Sitting here waiting, like I’m on the remarkable long road, for my studio machine to export video to a podcast. As if I don’t have enough to do. Much like you. As I’m twiddling thumbs waiting on the export, I’m thinking about the vocals I’ll be tracking later tonight. Then I got the wild idea of writing a random stream of thoughts instead of filling my head with things I can’t control.
That’s not entirely true, I could control when I tell the computer to crunch the video / audio data. I could even stop it right now if I desired. However, that would be putting the work off until later. Experts call that – procrastination. I’m not a good procrastinator.
Knowing that I have a data backup that I need to do tonight as well, I opted to let the machine do its thing while I get some busy work done for the podcast. Getting the YouTube page ready. Getting the website page ready. Writing out the description of the episodes coming up for Tuesday and Friday. Monday has become my relegated Podcast prep day.
Yet another facet to my musical life, passing on the knowledge I’ve learned about recording, mixing, mastering music. The remarkable long road of a career musician who puts in too much time.
Speaking of which, I read an article earlier today about a famous musician that passed away a couple of weeks ago. Of course the initial tributes that came out for Eddie Van Halen were warranted. I wondered how long it would take for the dark side stories to start cropping up. I had heard some of them prior to his death – the music business isn’t that large. Then again, it isn’t that small either. Today was that day. I came across an article written by a film maker talking about his time spent with Eddie.
To paraphrase, there were DEFCON one moments and apparently kinda often in his remarkable long road of a career.
One of the things I learned in reading the article was Eddie’s work ethic. It was tireless. Borderline merciless. Which got me thinking…
I know there are several musicians who have played with me that would agree to the following statement. I am notorious for doing long rehearsals to make sure everyone knows their part. I don’t care how long it takes to get everyone on the same page, so long as they really want to be working on the music. I often would rehearse songs for hours and hours on end. The goal was to make playing the music, the songs, 2nd nature to the point where I didn’t have to think about it for it to be done right.
Pushing myself for that type of practice and rehearsal is normal. That’s how I roll. Unfortunately I also expect from the musicians that I play with or who play with me. Some handle that well, many don’t. Which leads to frustration on their part and on my part. I expect people to do their musical homework. To come prepared. I always feel like I’ve let other musicians down if I haven’t gotten the music memorized and into muscle memory before a rehearsal. I don’t want to rely on reading charts.
Turns out, Eddie had this type of drive too, according to the filmmaker. I had no idea. I figured he was an alien. However, one paragraph struck me. I’m paraphrasing here but, Eddie would play guitar when writing/recording songs 15 to 18 hours a day, then sleep. As if sleep were only there as a necessary evil. He’d go to sleep for several hours, get back up and go back to the studio and the guitar. Doing it day in and day out.
In the studio he would expect the same of the the musicians. He expected they would put in the same work he did. Often, they didn’t and he’d get bummed out. Did you know Eddie played the bass on all Van Halen records other than Van Halen I? Learned that today too…
Oh that is so familiar to me. I work alone much of the time as I find I can get things done quicker that way. Not always true, but often enough. I learned to sing, because I couldn’t find a singer with that kind of work ethic.
When I do work with others, whether I’m bringing them on for something I’ve written, or I’m producing another artist – the most common phrase I hear is: Damn, I’ve never worked so hard in the studio. I’ve got multiple stories of musicians like that. When striving for that type of perfection, it can take a toll. Especially on others. I know I’m not the easiest guy to work with musically, based on that work ethic. Though I have had multiple musicians that prefer to work my gigs because – I’m consistent, I know what I want, and they don’t have to guess. I will always go back to guys and gals that I’ve worked with who can handle the work.
Getting asked how I’ve managed to make a remarkable long road career out of music, I think it stems to that work ethic.
BTW – **ding** my export is done and I need to get on with the uploading of the video and podcast audio, so that in an hour or so I can get to tracking vocals. Have a great evening!
It’s been a bizarre Thanksgiving holiday. Bizarre may be too strong a word. Reality is it was mellow.
What made it weird is that I ran into an issue in the studio on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That translated into a technical issue regarding file backups. As a musician who takes work a tad to serious some times, I have a tendency of making a lot of backups of files. This started after I had a hard drive meltdown a bunch of years ago while I was attempting to make backups of 20 songs worth of material. I lost it all. No means of recovery. There was something that shattered the head of the hard drive and it destroyed the platters.
