“Power resides where men believe it resides.”

Korg Monologue - black

Welp.  The Fleetwood Mac concert got postponed until February.  My ticket provider stated it was due to a scheduling conflict.  When I first got the message, I sensed an imminent meltdown.  My brain screamed, syntax error:  does not compute.  So, I immediately got on the treadmill.  I don’t know why, but I’ve discovered running in place can help my mind get back on track before it shuts down completely.  Sometimes.  Fortunately, this was one of those times.

Yamaha MX49 black

I have no idea how long I ran (in socks,) before I finally reasoned out shit happens.  (I didn’t realize this could happen, or I would have planned for the possibility.)  It felt like (mentally) trying to juggle and do trigonometry without a calculator at the same time.  The trick is not to panic, she said, while rolling her eyes over hindsight.  After getting over my brain hiccup, I went into a self-mothering mode and talked myself through it.  Heh.

I told myself it’s okay to almost melt;  what matters is I caught it in time and kicked it to the curb.  It’s alright that plan changes have, and likely always will, rattle you.  The good part is you get to make a new plan, and you love planning.  You’re an excellent planner.  Yay.  It also means another three months to look forward to going to the concert.  Three more months of randomly announcing (to anyone, but mostly my cat) I’m going to be in the same space with Stevie Nicks.  (!!!)

Korg Volca Kick

I added some equipment to my home studio, recently.  I got the Korg Monologue in black, and a Yamaha MX49, also in black.  Both are outstanding in quality, sounds, and feel.  I’ve spent so many hours on both of them since.  I had to rearrange my studio (yet again) and will take photos soon.  The best part is I got a free Korg Volca Kick with purchase of the Monologue.  Korg rules!  Lastly, I got the Akai mini MPK II Play.  It’s a fun addition, and it came with Pro Tools (entry-level version.)  The Yamaha MK 49 came with an entry version of Cubase, too, but I haven’t installed it yet.

Akai MPK mini Play

I’m planning to get the Akai Fire for Fruity Loops Studio soon.  I need to look into a better option for storing my guitars and bass, as well.  I’m thinking either wall mounts or one that holds all of them on a single floor stand.  I’m getting a lot better with performing on my Push 2 and Ableton Live.  My finger-drumming game is getting tight, yo.  🙃  Thank goodness for Decksaver dustcovers, as they allow me to stack the gear I’m not using.  Otherwise, my desktop would be insufficient at this point.  So many keys and buttons!  I love it!  I’m off to band practice.  ✌🏽

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“He used to lock himself in the basement for hours.”

Some inspiration to connect all my toys:

“Not unless different means the same.”

It’s time for an updated game of Show-n-Tell.  My photography skills probably haven’t improved in the meantime.  Even though I think about photography more than in the past.  Heh.  I’m still using a cell phone (because I gave my DSLR away to someone who does more than think about photography.)  😂  I use Logic Pro X on my Mac computers, but I spend far more time on my latest PC build; which is the subject of these photos.

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The desk is named Lt. Dan.  (He recently got new legs.)  Atop the left speaker is Arnold from Hey Arnold.  On the right speaker is Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons.  The PC was a delight to assemble and configure.  (At least it was once I got a CPU cooler that didn’t block a RAM slot.)  The doll head is an Atari Punk Console synthesizer from Etsy.  I don’t think I’ve acquired any additional equipment since my last update.  I’ll take photos of the rest of the room soon.  It took a while to set it all up to function well and also look appealing.

I have 3 other computer stations in the same room, so planning was involved.  Most of the changes included rearranging and moving my drum kit to another space.  It can get relatively warm in here when I’m running multiple systems and bouncing between them.  I doubt I’ll have to use the heat this winter.  Yay.  I spend roughly 10 hours a day working here, so the atmosphere is significant.  I’m stunned by how much I’m positively affected by the ambient lighting.  The LEDs behind my screens slowly cycle through the color spectrum.

