Archive for May, 2010

Week 38, Rooftop Lives

To listen on an iPhone, visit my Bandcamp site, or download the SoundCloud iPhone app.

The 38th song is a change-up. I hope you enjoy it. I’m writing from the wooded serenity of my in-laws’ house outside of Philadelphia. It’s Memorial Day weekend and that means an annual family trip down the PA Turnpike to my wife’s childhood home. The last time that I was here was week 13, for those of you keeping track. Unlike the 13th song, “These Days,” this song wasn’t recorded here and doesn’t feature my wife’s childhood Fisher Price xylophone or my father in-law’s amp. But it was mixed here; plus I mixed in a last minute but valuable addition to the song while I was out here.

The day before our trip, after getting off the bus, I was fooling around with my iPhone and listening to this song’s mix while I was walking down my street. For no good reason, I turned on the record-monitor button, which let me listen through the iPhone’s mic as I was walking. I was intrigued with how the everyday sounds of my street – birds, cars, people – mixed into the song, and I was just about a minute into recording some of it when the skies opened up and one of those summertime downpours came screaming out of nowhere. It was all that I could do to get my phone in my pocket before it got soaked (the outside of my pockets didn’t fair as well, along with the rest of me). I was frustrated by not getting a full track of street-sounds, but I pulled together a final mix for the song the night before the trip and resigned myself to shelve that little bit of ambiance for a future track. But as I fell asleep that night I came up with a plan for the morning: I made sure that I got myself all ready to go and set out to pack the car, my paternal duty, like a madman. This  left just enough time for me to set up with the Alesis ProTrack and use the built-in field recording mics to track a few minutes of birds and cars and other street noises in stereo from my front porch. I remixed the track with a little more care, and now I’m feeling pretty good about how it turned out.

I’ve had the bass and guitar parts for this song finished for a couple of weeks, which was before my ProTrack arrived in the mail, so the guitars and bass were recorded onto the iPhone using the old break-out cable. This song was actually written on the bass and the guitar was added afterwords. This is the second song that I’ve ever written on bass. The first one was “Undefined”, from week 29. I think they both have a distinctly different flavor from the guitar-first songs. The drums on this one were recorded in the same fashion as the last number of songs, but I plan on auditioning the ProTrack next week. I’m going to spare you the redundant details of the drum recording as I’m trying not to take too much time-off from the family. As always, my faithful tools are the iPhone, the MultiTrack recording app, and Reaper, with honorable mention to my laptop for letting me take the show on the road.

Have a great holiday everyone, and I’ll see you next week for the completion of the third quarter of songs. In the mean time, enjoy three new additions to the free downloads page.


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Sunday, May 30th, 2010 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Week 37, Salty Stages

To listen on an iPhone, visit my Bandcamp site, or download the SoundCloud iPhone app.

This week’s song is another in a line of pretty rocked-out tracks. I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling great about it at first. I wrote it half expecting to ditch it, but there were aspects of this simplistic song that I kinda was digging so I stuck with it. I know that I’ve probably written this for a number of songs by now, but once everything came together I really found myself liking this song, though I’m having a hard time characterizing it. I can’t seem to put my finger on what or who it sounds like. There’s definitely some Guided by Voices influence in there somewhere… if you’ve been following along you know that there’s a little of that in just about every song, but there’s also maybe a little Nirvana in the chorus, what with the harmonies and all. Yeah, I don’t really know.

As for the recording, it sits on the precipice of a new turn in my recording process, as it’s the first using a new tool that I’ve added to my arsenal. I’d been flirting with the idea of buying an Alesis ProTrack for about as long as I’ve been doing this project, but having read mixed reviews about its performance with the iPhone and generally being pretty happy with my process and wanting to avoid introducing any more distractions, I put off the inevitable purchase. The ProTrack, like the Blue Mikey, is a product that was developed for recording to an iPod, but works in some capacity with the iPhone. It’s basically a dock for the iPod/iPhone that has decent field-recording microphones built in as well as two XLR microphone inputs, with gain control for each (it even can provide phantom power to condenser mics). There are two features that I’ve been dying to have for a while – being able to record drums ad having better iPhone input options – and until my ProTrack arrived from Amazon, I wasn’t very sure that either would work well.

My first test was at a Karl Hendricks Trio practice. As anyone who’s seen the Trio live can attest to, we’re a pretty loud band, and I wanted to see if the ProTrack could handle being dropped into the middle of practice and pick up a stereo image of our space without clipping and distorting due to the high volume. On the first go, with little thought given to location, the ProTrack performed beautifully. It was no more than six feet away from any of the amps or drums, and it didn’t clip and actually sounded very accurate to what our practice sounds like. In my opinion, the ability to handle this kind of volume is what sets the ProTrack well above the Blue Mikey. I can’t say whether they improved the ability to record in high-volume situations for Mikey 2.0, but I can tell you for certain that version 1 is unusable for recording any sort of amplified live rock music onto an iPhone, with perhaps the exception of a relatively quiet band at an outdoor venue where the sound disperses more. As it relates to Project 52, I’ve always wanted a way to record drums quickly right onto the phone in similar fashion to how I’ve been recording guitars and vocals. Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge of miking, recording, and mixing drums with a multi-mic setup, but that’s really been counter to one of my goals for this project – to let go and not fuss too much over performance, setup, mixing, etc. It’s really the only way that I’ve been able to make the deadline every week, and it’s been really freeing to have that regimen and not obsess too much about every last detail. The ProTrack may end up being the missing link for me to record drums right onto the phone. We’ll see. I haven’t had a chance to test out levels and placement to see if I can get anything that sounds good enough to use, but I’m optimistic.