That changed my life from a computing and studio standpoint. I started making backups of projects to a 2nd hard drive after every recording session. Then once a project was finished, I would also make two optical backups to CDs at first, then to DVDs. Now I’m doing all backups to Blu Rays. The main reason why is because Blu Rays hold 50gb of data. Though I’m thinking my next batch I’ll grab 100gb Blu Rays.
Getting back to what happened right before Thanksgiving 2019… I had a need to get out a project. For all of this I’m running an optical data library that keeps track of all the files I have and on which disc. This allows me to call up a disc, check it out of the unit, put it into the computer, transfer files, then put the disc back. Its really handy. However, the unit is getting old and I’m thinking the power supply is going bad so sometimes one or more of the units don’t respond well (whole other tech story going on there).
Thus, I made a decision that its time to upgrade a bunch of old DVDs/CDs from those formats to sit on Blu Ray. This takes time. Lots of time. So for several days I’ve been pulling data of old backups, reorganizing the data and burning it back onto Blu Ray. As I’m writing this, I’m about 90% done. Organization of files is key. Especially if I have a client that wants something changed, I have to be able to recall old sessions. Or maybe I want a remix of one of my tracks or maybe I need to chart a part from one of my songs. The process of doing such things becomes real easy if I have a simple method of recall for the data. Which I do, and now I’m improving it.
Whenever I burn an optical disc I always burn a 2nd one. Why have one when you have a 2nd? That’s my motto. Mainly for the reason that if one gets scratched, I have a backup of that. I also attempt to make a hard drive backup as well, but with this much data it gets to be a bit much.
If you’re not one to backup data, and I’ve met many who don’t – I find I have no sympathy when people lose data. I realize it isn’t fun to lose data, but if you don’t take time to actually back it up, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Anyway, until a better means of backup comes along from Blu Rays, I’m now at least up with the times of getting my data on to a new format for the time being. Mind you, I am seriously considering microSD as some companies are now selling 512gb microSD for $6. The issue becomes, how do I keep track of it what’s on said microSD when there’s no clear method to making it easy. But the format is getting cheap. If you have a great easy way to keep track of what’s on a microSD hit me up as I’d like to know how to keep track of them as an additional means of backup.
I should be done with this mess tonight. Which means getting back to making more lyric videos and finishing more singles in the near future.
It’s been an odd day. I woke to a feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, which isn’t common for me at all. Likely it stemmed from lack of sleep and a developing issue of an eyelid with irritation. The one thing that brightened my morning was a random tweet by Lisa Loeb. She appreciated my tweet about Ed Cherney passing yesterday (Tuesday). I wrote a tweet to her in appreciation and she responded. That little gesture from her was super sweet.
Mind you, she doesn’t follow me on twitter. It’s highly likely she doesn’t remember me auditioning to play guitar for her on a tour. She also probably doesn’t remember when we bumped into each at NAMM talking to a mutual friend. Either way, she’s a lovely person and it brightened my day.
I felt like a task master getting rolling. Chris Hellstrom and I got our second podcast/broadcast recording in the can today. Compared to the first episode last week, this episode went substantially smoother. I pretty much had the outputs of the audio and video within an hour of finishing the recording. Compared to the 8 hours it took last week. that’s a huge savings in time. Massive creative time cut.
My goal for next weeks episode is to have everything output and ready for releasing within 30 minutes of getting all files. But that might be a little optimistic, as it does take time for Final Cut to export the video. Then for me to upload it to YouTube. And we’re only doing episodes in 1080. Imagine if it were 2k or 4k. It’d probably take a bit longer.
As I was waiting for Final Cut to export the video and Logic to export the audio for the podcast, I worked on yet another lyric video output for the vertical lyric video version for Hero Unexpected.
Once all those outputs were done, I shifted gears back to checking the mix for another single. A song that I co-wrote with Manda Mosher. I made a couple of minor tweaks to my mix and deemed it done. Thanks to some new mixing templates, I was able to output multiple mixes at the same time. Passed it over to mastering and got a master back shortly thereafter.
