DMusic’s Spotlight Interview: Dan Sindel

4 06 2007

DMusic’s Spotlight Interview: Dan Sindel

Posted by Other Israfel on June 4, 2007 at 8:52 AM

The Spotlight Interview

When Dan Sindel was in 4th grade someone stuck a trumpet in his hands and he has been making what he describes as a “joyful noise” ever since. This lifelong Los Angeles, California resident has made music the greatest part of his life. When he was in junior high school Dan learned to play the trombone and French horn while playing in the school orchestra. He used that opportunity to better understand how to read music and how to integrate with other musicians on many levels. Dan credits the Los Angeles public school system for his strong foundation in music and says “it’s a shame that for political reasons many schools in L.A. have cut the music programs…when playing a musical instrument, especially at a very young age enriches, shapes and builds so much character as well as the positive impact on the community playing music provides.”

Dan continued to play trumpet, French horn, and trombone until the age of 14…then, he says, he heard Led Zeppelin for the first time and it was all over. He wanted to be like Jimmy Page and play the guitar! He signed up for lessons from Phillipe Willems, a protege of the legendary Chord Chemist Ted Greene, and after a few years with Willems, he was fortunate enough to study with Greene himself. An honor, Dan says, that he will never forget.

Dan fully admits that he cannot escape his roots. Born with a full dose of musical DNA from his classically trained mother (a pianist), Dan believes his “roots” are entrenched in the concert band, marching band and orchestra experiences of his youth. It is difficult for him to pinpoint any one major influence. Instead he says he is inspired by a wide range of artists and styles, label and indie. He also says there are a good many artists right here at DMusic who inspire and challenge him to grow and achieve.

I believe it could be said that Dan has inspired many artists here at DMusic himself.

On who’s CD would you most like to appear?
This is a tough question, I really don’t know, I could probably drum up a list as long as all of my influences.
I think it would be amazing to play on a Peter Gabriel or Herbie Hancock record or trade 4’s with Carlos Santana or Jeff Beck… WE could go for days on this one but we can all dream can’t we?

When you record, how often do you have to bounce things down and how do you decide which parts get grouped where? In other words, how do you make your guitars sound like an entire symphony?
This aspect of my recording sessions always causes a small headache!
Even with a good, solid road map of how I want to allot the amount of tracks given to a certain phrase or lines written for particular instruments I always seem to never have enough tracks.

Currently I am using a Digi002/Pro Tools LE system and when I first started out about 2.5 years ago with the version 6 software my session template only gave me 32 usable tracks, and by the time I used a master fader, a click track and perhaps imported a good recording of the track I am trying to recreate as a guide I was left with even less to work with. Even though I have upgraded the software to v7.1 with the optional Music Production Toolkit which now up’s Pro Tools to 48 stereo tracks, I am handicapped and always in need of more tracks…

If I ever strike it rich then I will invest in a true blue Pro Tools HD system and not have to worry so much about bouncing and using sub mixes. Sure I could jump ship and use Logic, DP or Nuendo or some other DAW but the way I see it is Pro Tools is the “industry standard” and that is where I should spend my time educating myself.

Call it blind ambition or “Ignorance On Fire” but when I first got my rig I did not have a clue what I was doing and one of the first monstrosities I recorded was John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”..! Now that was a challenge and required many decisions along the way that I had never dreamed would have confronted me.

Case study: As the conductor score called for, I had to break down my session templates by Woodwinds, Brass and Strings as well as creating separate session templates for each individual section of the piece!

So with 4 sections to the song, 3 groups of instruments and each template using all 32 tracks I ended up with roughly 375 individual tracks and within each separate session template I bounced the necessary tracks belonging to the individual instrument. i.e. trumpet 1, 2, 3 (which in most cases I had tripled each line) so in essence I then had to create a master session which acted as a “composite” of all my sub mixes and rebuild the song like a puzzle, section by section!!! (Confused yet..? LOL)

In some of my experiments by taking a realistic look at seating charts for orchestras of different time periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic etc…) I did find that the number of violins, cellos and violas etc… did vary and I have tried implementing lets say 6 or 12 tracks to represent the first violin section but what I do find is that if you at a minimum triple the passage you do tend to achieve a nice, well balanced full sound without losing to much articulation of your performance which can easily get lost by stacking to many layers.

