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Patti's Place

    We are now:
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Producing
  • Recording
  • Mixing

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Do you have children?

No. We realized a long time ago that our priority was supposed to be our musical collaboration, and that if we had children that priority would have to shift. We have lots of nieces and nephews spread all over the place.

Do you ever teach?

We both love to teach and are good at it, but since we went on the road in 1988 we've had very little opportunity. We definitely plan to do it again, both in groups and privately. If you're interested (and patient), please email us and we'll notify you by email when the time comes. In that case be sure to let us know if your email address changes. Also watch our tour schedule for workshops in conjunction with our tours. (If you are interested in organizing something like this, please get in touch.) If you're a guitarist, you might be interested in Tuck's instructional video, Fingerstyle Mastery, on Hot Licks. Also we will offer as much as possible in the way of teaching materials on this website as time goes on (see Tuck's corner).

How do you teach?

Patti: I'm good at helping singers to maximize their technique by covering the fundamentals, and this is critical to expression. But I always say you get an F+ for good technique. The real challenge is in finding your own voice. I'm committed to the goal of unabashedly honest expression of a message of love and hope through the medium of music. I try to help other singers along their own paths of discovering and sharing what lies in their hearts. "I shall go away with my terrors until I have taught them to sing." The song, the melody, the lyrics, learning to communicate your intent, what you want to say to your audience, opening to improvisation, choosing your material, letting go, using stagefright: These are only a few of the issues facing every singer. We sing through them all.

Tuck: My goal has always been to support the student in discovering their own direction and helping them to move in that direction. To that end I try to help them learn to teach themself. I try to restrain myself from the natural tendency to overload people with material, although I'm willing if that is what somebody really wants. I've had students who wanted to play like Steve Vai, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Ornette Coleman, the Basie band, Jerry Garcia, me, etc. I've had 7-string and Stick students, although I play neither. I have a good mind for problem solving, so we just look at the goal and figure out how to get there as quickly as possible. If reading is a goal, I can help even though I am more a decipherer than a sight reader. The only areas I stay away from are classical and flamenco guitar, because I am unqualified except to offer some technical tips.

I have found that transcribing and learning to play the actual playing of other players is one of the most important tools for learning a guitar style. In that case the student does the work, I listen and catch the mistakes, figure out how to help their ear develop faster and help develop a notion of how to analyze, extrapolate and generalize from it. The same approach works well for understanding music in general. One student simply transcribed Steely Dan songs, going gradually from barely following three chord blues to accurately hearing every note in every instrument, no matter how difficult the chord progressions. In the process he came to understand all about how harmony worked. It was then easy for him to hear any other kind of music accurately.

I try to trust my intuition when it falls on me to make decisions about where and how to lead somebody, but I try to help them use their own intuition to guide us both. I am very good at reading fingers and bodies and figuring out how to help somebody technically, having done so much of it, and having gone down virtually every conceivable wrong path myself.

I've found it valuable to try to help students figure out how they can take advantage of their personality and technical attributes, using their strengths to compensate for and correct their weaknesses, and turning their weaknesses into strengths. Likewise I try to help them grapple with the issue of balance: How balanced should they be in their musical approach and in the way music relates to their lives, and how can they come closer to the balance that is right for them? Tuning into this kind of issue can be a powerful tool, and the answers can vary widely.

I had one student, a rather accomplished single line player with a good feel but not much theoretical knowledge, who invariably played all the "wrong notes" over any chord progression, including his many original songs. He had enormous enthusiasm and an infectious personality. His playing struck me as very strange and incoherent. Over a period of several lessions I did some soul searching, then finally gently explained that I felt an obligation to tell him what the traditional wisdom would be about his choice of notes, but that he should make his own artistic decisions. Using one of his songs I presented him with the set of notes (which happened to form a scale) that theoretically fit his particular progression. He happily tried them out, switching repeatedly between his and the theoretically correct ones. He finally concluded that he could see how the others fit, but he liked his better. We even repeated the exercise for some other passages, with always the same result. At that point it became clear to me that my duty was to support him in his direction. Over a period of time his conviction won me over; his music started to sound completely "right" to me. I have not seen him in many years; by now he is probably a very powerful and certainly unique player.

