Category: Music

I Let My Dandelions Grow

It’s no big secret that I’m not so much a fan of doing yardwork, but alas it has to be done sometimes. It’s curious that I have a dislike for it though, because once I’m out doing it I enjoy it, and afterwards I feel good for having gotten it done. Anyways there is one thing that I really do enjoy about cutting the grass…it gives me about an hour to myself to just let my mind wander. No emails to answer, no phone calls, no TV, nobody to talk to, just a mindless task to occupy my hands and plenty of space for my imagination to roam. Occasionally on these little vacations from reality I have what I like to call “mower epiphanies.” Read More — I Let My Dandelions Grow

Good Things are Happening

I just noticed that I hadn’t posted an update since January. It’s less of a reflection on my inattentive blogging and more an indicator of how much we’ve done since then…not much.

But now…
songwriting:done
recording parts: done
editing: done
equalizing (EQ): done
mixing: working on it
mastering: there have been conversations
artwork: done!

Then, about 2 weeks ago something changed, maybe it was the weather, maybe it was all the new growth but for some reason this project got back underway.
In that time Sarah Schneemann had finished all the artwork for the album, Lucas had finished his semester at school, figured out the method by which we would EQ the kick drum, figured out how to tune the bass in the very few spots that had tuning issues and made a schedule to get this thing mixed, mastered and out the door in 5 weeks. Bevans and I worked on the website, the glory and majesty of which you are currently basking, and there have been many conversations about the CD release party. More to come on that as it develops.

The thing I want to focus on here is really the artwork though. Sarah had made many. many pieces in different styles that she felt reflected my music or that were grown from ideas in my lyrics. It was really hard to choose a style and direction from them because they were all so very good. In the end we chose the piece that had the most potential for use in a web environment. Sarah then went home with that direction and created all of the sketches, splats and things that you see here on the site.
Read More — Good Things are Happening

So…is it going to be done soon?

So here’s an update on the album…

songwriting:done
recording parts: done
editing: done
equalizing (EQ): pending volume automation
mixing: nope
mastering: not so much
artwork: ???

So we have all the parts recorded; all the “raw tracks”, that is. What we’re working on now is called volume automation. Basically it involves going through all the tracks and deciding if there are parts that need to be louder or quieter in relation to the initial recorded volume. The best example of this is to say “we need the rhythm guitars to be louder on the chorus” or “the drums need to come down for the verses.” That sort of thing. When we finish this process it will make mixing easier because we can just set the volume for each track to a level where they “sit in the mix” well, and each track will get relatively more quiet or loud in certain parts of the song based on how we automated the volume control.

Recording is a much more refined process than sitting in front of a microphone, hitting record, and burning a disc. There are so many things I didn’t even know we had to think about…little things like going through the tracks and taking out any parts where someone breathed too loud or shuffled their feet. Volume automation is one of those things. Now that I know what it is, it makes perfect sense and I can’t see how I didn’t assume that there was such a process before. It’s all a learning experience.

Read More — So…is it going to be done soon?

Editing…like spellcheck or something?

songwriting:done
recording parts: done
editing: working on it…
equalizing (EQ): nope
mixing: nope
mastering: not even close
artwork: I think Sarah’s doing something…haven’t seen it though.

So we finally got all the parts recorded…no mean feat let me tell you. Now we’re beginning the process of editing, which I was not aware you even needed to do on a recording to be honest.

So what’s there to edit? Oh, just about everything…The main bulk of editing was done for instruments. I’ll go through them one-by-one and tell you what sorts of things we did.

Drums:
Andy really is a great drummer, but even the best can’t hit every beat right on the nose every time. There are literally tens of thousands of drum hits on this album. A few are bound to be a little off, so what we had to do was listen really closely. If we heard a section where the drums seemed off beat we then had to determine which drum, which microphone picked it up, whether it was early or late and by how much. It’s surprisingly difficult to tell whether a drum hit is late or early after a few hours of this activity. Read More — Editing…like spellcheck or something?

That didn’t take so long…

I don’t know about you, but when I get an idea in my head I tend to make it happen as quickly as possible. After my trip to the Homestead Pickin Parlour to check out some mandolins I got the mando-bug and just had to buy one. I didn’t want to make a huge investment just yet because I didn’t know how often I’d be playing it at shows, and since we got the guitar paid off my wife wasn’t too keen on the prospect of financing another instrument just yet.

So I jumped on the computer and started the tiring process of checking out online stores and review sites. I had a good idea of what kind of mandolin I wanted and what I wanted to pay. First I checked commercial retailers to get a baseline, then went to check CraigsList, EBay and Amazon to see if I could findĀ a gem…no love there…and then to obscure online stores to price check. I called around to local music shops the next day and to my surprise they all either had crummy mandolins for $100 or super-nice ones for $2000: not much in between. Then I found it… Read More — That didn’t take so long…

Mandi-something something

This week I’ve decided to broaden my musical horizons. I was inspired by how much Pat’s mando tracks pumped up the mix of the tunes on my album. It really gave it that “something different” sound I was looking for and I realized that since he won’t be able to accompany me to live shows I had better learn how to play that thing. I’ve had a cruddy Samick mandolin in my closet for many years; it was much more a decoration than an instrument. It was time to dust it off and start playing again, which took longer than expected because there was a LOT of dust and rust that had to be cleaned to get it in playing condition again.

I figured if I was going to do it I might as well jump right in…I brought it to a party at my friend, Mike Orantes’ Minnesota home. Why bring it to a party? Are you going to sit in the corner and dink around by yourself? Oh, no. In our circle of friends it is an inevitability that where there is drink and instruments there will be a jam session at some point in the evening (disclaimer: no promises are made about the musical quality of said jam sessions). Read More — Mandi-something something

What are you doing in there?

To many people, myself included, the recording process is a mystery. Musicians go into a dark room full of microphones and switchboards with a zillion dials and buttons and leave with a sweet sounding CD. There’s usually a stock cast of characters: the ultra-hip guy fiddling with buttons and offering vague compliments, usually something about “the sound”, there’s the easily distracted musician who seems half-in, half-out of consciousness with his long hair, witty t-shirts and dazed expression plinking out guitar parts, the over-controlling creative person who gets worked up over the smallest mistakes and spends most of the time shouting at people and taking cigarette breaks, and of course the sleazy producer who tries to kill any sense of artistry by homogenizing every song with the whims of popular radio trends….that’s kind of how I picture it anyways. Read More — What are you doing in there?