Month: March 2018

This Week - March 25, 2018

Introduction

I had a decent week. And I think I made an important discovery about discipline and effective planning, at least as far as it concerns me.

The reason I procrastinate so much is because I put a lot of pressure on myself. You might call it perfectionism, except that I don't tend to care about perfection. I do have standards though, and it feels like the end of the world when I don't meet them. So... maybe that's all perfectionism is, because there's no such thing as perfect for most things. Anyway, this video really hit home for me:

So how does this relate to discipline? I had success sticking to a morning routine. Get up at a certain time, do a few things. If I don't feel like it, I do it anyway. No problem. But there is perhaps a fundamental difference between something like "get out of bed at 6:30AM" and "design an algorithm to solve this complex problem." One is something that I'm capable of doing, basically no matter what. The other? How do I force myself to think creatively, to hold many details in my head at the same time, to just plain have good ideas? I don't think that I can. So how can I have discipline when it comes to work, if I can't actually force myself to work?

Here's the solution I've come up with for now. I plan ahead of time when I'm going to work, and what I'm going to work on. And on my schedule it says:

  • Work, or sit at your desk and do nothing.

This is useful for two reasons. First is the matter of pressure, because there's way less pressure involved in the goal of working for the next hour vs. accomplishing a certain task. And second is the matter of discipline, because in the same way that I can get out of bed at 6:30AM, I can sit at my desk and do nothing. So in the extreme case, I might sit at my desk and do nothing all day long, but of course I won't do that. In practice, I don't even do it for a minute.

This feels like a good solution for me, and I will forge ahead and see how it goes with more time.

Photo of the Week

This week, Jessica pointed her camera at my Eleven Rack. What you see here is just a portion of the bottom of it. I think it turned out awesome, and I especially like the added texture of the vertical lines. Almost like it's raining on something that should never be rained on, haha.

What I'm Working On

Like I said last week, I'm taking time to work on my mixing skills. I did a few things this week relating to that.

First, I dug through some multi-tracks (from a website called Dueling Mixes) that I have saved on my computer, and picked a song to practice mixing on. I tried out some things I had learned in an EQ tutorial, but that's about as far as I got with that.

Second, I bought a one-month pro membership to SoundGym. It's a cool website that has these games you can use to train your ears to hear things like EQ changes, compression settings and more. I'm not sure that all of the games are directly useful, but that the overall skill of being able to listen closely is essential. It's been fun in any case! I actually have an idea for a mixing tutorial type web app. I hope to work on it with Jessica in the coming months.

And last but not least, I bought a couple of (used) books by Mike Senior. His book on mixing is highly regarded as far as I can tell. I'm about 100 pages in and have learned a lot. And I plan to refer to it often as I continue to practice.

What I'm Listening To

I spent some time this week listening closely for tracks to use as "reference tracks." Reference tracks are a mixing tool used to help ground our ears. You know how if you're in a busy place, you might stop hearing the traffic noise? Our brains will quickly acclimate to whatever we're listening to until it sounds rather normal. So it's important to have references of things that actually sound good, so that when we're in the middle of mixing we can check to see that we're still in the right ballpark. That's one of the ideas anyway.

I know I want a Ben Howard song on my list. Something from his latest album. To me, these songs are so well mixed. Here's the one I'm thinking of using at the moment.

And I'll just keep listening critically to music, figuring out what they do well from a mixing perspective, and building up my list of reference tracks. Ha, it's gotten to the point where I can't listen to music while I'm working because I'll sit there and analyze it, and before I know it I'm down a rabbit hole! :D

Next Week

I'm somewhat optimistic. Spring is nearly here. (Or supposed to be anyway...) I'm wrapping my mind around discipline and how I can use it to make my life better. I'm really, really enjoying this exploration into mixing. You know what a sort of motto of mine has been lately? "If I put in a lot of effort over a number of years, wouldn't it be weird if I don't succeed?" So I'm just going to keep working on my weaknesses until I'm making music that is of commercial quality. What else is there to do?

Until next week!


