Bridging the “Chasm” – Overcoming the “Leave of Presence” & “the Big Dum”

March 14, 2022

I was very hesitant to abandon “Amnesty for Asking” before I finished my demo, but I just wasn’t making progress and I’m determined to keep this project moving in the right direction. Hopefully, this blog will help me keep track of the song, and when I’m ready to give it a good performance I can record that guitar part. I’ve got hundreds of half-complete demos around and very few that are complete. I need to become a closer.

In the meantime, I decided to move on and listen to some of my early demos and pick a new target. I chose to work on a song that was tentatively titled “Chasm – Leave of Presence.” It’s a rock song about how sometimes people are absent from your life, even when they’re still in it. My rough demo had a Logic Pro AI Drummer that played the same beat through all sections of the song. I have an A section, B section, C section, and some intro/outro material. I also noodled through some lead guitar parts that weren’t terrible. Most of the pieces of a song are there, minus the vocals. These ideas were just a series of loops that I had cut/pasted. It sounded very robotic.

Like “Amnesty for Asking,” I rearranged to order of the sections to what I think might be more reasonable (Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse Chorus Bridge, Chorus Outro). I’m not sure that this is the right format since I haven’t the many lyrics yet, but I don’t see any reason to do anything revolutionary with the format for this song other than my boredom with that overdone form.

Unlike “Amnesty,” this song is easy to play. So I laid down a rudimentary bass track and re-recorded most of the guitar (except for the lead guitar- the rough demo is good enough for now for that). It was effortless this time, especially because I used my HX Stomp as an interface. I pulled used some basic presets to get rough tones using USB input 1 and I recorded the DI signal using USB input 5 (this is a useful trick). This way I can go back and create unique tones later and not have to worry about the performance. I find this to be the best workflow for me because I like to separate the engineering tasks from the musician tasks as much as I can. This way, I can concentrate on my performance when I’m doing the musician work, and I can concentrate on recording when I’m in engineer mode.

I still have the basic drum tracks in there for now, but I can come back to those later. Logic Pro seems to have a lot of ways to tweak the drums and I’m looking forward to digging into those a bit more.

Also, while I was reviewing my other demos I found a quick burst of inspiration for a newer tune, tentatively called “The Big Dum.” This demo is just a chord progression with a rudimentary drumbeat. Unlike most of the songs I have right now, I have a rough cut of lyrics written so I laid down a very rough vocal track. I’m no singer, and I still need to come up with a strategy about how to handle vocals. I’ll probably need to get a series of guest singers, or maybe I’ll experiment with the Vocaloid plugin (I heard about this on Ben Levin’s Youtube channel – check it out.)

Rig Rundown – March 2022

March 13, 2022

So there are a few basic pieces of equipment I should describe from the start. This won’t be a comprehensive list, but it will include the gear I will use in just about every session including my computer, DAW, interfaces, and speakers. I’ll additional posts when I get into specific tunes if people are interested. (By the way, I am not sponsored by anyone so my opinions are my own.)

I suspect if you’re reading this, you’re probably just getting started with your studio. This gear is used in my basement project studio and it’s not used commercially. It’s all decent quality, and much of it is affordable but it may be more than most new recording engineers want to spend. Just be aware, you can put together a much simpler rig than the one I’m describing for a lot less money. For instance, you don’t need two interfaces and you don’t need an outboard mic pre like the DBX 286s I describe below.


I’m using an off-the-shelf Mac Mini running Monterery purchased in 2020. It’s got the Apple M1 chip with stock 8GB memory and 256 storage. I’m using a pair of old mismatched monitors, a gaming keyboard (because it lights up), and a standard mouse. I had been using Garage Band, but I started a trial of Logic Pro and I love it. I think it’s the most intuitive DAW I’ve worked with. It was easy for me to make the switch as a former ProTools user. I love the Drummer feature, especially for early demos. The biggest downside is that it only works on Apple computers.

I also have a Microsoft Surface Laptop running Cubase. I don’t do much recording with it because I find Cubase really stifles my workflow. The Surface only has one USB jack, so it’s not really convenient for recording, but it’s nice to keep around if I want to move to a comfy chair and write lyrics or if I want to listen to demos outside of my little home project studio.


I’ve got some old KRK Rockit 8s. They’re about 10 years old and still get the job done.


Right now I’m using two. The first is a Focusrite 18i8. I use it when I need to mic up anything like my amps, acoustics, or vocals. Sometimes I use a DBX 286s through a line input. This gives me the option of compressing sounds in the analog world before I route the signal to the A/D converters.

The second interface is my HX Stomp. I just got this and it’s quickly become my default guitar tracking tool. There are a ton of programable sounds for when I want to do custom recording, but often I just call up a preset to do some quick demo work. It’s really nice to get right down to work without having to set up a lot of gear. I can also use it as a DI for re-amping later. This is super convenient for when I want to work early in the morning and don’t want to wake up the neighborhood.

