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I’m back November 7, 2010

Posted by bernie87fl in Mission, Music.
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Apparently, I needed a year off.
My boss is nice. He gave it to me. Nice boss!

The Good

I have been in the studio almost every day since the summer, doing Guitar Aerobics and studying the Fretboard Workbook. It is paying off, filling in the gaps in my self-taught education. I was pretty darn good at certain things, but let me tell you: there were gaps, baby!!

My non-musical ideas have also begun to take shape, in Zebrascape’s brand-new online store at Zazzle.com!

The Bad

My trusty laptop computer, my would-be awesome portable design studio, continues to suffer from growing pains. Long story, but since May I have been through quite a process of shopping for upgrades (from extra RAM to pro audio software), hesitating about what to upgrade, waiting for money to upgrade, installing and testing the upgrades, running into glitches that disappear when I take the computer to the shop, and still today getting glitches. Drat!

The latest opinion, after a trip to the nearest Apple Store, is that all the trouble boils down to a flaky hard drive. Probably. I will go back to the shop that installed it and try to get it swapped out.

The Ugly

Meanwhile, while practicing, I find myself playing certain bits and pieces of things that might develop into “real” music but then forgetting all about them after three days.

So instead of forgetting about them, I’ve decided to record and share them as rough drafts. Very rough drafts. I call them “Wing-its.” Chock full of potential, ideas, raw spirit … and errors. BIG errors! But who cares? If I grow attached to one, I will rerecord it or edit it to digital perfection. Think of it this way, if music is a gift, isn’t it really the thought that counts?


Blues Jam: a wing-it

A blues piece that happened while I was working on a fingering pattern with descending fourths. There is also a bass track that probably won’t be audible on standard computer speakers.


E swing thing: another wing-it

Another blues fragment. I clicked the “Texas Blues” setting in GarageBand, heard how it sounded on my guitar, and immediately found my fingers playing this. Not that I’m such a huge fan of blues per se, but it’s an easy format for messing around. The rhythm here is terribly, horribly off, but that’s just ’cause, umm, I want to practice time-line editing in Logic Studio. Er, I mean, ’cause I don’t want those dang web-surfing kids ripping off my mp3’s to use as GarageBand loops. Actually, I couldn’t hear the click track very well while recording. No bass here, just a few guitars.


Remember, it’s the thought that counts!


Spring Rhapsody, a symphony of loose ends April 19, 2010

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… or perhaps a can of worms. In any case, the project I started at the end of 2009 has mushroomed, streamlined, spread, focused, accelerated, and—umm—trickled.

Sorting through a decade-plus of household junk somehow resulted in an overhauled family budget. Rearranging my desk and moving it to the other side of the office yielded a new and better system for tracking all those distracting day-to-day projects. The aforementioned junk is back in the basement again but much reduced and compacted. None of this has resulted in any studio time or new recordings, though I still periodically jot down random thoughts at the piano, adding them to the growing stack.

Part of me wants to keep doing this until I run out of loose ends and my life is thus unbelievably simplified and efficient, my mind glroiously uncluttered, begging to be filled with creative work … but how long will this take?

When will I give in and start creeping back into the studio? We shall see.

Progress for 2009, Hopes for 2010 December 13, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Mission.

I’m quite pleased with 2009. I learned a ton about studio techniques, and I proved to myself that I can make the kinds of recordings I want to make.

I also proved that my meandering, multidisciplinary path through college coursework was right on target. The music theory, the electrical engineering signals, the computer programming, differential equations … every bit of it has application in my studio. Somehow, I knew what I was doing back then!

Not that I’m programming computers to solve differential equations while I strum the guitar—yet! But that is coming when I start writing audio plugins. I’ll explain later.

The biggest difficulty, believe it or not, has been pursuing this within my current work-at-home lifestyle. You would think having a studio in the basement would make it dead-easy to get tons of work done, but I have found just the opposite. I do not tolerate loose ends well (very distracting!), and since we moved here with a toddler and immediately had two more babies while I started a new job and we started driving children to school every day, there are a lot of loose ends still about! For a decade, we have gotten used to stepping over these things and working around them, but I have been underestimating their impact on my ability to start big, thoughtful projects. It is like living inside a giant to-do list whose items are trick birthday candles that never blow out. I still don’t even have a real desk in our office!


