Furious Sound Studio B Open

In other words, a synthesizer and an iPad in a bedroom.

The signal path is: Korg MS-20 mini main out > various pedals > MS-20 External Signal Processor > iPad headphone jack breakout box I built > HarmonicDog MultiTrack DAW running on an iPad mini.

I’m going to make at least a couple Night Mode albums with this rig, and recorded a track for one earlier this afternoon.

GarageBand highpasses and compresses any signal coming in through the headphone jack, even on its “Clean” setting, so it wasn’t suitable for me for serious recording.  The HarmonicDog app does nicely, once “Measurement Mode” is turned off in the iPad Settings app.

The breakout box + iPad make a decent field/remote recording rig as well, because the box can accept 1/4″ mono, mic, 1/8″ stereo, and 1/8″ mono cables.  I could take a guitar, a decent dynamic mic (like my EV RE320), and the iPad to a cabin in the woods and make my “Nebraska,” no problem.  Even a basic full band record, with some combination of minimalist mic techniques and/or pre-mixing before the breakout box, would be possible.

It will be a lot of fun to be able to pause whatever massive recording or soldering project I have going and make a synth song on a whim.

Mars Lights Bass Reamping

Drew and I reamped all the Mars Lights bass tracks Friday night.Sounded pretty huge.

We were short on good mics for bass cabs when we were doing the main tracks, so we recorded a DI bass signal.  Friday we ran that signal back out from ProTools through the bass gear.

Not everything in the picture was on.  Signal chain was ProTools > Empress Compressor > Falcon Heavy > LS-2 (signal split) > two amps: Music Man 65 and Traynor Bass Master.

I also got a vocal track down – first one since before Thanksgiving, when I got sick – so massive progress on the double LP this week.  \m/

My bass rig is now back at home for recording h&s tracks.

This is what editing 61 sax solo takes looks like


I’m about halfway through updating the h&s mixes to kind of see where we’re at, post-recording-guitars.  I think bass is up next, provided I can coordinate gear with the Mars Lights mixing process.  (We need bass gear for that too, to re-amp my DI signals.)

The Best Music We Heard In 2017

Here is the best music we heard in the past year. Most, but not all, was released in 2017.

Top 14 (in random order)

Honorable mention:
The War On Drugs “A Deeper Understanding” (2017)
Sufjan Stevens, “Planetarium” (2017)
Spoon, “Hot Thoughts” (2017)
Vokonis, “The Sunken Djinn” (2017)
Pallbearer, “Heartless” (2017)
The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions” (2017)
Hyborian, “Hyborian: Vol. 1” (2017)
HAIM, “Something to Tell You” (2017)
The Afghan Whigs, “In Spades” (2017)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani, “FRKWYS Vol. 13: Sunergy” (2016)

I’m Done

…with h&s guitars as of today.  Now am headed to Denver Thursday to record an EP with Cory.

I’m going to take some time to get the h&s sessions in order and do household stuff I’ve been neglecting before starting the next major phase.  (Not sure if the next major phase is bass or vocals.)

The sessions are kind of a mess because the drums were tracked in two sessions at the library six months apart, and my Reaper session template has evolved and improved since I started them (probably close to two years ago).  I want to update the effects and routing as if the h&s sessions had been done in my current template, and that’s going to take a lot of note-taking and careful clicking.  And I want to get some basic sax settings (compression, close/room mic balance) and drum settings (absolute phase, relative phase, panning) set.  It will be worth it when it comes to mixing.

Aww yiss for milestones.

h&s Guitars; One Song To Go

Sometimes you have to put the keys down first though, to help you decide what guitar pedals to use.

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Cole gave me some cool vintage pedals to fix the other week, and I learned a lot working on this old Morley WVO Wah-Volume.  As he gave it to me the wah effect worked, but the volume control didn’t.

Both effects are controlled by photoresistors.  In the image above, you can see them peeking out from under the black hood that’s taped to the green PCB.  These are variable resistors that serve the same function as potentiometers (or “knobs”).

Sidenote; you can see how the Morley company used one PCB, enclosure, and drilling template for several different models of pedal to save on production costs.  Notice the empty pads where additional components could go on the PCB, and the metal buttons filling unused holes in the enclosure like the one below.

Both the wah and volume circuits are based on light from the little bulb on the left side of the photo above hitting those photoresistors (or not).  (The bulb is on the other side of the bracket near the red electrical tape.)

The heel of the treadle is connected to that flap of black fabric.  In the heel-down position, the fabric covers the opening of the hood (just heavy black paper and black masking tape); the photoresistors are in near-total darkness and therefore near their maximum resistance.  This is shown in the photo below.

As the player pushes the treadle forward toward the toe-down position, the fabric flap is pulled back, gradually allowing light from the bulb to reach the photoresistors and decrease their resistance.  The photo above shows the toe-down position.

So Cole’s pedal was, electrically, perfectly fine.  The fabric flap had come un-taped from the inside of the enclosure (40-year-old masking tape will do that), so light was reaching the volume circuit’s photoresistor no matter the position of the treadle.  Re-taping the flap to the enclosure solved the issue.

I literally fixed a pedal with duct tape.

The bottom plate of the enclosure even has some reflective paper taped to it, to reflect the bulb’s light and strengthen the effect (see above).

These old chrome Morleys are built like tanks, sound great, and have an extremely high cool factor.  They’re also heavy, and giant; see below, next to a standard Boss pedal for scale.


New Bass Pickguard Day

My P-J bass came with a white pickguard, which I didn’t love, and 14-hole Squier pickguards are hard to come by.  You almost have to order a custom one.

Well, if you’re looking at ordering a custom pickguard… why not ask your drummer, who does amazing paint jobs on all kinds of things, if he might be able to help you out?

I wanted something pretty subtle, so decided on flat black on a glossy black background. It took a while to think of a design I felt good about, but I settled on the abstract geometric/space thing from the Dark Satellites sticker. Boom.  Has a nice, vaguely 70s/80s rubik’s cube / science fiction vibe.  Perfect.

Matt nailed the execution.  The design looks perfect, and the black-on-black is exactly what I’d hoped.  The clear coat even makes it a little glossier than a standard pickguard, I think, like a little clue that it’s something special.

Custom wiring, custom pickguard; this thing is ready for adventure.