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September 2, 2010

A New Blog

Okay, so here we are, September 2010.

I struggled a lot with what to do with this blog and how to keep it relevant to what was going on with me, musically. In the end I decided that the basic premise was long dead, so I decided to close up shop.


I've started a new blog, called "Recording Red". You can find it here. It's still not house-trained, so expect changes along the way. Still, it's a start, eh?

August 24, 2010

Gratuitous Short Post

Looks like my birthday pressie's going to lend a new "heavy metal" sound in my songs... no, not that kind of heavy metal!

Col, if you're out there, thanks for helping Tim out with this ;)

May 11, 2010

So Close... can almost smell them!

So I got an email through today to let me know that the Derek Trucks Band's latest offering, a double live CD entitled "Roadsongs", is available for pre-order.

BUT WAIT. There's more!

If you pre-order, you get the chance to win one of Derek's very own, used glass slides. Cool...


You also get the chance to win, and I quote:

"A dTb Roadsongs air freshener for your car! That way, when you listen to Roadsongs while on the road, you'll get to enjoy the great smell of dTb along with their sound."

Now, I love the dTb, their music. Even if I had a car these days (which I don't), I'm not sure I'd want it to actually smell of the band.

April 26, 2010


I'm not a great believer in most mumbo-jumbo, but I think I had my first experience of being around a muse over the past week.

The Muse, or M for short, is the daughter of one Tim's 'crowd' from his Kansas City days. Biologically, she's young, a mere twenty-five years old. Tim remembers her as a child, precocious and fun, soaking up the energy from the eclectic bunch of people she grew up with. Despite her age, the catalogue of her life experiences to date seems endless. Right now, she's doing the rounds in Europe and we were lucky enough to spend time with her during her first visit to London.

It wasn't the first time I'd met her. That was last year, close to midnight on Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras, baby. New Orleans. Strangely, it was the same time I'd been given my 'lucky' transit token. That story is here.

Anywho, whilst living in LA it seems she was in the right place at the right time to rub shoulders with all the right people from the music industry. So much so that she's currently dating the drummer from one of my favourite songwriter's new band. It seems that if I want to meet him and hang out with the band I just need to make it to any of the shows on their upcoming tour.


Maybe I should start a PayPal fund...

Long story short, just having her around was incredibly inspirational. During her visit I was almost constantly jotting down lyric ideas and had a constant melody stream running through my brain.

Now she's gone. I need to turn my random scribblings into something cohesive.

April 16, 2010

If I Didn't Need Them...

...I'd take 'em out.

Once again, my eyes are screwed. This time it's not just one, but both. No, it's not a flare-up of the old trouble I had last year. This time it's conjunctivitis. The doctor wasn't sure whether it was viral or bacterial, but it's certainly one of the contagious ones. I went to the doctor on Tuesday morning. They said to be really careful as it could spread to the other eye. I woke up on Wednesday with both eyes glued shut.


Ironically, despite being in both eyes, this isn't as bad as when I kept getting an infection in my left eye. This is annoying and uncomfortable, but not debilitating. I even went to the gym last night! It's demotivating, though. The constant scratchiness drives me mad. Working with computer screens all day doesn't help. Nothing helps, actually, except for the occasional cold compress between cups of coffee and ritual hand-washings. I want to be off work, but I can't afford it. I want to sit in a dark room with an ice-pack over my eyes, but I can't.

As usual, I just have to get on with it and hope that it clears up sooner rather than later. It's a contractor's lot. No sick pay means I can't be sick... even when I am.

April 12, 2010

Park Life

On Saturday I left the house.

The sun was shining and, well, our house stank of dank plasterboard, so I grabbed my old electric, assorted gizmos including an amplug (headphone amp) and headed into town. The plan was to sit in one of London's many parks, avoid the police and the homeless, and jam for a bit. Maybe I'd even hit upon a song idea or two.

In truth, the session wasn't very productive. First off I was bothered by a hoarde of screaming kids who took every opportunity to fuss around me, sucking on stones, eating dirt etc (as kids do). Where were the parents? Who can say. After they left (presumably kidnapped or shaken to death by a roaming nanny assassin squad, I got about ten minutes peace before a gaggle of SLR numpties decided I'd make an interesting subject for their photo-lesson. The annoying thing was that they were clearly trying to be sneaky about it, so they'd take turns standing next to me so that each of them could innocently shoot their friend... guys... your friend is standing 4 feet to the side...



Okay, so if you're doing something unusual in the pubic domain you're fair game, but c'mon, take a picture and move on. Don't try to be coy about it, spending half an hour hovering.

I did achieve two things. First off, I escaped from the house. Second off, I started in writing a song in The Black Keys stylee.

I don't know whether it's going to be any good, but I made a quick recording whilst it was fresh in my mind and I'll work on it later.

April 9, 2010

Rain Stops Play

So what have I been up to lately?

Mostly shouting at idiots.

