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Man, April has …

Man, April has been full of exciting musical happenings. Not only did I give my Master’s recital, which was well attended and went surprisingly smoothly, I participated in fellow MSM-er Wim Leysen‘s very ambitious recital as well. I had the debut of my full Angry Music for Jazz Orchestra suite at my recital and it ended up sounding really good. I had performed one movement of it last year with the MSM Concert Jazz Band, but this was the first time for all three movements. It was raw, but the players dug in and it sounded every bit as rock and roll it needed to. Check out the first movement below. I’ll be posting other snippets from the recital off and on as the video comes in.

Besides that, the EP I recorded with Justina Soto and the Salvation Armband came out in the past couple weeks. Check it out at their bandcamp page, it sounds great!


Hey! Check out this new video I’ve been working on for the past month or so. It’s a collaborative video with four of my close friends/musical co-conspirators (as Darcy James Argue would put it) of my arrangement of Britney Spears’ Till the World Ends. It’s very much in the vein of Dirty Loops, but with more filter sweeps (wob wob wob) and more Djent. All Enjoy!

In other news, February has come and gone, and with it a lot of playing and and a lot of writing. Highlights include multiple gigs with the Bloodline, Emily Brooke, and Justina Soto + The Salvation Armband, as well as a couple of great Off-Broadway reviews. Check out this number with Justina Soto and the Salvation Armband, it came out pretty well!

Young Jazz Composer’s Award and Other Good Times With Music

I just received word that I am a recipient of the 2012 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award, which is quite exciting! A lot of the heavy-weights in big band writing right now started their careers winning this award, and it’s a real honor and privilege to be among the award winners. Basically, it’s validation that I’m doing at least something right with all my jazz metal dubstep tinkerings.

Anyway, in other news, I recently spent a weekend recording with the Bloodline in a studio in Roxbury, MA in contribution to the new album. It was a pretty enlightening experience, simply because I myself haven’t done all too much recording, and every time I go into the studio I feel almost over my head. It’s so different from the groove you get into in live performance, but you have to bring the A game regardless. Fortunately, I was fairly well rehearsed on the material and I think it will all turn out really well since I could go balls out on stuff and not worry. I’m going in to the studio again in a few weeks to record with Justina Soto and the Salvation Armband, so stay tuned for that!

February is nice and busy with school and whatnot, including gigs with the Bloodline and the Whiskey Boys up in Boston, but I’m also doing some theater stuff, including Who’s Your Baghdaddy? at Joe’s Pub (winner of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival Best Show) and Are You There Ann Margaret? It’s Me! I’m excited for both of these because I get to work with some really top notch up-and-coming music directors (Zak Sandler and Daniel Lincoln) that I’ve worked with in the past. Fun!

Anyway, that’s all for now!


New developments in the world of Adam Neely…

First, I updated the Performances page again. Because of school and starting teaching at Guitar New York, I haven’t had much chance to play out, but that’s changing with the start of the New Year. First up, another date at the Mercury Lounge with Jessica Pomerantz on 1/9.

Second, another reason why I’ve been out of the performing game for a month or two is that I’ve been recording! I went up to Boston a couple times to record a few tracks off the upcoming Whiskey Boys album, Crescent Moon, with Shawn Crowder. The mixes I’ve heard sound badass! Expect it to come out by March. I also played a gig with them a few weeks ago where I sat in with them being interviewed on UConn’s college radio station, WHUS 91.7 promoting the gig and the album. I’m famous!

Also, I just joined the power trio, the Bloodline, and will be travelling to Boston to contribute bass and background vocals tracks for the upcoming album in about a week. I’m really excited to play with them live, too, since it’s really high-energy, tightly arranged rock stuff.

Finally, piggy-backing on my last post about Dubstep, here’s my first attempt at the shape of things to come with the wobbly Hot Hand stuff on a cover of Nero’s this Way. I’m very excited to try this out live!

Wob Wob Wob

Dubstep as a whole phenomenon is fascinating. The entire idea of dubstep is polarizing musicians and non-musicians alike, and everybody I know has some sort of opinion one way or another on the thing. A lot of musicians I know (myself included) have embraced the idea with various degrees of enthusiasm, latching on to the fact that it’s a new and cutting edge dance style the same way that Jojo Mayer and Nerve latched on to Jungle/Drum and Bass 10 years ago (Nerve, of course, has kept up with the times and is now doing electro and dubstep with a vengeance, check out this video if you don’t believe me) It’s interesting to note that dubstep is the first truly instrumental popular style of music since the death of the big bands in the early 40’s.