I have never been asked to give a refund, but I should have at least once: A student came for his first lesson wanting me to teach him to play Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption." I had never heard of Eddie Van Halen, but I figured it out note for note from the tape, using standard left hand technique, with the right hand picking every note. It was very difficult and unnatural to play that way. I could feel that something was not right, yet I knew I had all the notes right. I hope that he soon found out what I later found out, that Eddie played it using his trademark tapping style and that his "teacher" was an ignorant bozo. I assume he did, because I never heard from him again. The refund is waiting with interest.

How do you take care of your voice and hands?

Patti: Hot water and rest. Good diet. On the road I travel with a boiler and thermos, as well as a vaporizer (steam) for the hotel room. I lead a very boring life. If I were to party all night, I would become hoarse. You will very seldom find me going out after a show. There is no substitute for silence.

Tuck: Patti didn't mention awesome technique. I have seen her sing through bad colds, flu, pneumonia and laryngitis where I could barely tell. I know that she not only supports her voice correctly, using her diaphragm and never straining her voice, but that she has perfected the real-world technique of varying phrasing where necessary to adapt to the current state of her voice. I have many times been fascinated at her brand new approach to a song, only to learn later that it was because she was avoiding coughing or compensating for the fact that the break point in her voice had shifted half an octave. I've seen a bug fly down her throat and watched her somehow sing right through it. Little things like this, perfect intonation, unbelievable mic control and 100% focus are what make somebody a pro.

How fast does the body regenerate and repair? I have had ample opportunity to study my own fingers. They are typically good for about 90-100 minutes every night playing with Patti, or about 8-12 hours of playing with anybody else or practicing, provided I keep it varied and don't get too far into doing one thing over and over. My fingers don't callous and only harden a little; each person is different this way. For me the early left hand symptom of playing a lot is sore fingertips. It is easy to ignore for a while because they quickly become somewhat numb once I start playing again.

The early right hand symptom is my already very short nails wearing down into more of a straight line than a curve, leaving the tip increasingly unsupported right where it hits the string the most, throwing off the tone and making me tend to dig in harder, thus accelerating the wear. The more advanced condition is nail separating from finger on the left hand, starting with the side of the pinky, and right hand nail wearing into the quick (beyond the point where the nail joins the finger), along with the skin wearing thin on both hands.

My left hand adaptations are refingering, backing off on vibrato and sliding where necessary and being very careful about angles of attack. I find that the more I play, the better my aim; but the better my aim, the more I tend to focus the finger wear on one spot. So I might intentionally hit at a less than optimal angle where I can get away with it in order to spread the wear.

In the right hand I'll substitute my little finger for whichever other finger is having the most problems, vary the angles of attack, and use alternate techniques where practical. I've never found a nail or skin treatment product that makes any difference, although Super Glue in a cut helps temporarily. The steel strings just wear them all off immediately.

Preventive maintenance: I take God's name before cutting, filing or sanding since there is a lot of guesswork involved. When I know that we'll be playing two shows a night for several nights, I'll lower action slightly.

I typically have no wrist or muscle problems at all no matter how much I play. I suspect that this is partially because my technique is so varied; all the different moves tend to balance each other out. I obviously avoid injuring hands. No power tools, no basketball, alertness when closing doors.

What are those mics on Tuck's pedalboard? What is that box on Patti's mic? What are those hearing aid looking things in your ears?

