Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustics

dean-markley-blue-steel-acousticsToday I’m finally getting around to changing the strings on my Taylor 615ce with a set of Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustics. After several live performances and a couple of recordings, including a cover of “Not A Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake, it’s time I sit down and get my first impression of a new line of strings.

Sit with me as I take off some old flat strings that got played to death. Then watch me do things I don’t recommend doing with your strings.

Get tuned up. Stretched out. Ready to play.

Finally top it off with what my initial reaction is to hearing how Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic strings make me feel. Rather what I think they sound like on my favorite acoustic guitar.

First Impression Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustics

Transcript:

Sometimes your strings are flat and you need to change ’em.

First things first. Sexy, minimalistic packaging going on. Some kind of sticky thing. Inside we have a package. Sealed strings. Let’s open ’em up. Let’s find out what they’re like.

They come in two winds. They look like they’re kind of color coded. Better read the packaging. High E, is black. The B string is blue. G string is black. D string blue. A string black and low E string, blue. Alternating color scheme. I’m using medium acoustics. Thirteen through fifty-six, my favorite kind. De-tune strings. Get ’em off. Here we go.

Low E string if I remember correctly that is going to be black. The B string. Agh. I can tell you right now that they don’t taste very good. String G. Cryogenically activated strings have a very very odd taste. Don’t eat your strings.

Fly and be free.

Black for the A. The lower strings, they don’t taste any better than the upper strings. Ah, what a symphony of sound that is.

Stretch ’em out just a little bit. Blue steel’s generally don’t require a whole lot of stretching on the electric side. So hopefully they won’t require a whole lot of stretching on the acoustic side.

Handy dandy PolyTune by T.C. Electronics. Awesome app for getting your guitar in tune.

Ok. We’ve got it tuned up. Let’s clip the strings off. Once you’ve clipped the strings it’s a good idea to tune once again. Just incase there’s any slippage.

That’s interesting… No slippage whatsoever, it’s still in tune.

As far as sound goes.

They have a good solid tone to them. Not overly bright but nice and solid at least with the fingertips.

They have a real nice solid tone to them. I really dig it. Don’t sound overly buzzy. They sound nice and big and full. That’s actually a really good thing. I like that.

Dean Markley I think you’ve hit an A+ out of the park home run with these strings.

White Men Discussing Rap

SPM-south-park-mexicanWhat could be more out of wack than three white men discussing rap music? That’s right. Jesse Stern starts us off with an off the cuff remark about rap music and George Leger III takes over discussing the state of modern rap in Southern California. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of rap I like for it’s originality, it’s beat, it’s wild-blue-yonder approach. Yet listening to George talk about the artists he’s hearing about from the youth group he works with, is definitely an eye opening and mind expanding situation for myself and Mr. Jesse Stern.

Find out my expression and how I react to a group that I’ve never heard of. Actually all the groups that George mentions are groups I hadn’t heard of until he mentioned them. Jesse takes it all in stride. What ended up happening afterwards is that I’m now more aware of some of the new modern rap coming out of Southern California. Not necessarily a bad thing.

What say you? Who is rapping stuff so awesome that you can’t believe they’re not uber famous yet? Give me some names so I can flesh out my measly commercial rap collection.

White Men Discussing Rap

There’s a lot of really cool rap out.

Productionwise it’s so minimalistic.

Uh Hmmm.

That I… it’s like driving on ice.

Do you do a lot of rap?

I do where I work ’cause the kids, that’s what they want to do.

That’s what the kids are doing these days…

They’re not producing music. They don’t even know what music is. Well, that’s not true. I can’t really say that, ’cause… You know. They. It’s been really intriguing with them to try and turn them on to other kinds of music.

Uh Hmmm.

And other stuff because they’re so into this ridged little clique of music. ASAP Rocky, fuckin’ ah, SPM, South Park Mexicans. Yeah.

Is that a band or a style.

That’s a band.

Ok.

I was about to say if that’s a style, it’s way off my radar.

There’s a band down in Orange called FUNK.

They’re just called FUNK?

They’re just called FUNK. And like all the gangsta kids love ’em. They’re all like, I want FUNK man. I hear it. Like who the fuck is FUNK? FUNK is the they’re a band man.

