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Les Fradkin / Blog

Synth-Guitar Heroes

Hey all! I've just been named a "Synth Guitar Hero" for my release of "Sabre Dance" from my CD "Hyper Midi Guitar". I'm honored to be in such select company with the likes of Iron Maiden, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, et al. Here is the link to the Rhapsody article: http://www.rhapsody.com/blog/post/synth-guitar-heroes

Mid Tenn Listens - Live Interview with Dr. Midi - Les Fradkin

July 9, 2013: https://plus.google.com/events/clv3av8vt0011tr4th36orptq6k?cfem=1

2nd Annual Indie Music Channel Awards

We have lift off to the 2nd Annual Indie Music Channel Awards April 28th 2013! I've been Nominated for Best Classical Artist of 2013 for my song "Lift Off". A unique moment for Classical Crossover, Rock AND Electronic Music.

Lift Off features my brand new "discard the chromatic scale" tuning, using the Starr Labs Ztar to inaugurate FUTURISTIC musical performance!

I will be heading to Hollywood, California to attend the awards pre-party on April 27 and the awards ceremony on Sunday April 28 taking place at the House of Blues Foundation Room in West Hollywood, Los Angeles to celebrate the 2nd Annual Indie Music Channel Awards!

On Sunday April 28, 2013 HOB Foundation Room: Red Carpet Arrivals at 6PM. Awards Show at 7PM. And the "After Party"at 8PM. Thank you all for your kindness & support! See you there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Lift Off on YouTube": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvc6u5t1yG0

Changing the very notion of musical performance?

Most people's perception of Ztar MIDI Guitar controller only scratches the surface of what is possible. The Ztar features 8 nested and layered tuning maps- the first for any instrument, anywhere in musical history.This tuning system can allow for silent MIDI triggers to trigger loops, move knobs, create simultaneous pitch bend and mod wheel commands, the list is endless. It also allows me to completely dispense with the chromatic scale, divide the neck vertically as well as horizontally, I could go on and on....

There are many reasons why I stopped using the Pitch to MIDI system which is usually seen on such systems as Roland GR, Axon, etc. The latency issue was only a part of that decision. Once I saw what could be done with the Ztar, in terms of the control of synths and samples, it occurred to me that a new way of playing, (from the reference point of guitar) would be possible. In the specific case of my current music, playing it like a guitar, really isn't a point I need to consider. I can, however see, that many Midi Guitarists like to hold on to traditional electric and acoustic guitars, and add MIDI as an additional sonic possibility.

Due to the speeds at which I wished to play, that held no further promise for me (in so far as the delay was concerned). But, not wishing to harp on that, the more positive spin on this, is that once I freed myself from the traditional "guitar" paradigm, entire new musical futures opened up.

For those who are perplexed by the use of the right hand to tap melodies, I reverse that as follows:

The colored frets in the upper frets 13 thru 24, I generally now use for stacked chords while melodies are tapped with the left hand as you would finger lead guitar. In my videos, I'm tapping quite a bit with two hands, a la Chapman Stick technique. But I'm also able to do things which are impossible with conventional guitar technique:

a) Unison Mode which allows me to set off a section of the fretboard where every note is the identical note (for drums and orchestral hits). This can be seen in my "Everything Is Wrong" video. Sometimes, I'm triggering (silently underneath, another tuning layer) which issues a "follow action" command in Ableton Live, or triggers a loop, without issuing a heard pitch, just a MIDI note to start a loop.

b) Moving Chromatics and stacked chords, where a single key holds the left and right hand of a piano with an bass guitar underneath, moving in a complete Bach counterpoint all tapped with a single finger! This is a good example of how discarding the chromatic scale is a great advantage to a solo performer, such as myself. My videos of "System Crash" and "Orbiter" show this.

c) Tunings which interrupt themselves up the neck to allow for fingerings which are impossible on conventional guitar (the last note of "Lift Off", for example is pitched higher than the fretboard would traditionally allow).

