The July of Experimentation

I’ve tried a bunch of new things over the past couple weeks, all of which are worth playing with if you’re interested.

  • Harmonica – With the help of some great YouTube videos, I’m finally learning to bend notes on the harp in preparation for a specific overdub I want to do on Cory’s solo record.  As one of the videos said, it’s kind of like mimicking Darth Vader’s breathing, but with a harmonic in your mouth.
  • Funkbox – A really fun vintage drum machine emulator and then some for iPad/iPhone.  I’m trying it before dropping semi-serious money on a VolcaBeats for a back-burner project with Drew.
  • Slide guitar – If by “slide,” you can imagine “a Sharpie held awkwardly in my left hand.”  It’s gone well enough that I probably need a real slide, though.  This is also in anticipation of some overdubs on Cory’s album, in concert with…
  • Open G tuning, also known as “how Keith Richards plays.”  All those brilliant Stones riffs that are nigh-impossible in standard tuning?  No problem in open G.  Differing slightly from Keef, I’m using the top 5 strings for open G, and tuning my low string down to D so I can still play two-note power chords on the two lowest strings.
  • Tilt/Slant EQ – This simple but underused approach to EQ takes a center frequency and boosts treble / cuts bass (or vice versa) with a very even response, just like it sounds (more details here; the link is about a specific product, but does a good job of elaborating on tilt EQ generally).  It’s best used at lower levels, up to +/- 6 db or so, to brighten or darken sounds very naturally and transparently.  I’ve been testing it on an overly dark bass track to lighten it up a bit, with good results, and I think I’ll be using it a lot on future mixes.  Dedicated Tilt/Slant EQ hardware or plugins can be hard to find (there are some VSTs out there that I haven’t tested), but you can make your own by combining high and low shelf EQs with the same cutoff frequency and lower Qs.  Center frequencies typically range from 600 – 1000 Hz.

Have you tried anything cool lately?

Pyramids, Crystals, and Nazis

What do they have in common?

If you dig into what’s been written on reference pitch (which I’ve posted about before), you’ll encounter all kinds of strange alleged connections; that the Great Pyramid in Giza resonates at a certain pitch (it must resonate at some pitch, though the idea that it was designed for a specific pitch stretches my imagination), that the Nazis standardized A=440 Hz as a subtle means of thought control (actually it seems to have been piano tuners in New York in the ’20s), on and on.

Ignore it (or choose to be amused by it).  What matters is how the music sounds.  After recording yesterday with a reference pitch of A=424 Hz for the first time, I’m convinced 424 Hz is musically superior to 440 Hz as a standard reference.  424 Hz is a little over a quarter-tone (62 cents, I think) flat from 440 Hz.  For reference, using A=440 Hz, the Ab immediately below A would be at 415.30 Hz.

A=424 Hz is easier for me to sing in.  My acoustic guitar seems to resonate for longer, with richer harmonics.  Hopefully you’ll start to hear it as we release new music; the new Mars Lights EP is being recorded at A=432, and the songs I did yesterday will appear on the MR|Ten compilation in September.

pedalNot many tuners will let you adjust your reference pitch that far down.  One that does, that I use, and that also happens to be a great, true-bypass, chromatic tuner is the Snark SN-10.  I paid full price for mine, and am entirely happy with it, especially when using the trick of rolling back my guitar’s tone knob all the way to better let the fundamental frequency through the signal.

Have I convinced you to experiment with your reference pitch yet?