But that is already changing. My first studio goal for 2010 has begun, and it involves everything but the studio: finish moving in to this house, and finish establishing a solid family budget. In July, Linda and I began working hard on the budget, to make the monthly routine more efficient, more accurate, less prone to end-month emergencies. We have come a long way, and it has freed up a lot of my time and energy to handle the house.


Then, right on cue, Divine Providence intervened by flooding part of the basement! Not the studio part, mind you, but the corner clear opposite the studio. And not enough to ruin anything important, but just enough to make us remove every single unsorted item, down to the last LEGO piece, obsolete kitchen appliance, and 1980’s high school text. The stuff is now consolidated in a few terrible spots, where we are handling it piece by piece. Slow going during holiday season, but I am willing to burn all of January and February on this, to see the light at the end of that tunnel.


Next, the time and energy freed up will go into the studio’s acoustic makeover, meaning that its walls, ceiling, and possibly certain corners of the floor will be covered with acoustic materials for better recording and mixing. And then … with the studio in its final structural form, I will be able to get real furniture and storage, making it much less makeshift, more ergonomic, easier to configure my equipment, and easier to work for longer hours. So, you see? It’s all connected.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the holidays!

Gettin’ Logical November 11, 2009

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Logic Express 9 arrived today. It is the “lite” version of Logic Studio, which is one of the premier professional recording software suites available today. I am excited to get started with Logic and then upgrade to the full version in a month or two.

It is amazing what you can get nowadays for a few hundred dollars!

Zebrascape, LLC: web site in progress November 4, 2009

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In 2005, I created Zebrascape, LLC to pursue creative work. I ended up having to put it on hold for a few years, but when I started assembling my studio last August, Zebrascape, LLC began to wake up again.

First, I created a silly placeholder web site pointing to this blog. It sat like that for months while I worked on the studio.

Then, a friend tipped me off about the movie It Might Get Loud, which I went to see in September. The moment that struck me most was when Jack White called himself and the other musicians “storytellers.” I thought about it for over a month before I realized why it intrigued me.

It turns out, “story telling” ties together all the scattered ideas I have been jotting down for a long time, if you look at it right. When that became clear, I began writing this half-baked prototype of a web site.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Newest mp3’s October 30, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Mission, Music.

Latest audio from active projects:
Dec. 1: Rev 2 of “E swing thing” wing-it!
From last year, before The Big Break:
Oct. 30: Final mix of “Symbolic Dog Blues”!
Sep. 16: Full instrumental recording of “Green Mountain”

There’s more: my whole collection of mp3’s goes back to 1984.

All material copyright (c) 2008–2010; portions by B. G. Jackson; Zebrascape, LLC; and others.

Take anything, make anything March 4, 2009

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IMG_3551, originally uploaded by bernie87fl.

My GPS: Guiding Paperclip System.

It’s not just about music: Take anything, make anything.

What’s Next February 28, 2009

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“So,” you may be wondering, “what exactly is Bernie trying to do with this music stuff, anyway?”

Well, music and sound have been at the core of most of my studies and skills to date. I have played musical instruments for years and years, been in bands, studied music theory, written music software, written various songs and pieces, recorded some of them, studied audio signal processing, built music-synthesis circuits … I once concocted a system of music-like notation for martial arts routines (it was not a success).

But, as it turns out, I have not pursued any of these things professionally, until now.

Home studio, Oct. 2008

The first phase is to explore: there is a musical niche for me somewhere, whether as an artist writing/recording original work or as an engineer creating tools for artists, or some combination. Either way, there are a lot of new sounds waiting to be found, and I know how to find them. Despite the vast burst of creativity brought on by today’s incredible audio tools, there are still things no one (much) is doing, and some of these things are shockingly simple.

So, I have set up a home studio and am starting to record original music. As I do this, I will also be learning what is current in the field: how people are getting their work done, what tools they are lacking, which horses have been beaten to death, and which are still wild.

I don’t have an artist/band name yet, but I do have a motto:

Take anything, make anything.

Keep it simple, be resourceful. Use what is at hand efficiently by breaking habits and ignoring barriers. Take a plastic kazoo, play it like a saxophone, and mix it like an electric guitar (really, wait till you hear it!).

Take anything, make anything.