How It All Started
When I was a kid, my father Cornel Cosareanu was one of the most respected guitarists in my hometown. He was in two bands, one called IVO with a blues-rock centered style with club concerts and big stages, and one called Sincron that played at weddings and other events.
He took me with him to the rehearsals, and strangely, it didn’t feel boring (imagine that being possible for a 3-4 years old kid). I was somehow fascinated about the cymbals, the shiny metal plates that were moving on the drums. When they took a break I asked to sit at the drums and play, I liked hitting the cymbals with a stick and watch them move. At home, I even used the opened flaps of a cardboard box from a vacuum cleaner as my cymbals.
As my interest in drums grew, I received my first pair of sticks from one of my father’s drummers, a brown-ish lacquered pair of drumsticks with “Mihai ’95” written on them. After that, I got a large snare drum shell with a paper drum head. It had a horrible sound, nothing similar to a real snare drum. After I obviously broke it from the first hits, my dad applied a good amount of tape, and then I put a blanket on it so that I wouldn’t hear that horrible sound.
I remember trying to imitate songs heard on tv like the intro to Cow and Chicken, but the most vivid memory is about the first concert that I’ve ever seen, Guitar Expo ’92 Sevilla, on a VHS tape. That’s how I got to know Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Brian May. There were many others playing, but this is the music that stayed with me until now (I think I was around 6 when that was happening). I tried to play along with those drummers.
One thing worth mentioning is that when I saw my father practicing the guitar, I didn’t understand at all why a piece of wood with some wires would be so attractive to him, it looked so boring.
Going further, when I was in primary school my father bought a VHS tape with Dave Weckl – Back to Basics, one of my favourite drummers, and I watched it over and over again. Then, after my father was convinced that I want to practice, he made a big financial effort and bought me a set of Romanian drums, green ones, with a jazzy cymbal stand, and two stickers with BMW and Champion on them. There was only one problem, I couldn’t play them in my apartment so I got to use blankets on them (which ripped the fun out of the game).
I tried to take lessons but it didn’t keep me interested, I caught on pretty fast so I got bored and I abandoned them. I moved the drums at my grandmother’s place so that I could play them without blankets. I went there for a couple of weeks during the summer, playing along with music on tape. Until highschool, playing the drums remained a nice hobby for me, I didn’t have whom to share it with.
Highschool of Rock/Falling for the Drums
Highschool came, and I got to know a couple of friends interested in music, so in my freshman year we started a band called Desant. The other band members were:
- Vladimir Coman-Popescu – bass guitar & vocals
- Gabriel Neagu – guitar & vocals
- Andrei Jipa – guitar
- Alin Teodorescu – keyboards
Here are two pictures of us at our second or third rehearsal:
Listening to our rehearsal recording now I find it funny, but at that time it really seemed an ok quality. We played at the freshman’s prom, and although it wasn’t a great success, it surely wasn’t a fail.
One day after the prom a classmate got a phone call looking for me:
– “Hey, it’s for you!”
– “Umm, hello?”
– “Hi! Are you Mihai Cosareanu?”
– “Yup, that’s me!”
– “We were in public at that event and we needed a drummer for a band, would you like to meet and talk?”
– “Of course!”
And so I met Iuliana Dobre, one of my dearest friends and a great singer. After she told me her idea, I met Claudiu Cojocaru, the band’s guitarist. The first songs that they emailed me were Roxette – Joyride and Fading Like a Flower, Deep Purple – When a Blind Man Cries and Alannah Myles – Black Velvet.
But in order to be able to play, we needed some keyboards and a bass player. I knew Alin Teodorescu, one of the greatest keyboard players around, and he joined in right away. We tried probably 4-5 bass players and they all didn’t quite seem a good fit, so we asked another friend of mine, George Statie who was taking guitar lessons at that time to play the bass. Together we formed The Sixteens band.
As the band got more serious, I had a good reason to convince my parents to stretch a bit and buy me a good drum set. I bought this awesome Pearl Export EX series kit with jet black hardware and double bass drum pedal. It was awesome, a dramatic change in the fun level of playing drums.
Meeting the Six-Stringed Piece of Wood
While I was playing drums in The Sixteens, I wanted to be able to play with the band my favourite songs from Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. However, our technique wasn’t good enough to approach this kind of songs and also, the guitarist didn’t resonate with that genre of music so I got motivated to try and see how hard could it be to play those songs on guitar. Until then I picked up the guitar only for a couple of times, I knew just how to play the bassline of Gary Moore – Midnight Blues and the intro to Deep Purple – Smoke on The Water.
Having no knowledge of notes and harmony at all, I needed to find a way to start. Our bass player, George, showed me the concept of tablature, which is like a musical staff, but instead of notes, the position of your fingers on the guitar neck is notated. Immediately I downloaded the tablature for Always With Me, Always With You and started learning the song. It took me 3 months from zero to memorising the notes, but I was able to play it only at a quarter of the original tempo. In about one year I was able to play it at full speed, but lacking feeling.
