Screen Test: Me Playing "Pa' Bravo Yo" on the Chromatone

Discussion in 'Salsa Music' started by BullitproofSoul, Nov 29, 2014.

  1. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    hey all,

    I made this "screen test" to gauge how well a few things work on camera, as I go into this next stage of my music career. Here is an unlisted video that I'd appreciate some feedback on.

    Here is what I am testing on

    1) The Musician - Does the musician look marketable? Would he add value and sex appeal to a live band? And (though I realize my playing is a bit sloppy on this video but) does he sound good?

    2) The Instrument - As the self-appointed ambassador of Chromatone to North America, I need to make the Chromatone look good. Does it look good on camera? Could you think of a better camera angle to shoot it from (while still capturing the player's face?) Does it look cool or nerdy? Does the video make you say "Oooh I wanna play one of those"?

    3) How cool does my new leather jacket look on camera :p

    I plan on making a more professional video between Christmas and New Years'. That one will contain no warts -- it needs to be perfect for marketing. I'll be getting a Canon T3i for Christmas (yay!) with all the accessories for making some nice videos and taking great pics Also, I promise to clean up the background. I still haven't quite finished moving and my new home office is much too small for all the stuff I still haven't found space for.

    Anyway, thanks for engaging! Here's the video:

    matty and Smejmoon like this.
  2. timberamayor

    timberamayor Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    1) I personally don't think pianists add much to the excitement of a show unless they are standing so they can be active and dance a little bit. Sitting still and moving one's fingers isn't all that exciting. But of course playing and dancing or moving to the music is harder than just sitting still.

    2) I think you should shoot a number of takes and cut from wide angle shots where you can see the whole instrument and musician to close ups of the hands and such. Video is more interesting when you add action to it by switching the shots. It's more work of course and you have to get the clips completely aligned correctly so there are no continuity errors, but the end result is much better. Also the keys are weird and interesting on the chromatone so some up close shots are interesting just for that reason.

    3) Leather jackets are always cool.

    Here for example when I puled out in the shot you can see that Manolito dances a little bit while playing which makes it more exciting and interesting. It keeps the energy level at the same level across the stage rather than having it be only the singers.
  3. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    Hmmm. I'll think about this. I really dislike playing standing up. Though I get how there is nothing exciting about being sitting down either. The reason I have been playing on a stool (that may not be clear from the video) is it it is sorta "half way" between standing and stitting.

    Chick Correa has said interesting things about how "showy" a pianist needs to be, given the size of the venue. In a Jazz club that fits 30 people, he can do very slight movements, and he is being an entertainer. In a large venue (like one in your video) he finds he needs to exaggerate his movement significantly so that people are getting "a show."

    I've done alot of thinking of how much movement I want to do as a pianist. There are two schools of thought, one that says you should move as little as possible, as every movement you are doing that is not from your fingers distracts from the quality of your playing (alot of classical pianists, and even Jazz pianists, think this way.) The other is that you need some "counterthythm" going on somewhere in your body (tapping your foot, bobbing your head, bouncing your shoulders) to provide a push and pull to what your fingers are doing, which results in some swing.

    Herbie Hancock is a good example of this. Give him a minute or three, and he goes full on Herbie:

    I'm willing to do that, perhaps after having done a few vids. As far as getting the clips to line up for continuity -- yeah that's an issue, because I record these in real time. If I go back and record a second take, my playing won't be the same as the first time, so my fingers won't line up with the audio in subsequent takes. I suppose i could do it anyway, hoping the viewer wouldn't notice.

    Thanks. I wonder how hot I'd get on a stage. The solution would be to take it off at some point. I'm no sex symbol, but I am told my arms are a better feature I have. So taking off my leather to reveal a sleeveless, yet modest :p shirt might be some good stagecraft.

    Thanks for the quality feedback, which is even doubly valuable from a female.
  4. timberamayor

    timberamayor Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    When it all comes down to it, I think you should only move if you are feeling it. I don't think forced dancing for entertainment value would come across as natural. When people get into it while playing piano I think it's because they are grooving just like the audience. Being a dancer I find it hard to imagine not being moved to move, but I'm not a musicians. As for hitting the notes properly I think there's a big difference between playing classical music where each not is already written out and should be played exactly as written (giving leeway for personal expression) but it would be very noticeable if you played wrong notes. With a tumbao there usually is no chart at all just the chords and you can improvise around that and occasionally missing a key or possibly hitting one you didn't intend to isn't likely to be audible and certainly isn't a big deal.

    As for the jacket, you will get very hot onstage. Some musicians sweat rather profusely and they should always wear an undershirt and preferably not white shirts because they become very transparent when wet. For an outdoor concert in chilly weather it will be great. Indoors I would not recommend it. But of course that's just up to you.
  5. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    I am actually am talking about moving and grooving as a matter of rote :) Essentially making it a part of your style, even the way you practice. I say this because, in some genres, its actually taught. In Blues piano, for example, lesson #1 is to tap your left foot on the downbeats (I'm determined to rob everything useful from the Blues and apply it to Afro-Cuban).

