Friday, December 25, 2015

Drums. Rise.

In order to help with happiness along the lines of the drum department it would be nice to do a couple things.
Unfortunately the one big thing I can't do, even though it would cause drummers to be vastly happier, would be to get an awesome set of DW or maybe Gretch acoustic drums and mic them up with $25,000 worth of microphones in a beautiful room with a rack of tremendous mic preamps. That ain't happening. Both the noise and the cost of such a project put it out of range.
So what can I do? Well for one thing I do not have enough cymbals. Drum kit "size" is always measured in drums. But honestly after a few toms what more are you going to do? Hit drum go boom. How many more pitches and timbres of toms does a person really need? Exactly. A 5-piece is more than adequate.

But the colors of cymbals makes a big difference in one's life and it would be nice to have a couple extra crashes and at least one more ride. It's a bit of a pain to do though because I'd have to get a whole 'nuther module/drum-brain thing to plug them into and you don't really get a break buying those pieces à la carte. So I'm not going to do that right away.
However, making sure we don't irk neighbors is a major priority for me and I feel that a little drum platform is in order to reduce mechanical noise conducted through the structure of my floor into the apartment below (or, ostensibly, above). The kick drum pedal is the major culprit in such noise transmission. 
Auralex makes stuff called Platfoam which minimize but don't necessarily decouple the drums on the platform from the floor. The purpose of the Auralex product is primarily for acoustic drums, not for just trying to quiet down electronic drums.
SOS has a pretty good article on building an electronic drum platform. MDF and stuff called Regufoam 150 are used. They mention in the article that the Regufoam is expensive but I can't even get a price on it. I may actually own a piece which I got at Canal Rubber. It's only big enough to cover the kick-drum pedal. And I recall there being some sticker shock when I bought it. But I can say that it really does work wonders. (The problem is that I only have that one piece so the drummer's right foot is a bit higher than his left which is generally irksome.)
There's also some stuff called "green glue" which is used. That's pricey but not like the Regufoam. I mean heck, a freaking Regufoam mat the size of the drum rug might be exactly what the doctor ordered. 
 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Is there a conspiracy to make popular music suck? Part I

Yes. Yes there is. There is an actual and active conspiracy to make sure that popular music is bland and terrible. This is a provable fact.

But first let's look at what's been going down in the world of songwriting.

There have been many "Tin Pan Alleys" in the history of the last 150 or so years of popular music. Their working methodologies have changed over the years. For the longest time there were teams of lyricists and songwriters. The lyricists wrote, well, the lyrics, and the writers came up with the melodies.
Now note that traditionally in copyright law the lyrics are half the publishing and the melody is the other half. There's nothing for other parts of the song. At one time this sort of made sense as "arrangements" are non-copyright-able and more difficult to define in a legally protect-able way.
And up until the Beatles the performers of songs were divorced of the composers of songs -- almost exclusively. So there was a brief period there where the "public" considered "artists" to be composers and performers of songs. In the so-called "rock" world this is still true. Even when artists have extra folks there in the studio (typically called "producers") who, in any sort of non-fictional universe would be considered co-writers of the music but keeping up appearances is the rule of the game so we won't worry about that now will we?

So where are we now? In most pop music there are numerous writers. They are divided now into the guys (and they're almost always guys) who write the "tracks" -- the chords and the beats, and the "top liners" who write the melodies and usually the lyrics.
♪♫
Let me back up for a minute. Ever since Schoenberg we've sort of realized that there's no "new" music. It's impossible to write a melody in a tonal system that hasn't been heard before. I mean there's a real limited number of them. I don't know how to do the math but if a phrase is as long as 8 bars and a note is as long as 6 beats in 4/4 and as short as a 16th and we have 11 tones to choose from... there's gotta be a calculator for that. So there's theoretically some septillion number of melodies possible but for all practical purposes many of those melodies sound similar enough that they're "the same".
It could just be 79 billion unique melodies.

But I'm going to go ahead and say that tonally we're looking at only about a few thousand melodies.

That's not particularly relevant to the conversation at hand.
 ♪♫
Okay, so pop music is created slightly differently than it used to be. That's no biggie. And it really all sounds very similar -- especially because we're using tonal scales with mostly blues progressions in 4/4 with accents on the 2nd and 4th beats. We've been doing all that for about 60 years now.

But why does pop music deliberately suck? Well, that's a matter of marketing and promotion. And it's also a matter for the second part of this essay.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Power Trio







The power trio is a fantastically difficult thing to pull off musically. First of all the rhythm section has to be astounding. In the case of Bonham and Jones you're pretty well covered.
But as much as I like to tease about how sloppy the guitar player is allowed to be when the rhythm section is super together, the guitar has a unique issue in that it's both a rhythm and lead instrument simultaneously.
The Who solved this by making the bass player play more "lead" than is typical in a rock band. But still Townshend's switching back and forth from rhythm to lead was rather informative to my own interest in guitar.
In Achilles Last Stand, Jimmy Page manages to pull of the elusive thing where the guitar plays a lead without the "middle dropping out" of the sound. It's rather hard to do.

I think that one reason Greg Bartus and I tend to play well together is that we both come from power trio backgrounds so we're sort of used to holding onto that middle to keep it from dropping out.

Huh. It just occurred to me that this Zeppelin tune is rather Who-like in that although there are points where they do their sort of trademark everybody-plays-together blues, the bulk of the tune is the bass and drums playing fast and together while guitar is doing huge open chords against the rhythm section.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Diatomaceous Earth Hieroglyphic Overdrive







So here's the thing. This is a "proof of concept". This was taking three somewhat random cameras and having them roll while we did a song.

Of course during the one best take, one of the cameras never rolled. So everything from that angle, which is the only angle you can see Lou, the drummer, is from a completely different take. And from there sync actually gets worse.
You might ask yourself, or ask me: "Drew, why is there only one performer covered in a single, and that performer is you?" I would try to answer that it was not intentional.
I need LED clip lights for each performer. Don't I? Yes, I believe I do.
Also, the mix is very quick and dirty. In fact, I never did quite get the drum mapping right -- which is going to irritate Lou to no end. The picture edit is very dirty Yup, I'm making excuses. That's all I got. But next time we'll do so much better! And next time is Friday!
Also, I'll drop a slate at the top of the song. And make sure I look thinner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Session prep

I list some songs for the Diatomaceous Earth combo video/album here.

You'd think the Lehle volume pedal would be the active volume pedal to beat, wouldn't you? Of course, it's almost $300.