The neighbour's flat upstairs sprung a leak. It started raining in our bedroom. We told the owner about it. He said the leak wasn't coming from him. We said, "Yes it is". He said, "No it isn't".

He lives in Paris and rents it out.

Can you see where this is going.

He said that he wanted to wait until his mate was free to come around and look at it.

When would that be?

A week on Tuesday!

But it's raining... IN OUR BEDROOM!

Nothing to do with him.

But it's coming from YOUR FLAT!

No it isn't.

Okay, so you say it's not coming from your flat. Can we take a look?


But there are no access panels in your bathroom. You TILED IN all the pipes and connections!

That's why he doesn't want to do anything. It'd mean punching a hole in the wall.


Fast forward 5 days. We finally got access to the flat by lobbying the management company and they made a hole.

Quelle surprise (a verbal nod to the owner's current location) there was a swimming pool behind the tiles. The leak was from a tap that his father-in-law had tried to descale as it was sticking. Leak fixed, water stopped pouring through our ceiling... after nearly a week of battle.

Y'know, I like the rain. I really do, especially warm summer showers. Call me fickle. I prefer it when it's outside.

March 31, 2010

Guitar Players Vs Musicians

Last night I braved the unseasonably crap weather to check out the blues jam at a local pub. It's one I've been to before and the standard of musicianship is usually pretty high. Tonight was no exception... mostly.

Halfway through the evening a young man made his way to the front, joining the motley crew of musos already inhabiting the space. He looked nervous. Perhaps it was his first time.

Plugging in his hollowbody electric, he stepped up to the mic and launched into the intro to The Stones' "Honkey Tonk Woman". I say The Stones as it was their version, accurately mimicked, chord for chord, note for note.

The audience were bemused, as were the other guys onstage who stood there, mute. The MC of the evening pulled him up short, whispering something in his ear. A minute later, when everyone was ready, he started in again. The drums fell in, then bass, then the second guitar.

Within ten seconds, the band were a shambles. Bum notes were strewn over the backing track supplied by the oblivious singer/guitarist at the mic. It was a shambles. Nails down a chalkboard.

The song finally ground to a halt. Sighs of relief were breathed. And then he started into Peter Green's "Need Your Love So Bad". Once again, the song started off as a solo affair with the other guys trying to follow the changes. Just as they fell in it seemed time to climax and fade. They did. The frontman didn't. He stood there at the mic, playing and singing for at least another minute. At times the drummer offered a hit. At others the guitarist played alone.

At the end of the second song there was a hearty round of applause. The impression I got was that it was out of sympathy for the poor guys who were forced to stand up there, dying more with each passing bar.

It really drove home to me two things. First off, unless it's a I-IV-V, don't turn up to a jam with songs that your co-musos aren't likely to know inside out and secondly, that it's one thing to be a decent guitar player, able to accurately replicate a piece of music, exactly as played on a record, but it's something else entirely to be a musician and play with a band.

March 29, 2010

Summer's Coming

Fingers crossed that Summer's on the way. I actually manage to get an hour or so's playing in the sun on Sunday!

March 25, 2010

A Post, A Post, My Kingdom...

Or: "Alright, Col, I'll write something!"

I can't say I haven't been busy, it's just that the focus of my dilligence has been the home front and work. My efforts to put in some music/me time over the past couple of weeks has been side-swiped by an exploding boiler and, well, work.

Ok, so the boiler didn't explode, but it was making a tanking noise like you wouldn't believe, and after being treated (by an expensive plumber who subsequently refused to return my phone calls) to a dose of descaler and inhibiter, went from incredibly noisy to silent. Not the good silent, mind you. The oh-shit-it's-fucked silent. The only sound to be heard was the noise made by hundreds of £10 notes being flushed down the toilet.


We now have a new boiler, complete with hot water and heating. I've also cancelled our good-for-nothing British Gas service contract, which will save (=offset cost of new boiler) around £300 a year, at least whilst the new thing's under warranty. If you look at it that way, factoring in all the wasted days taken off work waiting for incompetent BG 'engineers' who may or may not turn up... well, at this point a little peace of mind goes a long way.

Am I whining? I think I am. Let's move on.

As usual, I'll preface the next bit with 'I'm not going to blog about the band, but...'

I'm actually feeling quite positive about the new band right now. Remember Rockschool? The course I did last year? Were you not paying attention? Really. You should be ashamed.

Anywho, one of the real newbie guitar players from Rockschool surprised me and my bassist (another Rockschooler) when she invited us to her band's first gig! Wot? Eh?
Impressed? Me? Hell yes.

So, we went along, not knowing what to expect and it was brilliant self-styled housewife punk (in a way). Our co-student held down rhythm guitar perfectly. She says she made some mistakes but we didn't notice. Really, really proud of her.

Seeing her up there was a real kick in the butt. I don't think it's too much of an ego trip to say that we're better musicians than they were but when it comes down to it, we're still farting around and they're up there, doing it.

