Don’t Fear the REAPER

For most recording of vocals and instruments (i.e., anything not a Caustic synthesizer) I’ve been limping along with Audacity for Windows. The most it has to recommend it is that it allows me to record and edit .wav audio and it’s free. It leaves a bit to be desired, however, in the number of signal processing effects available and that they can’t be applied in real time.
So a few days ago I installed Reaper version 5-point-something and I’ve been watching tutorial videos on teh YooToobz to learn the general layout and workflow. It looks pretty sweet, being a full-featured DAW that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars like Ableton, Cubase, Reason, Cakewalk, or the like. $60 should be quite affordable by the time my birthday rolls around in July, and I’m sure they’ll forgive me going over the 60-day trial period a little bit in the meantime. The only way the trial version differs from the licensed version is a nag screen on startup, easily dismissed after a few seconds with a mouse click, reminding users that the program isn’t free.

I’m not going to be one of those cheesedicks that uses the trial version forever on the free – Cockos has been totally cool releasing an unlocked, ungimped program that a prospective buyer can really give the full workout before committing dollars, and they should be properly thanked for not treating paying customers like criminals.

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.

No Excuses

Just a quick note here before turning in for the night, that I bought an electric guitar today. I went to Portland Music Company’s store on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway to check out the selection of used guitars, and tried out one that was tagged $140 – a nice one with pointy symmetrical horns and what looked like dual-coil (humbucker) pickups, two of them. But my wife pointed out that some of the new guitars were even cheaper, so I settled on a white Squire “bullet strat” with three single-coil pickups, for $130. Adding a strap, gig bag, and spare set of strings, brought it up to just under the $200 budget.

For some months now I’ve been thinking of the half-written material I’ve had on the back burners, some of it as old as when I was in high school, and telling myself “I could work on that if I had a guitar.” Now I have a guitar and I’m out of excuses.

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.

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.