Posts Tagged ‘#recordingstudio’

Believe it or not, MTV started off as a media outlet for – VIDEOS!  It was not what it is today.  Music videos were still relatively new and there were not that many out there but they started being produced in numbers once MTV provided an outlet for them. The Chicken or the Egg thing all over again.  I did not own any video equipment, but I was familiar with photography and music, so it was a natural interest for me.  Back then, cable companies were starting to set up monopolies in various cities throughout the US and we were in the Warner Amex territory.  As part of their agreement with the city to provide cable and other services, Warner Amex made some of their equipment and channels available to local citizens. They provided training and allowed non-profit citizens to go through camera and editing training and once completed you could schedule use of their equipment to create content for viewing on their Public Access channels.

I was one of the first (my card was # 000090!!) to sign up for the training classes.  I would borrow their equipment and film bands and live performances, family growing, along with a number of other projects.

My first project was to make a video that introduced the idea and benefits of the Public Access program, (we hoped if we had a complimentary message it would be good for PR and relationships with the people that administered the program, (we were right). and a music video idea we had been working on.  This is by definition low-budget and is dated by equipment and resources available today. But it was a learning experiment and was a lot of fun.  To do a lot of what we did it took a bunch of planning and trial and error.  I had been playing keyboards for a very short time and there are a bunch of mistakes, I was new with the video editing and production, but not this was not bad for the first release.  Usually, I am also the cameraman, but filming my own band required additional operators.  I edited the video from the collection of raw tapes and a live performance of the song.

This video features my younger brother as the narrator and the music is from the duo I was in at the time called, “The Personal Touch.”  The intro theme is a musical piece called “The Big D Jam”.  The video is based on a song the guitar player wrote called “Transaxle“.   We took vague ideas and filmed them all.  Then edited them into something semi-cohesive!  There are a bunch of funny stories that went into the making of Walking Man but I will spare you for now.  The end credits use a song of mine introduced earlier called “The Pleasure Tax“.

As with many of these blasts from the past, there are lots of good memories and a number of painful ones.  Looking at this video again so many years after, I see my youngest brother Chris in his healthy days doing the narrative part introducing the musical video before health problems including throat cancer took their toll.  This is when we thought we would last forever….. there was no end in sight.  We do not last for ever.  For him, the end was so close to the beginning.   We all have our vices, but with legal ones like tobacco and alcohol killing people every day, we all know someone that has been affected by the results. Here is the real message we should be sending; These drugs may not kill you.  You will not lose ten years of your life.  You will survive – and grow old – and suffer – for decades, with a disease that is eating you from the inside out. I am glad I was there to help him a little as he faced the end.  I would have given anything to find another path for him, but he knew where he was going.  It did not stop him and neither could I.

*Please see previous post if you are interested in the story behind why I wrote this song. *

Lost Love”   86 bpm  © MSK 6-2004

We’d been together just a little while

Each day melted into the other.

Daylight through the evenings we danced,

Completely consumed by one another.

As life went on our love got stronger.

My friends thought that it would never last.

I know all things come to an end.

Just didn’t think it would be so fast.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

but For some reason I just can’t let you go.

And he said, ‘son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man’.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you love can.

Father and son, we were never far apart

Through ups and downs, good and the bad

We stood so proud; laughing together.

I’d wait forever but you won’t be back.

When my sister died I found myself crying.

Weeks upon weeks and still to this day

I realize I’m thinking about her

As I’m wiping my tears away.

Son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you know can.

Share what you have, help those in need

Focus on the people around you.

Ask us for help, talk to your friends

You’ll feel so much better when you do.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

But for some reason I just can’t let you go.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Death is nothing new.  My father died of cancer when I was – well, to be honest, I do not really know. mid-twenties? early thirties?  How can a person be talented enough to write beautiful music and still be so lame when it comes to anything important?  I am not sure, but my family has had to deal with me for a long time.  My parents were divorced for years and I did not know him that well.  At the same time, I felt like I had known him forever.  He was never there through the most difficult times In my life and yet at the same time he never left.  Reading about loss of a loved one on other blogs it is clear many people do not feel that way.  The loss is real, it is crippling, it never ends and there is no comfort for the emptiness, no magic words.

