Posts Tagged ‘#music’

The Cotton SongGoing With the  Flow                                                                                                                                This is a calming piece based on the string sounds from one of the plug-ins on my recording software program.  Sometimes a new sound or new toy can inspire themes, songs and projects.  This is one of those situations where I am listening to new sounds and noodling on the keyboard to hear the new tones and to see how the patch responds to the keyboard and controllers.  As I was listening to the new sounds, I enjoyed the string sound I was playing with and started recording the noodling I was doing.  I played for about five or six minutes and stopped recording to listen back.

The first section I scrapped and the rest was rather pleasant (sometimes this is a surprise indeed!).  While listening I started hearing harmonies in my head so I started recording on a 2nd track and used the same string sound to add another layer.  After that I stopped.  I like the mood this inspires.  I am not sure why I called it Cotton Song, but I got the feeling of being in the South overlooking plantations.  So it stuck!  I did not change anything and mixed it down to what you hear in this post.  Other versions of noodling or just playing with sounds rarely turn into a solid piece, so I have tons of snippets that have nice themes but to date have never been expanded upon.  One of these days I will listen to other noodling sessions and I might make something out of them.  For this song, have a cup of tea, sit back for a little bit and let your mind and body relax.  Admit it… you could use that right about now!

Bill K No Worries DSC_0065.jpg

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

 

Fact or Perception

As an update and a gentle lead-in to the title of this post, I recently put in a job application at the Sam Ash Music Store in Cincinnati.  I worked for years at a local instrument music chain a while ago (not records or CD type of music store…) and I also worked at an electronics music store called ICB Audio.  I thought that and my decades of management, sales and customer service experience would make me a good candidate.  I started working at Sam Ash about two weeks ago.  For me, it is like being a kid in a toy store……. because I AM!

So, do I feel like the employment situation is getting better because I now have a job?  In reality, unemployment rate is very low, and has been for a while now.  There are people still looking for work, but there are also companies that are looking but cannot find qualified workers in their field and/or location.

Do we feel that food insecurity is a myth because we do not see it in our neighborhood or town?

Everyone we know is well fed and has no difficulty getting their next meal.

Do we refuse to believe specific facts or national statistics because they do not apply to us?

I am glad to be working again doing something I love.  I will probably spend more money than I make as I have done in music stores in the past, but I will hopefully meet a lot of new talented people driven by their passion to make music for all to enjoy.

It is tough when you are unemployed.  For those of you still looking I wish you well in 2017!

 

Cocoon”                                  © MSK 11-17-2016

Sitting in a tub full of honey and milk

Long enough so your skin feels like silk.

Or bathe yourself in the big-city lights

Sleep through the day and roaming the nights.

 

Knowing life is often harder than it seems

Surround yourself with your favorite teams.

Winners today and losers tomorrow

Buy memories you cannot borrow.

 

Don’t want to end up another worthless jerk

Get up early and stay late at work.

Study all week ‘cause you can’t fail the test

Never satisfied until you’re the best.

 

            But lately I need none of that.

            Just pull up the covers until it is warm and dark.

            No need to get up and leave the room

            I just want to stay in my little cocoon.

 

Keep repeating my favorite song.

I love my life, don’t get me wrong.

Conversations with family and friends.

But I always know how the movie ends.

 

Keep driving around but there’s no place to park.

Nightmares no longer kept to the dark.

Eyes open as the dream fades away.

Stuck in this game and I don’t want to play.

 

            Take no comfort in any of that.

            Even the fastest of us get eaten by the shark

            No need to get up and leave the room

            I just want to stay in my little cocoon.

 

            But lately I need none of that.

            Just pull up the covers until it is warm and dark.

            No need to get up and leave the room

            I just want to stay in my little cocoon.

Black1

Our banner designed by Marty Gillaspy

“Chase The Dream”

When one of the bands I worked with collapsed under the pressures of day to day life, it was quickly resurrected in a new form.  Most of Euphoria members did not want to stop playing so we regrouped with a new guitar player to replace one of the founding members and became The Chase.  We played out with about ten different names for a few months – Scenic Route was another favorite of mine – until we settled on The Chase.  These guys were great.  We had a solid rhythm section, a great lead singer and back up vocals that were tight and an amazing lead guitar player that could feel everything he played. We could play cover songs no other bands would play live.  We also threw in originals from time to time.  The banner was hung one each side of the stage vertically as seen in one of the photos below, and horizontally behind the drum set.  It was pretty eye-catching and a lot of people complimented it.

I am an archivist.  I record everything.  Audio recordings of practice sessions and live performances. Video of many performances and photos of major events.  Before YouTube I posted a number of them on our cable TV Local Access channels using their video editing suite.  I had my fingers in everything.  Some of the projects got finished, but a lot of the raw tapes have only been viewed by me and a select group of people.

