Living in a time where it is easy to download things for free over the Internet, why should we pay for music downloads? We may know that often what we are downloading is illegal, but stealing data just doesn't seem like stealing. So, leaving aside the legal arguments, why pay for music? This is the question I try to answer in this month's article, Why Pay For Music?
I've been spending a lot of time working on two new pieces, determined to get them just right. At the same time I'm paying careful attention to the new recording interface I'm using, the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6. A full review is in the pipeline.
One problem with acoustic tiles is how to attach them to a wall without leaving a mark, in other words without using pins, nails, screws or glue. My solution was to mount the tiles in a panel that can be propped against a wall. I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this but you can read how I did it in this month's DIY Acoustic Panels article.
I'm currently focusing on two pieces of music, while testing the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 USB interface. More on that to come in a future review.
Also this month I have changed the pricing structure for the downloads from this site. Single tracks are £1.00 (1 GBP). All downloads continue to be managed by Bandcamp, a company that specialises in supporting artists that aren't signed to a major label. If you like the piano, and smooth jazz music, check out some of these tracks.
This month I have added six Royalty Free Radio Jingles I made at the start of the year for a Christian radio station. They feature choir and organ sounds and are gentle and peaceful in nature, apart from the sixth one which is more animated.
I currently have multiple projects on the go, all in need of the same thing to get them finished - time!
It's been slightly over half a year since I've added anything to this site. This has been so I can devote more time to making music.
This months addition is a short article on Headphone Holders, combined with a mini review of the Audio-Technica AT-HPH300 Headphone Hanger (some manufacturers prefer 'hanger' to 'holder'). If you use headphones, either just occasionally or frequently, this article might be worth reading.
In the final part of my DIY Music Production Desk series, I show the finished product and give information about other aspects, such as the cost, the construction time and more. I'm not entirely happy with the photos so I might try to take some better ones soon. I'm very much looking forward to making music using this desk, and it feels good to have monitor speakers directly infront of me when I'm playing my keyboard, and not off to the side as they were in my previous set up.
In Part 4 of my DIY Music Production Desk series, I talk a little bit about finishing, and certain pitfalls to avoid. Mainly due to the summer heat in Japan, where I live, I have made little progress this month. I did stain and varnish the underside of the desk work surface, but wasn't at all satisfied with the result, so I sanded it all off ready to have another go. Find out how I got on next month.
This month, in Part 3 of my DIY Music Production Desk series, I document actually building the desk. Numerous photos show in detail the desk at different stages of construction. Next month I hope to conclude the series, but at present I am experiencing a few challenges. Find out more next month.
Continuing on with my DIY Music Production Desk, this month I talk about preparation, and give what I think are two invaluable tips to help the project be a success. Next month I will give details on the actual construction.
I am currently in the process of making a DIY Music Production Desk. It's probably the most ambitions project I have ever undertaken in construction so it will be interesting to see how it actually turns out. I've been cataloguing my progress and present the first of what will be a four-part article this month. In part one I look at the design, and how some free 3D software helped.
I have also been working on Wheeler Dealer, the piece of music I first mentioned in February, and feel to have made good progress.
A short article I wrote about the psychology of trumpet playing had been sitting in a file on my computer for quite some time, I don't know how long. Although I had reservations about publishing it, after rereading and some editing I decided that it might be useful for some musicians. I've retitled the article Trumpet Psychology.
This month I've spent a little time updating the Selected CD Reviews section, adding audio examples to the four reviews that didn't have them. Also, I have made good progress with the piece of music I mentioned last month, which now has the working title of Wheeler Dealer.
One very much neglected area on this website is the Gallery. However, this month I have added a photo of me playing with a number of Japanese musicians at a Valentine's Day concert.
I have started work on another piece of music but, as always, other commitments limit the amount of time I am able to spend on doing what I love doing the most. Nevertheless, check back soon and you will find new music.
