Archive for March, 2009

Jibber Jabber

– I’m listening to the new Keith Urban album. On sale today at Amazon.com for $3.99. Amazon’s gotta stop selling music on the cheap – it’s ruining me.

– Here’s a question for you recording engineers out there. I’m an amateur at the engineering thing and with questions like these I show my true n00b colors.

Okay, I’m having a challenge recording my guitar amp. Everyone says it’s the easiest thing to record and that only adds to my depression realizing I can’t do it properly. I’m running my guitar into my pedals into my amp. The amp is great – loud and clean. I’m micing it with a 57 at the grille. The mic is running into a PreSonus Eureka and then into my MBox.

So the problem is this: on the meter in ProTools I can see that I’m getting a strong signal. I just back it off from peaking – plenty to work with. However, the audible sound is weak and quiet. I have other tracks that sound strong so I’m stuck boosting the electric channel to its max to even have it heard in the mix. I don’t think that’s normal. Why do I have a strong level but a weak sound? I’ve tried running it straight into the MBox but I get the same results.

Could it be an issue with my 57? My cable are legit, as I’ve used them to track other things yesterday with no problems. I’m befuddled. Geniuses: help please.

-Just talking about my lack of recording skills has discouraged me enough for a night! Shalom, everybody 🙂

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sufjan-stevensI got home a little while ago and awaiting me at home was the latest issue of Tape Op magazine, an excellent, free subscription “creative music recording magazine” (HT: Andy Osenga).

I went straight to the interview with Sufjan Stevens, whose record Illinoise was the first of his I’d heard and the one that made me go hunt down more of his tunes. I love reading about artists and how they do what they do, gathering tidbits here and there just to better understand the creative genius of some of these folks.

This Tape Op interview primarily discusses Sufjan’s “unconventional” recording style, how he uses whatever he has around to create and capture his songs. I was shocked to learn that he recorded his Michigan project (he’s recording an album for each of the fifty states and has already completed one for Michigan and Illinois) with two SM57s and an AKG C 1000. He records on one machine and transfers it to a computer via the 1/8″ jack, two tracks at a time. It sounds like a process that would make most studio engineers cringe in pain. However, I think Sufjan’s songs speak for themselves. It’s all more proof that the song or the idea or the substance is vastly more important than the gear. I’ve always been a firm believer that a great song will carry itself. The problem is when I fool myself into thinking that I need more new gear to capture my so-so idea and turn it into something better.

Here’s a little excerpt from the interview I liked:

Tape Op: I would NEVER have guessed that Michigan was done with two SM57s and a C 1000.

Sufjan: This is all I had. I never had any other microphones. I didn’t even go through any preamps or anything. What I started to realize when I was working on Michigan is that that it’s really important that the sound I was making was the sound that I wanted. I don’t really believe in technology beyond just capturing a pure form that is perfect on its own. Just write good music and do whatever you want. I really don’t think it matters.

Ah, the ol’ kick in the jeans I need to stop making excuses and start making some magic.

You with me?

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I’m not a member of PETA. I don’t volunteer for the SPCA. I have nothing against animals. Heck, I like animals. I do. Some of them make the best friends, some the most useful helpers, others the tastiest entrees. Love ’em.

We didn’t always grow up with pets in our house. Wait, that’s not completely true. We had pets but they never required a lot of personal attention; either that or they didn’t take up a lot of space. We didn’t really go for the dog or cat or pony as a pet – we were of the fish and bird variety. We had a lot of fish growing up and we had at least a few parakeets. Only in the last several years have we had a pet that wasn’t confined to a glass box or a cage (we did let the bird fly around the house frequently, don’t worry). Meet Sonny.


Sonny is our cat. He was given to us by a neighbor who has a number of other cats (and when I say number of other cats I’m being nice. If cats were currency, she’d be bailing us all out).

I don’t normally care for cats. I’m more of a dog person. However, I like Sonny. Sonny is a friendly cat. Pretty low maintenance. I like that in a cat.

However, in recent months, there has been a disruptive force in the animal kingdom, a being so preternaturally evil that Satan himself is taking notes. Our neighbor has a cat which must have been birthed out of wickedness. I love all of God’s creatures… but I hate this cat.

He looks kinda like Sonny. Except way more evil. See?


I don’t know its real name so we at the house refer to it as “Bizarro Sonny” or just “Bizarro.” The problem with Bizarro is that he comes over to our house and harasses Sonny on a regular basis. I know this because on many nights the serenity of my room is disrupted by a high-pitch growl/shriek which turns out to be Sonny attempting to ward off his bizarre counterpart. Surely there’s no way Sonny could have provoked such an intrusion so I’m quick to take his side and quicker yet to take a nearby blunt object and threaten Bizarro’s life.

It’s probably not a good sign of my character but I take some pleasure in repeatedly harassing that cat. Mind you, I have not done any actual physical harm to him (though I can’t say that I wouldn’t do so given a clear opportunity and a brick); I do, however, enjoy chasing him off our property and I find a certain satisfaction knowing his heart rate is racing when I drive my Jeep toward him in the street. Who’s evil now?

Surely I’m not the only one who experiences some animal hate? And I don’t mean sharks and spiders and unicorns and stuff everyone naturally hates. Come on, any haters out there?

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Being a musician, I’ve invested a considerable amount of money in music gear over the past number of years. When I first started playing guitar I was thrilled with every new piece of equipment I obtained. I treasured it and thought it was the greatest and most necessary component anyone could own. The more I played, the better I got; the better I got, the more I realized that some gear that I owned was pretty lousy.

Sinking (what was/is to me) a lot of money on a guitar pedal or an amp that I realize now is not so much inessential as it is just stupid, makes me regretful of some of my purchases. That’s tough for me. I hate buyer’s remorse (and who doesn’t?).

There comes a time, however, when you actually like what you have. Sometimes you have to get used to it before you’re convinced you have it all right, but when that moment comes it’s very gratifying. I had that moment tonight.

I don’t have an extravagant setup. I don’t have boutique amps and pedals and custom guitars. My telecaster has been working hard and sounding great for almost ten years now and the pedals I’ve slowly accumulated are learning to work together well (or maybe I’m finally learning how to properly manipulate them). It’s coming together for me and I’m really enjoying my gear. I’m really digging playing these days. I’m really liking the sounds I’m getting, too. Others with a better good ear would probably object but I’m growing happier with it the noise I make.

It’d be naive to say that I have all the equipment I’d ever need (though I’ve made such a claim many a times before). I’m content with what I have for now. If the budget one day allows it, the musical family will grow. As for now I’m lovin’ what I got. There’s a life lesson somewhere in there but I’m too tired to care.

Here are my pedals. Not a lot but they do me well.


And then these are my children. Love ’em.


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