As we stumbled out of the venue, bassist heading home, me heading out to find a vacant podium to dance on (it was Saturday night and all the clubs lay between me and home), we were both fired up about nailing down a short setlist and getting out there. In principal, we thought of doing roughly 50:50 covers and originals, just to be in the game.

Whilst under the influence [cough] I agreed that I'd stick to lead, pushing our other guitarist to rhythm for now. He's the better all-round player, mind, it's just that my lead's better than my rhythm, so it made sense at the time for me to concentrate on my strengths in the short term.

I also said I'd have a go at singing during rehearsals. That lasted about 5 minutes! I don't think I've found my 'key' yet. I'm not sure I have one.

Okay, so we're kinda looking at nailing down a few covers (which we pretty much have, anyway, though we need to bring in vox) and polishing up some originals for variety. Long term it'd be good to go 'all originals' but due to pressure of work for everyone, that's not so easy. So far, the only vague song ideas have been tabled by me, but I've told the guys to bring any ideas they have to the next rehearsal.

Okay, so that's it for blogging about the band!!!! The main point was that we're all in agreement that there's no real reason we shouldn't be up on stage, performing... so that's where our drive is aimed at.

I've not really come back to the album sessions since I last blogged. EZDrummer's come in handy at acoustic jams we've had round at our place, though. Plug and play.

So Col, there's a post :-) Any chance of an iPhone link on your demos?

March 13, 2010

Oli Brown & Jonathon Ross

Ok, so this was random and not something I'd normally do out of respect for celebs' privacy, but...

Last night I ran into Jonathon Ross plus wife at a book reading by David Sedaris. When I saw Mr Ross I remembered that the Oli Brown Band were trying to get on his show a while back and so, before I knew it, I did the unthinkable, briefly stopped the man and, passing him a note with the band's name on, I urged him to check them out...

Now, he did say that his show really didn't do blues, but you never know. Maybe he'll get curious about the name scrawled on the back of a lunch receipt and take a look.

Their second album is coming out soon and hopefully they'll do sone shows to promote it. If you like fiery blues guitar in the SRV vein (amongst others), do try to catch one of their shows!

March 8, 2010

Work Starts On New Album!

Okay, so as I blogged before, last weekend was frustrating in that I was supposed to start actually writing songs but I simply didn't manage to get anything concrete done.

Since then I managed to get EZDrummer installed and running under Reaper. It turned out that it was actually running correctly the last time I played with it, I just hadn't realised that I'd got play/pause clicked in my 'main window' on Reaper, which was why I couldn't audition grooves in EZDrummer. Since that realisation, everything's been smooth and EeeeZeeee.

Note to self: download free grooves from Groove Monkee!

So, I actually managed to make a start on Sunday afternoon. But how come this time around I managed to make progress, whereas last time I failed? I figure it's down to two things. First off, EZDrummer. It's a small thing, but having a realistic backing rhythm actually helps. More importantly, though, I'd prepared adequately.

Last week, after blogging about the 'style' of the album, I sat down with my iTunes library and went through it, picking out songs which either had the feeling I wanted or had strumming patterns, guitar sounds, chord changes etc that fit. On Sunday I looked over my notes and selected snippets to use as starting points. Setting up a drumbeat in Reaper, adjusting tempo and hitting 'record' I just started to play. When I hit on something I liked I'd develop the idea and save it to a 'work in progress' (WIP) file. Each WIP (my terminology) consisted of riffs, chords, lead ideas in terms of either melody or appropriate scales etc. As soon as I had an idea recorded, even if sections were filled with bum notes etc, I forced myself to stop work on that track and start anew with something else. That way I would get as much out whilst I felt creative without dwelling too much on the detail.

In the end, I think I ended up with five WIPs, all of which sounded like songs. Only one of those came from an existing composition of mine. The other four were completely original and new. If I can keep up that level of inspiration over the coming weeks then maybe this album idea will take off!

March 3, 2010

Not So EZDrummer

Okay, so I decided to treat myself to a copy of EZDrummer so that I could create/manipulate drum tracks easily within Reaper.

What's EZDrummer? Essentially a set of pre-recorded drum grooves that can be midi-triggered so that you can knock up realistic basslines for your home recordings.

The concept's great. Preview grooves, tweak, drag and drop onto your time-line etc. It's also not alone in the market. There are a few other packages that do similar things. It's actually not a million miles away from Instant Drummer on the iPhone which I've used for band rehearsals (only much more in-depth).

So far, my experience of the program, or rather the virtual instrument hasn't been flawless. I've got it working within Reaper... just about. After a couple of false starts, including the drums sounding fine when previewed then first off silent followed by sounding like a piano (midi patch 1?) I randomly clicked devices on and off until I got drums... realistic drums. Yay!

It took me about 2 hours of hair-pulling to get to that point. The installation's still not perfect. For some reason the AISO driver craps out from time to time so I have to come out and go back into the program.... don't know why. I'm sure with time I'll get things running smoothly, but after such a struggle to get anything out I wasn't feeling inspired to keep playing.