In the latter part of 2015 I picked up a pair of second hand PMC TB2 nearfield monitor speakers on line for a very reasonable price. When they arrived I found them to be in near mint condition. After several months use and careful listening I've posted a full review. Although the TB2s have now been upgraded to the TB2+ model, the two speakers share some of the same characteristics. Read the review to find out more.
At the start of a new year it's natural to wonder what the year has in store for us. I certainly hope to add more music to the site than last year, even if this means fewer articles. Be sure to check back from time to time. Happy New Year.
Finally, a fully responsive Smooth Jazz…and more site is here, one that displays equally well on mobile devices as it does on desktops. The general layout has changed, but the content – apart from some occasional minor revisions – remains the same. Perhaps the biggest change has been the removal of the Flash mp3 players. Flash is not supported by many mobile device so non-Flash audio players have been used instead.
For more than five years I have added new content every month. From 2016 I plan to focus more on actual music, perhaps not adding something new every month, but adding more music over the course of a year. Be sure to add this site to your favourites, and check back from time to time.
September - November 2015 - Site renewal.
Each month for more than five years I have added to this site new articles, new music, or both. I am truly grateful for the positive feedback I have received, and for all the visitors who have taken time to listen to my music. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The site was designed with the desktop PC user in mind. Now, with the ever-growing popularity of mobile devices, the time has come to rebuild the site to make in responsive, i.e. mobile friendly. Work has already started, and I hope to be adding more music and articles before too long. Please check back.
New this month is an article answering 12 Questions on Learning a Musical Instrument. Whether it's you learning or your child, the article contains useful information and advice.
Quite recently I remembered an exquisite track from an old vinyl album I used to have by Dizzy Gillespie. A quick search on line showed that the album was still available, and now on CD. Just one click and a few days later I once again had the album in my possession, a review of which I share this month in the 'Selected CD Reviews' section - Closer to the Source by Dizzy Gillespie.
Smooth Jazz...and more is five years old this month. Much has happend in the last five years. On the technological front smart phones and tablets have become increasingly popular, to such an extent that last month Google started factoring in the mobile friendliness of sites into their search engine results. Sites that are more mobile friendly get ranked higher. As a step to making this site more mobile friendly I've added three pages that should allow visitors viewing this site on Apple devices - or any other device that doesn't have flash compatibility - to hear much of the music on offer. Go to SoundCloud Page 1 now to check out some of the tunes.
In the coming months I hope to add more music, along with more equipment reviews and articles. Watch out for Never Run Never Hide, the new piece of music I am working on, an indepth review of PMC's TB2 speakers, and an article answering questions about learning musical instruments. Be sure to check back.
First mentioned in November 2014 as 'almost finished', the work on Every Way to Love You is now completed. It took much longer than anticipated as I kept finding things I wasn't happy with. I'm very critical of my own work, perhaps too much so, but I have at last reached a version that I am proud to release.
Interestingly, and much to my frustration and regret, the recording process for this work took longer than the composing. I only hope the next time I go into the studio it won't take as long.
This month I turned my attention to Pay-to-Play, the idea that musicians actually pay (as opposed to getting paid) to play somewhere. It's a contentious issue in the music world, and one that needs addressing. The article looks at the pros and cons and leaves the reader in no doubt as to how, at least in my opinion, pay-to-play should be viewed.
New this month is a selection of Multipurpose Jingles originally made for an educational video. I had no specific brief to work from so produced 10 short jingles with variations (18 jingles in all) using different sounds and tempos. Interestingly, the recording and mixing process probably took longer than the composing did. Most of the jingles were composed on New Year's Day of this year.
In January I was in my local audio store and saw some Stax HPS-1 headphone stands on sale. Although they were used they were in good condition and reasonably priced, so I had no hisitation in buying one. Before writing the review I really didn't think there would be much to say about a simple headphone stand, but as it turned out there was quite a lot.