Greg pointed out that this session, Diluvia, has some very interesting things on it. Meaning the first two tunes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ethan on Preamps

Ethan's response on preamps:

Input impedance is (one of) the big elephant(s) in the room when it comes to preamps.  How the input stage loads the source has a big impact on how it sounds and some sources are more affected by loading than others so some sources will sound almost identical with two different preamps while others might sound very different.  Output impedance also plays a role as the preamp will be loaded (or not) by whatever it's signal is feeding.

There's more to good gain-staging than just gain, and the subtleties of impedance matching are seldom explored nowadays.  Back when engineers wore white lab coats (and, in many cases, were actually engineers), a lot more thought was put into that sort of thing.  Through impedance matching or deliberate mis-matching, a lot can be done with how a preamp sounds that all sits outside of any "baked in" sound a preamp might have.  

That "baked in" or "native" or "default" sound that certain preamps have, combined with how stages are gained, further combined with how input and output impedances are taken into account are the triumvirate, and the first item on the list is often the only one that people consider.  It's one of the drawbacks of the recording renaissance we're living in; anyone can do this at home now and they have access to great gear for cheap and it's easier than ever to get good results, but they still have to know what they're doing to get better than good results.  Really understanding how things work is worth more to the "accumulation of subtleties" than how a preamp sounds.  That preamp sounds different depending upon how one uses it.  Most people recording at home don't understand any of that and even fewer have any inclination to learn about it.
 
My response to Ethan's response:
 
Yes. The input impedance is a thing. But most microphones don't get that much out of changing the input impedance. Oddly the ART preamp does indeed allow one to change the impedance. I play with it sometimes. It doesn't really do that much for me.
These days output impedance is virtually moot. All inputs are high impedance. I wonder how, say, Scully and Ampex machines used to be in the early and then the late 60's?
Preamps like the Neve have so much baked in that I don't even think the gain settings make that much difference until they start to break up (which honestly is not that pleasant a sound). I think that for the longest time recordists got away with being the 2nd tier in the studio because a mix engineer could fix almost any problem as long as the problem was recorded with good preamps and busses.
Completely counterintutively to me is the fact that lots of engineers have favorite EQ setting which they go ahead and just apply to everything. You'd think that would cause a buildup of certain things in the mix but... it doesn't. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

More Meamps

When you do a double blind listen to different preamps they can all sound really close to one another. So close that it might seem very logical to think "why does it matter?"
The answer is usually that there's an accumulation of subtleties* that build up on a multitrack recording and that mixing is easier when recordings are made with great mic preamps.

The problem is that theory is impossible to test. It's not like you can go back to 1968 and have the Beatles do precisely the same performance of some song but swapping out different mic preamps during their perfectly re-created robo-playing to see if it's really the preamps and not the slight differences in performance that make the difference in what you hear.

Another odd thing about the theory is that if two different mic preamps sound very similar when listened to one-on-one, but you figure that when you're multitracking those slight differences build up, wouldn't then a simple stereo classical performance do just as well with cheaper preamps because you're not multitracking and therefore the very slight difference is not as important?

Ha! Hmm...

Well it might be that for simple stereo classical music you want the most colored - sounding big, fat, tube limiters and juicy transformers on the planet. But the prurient classical guys would all freak out if you told them that. So we won't. Let's get back to rock and roll where it's safer and we're less likely to get knifed...

So if the notion that we're just trying to aggregate the subtleties of having a bunch of really good mic preamps on a recording, it means we can get away with some of the preamps being less than "great". I mean, realizing we're talking about a very subtle difference in the sound quality in the first place. And if we have 8 inputs but only 6 of them can have super expensive preamps, that means we're 6/8ths of the way of the last percentage of quality improvement. Right? Maybe it's exponential? Who knows? I feel fairly confident nobody will care what preamps you used for the toms.

So where are we with this? Well oddly we don't care so much about the microphones. Not that we're willing to use Radio Shack microphones but we don't mind if we're using SM57's on the guitars and the like. We don't care if that's a U47 or a Rode NT1a in front of the drum kit for some reason. But we do seem to care about the preamps.

I'd been using good mics for longer than I'd been using good preamps. And when I finally switched to good preamps I suddenly was making recordings that mixed well and mixed easily. They sounded like "real" recordings. Is this a scientific analysis? Is it a double-blind study? Is it mostly emotions? No, no, and yes. The microphones didn't put me over the edge, the preamps did.

So I don't really know what I'm doing. That's pretty much the conclusion here.

§§§

A vocal pop filter for the Edwina microphone is only $40.

*This is an Alan Douches bit of wisdom.

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Preamps and Recordations

I have no idea about preamps. Maybe these days cheap preamps are just as good as expensive ones the way A/D converters are all pretty much the same. I don't know. A few years ago SoundonSound did a test of a wide variety of preamps. The cheap ones did very well.
Listening to the Samanas performance there are moments where musically and recording-ly we approach something that's pretty good. Not all the time, but sometimes.
I used all Focusrite preamps. But I have a collection of pretty nice preamps I didn't use. Will they make a difference? Yes, we can say without doubt they will be different. The question is will they be better? I don't know.

Will the Focusrite preamps sound better than the Tascam preamps in the US2000? My instinct is to say they will, but who knows?
§
The isolated vocals (allegedly) from the Adelle performance on Saturday Night Live.

I've been finding there something sort of dead about the mixes of recent SNL performances. The iso vocal track sorta indicates there's virtually no live instruments on stage. I don't know what they're doing with the drums -- triggered pads where the heads would be perhaps? I mean, it's a Ddrum kit -- but how do they keep the strikes from making any sound which gets into the vocal mic?
§
I'm going to end up selling my little Focusrite interface. Also my eBow which I don't think I've used even twice. And maybe my Tascam interface. You know what I'm also selling? My M-Audio 2626. That makes me sad because it's a really nice interface but it's only Firewire. And none of my modern PC's like Firewire. And M-Audio has kinda just quit that interface. It'll still work on Macs though. But because I'm married to mixing in Samplitude that's just not gonna happen for me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November at 40 Knots

So the City Samanas played at a little bar in Red Hook Brooklyn on Thursday.

The rain was biblical. Poor Dave forgot his cymbal case and stick bag and had to go back home to get it. Returning to the bar he face-planted from his scooter in the rain. He's okay now but it was a bit harrowing.

What's funny about this band is that we'll write back and forth very detailed emails about exactly what we're going to do. And then we do something completely different when we actually get there. Two examples of that are that I was roped into singing ("singing") a song I'd never even played before (Franklins Tower) and a thousand emails about how we would play Favorite Things was immediately abandoned and a psychedelic section was added to the song.

Roll away the dew.

