Posts Tagged ‘#computer’

 

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.

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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 guess my age and the labor-intensive job I have will collide more frequently than I would hope.  The impact on my body is two-fold:

On one hand I maintain strength and flexibility.

On the other I stress muscles, tendons, bones and stamina beyond what is probably safe or healthy.

I am a dork.  I like to work hard.  Like walking slowly…….  I can’t do it.  It actually takes more effort for me to slow down and it feels awkward.  I work the same way.  If there is a deadline or clear goal I work harder.

Just over a week ago I went to an orthopedic doctor to perform bi-lateral carpal tunnel surgery.  I could have done one hand at a time but each recovery would be about six weeks.  Even if there was no time in-between – or they overlap a little, that is a long time.  I don’t want to go back to work sooner, but I would like to start playing instruments and recording.  If I do them both at the same time I will be ready to start working on getting my chops back up to speed sooner.  If I am really lucky, there will be improvements in dexterity and endurance.

I still do things I can.  I write poetry and lyrics.  I look at their musical possibilities and as soon as a melody or chord progression forms I can’t let it go.  I cannot play guitar or drums, and very little keyboards at this point, but I managed to put some drum loops down for my recent post: “Something To Say”.  Without other instruments I wrote a melody from the drums and meter of the lyrics.  Usually I would have instruments to sing against, so this is kind of working backwards from my usual creative flow.  Maybe I will complete the song with other instruments. Maybe you will, and send them to me!

I added a new original video for my song “From Start To Stop”.  My wife Ellen does the vocals and Greg Stern wrote most of the music and plays guitar.  Ellen and I wrote the lyrics.

I have mentioned Spring Grove Cemetery in past articles and posts and that is where I shot the video.  There was very heavy fog that day and Ellen suggested we take some pictures there.  I will post some of those in the near future, and I also shot a video using my phone that became the background for the video.  There is a small mound with tombstones all around the center.  You can drive all around it so I shot the video as Ellen drove around the mound.  Most of the pictures in the video are mine, but I had a bit of help from my friends over the years!

The YouTube link is below.  I hope you enjoy.

https://youtu.be/Xzp8QWqgeSY

 

I enjoyed the response from my poem “Eight Letters”.  Thank you all so much. (https://midimike.com/2017/07/25/eight-letters/)

The poem kept rattling in my head all day long and I found them fitting a rhythmic pattern.  Then a melody jumped in and I headed up to my studio to get it all down.

There was a mood inspired by the groove and I layed down the guitar tracks to a metronome.

The drums came easily as I followed the rhythms in my head.  As I mentioned earlier, this is fun and simple for me.  The chorus just jumped out, and I like the changes coming back into the verse.  The 6 string acoustic guitar sounded great to me and fit the song perfectly.

From there it was add the bass sound on my MIDI keyboard and it was ready for the Lead and harmony vocals.

It took me a while to sing this one to match the mood and I am glad you didn’t have to listen to me learn the melody and fit it to the music, but I think it came out as intended; short and sweet.

Here is the song mixed down.  The whole process took me about a week, but this was before I started working over 50 hours a week!

 

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So many experiences are composed of related stories and within each story a number of players or artists.  The telling or remembering of some stories becomes difficult before the first words are shared.  What stories do you include?  Which ones do you leave for another time, even though the knowing will make this tale more complete?  Which characters will be the focus today when so many were needed to play their part.

Too many things to share.  If that were the biggest problem we would all become happy and prosperous.  Often, your spouse is also your soul-mate.  Sometimes your boss is your friend.  Do we present the boss or the friend when the story is told?

No Worries.

I do not advertise or promote my recording studio.  Every project has been from word of mouth or referrals/introductions that happen when good people want to introduce you to other good people.  Here is a quick summary of a recent project I was fortunate to be involved with.  Through my wife, my studio and talents were offered to record and back-up a song written by Bill Kreutzjans of the band Smokin Zeus to comfort someone after the primary – election process had finally ended.  He will play acoustic guitar and sing his song, but wanted a fuller sound and maybe some harmonies.

