Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another music project

I also should mention that I'm playing from time to time in a duo with my guitar-playing friend Jeffrey Kamil, doing some jazz standards. We have played two gigs so far this year, both at the artist receptions at the Madrigal Family Winery Sausalito Tasting Salon & Gallery. The two of us also sometimes get together with our friends Tom DeFiglio on drums and Pat Tinling on bass and play some similar material just for fun.

Upcoming gig – Friday, May 12 at The Wine Bar in Moss Beach

The still-unnamed cover band I joined recently will be playing our first gig on Friday, May 12 at the The Wine Room in Moss Beach, just a little north of the Half Moon Bay Airport, one block to the east of Highway 1,  from 7-9pm.

Fronted by Scott Goldstone, a fantastic keyboardist and vocalist, we'll be doing  R&B-flavored material like "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" by the Four Tops, "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates, "Freddie's Dead" by Curtis Mayfield, "Trouble Man" by Marvin Gaye, "Home At Last" and "Black Cow" by Steely Dan, and many more. Tom Josa on bass and Dennis O'Keefe on drums round out the personnel. Come check us out if you are in the area!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Home recording update

Recently I wrote about getting re-engaged with efforts to record some music at home. I just wanted to note that two things have put a bit of a damper on moving forward much further. First, I joined a new band, which is terrific, but it has meant that I've had to devote an inordinate amount of time learning the material, and the time has had to come from somewhere. Second, my recording workstation got into a strange state after shutting down improperly and became mired in a Windows Automatic Repair loop that I could not break out of. Ultimately I had to re-install Windows 10 from scratch and reinstall all my applications and restore all my documents and projects (thank God for backups!). I'm midway through getting back to a fully operational state. I've decided to take the opportunity to get a larger secondary hard drive, which I expect to be able to swap in the coming weekend. So hopefully, by the time the weekend ends I will be back in action, and I'll have some new stuff to start posting on SoundCloud soon after.

Two new musical projects

I've now got two things going on, both of which are great fun:

First off, I'm accompanying a terrific singer, Sharon Lea, on jazz and blues standards like "Misty," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "God Bless the Child," "At Last," and many more. The Sharon Lea Duo website will soon be available and there will be a few demo recordings. We made our public debut (not counting doing a couple of songs at an open mic a couple of months ago) on Saturday, March 18 at, oddly enough, a mall clothing store (dressbarn in Campbell) in the mid-afternoon. People seemed to enjoy it and we got many compliments from customers and staff.

Second, I'm now part of an as-yet-unnamed cover band that will be doing R&B-flavored material. Fronted by Scott Goldstone, a terrific keyboard player and vocalist, we'll be doing songs like "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" by the Four Tops, "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates, "I'm So Proud" by Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions, "Home At Last" and "Black Cow" by Steely Dan, and many more. I'm really stoked to be playing with these guys and looking forward to playing out in the near future.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Home recording

Call it a New Year's resolution, but I have recently become newly determined to actually use this nice recording setup that I have here at home rather than let it just gather dust.

The first thing I did was ditch the old audio interface I had, which did not work well with Windows 10. (When I visited the manufacturer's website, I discovered they no longer are making pro audio products, the model I had was no longer supported, and the latest drivers (which I already had installed) "might work," but there was going to be no development of a Windows 10-compatible version. I put a few questions out on home recording forums but got no hints of anything I could do to resolve or work around the issue.)

For a few months, I lived with it, but I soon realized that the unreliability of the system being in a functioning state at any given time was acting as a real impediment to me doing anything. So I decided to rip that thing out of there and buy something more modern that actually has Windows 10 support.

I ended up getting a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6. I installed it and bingo, I have a wonderful functioning system again.

I use SONAR Platinum from Cakewalk as my digital audio workstation (DAW) software. I've been using Cakewalk stuff for a very long time, and I've always been pretty comfortable and happy with it.

For recording guitars I have several options. I can plug into one of the instrument inputs on the front of the Scarlett and route it through a software amp in SONAR (I've got the ones that came with SONAR, but my favorite is the Scuffham S-Gear). I have a Line 6 POD HD, which was the last of their kidney-bean-shaped guitar amp modelers, which is connected to the Scarlett via its digital interface. I also have a couple of guitar amps that have direct recording outputs. Finally, there's the good old approach of sticking a microphone in front of an amp.

I also use Band-in-a-Box software from PG Music to throw together quick backing tracks. It is an intelligent automatic accompaniment program – you type in the chords for any song using standard chord symbols (like C, Fm7, or C13b9), choose the style you’d like, and Band-in-a-Box automatically generates a complete arrangement of piano, bass, drums, guitar, and strings or horns in a wide variety of popular styles. It's also a powerful and creative music composition tool for exploring and developing musical ideas with near-instantaneous feedback.

For drums, I really don't have the space to have a real drum kit in the room, and I couldn't play them much even if I did, so I typically use software drum kits that are plugins hosted by SONAR. Recently I added a new plug-in drum program called JamStix by Rayzoon Technologies that can generate drum parts similarly to Band-in-a-Box, but with much more variability – more like human drummers with their own habits, accents and fill characteristics. I'm looking forward to learning how to use it and hopefully it will be inspiring. If I did want to record a real drummer live, I could set up to four separate mics into the four analog inputs of the Scarlett.

For keyboards and such there are also several so-called "soft synths" – software synthesizers that are also plugins available within SONAR. I have a MIDI keyboard controller that I can plug in to record MIDI data, but I'm not much of a keyboardist so I don't do that too often.

For bass, I can use soft synths and MIDI, and I also have a decent bass guitar that I can play a bit, so I can record it just like I do my guitars.

I have a SoundCloud page where I've put up some of the stuff I've recorded here at home. There are also a few older things at Nowhere Radio.