Practice Log 2015.08.10-16

Monday 08.10
20:55-21:45 (50 min)
Instrument(s): guitar, Chapman Stick
Guitar: 15 min practicing chords from songs “We Could Share”, “Beautiful in Black”, and “Swamp”.
Chapman Stick: 35 min practicing “Fix It” playing both hands and singing, and trying to incorporate lead break in its proper place. Mostly practicing changeover from vamp to lead break and back to vamp. Also a couple of minutes playing “Night Ride Home” left hand chords.

Tuesday 08.11
21:30-22:15 (45 min)
Instrument(s): guitar, Chapman Stick
Guitar: 25 min; don’t remember what (typing this Thursday 8.13)
Chapman Stick: 15 min; got tired and went to bed.

Wednesday 08.12
21:00-21:30 (30 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” main chord sequence, work on switching to and from lead break. Also a little time on “The Monster Song” lead break.
Before instrument practice, some work on stitching together a drum arrangement for “Peter’s Lament” in Audacity.

Thursday 08.13
21:30-22:05 (35 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick, guitar
Stick: 30 min, “Fix It” main chord sequence, work on switching to and from lead break. Also a little time on “The Monster Song” lead break.
Guitar: 5 min; random noodling and riffing, and lead line to “Peter’s Lament”.
Before instrument practice, another attempt to stitch together a drum arrangement for “Peter’s Lament” in Audacity. Better than last night’s effort, but still needs fine-tuning.

Friday 08.14
21:30-22:05 (35 min)
Instrument(s): guitar
random practice before bed, after coming home from seeing a movie.

Saturday 08.15
19:30-20:00 (30 min)
Instrument(s): guitar
Noodling through AmpliTube to settle on a tone, and rhythm guitar riff, for the “Ralph Bakshi” remix.

22:15-22:45 (35 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” practice switching between main chord sequence and from lead break. “The Monster Song” main verse/chorus sequence and some practice of lead break.

Sunday 08.16
18:00-18:30 (30 min)
Instrument(s): guitar
More work on the “Ralph Bakshi” remix, settled on an auto-wah tone and recorded some rhythm strumming of two different voicings of chords.

Practice Log 2015.08.03-09

Monday 08.03
Fuck-all. Still recovering from a week of County Fair Hell; no time to practice.

Tuesday 08.04
21:24-21:54 (30 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” playing both hands and singing, and trying to incorporate lead break in its proper place.
“The Monster Song” playing both hands and singing, trying to incorporate lead break in proper place.
A couple of minutes playing harmonic minor scale on treble strings starting with first finger.

Wednesday 08.05
21:25-22:05 (40 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
A couple of minutes playing chords of “What I’ve Done”.
“Fix It” playing both hands and singing, and trying to incorporate lead break in its proper place.
“The Monster Song” playing both hands and singing, trying to incorporate lead break in proper place.

Thursday 08.06
21:35-22:05 (30 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” playing both hands, practicing change from vamp to lead break and back again.

Friday 08.07
20:45-22:25 (40 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” playing both hands, practicing change from vamp to lead break and back again.
“The Monster Song” practicing lead break, particularly left hand, sometimes also playing whole-note right hand chords.

Saturday 08.08
21:30-22:02 (32 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” playing both hands, practicing change from vamp to lead break and back again.
“The Monster Song” practicing lead break, particularly left hand, sometimes also playing whole-note right hand chords.
A couple of minutes practicing left hand 2-octave scales starting with first finger, major and harmonic minor.

Sunday 08.09
14:40-15:10 (30 min)
Instrument(s): guitar
Practice fingering open position and barre chords, and playing 2-octave major scales. Some attempts to work out fingering for harmonic minor scales.
Half-assed attempts at pieces of “Medusa”, “Peter’s Lament”, and “Innocent Victim”.

17:58-18:14 (16 min)
Instrument(s): guitar
Practice fingering open position and barre chords (changes to “Beautiful in Black” and “We Could Share”), and playing 2-octave major scales.
Half-assed attempts at intro to “Innocent Victim”. Also noticed slight buzz on B string. 😦

21:46-22:18 (32 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“The Monster Song” lead break, some outchorus.
“Fix It” lead break, practice integrating lead break, run through of whole song.

Practice Log 2015.07.19-25

Sunday 07.19
~15:45-16:40 (start time approximate; about an hour practice)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“Fix It” with special attention to left hand bass part for lead break, and some work on lead break with both hands together.
“The Monster Song” with special attention to left hand lead break, and some work on lead break with both hands together.

Sunday 07.19
20:55-21:40 (45 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“The Monster Song” with special attention to left hand bass part for lead break, and some work on lead break with both hands together.
“Fix It” mostly playing the vamp and singing, and some work on lead break with both hands together.

Monday 07.20
21:20-21:55 (35 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“The Monster Song” with special attention to lead break with both hands together.
“Fix It” mostly playing the vamp and singing, and some work on lead break with both hands together.

Tuesday 07.21
21:47-22:26 (39 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“The Monster Song” mostly work on lead break with both hands together. Also some work on the outchorus and some practice playing the main verse and chorus.
“Fix It” mostly work on lead break with both hands together, and some practice playing the main section.