This Week - March 18, 2018

Introduction

I talked last week about how I feel as though I'm going through a growth phase. That continued this week, as I have thought more and more about discipline. I successfully managed a morning routine this week, including waking up early to take the dog out, doing a free-writing exercise and taking a walk. Other than that, I failed pretty hard. But I am working through what's blocking me. I have been using my "Futures" journal sometimes, and it helped with motivation when I did use it. I think I'm headed in the right direction... just have to keep going.

We also put an offer in on a house today. I think it has a reasonable chance of being accepted, which would be huge news. We're so ready to move at this point.

Photo of the Week

We were running out of time this week, so while I worked on the blog, Jessica worked on the photo. She decided to shoot my Nektar Panorama P1 with a painting I did a while back as a background. The idea was that the bits of the control surface that stood up could look sort of like a landscape. I love how it turned out! This "Tools of the Trade" photo series is really shaping up to be cool. :)

What I'm Working On

I released Before It Gets Me this week. I spent some extra time mixing it before hand, and working on the cover art. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Here, take a listen.

I put Moment of Weakness out as a single, mostly so that it would be on Spotify. For that, I had to do a proper album artwork. Sometimes I think that I have the most fun making the album art. :)

I also submitted Moment of Weakness to a handful of blogs on Submit Hub, but it was rejected by them. The feedback I got was encouraging though. The thing is, I don't really expect to be promoted on blogs at this point. I don't feel like the quality is there yet. But it's where I want to go, so I figure I should put my feelers out now and again and get an idea of the reaction.

With that in mind, I've decided to spend a while practicing my mixing skills. I have a bunch of tutorials I want to get through, and a bunch of songs to practice mixing on. It's interesting.. the engineering part of a record is the least important in a way. Engineering will never turn a so-so song into a masterpiece. Engineering is just there to present the masterpiece in the best way possible. But today, it's become a standard. If your song isn't mixed and mastered to a certain standard, it's immediately obvious and written off as amateur. I don't think that professionals (bloggers, music directors, etc.) will even take me seriously unless my stuff is engineered to a certain standard. And so that's something I need to address at some point. Or slowly over time as I get better at the whole deal from start to finish. So I'm taking some time to work on it. I know that I could hire other people to do the engineering, (and I will probably decide to work with a mastering engineer at some point down the road,) but I really want to mix my own material.

I like to learn things in circles. I might watch a tutorial series or read a book, and get a lot out of it. I'll feel equipped with so much new knowledge, and go out and put it to the test. After a while I'll feel ready to learn some more, and while I don't tend to use the same resources, I do seek to hear about the same topics over and over again. Even starting at a fairly beginner level. I always pick up something new, and over time I get a deeper understanding of the concepts.

So anyway, don't expect any new music from me for a while. I'm working on my mixing chops.

What I'm Listening To

I feel like I had something legit to put here, but now I can't remember! Uh, um, some Tori Amos anybody? :D

Next Week

Next week, oh boy next week. I don't know. I need to plan shit better, this is part of my problem. Something that is definitely on my plate is preparing for the Life is Strange Fans open mic night that's in about 4 weeks. Other than that I think I'll create some kind of plan to get better at mixing? And then work on that. I'll probably spend a month or so on it before getting swept away by wanting to create a new song, haha.

I hope you have a great week. Thanks for reading!


This Week - March 11, 2018

Introduction

I didn't have a very good week. Or maybe it was just a tough week. I feel like there's something happening in my life, like I need to grow in some way. You know when something pops up in your life that you inexplicably can't deal with? And maybe there are a few examples that help make it clear where you have a problem? That's what I feel like is happening. It's something to do with... putting pressure on myself, perfectionism, and keeping up appearances. I feel as though I need to change, and that's hard to do. Maybe I can write a song about it or something.

The way I see it, I won't be around tomorrow. Let alone a year from now. Some other woman will be here. She may remember me, but I won't be around to meet her. And I want that woman to have a better life than me. I've started a new journal so that I can write letters to her, and to keep a record of the sacrifices I make so that she can have a better life. Things like exercising when I don't feel like it so that she can be in better shape, sticking with my job even when it's hard so that she can have enough money, finding time to relax even when I can't stand "wasting time," so that maybe someday it won't be so hard for her to find peace. She can look back at this journal and see how much she is loved. And I hope it inspires her to continue to pay it forward.

