Friday, December 16, 2016

Fish Bass

Designing an ergonomic bass. The thing I don't dig so much about the bass in that article is that it's designed for your right hand to sit in the middle of the bass. And my interest is in playing near the bridge more comfortably.
Huh. In the early 70's Fender moved the bridge pickup somewhat closer to the bridge.
I found a piece of old pine in the dumpster behind my apartment building. I thought it would be funny to make, instead of a "tonewood" guitar, a trashwood one.
This graphic is relevant to my needs.

Allen Eden guitar neck. Pre-cut bone nut. Massive blank headstock. I need an 11/16 drill bit for the tuner holes.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Make a bass drum

So I've had this idea, after seeing the Turangaleela at the New York Philharmonic earlier this year and also having seen the Kachanov Singers, that the orchestral bass drum is actually the most expressive drum there is.
And honestly I'm not getting a lot of push-back from drummers on this idea. The drum can be quiet and round. It can make delightful little "canks." It can be muted, it can be resonant, it can be sharp, it can be LOUD. I mean freaking LOUD.

And if you're going to have a concert bass drum, it should be 40" by 20" deep.
Thing is, they cost around $2700.  Also note, though, one of the big tricks is that those come with a sweet stand which completely suspends the drum and lets you tilt it at any angle you want. Which kind of rocks.
But let's experiment with the mind for a while, shall we? Mind. Experiment.

There are some resources on the interwebs for building one's own drums. Thing is the pre-built easily-available drum shells don't get as big as 40".
But there's another way -- building a drum with staves instead of a bent shell.

Stave calculator by Uniontown Labs. It's cool but it doesn't actually go up to 40". And you know you need a 40-inch concert bass drum. But still, it does a lot of the calculations (even if there's a seeming limit in the numbers somewhere which make it output "infinity" in some fields.)

But. Again. Decimal inches? I ain't got time for that. I mean unless we really started making decimal inch rules. Which. I mean I guess I have to be able to find one. But. Ugh. Millimeters. I'd so prefer to work in millimeters.

Decimal InchesFraction InchesCentimeters
Rough Diameter42.1250"42 1/8"107.00cm
Finished Diameter41.8750"41 7/8"106.36cm
Shell Depth22.00"22"55.88cm
Number of Staves20
Joint Angle18.00°
Bevel Angle9.00°
Stave Outer Width6.672"6 11/16"16.95cm
Stave Inner Width6.434"6 7/16"16.34cm
Stave Thickness0.750"3/4"1.91cm
Rounded Thickness0.369"3/8"0.94cm
Board Length Required800"Infinity"Infinitycm
Staves per Width1
Staves per Length20
Board Feet RequiredInfinity'
Cost Per Shell$Infinity

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Among thing I am doing in my copious spare time is building a short-scale (30") bass guitar.

Not on purpose but it turns out I'm making a guitar that kind of looks like a fish.
It starts with a piece of wood I pulled out of the dumpster behind my building. I went to FabLab and planed it (the jointer there ain't working because it has an unusual 220v plug so it doesn't go into the socket. I really wish it only had a 110v motor -- or its own transformer. Ugh. I don't want to play with 220, but I'm an American, more on that later) and the piece of wood seems to be a piece of pine.
I thought that instead of making the bass out of "tonewood" I would make it out of "trash wood" and therefore the instrument would be a
Trashwood Guitar
Which amuses me but I don't know how that's going to turn out. I have this idea that the contours of the body will encourage playing near the bridge. Furthermore I (perhaps mistakenly) think this is a good thing.

I so wish we could just use the metric system here. Unfortunately all the rules at the Lab are Imperial and so all the detail work needs to be done Imperial. But adding and subtracting 9/32 of an inch from 4.183" (yes, we flop back and forth into decimal inches) is just too much for my little brain. I mean come on, if we're going to use decimal inches can we puhleeze just use millimeters?

Anyway, I get to go on a journey of discovery where I learn how to rout a Strat-style neck pocket. Also I have to figure out if the wiring all goes under a pickguard or if I rout from the back of the bass so that little holes poke up through the wood for the volume controls and jack. I dunno.

Two humbucking pickups. And they should be at 25.25" and 27" from the nut. Just like Ethan says.
I'll be experimenting with the MM 4 string bass humbucker by Warman in the neck position. The website says it is "Overall size, excluding the 3 mount holes is 90mm x 48mm and 20mm overall depth."
And the bridge position will be their Jazzbar.
So 25.25" is 641.35mm. That's where the neck pickup wants to be.
The bridge pickup wants to be at 685.8mm.
We will round these numbers off.
The neck is 762mm scale.

