Here is another live recording from my band, The Chase.  Those were good times.  This is a cover tune from The Beatles – “She’s So Heavy”.  I remember when I first heard this song on the radio.  It absolutely blew me away.  What fun to play this one out live.

 

 

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Here is another song my brother David recorded at a studio years ago as part of his Studio Ways project.  My brother wrote the lyrics and is the vocalist on these tracks.  Terry Boehm played keyboards.  Tom Collier wrote the music and played guitar.  This one is called, “Focus On Your Feet”.  A fun toe-tapping song that sticks in your head!

The songs were being finalized in the studio as each came up to record.  The rhythm tracks were recorded first, with lead instruments and vocals added later that day.  A lot of people ‘freeze up’ their first time in a studio with the tape rolling (yes, this was back in the days when they used tape!) so recording can be very stressful – but with a bit of focus you can come out with great memories.

 

I have live recordings of almost every band I have in.  I record a lot of practice sessions but mostly live performances in front of audiences.  Many recordings are less than ideal situations and often I experiment with unusual techniques searching for a method that will get great results in almost any stage setting.  I threatened to share some of these with you and this is a good a time as any to start!  Some will sound better than others, and some performances will be better, but all should give you a little blast from my past!  Please check out my Live Sound Reinforcement series for the big picture, or if you are interested in learning about LSR.

This one is “Run Like Hell”  From Pink Floyd.

Greg Stern

MSK Studio

Part of the challenge in writing songs is how difficult it might be to convey a particular feeling or message to studio musicians.  All players should be heading in the same direction, playing the same tune, moving at the same tempo and so on.  Creating soundscapes must be a lot like painting.  Drawing the lines and forms are one thing, but which color is best?  There are so many available yet each one conveys a unique mood or feeling.  Sounds can be like that.  We asked a guitar player/friend of ours to come up with guitar tracks for a project I was working on.   This was for a cable TV project looking for sound tracks for an automotive enthusiast series.  We wanted to give the guitar parts a bit of mood setting so we asked him to create tracks that would generate the feeling of …

an engine or racing car, crunchy, powerful

drive – movement – acceleration, fast, fluid

Using basically no more than the above “instructions” he gathered toys and used the word imagery to shape the sound and the playing style for these tracks.  We used the same list to come up with the basic tracks for the song.  This song is an adaptation of a song I wrote a long time ago and we called it The Big D Jam.  I originally composed this song using the Arp Odyssey synthesizer.  I programmed a pretty cool sounding bass patch and came up with the bass line and skeleton of the song.  This song in its original version was performed when I was with The Personal Touch years ago.  If it was a rockin’ crowd we would let Ric Ahlers jam a bit on the solo parts.  I put some simple lyrics to it and it was a really fun song to play out.  Recently I pulled it out of the song closet and re-wrote the chorus.  I also used new software plug-ins from my computer for all the sounds.  This was amazing for me because I have all this fancy gear with cool sounds and I am not using them at all.  In this post, I wanted to give you an idea how the song progressed. The new sounds are just amazingly clear and natural.  I will post in the near future the complete mix with vocals and effects.  When the sounds and the performance match the request or target, the song seems like it was made to order.

Some of you may notice right away that this song is a little different.  The beat is not the same as many other songs.  I enjoy playing in different time signatures.  Not too weird, but I like different beats and even tempo changes if done right.  This song is played in 3/4 time rather than the more traditional 4/4 time. It gives it more of a waltz kind of feel to the measures.  This is a straight forward recording with me and my Ovation 12 string guitar.  There is a hint of a long reverb.

Castles     To me, this is a rather sad song.  I have seen many relationships that should last forever crumble in front of me.  People that were dedicated and adored each other turned to bitter enemies.  Mutual friends and family stuck with unpleasant decisions.  Broken hearts and lives.  Sometimes there are innocent and guilty, but not as often as you would think.  The rooms themselves seem to whisper a sad tale.  Even the pictures are affected by the loneliness and help tell the tragic but all too familiar tale.  Using common excuses as cliche’s the chorus sums it up fairly well while the verses bounce from past to present.

This is not about the relationships that start out with lies or Jekyll/Hyde waiting for you.  This is more about someone wanting to mold you.  Over powering or just with  persistence.  These extreme situations would quickly spin out of control.  Some that begin with love turn vicious.  And as a reminder these are people that professed they loved each other not long ago.  I don’t know how that is possible, frankly.   Best wishes to you if you have ever had to deal with this situation.

I kept hearing a melody line while reading the poem “Hearts Of Stone” I posted earlier.  It is a haunting melody in many ways.  The music behind it is sparse and supports the vocals with open space and fluid timing.  The music seems out of place at first as the lyrics are happy, hopeful and even loving.  On the other side of the chorus the lyrics take a darker look at the conditions many people live with.  The minor key and slow progression of the instruments come into play and help paint a portrait of dismal human experiences.

