Lights, Camera, Whatever

Stick practice continues apace; I think I might have missed a day sometime last week but those lapses are rare. Continuing to practice “Fix It” and “Night Ride Home” and a couple of days ago added “The Monster Song” to the routine. Also have started to practice singing “Fix It” while playing.
Yesterday afternoon I propped the iPhone on the computer desk and recorded myself playing and singing a few bars of “Fix It” mostly as a proof-of-concept, to check the overall sound quality as well as the balance between instrument and vocal. Overall not bad, though the thickest bass string clicks loudly against the fret rails.
Since the iPhone as I have it set up won’t let me post video to teh PhizBuk (I use the Chrome browser and not the FB app) I repeated the experiment today with the iPad, and sang in full voice rather than the halfhearted first take on the iPhone. Hoping with a couple more weeks’ practice I might be able to record an actual-by-doG performance and upload to teh YooToobz.

Also today I started on Bob Culbertson’s video Stick lessons on teh YooToobz. He has a playlist on his channel that collects them all, but they’re strangely out of sequence – like for example the “Getting Started” lesson is fourth in the list. WTF Culbertson?

Okay, back to it; get in maybe 20 minutes before bedtime.


Do You Hear Crickets?

This past weekend I put the cover of “Fix It” on the back burner and worked on another song, also featuring Chapman Stick as the main instrument. This is a cover of “Night Ride Home”, the title track of Joni Mitchell’s 1990 album. Posted to Soundcloud this morning.

Still using the technique of recording the Stick parts piecemeal and stitching them together in Caustic for Android. This time I recorded both hands simultaneously through the Scarlett 2i2, and used Audacity to split the two channels into two separate recordings. This resulted in each part having a little bleed-through from the other half of the instrument, making it sound a little more natural and “live”.
Still sliced each recording into pieces for importing to the PCMSynth in Caustic, between 9 and 12 iterations of each chord for each hand, and arranged into several sequenced patterns so as to sound less like a looped recording.
The vocals are okay, though the high G in the verses is near the top end of my range and the tone is not great. I’ll get better eventually. I even spent some of my Amazon app store credit to buy an app for vocal warm-ups; we’ll see how that goes.

Church of the Instrumentality

At long last I’ve been recording through the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface that I got last December. The current project is a cover of “Fix It” by Psapp, with a Chapman Stick arrangement and some supporting keyboard (organ and maybe some pad as well) plus a basic drum beat programmed in Caustic.

I started with each side of the Stick output plugged into one of the 2i2 channels and recorded in Audacity for Windows, about a month ago. More recently, a couple of weeks ago AmpliTube for iOS was a featured free app (normally $20) so I grabbed that and started putting the melody strings of the Stick through the iRig into my iPad running AmpliTube.

I still can’t play the arrangement live, so I started with fingering each individual chord and sounding it multiple times, with a metronome set to the song’s tempo (102), with the resultant recording to be sliced in Audacity and stitched together in Caustic as PCMSynth samples.
Fake it until you can make it, right?
At first I did both hands at once – holding the bass chord while tapping off-beat eighth-note chords in the treble – but soon decided to record each hand separately so that I could adjust the balance between the two more easily. I’ve even more recently thought of importing each hand into a separate PCMSynth so that I can treat each part with a different effects chain and mixer channel.

As a leftover from the both-hands-at-once recording technique, I left both Stick outputs plugged into the Scarlett with the treble being processed through the iPad and the bass recording dry. Now I want to re-record the bass parts again, putting them through the iPad as well – AmpliTube has one bass amp setup available without any further in-app purchases, though I think I’ll keep any effects in Caustic since slicing and looping a processed source signal might show some obvious artifacts.

Once the Stick parts are recorded to my satisfaction, I’ll work on playing the keyboard through the 2i2 as well, rather than just program synth parts in Caustic. I’m planning that the beatbox will be the only Caustic native instrument I use on this track.
Also this will be the first time I record vocals through the Scarlett, which should yield much better results than just plugging into the computer’s mic input.

November 1-9 in review

Since completing my two covers I’ve been working on a piece to express my emotional state (which has since passed). The working title is “I Feel Nothing” and was to be followed with two more tracks “I Feel Everything” and “Everything is Nothing” – all three titles taken from the three volumes of k.flay’s mixtape I Stopped Caring in ’96. Last night I finished it just to be done with it and threw it up to SoundCloud. I might revisit it at some point though, augment the dull repetitive beginning with another synthesizer part, and make the other two tracks as well, but retitle them thusly:

  • Nothing Is
  • Nothing Becomes
  • Nothing is Not

…all three titles taken from Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Lies which is also falsely called Breaks.

Apart from the general state I was in, the track is also influenced by Frank Klepacki’s “Creeping Upon” from the PC game Command and Conquer‘s add-on pack The Covert Operations.

* * *

Also I’ve broken my “no more covers for a while” resolution, to make a version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” based on the Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel version from the movie Elf. I recorded my vocal part last Monday night – I did a couple of takes in my normal voice, and one take in my best Leon Redbone imitation, but decided to use the straight takes. Friday night I asked my wife if she would contribute the other vocal part to the track, and she reluctantly agreed (she has no great opinion of her own singing). Saturday night we went into the booth and I set her up with what she said she needed – a version of the original track slowed down to match the tempo of my remake*, which she listened to on headphones and sang along with while I had my tablet running Easy Voice Recorder Pro – I didn’t want her to have to hold the Radio Shack mic which I don’t have a stand for.
We did a couple of practice runs, and then I took three actual recorded takes. I haven’t done any further work with them yet though, but will probably do so tonight after dinner.

*the original track’s tempo is, as far as I can figure, 90.5 bpm. I determine a track’s tempo by using the “tap” function in Caustic to get close, and then play the metronome along with the track to see if it stays synched. A metronome set to 89 would start to lag behind around the middle of the track, while a metronome set to 90 would be ahead of the beat around the middle of the track. This shouldn’t be an issue though, as I will be cutting the vocal takes into chunks no longer than 8 bars, as Caustic still only handles samples of up to 20 seconds or so.