Sunday, December 18, 2016

Audio sketchbook

Here's another short instrumental track.  I don't know what these things are really.  Some instrumental music is very deliberate, like a sonata or a symphony.  Other pieces are a vehicle to show instrumental prowess, like a jazz combo playing an instrumental of a familiar song.  These are just kind of mood sketches.  Maybe they're background music for movies that won't ever be made.  They remind me of the 30-second filler instrumental tracks that some bands put on their albums.  I always thought those sounded like the band just messing around in the practice space.  Maybe that's the primordial soup that gives birth to the more popular songs that come later.

This one has got acoustic guitar, fretless bass, hammond organ, and ukulele.  There's a bit of rumbling at the beginning as the worn-out tubes in my ancient organ crackle through the spring reverb tank.  It was recorded on one of the cool, rainy evenings we get in the South in December instead of snow.  The video shows my view from the Reaper recording software.  This is what I see as I adjust track levels, add effects, and hunt audio gremlins.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I collect musical instruments.  Okay, maybe "hoard" is a better word.  They just fascinate me.  Music is such a curious thing.  It's a language with no obvious practical purpose, but one that so many people learn to understand, even if they never speak it.  And instruments are where physics, engineering, and human expression all come together to make it happen.  Growing up I learned to fix instruments since new ones were too expensive.  Along the way, though, I developed a love for old, loved, abused, anachronistic, out of the ordinary instruments.  Someone had them before me.  What music was played on them?  What music is left in them?  How did people make tools for musical expression before computers?  Before transistors?  Before electricity?  I've got a timeline of instruments from the past hundred years that answer those questions.

Anyway, I end up bringing home strays more often than I probably should.  A month ago I got an old, broken Korg DW-6000 synthesizer from someone for $5.  It looks like a cheap toy keyboard, but it's got golden guts.  An hour a another $5 for parts were enough to bring it back to life.  I had thought that I'd fix it up and sell it quickly to get money for a microphone or some other equipment, but now that I've played it I think it may have to stick around in my musical instrument retirement home.  Here's a recording with all of the parts played on the DW-6000 (except for some percussion on a box drum):

Monday, August 1, 2016

Good grief, Charlie Brown

Looper pedals are fun.  They let you record a little snippet of music and then player other parts on top.  It's the same sort of thing I typically do when recording songs, but without stopping.  Finding songs that lend themselves to being built up a part at a time can be a little tricky, though.

I thought it would be fun to take the old jazz piano theme from Peanuts, "Linus and Lucy", and grind it out on a distorted guitar.  A google image search revealed that I'm not the first to imagine a punk rock Charlie Brown:

The guitar is a $50 Peavey "Rockmaster" that I've gutted and reworked.  The pedal is a zoom $50 multi-effects unit. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What the funk?

I remember being in a dollar store in the 90's with a friend.  They always had a bin of $1 CDs that mostly consisted of nature sounds, bad classical recordings, and failed smooth jazz.  My buddy dug out one disc, though, and said, "These guys are great!  Parliament!  70's funk!"  I had never heard of them, but I realized later that I had heard their music all over TV, movies, and the radio.

Later I saw recordings of their unreal performances.  First of all, there are about a zillion people on stage.  There's definitely a tight rhythm section and some horns.  Then there are a bunch of backup singers.  But beyond that there are people in wild costumes running around and dancing.  It's not really choreographed, though.  It's like the audience bought tickets to come and watch the wildest house party imaginable.  Finally, there's George Clinton himself: wearing a white tux, enormous blonde wig, ski goggles, and a dapper cane.  He's the center of everything, but he's not really a lead singer.  Sure, he yells and sings periodically, but there aren't really verses and choruses the way that we usually expect.  He's there dancing, possibly directing, but mostly just being the soul of the whole performance.

I wondered if I could make one of their tunes stand up with a very different set of instrumentation.  Bassoon, banjo, and melodica could cover the parts normally played by bass, guitar, and synthesizer.  Would such a hokey set of instruments bleed all the soul out of the tune or would it still work?  It was a bunch of fun to put together and turned out a bit better than expected:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

New toyz!!!

My new fancy-pants audio interface has a low enough noise floor that it's finally easy for me to record with microphones!  A significant chunk of my recording/mastering effort used to be dedicated to filtering out the acoustic trash added by the cheap audio interface I used.  But, no more!

Here's an instrumental tune all recorded through Shure SM-57's through my Tascam UH-7000 interface/preamp.  Even the bass amp is mic'ed up instead of direct-injecting into the interface like I used to usually do.  I'm considering becoming a professional shaker-ist:

The video isn't all from the same takes as the audio, so it doesn't always sync.  Whatevs.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

O, Life! Go quietly like an old truck.

Not in much of a writing mood tonight.  But a recorded a fun track with the fretless bass, guitar (through the new tube amp), and cajon.  I wanted vocals, but didn't want to write any lyrics, so I used the output from a random poetry generating web page.  Thank you, robots!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hello from the underside

Did you think we were going to make it through March without a new song on OFDM?  Even though the studio is still hibernating in preparation for the big move, I've managed to put something together.

I initially imagined "The Farmer And Adele"'s cover of "Hello" with a full bluegrass band and vocal harmony, but the mics, interface, and other goodies are all sealed up in boxes.  Instead you get me trying to sing in a country voice while strumming a country two-step.  By the end it descends into falsetto purgatory.  Maybe Adele's producer was right not to pursue this genre.

Friday, February 26, 2016

All good things must end

Okay, maybe I'm being melodramatic. We're just moving about a couple of miles away. Still, it's sad to pack up the music room and plaint it a bland color. Here's before:

And after :(

Tonight I dug a guitar out of the heap, though, and played some.  Here's a simple song by Wilco that talks about how disasters are inevitable, but life continues (not that moving qualifies as a disaster :), it's just what I felt like playing).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Name baby Gold!

Push the button, receive a modern baby name for li'l Gold.  Gotta be unique yet mainstream as outlined here:
Since middle names don't really matter and should be potentially embarrassing, they all come from Star Wars.