Friday, August 28, 2009

Technology, Part Deux

Thursday night was the big night at Hula Hotties. It was our first visit to the tiny Hawaiian cafe and bakery, it was sold out, and it was also the debut of our big new concept: Using a projector for new music.

So, how did it go?

First of all, the venue is fantastic. The Hawaiian decor made the ukulele a very natural addition. Roger and Jill really opened the doors wide for us, and we stuffed more people in their then I could have imagined.

The Sound System Is Key To Any Open Mic Performance

Roger went all out setting up a sound system for us to use for open mic, and it really did a great job of making people heard. For those participating in the open mic, it was a very easy performance. Any mistakes made were solely the fault of the performer: No sound system snafus!

Food Is A Key Ingredient To A Jam Session Recipe: People Like To Eat!

Hula Hotties have a great menu, but more importantly it's different from the usual fare. Yes, you could get a burger, but it's not just a bacon cheeseburger and fries. No, your tastebuds were challenged by more tropical fare with extremely cool touches like little flowers in the salads. Great food!

And Finally: The Projector...

There were a few technical issues to work out. For this reason, I actually had only planned two songs using the projector tonight. And unfortunately, it almost didn't happen!

We had the equipment, but couldn't get the projector to speak to the computer. Fortunately, I had the extremely capable help of one of the group's strongest behind-the-scenes guys, Richard Muir, who came to the rescue. He got involved quickly, and wasn't going to give up until the thing worked!

Our hero, Richard Muir!

Plan B: Play the uke

So, while Richard worked with the equipment, I swithced to plan B. We hauled out the OLD technology, the songbo9oks, and we jammmed. Now this was really more about Open Mic, so we weren't jamming for hours, but people were there for a reason. Either to listen or to play. And just waiting wasn't accomplishing either of those things.

And people like playing. We were able to do some really fun things like having Roger accompany us on the saxaphone, and it keeps people engaged. For some, this is the only time they can squeeze in practice, so it's important to take advantage of the time available. Heck, I even got my wife, Kathy, up to sing with me.


Time marched on, and Richard kept armwrestling with the projector. The show must go on, as they say, and I had people signed up for open mic, so we moved on to The Main Event.

One of the highlights was getting to hear Roger play a few tunes. he's a songwriter as well as a musician, and can bear heard on Friday and Saturday nights at Hula Hotties. So, the set up was his home turf. We got to hear not just his ukulele play and melodic voice, but also the mixed in back up he had. Very professional sounding.

Now, I'm not saying that our own group wasn't professional sounding! But no one else had the back-up that Roger had. Instead, our own people, myself, Noel Tardy, Tim Hatcher, Katsu Nakayama, and Don Aspromonte did some new things. This is always a lot of fun, and as each person performed I found myself wishing I had the chart so I could learn the songs myself. For Don's songs, specifically focused on our beginner players, we will!

On a side note, I tried to video and tape each performer. If they came out well, it could be a nice gift back to the performer. Unfortunately, my little Zoom recorder sounded great on Roger, but didn't pick up anyone else well. And the video was a bit dark. Oh, well! Learning to get a good live recording is trial and error.

And finally: PROJECTOR!

Richard was successful at getting the projector going! And it did, in fact, prove to be a huge aid for people learning new music. It got everyone's eyes out of the sheet music, and got everyone focused on the same spot. I suggest a lot of white space, and very little in the way of backgrounds when using this technique. I put in a few small graphics, largely to differentiate when the screen changes.

We tried a beginner's song, a version of "Mama Don't Allow" with lots of simple three chord songs thrown in like "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Froggie Went a Courtin'" -- The idea is to demonstrate how many songs can be played with just a handful of chords.

We also did a much more difficult song: Optimistic Voices from Wizard of Oz. This was a little more difficult to get through but not because of the projector technique: Just because of the more complex music.

So, What Did We Learn?

It was definitely worth the wait to try out the projector. I highly recommend it to any group. I'd say the two biggest immediate changes will be:

  • Throw in a page before we start playing that has just the chord charts. This is much more important for a complex song then a simple one, but it gives everyone a chance to see if they have the chord knowledge necessary before playing in rythm and singing.

  • Throw in an "end" page to signify the song is over instead of letting the powerpoint just go dark. It just looks better!

So, what do you think? Love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Especially before our next event:

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1 comment:

  1. The Show must go on!
    How true is that and that’s just what you did. The equipment was not operating as it should and while that it was being fixed you continued with the program. The sign of a true professional Never let the stage be empty.
    As for Richard for fixing it, he was indeed a Hero.

    I am only sorry that I missed the event but as you have described it so aptly I thought I was there with you all. I will be next time. I love your blog Mark and I can not thank Kathy and you enough for all the exciting programs you set up for it.
    Cheers Grenda.