Now that it’s the weekend and you’re not dedicating your brain power towards work, you’ll have time to digest Polyphia’s new track ‘Neurotica’! This …Polyphia Play With Intricacies on New Track ‘Neurotica’
Equalize Your Listening With HiFiScan
Audiophiles will go to such extents to optimize the quality of their audio chain that they sometimes defy parody. But even though the law of …Equalize Your Listening With HiFiScan
Hobby #4: Create a Fake Band – HUH???
I hadn’t planned this post, but I woke up early this morning and this was on YouTube. It’s already the last day of August, summer is falling. That marks this time sensitive so here we go…
Pat Finnerty does a comedy video series called “What Makes this Song Stink.” It’s tremendously clever satire of YouTube videos loosely following the format of Rick Beato’s music appreciation series called “What Makes This Song Great.” You should check them both out. Seriously, they’re some of my favorite channels.
Pat recently made a video poking fun at the MGK song Emo Girl. In his video he analyzes the song and forms a fake band and records a song in the same style.
The name of the fake band is August is Falling and their first fake song is called Mad This Summer. Long story short, through a strange series of event which he describes in the video below, August is Falling accidentally became a real band and now the members are inching closer to that elusive hot tub money.
Like Pinocchio, this fake band wants nothing more than to be a real band, but they need subscribers. So check them out below and subscribe. Then go back and watch all of Pat’s videos. I recommend watching them in order because his material is rife with call backs to previous jokes.
It’s ok, click away, enjoy Pat and Rick’s videos, then come back and leave me a comment if you enjoyed it.
Maybe you’ll feel inspired an you’ll want to start your own fake band. If so, you may want to write parody songs like Pat Finnerty does. If so, you may want to check out my post on writing parodies for some more inspiration.
Why I Like Making Music
Mostly, it’s because I’m not good at it. This is not me fishing for compliments. I am aware I can fiddle about and get something out of my equipment …Why I Like Making Music
You Picked It! Metallica – ‘Kill ‘Em All’ – Album Review
Alright…You Picked It! And this one was a blowout from the word go. It was really down to three choices but 2 weren’t even close. The winner was …You Picked It! Metallica – ‘Kill ‘Em All’ – Album Review
Hobby #39: Digital Nostalgia of an Analog World: Mix Tapes, Playlists, and Finding Your Musical Voice When You Have No Musical Skills
The goal of this blog is to help adults create more joyous lives by reviving the love for music that has been lost amongst our adult responsibilities. In an earlier article I promised to post ideas for people who have minimal or no musical skills. If that is you, then this post is meant for you, however, if you already have some chops, you’re still going to want to stick around.
If you’re of a certain age, you probably spent some time making mix tapes. If you were a broke kid like I was, you waited for your favorite song to come on the radio, then you’d drop everything to run across the room and press record. Of course, you never got there fast enough so all of your songs were missing the intro sections. Maybe you were lucky enough to have a double deck player and a lot of cassettes, so you didn’t have that problem, but for some of us the struggle was real. What was worse, was that a lot of great music never made it to the radio. If you were into obscure bands then you were out of luck unless you could find a station zany enough to align with your tastes.
If you’re one of the younger readers and you grew up in the time of streaming services, then you’re probably laughing at the notion. It must sound archaic to you. It kind of was, but we loved our tunes and that was just the state of the technology at the time.
Well, you did have another option. You could buy lot of albums, (collections of 12-20 songs that came on some kind of physical media such as cassettes, CDs, vinyl LPs, etc.), to round out your collection. An album cost $15-20 dollars back then and you usually didn’t have the option of buying just one song. You could then copy songs from those tapes to a new tape. You had more control that way, so you never missed the intro section, but it cost more money.
So, to summarize, that you had to either work for your music by waiting for your tune to come on the radio and hitting record or you had to pay for your music (you usually had to buy a full album). Any way you sliced it, you had to EARN it. When you earn something, you tend to appreciate it more. Of course, I’m trying to draw a contrast here to the music of today, that is conveniently available instantly at your fingertips for free. There’s still plenty of good music out there, but it feels more disposable now, because it is so effortless to obtain.
I know that sounds dramatic but stick with me here. One of the things that people did with mix tapes was give them as gifts to one another. One of the most common mix tapes was when lovers captured the songs that reminded them of each other. It was a prelude to Netflix and Chill, it was personalized, and you understood the effort your lover put into making it. So, when someone gave you a mix tape, you really appreciated the gesture. Plenty of folks considered a mixtape to be one of the most romantic and thoughtful gifts a person could receive.
Some people created custom artwork to amplify the mood. Of course, this was before people had computers in their homes, so the artwork was almost always hand-drawn, a photograph retrieved from the photo lab or made from clippings from magazines. (That sounds really of creepy now, but it wasn’t then… well, not as long as you actually liked the person who gave it to you. If you got a tape from someone you didn’t like, well that was definitely creepy then too). Regardless it was one more creative outlet to show someone how much you cared and further amp up the romance.