I sent a copy of the song to Manda and another friend Jesse Stern who played bass on the recording. Both of them enjoyed the mix and the song. I’m looking forward to getting the song into the release schedule for next year. We’ll see when. I’m also looking forward to hearing Manda do an Americana version in her style. I think she’d do a killer rendition of it too.
No, I’m not using something like LANDR for mastering, I think that it’s a joke and I don’t believe in it – and no I wouldn’t recommend using it. But I am working with a mastering setup that can do a fairly quick turnaround with a great sound.
When I look back at the work output for this day, a podcast, a podcast video (both of which are an hour long), a lyric video, and a song single. It feels like a pretty damn productive after a late start for a day where I didn’t want to get out of bed. That seems pretty impressive as I’m looking back on the day. And I’d like to thank Lisa for the kind words and response that helped set the day on a good path.
I’m holed up in the studio quite a bit lately. A lot of it is putting time into things that should enhance the music I’m creating. Most specifically with video. But there’s a learning curve.
You may not know that I originally graduated with a degree in film production. However, I never really went into the film production world after school. No, I went to more school and decided to go into music. Ouch.
The good thing about the film background is that it gave me a working knowledge on how to deal with aspects of film/video production. Though now, like music, film is constantly changing with tech. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean there can be learning curves. Since I’m wanting to get a lot done with past releases of music to marry them with video ideas, it’s given me an incentive to get Final Cut and Motion in order to put these things together.
I’m starting to get a stockpile of lyric videos. But I had originally been having issues with the size of the output screens from Motion. Despite setting them for 1920 x 1080 output, they were coming out at 2880 x 1080. It was driving me nuts! I got on the phone with an Apple Motion customer care rep and they started walking me thru certain things. We eventually found out it was the pixel aspect ratio that was throwing things off. But the silly thing is, it’s off from the get go based on Apple’s Motion templates!! Now that I’ve figured that out, I’ve made my own templates and lyric videos will get done faster.
I promise to drip out the lyric videos as soon as I get VEVO to me control of my VEVO Channel (long story there where it’s controlled by a 3rd party company right now). Once I get that control back in my hands, I will have a lot of official videos to put out.
TLDR (a this point this is about another project, not musically related to my artist career);
Beyond the videos for my music, I’ve decided to create a podcast with a good friend of mine, Chris Hellstrom. The concept is to talk about recording and production from a musician standpoint and express it from a producing and engineering perspective. We’ve been discussing the idea for a month or two and as of yesterday we recorded our first episode. The plan is to get about 4 in the can and then launch it as a weekly thing. Maybe run about 13 episodes to a season. Or if we really get rolling then continue on weekly as long as possible.
Instead of just doing an audio podcast, which would be the easiest thing to do, I mentioned that we should combine it with video of us talking. Much like how Stern, or Rogan do their shows. Though Stern is primarily radio first, it is fun to watch them. I didn’t really realize the complexity it would add to the podcast show. That being typed, we dove in and did it anyway.
First thing I realized is, we recorded the audio portion at 48k/24bit. Which is my 2nd favorite audio rate after 96k/24bit. However, video tends to record at 48k. Or at least most broadcast video is output with a 48k/16bit soundtrack. I opted to use a GoPro for this first episode. Massive mistake!!!
As much as GoPro makes it easy to get video at 1920 x 1080, the audio quality and the actual 1920 x 1080 video quality both leave a lot to be desired. Mostly because the video is slightly fuzzy at full size, which it shouldn’t be. Then the audio is actually recorded at 32k. Like who the fuck at GoPro decided that was a wise choice?!? To make matters worse it only records files to about 15 minute lengths. Which means it requires a shit ton of work to make it work well in Final Cut to sync with studio audio done at 48k.
Step one: use QuickTime 7 pro, which won’t run after Mojave, to export the file to the right video format and upsample the audio to 48k. There’s a few hours of time wasted. This prompted me to say it’s time to use the iPhone with the Filmic app. This will allow me to use a better camera, with the right FPS and the right audio sample rate. Plus it can do 1920 x 1080 without issue and won’t segment a file in to 15 minute bits. Thus it can go from start to finish. Which will be nice.