Dealing With Nerves / How Not to Get Nervous is an article I've been working on for a number of months. I wanted to address the problem many musicians have of being nervous, and give some solid advice on how to deal with the condition. It is not a scientific study but simply some thoughts, opinions and advice based on my 30-years experience as a performing musician and teacher. If you get nervous performing it's certainly worth reading.
Also there is a CD review of Earth, Wind & Fire - Gratitude with one of the tracks in particular getting a very high jazz-funk rating. Find out more by reading the review.
The final addition to this site in 2014 is a review of the CD The Best of Azymuth - Jazz Carnival. It's a CD I almost didn't buy, but I'm glad I did. Find out more by reading the review.
This month I review an album that has been in my collection a few years: Witzel's Venue - Perceptions. It's an interesting blend of jazz and other modern styles, and certainly worth listening to.
Every Way to Love You is now almost finished, just in need of some fine tuning and artwork for the release cover.
This month features a carefully considered article comparing digital pianos with acoustics. Having been brought up on acoustic pianos I have a natural bias towards them. However, I tried to be objective and was quite surprised with the conclusion I came to. Read Digital vs Acoustic Pianos to find out more.
The tune I hoped to release this month – Every Way to Love You – didn't quite make it. Although I was reasonably happy with the final mix, for me reasonably happy isn't good enough. So, I've continued to do some more work, which has included rerecording some of the parts. Hopefully next month it will be ready.
While spending some time in Ireland earlier in the year, I had chance to see a 20th anniversary production of Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. This month I have written a review and included a beautiful photo of the dance troupe, kindly supplied by 'Riverdream Productions Ltd'.
I have been working on a new piece of music – Every Way to Love You – which I hope to post early next month. Be sure to check back soon!
Back in March I introduced the Musicians Corner section that contains articles of specific interest to actual musicians and instrumentalists. This month I have transfered some of the entries in the Articles section over to the Musicians Corner, where they are more relevant. These articles are Breaking Into the Music Business, Effective Practice, Pitching Exercise, Playing High on the Trumpet, Taking Music Exams, and Why Practise Scales? It is hoped that this restrucuring will create a better experience for visitors to the site.
After uploading my music to the web I rarely listen to it on CD. But on the occasions when I do find myself listening to it from CD, or an uncompressed file source such as wav, I’m always surprised at how good the audio quality is in comparison to the MP3 files I uploaded. It’s very hard to put into words precisely what the difference is. Although the frequency range sounds the same, the CD audio sounds smoother and less harsh to the ears. This month’s article How Good is MP3 Sound? returns to the subject of CD and MP3 sound quality.
A few months ago my keyboard was damaged on stage. I cannot recall any of my instruments or equipment being damaged in over 30 years working as a musician, but on this occasion something went wrong. Find out more by reading Accidental Damage.
The last week in July and the first two weeks of this month I was lucky enough to spend in Ireland, where I saw an excellent production of Riverdance. I intend to write a full review in the coming weeks.
I'm very pleased to be adding some new music this month. Get into the Music is the result of hours of work over several months. Unsure if I liked what I was producing I'd leave it for a while before returning with a fresh perspective. In the end I made very few changes to the original idea. I have many compositions in various stages of completion, which I hope to finish and add to this site soon.
This month I return to the subject of pianos, specifically DIY Piano Tuning. Is it possible? YouTube videos clearly suggest that it is. As a DIY enthusiast and a musician it might be worth reading my take on the subject before rushing out to buy your own tuning spanner.
Following on from last month when I recalled a Harry Beckett concert I went to over 20 years ago, this month I write about a Buddy Rich concert I attended even further back than that. It's certainly true that a good concert can leave a lasting impression.
I've been working on some new music, which I hope to release next month, along with more articles. Be sure to check back.
This month I recollect the time I saw Harry Beckett, a prominent member of the British jazz scene, perform with his group in the upstairs function room of a Birmingham pub. Now, over 20 years later, I still have vivid memories of that concert.
