Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Toys

I believe a personal transistion has occurred.  The perspective has changed. The move has been made.

I've lamented too often about singing. It's not something I've ever aspired to do. But...

By default, it's my party, the job has fallen to me.

Jeff (Bass extrordinaire) sent me a note last week with an ad for singing lessons. Brett Manning's Singing Sucess. Got the CD's 2 days ago.

I am the person least likely to endorse anything. I don't do it. I don't chase people to sign up for a TV service that promises to reduce my bill by $100 per month. I don't poke friends and let them know about a power company so I can bag a $50 a month reduction in my bill. 

I listened to the first lesson (one cd). Did the exercises. And promptly went through two octaves I've never been through before. It may not be for everyone but, if you are learning to sing, or want to improve, consider this buggers CD's. If not his then find someone that knows what they're talking about. 

One of my posts reflected on screaming. Having been the screamer, I can attest that it hurts. Physically. And it takes days to recover. Having spent an hour on a lesson that seems absurd and finding myself making noises I've never made before (and before is a lot longer than what's to come) was an awakening. And it didn't hurt. If you want to sing, get some lessons.

On another front...

I've made the move to get a PA system. Public Address. It seems there should be a better word for it it seems not.

A couple of poweres speakers and a digital mixer are winging their way to my humble abode within the week. The net effect has been me running around like a kid at Christmas ^^

Well, time to grow up soon. Actually, now. Really sleepy.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Had a very good practice!

Made it through all of the songs on Dark Side. Sounding very good and getting better. The MIDI worked well.

Screaming helped. Kind of. It didn't sound great but I was able to get through 2 1/2 hours without running out of wind. Or passing out. Or turning blue.

The next step is correcting pitch. Got to get my loonie on the path...

Then there's:

Communication, Focus, Documentation, Equipment, Focus, Programming, Editing, Focus..

A lot of details.

Going through the audio of the session had me finding a rather large part of the time being wasted by me not staying focused.

Several reasons. First I like to socialize. This is fun and having friends along for the ride is a gas.

Second, I get nervous coming out of my 40 year hibernation as a closet guitarist. Toss in spending a rather lengthy lifetime not being a singer and I'm rather tightly strung coming into practice.  

Beer is good for taking the edge off. Only problem is, I like beer. A lot. Did I mention focus??? Beer is a natural focus fighting agent. I need to find a natural way to relax and stay focused. Another challenge.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Midi Miracle

Some enterprising sole did an amazing thing!! This wizard invented MIDI. Musical Instrument Digital Interface or, perhaps, Must I Do It. Using this bit of evolution without regard would allow one to be a band of one!! With regard, it can be an amazing tool for adding effects and lights and a nice mix to the music you and your band mates have created. All from a laptop.

Last week, we were working on Time from Dark Side. The intro has the long bit of tic tocs, roto toms, bass, saturated guitar and synthesizer. The tic toc carries the rythm but is impossible to sustain for much time.

After practice I pulled out an old keyboard that had been bought for the kids (Yamaha PRS-275) that hadn't been touched in years to see if we could use it. It had funny connectors on the back that looked like swollen S-video connectors. Played around with the keyboard and found a relatively nice tic toc sound.

Try playing more than 6 measures of 16th tic tocs in succession. With a consistent beat. Impossible unless you drum for the Rolling Stones. I don't. So... I found the owners manual (online) and lo and behold, there's a description of the MIDI and all of the standards. We are saved!!!

Except... The manual lets you know what the keyboard can do. Not entirely how to do it. Back to the wonderful world of web.

BING is fun but only as smart as the user. Mine is rather, well, mostly confused but occasionally brilliant.

To make a long and exasperating search short, I found that you need a Midi sequencer and an interface cable to get your toys working. Thanks Tweakheadz for MIDI 101! A search for sequencer reviews landed a demo download of FL Studio 10 and recommendations for a usb to MIDI interface cable.

There is an FL Studio promo on YouTube. Simply watching it opened an entirely new world. Pretty much any piece of equipment can be controlled through MIDI. Keyboards, Mixers and light shows being the parts that have me running around like a 6 year old at Christmas. I CAN'T FREAKING WAIT!!!

Downloaded the FL demo and clank... It's not real obvious how to set the bugger up. Of course, FL comes with help but, phhht. This clock. That clock. This MIDI setting, and that. It took a considerable amount of discipline to get out of the Cristmas mode and get back to the engineer mode. Running through the port, clock and sync settings managed nothing but sore fingers. The library search on FL landed the big one. MIDI OUT!!! A bit of tweaking and a few resets later and, the ancient Yamaha began to sing at my command from 10 feet away (2 meters for my Russian friends).

