Maple Dye, "Hey Mister Mixer"

This song was written as an entry for the Nexus Challenge contest, whose premise this year was to submit a composition "in the way of..." some known artist.

(In this case, I think it's self evident, I chose Bob Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan).

The proximity of the deadline (plus my atrocious work in process queue) imposed minimalism: voice and guitar, recorded in quite hellish circumstances. In fact, there was a moment the day before the deadline, where I told myself "Do I really want to try? What for?". But I forced myself to finish, even with all the stains and imperfections and mud, because 1) the alternative was increasing my pile of half-finished stuff, and 2) I wanted to launch something quick as a way to get an overview of all my processes, by running something through them from beginning to end.

The result is this song of which I'm mostly proud of the lyrics (ah, where would I be by now without sense of humor...)

Black Sheep Riot, "Empty Roads"

The I Ching book is my favorite fortune-telling resource, I come to it every now and then for guidance, and there is a figure that appears very often, and with a particular intensity: the wanderer.

"He who has few friends is the wanderer". "The wanderer has no home, the road is his home". "The wanderer must be careful to only stop around good people"...

I'm afraid my destiny has a lot to do with this description, and I wrote this song around that concept, together with Edgar Allan Poe's "All I loved I loved alone": the "roads" I'm speaking of are not noisy crowded highways, but the roads for those who like to walk at their own pace and sightsee. Many of the things I love are not popular anymore, and it saddens me to think that the moment I'm not there to love them, no one else will do.

A ternary tempo plus a medieval scale is always an unbeatable combination for an intimate ballad of this kind, as you can see in many i…

Maple Dye, "Coming Back"

This song was born totally by accident; I was trying to find some kind of online buddy to help me with the mixing and mastering drudgery, so I thought it would be a good idea to put together the simplest of songs, maybe guitar and a couple of voices, so we could start with something simple and my collaborator didn't get scared.

Lo and behold, I wrote this song but then I "listened" to that oscillating sound that comes from the bottom in the middle section (I think inspired by an arrangement in Bob Dylan's "Forever young"). And once you "listen" to something, if you're a musician worth your salt, you cannot "unlisten" it.

That effect was very difficult to pull off and the process (together with other mistakes and inexperiences of mine), ended the patience of my mixer collaborator. Aw dang... Of course it's hard to establish binds via internet, speaking of music is like dancing architecture, etc...

As for the song, I'm happy w…

EQ: shaping vs accomodating vs polishing vs who knows what else

As I deepen the knowledge of my processes, I stumble upon revelations that the usual "speaking brochures" of YouTube and the like rarely discuss.

One has been the different uses you can get out of EQ, depending on the context or intention in which you're using it (I guess this works the same way with all of the tools of the trade).

The usual, conventional explanation of EQ would say something like this: it's selective volume. Each knob allows you to turn the volume up or down for a simple "section" of the sound (the most intuitive way to understand it is thinking of those CD players where you can pump up "bass", middle or "treble" independently -simply slice the sound in thinner slices, and that's it-.

What the explanation leaves out is the things you can do with this sound sculpting tool. So far I've found 3 different ways to use EQ, which belong in different parts of my process:

Shaping EQ: this one is used in the "FX" pa…

Twisted music

More and more lately, I'm in a mood where I enjoy very convoluted music. Music that does not come easy, that feels almost like noise in the first listening (and, therefore, does not demand much of your attention), and you have to "work your way" through it listening after listening until you get to recognize something familiar.
Some of the albums I've been listening to, and which satisfy this criteria by very different means, are:

*Phil H. Anselmo and The Illegals, "Walk through exits only"
*Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, "Trout Mask Replica"
*Incantation, "Onward to Golgotha"
*The Shaggs, "Philosophy of the World"

With more to come. I don't know, it's like, the disjointed and creepy state the world is in (at least the world I live in), needs, asks for a soundtrack equaly disjointed and, yes, often creepy. Anything less than that feels false and a waste of time...

The "plancton" of process

There is a running joke among the continuous improvement community about the sentence "be more careful". A common advice among people who "just do" (as opposed to plan-do-check-act), it's quite a waste of breath and saliva; people is already as "careful" as they can, unless they don't give a rat's ass about the task, in which case, your admonition is not going to have much impact.

The problem is that there are a lot of things to be-more-careful about, so why need a system and some kind of learning repository. Repeating "Be more careful" like a parrot, happens after the fact, and doesn't cut it.

That's why we need processes to do things. A process usually is composed of those aha moments where you go "here's where I could be careful here". You record it, you try it, and that's how you improve.

I've discovered, however, an element that is even below be-more-careful in utility for improvement: cursing. For exa…

Road marks

A combination of cool features in my current DAW (Reaper) has allowed me to create something that looks a lot like the road signs you see while you're driving. It makes for a great experience, and also reduces mistakes and the time it takes to rehearse things. I'm loving it and I hope it lasts and I can build upon it.

The features required are:
1) enabling the option that makes the playhead stay at the center of the screen (therefore the waveforms scroll when you play the song).
2) Creating a track for empty items with text. (I've customized this one so I only need a keypress, and each annotation comes with a different, random color).

Once I've done that, I play the song and start to rehearse on top the track I want to record (in this first experience, it was a bass track). When I stumble at some point, I stop the playing (I "pull the andon"), and make a note of warning. Just as with traffic signs, to be effective, the note must be put a bit earlier, where I can …