I'm currently working on an exciting new piece of music, which I hope to upload possibly in June or July. Watch this space for more updates.
Taking music exams is often a large part of learning to sing or play a musical instrument, so this month I've written a short article suitable for teachers, parents, and students, on that very subject:Taking Music Exams. I have included a few pointers on how to do well, which extend beyond just practising the set pieces. Having done all the grades myself I know the advice on offer is sound (no pun intended).
This month I have added a new category under the ...and more section: Musicians' Corner. Musicians' Corner contains articles of specific interest to actual musicians and instrumentalists, as opposed to articles of general interest which appear in the Articles section. So, new to the Musicians' Corner are articles on How to Further Your Music Career, and How to Get Your First Gig. Another new article looks at How to Organise a Concert, which actually isn't quite as difficult as it might seem. Look out for more articles in the coming months.
January seems to have gone by remarkably quickly this year, or could it be that I'm too busy to notice the days going by? Anyway, new this month is an article connected with my book Breaking Into the Music Business: An Essential Guide for Performers entitled Making a Living Performing. The aims is to draw attention to matters often overlooked by musicians entering the music business.
Polishing Pianos is an article I thought would be quite quick to write, but I came across so much conflicting advice on the subject that I had to do more research and consider carefully the best approach to recommend. In the end common sense prevailed. If you are thinking about polishing your piano be sure to read this article.
The review of the Neumann KH120A monitor speakers - new in the Reviews Section this month - I have been working on for quite some time. Finally I am able to post it, along with a number of photographs I was able to take in the New Year holiday. The speaker is quite impressive, and well-deserving of all the attention it has been getting from engineers and recording enthusiasts.
This month my CD Sometime Somewhere... has become available from Amazon, CD Baby - a large CD marketing company mainly catering for independant artists - and also for download only from iTunes. Use the links on the Sometime Somewhere... page to check out some of the tracks for free. You can also order a copy from Bandcamp, another online music retailer that caters for independant artists.
What is in store for 2014? I would like to release more music, along with more reviews, know-how, general articles...and who knows what else? Be sure to check back.
This month sees the launch of my book Breaking Into the Music Business: An Essential Guide for Performers. The working title was Getting to the Door, but prior to publication I changed this to a title that gives a clearer indication of the contents. The book is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. To find out more visit this month's new article Breaking Into the Music Business.
I currently have more articles, reviews, and music underway, which I look forward to completing and adding to this site during 2014, so be sure to check back in the coming months.
New this month is quite a surprising story in the Articles section. It tell in words and pictures of the surprise I had when the software I had ordered from the Internet arrived. It wasn't quite what I had expected. Find out more, and possibly save yourself some time and money, by reading Software Surprise!
This month I've added the video presentation Brazil - Rio de Janeiro to the Media section. It shows beautiful views of the city and includes images of Sugarloaf Mountain, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and the beaches at Ipanema, Corcovado, and Leblon, all of which I was fortunate to visit in 1995. The accompanying music is the bossa nova track Isabela, which also features on this site. The picture on the right was scanned from a photo I took on Sugarloaf and shows the statue of Christ in the distance, standing on the highest peak on the left-hand side of the image.
Other projects I am currently working on are two pieces of music, which are almost finished, and the book I mentioned in May Getting to the Door, which is now being formatted ready for publication. More news about this soon.
This month's addition to What Were They Like in Concert? is really a trip down memory lane, when I went to Paris in 1994 to see Pink Floyd on their 'Division Bell' tour. It wasn't the first time I'd been to Paris, but it was the first time I'd seen a rock show of this magnitude. Unfortunately the concert didn't live up to my expectations.
Long overdue is a revised Site Map, where you can quickly navigate to any page on this site.
