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More drum fills, more cowbell … “Symbolic Dog Blues” September 16, 2009

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Spent a few hours tweaking the drums. I beefed up the drums in the second verse—where the hard-rock guitar chords come in—with a cowbell (get it? Beefed!!) and heavier use of the hi-hat. The cowbell replaces the bottle clinks. Then I added drum fills to the second verse, and I “naturalized” the hi-hat hits throughout the song, which is to say I made some of the hits a little softer than others, to give it a less robotic feel (the drums are the only programmed instrument).

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 4

All of this will be barely perceptible to the casual listener, or even to the careful listener who isn’t me. But *I* will know!

Next step is to continue adding drum fills from the second instrumental to the end.

Green Mountain: all instruments September 16, 2009

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Here are all the instruments for this song (my second), with a pretty decent mix. This was my main project for August and the first half of September.

Green Mountain, an Audioslave remake, all instruments

Yes, it’s repetitive: you are listening to a rock song sans lyrics. This makes the mix a little thin, actually, because I simply muted my vocals out of the full mix. The music is straight out of a song by Audioslave, except I changed a few chords and repeated the bridge to accommodate a spoken segment. And, of course, I have totally changed the instrumentation.

And so, yes, that solo instrument after the first bridge is another kazoo!

I actually spent more time on vocals than anything else, experimenting with recording and mixing techniques, and arrangements, to see what works with my voice. I found some good stuff. I am excited!

Now that I know what the vocals will sound like, it is time to write the final lyrics. But first, I will go back and finish tweaking the drums in “Symbolic Dog Blues.”

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

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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

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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!

New acquisitions August 17, 2009

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Deep Purple



I didn’t expect to buy an entire case of harmonicas today, but that is another story. ‘Cause after I bought the harmonicas, I ran across a beautiful purple guitar, used and cheap but fixed up very nicely, with two humbucking pickups.

I had been thinking for a while about getting a dual-humbucker, so pretty soon I was loading this purple guitar into my Acura and heading home. Then I returned with my other two electrics to have them worked over and fixed up. The techs at this particular shop are excellent, with very reasonable prices. Now I am happy, because I have solved several guitar issues without spending a lot of money.


This is the very coolest software suite I have stumbled on in a long time. My musical aspirations go beyond writing and recording songs, to finding new sounds by creating and adapting musical technology—and making it easier for other musicians to find new sounds. I had been assuming that I’d have to write low-level computer code in order to do this, and I knew it would be a while before I am ready to dive back into that stuff.

But, it turns out that Cycling 74 has created this excellent programming tool just for people like me, people who want to program their computers to make sound in novel ways yet don’t actually want to program their computers—if you know what I mean. This software is definitely on my wish list now, but it is not cheap. And I may want to upgrade my recording software first. Or not. We’ll see which wins out.

Audioslave remake: acoustic guitars finished August 15, 2009

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Oct. 19, 2009:
This song is now called “Green Mountain.”

I rerecorded all the guitars in the bridge, so this finishes all acoustic guitar work.

Audioslave remake, acoustic guitars in place

Why? The old arrangement did not leave room for the vocals, so I moved the low guitar lower and added a high guitar up higher. The middle guitar can be turned down later so it won’t compete with the vocals. I have always liked this kind of acoustic layering with complementary arpeggios in different octaves. The new bridge also has a few effects, just to indicate the texture I am going for (listen for the lowest guitar pulsing). But the feel will change again when I add the electrics.

I also rerecorded the brief guitar melody that comes after the first chorus, before the second verse. The G string was out of tune last time. This time, I also added some basic EQ and effects to lift that guitar out of the “crowd.” And it is now double tracked.

Next step is either to demo the vocals or mess around with the bass.

New Song: an Audioslave remake! August 7, 2009

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Oct. 19, 2009:
This song is now called “Green Mountain.”

I started a new song!

Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. It just happened.

Audioslave remake, acoustic guitars only

This is a remake of a song by Audioslave. Bonus points if you can guess which song. Just mail in your name on a 3 by 5 card, write “Audioslave” on the back, and attach a black & white photo of your cat.

