Other Stuff

My blog – a collection of articles and posts not directly related to music news, but most likely interesting (and maybe even entertaining) to someone somewhere – hopefully…

MF Gig Calendar Version 0.9.9 Released

I finally updated the MF Gig Calendar with a few fixes (nasty little bugs…) and a few new features:

  • I’ve improved the way the RSS feed works, giving you the option of how much content you want to include in your feed.
  • I’ve also added a few more shortcode variables to customize exactly what events you want to display.
  • A new Swedish translastion
  • Plus a few other goodies…

Continue reading

MF Gig Calendar

New Ron Oswanski Website

ronoswanski.comI recently completed a custom WordPress theme for my friend and fellow musician, Ron Oswanski. Ron is an extremely creative keyboard player – he plays great piano, but is feels most at home on the Hammond organ or his accordion. If you’re a jazz fan he’s definitely somebody you should know.

I tried to create a moody theme with rich colors using photos he provided. The theme needed to resize nicely to smaller screens and mobile devices while leaving him plenty of room for the heaps and heaps of information he is putting up there. He’s posting news, concert dates, videos, a press kit, reviews and a complete online store where he sells CDs and high-quality digital audio downloads.

He’s using my MF Gig Calendar plugin for his calendar, plus a custom feature-slider plugin I built for him as well. Continue reading

Web Design

Using Shortcode Variables in MF Gig Calendar

As of version 0.9.8 you can display more specific event information from your MF Gig Calendar WordPress plugin on any Pages or Posts by including simple variables in your short code.

[mfgigcal id=event_id] – display only one specific event
[mfgigcal date=YYYY-MM-DD] – display events that are happening on a particular day
[mfgigcal range=YYYY-MM-DD:YYYY-MM-DD] – display a range of dates (START:END)

Note: The archive navigation will not be displayed. Continue reading

MF Gig Calendar

WordPress Password-protected Page Problems

I had a few pages on my site that were password protected using WordPress’ built-in password feature. Recently it all just stopped working and it took me a while to sort it out.

password-screenshot

Entering a password in the Quick Edit view

The WordPress feature is so easy to use – just type in what you want to be your password and save the changes. WordPress takes care of the rest, so when a user visits that page on your site they are presented with a nice little form saying that the post is password-protected and makes it easy for your visitor to enter the password and redirects to the page if they enter it correctly.

When this stopped working I did a bunch of browsing around – finding suggestions ranging from resaving permalinks, to repairing the database, to disabling plugins, to reinstalling wordpress. In my situation though, it was a problem with my theme and a recent update of WordPress. Continue reading

Geeky Tips

Conflicts between WP eStore & Root Relative plugins for WordPress

Rackspace Cloud Sites has a new WordPress install wizard! It’s really handy and saves me a few steps in setting up new WP sites. I discovered that this wizard, along with installing WP in a few easy clicks, automatically installs a plugin called Root Relative URLs. This plugin replaces WP’s absolute links with root-relative links.

So http://www.domain.com/path/to/file becomes /path/to/file

This is with the intention of making the transition easier from development to production servers. That makes perfect sense to me. Moving a WordPress installation to another server has always been a pain. This was already a production environment so I didn’t need to turn it on, but it certainly sounds like a useful plugin for future development!

My problem came up with a shopping cart plugin I was using on this site. WP eStore gets its PayPal IPN link from the WP settings – the same settings the other plugin was changing. So the result was that it was just sending PayPal a root-relative link for the IPN connection and none of the transactions could be completed. PayPal had no idea where to send the notice that the transaction was completed. Ouch! Continue reading

Geeky Tips

I Love Lists

It’s a fact. You just won’t get much done in your practice session unless you know what you are going to practice before you sit down at the piano.

Life can be busy and practice time can be precious. I know that if I sit down at the piano without a plan I’ll start noodling around and next thing I know half of my practice session is gone! For that reason I’ve always been a list-maker. There’s almost always a list of some sort on or near my piano.

When I was in school and at my most productive I was super organized about it. I was on a mission to learn to play. I was specific because my time was limited. I kept a practice schedule on a piece of paper that listed all the projects I was working on in rows down the left side of the paper, and the days of the week in columns across the top. So if I did something on Monday I checked it off under the Monday column, when I sat down on Tuesday I knew immediately to start with something else. No time wasted. I updated the schedule every week with what I wanted to accomplish and looked honestly at what I got done the week before.

