Archive for the Songwriting Category

Rainy Day Pedalboard For Guitar

Posted in Carpentry, Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Songwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , on 06/02/2013 by Baghead Kelly

PB 1
If your into electric guitar, then chances are that you’ve got a few stomp boxes, lying around. Once you’ve collected a few then eventually you get to the point where you start thinking about a pedal board. Such is the dilemma that I faced on a recent rainy afternoon.

The brief was simple I just wanted a board that I could walk up to, plug in and play –  no flat batteries and no multiple adaptor clutter.

I went about researching such a thing simply by checking out a whole lot of other peoples boards on Google’s “Image Search”. Interestingly, during this process I saw a few pedals used more often than others. The four common stand outs were;

  1. a Wah Wah pedal of some kind,
  2. an Ibanez’s tube screamer as made famous by SRV,
  3. Boss’s RC20 looper and
  4. Boss’s TU3 Chromatic Tuner – the one with the disco lights.

Beyond these four pedals it was open slather. Each pedal board was wildly individual, incorporating a plethora of designs and configurations – some home made others just plain obscure or whacky.

In assimilating these designs another design concept came to the fore and that was the use of velcro tape and hook carpet to enable the pedals to be securely but temporarily mounted. In the end I went with this idea because it was simple and allowed for ongoing adjustments and configurations.
PB 2
I started with just a simple 15° wedged box (800mm x 300mm) shown above.

Originally I planned to enable the wedge to sit over my microphone stand and the red and green lines on the bottom of the wedge indicated the microphone’s legs that would sit in the as yet unbuilt slots. I abandoned the idea for the sake of simplicity but I still think the idea has merit.

The power supply is the Gator G-BUS-8. This worked out fine because one of my pedals was the 18volt Dunlop Univibe and the Gator was the only supply that would accommodate 18V (3 of) as well as 9v (8 of) plugs. It was for me, expensive but in the long run all the electrical work was thus pre-solved. The Gator is not the only option here for those of you contemplating such an adventure; there is also a Dunlop version and T-Rex have several models.

The other practical concern was to be the fact that there was going to be a whole lot of cables that were to be stuffed into this wedge shape and so eventually I would have to make a sealed cover to keep them tidy within the wedge. Ultimately when it was finally set up I would only have to plug in my wedge, guitar and amp to be good to go.

I have three commercial pedalboards, which all have their own unique benefits but some of them are extremely complicated affairs and my needs are simple. A little distortion, some chorus maybe some E.Q. is all I really need. That’s not to say that I don’t like experimenting with the kinky stuff because I do but in the end its all about the music. The old K.I.S.S. adage seems to apply here and this pedal board is both simple and adaptable which I really like.

Zoom H2n Review

Posted in Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Review, Songwriting with tags , , , , on 01/10/2013 by Baghead Kelly

Zoom H2N

I purchased one of these little microphone recorders awhile ago after sniffing around the Line 6 Back Track recorder. The unit is about 4”in -100mm in length.

Mostly I am very pleased with the recorder as it has done for me what digital cameras have done to photography. Record as much as you like and as many takes as you like. If I have too many false starts I just stop it and start again. You can easily trim the fat through the machine or with your computer afterwards. (You will have to buy a decent SD/SDHC card for it as it only comes with a 2GB card to get you started.)

You have several options with regards to how you can record using the 5 on board microphones. Most notably the mid-side  configuration which essentially mixes Left & Right microphones with a unidirectional microphone at the front allowing adjustment of the width of the pattern from 30° to 150°. The other major configuration is an XY pattern of 90° which is my favourite.

The unit  takes two AA batteries which give you 20 hours play time. It can use rechargeables but you have to register them within the unit so that it can accurately tell you how much usable time you have left. For me 20 hrs is plenty and AA’s are more preferential then AAA’s because of the cost.

I should also mention that it comes with Cubase LE which is the light version of Cubase. As I already have Cubase 5 I didn’t play around with it too much but it all seemed quite adequate for editing etc.

