Some Tunes

Friday, November 27, 2009

On the Road

My little 16 track recorder is mobile, but once I get everything hooked up, I dread the idea of moving it for any reason. However, I have a piano in another room in my house, so today was the day. Moving day. On the road again. It was tough, it took about 6 minutes to get set up and give it a try. Here's a picture of where I went.

I love my piano - a lot of memories for me. This was my grandmother's for as long as I can remember. I pretty much learned to play this in her living room. When she passed away a number of years ago, I asked to get it and my family was gracious enough to oblige. About 3 years or so ago, my wife and I had it refinished. It took about 7 months, but got it back and was just thrilled. I had it tuned last week and, for a 120 year-old, it is sounding great. It's a 6'4" Chickering and build tough.

I learned a lot from the piano tuner, who's been tuning for 45 years and is an absolute piano freak. He talked as if he knew Mr. Chickering personally (age was close). A downside to an older piano is that, at least this old, they were not tuned to the same frequency as they are today. An A is now at 440 BPS, but this is a little lower at around 435, which means after you record, you either have to adjust the pitch or tune your other instruments down to match. A small price to pay.

I don't know yet how much I'll use it to record, but I love writing, especially ballads on my old friend. More to come for sure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Some Tunes Down

I feel I've been successful so far writing, with probably 3 or 4 songs that I think have good potential and some others that maybe aren't as likely to get picked up somewhere but I like, so there. As with playing everything, I'm finding some challenges to getting material digitized. As I mentioned before, I bought some equipment, but owning is only one part. Now I gotta play the dang things.

I'm getting better, but patience has never been a strong suit (getting better there too I think). I'm doing okay with rhythm tracks and setting up drum sounds that I want. The biggest challenge right now is getting some good lead guitar tracks. I've never been a lead guitarist and my first efforts to get someone to put these down for me haven't worked so well. So, I'm diving in, figuring the more self contained I can be, the fewer obstacles I'll blame for lack of results. Now I'm not talking about being a killer guitarist, just clean enough to not distract from the end product, which for me is song demos. Don't distract from the song. Give it just enough enhancement to make sense. This is true for all the parts I'm planning on putting down.

By the way, here is a picture of my current instrument of death. I think this Gibson Epiphone will work fine for my needs. Guitarists are freaks, for sure. If you're one, you know what I'm talking about - five or six killer axes is just a start. Well, for me, I'll just lay low a bit until or unless my chops get too good for me to stand it, but I'm not holding my breath. Just want to get some clean tracks and move on to the next fun project. Okay, enough time waste "talking." Back to the studio for me. Break is over.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A New World

I know, sounds like a Disney song or something, but it really is a whole new world for a songwriter from 30 years ago. Not just the new musical avenues, but also ways to gather information, make contacts, learn and get exposure. So, I'm reading and researching. Here's a couple places I've found on the web and am looking into.

First is SongRamp which is a songwriter community for listening and getting feedback. I haven't submitted anything yet as I'm still getting my studio things together, but my plan is to do so by the end of the year.

A second avenue I'm exited about as far as getting good industry response from as well as possible publishing exposure is Taxi. Taxi is for songwriters as well as performing artists and as I said, appears to be a good place to start without having to move back to LA or to Nashville. We'll see, but after some research, again I think its a good place to start.

I'm a list kind of a person. If I don't have it on a list, I don't usually get it done. So, included on my list of to-do items is joining these services and when I plan to do so (as well as look into other opportunities, communities, etc.). I'm also in the process of learning (in the new world) how to get my music files on either my website, blog, Facebook, Myspace, etc. So far, I've found a free service in Facebook called DivShare that works at least for Facebook.

By the way, if you read this and have any better ideas, suggestions or comments on what I mention, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to comment or email me through this blog. I know there's a lot more out there and for right now, when I find something I take some time to sign up or at least check it out. I can only handle one at a time, then I hit overload - I'm old and a blew out a lot of my brain cells years ago.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tools for Restarting

I still had some songwriter studio from a former life and my initial intent was to not "gear up" as this what I have a tendency to want to do when starting anything new (or renew); you know, like beginning to exercise - buy all the stuff you "need" then it ends up in the closet for 20 years. I had a recently (within the last couple years) purchased a Fostex MR16 - a digital recorder pictured here. I already had leftovers to get started, like a Roland Workstation (pretty dated, but still may work fine for me), an Ovation acoustic/electric a great set of headphones and a rack effects.

Of course, my efforts to remain in the status quo did not work out and as any musician will tell you, I'm still in transition and acquiring as I can. I wasn't happy with bass sounds I was getting through my keyboard, so I purchased a used Schecter Bass. My mic broke (I dropped the damn thing) so I was "forced" to buy a new one - but much better and worth the dollars - a Sterling ST55. Wow, big, big upgrade - I'm really pleased so far. Since I used to do mostly acoustic, I had no electric capabilities for guitar so, the next adventure - I'm borrowing an electric until I find one that is versatile, perfect and affordable. Meanwhile, I want to record direct, so I needed some amp sounds with a pre-amp for the guitar. I just got a Line 6 POD, which so far, seems to be able to do what I want.

Now, with all this stuff, I still have to perform well enough to get clean sounds on a recording. I'm working my aged chops and I think this will take some time. I do see and hear glimmers of hope so I will trudge forward. By the way, it took me about 2 weeks to quit having finger-tip pain that made me stop playing. Now I'm spending more quality time playing and kicking my fingers' butt.

I am finding so far that a generally good approach to this overall process is to write at least a couple times a week if not daily. I've been connecting up with a buddy to help with ideas and expanding my playing field (fun too). Play every day to help improve on the instruments and voice. Record a little every day to be able to listen back for likes and dislikes as well as areas of improvement and needed work. Don't rush. It'll take some time, just keep enjoying the process. So far, I'm loving it with minimal frustrations - mostly do to getting myself back in musical shape. So far, so good . . .