Of course, there’s plenty of backlash too. The abrasive, over-the-top wobble bass sounds bring to mind, as one friend put it so eloquently, “robots farting.” There’s a tendency for a lot of producers to make “brostep,” (see here, for example), where hilarious, over-the-top , multiband distorted, formant-filtered, wobble basslines take precedent over everything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it does appeal to a certain demographic over others.

Gloriously Douchey

Of course, all of this is all produced music, and it isn’t until relatively recently when musicians, particularly bass players, have started looking into the technology to replicate this stuff live. I first saw this Nathan Navarro video when a friend of his shared it on Facebook when it had about 1,000 views. It now has 350,000. That little thing he has on his finger is called a Hot Hand (by Source Audio), which is an accelerometer that controls a low pass filter, which creates all those nice wobbly sounds (in this case he’s pairing it with the Boss SYB-5, a bass synth pedal). A month or so later Nathan teamed up with Pinn Panelle to play on this now viral video of them covering Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.

Jazz fusion guys, like myself, were immediately “hells yes,” to this whole idea of controlling a low pass filter with hand movements. NYC bassist Evan Marien released a video featuring Dana Hawkins on drums just last week that had some more subdued wobbles in it (and some very amusing and cheesy video effects to go along with the wobbles)

Stepping back a second, for all my musician friends who might not be savvy to what exactly makes a bassline wobble, wobbles are generally produced by applying a low-pass filter (a filter that removes higher frequencies) to a signal, and controlling the frequency of the filter by way of an LFO, or low-frequency oscillator. The net effect is that of pulses or “wobbles” as the frequency goes up and down. The LFO can be tempo synced to a click, and also can be set to a variety of different subdivisions within the pulse (eighth notes, dotted eighths, triplets, whatever)

There’s a fairly significant problem in live application of this, though. Part of the aesthetic of the dubstep wobble is the fact that producers slide in and out of different LFO speeds and subdivisions fairly frequently, and often use two or more separate LFO’s controlling parameters other than just frequency (resonance, pitch, etc). Replicating this live is kind of a nightmare, because although LFO speed can be adjusted by tap tempo controls on a stomp box or an expression pedal, getting it to lock in solid with a live drummer is pretty nightmarish. The easy way to do it is to sync the LFO’s to a MIDI clock with a laptop Ableton Live setup like this one that Arkell and Hargreaves came up with. John Arkell, the bassist, slides in an out of patches, LFO’s and parameters effortlessly with his M9 and MoogerFooger setup with expression pedals, never having to worry if his LFO’s will get out of sync. Between two people they get an insanely convincing club sound going in a live environment.

The downside to this, I think, is that it ends up sounding too close to the produced basslines to the point where it doesn’t even sound like a live setup anymore. The MIDI sync effectively quantizes all the rhythm, which can make it feel a little lifeless, in my humble opinion. Of course, this isn’t to say what Arkell and Hargreaves is lifeless, far from it, but it does put a fairly significant limit on the whole idea.

The Hot Hand removes this obstacle quite effectively. Instead of relying on an LFO to modulate the frequency, your hand movements become the modulation source, and just by moving your hand in time you get a very effective LFO-like sound. The advantage here is that you can switch speeds and subdivisions super easily, and even get into subdivisions that are more-or-less impossible to create with a MIDI-synced setup (quintuplets FTW!) Theoretically, before the Hot Hand technology came out a couple years ago, you could have done all this with a foot-controlled expression pedal, but it’s impossible to control the filter frequency with anywhere near the same precision and speed and musicality that the Hot Hand technology affords.

There are a few other ideas out there for appropriating the sound for live use, and the two current hotbeds of discussion is the Facebook group, Organic Bass Wobble, and the Effects Forum, particularly the Source Audio Dubstep thread.

Why am I interested in all of this? As a jazz composer (presumably), it seems a little odd for me to go off and really get into an electronic music tangent (or the Djent tangent that I will likely enumerate on a later blog, stay tuned!) However, it really seems like that’s the direction that music is headed, particularly live music, and it only seems natural that I jump on the zeitgeist and ask questions about the ramifications later. Last year a very preliminary exposure to the music lead me to write my “Angry Music for Jazz Orchestra Vol. III – Revenge and Variations,” and recently I’ve written a couple things for medium ensemble and studio orchestra (“Lamentations and a Dance Macabre”, and “Conservation of Ninjitsu” respectively) that I’m going to throw up here in a few weeks that take all those ideas and crank em up a notch. Its an odd fusion of music, large ensemble modern jazz and electronic dance music, but because both styles of music are really under my skin, I think I’ll eventually figure it out.

