Post Christmas gig

On the 4th Friday of each month, Joe and I play this super-great gig
with bass virtuoso Cliff Hugo and his wife, singer Cynthia Tarr.

Not only are they both great musicians but really great folks on the
human-level too.

This all happens at The Olive & Vine in Glen Ellen, CA.

Welcome to the Rob Michael Landing page

On Twitter I'm @AtmosTrio-- in real life I'm guitarist Rob Michael. 

For the past couple of decades I have been "Living the Dream" of an active professional musician and I have enjoyed a very successful private teaching practice in the San Francisco Bay area.

I lead the Atmos Trio, an instrumental guitar trio which features myself, Joe Shotwell and Drew Waters. We gig frequently in the region and hire ourselves out as sidemen for recording and performance purposes.  You can find our music on iTunes or on CDBaby.

I do music and music technology related clinics. Also a fair amount of consulting with audio pros who find themselves cussing and fussing with their gear too much.

Apparently, I can string a sentence or two together as I occasionally do work as a freelance writer for music magazines. 

If I can be of service, give me a call.

Contact: Rob Michael

Cool Services I never knew I had for free--taken away

For several years, AT&T/ SBC/Yahoo--whatever they call themselves these days, has been the service through which I receive my phone/DSL and other services. They suck, though probably no more than their competitors. I have heard tales of woe about pretty much everyone. 

Like the time my Promo rate DSL contract ran out, they decided to charge a $50/ mo. When I checked their web site, the fastest DSL service in my area was $25. I called them on it and they made it right--but it left a bad taste in mouth.

Today I received this email:

Honestly, I never knew I even had a Flickr "Pro" account and now I have only one month with it--unless I'd care to pay for it. Had I known that I had this "Pro" account, I would have likely used it instead of the free Picasa account that I use for much of my photo hosting.  Honestly, I spend so much time baby sitting ATT's billing department for erroneous charges that I apparently miss-out on some legitimate content that comes from them in my criminally large pile of junk mail.

Who knows--maybe they provide free health insurance, parking or a shoe shine service as well. I would be none-the-wiser.

Is it just me? Do you know what (so-called) perks you have access to as little add-on items to the services to which you subscribe?

Gigs in odd places

We've all been there. The gig in the most unlikely of places. Airport terminals, bus stops, driveways, wheel-chair ramps... Screwy places.

I was going through some photos and found one that I had forgotten about. Not because it was bad, it was actually quite posh. Located in the beautiful Napa Valley Wine country, the Pine Ridge Winery holds a secret that belies the greenery of it's exterior. 

300 feet into the hillside is a subterranean dinning room you almost can't believe.

It's a cave. When informed that I would play in a cave,  I immediately pictured bats, water running down walls, stalactites & stalagmites.

Yes--it' a cave, but an upscale one. Stucco walls, tiles floors, electrical fixtures. The tunnels were filled with barrels of wine that opened-up to the chamber we see here. 

Now the acoustic qualities are another story: they we quite strange... but man-- funky cave.

Atmos Trio Sprout

"Living the Dream"

Atmos played a lovely holiday-toned wine tasting in beautiful downtown Yountvile (Near Napa) in northern California's wine country.

Since I can never seem to remember to take pictures of much of anything, here is a photo that I gathered from Google's "Street View." Much of the SF Bay area is available with photos of every street. It's a neat yet creepy feature. My wife entered her father's address into Google maps and found that she could actually see him sitting on his front porch...

Anyway... even though we played outdoors (in December), the temperature was not too cold, and the music was happening.

Nice folks out here in the Napa Valley.

Posted via email from atmosmusic's posterous

Did Coldplay copy Joe Satriani? See for yourself...

Rock guitar legend Joe Satriani has recently alleged that pop sensation and Grammy nominated Coldplay copied a substantial portion of his composition "If I Could Fly" in their hit song "Viva La Vida."

Upon casual listening, there is definitely some similarities. The tempi are close, but that can't be copyrighted. The chord progressions are similar, but you can't copyright that either. 

But what if we take a closer, more musicological view?

