Archive for the ‘Music (original)’ category

That 70’s Song

October 19, 2013

Just a little something from my days in San Diego with the band.

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Depro

June 17, 2013

In 2007 I moved back to Ohio. During this time I became re-acquainted with my father, and it is amazing how well we were getting along and how we seemed to realize that we were very much alike.  He even asked me to teach him how to play the guitar and he bought a cheap Fender acoustic for his studies (he always had a sort of resentment with regard to my love of music when I was growing up, he was logical/scientific rather than artistic, so this new turn of his left me with nothing but optimistism for the future of our realtionship). Unfortunately, my father died in October of 2008.

When he died, I of course got his cheap Fender acoustic. I was very depressed at this time, so I almost never touched or even looked at that guitar. Then I picked it up one day and was just fiddling around, and eventually wrote a song. It’s a very simple song because I was mostly playing from emotion: seriously, the entirety of it can be played in a single position. I never did put any effort into polishing it.  However, today I was digging around my past recordings and when I heard this song, I automatically fell into memories of my father.

One never knows how much they truly love a person until they are gone, and I can say without any doubt that my father was the most important man to ever be in my life. Everything that I am today came from him and his guidance, I am essentially his clone. I only wish that he and I had gotten to know each other better as equals, and I also wish that I had produced a better song in his memory.

This song is called Depro for obvious reasons: I was very depressed at the time. It was played on his guitar, my Les Paul, and my Fender bass.  The drums are simple drum-loops, which I often use to help myself keep time while recording. I did consider recording myself playing live drums to replace the drum-loops, but the day is almost done, and I don’t wish to ruin what is already there.  Further, this song has not gone through a final mix, instead it is the standard mix that I use when recording, so there isn’t as much separation as I would like. Obviously, there are also no lyrics, both because I would not know what to say, and the fact that I absolutely suck at writing lyrics.

In any case, here is what I’ve got.  Depro, recorded sometime in the autumn of 2008 …

Bassaroo

November 24, 2012

This is a song that I wrote entirely on the bass, which is why I called it ‘Bassaroo’. However, I also called it by that name because of what I was trying to do aesthetically to the overall sound. Essentially, I was trying to mimic the old smiley-face EQ of the 70s, but instead of the entire mix having that distinctive smiley-face shape to the EQ, I was instead doing it by mixing each instrument in a certain fashion to reap the same result. For instance, I wanted an extremely heavy bass, a really thin guitar, and the drums to be a mix between the two (depending on whether it was snare, kick or cymbals). I think I got pretty close, but it certainly isn’t what I expected.

In writing this tune I was essentially trying to come up with a very simple, but catchy tune. It’s very repetitive, but is arranged in the exact same fashion as many pop tunes, except that instead of just an intro or just a pre-chorus, I instead have a full intro and full chorus at the head. Intro-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-verse. I will admit that while I was trying to make the song catchy, I also wanted to make the intro as least catchy and most irritating as possible (I’m weird like that).

Now let’s get to the mix.

The intro is the only part of the song with a thicker guitar sound, that’s because I used my Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus to record it. But that is where the thick guitar sound stops, instead favoring a thin sound for the rest of the song to go along with what I was attempting to do with the entire aural picture of the mix.

In order to get the thinnest guitar sound possible, this required that I use a guitar that produces the thinnest sound possible (unfortunately, I didn’t have my Fender Telecaster back when I recorded this). My 1978 Electra Omega is essentially a Les Paul copy. However, it has many features that you don’t find on a Les Paul. I can switch each humbucker pickup to single coil, which goes a long way in thinning out the sound. However, the other feature of my Omega is that I can also have both pickups be paired together, but be out-of-phase with each other (that’s straight 70s funk, right there). This is the guitar sound that is present throughout, but it changes slightly during the chorus.

During the chorus I was not happy with this thin guitar sound. It isn’t that it wasn’t thin enough, it is that it sounded far too much like a guitar. So I kept all of my guitar’s settings the same, except then I routed my guitar through a Whammy pedal set to one octave above standard. Then, I applied a few filters on specific frequencies in order to take out some of the “guitarish” tone. The result almost sounds like a synth, but not quite. Actually, it almost sounds like Poindexter’s violin from ‘Revenge of the Nerds’. In any case, I was very pleased with the result.

Also during the chorus is a guitar that is playing a single chord every 8 bars that is run on a really long tape delay (long tail, but short decay). I did this because it just sounded like something needed to go there.

As for the bass, it is recorded as is throughout the entire song. However, I have it set somewhat high in the mix during the chorus in order to give a punchier sound, and to dominate that particular part of the song. Also, during the chorus I was not entirely happy with a clean bass sound, so I wanted to distort it a bit. Instead of just putting a distortion effect on the bass, I copied the bass track so that there are two identical bass tracks. I kept one untouched, but with the other I bit-crushed it and added compression. Bit-crushing isn’t distortion, per se, rather it is decaying the resolution of the digital signal. Imagine running your iPod through an Atari or Nintendo system, that’s essentially what bit crushing is doing. Once I got one of the bass tracks bit-crushed to my liking, I then mixed them together (the bit-crushed and dry bass tracks) to produce that bass tone that you hear during the chorus. I think it turned out awesome, because it reminds me of how back in the late 70s, all of the funk bands would have a synth bass playing along with the electric bass (think Lakeside’s ‘Fantastic Voyage’).

