Music

By Pint and Pound

I’ve been up at a music festival all weekend up here in New England, and being surrounded by lots of great music has made me want to share some of mine as well. So here we have the second preview track from Results Not Typical, entitled “By Pint and Pound”.

This is an example of some of the more guitar-based stuff on the album, while “Those Born of Kings” is significantly more piano-driven. This song also features the Wavedrum on percussion and helps prove that I’m not a very good drummer.

Enjoy the track and be sure to hit the “share” link up there and share this to everyone you know.

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Music

A change of heart

The last song I was working on for Results Not Typical just wasn’t really coming together, so I’ve decided to shelve it for now. There’s a possibility that it’ll pop out again at a future date, but who knows.

As a side effect, that means that all the music for this album is now completed. Done. Finished. This is exciting! Of course I’m likely to go tweak a few bits that bug me, I always seem to do that at the eleventh hour. But as a whole, this baby is in the can. Mmm, canned babies.

But what about the seventeen-song opus that it once was? It will still actually be seventeen songs, since as soon as I’d decided to shelve one song another one popped up. A simple 12-bar blues entitled “The Clock on the Wall in Limbo”, this one definitely has to go right in the middle someplace. No, I still haven’t picked an order yet, but I am at least working on that part. My immediate future in Psycliq will have me listening to this batch of songs again and again until I am completely sick of them, at which point I will release them for the world to hear.

Stay tuned.

Music

Album ordering

The concept of an “album” of music has been decried by some as an outmoded restriction imposed on us in a time of physical media. To some extent, I agree with that, and what I’m doing with Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc. is in direct response to it. In that case, the track list isn’t static, and I’ll be putting more into it in the future.

However, I don’t think that the anti-album sentiment is completely true, and I’m taking a more traditional approach with Results Not Typical. In such an album, the order of presented tracks is vital. The feel of this album is quite dynamic, with soft piano on some songs, crunchy blues guitars on others, and a whole range of oddities in between. I even have one track that was recorded entirely using the Wavedrum, and nothing else. Some are long, many are short, and each is unique.

So how does one go about picking the order of songs? The best solution I’ve come up with is just listening to it again and again, paying attention to the transition points, and feeling what works and what doesn’t. The first and last songs are already settled: “Setting Out” and “Closure”, respectively. But I still have to figure out what journey I want to take people on in between. It just so happens that there’s a fair bit to see along this road.

An added consideration this time around is the fact that, for the first time, I’m going to be using a printing service to handle the insert cards for the physical CDs. Thus far, all of my physical albums have been completely home made. Now I have yet to see their results in person, but CD Poster Shop looks to be pretty promising. Small runs, pretty low cost, and almost certainly higher quality than what I could pop out of my home printer. I’ll still be running the CDs themselves at home, and they’ll still be CDRs with LightScribe-printed labels, since I don’t sell enough copies to warrant a regular replication run. But I am selling enough copies to make printing the disc inserts a bit of a pain. A downside to this is that it does add another week or two of lead time to the project being fully released, since I need to have the final song list and ordering set before I can purchase the insert cards.

As far as the album itself goes, I’m just about done with 15 of the 17 tracks right now. I might make a few tweaks to the ones that are “done” before ultimate release, but the songs are at least in their final format. The last two are at least started, and I’m on track to get it out by the end of summer. The release will almost certainly happen on Bandamp first, followed by physical sales on CDBaby, with availability on iTunes, Amazon, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, and all kinds of other places like that following some time after.

Production

An Inadvertent Time Warp

This evening, I was able to grab a little time in the studio to work on some stuff, and I found myself pulling out my trusty old Silvertone guitar and the shiny still-on-loan-but-I-promise-I’ll-give-it-back-sometime wavedrum and did some tracking and overdubbing for “Open To Suggestions”. This song started its life when I was asked to “just go play something on the piano for background music” in church one night. I just began noodling around and this neat lilting cadence came out. A friend joined me on the conga to add some structure to the rhythm, and things came together pretty quickly there. Back in my home studio, I was able to transcribe the piano parts from memory, and the wavedrum filled in nicely with a pair of percussion sounds to round things out.  I’m still not a very good drummer, but that’s OK for now.

