Blog - Jason Didner Music

I'm opening for Willie Nile in March in my hometown. This one is personal.  

Willie Nile and Mr. Lou DeMartino playing in Joe D'Urso's band ad Rockland-Bergen Music FestivalI felt strongly that I would pair well with Willie Nile when I learned that he was coming to Montclair to perform at our town's Outpost in the Burbs concert series for a Friday night, March 10 performance. And I was delighted to learn that Outpost's organizers shared that belief and chose me to open the show. This booking holds a deep meaning for me based on a special common acquaintance we share. 

I was first introduced to Willie Nile's musical stylings in 2003 when an Internet radio station sent me a promo copy of the Light of Day compilation of Bruce Springsteen covers. Willie played "I'm on Fire" in a signature soulful rasp I'd get to know better over time. 

I was later drawn further into the Light of Day movement when one Lou DeMartino responded to my flyer seeking a bassist for my rock band for kids and families - the Jungle Gym Jam. Lou was also the bassist for Joe D'Urso & the Stone Caravan, a band that was the driving force behind the Light of Day project's musical initiatives. The Light of Day Foundation raises funds and awareness for Parkinson's Disease and ALS. 

In the spring of 2015 Lou joined my band or kids and families - the Jungle Gym Jam as a side-hustle. He quickly got to work recording and performing with us. He loved entertaining kids from the bandshell stage. Shockingly, he passed away from an asthma attack a mere 3 months after joining us. 

After Lou's passing, I got involved with the Light of Day Foundation, creating kids' music fundraiser concerts to help with the cause. I always think fondly of my brief time with Lou when I think of Light of Day. 

Jason Didner, Ross Kantor and Lou DeMartino as Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam in June 2015In our time together, Lou quickly made a deep impression on me as a humble and loving human being, deeply devoted to whatever he took on. He confessed to me that in order to improve his chances of getting into the Jungle Gym Jam, he took the the flyer off the wall where it had been displayed so no one else would see the flyer and compete with him for the gig! I wasn't mad. I was impressed that such an accomplished and well connected musician wanted so badly to be in my group. 

He was a quick study and was quick to make arrangement suggestions that added dynamics to our songs. Lou took it upon himself to carry the PA system and other heavier equipment while Amy and I healed from our kidney transplant and were not medically cleared to lift objects yet. He ended all his emails with LLU - "Lou loves you." 

So you can imagine the emotional response I'm having to the news that Outpost in the Burbs said yes to my pitch to open for Willie Nile - a perennial star of the Light of Day concerts and recordings. "Mr. Lou" is very much at top of mind as I prepare for this very special evening of music. I'll be thinking "LLU" when I'm playing that night. 

Big Changes in the Live Streaming Performance Landscape 

Sessions Live has Shut Down

Over the holiday week in December, my friends who give streaming concerts from home started posting on social media that Sessions Live had gone out of business, taking with them the last of their in-app currency that fans had tipped them. Performers who earned that currency (or at least their 2/3 of it) were not able to cash it out. Billboard Magazine's web site confirmed the closure.

Live Streamer Cafe is Now Free for Artists to Use

My preferred live streaming platform, Live Streamer Cafe, initially operated by charging artists a monthly subscription fee. In turn, LSC would not touch the artists' tips - simply provide buttons to their Paypal/Venmo accounts so audience can tip them directly. Artists only have to share the usual small percentage with PayPal or Venmo, not the massive 1/3 cut that Sessions took. 

But since Sessions folded, Martyn and Kristopher, the founders of LSC, decided to go with a "freemium" model for artists. It's free to stream. But if an artist elects to subscribe at $1, $2, or $3 per month, they will be listed higher on the site's home page and easier for audience to discover, more so at the higher subscription level.

I am a coach at Live Streamer Cafe and can answer your technical questions about how to use it as an artist. 

Live Streamer Cafe Remains My Favorite Venue to Give Online Concerts 

I've given streaming concerts since 2004 when there was no video - just choppy audio and chat. Everyone in the room would have an opportunity to "grab the mic," which resulted in chaos during virtual open mic events and even concerts. 