It's always nice when this stuff works. The purchase of the full FL Studio 10 will occur this week. I now have visions of controlling the mixer, effects and lights through MIDI. I have promised the keyboard player (my most lovely wife : )) that she will never be replaced by MIDI. I Promise!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wonderful World of Web

This is kinda neat. There are stats on visitors to this blog. It's almost like the olympics.

USA = 15, Russia = 11, Canada = 5, Germany = 3, Malaysia = 2

I'm betting that the USA visitors are likely members of the band. Or knitters. Which may account for a Canadian or two. No Chinese though. Wonder if that's a one way street?

I quit watching the Olympics. American atheletes are, with some poignant exceptions, A**holes. I honestly hope the mens basketball team goes 0 for 100 in the final game. I want to apologize to Nigeria for the pure act of piling on that these, so called, professionals felt compelled to administer. 156-73 is not a score. It's an embarrassment for everyone involved. Including the home country...

I miss amature sports.

I digress. It's a bad habit I have.

I'm an amature musician. I certainly hope i don't run into the American basketball team between now and my first concert. If nothing else, I would be heard screaming into the empty night. Which I do every night as part of my practice.

By the way, please feel free to drop a comment. It would be interesting to hear from visitors. Native tongue is quite welcome.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


This seems to be working...

Scream the lyrics! As loud as you can without getting arrested! (Note: there is nothing worth going to jail for...).

Screaming as many of them as you can without passing out is a good thing. Passing out, in itself, can be judged entirely upon the method used to get there.

This seems to have a twofold effect. Breathing is number one on the effect parade. You really have to suck air to scream. Seems it really helps to suck air during a song as well. Sucking half the air will get you half the song. I should probably copywrite that...

Grabbing half the air to get through a passage is a recipe to... feel free to fill this one in... The copywrite is yours if you're so inclined.

My personnal result is weakness of voice. That little waa-waa effect that creeps out with no air behind it. The one that had me trying to hide in the bottom of my chair while attending the concert described below.

I had the pleasure of going to my daughters high school chorus finale concert a few months ago.  There were some wonderful moments. There were some good moments. And there were some OMG shoot me moments.

Stamina. The OMG moments were, mostly, young folks running out of steam. The poor child singing songs with endless chorus's at the end. It's painful to listen to. My effort in last weeks practice was profoundly painful for the poor unfortunate souls stuck in that room.

Fortunately, it's my band and I can suck if I want too??? There's a shoot me moment right there. My band mates deserve better.

So, I'm screaming. And playing. And recording (delete is a cool tool!). It's getting better. And the endurance is improving. The hesitation is diminishing. The strength of voice is there at the end.

My sincere wish is that there are no shoot me moments in the audience when this plan comes to fruition. No trying to hide in their chairs. Hmmm, perhaps I need to ensure that there are no chairs for the audience to hide in. That would be cruel. :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Did you know that if you don't practice, properly, it's a lock you won't improve. If you practice the wrong way, it's a guarantee you'll get worse. Guess what I did??

I spent the better part of the past two weeks learning lyrics. The key word being "learning".

Sitting by myself, I can get most of the words to dark side of the moon out in relatively accurate order. I learned words. Not how to sing them.

Adding a guitar, several musicians, a microphone, amplifiers and music and I promptly reverted back into a babbling idiot. Actually, a babbling idiot that couldn't find a note in a room full of Post It's. Baaaaaad!

My practice methods will change. I will play, sing, record and improve. An hour a day at least.

If I don't improve after the next two practices, I will have to fire myself  and get a replacement.

On the good side, the band sounds great aand shows steady improvement. The music is coming together. I need to learn to post audio.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hearing Yourself

This is an odd subject. For a lot of reasons.

I'm very new to singing. Out loud and in public at any rate.

I like to think that I'm my own worst critic but that implies that I'm capable of judging. What if i stink at judging???

The recorder will be running at this weekends practice. God, help me.

We've all seen the singers on stage with their ear buds locked tightly to their heads. Found out that this is referred to as an In Ear Monitor or IEM for those of us who like short stuff.

The sound going to these typically comes from a mixer where the user can select the combinations of voice and music channels that they feel provides them with the feedback they seek.

I'm thinking that, if I ever get one of these bad boys, my wisest choice would be to add a liberal dose of the mute channel.

Several chat threads mention the pros and cons of this IEM system or that. The interesting thing is that, very often, someone refers to simply using ear plugs. I like that idea and will certainly try it out.

We'll probably have to have hand signals lest someone tosses a brick at my head to get my attention.

Off to build a practice schedule for this weekend.