Posts Tagged ‘ sheet music

Do I Need Charts For My Band?

This is an important question to ask, because effective charts can cut down rehearsal time, but ineffective charts can do the opposite.

Sheet Music: Helpful or Harmful?

In a typical rock/pop/singer-songwriter context, professional musicians will be accustomed to transcribing songs from a track or demo and making their own charts, notating exactly what they need to know, which varies from instrument to instrument. I also find that making my own charts helps me to memorize songs, so that later I can get my head out of them and look like (less) of a tool onstage.

That said, there are a few good reasons to have professional charts prepared:

If you are playing particularly complex music, with dense harmony or specific (and varied) parts that you want the band to play, charts can be very effective and save hours of uncertainty in the rehearsal room.
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Bass transcription from Meshell Ndegeocello’s new record, “Weather”

Meshell Ndegeocello has a new record coming tomorrow, and we get a tantalizing preview with a free track she’s leaked on her website, “Dirty World”. I couldn’t help but transcribe the hairy broken drum and bass groove played by her and Deantoni Parks. Check out the track and sheet music below, and for good measure, I cleaned up and threw in her excellent bass grooves from Comfort Woman and The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams that I posted here some time ago.

Note the broken drum feel, and which notes Meshell plays short versus which she slides into. The two make a monster rhythm section and give a simple two-bar loop an instantly recognizable flavor.

Bass transcription of Meshell Ndegeocello's "Dirty World"

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Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

We get a preview of the entire record on NPR’s review of Weather. You can grab the CD tomorrow, and she’s also soon to be on tour.

Banjo transcription: Béla Fleck’s “Half Moon Bay”

This year, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones are reuniting for a tour with harmonica and keyboard virtuoso Howard Levy, a former band member for their first several albums in the early 90’s.  In honor of the gathering of so much talent, I’ve dug out and updated a transcription I did years ago of a gem from the Flecktones first (self-titled) album: “Half Moon Bay“.

Back in the early 90’s, the group featuring more striking jazz edge, both in sound and composition– Béla had set out to prove that the banjo was a legitimate instrument to use in modern jazz. Years later, when he had undeniably achieved this, the group evolved to take on the sounds of numerous different musical cultures, but on their debut record, many of the tunes fit into standard 32 bar forms with melodies that could occasionally be called be-bop (“Hurricane Camille”).

“Half Moon Bay” is one of those– an AABA form with simple be-bop harmony that one might find in a Charlie Parker tune.  However, the composition makes brilliant use of the capabilities of the banjo, both of its open strings and of the 3-finger picking style native to bluegrass music.  Fleck weaves together counterpoint reminiscent of J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied violin and cello works (some of which he would later reinterpret for banjo on his 2001 record Perpetual Motion).

I’ve included 2 charts for this transcription: the banjo part, in both notation and tablature, and a lead sheet, with notation of both the banjo part and Howard Levy’s harmonica part.  Levy plays diatonic, not chromatic harp, and yet he has managed to develop a technique in which he bends the harmonica reeds in order to seamlessly reach chromatic notes.  This incredible feat is something like playing a piano with only white keys, but “bending” the piano strings to reach the “black” notes. Listening to him improvise fluidly on “Half Moon Bay” and the rest of the album is mind boggling.

So here’s to the reuniting original lineup of The Flecktones– and the strides that they’ve all continued to make in music in the twenty years since the release of that album.

You can stream Half Moon Bay here, and download transcriptions at the link above.

Note: The download link below will take you to a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

Bela Fleck Banjo Tab "Half Moon Bay"

Bela Fleck Banjo Sheet Music "Half Moon Bay"

Greek Blues: Rembetika

It’s long past time that I share some of the Greek music I’ve found so inspiring the last several years. “Rembetika” (ρεμπέτικα, also spelled “rembetika” or “rebetika“, pronounced as the latter is written), or “Greek blues”, developed among Greek Christian refugees that migrated from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Greece as a result of  the 1923 population exchange between Greece and nascent Turkey, relocating Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims to recently founded nation-states.  Greek refugees brought with them hundreds of years of Ottoman Turkish culture, a cosmopolitan tapestry of various eastern ethnicities, musics and traditions.  The music that resulted was music of a poor urban subculture, rich nonetheless in eastern timbres and scales as well as lyrically descriptive of the impoverished lifestyle, and ultimately became a critical seed in the development of Greek popular music throughout the 20th century, very similarly to the way in which the thread of blues runs through American and Western popular music.

