the guitar parts. I learn the structure of the song and pull the guitar parts out of the air making stuff up as I go along. It’s harder to get away with faking the lyrics to a well-known song. Well you can do it, but you risk disappointing the audience. And over time I have shied away from doing covers with iconic signature hooks for the same reason.

Freedom

Sometime over the last few years I stopped bringing the music on stage with me. I let all of the paraphernalia go.  When people noticed and commented or asked about it, if I was being candid, I might admit  “I just got tired of the effort”.  How sad for me, that I gave up just before it became relatively easy with the latest generations of tablet computers.

Truth

Somehow I had started to tell myself and others, “I decided it was time I learned the music”.  That sounds good, and that fit well with my change in direction; playing more originals. Was I was becoming a better musician? I think that it’s just as likely that I had greater liberty to make-stuff-up if no one knew what the songs were supposed to sound like anyway. And who cares if I mangle the lyrics if they were my lyrics to mangle.

Some of that has come around full-circle to bite me. It’s interesting and embarrassing to have someone request an original, and have her comment that “it was so different this time” as she thanked me. It is a beautiful thing to have people want to sing along to an original that they have grown to love. It’s sad to disappoint them when I start making things up because I can’t remember with them.

I’m beginning to reconsider the business of bringing the music (sheet music, music stand, or a tablet computer) on stage with me. I’m noticing that my repertoire is dwindling with my ability to remember, and my musical choices are limited by what I can. The world is getting smaller and maybe, in this instance, that’s not an improvement.

Please tell me what you think. Join the discussion here: Is Your Repertoire Defined by Your Memory?

Categories: Bose Performer, Gear

L1® Model II Power Stand with B1 – with and without B2 related updates

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

There has been some concern expressed on the Bose message board about the effect of applying the Model II Power Stand Firmware version 1.4 and System EQ version 1.04 (the updates). Both of these are required to make the Model II Power Stand respond
to the B2 Bass Level Switch.  That concern was centered on the question of whether or not applying the updates had an effect on the performance of the B1 Bass Module.

I wanted to give you a way to hear the effect of the updates on the performance of the Model II Power Stand with a B1.

A/B tests are difficult to do, and if you have only on Model II Power Stand, even the time it takes to do the update (time between listening events) can make comparisons a challenge. You cannot switch back and forth between the before/after versions because the update is not reversible so you are relying on memory to do the comparisons. If you have run your system with a B2 your perception of the B1 is probably going to be altered by that experience.

Since you can not revert back to a previous version of the Firmware and System EQ, I used two Model II Power Stands; one with the older version of the Firmware and System EQ, and one that had been updated.

I wanted to hear if applying the updates to the Model II Power Stand affects the performance of a B1. There are two recordings. The only difference is that one is played through

  • Model II Power Stand running Firmware version 1.3 and System EQ version 1.0 and the other
  • Model II Power Stand running Firmware version 1.4 and System EQ version 1.04

Here is a link to the full article where you can download the sample clips and read about the testing environment.

Model II Power Stand with B1 – with and without B2 related updates

Please comment in the forum (link above) and tell me what you hear.

The Loudness War is Over

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment

The Loudness War is Over
"Making loud CDs will become just a bad memory."

I have long thought that we as live musicians are in competition with recorded music. Furthermore, recorded music has changed over the years and with those changes, so too have the expectations of our live audiences.

In the early days of live recording, the playback was but a pale imitation of the live music. Then, with the advent of radios in cars (and the attendant high noise floor), people became accustomed to playing the music loud, and the music being squeezed into the narrow band of audibility between the noise floor and the limits of what was tolerable. I think that recorded music – especially that music that was intended for this audience was compressed and mastered to the point that dynamics were sacrificed on the altar of "turn it up to 11".
The cruel joke was finding that we as live musicians have to be more compelling than the recordings that have become the soundtracks of peoples’ lives. We have to be louder.
I think that is has become commonplace to turn up the volume instead of turning down the noise.

The linked article The Loudness War is Over gives me cause for some optimism that people, our audiences, will begin to look to us to provide music with dynamics and nuance instead of a mind-numbing barrage of sound.
When that day comes, we will be well prepared to provide what people want.

quote:

Originally posted on page 49 of Applying the Benefits of Unamplified Acoustic Music to Performances with Amplification The Bose L1® White Paper:

The results obtained were an extraordinarily strong validation of the concept. Musicians spoke of a quantum improvement in their performance because they could hear themselves and each other. They were thrilled at being in complete control of their music, and spoke at length about the reduction in the amount and complexity of equipment. Many noticed immediately the fact that they were playing with greater dynamics (from very soft to very loud passages). The urge to turn up their volume was gone and thus the overall stage volume remained comfortable. They described the experience as being completely natural – more natural than anything they had experienced with conventional amplification equipment.

quote:

Originally posted by Ken-at-Bose :

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better system for dynamic range and "venue dynamic range". The fact that the speakers change level so little with distance means you can play softly on stage and know that your audience is still hearing you. You can play really loud and know that it’s not too loud in the audience (something that happens all the time with PA speakers that musicians can’t even hear to know if they’re too loud.)

quote:

Originally posted by Ken-at-Bose :

… in concert and large club environments, I believe that there is the same squashing as for radio. In fact, years ago, as part of our research, we took data in a few of these situations. We did calibrated recordings at the mix position and then post-processed the recordings in order to derive the sound level statistics for the show.
The shows were utterly typical. For example, one as Little Feat playing at the Lowell Auditorium, a space that holds about 5,000 I’m guessing. They were using the Showco Prism concert sound system, the best in the business at the time.
The results were shocking, although totally in line with what my ears were telling me.
Are you ready?

