Follow SABIAN Online Community Member Ryan Masecar as he blogs about his first year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Since Last Time…
I decided today that I need a dehumidifier for my room. I have a wall air conditioner unit that works nicely to cool the air, but somehow my room remains humid enough to corrode guitar strings in a week or so. Maybe it’s fixable if I clean the filter a bit more often, which has me wondering if I could retrofit a hepa filter to fit on the thing. It would make my life just a little bit… cleaner. Not a great big deal, though.
Speaking of strings, I got a new guitar! I actually sold off a fair amount of gear, including a guitar, to pay for this new one, but I got such a good deal on it that I feel like I somehow managed to make money. If you must know, I purchased an EBMM Silhouette in white. It was new at Guitar Center but hadn’t sold for a year or so and the price had been reduced accordingly. And on top of that, I got 15% off when I traded in a snare I don’t use (Pearl Firecracker). I’ve been playing a lot of guitar lately because of it and my chops are slowly coming back up. I also took the arms off my computer chair so I can play my guitar without having to worry about bumping my arms on something all the time. It’s a nice change.
Let’s see… is there any new music in my life? Not particularly. I’m still listening to plenty of Spock’s Beard – they’re still my favorite band. I did finally see Dream Theater in concert at the Palladium in Worcester on July 10. I met Mike Portnoy at Daddy’s Junky Music to get my HH Rock Ride signed before a few friends and I left from Berklee heading for the concert. The trip took an hour and we then waited in line for two hours until the doors opened. Since we arrived early, we got some pretty good spots toward the front of the standing area, but that just meant I got crushed when everyone behind me rushed the front, crushing everyone in the way. It was a good concert, but next time I think I’ll find a seat and enjoy the music; that is, assuming I see DT again – they played a lot of their newer music at the concert and in all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of it. I think their old stuff (Six Degrees and earlier) is a lot more creative and of a higher caliber overall.
Care packages are a lifesaver. I guess they’re more of a sanity-saver, but they make life just a bit more enjoyable whenever you get one. By attending Berklee this summer, I missed out on going to Hawaii for a couple weeks with my family, who sent me a postcard-coconut from Kona and some unexpected macadamia nuts in the care package from my father – they are now on my list of favorite foods. Just two days ago, I got a package from my grandparents, who sent me at least ten pounds of various snack foods including a 4 lb bag of Costco-brand trail mix. It’s just nice to have some stuff to nibble on.
I’m putting a break here to illustrate that I am continuing writing this entry a few weeks after starting; my first semester is now over and I feel that I should give a general summary of the semester and my experience.
To append my original entry for SABIAN, I ended up getting along with Tony, my private instructor, quite well after I found that his exercises were indeed having an effect on my playing and (gasp!) my style. It’s not a bad change, mind you; it’s just a different way of doing ghost doubles. For instance, normally when your typical drummer plays ghost notes, they’re all around the same velocity, and for me, they’re not quiet as I’d like them to be, but that’s not the point – the two notes in a ghosted double stroke are normally played at the same velocity. The exercises that Tony gave me throughout the semester (which included a couple polyrhythmic exercises and a few Tower of Power songs to work on) have gotten my left hand accenting the second stroke, which lends itself to some really funky accent patterns.
Harmony, Ear Training, and Arranging are the three classes that I consider my “extended AP Music Theory” classes – they’re more advanced classes on the same topics that my senior-year AP Music Theory class covered but split into three sections instead of combined into one. Ear Training had me attempting to sight-sing a piece of music that cycled through all of the musical modes except Locrian. It was by far the hardest class I took, and my teacher said I passed the class, so I’m pretty satisfied with myself. Thankfully, I only have one more Ear Training class (level 4) left that I need to take.
Harmony was probably my favorite class, if only because the teacher spent more time than was probably necessary to explain the concepts to the class in a more thorough manner than any other teacher I’ve known. I actually feel like I learned something in my Harmony class. As for Arranging, it was pretty straightforward – the class dealt with general styles on a range of instruments (drums, bass, guitar, piano) and writing out a piece of music in score form and for those instruments. My arranging teacher has quite the resume and he peppered the class with a few stories about Etta James and playing with Buddy Rich and all sorts of familiar names like that. Richard Evans is his name and he’s done a lot in his time.
I met a lot of cool people here this summer. Some of them are going back to their respective homes to stay (those students being in the 12-week summer program) and they will be missed. There’s not much more I can really say about that – I’m okay with my memories, I guess. I can’t wait for fall semester to start, though; I have a few friends starting in the fall and I can’t wait to jam with them and start playing gigs with one friend in particular, my guitarist friend Joe. I’ve known Joe for a few years and I’ve been trying to get some sort of a band thing going with him since I met him. He’s a really good guitarist and we have similar tastes in music; I’m really hoping being at Berklee will finally make things work out better than before. (I’ve been in a band with him before, but I played rhythm guitar.) I mean, I’ve been jamming with him as long as I’ve known him, but nothing has ever worked out for one reason or another.
– Ryan Masecar
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