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You, But No Nominations Necessary
Since releasing my WEAK Polka Pontoon CD
last year, a number of professionals in the polka music industry have
asked me if I wouldn't mind them nominating it for various polka music
awards. I answered them by saying that, while I appreciate the
compliment and the consideration, it would be best to nominate another
musician's or band's CD. And here is my explanation:
Imagine a pie baking contest at a county fair. Fifteen contestants bake
their best homemade pies and submit them to a panel of judges for
judging. In a normal pie-judging contest, all of the judges will taste
each of the fifteen pies and judge them accordingly. But, in this case,
the judges only receive a written list of all the contestants and the
pies they baked. Some of the judges have sampled a few of the pies, but
not all of them. Some of the judges haven't sampled any of the pies at
all. And now they are being asked to pick the best pie from the list.
It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Well, this is exactly how music
awards work. The voters charged with choosing the
best CD have not heard all of the CDs from which they're choosing. Some
of the voters will have heard a few of the CDs or just one or two
songs from a few of them, and some voters may not heard any of the
CDs at all. And yet, these people will be picking the winning CD. So
what happens is they'll pick from only
the CDs they've heard, or from only the names they recognize. Some
pick a CD they've never heard based on their assumption it's probably
the best one.
Winning awards this way doesn't appeal to me.
About ten years ago, the president of a fledgling polka organization
and I hashed out ideas for laying the groundwork for their future
awards program. One idea, about which I was adamant, was that they
forgo the way all other polka awards programs are run—instead of
allowing volumes of people to vote, they restrict voting to a
small panel of qualified judges and make it easy for all polka bands
and musicians to get their CDs into
the hands of every one of the judges. Then, and only then, would
winning be worth
anything, because every CD would judged equally. Furthermore, the
winning CD would be
chosen strictly based on the quality of the content, and not the
popularity of the musicians.
One of my ideas – the name of the award – was adopted. But my proposed
method of voting was voted down by their board of directors in favor of
allowing unlimited numbers of people to vote... just like every other
polka awards program. So now we have yet another awards program in
which the judges are choosing the best pie without tasting all the pies.
While I support polka organizations and their efforts, and while I am
always honored whenever someone considers my work as award-worthy, the
awards themselves don't hold any actual merit. They're great for
bragging to people who don't know better, and they can make a
résumé look impressive by adding bullets, but they do not
define quality. Many other industry professionals agree with that, but
choose not to state it publicly.
For every musician who understands the inauspicious nature of music
awards, there will always be a musician who doesn't. Perhaps he feels
an award is the highest validation he can receive for his efforts, or
perhaps he just likes collecting bullets on his résumé.
Regardless, a nomination for me would be a wasted nomination, because
it would better serve the desires of any number of musicians out
there who need the validation. Your compliments, words of
encouragement, or just a thumbs up
will always have a greater meaning to me than any trophy or plaque.
I Am NOT Affiliated
With the New Wisconsin Polka Music
It was recently brought to my attention
that a new website has been created which uses the domain
"wisconsinpolkamusic.com". I once owned that domain and ran
a website on it from 2005 to 2014. In October of 2014, I
discontinued the website and allowed the domain to expire. An
expired domain can be acquired by anyone.
Someone did acquire the domain, and they also created a website on it
to promote polka music. That's great, except that for a time,
they made it look as though I was still running the website! My name,
photo, and quite a bit of my original site's copyrighted
material was published on the new WisconsinPolkaMusic website
without my consent or approval.
I want to make
clear that I did not authorize the use of my likeness or any written
material for the new website. I am not affiliated with the
WisconsinPolkaMusic website in any way.
I contacted the registrant of the website to request the infringing
material be removed. He was very kind and understanding of the
situation, and removed the material right away.
► Virtual Polka
Instruments Store Now Open
you're a polka musician who's into computer-based music
production, then you already know how impossible it's been to find
suited for polka music. The instruments
themselves exist, but they're made for other types of
music. For example, you can find accordions, but they're made for
French cafes or Brazillian
tango halls. You can
find tubas, but they're designed for marching bands or symphony
orchestras. I've experienced this same problem, and I decided to do
it. After months of sampling, editing, and coding, I am
proud to begin offeing a library of virtual
instruments created exclusively for the Polka genre.
No other virtual instrument
manufacturer has ever dared invest any
time or resources into
creating polka instruments, probably because the demand for
polka instruments is, no doubt, a fraction of the demand for more
instruments. But that left a gap in the virtual instruments
market. I discovered that gap one day while searching for a virtual
polka concertina for one of my studio's productions. Needless to
say, no such virtual concertina could be found, so I made my own from a
concertina. It was a success. From that point on, I decided
to boldly go where no VSTi manufacturer has gone before — into the
world of American polka music.
So far, I have seven instruments being offered: Hammond Solovox, Hengel
Concertina, Karpek Polka King Accordion, Meinl-Weston Tuba, Melodija
Button Box, Old German Concertina, and Stradivarius
Concertina. With the exception of the Old German Concertina
which is offered as a free download, the rest of the instruments are
only $14.00 each to download.
The instruments I create are not complex by virtual instrument
standards. I don't sample them in multiple mic positions and
articulations like you'll find on $60+ instruments. I give my
instruments only the amount of samples and adjustable controls they
need to get the job done, and that allows me to keep their cost very
Please check out the virtual polka instruments at Polkasound Productions.
Brusky Memorial Fundraiser
Ends With a Record-Breaking Year
night's dance at Kochanski's in Milwaukee brought in over $425.00,
bringing this year's fundraising total to just over $885.00! Many
area musicians stopped in, and several jammed with us on stage — Jeff
Winard, Jason Goldsmith, Billy Micale, BB Carter, and Gus
Krueger. Lynette Weidner, president of the Cat Network, one of
the fundraiser's two non-profit beneficiaries, made a special
appearance to offer words of gratitude to all the donors.
