Ron Warren's Blog

Ron Warren (Echota Tsalagi) tribe, is considered one of the most versatile and dynamic performer/composers in the country today. A NAMA nominee, Ron performs regularly throughout the U.S and Europe as a soloist and with his roots/fusion band, “Aura Surey” (“Morning Star”). He has a passion for demonstrating the musical versatility of the “Native American style flute”.   Ron earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition from the University of Maryland. His work has been supported by the American Composers Forum, First Nations Composers Initiative, Meet the Composer, the Res Musica Foundation, the Maryland State Arts Council, Old Bridge Orchestra and numerous other performing arts organizations throughout the United States and Europe. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Board for the First Nations Composers Initiative, is Associate Professor of Music at Washington Adventist University and teaches World Music at Montgomery College. Visit Rons' website.


REST?!??! Who needs rest?

2010 September 16
by Ron Warren

OK, so I am not the most regular blogger around. Truth is, for reasons of both body and spirit, I have pretty much why doesnt viagra work for me taken the summer away from my beloved flutes and music in viagra online generic canada general.

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minute of it and have especially enjoyed meeting lots of great people and jamming with some amazing http://genericviagra4u-totreat.com/ musicians along the way. By this spring, it was clear that it was time cost per pill of viagra to step away for a bit. Get a little distance and perspective. Remember why

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from the new CD), we’ve been laying low except for levitra vs viagra dosage doing viagra Timber Flute Festival and a few powwows that are regulars for us. We even canceled a couple scheduled events. kamagra online canadian pharmacy oral gel We, by the way, are me and Janice Torres, the lead singer in the band. We do a lot of efek cialis duo events online casino

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for a while, but I won’t make any grand promises…

Ron

free video link and “mastering”

2010 March 22
by Ron Warren

osiyo

Last November, we did a trio concert at Montgomery College, Rockville, MD.  Janice and me and Lenny along on guitar.  The college tv station crew taped it and have put a thirty minute version up at YouTube.  It has some of the new material we’ve been working on in the studio, in a kind of “unplugged” version.  Here’s the link…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moriDb0pBdk

Let me know if the link works… thanks! 

Most folks are familiar with basic studio concepts like tracking, editing, samples, mixing, etc.  But “mastering” sometimes gets overlooked.  You can think of mastering as that last bit of polish that goes into a project.  A skilled mastering engineer will use equalizers, compressors and other tools to boost or reduce particular frequencies and otherwise tweak the final mix.  While they may not be able to fix an incompetent mix, they can take a good mix to another level.

They also have the task of bringing the dynamic levels of all the tracks on a project to a similar range so that the listener doesn’t have to continually fiddle with the volume setting on their system.  All the tracks are of a similar loudness.  The overall loudness of a CD can be boosted as well, so that the CD will “pop” when it’s played and will be as loud as other CDs on the market that are in a similar style.  I usually will put a master CD of a new project into my CD player with several other discs and hit “shuffle” to make sure about this before we send it off to the manufacturer.

There are other things that happen at the mastering session as well.  We can make final decisions and adjustments on the fade outs at the end of tracks.  We can decide how much time there will be between the tracks.  The final track order is laid out and other necessary techie info is burned onto the master disc, info the manufacturer needs to set things up right.

Some engineers get so good at this that they become known as mastering specialists.  Keith, the guy who mastered the new project I’ve been taking you through, does nothing but mastering.  Lenny (our guitar player/producer) and I sat in for the mastering session.  I mostly sat back and just enjoyed hearing Keith do his thing.  Lenny, as producer, had a few questions along the way, but we both quickly realized that the project was in very good and experienced hands.

Next time, I’ll tell you about Leonard Stevens and his duel role as musician and producer on the project.  In the meantime, those of you in the Washington, D.C. region might want to check out his powerhouse classic rock band, Big Mouth.  You can find them on Facebook.

Hope to see some of you at the Potomac Flute Festival this weekend.

good journeys

Ron

Survived Snowmageddon

2010 March 15
by Ron Warren

Shovel, shovel, shovel.  I know some of you out there are used to 30 inches of snow almost all at once, but here in the D.C.- Baltimore region, it brought things to a complete standstill for a week.  And, of course, that meant everything got backed up for a while.

For one thing, I was invited to sit on a selection panel for some arts projects funding through the National Museum of the American Indian.  The meetings were scheduled the week of the blizzards, so that got pushed into the next week or so.  There are some very cool creative music/multi-media projects going on in Indian Country, but that will have to wait for another time.