This month sees the addition of a Media section to the site with two presentations. The first is part of a concert I played in ten years ago which, much to my surprise, recently appeared on YouTube. I edited the movie a little, sharpening the image and adding a title at the beginning, and the URL of this site at the end, and then reposted it. The second presentation shows the CD Sometime Somewhere..., with music taken from the album used in the soundtrack. Clicking on the images will take you directly to the presentation.
Where music is offered for sale I've added a notice pointing out that this site is funded entirely from CD sales and track downloads. There are no ads, pop-ups, or requests for donations. I hope this will encourage more people to click the 'Buy' button if they like what they hear. And buying a track means you get a high quality version of the music, in the file format of your choice. All music downloads are managed by the online music store Bandcamp, which caters primarily for lesser known, unsigned, artists.
If you have ever wondered why it is necessary to practise scales on an instrument you may find the new article 'Why Practise Scales?' interesting.
As the general articles have grown in number I have grouped them all together in a new flyout section of the '...and more' drop down menu button, to make the site easier to navigate.
New in the 'What Were They Like In Concert?' section is a concert I went to at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, quite a number of years ago but still vivid in my memory, when Sarah Jane Morris was performing.
While preparing the review of the KORG SV-1 keyboard, added to this site in April, I took many photographs. As only a few were used in the actual review I thought it would be nice to present a small gallery of some of the photos that didn't make it into the article. These can be seen in the 'KORG SV-1 Image Gallery', a selection of 12 photos of the SV-1 and its accessories.
Prompted by visitors to this site I have updated the Focusrite Saffire PRO 24 DSP firewire interface review. Previously the midi performance from this piece of equipment was so poor that it was actually of no use to me. Now, with an updated driver, the PRO 24 is promising to live up to its specification.
Smooth Jazz and...more is three years old this month, during which time there has been tens of thousands of visitors. I hope to continue to develop the site and, most importantly, add new music in the coming months. Be sure to check back!
My book, 'Getting to the Door', is in its final stages, and I hope to publish shortly.
Many people are probably familiar with MP3s and their associated bit rates, but how do these compare to CDs? This month's article CD kbps looks at the link between CDs and kilobits per second, and shows why if you are listening to high quality recordings in 128kbps MP3 format, much of the audio information is missing! While researching this article I came across Richard Farrar's website. Richard is an electronic engineer by trade with a strong interest in music, so he seemed the ideal person to get in touch with to make sure I had all my facts right. I am deeply grateful for his help.
Writing a review on a keyboard takes quite some time, which is why I don't do many keyboard reviews. However, the KORG SV-1 is a keyboard with a difference, with the people at Korg obviously having put a lot of thought into its design. Not only does it have a real valve, it also has a number of other striking features, all highlighted in the review.
I'm still testing a new driver for the Saffire PRO 24 DSP, which is looking promising. Hopefully I'll be able to publish the results next month, along with news of the book I'm working on, Getting to the Door.
Even concerts by major artists don't always go well. This month, in 'What Were They Like in Concert?', I describe a concert by Maxwell, and a concert by Airto Moreira & Flora Purim, where things could have gone a little better.
After a short break from writing my book Getting to the Door I have returned to the project and can report that it is in the final stages. Check this column for further upates next month.
I have also started testing a new driver for the Saffire PRO 24 DSP, the audio/midi interface from Focusrite that hasn't worked as it should since the day I bought it in October 2009, that's over three years ago. More on this next month.
There are literally hundereds, if not thousands, of headphones on the market today. This month's article 'Choosing Headphones' looks at some of the different types available, and serves as a basic buyer's guide, helping you make a more informed choice when you decide to purchase your next pair of headphones.
This month I decided to focus on three British bands to add to the 'What Were They Like in Concert?' section - Level 42, Shakatak, and Simply Red - and plan to add more concert reviews later in the year.
Also planned for 2013 is an article on choosing headphones, a review of Korg's SV-1 keyboard and, most importantly, more music. If you haven't already heard the music on this site, which you can listen to free, visit the Compositions secton. You might like what you hear.
