Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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The Amateur Musical Video Revolution, and a Harry Chapin Anecdote

March 16, 2010

It may be a pretty simple, straightforward musical video, but I’m putting it up on my site today simply because I’m so excited about the broader implications of what it all means for my upcoming open mic adventure….

Today I went to the Pigalle district of Paris, the city where I live. Pigalle is known mostly for two things: Sex shops/sex shows, and, for musicians it’s a gold mine of an area with guitar stores, music stores, home studio stores, musicians’ gadgets shops, etc. All contained in the same few streets. Literally, I musician’s candy shop.

I went there for a couple of things, one of which was a new bag to carry my Seagull S6 guitar with me on my adventure around the world, since last year’s worldwide adventure nearly killed the bag I have. As I sauntered along looking in one store after another I suddenly saw an object in a store window that had also been on my agenda, or wish-list, of gadgets for this blog.

I’m talking about the new Zoom Q3 “Handy Video Recorder.” I own a fabulous Canon HDV video recorder and some excellent video editing software, zith Adobe Premiere Pro. But is there anything more dissuasive than the idea of setting up a camera, capturing the video, processing and editing it – when you’re just talking about grabbing some cool musician on the fly at an open mic or jam in Kuala Lumpur or London or Sao Paulo?

As you might have seen on this blog, over the last weekend when I was in Bahrain I tried to avoid using my camera and instead used my iPhone to record music at the Bahrain venues. And produced absolute crap with sound like as if you were hearing something going on in a rhinoceros’s stomach.

I had read several great reviews about this Zoom Q3, and I also own one of the original Zoom H4 recording devices so I iknew that Zoom made very good products for cheap prices. And I thought, this is the thing that I need in order to bring another dimension to my blog and give full reports of my musical adventure around the world this coming year. I can carry the recorder in my guitar bag and just whip it out and do a video of some cool musician, or maybe even me with a band in some jam in Barcelona or Istanbul. And then, I can upload the file to the blog in minutes.

Yes, this Zoom Q3 is so easy to use it is disgusting. Press a button and it records in better than CD quality sound, with a very good image and the capability of uploading directly to YouTube and my blog. It runs on AA batteries and can hold many many hours of video if you put a 32 gig SD card in it. (It comes with a 2 gig card which holds 39 minutes of the best quality video and sound, but more than that with lower quality.)

So there we go, no more sideways videos, and no more sound overload. This is going to be very cool, and very much fun. And the thing only cost around 240 euros or so.  It will take a little work before I realize how to get the right sound and light.

Good hearted Harry Chapin

Above, is the first video of me using the Q3 and singing Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.”  Chapin was a wonderful singer-songwriter who had huge success in the ’70s, notably with “Taxi” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which was a No. 1 hit and was later covered by Ugly Kid Joe in the 1990s.  Chapin died in a car crash in 1981 – although there was some evidence to suggest he might have had a heart attack in the car, causing the crash, if I remember correctly.

I had the good fortune to have met Harry Chapin in 1976, when I was a teenager working on a TV show in Ottawa.  I spoke with him in his dressing room and I will always remember not just how kind he was, but also the nature of his easy-going character.  We learned we both had the same birthday, and we were talking about wanting to go to acting school – he said he wanted to do that in future – and suddenly he was called out to perform in front of the cameras.  He lept up from his chair and grabbed his guitar, but the guitar slipped out of his grasp, fell to the floor and a rib broke inside the guitar.  He looked in it, shook it, saw it was broken, and he broke out laughing and said, “Well, I’ll just have to play with it like that!”  As he ran off, I thought about how I would have been so angry had the same thing happened to me.


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