First Times

my Studio and Recording I lab last night read "free lab" in the syllabus. not knowing what that meant -- i'm just getting reacquainted with the whole college concept again: studying, reading, 3 hour lectures, bratty little adolescents -- i showed up and no one from my lab was there except the lab tech. and he was helping this gal from another lab track some stuff. so i walked into the recording studio and sat at the piano and started tinkering. i took a beginning piano class this term and it's my first real exposure to it. but a few of the songs from the workbook came to me so i was playing around.

Johnny told me to put the headphones on; i did. through the headphones Johnny said he'd be playing a song and i should add the piano parts to it. what the hell? i asked him what key it was in and he said, "i guess you'll figure it out." he didn't realize that i was new to piano. anyway, he the track is sort of jazzy funk and i went through my reportoire and found that this little blues riff i had learned fit pretty good. i went with it.

we were doing about a minute long song since it was just for learning experience. they asked me to do two more passes, one just "tinkling on the high keys" and another just throwing in some ambient chords. i did my best. then i went into the control room as they added reverb and eq and other enhancements to the tracks and did a quick and dirty mix down. all the while saying i had done great. it felt awesome.

when they were done and the student had left, Johnny asked if i wanted to run the board while he played and i jumped at the opportunity. we tracked two drum passes with different rhythms on the snare as i pecked and hunted for the right knobs to record, then send his current takes along with previous takes to his headphones. then we added a bassline with him playing the hi-hat with his foot -- i was laughing at that. it was a quick and dirty job, but fortunately the hi-hat sounded decent bleeding into the bass track and a little eq and compression popped the whole thing. we mixed those 3 tracks down to a stereo pair on tape. then i recorded three different piano parts. we added some delay and got the levels right then mixed down the three tracks to a streo pair to another 2 tracks on the MTR. finally we bounced it all to CD through a little bit more compression/limiter for a quick and dirty studio session recording.

that was my first taste at engineering a tracking session and then mixing it down, albeit perfection was not the goal. very excited about this class now.

Photos from Production Class

i was finally able to track down a classmate from the Mississippi Studios Production class who had taken many photos during class. he passed a few representative shots along.

Photos from class

Tell Us A Little About How You Got Here

i'm now taking a second term of music classes at the community college. and i realize that this is real. this is me yearning to learn about this monster that has consumed me forever and my mind is trying to find ways of putting it into words and action.

i'm taking a credit course this term. and the class is way more "real." i.e. mid-terms, syllabus, finals, labs, etc.. as i was sitting in first class i thought, "should i be here? this is like going back to school!" and it is. and it's great.

they always start the first class with going around the room and asking, "tell us why you're here." and i said, "well, i played drums and dj'd for years and now i want to get on the other side of it." something like that.

and i'm sitting here reading the assigned chapters from Modern Recordingn Techniques, and suddenly i started thinking about how i really got here. and in my mind it went something like this:

it started with punk rock. in my teens i went to all these shows, dragged along by my childhood friend chris, and i was awestruck by the power of a live show. but i didn't really analyze it any more than that at the time.

then, i got into the grateful dead. i listened to these bootlegs and was amazed at the power, variation, and affirming quality of the live show. then i attended some shows and would always leave in awe again. of the sound, the experience, the transendence.

then i got into hip hop. still a teenager. and this time around the music hit a similar impulse in me to move and dance and get caught up in it. to feel it. i started going to see scratch dj's and competitions and beat-boxers and started to really appreciate the art and talent behind it. i was getting older, had more language for it, was closer to it.

then i started DJ'ing. and the performance was there. moving the crowd. i started to get an ear for what made people respond, from the content to the sound system.

and i put that together and dreamt about going on the road and doing sound for a band that moved the crowd, to get caught up in all that. that's when i bought the "sound bible." Yamaha's Sound Reinforcement Handbook. i tried to read that thing. it was like trying to read the dictionary...with math!

i ketp Dj'ing, kept collecting, listening to music, while it all swirled around my head subconsciously.

as i kept DJ'ing i yearned to become a musician. there are turntablists. but i didn't practice. so i never felt like a musician so much. i was a "selector." and that's all and good. no doubt! it still stokes me heavily.

my boy Mark was a drummer and somehow or other he ended up giving me a set of drums and then i found a band. and we learned 2 songs and played a warehouse party. and it all just kept building on itself to stoke the fire. i started going to more live shows finally. seeking out the bands that moved me. many memorable shows: shortcut and z-trip! bracket! countless good stuff at Great American Music Hall.

then our company put together a band for the christmas party and i DJ'd with the band. we played the fucking Fillmore SF! then we got invited to play the Great American! performing! and while i was performing i was enamored of the sound guys. geeking out on the technical shit. sound reinforcement. that's probably when i bought the sound bible.

then i moved to portland, was in a band with friends for a couple of insanely fun years doing the most outlandish shows, albeit on an unknown scale. and i was still fascinated by the recording/sound reinforcement aspect of that. that's also when i learned that making music meant dealing with personalities. oy.

and then the dystonia. no more drumming. still DJ'ing, but i was more interested in the creation of music (which DJ'ing most definitely is, but i wanted to make the music the DJ's were spinning!).

so i bought some computer gear to make music at the home studio. i bought and read tons of books, dabbled in many of the DAWs for my mac. but i needed guidance. and the yearning for knowledge. so i looked up some classes and that's how i fell into the Mississippi Studios class. and that made the spark really burn!

so here i am, trying to learn, from every damn angle. and it makes the head spin. so much to learn. so much joy in it. but it hasn't all gelled yet. so i pursue. and smile.

but that would be too long to go into in that brief synopsis the class is looking for and i thought i'd try to puke it out here from my head.

maybe it makes some sense?


For our final production & recording class we met over at Mississippi Studios for some more in depth discussion on the differences between engineering and production.

The producer wears many hats and comes in many varieties. T-Bone Burnett was mentioned as having a very extreme style one way, versus someone, say Steve Albini. a producer is definitely trying to get the best performance from the musicians, whereas the engineer is just doing the technical stuff to get the music down. but a producer should ask questions well before ever hiring an engineer. what's the purpose of the album? should they even be doing it at this phase, etc.. after asking a lot of meta questions, he becomes a project manager, a psychologist, an HR person, etc...

after the discussion we drove over to Nick Moon's studio to do mastering on Jonathon's piece. Mastering is taking the stereo mixed songs for an album and preparing them for manufacture (or online distro). Will "normalize" the volume across an album and do last adjustments to get best sound. And possibly prepare a redbook CD that will be used to make a master.

Nick has a really nice place out in troutdale. the studio is small and intimate but is great-sounding and he has incredible gear. a few of the things that i learned here:

A/B'ing: comparing track A with B. this can be comparing current song with a favorite CD that has the sound you are going for, or is comparing before and after of current song. "A/B'ing" gets thrown out there a lot. Also found out the sidechaining has a few meanings and in that environment you could sidechain an EQ in front of a compressor so that you only compress certain frequencies.

Also, ISRC codes are used when creating audio files for download online so that the publishing companies can track them.

well, that's about it. a lot was learned. i think next i'm going to take a dedicated recording class if the professor will let me in. if not, i hope to take a music theory on keyboard class.

Production Class

The Production and Recording class I took through PCC ended last week. I'm really glad to have a weeknight open up but I'll miss that class. That was exactly what i needed to get some excitement and motivation put back into me with the music thing. Jim and Graham and Jonathon and all the people who let us into their studios and taught us interesting stuff -- they were all great.

i wish i would have written more during the class while it was fresh in my head, but i'll jot down here the things that i remember and stick out.

For class 5 we went out to Crossroads to have Darren there mix down Jonathon's song. They've got an 80 channel SSL board there, fully analog steelo. Rumor has it Dr. Dre used to use those knobs! That class really drove home the concept that i learned while reading my Logic book. The way to make room in a mix for an instrument, there are 4 ways: stereo location, frequency separation, space and volume. Darren did a good job of EQ'ing out the different tracks to "excite" the music but to also have it cut through and not be muddy (masking). He also had this great trick where he put a speaker into little room, mic'd it, and would create analog, real-time reverb by sending a track to that room and picking up the reverb on another track. good stuff. also, beside his great big monitors (which i can't recall offhand) he had a pair of the industry standard Yamaha NS10's. seems every studio has a pair of these: "if you can make it sound good on those, it'll sound good anywhere."

Another handy tip was to monitor it mono to make sure it sounds good that way. This will show possible phase problems, etc..

Next time i'll write about our last class which was a visit out to a mastering place in troutdale. We got deeper into the producer vs. engineer question also.

Gear and Games

This is kind of an update to the previous post.

First, the Gorge Games fell through. That was kind of a shame as it was going to be a great venue for putting some new gear to the test, and it sounded like a hoot. But my friends organizing the village had to pull out so it wasn't to be.

A little more on the Conectiv: it's got this built-in gain limitation that is sort of a bummer. It's part of the design but it makes playing regular vinyl alongside Torq MP3's a bit of a hassle. There's lots of info. posted on this on the m-audio forums. One of the main applications at the start for this piece of hardware is to use it to rip my vinyl to MP3 in the first place. It makes it so i have to add a bit of gain when I'm chopping up the audio in Logic, but now that I have it down it's not a big deal.

New Gear

i treated myself to an early birthday present today: M-Audio Torq Connectiv. now i've got the hardware i need to hook my turntables up to my computer and utilize DVS's like Ms. Pinky and Deckadance. it came with Torq, which from the youtube videos i've seen, doesn't look half bad. i guess some people have had stability issues, but i trust M-Audio to work on this.

at this point i should be able to easily record vinyl to digital audio. i'm not sure if Torq has any Live plugins, but i'll be able to utilize it from Live. i plan on spending the Gorge Games gig learning the new software and learning where it fits in. i love the idea of not having to lug crates and crates of records for a gig like this where i'll need lots of music over many days. i'll still be playing vinyl, though.

not sure i mentioned the Gorge Games. this was a bit of luck/who you know. i got a gig being the Entertainment for the Athlete's Village. i'll be in charge of music and videos in the tent where the athlete's relax and hang out.

Decisions, Decisions

my birthday is in a few days and i think i'm going to treat myself to some gear. there are a few things i'm looking for to add to my arsenal. first i would like a DVS (Digital Vinyl System). i want to get back into dj'ing live and it's time i was able to bring my computer into the mix. the other piece of hardware i'd like to get is a small control surface for Live/live applications such as when playing and practicing with the acoustic band.

i think i've narrowed my DVS setup down based on my limited understanding and experience but after lots of poking around. i plan on picking up the Ms. Pinky system with the included M-Audio Conectiv interface. it's the most generic system, seems to be widely supported by other software, and i like the hackability of it. it'll play well with Ableton Live for more options, it's got an SDK, so if it doesn't support acting as a controller already, someone will write the software at some point.

the midi control surface is a little harder for me to decide on. i want something portable, but i don't want redundant gear. i need to start a list of my requirements and keep in mind the gear i already have. the Akai MPD24 looks like a great solution, but i have an M-Audio Axiom 25 that has the velocity sensitive pads and infiniti knobs. the M-Audio trigger finger looks good but doesn't have transport. and the Novation Nocturn is nice and small and seems to have some special midi mapping capabilities that would make it work with more software. i think this piece of gear would also serve duty during DJ sets. it could act as a controller for queing in the DVS software and also triggering samples from Live.

Desired specs with rating:
- crossfader, should/nice
- infinite knobs, must
- programmable buttons, must (velocity-sensitive, nice)
- transport, should
- faders, nice, but knobs would substitute
- portable, must (nice to fit in laptop backpack)

it might be a good idea to get used to the DSV software before making a final deciscion here to find out how i'll be using it.

Digital Vinyl Systems and Turntable MIDI control

i've got to write about this week's class, but at the moment my mind is on something else. i've been trying to figure out what direction i want to take with music creation. after seeing a few videos on youtube i started thinking about utilizing my turntables as a MIDI controller. it would be great for live stuff and for in the studio. i've been doing some research but i can't find any coherent comparisons of all the different packages out there that will make the setup work.

a few of the products (called DVS's -- Digital Vinyl System):

- Serato -- not MIDI, though, purely controlling its own proprietary software
- Ms. Pinky?
- Final Scratch?
- Torq?
- Virtual DJ
- Mixvibes

obviously i need to do some more research, but if anyone has any input on this i'd be glad to hear it.

After doing more research today i've sort of compiled a list of gear i now want on the right. it seems to do this generically you just need an audio interface to sit between tables and mix/cpu. then you can choose the software you want to use and the timecoded vinyl of choice. ms. pinky seems most flexible, but there's something compelling about Deckadance also. i think with this hardware and sofware you might be able to control midi with your turntable. maybe need ammobox or roll my own with the ms. pinky SDK.

and after last night's band practice, thinking i would like to get a little portable control surface. need something with sliders and nobs and triggers. the Akai looks dope but is a little big. the novation is a great size but those buttons probably aren't velocity sensitive...


today was the second class. we met at MS and had an hour discussion on a variety of production and recording topics.

signal path: from microphone to record (digital or tape). microphone picks up sound waves and passes those as electrons to a pre-amp which amplifies signal (more electrons) and these are sent to the recording device.

some of the things that can go wrong in the signal path:
-microphone SPL (Sound Pressure Level). can the microphone withstand the rigors of the application? a booming bass cabinet will need a strong mic so the mechanism isn't just locked up with pressure.
- overloaded pre-amp. if signal from mic is too much for pre-amp, check if the mic has a pad.
- remember that gain knob may be too much and might use pad from board and then tweak gain
- effects adding too much gain.

"gain structure"

all the combined effects and amplifications add to gain. gotta make sure none are overpowering mix.

we talked about the philosphy of a studio producer. maybe the most important aspect is too find a lot of information before getting in the studio and recording. what does the band want? are they rehearsed? ask them "why" they are recording.

a practice/rehearsal session with the engineer/producer a good idea so they can suss out the dynamics of songs and decide on recording gear and song order. must keep the band interested and playing their best.

a mention that many devices were coming with their own channel strip features, meaning that there's gain, eq, sends, etc. say, on a drum mic pre-amp.

we talked a little guitar mic'ing philosophy. no substitute for a real amp cabinet. those little pedals that model diff. cabs are useless at the recording level. would rather get a mini amp, put it in a small room and mic it. aim to get right TONE.

distortion is a sound that guitar is going for. distortion means the speaker cone is being a little overpowered. some large amps would have to be screaming before they get that sound a guitarist wants and this can overpower the room. something to think about. that totally rang a bell. i could picture us playing in geoff's and the drums, even unmic'd would force guitarists to turn up to hear themselves which would force the mics to be turned up so high we got feedback. not even sure how equipment would have helped. maybe more baffling.

then we headed over to Revolver Studios. they're in a little (possibly oldest on east side) house a block from Rontoms. Nalin, the studio producer, was a knowledgeable and friendly guy. Jonathon went on a beer run for us. Revolver has a main "tracking" room and a few sound booths and a control room. this place uses old 2inch tape machines to get the sound they like.

1st, 2nd, 3rd reflections bad. after that they've lost enough strength that they're ok. go on internet and research sound baffling, "bass trap."

the place was full of cool instruments. i wondered if many studios provided equipment or if bands preferred to bring their own. this equipment is called the "backline."

we did some overdubbing using a normal mixing board with pre-amps and into the pro tools file we'd recorded the week before. Jonathan was adding some electric guitar takes, 2. he got some goofy feedback and Nalin, in an example of how to keep theings funny, said over the talk-thru: "okay, i think the whales heard that and are on the way." good stuff.

Nalin talked about reference monitors and how it's a personal choice when picking them. "reference" meaning they're just a point of reference. you want to take your mix and play it on a lousy boombox, in your car, etc.. and then you can start to learn how your reference monitors play and what it will become.

when someone asked a technical question Graham pulled Yamaha's Sound Reinforcement Handbook off the shelf. everyone agreed it's the technical bible. i remember when i bought that years ago and was trying to read it front to back. that was probably when i first knew i wanted to be involved on the music production side. that was kind of a cool moment.

another great class.


it's only been one class and i'm already really excited about it. i've never taken a class that is so focussed on something i'm really interested in. i wish college had been like this. i wish i had known what i wanted to do in college! had i been smart i would have double majored in computer science and music production. hindsight. but learning is awesome always and this class has major potential.

all the students in class were invited to help out with a private show that 2 of the Death Cab for Cutie guys were going to do for a local music station at Lola's Room. i showed up and Jonathon was the recording engineer for the session. it felt special being invited to help out. we didn't get to do much, but i still learned a lot from the session. the setup was a bit different from the studio recording we'd done the night before. here we were recording a live band that was playing to a house. so the mics (one pencil, one DI for each guitar, one vocal mic each, and a house mic) were sent to the board for house sound. the board had a direct out that was pre-fader (post gain/pad, pre everything else on the channel). these were plugged into the mobile recording unit the MS guys had brought. basically a pro tools rig (HD3? Digi 003?). i think there was a rack of pre-amps in between.

it was informative to talk to McMenamin's house sound guy. he gave us some good pointers. Ben and Chris had their own sound guy (who actually rang Ben's headphones accidentally!).

access to all the studios and venues and seeing all this done in real time is an eye opener. i don't know if it's portland, but everyone involved is really good people. they're willing to share and friendly. they talk about horror stories of working with asshole sound guys and musicians, but so far i've been impressed with everyone i've met.

Everything Must Go!

i went on a selling spree on craigslist and ebay. mostly old computer electronics. but right when i started doing the studio experiment i think i went a bit overboard and bought too much stuff. so i offloaded the Alesis Micron. i was so excited to get that piece of equipment. but it just sat around. i definitely want to learn how to play the piano, but that wasn't the right object for it. and i don't really want to learn how to use a synthesizer, i can play with that kind of tweaking ITB with Reason or Live.

i did keep one external mixer in case i need more inputs for recording. but that may go at some point, too. i need to learn more about what i'll be doing and what equipment i'll need.

it seems that everyone of these studios is using Pro Tools still, something i thought was sort of going out of style, but not in a pro studio situation.

while doing some online research about Ableton Live i came across some excellent YouTube videos of people doing wild live shit combining turntables and the computer. i think that's a path i would like to pursue since that's one way i can still perform live. i'll be looking into serrato and other stuff like that. i want to be able to basically use my turntables as midi controllers.

Class Act

well, i finally started taking a class like i've been meaning too. i first noticed that Portland Community College was offering a "Production and Recording" (non-credit, extended learning) class in the winter semester and i signed up. i was excited because it listed the teacher as Jim Brunberg and the location as Mississippi Studios. real, hands-on from a local pro. it was such a let-down when they cancelled the class.

i kept checking for the new class schedule for summer and it was listed again so i signed up. then i started reading about how the IRS was going after Jim and that the space was closing for remodelling. i figured that meant the game was up. but i never got a note about cancellation so i showed up to the first night of class.

the people in the cafe side of the building guided us back to the under construction studio space where a bunch of us waited for Jim to show up. when he finally did he quickly put everyone at ease with his laid back demeanor.

i wasn't sure what to expect from the class, the description in the course catalog was pretty generic and terse. he told us we'd be going around to different studios in the city and learning each aspect of production and recording along the way. sounds awesome!

some of the things we discussed:

an engineer vs. producer. engineer is the technical guy who sets up the equipment, runs cables, makes it possible to record but tries to stay out of the way and doesn't make creative decisions per se. the producer is the guy who's trying to get the best performance out of the musicians. a little more creative input here. but paramount is making sure the musicians play their best.

we talked about the move from analog tape to pure digital recording. especially for beginners, not worrying about maintaining a tape machine is probably beneficial. the advances in the technology make this possible.

summing vs. mixing. a confusing subject. mixing is basically getting levels, eqs, etc.. whereas summing is the combining of the audio signals. there are outboard was of sending the signal to add warmth and get a more analog feeling. In Box vs. Out of Box (ITB/OTB, in the computer, out of the computer).

Graham is one of Jim's peers who is a very technical and knowledgeable engineer who does recording and live music. smart guy with a lot of insight. he, and others, agreed that a good philosophy on recording is to get as close to raw an input as possible. "baby steps" on adding any effects such as eq or compression. save that for later. get something good to work with by good mic placement and good pre-amps.

sound technical:


/ \
/ \


the transition at the top is important. this is very important in mic'ing say a snare, probably anything.

"scratch tracks": first-time tracks used for getting the feel down and often thrown away but not always.

the first night we went to the space where Mississippi Studios is now recording. i believe it's an old Masonic Temple. it's up by the Florida Room off Killingsworth. the place is desserted and boarded up, it doesn't look like anything's inside.

inside is a cavernous space with a temporary recording studio set up. the building is amazing. not only is it incredibly unique and warm and interesting but the acoustics aren't too bad.

there was a standard drum kit set up in one corner, a cirus-like funky little drum kit set up in the far center and cords running everywhere. at least that's what it looked like to the untrained eye.

Jonathan Newsome of Miraflores was there, as was a drummer Scott. they were going to lay down a song that we would later use for editing, etc.. a quick introduction to the folks and the equipment and we were each given a job to do. i was tasked with setting up a DI box (direct input) for the acoustic guitar. this is where the built-in pickup will be captured from. we ran our cables to boxes at the end of snakes that connected back to the recording rig. when we were done the drums, guitar and vocals were set for recording.

this is probably really fucking boring, so maybe i ought to just jot down some stuff that i learned that seems applicable.

Mic'ing -- much of this is general best practices with some of Jim's specific style thrown in

- the snare was mic'd top and bottom (i wish i had noted all the mic names). i believe the top was a Shure 57, the bottom was a pencil (condenser). the important thing here was to set up the mics so they're at a 90 degree angle to each other to limit any phase issues (more on phase later).
- toms were mic'd so the mic head was at a 45 to the head and closer than some people prefer. about 1/2" off the surface inside the rim.
- the kick was mic'd on the outside with a kick mic and the batter was mic'd seperately.
- two overheads. not crossed, pointing straight down. you start them at even height. you try to get them about equi-distant from the snare (timekeeper). then adjust heights if necessary by monitoring.
- a room mic was set up out front of the drums. there was a lot of mention on the importance of this mic. lots of drum kits have been mic'd with this mic alone!

peter gabriel came up a lot. and his penchant for 57's for everything. lots of good tangents on past successful recording techniques were bandied about that i can't recall offhand.

acoustic guitar -- this one was very enlightening.

- 2 condenser mics pointed at the body of the guitar. jim tapped the body to find the best resonating high and low. notice how the body of an acoustic usually has one smaller and one bigger cavity. basically, the best (loudest?) spots on each were mic'd. the mics were adjusted so they were about 90 degrees to each other and also slightly pointed down because Jonathon would also be singing at the same time. don't usually mic the hole. or the bridge! also try to get fretboard for that sound.
- the DI box as mentioned earlier.

the vocal mic had the wind screen you often see -- a pop filter. and there's talk of the "P" because that's the consonant that cracks the most.

back at the recording setup. each mic was routed to a preferred pre-amp. there were about 4 different kinds of pre-amps used that i can't remember off-hand. pro tools on a mac was the DAW. tracks were set up for each mic. as the musicians played we adjusted levels on the pre-amps. the mix was routed to two sets of headphones for the artists. we didn't have a talk-back mic on hand for this session, but one would usually be used.

time was short but we recorded one pass on the song which we'll use later.

i learned a lot from just seeing it all happen first-hand.

after class we were outside the temple and i accidentally knocked over my scooter in front of Jonathan and felt really fucking stupid.

Geeking Out

first it was the wii controller and now it's Android and iPhone SDKs. i haven't been excited about geeking out in a long time, hardly ever doing anything geeky outside of work beyond maintaining but now i've got this excitement about learning new technologies and putting them to use.

i've played around with the Android SDK and it's fucking slick. it's all java based and if you use Eclipse it's a snap to get up and running quickly. you can write a hello, world app in about 5 minutes and use the simulator to see your app run.

i just downloaded the iPhone SDK but haven't had a chance to use it yet. i think it's C-based, so that's going to be a challenge. gonna have to dust off that hat. but i think with all the libraries you don't have to worry about memory management so much.

using wii to midi, i finally got my mac to recognize my wii controller and i could see the stream of midi data coming into Logic. now i just need to write a filter to make the incoming data useful. but it's all pretty slick. i think the wii controller will be more useful in live applications using ableton live or something like that, but it might be useful when composing. we'll see.

also, it looks like the iPhone has a 3D accelerometer in it that's available to the developer. maybe you won't even need the wii controller anymore. well, the IR stuff is pretty damn rad. check out some of the links to see what i'm talking about.

Steep Learning Curve

i think one of the things that appeals to me about this whole endeavor is the steep learning curve. that usually means there's a lot to it, a complexity that makes it all the more interesting. i'm almost done with the lessons in the book i got. it's pretty easy to tell that i'm just scratching the surface of what the program can do. Logic 8 is so new that there's not a lot of books out yet, but there's 2 promising looking ones coming out in a couple months.

i think the hard part is going to get people to record for me. to actually learn their parts well and lay down solid tracks. we'll see how that part goes. i still have to lay down the drums before i can worry about that. figure i'll be done with the lessons after this weekend and jump in next week.

finally broke down and bought DSL for the house. i was using my the G3 phone internet connection with my home computers but it just got frustrating. i forgot how damn fast dsl is.

i placed the order online. picked out the mid-tier plan. and i already had a DSL modem i'd used with Qwest from 3 years before. so there was a single fee. the price was pleasantly surprising, no hidden fees beyond taxes and a good rate for the speed. my only concern was that i'd only found 1 phone jack in the whole house. and it was wired a foot over to a connetion that looked like it was from the 50s. so the day came when the service was supposed to be turned on. i got a cd in the mail with walk-thru directions, and it all just fucking worked. i checked the download and upload speeds against what was advertised and they were spot on. amazing. that really tickled me.

and the local community college class schedule showed up in the mail so i flipped through it and found a really cool live recording class being offered. it's at a local studio that has clout so it'll probably fill fast. i signed up online right away -- even giving them my credit card info -- but i have no idea if i'll get in the class. i really hope so. i'll also be checking to see what other classes are offered in the area.

now when i put the new RAM in the machine and get it up to 4GB the only thing stopping me from making and distributing good music will be me. shit.


the keyboard finally showed up! so just when i'm starting to toy around with Logic i get this other new toy. the funny thing is i don't know how to play piano at all. and i've never fooled around with synths. but this little package seems to have it all. i know how to read music, and i hope to get proficient enough to make it useful.

i'm sure i'll find some way of adding this to the arsenal. and if all else fails, it has a high resale value on ebay!

here's some links to check out the cool things people are doing with this thing:

Alesis Micron and acupuncture

i've been wanting to get real keyboard/syth so i can practice my piano playing and maybe even play with some friends. seems like lots of people like to play with the alesis micron. and it's value on ebay is about as much as it goes for at guitar center or zzounds. i'd seen it at guitar center before so we went there saturday cause i was in the mood for buying since i was still waiting for my macbook and needed a toy. none of the stores had any in boxes.

well, i ordered it online when i got home and it should arrive wednesday. i need to possibly slow down and stop spending any more money! my toy list is pretty short now, so that's good.

on a side note. went to an acupuncturist today and found it interesting. he'd even heard of dystonia and brought up things only a knowledgeable person would bring up. and he seemed confident he could help. so i'm excited about that. definitely not getting my hopes up too high, but we'll see how it goes.

Mac arrives

Finally got the replacement macbook! So far so good. I went through the first tutorial in the Logic book and it sounded great. And that's just using built-in audio with headphones.

I've got a lot of setup to do. Got the 2nd 21" monitor to play with. Still need to hook up the audio interface so I can monitor on real speakers and do some recording.


Oregon Night - off topic

A few days of sun and then tonight we get that oregon rain. It sounds like someone has the shower on upstairs kind of rain.

I feel like bitching a bit. But i'm also wondering about this blog Where to go with it. Keep it solely on topic or make it human and have it be my outlet for all things, not just music...

Well, i'll try to pull it all together. Not too personal blog, not too dry. I guess I see the reader being someone interested in home studio but into the soft side, too.

Maybe when I finally get my computer things will change. I'm still waiting for the replacement to arrive. They've received my faulty unit but have put off the new return ship date due to "busy fulfilling other orders." I just hope that doesn't mean they had an issue with my return. It does mean I won't see a new one by this weekend. That's a bummer.

Since we are talking about music... The band to see is Birdmonster. One of my favs from last year that is finally touring. Playing a club in portland that has no box office so i'm anxious aboujt it.

If I do a Skip's Picks this year they'll be heavily featured. From Frisco. I can say that.

Oh, and I hung some art in the house finally after a year and a half.. Not sure what that means. Makes me nervous. Am I worried about mob ility with the dystonia and sort of giving up?

- Sent from mobile

Studio Setup

While I wait for the replacement laptop i'm working on setting up my studio space. My flat is small and i've already got my decks and records setup that makes almost a little work area in the living room.

The picture makes the space look even bigger than it really is if you can believe it. I'm also making this post by sending an email from my phone so we'll see if this even works.

Been reading the book I got on Logic: Logic Pro 8 and Logic Express 8. It's an Apple authorized book. So far it seems like a basic book teaching via lessons but it's already given me a much better understanding of the program. Looking forward to doing some basic recording to see how my very amateur mics and space (and skills) will sound.

Studio Buildup

Here's the latest setup. I haven't set up my audio interface yet, waiting for delivery of replacement Mac.

Little Apple

They're testing my patience over at Apple. i was all excited about receiving my new Macbook Pro 17" with extra fast hard drive and Logic Express 8. well, i opened it up and played around a while and was really enjoying the thing. but then i closed up for the night and noticed something peculiar. the lid didn't shut quite right. it's got a warp on the top so that it doesn't close flat. it's annoying. and i think they should replace it. not only does it just annoy me but it could cause screen problems down the line, etc..

so i went to the apple store. not quite the customer service mecca it's touted as. when i asked to see the first guy's manager, he said he was the manager. if that's true, there's going to be a lot of offended and angry people in that store. but it boiled down to them washing their hands of folks who buy online. especially folks who would -- gasp -- customize their order. i hate that Apple still treats its customers like idiots. i want to like them so bad.

then i got home and tried to do the return online like it said on my receipt. didn't go anywhere. so i spent 58 minutes being forwarded from department to department, some multiple times until they finally forwarded me to a department that had closed for the day (20 minutes earlier so i would have been fine if they hadn't fucked around so much). my call was disconnected. i can't decide if i should just put up with the warp or continue the fight. i'm going to at least call tomorrow and see how it goes.

i want this computer to be my pride and joy. i want to bond with it. isn't that what the mac's all about? help me out here Apple!



i know this sounds weird, but sometimes i just know when i'm going to get good service or bad before it ever happens. which probably means i'm partly to blame, i'm putting off some energy. anyway, this morning i got back on the horn with Apple. i must have been more relaxed and upbeat because the experience was completely different. they rushed me through to the right people (staying on the phone with me while waiting) and Rose was apologetic and helpful and had me set up really quickly. so at this point it's not fixed, but it sounds like they're serious about taking care of me. they'll be sending me an email with a return stamp (they're paying) and will send me a new unit expedited. if they follow through with that and the new system is awesome i will be back in their court 100%! thanks, Apple, for stepping up.