The best-laid plans for recording all went out the window as soon as we showed up. My guitar was miked with an Oktava 012, Greg's was with an SM57 (draped sideways over his guitar cabinet). The bass amp was close miked with a Rode NT1. Uh, the bass mic twisted off-axis at some point and then got fixed again.

The drum kit is three mics. I did that thing where the overhead is an Ear Trumpet Edwina, the "side" mic is an Oktava 012, and the kick mic is a cheap kick-drum mic. Over the course of the evening the Edwina got very "grainy" sounding. I don't know if we were just hitting it with too much volume from the drums or if the phantom power wasn't up to snuff for it.

But the thing of that is that I didn't use any outboard mic preamps at all. I used the Focusrite 18i20 for every instrument. At one point the bass actually started to get too loud and I had to repatch it into an input that allowed me to put a pad on the input.

I am digging Lily's new 5-string bass. I'm mixing on Ultrasone headphones so I don't really have an idea of where the bass actually sits in the mix. In the future I'll have that more worked out.

The thing where I play with an Electro Harmonics C9 organ pedal seems to work really well actually. Since I can blend the guitar sound in with the very compressed organ sound it'll do a thing where I can get a guitar sound when I'm playing loud and it turns into an organ sound on quieter sections.

Greg and me singing is a very interesting sound. We're so very different sounding voices but it seems to work. I mean, at least on Franklins Tower. At least to me.

The vocals. The absurd thing is that we didn't have a cable which would go from Greg's mini mixer to feed the Focusrite. So I set up a small stereo bar on the mic stand and we had one dynamic go to the PA and another 58 go to the Focusrite. Sort of amusing. But I think even if we do that again we'll use the Edwina as the vocal mic. At least for recording.

These mixes are all over the place. In the Basement is marred by an off-axis mic or two. Some of the performances are lost in places. Sometimes we even get back on track!

My conclusion is that although there's a lot of scratches in this leather but the the loose, drunken (not literally), swing we approach is just right. It's sort of fascinating how this group of people go about playing as an ensemble, like four sculptors who are not entirely sure what the sculpture will be until they all start working on it.

I think if we do this a few more times we might just have something special in the way of a recording. Especially if I practice guitar more in the meantime. ;-)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Samana Recordation

A pair of Neves. A pair of ATI tube preamps. A Tascam US-2000 interface. The City Samanas. Recording live. I have to figure this out.
The drum kit is small and conservative. One tom. The band is situated fairly close to one another. It just occurred to me that I don't enjoy close-miking snare drums.

  1. The bass guitar I've been traditionally putting a Rode NT1 (which is sorta Neumann U87 looking and maybe even U47 sounding) up against the grill of the bass amp. The snare and a variety of other instruments will get into that mic. There's nothing I can do about it. Probably use a channel of the ATI on bass.
  2. I bet the other channel of ATI will be as the drum overhead. I don't know what mic to use. If I go large diaphragm I could use another Rode NT1. Or I could use a Ear Trumpet Edwina. 
  3. I get a Neve 1272 on my guitar amp. With an SM47 (not my Unidyne, I don't want to deal with bringing that mic out with me -- which is a joke because every other mic I have is more expensive but that one mic is a pain in the tuchus because everyone thinks they're so special now.) 
  4. Just for balance let's give Greg the other 1272. 
  5. Greg's vocal mic. Now that's interesting. We could give him another Edana. The signal will be hopped up with a Mackie mixer so it'll be hitting us at something around line level
  6. The tom will go direct into a channel on the Tascam
  7. So will the kick
  8. And the snare, what the heck... I mean I have a kit for miking things I may as well use it. 
Now I just have to figure out that I have the right interconnects to get from the two preamps into the Tascam. The thing I don't have to worry about is monitoring -- there just isn't any. Problem solved.
There will be a world of bleed from microphones. But I think I can live with that.

I feel we need some psychedelic lights though. We definitely need psychedelic lights.

Franklin's Tower



The thing about playing Dead tunes is that it really forces you into thinking modally. This is because their music sits somewhere almost exactly between rock and traditional Irish/English/Scottish (which means, perhaps, "bluegrass and country" but maybe not.)

The thing is that the blues does some modalesque things without even asking. They're not really from the western world except kinda. So blending the two together with electric guitars and (at least occasionally) great playing, and you have something interesting. And surprisingly hard to do.

But the City Samanas will be playing at 40 Knots come Thursday and we'll do it. That we shall.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Golden Ageism

I keep saying that we live in the golden age of whatever we're talking about when we talk about music and engineering. We're not living in the golden age of making money making music. No no no. But for making music, and recording music, ah. Yes.
So since the late '40's we've pretty well known what sort of microphones are the best sounding. Somewhere in the 50's we really got that all sorted out and in the 60's we made them balanced. But although now we make the best reference microphones, there are some older microphone designers (mostly, but by no means exclusively, designs by manufactures in German-speaking countries). The Neumann U47, The AKG C12, RCA ribbon mics, Coles, etc.
Squirrel. Stop being so pretentious and put the covers back on your humbuckers.

And those mics were expensive even before they tripled in price whilst becoming "vintage".
But now we have so many more interesting choices. There are Ear Trumpet Labs and others making their own new microphones.
But also there are also scores of companies making sort of cheap knockoffs of more expensive (and older) designs.
And there are small companies that do mods of those mics. Michael Joly's OktavaModShop mostly mods other brands than Oktava. JJAudio also does mods on a bunch of microphones and on the very extraordinarily priced ART VLA tube compressor.

And the thing is that yeah, you can mod all this stuff to your heart's content, but the original gear sounds flipping amazing. I mean, I've A/B'ed Schoeps CMC6's against Oktava 012's and although they sound slightly different (the Schoeps had a bit of an upper-mid "lift") you couldn't say one was in any way "better" than the other. And one could certainly EQ the Oktava to sound substantially like the Schoeps so you couldn't pick one out over the other.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Ethan Says

Here on the Tyrannosaurus Mouse blog we have conversations with Ethan. I'm presenting you a pair of emails in essay form of Ethan's response to my post about Good for You.

And this is
Ethan's Notes on The Big Whack:
Interesting point about The Big Whack and, earlier, disco ruining things by their ubiquity.  What I find interesting about it is that there's nothing intrinsically bad about either one.  It was nothing more than their overuse by people not creative enough to have another idea for people who were willing to settle for them over and over again.  Sad, really.