Anywho, I guess when I've had the chance to try it out in anger (possibly at the weekend?) I'll post a demo.

Oh, and I suppose I should say that I got the basic package plus "Vintage Rock" (eg a Beatles-esque kit) bundled. It looks like other kits and grooves are available from 3rd party vendors, too, such as Groove Monkee.

March 1, 2010

Baby Steps

So, this weekend I was going to start on "The Album". How did it go?

Well, I got as far as pulling out all my guitars, fixing a cup of coffee and strumming a Dsus2 chord. In terms of positive progress, that was about it.

Okay, so I'm being somewhat "glass half empty" about the whole thing. What I did do was make some choices as far as the style of the album etc and also in terms of procedures. What does that mean? Well, stuff like how I would record stuff, the need to document amp settings, mic placements etc, making sure that my hand-held digital recorder was handy for capturing ideas etc.

Musically, my mojo was on a break, though. Despite hours of noodling and brooding I didn't feel like I made any tangible progress, artistically. Still, I guess just starting is something. You gotta start somewhere...

Oh, stylistically we're talking some raw electric blues mixed with the occasional acoustic plucking. Swampy and honest.

February 25, 2010

An Album?

So, I got to thinking... dangerous, I know.

The band's ticking over. Everybody's keen but most of us seem to be tied up with 'life' stuff right now which takes precedence. Trying to get my own ducks in a row, let alone align everyone else, isn't easy. Ideally I'd like to rev up rehearsal sessions to once a week as opposed to once every two to three weeks, but that doesn't seem to be an option. Such is life. Not much I can do about that.

This blog started off as a motivational tool for me to learn and progress. It worked. I achieved my initial goal of getting into a band, albeit a short-lived one, and at least now I'm comfortable that I can play with a band. That doesn't seem like much, but it's definitely a paradigm shift for me.

So how should I keep motivated? How do I keep moving forwards between sessions with the band? Part of me thinks that musically I should be focusing my effort on stuff for the band but then again I also recognise that to an extent, the movements and commitment of the guys is beyond my control. I can attempt to inspire [cough] but ultimately, we're a bunch of individuals, each with their own needs, wants and situations. Realistically, the only person I can control is, well, me.

So, that leaves me with two fixed points. I want to be motivated and I'm the single thing in life that's under my control. Where does that leave me?

My gut reaction would be to say 'up the creek' (band notwithstanding) but then I thought, what's changed since I started the project and I realised that one of the big things to change is that I now have a reliable method of recording, arranging and mixing songs which isn't 'layer based', ie I can mix everything at once without having to put rhythm over drums then record lead on top, then vox etc. Oh, and also I have a method... not a great method, but a method nonetheless, of recording a bassline by pitch-shifting my acoustic guitar. Aside from vox, I now have the capacity to be a one-man-band.

Now, there's food for thought, eh? Also, even though I could do it all myself, I could also bring in the guys from the band to help out on an ad-hoc basis. If I wrote, say, 8 songs and covered a couple, that'd be an album right there. Ten songs. Doesn't seem like much, does it?


I guess I was a little inspired by a guy last weekend. We went to a 'gallery' which was hosting the debut performance of a play (monologue) written by a friend of ours. After the play there was an open mic (without the mic) and this guy came onstage (not that there was a stage) and sang a medley of songs from his 'soon to be released' album. The songs were mostly two or three chord jobs, but they were all good. Made me think 'I could do that'. That's not to diminish the whole singer-songwriter thing, but... well... but.

It's just a thought, y'know... but I'm a-thinkin'.

February 24, 2010

Time Management

So, I picked up a guitar last night, for about 10 minutes total. First time I'd picked one up since, well, since my band's acoustic jam over two weeks ago.

My time management has been less than stellar lately. Granted, immediately after a jam you sometimes want to not play for a day or so, but really I've just suffered from not being able to make time. I could diarise the week or so following the jam to prove that I didn't have any opportunity to play (I won't!) and then in the past seven or eight days I've simply lacked motivation. Work. Laundry. Life. Last night I found my first free 10 minutes to hold an axe. I started to learn the solo to "Outside Woman Blues" using the TabToolkit iPhone app I talked about before. The app worked surprisingly well. Despite the short space of time I made good progress. Perhaps at the weekend I'll see my way clear to recording OWB, or at least the backing track.

I'll admit I'm still unmotivated and unsure as to how to plan my days better to allow more time for music. I look at my calendar and I don't see many breaks in the clouds. Sometimes... often... I think it's me who makes the clouds. If I could just plan things better I'd be on top of work and house stuff as opposed to underneath it. Hmmm. Knowing what I should be doing isn't the same as doing it, though, is it?

Hey, you know what? I think I'm going to sign off here, go grab a sandwich and start planning my next recording. Just gotta overcome inertia. Gotta get the ball rolling again.

