A PassionArt Life

"Hero Blues" Released Today

Yesterday, I got to sit down with my looper pedal and a GoPro. I've been wanting to get this song down for awhile. Thanks for following me and sharing my music!

 

Make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel to get all my videos.

Special thanks goes to my beautiful wife, my parents, and my in-laws. Thank you so much for all your support!

It's uploading to all the music outlets, I will update the blog as they become available.

Art

One XLR Input? Are You Crazy? Micing Up a Stake Conference Broadcast

Micing up a Piano may be one of your options

I feel extremely blessed. I've got microphones, mixers and the ability to donate my skills to my church for their biannual Stake Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I love doing this. I am thankful for my church, and I love the Stake Conference meetings, so getting to contribute using my talents is a blessing to my life. 

But... Setting up audio for this meeting is a nightmare. In LDS Church buildings, much of the audio system is behind locked cabinets, making everything as simple and idiot proof as possible. This restricts access from good natured folk who would reroute everything if they could. (Oh wait, I'm one of those people!)

So as a live audio mixer, my options for plugging into the building's PA is limited to an XLR mic input. You might think, "That's perfect! Plug in a couple of microphones and you're done!" This is somewhat akin to a point and pray method of audio engineering. It rarely works, especially if you are broadcasting Stake Conference to multiple buildings. We need to figure out how to hack good audio into such a rigid system.

We are going to delve into this problem, bit by bit. There are several parts, so stick with me and you will have great audio for your Stake Conference broadcast. 

 Equipment

Mixer

We're gonna need a mixer. I suggest any modern mixer that has at least 4 XLR inputs (nothing like running out of XLR inputs and your mixer is no longer useful for your purposes) and phantom power. I like the Behringer mixers cause they are cheap and work well. Whatever you use, you will need a mixer with phantom power!

 Microphones

You are going to need small diaphragm condenser mics. Most Stake Centers and Ward buildings stock dynamic mics. These are the wrong microphones for micing up a choir and organ. Get some good small diaphragm condensor mics. I love the CAD C9 mics. Again very inexpensive and just  solid, tiny mics. Get a pair, so you can use one for each side of the choir. Remember that condenser microphones require phantom power. (I have often sat around trying to figure out why nothing works. It's the phantom power I always miss.)

A Good DI Box

Most DI (Direct Input) boxes are not designed to take a signal from a mixer. The mixer level is too high. I use a DI box with a -40db pad. The Pyle PDC21 or the PDC22  DI boxes will take the output of your mixer and turn it into a level that will work well for your church system XLR inputs. 

Mic Stands and Cables

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If your building has a couple of mic stands use those. Put a mic on each side of the choir, as high as the stands will go (make sure they are even) and about 4 feet on each side of the conductor. This is called a spaced pair. 

You will need at least one balanced TRS cable, and three Microphone cables. The microphone cables should be long. Like 100 ft long depending on where the mixer sits. (I like to be near the back, to monitor over the PA speakers.)

There are several sellers on eBay who sell inexpensive but good XLR and balanced TRS cables. Check their seller feedback and go for it. 

Gaffer Tape 

You're going to need to tape cables down so people don't trip. I would not skip this step. Having a congregant trip and get hurt is just unprofessional. Make sure you get some gaffer tape (I like 4-6" wide) and tape everything down. Gaffer tape is strong and doesn't leave a residue. It is much better than duct tape. You can also use it to mark mic placement and performer positions.

Setting it all up

Marking standing locations

Once you've run your XLR cables and you're ready, we set everything up:

  1. The microphones get plugged into the mixer.
  2. The output of the mixer (1/4" TRS)  gets plugged into the Pyle DI box. 
  3. Engage the -40db ATT switch on the Pyle DI box. 
  4. Plug the output of the DI box (XLR)  back into the church's audio system. Any XLR input should do, I often use the one under the sacrament table as it is nearest the side I'm working on. 
  5. Roll down the gain knobs and the volume sliders on the mixer and turn it on.  
  6. Engage the phantom power switch! 

