Over the last week or so, I have engaged in exercising the one element that can improve my mixes in the old ManCave Studio.
Thanks to a suggestion by respected producer and excellent communicator Warren Huart on his brilliant YouTube channel called Produce Like a Pro, I subscribed to SoundGym, a pay-for-use website that lets users develop audio acuity through games that test a variety of skills all related to recording, mixing and production.
For instance, identifying the relative levels of instruments in a mix, or which frequency is bested in a sample, and so on. The result is less time guessing what to do to fix and improve recordings, as well as more confidence.
I am finding both very useful. Check them out – there is a free trial on SoundGym so you don’t have to immediately commit.
Every so often, a subject for this blog luckily falls in my lap. This is the case this week.
Isolation has meant that I’ve had to learn to work physically distanced from the rest of the band, so we have worked out technological solutions, including all of us set up for home recording. By sending each other files, we can play along to previously recorded bits and then sum them up for a finished product.
Good friend and Relish regular Dan Boggs wrote a pandemic ode, and recorded it solo on his computer (phone?). When I saw it, I could not resist the idea of fleshing it out with a full band arrangement.
But first, a few words about Dan.
Dan Boggs has performed many, many times at Relish (and probably other places too, but that’s where I know him from). His songwriting is original in the truest sense of the word, with subject matter often out-there (surgical anaesthetic?), and clever crafting of the lyrics. His latest is called Bunker Town and speaks to the isolation we all feel. I have included a before and after for your enjoyment. On the full band version, Chris Bender plays drums and piano, Neil Morris plays bass, and I added the electric guitars, then mixed the whole thing. It was a lot of fun to do.
There is a rumour that a compilation of locally written pandemic anthems may surface in the future. This song should certainly be part of that.
The title of this week’s post comes from a band that used to be a regular at The Only Café’s legendary open mic many years back. Remote Wonder was a 3-piece band with Christian Rogers on guitar and lead vocals, Just Jillian on keyboard and Jace Traz on drums. They have long since disbanded but I still remember their edgy energy and they are still a fave. I bought the album too (see cover on the right). I don’t know what has happened to Christian (I searched) but both Jillian and Jace have moved on well, the former having just performed at Winterfolk just before the world collapsed (I wrote about her a few weeks back), and the latter always a highlight of the Relish open mic, as well as a talented visual artist. I’ve included links to both.
Our sheltered and isolated times have forced many of us to begin to collaborate remotely (!) over the web. That’s what has been happening with the Cats. Both bassist NeMo, already a Garageband aficionado, and now newly DAW inducted member Chris are now working on songs in their own home studios and we are sending files back and forth via Dropbox.
There’s nothing new in doing that with studio pros, but that seems to be an increasingly common way to work for the rest of us. I look forward to sharing the results. It may turn out to be a more efficient way of working even after the COVIDity ends.
As mentioned before, musicians, like many self-employed freelancers, are hard hit due to gigs canceled. Gary17, who publishes the daily Toronto live music directly Toronto Moon, wrote an excellent piece this past Saturday April 4, 2020 on ways we can help. A link is included above and I highly encourage you to read it.
Signing off now as Chris has sent me a new song of his to mix. Woohoo!
Until next week, wash your hands, socially distance and be well!
The title of this post is respectfully ripped off from TC Folkpunk.
As social isolation has led to severely constricted stimulus, I was despairing of finding something interesting for you to read about this week. Perhaps that is the case most weeks…
Anyhoo, just in time, I receive one of TC’s newsletters, “headered” the aforementioned and plagiarized Quarantunes. That unblocked me.
I’ve mentioned TC a few times in the past, and now seems a good time to highlight why I think he is such a good song craftsman. TC’s songs explore themes of love and social injustice (link those however you will) liberally sprinkled with sharp insights and puns (my fave). A few years back, he produced an instrumental side project called That Satisfying Crunch!.
Encouraged (nagged) to put out a follow up, TC worked with musical acquaintances the Bumblebats (not quite close friends, not quite strangers?) and lo-and-behold, Standing in the Shadows of Moncton is now available on Bandcamp.
Listening to songs I’ve frequently heard TC sing but where now the melody is carried instrumentally emphasized just how well constructed his songs are. I particularly admire the way chord sequences sometimes go in unexpected directions, yet the unabashedly pop melody consistently holds the song together.
And of course there is the word play in the album and three of the four song titles. As loath as I am normally to explain jokes, I will make an exception by linking these to their original references, as best I understand them.
Theme from The Cartridge Family – a double reference here and here
(TC, please let me know if any are wrong.)
As an important side note, please remember that working musicians are particularly challenged right now in earning a living as gigs have essentially disappeared. You can help them by linking to their sites, provided in this blog and copied below, and buying their music on line!