The ideal neck pickup position is therefore 121mm from the bridge.
The idea bridge pickup position is  76 mm from the bridge.

My calculations show they will just barely fit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

EB0 2 pickup demo

It's all good times. New pickups in the EB0.

I wired the guitar like a Jazz bass but without a tone control.
I routed freehand without any damage to the finish. I went to drill the hole for the wire from the pickup to the volume pot and I punched a small hole all the way through to the back of the guitar. I'm not showing you that.
Conclusions? The position of 25.25" from the nut on a short-scale bass is the best "neck" position. Putting another pickup even closer to the bridge will get more of that midrange honk the kids love so much these days.

Bassic Testing

I made a little rig. I swept a DiMarzio One pickup across the strings of an Epiphone EB0 bass. I learned things.

I learned mostly that Ethan was right about the pickup location.

Conclusions? Best pickup positions on short-scale bass are at: 25.25" from nut and 26.75" (or 27")from nut.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Putting pickups on basses

Following is an email (between the "§§§'s") with Ethan regarding the positioning of pickups on short-scale basses.
Well, I did some thinking and I did some measuring.  Many people feel that the "sweet spot" for a 34" scale bass is where a standard P-bass pickup resides, which is 28.6" (or close enough) from the nut.

First I did some measuring to see if all my P-basses were the same, and they were.  Then I measured some other, non-fender basses to see where they put their neck pickups and, sure enough, they were pretty damn close to 28.6" - G&L, Modulus, Kawai, all 28.6".  One exception was Musicman, who puts the neck pickup on the Sabre closer to the neck, but I never cared much for the neck pickup sound on a Sabre, which leads me to believe that this 28.6" may be something like a right answer.

As it happens, the original, single-coil P-bass places the pickup an inch closer to the neck.  It sounds good there, but it's a very bright sounding single-coil - very UNlike a split P.  Did Leo Fender move it closer to the bridge when he switched to the split P humbucker to reduce the muddiness of the newer, quieter pickup?  Yeah...  probably.  Did he come up with the new measurement scientifically?  Almost definitely not.  Did he just get lucky?  I doubt it.  I'll bet he just tried it in a bunch of places and chose whichever he liked best.

The Jazz Bass, which came later than both versions of the P-bass splits the difference at just over 28", but the pickup splits the difference, too: single coil, but not as bright sounding as a SC P-bass pickup.  I somehow doubt this is all a coincidence.

So, where does that leave you?  Well, a 30" scale length is about .882 of a 34" scale length, so the numbers on a 30"-scale bass would play as follows:
SC P-bass: 24.25"
Jazz Bass:  24.9"
Std P-bass  25.25"

Incidentally, 25.25" happens to be exactly where the pickup is on my vintage Dan Armstrong/Danelectro, which is the only short-scale (30") bass I own, and it sounds really good there.  There's a bass with the same scale as yours and the pickup is placed right where an equivalently-scaled P-bass' pickup would be.  That's a "lipstick-tube" pickup on there, which is an overwound single-coil that sounds like the bastard child of a split P-bass pickup and a P-90.

So in your position, I would probably choose 25.25" from the nut (to the center of the pickup) if I were using a humbucker of any kind (including a split P), 24.9" for a J pickup or any other bass pickup with a bit more clarity (like the newer, full-range Bartolinis, Nordstrand singles, Delanos or lower-output EMGs) and leave the 24.25" position alone, as it's probably not far enough from where your pickup is now to make any substantial difference.

As far as a bridge pickup goes, Gibson tended to put them too close to the bridge.  I guess they thought they'd only be used as an addition to the neck pickup.  I'd suggest putting it right between the other pickup and the bridge or maybe even a little closer to the other pickup.  There will be less difference between the two pickups, true, but there will still be a difference and what you'll gain is two, distinct sounds that can both be used as stand-alone bass sounds - something you really can't do with a stock Gibson bridge pickup.

Now, just to muddy the waters a little further (because I can), the Musicman Stingray only has one pickup - ostensibly a "bridge" pickup, although it's far enough from the bridge to still sound like a [neck] pickup.  It sits at 30.6", which equates to 27" on a 30"-scale bass.  A Rickenbacker's neck pickup is really close to the neck and most people use the bridge pickup as the main pickup on a Ric.  Translated to 30" scale from a Ric's 33" the pickup would sit at 26.8".  In other words, if the scales were equal, a Ric's bridge pickup sits VERY near where a Stingray's pickup is, which explains their similar growl.

Jazz basses and G&Ls place the bridge pickup closer to the bridge, just on the edge of usefulness as a standalone pickup, IMO.  They sit at 31.5 or 32", depending upon the year.  That equates to 27.8" or 28.2", give or take.

