Update of Live Performance Preparations

(… just to place the context of the next bit – I’m referring to music composition – although I suppose it could be applied to life in general as well …)

I find that great things happen by planning them out first. Even if a plan is very thorough, things don’t always work out the way you though they would. Sometimes this is a really good thing (a good accident) and sometimes when things go south and off the rails it is a drag (a not-good accident).

From my experience I think the thing to do is to be adaptive and agile (and I know this word is  over used but I need to use it here). Good accidents can open up opportunities and present possibilities that are were previously unseen due to self-imposed thinking limitation (i.e. – out of your regular mindset/though process bandwidth). Bad accidents can also do the same (although sometimes  the lessons learned  can a little aggressively “driven home”).

( … now I just talking about music composition …)

Here’s a summary of the latest happenings:

In trying to come up ideas for music to play live, I actually stumbled on a new way to write music for live performance. Back in the old days (20 years ago) I would go for walks with my little voice recorder and come up with melody ideas and hum them into my little voice recorder. Most of the time this method didn’t really work because even though I had a melody line, I didn’t have the thought process or the inspiration behind it (those were lost when I came back to my apartment and booted up my studio).

It seems that I am much more creatively unbound when I’m not staring down the barrel of a digital studio. I would have thought that it would have worked the other way around, but it doesn’t (at least not for me).

The reason for this I believe is that without technology and armed with just a pen a paper there are no limits. Also with a pen and paper I don’t need to think of programming a synth or what my bass track sounds, etc. All I need to think of is the overall picture. All the complicated esoteric, complicated crap can happen later down the line.

So what I’m writing on the paper when I’m writing music?
Well not notes … not any music theory at all. It’s actually reads like the scene descriptions of a play or movie script. I describe the textual landscape and tempo range and how things change and evolve and the guitar (the main character) is doing.

Again no music theory, it’s all descriptive language about flow and changes of the tune.

I take this written description home and it becomes a sort of road map describing how the tune should “go” and then I build the tune.

I’m starting to use this approach for writing music for live performance more and more.

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It’s Been a While – But It’s Been Loads of Fun

I actually am being a little sarcastic with that title. The “fun” has been on two fronts. On one front I’ve been messing around with Reaper on my little web book, crappy little toy computer with Windows XP and various chincy little MIDI interfaces. So after about 10 man hours spent on the leg of that Gantt chart, I’ve decided to abandon that methodology all together. Basically it’s been a waste of time. But I had to prove to myself and to my little ego … and there I did it!

So what’s the answer to a live setup? Well as it turns out the answer is a used Macbook with a LOGIC DAW installed and a half decent MIDI digital interface. The interface, I have already and the used Macbook  that I just purchased on eBay is on it’s way. I tried to go cheap using the crappy stuff I had and it’s no good and just not worth it.

During this period of messing around with inferior hardware and unknown software it suddenly became obvious to me that just playing live is going to enough pressure to handle on it’s own  and I don’t need the extra aggravation or the non-professional aspects that this less-than-ideal setup would bring to already oddball performance concept.

I’ve been using Macs and Logic (in one form or another) for decades and I’m very comfortable with them and UNIX. I actually did think of going with this superior setup in the beginning of this “Live Performance” journey idea/concept but quickly wrote it off as too “highfalutin”. But in the end it’s the only way to do what I want to do (and believe me I have researched lots). So on that front, I’m at least starting to make some progress.

Other the front (front #2) we the latest Mac OS X upgrade to El Capitan and the collateral software frustration it caused. Finally I am getting my DAW and Mac System in some sort of stability and alignment. Almost all my plugins have been upgraded to accommodate this latest OS upgrade.

So the only that’s left is that most of the plugins aupreset files that I created to denote patches I auditioned and decided to earmark for later use are now useless. Not only are aupreset unusable, they aren’t even recognized by the plugins I used to create in the first place. I looked the contents of some of these files with an XML file reader and their header formats are totally different from the aupreset files are being created by those plugins now. I’m not very happy about that because it means hours of work have gone down the drain. Anyway what are you going to do? 🙂

The other thing (I guess this would be front #3) is that I am now rethinking the idea of rebooting the best of all my old material. I’ve used a couple of my old tunes already as proof-of-concept guinea pigs and I’ve decided that it’s much better to create from the ground up than try to recreate something from the past that already had its creative path stamped out and has had it’s “creative day” as it were.

I think for the aesthetic integrity of this project and myself, I would prefer to go “whole hog” and write new material from the ground up using the much more advance technology that I have at my disposal now and write for the venue and project I’ve decided to pursue.

The possibilities are pretty huge (cosmic in fact).

So welcome aboard the spaceship “Progressive Cosmic Rock”L-I-V-E. (I hope …)

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Getting Ready to Play Live – Update 1

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My Bandcamp site now up-to-speed

Finally it’s done!

http://kevinatwood.bandcamp.com

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Latest releases

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Latest Videos

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Figured It Out!

As far as I can see there is nothing that will work that is commercially available for the purpose that I need. Therefore, through desperation I have figured out a way to do it by building something that’s customized and homemade and it will cost me about five dollars. By using a DPDT momentary contact foot switch I will be able to momentarily switch to acoustic guitar mode at the drop of a hat. I might have to use some capacitors to avoid looking for switching noise but it will fine.I will have to build it first.

Although it’s a very simple thing I need to do it’s a very rare situation. I need to switch by alternately grounding out to different audio signals from a split stereo feed.

Anyway this will work as long as there isn’t a big “KA-BOOM!”every time I switch between guitar sounds. I will know for sure in week or so when I get the switch I just ordered on eBay.

 

 

This is basically what I plan on doing (wiring wise) which is exactly what is going on inside my Nitefly guitar.