Setting Levels

XLR from DI box to podium XLR input

At this point you can set levels. I like to bring up the main fader to 0db, then the mic faders up to 0db. At this point I will start to set my gain knobs. Bring them up slowly until you start to hear feedback. Then dial it back a little bit. 

This should be a good level. If you get too much feedback and not enough volume, lower your mic stands a little bit (You are fighting against the PA speakers on the ceiling above the pulpit. ) 

I like to go to the back of the chapel's overflow (all the way back into the gym) to monitor what is happening. It allows me to hear what they are getting over the Internet broadcast, and helps me set levels properly. 

 Problems! Quick! Help me!  

1. Feedback is crazy!  

Your gain is too high! Start over. Bring the gain knobs and the faders all the way down. Bring the faders up to 0db, and then bring up the gain to adjust to your feedback limit! It does not get louder than the feedback limit. You must adjust mic position from that point to get louder i.e. get the mics closer to your source. 

2. I'm getting radio picked up by this system! 

Enable phantom power.  

3. There's a loud buzz, what do I do? 

You are in a ground loop. On the DI box is a button for the ground loop. Engage it or disengage it until the buzz goes away.  

4. There is noise or hiss when I turn off the mixer. 

This might happen. I setup a few days beforehand, and leave my audio system unplugged from the church's system until I am ready to go. 

5. The organ is overpowering the choir!

The organ is hard wired to the sound system. You will need to open the back of the organ. The cable is located inside the back of the organ near the bottom. It should look like an XLR cable connected to a TRS adapter. Unplug this.

Remember, if you do this, the only organ sound you will be transmitting to the broadcast with be through the mics you have setup. You will need to bring up the volume of those mics during congregational singing. 

I've found I only need to bypass the organ if the organ is the accompaniment instrument to the choir.  

5. The soloist wants to use the podium mic! 

Why is this a problem, you may ask? You lose control of the mix! Setup another microphone for them (the church's dynamic mics will work well for this, or if you have a group, grab a good condenser mic, or use your small diaphragm mics for this. I once heard a full operatic singer sing directly into the podium mic. She completely overpowered the piano accompaniment. Stake Conference needs a little more control over the sound. It could go to 1000 or more people at once.

 

P.S.

I almost hesitate to mention this. After all my purpose is not to subvert the stock design of these church building audio systems, but to give you options to work within that system. However, we found it very helpful in doing these broadcasts to intercept the church building audio before the broadcast hardware. My good friend Chris, who is also an audio engineer inserted a small mixer between the church audio system and the broadcast hardware. This allows him just a little more control on the volume of the broadcast, increasing the volume for quieter speakers, and lowering the volume for louder pieces. I'm not going to go into the details here, but if you are interested in this shoot me a message and we'll talk about it.

 

Have Fun! 

Every Stake Conference is different. For instance, today we had a family singing, and an organ solo. I used one mic on the family (mic placement is critical here!), and two on the piano . I also left the organ hardwired so I didn't need to mess with that. 

It is not easy striking a good balance between the audio for the chapel and for the broadcast, since they are the same. Communication is key. Working with the person who is running the broadcast itself will help you find the best mix. I find that if I can get a good mix from the back of the overflow, it tends to translate fairly well to the broadcast. This isn't always true, especially if the high frequencies are particularly present, so you may need to adjust your mic position, and then play with EQ to get it to play ball.

Good sound in these meetings are a blessing. It takes a little work and some equipment to make it go, but it makes the meeting go so much better. Have fun with it and go make good audio happen!

Leave a comment below if this was helpful for you!

"The Window" Video Released Today

Today I'm happy to announce my first guitar solo video, "The Window".

This song has been such an amazing experience to write and to record. I was so lucky to have two amazing cameramen help me out. My sons. Ethan and Milo. They've been such good sports about putting this together.

The guitar and the setup.

The guitar used in this video is the Epiphone Les Paul Baritone Guitar. A baritone guitar is pitched lower than a standard guitar and for this song I tuned to Open A tuning. Learning to play in a non standard tuning has been quite the experience, creating new chords, and altering my playing style to match the needs of the song.

So enjoy the song, follow me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram. Those links are all at the bottom of this page.