I would like to extend my own gratitude to the musicians who donated
their time and talents last night, Dan Tutsch and John Gostomski, and
to Andy Kochanski for donating his hall for this fundraising effort.
I am also grateful to everyone who showed up to support this
event. Besides all the musicians who were there, family and
friends from all circles were in attendance as well, including a high
school classmate, a fellow tennis player... even an ex-girlfriend!
I want to thank everyone who donated this year and in previous
years. Since December of 2009, over $2,300 has been raised and
donated to local cat rescues.
The whole purpose of this annual fundraiser was to honor
Kittling. I don't consider myself a "cat person", but I do know
the joy that cats bring to people every day. Kitty brought me
happiness for seventeen years, and I feel that is worth
recognizing. This fundraiser honors her by helping keep other
cats and kittens happy and healthy until it is their turn to bring
happiness to other people's lives.
This week, I will have the privilege of presenting the Cat Network and
New Life Cat Rescue with checks for at least $442.00 each. On
behalf of all the cats and kittens currently residing at these rescues,
thank you for your support!
Instruments For the
When I upgraded
my studio to a digital audio workstation last year, I
installed an advanced software program on my computer that allows me to
record the sounds of other instruments, and then play those sounds back
as "virtual instruments" using any MIDI controller – most commonly a
piano keyboard. The
technology, known as sampling,
has been around for a long time, but
personal computers have now become so powerful that they can handle
the loading and playing back of the most pristinely-sampled virtual
libraries, which can be several gigabytes in size. The result is
an unprecedented level of realism in virtual instruments.
In the old days, the quality of virtual instruments was
limited because computer processing power and memory was also
Commercial sound library manufacturers had to compress their samples
and often used artificial means (digital synthesis) to build the sounds
in their libraries. But now, since computer power is no longer an
issue, sound library manufacturers no longer need to be mindful of the
size and quality of their samples. Instead of recording 88
samples for a grand piano, for example, a sound library manufacturer
can now meticulously sample all the fine details of the piano, such as
each note at ten different volumes, the noise of the foot pedals, the
sympathetic resonance of the other strings, etc. A single
software-based, virtual piano may be created from as many as several
thousand samples, literally making it indistinguishable on a recording
from a real acoustic piano.
The sampling software I installed on my computer allows me to create
virtual instruments of stunning realism, because I can
sample every single note of
an instrument in high-quality, 24-bit
audio, and assign each note to a key on the keyboard to be played
back. I can also sample each note of the instrument at
various volumes and assign each volume sample to a velocity range on
each key of the keyboard. With this capability at my fingertips,
I am embarking
on a project to do something that has never been done before. I'm
building a library of sampled instruments specifically tailored to
So far, I have three instruments in my library: a Meinl-Weston
rotary-valve tuba, a Hengel C concertina (compliments of Ed Hause), and
a Bb Stradivarius
concertina (compliments of Joe Fojtik).
To create a virtual instrument takes both time and
patience. Each individual note of the real instrument is recorded
a sound file. The notes are previewed and manually processed as
needed to achieve relative volume and equalization continuity from the
instrument's lowest note to its highest. The notes are then saved
as their own,
individual files with their start and end points carefully edited for
conformity. Finally, each
note is assigned to its corresponding key on the keyboard, and then
the entire instrument's envelope parameters are globally adjusted
to mimic, as closeley as possible, how the
instrument naturally responds when it is played. The process of
creating just one virtual instrument can take an entire day to complete.
Concertinas and accordions exist in the virtual instrument world, but
the samples are not suited for polka music. They are suited more
for "universal world" purposes, such as playing tangos or strolling in
cafes. I'm going to change all that. Since I understand what an accordion,
concertina, and button box is supposed to sound like in a polka band,
my reed instrument samples sound a little different than the ones
commercial libraries. The virtual instruments I'm creating have a
faster attack, faster decay,
and even a faint touch of button noise on some notes for added punch.
A lot of
commercial sound libraries have virtual tubas, but, like the
accordions, the samples are not suited for polka music. A virtual
tuba for polka music must have
a full range of velocities, from a simple "puff" to a brassy "blat",
and all of the samples need to have a hard attack plus sustain since polka tuba
players often preceed a staccato note on the 1 beat with a legato note
on the preceeding 2 beat. Since I am a tuba player, I know how to
note so that it will give a virtual polka tuba the most
realism, and have created the most comprehensive virtual tuba you'll
ever hear coming
from software. It uses approximately 150 recorded samples.
In the weeks to come, I will be sampling a Solovox, the monophonic
electronic keyboard made popular by Frank Yankovic in the 1950's
(compliments of Grant Kozera).
I also have plans to sample my own accordions, a button box, a Wagner
tuba, and, when I am feeling ambitious, my mom's 100-year-old
Chickering grand piano.
► New Cat Is Doing Well
Just a few weeks
after losing both ears to frostbite, Viola is doing well. All of
the scar tissue is gone. Now that she is so far along in her
recovery and has comfortably settled into her new surroundings, her
intelligence and unique personality are really starting to shine
Unfortunately, she cannot be around other cats. To say that she
hates other cats would be putting it mildly. When I introduced
her to Snickers and Arthur, she screeched at the top of her lungs and
chased them down at full speed, then cornered and attacked. So
the three cats will not be able to live in the same house. Snickers and
Arthur live with me, but Viola will have to remain living
at my mom's house.
Other than terrorizing Snickers and Arthur to within inches of their
sanity, she's the most affectionate, innocent angel of a cat. She's not
too keen yet on playing with toys or chasing the dot from a
laser pen, but, like all cats, she can't resist a piece of string.