It feels like hanging out in a fairyland; complete with photos of Stevie Nicks, my Fairy Godmother.  It’s my happy place in the universe.  I also have the official movie poster from A Wrinkle in Time.  Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine are on it.  You have to be amazing to make it on my walls.  Or imaginary, she said, recalling she has artwork of Ernie and Bert in the hallway.  I spoil my inner child.  😂

Here are the PC specs:

The only upgrade I hope to make in the future is a better midi keyboard.  The one I have works fine, but the keys are plastic and make noises when I play.  I anticipate this will be a con in the future, but for now, it’s all good.  I’ve researched what’s currently available, and at this point, I think I’ll just make my own midi keyboard when I upgrade.  I want a keyboard that can be 25 or 49 or 61 or 88 keys by snapping some more keys on magnetically or something.  Same with the features.  I want to be able to add what I need when I need it and not be bothered with shit I don’t.

I’m also not attached to the black and white scheme of traditional pianos.  When I push a button or key, I want it to acknowledge with sound and light.  I don’t know about other people, but I can’t track two things at the same time with just my ears or only my eyes.   It’s probably an autism thing.  If more than one person speaks to me simultaneously, the result is the same as if nobody is talking to me.  However, if one uses sign language or gestures, and one speaks, I can grok both messages.  I just need a moment to convince myself that responding to one person at a time is wiser than panicking.

It’s not skill related, so I’m going to design around it.  Eventually.  When I’m not in the midst of a 4TD project.  I’m off to beat my drums with sticks.  💜

 

“Do you think she walked in, saw you, and left?”

violinist

I got a new client for the 4TD Project the other day.  I began the process of designing a prototype midi instrument today to help them continue playing music despite declining mobility.  My client is a fellow violinist (squee!) who has rheumatoid arthritis in his hands.  After spending the entire day researching and brainstorming, I’m excited to meet this challenge.

Naturally, my first step is always seeing if someone else thought of a way, and put it online.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything yet, but I did discover some cool midi instruments I was previously unaware existed.  They’re all mainly variations of a standard midi keyboard.  Only the shape and button position changes.

As a violinist, I understand the intimacy between a musician and their instrument.  I thought of many ideas today and will sleep on it tonight.  I’m acquiring lots of electronic components and parts in the process.  Guitar Hero is interested in assisting me on this project, which is fabulous.  Two brains are better than one.

It’s an excellent time to be alive where custom instruments are concerned.  The Maker movement has led to the wide availability of parts and materials.  3d printers help keep things pretty.  I just laughed recalling my original prototype for an electronic drum kit.  It was so fugly until the final product with 3d printed parts.  Heh.

music production equipment

I’ll update when we create a design.  It’s fun because there are so many things the client can do without causing pain in his hands.  It’s just remapping a little to bypass the problematic motions.  The hard part is choosing from all the possibilities.  I’m so excited I can’t wait to work on it again tomorrow.  Sleeping on it will clarify which direction I’ll take.  I’m off to dream it out.

“Ross, why do you hate our child?”

I’m in the process of rearranging my home studio.  I’m in the planning stage and debating about getting some floor speaker stands.  The funny thing is I’m not ready to buy studio-grade speakers, but I don’t want to buy cheap stands when I know they’ll be replaced when I do decide on a pair of studio monitors.  I’m leaning toward purchasing the black Ultimate Support MS-90’s in 36″.

Ultimate Support MS-90 black

I’ve spent some time looking at small music studio photos on Pinterest and it’s given me lots of ideas.  I have three desks.  Two are 72″ wide, and the other is 36″ wide.  I also have a TV, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in here.  It’s more like a studio/gaming room.  It’s 14′ by 12′, so it’s decently sized for an apartment.  I want to do all the moving shit in a single day to maintain access to everything.

It’s a big project so planning is crucial.  I haven’t even gotten the tape measure out yet.  I have a good idea of what will fit where based on this being an annual task.  Heh.  It’s part of my spring cleaning and purge of excess stuff.  I still have too much stuff I don’t want.  It low-level stresses me out.  It’s a huge part of why I’m not renewing Amazon Prime.  (No more impulse shopping.)

I moved my drum kit to another room recently.  I like it so much better now.  I haven’t gotten a single complaint from my neighbors, so I’m glad I didn’t invest in further soundproofing.  I’m fortunate to live in a building that had soundproofing in its construction.  I can only hear my neighbors when I’m outside my apartment.