Of course, you didn’t have to put love songs on your tapes. You could make a tape for any theme that you wanted. The ones I remember were usually ones my friends and I made for road trips or for parties. Either way, we literally created the soundtrack to our lives on those plastic cassettes. These tapes became literal artifacts of our childhoods. I like to imagine a day, long after humanity is extinct, that an alien archaeologist will find a box of these tapes and will conduct research on the precious artifacts. Perhaps the artwork will be miraculously preserved in addition to the audio. I wish I could be there to read the alien musicologist Ph.D. dissertations that could be written on the topic.
About 10 years ago, I got in touch with a friend from high school. Somehow the topic of mixed tapes came up and she mentioned that no one had ever given her one. It haunted her, after all those years, that she had missed out on this rite of passage. It haunted me too, enough so that I remembered the discussion when I was Marie Kondo-ing my life to prepare for an upcoming move. I found an old Walkman in a box of stuff from college, and it reminded me of her. I put some fresh batteries in it, and by some miracle it still worked. I could have tossed that Walkman in the trash, perhaps it could have been the missing link that the alien archeologist will need to play the box of tapes it will one day find. I didn’t though, because I knew the one person on the planet who would really appreciate a Walkman and who would really be touched by an old-school mixed tape.
I tried to think back of our times in high school, to see if I could create a nostalgic playlist, but my memory was just not good enough for that. So, I shifted my strategy. During our conversation she mentioned that she had become vegan and worked at some kind of animal rescue. Her compassion for animals was dear to her heart, so I set myself on a mission to find songs about veganism and animals. It took a fair amount of research, but I did it. It was as weird as you’d probably expect it to be.
Of course, this was in the age of the internet, so the research wasn’t that difficult, and it only cost me a few bucks to download the tunes to a playlist. It took a little engineering to get my computer to record to cassette, but lucky for me, I know a little bit about audio engineering (more on that in a future post). It took an hour or so to dump the tunes to tape. I listened to my masterpiece while I handwrote the track list in the jewel case. (That playlist is preserved on an old computer, if you’re curious I can try to retrieve it. If so, leave a comment). When it was done, I packaged it up, dropped it in the snail mail and waited.
A few days later, my phone rang. My friend thanked me profusely. She laughed and cried, and we continued our poignant nostalgia trip through time. It was a wonderful way to reconnect with an old friend and it felt amazing to know that she had finally received her own personalized mix tape, and was freed from the lingering teenage angst that haunted her since high school.
Now I’m not saying you need an old cassette deck to make a mix tape. You can do the same thing with your favorite streaming service. You can make playlists – either for yourself or for your friends. You can share them on social media. In fact, some people actually make money doing exactly that.
Here are a few fun themes to get you started, but I recommend coming up with your own. The weirder the better.:
- Top 10 songs on the day your child was born
- Songs that were popular in the country where you went on your honeymoon on the day of your honeymoon
- Songs that you requested be played at your wedding (or songs that were on the “don’t play” list if you want to irritate your ex)
- Songs that make you think about someone special
- Protest songs through the ages
- DJ a gab session with your friends in real time- when someone says something memorable try to play a song that intensifies the mood. The next day, send your friends the playlist.
- Songs that inspire you to create art, work out, do chores, etc.
If you really want to amp this idea up, start a club where you and your friends make playlists on a topic, then you get together, crack open some bottles of wine and listen together. My friends and I used to do it at the KILL YOUR RADIO CLUB and we really loved research the lists and seeing how different our lists were despite the common theme. It was a wonderful way to learn new music, and to learn more about your friends taste in music and their values.
You might be thinking “Spotify playlist are no big secret, I could have thought of that.” To which I would respond, “Sure you could, but did you?” I’m willing to bet most of you haven’t ever made a playlist on your favorite streaming service. For those of you that have- you probably haven’t bothered to share it with someone you love. Let’s face it, sharing the tunes we love with others is part of what makes the experience special. If you agree, you might want to share this article with someone you love then make playlists for each other.
Go ahead, give it a try. Pick a thoughtful theme and share it with someone you love. Also share it with me in a comment, I’d love to see what you come up with!
This post is getting long, but I’ve got plenty more ideas for play lists. I might even post some here if there is interest. If so, let me know.
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.)
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. AMNESTY FOR ASKING
1. Slow Grind 80bpm- Reminiscent of Old Pumpkins – Shoe Gazer
2. Cool Delay Effects (Keely or Boss DD200)
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
NEEDS LYRICS AND VOCAL MELODY
NEXT STEPS: Pump up the drums and retract guitars
2. CHASM (ALT LEAVE OF PRESENCE)
1. 120 BPM CMaj
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
4. GEEZER GAZER
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
5. HERE TO STAY (ENDEMIC)
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
6. NEW YEARS DAY
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
7. ON MY GRIND
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)
8. SPIRITS (DRINKS AND GHOSTS)
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
10. TRUMMERKIND – CHILDREN OF THE RUINS
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
RECORDING AN ALBUM USING MY COVID GEAR
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.