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Ensemble performances and why they work well

Use this template to create a birds eye view of your desk

Ben Paveley

on 20 March 2013

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Transcript of Ensemble performances and why they work well

(cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr (cc) photo by Franco Folini on Flickr (cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr Welcome to my desk Early in the session people are normally optimistic about training. After all it's a break from the norm, and a chance to learn something new right! They've tried to read all 20 of the bullet points on your first slide, and listen to what your saying. Thank goodness they grabbed a coffee before they arrived! Now they're really struggling to keep up. You're only 10 slides into your presentation and they've forgotten that important point from slide 2. Ooops! You've gone through all 78 slides in your 30 minute presentation. But they don't seem to be grasping the link between info on slide 2 and slide 50. Do they need more coffee?
Objectives Enter your objectives here Add Title Exercise John Mayer Add text russell@theprezenter.com
@ThePrezenter 1.

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5. Copy and paste imagery above to carry on creating your desk John Mayer John Mayer is a Blues Rock/ Pop Singer songwriter. When he began his career his music was mainly acoustic pop, however he went through a transitional period where he found a love for the blues, this was the combination of styles that made his distinct sound and the artist that we know today.
John during his younger years spent time playing as a solo artist and also in various duo's/bands (which were all fairly short lived) traveling across the south of America performing his music. Mayer's reputation began to build and by march 2000 John got the attention of an indie label "Aware" with which he released his first album "Room for squares." (Room for squares was an internet only album) Columbia records eventually bought up this small indie label and with columbia records mayer re-released his album "room for squares" bringing him widespread success globaly.
Skipping ahead to 2005 mayer has released another successful album and has collaborated with legends such as Buddy Guy, B.B King and Eric Clapton. This is about the time when John forms the "John Mayer Trio." Rather than a band this is more Mayers most frequent choice of session musicians. The "JMT" is made up of John Mayer himself providing lead vocals and guitar, Pino Palladino on Bass and Steve Jordan on drums. This is the ensemble that I will be basing most of my analysis today. , Steve Jordan Pino Palladino Jordan is an american multi-instrumentalist best known for his drumming. A brilliant session musician who in the past has worked with artists such as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Cat stevens and Stevie Wonder just to name a few. A welsh bass guitarsit with italian heritage. Palladino is a session musician known for his tendency to experiment with his bass guitars often using fretless basses and 8 string basses giving him a very unique sound. In the past Pino has worked with many high profile artists such as Sir Elton John, Phil Collins, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Paul McCartney and Jules Holland plus many many more. The John Mayer Trio is the closest that John Mayer has had to a "set" band, as his preference is to use a variety of session musicians for his albums and live performances. Writing Style John Mayer has written a large amount of songs over his career so far and has used many writing techniques to do so. Most of the songs Mayer has written he has composed on his own and then bought the songs to a session band to record them. However in the example I am going to use here. Mayer enters the studio with no song and meets up with two musicians: Steve Jordan and Charlie Hunter. The trio then write the song "In repair" together from this jam session. In Repair In this session you see how the trio feed off each others ideas. There's a few reason to why I think the trio write so well together.
1. Musical Ability - They're all extremely good at what they do, the fact they are so fluent with their instrument means they can really explore into their ideas.
2. Individuality - They each bring different skills and ideas to the table with their individuality/originality and flair.
3. Vast Resources - allows them to be very experimental with their sound.
4. Communication - I think that communication is probably one of the most important factors in writing/recording/performing whether it be verbal or musical, and as you can see here they're doing both.
5. Like Mindedness - The whole band is interested in similar music and all share similar goals, i think that this is essential in writing a successful song as an ensemble. Live Performance When Performing Live, Mayer has a constantly changing band surrounding him, playing various versions of his songs. His live shows are always considered to be extremely good and a reason for this is that his songs are forever changing and adapting from show to show. His performances are also filled with improvisation to be able to improvise well he needs a strong band around him that know his songs inside out and that can respond to him musically. From this you can see his many improvisations throughout the song but just to focus on the intro you see an improvised guitar introduction from John following this you see him communicating with his band members by giving them visual ques as to when he's about to finish his solo. Linking this back to the session I was talking about earlier I think you can begin to see the value of communication no matter what context wether it be live or during recording. As the song progresses we see Mayer take improvised solos in places that I think are pre-planned because we can't see any obvious visual ques coming from mayer. I personally think this works brilliantly because the audience are getting the exitement of improvised sections giving them new elements to the song for them to enjoy but without the worry of the song falling apart which can happen if the song is "purely improvised. Live Performance Staying on the subject of live performance but in a different kind of context there is a video here showing John Mayer and B.B King in a blues jam. This video is very contrasting to the last because it is almost completely improvised. They are using a basic structure with the verses they sing and the 12 bar blues backing behind them but then over the top the two are feeding off each other with these incredible blues solos. Their solos are extremely diverse, there are constant changes in dynamics and it sounds almost as if the two are singing a duet because their tone and styles sound so different and original.
Although I mentioned at the end of the last video that complete improvisation in a song can potentially be bad because it is unpredicatble this is also the factor that MAKES it so good because you as the listener have no idea what's coming next. It makes the performance exciting and adds and edge to it that it would not have otherwise. Other Examples of songwriting The Foo Fighters songwriting has a very different process to John Mayer and his session band, when this band write their songs it's usually a collaborative effort and their songs are written in a more structured manner. Although some similarities show through. Successful Musical
Ensembles And How They Work
Well Together Elements that the trio have (and all ensembles should have) to make them work well together. 1. Communication
2. Motivation/Passion
3. Dedication
4. Mutual Respect
5. Teamwork 6. Ability to Compromise
7. Like Mindedness/Common Ground
8. Shared Goals
9. Musical Ability Communication - Extensive communication between the band and producer over all the ideas. The band spend whole sessions together in a room talking through the pros and cons of their ideas. There is a lot more planning involved in their songwriting. Respect - You can see from all these videos that the band respect each other, they don't dissmiss anyones ideas and take them into consideration before going any further. Team work - Each song is a collaborative effort, they all work together to achieve the end result. Although particular songs may be led by one band member imparticular the song as a whole consists of parts of each band member. Passion/Motivation - They are all very passionate about their work, this is the reason so many ideas come from them. Without being interested in the songs they write there would be very little emotion or exitement in their songs. Musical Ability - All of the members of the band have a similar level of competency in their ability to play their instrument. Not only this but some members of the band are good multi instrumentalists an example in the first video shows Taylor hawkins, Dave Ghrol and Butch Vig (all 3 drummers) planning out drum parts together. Its always good to have another person to validate and work with your ideas that actually understands them fully. Live performing In an interview that I have included here john talks about a couple of things that I think are very important for a band to be successful.
1. Have fun with the music - I think this is a very simple point that can be overlooked. Without actually having fun I dont think any band or ensemble would be able to be successful.
2. Striving to be better - I think a successful ensemble should always be trying to improve and develop.
3. Trying to impress each other - I think that some of the best ideas come of working outside your comfort zone, so I think it's important for band members to push each other to go that extra mile. Other Examples of Live Performance In A Different Context Trio Pit Orchestras - Pit orchestras provide a very different live music experience in comparrison to John Mayers gigs or any other live band for that matter. The music that a pit orchestra will perform is usually not the main focal point, the music that they play is usually an accompaniment to a musical, ballet, opera or similar show. The Orchestra will be hidden away usually out of view in a pit located just infront of the stage so they dont draw the audiences attention away from the show that they are accompanying. Pit Orchestras The orchestra will usually be quite small as to not over power the audience. The orchestra alot of the time will consist of about 20-30 musicians.