Support me and my music by grabbing the single on:

iTunes http://tinyurl.com/oqwuv5h 
Google Music http://tinyurl.com/olbcbz4
Amazon http://tinyurl.com/nmy56qz

Enjoy!

Art

 

3 Tips for Preparing for the Recording Studio

So you are ready to record your next song, or a full album. If you've never been in the studio here are a few things to remember as you get ready for your first experience.

1. Come with your music prepared.

When you step into the studio, your time starts. Every minute and second count. Now there's a lot of stuff you can't control. How long it takes to setup mics, auditioning microphones, getting sound checks, little issues that come up mid recording. But there is a ton of things you can control.

Come well rehearsed. Most recording engineers will want to get three good solid takes and work from there. Having 20 takes of a song, and trying to cobble together a cohesive performance through editing is no one's idea of a good time. And it costs you more money.

2. Make sure your equipment is working.

If you have a rattle in your bass, or a buzz in your guitar, you're not going to have a great time. And in fact your engineer might walk into the live room with his own guitar for you to play! In the excitement of the moment, even those simple things can be overlooked by you and your engineer. Then they have to be dealt with in the mixing process. 

Taking your instrument to a guitar tech, making sure there are no shorts in your cables, new strings on your ax, and drumsticks (don't forget your drumsticks, especially if you're using the studio set). These are some of the preparations you should be doing.

3. Be on time, and bring only who needs to be there.

Earlier I stated that when you setup the studio, your time starts. Actually it's when you scheduled your time. If you're late, your engineer will start charging you for your time. So being late is not a great idea.

Band members, producers, managers, etc. are great to bring to the studio. Friends, girlfriends, babies, you know what I'm saying... Not the greatest idea. Now I've actually never had a "stereotypical" girlfriend in the studio. The one who's complaining, trying to take over the band, etc. But there's not a lot of room here. One extra person means one more person taking up some space. Ask your engineer if they have space or if extra people would be a distraction.

 

I'm sure I'll have more tips in the future, but this is good for now. Have fun in the studio!

 

Customizing Windows - The ArtWay

This is my current laptop setup. Very simple, very clean.

I can't stand the default interface for Windows. Also, I have a real hard time with the default interface of Mac OS X. Basically, I really like being able to take the parts of a user interface I like and apply them in the ways that I want.

The Dock

Lets take the Mac OS X Dock. "Borrowed" from other operating systems and shined up to look real pretty, the Dock is one of the best User Interface devices I've seen. I've implemented a dock in Linux and Windows for as long as I can remember. My Dock of choice for the Windows environment is the Winstep Nexus Dock.

The taped down theme for Nexus Dock

This Dock does a couple of things in it's free version that I love. 

1. It will show all of your running programs in the dock. It can group together similar programs as well, but this can be very helpful, especially if you are going to...

2. Turn off the Windows Taskbar completely. While most people get along with the Taskbar just fine, if I'm gonna run another dock, then I want to get rid of everything extraneous that I can.

3. It is the only dock that also docks your system tray. Since I'm getting rid of my Taskbar completely, I don't want to lose the functionality of the system tray. Nexus allows me to do just that.

It's fun, it's customizable, it's great...

However, there are other things that I like to add to my user interface. In Linux we first saw the advent of virtual desktops. Now with phones, we swipe our homepage back and forth like it's always been a thing. Now with Windows 10 here, everyone is finally getting into virtual desktops like it's 1999!

Better Desktop Tool

Better Desktop Tool adds some wonderful Mac type additions to your desktop. Hit a hotkey or go to a hot corner and all of your windows open up laid out.

Desktop overview with BetterDesktopTool

You can also add virtual desktops with BetterDesktopTool. As much as I love the concept of Virtual Desktops, I almost never end up using them.

IconArchive.com

I don't want to forget the best resource for customizing your desktop. Iconarchive.com! As you can see by my dock, every icon is custom, cool, and awesome. I think using different icons really helps brighten up your desktop. Makes it feel like home!

So use what you want here and have fun making your desktop awesome!