Since then, Concert Window came and went. I had a very difficult experience putting on an online concert with StageIt where most of my audience couldn't see or hear me. We quickly scrambled over to Zoom where a new issue popped up - "What's the link?!??!?" 

Sessions Live had moved the process to an app that worked, but between their in-app currency and their convoluted layout for watching the show, having a strange cartoon avatar represent you in a "party" and navigating multiple tabs, my audience was confused and distracted from the show. Also, dealing with the in-app currency made the process more overwhelming for my existing fans. 

Along came Live Streamer Cafe, an intuitive and elegant environment for watching and interacting with a solo performer. This is a virtual neighborhood coffeehouse, comfortable and intimate. I give a streaming performance every 2-3 weeks and manage to attract a friendly, international audience most times. People in Europe stay up very late to catch my show. 

Kristopher, the site's developer, continues to do a great job listening to and implementing artists' suggestions, building the ideal venue to help an artist entertain their audience, raise funds for good causes, earn tips and sell merch. One key to this is the addition of "compliments," which come from a dropdown list and contain words and graphics of applause and appreciation. He creates new compliments that might even fit the theme of a song selection, like "Bigman Forever" when I cover a Bruce Springsteen song and a Clarence "Big Man" Clemons sax solo section comes up. 

Martyn, the site's charismatic co-founder, has created a YouTube channel with numerous tutorials on using the platform's various features to best effect. He's also a marvelous singer/keyboardist with an amazing home studio setup that rivals broadcast television. 

Using ReStream to Broadcast to LSC, YouTube, Twitch and Facebook Simultaneously

I subscribe to ReStream.io which lets me multi-stream to Twitch (my chosen back-end for Live Streamer Cafe), YouTube, and Facebook all at the same time. During the show I urge users watching on any other platform to join the interactivity at Live Streamer Cafe. It's a good way for my Facebook friends, YouTube subscribers and even newcomers to discover my live streaming shows in the first place. 

Artists and Audience - Sign up for Live Streamer Cafe for Free Today!

Hop on over to Live Streamer Cafe's web site and click Sign Up. Whether you're looking for quality entertainment in a friendly online , international space, or you want to put on a show, you will see why I consider it the best.

 

Notable Music from the Mastodon Community 

Here are some tracks by fellow artists on Mastodon I found intriguing - both the music and the way these artists tell their story on the open-source microblogging platform. 

I've embedded two playlists from the third-party site BNDCMPR that enables playlists of Bandcamp tracks. The first playlist has songs with lyrics/vocals; the second contains instrumentals. 

Hit me up on Mastodon @jasondidner@mstdn.social to let me know about Bandcamp tracks I should check out for possible inclusion on these lists. Artists, listen to these tracks and promote each other. You may be tired of shouting into the void about your own music all the time. You'll get better audience engagement and make new fans more readily if you mix in promoting other acts you're excited about. 

Musicians of Mastodon curated by Jason Didner

Go to this playlist on bndcmpr to buy a song you like and support the artist. 

Musicians of Mastodon - The Instrumentals

Go to this playlist on bndcmpr to buy a song you like and support the artist. 

 

Follow me on Mastodon.

New video: Side Effects 

My official video premieres at noon eastern today (1/6/23). "Side Effects" is a funny and touching song that lightly pokes fun at the disclaimers in those pharmaceutical ads while showing people living their best life! Musically inspired by Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. 

It's the title track for my new album "Side Effects." Pre-order the album and immediately get the 6 singles from the album. You'll get the rest of the tracks on release day, February 3. 

 

How Learning Drums during the Pandemic Developed my Musicianship 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, at age 50, I learned to play drums so I could record drum tracks while isolated from my musician friends. I marvel at the far-reaching benefits of this new skill for my musical artistry.

Inspiration from the Van Halen Family

Anyone who’s known me since high school remembers my absolute devotion to learning to play guitar and keyboard anything like Eddie Van Halen (I managed an average teenage approximation of Van Halen’s maestro). As musical life went on, I picked up other influences, especially in the singer/songwriter/storyteller direction. Still, that desire to shred sometimes pops up when I think it can help with the story I want to tell in a song.