Wednesday 07.22
I’m a lazy asshole.
The closest I got to practicing tonight was listening to “Riding Tigers” by Slapp Happy on YouTube three times in a row, paying close attention to the instrumental. This song is on the list of pieces I want to learn and perform on Stick, though it is a more advanced tune than the ones I’m currently working on.

Thursday 07.23
21:47-22:34 (47 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“The Monster Song” primarily worked on lead break with both hands together; some work on verse/chorus and the chord break between chorus 2 and verse 3.
“Fix It” worked only on lead break.

Friday 07.24
22:35-22:55 (20 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“What I’ve Done” lead line and left hand chords.
“Fix It” a couple of minutes on lead break both hands.
“The Monster Song” only a couple runs through the lead break.

Saturday 07.25
08:41-09:00 (19 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“What I’ve Done” mostly left hand chords and some coordinating with right hand
“Monster Song” about a minute on lead break.

Saturday 07.25
21:09-21:46 (37 min)
Instrument(s): Chapman Stick
“What I’ve Done” lead line and left hand chords; also playing lead line over single-finger bass to facilitate finding left hand chord positions by touch.
“Fix It” playing both hands and singing, and trying to incorporate lead break in its proper place.
“The Monster Song” playing both hands and singing, trying to incorporate lead break in proper place.

Tomorrow (Sunday 07.26) will be last opportunity to practice until August (Monday 08.03); other obligations prevent setting aside any time.

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.

Matthew 14:28-30

Work on “Butter Yo Shit” is stalled at the moment; still trying to come up with a bass part that doesn’t sound hackneyed and pedestrian.

In the meantime, keeping busy with another song pulled out of the distant past. I think I was not long out of high school, around 1987 or 1988, when I was visiting my longtime friend Jason Katz, who I’ve known since 4th grade, and found a page of words he’d written entitled “Peter’s Lament”. He told me it was about the Biblical disciple Peter trying to walk on water and failing due to a lack of faith. I was inspired to use his words in a heavy metal song. The song “Cruel Sea” by Cities was a major influence on the music I wrote.

Back then I had a guitar to compose the song, and I’ve managed to remember almost all of it (nothing was written down). I’ve been assembling the track in Caustic for Android, since that’s where most of my music work happens these days. Guitar modeling PCMsynth presets by Jason Blann of EIP Studios Ohio provide the lead and rhythm guitars, and another PCMsynth set to one of Blann’s Pocket Kit Pro patches makes the drum sounds.

This song runs up against the two major limitations of Caustic: fixed 4-4 time signature, and fixed tempo. The time signature problem is solved by using the unbounded piano roll feature of the step sequencer – I’ve used it once before for my track “Monsters and Magical Girls” although it turned out to be unnecessary; I could have done that entire track in the pattern editor since the odd-time section has a divisible-by-four total number of beats.

The tempo issue is another matter – most of the song is at a steady tempo in a triplet rhythm, but one part of the chorus goes into a duple rhythm at a slower tempo. My tentative solution is to finish all the note placement in Caustic, output to .wav, load that .wav file into Audacity, and selectively “change tempo” on the sections that need to be slower. It remains to be seen how that will work out, but I’ve at least used Audacity’s “change tempo” function once before on a whole song.

Once the instrumental is finished, then I can record a scratch vocal – I think of this track as a demo; I’m considering soliciting input to make a “real instruments” version, from Facebook friends that I know from the now-defunct YTSEJAM.com messageboard; I still know at least one guitarist, drummer, and vocalist from there (of course I will play the bass myself).

Wish I Had Some Cheese…

Current project “Butter Yo Shit”, a basically instrumental rock tune complemented by samples from Hannah Hart’s first My Drunk Kitchen video.

Usually I start with some melodic or chordal element of the music and build from there, but nothing was coming to me. I remembered  a video from the RecordingRevolution channel called “The Creativity Switch”, which suggested stimulating blocked creativity by switching something up in the usual routine – using different software, or starting from a different instrumental part of the composition, or even doing something different in the daily routine that has nothing to do with making music (change your diet, take a different route to work, whatever).

So instead of trying to force a chord progression or a melody, I assembled the drum patterns and then laid the vocal samples in. I’ve got that just about finished, with some minor adjustments still to be done, and that will have the basic skeleton of the track in place. Then I’ll work on adding a bass part; from there it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with some accompanying chords.

This will be good practice for “Once Upon a Time”, my long-form instrumental with samples from the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, which I’ve had as a concept for over twenty years now.

`It Starts With One’

Didn’t do much this week except play back the works-in-progress and tweak levels, except that when the wife went to Texas on Thursday I did more vocal recording for “In the End”, but still wasn’t satisfied with the first half of the bridge, so this afternoon I went back into “the booth” and did a couple more takes, plus retakes of the harmony vocals for “Monster Song”. Just for the hell of it, I also did complete vocal takes for both songs (the lead on “Monster Song” and Bennington’s half of “In the End”.)

Well, after inserting the new vocal samples and playing with the mix, I think “In the End” is done. To keep with the original plan of dropping both tracks at the same time, I’ll have to sit on it while I finish the instrumental for “Monster Song” and import the new samples.