Based on these numbers, I'd shoot for 25.25 for the neck pickup and then try to squeeze the bridge pickup in there as close to 27" as space will allow (reality would probably push you closer to 27.5).  Sure, it will put it pretty close to the neck pickup, but you'll end up with two really useful pickup positions that would still probably work well together, too.

As far as what pickups to use....  well, shit.  There are an awful lot of options out there.  It really depends upon what you're after.  Do you want your bass to still sound kinda like an EB-0 but on steroids, or are you looking for much more versatility?  There's a pretty staggering array of pickup and electronics options for bass - everything from pure thud to super hi-fi with tons of stops in between, and a lot of ways to get both - or, at least, aspects of both from the same instrument.  A lot of it is just how much planning you want to do and how much you want to spend.

There I go, thinking too much again.
Here for your dining and dancing pleasure is the schematic for wiring a Jazz Bass.
I'm going to try to put my DiMarzio One at the 25.25" position on my Epiphone EB0. More on that in later posts!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Obviously Native Instruments has the sampler world tied up with their Kontakt engine (which is awfully pricey IMHO). And the registration system -- let's just say it's not the best. Some of the official NI instruments I've bought from them work, and some will "say" they're registered but still only be in demo mode which only gives one 15 minutes to work with them.
There are, ostensibly, other options. Plogue makes a free thing called "Sforzando".
As for free libraries there's the Virtual Playing Orchestra and Plogue's own free sounds.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Strings EB0


The order of events is thusly:

  • I got an Epiphone EB0 guitar
  • I put a new pickup in it
  • I changed the strings on it to Thomastik Infeld Jazz flatwound strings
  • I was not really 100% happy with how that guitar sounded on recordings with other instruments
  • I bought an Epiphone Allen Wood guitar from Guitar Center (online, used)
  • The bridge on that guitar decided it didn't actually belong attached to the guitar (even as much as no Epiphone bridge believes it should be attached to any Epiphone guitar)
    I took that guitar back for a refund at a local Guitar Center
    I got a new Allen Woody from Sweetwater
    I took the TI's off the EB0 and put them on the Allen Woody
  • I took the Allen Woody's strings and put them on the EB0
  • I'm much happier now.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Exotic Dihemitonic Pentatonic Modes

An interesting discussion over on Reddit about exotic dihemitonic pentatonic modes. Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke does some very groovy stuff in that, er, mode.

A while back I'd bought a used Allen Woody bass from Guitar Center online. Unfortunately, this was a thing that was true about that bass. Fortunately, Guitar Center lets you return used purchases to any GC store. So I did. And then I bought a new Allen Woody from Sweetwater and never looked back.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Miking and Multipliers

The Nikolai Kachanov Singers are kind of the Seal Team 6 of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. They're a smaller group and they have a wider mission of doing more modern music from around the world. Not exclusively modern, of course, that's not Nikolai's style. There's some ancient stuff in their repertoire as well as Messiaen and Arvo Part (and much younger composers). And they are freaking fantastic.

So. This concert. First of all, this venue is terrific sounding. St. Ignatius up on West End Avenue in Manhattan. The only downsides are that they have no piano and the heating is... well honestly the heating is a very weird joke as they have these two monstrous and incredibly loud heating units in the back of the church that look... like monsters. You can't see them in this picture.
The pipe organ is wonderful. You can actually hear what's going on around you. But no piano (and honestly I don't see how they could afford to keep a piano tuned due to the, er, vagaries of the heating and humidity situation.)

My sinuses are suffering today from breathing this stuff yesterday.
Ho-ly cats do they pour on the incense on Sundays. Holy cats. I mean, we walked in at 1pm and it was like being on the set of Blade Runner. Like OSHA would insist on respirators. Pretty though.
Looking toward the front of the church.

So the music had a fairly wide range of orchestration. One piece had a lute, one had a harp, one with a percussion section and a string quartet. So we're looking at a fairly wide dynamic range. Also, the chorus moved around a bit depending on the piece. For most pieces the chorus is upstage of that railing in the part of the church called, if I understand correctly, the "choir".
The left Rode NT-1 sat in the first row of the pews on the left. The right one is not visible in this picture.

Other times the chorus was down on the steps and the percussionist was up in the "choir" with the string quartet down on the floor (where you can see the conductor in the rehearsal above.)
Oh, and a quartet of singers was sent off to a side chapel for one piece to be an "echo." I generally don't go chasing after things like that with microphones because the whole point is that they sound far away.

So the basic deal is that my tendency is to want to go relatively close with microphones to pick up the articulation and detail, and Nikolai is wont to put microphones further away because he doesn't want to hear individual voices. So for this concert I was thinking about the details and locations of various instruments and came up with another notion.