We use FutureSonics Ear Monitors, which are in-ear monitors--headphones molded to the shape of our ears using hearing aid technology. Thus we have no speakers on stage. We were among the first to do this, starting in 1983. The two microphones on Tuck's pedalboard enable us to hear the audience. They are panned left/right and give us a reasonable stereo picture of what the audience sounds like. We adjust their volume with a stereo volume pedal (the one Tuck almost never touches). This is commonplace among users of in-ear monitors. The box on Patti's mic (there is also one on Tuck's guitar strap) is an amplifier with volume control for her Ear Monitors. See Tuck's Corner for more details.

Do you ever play at weddings?

Our first performance together as a duo was at a wedding, and we have played for many over the years. We have always loved doing this; our music is so appropriate and it is hard to find a happier occasion for music. (Plus we get to secretly renew our vows.) We don't get to do it as much these days, but we still love to do it when we can. Contact us if you are interested in this.

Who writes the songs?

Tuck: Patti does. She has a gift for expressing what she feels very directly in lyrics, and for creating the right musical setting for those lyrics. She writes the way she speaks. I've seen songs come out of her complete in a few minutes, or gestate for years. At an earlier point I naively assumed that the logical collaboration was for her to write lyrics and melody and for me to come up with the chords, but I seriously underestimated her. It turns out that she is usually hearing very specific harmonies and textures, down to the details of the voicing, and that many of them are very different from the ones I might provide. And she has the chops to sing all the notes.

This was a happy realization for me, because I have always been a guitar player who liked to explore options and never a songwriter who could make decisions, so though I like to collaborate I was definitely unqualified when it came to writing songs. So I quickly evolved into the interactive canvas on which Patti paints. I try to be available as a resource but never inflict my concept on her when she's in the middle of her process. Because of all the systematic exploration of chords and voicings I did in the 70s, my mind can comfortably work that way whenever needed. At every moment I am available to offer options, whether for a chord, a voicing or a progression. Yet I often marvel that, at a critical point in a song, of all the, say, 46 possibilities for a given chord, she will automatically hear just the right one, which I can see logically but would have suggested an average of 23 others before getting to. I could go right through her songs and footnote these moments. There is one in "Strength" where what she heard was one of the handful I would not even have mentioned because it was just too weird and dissonant, yet it is the perfect chord. I guess a life without surprises is not a life.

On songs that are collaborative between us I to try to save her the time of communicating all the details whenever I believe I know where she is going. So sometimes she paints in broad strokes where the harmony is concerned, and sometimes in extremely fine ones.

Patti: It's true that as time has gone on Tuck has become more of a willing resource and human sequencer, but sometimes my harmonic or groove concept for a song will spring from something I hear him play. "Everything's Gonna Be All Right" came out of an exercise he was doing around the house. He played these few notes over and over trying to get a particular technical detail together, without ever finishing the phrase, endlessly until it started to drive me crazy, and I said, "Finish it!" It became the verse and the song flowed out. Our version of "Woodstock" uses an African-sounding 12/8 groove he was playing around the house, which he said evolved from my suggestion that he listen to Salif Keita.

Tuck: I'm good for a few seconds of good ideas, either groove or progression. Don't look to me for organizing it into a song. If you look at the handful of songs I have actually written, they are as simple as it gets, both harmonically and melodically. The playing may be complex, but the structure is elementary.

I'm not much of a believer in committee creativity. I think that the more cooks, the more diluted the soup gets. Even with two people it is a very delicate interaction. I believe strongly in the value of one person pursuing, discovering and realizing their artistic intent without any sidetracking or dilution, both short term and long term. Sometimes when collaborating even if you have a good idea the best thing you can do is shut up. Let the primary person go through their process and see it through. Catalog your own clever ideas and offer them at a point when they don't cause sidetracking. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen producers spoil things because they start offering alternatives where none are needed. The amount of energy it takes to maintain or regain artistic focus in the face of continual distractions is prodigious, and it tends to make the artistic goal recede, sometimes past the point of being reachable. Many people would find this attitude to be a challenge to their egos, that somehow they need to assert themselves all the time. But we both try to live in accordance with something the great pianist and teacher Art Lande said long ago, "Serve the music."