Colin Kaepernick vinyl figure
The Messenger- Colin Kaepernick – (click for more information)

It was a major factor in my decision to live here, but at the time it was due to my PTSD.  (I startle like there’s a prize.)  Now that I’m pursuing creative endeavors foremost, it’s a wicked fab bonus.  I’m going to visit my sister up north next week (probably.)  Since I’m driving there I’ll be bringing a few TVs and video game consoles for my teenage nieces and nephews.  And a few laptops because I presently have 5.  I typically use my Mac and Windows desktop computers these days.  (More power!)

I blame having so many on free shipping and a near instant gratification addiction.  I’m so over it, though.  I haven’t turned on my MacBook Pro in weeks.  Or my Alienware gaming laptop.  My Chromebook turned out to be a use-once device.  Heh.  It’s not that I don’t love them.  I just have too many and there are only 24 hours in a day.  I think I’m going to ditch all of them except my Surface Pro and iPad Pro.

I paranoia-wiped two of them so far, and they’re back in their original packaging, ready to go.  I guess I’ll do the others over the next few days.  I’ll be able to breathe more freely when all this stuff is gone, and I can get back to learning music production.  The word gig was mentioned at band practice earlier.  Nothing is scheduled yet to my knowledge, but I’m panicked and excited (in that order.)  I’m off to plan (and pace.)  💜

“If you buy a mattress from Janice’s ex-husband, isn’t that like betraying Chandler?”

Music

I worked on a new song today.  It’s been a while since I’ve composed a song since I’ve been reading about music composition and theory.  It’s different now.  I’m pickier.  Perhaps less willing to compromise as well.  And that’s from only three books.  Well, four.  I added another titled, last night a dj saved my life:  the history of the disk jockey, by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton.

I’m noticing a trend.  I’m taking extreme liberties calling it a pattern, considering it’s based solely on my observations so far.  😂  Anyway, it seems the more I know about music theory, the less I’m able to tolerate what other people think about the music I create or enjoy.  Pretty sure it’s in that order, too.

That means I won’t be reading much else on music theory going forward.  Intolerance worked my last nerve ages ago.  Instead, I’m going to study (the making of video) In Your Dreams by Stevie Nicks.  I recall a scene that’s lead me to suspect Stevie Nicks may have an eidetic-like memory for music, like me.  When the musicians tried to switch things up on another take, she noticed and remembered the version she preferred instantly and with certainty.

It was music they were in the process of creating, not something recorded she’d heard several times.  It jumped out at me when I first saw the film.  Mostly because at some point I apparently decided anything I have in common with Stevie Nicks makes me a bit amazing.  I may never know, (but so I’m counting it anyway.)  🙃

I’ve been using my midi keyboard a lot recently.  It’s got cheap plastic keys that make sounds when I play.  However, since it’s a midi keyboard, the sounds won’t affect the music.  They just annoy me a little.  The keys are flimsy and light, so I’m struggling to find any comfort in playing them.  That’s all it took to talk me into looking at alternatives.

Roland E-A7

After seeing what Amy Lee used in the making of video for Synthesis, (Roland E-A7, I think,) I looked at what was available for my skill level.  I found a few in the $200-$400 range by Casio and Yamaha that would serve me well.  Then I decided I’m better off wearing headphones while I play on my cheap midi keyboard until I’m skilled enough to buy an instrument I’d want to own.  I want a Roli Seaboard Rise 49.  I’m going to work on building my keyboarding skills so I can justify owning it.

Seaboard Rise 49

It plays heavily into my synthesizer obsession, and I don’t want a thousand hardware keyboards in my playroom.  I’m better off buying one good midi interface and sticking to software synths.  I love instruments I can store in the cloud.  But I would still like getting lost in a synthesizer museum with a please, touch everything policy.  I’m off to read.

“But they don’t know that we know they know we know!”

Music

We had band practice on Saturday, and it was super fun.  I got to sing lead on a cover of Don’t Know Why I Love You by  Stevie Wonder.  I’ve only heard the Jackson 5 version so far, so I channeled Michael Jackson and ran with it.  I used to sing it often as a kid with my two oldest brothers, (usually for their girlfriends.)  Eventually, I got upset over people telling me I sang like a boy.  (Getting cast as The Artful Dodger in a local production of Oliver! didn’t help my complex.)