Learning of Eddie’s passing in late 2020 was a clarion call to me to make what music I still can while I still can. But I found myself gobsmacked by hearing his son Wolfgang’s musical tribute to him. Wolfgang’s solo music project “Mammoth WVH” features Wolf in full multi-instrumental mode playing every instrument: drums, guitar, bass, keyboard and all vocals.

In past musical efforts, I had played all instruments except drums. When I wanted percussive sounds on a solo effort, I’d program drum parts or collaborate with a drummer, either in-person or online. Occasionally, I’d record a hand-percussion part. I’ve always had a clear understanding of how a drum part could enhance my song. Until my moment of inspiration form Wolfgang, I lacked the physicalized experience of drumming.

Opportunity and Technology Meet Inspiration

Prior to the pandemic, my lifelong friend Ross kept a spare drum kit at my house so we could rehearse as a rock band for kids and families. The virus cancelled our gigs and the drums collected dust. When inspiration came calling, a drum kit awaited in my basement. I found a YouTube channel, “Drumeo,” where I could get beginner drum lessons and begin making the experience physical. I had known how I wanted the drumming on my songs to sound. Now I could get into how it might feel.

Those first few lessons led me to keep a simple beat and enhance a song with simple fills upon transition from one section of a song to the next. When I’d master a simple part at a slow tempo, I’d use a metronome to gradually increase the tempo.

I wrote the song “Because I’m Grateful” with the intent to record all the parts, including drums. I arranged it so I could play a simple drum beat with my budding new skills. In the video below, I recorded my drum part on-camera as I was capturing it to the multitrack recording on my laptop. This is not a lip-sync.

Jason’s first recorded track to include him playing drums

Evolution of My Drumming and Musicianship

Over the past two years since that seminal track, I’ve experienced the evolution of my drumming and overall musicianship. Since I record all the parts, I generally rely on a click track to keep all the parts cohesive over time. This forces me to really focus on precise timing when I play drums. My early takes of any song often find me falling behind the beat. I would then re-record, attempting to better lock-in the timing. Fortunately, that insistent click keeps me from rushing too far ahead or falling too far behind for too long. I’ve developed greater patience and more of an expectation of multiple takes.

What I’ve learned about timekeeping on the drums has carried over to my playing of guitar, bass and keyboard too. I’m more conscious of being ahead of, behind, or exactly on, the metronome’s beat. I strive for “very close” rather than “exact” because I don’t want or need to sound robotic. I’m aware that in my past when I’d program drum parts, they sounded computerized even though they mimicked the tone colors of drum kits, since every hit fell precisely on the beat. But if a bass note misses that “very close” mark, I will re-record the passage until I’m there.

Break it Down

For the first few songs I recorded on drums, I either limited the arrangement to fit my new abilities or I broke the song into sections so I could work out a section, record it, and move on to the next one, as the music changed. That’s how I recorded my second full multi-instrumental track, the more challenging “Salt and Sand.” I’ve always heard certain cymbal accents in my head. I wanted these parts to emphasize accented guitar chords since having written that tune in 2004. I did not realistically expect myself to tackle a more sophisticated arrangement of a whole song from beginning to end. Rather, I took it section by section, about 30 to 45 seconds at a time. In the video below, you’ll see footage of my drum takes in separate sections of the song, in a split screen with me playing other instruments and singing.

Jason Didner’s “Salt and Sand” features accents that required him as a new drummer to break the recording down into manageable sections.

Watching videos, I picked up other drum styles like a “one-drop” reggae beat for “Back to Our Bliss,” a song that needed that sun-drenched, seductive quality. I advanced another level with the more sophisticated drum part for “A Complicated Miracle.” Again, I broke the recording into manageable sections. This enabled me to shift the beats and accents in each distinct section of the song.

Going Electronic

As I neared completion on my album “Salt and Sand: Rock Songs to Heal the Mind” my family and I learned a lesson as important as rhythm skills. Playing an acoustic drum kit in the house when everyone’s home requires sacrifice by everyone not playing. This level of sacrifice can hit a tipping point. My wife and daughter didn’t always feel like hearing out-of-context drum parts being played repeatedly. And I felt mounting pressure with each take to get it over with. I also developed a soft touch on the kit, perhaps too soft for the rock music I was hearing in my head.