d) Tuning each string ONE OCTAVE apart from each other for the full 88 note range of a Piano. Try doing that with a guitar with strings! This allows for Arpeggio leaps which no conventional guitarist can play.

e) Using the 255 Internal event sequencers in the Ztar to "step" thru fretboard changes, without issuing program changes or even having to use foot pedals.This allows me to change the sounds of what is under my fingerings. This can be seen in "Everything Is Wrong" and "System Crash". The changes are done by pressing into a Neck Strip, located on the side of the Ztar neck, where the dots are found, as on the side of a guitar. This strip, is pressure sensitive, and can issue up to 8 commands at a time, crossfade sounds, vibrato, pitch bend, etc.

f) The Ztar is wireless since 2008, so I am able to perform with a freedom not previously available to electronic musicians..

Next time, I'll go over some new approaches, beyond these, that stretch the imagination for musical performance!

What the #$%#$ is a Ztar?

The inventor, Harvey Starr, describes it: "The Z-tar is an electronic musical instrument that you connect via a MIDI cable to synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and computers. The main difference between the Z-tar and other MIDI guitar controllers is that there are no strings on the neck. Instead, the fingerboard is actually a specialized keyboard with a touch-sensitive key each note position. You can play the Z-tar like a guitar where you fret with one hand and strum with the other hand, or you can tap the fingerboard keys to play them as you would a keyboard, only you’re playing the same scales and fingerings that you use on guitar."

Well, that's fine and dandy for a typical musician/guitarist. But the Ztar also has 8 nested multi layered tuning maps which permit the discarding of the chromatic scale, chord stacking on a single button and complete left and right hand counterpoint on each button under a single finger, if need be.

The Ztar is not a guitar. It does not replace a guitar. It helps a guitarist play synthesizers and play into computers.

The advantages when using this type of fingerboard are:

You can sustain notes with your fingers as you would with a keyboard but cannot do with a guitar. You’re playing a MIDI controller because you’re playing a synthesizer, and most commonly using sounds other than guitar. Pianos, organs, strings, horns, etc. sound more authentic if you can hold the notes the way a keyboard player does it, rather than strumming a string which dies away and having to re-strum or use a sustain pedal to maintain the sound.

The Ztar fingerboard as able to play up to 24 notes per string, simultaneously! Where you can use this capability is in playing tightly-voiced chords the way a keyboard performs them. An ordinary guitar is quite limited in the type and number of chord-voicings that are normally easy to play on a keyboard. Also, the Ztar’s polyphonic string enables complete independence when playing in a two-hand tapping style.

Because the Ztar has no strings it is not necessary to analyze string vibrations for pitch-detection purposes. While this technology has improved, there are theoretical limitations that will always yield time-delays and glitches in performance, a drawback with most traditional gutiar-synth controllers. It should be mentioned that solving this problem is not the main focus of the Ztar. The Ztar has no time delays whatsoever.

How are the notes played from the Z-tar?

The Ztar may be played tapping-style just by fretting the fingerboard alone, or it may be strummed and picked guitar-style. We offer two types of Strumming-triggers: either real guitar strings or a bank of 6 velocity- and pressure-sensing strips called “KeyTriggers”. The StringTriggers play as would an ordinary guitar by responding to the force of your picking technique and muting notes when you rest your fingers on the trigger-strings. The KeyTriggers are very sensitive to a downward tapping or a strumming-motion sideways across them with the thumb. They also will respond to pressure applied after a note has been sounded. This can be used to play a legato-style or add in afterpressure EFX to existing notes.

What are the Expression Pads for?

The Ztar also incorporates a number of other Expression Pads and sensors for MIDI control beyond what is provided with ordinary guitar-synthesizers, and even most keyboard controllers!