 

--Art--

Thoughts on being a Parent/Teacher

Mom, Dad, Uncle, Aunt, Grandfather, Grandmother, Brother or Sister. Aren't we all teachers in some way? There are always people in our realm of influence for whom we act as teacher or mentor. Sometimes it's formal, like being a music teacher, or a school teacher. Sometimes it's informal like being a father or a mother.

My dad and his favorite grandkids

My dad and his favorite grandkids

I don't think I know a father or mother who doesn't take the opportunity to teach their kids something when the opportunity comes up. For me, these conversations happened in the car with my dad. We talked about politics, physics, mathematics. I never realized that these conversations happened, they just did. Last week I was able to have a physics discussion with my 7 year old about the continual struggle between gravity and centrifugal force.

I remember talking a lot about relationships with my dad. My relationships with my siblings, my mother, and with him. I remember him telling me how that time was a training ground for my future relationships with my wife and children. I often tell my sons that. The way they treat each other and their parents will train them for being husbands and fathers. Kind words are hard to express at their age, but with some encouragement and coaching they're able to do just that.

With my kids, we often have "2nd takes". Another chance to respond to a situation. We treat it like an acting workshop. "This is how you reacted. Is that how you wanted to react to this situation? Do you want to try again? Ok, here's take two." And I slap my hands together like a gaffer would. We then replay the situation, and the kids get a new chance to react.

I remember as a young husband, asking my dad how I should act in a certain situation, or how I should deal with a problem I was having. Often he wouldn't have exact advice for me in the form of do this, or don't do that. He would tell me experiences where what he had done resulted in the outcome he wasn't expecting, or didn't want. This for me was such a great thing, because it showed me a path that was unsuccessful, and it brought humor into the situation. We laughed about how terribly my dad dealt with something, and it relieved tensions I felt.

The older I get the more and more I become like my dad. I enjoy the outdoors with my kids, I'm obsessive about my passion (for him it was mathematics, for me it's music). I swore I would never have a beard when I grew up, but I haven't been without one since I graduated BYU. I often hear his words come out of my mouth as I talk to my boys, Scouts, and my own music students. I'm thankful that his voice is one of the ones in my head, and that his words have become mine. 

My dad used to say, that each father is just trying to do better than his own father. Each generation is trying to improve their parenting. I have always been impressed with the kind of father my dad was to me. I can already see how my sons will surpass me.

Your Kids are Improvising Right Now -- Are You Listening?

One of the things I focus on in my lessons, is learning to improvise the Blues. The Blues are a fantastic way to start learning to improvise and write. It's the basis for so much rock, pop and R&B music. Really, it's such an important skill to learn as a guitarist.

We talk a lot about the story of blues. Pain, heartache, sadness; we've all felt those things. And blues musicians have been sing and playing about them for years and years. There's something interesting about listening to, or performing the blues. Somehow it just makes you feel better. It doesn't change anything, but it does make it feel better. Built in therapy.

Each person who plays the blues (even new students just starting out) has to find their own story in the blues. Sometimes, its the normal stuff. Losing a girl, dog dying, car breaking down. Sometimes it brings new view on our modern life. Losing video game privileges, tv time, or ipods and ipads. This week I wrote the "Video Game Blues" with one of my students.

But telling your story through the blues helps you  realize the power of telling stories, through music, writing, or speaking. Sharing your story with an audience brings you together. Your audience wants the opportunity to agree with you, to understand you. They want to go on the journey with you. Sharing your stories has power.

Our children are very much like blues musicians. They have so much to share with us, they have a stories with pain, suffering, and heartache. Sometimes it's as simple as telling us about a school yard dispute. Other times, it's a large scale dissertation on the benefits of video games to their life. No matter what it is, they have a story to tell, and we have the opportunity to participate in it.

How often are we listening to the music of our children's life? It's not easy to find the time or the space to hear our children's stories, but it is so worth it. Right now my son is obsessed with Minecraft. Not only do I get to talk to him about it, but he also gets me to play the worlds he creates. He makes his own games in Minecraft. He reads books on Minecraft, and he wants to tell me everything. I enjoy the conversations. I work hard to stay interested.

