Monday, December 31, 2012

Chinese Guitar Link

HoHoHo, Santa suprised me with a new toy! Well. Dad surprised me with a new toy. My wife was tired of only buying me music stuff that only I could pick out, so this year we decided we'd set our budget to $50 for each of us and everything had to be a surprise. She got me mostly stuff to make my bike commute through the winter a little better and a disc golf set. I love surprises, so really this Christmas was as successful as any other. I'd recommend trying a lean year like this if you find your Christmases getting out of control financially as ours had been.

Anyway, bla bla bla, I digress. Bottom line is I wasn't expecting any recording gear, but my Dad got me a cheap USB Guitar Link from HDE through Amazon. It has 2 stars. Is this a good idea? I only added it to my Amazon wish list the week before Christmas on a whim, so it was a nice surprise. The poor reviews mention bad sound, latency issues, problems installing the driver, etc. so I aloofly thought, "Linux will not suffer these maladies."

I was right.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Way

Another song a year or so in the making. My wife has asked me a few times why I never write songs about her. I kind of mumble and avoid answering, but really I had to think about it. Why hadn't I? I actually had tried quite a few times and most all attempts ended up sounding really cheesy. So I wrote this song. Hopefully she won't hate it.

I laid the tracks while she was working on her senior project and the kids were napping. In fact I think I wrote my post about xruns after trying to record this. Maybe not. Anyway. I had the tracks for a long time and every time when I finally sat down to mix it, the results were so poor, I wanted to give up on it. Especially considering the simplicity of the arrangement (piano + vocals) it was discouraging. This last time I really paid close attention and figured out how to get my vocals sounding decent. That made the difference. The piano is fairly untouched really. The tracks could use a few more takes to make it a more professional quality, but if I don't get this out it never will be heard. This is, however, my first recording that I feel is really demo quality. So I'll let you hear it. I know what you're thinking: "Wow, already to DEMO quality!?" That's right.

The piano is myself playing the amazing Salamander Grand sound library running in LinuxSampler. Vocals are all me singing in my AT3035, with the presonus firebox preamps. Its all recorded in Ardour with entirely free and open-source software. Plugins include the IR, and Calf exciter LV2s and Fons Adriansen's 4-band parametric EQ and SC4 compressor LADSPAs, with a little of Barry's Satan Maximizer (limiter) for some mastering compression.

Really this is a big landmark for me. Its the first time I feel like I made some educated mix decisions and actually heard the difference it made. I know the results aren't perfect, but the fact that I can listen to it and most of the critique I have is mistakes made in the recording is refreshing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Bells are Ringing

So I've defended my thesis, but I still haven't finished the final changes. I'm getting there. I worked on it for an hour today, but now I want to share this:

Our church Christmas party was tonight, and for entertainment we had a sing along and where all the children play bells. The organizer had a set of bells (more like chimes) that are made from thinwall conduit pipe. My mom has a few sets too and so I borrowed them and got excited about it. Each bell is numbered 0-20 and you can pass them out and each person plays their number when that note comes up. If you'd like to make your own set there are plans here. I found one site talking about using them in their family and they endearingly call them "sewer bells." Thats funny. I just thought I'd tell ya. There are a few tips about making and playing them, but I'm not going to focus on that.

The plans (I've seen 2 versions) always come with a few songs, which consist of lists of numbers. These lists are often seen transferred onto poster board which someone holds up to the choir and nobody knows what is going on and you usually have to play the song a few times before it sounds decent. Thats good and well and all, but I had bigger plans.