Resolutions or Goals

So here they are in no particular order.  The musical things I plan on accomplishing in 2010.

  1. Continue learning to use what I have better.
  2. Continue working on my not-so-fabulous guitar chops.
  3. Do another RPM Challenge album and make it better than last year's effort.
  4. Play a proper live gig.
  5. Find a (semi)local collaborator.
On that last one...  it's like looking for a lover in a way.  You have ideas about what you're looking for and those ideas may have little relationship with what would be good or would work.  So here's what could be my craigslist ad:
Me:  Hobbyist computer music geek interested in all kinds of electronic music but particularly interested in mellower hybrid forms combining electronic and traditional instruments.  I play bass, guitar, keyboards and flute with nothing that could be confused with expert ability.  I'm reasonably handy with music theory and recording tech.  I'm a Mac guy and use Ableton Live and Logic Studio.  I have no aspirations to fame, fortune, record deals, etc.  I do this because I like it.
You:  Live in the greater Toronto area (biased to the west).  Are interested in experimenting and not that interested in sounding like anyone else (or doing covers, etc).
So if you're tired of the sight of your own navel, drop me a line at mmi@alonetone.com
This public stating of goals is weird.  I have had a lifelong superstition about doing it (the thinking being that if I talk about something, I'll jinx it and it won't happen).  But we all know that's bullshit, right?

So here's hoping that your 2010 will be as wonderful as mine.

Happy New Year.


Year in Review

It's that time of year when those inclined to make resolutions start to think about what they might be.  Since I actually made resolutions last year, I think it might be better to first have a look at how I did...

  • learn an instrument
In January 2009, I started taking guitar lessons for the first time in my life and I'm happy to report I am still at it.  I bought the first guitar (after borrowing my son's for the first few lessons) and was told it would not be my last.  I didn't know it then but they were right.

I am a bit of a weird student.  Most kids come in wanting to learn to play insert favourite song here.  As somebody already making and recording music, I wanted more theory.  And my instructors have been happy to oblige.  So my playing is still on the crap side (though, that's probably true of anybody with only 1 year under belt).

Recording the guitar has posed new challenges.  I wrestle with latency in my recording setup.  Composition takes longer while I fart around developing guitar parts and practicing them to the point where I can get a passable take.  And it's exposed me to the bugaboo of computer recording which is latency.  Something about my setup is crap.  When I figure it out, I'll be a happy man.

Another challenge is remembering things outside the computer.  "In the box" artists tweak their virtual knobs and the computer remembers all.  As soon as you leave the box, you have real knobs and you need to note all the settings if you ever need to recreate sounds.  And without MIDI, you need to remember chords, voicings, etc and write them down somewhere.  Pickup switch, tone settings, etc.  There is a lot you get to take for granted when everything is a virtual parameter.  Of course, being extremely fastidious can interfere with creativity so some sensible balance is something that I'm in constant search of.

Finally, a guitar is just the beginning.  And I ended up buying some toys.  Some affordable (e-bow) and some less so (GT-10).  And then, about a week ago, I bought my second guitar.  I'm in love all over again.  More and different sounds.  Bigsby.  Now learning new playing tricks.  And I'm tempted to start recording the acoustic sounds alongside the electric sounds...
  • learn to better use the things I have
To some extent I did that.  I did take an Ableton course and I bought the fabulous sound design videos from Nick's Tutorials.  The primary intent behind this resolution was to not buy/covet new gear before more fully figuring out how to use the stuff I already had.  I failed.  Flashy software upgrades happened. New plugins happened.  Max 4 Live happened.  My cup floweth over.

Resolutions and goals for next year?  Stay tuned.


I Never Win Anything

We've all said it.  We all have friends that have said it.  And for me, just days after my birthday it became a lie.  w00t!  Over at the Mac OS X Audio forums there was a giveaway of String Studio VS-1 from Applied Acoustics and I was one of the lucky winners.
Now as an owner of Ableton Live Suite I already have Tension instrument (which is a joint development between Ableton and Applied Acoustics) so I sort of knew what I was in for.  But there are some extras.

If you like presets, this thing came with many hundreds of presets (way more than in my Live library).  Say what you want about presets, I find them useful tools in learning what is possible with a software instrument.

Additionally, it has built in effects.  Live instruments are typically very dry because the intent is that you feed into audio processing modules that you've set up (which is very cool).  However, as a beginner in the world of sound design, it's often easier for me to alter a fully fleshed out sound than it is to build one up.

There is also a built in arpeggiator that is different from the Live arp which is good (I'm not a huge fan of the Live arp [perhaps I'm just not smart enough]).  I don't fully understand it yet but it seems to be a combination of an arp with step sequencer which makes for some coolness.

Finally, as a friend pointed out, I'll be able to use this in Logic which is a criminally underused tool in my box.  (That is if I ever get to the point where it works properly for me -- the Logic 9 + Snow Leopard combination is having "issues" but that's a separate rant).

So thank you to Eric Thibeault who held the giveaway and to sandbags who poked me to enter.