For the Little Feat show (the only one I can actually remember the numbers), 95% of the datapoints (we sampled thousands of points from the recordings)were within 3 dB of 113 dB-SPL.

In other words, for all practical purposes (95% of the time) the music in the audience was a whopping 6 dB of dynamic range. This is appalling.
I’m sure the band was playing with a lot more dynamic range, but it was getting totally squashed by the FOH system.

We repeated this measurement for the five songs we played at the press introduction for the Personalized Amplification System(tm) approach, and we measured 40 dB of dynamic range in the audience.

This is another twist on the "there’s only one sound field" aspect of our new approach. Said another way, the sound that’s produced on stage is what is projected to the audience.

I’d like to emphasize one more point. If a band WANTS to play with little or no dynamic range, then that’s the way it’ll be in the audience too. Certain forms of rock (say punk) are like this. This is an artistic choice and a different subject altogether.
Oh, god, if we could just get out of people’s faces with these over-the-top "entertainment" sound systems and get back to playing SONGS, the world, I think, would be such a more lovely place. This is a big thrust in our work and a direct effect of our new approach. There are a heck of a lot more people playing this way but a long, long way yet to go.

With great admiration and affection for you musicians,
Ken Jacob

What do you think?

Join the conversation

Categories: Bose Performer

Bose–Is It Too Expensive

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

This was one of the most popular series of posts in my blog, and the individual addresses got lost when I switched over to wordpress (blogging system).

 

Here are the links

Part 1 – The Dilemma

Part 2 – Logistics

Part 3 – The Cost of Change

Part 4 – Managing Your Own Sound

Part 5 – Understanding

Part 6 – Savings

A lovely little surprise

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night I dropped in at a Almost-Christmas party held by a local singer-songwriter. I didn’t notice in the invitation that this was to be a house concert.

When I arrived the singer-songwriter-hostess asked if I had my guitar. I did but only because I had two other events on my agenda tonight. She asked me to open for her. I agreed and mentally went over the inventory of gear I had in the car. I had my L1® Compact and T1® and various other bits and pieces. Sure, I could make this work.

When she led me to the stage area I was delighted to find a Compact and a packed room. I plugged in my guitar and she introduced me. The rowdy room fell silent. The next 45 minutes were perfect.

Categories: Bose Performer

L1® Model II Preventative Care

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

L1® Model II Owners – please see this Preventative Care Notice – L1® Model II in the L1® Wiki

 

Image:Model II Preventative Care.jpg

Audiopile.net cables for the L1® Family – Review

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Audiopile.net is a familiar name in the L1® Community. They are noted in the Bose FAQs as the source for longer cables for the B1 Bass Modules. You can read about how Mark Hellinger there worked with Hilmar-at-Bose and Bill-at-Bose to diagnose an issue with long cable runs with the B1s. Sound Drop Outs at High Volume

In five years of linking to their website, I had never heard anything but positive comments from people who had followed the link. Recently someone mentioned that he wasn’t getting a response to emails. I was curious about this and I called Audiopile to see what was happening. They got that straightened out that same day. See: NL4 cables in Australia

Since I was talking to them anyway I got to know Mark and Liz Hellinger a little better and shortly after that they put together a page on their website specifically for Bose L1® owners. This just makes it easy to find everything that they’ve got that we might need all in one place. Here is the link: Audiopile page for L1® Owners

The Needs / Solutions

T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine – needs

Image:Feature l1 tonematch.jpg

Short Microphone Cables

When I got my T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine I immediately found that all my microphone cables were too long. I mount my T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine on the microphone stand using the T1 Microphone Stand Bracket so the longest microphone cable I would need in that application was two to three feet. I ended up spending hours cutting cables and soldering. No fun.

Short Instrument Cables

I also needed shorter cables to run from the T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine down to the floor to connect to various processors and a PorchBoard. Six feet seemed ideal. I cut up a couple of cables I had lying around and I was all set.

T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine – solutions

Short microphone and instrument cables are standard fare at Audiopile. So that part was easy.

Three foot microphone cable

Three foot XLR cable

Six foot instrument cable

Six foot instrument cable

L1® Compact – Needs

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When I got my L1® Compact I was really torn. I liked how portable and simple it was, but I also struggled with how noisy it was to make connections to my instruments and microphones. It just seemed like a lot of running back and forth to the Compact Power Stand to turn down the volume to attach instruments, switch microphones or just move around without accidentally aiming the microphone at the Compact Speaker Array (with attendant feedback). This has not been an issue with the L1® Classic / L1® Model I because I had the R1 Remote or L1® Model II with the T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine

With the L1® Compact I decided to use my T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine most of the time if only to have the control over when the instrument and microphone would be live.