    I'll risk going on about this, only because I'm sort of obsessed with the topic of "how what you do with the rest of your body affects how you're playing comes off." I'm even curious if I can get away with doing a Salsa basic while I play :)

    Maybe I'll just come out in it. In which case, I'll have to contract the guy who used to take off James Brown's robe to take off my jacket :p

    timberamayor likes this.
  6. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Your montunos sound pretty good. Clean up the some of the ensemble parts ( like the chords at :47 ) and hits then you're good to go. You rush a tad at times during the body of the song but sound more relaxed in the montuno sections.

    A great musician once told me that anytime you engage your body while playing is a good thing. But, like timbera said, it should be natural and not forced. A lot of pianists bob their head in time while playing I have noticed.

    You will certainly get comments and questions about the chromotone since it is a very unusual keyboard. Some may take it as a novelty thing but what matters is if you play the *hi* out of it. After the novelty thing wears off it will be all about how clean you play and if you swing hard.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
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  7. timberamayor

    timberamayor Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    I think the longer you play the easire t will become. Or maybe the more you dance there's a point where things happen automatically. For a hardcore salsa dancer the feet move without you putting any conscious thought into it. I mean it almost becomes an involuntary muscle movement like breathing. And yes, I'm sure that breathing can affect playing (obviously of wind instruments but even others) but you hardly are going to wonder how you can breath and play at the same time.

    A lot of musicians never get around to dancing enough to reach the point where it comes naturally. For some reason they seem to waste all their time working on their playing ;)
    BullitproofSoul likes this.
  8. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    True. Ironically, relatively few Salsa musicians are really good dancers and many don't dance at all.

    But, as someone once pointed out to me, plenty musicians have gotten fired from bands for playing badly, but not for dancing badly. Up front coristas, a different story.

    If you're standing and playing piano then a little step would look good. There is a young female pianist that recently burst onto the New York salsa scene and she does a little Salsa step at times while she's playing montunos. Looks good. And she can PLAY!
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
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  9. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    Hey GT thanks for chiming in with gentle critiques :)

    I acknowledge that I sometimes rush/get ahead of the beat. Its an issue I have been tackling head on. I'm much better than I was in August with this issue.

    Two changes I've made in my practice towards this end:

    - In September, I switched from practicing all my drills (scales, montunos, arpeggios, eyc) to a double time metronome, instead of the the ultra cheezy wanna be Salsa drum beat that comes with ever keyboard. I have found that the strict DING-Tick-Tick-Tick-DING-Tick-Tick-Tick of the metronome more forcefully obligates me to adhere to timing.

    - On October 1st, I implemented Hanon exercises as part of my routine. Just three days a week. I'm already seeing improvements in my finger independence. I must say, I am really feelin Hanon. Most people think its a drag to practice because the drills are so unmusical . I'm weird. I like my drills as unmusical and mechanical as possible, as it allows my brain to zone out into a Jedi trance and move into utter Zen unconsciousness and muscle memory :) But, my fingers are getting stronger and more nimble (I can raise them higher while "shelf" of my backhand straight.

    So I was asking my wife about the video. I also showed her some other videos of the few prominent chromatone players there are out there. She shared that, compared to them, my hands seemed pretty stiff. She might be right. I'm not sure if I am actually stiff, or whether it playing montunos, which keeps you kind of "set" in one part of the keyboard while you are executing a riff, or if its the Hanon stuff I have been practicing which tends to train one to keep one's backhands steady while the fingers do their thing. Maybe I'm just plain stiff.
    groovetpt likes this.
  10. sunsoul

    sunsoul Shine Officer

    I'd like to hear you playing with no music in the background (at least in a few videos). Good start!
  11. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    There's some of that in the works :) thanks for expressing interest

    I've been working some on a straight eighths version of "Autumn Leaves." Probably no improvising, except for getting kinda loose with the melody. And, just in my head, I've been arranging a funky organ Jazz version of "My Favorite Things". Then there is this modal Jazz piece I composed that I`d like to play nicely -- I wrote it with solo chromatone in mind.

    So 2015 may turn out to be an interesting year for videos.
  12. Smejmoon

    Smejmoon El Sabroso de Conguero

    1) You smile only in last second! How so? It changes everything for me.
    2) Just curious. What's the deal with sunglasses, hat and jacket inside? Is that the tough guy look?
    3) You can check Ariacne Trujillo on youtube. She's badass. If you try to do what she does and succeed to do 10%, it would be a lot. (Personally I think she moves too much)
  13. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    Thanks for your feedback and time. Here are my responses:

    [Also, parts of my post are coming out in blue, dont know why. Please ignore]

    I've been told all my life that I have a very nice warm smile, and that I go up like two "points" in attractiveness the moment I smile. So I really should smile more. As it is, my default facial expression is actually dead serious, which is a reflection of my inner talk, which is very serious (I tend to take myself and life too seriously).