Also when recording it here, I very quickly realized that it needed some kind of melody countering things over the top. This is something that electric guitars are very good at. So out came the big red beast and the little green Tube Screamer, and away I went. I was liking where things were headed, but something was missing about the guitar’s sound. Now, I’m really not much of a tone-head. I flail at knobs and settings on amps and pedals with no idea what I’m looking for, hoping that eventually something useful will come out. On a whim, I threw a flanger effect onto the guitar channel. That’s when something weird happened.

The song instantly turned into something from the early 1970’s. I’m not sure how it happened, but it went from being modern to retro as quickly as I flipped a switch. Mind you, the rest of the song that I’d been working on didn’t change at all prior to this. And in my opinion, this jump is just what it needed to find its home.

This may also be a sign that I’m turning into an old guy and starting to make old guy rock. We’ll just have to see how that one turns out.

Production

Tracking and Titles

Somehow, I’m finding a decent amount of time to work on this album. I’ve been able to track two more songs in the past two days. And what’s more amazing to me is that they’re nearly done in their current state. The aesthetic for this album is going to be a lot more sparse than I’m used to working with. There are songs on here that are a solo piano with nothing else involved. These last two are piano with a simple synth pad of some kind underneath them. Sure, there are more complex songs with multiple layers of guitars and all kinds of effects and stuff like that, but even those are a lot more raw than the norm. But I’m very happy with how it’s coming out, even though I’m also wanting to be done with this set of things so I can put some work into other stuff.

Titles for songs have always been fairly important to me. However, most of what I come up with is simply Too Clever for its Own Good. Which, incidentally, I’ve decided is going to be the title of my autobiography/memoir. But take for example “This Town Loves You, This Town Will Destroy You” off of halt. I like the title a lot here, it’s catchy and I felt it matched the two-part nature of the song. Problem is that the song itself isn’t as good as its title, in my opinion. You expect this epic tale of woe, but you get this noodly thing. It’s one of the most clicked-on tracks in the bandcamp page, which tells you that the title is grabbing people’s attention. But “Adoré”, what I consider to be the best track on the album, doesn’t get as much attention. The title is a much better fit for the song here, though.

And now the part that some of you have figured out was coming. I’ve told you that I have a lot of songs for Results Not Typical, and I told you that titles are important to me. Now I tell you the titles of the songs! At least, these are the probably-final titles from the most-likely-going-to-keep tracks for the album. There will be other songs, too, but I’m either not happy enough with the title yet or I’m not sure the song’s going to be good enough to make it on. These are also the ones I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to finish.

  • Amid the Stacks
  • Another Empty Hour In Every Day
  • By Pint and Pound
  • Closure
  • Dustwood
  • Ghosts of Persistence
  • Mettle
  • Open to Suggestions
  • Those Born of Kings
  • Unfurled
  • Whether or Not

Presented alphabetically so as not to imply any kind of album ordering.

Music, Production

A Weekend with the Wavedrum

I’m currently borrowing a KORG Wavedrum from a friend of mine. For those unfamiliar with this fantastic instrument, it is an acoustic drum synthesizer. It works by using vibration sensors underneath a real drum head and rim that respond to all of the dynamic playing that a hand drum is used to, and then sending those signals to a synthesis engine. The engine then takes the input waves and modulates them with various PCM sources and algorithmic sound models to create the output.

What all of that technobabble really means is that this isn’t a drum, it’s a thousand drums in one box. And unlike a drum machine or normal synthesizer, it is played like a real acoustic drum would be. In short, it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve only had it at my place for a few days now, but I’ve managed to spend a few sessions just playing with it. It has an impressive range of tones, most of which mimic real drums of various flavors in addition to a bunch of very otherworldly sounds that have very little to do with drums. However, the fact that you play these sounds like a drum adds a rhythmic character to it. Another great feature of this instrument is that it outputs directly into the recording system. This means that any incidental ambient noises won’t bleed over into the recording. As you’ll recall, this was a necessary feature for my acoustic guitar as well. It turns out that a home studio is difficult to run with a 10-month old in the house. Incidental ambient noises are the rule of the day.