Along with the Zoom H2n I also bought the accessories kit that in my view should really come with the unit. The accessories kit comes with:

  • Wired remote control with extension cable
  • Windscreen
  • AC adapter (USB type)
  • USB cable
  • Adjustable tripod stand
  • Padded-shell case
  • Mic clip adapter

Personally I’m not likely to use the remote or the windscreen but the rest is essential. Even the strange looking handle attachment means that I can clip it into my existing mic stands and it looks like its meant to be there.

The recording quality is excellent once you get your distances right and I would thoroughly recommend this unit for both enthusiasts like myself and serious recording aficionados who would like a field unit. This is probably my favourite piece of kit that I have purchased in 2012 and I would rate it a whopping 5 out of 5 rubber chickens.

Baghead Bags the Stones

Posted in Art, Lifestyle, Music, Review, Songwriting with tags , , , on 11/12/2012 by Baghead Kelly

I just bought the new Stones album Grrr! I haven’t read much about it and so it was a bit of a shock to find it was a compilation album with only two new tracks; “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot”. “Doom and Gloom” kicks arse and “One More Shot” I could take it or leave it, maybe it will grow on me. The album comes in a few different configurations to drive the hard core fans and completists nuts but essentially there are only two new tracks. You can add this one to your pile of other Stones rehashes ; Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), Flowers, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), Hot Rocks 1964–1971, Hot Rocks 1964–1971, Metamorphosis, Made in the Shade, Rewind (1971–1984), Singles Collection: The London Years, Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones (UK) and Rarities 1971–2003. In fact if you’ve got any of these I wouldn’t bother with Grrr! just buy the singles. As for the hard core Stones fans, I’m sorry but I’ve got to call it as I see it – 1 out of 5 rubber chickens the Stones are getting lazy.

Baghead Writes A Love Song

Posted in Family, Home Studio, Lifestyle, Poetry, Songwriting with tags , , on 04/08/2012 by Baghead Kelly

Here’s a little song that I wrote for my wife. Excuse the quality; it’s strictly low-fi – I recorded this with two push button cassette players to bounce down tracks.

[https://soundcloud.com/baghead-kelly/song-for-cassandra-demo]

Verse 1

More than a thousand miles away,
I send my love to my baby today.
I guess I’m just a sentimental fool,
A lovelorn poet in a world so cruel.

Verse 2

I want to run my fingers gently through your hair,
But every time Cass baby your not there.
I’m waiting for the day when you walk through my door,
And two becomes one just like it was before.

Verse 3

Eloquence escapes me at about verse three,
Rhyming couplets and poetry.
One baby two baby three wait and see,
All your babies sitting on this daddies knee.

Verse 4

I guess I’m tired of waiting this waiting game,
Whats a candle without its girlie flame.
Wait for me Cass because I’m true blue,
I’m coming back baby just to marry you.

Outro

I love you,
I need you, need you, need you,
And it won’t be long before we’re back together.

Stand Alone Performance

Posted in Music, Songwriting with tags , , , on 03/27/2012 by Baghead Kelly

A stand alone performance to me is the ultimate test of talent. A musician accompanying themselves, is really a special benchmark because they hold their own hand. I’m not talking about hacks like myself, I’m talking about the demi gods of music. I actively seek out these recordings; I pour over box sets and anthologies and when I occasionally stumble upon these gems, I wet my pants a little bit. Partly I like these performances because they reveal musical secrets but mostly because I am in awe of their genius. These recordings don’t have to be perfect recordings, in fact I like the rough diamonds just as much.

When you think about ***Robert Johnson’s catalogue of tunes; it was just him and his guitar. 29 tunes recorded 76 years ago. Today I can go into my local record shop and ‘The Complete Recordings’ will be there somewhere on the shelves and I’m a long, long way from Texas Toto. Somehow he put something very special down on tape. That kind of magic is rare but not unachievable.

Jimi Hendrix sitting on a stool with a borrowed 12 string playing “Hear My Train A Comin’” is just as magical and fortunately that was caught on film as well. In that little three minute window Jimi gifts us the key to where he had come from, musically and spiritually. Dissect it and you can see Voodoo Child (Slight Return) hidden inside those notes and plenty more besides. A similar pearl (hehe) is Janis Joplin pairing up with Jorma Kaukonen to render “Trouble In Mind” on the “Typewriter Tape”. It wasn’t stand alone but the talent and the soul is breath taking.