This month I've started a new section 'What Were They Like in Concert?' which describes my impressions, as a musician, of some of the great names in music I have been privileged to see live. Carlos Santana and Chick Corea feature this month, with more names to follow in 2013.
Over the years I have bought a number of used items, both from shops and private sellers, without having any cause for regret. Although buying second-hand can be risky, I believe that by taking certain precautions it's possible to get a good deal. The article this month - A Brief Guide to Buying Used Equipment - gives some suggestions on things to look out for when buying used music equipment..
Getting to the Door is the name I've given to my forthcoming book, which gives a lot of helpful advice and information for people entering the music profession. It's currently in the final stages of production and should be published if not at the end of this year, certainly at the beginning of next. Watch this space for more information.
Anyone who does any serious recording will know how important it is to hold a studio microphone in a shock mount, to insulate the microphone from any vibrations coming through the floor or mic stand and ending up as thumps and thuds on the recording. Elastic is used in many shock mounts to absorb shocks, but when the elastic perishes, as it will over time, the shock mount becomes useless. Rycote get over this problem by not using elastic in their Universal Studio Mount, a review of which I've posted this month.
'Keyboard Workstation vs PC + Plugins' – or 'Workstations vs PCs' for short – compares the two systems for making music. The article was actually suggested some months ago by a visitor to this site, after having found little information on the Web on the subject. I hope this article helps to fill the gap, and thanks to 'Doc' for the suggestion.
I have restarted work on my book for musicians, adding a number of new sections over the summer. Editing will start soon, and I hope to have the book out before the end of the year.
As I was looking through my CD collection I came across Brazilian Romance, a CD by Sarah Vaughn I bought some years ago after hearing a particular track from the album on the radio. I have included an audio excerpt of the track in the review of the album, in addition to adding audio excerpts to the remaining five CD reviews that can be found in the Selected CD Reviews section.
I was watching a DVD on YouTube recently with a band playing, what I would describe as, jazz music. I then noticed that someone had written ‘This isn’t jazz’ in the comments section, which prompted me to consider the question, and write the article, ‘What is Jazz?’
I enjoyed playing at ‘Create Festa’, a large international concert, last month, meeting many people and making new friends. Performing Village of the Secret Kilns I had to alternate between a grand piano and electric keyboard.
I intend to restart work on my book in the coming weeks, which will be of particular interest to musicians just entering the profession, music students, entertainers, in fact anyone needing help and advice on working in the entertainment industry. Watch this space for the latest updates!
This month I have started a ‘Selected CD Reviews’ section, where I spotlight certain albums and tracks that I have found to be of particularly note (no pun intended). Although I don’t intend to make this a main feature of the website, I will be reviewing a few more tracks and albums in the coming months.
On June 30th I will be playing at a large international concert here in Japan. Consequently, a large proportion of my time has been spent in preparation. I intend to perform Village of the Secret Kilns, taking advantage of the beautiful Yamaha concert grand piano there is in the concert hall.
Smooth Jazz...and more is two years old this month, and regular visitors to the site will have notice quite a few changes, which were brought about largely out of necessity after updating my computer, operating system, and programs. However, the update has allowed me to rethink certain parts of the site. Gone is the Events button, as most of the events I've been doing over the past two or three years have been private functions. Nevertheless, I will still post public events in this section.
Long overdue is an About button, which gives anyone interested a little more insight as to what this website is all about.
At the moment I have a few musical projects on the go, and a few on the backburner. In the coming months I hope to do recording sessions with professional musicians living in the area, compose more music, and continue adding articles.
Perhaps the most exciting project I'm working on at the moment is a book, which I hope to complete in the summer. The book will contain invaluable advice for musicians just starting out, and should be helpful for musicians already working. More updates about that will follow.
If you have enjoyed visiting this site please tell a friend, and send them this link: http://www.keithstead.com