Amy suggested I get an electronic kit. I agreed. My next album would be recorded using an electronic drum kit. In my headphones, I hear a thunderous, mic’d-up drum kit. In the family, my wife and daughter hear the soft taps of drum sticks on mesh practice pads. To them, it’s not silent, but it’s a lot better than the racket I was making in the house on the acoustic kit. Also, I’ve learned to whip the stick to sharply crack that snare drum the way my rock songs require.

The Electronic Experience

I found a large overlap in the skills required to play an acoustic or electronic kit – and some subtle differences. The electronic kit poses limitations on some of the nuance of acoustic drumming. I cannot, for instance, muffle a crash cymbal with my free hand to create a crash sound that ends abruptly – but I can go back to what I’ve recorded and edit that sort of crash accordingly. A hi-hat cymbal is either “open” or “closed” on an electronic kit. On an acoustic kit I’d be able to work the pedal to create “half-open” hi-hat sounds. I’d imagine I could tinker to produce that effect as well. I have yet to feel the need for it for the purposes of my songs.

I went electronic a little over one year into my drumming journey. I’m now almost two years in. My evolution on the instrument continued. My existing songs like “This Man’s Eyes” and “Quit While You’re Ahead” featured more complex beats, where my guitar strum featured 16th notes rather than the 8th notes found predominantly on my “Salt and Sand: Rock Songs to Heal the Mind” album tracks. Now we’re in more of a jamband or funk feel. Some of the drum lessons I played along with on Drumeo provided ways to imply the 16th notes. I could include off-beat embellishments on the kick drum while playing steady 8ths on the hi-hat.

Jason Didner makes his electronic drum kit video debut with “This Man’s Eyes” as his ability to play sophisticated parts grows.

For my most well-known song “You Can’t Get There from Here in Jersey” I needed a straight-ahead Johnny Cash style country beat. After some searching on YouTube I found the traditional “train” beat where I’d play the hi-hat’s usual part as softer snare drum hits, where the back beat is hit on the same snare with noticeably more “crack.” I was proud of adding that style of drumming to my repertoire.

Jason learned to vary his drum styles to fit the needs of the song. Here, he plays the “train” beat.

“Give Up the Ghost” – A New Rhythmic Milestone

In the early 90s I wrote my first real singer/songwriter rock song, “Give Up the Ghost,” which featured some sophisticated accents and changes between half-tempo and double-tempo. As soon as I wrote the guitar part I could hear the drums in my head. Over the years I recorded demo tapes where I had programmed the drums. My 23-year-old self could not have imagined I’d record the drum part myself one day.

I consider my drum work on “Give Up the Ghost” a high water mark in my drumming so far. Unlike the previous, more sophisticated tunes I broke into pieces to record, I captured a base take where I played all the way through the song – through all the changes. I then replaced parts that inevitably needed a re-do. You’ll hear this new track on my upcoming album “Side Effects,” due out in February 2023.

Conclusion – Benefits of Learning Drums During the Pandemic

I experienced many benefits by deciding to learn to play drums while restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This journey has further developed my sense of timing on all my instruments and helped me create more danceable grooves.

Drum practice and recording sessions are physical workouts snuck into a creative activity. I tend to break a sweat when I get into drumming.

The experience has supercharged my respect for my drumming friends like Ross. My goal in any given sitting is typically to make a 3-minute recording with me on the drums. Drummers like Ross sustain this awesome power for 2 or 3 hours a night – live with no chance for a do-over!

If you sing or play an instrument other than drums, I highly recommend investing time and energy into learning this skill too.

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New Single: “When the Time Came” 

New release on Bandcamp and All Streaming Services

My latest single, “When the Time Came” is launched on Friday, December 2. It’s an adult contemporary rock song about conflict resolution and breaking cycles of suffering over difficult emotions to find inner peace.

You can also stream this/add it to your library in:

Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | all other streaming services

Here’s the lyric video:

Lyric video for “When the Time Came”

A Poem at First

My mother, Linda Didner, wrote this poem, which I then edited into song lyrics as verses. I then added the chorus and bridge.