I KNOW that wasteland.  Years later my younger sister died from a freak drowning accident.  I was prepared for the death of my dad (and grandparents, friends and distant family members before him).  I shared his love of life and his regrets during that brief time.   For my sister I had no defense.  I did not dwell on death, but if I considered it, it was almost a guarantee she would outlive me.  Surrounded by close family and friends I just started crying.  Talking, greeting, consoling, hugging, but through it all I cried.  I could not share her love of life or future dreams.  I could not speak to her of death; she was gone.  I thought we had so much more time left.  For days if I saw her picture or heard her name; I cried. Even this far forward I had to mentally prepare to write this intro.

Not long ago, my younger brother had to pay his pleasure tax.  Years of drinking and smoking caught up  and throat cancer started eating away at him.  The funniest and kindest guy you would ever know, he did not want to burden anyone with his problems.  I did the best I could to let him know he was not alone and did not have to go through that by himself.  We spent a lot of time together in those last few months.  As his medical power of attorney, I followed his direction.  I understood his desires and knew his demons.  Some things are still too painful to think about so I don’t.  But I do remember what a great human being he was.  We cried many times together and apart.  These days I smile thinking about him, and how great humanity can be.

Love is another type of loss but for all my education and experience over the years I could not tell you which loss is more devastating.  Family you live with and know all the cool things you learned and shared together.  A loved one you will never be able to learn and share future things with.  Loss of the past or loss of the future.  The wasteland seems to keep spreading out forever.  You will never get through it and nothing can replace it.

In the middle of the wasteland jumping all the way up to the moon seems more likely than getting through to the other side.  But it is the sense of loss that keeps us there.   My father is still with me, telling me “remember the past, but look forward, son.   Don’t blind yourself to the path out, seek it”. Hopefully, you will see that your loved ones are still with you.

This is a fairly recent song.  I happened to be going through my files to build a catalog of songs I have, songs in the works and ones I have co-written for a project.  Looking through papers here and there, rifling through files saved from one form of media to another, I found a set of lyrics entitled “Lost Love”.  I looked at it for a while and started reading the lyrics.  I did not recognize any of it, but it was my handwriting and as you will soon see, it is very personal.  I read them and thought,   I need to do something with this.

I have instruments in almost every room in my house.  A week earlier I had been playing a chord progression that was simple but captured a certain feeling or mood that I liked.  I ran upstairs and got the lyrics I mentioned.  I played the guitar with the lyrics in front of me and started to sound out where the lyrics fit in the progression.

Thinking the music and lyrics fell together beautifully, I went to my studio to lay down a rough version of the song.  I used one microphone and recorded the guitar and melody line.   This is “Lost Love“.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Most of the connectors used for outputs will be 1/4″ male jacks.  These can be for ‘grounded’ (three-wire) or two-wire cables.  To make this part confusing, the cables can be made or changed with adapters to almost any connector type.  For long distances we prefer grounded or three conductor-wire cables as the third wire is used to take common signals from the other two wires, and ‘dump them to ground’.  Common signals would be interference and noise as the plus and negative wires are carrying the signal from the board.  The result is good signal with low noise introduced.  Guitar and keyboard cables typically go shorter distances and typically have a higher or stronger output signal than a microphone for example.  The cables in the snake will use three wire grounded shielded cables even if they are 1/4″ male connectors.

So we might expect to have an XLR connector for the Main Outs to the Main House power amps, but this is not a guarantee.  If 1/4″ jacks are provided it is recommended to use grounded three wire cables.