In the past several years, I've been able to revisit disco and appreciate that some of it was quite good and most of it was extraordinarily well-played, but I doubt The Big Whack will age as gracefully for me or anyone else.  Disco was a style of artistic expression whereas TBW is just a noise that people add to things.  An effect.  They both apply to mainstream pop and, specifically to dance music, but there's no context to TBW.  It's just cut and pasted onto everything.  There are several other cheap, easy tricks that "producers" are using to make everything sound the same.  It's working; everything sounds the same.  But none of it has any context within the song and iconoclasts who stand up to that sort of sausage-making are fewer and farther between these days, and I'm speaking both of artists and producers.  

I have always believed that, in any era you pick, 90% of popular music was always crap and the only reason we look back at certain eras with fondness is because we only tend to remember the top 10% that actually was good.  I think that's true today as well, but the difference today is that the good stuff is the stuff that isn't getting radio play.  Somehow, the whole business got turned upside-down and all the good stuff now sinks to the bottom instead of rising to the top.  Or maybe that was always true and I just worked harder to find the good stuff when I was younger and had more time.  I dunno.

Artist management, record labels, booking, concert venues, radio stations and most advertising vehicles all being owned by the same company certainly isn't helping anything.
Chic made great records.  And don't even get me started on how great Parliament was, although they had a little bit more stuff going on than straight-up disco.

The industry would like nothing more than to have complete control over popular taste and homogenize it.  It makes their job easier.  They don't have to put any effort (that means money) into anything. If no one is exposed to anything interesting, they won't be every demanding.  It's always easier to manufacture things if they all use the same parts.

I think it's already been proven out by current listeners who've grown up with all the sameness and don't seem to mind.  Think about it: enough generations have grown up with McDonalds and Burger King that they actually think that's what a hamburger is supposed to taste like.  They fell for it!  Now everybody can make their burgers that bad and still sell them!  Awesome!  All records can now be as bad as (fill in just about any current top 40 artist) because that's all anybody expects of us!  YAY!!!

The thing that I wonder about is whether or not it was always like this, and I just didn't notice because I had bothered to seek out the good stuff and had little interest in the mainstream.  I didn't notice Bryan Adams because I was listening to XTC.  It goes back to my 90/10 theory.  90% will always be crap.  And that means there will always be a 10%, whether the industry likes it or not.  It will just find different ways to distribute itself.  Creative people will continue to find ways to create things.  There will always be a next Brian Eno or Peter Gabriel or David Byrne.  We may just have to dig deeper to find him.  Ironic, since one would think the internet would make that easier, but it doesn't.  Now there's just more to weed through.
 

Althea

Althea is a later Grateful Dead tune -- it came out in 1980. It's a very pretty number.
And I am in need to play it with City Samanas.

Verses
Bm  A \  E A 
Bm  A \ E 
Bm A  \ E A
Bm A\  E
A \ C#m\  D \ A\ 
C#m \ E \ Bm A \ E

Break
D \ G \ E \ E
D \ G \ E \ E
Bm A \ E

Jam
Bm  A \  E A 
Bm  A \ E

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Good For You

I have a lot of complaints. One of my complaints is about how hip-hop had such promise. I mean really, the whole idea of taking finished recordings and then re-working them and putting them together to make new compositions is freaking brilliant. And yet. And yet the idea is squandered because of how conservative popular music has become.
Another complaint is with the ubiquity of the Roland 808 drum machine. The machine itself is cool, but for some reason the dictates of pop music involve us only having one kick drum sound as though some god of music laid forth the edict that if the drum soundeth not like an 808, it shall not be heard upon the radio.

Raphael Rudd used to call the insistence of those stupid beats which were Minimum Basic Requirements for songs on the radio "The Big Whack". It's gotta have The Big Whack. And except for a brief interregnum in the early 90's, we've been in The Big Whack era for a while now.

Songs which become hits despite refusing to obey the fiats of pop sound mixes like Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know" could not be played on New York radio. That's right, it was a number 1 hit, a massive massive hit, and the Hot 100 stations could only play a version which had an 808 drum track providing The Big Wack throughout.

Lorde's "Royals" is another song notable for being an exception (although the percussion in it may in fact be an 808, the whole song is a critique of hip-hop's mindless conspicuous consumption and is missing The Big Wack.)

So. Is there literally a conspiracy making pop music so conservative? Yes. Yes there is. But I'm not here to talk about that. Not yet anyway. So let's continue:

Not every song needs a rap. But for the last 25 years pop songs seem to have raps forced on them.
Like disco, rap has ruined a lot of things simply because of its ubiquity. The commercial considerations of a song make people think things like this: "Oh man, we gotta add a rap to this song to push it over the edge!"

I really like this song recorded by Selena Gomez. Good for you is a nicely performed and cool tune with a beautiful melody and a subtle rhythm section.


So why am I complaining about this song?
Well you'll notice that it's one of those songs which has the same chord structure over the verse, bridges, chorus, and the "Oh oh..." sections. That's cool. The orchestration builds subtly from section to section. There's no big wack. But the tension builds beautifully to... nothing.
The song itself never resolves.
Now in the radio version there's a rap over the end. It also does not work. It does not add anything. It does not lift the song up in any way.
But we're not allowed to use any of our solutions to those kinds of problems. R&B is way too conservative to let us break into any sort of real up finish for a song like this. Of course, "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks has exactly the same problem, so it's not exclusive to modern pop music or R&B.
But dear god-of-the-big-wack, please let us put a giant instrumental finish on this song. Please?
It would be so good for you.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Virtual Record Companies

The sheer amount of law involved in music intellectual property is kind of staggering. There are two copyrights and a half-dozen rights involved with any piece of recorded music. And then there are a world of automatic and semi-automatic ways to be paid royalties (as a composer and as a musician).
It's nutty.
Having never had a proper recording contract, and being stubborn to the point of pigheadedness, I have had my own (vanity) record label for... dear heavens... over 25 years now. And I've done everything from pushing records to college radio (through Peter Hay's Twin Vision) to harassing DJ's with 12" singles.
The facts are that 1. everyone I've known who had a proper record contract was miserable and 2. my real goal is to get music "out there" in some way so I can say "Yeah, I did that" and not be constantly worrying over it, 3 the whole "digital distribution" thing has really altered our relationship to physical (and expensive) media. This is why it's so nice to have a service like CDBaby which will handle all your licensing and things for less than a hundred bucks. They deal with a fantastical amount of logistical nonsense (like getting music on iTunes) which would be majorly aggravating to do on one's own.
Pleasure for the Empire | The Oceans of Ganymede | CD Baby Music Store
Between CDBaby and, say, Amazon's Createspace, the life of the vanity label A&R guy (er, me) is vastly better. And cheaper too.
§§§
Anyway. I just finished convincing CDBaby that the cover of The Oceans of Ganymede isn't porn. I now have to convince Amazon the same thing. We'll see if they listen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Oceans of Ganymede on CD

You can buy The Oceans of Ganymede on CD with a credit card.
You can buy The Oceans of Ganymede on CD with PayPal.
You can get .flac and .mp3 from CDBaby. And of course you can get .flac and .mp3's from Bandcamp:
 

The Oceans of Ganymede MP3's

This record is now available to buy as .mp3's:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Modern Record Distribution

So I figured I'd make some CD's of this new album using Kunaki (because it's cheap). I sorta misread the directions and thought I had to use Kunaki's disc designing tool. That tool required you have an actual mastered* CD in your drive.

