Starting A Jazz Trio

Looks like the year is starting out right. One of my goals has been to have an outlet for practicing jazz singing and jazz piano in a trio format, and I appear to have that now. I'll be starting regular rehearsals with some good players here in town. The players will be rotating a bit, but I've got the core members in place. First rehearsal is tonight!

I'll probably be regularly creating rehearsal recordings and will be uploading the better ones over in standards. If you want to hear, drop me an email and I can shoot you the password.

Podsafe Piano Musings

All of my Piano Musings are podsafe, which means that podcasters can grab them and use them as background music for their podcasts, as long as I'm credited, etc.

There is a site called Podsafe Audio that specializes in categorizing this kind of music. I just created a page specifically for the piano musings, and you can find it here.

iLike and Bebo

iLike is spreading, and has now launched on Bebo. This means that I also now have a Bebo artist page, for those of you on Bebo. I also have a member page there now but don't appear to have any friends, so if any of you are on there, you could be the first person to add me.

New Facebook Page

I have a new facebook page up that is a little more professional. You can hear music, tell the recommendation system that you like my music ("click to iLike this artist"), etc. I'll mainly be using that site to reach out to fans that aren't already hooked up here, but every "iLike" signup helps because it gets my music out there more.


This facebook stuff really does get addictive. I've managed to set up a few things. If you have a facebook page, I now have a better artist page that you can view, become a fan of, etc.

You can also click the "iLike" button to say you like the music - this has all sorts of benefits - you get informed when I upload a new song, you can post on the "Fan Wall", and it means I get more airplay in iTunes. I also think (if you have a facebook account) that you can just click on this image:

On that page, there's also the capability to listen to my songs, add them to your own profile, dedicate them to one (or all) of your friends... and each time you do, I get more fans and there's more likelihood that even more people will stumble across the music I'm uploading. Have fun!

Cocktail Pianoing

One of the things I have been focusing on lately is my jazz piano skills, particularly in regard to the old songs and standards. I am trying to do more singing too - and so all in all, I'm basically trying to become a cocktail pianist. It feels kind of odd to be aspiring to be a cocktail pianist. I remember before I started getting more into jazz piano, I saw cocktail piano as being a little bit lame. Really! Old people drinking their sorrows away, singing songs no one sings anymore. Now I think it's a really romantic atmosphere, and I kind of like drinking more than I did, too.

I mean, I know how it (theoretically) hooks into my future goals. I learn more jazz piano and I get a richer harmonic palette. I learn more songs and I have more ideas for my own songs. There's a risk, though, to focusing a lot on jazz. A lot of musicians never find their way out.

Nevertheless, I've been happy to have some breakthroughs lately. I was able to sing/play I've Got You Under My Skin at mid-tempo all the way through by myself. What that means is, expanding out all the chords to comping, soloing, turnarounds, bassline, singing... all at once. I'm doing it badly, but I got through it.

And just now, I decided to give myself a recital, which is a step forward. I picked the twelve standards I'm most confident on, and performed them back to back, recording each one. I find it's about an hour of material overall. I'm about to listen to them. Kinda nervous.

By the way, remember that if you're a friend of mine, you can email me to request the username/password to my "Jazz Standards" page. That's where you can hear my jazz recordings, which I post fairly often. I can't make them publicly available because of copyright reasons.

Recent Networking

Fun day today - I went to Tony Starlight's to see The Swing Sisters perform this evening. They had a very short break between sets, and their pianist had just ordered a burger. It got delivered right when the set was about to start, and he wasn't about to abandon his burger.

So I got called up on stage to sit in for a song. I was that guy, the "guest pianist" who gets called up from the audience. That just tickled me, I haven't been in that situation before. So it was a lead sheet I hadn't seen before - wow, I don't even remember the name of the tune. We did the head once, then James took the AA and gave me the BA. The combo was pretty tight and we had some good energy rise and fall later in the piece. It was quite fun. I'm hoping I'll get to do some more combo playing in the future.

I also sat in with Quoting Napoleon the other night. They're looking for a keyboardist, and I'm still considering whether I want to be The Keyboardist, but it's a fun opportunity to consider. They're bass, drums, rhythm guitar, electric guitar, and fabulous lead vocals. They've got a great repertoire put together already and are completely receptive to new song ideas, cowriting, and working up songs of my own. It's a little different than the idea of me creating/forming my own actual band, but then again, I'm still working on building up my own repertoire, so it might be a good fit if it helps motivate me to write my own stuff even faster.

Site Directions

Well, it's been almost four months since I've launched this site. I've wanted the site to become something akin to a framework, workflow, and representation of my efforts as a musician. I think I've succeeded there. Whenever I create or accomplish something musically, I have a place to put it. So now (and perhaps this is partially because of how me having a cold affects my brain), I'm moved to review and think about how it's all working.

"A place to put it" is interesting. Because if I were to merely keep these things in my head, in iTunes, on a scratch piece of staff paper - they'd still exist, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like any of them have life until I put them somewhere where there's a chance other people might experience them, or perhaps enjoy them.