So I sort of cast my vote with Patti as a songwriter. The songs she writes speak to my heart as much as those of my other favorite songwriters such as Stevie Wonder and Cole Porter. I don't think anybody, including me, needs to tell her how to do it differently. Instead her vision should be supported however it evolves.

Patti: My feeling is that I am not attached to being the songwriter. I don't care if I wrote it, if you wrote it or if someone else wrote it, as long as it is a good song and it speaks to my heart. I believe that the stigma about doing "cover tunes" is doing a lot of pointless harm to music. No one would accuse Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra of covering a tune. They were doing their version of a classic. It is an honor and a challenge to do a song that has been performed by many other people. It keeps you honest. Whenever I do this, I am aware of a whole procession of great artists before me, allowing me to join in being a part of a tradition. Today's great songwriters are being slighted and discouraged by the cover mentality because their songs miss out on the process of evolving through being performed by many artists. This kind of situation can lead to talented writers intentionally writing down to the lowest common denominator in hopes of getting the song recorded once as a hit, since it will likely not grow over the years.

Of course from a producer's standpoint the duo offers us the advantage that we automatically sound like we are doing an original version of a familiar song just because our instrumentation is different; it just comes out sounding like Tuck & Patti. On songs like "Time After Time" or "Castles Made Of Sand/Little Wing" we viewed ourselves as paying tribute by sticking as closely as possible to the original versions, but it does not sound like it.

How do we reach you?

T & P Productions
Box 1363
Menlo Park, CA 94026
650-327-2164 fax

Tuck, what's the thing on the back of the headstock of your guitar?

It is a container with a makeup sponge saturated with Sweet Oil, which is an unrefined olive oil used as an emollient which I buy at pharmacies. I use it to lubricate the strings since my hands tend to get dry. I was advised that it is less harmful to the guitar than the various products specifically made for this purpose.

Where can I find all your CDs and videos?

CDs and Tuck's video can soon be purchased online from this site. The advantages of ordering this way are convenience, low prices, no back-ordered selections and quick delivery.

We have made music videos for "Time After Time," "Castles Made Of Sand/Little Wing," "Manonash," (Tuck solo) and "Dream." Although these have never been available for sale commercially, soon they will be.

Where can I get transcriptions/sheet music for your songs?

Other than a few transcriptions in magazines, there is nothing published yet. See Tuck's corner for a list of these. We plan to offer as many as possible at this site for free. See Tuck's corner.

What is Binky/Grey Kitty?

Grey Kitty is the name of our publishing company. Binky is the name of our recording studio. They were our cats, brother and sister, who died of old age around the time when we first went on the road. Binky was present during the recording of Tears of Joy. We recorded it in our rented duplex, which we soundproofed as much as possible and recorded in the middle of the night for quietness. We found that if we locked her outside she would meow so loudly that the microphone would pick it up, so we had to let her stay inside. But if she got too contented from being with us and started purring she would also make too much noise, so we could never pet her while recording. The compromise that worked itself out was that Tuck would stand, with one foot on his volume pedal and Binky lying asleep on his other foot, which he could never move without making her start purring. We had one beautiful take of My Romance where she suddenly woke up and meowed so loudly during Patti's last note that we had to use another take.

When will you play in my area?

See our tour schedule page. It is updated whenever new dates are confirmed. Until then we can't effectively predict, because tentative dates come and go as schedules are getting pieced together.

Do you take requests?

If you are going to be at one of our shows and have a particular song you'd like to hear, email us (allow at least a business day for it to bounce to us on the road). Or send us a note before the show. We'll do our best to honor your request.

Can I send you a tape?

Legally we are not allowed to accept unsolicited material. This has become true throughout the music business. There have been so many copyright infringement suits that lawyers have had to insist that their clients establish uniform policies about this. We can accept commercially released CDs, because the courts figure that from the moment a CD is commercially released, everyone has access to it.

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