Fig.1 is a transcription of the Satriani piece during the "Chorus."

Listen for yourself. The melody, played on guitar, should be your focus at 00:49.

Fig. 2 is the "Verse" of Coldplay's Viva La Vida. While Coldplay perform their song in the key of F minor, this excerpt has been transposed to the key of B minor so that comparisons can more easily be made.

Here is the Coldplay tune. Check out the vocal melody at 00:14.

The chord progressions are nearly identical: Satriani uses Emin9 as his opening chord in his theme. Coldplay utilized GMaj7, the relative major alternative chord. 

The melodies are identical with the exception of the vocal "pick-up notes." The note choices in the main theme are likely the catalyst for the lawsuit. Though not earth shattering, the note choices on these chords are not "everyday rock radio" choices either: The use of the F# (the 9th of the chord in Satriani's tune and Major 7th in the Coldplay version) is a chord extension as is the E on the Dadd2 chords. These are choices that would be typical of  a more informed musical ear and somewhat less probable of sheer coincidence.

Personally, I think Joe's case might just have some traction to it. Then again, in the history of popular music--there are plenty of far more egregious examples: Think of almost any hip-hop tune... no offense--but seriously...

What do you think? 

The Gift of Jazz Music.

Here is a free music player that includes songs from our two most
recent CDs: "Atmos Trio" and "Atmos Plays Water."
Please enjoy it and pass the along to anyone else you think would might it.
Click to play Songs from Atmos Trio:
 Steve - Atmos Trio
 Mr. Tippy Toe - Atmos Trio
 Another Slip - Atmos Trio
 Armando's Rumba - Atmos Trio
 Havona - Atmos Trio

Posted via email from atmosmusic's posterous

Residence at 33 Revolutions

Rob will be hosting a series of performances at 33 Revolutions in El
Cerrito on the 4th Wednesday of each month beginning in 2009.

There will likely be different people playing in the band each night. 

All ages always welcome at 33 Revolutions.

Deploy the Atmos Trio Widget

Maybe you don't want to have to visit to know what we're up to. Maybe you would like to share our music & videos with someone else. This handy widget should help you--it will certainly help us out. 

Thanks for everything.


World of Words

Live Video: "Armando's Rumba"

Paying homage to an All-time Hero, Atmos salutes jazz legend Chick
Corea with our spin on the classic: Armando's Rumba.

Anybody out there? Let us know what you think.

Live Video: "50 x 4"

Here's another Live Atmos Trio video featuring "50 x 4" from "Atmos Plays Waters."

Atmos Trio Newsletter

Just a couple of quick announcements from the Atmos Trio this time

We have a new CD: "Atmos Plays Waters" which is being well received already. Listen/ purchase at


See the opening track, "Steve," performed LIVE within a couple of the
days of the CD's recording session. 

We have newly overhauled our website: check it out:

That's about it for now. See you on "the other side..."

Yoshi's SF w/ Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band

Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band

Though the Atmos Trio is one of Rob's most visible musical outlets, there are plenty of other settings in which the keen listener can find him: One is the "Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band." This group is lead by long-time Joe Henderson sideman, trumpet player Warren Gale Jr. "Warren has a deep understanding of Joe's music and it's a real privilege to be playing alongside him, as well as many of the other world-class musicians in the band: it's a super-strong collections of musicians. It's also a real challenge to, not only play this advanced modern music authentically, but to have to follow one of Warren's masterpiece-grade solos with an improvisation of your own---it's a 'kick in the backside' that I welcome--but sometimes I think: 'What am I supposed to play after THAT?'

The “Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band” performed at Yoshi’s San Francisco.

Here is the band playing Joe's "Short Story."

Warren Gale
John Christensen
Dave Fava

Jules Rowles
Chuck Bennett

Mel Martin
Pete Yellin
Jean Fineberg
Dave Tidball
Jim Rothermel

Rhythm Section
Rob Michael: Guitar
Dave Udolf: Piano
Paul Smith: Bass
Bob Belanski: Drums

View from the bandstand

Sometimes it seems as though we're just spoiled.