Also, we were on a deadline (self-imposed) to have the new CD project out to the manufacturer by the beginning of March.  The band is playing at Potomac Flute Festival  in Arlington, VA at the end of the month.  We’ll be doing a lot of material from the new CD, so we wanted to have it on hand.

By the time things got moving again, we were up against it.  We had tracked the rhythm section, piano, lead flutes and lead vocals at the main studio, but still had a lot of layering to do.  Working with rough mixes of these parts, our guitar player/producer, Leonard, laid in his guitar parts and some nice keyboard pads and organ bits at his basement studio.  I tracked some traditional percussion (hand drums and shakers) at my place along with a few backing flute parts and even a couple of Janice’s secondary vocals.  We finished up backing vocals and an extra flute solo at Leonard’s, then it was back to the main studio to put it all together.   Then it was on to a final mix in record time, a mastering session and out the door.  Whew!!

One of the most important decisions along the way is track order.  This probably matters less these days in an iPod world, but a lot of our listeners still like to play a CD from beginning to end, so I always put a lot of thought into what order the songs will be in to provide the most satisfying listening experience.  I like to try and make music that rewards careful listening and track order certainly contributes to that.

In the middle of all this, Janice and I came up with a design concept for the packaging which the graphics folks at the manufacturing house turned into reality.

I love the full creative control of being a proud and complete indie, but with that comes a lot of extra time commitment and leg work doing those necessary things that some labels do for some of their artists.

A number of you have responded that you enjoy the info about studio recording, so in the next week or so, I will try to get back on here and write a bit about a couple things in the process that might be less familiar to those who don’t spend much time in the studio – mastering a CD project plus the role and importance of the producer.

Wado (thanks) for reading.  Good journeys.

Ron

Ready to Rock and Roll

2010 January 18
by Ron Warren

Wow!  Didn’t realize I was away for quite so long.  I usually take some down time in January and was enjoying it so much I lost track of the days a bit.

 

Anyway, 2009 ended with a good couple sets at the National Museum of the American Indian on December 27 with Janice and Lenny.  Now we are getting ready to head into the studio this weekend.  Yes, we decided on a studio.  Deciding factors included a good piano in the big room, a choice of smaller rooms all of which have the same ProTools HD available as the big room, good mic selection, solid engineers and very good rates.

 

We are going for a very organic, “live” feel, so we’ll be tracking the rhythm section all together as much as possible and trying to avoid click tracks if we can.  There will be quite a bit of overdubbing in the vocals and flutes and, of course, those overdubs and most of the solos will be recorded after the rhythm section.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to have the musicians work from lead sheets rather than writing out parts for them, unless there is something really specific that I need for them to do.  I’d rather give them the basic melody, chord changes and structure, then turn them loose to bring their own flavor to things.  Lenny Stevens (our guitar player) is producing, meaning that he is overseeing the sessions and helping with arrangements and song structure.  Lenny is from L.A. and cut his teeth sitting in with just about every band you can think of when they came through town.  He’s a great player with an understanding of lots of different styles (essential for what we do) and has previous experience as a producer.

 

While I usually have a pretty clear idea of what a song is about, I find it extremely useful and helpful to have a set of “producer” ears on it along with mine.  Keeps me honest about what I’m hearing, what’s working and what’s NOT working.  Having a producer and engineer also allows me to focus on making music and listening instead of worrying about technical stuff and scheduling.

 

Anyway, we’re pretty much ready to rock and roll.  Will keep you posted.  We’ve been trying out some of the new songs in live shows and I hope to get some samples up here soon so you can check them out.  Might have some session photos and videos along the way, too.

btw – some of you have asked for more recommended listening.  The closer I get to recording a new project, the less I listen to other music (especially flute music) so I can stay focused on what these songs need to be.  So this isn’t really a flute or even world music relevant recommendation, but if you like the “Black Crows”, check out the DVD “Brothers of a Feather”.

Will be back sooner next time…

Ron W

Picking a studio and some listening

2009 November 26
by Ron Warren

osiyo

I thought some of you might be interested in hearing a bit about the work process as we begin a new project.

