EP Released

Posted: September 8, 2015 in music
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It has been many years, but I have finally finished a set of songs!  For better or worse my first EP, Echoes, is released today and it has five songs.  Of course, I’m trying to get this out on Spotify, etc. and since this is first time I have no idea how long it will actually take for that part to happen.  But you can find the songs on my SoundCloud account in the meantime.  So if you are interested you can start there.  This collection is basically impressions when thinking back on my teens/early twenties.  From “Taste Of Freedom” when I first was able to drive on my own, to remembering meeting my wife with “Song For Stacy”.  Throw in “Sanctuary” about having that place to relax and unwind and “Where Are My Sunglasses” for another driving memory about summer time in the Northwest.  The last one “Echoes”, is kind of a meta song with me realizing that for each of the songs I was drawing on the past for inspiration and looking to expand the dynamics in my songwriting.  Here is the cover art:


Overall, these are pretty straight forward guitar instrumental songs, but these are from my first “real” set of songs since I picked up the guitar again.  It has been a few years, but there definitely is difference when you go from playing the guitar to actually writing cohesive songs.  So this whole exercise helped me focus on that.  On this EP the drums were all programmed as I just couldn’t find the time to find a drummer and go through the process of getting those recorded.  Between the youngest kid graduating, my wife and I going to Costa Rica, and our third and fourth grandchildren being born I’m actually surprised I was able to find time at all.  In fact everything about this EP was basically done “in the box” to make it easier.  The only track recorded with a microphone was the radio voice stuff on “Where Are My Sunglasses”.  All the guitars and bass were recorded direct into my Line 6 Toneport UX1 and I used the PodFarm modeling software to get the tones I wanted.  I used Reaper as my DAW and just used the stock plug-ins to do EQ, compression, and delay/reverb effects.  A Mackie Universal Control control surface helped make mixing quite a bit easier.

I know normally an artist would tour after releasing new music, but obviously that isn’t going to happen.  Instead, I’ll continue to get better at the guitar and start my next EP soon.  Hopefully I’ll look back on this EP  as an amateur attempt because that means I’m continuing to grow in my skill both as a guitar player and songwriter.  I’m also going to see if I can find some collaborators to create music as well (hit me up if interested).  In the past I have not had luck, but I’m hoping this recording will help.  I will probably try to put out a video on what I used to record it and maybe some more details on how to use a Mackie Universal Control to help with the music making process.  I do already have one on how to connect it up to Reaper, but it can be setup to do a ton more so you don’t have to use a mouse and keyboard very much at all.  Anyway, let me know what you think.  If enough people like it maybe I can get my hands on a Mesa Boogie 5:25 and really take it to the next level.  If you want to keep up with my future music endeavors you can subscribe to my music newsletter (apologies for the weird link, I’m still getting used to MailChimp).


EP Update

Posted: August 22, 2015 in music
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It has been a while since I talked music, or really since I talked anything.  Regardless, I am almost done with my EP.  It will be 5 songs and be called Echoes.  I’m finishing up mixing and while I don’t have a solid date, I’m hoping to wrap that up in the next couple of weeks.  I’ve started into the artwork and am looking into how everything works to publish to digital media like Spotify and maybe iTunes.  Since I don’t anticipate many sales I’ll be balancing the cost of setting that up, so we’ll see where the final numbers fall out.  Especially since professional mastering is quite expensive!  But I do want the experience of finishing it out like a real album so that I can take that into my next project whatever it might be.

It seems like this has taken a long, long time so I appreciate guys like David Wallimann, Joe Gilder, and Graham Cochrane who have unknowingly pushed me to finish this project and not waiting until I have everything I “need”.  I look forward to adding more skills for my next project and hopefully I can figure out how to find people with which to collaborate.  You would think it would be easier now with all the digital tools at hand.

