New Toys

Since the last time we got together:

The New Coursera Cafe Karaoke Project, which will be “You’ve Got A Friend, has been postponed until September.

The Coursera Blues Jam follow-up to “Be True” seems to have been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest/participants.

“Baby Bought A Pistol” is still a back-burner issue, no doubt to be abandoned.

I have started working on a new original song that’s inspired by a dream my ex had, but that’s a story for another time. The lyrics are close to being finished, and I’ve mapped out the production.

But first…

Being a gadgethead and a sucker for deals, I’ve recently acquired two pieces of hardware that I’m anxious to try out.

The first is the Line 6 Mobile In

.

I have been using an iRig for a long time, but since the input goes through the headphone jack, quite a bit of electrical noise can be picked up. I tried different cords and settings, but the crackling noise is still maddeningly noticeable.

They can be had online ranging from $24.99 to $49.95, but in mid-July Musician’s Friend offered it as their “Stupid Deal Of The Day” for $9.99. Couldn’t pass that up! I’ve played around with it a bit, and it seems fantastic, but haven’t tried recording yet.

The second is a Blue Mikey Digital, which I read about in an article by Dan Cross.

I’m too cheap to spend $99.99 on something like this, but a little research helped me find a refurbished one at Rakuten.com for $40.97 (with free shipping, even). It just arrived yesterday, so I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.

My next project will be something simple to put my new toys through their paces.

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[Coda]

The saga of “Baby Bought A Pistol” is at an end. At least for now, at least in this form.

I tried doing some vocals over the backing track, and discovered the song is just not going to work in it’s current state. I’m just not feeling it. The lead tones are too shrill, the lyrics are boring, the story cliche. I’ve grown disinterested in trying to finish it. I may try to rework it at another time, but for now it’s a dead project.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on contributions to new Coursera Cafe Group Karaoke and Coursera Blues Jam projects.

Maybe walking away and coming back will be the shot in the arm I need to finish the late “Baby Bought A Pistol”.

[riff]

Back to work, at least temporarily. The Coursera Blues Jam is starting work on another track, and that may distract me a bit.

But not for too long, I think. I find it takes me forever to get a new project rolling, but usually, once it does, I become consumed with it.

I recorded the riff with my Strat through iRig into GarageBand, pretty much the same way it was played in the video. Not “pretty much” the same way; the same way. Not straight through the entire song, though. Modern technology allows me to do a lot of cut-and-paste. I recorded the riff for 12 measures, then copied it throughout. I did a little edit of the main riff to serve as the bridge, and that was that. A little time spent fooling with the guitar tone, and I was done.

I started working on the bass track, and decided to build it with GarageBand’s Smart Bass feature. I can’t get the tone I want playing through a regular guitar, like I did with “Closing The Door”.

The Coursera Blues Jam

I wrote last time that I was involved with a little side project with some fellow students of the Developing Your Musicianship course offered by the Berklee College of Music through Coursera. That project is now complete, and I share it with you here.

First, a few notes from our producer:

In early May, a small group of us in our FaceBook study group decided to put together a little blues jam track, the idea being to have a little fun together irrespective of whether we were beginners or veteran musicians. We built a backing track within a couple of days and people were off.
Different skill levels. Different cultures. Different time zones. It still surprises me how easily this came together.
12 people.
11 different instruments.
18 days.
48 tracks.
2.3 GB of audio. (Mostly because of my inefficient workflow)
25+ hours of production, not counting the time we took to learn & perform our pieces.
10 minutes of bliss.

Credits:
Bass – Serban-Ionut Georgescu
Rhythm Guitars – Jim Bond, Aseem Mhaske
Drum Programming – Aseem
Clarinet – Miqueias Amorim
Background Vox – Miqueias, Caroline Lee, Rika Sato, Aseem
Additional instrumentation – Michele, Aseem
Production / Mixing: Aseem

Solos, in the order they appear:
Keys – Lauren Lastimosa
Vocals – Michele Dirks
Acoustic Guitar – Carlos Aragao
Harp – Robin Stadnyk
Vocals – Silje Benedicte
Flute – Rika Sato
Alto Sax – Caroline Lee
Vocals – Miqueias Amorim
Tenor Sax – Jibraan Saeed
Guitar – Jim Bond
Guitar – Aseem Mhaske

And now, the music, folks!

Be True

Time Out

The songwriting project I’ve written about is on hold for at least another week.

I’m finishing up another Berklee class offered through Coursera, “Developing Your Musicianship”. Our final assignment is to record a minor pentatonic blues riff over a prerecorded backing track. That’s due Friday.

The Facebook group dedicated to the course is also working on a project similar to the Cafe karaoke project. Several of us are submitting tracks that will allegedly blend into a collaborative blues tune. I’ve committed to submitting a rhythm riff and a lead line, which may or may not be used in the final project. That, too is due Friday, to coincide with the end of the course.

Once those two projects are wrapped up, I should be able to return to my [untitled song].

The Coursera Cafe Group Karaoke Project

While I take a small break in figuring out how exactly to build a drum track in GarageBand iOS, I thought I’d share a little project I was involved in.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned Coursera, a great resource for online learning. I’ve taken various music courses, and in the process made some friends that I wanted to keep in contact with after the courses were over. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. One enterprising student formed a Facebook page she christened The Coursera Cafe. Several of us joined and formed a nice little community for arts lovers.

Late last year, someone in the cafe came up with a wonderful concept. Several of us, from around the world, contributed vocals and visuals, which evolved into this video. It’s truly a testament as to what can be accomplished with the internet other than forum trolls and cat memes. How about a little peace, love and understanding?

[untitled song]

For several years – stretching back to my college days, actually – I’ve been writing these little songs. Some are pretty good, some are just OK, some will never see the ears of day. Ever since technology allowed anyone to turn their computer into a recording studio, I’ve been recording some of these gems with varying results (you can check out my SoundCloud page for examples).

My interest lay dormant for a few years until a took I few online courses through Coursera; specifically, Berklee College of Music courses in Songwriting and Music Production.

Since then, my passion for music-making has been renewed, and I’ve been working more in my “studio”, which lately has been my iPhone, set up with Garageband iOS, Audiobus, AmpliTube, AmpKit, and various other apps. Readers of this blog (the three of you) will already be familiar with my arsenal of axes.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve completed a song, and I’m ready to begin work on another project. I’ve decided to take the reader along with me on this journey, which may take a couple of months, or the rest of the year. It might yield something I’m happy with, or I may scratch the whole thing. We’ll see.

At the moment, the only thing I’m starting with is a guitar riff, which is demonstrated in this video:

(The instructor, by the way, is Griff Hamlin, my guitar “teacher”. I’ve been working with a couple of of his DVD courses, and they’re really excellent. Check out Blues Guitar Unleashed.)

The riff is my starting point; it’s likely that exact riff will be different by the time the song is finished. Or maybe not. I may play around with the riff a bit, then set it aside and write some lyrics. I never know where I’m going to end up once I’ve started, or how I’m going to get there; that’s part of the fun, the excitement, and the self-discovery.

I’ll be back when I have something for you.