I just put together a new video that uses a lot of this vintage raw video and some of the photographs from the time period.  The medium is so old that the quality suffers, but it does a good job of representing the events of the time.  We played in many clubs and outdoor events and I will create future videos to highlight more venues.   For this video I used an original instrumental song that Nick Robinson was working on and our new band, The Chase, made it our own.  There is no video of the song as we only played it out a few times.  Nicky has since re-joined Euphoria when it regrouped a few years ago and is still playing out with some amazing players.

Please check out my latest YouTube post (and other videos while you are there) of his original tune: “Chasing The Dream”.  Enjoy!

Chase The Dream

I’ve admitted in earlier posts that I observe people a lot, and that I get a number of ideas for songs from watching other people;  friends, family, co-workers, I steal from them all!  I can empathize with people as they face challenges and triumphs in life.  I try to understand what it feels like to be in those situations even though I myself might not be directly affected by them.

I also have some rather obvious political points of view.  I can understand why there are those that do not always agree with my positions but in many cases I can still understand theirs.  In this song I basically insult every group I can think of!  As you are more than likely in at least one of these groups I apologize in advance.  In a lot of ways, this song summarizes the items on my Love – Hate list.  I hate things that should work but do not, and I really hate personal and corporate greed.  The song uses a lot of references to things we would hear on the news, although it was written a long time ago.  Unfortunately most of the issues are the same today!

Recording this song took a LONG time.  We did rough mixes here and there changing this or that, but it did not feel right from beginning to end.  Eventually, I think we rearranged some of the chorus/verse structure and it just fell into place.  For some songs this is the agonizing part;  all the components are there and sound good, but the piece as a whole just does not grab you.  I might have even tried changing tempo on this one to get it right.

If this is not the first song I did using my new Alesis ADAT recorder it was one of the first.  I was also transitioning from the Atari computer to a Windows machine, so not everything went smoothly!  I played electric guitar on this one (I have a few guitars and do not know which one was used for each song but my guess this is either my Ibanez or a Yamaha 6 string) and did all the sequencing and drum tracks as described earlier.  My wife does the vocal main lines.  Using the limiter/compressor chain I described from other songs the vocals are recorded so they stay soft and spooky and a little eerie as the lyrics become more and more cynical.  A bunch of family and friends came in and did the voice add-ons.  You can hear both our daughters, my co-writing brother and a few neighbors help out with the spoken parts.  I ‘sing’ the chorus.

The bass line in this one is particularly cool because it is my Oberheim Matrix 6 synth and it has this patch or sound that continues to play an arpeggio (sequence of predetermined notes) as long as you hold a key down.  So the bass lines are done by holding one note for a while but hearing many notes played.  We even got to play with one of the audio samplers from the music store and used it to trigger the ‘broken word’ parts.   Once we got the arrangement right it was just fun to ‘decorate’ the basic tracks and add a little movement to the mix.   Have fun with this one.

MSK Moon 1

Another song of mine from the year 1988.  This was a time of emotion and passion. Learning and truly seeing things for the first time.  Life still ahead but so much of it spinning past me out of control.  In many ways the perspective is what makes our feelings push us the way they do.  The moon to some can be magical and inspiring – to others it can be bitter and unyielding.  Often the battles of the day do not end once the new morning arrives.  We often wake up to face the same struggles and disappointments that devoured the day before. Reflective, introspective, in many ways bewilderment and confusion, yet we still need to continue and choices must be made.  All too often the choices have already been made and we are forced to face the consequences; alone.

UNCHANGING MOON (c) 1982 MSK

            That was pretty easy, 

            Rings of fire spinning ‘round. 

            What is it that you see, 

            Watching the candle burn down? 

  

            Never start to finish, 

            Rather try to succeed. 

            Don’t try to understand,  

            But consider what you need. 

  

            Smiling, empty faces, 

            A swelling darkness of fear. 

            What is it that you see 

            Trapped behind each falling tear? 

  

                        CHORUS:          Power, Passion,  

                                                    Colors in tune. 

                                                    Freezing, Bitter:  

                                                    Unchanging Moon. 

  

            Today’s the beginning 

            When morning takes to flight. 

            Tomorrow’s the ending, 

            Without rescue from the fight. 

  

                        CHORUS:        Power, Passion,  

                                                  Colors in tune. 

                                                  Freezing, Bitter:  

                                                  Unchanging Moon. 

 

                                                  Power, Passion,  

                                                  Colors in tune. 

                                                  Freezing, Bitter:  

                                                  Unchanging Moon.

 

 

 

In most situations when you want to record a performance, you might not have a lot of time to set up.  The environment might not be perfect, and there are other needs than getting a great recording.   I have tried and been quite successful with a number of techniques.  I will offer a few here for your consideration.