As we all adjust to a new reality, the challenge for this blog will be to find inspiration with much less outside stimulus.
At least I have the studio to keep me busy. Others seem to have already begun to reach out from isolation with virtual open mic’s and online collaboration. I hope to be able to something along those lines soon as well.
I wish everyone good health. Stay home and wash your hands! And be well!
As our world begins to simultaneously expand and shrink, this may be a good time to make adjustments.
For me, it could mean taking more time on mixes, working on long-mothballed songs and learning more about recording techniques (thank you Internet!). Some household chores may get done more regularly too. All good!
Downside is no more catching other people perform for the next few weeks or maybe months, and some FatC shows in jeopardy.
At least I don’t have to make a living at this and my thoughts go out to artists, and service industry people whose lives are frozen in place. It will be hard, but when it’s over, please make it a point to tip both generously. They will need it badly.
I’ll leave it up to readers to suss out the title of this post…
It does convert the theme well enough regardless of whether or not you catch the reference, as both a at Winterfolk and this past week at the Linsmore, I was sound tech.
In both instances, I mixed sound from right in front of one of the FOH (front of house) speakers. The Tranzac offered me no choice, but at the Linsmore, it was my choice to bring my own mixer, and use the club’s as a power amp only. The reason is that the house mixer is BEHIND the band, so every adjustment means going on stage while the band is on. Simply not on, as far as I’m concerned.
On the plus side, besides being far less disruptive for the show, the sound quality was much easier to manage and I think made for a good mix, according to both the players and the audience comments I received. Thanks!
On the negative side, it was pretty intense given the console was about a metre from the speaker, especially when the band’s dynamics reached more energetic levels. Nothing wrong with the levels per se in the club further out, just loud up close.
This brought me to investigate hearing protection, which up until now I have not used (tsk, tsk) but I intend on investing in should I do this again. I found this site that does a good job of comparing models based on a variety of factors (cost, comfort, sound quality, etc.). I thought it may be a useful link for others too. Enjoy!
Last weekend was very busy, hence the advance post last time, but as promised, here is the wrap-up of this year’s Winterfolk ex-vee-eye-eye-eye (that’s 18 for the non-classically schooled types).
I had three shifts: Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The job was to help the performers set up, make sure everything was plugged in right and then make it sound good for the audience and the people on stage. Things got off to a great start at the Southern Cross room in the Tranzac Club, particularly working with Lori Campbell on Sound Assist. Saturday and Sunday, I worked solo, but was fortunate to have both Kevin Gould and Aaron Fund Salem drop in at transition times to help with the set up, and make fun of me for my choice of mics. All kidding aside, these guys are consumate professionals and I can’t thank them enough for their patience, expertise and trust. I would be remiss in not also thanking Jen Arima who coordinated the volunteers and made the whole event run seamlessly.
Below are the artists I had the pleasure of hearing and mixing.
All the performers were great, as you’d expect from a well-curated festival like Winterfolk. One aspect stood out for me, and that was the new young talent that appeared for the first time. This is a great move by the organizers to attract new audiences and expose them to established performers too.
Three in particular were notable for me.
The first was an Australian duo named Saije, whose sound was considerably larger than you’d expect from only two people. Great harmonies, interesting tunings and a cool use of percussion (hand and foot) showed what could perhaps be the new direction of folk music. Follow the link: well worth checking out.
Another new artist to Winterfolk was Just Jillian. I have known of Jillian for a few years now, first way back when she played in Remote Wonder who were a regular at the Only Café Saturday open mic. She even guested once at my now defunct ABC Songwriters’ Circle. It was great to hear the songs from her album What Day Is It and see how she continues to grow confidently.
Perhaps Taylor Abrahamse was the most interesting discovery for me, although he’s been around for a while despite his young age (hey, he has his own Wikipedia entry). Rather than go on about him, I suggest following the link to his YouTube channel. He is about to drop and album produced by the legendary (and I don’t use that word lightly) Eddie Kramer, who also has a Wikipedia entry.
Out and About
If you’re looking for a fun and cheap event on Tuesday, come to the Linsmore for Indie Tuesdays from 8 to 11. I’ll be doing sound for the Trollblazers at 8, Gary Edward Allen at 9 and Krove at 10. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe what this will be like!
Things are going to get busy this week as I have a few recording sessions scheduled. Plus, as of Friday, I will be mixing sound throughout the weekend at Winterfolk, as mentioned in a previous post. Tickets are still available and a really great way to catch outstanding music. I am looking forward to this, not just for the experience of mixing, but just for the pleasure of hearing so many great performers.
And speaking of great performers…
Planning a bit further ahead, I recommend catching The Lonely Hearts at the Dakota on Friday February 28th. I already have my tickets and hope to see many friends there as well. TLH always deliver a great show! Tickets are selling quickly so get them here asap!