Photo of the Week

This week we took some macro shots of my guitar's fret board. This one is really cool to me. I can imagine that the photograph is taken from the deck of a boat at night. In the distance you can see the moon reflecting off the water.

What I'm Working On

I did a couple of small things this week.

I have a plan to do podcasts about my songs, and I figured out how I can capture the audio for that so that I'll be good to go whenever I want to do my first one.

I also worked on Before It Gets Me. It's just about finished. I'll come back to it and tweak the mix this week before releasing it. Something I spent a few hours on was actually transition effects in a sense... you'll hear it in the song, right before the second verse. It's this great big swell, and it went through many iterations, lol. I knew how I wanted it to feel, but not how I wanted it to sound. So it took a while to experiment! But I learned some neat tricks along the way.

What I'm Listening To

I didn't listen to a lot of music this week. So I'll just leave you some songs by artists that I think are fantastic.

Next Week

Hmm, thinking about next week makes me feel anxious. Well, realistically I'll probably release Before It Gets Me. Other than that, I have no idea. Catch you next week. Oh, and thanks for reading. :)


This Week - March 3, 2018

Introduction

Firstly, this week I'm really excited that the new Life is Strange Fans music contest has been announced!

This has been in the works for quite a while, and I'm glad it has begun! I'm looking forward to seeing the entries, and I'm very much looking forward to helping someone buy some new audio gear. Home recording is one of my favorite things, and it will be a pleasure to help someone else to start on that journey.

Photo of the Week

My wife enjoys photography, and ever since we met I've been a fan of her photos. I asked her if she'd do a weekly photo for my blog, and we talked about doing a sort of "tools of the trade" series to start off with. So each week we'll have a new photo highlighting some of my gear. Maybe/probably in a cool abstract sort of way. This week, one of my favorite guitar picks is featured. This particular pick is made by a company called Stoneworks. I have a number of these, and they are all beautiful, but I especially like this one. I've always seen it as sort of a factory with smoke rising, but with the back-lighting in this photo it looks more like a fire breathing dragon.

What I'm Working On

I wrote a song like, 6 months ago or so called Before It Gets Me. I was studying the album For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver at the time. A lot of the songs on that album are tuned to A = 425, as opposed to the conventional A = 440. That fascinated me. So I tuned my guitar to A = 425 for Before It Gets Me. I also recorded the kick drum myself on my drum kit, which is the first time I'm using a "live" drum sound in one of my songs. I love how it turned out actually.

So anyway I came across this fully recorded and somewhat mixed song, and was like "this is awesome, why didn't I release this?" It definitely needed some work, but I decided to make it my next project. I listened back over the song with my wife and she helped me discover which parts weren't working. So I took out some of the percussion and extra guitars. Then I re-recorded the vocals because I'm a better singer now than I was 6 months ago, and added a bunch of extra harmonies to give it more of an eerie choral kind of feel. Today I started adding some atmospheric strings as well, to make the sound larger in certain parts.

What I'm Listening To

I listened to Sleeping At Last this week. If you haven't heard of them, it's basically just one guy, Ryan O’Neal. I don't know a ton about him... he does do a podcast, and write blogs. I should probably look into that because he could be a good role model. He's quite successful at getting his music placed in TV and movies. And what's more, I think that some of his music is incredible. He combines these gorgeous, lush arrangements with meaningful lyrics and compelling vocals. I'd like to make music like this! And I'd like to make music that is worthy of TV, movie or game placements at some point in the future. I don't feel like I'm quite there yet, but getting closer all the time.

I know that I posted it on Twitter once, but I'll post it here again. This is my favorite song of his. It makes me cry pretty much every time I hear it. Hashtag goals.

Next Week

I think I could finish Before It Gets Me next week. I also have this Open Mic Night to prepare for, that I'm doing with Koethe. I don't know if this is weird or not, but at any given time I can play very few songs, haha. I just forget them. So I will need to practice a bunch and stay sharp!

Have a lovely week!