Guitars and Amps

I’ve got a bunch that I own, but right now the two I use the most are my Fender EOB Strat and my Fender Noventa Jazzmaster. I love the Strat for anything single-coil, and with the humbucker in the bridge position, I can quickly switch gears if I need to. I also love the Sustainer. The Jazzmaster is a cool change of pace, and the P90s make for unique tones.

My main amp is a 15 watt Fender Bassbreaker on the clean channel. It works great as a pedal platform and it has plenty of gain if I want to get heavy.

Hitting the Wall with “Amnesty”

March 12, 2022

It didn’t take long for my grand plan to fall apart. In my first post, I started to talk about the album, and I came up with a plan to tackle songs one at a time, building upon the rough scratch demos I’d accumulated during the COVID lockdowns.

The first track, “Amnesty for Asking,” had a very rough demo with a basic song format, and some very rough drums generated by Garage Band AI drummer. The song is built around a moderately difficult guitar riff that I played ok for the initial demo. I made a quick loop of it, and that was good enough to build up the frame for the initial demo.

Last month I changed up the format a bit, tweaked the drums, and recorded a rough bass track. Things were going pretty well, and I was happy with the direction things were going. My intent was to go back and replace the rough guitar loops by playing the song top to bottom, adding some fills in the process. However, it turns out that my fingers just aren’t ready to perform this song at a level that I’m going to be happy with on this demo. In other words, it was clear it was time to go back to the “woodshed.”

I sat down a few times and practiced for a few minutes here or there. However, as is so often the case, there just isn’t much time for practice when you’ve got some grey in your beard, but not enough grey to retire. Now it’s been more than a month with minimal progress. It’s well past time to switch my strategy. I guess I need to table this song and move on to something else. I can always come back- but I don’t want to get stuck in a loop of starting a song and not finishing it. I’ll have to be careful about that or this will never be done.

Getting Started – Collecting My Thoughts and Developing a Plan

Originally Posted February 6, 2022

I’m going to keep this one really short and sweet. Yesterday I took stock of the riffs I’ve been working on and I made a quick catalog. My plan is to use the information below to keep me on track. I keep this in a text file in my recording folder.

Yesterday I spent some time doing an evaluation of “Amnesty for Asking.” I’ve got demo stems arranged in a rough format that I think will work and my next step is to go back and replay all the parts so they sound decent, not necessarily prefect. 😉

I’ve also got a bunch more songs to work through, so if I’m not feeling like working on Amnesty I may move down the list to find one that better suits my mood. I can update the file periodically so that I always have a decent status of how far along each song is.

One consideration I have is for efficiency sake, it’s probably best to finish one or two tunes then move on so I don’t get stuck in intermediate steps of songs for ages. We’ll see how that works out.

Here is my current assessment of licks/demos:

Updated Feb 6, 2022


1. Slow Grind 80bpm- Reminiscent of Old Pumpkins – Shoe Gazer

2. Cool Delay Effects (Keely or Boss DD200)

3. Major

4. Fairly well developed (multiple sections written)

5. Likely to be heavily processed, may be good to wait until better with FX

6. Slow tasty bends & Reverse Guitars, FUZZ with Submachine

7. People assume you mean something evil when you ask a question – getting judged/canceled


NEXT STEPS: Pump up the drums and retract guitars


1. 120 BPM CMaj

2. Grinding

3. Fairly well developed (multiple sections)

4. Riffed out

5. Could be straightforward, but will need a shredding solo


1. Midtempo Bob – 106pm in FMaj

2. Room for tasteful leads and bass groove

3. Pop format likely- may need a new bridge

4. Slow bends

5. Needs ambiance

6. Will need vocals to carry it and great lyrics


1. Cliche funk guitar lick with rudimentary drumbeat- needs a lot of work

2. Think of an updated CS lyric

3. May want to go full shoegaze

4. Write fun lyrics about people go get the good old days/Britney Spears was free

5. 112 BPM B Maj

6. Just the root of a song, not much to work with yet


1. Dark Groove A minor 95 bpm

2. Interesting harmony & melodic leads are well developed

3. Latin drums are interesting but will need some work

4. Experiments with the Major sections need to figure out what works best

5. May need a new arrangement with all the major stuff at the end like Layla piano part

6. Arrangement needs work, probably needs at least one more minor modal section


1. A minor 100 BPM

2. Despite being minor it is very uplifting

3. Lead noodling has some good ideas

4. Acoustic groove with ambient guitars are uplifting

5. Rough bass part (needs to be more inspired)

6. Is a nice contrast to other songs

7. Repetition in the bridge is cool


1. Slow half-time grind (136bpm Cmaj?)

2. Lots of rhythmic space is a nice contrast

3. Right now its only two sections- will need lots more development (listen all the way to the end for a CODA section)


1. 6/8 is a nice contrast

2. Feels like a drinking song

3. Can play the Taylor

4. Maybe relatively simple

5. Nice progression (IV iv cadences)

6. Not much to it other than a chord progression

7. 88pm Cmaj? (Doublecheck Logic Settings may be incorrect)