February 17, 2010

Tab Toolkit

First off, let's get one thing straight. I hate guitar tab. Why? Several reasons! Tab is transcribed music. Very few tabbers out there actually manage to hear the right notes and hence put them down on paper correctly. Second, the guitar being the beastie that it is, if you want to play any note, or, heaven forbid, a chord you generally have several places you can play it. On top of that a true musician might choose to play the same lick in different spots on a whim! Tabbing all of that accurately isn't easy. Last, but not least, most tab sites on the internet are rife with pop-ups, spyware, viruses etc. Not very healthy places to go surfing! Oh, and just when you find a decent site, they get a take-down order!

So, in my experience, if I've wanted to learn a riff or song it's been quicker to just work it out by ear. As a last resort, I've hunted for tabs... usually finding 'versions' which are clearly less accurate than what I've already come up with.

So, that notwithstanding... I give you TabToolkit... yet another iPhone application. The burning question is: is this something worth having?

My somewhat surprising answer is... yes! I think so. Particularly if you actually like tab.

What does it do? It reads and stores tabs from websites then plays them back through midi, showing you the fingering on a virtual fretboard. My first surprise was that the program works at all, which it does, seamlessly. You can read in tab, select playback speeds, follow the tab itself or the fretboard, swipe to scroll back and forwards... pretty much anything you might want to do.

The other selling point is that it uses tabs in "Power Tab" format, which means multiple instruments can be accessed, including guitar, bass and piano etc. Whilst for a guitarist this may not be too important, but what it means is that the people putting in the effort to make these files seem to go the extra mile and get the transcription better than the scruffy oiks scratching grubby pencil marks across crumpled bits of paper. I won't say that all the tabs I've downloaded have been perfect, but they've been better.

Which brings me to another new discovery, a website called "Tab Library". For those of you who can use Power Tab, it's a pretty decent resource and, apparently, 100% legal! Imagine?!?!

February 11, 2010

Movie Review: It Might Get Loud

Okay, so I don't know whether this movie went under everyone's radar, but I caught something about it in a guitar magazine a while back then I was reminded about it by a band-nut friend of mine, who insisted that I watch it. So, last night, I did.

Brief synopsis: it's a [cough] rockumentary which brings together 3 guitarists from 3 musical eras. Representing the 60's and 70's, we have Jimmy Page, from the 80's and 90's, the Edge and from the new millennium, in comes Jack White.

Apart from giving hard-core guitar nerds something to think about during sex, what was the main thrust of the film, I hear you ask. Well, I think it was trying to give some insight into what drives someone to become a musical innovator, whilst at the same time charting the course of musical history.

Yes, I'm a guitar nerd. Yes, I really enjoyed it. Watching the show was a really strange experience, though. You really got the feeling that each of these guys was a major loner and that music was their connection to the world... well, with the exception of Mr White, who I thought was pretty damn cool, all things considered. Noisy. Cool.

There was precious little interaction between the guitarists and their surroundings. Everywhere they were filmed was deserted, bleak. You got the feeling that somehow that was a reflection of their souls.

Mr Page came across as sublimely laid back, a contented survivor. Mr Edge, well, he annoyed me with his "I'm just strumming an E-chord and this 12-foot stack of electronics manned by two technicians is what's actually making the sound". Mr White, well, he acquitted himself well in an almost Tim Burton meets A Clockwork Orange fashion.

Ach, I shouldn't be so down on Mr Edge. He found his sound through manipulating and modulating. That in itself is valid in an Jackson Pollock in a beanie kind of way. I guess there's a kind of jealousy there in the whole 'you made it, but not the way I would have chosen'.

If anything, my main complaint about the movie was that it was too short. I wanted it to be a 3 hour show. I wanted more riffs, more NOISE. I wanted to know these guys more...

February 10, 2010

Back Porch

Me and the guys, sittin' on the back porch, having a strum... metaphorically speaking, of course. It's bloody cold on the back porch and there's no heater!

I don't plan on sharing too many cuts from my band's jam sessions, but I was listening back to this one today, and I found it kind of soothing. As you can probably tell from the clunks and banging around it was just a groove we had going on as we were setting up and getting comfortable.

February 9, 2010

Acoustic Jamming

Ok, so I made a conscious decision not to blog about the new band, but I just wanted to say that we had our first acoustic jam at my place together last night and, well, it was damn fun! From the get-go, listening back to the recording of it, trying to isolate cuts to share with the other guys, I was struck by how musical we sounded. Real sitting on the back porch, pickin'.

We even had a jam around on a song I wrote a year or so ago, just for fun. It's not a bluesy tune, but the guys seemed to dig it so I guess maybe we'll take that one forward...

February 6, 2010

Whisky River

Here's "Diving Duck Blues", reimagined as "Whisky River" by Colin Gillman of! This mixing lark is a challenge, eh? I think when I start recording some of my original stuff I'm in for hours of tweaking!

February 4, 2010


One of the crappy things about home recording, at least for me, is the resulting insomnia.

