May 2011

Three weeks ago I finished the drums for "Painting Abstracts" and moved on to the piano. I'm using Modartt's Pianoteq Play instead of Truepianos this time around: for some reason it just seemed to work better. Both VSTs have a fine selection of "pianos" to choose from, but Pianoteq's "K1" model seemed best. There's a jazzy middle section coming up, however, that might prove the selection and see whether it sticks.

Last weekend I took a break from Abstracts and worked on "Strange Finale", loading it up into Cakewalk's SONAR X1 Producer and seeing how it behaved. Before long I was completely comfortable with the newly revised "smart" tool in the MIDI editor, and only once did X1 crash, taking out my recent edits.

Much has been written about the mad, crazy, and user-annoying changes between SONAR 8.5 and SONAR X1 so I won't re-hash them. Suffice to say, I am not a fan of X1, and I've been cautious about using it full time for my projects. It's a very buggy release, but in Cakewalk's favour, they have been releasing regular patches to deal with the most troublesome niggles.

I just wish I could get SONAR X1's "smart" editing tools into 8.5's robust and stable UI.


In other news, lousy blog spammers still get through the captcha gate on this blogengine site, but it seems managable. I'll keep comments open for a while longer.

New Amplifier

The AudioSource AMP100 recently experienced a 50% price cut in my "save for later" shopping cart on Amazon, so I took advantage and purchased:

It replaces the old Dick Smith Electronics kitset amplifier that a) runs on 240 V and b) was starting to crackle. One nice thing about the AMP100 is that it has an A-B speaker switch on the front, which allows me to switch between my Behringer TRUTH 2031P monitors, and a pair of Boston Acoustic bookshelf speakers.

Next step: Obtaining an SPL meter and calibrating the room for K-System monitoring.

Progressive rock should involve some progress

It's April and I find myself sitting in the studio batting away at the SPD-20, laying down some drum tracks on Painting Abstracts. That sounds like exactly where I was in November last year. Could this mean zero progress?

Yes and No. In November, while starting to record some drums, I realized the bass and guitar were out of tune. So I re-recorded the bass. Then I realized that - given the recent shift in lyrical content - I would like to have some acoustic guitar behind the verses. Suddenly the whole damn thing was transposed down a tone, and the bass and guitars re-recorded. In the case of the acoustic guitar, capos and unusual tunings were used.

Now I'm back to recording drums. But it's not zero progress. Of course, I'd like to be finished already, but at least it is forward movement.

Getting through the squeeze, abstractly

It got really busy at work and I haven't made much progress apart from setting up the SPD-20 on the desk and verifying the signal chain (Midi etc) is all working. Perhaps this holiday season will provide some time to get those drums done. Also I have some ideas for getting the acoustic guitar into the mix.

In the abstract

Moving on to the next track: Painting Abstracts. This is a challenge because the current version is pretty much finished and rather good as it stands. However, I want to revisit some of the lyrics, and update the instrumentation.

The first task is to re-record the bass guitar using Guitar Rig 4. 

Title of Record

I was driving home from Santa Rosa yesterday, admiring the scenery, and in particular, a certain hill with a group of trees clustered at the top. I noticed that the large tree in the center looked a little odd, sort of symmetrical but not entirely, and then I realized that it was probably a very well-disguised cell phone tower.

A short time later, I came up with the perfect title for our first album:

Fruit of the Steel Tree.

I've googled it and it doesn't seem to have been mentioned anywhere else, so I'm pretty sure we'll go with this. Awesome. 


Brass In the Pocket

Working on the Big Boys: The drums and bass are locked in, sounding great. 

Now I've started re-recording the brass section. Given that I don't have access to a brass section, the trick to getting this sounding realistic is to record 3 separate tracks, independently, using different instruments. The Fantom has a nice brass trumpet patch - I'll use that for Trumpet #1. The Korg TR-Rack has another, slightly different sounding trumpet patch, mellower but nice vibrato: I'll use that for Trumpet #2. Then the bottom line of the chord will be held down with an Alto Sax, not sure which synth module will provide that. I'll have to do some comparisons and see which one sounds best. Probably the Korg TR. 

New Toy

The Echo Layla 3G is installed in my rack. Still figuring out how to use it. Last night monitoring didn't seem to be working at all, but this morning I read the manual. It helps. The secret is in the console application.