Posts Tagged ‘#Midi’

As a musician I look at time a bit differently than others might. I am reminded of this when I see movies or videos of people working out and doing exercises. Even the simple ‘count to ten’ is often a reminder that most people don’t count time correctly.

It is easy to count ten items – you start at 1 (one) and stop when you get to 10 (ten). To sound it out aloud counting ten items would go like this…….

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. You do indeed have ten items.

But counting time is different. A second is not a single point in time but a defined length of time. If you followed the above approach you would end up with 9 full seconds as shown below. (if tied to a metronome or equivalent)

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10.

Use the dashes to represent the full length of each second. Total them up and you end up with only 9 full seconds, not 10. There are easy ways to break this habit.

Start with the number 0 (zero) when counting time. This will give us 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10.

Now, when you total the dashes you get ten full seconds. A lot of people count faster when counting up, and but more accurately when counting down. Like a rocket launch or New Year’s celebrations, this steady rhythm has been in our culture for a long time. Try it.

For items start with the number 1, but for time, start or end with the number 0. Each second, minute or hour lies in between each pair of numbers, not within the number itself.

When we decided to be Personal Touch

As mentioned in the first post of this series, we played original songs in each set. Here is the only recording I am aware of for the song “For Those Who Wait”. We were touring in Corpus Christie Texas and I met with Ric in the afternoon to do a little practice and system fine-tuning. After we were settled he said, ‘hey, whip out the lyrics you are working on. I have a few chords I want to try. We worked for about half an hour going through his chords and arranging them into a song.

In very short time I came up with the melody and we were able to finish the song enough that we performed it later in the tour. I programmed the Yamaha RX7 Drum machine to fit the arrangement. Ann and I sang the lead vocals and Ric did everything else. In the picture above you can see the two silver discs on the lower section of Ric’s guitar. While playing guitar, he would touch one of the silver pads to make a cymbal crash sound from his drum machine and the other one triggered a pre-programmed drum fill pattern for each time he hit the pad. He also kicked bass pedals and triggered string or piano sounds. Pretty amazing when two out of three are just singing to get all that sound.

For “Those Who Wait” by Ric Ahlers and Michael S Kennedy

This is easily the best song I have co-written. Years ago I posted lyrics and said that I wrote this duo for existing country stars at the time. It was my hope to have Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers do this song. I think it would have blown the charts for the time. But who knows. I think we sounded pretty good.

Personal Touch as a duo with me and Ric Ahlers. Yes, he is that tall!

As a duo and later as a trio adding vocalist Ann Ellis, we tried to play popular current songs along with songs we wanted to play. As the Personal Touch we tried to play cover songs with an original flair. Often having Ann sing songs by male artists. She obviously had the best voice of the three of us so she often got the more challenging songs.

A much younger me (on the right) performing with Personal Touch

Continuing the 1st set Personal Touch gets creative with some cover tunes. I always tried to do something a bit different or fun, sometimes bordering on irreverent, with my harmonies or stage comments. For only three of us on stage we kept the music and the entertainment going. This was more of a country music fan setting so we played to the crowd a bit.

I had only been playing piano for about three months before we started booking local gigs. I owned my Arp Odyssey for a long time and used it for bass sounds and effects on my original recordings, but it only played two notes at a time! Then I purchased the new Yamaha DX7 programmable synthesizer. It was that purchase that started my musical career as a sound engineer and performer. Because I taught myself how to program the DX7, I was hired at a local musical instrument store. It is the little decisions that have the biggest impact.

In fact, the EV microphones we are using I won as a music prize from the old Swallen’s Department store where I purchased the Arp Odyssey. They had a local music contest and I entered a song called “Red On Your Blue Suede Shoes“. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

My first touring band was a trio called Personal Touch

I know I haven’t been posting things for a while, but actually I have been pretty busy. During the Covid lock down I was fortunate to get my writing partners and band mates from The Merchants of Death on-line for Internet jamming. In a while I will post some tunes we recorded live from different cities.

I have also been working with a great friend of mine to re-mix and master a 16 track live recording of the band Euphoria. Those familiar with my blog know that I also played in Euphoria, but I am not in the band at this time. Clint Garcia is the keyboard guru for the band, and when he took a break for a few years, I filled in for him.

When not jamming or mixing I often return to my archive. My recording obsession started around 1970 or so and I have been working for a while reviving very old recordings. I am currently working on my cassette collection. I found the original live recording of Personal Touch performing including what I think is the best song I have ever written. See the lyric post here: https://midimike.com/2015/03/05/per-request-lyric-to-our-bodies-move/ While I have always struggled with naming my songs, this is either called “For Those Who Wait” or “Our Bodies Move”, depending on what I was doing at the time.

We perform a bunch of familiar cover tunes and throw in originals somewhere in each set. I have a few songs from the live Personal Touch recording I will post over the following weeks. This was recorded as I mentioned using a stereo cassette deck running straight off the mixing board. We have no sound tech, so I do the mix from the stage. We ran our sound in stereo even playing live, so I just took the main outs and recorded. Back then I used my home stereo speakers for the monitors and we all fit in a single van to travel. Ahhhhh. The good old times!

Ric Ahlers was my brother-in-law and talked me into buying and learning a synthesizer and an electric piano so we could form a duo. Ric played guitar, sang, and also controlled bass pedals and a drum machine. ( I detailed in an earlier post that he has triggers attached to his guitar so he can make a cymbal crash or a drum roll). I played my 12 string Ovation guitar for some songs, sang and played keyboards for the rest. I also programmed a 2nd drum machine to play a number of songs and could be used to add tom fills or crashes on the spot. Ann Ellis joined the band as our vocalist and soon we hit the road.