1 and 2 are large diaphragm cardioid microphones spaced about 6 feet apart. Number 3 is a stereo pair of small diaphragm microphones up in the air, showing the kind of distance the maestro prefers overall. (Note these numbers are not the channel assignments. If they were 1 and 2 would be in channels 3 and for, and 3 would be a stereo pair in 1 and 2. If you aren't confused, just keep reading.)
Probably 90% of the sound you want is a pair of nice supercarioid microphones in an X/Y pair in the first "sweet spot" you find as you listen to the chorus and start to walk backwards from the conductor's position. It's kind of funny and awesome that I have a conductor who will make that walk and ask for a particular mic placement. I think it's somewhat unusual to have a musical director that sophisticated in recording.

For this recording I wanted some options though. And those options involved having a couple bigger mics closer to the music. And it turned out that except for one piece I was wrong and Nikolai was right but not for the reason I expected. The mix and the blend are vastly better for almost all the music with the X/Y pair set three rows back. So what are those very far apart microphones good for?

When mixed in with the center X/Y pair those far apart microphones add a bit of widening to everything. Which, you know, makes intuitive sense now that I write it down but. Well yes then. And when I say "mixed in" I mean at least 10dB quieter than the center pair. When I recorded I set all the gains to record the sound on the stage at the same level on each recording track. So if somebody sang in the center of the stage, the meters on all four microphone channels would light up exactly the same.*

The percussion setup was really very cool. Not shown well are these sweet little bells. Ooh. I think they're called "crotales".
But in the mix those NT-1's would be 10dB lower. I think I said that.
Pay no attention to the amount of compression and even parallel compression added to this mix. Ahem. That would be illegal in classical music. But note that channels 1 and 2 are the center mics and 3 and 4 are the Rode large-diaphragm mics and that the Aux channels only have 1 and 2 in them.

Actually, in the mix they're significantly lower than that even.  But I think that just the bit of sound we get from them, varying from piece-to-piece obviously, adds enough to make them worthwhile.

The lute. Pretty. But quiet. Insert your own joke here.

Now I made one exception to the general "don't move microphones" rule. That was for the piece with the lute. I scooched the NT-1's to where you can see them here for this one piece. And when I listened to the quick temp mixes I made today, I favored those mics over the ones about 30 feet away just because... because.

But now I'm all down with how I've got an 8-channel Zoom recorder, I may as well go crazy with microphones and track counts. Right? Right. I'm thinking a very wide modified Decca Tree. Because the fact is, if we don't like a mic placement -- we can just mute it in the mix.

*Yes, this is technically only true for a single point source and would fall apart as soon as someone changed position, but I had a chance to come up with an average and that's what I stuck with. Let's just pretend that all the microphones were getting the same amount of signal onto their respective tracks and leave it at that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pedal pedal

There are a lot of guitar pedals out there in the world. The thing is that there's actually sort of a limited number of actual usable sounds compared to the numbers of different sounds we can make with our technology or even imagination. I think Casio discovered this in the late 80's with their PCM synthesizers. And especially now -- when we can literally draw any sort of sound we want, we find that by and large there are some usable sounds and other sounds we don't care about. I mean, I don't even have examples of those sounds that are useless because nobody uses them. But go ahead, draw a waveform. You'll hear what I mean. They're pretty useless.
Anyway, pedals. Lots of small manufacturers. Mostly making fuzz boxes. Look, there are and have been some amazing guitar players who used fuzz boxes. You know, people like Hendrix. But personally I don't care for them. Maybe it's because I used to have an MXR Distortion + pedal. But most new pedals make sounds I... just don't care about.

Obviously there are exceptions. Most all useful guitar sounds had pretty much been found by the early 70's. Probably earlier than that even. You could keep adding more gain and fuzz but... after a while it gets kind of boring.
Strymon does excellent work. And if you had a hankering for a vibrato/reverb pedal their Flint seems like it can't be beat.
Lehle also rocks the vole. They just make great stuff. And if I were a bass player I'd be seriously looking into their two-band bass compressor pedal.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Synthia is a free VST version of the EMS Synthia -- the sequencer and synthesiser used by Pink Floyd for "On the Run."

Warm Audio makes an LA-2A clone. The street price for that mono limiter is only $900 which, for an optical compressor is pretty darn good. I think the LA-2A is my favorite compressor. I've never been able to get the (vastly more affordable) 1176 to work for me.
Dunlop makes a couple Echoplex emulators. A preamp for about a hundred dollars.

And the actual Echoplex delay itself. They run new for about $200.
You can add the MXR delay switch for about $40.