Sometimes the song can get a little old. But just like the songs he practices on the piano or guitar, I love to hear them, no matter how many times he wants to perform them.

Pushing Through

Yes, you might have noticed, that my goal this week was to try to write every single day. We home school our kids, and writing is an important part of that for them. Writing is important for everyone. But I realized, as with everything, in order for my kids to become writers, I need to set a good example.

Writing and publishing blog post everyday is not an easy task. Last night I wrote a post, that had a lot of good elements, but needs extensive editing and review in order to be ready to publish. And really who am I kidding? This blog is for me and not very many people read it. I'm ok with that. Not everything that gets posted needs to be amazing.

But today I push through. I write about not having anything to write about, and the value of writing everyday, even though I myself am so terrible at the consistency of it. I myself love the whole music thing, and that's where I spend most of my time, but I also find that I have a lot of thoughts about music, teaching, recording, and composing. I find it helpful to start writing them down, so they become more solidified in my mind.

What about you? where do you find that you're able to solidify your thoughts? I blog, but some people make lists, keep audio notes, post its... 

This idea of pushing through, getting a project done, a paper finished, work completed. Working even when the motivation is completely gone. I find that for me, the last 5% is where I tend to give up, where I no longer care. I'm gonna  be working on that this year. I want to be better prepared to polish the last 5% of all of my work this year.

How do you find the strength to push through, and complete something? Leave a comment below!

Today's Amazing World of Music

The world is just amazing today, especially musically. There is so much amazing music out there. Its easy to find, purchase and download. The only thing is? You're not gonna find it on the Top 40. 

Ok, thats a gross over exageration. There are great songs that make it to the Top 40. And some musicians  turn up there who truly deserve the sales, and the recognition. But honestly, a lot of it is just crap. A lot of that stuff I don't want my kids within miles of! 

Anyway, I'm getting off topic. The reason the world is so great is that you can go and find amazing music by new musicians. My favorite place to go and search for new music is a site called Noisetrade.com (I do have to disclose, I have my music on this site as well, but I will be talking about this as a listener rather than an artist).  I like this site, because they promote new musicians, let you download their music, and provides a tip service, that allows you to give back to the musicians themselves. I have downloaded a ton of music from this site, and have enjoyed more than I disliked.

Why should we seek out music we've never heard before? Why not just let the mainstream dictate to us what is "good music"? One of my big reasons, is that many of the top grossing musicians tend to be young, beautiful, and groomed by the major record companies. Their music and their image seem too overproduced. I'm more interested in real artists of all ages creating their own work. Being who they are. I seem to find more of those musicians on Noisetrade.

I'd like to share a few musicians I've listened to and seriously enjoyed. Hit the play button on their album picture to listen to them as you read about them.


Tree63 is a Christian/Rock band out of Nashville, TN. They label their music for those who enjoy Coldplay and Police.

This recording, entitled "Unfinished Dream" is a series of songs from their sessions in 2006. With their great rock beats and fantastic production, this is a band you should check out! Noisetrade.com


Many musicians will upload a Sampler. A small collection of songs meant to inspire you to purchase the full recording on BandCamp or iTunes. I enjoy this, because it allows me to fall in love with an artist. Spend some time with them before I pull the trigger on buying their album.

Nuela Charles has a fantastic Sampler up on Noisetrade.com. Aware, is a great R&B/Soul recording. The recording is big, it sounds great on headphones. The first track just screams "Bond Opening" to me, and I love that feeling!


Ari Herstand has a great album in Brave Enough. The album feels very cohesive, it's easy to listen to, and well produced. The orchestration is where I'm really impressed. Lots of keyboards, lots of intricate guitar, which I enjoy a ton. Keep Fighting is a song that really spoke to me.


I suggest making an account on Noisetrade, it makes downloading music fairly easy. The music does come zipped up, so downloading to your computer first, and then transferring it to your phone via iTunes, or copying to your Android, is necessary.

Remember, these are all working musicians, trying to support their art. A small tip goes a long way for each recording you download. You can always go back after you've listened to their music and contribute.

