Posts Tagged ‘#tech’

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The songs in this session are simple two-channel recordings.  These are not multi-tracks of isolated instruments to be mixed down later.  This is down and dirty history.  I enjoyed recording and listening to each of the gigs.  The rest of the band were ok with it, but they were really into the performance and live audience vibe.  As a result, I did not get much assistance or cooperation with my projects.  We never did a sound check for recording levels.  We did not set up differently or use additional gear.  I usually taped separate mixes from their sound board or by using a combination of mono mix and single hi-quality microphone up on stage.  See my LSR series for recording configurations.

Unlike the other players I have jammed with, I had not been playing in bands since I was a teenager.  I did not start playing in front of a ‘real’ audience until I was probably 31 or older.  I started playing keyboards (technically different than playing a piano or organ) when I was 30.  Before that I wrote songs and played my 12 string guitar for parties and such but that was about it.

Lacking confidence and years to sharpen my skills, I tried to make up for it in other ways.  I practiced a lot                     compared to the other players.

I helped in tech – light – sound – marketing.  The recordings were for me, LOL!

This is a live recording of a medley we came up with.  None of us really liked disco, but no rocket science to keeping guys in the club is to keep the girls on the dance floor!  We smashed together popular dance songs and other select songs toward the end of the 2nd set.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

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.

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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”.

 

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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!


As a country and culture, we seem to be obsessed by thoughts of and even planning for the Apocalypse.  I guess it is for good reason and it makes for great movies, books and TV shows.  I might be the only person that has not watched Living Dead and other shows.  So, Zombies aside, I have been thinking of a world with no power, running water, cell phones and the other modern tools we take for granted every day.

There are a few things I would really miss if/when technology fails us.  Way up there would be hot showers in the morning…….  I would really miss that.  Without a really hot shower, it would be hard for this old body to move each day.

What would you miss the most?

Written 8-27-1982 by MSK and I recorded it around 4-1983.

The main melodic themes for this song were inspired by my Yamaha DX7 ‘tine’ sound. That sound (or patch) has been used in many professional recordings since the keyboard was introduced.  The guitars and vocals are real-time of course, and everything else was sequenced.

Ann Ellis from my band The Personal Touch does the vocals on this one.  I would play the main piano part and she would sing the lyrics until we got the timing and the feel the way we wanted it.  From that point I sequenced the main piano part.  Every time I play this song I play it as you hear it in this recording, but I play a different last chord.  No two versions have the same ending, and I never know what the last chord will be.  My wife Ellen and I worked on the backing sounds like the strings, brass and pads to make this a full sounding production.  Once I had the basic piano parts and drums done, I don’t think we ever added a dedicated bass line as the song ended up sounding very full.

My buddy Shawn David Anderson plays lead guitar on this one and really drives home with the power and tone I was hoping for.  The lyrics are one of my favorites.  Not necessarily by themselves, but when reflecting on the emotions and events of the time. True multi-track recording capabilities gave me the option to create complex instrumental layers as opposed to the limited recordings I had been able to achieve from a four-track cassette deck!

I even sent this song to be evaluated by professionals.  Among some of the comments it was suggested that the song was too long and that the intro went too long before the vocal lines were introduced.  I have a version that starts when the vocals kick in, but this is my favorite version.  I hope you agree.