Vintage cassette recording of my band Personal Touch performing live

It is a lot of work but we met great people and had a good time playing our songs and doing cover tunes with a personal touch. I think there is a date in here somewhere, so I will try to find it and give you an idea how long ago this was. Enjoy.

Holidays are fun with creative people.

I often mention my talented wife and children sprinkled within posts over the years. When the girls were very young we made Christmas and the holidays a creative fest whenever possible. From pumpkin carving parties with over 200 pumpkins, costumes and haunted houses, we put our own flair into everything. We avoided the commercial and traditional.

Each year we would send our many friends a hand-made original Christmas ‘Card’. We would start two months before Christmas to imagine, design and create a unique holiday greeting from our entire family. Many are still hung up or placed on mantels to this day. It is hard to describe so you can get an idea of the projects. One time we made small cloth trees decorated in style with a hook on them so you could hang them as an ornament. Another year we took clear glass ornamental globes and other shaped bobbles and poured paint inside making them sparkle with bright colors and/or glitter on the inside of the glass.

As a musician I built up a small home recording studio over the years. In the lyrics we reference “7 tracks and SMPTE”. I had a digital recorder back then but advanced as it was at the time it only had eight tracks, and one of them you used to record a clock signal so it would sync with the MIDI instruments I had controlled by a hardware sequencer (RECORDING WAS A LOT HARDER IN THOSE DAYS!!!). Every few years I managed to work in a family musical project. Here are two audio recordings we sent as that year’s ‘card’.

This tradition really became a thing and people looked forward to getting their next card, knowing it would be unlike any other they would receive that year, or ever again.

Here is my family recording two Christmas carols for our annual card project. One is a traditional cover of a song you are familiar with. The other is our version of a classic. Even if you aren’t ‘all about Christmas’ and everything, I think you will find this cute and maybe hilarious at the same time.

I wish you all well and hope we can keep lost loved ones close to our hearts and friends and family in our thoughts.

MIDIMIKE

The Kennedy’s carol
The Kennedy’s Original 12 Days

After smoothing out the timing and lyrics to match the mood I was after for this new song, I wrote a melody that seems to fit pretty well.

I squeezed some of the lyrics as I mentioned and cleaned up the instrumental glitches (a technical term for anything that isn’t right) and added a few parts to the instrumental verison I posted earlier.

Minor changes go on for a long time in the final tracking stage. A lot of it will not be used at all and some will be low in volume so as not to hear distinctly. But similar to color splashes added to the face in a painting, it can really bring out the rest of the ‘image’.

What You Want:

I have a rough version of a new song called “What You Want”. Well, it is called that now because I put lyrics to it from an earlier Lyric Post.

This is a tune using an old Yamaha drum machine I recently became caretaker of. I set up a nice but simple drum pattern using my Alesis MIDI drum pad and recording again in Studio One 5 by Presonus. I am using the internal sounds in Studio One 5 to play the bass guitar parts, triggered by an M-Audio MIDI keyboard I got with the drum machine and some other cool toys.

After the beat was down and feeling a bit more fun to play with, I added the two guitar parts using my Ibanez electric guitar. I recorded two tracks but instead of hooking up my amplifier and all my pedals, I plugged straight into the mixingboard so it would go direct-out to my computer input.

I used one of the many plug-ins included with Studio One 5 to add effects to the guitar. The built in guitar tuner plug-in is also really handy and I like the way it operates. So no need to connect to a tuner after each practice take. Each guitar track used the same plug-in but set to different guitar effects.

I am working on adding vocals but for now here is “What You Want”.

Music for my new song “What You Want”

I have been working on a new musical piece I call “If When”.

This is a jazzy feeling groove. I am using loops for the drum tracks that I have mashed and cut and edited to give the odd shuffle feel. I use a MIDI controller to trigger tom fills and cymbal crashes to fill out the persussion tracks. Then I add a piano chord progression that plays with the timing of the verses. The piano and bass guitar come from a plug-in in my recording software.

I wrote some lyrics earlier that might fit this so it will eventually have vocals and usually a different name once the lyrics are assigned. I might also add a ‘solo’ instrument like a muted trumpet or other soft horn sound if the next song doesn’t start bubbling up right away. Please enjoy a short groove from my studio.

I posted a poem earlier called “Let You Go” https://midimike.com/2020/07/07/let-you-go/ that I really liked. While I was working on writing the music for these lyrics I got side-tracked. I had recorded a few MIDI drum parts and had a guitar theme I liked playing on my Martin Acoustic/Electric guitar chained together trying to get a feel for the song.

A good friend called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to have his old MIDI studio gear. No instruments or toys will be orphaned if I can help it so I drove over that day. We chatted for a while and I left with a van full of what most people would call ‘ancient’ gear. This is the stuff hits were made with. Everything you heard growing up using electronic drums or synths used these gems.

I got home and hooked up a few pieces like a kid not knowing which present he wants to open first. DAYS LATER I opened up my recording project again and played with a vocal effect toy I had not gotten to yet. Not wanting to stop an idea I was working on I started recording in another section of the session. As you will hear, I decided not to sing the chorus parts. Instead I used some of the lyrics to do a chant-style intro and outro.

After juggling the original music around I started to work on a melody for the lyrics. I used some of the chant themes so the melody took shape pretty quickly. Not wanting to overdo the vocal effect, I just used reverb on my voice. Then I added some MIDI bass guitar sounds and put the pieces together.

Next, I added a little MIDI piano in the chorus sections and sprinkled through the end of the song. Then I made some stupid editing error and trashed all of the drum tracks!!! Redo the drum tracks and a few days later I have a rough mix for you.

As some of you will know, a rough mix is probably the last one I do! LOL.

Here is “Let You Go” as it stands today. I hope you enjoy this one.

“Let You Go” by MSK