Most cables will provide a male connector on one end and a similar but female connector on the other end.  Male connectors are often used to connect to In-Puts and Female connectors are often used to connect to the Out-Put.  The male connector of the microphone cable connects to the mixing board In-Put and on the other end the female connector will connect to the microphone out.  Generally speaking there is little advantage plugging an in to an in or an out to another out.   I like to state the obvious LOL!

The mixing board will give us a Main Left and Right out, and probably a Mono Main Out.  These will be connected to the Main or House power amps.  During an event, the amps are usually turned all the way up and the House volume is ultimately controlled by the Main L-R faders on the mixing board.  This is why it is important to turn the Master Volume Faders on the mixing board all the way down whenever connecting or disconnecting equipment or making dramatic changes.

Depending on the board size and configuration you may also have a 1/4″ Direct-Out for many if not all input channels. (this is REALLY cool for recording and a lot of other creative uses…)   These can be really handy for independent channel recording, triggers, audio effects and alternate mixes to name a few.  Basically connect these to external recorder, processor or triggering gear as needed.  I will give some examples as the series expands to other main topics.  You will also have a number of Sends that are used for a variety of tasks and have different names, but with a few configuration details are for the most part the same thing.  Effect Sends, Monitor Sends, Auxiliary Sends, Sub Sends are splitters; they split the signal – keeping the one going to the House or recorder – and allowing you to send a lot or a little of that signal to the Send of your choice using the Send knob. As in the Monitor amps and House amps, the volume knob will ultimately be used to send the proper signal level to the external (and internal) devices or effects.  If you ‘send’ this to a digital delay, it may also have its own input and out put level knobs.

You may also have a two-track input and/or out put.  This is for playing stereo audio devices and for a straight stereo record out option.  Handy to listen to practice tapes, intermission music, PA system tests and other performance related media.

Reels of Tape”        (c) 1982 MSK 

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Careful surgeons with knives of rust

Open wounds of crimson lust.

Forget today and tomorrow.

Leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

First things first, but think about it twice.

Follow those who take their own advice.

Wasn’t trying any other time.

I’d walk away mumbling a Few Shattered Lines.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

This is one of the original acoustic tunes that’s featured on my new album “Dark Energy.” You can find it on ITunes or CD Baby under Michael S. Kennedy.

As I continue to dig into past songs it is easy to see one problem I have;  I am not good at naming my songs.  Sometimes I go for the punch line, but the punch line is not even a line in the song!  Sometimes I try to highlight one phrase, but ignoring conventional songwriting wisdom, I do not use a phrase over and over in the chorus and call that the title.  So here is another example where the names have changed over the years.  Originally the title was “A Few Shattered Lines“.  I was reading a letter from a friend of mine at college and I pulled some of his phrases into the lyrics. Below are the results.

Reels of Tape has a deep meaning for me.  I spent a lot of years recording on reel to reel tape decks.  I still have my original 4 track TEAC machine.  The lyrics are more abstract than other songs I have written and for some reason I can still slip back to those times when I hear this song.  I am using my Ovation Balladeer 12 string guitar as my standard writing/recording instrument over the years, and I just love the tone and the progression of the chords.  The twelve strings just sound so full, and when using open tuning, it can make the chords sparkle.  The other quick observation: I don’t get rid of equipment I buy…… I keep it forever!