Of course I have no blank CD's because who uses those anymore? So I think, hey! Why don't I try Total Mounter and "burn" the CD from Samplitude virtually direct to CD?
Of course Samplitude just hates that and it says "finished writing to disc" right away and then there's nothing on the virtual disc so no, that doesn't work.

So I go out to find some blank CD-R's. 

I find some at Target. I write a CD.


But for whatever reason I get an error in Kunaki's software that traces back to being that Kunaki can't read the last 10 sectors on the disc. Who knows why this is true. But using the Kunaki software ain't getting me nowhere (probably because the built-in CD player has some driver issue or something. Honestly at this point I just don't care.)

But the Kunaki web uploader seems to work. Aren't you glad you read this whole post? Actually the thing about all this is that for me it's so freaking hard do deal with every single step of this kind of process. Because I basically have to go over it again with CDBaby.

In fact, I've already had to make unique artwork which is sized slightly differently for CDBaby and Kunaki.

I'm really happy with this record. Marc Schmied does some amazing things on it. It's cool.
And here you can buy it from Kunaki:

 click here to buy The Oceans of Ganymede CD

*"Mastered" here means that it's been properly written with a table of contents and such.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Against Mastering

For several months I was an audio engineer for a company which did the in-house commercials for supermarkets. The business the company was in was to sell national spots, but my job was to record all the free spots they gave to the supermarkets in order to get the supermarkets to play the company's ads.
So I did all the "We have a baked beans special in aisle 12 here at Food Emporium*" ads. I would do upwards of a hundred 15 to 60-second spots in a day.
But I also was given the task of taking certain national spots and essentially "mastering" them for noisy supermarkets. The term John Cheary used for that task was "make this sound terrible*".
And with the 1176 compressor and some broad sweeps of EQ I would do just that. But boy, I promise that after I smashed that signal you would be able to hear it everywhere over the crappy PA system in the grocery store.

 So. Why am I bringing this up?
Well for the last 20 years or so (about the same about of time as the existence of the CD but that's only a coincidence) we've been in a so-called "loudness war" where mastering engineers have been slamming the levels of records harder and harder until all albums sound like white noise. I've gone over this before but I'm thinking that I just don't care.
The only things which mastering engineers ever talk about which doesn't involve smashing the dynamics so that a record is "competitive in the marketplace" are the soundstage and how wide the stereo image is. And that is easily played with (primarily by using some M/S limiting but also occasionally some fun analog-ish EQ) in the mix.
And all this hemming and hawing I'm doing is just to say by golly, I'm just not going to do any sort of mastering other than mastering myself. So there.

*I still know the Food Emporium jingle. Be thankful that you do not.
 **He may have said something more graphic. It was a long time ago.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Speaking of which

Would you like to spend an hour listening to psychedelic music and then giving me notes on it? If yes, awesome, if no, still awesome!


Notes look like this:
"Song 3, 2:34: the kick drum sounds disjointed" or
"Song 2, 4.51: I feel myself getting bored here" or even
"Song 5, 6:22: I'm just not feelin' it."

What ISN'T a note is "Great job, sounds great!" I don't care about that (yet).
Please have all notes in by mid-day Saturday. I'm trying to wrap this up and get it on CD Baby and iTunes and stuff. I'll also make physical copies.

Pedal put together

Now, what I really wanted to do was to have a pedal board which was small and that I didn't have to gunk up my pedals with Velcro. That didn't really happen. The first thing I did was find the Pedal-links System. Basically they're bicycle chains which have been broken apart. And I figured that I could just use machine screws and attach them to a Temple Audio Designs pedalboard. Their boards are light, made of metal, and have pre-existing holes in them (which are actually designed for attaching their proprietary mounting system, we'll get to that in a minute).
But the first thing I wanted to try was Pedal-links.
A single Pedal-link. Quarter for scale.
My problems with them is they're brittle and require very small machine screws (for most pedal boards you'd use wood screws which would be easier to "drill into" the pedal-links.) But they also have a tendency to "kick up" and I found it hard to get a pedal to sit flush with the board using the pedal-links.
So the next option for a velcro-free existence is the Pedalock.  They're reasonably priced, pedals just sit cleanly inside them without interference with their controls or jacks. Ah. A dream!
But... what's that you say? Oh, they're only available for MXR and BOSS pedals (and a wah pedal). So no unusual sizes, no Electro Harmonix, no nuthin' else. Boo.
The Pedalock with a couple machine screws goes right into the Temple pedalboard. Super sweet.

It locks in nicely, no interfering with the operation of the pedal, and you can remove the pedal any time you like. Note that the Temple's handles preclude using a straight cable to take the output (the Carbon Copy is at the end of my chain). That would be true with or without the Pedalock. Just note that the Pedalock does raise the pedal a bit.
 The last thing which is nice about the Pedalocks is that they even have cutouts for the pedal's feet. So you seriously don't have to make any modification of your pedals at all with the Pedalock.
"Look Ma! I still have my feet!" The underside of the Pedalock with the MXR Carbon Copy inside.
So. The Pedal-Links are being a tad wonkity, I can only put one pedal of mine in the Pedalock. Foof. What's next?
Aah, right. The actual mounting system from Temple.
They have big, medium, and small plates. They attach to the bottom of your effects with adhesive (which I was trying to avoid for a variety of reasons including not wanting to obscure important information printed on the bottom of the effect and also just not wanting to deal with sticky yukky glue.)
Using Temple Audio's pedal mounting system:
  • Thing number one I advise is to really really make sure you attach the plate evenly. so that it isn't crooked at all. Because you will soooo notice it when you have the pedal mounted on the board.
  • Thing number two I advise is to attach the plate to the pedalboard first and line up your pedal so that the plate ends up going in a reasonable place in regards to cable runs and other pedals (remember the plate has to fit in the already existing holes in the pedalboard).
  • The third thing is to remove the feet from your pedals. The feet are going to be taller than the plates and will end up pulling the plate off the pedal. 
So yeah, you end up putting sticky stuff on the backs of your pedals and you end up with a pile of little feet (insert band name joke here.)
Here you can see the feet being taller than the plate.
 So I'm gonna end up sticking things to a bunch of pedals. And removing those pedals little feet.
I don't even know what I was trying to demonstrate with the next image. Who knows?
There are nicely machined holes in the Temple. With bigger holes for cables to find their way neatly and cleanly to where they need to go.