We are planning to head into the studio in January to start our first full band project since “Dancing The Full Moon”.  Maybe I should say “a studio” since we are visiting a few right now to decide on the right space.  I do still prefer a larger studio, especially for tracking the rhythm section.  We can get good isolation for tracking, a better choice of mics than I can afford to have on hand at home and a good engineer so we can focus on making music instead of worrying about tech issues, etc.  Beyond those basics, we want a place where we feel comfortable, the sound in the rooms is good for the instruments involved and we get along easily with the engineer.  It also helps if the price is right…

Most of the tunes are in lead sheet and we’ve been trying out several of them in our recent gigs.  I find it saves a lot of studio time (therefore money) if we’ve tried out as much of the material as possible live before we get in the studio.  We know what is working, hopefully have changed what isn’t working and the band seems more comfy.  This one has a lot of vocals for Janice, so she and I have spent a lot of time trying out different keys for tunes and getting the feels just right.  I’ve been doing most of the writing, but Janice has contributed some strong lyrics for one song and a beautiful melody for another.  Lenny Stevens will be producing, has already had some great ideas for arrangements and, of course, his guitar work is always stellar.

Some recommended listening…  Allula label has a series of world music recordings called “Origins”.  Their on location recording of music from the Garifuna people (now living in Honduras) is a fascinating blend of Arawak, African and European influences.  Of special interest for us as wind players is their use of conch shell trumpets.  Title of the CD is “Lita Ariran” (Black Turtle)

I’ve also been listening to Joseph Fire Crow’s “Red Beads” a lot this week.  Don’t know how I missed this one when it came out.  To my ear, it seems to be one of Joe’s most personal efforts.  It’s very intimate and the playing and singing are quite moving.  Check out the track “Two Voices” for a beautiful use of drone flute.  Note the way Joe will sometimes overblow the drone and sometimes get off the drone altogether.  It’s on an F instrument.  Even if you don’t have an F drone, try imitating the main melody on any F flute for a good lesson in melodic structure and ornamentation.

For a bigger challenge, check out the last track on the disc, “I Walk With You”.  It’s a sung track, but since our flutes are really an extension of our voices, try to imitate the song on N.A. flute.  If you are comfortable with upper register and an alternate fingering, a D flute works very well.  On a lot a flutes, you will need to half-hole finger hole #5 (counting top down) to get the highest note to sound “in tune”.

good journeys

Ron

www.ronwarrenmusic.com

A Song for the Veterans

2009 November 11
by Ron Warren

Well, Native Heritage Month is off and running.  A couple of workshops at an area college last week, a concert (with Janice Torres and Lenny Stevens along) last Thursday night, Caledon Arts & Wine Festival over the weekend, presentations at two area military bases this week and a Native Cultural event coming this weekend.

Visiting military bases is always a special time, maybe more so this year with the events at Fort Hood and because I now have two nephews serving, one on active duty with the Navy Reserves and one just finishing basic training with the Army.

At concerts, people often ask about the lyrics to “Warrior Song” (from the Dancing the Full Moon project).  Since this is Veterans Day, I’ll take the opportunity to share a bit about it.

The lyrics and tune came in a series of dreams while I was visiting by Dad in Ohio over the holidays some years back.  I wasn’t really looking to write this kind of song, but when things show up in dreams, it’s best to pay attention.  Each verse honors a different generation of veterans, including individuals from my family.  The first verse is for World War II era vets, including my Dad’s older brother who served with the Marines in the Pacific Theater (and earned two Purple Hearts), his older sister, who served with the WACs and her husband (Ojibwa descent) who served with the Navy in the European Theater.  The second verse honors Vietnam era vets, including my step-father who had two tours of duty there.  The third verse honors those currently serving, including Laurie Piestewa, the first Native American woman killed in action over seas (of course many of our dear women died defending their home lands over the past five hundred years), and now, of course, my two nephews.  The remaining verse calls all of them home to do the work needed here.

Throughout the song, the question returns, “How do you earn your feather now?”  The traditional way of the warrior has largely been replaced by modern mechanized mass killing.  I remember hearing a member of one of the western tribes describe his People’s traditional requirements for earning “War Chief” honors.  I am probably forgetting some things, but they included actions like “leading a successful war party and returning all of your men safely”; “stealing your enemies weapon”; “stealing your enemies horse”; etc.  I was deeply struck by the fact that it was entirely possible to earn full war honors without killing or even harming another person.  The traditional way of the warrior for most of us Native folks seems to have been more about individual courage and resourcefulness and less about simply killing as many of the enemy as possible to impose your will upon them.  Although always ready, of course, to defend the community from immediate dangers.

