In Which Cory Asks For A Mingus Rec

And here’s what I wrote, lightly edited.  Forgive me if my reference points are sophomoric.

Here’s a good intro (tracks 1-6; this looks like some special edition thing with bonus tracks): https://open.spotify.com/album/7EOQggjtK8JCqeRz9IG33e

“Moanin’ ” is a classic jam.

Mingus was a bassist, and what I love about him is he combined boppy proggy Coltrane-type stuff in his horn lines, Ellington-style compositional ambition, and yet stayed rooted in blues and gospel and doing substances and ripping the hell out of some tunes. He’s so strong in both the head and the heart. I can think to Mingus, or just enjoy the wailing.

Mingus and Erroll Garner are my jazz favs. Erroll is brilliant, but mostly gives me the feeling of Nat King Cole singing carols while being appropriate year-round and absent any religious/nostalgic/whatever baggage. He just captures the feeling. I could have a whiskey, listen to Erroll, and get misty about how time is passing and the past is irrecoverable and I’d try to be Buddhist and accept impermanence but he’d be reminding me about love lost and simultaneously reminding me that this moment is ok and it’s good to be listening right now.

https://open.spotify.com/album/0EnTJ3I9hXDkNdIdm0TRce You are in for a treat

<3 -h

With luck, the next post will be after I finish h&s bass.

Here’s Where Cory’s Head Is

Cory wrote this to me, and suggested it would be OK if I posted it here. It’s eminently worth mentioning that since receiving the below, he also said he’s been listening to a bunch of Monk, which I endorse.

I will try to turn him on to Mingus, I promise.

For me, 2017 was the year of jazz. I’m embracing my participation in this near-universal cliché. The jazz phase is inevitable for so many of us, like the Led Zeppelin phase, or the trying-real-hard-to-care-about-Leonard-Cohen phase. I knew almost nothing about jazz before I dove in, which has made it even more pronounced. I’m glad I waited until 35 to do all this, because if I’d have done it in my 20s, I’d have been insufferable. No one wants to hear anyone else talk about jazz. I know that from being on the other end of the conversation many times.

So far, my favorite record is “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. It’s the kind of record where, when you hear it for the first time, you feel like you’re the only person to know it. It feels like a secret. It’s moody, it’s dark, it’s heartbreaking. Of course, everyone’s already in the loop except me. Howie’s got a cat named after him. But I’d rather be a little late to the party than sleep through the whole thing, I guess, especially when there are trumpets!

Favorite group/artist: David Brubeck Quartet. They do everything that I really love about jazz. It’s mostly beautiful, often jarring, atmospheric, and experimental without being up inside their own butts. If I’m feeling sentimental, Vince Guaraldi Trio is also great. It’s amazing to me that his music was used for children’s programming (“Peanuts”), even though it’s clearly made specifically for heroin addicts to have something to listen to.

– Cory

New Synth Day

The day itself was last Thursday, but I haven’t done much more than flip it on and noodle around until today.

This is an Akai AX-60, a six-voice analog synthesizer built in the mid- to late-80s.  My first purpose in getting it was for pads for Night Mode and other stuff, but of course it will make all kinds of great bass, lead, key, string, and brass sounds.

I’m already in love with the arpeggiator; it has a mode that arpeggiates the notes in the order they’re played so it’s very musical and responsive.  I feel like I could base an entire record around just that.

There’s a song for the new h&s record that I’d planned to layer a Micron sound and a digital B3-type sound for, but I’m starting to wonder if it would be better to write a pseudo-B3 patch on the Akai for it.  Worth a shot, at least.

Some time this weekend I’m going to go through the manual and figure out saving presets, splits, and the rest of the deeper features that may not have a single-function hardware control.

<arpeggiates off into infinity>

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.

This is what editing 61 sax solo takes looks like

Wild.

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.)

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.

This post brought to you by three #@$&^$% hours of fighting with WordPress.

Fixes

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.


TKTK

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.