First of all, I’d like to thank everyone that has supported this website. It truly means a lot to me, and I’m always thinking of ways to give back to the music community. Your support is so appreciated!
Recently, we have released 8 new products. 2 lessons dedicated to the style of jazz guitarist Frank Vignola, and 6 lessons dedicated to French guitarist Bireli Lagrene.
As many of you are used to by now, some lessons have early releases. The Frank Vignola and Bireli Lagrene lessons were no exceptions. Early releases mean that the lessons are actually fully functional but the transcriptions are not ready yet. To be VERY clear, there is a notice in VERY big before you actually purchase the products. If you feel uncomfortable purchasing without immediately receiving 100% of the goods, it is within your right not to purchase. I understand. However, to those who have purchased them anyway, I thank you from the bottom of the my heart! It really helps the business grow, and it helps me accelerate the transcription process by giving me the budget to hire helping hands.
The transcription rate varies, and depends on many factors. For a guitarist like Frank Vignola who doesn’t use too much ornamentation and who’s rhythmic style is fairly straightforward, we were able to complete the transcriptions within a month.
For a guitarist like Bireli Lagrene, on the other hand, who is constantly using various ornamentations (some, for which, we have to invent a notation convention) and who is constantly playing with rhythm, it can, quite honestly, be extremely time consuming. Nonetheless, rest assured, there will be no vacation for me. No Christmas, no new year’s eve vacation. Every single day is a work day for me (but please don’t blame me if I at least do decide to go out with family in the evenings) and I’m fully dedicated to completing these transcriptions ASAP. We are working in order: Vol 1 until Vol 6.
For Bireli Lagrene’s lessons, it was a massive project. It involved 2 months of full time dedication on my part to study and analyze his entire musical career. I went through his entire discography, the bootlegs that I have, various documentaries and interviews, etc. With every single artist that I produce, I always coach them and help them design the lesson plan. Many of them are just performers and don’t teach. My job is to make the process as easy for them as possible, while giving customers as much material as possible. I do the best I can with each artist. Artists are also human beings with different personalities. Some are very shy, some are very outgoing, I always work within an artist’s comfort zone.
With regards to Bireli, he is a 100% self-taught musician. He has never taught before, and to be quite honest, he is not interested in it, nor is he interested in talking about it. He is very honest with himself; he plays music, because that’s what he loves to do, anything more does not interest him. It’s not that he doesn’t want to share because he wants to keep his secrets to himself or anything like that; he has only ever been interested in playing music, not talking about it, and he wouldn’t even know how to begin with. This is the case with many musicians who have achieved a very high level. Bireli was certainly no exception.
As you can see, this means I had to work extra hard to make this work. At DC Music School, I really do not want to exploit an artist’s name to make a quick buck. I treat every artist the same way, and I strive to produce the best lessons I can with every one of them.
It’s also not easy to be in front of a camera for certain artists for extended periods of time. Mental fatigue can happen. Everyone has a different tolerance level for work and obligations. Some are happy to plow on indefinitely , some can get irritated quite easily. I am not saying that Bireli was unpleasant to work with (far from it, he was extremely generous with me), but knowing that Bireli is someone who only does what he likes, I can imagine that being forced to spend hours in the studio for a few days cannot be easy for him. I worked with all these factors in mind. The artist’s comfort is one of my top priorities.
The reason why I mention this is because if I did not help him create a lesson plan, Bireli simply would not know what to say or show. That was one of my biggest concerns, I would not feel comfortable releasing a product that I felt didn’t contain enough information. Therefore, through my extensive analysis of his musical career, I was able to guide him through the entire production process. The best thing I felt was to minimize the talking and to let Bireli do as much playing as possible. He was generous with his time, and gave us over 220 playing examples, and close to 100 performances. This is extremely massive. I have never done anything like this before. We covered pretty much every single essential aspect of his playing style, and nothing was hidden from us.
Keeping in mind that his playing is extremely varied, the transcriptions take significantly more time than ever before. We didn’t go for just quality this time, we went for BOTH quantity and quality. I originally estiamted about 150 hours worth of work for transcriptions, but that was a big mistake. The estimate was based on how fast it took us to complete transcriptions of other artists, but Bireli’s playing is so rhythmically complex and full of ornaments that a revised estimate of minimum 500 hours work is more accurate.
Transcribing can also be an interpretive process. We may have to invent certain notations, and certain rhythms have to be quantized in a way that’s easy to read and understand. At DC Music School, I’ve developed my own system for this. I cannot hire just anyone to help me with the transcriptions, as I would have to spend a lot of time training them as well. So far, I have found one helping hand with the whole process, so that at least I’m not working alone.
Please believe me, when I say that we are working EVERY single day on it. However, we are not spending 10 hours a day transcribing either. Transcribing is mentally taxing, especially when it’s as complex as Bireli’s playing. This is not public knowledge so I will not reveal the artist’s name, but back in the day of VHS/DVDs, there was an artist who’s style was equally complex. A well known instructional video company produced a video for said artist. A talented fellow was hired to work on the transcriptions. This fellow was an ex-drug user. By the time he was done transcribing, he fell into deep depression and started using again. I know this instructional video very well, and it contains 5% of what we have done with Bireli. We spend as many hours as we can every day on the transcriptions, but definitely not a full day of transcribing.
So with that said, I thank EVERYONE who has contributed to the Bireli lessons despite knowing that the transcriptions are not ready yet. Trust me, the transcribing team respects you, and we are working on it DAILY to deliver it to you ASAP. Once again, we are in the process of working on volume 1, we’ll get this done ASAP, and move on to the next.
Last but not least, a huge thank you to Bireli Lagrene for trusting me with this project. A big thank you to the Sinti gypsy community who apparently has been speaking to him about me for a number of years. This was apparently a factor in him accepting to work with me.
The next order of business is to talk about the website, itself. You may notice that we have released dozens and dozens of products since the site’s inception in 2011. I am aggressively working on expanding the site within my means. However, you may notice that the site has been in BETA mode since 2011. There are legitimate questions as to why that is, it’s hard to answer these questions because it would in some ways force me to talk about some of the people I have hired over the years. Let’s put it this way, if it were 100% up to me, the site would have been ready long long ago. This means full mobile compatibility, and better user interface. Besides the mobile functionality (which is a big one), the site is actually fully functional.
I am still looking to address this issue as best as I can but it is not easy and I have to be careful. Lots of people in the web design talk big, but not everyone can deliver. It reminds me of going to music forums, where there would be those people who talk tons of theory, that sounds legitimate to beginners but in reality amounts to nothing. Well, that is the situation that I have been for the past 4 years. I am the beginner and I believed the words I was promised. This is not easy to say, but I have invested a small fortune into getting the site out of BETA mode, and the result is nothing, and I lost a heft fortune because of it. I was left without any legal recourse, so it sent me into a very deep depression , but I have somewhat recovered from it. Your support helps me build up the budget again to find a team that can deliver the goods. It really is a top priority for me.
So thank you everyone for the support since 2011, it means the whole world to me, I wish everyone a happy holidays! We have tons of big projects for 2016, we’ll be working with lots of great artists in 2016 in various styles!
DC Music School is a small business, and I like to think of it as the ma and pa store of long ago, where customer service meant everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you!