The English complained that American Indians did not know how to make war properly, because we would “fight” all day and hardly anyone would get killed.  Sometimes no one would get killed.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve learned all too well in the mean time.  I sometimes think that being on a continual war footing for five hundred years as a matter of survival has changed our understanding of the traditional warrior’s path.  And not necessarily for the better.  The great Cuban singer Campay Segundo is quoted as saying that “until more people carry guitars than carry guns, the world will not change”.  Carrying flutes would help, too.  For me, what is inexcusable these days is that our returning vets often have so much trouble getting the medical, psychological and spiritual help they need to transition back into society.

To any vets reading this, a heart felt thanks for the service and sacrifices you and your families have given.  This song is for you.

On the music side (since this is supposed to be a music blog), a grinding roots/blues rock seemed to be the right feel for this song.  It was originally in e minor.  We recorded it in Eb minor to get it into a more comfy range for Janice and now usually do it even lower in concert.  D minor is happier for the guitar, lets Janice stay in her power house range and gives the whole song a darker, more powerful vibe.

OK – see ya next week.

Ron Warren

www.ronwarrenmusic.com

Native Heritage Month

2009 November 4
by Ron Warren

osiyo

First off, thanks to those who responded to the first post.  Nice to know some folks are tuning in.  And, yes, it’s November, also known as Native American and Alsaska/Hawaii Native Heritage Month or something like that.

I have a Tsalagi (Cherokee) friend who likes to tell the story of doing his thing at a public schools showcase in the area for the opportunity to do cultural education programs in the schools.  The person auditioning ahead of him was African American.  Just before going on, the gentleman turned to my friend and said, “I don’t know why I bother doing this.  I only get gigs in February”.  My friend replied, “I know what you mean.  I only get gigs in November”.  Sometimes, a special “Heritage” month can be its own little time ghetto… 

Whenever I go out on any kind of gig, I am always just hopeful that I represent my people well in some small way.  There are still a lot of assumptions and stereotypes out there.  Musical ones, too.  For example, it’s often assumed that if we are playing what most of us call “Basic Scale” on N.A. flute that we are automatically playing “Traditional Style”.  The reality, of course, is that a standardized “Basic Scale” is a modern idea.  The old tuning systems were not nearly as consistent.  And many (dare I say most) actual old time songs cannot be played using just ”Basic Scale”.  Listen to some old field recordings and try to translate what you hear to modern basic scale if you don’t believe me.  Or check out “Music of the Cherokee Nation” (two volumes, Susato Press, transcribed into modern notation by Daniel Chazanoff). 

For my ears, there is no more beautiful demonstration of the variability of the old time tunings than Kevin Locke’s “Love Songs of the Lakota”.  There is also a great demonstration by Kevin on the well-known video “Songkeepers” of how he sings a traditional love song, then translates it to the flute.

 happy non-stereotypical fluting…  :-)

Ron

www.ronwarrenmusic.com

Osiyo (hi) from Ron Warren

2009 October 29
by Ron Warren

Osiyo

I am happy to be along for the ride here.  Many thanks to Geoffrey for getting things set up and ready to run.

I am Echota Cherokee and currently live in Silver Spring, MD, right between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.  I’ve been a full time musician for more than twenty-five years now, doing just about everything from arranging theater music to composing and performing avant-garde music to playing in assorted rock bands to teaching, mostly at the college level.

I simply love playing Native American flute and Anasazi flute.  I love our wonderful traditional musics, contemporary Native musicians, artists and writers and am committed to the recognition and celebration of all Indigenous Peoples.

Those of you who have read my bio probably noticed the “degrees”.  I usually don’t advertise them.  Wouldn’t have here, but Geoffrey requested it.  While I have great respect for all my mentors and colleagues from those days, I often tell people it took me several years to recover from the damage done to me in grad school.  I usually say it half jokingly and most often mean it half jokingly, but not more than half.  What damage, you ask?  Especially at the doctoral level (called the “terminal” degree for a reason, I think), I felt a lot of pressure to rationalize every musical decision I made, rather than think and feel deeply and then trust my instincts.  Traditional and roots music provided the path back to healthy, intuitive music making.

But enough of that.  I plan simply to share my experiences here, whether we are out gigging or in the studio making new tracks, or whatever.  Right now, we are working on songs for a new project with the band.  We hope to be in the studio in January, so you can follow the process beginning to end if you want.  My iPod playlist today included some 49’s by Northern Cree Singers (a great drum) and some tracks by John Rainer, Jr and Joseph Fire Crow.  I must confess that I don’t listen to flute tracks every day or even every week, but I have to get my fix of these two guys from time to time…

good journeys

Ron