But everything has a home right now. I have a place for my song drafts. A place for my improvised piano pieces. A place for my jazz standards (although a password is needed there). A place where I can write about what I'm doing, a mailing list where people can sign up, which gives an excuse to summarize my own progress to give myself benchmarks.

So far it's a good experiment - all combined, I've interacted with this site in some way every day since then. It kind of gives me something to react to, which helps me take music more seriously in a way that feels natural rather than disciplined. It's having good results too - I thought up, wrote, and learned I Have A Cold in about three hours. It's a stupid silly song, and I was completely punchy - laughing about it while hopped up on cold medicines - the sort of thing where the mood that drove the creation of the song would have passed in a few hours. Six months ago I would not have been able to capture that complete song in time. (Which, in the case of that particular song, might have been a good thing! :) ) But it's a cool feeling to feel that I am starting to have a more direct pipeline into whatever it is that enables us to write cohesive songs.

I've started to look at the site as a marketing vehicle, too. Not that I have anything to sell at this point, but I have liked the idea of the site gradually attracting readership/listenership. I'm going to use a bad word here. I am currently what is known as a "hack". :) The real definition of a hack is someone who gets their support by people already known to them. I'm basically tracking my "hack quotient" by keeping track of who is on my mailing list. Right now, almost everyone on my mailing list is someone that I already know - family and friends. If I divide the number of People I Know by the number of People On The List, then that means I have a "hack quotient" of somewhere between 91.3% and 95.6%. I am hoping that number decreases over time! I do notice that viewership is increasing a bit, which is encouraging. Some from a couple of links I create, like my sig at an unrelated discussion board I frequent, or a couple of comments I've left over at (my unwitting mentor), but I'm also noticing an increasing number of google searches for "curt siffert" and also for Balancing Above The Air.

The question is what to do next. It's fun to think about what level of success one can get just by focusing on the online end, but I really don't want to limit myself to that. There are several challenges and possible directions here.

I'd like to play out. I haven't performed for too many months now, although performing for my recorder does at least help a little. The problem is basically repertoire and instrumentation. I'm not a guitarist, so I am not as flexible as a guitarist singer/songwriter. I now have two songs that I can perform as a solo singer/pianist, but they're both what I like to think of as "contrast songs". I need more meat and potatoes songs. I also have two songs that can be performed as a group with a guitarist, although Together would require some thought on how to arrange it. Basically I just need to create more rep.

I do have an instrumentation - I know both a good drummer and bass player who would be psyched to play out with me once we have material. I love the idea of doing some Jamie Cullum crossed with Ben Folds type stuff. And my band Deja Nu is also interested in performing some three-horn arrangements of my stuff too as I write it. So I've definitely got options. It's basically up to me to come up with material.

There's also the option of me pursuing new age piano stuff, although it doesn't particularly thrill me to consider being a new age live performer. But I am currently in the midst of producing a cd of some of the better tracks. It'll be a short run for now, just to get things up and sellable on iTunes.

Beyond that it's about just creating more songs and seeing what opportunities and brainstorms happen. I'm also thinking about whether it makes sense to keep uploading rough drafts of material here. There's kind of a quality point material needs to be at before you'll start attracting the kind of attention that will lower the "hack quotient". :) But for now, I'm happy with the way things are.

iLike and iTunes

One of the cool things out there for independent musicians is iLike. It's a website that recommends free music by independent artists, by analyzing who your favorite artists are. It knows who your favorite artists are by keeping track of who you listen to in iTunes and your iPod, so you don't even have to tell it your favorites.

All you have to do is go to the site and download a plugin that attaches to iTunes. Then as you play songs in iTunes, a sidebar appears in iTunes that shows you other similar artists with free music you can download. It's really snazzy.

My song Together has been on GarageBand long enough that I'm now recognized as an artist on iLike. So that means that more users will find my music in iTunes, and I'll hopefully get more fans over time.

But in order for that to work, I need people I know to sign up with iLike and "like" me. So once you have it hooked up to iTunes, go to my artist page and click the "iLike this artist" badge in the upper right. You can also recommend the song itself. Also, apparently if you click this link, you'll automatically be my friend, but that's for my user page, not my artist page.

It looks like it also hooked me up to a facebook page. Funny.

Reviews of Together

Together is still being being reviewed on GarageBand. It's such an interesting process. For one thing, since I've always been interested in online democracy and group moderation, their "everyone gets a fair shake" process impresses me. The way it works is that you're guaranteed at least fifteen reviews when you submit a song - from other people that are submitting songs. Positive reviews move the song up the charts, and the further up the charts it goes, the more reviews you get.

This means that songwriters need to be given incentive to review other songs - and they manage that well, by giving you free entries if you review a certain number of songs. And also, if you review, then your song will become more quickly reviewed.

So far, Together seems to be doing fairly well - the reviews are mostly positive:

"Very well done...I found this piece very relaxing."

"Music brings shivers down my spine, it's just that good. ...and with just violin, piano and guitar. I don't know what to write because I just got caught by the music and it mesmerized me completely. And normally I don't even like this kind of music."

"The hook is profound and is repeated sufficiently to make it's metaphorical point. I hope you keep this minor masterpiece intact."

" the end the sound was just too depressing and it just felt like it was beating me over the head with it..."


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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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