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Roadkill on the information superhighway January 6, 2011

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Resource.
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My computer stinks like a flattened ‘possum carcass sizzling on the pavement of a Southern highway.

It’s been almost six months since I attempted to make it awesome by adding more RAM and disk space. It was going to become my portable creative multimedia studio. I actually needed the disk space, to hold some hefty audio software I had just bought (Logic Studio plus Ableton Live, for a total of some 70 or 80 GB). The RAM, I was hoping, would let me edit big audio/video projects with snappy response.

Instead, my computer got sluggish. You know, click the link and wait while the hard drive makes noises and the cursor spins. Spin, spin, spin …. spin … then load the next page. Forget complex multimedia projects; this happens while surfing the web or typing an email.

I finally gave up on Repair Shop A after they looked at it four times (or was it five?) and found nothing. In their defense, the problem comes and goes, and it tended to go away just before I brought it to them.

Now I am on my second visit to Repair Shop B. Last time, they found trouble with my logic board and replaced it (free under a recall program from Apple!). I was really excited about this, but the sluggishness returned quickly. The good thing about Repair Shop B is that they are more interested in a proactive, unit-testing approach. If they cannot find anything wrong this time, we will discuss a strategy such as switching out the hard drive to see if it affects the problem. That way, we will learn something even if there is no smoking gun on the test bench.

Had I known up front that it would take this long, I might have considered buying a new machine back in August. The cost so far has not approached anywhere near the cost of a new MacBook Pro, but five months of delay is certainly worth some dough.

We will see what happens. For now, I am working on the kids’ iMac in the family room. Again.

Mr. Bass now as cool as his friends September 5, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Resource.
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All three of my electric guitars were recently pampered at Music Central, and they are now playing like new. In some cases, better than new.

But not my poor bass guitar! His frets were still buzzing, and his intonation was off, and he sulked in the corner while the cool ones hobnobbed and laughed it up.


Happily, that all changed today, as I took Mr. Bass in to the shop, and they got him back to me the same day! Now, we are one big, happy, stringed family.

Electric fleet gets new life at Music Central August 19, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Music, Resource.
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What a great day! For a total expense of under $400, I have three great guitars, whereas I formerly had only one working guitar, and it was only somewhat playable.

My graphite-gray Phoenix Electra from boyhood, on which I learned everything, has not been playable in twenty years, mostly because I wore down the frets like mad, but there were various other issues too. I took it to a shop early this year, hoping to get it fixed up, but they told me this guitar was not salvageable. Good thing I did not throw it out (major sentimental pack-rat here!!), because the guys at Music Central said they could make it like new, and they sure did! Better than new, actually. I guess my fingers still remember it, because I can play it better than any of my others.

They also fixed up my red Peavey Nitro from college band days, which was still fairly playable, but its intonation has been off for a long time, and the action was all scrambled up due to some silly amateur (me) messing around with it, and it had other smaller issues too.

On top of that, they talked me into buying a cute little purple guitar, used but fixed up really nicely. A dual humbucker like my Phoenix, but with a fixed bridge and a somewhat thicker tone, it fits into the family nicely.

Now, these are not famous, classic, brand-name guitars. I’m not into that. I guess it’s my engineering aesthetics, but I get a huge kick out of making something work that isn’t supposed to work. The cheaper, the more makeshift, the more “huhh??”, the better. Now, these guitars are not “makeshift” in any way; they just aren’t some Fender signature strat reissue, etc. Thanks to my new best friends at Music Central, my new old cheap guitars are more playable than anything I’ve ever experienced, just as playable and great-sounding as if I’d spent thousands of dollars.

Take anything, make anything!

Seeking acoustic Nirvana: the drawing is done! March 26, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Resource.
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I finished the quadratic equations, resulting in the drawing you see below.

Why the quadratics? Well, look at the double door on my drawing (near topmost part of room). Now find the corner just above and to the right of the door. Where, precisely, is that corner? Keep in mind: when I started, I had only the lengths of the walls, and this corner in question is the only one where neither wall is nicely horizontal or vertical, so all we know is that it’s 177 inches from the point next to the keyboard, and it’s 16-3/8 inches from the edge of the top horizontal wall. Euclidially (if that’s a word), we have the intersection of two circles, folks, and that is a quadratic equation.

Later on, a second such equation surfaced, and I only dodged a third by noticing (at the last minute, whew!) that I could intersect two lines instead of two circles. Bisecting the big angle was another story: slopes and inverse tangents. And, of course, that angle’s vertex is MIA, so first I had to find it. Then, the speakers are on a line normal to the bisector, forming the recommended equilateral triangle with the listener … by the time I was done, 1985 seemed like only yesterday!

Friday, when I go out to do errands, I will get this thing scanned (’cause what you see here is a camera photo, not great for printing), and then I will send it off to Auralex Acoustics for a professional analysis. I’m sure they’ve seen it all! (I hope they’ve seen it all …)

Click the image to get an enlargement you can actually read, in a new window.


The sound of old denim March 24, 2009

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This morning, I sorted through a bunch of old jeans, creating a pile of half a dozen pairs too ratty to give away.

I was not expecting the pile to bristle with wonderful sounds. You can scuff the material against itself, beat one pair of jeans with another … if you dangle one pair by the waist a few feet off a hardwood floor and drop it, you get a nice extended fwwump with a similar character to a compressed snare …

I saved one pair, stored next to the empty tequila bottle and authentic camel bells.

Bee squared minus four ay cee March 17, 2009

Posted by bernie87fl in Resource.
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Acoustic analysis of a room starts by taking all the measurements and finding symmetric locations for the main speakers. In most rooms, this means measuring length, width, and ceiling height, then plunking down the speakers one or two feet from the side walls, about 1/4 of the way from the room’s front.

My studio, however, is shaped like a large fragment of a triangle, stuck onto a similarly-sized rectangle. In other words, as any fifth grader could tell you, it’s not even a real trapezoid.

Now, normally, I’m one to ignore all the fine calculations and just do it anyway, but when I first moved in to this room, I couldn’t even play a CD without being blasted by what studio technicians call “boomy bass,” and I was unable to make acoustic recordings with sound quality I considered decent.

With a little bit of reading, I was able to solve a lot of the trouble myself. Turns out, corners are the worst place to put speakers (who knew?), and I made an incredibly makeshift vocal booth out of spare blankets and about $18 of Home Depot products.

Yet, I hunger for more. At Auralex Acoustics, pro engineers will analyze your room for free. That’s because they want to sell you their acoustics products. But I’m okay with that if they’re prepared to make a good case.

So, I broke out the tape measure, and it was easy enough to measure all the walls. But then I started plunking down the speakers, and you know what? Before long, I wanted to know where was the main axis of symmetry. So I figured, I just needed to bisect the angle of the main triangular region, except the triangle’s actual vertex is not on the map (its tip is truncated asymmetrically by not one, but two, line segments) … and there is one corner between walls that are not orthogonal to anything, so … where exactly is that point? The (x,y) coordinates came out, and they brought their friend, the point/slope formula, then Mr. Pythagoras showed up, looking shifty, and before I’d wised up, there was a quadratic equation!!

But I recovered, and then I remembered that I actually like this stuff. Plus, I’ve got Apple’s “Numbers” application to do all the heavy lifting—how nice is that? So, now I’m almost done with an awesome little map of the place, and this time I really know where to put those speakers!

I will post the map in a bit.
(Update: here it is!)