Here are a few of the things I included on that schedule every week. Continue reading

Practice Tips

New Curtis Stigers Website

Curtis Stigers Website ScreenshotJust launched! A brand new website for jazz singer, Curtis Stigers.

This is a WordPress theme redesign that I just completed. One of the requirements in the design was a way to have music playing in the background as visitors browse pages. I didn’t want to use frames or flash (for obvious reasons) and instead I’m using a great AJAX page-loading plugin called Advanced Ajax Page Loader by resplace.net. It works fantastically – highly recommended!

I also tried to make the design flexible enough to work on various browser types – computer, iPads, mobile phones – and used the Responsive Grid System in the theme layout. What a time-saver. Continue reading

Web Design

MF Gig Calendar – Event Calendar Plugin for WordPress

I developed this event calendar plugin because I wanted a performance calendar to use right here on my own website. In the process I tried to create something that was flexible and easy to use and would work for more than just musicians.

I’ve added a few features since it started…

  • beginning and end dates to create multiple-day events
  • a “duplicate” function to make it easier if you have a repeating event that you don’t want to re-enter over and over
  • a fully functioning WYSIWYG editor for the event details, so you can include stylized text, images and other media right in your calendar – the way WordPress intended
  • an RSS feed
  • a widget to display a few upcoming events in the sidebar
  • ability to display only a specific event, a specific date or a range of dates

…but as a general rule I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible. I hope anyone who needs to display a list of events on their WordPress site would find this a useful option.

How It Works

Easy as pie! You just install it as you would any other WordPress plugin. This creates a new table in your WordPress database to store the events, and you’ll see the “Event Calendar” menu item in WordPress admin area.

Once it’s installed you can easily add, edit or delete events through the plugin’s Event Calendar editor page. To display the event in any Page or Post on your site you just include the MF Gig Calendar shortcode in the spot where you want the calendar to appear.

Type this shortcode into any Post or Page:

[mfgigcal]

There are some optional variables you can add to this shortcode to display specific events, specific dates, or even a range of dates. Feature an event, create your own monthly or annual archives, feature a tour… Be creative.

I’ve also included a widget that you can use to display a few upcoming events in your sidebar. You can control the number of events to display and the displayed widget title, and you can have the widget link to a page on your site that contains the complete event calendar.

You can find an example of the MF Gig Calendar in use right here on my website. Continue reading

MF Gig Calendar

A Tour of Steinway & Sons Factory in Hamburg

I had the opportunity to visit the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg yesterday while I was on tour with Curtis Stigers. A friend put me in touch with the artist relations director there and it was a short taxi ride from the hotel to the factory. I was welcomed warmly by everyone I met there.

What an amazing process to learn about! I got to see pianos in every stage of production – from the stacks of long thin strips of wood that are glued together and bent to create the frame, to the delicate work of regulating the action. I was so impressed by the coordination of all the pieces and the detail in the long process of building the piano. I guess it’s not really that different than other complicated manufacturing productions – automobiles, computers, potato chips – but since I’m so intimately connected to the final product my awareness is different. I think too the fact that it’s wood and metal working together to create something as intangible as music gives the process a different value.

Piano frames at Steinway Hamburg

I got to see the forms that bend the long layers of wood (over 20 feet long for concert grands) into the incredibly sturdy curved frame. I got to see the men carefully examining and selecting the strips of spruce for the sound board, arranging them so a slight and gradual 2mm change in grain density would enhance the resonance from the high to low strings. I got to see the harp being placed into the frame and the computerized precision drill that bored the hundreds of holes for the tuning pegs. I got to watch the worker (wearing ear plugs!) hammer the tuning pegs in one by one. I got to watch the dampers being installed and carefully adjusted. I got to see the action being regulated. And my personal favorite, I got to visit the soundproof room where a machine bangs the crap out of the keys hitting them each about 1000 times in the hour it spends in this room so any necessary adjustments to the action can be made.

It takes over a year to create a Steinway piano and more than 200 expert workers are involved in the process. In the beginning there is just a file with the serial number on it, and that file travels with the piano through the whole process. It contains a list of every single step that goes into building the piano and the name of every worker who completed and approved that step.

Watch Video

When I sat down at the piano for my concert at ELBJAZZ in Hamburg last night (it wasn’t a Steinway in this case, but still…) I felt a different appreciation for the beauty of this machine and I felt like somehow a team of workers wanted me to sound my best and now it was my turn in the long process to create music with this instrument.

On Tour
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