While those files were getting converted to workable Final Cut files, I spent time learning how to do some fancy text splash videos for our opening and closing spots to the video portion of the podcast. Then I took it a step further and made an animated logo as well. This took about 4 hours of time, that had I’d been a full time video & motion graphics guy, may have only taken an hour.
The good thing is, they’re now made and all I need to do going forward is plant them in the video outputs. So no more hours of time creating them, they’re done. I expect episode two will take about 1/10th the time it took for this first episode. I look forward to that time reduction.
Once we’re ready to launch, I’ll announce the website here. Plus I’m pretty sure it will be available at all the normal podcast outlets, plus video on the website and youtube.
I really did that?
Did I really do music that appeared somewhere? That’s what is sometimes surprising to me, the sheer amount of places where music I’ve done has shown up. There’s always a surprise each quarter as to where I’m going to have music having been used somewhere in the world, be it in film, on TV, in a commercial, or elsewhere.
There’s a long list and I decided to finally put a page up where I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible to know where you’ve heard music that I’ve done. Problem is, I’m only going back about 3 years here. Which isn’t all that far back. There are quite a few more years that I need to add, but the start of the credits page is already a pretty big list as it is.
There’s so many websites out there that claim to be the definitive authority on who’s worked with who in music, or who’s worked on what. Often times they’re incomplete, or incorrect and of course – they make it really difficult to correct the information (which is the biggest disappointment). Then other large services collate that incorrect data and it gets passed along as truth. Thus, I’m working on providing as comprehensive a list as I can for everything I’ve done in music. It will take me some time, but hey I’m gonna be the definitive source on all things music that I’ve done.
Therefore if you’re of the curious type you can shoot on over to the credits page and find out where you may have heard me, or who I’ve worked with, etc. Chances are there are even things I’ve forgotten about and if you’ve got proof, I’d appreciate the refresher so I can add it to my list.
In the mean I’ve got some more musical stuff to work on.
We’re quickly coming on the end of summer.
If the trees are any indication, we’ve already hit fall. If you’re a student, summer has ended as school is back in session. Which means you’re summer romance, the fling of your life has also recently dissipated or is about to dissolve into the ether.
Enter my new single “Till We Meet Again“, a candid song about those loves we’ve had in life that we hope to rekindle somewhere down the road.
The journey of this song is one of several start and stops and finally a go.
Originally the intent was to write an upbeat tune for a TV show and for a library. I pulled in a bass player friend of mine to co-write it with me. However, there was a bit of miscommunication and he got miffed about the situation, which ended the direction of the song as I had envisioned.
Next I approached another bass player friend of mine, Jesse Stern, and we started working on the music. As a direction it was still to be a library track, however as we got going with it, lyrics started pouring out. He was going thru some dark stuff and was spitting out darker lyrics. Musically as it was speaking to me it had to be a bit more positive, maybe a little more longing. Suddenly we got a song that embraced all of that along with the sounds we were laying down.
During the process of the demo we got to a section of the song and were discussing how to change one bar for it’s time signature. We spent a good deal of time trying to work out if we’d stick to the song’s common time signature (which happens to be 4/4), or go with either 7/4, 6/4, or 5/4.
Multiple different drum fills were tried out. It was a songwriter’s producing exploration into the wild blue yonder until we finally settled on one particular fill in 5/4 that provided such a sly feel to the section of the song that it was as natural as an organic ripe tomato.
Tracking the occurred in several studios. Namely mine for the acoustic guitars, synths, additional background vocals and drum programming. Yes, those are programmed drums. Jesse’s studio was were the bass was tracked and some additional synths as well. Finally the vocals were tracked at George Leger’s studio (Utopia Parkway Music) when it was located in Los Angeles.
One moment during tracking stands out to me. At one point George turned around in his producer’s chair to show me his arms. The hair was standing straight up. He says to me, while Jesse is sitting there:
“This is your Purple Rain. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
Chances are you don’t know George. He is a massive Prince fan. So much so, that he once took me to see Prince perform when I was down in the dumps going thru some tough shit in life. It was a shining moment. I digress. George was so taken aback by the vocal we were laying down and the quality of the song that he felt it would be my equivalent to Purple Rain. My reaction was “I sure hope you’re right.” Damn right, I’d love to have a song be as popular as Purple Rain. Hell, even half as popular would be ideal.