The Pads are velocity- and pressure-sensitive raised surfaces that respond to your touch to output a wide variety of MIDI controls. They are capable of storing and playing notes, chords, MIDI continuous controller effects, sequencer controls, and special triggering effects. Often you may assign more than one effect to a single pad if you wish.

What does all this mean for Les Fradkin as a Classical Crossover New Media Artist and Composer?

Stay tuned for next week's blog to find out!

Discarding the Chromatic Scale in Classical Crossover Music

Johann Sebastian Bach composed fifteen Two and Three Part Inventions back in the 18th Century. Bach intended to express and present a brand new modern keyboard technique for Classical Music which was unprecedented at that time.

With Bach as a shining and influential example, Les Fradkin has achieved a new creative breakthrough for Electronic Classical Crossover music with a RE-Invention of the Next Level Of Musical Performance Technique featuring Les' dazzling unique 21st Century solutions on the Starr Labs Ztar. As a "New Media" Artist and Composer, Les has just been nominated for IMCA Best Classical Artist of 2013 for his Bach influenced futuristic Classical Crossover Composition, "Lift Off". Les plays the Ztar MIDI Guitar Controller to express a new type of Music performance featuring 8 multi layered tunings and Ableton Live Clip triggering across 144 keys and 32 zones with a two handed tapping technique. This effectively allows him to be a LIVE One Man Orchestra, a first for the Classical Crossover Music genre. He has developed a never before heard set of mapped tunings which completely eliminate chromatic scales and even include multiple nested and layered polyphony to achieve music, previously impossible on any other musical instrument.

Les is in the Television Production Music Museum Hall Of Fame and has been in the Rock and Pop Music business as a hit songwriter, Record Producer, and session musician. He was also a Broadway star as an Original Cast member of the Hit Show, "Beatlemania", in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. He has spent the last few years perfecting his expertise on MIDI Guitar with such Digital Download releases as "One Link Between Them" (featuring "Lift Off") and "Baroque Rocks!". Upon the digital release of "Baroque Rocks!" that album reached #13 on the Amazon.com Classical Charts and brought him to the worldwide attention of Orchestras, Conductors, Classical Soloists and Classical and Electronic Music fans across sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Les Fradkin's nomination by the Indie Music Channel Awards for Best Classical Artist of 2013, is bringing electronic digital Classical Crossover Music into the International Spotlight.

Les said: "I'm absolutely grateful for this unexpected honor. I could not have reached this nomination without Harvey Starr who invented the Ztar, and Loretta Fradkin, who, as my Manager, helped me reinvent my entire Musical Platform."

The IMCA Awards will be held in Hollywood, California on Sunday, April 28, 2013 at the House Of Blues. http://www.theindiemusicchannel.com/IMCA2nomineesclassical.htm http://www.indiemusicchannel.com

"Lift Off" available at Apple iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-link-between-them/id276863281

Les Fradkin Websites: http://www.lesfradkin.com http://www.reverbnation.com/lesfradkin https://www.facebook.com/lfradkin http://www.youtube.com/user/lfradkin

Nominee-IMCA Best Classical Artist 2013

Les Fradkin has just received Nomination in the Indie Music Channel Awards for Best Classical Artist of 2013 for his composition "Lift Off".

Les said: "I'm absolutely grateful for this honor and for being the first One Man Orchestra to get this sort of recognition".

Les Fradkin On You Tube!

Les Fradkin, from the Original Cast of Beatlemania, joins millions of Americans who feel "Up Against The Wall". Les' song "Everything Is Wrong" perfectly encapsulates what's wrong with America today and the financial crisis we all face.

What's especially eerie is that Les wrote about this FIVE YEARS AGO.

Now, "Everything Is Wrong" is a song who's time has finally come!