The Joyo power supply goes on the bottom, attached with two of the small Temple pads. That means the little thumb screws for the power are actually on top. I have moved the power supply around so that it would be in a reasonable place.

Top view of mess with missing pedals. And yes I tried to cram way too many on one little board I know this.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pedal Party

See the thing is I rather like playing without pedals -- through a long guitar cable -- directly into an amplifier. Typically this feels to me like I have more of an intimate control of the way the amplifier speaks back to me as a guitarist. This may be completely psychosomatic and without regard to reality. But it does feel that way.
But even with the Kemper it's somewhat impractical to be completely pedal free. Huh. Now I say that but thinking about it all my recordings are guitar-cable-amplifier. Hmm...
But in any case for live work things are different. And the big difference is that the guitar hits a buffer. Now thesedays having a hard-wire-bypass in all pedals is very popular. But as soon as one pedal kicks in, the game is all over, you're buffered.
Which typically is a goode thinge. The buffering keeps the signal from being dragged down by each effect. And the fact is I'm not sure you can hear the thing I was complaining about there at the top of this post. It may just be that one can feel it. And maybe it's all psychological anyway.

And the fact is that sometimes one really wants some effects. Especially in a live situation. I find that with the City Samanas and Diatomaceous Earth I want to have my very sweet MXR Carbon Copy analog delay. I feel I might find that I want to use an Electro Harmonix C9† (and by extension a Strymon Lex Leslie emulator*). The other thing I find critical to playing live with a mostly clean sound (especially when I'm playing with Greg Bartus) is an attenuator so I can "turn down" while playing rhythm parts.**
But what else? I'll tell you what else. I don't want to deal with Velcro. It's icky and yukky. So what does one do? Most pedalboards are all about Velcro. But there are some non-Velcro options.
One can use Bicycle chain links in order to screw the pedals down into or onto your board. This dude has a post all about that.
  • Now you can also buy special links specifically for this purpose.
  • Pedalboots is an Austrian company that makes boots for a variety of pedals. I'm not 100% sure if one can actually buy them in the US.
  • Pedalock makes special "boots" for MXR, Boss, and Wah-Wah pedals.
But as far as I can tell there's only one manufactured pedal board which is made for machine screws. Those are the Temple Audio boards. The irony is that they have their own mounting system -- which looks pretty cool (even if it does involve putting sticky stuff on the back of your pedals) but it would seem would also work with the above boots and links.

†A B9 is shown here because the site I put this together with did not have a C9 picture. Also note that a compressor before the C9/B9 is something you want -- even if you end up not wanting to have a compressor in the rest of your guitar sound.
*And optionally a mixer so that I can choose how much of the Lex I want in the signal because sometimes, you know, you just want a little bit of Leslie in your sound and not have the whole signal go through the Leslie. You know you want this.
**Fun fact, the Morley optical volume control has a "minimum volume" knob which does exactly that. And here I was thinking I was the only one who needed this control.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Links and Noise

This does not promise to be an exiting blog post. Nay. It is a bunch of notes from my little mind. And open tabs on my browser. Anybody ever notice how low the keyboards are mixed in most Grateful Dead songs? Also, a song called "Cool Colors" which City Samanas does a version of There is a whole website dedicated to building your own MIDI pedals. This SSL compressor kit looks kinda cool.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Scalular Egyptology

The "Egyptian Scale" is a minor scale but instead of a perfect forth you go up to the tritone and then there's a p5, minor 6, and major 7.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A little housekeeping

Here are three pieces of music I might want to put in the new Pleasure for the Empire album.

35 Million Miles from Earth

Dance of the Turquoise Mouse

Gwendolyn Wormsign


Rocket Cannon with Florent. Mike Kessell turned me onto these guys. Apparently Steve Albini recorded them.
Oh, and yes, it's a made-up language.
§
Steve Howe does excerpts from Tales From Topographic Oceans.
There is a distant fantasy that the City Samanas do some sort of version of this. Tales is one of the most difficult Yes albums. I really don't know how it will work. But it's a very distant fantasy so I'm not worried about it yet.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mastering, Meh

I don't know that I care very much about mastering.
There's the part of mastering which is making sure all the tracks on an opus sorta sound same-ish, like they go together. That part of mastering I'm down with. That's cool.
As far as making records that "compete" in the marketplace I... I just don't care. I have nothing to do with any commercially viable music. I've never seen it. In my spare time I record Russian choral music, or I play jazz/rock in a bar in Brooklyn, or Gentle Giant - inspired prog rock in my living room with my friends. The "marketplace" has zero to do with what I do musically.
I've been wanting to put this picture on a blog post for a long, long time. It's not particularly related to this post, but it's a great picture.

So that's a thing. But furthermore:

In a way I am sort of a conscientious objector in the whole Loudness War. Records (and CDs) were getting louder and louder up through the late 90's and now have presumably sorta leveled off.
But personally I don't think that meter-slamming level issue is with the "loudness" at all.
Now, firstwise, "loudness" is a whackadoo thing to measure. The Beatles made some loud records*. No matter what mastered version you listen to, they're pretty freaking loud.
I think that what's been happening is we've been mixing drums louder and louder for the last 50 years until we have mixes which are just a mess.

Now, it's true, I'm not a fan of using multiband limiters or brick wall limiters generally. Because I do feel oppressed by compression when you can turn the compression up so hard -- way beyond what you're able to do with an old-fashioned compressor that would start "pumping" audibly.

But big, fat compressors like the LA-2A sound great to me (oddly, I've never really felt at home with the 1176 -- lotsa people love them but they've just never worked for me on drums or vocals or anything.)

In any case, the only other major tool available to the mastering engineer is EQ. Presumably one wants one's mastering engineer to do those final EQ tweaks in order to
  1. make the record actually fit on a vinyl album (there are a world of considerations native to a mechanical format -- like keeping the needle from jumping out of the groove during "interesting" stereo phase parts in the bass and the like)
  2. to make the record sound subjectively better
  3. to make the record sound competitive in the marketplace
But the thing is

  1. c'mon, a vinyl album is a novelty item
  2. if you really want to make the record sound better then you should do something in the mix. If there's too much 500 Hz in the drums then you should go back and take it out of the drums, not the whole mix. Mastering engineers are forever complaining about a certain frequency which is too much in one instrument and too little in another. There are workarounds to solve it but the actual objectively better solution is to reach back into the mix and solve the problem there with the multichannel recordings, not the mixdown.
  3. we've already established with my career that commercial considerations are irrelevant.