This is a common setting for The Atmos Trio: the beautiful Napa valley as viewed from our bandstand just last night.

Tough gig.

Rob Michael Sightings...

"I'm always playing...because that's what I love to do--that's where it's at...besides, I think I may be a work-a-holic."

Indeed, Rob Michael, guitarist and co-leader of the Atmos Trio, can be found all over the San Francisco Bay area music scene. 


Along with the activities involved with keeping-up with the Atmos Trio, Rob is one of the most sought-after music educators around. "I teach, in part, as a matter of responsibility. It's give and take: pursuing any artistic endeavor is a search, and if I can help my students with that search, and hopefully provide some inspiration to continue finding new, relevant material or an approach to some facet of music, then I'm happy to do that." 

Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band 

Though the Atmos Trio is one of Rob's most visible musical outlets, there are plenty of other settings in which the keen listener can find him: One is the "Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band." This group is lead by long-time Joe Henderson sideman, trumpet player Warren Gale Jr. "Warren has a deep understanding of Joe's music and it's a real privilege to be playing alongside him, as well as many of the other world-class musicians in the band: it's a super-strong collections of musicians. It's also a real challenge to, not only play this advanced modern music authentically, but to have to follow one of Warren's masterpiece-grade solos with an improvisation of your own---it's a 'kick in the backside' that I welcome--but sometimes I think: 'What am I supposed to play after THAT?' 

The “Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band” will be performing at Yoshi’s San Francisco on Monday, May 12th. 


Both Rob Michael & Atmos’ drummer Joe Shotwell can be heard in another setting in the latin fusion group “Diamante.” This group is lead by guitarist Tom Duarte. The group plays different configurations: sometimes as a guitar duo with Rob & Tom, trio with guitar and percussion, still other times a quartet which included bassist Jack Hines. 

Rob Michael: Solo Guitar

This is Rob in “Stealth-mode.”  “It’s funny. When I play solo gigs, it’s usually for some private event, typically somewhere in Northern California’s Napa/ Sonoma Valley, where they want background solo guitar, not so much as a feature, but to provide a more upscale ambience: a background function.” Time-and-time again however, attention makes it’s way to the guitarist who seems almost “too good” to functions strictly as accompaniment to dinner and chatter becomes: ‘Do you hear this guy? Check him out!’ “That always cracks me up.”

“Solo guitar is, logistically, a musical challenge: you play the bass function, chords changes, melodies, solos and provide the groove, all at the same time. It’s also really fun though. It’s almost an exercise in free association. I play a tune, segue to a different song or simply allude to a different song, and then return--or not. This can sometimes go on for hours at a stretch. Good times.”

So, keep your eyes and ears open. When someone asks: “Hey Rob, are you playing anywhere sometime soon?” The answer is almost always “yes.”

New Photo Album

Atmos Trio 5/2007

Some photos that were take during the filming of a video shoot In Emeryville, California USA.

See our YouTube channel for the actual footage. 

Atmos Trio's Web Widget

We have this cool little web widget that functions as a portable store. 

See these 5 buttons across at the top left? This is where much of the content can be found.

You can listen to music samples, purchase music, view our performance calendar, sign-up for our email list and more. 

You can also have a copy of this widget for yourself: it can function as an always updated Atmos gig calendar that you can view whenever you like--or you can put this on your myspace, facebook, blog, website...whatever you want--and you'll be helping to spread the word about The Atmos Trio.

Atmos Trio Interview

The folks at Innerview World interviewed Atmos Trio.

The group's background is covered as well as some inside information on the forthcoming CD release: "Atmos Plays Waters."

Free Guitar Lesson: Diminished Harmony

Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Beatles, J.S. Bach, and Albert Collins all possessed not only uncommon musicality (and will forever be card-carrying members of the Super Badass Club), this elite group of composers also shared something else: a love for the wonderful harmonic device known as the diminished passing chord.

For centuries, diminished chords have been used to invoke a feeling of terror. From the earliest Italian operas to horror movies of today, the ascending diminished chords in Ex. 1 have had us scared out of our minds. It’s a cliché, but it’s a good cliché.