What led you to the exploration of your arrangements with the types of classical music you record? Was it a love of classical music, the challenge of putting it all into a more rock oriented context or both?
I would have to say a “little of both” plus a few other circumstances. (i.e. My lack of knowledge programming drums or working with MIDI Virtual Instruments.)

It is interesting that when left to my own device I am first and foremost a guitarist and learning to engineer has become a necessity in of itself, not that I don’t enjoy it, I do and I am seriously considering taking pro tools lessons and becoming a certified operator as well as I am happy to report that I am back in touch
with my original guitar instructor after 30 long years and studying music again with a whole new viewpoint and zeal. Music is infinite and one should never stop learning and become complacent.

The very first pieces I recorded here at home were taken from a book of 4 part guitar ensemble arrangements that I still had from a classical guitar class I took a long time ago, it made sense as it was relatively easy as far as sight reading the lines and layering the parts went and I suppose one thing lead to another. After realizing that I could tackle those pieces it was time for a bigger challenge as I have access to boxes and boxes of fabulous sheet music as my Mom in her day had a very impressive repertoire as a pianist as well as I have a pretty good collection of my own and I just started looking for compositions that looked like they were something I could attempt to play and record and by visually breaking up the 4 part harmony (Bass, Tenor, Alto and Soprano) and reducing them into single line phrases things started to come together and sound like music. Although when working with music written for piano things can get much more intricate as the chords get much “bigger” and having to analyze the parts can take you in many different directions.

I have always been more of a lead guitar player and spent much more time developing the skill of single note playing as opposed to chordal structure and rhythm playing so what I am doing is not that far of a stretch but I will admit after transposing and transcribing all the different scores that I have over the past few years my sight reading and musicianship have been kicked up a notch or two which is always satisfying to see the “fruits of ones labor” and that should really translate into anything that anybody does, hard work does pay off!

Would you ever consider doing Gershwin? If so, why?
Let’s face it, George Gershwin’s style of composition is a marvel to behold and truthfully I have looked at a few of his scores. For instance, after taking a look at “Rhapsody in Blue” it only took about 2 seconds to deduce that this was way over my head as a player and there was no point in desecrating sacred ground.

There are many passages that for me would be virtually impossible to execute so best to leave it be…

LOL, I am not to proud to go on record that I know my limits as a musician albeit I love a good challenge and always seem to grow a bit when commencing and reaching for goals that seem unobtainable.

Trust me; there are many songs that do not fit very well in an “all-guitar” setting… My hard drives are full of “16 bar tests” if you will, to see if a certain composition is worth the time or effort and many times it becomes quite apparent that it will not work out at all and I am one for not wanting to disrespect the great works of the musical masters too much. I do work very hard on these compositions to stay true to the way the composer intended without taking to many liberties (of course with modern instrumentation).

How do you feel about progressive rock artists who choose to “mutate” their classical influences…like Emerson, Wakeman, Howe and Hackett?
I love what they did; as a matter of fact English 70’s Progressive is some of my most favorite music and these are the bands I grew up listening to and trying to emulate. Half of the time this is what I am calling up on my CD player!
By bringing their classical training into a rock setting changed the landscape of rock music forever. It seems like we might never really quite experience the creativeness and grandeur that was allowed in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s on a large scale pertaining to what major labels are signing and exploiting, today’s music seems so contrived, formulatic and I dare say “disposable” with a very small shelf life. Of course there will always be groups who are considered underground that keep it alive whilst knowing fully well it is not the popular thing to do and I respect that because they are doing what moves them and isn’t music all about that in the first place?

The only thing that I do not prefer too much these days is the deal where a majority of rock styled guitarists take a classical song, ramp it up and stand around playing arpeggio sweeps over the composition in the most inappropriate places or factor in a solo break to “take care of biz”, I personally appreciate the time and technicality that goes into commanding the instrument but the feeling of the song is usually lost and just showcases somebody showing off with technique. That is entertaining for about 12 seconds IMHO.

Although there are some fine examples of this done correctly, the whole youtube explosion of Jerry C’s “Canon Rock” is pretty awesome and has encouraged many people to play guitar.