Go out there! Be a hipster! Listen to something new that no one is listening to! Connect with a new artist, and see how their music affects you. It really has gotten me more excited about music!

Only Four Notes!

Writing music is a deeply rich experience. It's also hard to get started. Many times, with all 88 keys staring back at us, we have no idea how to get started. Seriously, we get lost with the sheer possibilities of what we could write.

Just like games on the playground, it works better if we setup some rules. Some parameters to help us see the forest for the trees. When you get started I suggest selecting only four notes.

Literally any four notes. Start experimenting with them.

  • Improvise.
  • Focus on other aspects of music such as rhythm, dynamics, tempo.
  • Use the notes in different melodic structures.
  • Use the notes in different Inversions (check out Wikipedia for Inversions).
  • Play the notes over and over until you find something you like.

With that you can develop different chord structures, riffs, melodic ideas, and even song structure. It's amazing how limiting yourself to a set of notes can really open up what you are able to write. It could be something fantastic.

I have one student who really tried to annoy me at the beginning of each lesson. He wouldn't say a single word, and as I was trying to start a lesson, he would play a dissonant set of notes over and over and over again, nonstop.

I finally realized that this was a perfect opportunity. I trained as a 20th century composer in college, the dissonant and experimental was right in my wheelhouse. So I picked a different set of dissonant notes, and started playing off what he was doing. We started improvising a very strange but beautiful song. As I introduced different notes and new rhythms he started copying me and extending our song. By the end of our improvisation he was smiling and ready for lessons to begin.

You can have this experience too. By starting off your compositional efforts with limitations, such as the four note rule, you'll understand the power of limits in your music.

The Failure Trap

I'm having a hard time writing this post. As I sit here, I have writer's block. I don't know how to approach the subject of creating music, and not falling into "the trap". My wife who is sitting next to me told me, "Just write until it is something." 

Beethoven's Manuscript

Beethoven's Manuscript

And that's kind of the point. When we start creating, we have expectations of what that finished product will look like, what that song or composition will sound like, be like. That expectation can really derail us when it comes to finishing any work. 

I work with students who have writing assignments, who really struggle with actually getting notes down on the paper. Even when I give them permission to "write the worst song in the world", something is still stopping them.

Adults seem to have a little harder time with this than teenagers, teenagers are worst than kids, and young kids absolutely love it. I can't get them to stop writing new songs.

I think that tells us something. Young students are learning to read, they are learning to write. Everything at school and at home is a brand new experience, and each child is encouraged to try everything. To succeed at everything. To fail at everything. Failing is part of the educational experience.

As we grow up, failing becomes less and less of an acceptable option. There are lots of reasons, including embarrassment, expectations, and higher stakes. In order to be free to create, we have to become like preschoolers. We have to allow ourselves to both succeed and fail.

I tell my students, "When it comes to composition, you're a baby. You've never done this before, and you've got to allow yourself to fail." It's only when we have this attitude can we start to create something new.

We work within the rules we know, we try to break the ones we feel comfortable with, and each stage has the same feeling. "What if this is no good?" Well it might be. It really might be terrible. That doesn't mean it doesn't need to be written. For your sake, it needs to be written.

I finish with a quote:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

 

The Hardest Two Weeks

There's something strange about having the same surgery as your son. My son Ethan had his tonsils out about a month before I did. It was tough for him, not easy, but I was surprised by how well he handled it.

Look at this guy... He makes everything look so easy!

Look at this guy...

He makes everything look so easy!

He ate pudding and yogurt, played video games, and slept. He never complained though. He would say things like, I just don't feel good, but I'll be ok. He took pain meds only when he needed, about every 6-7 hours. Truly he was a trooper.

So after having cared for Ethan and seeing how well he did, how quickly he returned to homeschooling, I had very high expectations for myself. I felt I could handle pain well, I thought, I could get through this fairly quickly, and get back to work within a few days.

I could not have been more wrong.

The day after the surgery, which had gone off without a hitch, I was finished. When the pain meds from the hospital wore off, I was completely and totally ready to pack in for a month. I was thankful for my  BYU sweatshirt, that saw me through the fevers, and I kept moving from room to room, trying to feel better just as best as I could. I never did find a place I could rest.