I love my MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay (also made by Dunlop) but boy... Dunlop makes some really great and refined-sounding stuff.  I love my Carbon Copy. It sounds fantastic. But the Echoplex... I'm not saying I don't love my Carbon Copy. I'm just sayin'...

Friday, August 19, 2016


One Cut Vinyl is a print-on-demand record cutting service. Expect to pay about 20 British pounds each for a run of 10. Doesn't come with jackets.
Vinylify specializes in 10-inch (!) records. About 60 Euros a piece. But that includes a spineless jacket.

These German dudes at VinylRecorder have made a 3200 Euro vinyl record cutter. I mean. That's crazy. Brilliant. It fits on top of a Techniques 1500 turntable.
Custom Records also does one-off lathed records for $150 plus labels and jackets.
Vinylondemand does $50 12" records.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The End of August at the Hotel Ozone

The bar code for the new Diatomaceous Earth album is 763591005228
The last 8 is the check-sum.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Slide Tab Tension

Custom waterslide decals for guitars.

Just reposting this tab of Jethro Tull's Bouree'. It's still really difficult to play.

This isn't really the best-written treatise on string tension and honestly I still don't understand it after having read it a few times.  Apparently having a minimal angle after the nut and the bridge makes bending notes more pleasant. Hmm... that makes sense to me actually.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Diatomaceous Earth The Porcupine's Dream Part I

Yes, this is a new version of The Porcupine's Dream. A slightly better video. A slightly better mix.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Porcupine's Dream (Part I)

Tyrannosaurus Mouse and our recording of The Porcupine's Dream.
This is actually the last take we did. The slate stopped working and the cameras ended up being... er... not in sync. But this slower version of the song is my favorite.
I'm very happy with my guitar sound. Ethan's bass sound is the best bass sound I've ever personally recorded. I especially dig Greg's slide guitar. Lou is playing an electronic kit with Native Instruments Studio Drummer sounds. The Studio Drummer kit mixes so easily. The hi hats are so smooth and the kick just sounds great without any work.
I've been cheating in a variety of ways. The compressors are mostly (emulated) LA2A's but I'm also putting many or most channels through (emulated) Pultec EQ's using that trick of boosting and attenuating the same frequencies. To me it makes the low end more... well more, but without being muddy.
Most of the channels are hitting multiple compressors before they even get to the master buss. At the master buss I have three limiters: a Samplitude "Ammunition" M/S compressor/limiter, and two Fairchild (emulation) stereo limiters set very very lightly -- one being stereo and the other being in M/S mode.
Oh, and another limiter on the master buss is the Samplitude "advanced dynamics" mostly lifting up the bottom part of the dynamics which is function that's almost impossible to explain but which I've discovered recently and sounds freaking noice.

Friday, June 10, 2016


I've been trying to practice regularly. But I've been practicing bass. And not for any particular reason, either. Just that I got it into my head I wanted to play the Jethro Tull Bouree for some reason. It's remarkably tricky to play.
I'm in that rut one gets into where it's like dangit, I'm just not getting any better. I'm sort of frozen in this place. Maybe bass is just really really hard? Playing notes evenly on the dang thing seems so much harder than guitar. Of course I've played guitar for 35 years so maybe I'm just used to it. I don't know.

But the things I am good at on guitar I'm so not good at on bass. Dynamics are out the window. The control of tone is, in many ways literally, heavy-handed as my right hand just goes places not entirely with my consent.
It seems that many Tool songs are played in a dropped-D tuning. I've never felt comfortable in alternate tunings. But intellectually I don't think I'm that comfortable in regular tunings so what difference does it make?
Well no, changing the tuning on a guitar kinda means you really need to do a new setup on the neck. And you may need to re-think your string gauge. I had thought that the heavy strings Ethan makes me get might do better for very low-tuned guitars but actually I think I'd have to go for much heavier strings to tune the guitar lower (I'm experimenting on the Blattocaster).
I'm getting a special Tyrannosaurus Mouse headstock decal for that guitar. Ethan spent a goodly many hour cutting that custom bone nut but at this point in my life I'd like a compensated nut. That's what I tell all the girls at least.
The Timebender and the TC Electronic D-Two are the only guitar effects that let you tap in a pattern for delays.
I have become frustrated with the Abbey Road 60's kick drum. So I'm trying the regular session drummer kit and I find it so much easier to mix.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hedonic Treadmill

Diatomaceous Earth. This is a mix from our last recording (March 4th, 2016). Lou Clark on drums, Ethan Rosenblatt on bass guitar, Greg Bartus and me (Andrew Bellware) on guitars.
Hedonic Treadmill was just an end-of-the-night jam. Could it be shorter? Probably. Will it be? I... I don't know.