The lyrics seem to create images that expand beyond the words.  Familiar topics can do that sometimes when looked at with a different point of view or even a change in mood.  I love – Life pours past the flags unfurled, Crack the crystal paralyzed world – and other parts, but I could not really tell you why.  Another phrase that sticks with me is – Forget today and tomorrow, leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.  a lot of my lyrics have a rather dark perspective.  But behind them all is a sense of hope and a promise that things will get better and improve.  I am one of the most optimistic people I know!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Recording as an acoustic tune, I use one track for the vocals (unless there is a harmony track) and I use another track for the ‘line out’ from the acoustic/electric guitar, and then I use another track for a microphone placed in front of the 12 string (even here, it is important to place the microphone at the ‘sweet spot’  to get the best tone.  Placing a microphone in front of anything without testing will more often disappoint rather than delight.  As in other posts, I have had better success if I literally stick my head up to the instrument and move back and forth until I get the best sound.  Doing this while playing the instrument is not practical, so I place the microphone, record, listen and compare it to other tracks that use a different microphone position.  Once you have the best of the best, you can be pretty safe using it again.  Live situations with full bands and instrumentation is a challenge and I still try to stick my face in there to get an idea what that instrument sounds like but also if it is close to other instruments, speakers, or unwanted noise makers.  Most vocalists will stand in front of the microphone, but even in this case if they lean or tilt one way or the other it can dramatically affect the final tone or sound.  Much of this is tied to the proximity effect and we will get into that later. For the most part I will pan the 12 string guitar line out to hard Left and the microphone for the 12 string hard Right.  Vocals go in the center, unless you have more than one vocalist or lead singer.  I use very few processors like compressors, gates, limiters, and the like.  As long as you start with a solid tone a bit of EQ if needed, bring in some light reverb or delay and the mix is done.

LOVE/HATE Challenge

I’ve been nominated to complete this challenge by several of you and after some convincing from my daughter, I’ve decided to give it a go. Instead of nominating 10 more bloggers, I would like to ask you all to post your favorite things in the comments so I can get to know you better.

I want to take this moment to thank all of you again for your very kind and encouraging comments. I have truly enjoyed reading your blogs and getting to know you better. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Here it goes…

Love:

  1. Writing and recording music
  2. Biking
  3. Photography
  4. Nature – in all it’s glory and mystery
  5. Family and friends
  6. Reading great books, poetry, stories
  7. Creative music – artists and performers
  8. Teaching and helping others
  9. Science, education, discovery and truth
  10. Finding solutions to difficult problems.

Hate:

  • Wasting natural resources
  • Thinking that money makes you special
  • Personal and corporate greed
  • Things that should, but do not work
  • Violence
  • Thieves, scammers and swindlers
  • Demanding people
  • Bigots
  • Liars
  • Corporate and government politics

I don’t mind acknowledging that I am different than a lot of the people I know and hear about.

I am PERFECTLY OK with this.  I know my music and lyrics are not the typical main-stream songs blasted everywhere.  I will not appear on any searches.  Growing up and watching all the Westerns and TV shows, I never – not even once – wanted to be the cowboy or the soldier.  I identified with the ‘good guys’ as most kids do, but to me the cowboys and soldiers were not the only good guys.  I identified more with the American Indians living with nature rather than conquering.

I am not sure what exactly inspired this song when I started it.  I often think about music videos and how that could help explain through images some of the themes in this musical piece.  Possibly the new toys that could make sounds that added less traditional Western culture ideas and more ethnic and international instruments.  I also like contrapuntal rhythms and themes, so you will hear a lot in these pieces.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/touch-down/id962542289

Once we simplify the 12 notes and we are now able to find any Major scale very quickly  (if you only did the exercise to find the other Major scales a few times you would see this is really easy….) and we can continue to explore the Major scales for other Keys.  This is the foundation of the musical theory pyramid.  It is important to understand how we get to the Safe Seven.  No, you do not have to memorize every note in every scale, although ultimately that will help a lot.  For now, try digging in and go over the Major scale for each of the 12 notes a few times.  As you play the new Major scales, sing (or hum!) the Do Re Me song along with the notes you are playing.  (tip for the day; as you hum each scale from the new starting note, you are changing keys!)