Featuring the amazing sound of the Starr Labs Ztar

While My Guitar Only Plays

Les Fradkin's CD "While My Guitar Only Plays" features 14 classic Beatles songs done in Ventures style instrumentally. Nokie Edwards of The Ventures makes a guest appearance on the George Harrison composition "Here Comes The Sun." Les' "While My Guitar Only Plays" is a best seller at Apple iTunes. Check out "While My Guitar Only Plays" at iTunes! Buy "While My Guitar Only Plays" at Apple iTunes!

Lee Gaskins ProgRock Plus Review-One Link Between Them

LES FRADKIN-"One Link Between Them" (RRO-1027) Prog Rock Plus Website Review

Isn't it a really cool feeling when you discover something or someone that surprises you and simply knocks your socks? Entering the spacerock ring is Mr. Les Fradkin, armed with synthesizers and samples including his featured instrument- Starr Labs Ztar Model Z7S MIDI Guitar. But labeling Les squarely into the Spacerock genre would not be altogether true; combine spacerock, Jean-Michel Jarre and some progrock flair and classical influences and you can at least see where his music is reaching out to.

What I like about `One Link Between Them,' is that Fradkin, makes his guitar synths and the Ztar sing with amazing intonation as if Rick Wakeman was playing a classic synth. His MIDI controller makes good use of a substantial array of equipment and samples but never seems forced, as if he's showing out his new toy. Drum programming is of high standards and on ocassion reaches the height of brilliant, though many of the rythyms, remind me of a classic Jean-Michel Jarre feel.

High points to the album are:

Track 2- `Orbiter,' is a standout! Penned by Mr. Fradkin, the piece starts outs with some tasty Mellotron and settles into some amazing rhythms as well some very cool leads. Les out Jarres Jarre on this track!

Track 3- `From Venus with Love,' composed by Les and Loretta Fradkin is a gorgeous melange of taste rhythms, beauty and spicy melody. As with Orbiter, I didn't want the tracks to end, but go on forever.

Track 6- `Warp Drive,' is exactly what it is titled. Add a little Yngwie, a dash of Jarre, some Tangerine Dream and a classical structure, with a pulsating rocking rhythm and you get a wild track. This track highlights Les' brilliant combination of expression as well as technique.

`Sailing All Alone,' like track 6 was penned by Les, and slows down the pace to showcase his sense of beauty. Again, the music perfectly portrays its title. Tara Coker-Lewis's voice ascends the piece even higher. Beautiful job.

`Longing To Return' briefly returns to the melody and riffs of `From Venus with Love,' but with an amazing beauty that is simply breathtaking. This is a fantastic composition that showcases the simplicity and the sublime. Amazing work Les! I sense a little Vangelis vibe (not soundwise), to this track.

Track 9 is my favorite, perhaps because it is the more proggier of the album's pieces. Penned again by Les and Loretta Fradkin, the composition to me instills a sense of wonder, some nice interplay with the Mellotron flute, oboe and some tastily bass and digital drums. The song gets stronger as it goes though its 7 plus minute length. The Ztar married with electric guitar is breathtaking! Images of triumph permeate this song- and well it should.

All in all, I really liked this album. The CD has enough change and interest, as well as technique to keep Prog rockers interested. Mellotron sounds are not redundant and over-used, and Mr. Fradkin's musicianship marries well with the (especially his), compositions. If you are a fan of Jean-Michel Jarre, or like new technology, check out this artist- now! But there is more to this man than simple synths; Les combines and transmorphs the new technology with feeling, passion and old-fashioned gusto. He knows how to rock, and can even get you on the dance floor; but also, the music is brimming with intelligence, emotion and care.

I can't wait to hear what this talented performer does on his next venture. It would be neat to hear a few longer tracks, so Les could spin his array of textures with a larger palette. I can envision a modern Supper's ready-like epic piece coming from Les' Ztar. Also, it might be interesting to add a few traditional instruments into the mix, as a highlight or accent.

9.2 out of 10 rating Lee Gaskins ProgRock Plus Website http://progrock.homestead.com/LesFradkinreview.html

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