I could make a guess about what we're all playing through. Greg through his preamp rack and then into... hmm... Maybe the ART tube preamp? Probably. Ethan is certainly going direct into the ART tube preamp (the other channel). I'm going through a Kemper profiler amp and then into a Lindell mic preamp. Lou is playing sounds from the Abbey Road late 60's kit.
The bass is going through a GK amp simulator. And everybody's getting hit with noise reduction and a wide variety of compression.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blind Testing

I kind of dig the Chapman YouTube channel. They do quite a bit of blind testing of guitars and amps and they get to some interesting conclusions. Here we learn that the sound of different gauge strings is not so much as the feel of them.

Other things we've learned is that the Squire Classic Vibe Telecaster is arguably better than its Fender equivalent.

And Ringo Starr is left-handed, but plays a right-handed kit. This. This explains so much about the incredible style of The Beatles. I can't even begin to say. And the 23 best cats in kick drums.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

O! Various. O! Sundry.

The chords to Nothing Compares 2 U.
The steps to getting a radio license for wireless microphones

Text-to-speech I kinda like.
Notes on adjusting the notorious Gibson 3-point bridge.

Magix makes the LC-1, a plugin for DialNorm levels. It's only (heh) $1300.  Our distributor has told us he hasn't heard of anyone insisting on compliance with HEAR but if they do, that'll likely be the direction I go in.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Medium Colors

Turns out that the short and medium scale bass is a "thing". Primarily because of the lack of dead spots on the neck. Which is interesting.
A primer on short and medium-scale basses.

An animated tab of the bass part of the Bouree. Note that these versions I'm posting are all slightly different.
Belden has this color/channel chart. I had to wire up my 5.1 system so I needed to know this.
  1. brown
  2. red
  3. orange
  4. yellow
  5. green
  6. blue
  7. purple
  8. grey

Saturday, April 30, 2016


The Jethro Tull version of Bach's Bouree is one of my musical touchstones. It was the first thing I'd learned on the flute (at least the melody I mean). And as much as television shows like HBO's Vinyl exude raw hatred for Tull, the jazz version of the bouree is absolutely brilliant.

And that brilliance would be completely absent if it weren't for the bass part. Glenn Cornick was an amazing player and the bass solo does one of the things one does not normally expect from a bass solo: it's musical.

A kind of study of theme and variation, using the counterpoint to the melody as the starting place (which, c'mon, that's awesome), the bass part actually goes into freaking chords. Chords, man. Chords. Chords on bass are notoriously muddy.  But Cornick, genius that he was, created a whole subject/answer jazz/rock classical/modern simple/elegant part with this piece.
The simple/elegant part of it makes it surprisingly tricky to play.
The best tab I can find for it is on Songsterr.  Some of the positions, however, seem suspect to me. There are some jumps which seem unnecessary and looking at videos of Cornick playing it, he doesn't seem to be playing it that way.
But it's a good start. And tablature is not a terrible way to read either. There are some time things which confuse me somewhat. But I'm getting over them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fixing Samplitude

So of course I'm last-minute scrambling to get a feature film out the door and... Samplitude crashes on bounce-to-disk
This is my preferred screen layout. Note that when I click on the mixer it sits atop everything but the transport controls and meters. As it should.

This is the solution from tech support:

Please make a reset of the Samplitude programsetting
System Options (Y) >
Option Administration
First load the Samplitude standard Preset from the Preset field.
Tick Audio/MIDI Settings, Visualisation Settings and Window positions
Click on Restore settings and restart program.
Please safe your shotcuts and color options before doing so.
If that doesn't make sense, I made a little video to explain:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

EQ's and guitar making

I made a quick and dirty tutorial on using a parametric EQ in Samplitude. This is the first episode of the second season of Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Stage and Screen.

The economics of guitar making. Takeaways:
  • All mass produced guitars really are of about the same quality: they're all made by the same machines no matter what country they're produced in
  • Cheaper guitars have to go cheaper on components for the manufacturer to have a prayer at netting a profit -- making it vastly more economical for the end-user to simply drop in new pickups and the like on inexpensive instruments
Open Air is a library of open source impulse responses.  Because. Well, yeah.

Monday, April 11, 2016

EB-0 review

So I got an EB-0 bass. Here's my Conversation with Ethan about it. Well, it's what Ethan has to say about it at least.

EB-0, huh? Never been a big fan, but I suppose Jack Bruce's opinion ought to be worth something and he certainly seemed to like them. Or, at least, he did until he got a deal with Warwick....