The drums aren’t messed with much, other than to make the kick have more bottom, the snare a little more top, and the cymbals natural. I did, however, have to overdub a few cymbal splashes here and there, because some of the originals weren’t quite on time, and two of them accidentally got cut short of their natural decay during editing. Also, the drums during the intro and the bridge are actually AppleLoops. I tend to use AppleLoops during recording to help me keep good time. I rerecorded the chorus and verse drum parts using my Roland TD-9SX drum kit, but I left the other parts as they were.

As for reverb, I didn’t get too crazy. Just enough so that the instruments don’t sound dry. This is a departure from what was prevalent in 70s mixes, but then I was only trying to mimic the EQ curve of the 70s, not the dimensional aspects. Also, I mixed the drums in such a way that the layout of the drums follows the placement of the guitar. When the guitar is on the right channel, the drums are mixed with the HH on the right (as if there is a right-handed drummer playing), and when the guitar is on the left channel, the drums are mixed with the HH on the left (as if there is a left-handed drummer playing). The bass guitar and kick drum are always right down the center throughout the song.

A little word on the bridge: In case you haven’t noticed, it isn’t complete. First, the bass part for the bridge that is on this recording was done entirely off the cuff and improvised. I knew what chord changes I wanted, but I never wrote anything for it, so I just played whatever came to my mind when I hit “record”. I really need to rerecord it because it is not nearly tight enough for my liking. Also, I wanted to put a guitar solo in there, but alas, I am too lazy. I will eventually get to it, but it isn’t that important, so I’ll do it at a later date.

Anyhow, here’s what I have so far … Without further ado, here’s Bassaroo!

01 bassaroo

Too Crunk 2 Funk

August 16, 2012

This is a song that I wrote while I was a member of the ‘Murderous Disco Fiends’ back in 2005.  I wrote it in response to the drummer’s self-described “pokey” style, that is why the bass line is so, well, pokey.  It was recorded live in a garage using 4 SM57s run through a PA mixer and then routed to a digital recorder.  There was no way to monitor each channel, nor could you tweak each track afterward (it was recorded as a two-channel stereo file), so it is kind of a crappy recording.  However, considering the circumstances, the recording turned out way better than I would have expected.  Still crappy, but at least you can almost hear everything.  I was the guitarist while in this band, but on this song I am playing bass, my friend Scott ‘Bootman’ Gregg (who is a bass extraordinaire and ninja-master on the wah) is on guitar, and Dustin (can’t remember his weird last name) is on drums.  We had only been playing together for about 2 weeks and the drummer had only been playing for about a year or two (he’s a fast learner).  Eventually, I will rerecord it properly.

Too Crunk 2 Funk 1

Zoe In Hell

August 4, 2012

This is a tune that I mostly wrote while I was living in LA with an actor friend of mine (he was also a shipmate during my Navy days). Juliah, the Assistant Director of the film that my friend and I were in (he as a standin, me as an extra), told us that she was working on a vampire documentary that needed music for both the intro, as well as background. Well, I was really getting into Stravinsky’s serialism at this time, as well as the electronic instruments, abstract drumming, and emotional soundscapes of Edgard Varése, so I figured that I would try my hand at film music. Granted, this tune is not serial, but rather a sonic atmosphere that was influenced by such things. I did stick to the recurring thematic palette just as Stravinsky often did in his work, but was far more influenced by Varése’s abstract use of percussion (esp. ‘Ionization’ and ‘Déserts’). Also, instead of a siren, I had an electric guitar.

The first part (intro) was written and recorded about 2 years prior to the second part while on deployment in the Middle East using a guitar, bass and MIDI keyboard controlling Logic Pro’s sampler (strings and percussion). With the exception of the highly effected guitar feedback (which was improvised), the second part was entirely written in LA in the spring of 2007 on Logic Pro’s scoring page and then transferred to MOTU’s ‘Symphonic Instrument’ plugin (strings, horns, percussion battery, and glockenspiel).

This was my very first attempt to write something in notation first, before ever hearing what it might sound like. While there are many flaws and flubs, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I played it back. In fact, I decided to keep all of the flaws, because they added a character of their own, and they showed me how a notation error can be a good thing sometimes. Unfortunately, the drum rudiments that were written didn’t come through due to a software limitation, but that’s ok, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

Unfortunately, Juliah never got to hear this song, and I don’t know if she ever did finish her documentary. So, instead I present it here for your enjoyment/displeasure.

01 zoe in hell 2

Pho

July 28, 2012

Just a little ringtone that I made for myself a few years ago (around 2004 or 2005). I certainly wouldn’t call it a song, because it was the result of a drunken experiment using a slide on a guitar run through a Digitech ‘Whammy’ and a Dunlop ‘Crybaby From Hell’, as well as a little pitch/time experiment on the drums and guitar, the other stuff was written around that. I more or less like to call it a “somewhat organized noise”, which is why it served as my ringtone. There is a second part to the song, but it got lost when my external HD crashed. It was a game show-esque, repetitive jam (essentially, the complete opposite).

pho

Note: This was mixed to be played through cellphone speakers (which was an A/B nightmare), so the bass will be slightly heavier when played on other mediums.