Sunday, November 11, 2007

Barn studio, end of week 1

Photographs for those short on time.

It is raining today and the building is metal. So I’m in technical pause, and also awaiting the arrival of 3 additional preamps, due early next week. Each day there are new challenges and pleasant surprises. I've formalized a new system for my creative efforts, something like:
good – good enough – not good enough – bad

“There are no rules,” Verlon Thompson said yesterday. It was nice to get that phone call from my friend and professional songwriter. He was in Texas to play a show with Guy Clark and we talked about what/why/how I'm up to and he appreciated and really supported my idea to land not in Nashville, but near enough. It was affirming on a lot of levels.

Right now, I’m filled with a sense of urgency and purpose because this place happened to me, and I want to get as much done has as I can. I only have about a month, and yet I can't rush nothin'. This barn is a perfect prototype for the ‘space’ I envisioned. In many ways better. Whatever actual productivity happens here, I’ve learned parts of the software, parts of the of troublesome technical aspects, all the while being completely immersed in this effort to write, play, and record these songs. I have new friends next door and a measurable appreciation for this new and different lifestyle. That is to say the life of the songwriter is not the life of a Ph.D. paleoseismologist, nor the life of a bass playing, honky tonk weekend warrior.

Before this week, I hadn't overdubbed over my own rhythm tracks. I have never set up a Pro Tools recording studio. This gear has been accumulated mostly over the last ten years, more in the last three years. I always aimed to be here. My songwriting epiphany accompanied the purchase of my guitar was outlined in an email to my uncle Randy. I grew up with a record he made with his band in 1980, Farside Station. Randy plays bass: From 10/12/98

Been trying to write songs and I bought a Tascam 4-track, a portastudio 424. It's a cassette rig, but works great. I've got some Shure 57s and a 58 for microphones. As I started to record, it struck me that I was putting down cover songs and I'd rather try to put down originals. When I looked at my sorry collection of originals, it occurred to me that I should learn a lot more about songwriting. So, that's what I've been up to lately. Still, the muse has not been forthcoming.

It’s been a long strange trip!

I learned so much from Jake at Audible Alchemy recording the Hellbound Glory album in June, 2006. Jake trusts his ears more than all else. If it sounds good, it's good. Making that record was one of the best times I’ve had and that feeling is, in large part, responsible for my current trajectory.

I've had a digital music library since about 2002. Nowadays, I'm using lossless FLAC compression and a player called Foobar2000. For these songs I am writing, I am listing my references that come up, or that I wish to inject. Then I listen to them. I believe the room needs some time to get used to these sounds, but given enough volume and exposure, the wood planks of the stage and walls will settle into these frequencies. Or not; it’s a nice idea.

So besides the obvious big picture pleasant surprises of this whole project, here are some of my favorite little ones today:

My home stereo is working great as digital monitoring equipment, an unplanned piece of the puzzle. I'm listening to my tracks in an entirely digital environment; if it began to sound harsh or ‘digital’, I would already know.

Mark has a Fender tube bass amp, just like the one I own (in Reno), that needs to be rebuilt. Get this: it works to feed the subwoofer out of my stereo to pump my reference music through the very amp, cabinet and room I’m creating in. It's the little things.

My current technical challenge is latency of the sound card. I can get by without monitoring with everything but vocals. Actually, it’s an interrelated problem with my ‘lite’ version of ProTools and my soundcards. I may buy a much better sound card tomorrow; it’s ridiculous to fuss this much over a $300 problem.

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