How do you balance your musical pursuits with the necessities of “real life”, such as having to work for a living?
My story is no different than anyone else’s in that regard. I do the best I can at keeping steady work come in as I am a freelance web/graphic designer and then try to maximize my spare time by recording and editing, reading books on music production, networking on the web or make a few phone calls in the name
of building a career in music.

Have you had classical lessons?
Yes I have, not in the strictest of sense but I did take 3 years of Harmony in High School then went on to study Classical Guitar at the local community college and studied under John Schneider, one of the most fabulous classical guitarist that I have ever heard. By spending most of my junior years in the concert bands and orchestras, without a doubt that built a solid foundation in music.

I actually did muster up the courage a few months ago to contact the world renowned classical guitarist Christopher Parkening (who is a protégé of the late great Andre Segovia) to see if he was accepting new students but his assistant stated he was not accepting and preferred to conduct seasonal master classes instead.

How many guitars do you own? What guitar would you love to own that you currently do not?
I have a small but nice collection of Gibson’s, Fender’s and various acoustic and electric instruments including a Balalaika from “communist” Russia and an Oud form Turkey. My newest addition to the family is a ¾ scale sized hybrid which has a ‘62 Fender Duosonic body with a ’65 MusicMaster II neck, it is very small, almost violin like and it is really fun to play.

But if I had it my way, I would love to be a collector of Gibson Semi-Hollow and Archtop Jazz guitars. I just love the L-5’s, 137’s, 335’s and the ES-175’s etc…

Do you do any finger exercises to warm up before you play?
Sometimes but not always (It seems that I do a lot of chatting on the web these days, does that count?), some day’s I just fire up the rig and start recording with very little warm up and other days I just sit around for hours and try and teach myself something new or go into a dream state and play for hours just because..! Yes, there was a time when I did nothing but run scales and do finger exercises all day long but not as of late.

Has having your recent success which increased your profile added any pressure to your song creation or does it inspire you even more to create original ideas?
As of this writing, I must admit that things are warming up a bit around here and I am elated that as an Independent Musician I have earned recognition with GHS Strings/Rocktron, Visual Sound and Peterson Tuners. Endorsement deals always seemed quite elusive and reserved for only those high profile artists who are selling millions of disc’s and on the biggest tours but I do think the dynamic has changed in favor of the Indie’s and this is proof that there is still light at the end of the tunnel (and no, not a train coming at you… LOL) for those who first of all as an artist “believe in themselves” and have enough tenacity to approach people who do in fact work in the music industry.
It’s not easy, it is the last thing for me to get out of my comfort zone but life is short and you will never even get a “NO” if you are too afraid to even try.

My perspective is that the most of the major manufactures that I had approached at NAMM were in fact not really open to working with unsigned talent but through the power of intention I knocked on just about every door and did get the attention of a chosen few who did have an open mind to what I had to say, just like pounding the pavement in search of a job, if you want it bad enough sooner or later someone will be there waiting for you.

As far as adding any undue pressure, I would have to say that everything that has occurred acts as a positive indicator and has only given me encouragement to press on, truth be told, I like most set the standards for myself quite high and tend to be my worst critic therefore almost nothing is good enough which can be a double edged sword. Being quite young in the game of owning and using a computer based recording system I for the most part tend to be rather shy and intimidated about sharing my mp3’s on the net, when I first joined DM and uploaded what I personally considered “broken” and poorly produced music was accepted (much to my amazement) with open arms and despite my personal feelings it made me want to become better at what I do and in essence these endorsements have given me the green light to think differently and “raise my game” to the next level.

Ironically enough ever since I was in high school I was in lots of different bands and every one of them had the same objective of “ruling the world” and up until three years ago I had not even played my guitars for almost 6 years as the instrument was a conduit to many bad feelings (I am sure many can relate in one fashion or another).

That did change one day when I noticed some people I knew playing their guitars during break time at work and it all came crashing down and struck me like lightning where “these guys are just having the best time, no false pretense or ambition, just playing for the love of playing” and quite frankly ever since I have rekindled the joy of making music just for the sake of doing it and it really does thrill me to see so many others enjoying what I am doing for the mere fact of “I am enjoying” what I am doing!

What inspires you most?
Inspiration appears in many ways, whether I see someone working very hard at improving their musicianship or watching someone play that is extremely talented with a deep musical vocabulary. As well, I become very inspired when I see people immersing themselves in their work, regardless of what their occupation is and wanting to do a good job and produce the best results that they can!