Anyway, you can hear the demos on my SoundCloud account until I release the EP.  The songs will be as follows:

Taste of Freedom


Where Are My Sunglasses

Song For Stacy


You’ve got to get to the airport in a few hours, but you don’t want to leave yet.  You’ve seen a ton of cool stuff, so go back to your favorite and take another look.   Go in depth with that gear.  Really get to know it.  You know the sales person is excited and they are trying to tell you everything even though their voice is shot.
So pull it off the shelf and download the manual.  Watch a video or two to get the most out of it.  Figure out what that dial does and try it out.  Hook up the mic and record different things so you know what sounds good (and bad).  Open your DAW and explore the options menus and move stuff around.  Go through your plug-ins directory and find out what each does.
You’re exhausted as you head home but hopefully you have been inspired to create music again.
Now this probably was not as fun as actually going, but I wanted to have fun around hearing about all the new gear and hopefully you get some ideas for setting up your space to make music easily and to be moderately entertained.
Ok, fatigue is starting to set in and you’re really just awake because this is your 4th Redbull in the last hour.  It sounds like a great time to just kick back in the rearranged space, pull out your favorite instrument, and just play.  You uncovered some great gear so hook it up and let it inspire you.  Spin the knobs, explore the option menus, and record.  It doesn’t have to be great, just let it take you back to the time when you first picked up the instrument with fascination.  Remember what that felt like and lose yourself for a bit.
Welcome to day two!  I know you were up late on the show floor checking out all the gear you forgot you had and getting it all nice and shiny.  You’re tired and you know you still have 3 more days to go.  So it is a great time to take a little bit of time and dream.  Dream about your ideal setup.  No, not your “I won the lottery” setup.  The setup that is possible with what is in front of you.  What arrangement would make it easier to make music?  What instrument is used most?  Look at the space and think about how to get the most out of it.  What do you want to do musically this year and how do you mold the space to help you get there?
For me that involved moving a rack from the left side of my desk to the right and putting in some L brackets so I could put in a shelf for my MIDI controller.  Earth shattering?  Hardly, but it gets the components right next to my computer for cabling as well as being within arms reach.  It also cleans up the look from down the hall, but that is just a side benefit.  I can move my microphones into it as well so that I can reach everything to record from my office chair.
It is also a good time to think about what is no longer needed.  Maybe there is a piece of gear that just doesn’t suit you anymore.  Now that it is clean it can be a candidate for passing it on to someone who can use it and you can start a fund for a piece of new gear (keep checking out the NAMM gear videos!) or maybe it just needs to be tossed.
This second day is about taking a deeper look at what is available.
So this week the music world will be talking about a ton of new gear at the Winter NAMM 2015 show.  Like CES in the tech world, NAMM is a show in Las Vegas where music companies and music royalty will mingle to show off the latest stuff.  For me, and I am assuming, many other people, will not be going.  I know I will watch the announcements and probably drool.  But for those of us without the budget to get the gear being shown anyway, this can be a long week.  But instead of being bummed I want to use it as an excuse to go through what I already have and to get prepped for making more music this year.  I will call it “stay at home NAMM”.  Catchy?  Yeah I know, but I had to try.
So instead of fighting traffic and a crowded airport it seems logical that the first step would be to see what it have socked away in the closets and shelves.  Bring it all out into the open, get it out of the boxes.  It’s just like the show floor but without all the people!
Now that everything is out, it is a great time to pull each piece of gear out and clean it up.  A microfiber cloth and a can of compressed air will work wonders for getting each to look like new again.  If you have pedals with glue residue you can use a cleaner to de-gunk.  Look for old batteries and replace if necessary.  Does that piece of gear need tubes?  What about that tangle of cables.  Either get rid of any that are cracked or think about shortening them if you are handy with the soldering iron so you have solid connections.  The goal is to have all the gear clean and working.  If any of it does not meet that requirement it is time to get rid of it.
Just like on the show floor that first day is all about seeing the sights and getting a feel for what is available.

So I tried my hand at video editing as part of adding to my creative skills (you can see it on my Youtube channel).  I used Lightworks, which has a free version, and my Samsung Galaxy 4S as the video camera.  It took a few false starts as I got used to how long I should take on a shot.  My first attempts were way too short to actually be able to do voice over.  The audio is another thing that changed half-way through.  I was going to originally start by talking on camera for the introduction, but trying to get the audio from the video and then put a cleaner voice over afterwards ended up being a lot of trouble.  I’ll have to work on recording everything to Reaper and synching that up.

For this edit I ended up with a rough script which I read through as I took the various shots.  That allowed me to get pretty close with the timing.  Then I edited those together and used my audio setup to record the voice over.  I then muted the original audio and put in a new audio track with the good audio.  I then put in some stills for the intro and rendered it out.  It seemed like it took a long time and I think I ended up with the audio being a little too quiet but overall it was a good experience and now I’ve gone through the complete process.  Next I’m going to try a short tutorial on how I hooked up my Mackie control surface to the computer for use within Reaper.  That should also be a great learning experience.