As I progressed quickly with the guitar, I became impatient with the slow development of our band and the changes in style (we began playing old rock and roll songs which for drums are a little boring) and even with those simple songs we weren’t able to hold a concert for nearly one year. This impatience brought me to quit the band and focus on studying the guitar alone. During highschool I didn’t have too much homework to do (or I didn’t do it anyway :)) so I had a lot of time to practice the guitar. I learned a couple of my favourite songs, I played over backing tracks learning to improvise, I even played live over Yahoo Messenger for a couple of friends that wanted to listen. Being serious about it, my parents got me my first guitar, an Ibanez JS1200 that I absolutely love.
Switching to Guitar
After I got better and I felt that I could play, a new instrument made it’s way into our house, an Ibanez JS1200. I joined the IVO band as a solo guitarist and my father switched to rhythm guitar. We held our first concert in 2009 in the following formula:
- Adrian Rizea – drums
- Liviu Briciu – bass guitar
- Gabriel Ciprian Magda – vocals
- Cornel Cosareanu – rhythm guitar
In 2011 I participated in a national rock guitar contest for guitarists under 21 organised by Adi Manolovici. I played two songs, Steve Vai – For the Love of God and Joe Satriani – Summer Song and I came on the first place.
In 2013 I held my first solo concert at the Jazz-Rock festival in Campina. The playlist included 13 instrumental rock songs from Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
Meeting Steve Vai
Another great moment of my life that I dreamed of was meeting Steve Vai in person. First time I met him in a press conference before the concert that he held with the Romanian Evolution Tempo Orchestra in Bucharest. I took my guitar and I got an autograph and a nice photo with him. Unfortunately, the autograph was placed where my hand usually sits and it prevented me from playing relaxed, so I decided to wipe it off.
But the moment that I’ve been really waiting for actually happened in June 2013 when he came back and held an Alien Guitar Secrets masterclass. It was a great experience (you can see the link in the bottom of the post for a detailed story). At the end of his talk, he asked who would like to jam with him. It was kinda’ tough to raise my hand, but I forced myself to do it.
When I got on the stage, I lost every musical idea that I thought of before when I heard that the backing track will be a loop from Building the Church. I was in a pure blank mental state so I had to improvise. There were some of the best musicians from Romania in the audience, but I managed to ignore them and play as if I was alone (admittedly with trembling hands). I managed to bring up some nice musical ideas and that made Steve tell me: “Do not give up!”. He didn’t say that to anybody else, so I felt very privileged. With that event, I also got a better placed autograph on my guitar that still reminds me of that moment.
Sound Recording and Engineering
I became interested in sound recording and engineering techniques around the time I picked up the guitar. I learned about recording gear in deep technical detail, and read a couple of books on sound, acoustics, recording equipment and techniques. Among the best books I read, I can recommend:
- The Sound Reinforcement Handbook by Gary Davis and Ralph Jones
- The Audio Expert by Ethan Winer
- The Recording Engineer’s Handbook by Bobby Owsinski
I think ear training is more important than understanding how the gear works, though, and for that matter I have yet to stumble upon something better than Moulton Laboratories Golden Ears series.
To practice, I started recording my own drum set with a couple of mics in a small untreated room. I played around with the sound and fooled with EQs, compressors and various effects to understand them better and to develop my ear.
Discovering virtual instruments I realised how easy it is to hear your music as being played by a real orchestra or band so I started fooling around with a couple of musical ideas and sketches. Everytime I had a musical idea however, I couldn’t turn it into a song that I would identify myself with, so I ended up having a lot of short sketches.
The state of inspiration doesn’t come to me too often, but when it comes it’s always amazing. It’s like a way of discovering things that you can do, or come up with, that you didn’t even think you are capable of.
I still view composition as a kind of magic. I don’t really believe in teaching composition, because I don’t know if anybody truly understands the process. For my music, I really need to feel that every note or rest in a piece of music is there for a reason and has a meaning.
If you would like to listen to some of my musical sketches and ideas see the link at the bottom.
I had a nice experience as a research assistant in National University of Singapore. I was part of the Sound and Music Computing lab and professor Ye Wang offered me the great opportunity of holding a lecture in the Sound and Music Computing course where I presented an introduction to music theory. I received great feedback from the students so professor Wang asked me to do another small lecture on introduction to MIDI.
From these lectures I learned a lot about myself. I think that I really can explain a subject that I truly understand in a way that gets people engaged and interested, without diving into too much detail.
If you want to watch the lectures, check the link at the bottom of this post and tell me what do you think about the style of teaching.
I am still part of IVO band. Desant is now a nice piece of history. Vladimir started producing electronic music, Gabriel is still engaged in a couple of acoustic and metal musical projects, Andrei moved to the United Kingdom and music is just a hobby for him and Alin is a member of Freestay band. The Sixteens band is now called Xteens and they are actively performing at private parties or in clubs.
I really appreciate you for taking your time to read one of the stories of my life. I hope you found it interesting and maybe motivational. Here are the links that I promised above: