Archive for February, 2010

Week 25, On Ice

I’ve been listening to a lot of Silkworm lately. As often as I have Silkworm on rotation, it’s probably more notable when I’m not listening to them. Silkworm is a band that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more over the years, to the point where I’d have to rank them among my top five. I love these guys, and you owe it to yourself to check them out if you haven’t heard them. They have a 10-album discography spanning 14 years. My personal favorite is Libertine, followed closely by Firewater and Developer (yes, this is at least partially my moniker’s namesake). Everyone should also check out the band Bottomless Pit. It’s the current project of Silkworm co-frontmen Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett, along with former Seam drummer Chris Manfrin and bassist Brian Orchard. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of playing several shows with Bottomless Pit, and they’re one of the best bands recorded and live that I’ve seen.

For whatever reason, as much as I listen to Silkworm, I don’t feel like their sound shows up in my music as often as other bands, but then this week’s song breaks that trend. I have to assume that other Silkworm fans who are reading and listening to this can hear the influence.

“On Ice” is another straight up little rock song. It was written in E-A-D-G-A-E, which is the standard tuning with the B-string dropped to an A. I had a lot of fun with this song, which is about as close as I’ve gotten in the project to the sound of a three-piece rock band. The mix is mostly one guitar track and one bass track (though another take of the same guitar part is buried in the mix and panned all the way to the right for a little depth). The guitar and bass were performed on the Orange 30r and recorded using the break-out cable into the iPhone. Those along with the vocals were tracked with the fantastic MultiTrack app. The vocals were tracked using the iPhone’s built in mic. The drums were recorded into Reaper using the same five-mic setup as weeks previous. Everything was mixed in Reaper as usual.

Next week marks the halfway point of my project. Most of the 26th song is done, and I can’t wait to get started on quarter number 3! This has really been an incredible ride. Thanks again for following along.

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Sunday, February 28th, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Week 24, Simple to Center

I’m sorry folks, but sometimes pop happens… and it happened a bunch on this song.

Simple to Center was written and recorded (except for the drums) in one sitting on Valentine’s Day. All of the tracks – acoustic and electric guitar, bass, vocals, and a little shaker – were recorded with the Blue Mikey. I tried to finish the song off on V-day by recording a drum take with the Mikey, but it was a total fail. The Mikey (version 1) is just not a good tool for recording drums into the iPhone. It can’t handle the high volume and clips well beyond the effect of a little distortion. This is also a problem when attempting to record a live band with the Mikey, which is something it’s supposed to be able to do. This is a known issue by Blue, and the original Mikey was developed for the iPod and not the iPhone, so they never claimed to fully support it.

Blue just came out with a new version of the Mikey, which was developed with full iPhone support. I think my Mikey is a great tool, but before shelling out another $80 on version 2, I wanted confirmation that the clipping issue was addressed and resolved. I emailed Blue’s support to find out, and even copied some of their other departments to give them a heads up about my site since I’ve been pimping their product. Alas, no one got back to me. That’s too bad because I’d love to be writing today with a definitive answer about the drums, and my hunch is that if they didn’t answer then maybe the problem isn’t fixed. That’s really too bad because otherwise the Mikey is a great sounding mic (as you can hear), and it’s even better now using version 1.1 of MultiTrack which allows for use of the Mikey’s dual condensers in stereo.

This cheesy little pop song is for my wife Jenn. I wouldn’t have made it past week 1 without her patience, understanding, and support. I really appreciate it.


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Sunday, February 21st, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Week 23, The Creature

The 23rd track out of the gate is called The Creature

This is easily the biggest arrangement of the bunch so far. There are 22 total tracks, though 10 of them are devoted to the “toy orchestra”. The orchestra and vocals mark the return of the Blue Mikey, which shines when recording acoustic instruments. The orchestra consisted of a number of takes using the melodica, a recorder, a tamborine, a xylophone, and some sort of synthetic wooden xylophone thing. Everything except the melodica (and perhaps the recorder) is a kids toy.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the recording of this one. The song was written on the baritone guitar in a standard baritone tuning (A-D-G-C-E-A), which is a perfect fifth lower than a standard guitar tuning. I added two guitar tracks with a bit of delay and a bass track. This song sounds really full to me, almost to the point of over-saturation. I think it works really well in some parts (the break), but it may be too much over the verses. As usual, everything except drums was recorded using the MultiTrack app on my iPhone. The drums were recorded into Reaper with the same five-mic setup that I’ve used the last few weeks.

I really wanted the second half of the break to sound huge. But after ripping the house apart looking, it appears that I don’t have a symphony orchestra hiding in any of the bedroom closets. I could easily have created the orchestral sound using Reason, and it would’ve sounded great, but I feel like sample-based instrumentation is really counter to the spirit of this project, so instead I grabbed my phone and whatever toy note makers I could find and got busy. I really like how it came out.

This is definitely one of those songs that I would love to have another month or two to work on, but you know the drill by now, and so do I. I hope the song itself comes through loud and clear, and that it’s to your liking.

I want to give a big thanks to all of the regulars who’ve been stopping in weekly to see what I’ll come up with next.

I’m still looking for better ways to get the word out about Project 52. If you feel inclined to write about the site on you blog, or post about it somewhere new, hell even tell your Facebook friends about it, let me know. I’ll send you some download codes from my Bandcamp site so that you can grab some tracks as high-quality mp3’s or even FLAC or some other pristine quality.


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Sunday, February 14th, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Week 22, The Road

This week’s song is called The Road

My two-year-old son is partially responsible for this song. It started with this Christmas, or actually, it goes all the way back to the holidays of my childhood. As a kid I spent hours pouring over J.C. Penny and BEST catalogs, dreaming of the ultimate gift, a drum set. I must have asked for one every year, probably starting with with the Mickey Mouse variety and moving on to more serious kits as I got older. But it was never to be. I’m sure that the drums were always a relatively high priced item for our family and knowing me, it would’ve made life seriously louder within our household. To this day I’ve never properly owned my own drum set. The one I’ve used for all of these recordings belongs to my friend Dale. It’s a Premier kit (80s-90s vintage is my best guess), and Dale insists that he’s just glad that it’s being used. For what it’s worth, I’m grateful. Anyway, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that at the first opportunity, I bought my son the drum set that I’d always wanted. It’s pretty nice too. He doesn’t play it all that often yet, but the other day he and I were jamming in the living room and for the first time he was more or less playing a steady beat. Sort of. I started playing a super simple riff that fit with his beat. My son grew tired of playing with me pretty quickly and moved on to something else, but the riff stuck, and I worked it into this little ditty.

It wasn’t until after I’d recorded the drums and everything else started coming together that I realized that this song was starting to have the feel of a Cars song. Either you fight something like that or you go with it. So I went with it, and threw in the synth parts. I love The Cars. I think they were masters of writing tight, interesting pop rock songs. I think their songs sound so great, and it’s not just their hits. All of the albums are great front to back. Take their first record, The Cars, which opens up with “Good Times Roll”, “Best Friends Girl”, and “Just What I Needed”. The album closes with one of my favorites, “All Mixed Up”, which by happens to be covered brilliantly by another of my favorite bands, The Red House Painters on their album Songs for a Blue Guitar. Production-wise, I tried to capture a bit of The Cars’ spirit. I confidently added synth, and I cloned the main vocal track on the verse with boosted low frequencies while cutting the low-end completely out of the original track. It creates the huge sound of the vocals on the verse, and you can hear the difference in the chorus. I didn’t come close to matching the production on the drums, and really most of the production on my track is pretty wide open comparatively, and of course I used an iPhone and a laptop where they were using AIR studios in London. I guess that the song doesn’t sound all that similar to a real Cars song, but hopefully I captured enough of the spirit of it all to make Ric Ocasek proud. So what do you think Ric?