Last night, after having my latest stab at recording the solo for Diving Duck Blues I lay awake in bed, the background riff looping over and over in my head. Try as I might I couldn't shift it from my brain. I could not drift off.

Then, for no apparent reason, Oscar the cat started to howl. Sometimes he sits by the bed at night and mews gently as if to politely ask "Are you awake, Daddy? Do you want to play?" This was not such a sound. This was a full on feline battle cry. I swung my legs over onto the floor and gestured for him to approach. He did. Slipping past my welcoming hands he made a b-line for my ankle and sunk his teeth in. Suffice to say that for the next hour he waged a full-on war against me. Waterboarding? Pah. Nothing on Oscy. No appendage was safe. I emerged from the melee bloody and smelling of cat spit. Eventually I managed to get enough of a grip on the ferocious moggy to manoeuvre him into the bathroom and close the door. The howling started again, but at least the bloodshed was over.

I lay back down, more exhausted than before. A familiar strain of Diving Duck Blues emerged in my brain. D'Oh.

Think of another song... think of another song... Anything... Anything...



Tim. Still snoring. Had kicked me out of bed. I pushed my way back in.

No, no, no, no, NOOOOO!


Oscar howled louder. My blood boiled. I needed sleep. I wanted sleep. WHY WON'T YOU LET ME SLEEP?!?!?!

Making my way downstairs I set up camp on the couch. Lay back. Relax...


Think of something else. Think of something else. But what?

Ah, I'd caught a snippet of the Grammys, featuring the Black Eyed Peas performing "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night" (or whatever the song's called). That'll work. That's catchy. Yes, YES! It's working.

An hour later my mind was still churning. I'd merely replaced one catchy riff with another, catchier one. I was doomed.

February 3, 2010

Diving Back

Okay, so here's where I've got to with the Diving Duck Blues recording so far. The levels need tweaking, the end's not right yet AND I NEED VOCALS.

C'mon someone, send me a vocal track!!!!!

Here are the lyrics (I think!)

if the river was whiskey
and I was a diving
I was a diving
I was a diving duck
if the river was whiskey babe
and I was a diving duck
oooh I would dive on the bottom
baby and I'd never come up

you know the sun gonna shine in my back door
in my lonesome back
you know my lonesome back door
the sun gonna shine in my lonesome back door someday
you know the wind gonna rise up
and blow my natural blues away

let me be your sidetrack, baby honey til your main line
till your natural man
till your natural main line comes
let me be your side track
til your natural main line come
I'm a dough rollin daddy
roll you from sun to sun

[guitar solo]

put your arms around me baby
like the circle round the sun
wont you do me pretty momma like your easy rider done
wont you put your arms around me baby
like the circle round the risin sun
wont you do me pretty baby like my easy rider done

if the river was whiskey
and I was a diving, baby
I was a diving
I was a diving duck
if the river was whiskey baby
and I was a diving duck
oooh I would dive on the bottom
baby and I'd never come up

I'd dive on the bottom
baby and I'd never come up

February 1, 2010

Diving Deeper

Ok, so I had more of a go at recording a decent version of Diving Duck Blues. I'm 'mid-project', but it's sounding much better (to my ears).

I took a piece of advice from a website (somewhere) which said to basically get each track sounding right before even thinking about mixing. So far, it's working.

One thing I did was to experiment with different faux-bass options. Right now I've stuck with recording my acoustic (using a pick) then dropping an octave. Gives a somewhat funky tone which is not un-bass-like.

So... I probably won't get much chance to finish the recording for a while and, when I do, it may end up with my vocals on it (eek)... unless someone wants to volunteer their pipes? Anyone? Anyone?

January 25, 2010

A Bit Of Diving Duck Blues

Screwing around with Reaper (again). Managed to iron out the latency issues by installing universal ASIO sound drivers (though I think I could have manually calibrated the latency offset anyway... found that setting!)

Had a go at a bit of Diving Duck Blues...

Yes, I know I haven't learnt the lead part properly. I only started on it this evening!!!!

I'm not unhappy with the recording. I'm still crap at mixing, but I guess that takes time to learn!

Sequencer Virginity Lost

I'm definitely liking this whole sequencing thing.

Over the weekend I had a proper play around with Reaper. I'll admit that it took a bit of juggling of settings before I actually managed to record anything directly, as opposed to recording in a separate package then importing the media. To begin with I was recording the output master (ie everything except what I was playing). Much head-scratching led me to directly selecting the recording input from the Windows Volume Control, external to Reaper itself. As far as I can tell, this is the only way to do it. The 80MB pdf manual (yes, I did RTFM) was of little help!

What I really liked was the ability to dial in your bpm then record chunks of rhythm, chop it up into multi-bar loops with snap on and then just shuffle them around, copy/paste etc. Each clip was automatically assigned a steep ramp up/down in volume at each end for seamless blending.