When we look back at the Safe Seven article, I showed a simple connection that I will repeat here:

C    D     E     F     G     A     B     C

1     2     3     4     5     6     7     1

There is a lot of math in music and music theory.  But instead of confusing things and making you change from your creative hat to your thinking hat, I find the math connection actually simplifies the confusion.  It allows me to see the connection the various notes have.  Personally, I HEAR and FEEL music more than I THINK it through.  I have friends that can convert and spit out scales, keys and modes as easily as some of us use Pandora, Spotify or I-Tunes to change a song.  I am really amazed at their skills, but that is something I am not all that good at.  But you will see how easy it is to understand the art and the science by following these posts.
If we look at the Safe Seven for each Major scale, we can make an easy conversion (or universal language) for describing note or chord progressions for ANY Major key.  I know, I keep on harping on the Major scales, but the others will be really easy once we have this understood and comfortable with the Mystery of the 12 and the Safe Seven, so let’s keep going.  For those of you new to this blog, I have no formal training and I am self taught.   I can assure you I am no genius.  If I can get this, so can you.  I just hope to make it a bit easier for you if you are just diving in or curious about how this fits together.

Knowing now that we call the first note the Root, and the same note higher or lower on the keyboard are called Octaves, we will begin a simple conversion;  Root = 1.  Each note in the Safe Seven can be represented this way by assigning it a value of 1-7.  We just assigned Root = 1, so moving up is easy.  In the example above, C is the Root so C = 1 and continuing the scale, D = 2, E = 3, F = 4, G = 5, A = 6, B = 7 and the octave is again the Root or 1.   Each Major scale can be represented the same way.  Use the Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half system to find the Safe Seven and then assign each to their corresponding number and we can stop talking about note names!  As we get more into chord structure and progressions, this will also come into perspective.  But let’s not get stretched too far.  Play with these exercises a few times a day and we will build our solid musical foundation quickly.  I will also go into the names of the notes as they change keys and this can be confusing to many until you see the method to the madness.

I want to give you an idea of perspective on some of the articles I have posted and will continue to post going forward.  This is the first video I have posted and while it is rather BORING, it is so informative at the same time.  I guess I have recorded original tunes since the very late 1960’s.  I recorded everything.  I deleted a lot!  But I recorded everything I could.  I experimented and adjusted and re-did and failed a few more times than I succeeded in the early days to be sure!  I also got into photography and then into video recording.  I practiced the mundane over and over until I got the exposure right, then with video until I could zoom and focus manually.  I joined the photography club in high school and learned to develop and enlarge my own pictures – something I thought was close to magic back in the day!

I shared earlier that I used (and still own!!!) what I think was the first personal computer to come out with built in MIDI ports – The Atari ST!  I used a software program back then to record the MIDI tracks and I could generate SMPTE time code and send a signal from the Atari to sync it up with recording machines (I had the Yamaha 4 track CASSETTE recorder during most of this).  When I talk about old technologies and how we used to record songs (or develop pictures…) It is hard for some to understand the challenges we had and the lo-fi quality of the final mix or product.

I want to use this video as an example of many things I refer to in this blog.  In this video, you will see what I saw when looking at the Atari computer monitor when I was playing or recording tracks.  Keep in mind this is all MIDI equipment available years ago.  The song I posted earlier will now be stripped of all guitars, vocals, effects and additional live sounds you heard on the full mix.  As you watch the video you will hear the sequences being played back live into the VCR input.  I took the monitor video out and connected to video in of the video recorder so this is a straight feed for both.  In the recording software, each “instrument” has a separate track.  Drums are all on one track with additional percussion sounds on different tracks, and as a reminder, each note (as triggered from my DX7 keyboard) represented a different drum/percussion sound coming from a drum machine.  You can hear the metronome from the Atari ticking away in the back ground as it is set to record.  As each track plays you can see the musical notes light up depending on the intensity of the track information.  You can also see the tempo of the song, the names of the tracks and the measures and beats as they click by.

The main piano sound is probably familiar to many of you even if you are quite young. It is the classic Piano Tine sound from the Yamaha DX7 synthesizers.  This video should also give you a sense of quality and resolution available at the time.  It might be difficult to hear the difference in song recording quality today, but we are all familiar with video resolution and HD cameras and large screen TV and computer standards available now.  Just think how this applied to the audio quality back then and then play some really old songs you grew up listening to.   It gives a better appreciation and perspective for some of the classic songs that seem to live forever.