Funk is that guy right there. He got the funk.

Well, they’re, you know. Eh, South Park Mexicans, SPM, there’s like four or five guys, that’s all they talk about when they talk. ASAP Rocky is one of them.

Give me some more rap to check out in the comments.

Enjoy your day!

– Jody

One Trick You Didn't Know For Loud Mastering

loud-masteringOne thing these days that lots of people have complained about is extremely loud mastering of music and how it tends to kill the song. I’m someone who has heard many a song released where the mastering and/or mix was so brick wall limited that it ends up sounding distorted, lacking dynamics, and it’s disappointing. It destroys the vibe of the recording, all in the name of attempting to stand out above all others when broadcast to the world. The end result of these loud mixes that are overly compressed and limited is one of making the song sound small and shitty. Small and shitty is not necessarily the result any self respecting musician would ever want for their releases. However, many record labels now force this concept of “make it LOUD” to the mixing engineers and the mastering guys.

Once in a while, a mistake can lead to a new discovery about how to approach doing something. Said mistake can end up starting a new way to look at a problem. Such is the case with an approach George Leger III stumbled upon while putting his mastering skills to the test for my song Touch. I have a version of Touch that has been mastered by the great John Rodd. But before I end up releasing the song, I’ll consider going with a second master based on George’s new technique. To put it simply, it’s mind shredding loud mastering, without sounding distorted or compressed.

Watch as I get George to discuss the process of super loud mastering he stumbled upon, to my buddy Jesse Stern, who is also the co-writer on “Till We Meet Again.”

Loud Mastering

Transcript:

So we can get the low down on all this trickery.

Well really all it is… is this is a 32 bit hard… uh, software mixer right.

Yeah.

But because it’s 32 bit, you can crank the crap out of the levels internally. So I can take this fader and ride it up to say +9. And it won’t clip.

Hmmm.

It chops the top off, but it does it in a way that it doesn’t sound dynamically compressed.

Like a soft clipping type thing?

So you can push it up and it sounds loud without sounding [distorted] compressed. Or distorted. Jody was just like: I don’t know what you did man, but the file you gave me, the mastering… It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard and it’s like doesn’t sound bad at all. It sounds great.

Well, yeah. He did a master of Touch.

Uh huh.

That he gave back to me and I was like it was just… what did I say? Mind shredding loud?

Yeah. It was super super loud. [it was so loud…] I didn’t even realize I had done this when I did it. Until I went back and looked and I went, oh wait a minute I didn’t go through this whole thing that I thought I was going through.

And I’m looking at the meters of my thing and my meters are still going up and down with all the dynamics. I’m like how the F^#$ is it so God damn loud!

Yeah. And not like: Phhhhfffftttt! Like crushed. Normally you do that and it gets crushed. What I discovered is that you can actually use this internal little mixer to jack the heck out of your levels, but it doesn’t distort.

Wow.

And it doesn’t sound compressed.

That’s cool.

It is really cool. Cause it’s like you can add 6 to 9 db of limiting without it sounding at all like that’s what you did. The nice thing that I like about the master that I did is… The attack of the kick and the snare are still there. Dynamically it’s like BAM BAM it just sounds so good. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, what the hell.

Okay, are we ready?

We’re ready. We’re ready. Anybody ready?

Have thoughts on loud mastering for your music – chime in in the comments below. I’m happy to discuss.

Crazy Cold Out But Touch Will Heat You Up Find Out Why

New Song Finished

Touch is in the can! Which means I’m happier to start talking about it. That’s right, the mix is off to the mastering engineer and will be back in my nimble lanky fingers within 24 hours! Actually I already hear a mastered version but opted to tweak a few things about the mix before putting the fork in it. Happily the mastering engineer is going to rerun it for mastering.

Who Was Involved

Touch as it’s called, was written by yours truly. That means I created all the music and vocal melodies, plus the lyrics.

The rapper is a bloke from Los Angeles who goes by the name Jacarri. He did tweak some of my lyrics I. The bridge to better suit his flow.

The idea for using a rapper in the bridge of the song came from Brian Austin Whitney.

My partner in crime in making the recording sound insanely great is George Leger III.

The awesome mastering is done by the infamous John Rodd.

