Archive for the ‘Equipment’ category

In the studio

March 25, 2008

I’m working on a CD, tentatively titled “Walking There”, scheduled for a June/July release.  If you’d like to be notified when it becomes available, please sign up for my mailing list by clicking on (strangely enough) the “Mailing List” link in the sidebar over there >>.

I’ve finally got Jamie Raeburn to a point where there’s a few places that can use some touch-up, but overall it’s good and if push came to shove I could release it as is.  I’m going to try to have Brett Gibson come and lay down an accordion track for it.

Next step is sometime in the next week or so to build a portable sound booth.  The floors in our eighty year old house are just too damn noisy!  I hung some acoustic foam behind my microphones (amazing what you can do with a queen-size, $10 Craig’s List egg crate mattress pad) and even that small – admittedly jerry-rigged – touch made a difference.


I just couldn’t take it any more…

March 22, 2008

A bit over fifteen years ago, I had it in my head that I was going to have a music career. (It’s not that I was wrong; I was just ahead of my time.) I took my girlfriend – who I would later make my wife – to a place in North Kansas City officially called St. Mary’s School Of Music. It had another name I can’t remember that was far, far cooler than that. They’d set up shop in an old grocery store off of Armour Rd. and sold everything musical.

I was there to purchase a MIDI workstation, which I still have: a Roland XP80. 512 on-board sounds (of which I’ve only ever used about 10), 64 note polyphony, weighted keys…not the best money could buy, but still, $2500 back in 1990 was nothing to sneeze at, and bought quite a lot of keyboard.

one of my microphonesWhile I was there I bought two mics and a mixer. The mics I still have, and they still work well: A Peavey Diamond Series PVM22 (still a good vocal mic) and a Peavey PVM480: both good equipment.

The mixer, not so much. It’s a Peavey Unity 300 12 channel, in its day a good mixer. Hell, a very good mixer. At the time I think it was something like $250.

Over the years, though, it developed an annoying zzzzzzzzzz on the output channel – a 600Hz buzz*, very quiet but also very noticeable. I was able to use a gate and filter it out, but even so it left an uncomfortable ambiance to the recorded sound.

One day, the wife and I stopped at Guitar Center here in Independence to buy cables for my St. Patrick’s day concert. While there, I was pricing the mixers, trying to get a handle on what we’d need to work into the budget. Michelle asked for the price, was told, then asked me, “Will this help you make your CD?” “Yes,” says I. She turns to the salesperson and says, “Go get it for him.”

He just stood there, a goldfish expiring on the kitchen counter. I broke him out of his trance with, “Do you see? See what I have to put up with? Now, go get the nice lady her mixer.”

In reality, there’s more to the story, but I’ll spare you the worst of it. The “bullet points” work like this:

First I bought an Alesis MultiTrack8 USB. Didn’t work with Sonar.
My New Mixer

Next, I bought an Alesis MultiTrack8 Firewire. Didn’t work with Sonar, Cubase or Premiere. Or, more accurately, Windows wouldn’t work with the mixer.

Finally, I bought this. It’s a Behringer Xenyx 1622. I could have made the Alesis work using the analog outputs, but why? I paid $250 for a Firewire interface only to not use it?

No, I don’t think so.

Besides, the Alesis was short an output, using the digital connection for the computer, meaning there weren’t enough outputs left to monitor what I was doing and feed the computer.

In the end, I spent about $60 less, got a bit more mixer (4 more tracks!), a somewhat better interface (I think), and with the money I saved bought a guitar humidifier and dinner from Olive Garden for me and Michelle**.

You could argue that I could have just futzed with the drivers until I got them to work. True, but it just wouldn’t have been worth the time.

I’ve already done some recording with it, and the difference is astonishing. I didn’t realize just how noisy the old mixer was.

* I’m guessing, of course, but that seems right.
** Please don’t correct the grammar, because you won’t be. It’s not “Michelle and I.” How do you know? Take “Michelle” out, and try it both ways: “dinner from Olive Garden for I.” Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? How about, “dinner from Olive Garden for me.” Ahhhh, better. Of course, I could use “myself”, but that’d just be pretentious. I’m not that kind of guy.