I didn’t have trouble with volume this time.  I still sound like a boy when I sing, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.  Much.  Although I’m working on lowering my range.  Heh.  At least I can sing with lots of soul.  My oldest brother introduced me to soul music when I was around five.  I spent hours at his house singing along with his records and copying what I heard.  I realize now he was teaching me some African American culture.

I’m thankful my adopted family did things like this when I was growing up.  My mom made sure I read novels by African American authors, such as Maya Angelou and Alice Walker.  I think it’s essential for interracially adopted children to be introduced to their original culture.  Aside from my little sister, I didn’t meet another African American until I was twelve.  My mom hired a black woman at a local university to visit with us.

Music rules

It was sometimes traumatic growing up in a virtually all-white community.  I didn’t know how to express my feelings or thoughts as a child.  I didn’t know to inform my parents whenever I was mistreated when they weren’t present.  I assumed they wouldn’t understand because they weren’t black.  Now when I see Caucasian parents who adopt children of color, I make a point to talk to them.  I ask them to be sure and let their kid(s) know it’s okay to confide in them about these things.

I spent the morning writing code and all afternoon at the studio.  I like spending time there.  After setting up the drum kit several times, we talked about our favorite musicians.  My band leader assumed Beyoncé is my favorite, which sort of irked me.  I mean, of course, I love Beyoncé.  She’s fabulous.  But Stevie Nicks and Amy Lee are who awe and inspire me.  It’s so annoying when people imply skin color has anything to do with music.  And here I thought I was the one formerly living under a rock.  He apologized, though, and let me play Synthesis by Evanescence on the gigantic loudspeakers.  He liked it and was surprised because he thought they were a metal band.

Then he listened to me go on and on about how Amy Lee is continuously growing and experimenting with her sound.  She can do metal, rock, acapella, acoustic, electronic, hip-hop, and whatever else she fancies.  Then I started to school him on Stevie Nicks, but he told me he has her entire music catalog and has seen her perform live.  (!!!)  I like him better, now.  Heh.  I’ll be back tomorrow to work on mic control.  There’s a lot more to it than I imagined.  He recorded me singing, then let me listen on the monitors, which was embarrassing.

Music Studio

I dropped it twice and held it too close when breathing.  Among other things.  Sigh.  More practice.  I did better after hearing how poorly I handled it the first time, though.  Heh.  I got some books to read later.

I’ll order more when I finish.  I’m off to practice my drums while not smiling, then while singing.  I’m such a doof.  😂

 

“Cheese! It’s milk that you chew!”

Mixer close-up

I had a good day today, despite not getting much sleep last night.  I think it’s partly because I know I’ll sleep well tonight since my meds arrived.  I spent time in the studio with my band leader this afternoon.  I managed to sing backup vocals while drumming over the weekend but I need to work on my volume.

It was my first time singing and playing an instrument at the same time, so I was pretty anxious.  I’m relieved I pulled it off at all and did better today.  I’m the only one in our group that doesn’t have a strict work schedule.  It’s entirely working in my favor.  I usually do more before 9AM than my coworkers do all day.  (I’ve wanted to say that since I got out of the Army.)  😂

I Facetimed with Guitar Hero when I got home earlier.  He critiqued some of the music I’ve created recently.  I’ve been trying to approach it like Stevie Nicks, but he informed me there’s a problem with my strategy.  She had years of experience before she even became famous that I don’t.  She used to sing with her grandfather when she was a little girl, for example.  Also, she started writing songs and playing guitar at age 16.

While we both navigate by intuition, it’s probably the only thing we share.  I used to sing while my big sister played piano at her recitals.  I also sang in church, but my family got kicked out of our church when I was 8.  (The last straw was when my brother swallowed the Sunday School goldfish on a dare.)  It’s not a sufficient foundation for singing or producing.  I’ve played violin since I was 4, so I do have some skills with music in general.  But I need more.