    I admire players who smile and look like they're having a ball when they play: Eddie Palmieri being the prime example. I also dislike players with a fake plastic smile. I love Duke Elligton, but sometimes his playing did nothing to hide the fact that he did NOT want to be playing that night.

    Check out the plastic at 0:42

    I am indeed striving to market myself with a specific image, though "tough guy" isn't quite how I would describe it. Words more like "hip," "maverick," "masculine" or even a touch of "bad ass."

    If I had to label the "look," I'd call it "Latin Neo Soul," a reference to looks some of my favorite Neo Soul and Classic Soul artists have. Except I'm Latino, and an overweight Latino guy can't get away with wearing everything Black guys can. Here are some looks:

    D'angelo's famous leather look:


    Musiq Soulchild's emulatable "Hat Sunglasses and Goatee" look



    Donny Hathaway, who sorta started the look:


    Curtis Mayfield


    herbie Hancock

    and of course, Stevie


    I'm familiar with Ariacne. She's light years ahead of me in every way, and I have nothing but respect for her. Her style is exceedingly feminine and agile, which makes sense cause she's a woman. Some of her notes sound like tickling icicles drenched in vaseline.

    Being me, I need to be on the other side of the spectrum. Both my playing and my persona need to reflect my attributes: strong, savvy, analytical, heavy-set, detached, masculine and a bit mean and cynical. The notes needs to sound like what they are: a 250 lb, 6 foot male pounding on a small plastic Japanese instrument.

    If this sounds like alot of analysis: it is. Its taken me all my life to figure out that you do better when you line up everything: your talents, your personality, your quirks, even your look. A seminary professor I once had named it once, though I didn't understand at the time. He called it congruence.

    Last edited: Dec 1, 2014
  14. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Black leather jacket is required of all musicians regardless of race, color or creed. Sunglasses and hat are optional.
    BullitproofSoul likes this.
  15. flowrite

    flowrite Sonero

    Here is a pianist who included the audience and played to the audience. So smile out to the audience be animate with your face pick people out and smile and nod at them.
    How to do it.
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  16. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Love Erroll Garner. A class act and top musician all the way.

    On the other side of the spectrum you have Keith Jarrett who grunts, groans and grimaces while playing and sometimes verbally berates his audience. ( still, I love his playing and paid dearly to see his trio at Carnegie Hall a couple years ago - awesome concert )
  17. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    I wouldn't pay to see Keith Jarrett.

    If I want a lecture, I can call my dad.

    If I want to see a hairy white dude grunt and groan arbitrarily, I can watch 70's ****.
    groovetpt likes this.
  18. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    I caught him on a good night at Carnegie. He seemed to be in a good mood and he played so beautifully with the Standards Trio. He is such an amazing piano player. Jack DeJohnette... well, does not get better than that. From where I was sitting I couldn't hear the groans. Seeing Jarrett at Carnegie was on my bucket list for a long time and he did not disappoint. My other bucket list item for Carnegie Hall was seeing Joao Gilberto perform solo -- another memorable night back around 2008, from someone who can be less than endearing on stage, or just not even show up!

    Herbie and Keith are my cats on jazz piano -- I dig Chick of course but he's a bit too technical for me. Oh yeah, Red Garland had a touch like no one else.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2014
  19. BullitproofSoul

    BullitproofSoul Shine Officer

    I've discussed the others elsewhere, so I'll say

    Red Garland may be the most beautiful piano player of all time. His material is just gorgeous. I listened to his stuff all August and October, but I first fell in love with him I bought a tape of him back in '94. I kinda miss those old record shops that would sell old Jazz tapes for $3. I've never again found that version of "There will never be another you" from a tape I had.

    Oscar Peterson may be the swingenest player of all time. He defines groove. he can be as beautiful or as classy as you want him to be, but gives him a chord progression and sit back and watch him swing the pants off of everything.

    Horace Silver is an unsung hero, a person favorite of mine, mostly because he is bluesy as hell (I like my Jazz piano bluesy). He also mixes some Latin in there. The way he can marry Jazz, Blues and Latin keeps me studying his style, since its something I want to do, too. His left hand is also rhythmic as hell; he almost doesn't need a bass.

    Here's some Horace. His solo from 3:39, while maintaining the bass in the LH, is Hall of Fame hip:

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  20. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Hell yeah! Horace. Love that funky soul jazz sound. When he had Blue Mitchell on trumpet... oh man...

    Oscar Peterson.. he never really grabbed me emotionally. Seems like everything he plays is 300 bpm... kind of like Chick for me. Technique? Wow. Just never got that connection to the soul and brain like some others.
    BullitproofSoul likes this.

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