It's not that there isn't a lot of value in having a disinterested third party listen to your mixes on a very high-end monitoring system in an acoustically well-designed room, because there is. There is. There is there is there is.
Ian Shepherd has an excellent website on mastering and music production.

But you can also listen to your mixes a lot, and then (if you're mixing "in-the-box" as we do) make incremental changes in order to enhappify yourself with those mixes. And then, at some point, you have to stop.

In our world, mastering costs more than the rest of the record cost altogether. Or, in the case of more recent albums of mine, mastering costs and recording and mixing are nothing but time.

So my conclusion is that time/money is nominally better spent listening to mixes over a long period of time (on, you know, semi-decent sound systems) and making incremental changes in the mixes of those musical selections.

At least that's where I'm at now.

 §


The Home Mastering EQ Workshop.

Top 10 DIY mastering mistakes.

This is kinda strange. There's an automated mastering service called LANDR. Basically it slaps some multiband limiting and some sort of (maybe) program-dependent EQ on your tracks. Ten bucks a track.
This page has examples of their mastering.

LUFS and digital metering explained.

*You're gonna want to listen to post-year-2000 CD's of their stuff though, once George Martin was involved in the mastering the CD's are pretty good (meaning: they are in the canon of music, not just of the Western world, but in the canon of works created by mankind.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pedal Fork

My pedalboard needs are minor. Note that I don't actually have a pedalboard.

The Pedalboard Planner is pretty cool. It doesn't have every pedal made, for instance it doesn't have the somewhat esoteric Saturnworks Volume pedal (so I put a TC Electronic Spark to stand in for it). But it's nice to look at what a finished board will look like.
Saturnworks are just cool. And they do things you sometimes just need done.
Speaking of Electro Harmonix, the Pitch Fork seems like a very interesting and cool thing. I notice they use a very single-coil guitar sound with it. The Pitch Fork seems like a rhythm guitar pedal (I mean except for the dive-bombing thing). Creating those massive picked 18-string guitar parts seems sort of interesting to me.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Minding Your Aliens


One of my goals is to finish this Pleasure for the Empire album. When I say "this" Pleasure for the Empire album I do not mean the album above. I mean an album called "Alas, the Alien Mind". But I figure that we'll want some material from previous recordings.
I think that if I edited down Observe Everything, Admire Nothing to under six minutes it would be a really cool song with a groovy Marc Schmied bass solo.
I don't think Penguin Wizard is useful for many purposes. It's a simple blues thing. No biggie.
Fur Kitchen has some merit, especially in that we don't have another song which sounds like that. It has to be edited down. A lot. Indeed, editing it into the best parts of Love Stomp Pantomime might be prudent. There isn't a lot in Love Stomp Pantomime that is particularly exciting melody-wise, but some of the bass stuff is very cool. So yeah, putting those things together sounds like a good idea to me. The 6/8 section has some moments. But the whole thing could be 10 minutes shorter.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mixolydian Headphonia

The rule is you ain't supposed to mix on headphones. But from a practical perspective (and the fact I used to do broadcast) I mix on headphones all the time. For me, the horrid sound of most rooms is such that the room-free sound of headphones is vastly better.
I have a Blue Sky 5.1 Mediadesk speaker system. And it do sound very good. But it's not in a terribly acoustically nice room. And I don't want to bother other people and even though I have made it as quiet (and fan-free) as I can it isn't always that quiet here. So I mix on a pair of Sennheiser 600 headphones a great deal.
The Sennheisers are really quite good. And they're comfy for wearing many hours at a time.

Sonarworks makes a headphone calibration tool which patches into your 2-mix buss (or, alternatively you can patch it into a surround mix buss).

Does it work? Well, honestly it doesn't make me make different decisions regarding a mix. But it does make mixing more pleasant. So it essentially is a "better" button.
Honestly, I'm tempted to leave it turned on for when I export mixes. It's probably not a good idea, but you can see the blue line above to see what it does using the Sennheiser 600 preset (it does the inversion of what the blue curve indicates). But it makes the mids a tad more linear and un-tubby's the bass while extending the bass way down.
The software license (without them personally calibrating your actual set of headphones) is $69. Which is fairly decent. It might be worthwhile because listening through their plugin does reduce fatigue. And that's important.
So. Yeah. Worth it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Notes

These are my notes on the present mix and edit of Crimson Widow of a Ruined God.
  • I think it needs some rhythm guitar or single notes on an organ or electric piano underneath some of the guitar leads in order to thicken it up in a couple of places.
  • And there needs to be some sort of melodic thing happening in the "A" section: that could be acoustic guitar, electric guitar, voice, or something else.
  • Hmm... maybe cut out 16 bars at about minute 16 when the bass sound changes in order to get us into the next funky section earlier.
  • And then maybe a Hammond solo in that funky section.
  • The coda needs to be cut down to under a minute.
I honestly think it's one of the best things I've been involved in.
This whole album is me and Marc Schmied.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stuff what don't matter



I dig this guy and this series on digital audio. Specifically I dig how I don't have to care about recording in better than 16-bit or somewhere around 44.1 and 48kHz.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Assis dans un sous-sol brûlant

"Mastered for iTunes" is the biggest load of malarkey ever. Everyone should be using Bandcamp.com instead anyway.
Roger Waters should have done a cover of Neil Young's After the Goldrush.

Je espérais que vous aviez menti.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tyrannosaurus Souris

So I have this idea that the next Tyrannosaurus Mouse album should be entirely in French. I haven't run that by the guys in the band. Maybe I won't and I'll just do it. As long as they never, ever, ever read this blog.

I'll tell you how that goes.
We rehearse on Wednesday. Lou wants us to have some songs we come in with rather than just jamming on things. I think we'll likely do both. I want to try to do big, languid, things which go into very dry, tight, funky sections. That's my goal.
Again, I'll tell you how that goes.


Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

«Prends garde au Jabberwock, mon fils!
A sa gueule qui mord, à ses griffes qui happent!
Gare l'oiseau Jubjube, et laisse
En paix le frumieux Bandersnatch!»

Le jeune homme, ayant pris sa vorpaline épée,
Cherchait longtemps l'ennemi manziquais...
Puis, arrivé près de l'Arbre Tépé,
Pour réfléchir un instant s'arrêtait.

Or, comme il ruminait de suffêches pensées,
Le Jabberwock, l'oeil flamboyant,
Ruginiflant par le bois touffeté,
Arrivait en barigoulant.