As with a number of my original recordings, I wish I could sing the piece with power and passion the way it needs to be sung to convey the ideas in my head, but this is probably the best I can do.  Close your eyes and pretend your favorite vocalist is singing.  That MIGHT help lol. Comments suggested a rock song for the lyrics and I agree.  I am playing with the idea and may have another version in the future.  For now, here is my eerie version of “Hearts Of Stone”.

Heart-of-Stone

I have been urging my wife Ellen to open a shop and sell some of her art and craft creations.  Learning valuable secrets about craftsmanship and trade skills from her father, Ellen absorbed everything she could get her hands on.  From upholstery to gardening and straight through caning and painting, she just got better and better.  Finally, after all these years she opens her first on-line store!  This Etsy link will offer her necklaces and jewelry.  In the future she will have outlets for her other creations.

I will include a few pictures here.  She has already sold a few items and will be adding more all the time.  If you are looking for gifts for yourself or others and want to find something truly beautiful and one-of-a-kind, please bookmark her site and check in from time to time so you do not miss the necklace perfect for you!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JewelryByTree

 

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I have been planning to pull out songs I wrote years ago that have never been recorded before (other than live jams in living room sessions…) and record them.  I have been doing a bit of that lately and here is a song I posted the lyrics to earlier called “The Wrong Reply

For a number of these songs it is difficult for me to imagine hearing the songs in any other way than with acoustic guitars and vocalists.  I often think of harmonies, but adding instrumentation really opens up the choices of how the song is transformed. Many people are not aware that the popular Jimi Hendrix song, “All Along The Watch Tower”, was written by Bob Dylan!  If you listen to both versions you can see how much the instrumentation and interpretation of the song can change it dramatically.  There are many other examples, of course, but this is a good one as I appreciate both artists.  This also demonstrates the power of doing a ‘cover tune’ someone else wrote, but that is a subject for a different article.

As with many of my recordings I play all the instruments – sometimes performing in the studio and sometimes using sounds stored on my computer.  The drums are usually triggered sounds using MIDI controllers (like my keyboard or drum pads). Sometimes I will use drum loops that are pre-recorded drum patterns that you can pick and choose to match your song.  My songs usually have a twist or odd groove to them and do not always lend themselves well to existing drum beats.  I wanted something other than the standard drum kit sounds for this song and used other familiar percussion instruments. The bass guitar is recorded using the keyboard as MIDI triggers.

I made up the instrumental part as I forgot what I usually play there and may add a solo instrument of kind in the future.

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I may have some free time for a little bit and I would like to catch up on a bunch of things that have been on the back-burner for a while.  I also hope to pull up old band and other video projects and push them hard into the hi-def age.  It will be a lot harder than it sounds as some of my media is very old tech.  We shall see.

I also wanted to share with you some of the songs my older brother David did in a studio years ago.  I was not involved in writing or recording these songs.  My home studio was meager by today’s standards and I was only set up for one-man songwriting stuff.  I was not able to record an entire band at one time back then.

My brother’s band was doing some original songs and jamming pretty often.  Tom Collins and David had an inspired writing session for a couple of hours before practice.  The band mates were so excited with the new material they made calls and booked time in a recording studio the next week!!##!!

I will detail the studio experience and give the band members and authors their due in future blogs.  Here is a tune from the Studio Ways session that will kick things off well.  “My Dog Loves You Too” is a heart-warming love song with a pleasant twist of humor.  David was faced with a challenge to write a funny love song.  His ex-wife Cynthia came up with a few guitar parts and the song writing took off!  Like this one, all the songs were literally finished and arranged in the studio the day they were recorded.  It gives a great live feel to the collection.  Tom Collins wrote most of the music for this recording and my brother wrote the lyrics.

Please enjoy “My Dog Loves You Too”.

 

Like a lot of people, my wife and I like to feed the birds in our yard.  We know squirrels can get anywhere so over the years we have developed a system where we have thin stranded wire stretched between two tall trees.  We then take another wire and run it through a D ring.  This connects to the bird feeder and then to the trunk of the tree where we can raise and lower it to fill the feeder.  It is high enough so the deer do not suck it dry, and low enough the squirrels do not walk the wire to the feeder.

Then we have one of those half-dome plastic covers above the feeder to prevent the squirrels from climbing up or down the wire to get the feed.  We knew it would not last forever, and last weekend I looked out our home office window and saw that they had overcome our defense lines!

I got out my camera and took pictures and a few video clips.  I want to share some of the pictures with you now, and if you have one minute and thirty seconds or so, click the YouTube link below for a quick laugh.   No animals were harmed in the shooting of this video!

Enjoy!

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Happy Friday!

Video  —  Posted: May 11, 2018 in Video
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