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Live Performance Update

I’ve got almost everything I need to play live in as far as hardware is concerned with the exception of a A/B switch to toggle my electric and acoustics sounds on the fly. I tried using the switch on my Nitefly but it’s too time consuming and I already have enough to do with my hands just playing the guitar, especially getting in the right place in the right in between sounds (never mind flicking a switch on the guitar at the same time).

The ideal situation is to have a foot switch that is normally switched on “electric guitar” mode with a momentary switch over to “acoustic guitar” mode.

I’ve also been thinking of getting a little compressor pedal instead of luging around the rack-mount compressor that I’m presently using for this experiment/proof-of-concept.

The final challenge will be rebooting the old tunes and arranging them so that the audience can listen to and see some kind of a performance. Not that I think that I’m a particularly fantastic guitar player or anything but compared to someone who can’t play the guitar – I am at least mildly fantastic and hopefully that and my music will be enough to carry the performance through. And if people get borded with those two things, they can always look at my face contort while I play the guitar. That alone should be worth the price of admisson.

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Gearing Up For Live Performance

Well I finally worked it all out. I have figured a way to play my music live and hopefully make it interesting enough to keep people from falling asleep.

I’ve looked various at technologies and about a thousand different ways to work it from a technological level, but no matter what I came up with, I couldn’t find anything that would work for me. I found this a little disappointing being a technology nerd but there doesn’t seem to be anyway (that I can find) that will work with my situation and requirements. I looked at various iPad apps and even considered at one point getting a mac laptop and running LOGIC Pro live which still would not work for me.

So the only thing that I could do is take the tech down a couple rungs and work it from the ground up. Also I didn’t really want to spend any huge amounts of money on something that will probably have zero return (not that I’m doing this for money, but it’s a consideration for sure). What actually got me thinking in this way was something I read in a online form discussion about playing live. I was trying to determine what technologies other musicians used for playing live and I came across this one online form entry. The gentleman stated his live music sequencer was his iPod. He had loaded all his bed tracks on his iPod and just played along with his bed tracks. Someone else on the form asked him what other musicians thought of this when they came to hear him play. His reply was, “It doesn’t matter, they don’t know the difference anyway!” That really put things in perspective for me and potentially saved me a bunch of cash.

My live setup

My live setup

I purchased a little mixer off of eBay along with an el-cheapo D/A converter. The reason I bought the mixer was so that wherever I played, I would always have a consistent, ready-to-go, guerilla style set up that would be quick and easy to set up.

The computer I will be using is my old netbook which I am hoping to use as is. It’s light and has a ton of solid state disk space. I will mix down my bed tracks to WAV files play them back as required into the mixer via a D/A converter.

The beauty of this setup is being able to go from an acoustic to an electric sound almost instantly. I am also building a very basic footswitch to switch from bridge piezo to single coil pickup output. Actually the switch will alternately short out each output, emulating the way the inboard sector switch works on the guitar. The guitar I’ll be using is a Parker Nitefly fed through my old Line 6 POD 2.0 w/pedal board. For the acoustic sound I plan to feed the signal straight into the mixer. I’m going to compress both outputs from the guitar separately.

I may change it up a little and add a few things as I go, but for now I’m looking at speed and weight factors. I don’t have a road crew and I don’t plan on playing in any super-swanky places either. The whole thing might be a bust. It’s hard to say. I’m trying to stay optimistic as possible.

I was really worried for a while that I may not be able to come up with a clean, relatively worry-free, setup for playing live but I’m sure this will work. Once I get it all set up, I will be rehearsing the set list like there is no tomorrow. Playing live is nerveracking and a lot different than playing along with a computer in the privacy of your own home.

The real focus in making this project work will be the bedtracks. Because some of the tunes I wanted to work on are over a decade old, the technology and files that went in to create them are long gone from my life. At first I though recreating these  old tracks would be a huge pain in the posterior but it actually turns out to be a huge blessing instead.

I now have an opportunity to totally reboot the arrangements and sound quality of the old tunes and super charge and package them in the form of a “Best of Kevin Atwood” CD concept project. Although at this point there may never be an actual physical CD, it’s hard to say how things will go but we’ll see how it plays out. (It depends on how much more money I will feel like loosing.)

I have started to work on some tracks and I think it’s going to be really good. In fact I’m counting on the tunes to be my live performance ace-in-the-hole.  I will be able to wield the power of my DAW with all it’s 3rd party plugins to take the quality of the tunes up a couple of notches and also create a “live” presentation type of arrangement. (i.e – won’t be standing idle like a dork on stage while waiting for an oboe solo to end.)

I am actually excited to see this project come to fruition. Things are coming together quite nicely.

I will keep you (all) posted.

BTW – If anyone has any questions they would like ask me about this post (or any music item), please ask away. I’ll try to answer as quickly as possible.

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Quick Update for May 2015

GENERAL

I’m thinking about lots of things lately . I got some ideas about creating a composition about the city using the city as a sound source. I’ll probably try a doing a little proof-of-concept test piece first to see how that would work.

VIDEO

I’ve also been working on making a homemade Steadicam using two gyroscopic devices (or actually two devices as gyroscopes). The tricky part is construction materials and keeping the cost down under $50 and building it to be solid enough to want to put my camera on it.

AUDIO

It’s funny with all this digital equipment around, I can stop thinking about ways to use it in analog ways. I can’t help feeling that even though its great to have access to the clean and arcuate digital world provided by computers, there’s still an element of freedom missing. It’s like I can bake a cake and even though it could be any kind of cake it will always be and alway end up being a digitally formulated cake.

“I guess I miss my old cake!” – he says staring at his old 30-year-old Editall 1/4 ” tape editing cutting block.

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