Une, deux! Une, deux! D'outre en outre!
Le glaive vorpalin virevolte, flac-vlan!
Il terrasse le monstre, et, brandissant sa tête,
Il s'en retourne galomphant.

«Tu as donc tué le Jabberwock!
Dans mes bras, mon fils rayonnois!
O jour frabieux! Callouh! Callock!»
Le vieux glouffait de joie.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In the Money

Tyrannosaurus Mouse is making money hand-over-fist. Or paw-over-claw. Or something.
Okay, so I get ten bucks. But I think CD Baby only cost $35, so this is a substantial return.
(Notice that $5.80 of the $9.46 is coming from iTunes UK.  I'm gonna guess that's a single sale of the entire T-Mouse album.)

The following is from an email CD Baby sent me today:

On 06.28.2015 CD Baby sent you a Paypal payment of $9.46. It was CD Baby payment #VPV02742566.

NOTE: It takes 5 days to transfer funds from our bank to our PayPal account to pay you. PayPal will email you when it arrives.

The Paypal deposit was to pay you:
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Beats Music
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.64 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Amazon MP3
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.64 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Apple iTunes
$5.80 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes-UK
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.11 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$1.91 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Amazon MP3
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.25 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$1.27 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Apple iTunes
NOTE: A $1.50 Payment Fee was deducted from this payment.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Future

Every once in a while I look at a new piece of audio gear and think about how freaking far we've come. This Soundcraft UI-10 is a pretty amazing little box. A 16x4 mixer with complete digital control of every dang thing for less than $550. It only records two channels but for a regular rock band gigging situation it really gives you everything between the mic cables and the power amps for the PA.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Samanas at 40 Knots

Tomorrow night, Thursday June 4th, I'll be sitting in with the City Samanas at the 40 Knots Bar in Brooklyn.
My intent is to play with the Peavey Vypyr amp and my Gibson SG. I'm doing that so I can dial in my sound ahead of time (which, as of this writing, is the "plexi" clean with the preamp and power amp gains dimed with a little bit of Leslie and a big 600 or so ms of delay) and not be stressed about powering up a cranky tube amp and getting the pedals to all work and such. I'm not sure if I'll bring the pedal with the amp yet. Maybe. I have one of those Sanpera pedals (the small one) and with it I can control volume and the like. Maybe. I'll have to experiment with it tonight.
We have no set list. We actually only have the vaguest idea of what we'll play. But that actually works out okay for us, so I'll go with it. I expect we'll end up doing a very long version of Dark Star.

Friday, May 29, 2015

An Album's Worth

Greg Bartus sent me some stuff to listen to before we play together next week. I'm kinda digging this stuff which was all recorded one or two years ago. Maybe three years ago. Anyway, I think we should totally release the unreleased stuff. Dark Star First Jam Loosely Regarded by the Cat Asleep by the Door is actually already on an album. So is, ironically, Diatomaceous Earth part II The Porcupines Dream is on that same album Measuring the Invisible is also on In the Vast Iteration But Sapphire Road Tractors? Totally an unreleased song And The Wooley Mammoth's Last Dance is actually a Diatomaceous Earth song

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Oceans of Ganymede

The Gallien-Krueger bass amp plugin by Audiffex is really quite remarkable. First of all it really feels like a miked amp. It really does a musical job of making the bass "better-er". There's a weirdness with the plugin in Samplitude where it seems to lose the preset you were on when you re-open the project or if you split the object it's in, but the sound quality is fantabulous and I can just "freeze" the tracks where I've applied it.

I am particularly proud of my guitar lead on this track. Marc did all the work by coming up with that ostinato. The slow guitar is kind of exactly the thing I've been working toward for a while -- that legato, melodic sort of "sung" lead.
As of this writing I'm still working on the mix. The bass recording was noisy. I don't know what that was about -- converters needing a reboot, bad pots on the fretless, an issue with phantom power? I was too busy playing guitar to hear/do anything about it while we were recording.

In the meantime I saw Marc's band this week. They were awesome. But that's another blog post.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Alas, the Alien Mind Redux

I've done some remixing and replaying and Marc Schmied has done some replaying and then there was some editing and now the songs The Ghost of Marius the Giraffe and Alas the Alien Mind have new mixes and I know there's still some clicks I haven't redrawn and overall it's just too compressed. My that's just what the Alien Mind tells me. Personally I have no idea.

Earlier today when I was listening and mixing I was not that super happy with the overall effect. I went a little too overboard with things. We may have gone too acid rock. I don't know. That Dm, Fm, Ab, E thing still blows me away. Did I make it too crazy? Maybe if I edit the 22-minute Marius down it'll be more sensible.
The guitars on their own don't sound too bad. I'm splitting them fairly equally between Lindell and Neve preamps. The bass is exclusively through a Lindell.

One thing which really makes a big difference is the Gallien Krueger (I refuse to look that up to learn to spell it correctly) VST amp emulator. Now some of the distorted basses are done with Marc's stompbox, but the "bass amp" sound is mostly the GK emulator. 
Yeah, now that I listen to it again, the noisy section goes on too long and too loud.
This is a strange album. Not one I would have expected. But then again, what do I expect?
I'm always surprised at how hard rock things get. I also love the built-in delays, flanges, and choruses in Samplitude. We'll see how this all pans out. Ha. See? I do a lot of autopanning...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Big Bucks

I made $9.11 through CDBaby this year. That's nine dollars, baby. The big ones. USD. I think this is all for Tyrannosaurus Mouse. You know what? The rest of the band is gonna have to sue me for their share! Ha! It's all coke parties and yachts for me from now on! I don't care who I step on on my way up 'cause I'm never comin' down!
I have a feeling that all the Spotify listens are just me listening to the record. But the other part of this experiment is paying ten bucks a month to promote the record through radioairplay.com. The possible "real money" (and by that I mean a hundred, maybe a hundred fifty bucks) will be through BMI.


$4.91 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through eMusic
$1.77 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.59 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes-Canada
$0.56 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.56 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes-Canada
$0.35 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody - Mechanical Royalties
$0.13 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.12 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.11 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.10 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.08 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.07 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.06 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody - Mechanical Royalties
$0.04 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody - Mechanical Royalties
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody - Mechanical Royalties
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.03 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Simfy
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Beats Music
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody - Mechanical Royalties
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Omnifone
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through MediaNet
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rdio
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Beats Music
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rdio
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through JB Hi-Fi
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Muve Music
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Beats Music
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match - Americas
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Google Music Store
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rdio

Robot Christmas video concepts

So I came up with a little ditty called Robot Christmas . And it amuses me. The first verse is about evil robots. They are waiting for t...