Updates

IMG_6032Keeping busy. 

Running a studio. Writing and recording. Taking pictures. Writing. They all take time. 

I get asked a lot – how do you keep up with all that? I didn’t understand the question for many years. I would answer it with a run-through of the schedule I keep. They didn’t answer the question for most. I’ve learned it is not about “how” it is about “why”. Why do I do this? 

I like “why” questions. 

Why do I continue to write and record songs when I am no longer in my teens and 20s? Don’t adults of a certain age need to concern themselves with other pastimes? 

First, I think there is either judgment or jealousy in the question of why when it comes to creating art after a certain age. I look at the alternative. Do I want to sit and watch TV each evening and be entertained? Or go to a bar and drink? I don’t know what else middle-aged people do in their free time. Neither of those options appeals to me. 

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I create because I enjoy creating. I would say I have to create but that sounds a bit like a martyr. I get really crabby when I don’t create. I find less joy in my life when I don’t create. Would I have a cardiac arrest because I didn’t write a song? No. So, yes I could live without creating. I choose not to live that way. Creating brings joy. Period. 

Is it hard to keep up a regular schedule for creating? Yes and No. We all make choices in our lives. You control your own time in most situations. I’m sure you can throw a million excuses at me for why you don’t have the time. I would point out arguing with me requires time. You could create instead of arguing with me. Suck it up. If you want to create, that’s on you. Me, I make sure I have time to create. I’m not always in the best mood when I create. I am tired. But I’m also tired at my kid’s dance recital and I still go. I’m tired when I see my kid’s marching band. I still go. 

I think it is the one adult thing creatives do, they show up and make time for what’s important. The rest is truly kid stuff. I make up entire worlds and try to capture cool pictures. That is very kid-like. 

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I think being organized helps. I highly recommend Adam Savage’s book – Every tool is a hammer. It is a very practical guide to creating. It covers how passion drives output. Keeping projects organized and welcoming help. When you have a clean workspace, you can get started quicker. When you have files well organized, you can spend more time creating than looking for things. I plan out each week’s creative projects on Sunday. For example tonight I know I have to rehearse 3 songs, get the lyrics typed out and begin click tracks for them in Reaper. I also have to archive a stack of records. There’s no thought or energy being expelled on what I have to do tonight. I did all that on Sunday. My tasks tonight are tied to bigger goals that are more long term. 

The point to all this is creating does not happen without some type of organization. Well, it can happen. It just doesn’t go very far in my experience. 

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There are people who need to feel inspired. They choose to let the muse guide them. I can respect that. In my experience, the job I have is to show up constantly so that when the muse appears, we can take that and run. I don’t like waiting on the muse. I don’t like waiting for much of anything. My goal is to have created as much as I can between now and my last day on earth. I hope to have it all archived and easily accessible. Why? Because that brings me joy. I had fun creating it. I hope someone has fun going through it. I’ve left them a good story to wade through.

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The Library is cool

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I love the library. Libraries bring value to a community. Luckily, in St. Louis, there are some great library systems. Each system has slightly different flavors depending on the community they serve. There are reciprocal agreements between the library systems. These allow me to access systems outside of my library’s area. It  is amazing to say the least. 

I have fond childhood memories of going to the library with my mom. Any interest her children expressed was met with a stack of books from the library. Every few weeks I’d wander through the isles following the whims of my interests. I was fond of books on Greek Mythology, Architecture, Music, Art, Star Wars. My interests were always met with books. There was not a topic that eluded some kind of library resource. 

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During my college years the university libraries opened up even more niche’ interests. I was following my interest in foriegn films and jazz music. The university libraries had deep archives of strange and unusual resources. I found wonderful films and strange jazz that opened up creative doors for me. I still miss my access to the different libraries. 

Recently I discovered that libraries have embraced the digital media world. There are several apps connected to library systems making lending items easier.  From movies to ebooks, to music, the digital media available is immense. It will satisfy the explorer in all of us. I recommend the following apps: 

  1. Hoopla is the main library app I use. It will give you access to movies, ebooks, audio books, etc. I use it mainly for the audio books. They stream on my iphone during car rides. You can borrow up to 7 items per month. 
  2. Kanopy is a library app that streams movies. It has an eclectic collection of movies. There are some foriegn films, films from the Criterion Collection, classic films, and documentaries. It is a place to go to explore. I don’t see the blockbuster films or mainstream Hollywood on this app. There are also videos that are courses on things like photography, piano playing, and other “how to” instructional items. 
  3. Overdrive is new to me. I just started using it. Seems similar to Hoopla. Same idea. 
  4. Libby is the newest of the bunch. I just started using this aw well. It looks like mainly ebooks. The selection of books looks large. It also tells you if the physical book is available in the library. That is a nice option especially if all the digital copies have been checked out. 

 

If you’ve not been to your local library in the last five years, I highly recommend a trip. Don’t be afraid to update you library card. They typically renew them yearly. If you have fines, buck up and pay them. They won’t make a big deal about it. Do not let that be the barrier preventing you from accessing some great materials. 

On a side note – keep an eye out for book fairs sponsored by your library system. They are typically annual events. They offer library materials that have been circulated out, donations, and other items a library may need to discard. It is a great and cheap way to add to your personal library. 

 

Strumming and Humming Guitars

ccqtykebqthxgkuyaynl_896340e3-94d4-48a0-8e66-408e0fb16443_2000xI have been using my local library’s digital resources. A few posts previous to this was about how great libraries are and the new wave of resources they provide. With my ipad I can access magazines, books, videos, and a whole range of digital media. It is impressive and rewarding. I’ve come to like audiobooks as well. Over the last year, I’ve given up listening to terrestrial radio. I listen to audiobooks from the library, podcasts, as well as streaming music. I can now control what I listen to as I drive. I find this really important because as I get older I feel strongly that I want to infuse my listening with positivity and things of deep interest. 