1. Light arpeggiated rif

2. 100 bpm Dmaj

3. Some ok lead ideas

4. Opportunity for space FX

5. Some riffs sound stiff, you’ll need to practice before you can track

6. Standard form may not be the best, think more about the arrangement

7. Could be a nice final track


1. Slow heavy grind with feedback – 110 BPM Minor

2. Good chance to layer guitars- several ideas on demo

3. Sound doesn’t really match the inspiration based on the guy who build the secret condo in the mall

Boredom is the Mother of Invention


Originally Posted February 6, 2022

Judging by the recent boom in guitar sales during Covid, I’m not the only one who spent too much time watching YouTube videos about guitars and guitar gear and spending way too much money buying gear.  I’ve got a good case of GAS and my wife would agree. 

Buying and testing gear has been a great hobby for me and I don’t regret it.  Those little hits of dopamine from those last-second bids on eBay really helped get me through some dark days.  Sorry to anyone I sniped.

Now I should explain, I’m not some pro musician who has a need for lots of gear.  When I was young I hoped that would be me, but that ship sailed and sank to the bottom of the ocean long ago.  I work a stable 9-5 job like many of you.  I still jam with my buddies in the basement a few times a month, but we don’t gig.  Sometimes we write songs, but that’s rare these days. 

My buddies are all talented, but there are no virtuoso players.  Let’s just say, that given our lifestyle (adults with full time jobs, families, and other obligations), I don’t see us breaking through that ceiling and that is perfectly cool with me.  We’re having fun, being creative, drinking beer, and making music and I estimate that is better than about 98% of the population.  Life is good.

It’s a lot of fun and I really look forward to, but I need more. I really love to write.  In high school and college I played in bands that were focused on writing original music.  Some of the members of those bands are successful working musicians now.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with hugely talented players, and although I don’t have the skills to perform on that level, it doesn’t stop me from trying.  Over the years I’ve written some wonderful songs, and I’ve written some real stinkers.  I love the process, so even the stinkers were worth the time spent on them.  After all, learning through failure is still learning.

That being said, I’ve collected a heap of guitar, bass, and recording gear over the course of Covid (and I have plenty from the before times too).  I don’t want to start a museum, so if I’m going to keep this stuff I need to use it.  All of it.

My goal is write and record an album or albums (what IS an album anyway?) using each piece of gear here.  Honestly, I’ll never get through it all… but like I said, I’m not ashamed to fail.

I’ve started writing and demoing riffs, but up until now I haven’t done much more than that.  I tend to get distracted by new fun side projects (like last week I picked up a P-bass and now I’m rewiring it).  Distractions like this are fun, and they might be helpful to the ultimate goal, but more likely than not they’re just pushing me away from time in my home studio.  If nothing else, that P-bass is one more bit of gear I need to work onto this album. 

In fact, this blog is just another one of these distractions.  However, my hope is that I will spend a few minutes writing my plan for the album here, to share with you. Then I can use each post to build a plan with short-term achievable goals to help keep the album moving forward. 

For instance, yesterday I cataloged my riff ideas and gave them all working titles.  I took a few notes about my favorites and sorted my least favorite ideas into another folder on my computer for later use (or disposal).  Then I took stock of the level of development of each song noting factors like BPM, key, number of song sections, relatively completeness of the format, etc.  After that, I went to the first song on the list “Amnesty for Asking” and shuffled clips around to try and come up with a draft arrangement.  I should mention that these recordings are ROUGH. there are plenty of aimlessly noodled licks, a few of which may be the basis for something better, but most is stream of consciousness garbage.  It’s ok, I just want to see if I have enough material that I’m enthusiastic enough about to invest the effort to continue.  If so, then I’ll put in the work.  I developed a cool motif with slow bends that I really like and it sounds pretty cool with a fuzzed out rhythm guitar (maybe I can use my MXR Submachine).  With a bit of work, it could be a ShoeGaze banger.  We’ll see.

Today I will probably experiment with my new HX Stomp as an interface as I rerecord some of the better clips.  Again, this is just another demo so I’m not looking for perfection and I think calling up some HX stomp presets may be the quickest way get to success.  If nothing else, it will help me learn how to use that glorious little box.

Although, right now it is early morning and I’m still in bed.  The day may go another way.  I may have to do chores around the house and in all likelihood will lose my motivation before I get to the studio.  I may prefer write another blog post – this has been fun.  Perhaps I’ll start doing a rough arrangement of another song from the list – who knows.  If I think of it, maybe I’ll tell you next time.