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Vasillis Tsitsanis was an early and hugely successful composer of rembetika songs, both before an after World War II.  From a collection of his pre-war music comes the gem “Πικρός είναι ο πόνος μου” (“Pikrós eínai o pónos mou“, “Bitter Is My Pain“).  Like perhaps a plurality of rembetika songs, “Pikrós” is a zeïbékiko or zeybek (Turkish equivalent), a slow 9/4 dance.

The original recording from 1936 can be heard in the video below, as well as on this wonderful compilation from Rounder records. Follow along with the transcription and lyric below:

Rembetika Sheet Music - "Pikros einai o ponos mou" - Tsitsannis

The bouzouki, a long-necked plucked string instrument that Tsitsanis plays on the above recording was developed from the Turkish bağlama saz, influenced by Italian mandolin design and is today an indispensable element of Greek popular music.

In 2008, I was joined by Jordan Perlson and Brad Shepik to record an instrumental (and non-traditional) version of the tune for my Una Passeggiata (Live) record.

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Another gem of a tune from not quite 20 years later is Το Βουνό, (pronounced “To vounó“, “The Mountain“) by Loukas Daralas. Evangelos Prekas’ lyric is brilliant and succinct in reframing what is otherwise an archetypical expression of loneliness:

Θ’ ανέβω και θα τραγουδήσω       I will climb up and I will sing,
στο πιο ψηλότερο βουνό              on the most highest mountain,
ν’ ακούγεται στην ερηµιά               I will make my pain heard in the wilderness
ο πόνος µου µε την πενιά             with the beat of the music.

Με το βουνό θα γίνω φίλος          With the mountain I’ll become friend,
και µε τα πεύκα συντροφιά           and with the pines, companions
κι όταν θα κλαίω και πονώ           When I cry and suffer pain,
θ’ αναστενάζει το βουνό               it is the mountain that will sigh.

Απάνω στο βουνό θα µείνω          On top the mountain I will remain,
κι από τον κόσµο µακριά              and far away from the world.
θα κλαίω µόνος θα πονώ              Alone will I cry, will I suffer pain,
και θα µ’ ακούει το βουνό             and the mountain will listen to me.

Numerous recordings exist, but Kaiti Grey’s below is stirring, and the presence of the kanun, alternating with the bouzouki reveals both the Ottoman influence on the music and how much it had developed during several decades in the Greek mainland.

Rembetika Sheet Music - "To vouno"

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More on the history and music of rembetika can be seen in this excellent documentary, Music of The Outsiders

The music runs deep. If it catches your fancy, another website worth visiting is Ellinika.org, an entirely free course of Greek lessons developed by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation some 50 years ago.  One of the best, bar none, courses I’ve come across for any language, it has helped me to get inside rembetika and some incredible music of the last century. There is also a detailed survey of rembetika history, recordings and places to find it at Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides

Special thanks on this post to George Gouzounis, for helping translate from the Greek, and to www.Stixoi.info, an incredible repository of Greek lyrics.

More free sheet music and transcriptions available here!

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Bass Transcription: “Frutero Moderno” (Panagiotis Andreou/La Clave Secreta)

Panagiotis Andreou - "Frutero Moderno" (La Clave Secreta)

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After witnessing a stunning set by Cuban-American bassist Danny Rojo and his band Pornoson at SOB’s last Wednesday, and having the honor to join such burning musicians onstage, I decided to delve back into some of the Afro-Cuban music I’ve most enjoyed over the years.  Beyond some obvious classics (para un gringo como yo) such as Irakere, Gonzalo Grau & La Clave Secreta‘s record Frutero Moderno blows me away with its very progressive-yet-danceable sound.  Panagiotis Andreou weaves traditional tumbao with contrapuntal melodic bass lines in this, the title track:

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!