Obviously, the ability to EQ, pan etc individual tracks was great, too. A major step forward from where I had to mix down every step before progressing to the next.

Oh, and the biggest shortcoming in my earlier demo recordings was the distinct lack of bass! Lately I've been looking to my band's bass player to supply me with clips, but obviously that has to be at his convenience, so they may or may not appear in a timely manner. Enter Reaper's pitch-shift FX plug-in! Record bass line on guitar, drop one octave on that track and with a bit of EQ fiddling, Bob's your uncle... a bass line! Okay, so it's not perfect, but what I did was to take one of the lines that our bass-player had already sent, shifted one octave up, then tried to emulate that tone on my guitar. That way, when I shifted down it sounded about right. Ta-dah!

My one bug-bear with Reaper so far is latency. I'm sure I can tweak the settings to improve things and, frankly, whilst recording guitar via a mic'ed amp it's not really necessary for me to monitor the input. But, what I was finding was that a newly recorded track was out of sync with everything else in the project and hence had to be manually adjusted. A small price to pay!

What else... I need to investigate multiple takes, punch-ins etc. Oh, that and the rest of the FX that come with the package.

After a very brief play I managed to make a quite serviceable version of "Diving Duck Blues" (another Taj Mahal cut). I'm thinking I might take that one along to the band's next meet (tomorrow)!

I'm still not an expert with the ol' sequencer, but I'll admit the flexibility of the thing has won me over. Everything was so easy, just the way it should be. I now can't imagine going back to recording my old way!

January 22, 2010


So, I downloaded Reaper.

It... um... came up with a nag screen saying that I was in day five hundred and somethingth of my one month evaluation period.

I [cough] guess [cough] I [cough] must have [cough] downloaded it [cough] before...

Surprised the crap out of me that it came pre-loaded with one of MY SONGS!!!!!

Just lends evidence to my theory that I get abducted by aliens every weekend.

The truth is out there...

January 20, 2010


I need to move into the new century... somewhat late, granted.

So, I've been trying to put together some demos/backing tracks for songs that I want my new band to learn... for arrangements I want the band to learn. So far it's been a really laborious, time-consuming task.

The problem is that I'm using a screw-driver to hammer in a nail, as it were. My only real experience of putting tracks together has been by painstakingly mixing together clips onto a single stereo track, piece by piece, using a wave-editor. Granted, I figured out early on that I could take a mono copy of a drum track and put it over on the left or right channel then use that as a template for the rest of the instruments, one by one, in separate files. The mix-down would then be very hit-or-miss as far as the levels were concerned as each track needed to be merged one after the other.

On Sunday night I set to re-recording the guitar parts for "Outside Woman Blues". I felt it went really well. Red's newly lowered action felt great and I was jamming. The Blackstar sounded crunchy yet funky... the E-"Hendrix" chords were stinging. Although I was tempted to just record the whole thing from start to finish in one go, instead I elected to record in sections, playing each snippet over and over, giving me a selection of decent cuts. I picked up that technique from U2... I should have known better, eh?

There I was with a wav file full of Creamy soup (a pun!). It was all pretty decent and finding useable clips was no problem at all. Then I started in on the slow process of stitching each bit together using headphones, drums in the left ear, guitar in the right. Mistake. I should have just used speakers! What sounded great in extreme stereo wasn't so great when mixed together properly. My synching was spot on in places, but lousy in others. As the guitar had been mixed to one track, there was nothing I could do but to throw my hands up in despair.

Hours wasted.

Imagine then, even if I'd got it right, our bass player is going to send me the deep end which I'd have to mix in there, too... then there's the guitar solo...

The bottom line is that I need to rethink the way I assemble songs. I need to start thinking about using a multitrack sequencer. Last night I found that I have a demo version of one, downloaded years ago but never used. I'll have a go with that and see what all this techno-wizardry is all about...

January 18, 2010

Lockdown Weekend

Okay, so this weekend was supposed to be a "lockdown", where we didn't go out, just stayed home and worked on our respective projects.


Didn't quite work out that way.


Never mind, eh?

Things outside of the lockdown included going to the London Art Fair, which was interesting. We're normally comped tickets to the annual Affordable Arts Fair in Battersea Park and, well, we saw lots of pieces from that, supposedly "budget" fair being offered at much higher prices! We also got recognised from our appearance on the BBC's Imagine show. Quite the surprise!

Er. Saw. Um. "It's Complicated". The rom-com with Meryl Streep. Yes, yes, I know. It was actually good, though. A pleasant surprise.

Went to see a friend of ours perform a monologue from a play he's written. Again, surprisingly good... considering he's actually a painter (of the fine-arts variety, not a painter and decorator)!

Add into that my Mum coming and visiting, which was lovely, but she was in a talkative mood.