I will go back and finish the blues song, which was 99% done. Really, I will. I just needed a break. This is productive procrastination!

Now, I know this sounds like an all-acoustic number. It is not. It’s just that I have only done the acoustic guitars so far, and let me tell you: I spent a *lot* of time tuning them and retuning them, which is why they have such an open, clear sound. I live for that sound. Why record at all if you’re not going to get that sound? But portions of it will be obliterated by heavy electrics before we are finished.

Oh, yeah, and I’m totally changing the lyrics. And for those of you really paying attention: yes, I changed some of the chords too. I’m really excited! It’s just a rough start, but I’ve only spent about 12 hours total so far, including all the blasted tuning. Enjoy!

“Symbolic Dog Blues,” rev 3: drum fills and mix upgrade August 3, 2009

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More progress, creeping through the final maze of stalagmites, like a haunted subterranean slalom, toward the light at the end of the tunnel …

I redid Jimbob’s middle dialog, yet again. His voice in verse 2 now very nearly matches the other verses, and I think this is the best it is going to get. For what it’s worth, when the distorted guitar enters for verse 2, it actually makes poor Jimbob’s voice sound different by contrast, something like how a given color appears different against a white background versus a black background. I tested this by pasting Jimbob clips from verse 1 and 2 back to back with no background, and they sound convincingly identical. So part of this problem is actually an “audio illusion”! Don’t ask me why Brit is immune to it. I guess our friends across the pond have a higher tolerance.

After retouching Jimbob, I remixed parts of verse three that hadn’t gotten much attention yet, particularly the Jimbob/Brit duet, and then I added drum fills throughout the first verse. Tomorrow, drum fills for verse two.

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 3


Full Mix of “Symbolic Dog Blues,” rev. 2 July 28, 2009

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We are really getting there now!!

I have rewritten and rerecorded the more confusing bits of dialog, rerecorded all of Jimbob’s middle dialog (where his voice had suddenly changed), and fully mixed the whole song.

Jimbob still has some voice-matching trouble, but it is not as bad as before.

Symbolic Dog Blues, rev 2

What’s left?

Keep on improving the Jimbob voice match, and add some drum fills.

More on “Symbolic Dog Blues”:

First Complete Draft of “Symbolic Dog Blues” !! July 17, 2009

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It’s done! Well, not DONE. Just, you know, done. First draft, all the way through, all instruments, all voices, all everything.

What’s left to do?

  • Fix the jokes that don’t work, and rerecord their dialog.
  • Rerecord Jimbob’s dialog in the 2nd verse, matching his voice to the other verses.
  • Add some light drum fills if I feel like it.
  • Adjust all volume levels and mix the song as a whole.

Notably absent from this list is any more instrumental recording: the bass, guitars, keyboard, and Kazooka tracks are completely finished!

The audio:

As always, use headphones or real speakers (not your laptop’s) for best results. Or use your laptop. Whatever.

If you’ve already heard Verses One and Two and are too impatient to hear them again, this first link is for you. You will miss the entire buildup and not really get it, and Jimbob will call you a dirty rat, but I don’t mind if you don’t mind. Click here to get only Verse Three:

If you are awesome and want to hear the full six minutes, click here:

What is all this Silliness??

Okay, I am not attempting to produce America’s next pop hit. This offbeat, silly song is my learning exercise, and by the time it is fully mixed down, it will have provided me with about a year of self schooling in audio recording and production. This sort of character work is a favorite style of mine, and it has allowed me to practice every element I am likely to work with in the future: programmed drums, guitars (acoustic, electric, bass) and keyboards, singing vocals, spoken vocals, singing character vocals, and odd percussion sounds like glass bottles and a hand drum I once bought at a T’ai Chi festival. Oh yeah, and a hard rock kazoo.

Future work will take more conventional considerations into account, such as selecting styles that other people tend to like. Don’t misunderstand—I am very happy with this project!! Just sayin’ …