Before he came over to record I got ready.  I listened to a recording of the song and took out the copy of the lyrics.  First; I checked the tempo of the song.  Then I “mapped out” as I call it, a detailed arrangement of the song.  Not just how many verses, bridges, and choruses but also how counting full measures, partial measures, key or tempo changes, and getting an idea of the dynamics that evolve as the song plays out.  I pull up my computer and recording software (I use Sonar, but there are many others).  I created a basic drum pattern to use as a fancy metronome.  Bill laid down his tracks listening to the drum tracks and as most artists do in a studio, he fine-tuned his sound and melody.  Very quickly we had a great foundation recorded.

This was one of those dream songs where everything dropped into place.  We all had ideas of what we wanted to add.  The equipment worked well and everything went smoothly as the song kept building.  I played each section of the song back (sometimes over and over) and used a MIDI keyboard to “record” the bass guitar parts.  Then I used the MIDI keyboard to again trigger sounds from the computer software and plug-ins, but this time I picked a natural string sound to fill around the acoustic guitar.

Good enough progress for a few hours stolen in the day, so we save and back-up files and plan to meet soon to finish.  Send rough mix mp3 so all can listen to tracks we have so far.

In the days before we meet to finalize and mix the tracks, I clean up the drums and add accents to help the song build.  The drum sounds are also provided by the software and I can trigger the individual sounds or use pre-recorded and/or user-created loops.  These ingredients can be blended, added together and shoved in the oven until you get a great loaf of bread.  I add the vocal harmonies based on previous discussions.  Now I spend some time with the mastering tools I have and process tracks using E.Q., compression,  (where needed.  I am not big on heavy compression) volume leveling, etc., and then fun stuff like reverb and stereo placement to make each part noticeable and clear.  Send rough mix mp3 so all can listen to tracks.

At this point I am playing the song over and over because I like it.  I think it sounds cool and we meet to mix and master.  I always try to get an idea how the author/performer wants the components or project to sound like.  It is a difficult language, but if I get a feel for what they want – or an example of things like it – I can usually find the ‘tone’ of the mix they are familiar with.  We pick preferences as we go and the mix continues to bake.  We blend track levels with effects and record the master mix to a stereo track      ( ….. this topic will be a series of articles in the future ).   

For all of you; “No Worries”            © Bill Kreutzjans 10/2016

 

I have been a bit distracted lately.  I have a computer at home that I use to record music and to create the sounds I use with the MIDI controllers.  That is all I use it for.  I update the recording software and the plug-ins that I use, but other than that I have not done any updates since I got everything working reasonably well.   I subscribe to; don’t fix it if it ain’t broke……..

My office computer is another story.  I keep it up to date – within reason – and I try to get all the current drivers, etc.   I use it for everything you use a computer for including playing my audio mixes and working on videos.  So I recently upgraded to Windows 10.

Immediately I could not play audio files or video clips with attached audio.  Nothing changed on the sound card and it shows everything working properly.    Try to play an audio or video file though and the music player crashes.  I gave Windows some feedback. I am dead in the water.   Almost a month ago I got another update (I am checking daily if not more often for an update that will fix this bug) and it worked.  No problem playing audio or videos.

Two days later no audio again.  I sent more feedback and no helpful response in return.  Not unexpected.  I work for a company that uses software updates for our products and I understand how a few can be affected but almost everyone else does not have an issue or problem.  Things are very complex these days and even though devices and programs are GENERALLY easier to use, they are dependent on so many other factors and variables.  I go through the trouble to Reset Windows 10 and install all my programs again.  Still no audio.  A few days ago there is an update and I can again play audio.  Last weekend I was playing music all the time in celebration (yeah, I was in a kind of ‘cold turkey’ for you more senior readers….).

Today I log in and no audio again!   ARRRGHH!  I try to be patient but I think I am ready to trade my Windows 10 in for my old Windows 7!   Sometimes it’s all a numbers game.