The CRB Woodshed Chronicles – Part 2

“…and I hope you’ll be alright. ‘Cause me and the boys will be playin’ all night”…

KISS released the song Beth in 1976 and it made it up to #7 on the charts. I always interpreted this line in the song as the boys in the band had to practice a lot.

For most folks that haven’t had the privilege of playing in a rock band, they would probably think that getting together with “the boys” and playing music would be all fun and games. However, I’m here to tell you it is a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, when the four of us are together we have a lot of fun, but we are working very hard. We work hard because the “face to face” practice sessions only happen every few months and we need to make the most of the time we have together.

But before we talk about our “face to face” practices, let’s talk about how we get ready for serious woodshedding.

Back in the 70’s we would sit by our turntables and listen to a song over and over trying to catch the elements of a song and then play them on our instruments. There were no how-to YouTube videos to watch back then. We had to rely on our ears and playing skills. Figuring out a song is much easier today using 21st century technology. I also think our improved skills and understanding of music theory help us understand the structure of the songs better and make it easier to learn.

CRB Woodshedding in December 2016.

CRB Woodshedding in December 2016.

Here is how we put together our sound across a thousand-mile gap: We use software that transcribes the music up or down to the key we want to play it in. In some cases, we have found that our voices can’t quite hit the same high notes that Steven Tyler could hit in the 70’s. As Gregg points out, “Steven can’t even hit those notes today”. So Gregg will records the original song in the new key and puts it into a source file. Then, he uploads it to our Dropbox folder, allowing us all access from wherever we are practicing.

I use the same source file in New Jersey as my brothers in Des Moines use for learning the songs. Once I have the source file, I can use the same transcribing software to slow down the music (but not change the pitch) so I can hear the notes more clearly. I plug my bass into an interface that goes into my computer and listen to the song through headphones. I then play along with my bass through the Garage Band app. Essentially, I have my own personal woodshed in my living room and I don’t have to bother anyone else. 

The second important piece of the puzzle is James, Gregg, and Paul are practicing together in Des Moines (at an undisclosed location) and they are working out the vocals and other details on each song. By the time we get face-to-face, we have all the notes, the tone and the basic arrangement down so that we can spend our time together making sure we get the little details right to get the perfect CRB sound. 

An important aspect of our face-to-face practices is we all push each other and help each other get it right. For example, we probably played Slow Ride a hundred times back in the 70’s and it probably sounded okay. This fall I spent several hours at home listening to the source file and practicing the amazing bass line. When we got together last December to rehearse, I helped James and Gregg play one of the rifts a little more accurately and when we played the song as a band this time, it sounded better than ever!

This is the basic approach we are taking to making our music. We have spent a total of 6 days together in rehearsal and we have made amazing music together. The three originals have recaptured our chemistry and if anything, we are tighter now than we were back in the 70’s. To top it off, Paul is an amazing drummer and musician who makes all of us better.

But the proof will be in the pudding as they say. If you haven’t listened to our demo songs on this website, I invite you to do so. You will hear our attention to detail in those recordings. We have worked hard to capture the energy and love we have for some of the most amazing good time classic rock recorded in the last 45 years. At the end of the day we are very excited for you to hear what happens when ‘me and the boys’ play all night.