Another memorable moment came when George first noticed the bar of 5/4. He asked who the drummer was that recorded the part and who came up with the fill, he thought it was amazing. When I responded with, I programmed it, he thought I did a hell of a job. Very few people notice because of how natural it feels, it doesn’t feel like a bar of 5/4. This prompted a discussion between myself, George and Jesse, mainly because it was George who originally gave me the idea of adding an odd measure in a song.
After getting all the vocals tracked, George and Jesse also sang some backgrounds. Once back in my studio, I felt I needed some additional voices for the backgrounds, so I enlisted the help of Val and Julia to sing some more parts.
George and I tackled the mix and eventually George did the mastering (as he’s also a fantastic mastering engineer as well).
Now it’s finally been released and is ready for your listening pleasure. I hope it gives you goosebumps like it did for George. Cause that would mean you’d tell others they need to hear and playlist it, like you will.
More music coming soon.
The G League, I wonder how many fans of the NBA are actually aware of it?
There’s a few new changes in the basketball world in this past year. Actually since roughly February of 2017. Prior to that the NBA’s development league was known as the D League. Now in a multi-year deal with Gatorade its known as the G League.
Another change is the number of teams. Previously there were 17. The total now is 27.
Why do I know this
I wrote a song called Do You Want To Play that has multiple versions of the song. Like lots of multiples. I’ve done versions for basketball, baseball, football, and hockey.
Once I completed them I wasn’t sure that I’d ever pull them out again. However, the change of the league name to G League and all the additional teams left me with a gaping hole. So I dug it out.
My recording software has been updated substantially since I last worked with the song. One of the handiest new features is something called Track Alternatives. Which gives a producer the means to make edits to little portions of an audio without increasing the need for plugin load, or massive track counts.
I took the needed vocal file for most of the song and clipped out where I needed to update team and G League parts. This made it real easy to quickly sing new parts.
A side effect of doing parts for the G League is a new mix. Much like the updated recording software, there are also updated plugins. All this led me to saying, I don’t want to do a whole new mix, but alas, I couldn’t stop myself.
After getting the original files transferred into a new file template, it really made sense to just do a new mix. I was able to get a crispier sound on the guitars. A little more punch and depth to the drums. There’s a bit more sizzle on the vocals and the bass gets a little deeper in vibe. Its crazy how a little adjustment in a song mix can alter the feel. These are subtle changes individually, but together it adds up.
Along with a new mixes for the G League, I have to do new masters. In case you’re not aware there is a process called mastering that provides a song recording with its final sheen and gets it to sound good on a variety of sound ups.
In the couple of years since the last compilation release, the state of music delivery changed drastically. Now instead of a single master meant for being super loud on a CD, there’s one master for Apple Music (and services that operate at -16LUFS, that’s a relative volume level for the laymen out there) and there’s a master for Spotify (and services that operate at -14LUFS).
Yes, I’m that bizarre that I do specific masters for the service the music is going to. I do that so that I’m not left wondering what the music is going to sound like based on automated volume level changes that occur to meet those service outputs.
All it really means is that the music will sound more dynamic.
I’m currently doing all the master outputs as I’m writing this. Listening intently for any output errors. Thus one goal is to make sure I release this set of songs before the next season starts. Thus if you’re a fan of any team in the G League, I do hope you’ll stream your team’s song.
Looking into contacting Gatorade’s marketing team, as I do have an advertisement idea as well.
Oh and I’d like to get in touch with various team’s marketing departments to talk about doing a pregame performance of the song for fans of the team.
Looking forward to the G League’s season later this year!
Now that I’m back in the studio, there’s been a desire to do some vocal experiments on my part.
One of the things that producers worth their salt will do is experiment with different combinations of gear. Though there’s still some bronchitis to deal with, I have been getting a few hours here and there to try out some new signal chains and see how they affect the sound of my voice.
Thanks to modern technology, its actually extremely easy to try out a much wider range of gear without the insane costs. Thank you Universal Audio and the Apollo system!