The drums on this song and next week’s song were recorded before I got the ProTrack, so they’re still with the same five-mic setup of the last several weeks (reference week 29 for more info.) One fun little trick that I played with the drums is with the end part of the song – I kept a few different takes and decided to do something a little more interesting. As the song breaks down into the last section, I faded out of the main drum take while fading in two takes panned hard left and right. I staggered the fades so they come in and out at different times. I wanted to go back and mess with it a little, but it mostly came out how I wanted it to.

The guitars and vocals for this track were recorded using the ProTrack. I want to experiment more with using the ProTrack for vocals, though I’ve been pretty happy with using just the built in iPhone mic most of the time, and you can’t get much simpler than that. At first glance the mics sound pretty good and having the ability to run a condenser mic and/or a preamp into it gives me so much more flexibility. For the guitars, it was pretty much the same mic (Audio Technica ATM29HE), guitar (Fender Telecaster Thinline), and amp (Orange Crush 30r), but using the ProTrack instead of the mic adapter that I’d had made in week 2. The adapter has served me well for 35 weeks, but it came with some limitations (the metronome would bleed into the recording track from the headphone signal for instance.) I’ll be retiring the adapter for the time being. Thanks little buddy.

Meet the Widget cover art

Meet the Widget

There’s one more item for this week: Fresh off of releasing Project 52, Volume 2 on my Bandcamp site (which you should definitely go listen to and download if you feel so inclined), I decided to finally go ahead and put out another digital release. Meet the Widget is an album that was recorded in 2005 and features the original band lineup of Developer. That’s me on guitars and vocals, Karl Hendricks on bass, and Jake Leger on the drums. It’s the same lineup as the Karl Hendricks Trio, just with Karl and me switching roles. I feel pretty good about this recording and the sound of the band at the time. We played a good number of shows at the time and recorded this with the same setup and pretty much at the same time as we recorded the Karl Hendricks Rock Band’s The World Says. After sitting on this for so many years, I decided to finally just go ahead and put it out now that there’s such a great site like Band Camp to facilitate the release. It took a little digging and file searching to conjure up the masters, song order, and the original cover art, but I managed to put it all together and get it out there. I hope you like it.

Have a great week everyone. I’ll see you soon.

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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

Week 36, The Witching Years

To listen on an iPhone, visit my Bandcamp site, or download the SoundCloud iPhone app.

Project 52, Volume 2

Project 52, Volume 2

Hello again friends. I’m happy to announce the release of Project 52, Volume 2 after many weeks of trying to carve out the necessary bits of extra time to re-master the tracks. It’s been a nice little trip back through the second quarter of the project. My personal favorites include “Dig In,” “The Creature” (think toy orchestra), and “On Ice.” You can preview all 13 songs and download the album on my Bandcamp site. The download comes with the cover art and is available in mp3, FLAC, AAC, and other standard high-quality formats. As a special promotion to celebrate this release , I’ll include a free download of Project 52, Volume 1 with the purchase of the second volume.

In keeping with the last couple of weeks, I’m going to keep the details of how I recorded “The Witching Years” to a minimum. The guitar is in the same fashion as week 31, and I’m still using the five-mic drum setup from week 29. As has become standard practice, the majority of the tracks were recorded on my iPhone using the MultiTrack app.

I’ve mentioned some bands and influences occasionally throughout the project, and to my mind the connection is usually pretty obvious. To me, this song is a great example of the influence that one of my favorite 90s bands, The Spinanes, had on my development as a guitar-player and songwriter. The Spinanes’ front-woman Rebecca Gates had a brilliant knack for writing great pop-rock songs with a simple but unconventional and interesting guitar style that really struck me. Her guitar parts were often driven by the would-be bass-note, but then she’d swing in nice melodic and sometimes unexpected accents within the chords.

This style is most exemplified on the album Manos, where it’s really perfect for their two-piece lineup. I picked up Manos at a time when I was re-evaluating my guitar playing and songwriting. I was bored with bar and standard-style chords, but I really loved the simplicity and clarity of the three-piece with a single guitar part. When I heard the Spinanes, I found just what I was looking for. This was also at a time that if you didn’t live in an area with a good college radio station (and even that was a crap-shoot), or unless you knew someone to introduce you to lesser-known bands and music, you were really on your own. I was lucky to have happened upon the Spinanes – I’m pretty sure that it was while watching MTV’s “120 Minutes.” After watching the video for “Noel, Jonah, and Me,” it was enough for me to run to the local record store and pick up Manos. I distinctly remember going through the album and figuring out the guitar parts. That style stuck with me, though it only comes through really clearly on occasion.

Rebecca Gates is still out there making music. Stop on by and give her a listen. She’s still one of my favorites.

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Sunday, May 16th, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Week 35, Chateau

To listen on an iPhone, visit my Bandcamp site, or download the SoundCloud iPhone app.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and the best gift that I could give my wife, queen-mother of our little tribe (me, the boy, the pug, and two giant cats), at this point would be to refrain completely from any music-related activity for the entire weekend.  So, to that end, I will keep this post to a bare minimum.

“Chateau” is a rock song written, performed, and recorded in similar fashion to several other recent songs. Reference week 31 for more on the guitar sound, and week 29 for details of the drum recording. All sounds were recorded on the iPhone except for the drums.

I really had fun putting this song together. I’d written it a few weeks ago with just the first two parts, and was feeling kinda “eh” about it later. After a little struggle I put together the current bridge and last couple of parts, and then once I added drums, bass, and vocals, I found myself liking the song incrementally more and more.

Thanks as always for listening and commenting. I’ll be back with more soon enough.

Happy Mother’s Day, Jenn. You rock my world. Happy Mother’s day to my dear mother as well, and to all of the other mothers out there whose care and affection are truly unrivaled.

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Friday, May 7th, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment


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