I am also inspired by those who seek to enrichen others lives in a way where they look for nothing in return, that is giving! Somewhat like a smile, a smile is infectious and you can’t help but smile as well, A musician’s performance can be giving, music should be the same way..!

How long did it take you to record the Hallelujah Chorus?
It was a real long time to be honest. Between learning the parts and multi-tracking all the instruments it probably took at least 40-50 hours. That particular track has at least 156 unique guitar tracks and the entire 15 minutes of “Excerpts From Handel’s Messiah” was well over 200 hours of recording and embodies well over 500 unique guitar tracks.

It should also be noted that “Excerpts” took almost 120 hours to mix!
A true exercise in Obsessive Compulsive Behavior!!! I give my engineers Phil Moore and John Prpich a “purple heart” for hanging in there and creating a masterpiece out of a mountain of raw guitar tracks..!

Most engineers don’t get the glory when they are the ones making artists sound good and I have nothing but praise for Phil and John regarding all the effort they put into this project..!

“Excerpts” is meant to be heard in it’s entirety as a 3 song mix but I had the giving spirit over the 2006 Christmas Holidays and decided to release it out on the net as a single and it just blew me away, I released it just about 1 week before Christmas and it was downloaded something like 10,000 times in that short period, I almost fell out of my chair when I looked at my web stats.

This was what I consider to be my first “real” project and I learned so much from the experience (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Have you ever recorded any straight rock covers? If so, what was the first one?
Realistically the answer is no, not as far as what I have been doing over the past 3 years. Growing up I was in tons of cover bands and a few tapes still exist of us just maiming the songs at someone’s backyard party (LOL) but I have not taken on the task of covering anything recent from the rock era.

This goes back to an earlier question but fits in nicely here, part of my choosing to record classical pieces is that they are considered “fair play” as they live in the public domain (75 years or older) so I figured I could experiment as much as I wanted to and be on safe ground.

You’ve recently gotten some great sponsors. Are you paid for those? If so, how? Cash, product, recognition?
Pertaining to the endorsements themselves it must be said in all fairness and respect that all agreements are amicable to all parties involved and yes indeed having some new equipment is “very inspiring” especially when recording as there are so many new possibilities to explore in guitar textures with all the latest technology available.

What other on-line sites or resources do you use to promote yourself? Which ones seem to work the best?
I hold various accounts around the web at other mp3/musician web sites (i.e. mp3unsigned, soundclick, mp3.com.au etc…) but bottom line is “DMusic is the most effective for networking and getting feedback from other artists”. In no way, shape or form do I knock the other sites as they are all valid and to some that is where they get the best results.

I will let you in on a secret (well okay, it’s not the big of a deal… LOL),but where I have experienced the greatest results in getting my music heard is through the power of podcasting and blogging..!

Through the employment of these medium’s I have had hundreds of thousands of downloads over the past year or so and I strongly encourage any Indie artist to get a handle on the technology and make it work for you!

Do you transpose original songs to the guitar or do you do this by ear?
Most of the transposition is done by sight reading, once in a while a certain phrase or cluster of chords takes a fair amount of analyzation and I do put the pencil to the paper and write out the sequence of notes just for sake of time. Your ears will guide you once in awhile but to stay honest to the score it is best to keep your eyes on the music.

Do you use a pick or just your fingers?
I mostly use picks, my favorite are Dunlop Jazz III’s, (those small pointy guys) and I have tons of different sizes and gauges laying around and it just depends on what guitar I might be playing and what sounds I am after.

What was the first piece of music you ever wrote?
In essence the first piece of music I ever wrote was in High School whilst studying classical harmony.

Abiding by all the rules and regulations (or at least trying my best…) of the sonata form I penned my first composition which was not half bad considering I had no way of really knowing what the song would sound like as I was not adept at the piano, as the teacher pointed out there were a few problematic areas such as the use of “parallelism” which is strictly frowned upon in classical music but we use it every single day in rock and there is still nothing wrong in my book with sliding a power chord from E to D to C albeit the gentlemen of the classical/baroque era with their long trained robes and parlor wigs would have thrown an absolute fit..!