Who Did What

For the recording of guitars, bass, drum programming, mouth noises, synths and other FX – I put on my alter ego hats and laid down parts for each. I also did an enormous amount of singing over the course of 4 days. Also did the final touches of the releasing mix. It added up to a few tracks north of 100 tracks in the mix. Largest mis I’ve ever done.

George did some additional drum tweaking, sound switching, vocal engineering, and some other various things. He also did some premixing on the track.

Jacarri brought some rapping skills to the tune.

John Rodd brought the final mastering touches.

Thanks

I have to thank George, John and Jacarri for putting in some fantastic work on making this song as awesome as possible. Plus I need to thank a bunch of people who took valuable time to sit and listen to various mixes to determine which one should be the released version of the song.

I’m getting a real fuzzy feeling about the whole thing. I get even warmer thinking about how hot the video is going to be.

Maggie May Cover Of Rod Stewart

Maggie May Cover

I’m not often prone to doing cover songs. Mostly because I’m usually so busy writing and creating new music. However, I’m being asked more often to realize songs by other people. Thus, right now, you get to witness an experiment utilizing the power (or lack thereof) of the internet. I’m posting a video on YouTube of myself doing a Maggie May cover of Rod Stewart with my friend Chris Hellstrom.

Mind you, be aware neither Chris or I had ever “Jammed” over Skype before. We now know why. It’s not an ideal way to play music live, specifically because of the massive delays between participants. Chris and I did our best to make it work and there are a few stumbles. That’s to be expected when you’re flying blind. There’s so many variables that apparently go into this. Connection speed, something that isn’t as much an issue for me as it was for Chris. I enjoy a speedy 10Mbps up and 50Mbps down. Chris on the other hand not so much. Video obviously adds a lot of data to the bandwidth. I hear there are other things like data packet loss and such. Either way, if Skype really wants to make it’s world domination complete, they will have to figure out how to reduce these delays down to milliseconds. Enjoy our little escapade.

Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I just made arrangements to do this again with another friend. The twist is next time I’ll be playing guitar and he’ll be singing. My goal is to gather video from both sides so it can be side by side.

For now, I’d be happy to have you share this barebones rendition of the infamous (well, ok, it’s famous) song written by Rod Stewart called Maggie May.

Maggie May Rod Stewart

– Jody

p.s. – don’t tell Rod I screwed some of it up.

p.p.s – this was posted before the video went entirely live on YouTube, so you’re an early watcher!

Pachinko Games Am I

In the matter of getting the talent out and into the world, I have a little news about something I’ve done recently. I was asked to sing on a game soundtrack. I can’t tell you the name of the game, if I did, I’d have to kill you, then they’d kill me. Very James Bond 007 type of stuff. I can say it’s a game out of Japan and it’s the type known as Pachinko. Though I’ve never see a Pachinko game, I can say Pachinko games am I. Or at least my voice is.

Oddly enough I’m getting known for doing vocals for games in that part of the world. It’s interesting. It’s fun. It can also be rough on the voice.

The amazing march of technology allows the composers in Japan to Skype in to my studio. Where they can ask, watch, listen, and request for things as we’re recording the tracks. Going international thanks to video chatting!

I will say the music for this game is a bit heavier than most of the music I’m known for. Plus it’s very much in the heavy video game style of borderline metal mixed with dub.

When I’m allowed to give out the name of the game, I’ll happily post an update. Speaking of which, there is another game that I sang on a while back where I’m due to be getting the CD of the music very soon. When I get it in big hands, I’ll post about that one.

Finally Song Eighteen Is "I Miss"

Doling out the news… That’s what’s happening. Since the last post about song seventeen, I’m now on the final leg of the preproduction stage. That’s the word finally song eighteen is “I Miss”.

The song underwent a bit of a transformation. I changed the rhythm of the piano part. In a way it’s a bit more simplified. It also changes it from feeling too much like a song from the 80’s in it’s rhythmic value on the piano.

Lyrically it has stayed the same. I’m positive they were right the first time.

Vocally is where the most change happened. I’ve added an insane amount of vocal harmony. Think Queen, if you’re familiar with them. It’s going to be vocally HUGE. It will be interesting to see how it vibes out in the studio with extra singers on it. I’m thinking it will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 tracks of vocal harmonies. Big big big.