L1® Compact – Solutions

For the L1® Compact they have instrument cables with silent switches built into the connectors. There is no connection until the jack plug is fully inserted into your instrument. The silver coloured sleeve near the body of the connector is the part that activates the switch inside. It slides into the body when you insert it into your instrument.

Straight connector with switch Right angle connector with switch

They also have microphone cables with switches at the microphone end. You turn the red ring to control ON/OFF

Microphone cable with built-in switch

Put an instrument cable and a microphone cable (both with switches at the performer’s end of things) and you can plug in to the Compact silently, turn up the volumes and still make no sound until you want to.

For connecting a T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine to a Compact, I have used unbalanced instrument cables simply because that is what I had lying around. I have wanted to get some balanced ¼ inch jack {{trs} connector cables for longer runs and for daisy-chaining Compacts.

I got a couple of thirty foot ¼ inch jack tip-ring-sleeve balanced cables. In the past I have used an old guitar wireless rig to do remote connections to the L1® Compact but that’s a lot of work if you only need to extend your reach by twenty or thirty feet.

For running stereo from a T1® I wanted at a couple 20-30 foot Tip-Ring-Sleeve cables.

Ideally, for this setup you would use balanced Tip-Ring-Sleeve cables from the T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine to the L1® Compacts (or L1® Model IIs if you were using those.

Image:USBtoStereoL1Compact.png

PackLite – needs

Image:A1150.gif I have always wished that the cable that comes with the PackLite was five feet long so that I could put the PackLite on top of a stack of four B1s.

PackLite – Solutions

I got a five foot ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve balanced cable. Easy.

B1 – Needs

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Occasionally I need to get creative with the placement for my B1s. This means longer cables and occasionally pushing the B1s up against a wall.

B1 – Solutions

Here are some photos of the back end of a B1 with the right angle NL4FRX connections available from Audiopile. They made a custom cable for me with two right angle connectors, seven feet long. This seemed an ideal length given the recommendation from Chris-at-Bose to put the B1 right against a wall or at least seven feet out. See B1 Bass Module Positioning

Right angle connector on top, standard B1 below shown together for comparison.

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Here is the difference it makes in terms of clearance from the wall.

Stock B1 Cable

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Right Angle Cable

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The Review

When Audiopile put up that page for Bose L1® owners I was really pleased that they were willing to cater to our specific needs. They have included descriptions of how you would use each of the items on that page.

All the options are set with defaults that make sense for an L1® owner. For example: the default settings for the cables with switches for the Compact are fifteen feet. That seems plenty for a typical setup with a Compact.

I ordered everything on that page. I have applications for all of those cables and I wanted to see how they would work out. I got multiples of several items because I do Festival Sound and often have multiple L1®s and T1®s on stage. Unfortunately they don’t have the etherCON accessories (for extending the T1® Power Supply) but I’ll get those soon.

Everything arrived promptly and well packed. They made the process painless. If you ever need to contact them they have a note on their web page:

To contact us about this page by email please use this link audiopile@audiopile.net and start the subject with BOSE

All the connectors on the cables with switches are Neutrik. My experience with Neutrik conectors has been good. I have used Neutrik connectors on all the cables I have made for my own use although I made these before the noiseless switched cables were available. The balanced Tip-Ring-Sleeve cables have some other connectors. You can read a description of those at: Audiopile IP-101

The physical cable for the microphones and instruments is flexible and lightweight. I have some 15 year old Monster cables that are still fine, but I never use them for live applications anymore. They are very thick and heavy. Over time I have come to prefer lighter, thinner cables that travel better. The cable that Audiopile is using is of that lighter, thinner type. Other than that, I’ll have to report on the durability issue in a few years. For now the cables from Audiopile look and sound good to me. Based on Audiopile’s reputation and history with the L1® Community I am looking forward to relying on them for years to come.

I am very pleased with the cables that have integrated switches (both ¼ inch jack cables and the microphone cables). In my initial testing, these are completely silent as they connect and disconnect. That’s exactly what I need when working at a distance from the Compact Power Stand. I have already bundled together an instrument and microphone cable. Now I have a quick and easy setup for when I don’t want to bring my T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine.

I got several of the silent connect instrument cables specifically for when I do live sound for others. This means that I won’t have to look at both ends of the cable when making connections. I’m referring to running back to the T1® to make sure that channels are muted before making connections. I also got several of the switched microphone cables for those situations where I have microphones that are at distance from the T1®. Again, this is primarily for my live sound (for others) situations.

Overall, I am excited to a single source for all of these solutions. I will be culling out my older, heavier cables and over time. I have all of the cables that I regularly strapped to my microphone stands, but some of those are too long, too old, or just plain ugly. I’ll make a project of wiring these with the new cables. When I get that done I’ll probably add some pictures. But for right now, things sound good, look good, and I’m looking forward to the next gig.

Originally published: Audiopile Cables for the L1® Family of Products Review

Comments: Cables for the L1® – Audiopile.net has a web page just for us (Bose Forum)

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