Out of context, diminished chords can sound a bit ambiguous—you probably wouldn’t vamp on a diminished chord for any extended period of time like you might on a dominant-7th or minor chord. But if you’re looking for that perfect “connector chord” to spice up two potentially boring chords, then this diminished business might be just the ticket.

A little background: A diminished chord is constructed of stacked minor thirds. As we see in Ex. 2, the melodic distance from the root to the b3 is a minor third interval (or three half-steps), from the 3 to the b5 a minor third, and from the b5 to the bb7 (double-flatted, or diminished, 7) a minor third. If you were to stack yet another minor third on top of the bb7 you’d land back on the root, one octave higher.

Because of this perfect symmetry, moving the entire chord up or down a minor third results in a different inversion of the chord—and with no new fingerings required! Just move the shape exactly three frets up or down and you have the same four notes every time, as proven by Ex. 1. Therefore, Cdim7, Ebdim7, Gbdim7, and Adim7 are really just inversions of the same chord. This means that in the entire 12-tone system of Western music there are only three different diminished-7th chords.

OK, there’s the theory, now let’s make some cool sounds.

The most common way composers use the diminished-7th chord is as a means to liven up otherwise boring V-I cadences. Here’s how it’s done: Instead of playing the functioning dominant chord (that is the dominant-7th chord that, acting as the V chord, resolves to the I chord), simply play a diminished-7th chord a half-step higher. Followed by the I chord, this new chord creates a richer, more complex sounding harmonic resolution. And, while you could look up fingerings for diminished chords in a book, the sly way to perform this entire process is simply to raise the root of your original dominant-7th chord a half-step (without changing any of the other notes).

In Ex. 3 we see a II-V-I progression in Cm.

This sound is heard in countless jazz and Latin tunes. To zest this up with some diminished action, check out Ex. 4.

Here, we have the same progression but, with Abdim7 substituting for the G7. This chord sub not only creates smoother, more intriguing voice leading, but it’s also easier to play than Ex.3 and will make you sound like a master on your next solo acoustic performance. For extra pizzazz, you can move the diminished chord up or down three frets at a time before resolving to the I chord—in this case Cm7—as shown in Ex. 5.

To apply diminished passing chords to the I-VI-II-V (Cmaj7-A7-Dm7-G7) progression in Ex. 6—a staple of hundreds of standards and show tunes

—give Ex. 7 a listen.

Here, we add lively new colors by using diminished subs for the two dominant chords, A7 and G7. By the way, these substitutions can be used without even telling your bass player what you’re doing, because they’ll work perfectly well with the original bass notes. Why? Because if you play Abdim7 and add a G in the bass, your listeners hear the composite chord: G7b9—which is a tasty and timeless resolution to Cmaj7.

While diminished chords often resolve up a half-step, Ex. 8 shows how they can work resolving down a half-step as well.

This is a bossa nova phrase, so it is best played fingerstyle with the picking-hand thumb in charge of the bass notes. Thanks to its liberal usage of open strings, this example is especially beautiful—and very acoustic friendly. And, like every other example in this lesson, the diminished chords remind us that it’s not always where you go that counts, but how you get there.

Live Video Shoot

Taped live at Expressions College for Digital Art.

We played this concert only a few days after the "Atmos Plays Waters"
recording session. Look for details about the CD as well as video
footage on our YouTube channel in the coming days.

Does anyone still use the Yellow Pages?

I'm serious. I can't remember the last time I reached for the phone book. In fact, I don't even know that I get a current copy of it from the phone company anymore.

Is this a generational thing?

I ask because recently, I watched a young man (19 years old) fumble around with the phone book (at the request of his boss) attempting to find the contact info. for a local utilities company. 20-30 minutes into his endeavor, he finally admitted to never having used the book before and that he was totally unfamiliar with how it worked. This guy is not stupid--he had simply never used the Yellow Pages before--in his entire life!

Additionally, ad space in these directories is violently expensive. Is the cost worth it? Do people still "let their fingers do the walking?" or do we just "Google it" now?

...don't look for Atmos Trio in the Yellow Pages anytime soon.