The drums were recorded using the same five-mic setup as last week into Reaper, and the synths were added using Reason. Everything else was recorded into MultiTrack on my iPhone. The guitars and bass were tracked in my dining room with a dynamic mic using the custom break-out cable, and the vocals were recorded right into the iPhone’s mic. I’ve been experimenting with purposefully clipping the iPhone mic just enough to get some distortion and limiting. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been experimenting with listening and adding my music to new types of music Web sites. I like the idea that anyone from anywhere can subject their art to a neutral marketplace, and it’s up to the masses to find what they like for better or worse. It doesn’t appear to always work and can be frustrating to sift through music that you have no interest in, but I have been able to find some great bands and songwriters that I would’ve never come across otherwise. Still I feel like it’s nowhere close to an ideal system. I’d love to take the best from the heyday of indie labels – they went out and found the best music in a scene (and were a big part of making the scenes), you knew you could go to them for new bands that you would love eight or nine times out of ten, and that they would put together a great product – and combine all of that with this new technology, ease of distribution, music is free stuff. It’s something I know that most indie labels from Merge and Sub Pop to new labels just starting up are struggling with these questions. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer yet. Oh well, food for thought I guess.

The two sites that I’m currently messing around with are and Uvumi is pretty new, and The 61 just changed their interface around and some people haven’t been thrilled with it. Please stop by these sites and check them out. Look me up and say hi. If you’re already on them, hit me up.


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Sunday, February 7th, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

Week 21, Say

The song for week 21 is called Say.

I actually wrote this song a few weeks ago and have been working on it piece by piece when I could. I recorded the drums last week, but only finished the electric guitars, bass, and vocals over these last two days. This is another song that is very much in the vein of my old band, Hovland. There’s the pretty, sad, quiet stuff, followed by the heavier, mathier stuff. I always thought it was a nice little songwriting recipe. Someday soon, I’ll upload the various completed Hovland recordings that I have on my Bandcamp page. I may even take a swipe a remastering everything while I’m at it. The song was written in a variation of the Hovland tuning (F-A-D-G-A-E). It’s in E-A-D-G-A-E, so from standard tuning, only the B string has been tuned down to  an A.

This song was recorded in what has become my standard recording process. The guitars and bass were recorded using the custom break-out adapter (from Week 2). The vocals were recorded using the iPhone’s built-in mic, and all of the iPhone tracks (five guitar, one bass, and five vocal) were recorded using the MultiTrack app. The drums were recorded using my new 5-mic setup into Reaper. The new setup consists of two overhead mics in an X-Y pattern, the same AKG D112 on the kick drum, I switched to a large diaphragm condenser on the snare which is covering a bit of the rack tom, and I switched to my CAD E-200 which I have placed above the kick, over the rack and floor tom but just under the ride cymbal. I think it sounds better, but I’m still fooling with it. I’ll probably end up reading an article in Tape Op tomorrow and get a different idea for drum miking and switch it up again. (In my opinion, Tape Op is the best…recording…magazine…ever…seriously go subscribe, it’s free!) I feel like I’m always trying to get the perfect drum sound. I feel like it’s the Holy Grail of recording. Plus, I’m working in a less-than-ideal-room for drum acoustics, so it pushes me to tweak it even more. As usual, everything was mixed in Reaper.

I’ve been checking out some new (to me) websites where musicians and listeners can coexist and I think they make for a nice way to find out about new bands and musicians that you like, and for the bands to get exposure in new ways. I think it’s a really interesting time for bands and music in general, and I’m interested in finding out about the new systems for finding good indie music. For me, that role was once served by trusting the bands that came out of good city/scene-based labels and then college radio and catching live bands to a lesser extent. I’m still feeling the sites out. I’ll probably write more about them in the coming weeks. Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions for websites or anything else to check out. Also, I’m still working on the podcasting thing. I should have a little bit more of it figured out by the next post. Have a great week everyone.

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Monday, February 1st, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment


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