Mike Watt likes 'em, too, but he modifies them, like, a LOT*, and only likes the ones from around 1963 to 1967. To me, they always balanced funny, the pickup placement made for a muddy tone and the necks were usually too skinny for me. On the other hand, Gibson's been making them, in some variant or other, since 1962 or so which means there's somebody out there who likes them enough to buy them.

*Watt typically removes the original pickup and covers the hole, then routs a new hole and mounts a humbucker right at the midpoint between the bridge and neck (like a P-bass). Sometimes he also adds a preamp, sometimes not. He only uses them live, preferring a long-scale bass for recording. Says he likes gigging the EB basses because of their light weight and short scale - easier on his hands and back now that he's "less young". It makes sense: he plays very long sets, still tours incessantly and is now, I believe, over 60. He's also a very physical player.
Normally, he records with a Moon J-Bass. I'm sure the vintage police would cringe at what he's doing to mid-'60s EB-0s and EB-3s, but he's making his living with these things and has no concern whatsoever about their vintage status. One of his faves during his fIREHOSE days was a '50s P-bass routed for Gibson Thunderbird pickups.


After all is said and done I think I don't even care either way about the DiMarzio pickups. The Epiphone EB-0 is just a very nice instrument out of the box. Update: Short version: I like the Thomastik-Infeld JF324 strings, the Hipshot bridge just doesn't work for me.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Broke Bass

So, I went out on a limb and a bought an Epiphone EB-0 even though I haven't sold my Squire 5-string Jazz bass yet.
I ordered it from Sweetwater but unfortunately it arrived with a gouge in it.

Now, the fact is that I'm likely to put some sort of nick or dent in the guitar within the first 20 hours or so of my owning it. But at least if that happens I'm the one who did it. Not a person at Gibson or Sweetwater or whatever (the packaging didn't look damaged, I suspect it was damaged while being placed in its box.)
So presumably I'm getting a new bass tomorrow via FedEx, along with a shipping label to send the broken one back.
Then I'll make a couple videos -- one with the bass stock, one with a new pickup, new bridge, new strings. I guess that's one video multiple scenes or something.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sound Things Today

Here are the service manuals and such for the AKG HSD271 headphones with boom mic. Mine has no audio in the left ear and I have no idea why.
The Strymon Big Sky seems like a pretty cool reverb pedal but what I really like is the piece of music they recorded for this demo.

Sweetwater has a pretty good summary article on line arrays. If the inverse square law ticks you off, line arrays may be for you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thinking about basses

My Squire 5-string Jazz bass just isn't speaking to me the way I wish it would. I'm thinking it may be time to replace it. I'm interested in a short-scale bass.

The Epiphone EB-0 is cool. The Interwebs says it has a terrible stock pickup though. People seem to like the DiMarzio Model One as a replacement pickup for it. And, honestly, one might want to replace both the tuners and the bridge. So a $230 guitar becomes a $425 guitar. But still, short scale, and very nice looking (I have a bit of a "thing" for Gibson style rather than Fender).

What's likely even cooler is the Epiphone Allen Woody Wildcat bass.
People seem to like the pickups. And quite honestly they're in a more reasonable position than the pickups in many Gibson/Epiphone basses. People still like to replace the bridge, maybe the tuners. But they seem to dig the pickups. This is a $450 bass.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

When do you use large-diaphragm vs small-diaphragm mics?

When do you use large-diaphragm mics? When do you use small ones?

I have no "rule" to answer this with. It always seems arbitrary which one is chosen for which instrument. But those choices seem to be fairly consistent once they're made:
Close-miked voices? Large diaphragm.
Choirs and distant-miked voices? Small diaphragm.
Violins? Small.
Cellos and basses? Large.
A very weird and specific (albeit reasonably-priced) collection of microphones.

Snare drums are inevitably small-diaphragm if you're gonna mic them (which everybody does but for me it doesn't work that great), but overheads become a matter of taste between whatever large or small diaphragm mics you have.

Acoustic guitars -- man, I don't know. I can go either way.

Electric guitar amps -- typically the close mic is small, but a mic 3' to 25' away? That one will typically be a large (if you use a distant mic on your guitar amp which I typically do not). 

Large diaphragm mics are more sonically colored.
Small diaphragm are more accurate.

Voices get too strident on small diaphragm mics.

Are these rules? No, they're just my general prejudices and opinions. There what I intuit when I go to mic things. And it troubles me that I don't have any more a firm grasp on the why and wherefores of using a particular microphone type on a particular instrument. But that's all I got.