There’s a project for TV music where we’re in the final phases of recording and mixing. In this project I’m spending some time to run some vocal experiments to hear the differences of what comes out. My most recent chains have included and API vision strip into an LA-2A. Then the absolute newest chain has been a Neve 1073 into a Studer Tape Machine followed by an LA-2A. Each lends itself to a different vibe. Don’t think I don’t realize that those gear terms likely all sound greek to you. They’re all geek to me!
The image above is of my current favorite. What makes it strange is that when I solo a vocal recorded with this chain, it actually doesn’t sound all that great to my naked ear, but in the right track… It causes the vocal to sit like I can’t believe. The ultimate in vocal experiments, when you think the sound is bad, but its oh so right for the song.
Along with the plethora of original tunes for this project are 10 cover songs that are so different from the originals that it may blow your mind. Hell not even may, they will blow your mind. A few of them are very different vocal experiments for me. It all comes down to figuring out the right way to present each song so that it has the right twist to give the song a double entendre.
And therein is my one reason to ever do a cover, to give it a new meaning!
I’m gonna go right out there and say sore throats suck. I’m pretty sure there’s very few people on this planet that actually like them.
Right after I pretty much get my digital life back on track, I came down with some mild bronchitis. Maybe its some sort of bodily retaliation for spending so much time on something other than music?!? Eh, no. I don’t believe that. Obviously I came into contact with someone somewhere that probably had it.
It might have been the trip to California. Namely the plane ride. Recently read that you’re only likely to get ill within a few passenger rows of someone else. Which means it would most likely have been the flight to Los Angeles. As that flight was full. The return flight was probably 10% full, if that. Very light flight.
Around Thursday of last week I started feeling rather beat when I woke up. Mind you this would have been about a week plus of incubation. I woke up to feeling a little lethargic and coughing profusely and wanting to get something out of my lungs.
Could I have been singing to hard the several days before that? Tough to say. Yes, I’ve been in the studio working on a few new projects, especially now that my digital life is up and running again. I had been pushing pretty hard on a couple of heavier tunes destined for film/tv worlds. My throat was a little overtaxed, but nothing that a night of sleep wouldn’t cure.
Instead I started hacking up bright green goo. I hate sore throats, and shortly after the goo, one kicked in.
As things go, being ill means it progressively gets worse before it gets better. Not the case here. It has remained mild enough that I’m still quite functional. Not 100% full capacity but still functional.
Despite feeling beat down for the past few days, I’m taking in as much rest as I can – while still attempting to get things done. Which means that today I’ll be opening up to singing again. I’m coughing less, throat is less sore. Will need to keep an eye on it, because pushing too hard means I may fall completely down the illness rabbit hole where I don’t want to be.
Wish you well and hope you’re in great health, have a great rest of your Monday.
p.s. – join my newsletter.
If there is something I’ve learned – everyone wants to be heard by someone else; they also want others to want them. Have need for them. To love them.
There really isn’t a more definitive song about wanting others to want you than the infamous song penned by Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick.
I Want You
Actually I wish I had written this song. I’ve toyed with it for a long time. When I play it live solo acoustic, I slow it down and I stretch it out.
I tried recording it once.
Then I tried recording it again.
I was never quite satisfied with how I was conveying what I heard in my head as I interpreted the song.
If you didn’t know, I’m working on musical endeavors outside of my artist persona. Thus I brought the concept of how to cover I Want You To Want Me to a co-producing friend of mine. We’ve been toiling over 30 original tracks for the past year and I decided we should heap on 10 more songs, 10 covers of classic hits in the style of our project. This is not something I would have considered even a year ago.
Last week I began rethinking and retracking all the parts, while I let my partner come up with a viable drum part and a few other odds and ends. The biggest trick was how to approach the vocals so that they became modern but were an ode to the era they came from.
Two days ago I finally finished the mix and got it mastered.
I want you to be able to hear it.
Turns out that friends who have already heard it have been saying things like:
“Dig this version!! Great vocals!”
“Love, love love how your voice sounds on this!”
“I just might love this better than the original.”
I’m not sure how soon it will come to the light of the world via streaming services or via a license for use. But I Want You To Want Me as reimagined by Razor Wire is definitely something you should hear. I hope it will be sooner than later.
p.s. – subscribe to my email list to stay informed of releases!