Category: music

2017 RPM Challenge

Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Sun 05 March 2017. Tags: music,

Although I've been signed up for 8 years, 2017 is the first time I've completed the RPM Challenge. The challenge is deceptively simple: record an album in February that's 10 songs or 35 minutes long. All the material must be previously unreleased, and it's encouraged to write the music in February too.

The second question of the FAQ is key: "Is it cheating...?" and the answer is "Why are you asking?".

RPM is not a contest. There are no winners (except for everyone who loves music) and no prizes. I viewed it as a personal creative challenge, and it certainly was that! As the days wound down, I had 9 songs that I liked, but I was struggling with number 10. I was also about 4 minutes short. I'd recorded a bunch of ideas that weren't panning out, and then on the last Saturday of February, I happened to be free from gigs and other commitments. Yet I was kind of dreading staring at an empty project (the modern musician's proverbial empty page), when one of my best friends in the world, Torro Gamble called me up and asked what I was doing. Torro's a great drummer (and guitar player, and bass player...) so he came over and we laid down a bunch of very cool ideas. One of them was perfect for song number 10.

The great thing about this challenge is the deadline. When you have a home studio, there's little to stop you from obsessing about every little detail. I can't tell you how many mixes I made, tweaking the vocals up a bit, then bringing them back down. Or adding a little guitar embellishment only to bury it later. And you don't even want to look at the comps of the dozens of bass and vocal …

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Make Music Great Again

Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Sat 21 January 2017. Tags: music, change,

I'm always going to remember January 20, 2017 as a beautiful day.

Those who know me, and know the significance of that date, will no doubt wonder if I've lost my mind. But let me explain why a day that could have been filled with crushing physical and psychic depression, instead is not only filled with light and love, but I think planted the seeds for what must inevitably come next.

I'm writing this in a sort of quantum superposition. I haven't read or heard any news since about 8pm last night. My wife and son are down at the Women's March in Washington DC and I've woken late, had breakfast, done my morning tai chi and meditation, and now I sit down to try to put some of my thoughts onto "paper".

You probably know what else happened on that date. And if so, the question is: why was last night so revitalizing, so positive? Because a trio of U-Liners played an enthusiastic set as one act in a night of three, filled with transcendent music and amazingly bright joyful people.

Call sheet

I'd thought the gig was going to be a night of protest against a new, unthinkable political reality, and the message of hate and fear that came along with it. But it wasn't a protest gig, it was a celebration.

The show was at Gypsy Sally's, a club with a great vibe down in Washington DC's Georgetown area, under the Whitehurst Freeway. I've played there several times with several different groups, including my main bands the Cravin' Dogs and the U-Liners. Some places (musical and otherwise), just have a Vibe. You can tell that magic happens there. The Barn at Keuka Lake where I've attended tai chi camp has that vibe. All the hours and hours of chi-filled …

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ONOTE and OTONE - A musical project

Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Wed 20 July 2011. Tags: music, otone, onote,

I'm starting a new musical project, which I'm calling OTONE and/or ONOTE. Actually, I've been working on this project for several years without realizing what I wanted to do with it. It coalesced in my mind when I thought of the acronyms above. Here's what they stand for:

  • The One Tune One Night Experiment (OTONE)
  • The One Night One Tune Experiment (ONOTE)

I'm not yet sure what the difference between the two are yet (though see below), but here's the idea behind the project.

If you're like me, you can easily sweat over a song and its recording forever, tweaking the mix, or hearing another melody, or (worst of all) agonizing over every word of a lyric that was like pulling teeth in the first place. Sometimes you think if you just do one more take of the guitar, you can get it perfect, or oh! it just needs a little bit of tamborine right there. Sometimes the arrangement just doesn't sit quite right, or you know in your gut that lurking out there somewhere there's a better way to get from the bridge to the last chorus.

Well, I'm kind of frustrated with that because it can lead to never actually finishing a song and getting it out there for folks to hear. At some point you reach diminishing returns, where the little tweaks don't really improve the song enough. Probably most importantly, the whole thing can put the brakes on the creative process. I liken it to software maintenance vs. creating a new project from scratch.

Software maintenance is important, useful, and can be fun, but the juices really get flowing when you're starting a new project. You get this rush of an idea and your fingers can't type fast enough to translate them into code. It's …

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Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Fri 04 December 2009.

The relationship between the bass player and the drummer is one of the most profound and important relationships in rock music. I've been incredibly fortunate in my musical life to have played with a number of drummers with whom I've had a deep and usually immediate musical connection. Almost all are still close personal friends. For me, playing with a good drummer is probably one of the most important reasons to stick with a band long term (it's a necessary but not sufficient condition).

I've been with the U-Liners now for quite a few years and I've enjoyed every minute playing with our drummer Larry. He's in the Army band, so clearly he's talented, but it goes deeper than that. His feel is impeccable, his timing is great, and he hears everything. What I really love about him (and many of my other favorite drummers) is that he's solid but knows when to go for it. It's the occasional waltzes on the edge that make for an exciting, emotional musical moment. It can't be too often, but it has to be there. An element of risk is involved, and I love more than anything else, those improvisational moments within musical structure of the song, because that's where the magic happens.

This week has been extraordinary too because I've played with three of my favorite drummers of all time. Larry of course (and we have a gig this coming Saturday night), but also two great drummers and long time friends. Last night the U-Liners played a show that Larry couldn't make, so my friend Torro sat in. Torro and I go way back (he was best man at my wedding) and is an amazing musician. And at a jam party last Saturday night, my friend Keith came up from Florida and …

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House, Music, Hacking

Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Mon 10 August 2009.

Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything here, and a lot has happened. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say it's been an interesting ride. The good news is we were able to move back into our house in August and life is good. We're not completely done, but we're getting back on track and moving on with our lives.

Max started middle school so I am officially a morning person now, and I've even caught the Facebook bug. We got a cat.

I want to expand this blog to cover things technical and personal, and I'm going to spend a little time every week posting something here. I was going to say "something interesting" but it probably won't be, so you're just wasting time reading this. :)

The email-sig is very interesting lately. Python comes with a package to parse, generate and manipulate email messages. It's actually very functional in Python 2 but mostly because we cheat. In Python 2 we can be lazy about what's a string and what's a byte and email exploits this profusely. I know this because the email package is severely damaged in Python 3, where the distinction between strings (unicodes) and bytes is explicit. The email-sig is tasked with maintaining and developing the email package and we're struggling with many tricky issues. And y'all thought email was simple because 99% of it is spam.

Python 2.6.3 was released last Friday, but it was broken and no one should use it. It's my fault as the release manager for wanting a shortened candidate cycle, but I'm still not convinced that a long cycle would have avoided the regressions. 2.6.3 broke the logging module and setuptools, so I released Python 2.6.4rc1 on …

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