The Gear So Far

i figured it would be best to start humbly, but with decent enough gear so i wouldn't get frustrated. i wanted to start simply by creating songs alone or with a few collaborators, track by track. so i decided on a mixerless, computer-based approach with a small audio interface, a sequencer/DAW and a midi controller.

for most of my life i've been a PC user but i've been using a Mac at work the past 3 years and i've decided it's the better platform for me (i'm a software engineer working in unix-based environments). and since i needed a new computer for home i decided on a 17" Macbook Pro. i love the flexibility of having a laptop at home so i can work from the couch or wherever, and the 17" has enough screen space for the editing. that was the big expense that i justified because it will be my main computer, not just for audio production. I got a good deal on the mac by buying through a friend's discount. one bummer is the unit they delivered has a slight bend in the lid and i'm thinking of trying to exchange it for a new one.

the audio interface i chose is the Presonus Firebox. it's firewire, not usb, but that wasn't really a driving decision. with usb 2 i can't really see a big advantage of one or the other. this unit got good reviews and has all the i/o i need. i would have gone with the MOTU if i could justify the expense at this stage. for some reason i was only considering AI's that supported MIDI in/out. that's because i thought this was where i was going to plug in my MIDI controller! i'm new to this. turns out that MIDI I/O on the audio interface is really mostly useful if you're passing MIDI CC to/from other MIDI instruments. i won't even use it right away, just plug my Axiom right into the computer via USB. Logic sees it and i'm good to go. those MIDI ports might come in handy in the future if i go more advanced..

for a MIDI controller i went with the M-AUDIO Axiom 25. i wanted to have a small workstation to deal with and i'm not a piano player so i wasn't too concerned with the small keyboard. mostly i want to use it as a controller and doing simple keyboard stuff.

i'm hoping to record some live audio, basically single snippets of found sounds and shakers, xylophones, etc... i wanted a cheap, all-around mic. most people point towards the Shure SM57 but i have access to those and wanted to try something comparable. i went with the Audix I5. we'll see how that turns out.

for now i'm going to use my home stereo for monitors, it's got decent speakers. i've also got my two 1200 turntables and mixer for sampling the record collection.

Ableton Live 6 LE (a crippled m-audio version) came bundled with the Axiom and i played around with it a bit and liked it. but the reviews for Logic 8 were so impressive i purchased a version of Logic Express 8. it's not as intuitive so i bought a book that should arrive tomorrow. then i'll decide which to go with. i think Live might be friendlier for live performing, but i'm hoping that Logic kicks ass.

There's a steep learning curve to the whole process, not just the software, but the whole thing. i'm thinking of taking a class at a local college. if anyone knows of any local resources in Portland, OR, please drop me a note!


not surprisingly, there's a ton of good stuff to check out on youtube. everything from people showing off their gear to taking you through certain setups and even creating beats.

one of the cooler things i came across was the use of the wii remotes for controlling the audio production. everything from using it as a MIDI controller to creating virtual drumsticks! check that out! i think a side project of learning how to hack the wii-mote might turn into its own fun hobby for me! and it's a lot easier to get than the complete wii system!

here's some links to interesting stuff:


music is something i'm passionate about. i don't seem to have a propensity for creating music, but i have a desire. i started dj'ing in 1995, with regular gigs for a long time. and i played drums in a few bands over the past six years. recently i was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called dystonia. so i've got to stop playing the drums for a while. while i sort out my mental, physical pieces.

i haven't played drums since late 2007, but i've been itching to make music. i'm not sure anything can replace the physical part of playing drums, but the intellectual side of my brain has always been intrigued by audio production. why not create my own music? i started thinking about setting up a simple computer-based home studio to play around on and maybe get the musical satisfaction i desire.

along the way i've learned a bit, and more often i've had questions. and a lot of ideas. so this will be a place for me to share what i've learned, get my writing fix, maybe learn some new stuff from reader comments, and keep a list of ideas i would like to pursue.

glad you came across the blog and hope you like it. feel free to leave a comment.