Getting a good mix from the sound board Mono Out or Main Left and Right Outs in a small or medium size venue is very easy to set up, but most likely to be disappointing. The needs of the audience in a live situation can be the exact opposite from the recording engineer’s.  As mentioned in the beginning of this series, LSR is reinforcement.  The sound person will amplify the weaker signals in the House or Mains; vocals – along with a LOT of effects, acoustic guitars, flutes, and even the drums.  They might not need to reinforce the lead or bass guitar as much. So the board mix is heavier on vocals, effects, and keyboard in some cases.  Not a great listen for most people.                                                                                                                                       You can set up a sub-mix if the sound guru gives you access.  If they run Left (Mono) like most venues, you can create your own mix using the Right Mono out.  Using the pan for each channel, keep full signal going to the Left out, and pan toward Center position to send desired amount of signal to the Right out.  You might want to isolate the guitar or bass, add a little toms if they are mike’d, but not heavy in the mix.  You can mix the two outs if you record in stereo and get a great live sound.  This will not give you a perfect stereo field, but most audiences do not remember concerts in stereo.  The sound seems to come from the stage, not left and right cabinets in front of the stage. 

I have also had luck with those portable stereo digital recorders available now for what I think is really cheap for what they do.  You need to set them up correctly and take care of them but they are so easy to set up and you get great sound in various environments.  If you have a SAFE place where you will hear more of the band than the audience (sounds easier than it really is) this is worth a try.

For many, the family line is important if not critical throughout the world.  In countries far older than the U.S.A., blood lines have been kept in-tact through many centuries.

My generation saw the termination of our family branch.  There are plenty of Kennedy’s around, but my immediate line will end with our children.  Plenty of female daughters – that will take other names – and the few males did not produce male children.  My late mother – not a Kennedy until marriage – was concerned and saddened by this. Generations can pass along wealth, wisdom, culture and moral values to descendants to give them a head start in life and to encourage prosperity and family success.  I mixed that line of thought with some other ideas floating in my head to complete the following piece.

Broken Forever”                  © MSK 8-29-2016

No sense regretting things that I’ve done

The mother of my daughter is not the mother of my son.

The child I am raising is not from either one.

Can’t stand still and life can’t be out run

 

The reasons at the time seem to get lost

Like answers to questions and their hidden cost.

Logic and compromise quickly get tossed

Lines and barriers that should never be crossed.

 

Painful reminders surface time and again

Impossible to know where or when.

Still haven’t learned what I didn’t know then

Stop saying how things should have been.

 

The family line has come to an end

Broken forever because it could not bend

Long ago I gave up trying to pretend.

Like piles of letters I will never send.

 

Didn’t see it coming and then one day

On my doorstep and forever to stay.

Denial and tears won’t make it go away

Failing no matter how often I play.

 

A solid base of the family trees

Branches are strong and covered with leaves.

The name is gone but as everyone sees

The fruit they bear have precious seeds.

Yesterday I heard that I lost another great friend and musical partner.  My sister called me last night to tell me there had been an accident and she did not have a lot of details, but a great friend of mine died yesterday.  I mentioned Ric Ahlers in my blog posts before.  He was the guitar player/vocalist in the first real band I was in called The Personal Touch.  He co-authored with me one of my favorite songs I called “For Those Who Wait“.  (With music it was titled: “Our Bodies Move“).

Ric was my brother-in-law and was looking for a keyboard player to start a duo to play locally and out on the road.  Though I had only dabbled with piano and was mostly a rhythm guitar singer-songwriter, he gently persuaded me to join him.  Then for about three months he patiently guided me as I learned not only how to play keyboards (not just piano, but all the other sounds keyboard players are responsible for), but also a bunch of popular cover tunes for the first time.  He was way ahead of me as far as knowledge and talent (I try to take my own advice and play with musicians that are better than me!) and had played out before.   We also played our original songs as part of our normal set list.  He had more confidence in me than I did, but I guess that is a familiar story to my blog readers.

We started as a duo and played local clubs.  We had a full sound as we both sang (as well as we could) and I played my 12 string guitar and the keyboards and later programmed drum machines.  He played lead guitar and also controlled a drum machine with an accompaniment triggered by his  bass pedals that played bass and added filler strings and piano chords.  We could play anything from classic standards to Jimi Hendrix tunes and fit into a very small space.

He sat while playing guitar and kicking his bass pedals.  He stood over 6 foot 10!  Some people would come up to shake his hand after a tune and jump back as he stood up to talk to them!!

He was as tall sitting as I was standing and it really surprised people and caught them off guard.  I would have to warn him about low ceiling fans at hotels and lobbies!  We added Ann Ellis as a vocalist and traveled around the county as a trio in his van.  THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Life is not always easy but Ric was always a gentle giant.  With a heart just as big, he climbed back up if he got knocked down, and carried you on his shoulders if you could not keep going.  He is also family and we will all miss him and are stunned by the sudden loss of a great man in many ways.