Communication - The Orchestra is led by a conductor meaning that the communication between the band members themselves when performing is zero, each musician will usually be sight reading from sheets, in an interview with a session cellist I read, she talks about how the musicians may only have four or less rehearsals before the show meaning their sight reading is imperitive. So they will have the sheets in front of them and then be given ques by the conductor indicating dynamic changes for example. In terms of audience communication it never really happens with the exception of the rare occasion that the Orchestra is incorperated into the actual performance. E.g. the guitarist during a solo may step up into view or In the musical "We will rock you" the performers have a conversation with the musicians in the pit as part of the act. Dedication - The musicians in a pit orchestra have to be very dedicated, they could be playing the same show for many nights and might not nenessarily enjoy the style of music that their playing.

Competent - The musicians all have to be of a very high standard, and have the ability to sight read extremely well because for many performances the musician may not have come across the song before and is playing purely by the sheet music in front of them. This differs from the performances I have spoken about previously. a band like the John Mayer Trio or Foo Fighters will have had months of practicing the songs that they will perform and will have memorised their parts for when they perform them. Variety - The orchestra itself has a huge range of different instruments adding masses of different sounds textures and different voicings with each instrument having a different ability. Very different to small comercial bands where size is minimal.

Ensemble relationships - In an orchestra like this often there is no audition process the musicians won't get to know each other and dont necessarily have to even get on with each other. Again this is very contrasting to most bands who usually are very good friends and know alot about each other.
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