Thursday, 30 September 2010

The CD Story Part 2

Into 2010...

The second gig at The Lib on Valentine's Day was more nerve racking than the first for some reason. I think because now it wasn't a one off and I was nailing my colours to the mast as a solo singer/songwriter and therefore needed to raise the game. In the end it went alright I think. I learnt some stuff there indeed... using 12 strings live is a nightmare :-) I will still go there but not ever gig. I was still "sitting down" as I had at the debut and afterwards thought - I don't feel comfortable like that - so a move to stand up ... moving about... :-) was on the cards.

I took the Boss BR600 along to that and got some surprisingly good results with it just running off batteries and on the table in front of my daughter who was in control of the buttons and only using the built in mics. If you to to my Reverbnation site you'll find a couple of live tracks in there from that.

This also introduced me to Audacity. I had one big track of the whole performance which I wanted to "chop up". Colin Gilman (good egg and sadly missed blogger) suggested that Audacity would do it and indeed it did that trick. Now a tool I wouldn't be without but I still am only scraping the surface with this stuff. There is more about this at this post.

I'd hoped for a gig with Scooter Forums radio but that didn't come off. I did get to play at a friends small party locally and Toby booked me to return to the Lib in June and every so often a new song would come along. I started looking at song structures of the covers I was learning. I noticed one important point, must had some kind of bridge in them... some bit somewhere that took them away from verse, chorus, verse, chorus. I realised why some of my songs were a) short! b) not that interesting. So I endeavoured to think about this more. It delayed the completion and recording of some songs - like Everyday which was around a few months but without the "Never..." bridge bit. Well I knew I needed it - I had the two chord repeat and the sort of melody for that bit early on but couldn't get any lyrics for a fair while.

Before Dinners got a proper job again I was a regular appearer on his radio show. So I signed up to PRS I've not yet earnt from this but you can but hope :-) I need Dinners to get the show back on the air ;-)

As regulars will know I left work (redundancy) in July and that opened up a time to me to focus on the music. I did some recording of some stuff I'd written that had been lying around waiting for me to record it. I was learning more about the recorder now so if you aren't a music techy skip this bit...

So the Boss br600 is a simple all in one 8 track digital recorder. It is no longer a current model but available cheap second hand. Firstly - get a power supply! It can eat batteries and also needs secure power at many points of it's operation, failing batteries not good! You can use the internal mics - I have done for the live recording and for demos. Plug in a mic - I started with a cheap old Peavey one but have bought two Shure mics now. Or plug in an instrument.

It has a wealth of "in line" effects. This includes a COSM amp modeller - so all of my bass recordings have been via this and most of my guitar recordings but I have done some off a mic from my Hughes and Kettner amp. For me some acoustics are microphone recordings (esp things like Golden Moment, Gypsy etc.) but others are using my electro and using the inline effects to colour that.

It also has a drum machine that took me a while to suss out - hence why most of the early recordings have no drums!! I don't know why I didn't get it - just stupid at first. You have to get the bpm fixed and then work from that. Once that is done I now know how useful that is for things like "loop recording" (i.e. looping the same bit over and over to practice a solo) or punch ins to patch up mistakes ... every bloody bass line for me! :-)

You have tracks 1 - 4 then a stereo tracks on 5/6 and 7/8. Normally if needed I bounce to 5/6 early on and reuse the early tracks but in one case (Strength of their hearts) I used 5/6 for a stereo guitar patch with the inline effects. My arrangements are never overly burdened with too much stuff so I've never got to need to use all 8 tracks. Good thing is the drums are a separate thing, only if you have them playing in a bounce do they get actually recorded... there was a learning - don't bounce early with the drums playing if you haven't finalized the drum pattern!!! doh! So now I only add the drums to the final bounce down. I've read some forum comments where they say that the Br600 is only really a 6 track as you need the tracks for the final bounce... wrong. It has a clever trick in that you can select a "virtual track" for it to go on and so you bound to 7/8 V2 not V1 and that should I believe work - I've not tried it mind. That means you have 8 full tracks and you could have done two stereo bounces if you thought about it and a full stereo drum rack as well on the final mix down. Not bad for a box about the size (but deeper) of an iPad.

Other tips on the BR600 - buy memory cards. It is tempremental about size and speed etc. So update the s/w from the Roland site and then buy ones you find recommended on forums. The ones I bought like this have given me no trouble at all.

Once recorded and the last bounce is done... what then? I export the 7/8 track with the stereo mix down done. You export to a WAV file and get that onto you PC. I then use a cheap MP3 converter I've got. However increasingly - actually always now I load up into Audacity. I then just trim the start and end... normally at the start I've had a counting on the drums for a few bars which I replace with silence before the mix down - so there are several seconds of nothing... or more commonly a cough and or string scrapes! Audacity allows you to easily select that and cut it... and the same at the end. One thing I learnt from the studio experience was that you can do fade outs as well. I've just got into that in Audacity to give a better ending where some of my early ones you can hear where the stop button was hit on the bass line or whatever. In Audacity select the tail of the track and hit effects and then fade out... brilliant. There are other things like a fade in etc. I've not yet tried but think I will at some point on something... a la Boston More Than a Feeling start etc.

Okay techy bit sort of over...

My wife paid for me to have some time in a professional studio which you can read about here. I learnt a huge amount in that few hours. Punch ins and outs - use of effects etc. All really great stuff and the out come track was everything I'd hoped for and the production I'd had in my head since writing it back at the beginning of the year. I'd never recorded it as I wanted to "get it right" but knew it needed a lot of stuff.

So here we are nearly into October... nearly a year since I first emailed Toby.

I've played a bunch of gigs at The Libertine and a couple of private party ones as well. I've written a whole bunch of stuff - 54 mins approx (ok Waterfall, I Used To Know Her, Solo Sunday and Gypsy were already written ... but....). I've got a gig at The Lamb and Flag coming up (Oct 23rd) which I'm really chuffed about - that will be a 30min all original material set! :-) I've been played several times on internet radio - thanks Dinners and Scooter Forums radio. Really it was Dinners huge enthusiasm and appetite for material that really spurred me on at the start of all this. I've had the Reverbnation page up for a while and it's a great way of getting my material out there... it is listen to by some people from time to time, I set up a Myspace one too befriend me on that if you are on there.

So I looked at this body of work and thought - make a CD. I looked at duplication/printing costs and could have got 1000 done or something but thought - will I sell a 1000? Who knows. But I thought, apart from Let Me Love You Tonight and the time in the studio then this has been all totally me writing, playing, recording etc. so why not the CD as well. I bought some blank CDs, empty cases, a program to make/print labels and inlays and did it all myself. I've sold a handful so far but one to punxxi who is someone I've never physically met and who lives in the USA... can I claim I'm an international recording artist now? One caveat - my son took the cover photo and did the photoshop manipulation on that ... so he has a credit as well :-)

You look at it and ok the numbers are low, num of gigs, attendances at gigs, listeners to the Drunk Punk Show, number of CDs sold, hits on Myspace/Reverbnation... etc. However what the heck I've done all this in a year and I'm reasonably proud of it all.


  1. You worked hard andI wish you much success...Do you have a YouTube channel set up also?

  2. I do - not a lot on there... furtheronmusic it is called