Do you play live or have you ever played live? If so, give me some idea where and what that was like for you.
As far as the guitar being my instrument of choice, I started out playing in backyard party bands. When I was in high school we were playing stuff like RUSH, Zep, Deep Purple, Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Bad Co. etc… ahh those were the days. We were so terrible we could clear the backyard in 2 songs time flat… LOL

Seriously though, I would not trade those days for anything! LA has changed so much it is traumatic; when I was in high school the music scene was overwhelming!
Every school had quite a number of really good bands and every Friday and Saturday night you would get a list of easily 20 different backyard parties to go to each with a party band set up in the house or backyard and the level of competition was intense! I saw Randy Rhoades/Quite Riot and tons of bands start out in the early days before everyone got signed in the mid 80’s.

After high school I spent many years in what was considered LA’s best unsigned Metal band. As well as being headliners, we supported many top touring acts like Wendy O. Williams, King Diamond, Armored Saint, Grim Reaper, Racer X etc… when they rolled into town. We also had the opportunity to open for MotorHead but the “pay to play” system had just been implemented and it was just too much of a strain to always try and sell tickets to your friends over and over again. The “pay to play” system was absolutely the
worst thing to ever happen to the LA club scene, good for the promoter but so sad for the bands who happen to not have much of a following or just came into town from out of state, having to pony up $600 or some ridiculous sum (whether you sold the tickets or ate them) just for the privilege of playing for 35-40 minutes in a rundown club. I am quite passionate about this due to I watched this happen overnight, as a musician who used to get paid for performing to a salesman hawking tickets to my friends. Such is the music business!

The last time I really performed “live” was on July 4th, 2000 which was quite fun.I was given the opportunity to play solo guitar in front of about 42,000 at an Independence Day Fireworks Festival; there I was, just me with my Gibson Flying “V” and Marshall half stack playing “The Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic themes… It was a blast and really made me miss the thrill of performing live in front of large audiences.

Currently, I am doing quite a lot of recording with my little pro tools rig and enjoy it tremendously. I am still very new to home recording and the subject fascinates me and I am so grateful that my early recording efforts have been so well received and have been downloaded well into the 350,000’s via my site, blog, podcast’s and page at DMusic..!

How did you find DMusic and what made you want to join?
About 2 years ago when I had my first few “rough mix” demos, for whatever reason, I still don’t know (LOL) I did a Google on the search term “submit mp3” and got brave enough to create a few accounts on various websites and see if did not get my “head chopped off” with what I deemed poor quality recordings as my engineering skills were severely novice and I was incredibly intimidated about the whole affair.

After interacting for a week or two on other musician networking sites and much to surprise did not get punished for my recording skills (or lack of) I mustered up the courage to try a few more sites and searched again and found a link to DMusic. Little did I know what I was in for..! Truly, within 2 minutes of creating my account there was this little cartoon emote waving at me and someone saying “Welcome to DMusic”, needless to say I was quite perplexed, all the other sites I signed up for were for the most part static and the communication tools to interact with other artists were quite substandard and to see an Instant Messenger built into DMusic really made me think twice about how these other sites were simply missing the boat(and still are!). For the record, I will never forget… the person saying “Welcome to DMusic” was none other than OneWhoDreams, of course it took me 2 weeks to get the courage and figure out how to reply in the shoutbox and like countless others, sat there and replied back directly on to my page in my own shoutbox… LOL

All I can say is that after spending time on many other sites DMusic is my “home away from home”, I have made so many great friends here, collaborated with a good handful of stellar musicians from all over the globe and have even had the opportunity to meet a few in person. It is the warmest and most supportive musician community that I am aware of and my growth as a musician/recording enthusiast owes quite a lot to this site as I have received so much great advice and encouragement from so many wonderful artists that reside here!

What’s next for Dan Sindel?
I am working steadfast in recording my debut CD which should be near completion and available by the end of 2007. I’m in conversation with a few of my sponsors and perhaps a few brilliant things may occur out of that dynamic as well as looking at starting my own small label and publishing company. In between the day to day rigor I am also dedicated to continue my musical education and “keep my chops up” as it were and explore new musical terrain in the digital realm.

Thank you for this interview and always looking forward..!

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Hear Dan’s music here: http://dsindel.dmusic.com/music/

View interview at DMusic: http://news.dmusic.com/article/24700

Visit DMusic: http://www.dmusic.com/

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