After my initial noodling, I set about using the Wavedrum on an actual song. This one has a bluesy little groove to it that my traditional drum machine just wasn’t going to capture. I tried to program it in Reason, but the timing was all off and it felt horrible. Ever wonder why so many techno songs are in straight 4/4? It’s because it’s really easy to program that. I’ve programmed a few different step sequencers before, and they’ve all been 16-step 4/4 sequencers. The Wavedrum, based entirely on hand input, has no sense of quantization. Thus, I quickly found out something I knew already — that I am not a very good drummer. I’ve got a decent sense of rhythm, but translating that into a particular instrument isn’t always so straightforward. Thankfully, modern post-production lets me tweak things in software where needed. That said, I am trying to have a fairly light touch on this.

In any case, I jumped in and tried a few different drum sounds before settling on a nice round conga sound. With a little compression, it gave me a nice snappy sound that complemented the acoustic guitar and bass that drives the rest of the song. The Wavedrum, being a very different kind of sequencer, turns out to be quite difficult to program. I wasn’t getting the deep booming tones that I was after for underlying the higher accents, so I ended up breaking out the drum machine for just those bits. After trying unsuccessfully to sync with the underlying groove, I simply recorded the drum machine output to a track and un-quantized it by hand to match. This is the opposite of what you usually do with drums.

After a few sessions of recording, re-recording, and tweaking, I’m getting relatively happy with the state of the song. I have a vision of some kind of bell over the top of it, or something to that effect, but I’m not sure it needs it. I always have trouble knowing when to stop.

Oh yes, the title? “By Pint and Pound”. Now you have the first title of a song from Results Not Typical. Originally the title was “Blood and Flesh by Pint and Pound”, I thought it was a little too macabre. What do you think though? Should I change it back or keep the shorter version? Maybe you’d have to hear it first. Maybe I can arrange that, if you want.

Production

Guitars and the acoustic properties thereof

Like any self-respecting electronic band, I’ve got myself a fair bit of stuff that makes bleeps and bloops sitting about the studio. Some of which really likes to misbehave, but more on that another time. But anyway, it would seem that my preparations for this next album have made me break down and pick up some new equipment, quite in the opposite direction. You see, I finally went out and got myself a decent acoustic guitar.

What makes this interesting in terms of my music is that I’ve never actually used an acoustic guitar in any of my released material. Well, OK, there was that one time for the Kickstarter rewards project, but only the Kickstarter backers will ever hear that one. And in fact it was listening to that recording that convinced me that the old one just had to go.

But now I’ve gone and picked myself up an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup. I know, the wonders of technology, right? Since my house is rarely quiet enough to use a microphone these days, this is an especially important feature. And now that I have it, my mind’s already started to run along with possibilities for adding this sound into the mix. It will definitely be in use on Results Not Typical, as I’ve already got three songs tracked out waiting for it. But I’m also thinking past this odd little project into how I could use it in other stuff. Being mostly a keyboard player that dabbles in electric guitars, I look forward to the challenge of incorporating this instrument into more of my music.

After all, why limit myself to just a bunch of sinewaves?

Uncategorized

Four songs?

Today, while dusting off things for my monthly off-drive backups (kids, it’s always important to keep things on more than one disk!), I went through a few different directories in my ProTools hierarchy and figured out that I have four songs all but finished for Results. These are four piano-based pieces, some with some programmed drums and one with a whole pile of synths on top. That still leaves a lot of dangling bits for an album that is mostly made of dangling bits, but in light of recent craziness I was a little surprised to find myself fairly happy with the state of so many songs already. Once I can get my studio put back together more properly, I can start tracking on some of the more guitar-heavy ones. Also once my neighbors decide to stop riding their Harleys at all hours. Don’t they know that v-twin bleeds into the recording? Though I can think of one track where that might actually help. Hm!

In other news, I think I have made a technological leap and managed to connect this wordpress account to my personal twitter account. OAuth is such a wonderful thing. But, then again, I am a nerd.

Update: in future, I will preview the twitter message this thing spits out. That must have been very confusing to most people.