The worst part was the reference pain. There's a whole series of nerves that run right through the tonsil area that runs back up straight to my ears. So I had the worst ear infection style pain I had ever had in my life. I could not lay down, and spent 12 days sleeping upright in a chair.

At this point I chuckle. Everyone told me it was going to be bad, my doctor told me I would be out of commission for over 3 weeks minimum. Why now did I feel that I was somehow betrayed? 

There was no amount of preparation I could have done to get ready for this pain. Even when the doctor increased the amount of my percocet, I felt that it did nothing for my pain. Every four hours, I anxiously waited for the moment I could take my meds, just trying to find some relief. Pulling my hoodie over my head, I would then try to sleep until they took effect, and then I drank as much water as I could.

Pre-op. If I had only known...

Pre-op. If I had only known...

My family members are the real heroes here. My brother had his tonsils out the week before (why was everyone doing this at the same time?) and called and texted all the time, checking in. We commiserated together. My sons, hugged me and cared for me. My dear wife carried all the family duties, listened to me complain nonstop, and put essential oils on my poor feet, which really helped. My dog sat with me in the living room, licking my hand, reminding me to just stay alive.

I have a friend at Church, Adam, who told me afterwards, that he would have tried to convince me out of it. He had his tonsils out, and it was bad, and he wished he hadn't done it. I assured him that by that point, I was set on my course, and there was relatively little he could have done to change my mind. Quietly, I wished he *had* talked me out of it.

The biggest problem I had with this, is that every kept saying, "It just gets so much harder when you get so old." "Well it's tougher for old guys like us." Even my doctor chimed in, "Well older people just don't deal with pain as well as children and younger people do."

When did I get old? Last time I checked I was only 37. Oh wait, yeah, that's the beginning of getting old isn't it? I guess the grey hairs in my beard are a dead giveaway.

I am feeling better. I'm back to work, back to homeschooling, back to playing video games. I even played basketball at church with "the old guys" this last week.

Am I glad I did it? Sure. I breathe easier now, hopefully I won't get sore throats anymore, and be a little less sick overall. Would I do it again? I'd be hard pressed to say I would. It was the hardest two weeks of my life.

Microphone Insecurity... Just get over it!

My weekend weapons...

This weekend I had a great opportunity to do sound at my church for a large conference. (We call it Stake Conference). It's a series of two meetings, one on Saturday evening, and another on Sunday morning. Both of these meetings had special musical numbers, and needed sound reinforcement.

Saturday evening I needed to mic a piano, cello and violin. Not necessarily a hard job. A large diaphragm condenser microphone on the violin, one on the cello, and two small diaphragm mics inside the piano. I used a long stereo bar on one stand for quick setup inside the piano.

Sunday morning we mic'd a womens choir. A cable which had been strung across two walls above the choir, had two mic cables attached, and we dropped another set of small diaphragm microphones from this, and created small slings from gaffer's tape to position the mics properly. These mics were setup a week beforehand.

So don’t be afraid of your mics. Use them, learn them, make great recordings with them.

While I setup for all of these recording situations I fought against my greatest insecurity. I kept thinking... "These mics really aren't good enough. Other engineers are going to laugh when they find out what I used. I need to get better mics..." I was more worried about what others thought than being confident in the sound I knew I could get.

As I finished the sound check on Saturday night, I realized something. This setup took 6 different mics. It's true, I could have waited and saved up for that one really nice expensive mic. But then I would have been unable to do the sound for my church. Everything still ended up sounding fantastic.

If I had spent all of my money in one go on one really nice microphone, I wouldn't be able to mic up this gig. All of the mics have performed well in the past and they did great in this chapel over the weekend. I was so thankful to be so prepared for anything I might need.

But sometimes we still feel bad for having (what we believe is) less than awesome equipment. Is it possible that the real issue is that we believe that a nicer mic will actually make us sound substantially better? 

It comes down to this. Every time I start dreaming about a new and expensive microphone, I think to myself, "Do I really need a new microphone, or do I need to write better music?" The answer invariably is that I need to write better music, or provide a better performance.