There it is. The last song on the list for the new CD/release. Song eighteen is called “I Miss”. Now it’s a matter of hunting down that investor money. Once that happens, I’ll be heading into the studio and pumping out these tracks with pure awesomeness.

Stay tuned for another update in a few days.

Song Seventeen Finalized Is "You Can't Hear"

Call it a momentary lapse of reason. I have realized that I didn’t give a timely update on when I got the last couple of songs done. I’m writing it now, song seventeen finalized is “You Can’t Hear”.

There is no excuse. I got wrapped up in throwing together another tune for fun. I’ll give the update about that track in the new few days for sure. Mostly likely Tuesday.

For “You Can’t Hear” it got a little bit of lyric treatment. Not much. Minor tweaks and a setup for another section where I’ll be bringing in a rapper who’ll knock it out of the park.

Sonically the song is getting a bit of a makeover. I’ll be tapping a keyboard playing friend that lift the chorus to new heights rather than sticking with the clavinet part I’ve got. I believe I’ll also run with live drums on it instead of the programmed sounds it’s set with. Mostly due to the fact that it’s hybrid rap and rock.

That’s about the size of the changes there. I’ve got one more song to be talking about in regards to this next release. Stay tuned, but for now, you’re in the know with the fact that song seventeen finalized is known as “You Can’t Hear”.

Song Sixteen Finalized Is Stand My Ground

Productive day yesterday. Got a lot of calls made. Emails sent. Even got to finally sit with a bit of a tune and spruce it up. That would be why I can say song sixteen finalized is Stand My Ground.

This particular song underwent a slight transformation. I had to tweak a few of the lyrics. I felt it needed a little more cohesion in the presentation of the words. It’s now got that. Such that it remains universal and personal at the same time. Without being overly vague. Though it still has a strong sense of metaphor. Which is to say, I hope it’s not too clever in it’s telling of a story now.

The arrangement got shortened a little. I decided it didn’t need the Pre Chorus going into the second Chorus. It appears only before the first Chorus.

Sonically, I’ve made my notes of things that I wish to have happen once I hit the studio to be recording the final version. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting down to song 17 today, it’s got very minor tweaks. Who knows I might be announcing it tomorrow. Then I’ve saved the toughest song for last…

For now, you’re in the know that the sixteenth song finalized is Stand My Ground. Have an awesome day!

Song Fifteen Done Before The Super Bowl

Bing, bang, boom. Been an interesting few days with a bunch of requests for some music to fit a few commercials. Fingers crossed that at least one of them get’s pics for some of the opportunities. Yesterday I got to put the final touches on to a song that got a bit of a major rewrite lyrically. Now I have song fifteen done before the Super Bowl.

This latest in the quest for the final 18 songs is now called “Brighter Side of Success.” The original title was “Imagine Life.” Fortunately that has changed. Changed in to a much better song lyrically. Stronger. More cohesive. Also, more positive. That’s a plus. It was good to reexamine the nature of the tune and what it should have been from a lyric standpoint.

Musically, I didn’t have to change much of it at all. In fact, there were only some very minor melody/rhythm of vocals tweaks to accommodate the new lyrics. I think it was pretty darn strong musically. Though I do think I will add some stuff in the studio once all the bed tracks are tracked. Maybe a synth or two here or there. But otherwise, it’s to remain a solid uptempo pop rock style tune that stays in the bass, drum, guitar, vocal realm.

Now I can sit for a day and take in the mother of all football games – The Super Bowl. Interestingly enough on iTunes my versions of San Francisco 49’s and Baltimore Ravens “Do You Want To Play” are hot on the popular meter right now. I’m making an educated guess that fans of both teams are picking up their respective versions to pump themselves up for the big showdown!

Which team you rootin’ for? 49’s? Ravens? I’m actually more interested in the commercials and seeing huge plays. My team isn’t there, crud.

Enjoy the Super Bowl, and stay tuned for next week should see at least two of the last three, if not all three of the tunes to complete the 18 to be finalized for the recording process. Remember “Brighter Side of Success” is song fifteen done and it’s right before the Super Bowl! Hell Yeah.