Etymotic Pro High Fidelity first impressions

These are my first impressions of the Etymotic Music Pro High-Fidelity Electronic Musicians Earplugs. The short answers are:
  1. They sound great. 
  2. And they're worth the $300 and the pain in the tuchus of having to replace batteries like hearing aids. They do what they're supposed to do.
  3. Just having them in your ears is not like not having them in your ears. You can hear pretty much the same volume level but the frequency response is not like having nothing in your ears. 
And then these were my impressions as I thought of them.

  • The active part of them is a tad disorienting at first. And yeah, when they're in and stuff is happening at normal (quiet) volumes around you it doesn't sound quite as good as real life.
  • There's a switch on each ear to go from "enhanced hearing" (which is basically it acting like a hearing aid) with 9dB of protection, to "normal hearing" with the regular 15dB mode. I wish that switch would actually be an "off" and then "on" (15dB mode) so that you don't have to pop the batteries to keep them from draining.
  • Because the two earplugs aren't connected electrically the loss of "stereo" happens whenever a loud sound happens on one side of you but not the other. This is because one earplug turns stuff down while the other doesn't. This is why stereo processors for broadcast and the like are always "linked". In any case, it takes a bit of getting used to when one ear shuts down because of a train's brakes squealing or whatever.
  • I wore them for 3 hours straight and my ears were feeling a bit itchy. That's when I realized that I was wearing them for vastly longer than I usually wear earplugs -- because they weren't really dulling anything when I was out on the street. 
  • When they kick in they are smooth. You do not hear them "compress". Loud drums don't make them pump the way I would expect a regular compressor to do. It's sort of surprising to go from electric band in full-on rock-out mode (I won't say I dimed the Bassman I was playing through but I definitely had it on 8) to just chatting in the rehearsal room without noticing the changes in volume. They work great.
    I'm gonna imagine that in an acoustic situation where you want just one ear to shut down because there's a freaking trombone just a few feet away but you also want to hear your own violin, the Music Pro are the way to go.
  • On the way home from practice I was tired of having things in my ears so I put on my Howard Leight for the ride back. 
  • I may want to experiment with the fit and the placement because the Pros come with a million options. Nominally I try to avoid the foam kind because I find they're more fiddly, but those are an option as are different sizes of rubbery inserts.  I do appreciate the cleaning brush.
  • My impression is that they might be a bit more irritating because it's not one's instinct to immediately take them out when in a "non-dangerous" environment.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Musical Hearing Protection

I saw Turangalîla the other night. The New York Philharmonic can really play. After the performance I was talking to some of the musicians and they were complaining about how loud it was on the stage and that they had to wear hearing protection. I asked what kind and they said "Oh, the yellow kind." I was like "What?"
And they pulled out a pair and showed me.
I was aghast.

The cheapest, most awful, industrial earplugs are what they're using.
I mean yeah, I'm fairly vigilant about steering clear of hearing damage and I do, in fact, carry three entirely different kinds of hearing protection with me. So I showed him my inexpensive "musician's earplugs" which are vastly more musical than the yellow foam things.

One player pointed out that a thing about hearing protection is that they have to be able to put them in and take them out quickly. But even the cheap musician's ones have a thing you can grab to pull them out -- and the fact is you don't need to as much because your hearing is "flatter" than the high-end pillow the industrial plugs put in your ears (as well as the fact that you have to wait a moment to be sure they expand and start working).

I used to have custom Etymotics but my ears changed shape over the years and I went to soft ear plugs rather than the hard custom kind. I could go back and get a custom mold made again but I do sort of like the softness of the regular kind. But then...

Etymotics makes the Music Pro, which are like the musical, active version of Peltier shooters earplugs. $300 -- so they're even pricier than the custom-molded passive ones. But for musicians they look pretty amazing. I'll tell you more when I know more.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Various Night Gods issues

Music Makers is a rehearsal studio in Manhattan. We'll be doing a thing with Night Gods of the Sleeping Earth. I have to learn the words to Glory Box. I have trouble locating the first notes of that song. I think it's A to B when playing in Em.

We're going to try a cover of Superstition too -- as an instrumental -- and again in Em.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The Lehle volume pedal is probably one of the cooler volume pedals out there.

Thing is, they cost the better part of three hundred bucks.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Night Gods of the Sleeping Earth

So Greg Bartus and I are putting together a band to do some playing out. I asked what we should be named and he told me to give him some options. Night Gods of the Sleeping Earth was the first choice and that's what we're going with.
We're gonna need at least one fog machine.

We're also gonna want to do a version of Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
This dude, Jacek Korohoda (I think there's a diacritical mark missing in his YouTube name), has an excellent guitar arrangement of the tune.
And here's an article breaking down the original recording of the song with individual tracks on .mp3. Three tracks of live drums. That's right. 8 channels of clavinet. 3 of drums.