Original handwritten poem by Linda Didner that became the lyrics for
Original handwritten poem by Linda Didner that became lyrics for “When the Time Came”

This song is my mom’s idea of a sequel to my 2003 song “It’s About Time.” The premise is that she applied the lessons of the original song and wanted to say that she went about the changes that the changing times called for.

“It’s About Time” – Jason Didner’s 2003 song that inspired “When the Time Came”

Mom and I have co-written songs as gifts for family members before, but this is our first one to be released publicly.

I sang all the vocal parts and played all the instruments.

Here are the lyrics:

When the Time Came
(c) 2022, Lyrics by Linda Didner and Jason Didner
Music by Jason Didner

I've broken a cycle
May it never return
It took long and hard looks
To finally learn

Now I know what it takes
To be peaceful and strong
To be happy and loving,
My whole life long

When the time came
I let my feelings be
When the time came
I set my spirit free
Extinguished the anger
And put down the blame
I did what it takes
When the time came

I've gone through some changes
They were worth the pain
I shouldered the heartache
But so much was gained

I journeyed so deeply
So deeply inside
I read that old screenplay
That played in my mind

When the time came
I let my feelings be
When the time came
I set my spirit free
Extinguished the anger
And put down the blame
I did what it takes
When the time came

Sure I was scared
of how I might change
Still nothing's more frightening
than staying the same

When the time came
I let my feelings be
When the time came
I set my spirit free
Extinguished the anger
And put down the blame
I did what it takes
When the time came
When the time came
And may I do it again
Montclair, NJ based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jason Didner records the drum track to
Me recording th8e drum track to “When the Time Came”

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A New Playlist Platform for Bandcamp 

Introducing BNDCMPR

I was introduced to a new platform for making playlists on Bandcamp. An independently-created web site enables you to build playlists of Bandcamp tracks by pasting URL’s into the site’s interface.

I find this significant as a way to help cross-promote music with fellow artists. I imagine the benefits of combining followings and introducing your fans to music they might like. A supportive community can grow as people discover music that may excite them, thanks to thoughtful curation from among the millions of songs to choose from.

Here’s my playlist of compelling artists I’ve encountered on TikTok, who do a great job telling their story of their artistic journey while also making exceptional music on their own.

And here’s a playlist I created from my local Montclair, NJ USA music scene.

Make Your Own Bandcamp Playlists on BNDCMPR

Want to make your own Bandcamp playlist? Hop on over to bndcmpr.co and start making and sharing your own Bandcamp playlists..

The post A New Playlist Platform for Bandcamp appeared first on Jason Didner.

I’m now on the Mastodon Social Media Network 

Let’s connect!

Mastodon is an open-source microblogging network of social media platforms. It does not have an algorithm that favors inflammatory content over more benign offerings. It leads to quality conversation, not obsession over trending. Feel like part of a community instead of shouting into the void.

I’m connecting with friends old and new there, and I’d like for you to join in!

Find me at mstdn.social/@jasondidner.

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Coming Dec 2: New single “When the Time Came” 

Let me e-mail you the secret link now!

A new song is on the way out: “When the Time Came.” I co-wrote this song with my mom as a sequel to my 2003 track “It’s About Time.” These songs are both about conflict resolution, a topic near and dear to my heart. It’s got a decidedly adult contemporary vibe to it, reminiscent of The Eagles. This will be a track on my upcoming album “Side Effects,” due out early next year.

Here’s a 1-minute performance of the new song, via Instagram.

I can email you the official lyric video of the single, which will launch on Friday, December 2. Just sign up below and I’ll send you the secret link so you can view it today! This is an exclusive for my email subscribers.

Do you listen to music on Spotify? You can presave the track now so it will appear in your Spotify feed on release day.

A Single Release Concert Online

On Friday, December 2, the same day I release the single to Bandcamp and all streaming services, I will give an online concert at 7:30 PM Eastern-US on Live Streamer Cafe, as well as YouTube, Facebook Live and Twitch.

Join me for a live performance of this new song and your requests!

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