You see, to get started, you're gonna need some good starter mics. These will take you a long way. One good large diaphragm condenser (I suggest the MXL V67g or the CAD GXL 2200 under $100). A pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones (Monoprice has a pair for under $100 that look good). One good dynamic mic (I suggest starting with the  GLS ES57 $30). With this setup you're ready to record vocals, a full drumset, and everything else in between.

I've been using these mics for years and years to make great recordings. I'm happy with them. I still want more mics, and I want to continue to modify the mics I already own to make them better. But I'm done thinking these mics aren't good enough. I'm ready to make better music... And I think you should too.

So don't be afraid of your mics. Use them, learn them, make great recordings with them.


Note: The monoprice small condenser microphones seem to be the same mic as some that I use, just repackaged. 

A Necessary Attitude

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Music is an amazing experience. It takes us to new places, it changes our feelings, and can bring us peace. After we've taken that plunge to make music a more personal part of our life, we take on a participation, creation role.

But as with everything, time marches on, old habits take root, and we struggle. We struggle to continue with the passion we felt. At this point a person can double down on their effort, riddled with guilt, or they simply let the musical pursuit fall to the wayside.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Especially for children who are taking lessons. We often try to instill a sense of discipline in our children when it comes to practice. "Every day!" "Thirty minutes!" "That's how you become an amazing pianist/guitarist/drummer!"

I often hear from adults, "I wish I had learned to play when I was younger." This attitude implies that learning only happens at a young age, preferably before the age of 20, and that after that, it's just too late.

Music encourages life long learning.

Both of these attitudes fail to develop an necessary attitude. Music encourages life long learning. As I work with students and parents I often repeat this phrase, "We are building a pattern of life long learning with music."  

Who wouldn't like to learn a new language? Learn a new skill? Even develop a new career?

We want our musicians to play for the rest of his or her life. If we get frustrated or angry with a 15 minute practice session vs. a 30 minute practice session, we miss the boat. Instead we should be asking (without judgement), "Did you enjoy your practice time?" (We can always encourage more or better practice time, but it should never be a fight or a struggle.)

As parents we carry a big red button on our forehead. This button says, "I paid for this, so you owe me!" As long as we have that big red button on our forehead, our kids will figure out a way to push it and engage our frustrated side. As long as music has a "frustrated parent" price tag associated to it, our kids will never take personal responsibility and more important personal interest in music.

We have to remove that button, and allow our children to discover love for music on their own terms. It is only then that they will continue that life-long pursuit and continue to play even after they have left our homes.

What do you do?

This has always been a question that's been hard for me. People who have known me for years know that I'm a stay at home dad, classically trained musician, conductor, blues guitarist, recording engineer, private instructor, and more recently a host of my own online audio show.

What I have mainly done for the last 10+ years is take care of two amazing children, Ethan and Milo. Being a stay at home dad is a rewarding and amazing job, albeit an absolutely exhausting one.  When your kids start getting older and start spending a little more of their time on their own, then you start to see what a part of your former life was like, and you start bringing that back in focus.

I have been so blessed to have been able to keep one foot in the music world throughout all of this. I've been able to play in bands, conduct orchestras, write and conduct for choirs, and slowly build a recording studio. This has always been a struggle, not just for me, but also my family. (Music often happens in the evening. Sometimes very late in the evening.)

So sometimes the answer to, "What do you do?" felt... crazy. "I'm playing in a band!" (Are you like 20 years old?) "I'm conducting an orchestra in a musical!" (Really? like waving that stick in the air?) "I'm recording an album!" (Dude you're never gonna be Van Halen...)

And truly, to be a musician is to be crazy. Absolutely crazy. But I can't help it. And I can't really "do" anything else.

My wife gave me a plaque on which is inscribed, "Passion: A powerful force that cannot be stopped." Music has been that passion for me ever since I was 11. I live, breathe, and sing music all day long. I can't help it.

So really I have no good answer to the question. I do crazy... crazy music, anyway I can.

 

 

Copyright 2015 Art Moore