Of course, dubstep fusions can go horribly, hilariously awry (or hilariously right?). Consider, of course, Korn’s recent collaborations with Skrillex, Get Up.

‘Nuff said.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my Performances page, mainly since I haven’t been gigging as much in the past month as I have been in the past year because of the pressures of school and work. However, I do have a couple of exciting upcoming gigs including one tomorrow November 21 headlining at the Mercury Lounge with Jessica Pomerantz, and a recital on November 30th up at school of original music, where I’ll be premiering a piece of mine for medium-sized ensemble. Hope you can check them out!


New developments in the wonderful wily world of Adam Neely:

I am very proud to mention my fellow theory-buff Jeff Brent’s book out on Hal Leonard, which is entitled “Modalogy.”  Jeff and I had a very interesting and fruitful correspondance about a year ago that yielded a very wide spectrum of subjects, some of which are covered in this tome of highly advanced (yet highly practical!) knowledge. I fully recommend it! It starts where Berklee’s modal thing ends, and goes way further.

I’ve started slowly (and somewhat painstakingly) uploading lesson videos dealing with playing chords on bass guitar, a performance subject that remains near and dear to my heart. If anybody is interested in this sort of thing, be sure to check out these lessons below…

1. Chords on Bass – Pros and Cons
2. Close Position Triads
3. Open Position Triads
4. Harmonizing the Major Scale in Triads
5. Shell Voicings
6. “Alpha” Voicings

More to follow, of course!

I’ve spent the past couple weeks between here (my totally sweet bottom floor apartment in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and Boston recording tracks for the Whiskey Boy’s upcoming album, Crescent Moon. Trust me when I say that their stuff is new, exciting, and totally original. I’m not quite sure how to categorize the material we recorded (folk rock? contemporary bluegrass?! pop traditional??!! uh…) but I do know that its music that I really enjoy recorded with people I enjoy just as much. Plus it’s ballsy! What more could you ever want in music? Be sure to check it out come March 2012. Be sure to check out my gang vox contribution also!

Besides all of this, my world has been kept busy by school (my graduate studies in Jazz Composition at Manhattan School of Music) and work (teaching at Guitar New York). I’ve learned a lot from both, the trick is of course I’m getting paid for my teaching, and I have to pay for MSM! Haha.


My first couple months of tenure at Guitar New York have been quite eye-opening in a lot of ways. When I have taught bass guitar in the past, I have mainly taught people who have know me personally through my jazz bass playing, or through watching my lessons on YouTube (via my “HaVIC5” youtube channel) This has afforded me an absolutely exceptional, if very limited clientele, of people who want to learn nothing by the most extreme forms of jazz playing, or otherwise want to focus exclusively on my own personal idiosyncratic understanding of theory as outlined in my videos. This was awesome, of course, because I could deal with the headspace that I was utterly familiar with, and people wanted solely to get there, and nowhere else.

Guitar New York got me thinking in an entirely different headspace, and IT WAS JUST AS AWESOME. This is how I know, by the way, that I have destined to be a teacher if music if my lineage didn’t prescribe it anyway (my dad’s family are all teachers, my mom’s family are all musicians…you do the math…)

What I mean is, getting inside the head of the beginning student and understanding what they want to accomplish on the conscious and subconscious levels is insanely rewarding, especially when you are there to witness a lightbulb moment on a concept that you yourself remembered having way back in the day. I get to work with young and middle-age professionals pretty much exclusively (no children yet…), and so there is an amazing reward when you see people who are very genuinely doing music for the curiosity and for the amateur love of the thing rather than “my parents are making me do it,” or whathave you. They have no pretense of fame or career or cynical competition with others, they simply are doing it because they like doing it, and why the f*** not? Is there no better thing than that?

On top of that, teaching energizes me, which is proof positive that it is what I’m supposed to be doing. In the Meyers-Briggs test, you are judged to be either an introver or an extrovert. Introverts are supposed to drain energy from interactions from other people, and extroverts are supposed to rely on interactions with other people for energy. I’ve always tested introverted as hell, but as soon as somebody wants to know something that I can explain, look out! I turn into the most extroverted of the extroverted. I get so pumped by a person wanting to learn from me. I have a 14-hour schedule some weekdays, and I always come home ready to conquer the world. This is in stark contrast to regular interactions with other people, which generally leave my cold, unless I know them fairly well.

Anyway, I hope that gave a little insight into my life right now. Au revoir!

– Adam


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