Guitar Hero said, “Look at me.  You’re not Stevie Nicks.  You’re not Amy Lee.  You need to read a *&^#$@ book or ten.”  When I finished laughing, I asked him if he has any suggestions.  He said, “Amazon.”  😂  So tomorrow I’ll be looking for books on music production.  If you have any more specific suggestions, hit me up in the comments, please.

When I brought my laptop and Push 2 to the studio, my band leader was impressed with the tools.  Less so with my mastery of them, but I haven’t had them for very long.  He did say he’s glad I’m learning.  Both conversations left me feeling motivated to learn more.  I acquired a new Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator (Factory), and another Korg Volca (Keys).  Then I rearranged my workstation a bit, so here come the crappy photos:

Home Music Studio Porn

Home Music Studio Porn

I got some pictures of Stevie Nicks on Etsy, too.  The other items were identified in my last home studio update.  In the corner near the light strip is my didgeridoo.  (I can’t do circular breathing, but I still like playing it.)  My gaming setup is under the window.  I’m probably going to build a PC for music production soon.  My Mac mini is excellent for Logic Pro X and Mainstage, but I want more power for Ableton Live 10 and my software synthesizers.  (Plus, I hate not being able to upgrade Apple products with a passion.)

I’m off to continue reading The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

“Is it obvious I’m wearing six sweaters?”

drummer girl

I missed the first half of the week due to a kidney stone, but I’ve since passed it.  When I returned to the studio to continue my drum training, I brought along a new student.  She’s only 8 and hilarious.  She asked my band leader why setting up an acoustic drum kit 50 times is necessary.

He asked her if she wants to be a drummer, and she nodded.  Then she asked again.  I just stood there and grinned because I wanted to ask as well, but knew better.  He told us it’s all part of the skill set.  Next week, we’re learning how to tune them.  I didn’t realize drums could be tuned but managed to refrain from stating it.

I call it the Stevie Nicks Method.  It consists of taking my time and only speaking after thinking first.  It’s helping with my speech, too.  All that time in speech therapy and all I needed to do was pace myself.  😂  I don’t have to match my speaking to the speed of my thoughts, (which is a relief because I’ve never really pulled it off.)

Now I only have trouble when I’m overtired.  I surfed Sweetwater.com with the kid, (L) and she thinks the Roland drum kit is bugly (butt ugly.)  She prefers the Octopad in black and thinks it’s ludicrous to get “big drums” when pads work fine and would fit in her backpack.

I thought about all the finger-drumming I’ve done of late, and understand what she means.  I do resent the space my kit takes up in my home studio, but I also like playing with it.  I could get by with an Octopad, but nope.  It’s too late for me.  I know it’s just a matter of time before I buy an acoustic kit.  She hasn’t played the fantastic DW studio grade kit yet.  It changes you, and there’s no going back.

Octopad kit

I ordered her the Octopad, a stand, pedal triggers, and some sticks.  She didn’t want a throne because she already has a pretty chair that will work just as well.  When we looked at the thrones online, she made me laugh so hard.  She asked me why everything they sell is so bugly.  I told her it’s because people have different taste.

She’s a quick study and has good natural rhythm.  We practiced rudimentary exercises on practice pads after setting up the beat up drum kit a few times.  Then we swept the floors in the practice rooms and left.  I can tell it was the first time she’s ever used a broom.  I can’t remember if I knew how to use one at her age.  Probably not.  She’ll be joining me again on Monday.

Her mom picked her up, and I could tell she was telling her about the kit we ordered by how excitedly she talked while they drove off.  I’m showing my band leader what I can do with Ableton Live 10 and my Push 2 tomorrow.  He uses Cubase and Nuendo.  I’ll also be practicing singing with a headset mic while drumming.  I’m a lot nervous about it.  Hopefully, it’ll help me focus.

I’m pretty good at programming my brain to do things, eventually.  I just have to practice a lot.  He did compliment me on figuring out harmonies to the songs we’ve been practicing.  It surprised me because I never really thought about it.  It’s because I sing along with everyone I listen to and have a pitiful limited range.  I’m working on extending it so I can hit lower notes, though.  I’d better try and get some sleep soon.  I’m off to unwind.