All in all I didn't get to spend as much time playing and recording as I'd hoped I would. Having said that, what I did do was lower Red's action (finally). When I bought him I lowered it slightly, but not too much. Lately I've been finding it easier to play my faux Les Paul so I took the bold step of bringing the strings way down and adjusting the intonation. Can I just say... Red was rocking after that! Awesome! I went from stumbling through various songs to absolutely screaming through them. Much, much better. I'm actually thinking that perhaps I should take him to a shop to check the truss rod adjustment as I feel like the action's crept a little higher over the two years (two... or three?) I've owned him.

Still, for now, putting the action on the floor (without fret buzz, obviously!) really kicked the ol' axe into high gear. I kind of feel like there's a little bit less sustain on the high E, so I may push that side up a bit. We'll see. It's very subtle... might just be my imagination! I took the precaution of lowering the pup height at the bridge, too, just in case.

Oh, and I may have found a temporary singer for the new band. Seems very keen. Quite the bluesy voice, too. More G Love than Taj Mahal, though...

January 12, 2010

Mouse Away, Cat Can Play

Tim'll be late home this evening. Here's my masterplan:

Leave work
Buy cat litter
Go home
Pet cat
Start recording "Leaving Trunk" backing track
Heat up TV dinner (possibly curry!)
Finish recording "Leaving Trunk" backing track
Eat TV dinner
Change cat litter
Take out trash
Record "Outside Woman Blues" backing track (if time)

I guarantee I'll achieve at least one of those!

January 5, 2010

Brief BR-2 And DR-07 Test

Didn't really have time to screw around too much with either. Just a plug 'n' play test, really. First riff with no pedal, clean tone. Second with pedal and a bit of gain... Needless to say my amp's own crunch sounds much better, but it's getting some kind of tone from crappy studio kit that interests me!


It's here. The New Year. The new decade!

I, for one, am glad that 2009 is over. I know it's complete tosh to expect great changes simply because a couple have digits have incremented on a calendar, but I'm clinging to the hope that the insanity of 2009 won't be repeated in 2010. To say the least, it was a terrible year for health, wealth and happiness.

I'm not going to dwell on 2009, though, except to say that amongst other [cough] surprises at Christmas, I was treated to a £100 cash injection from my family. In my head, I'd already budgeted £100 to spend over the holidays on guitar stuff. On the self-service-Santa list were a pedal for use during rehearsals and a digital recording 'solution' for taping rehearsals. I knew £100 wasn't going to get me very far. £200? Well, that might just about stretch!

So, not long after the turkey had cooled, I headed into the west-end to check out what was on offer on and around Denmark Street.

Straight off the bat my plans hit a snag. Turnkey was closed. Not just 'closed for the Holidays' but 'closed: full stop'... Coming soon: Chipotle Burritos. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it's sad when a music shop closes, but on the other, well, I miss Chipotle and as far as I know, this'll be the first of it's kind in the UK. I miss Mission Burritos even more, but, well, my waistline doesn't!

I should go to hell for saying that I'd eat there. That's like supporting Starbucks or similar business/cancers.

Aaanyway. Turnkey was a bust. After that I zig-zagged across Denmark Street, perusing wares. On the pedal front I tried the Boss Blues Driver 2 (RRP £85) and the Marshall Guv'nor (RRP £45). I liked them both but the BD-2 really grabbed me by the cahones and held on. Despite playing it through a shitty guitar/amp combo it rocked all over the shop. As I was jamming away I was actually asked whether I worked in the store. I guess that means I'm good enough to be a failed or wannabe guitar hero!

Yes, I decided to get one. No, I didn't pay the RRP. Two minutes on the ol' iPhone and I found that it was available for less elsewhere.

Next stop the 'digital recording solution'. When our bass player turned up on Day 1 with a digi-recorder in hand I was skeptical. In hindsight I realised that I was so excited by the music we were creating that I wanted to be in control of what I got to listen back to myself. My conundrum was whether to get a mic for the iPhone and use that or to go down the route of yet another piece of kit to stuff in my trusty gig-bag. In the end I talked myself into the stand-alone solution on the basis that if our drummer wasn't able to turn up for any reason, I'd need the phone to 'sit in', which would mean I couldn't use it to record. Also, whilst it's great that a phone can do all this stuff, sometimes it's best to use the right tool for the right job, as it were.

I'd pretty much settled on the Tascam DR07, but was open to other suggestions. None of the shop-assistants had any. Pound for pound they all seemed to think that the Tascam was the way to go. RRP? Well, the shops were selling them for around £170-£190.

No... Online they're more like £135.

So, £75 for the pedal and £135 for the digi-recorder. £200 pound budget... pretty close.

Of course, I ended up slapping some blue Tortex picks on the back end of the order, too. In store price? £5 for 6. Online? £3. Still not a bargain, but that's inflation for you, I guess.

I've not tried the pedal or the recorder out in anger yet. I need to dig a patch cable out and play something worth recording to test the Tascam. Hey, I guess I could tape, like, a set of pedal samples or something...

PS I'm totally aware that by not actually buying from the stores on Denmark Street I'm probably contributing to their downfall and hence the rise of The Chain!