The Knights of the Auto Order Proudly Present: The Auto Body Estimate: Vol. II, #117, August 2014

Ever heard of SmartMusic? It's software that students use to learn to sing and play band and orchestra instruments. When I practiced as a kid, I sat alone in my room, staring a lifeless book of sheet music. Today, through SmartMusic, kids see the music on their computer screen, and instead of playing in a vacuum, SmartMusic accompanies them with the sound of the entire group, so they can hear how their part fits in. What's more, after playing a piece, students can hear a recording of their performance AND see what notes they played correctly and incorrectly, both in terms of rhythm in pitch.

While I've worked for many years at MakeMusic, the company that makes SmartMusic, I have some suggestions for improving the software which they seem reluctant to implement.

While I think the instant feedback SmartMusic offers is invaluable, I believe the type of feedback offered could be expanded: SmartMusic should have a Don Rickles mode. Don, of course, is the famous insult comic who, in the 70s and 80s would appear on talk shows and insults everyone with lines like "Nice suit. Who selects your wardrobe, Stevie Wonder?" I envision clicking a Don Rickles button, after which, whenever you played a wrong note, the software would play one of many sarcastic recordings of Don, saying things like: "Good one!" …or "Oh, you meant to do that!"

I was sharing this vision with some musician friends one night when we took this idea to the next level. What if we augmented SmartMusic's jazz repertoire with several Buddy Rich charts, then incorporated recordings of actual insults that Buddy yelled at his bandmates in the infamous "Bus Tapes?"

For the uninitiated, the Bus Tapes are recordings, made in secret, of the great drummer/band leader sharing his special brand of musical "tough love" with the musicians in his group, often on the band bus. They're brutal. Imagine finishing a challenging big band chart, thinking you played pretty well, then having Buddy's voice yelling from the software: "If I hear one more bleepin' clam from you, you've had it. One clam and you're through TONIGHT. Just try me!"

You get the idea. Again, instant feedback is great and all, but if you can get through practice with Buddy Rich threatening to replace you with an LA musician tomorrow, you'll be ready for most any gig life has to offer you. You won't even flinch when a waitress delivers a message, scribbled on bar napkin, demanding that the guitar player to turn down "or else." Furthermore, you'd be prepared for many of the other great things in life as well: political discussions with relatives, marriage, etc…

Speaking of napkin-penned requests, they all will be granted on Friday, September 12 when the Auto Body Experience stages their heroic return to the Eagles Club #34 in Minneapolis.

We'll play two sets starting at 8:30 PM, and the Mill City Hot Club (featuring our man Dean Harrington) will continue the fun with a third set at 11:15. There's free parking, cheap drinks, a $5 cover, and because both Doug and Scott have birthdays at midnight, we'll provide the birthday cake.

To add extra poignancy to the event, my above-mentioned long-time employer, MakeMusic, is moving to Boulder, CO early next year. Will I move too (making frequent Auto Body performances unlikely) or will I soon be looking for a job? Nothing is certain yet. But if you know of an affordable place to live near Boulder, or of a great gig in Minnesota for a guitar-wielding marketing manager/copywriter/communications specialist, please let me know! In any event, I hope to see you all for the free cake on September 12th.

Love, Scott, Grand Pooh Bah, Knights of the Auto Order

PS: Please let us know you're coming (so we bake enough cake) on our Facebook Event page.

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