In the eighties there was “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” series which unearthed terrific acoustic versions of Pete Townshend’s “Pinball Wizard” and Sting’s “Roxanne”. In aid of Amnesty International, the benefits ushered in the era of “Unplugged” recordings which in itself brought with it a swag of brilliant stand alone recordings. The “Eric Clapton Unplugged” was wildly popular and probably helped fund his “Crossroad” festivals.

Then there was “The Beatles Anthology” which not only offered intimate insights into some of their extensive catalogue but also triggered the release of other box sets and anthologies.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rendering of Doyle Bramhall’s “Life By The Drop” is another favourite and when you hear Bramhall’s version you can hear where Stevie drew his singing and phrasing style.

At this point you probably think I’m a ‘white boy lost in the blues’ and you would be right but I most certainly try to be a contemporary man, at least on occasions. The advent of Youtube has unearthed a wealth of stand alone talent. Too numerous to mention really but it is the way of the future and I am still trying to work my way up to the present.

If you know of any of these solo flashes of genius, I would love to hear them or check them out.

***(incidentally my post on ‘Love In Vain’ featured a fake picture of Robert Johnson. There are only two known photo’s of the man and that wasn’t one of them…hehehe).

Home Recording Tip

Posted in Home Studio, Music, Songwriting with tags , , on 03/25/2012 by Baghead Kelly

Now I’m not really a person qualified to hand out home recording tips but I do have this one. When I built my little home studio I also made the little sheet music rack that you can see on the wall. Essentially it is just a slanted plank with a trim nailed to the bottom to hold the pages.  – What I do is I use masking tape to join my sheet music together in sequence. I usually have the lyrics typed out on the first page, the rest music. Only masking tape will do and I’ve got sheet music over twenty years old treated in this way. – The rack is sized to fit 6 x A4 sheets but if I made it again I would make it for eight sheets. The trim at the bottom creates a half inch (15mm) lip and in hindsight I would double the size of that as well. The reason being is that I usually pile song sheet on top of song sheet and a full inch would be better. The whole shebang is suited to my height (I like playing standing up) and I have a microphone installed from the ceiling above it. I can just stand there and do my thing and it all works a treat. So if your building a home studio then here is something that you might like to incorporate into your design.

Guitar Pro 6 Review

Posted in Art, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Songwriting with tags , , on 03/16/2012 by Baghead Kelly

Guitar Pro has been around for quite a while but if you’re a guitarist and you don’t use it I’d have to ask; why not? It is the single most effective guitar learning tool that I’ve come across. Guitar Pro helps to compose, and transcribe music too although it also uses traditional notation. The files are quite small so they don’t take up much room on your computer and in general there’s not too many negatives to speak of.

Arobas Music who developed the program was founded in 1997 and are located in the North of France. The program is currently selling for $60 with an optional $30 upgrade. (I paid about $40 a couple of years ago). Personally I would easily shell out even that hurtful amount and I’m a well-known tight wad. (I paid $30 per half an hour to a piano tutor once and I only lasted 4 weeks because of the pain on my wallet).

www.guitarpro.com/

There are literally tens of thousands of tunes on the internet available for free. They vary in quality as most have been written by enthusiasts, however the standard is generally very high. If you already have the program and you’re looking for another 21,925 more songs then drop us a line and I’ll send you the rar file.

The Pros

  • It’s relatively easy to learn as there is plenty of literature and Youtube videos on the subject.
  • You can hear what you write/compose.
  • You can learn at your own pace. It’s always there when you feel like picking up the baton.
  • The songs are free.
  • You can print your music for hard copies and the standard is very good. I prefer it to ‘Finale’. (last time I bought a sheet music book I paid $50 although we get ripped off here in Australia)
  • Its become so popular that it is fast becoming the standard.
  • It’s a great way to converse with other musicians.
  • You can export your arrangements as MIDI and import them into other programs i.e. Cubase.

The Cons

  • It costs $60 bucks
  • It’s RSE (Realistic Sound Engine) sounds like those early Casio keyboards.

If you’re a music enthusiast then do yourself a favour and check out Guitar Pro.