I see the benefits of this listening to my mood and outlook. Currently, my morning routine involves a healthy dose of Zig Ziglar. If you’ve not heard of Zig Ziglar, I highly recommend it. He made his mark giving speeches on motivation and goal setting. I keep him on during my morning exercise. It inspires me to do better. It shifts my mood to the right place. He provides a great foundation for starting the day. 

One of the articles I read last night was from Guitar Player. The focus of the article was on finding your tone. It mentioned the idea of sticking to one guitar and one amp with little or no pedals or effects. That idea sparked with me. I see value in that. I remembered when I was first learning to play guitar. I had little to no resources. I had an old Harmony acoustic and an electric with non-working pickups. 

https://www.guitarplayer.com/

My options were limited but I played that Harmony as much as I could.  I got books from the library of songs with lyrics and chord charts. This was well before the internet. The library had the best selection of songbooks at the time. Nothing current but enough well-known tunes that I could play along. I learned to strum and sing using songbooks. Little did I know that I would still be strumming and singing thirty years later. I enjoyed singing and playing the guitar. I didn’t go down the path of being a lead guitar player. I was more fascinated with accompanying myself. Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of times I looked over the fence and saw the cool kids playing fast licks and wicked guitar solos. It was something I sometimes wanted but didn’t have the patience to sit and learn. I did have the patience for playing and singing. 

I didn’t realize until much later just how valuable that skill is. I’ve come to realize there is great merit in being able to sing and play guitar. Communicating a song by yourself is a tremendous skill. While I appreciate other musicians that can go deep on their instruments, the singer-songwriter in me has realized my path was forged long ago with strumming and humming. 

I started writing songs early on. I’d play with bands. I brought my songs to bands. We’d play them. I’d let people take the songs in different directions. It was fun. I’d learn a lot from playing with others in a band. It is a great feeling to hear others bring something to one of your songs. Despite that home base will always be strumming and singing. The seeds planted all those years ago from songbooks at the library and an old Harmony guitar have blossomed into some hefty oaks. Feed your passions. It will make you a better person. 

National Blues Museum – St. Louis

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I visited the National Blues Museum over the weekend. It is my second time visiting the museum. The first time I went, I went by myself. This time around I went with some friends. I like that a group of individuals has taken the time and money to put together a museum dedicated to the blues. 

https://www.nationalbluesmuseum.org/

I like that the museum is in my hometown of St. Louis. This town has a lot of musical history. From our great St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, to Scott Joplin, Miles Davis, Ike and Tina Turner, the father of Rock and Roll – Chuck Berry, Uncle Tupelo, and the list goes on and on. This is a musical town. The confluence of the Missouri River and the Mississippi River is a magical melting pot of life and art. 

The only other musical museums I’ve been to is Sun Records and Elvis Presley’s house in Memphis. It is like coming home in so many ways. To see a museum dedicated to an art form is gratifying. You realize your passion is a part of a bigger cultural impact. I feel connected to a lot of the artists displayed at the Blues Museum. They were all at one time a beginner on an instrument. They know the value of expressing yourself in the medium of music. You see the obstacles some of them had to overcome. Some of these people had no clue their music would outlive them in ways they only dreamed of. 

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I think of Robert Johnson, the great bluesman. Most rivers of the blues lead back to him. Robert died at the hands of a jealous husband who poisoned his drink in 1939. Robert played juke joints and small backroom bars. It was unlikely he would become a revered blues legend during his lifetime regardless of his early death. I could argue his early death made his contribution to his legend even more likely than if he had lived. Speculation of course but a valid point. 

Robert isn’t much different than the hundreds of musicians currently playing in their local communities today. FIfty years from now we may come across someone who has long since passed but their musical genius finally comes to light. These things are more likely to happen than most care to admit. 

So to stand in a museum of fellow musicians, known and unknown, famous and infamous, is a welcome thing. I have more in common with these group of people than I do standing in the middle of Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game. And I happen to love the Cardinals. This is a version of Church I would have welcomed in my early years. Their lessons are relevant. There’s no shortage of suffering. No shortage of disapproving elders. No shortage of people loving and hating what you do. Those are life lessons. To see Bessie Smith sing Tain’t nobody’s business if I do is a powerful thing. It touches that part of my soul that reminds me that I have to fight to keep my faith on track and not worry so much about what others think. It’s an easy trap to fall down as a musician. 

The museum covers a lot of history. I’m sure some will think it needs more but like art – it never ends, it just simply pauses in interesting places. I see it as a work in progress. I’d like to see more guitars and more recordings. I’d love to see a research facility in some capacity. All things that could happen in time. 

One tidbit I found interesting – Jack White – God Love Him – has donated a lot of funds to the museum. The man’s generosity never ceases to amaze me. 

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When you happen to cross the river into St. Louis, stop and see the Blues Museum. Afterwards make sure you stop at Sugarfire next door. You’ll get some good BBQ as a reward for your travels. 

https://sugarfiresmokehouse.com/

 

Chicago – the band…

chicago-band-billboard-1960s-1500x845I just finished watching Chicago, the Terry Kath experience. I’ve come away a believer. 

I grew up in the 80s. My knowledge of Chicago was limited to the Karate Kid soundtrack. I couldn’t tell what was Chicago or solo Peter Cetera. I’m not sure it mattered. I don’t mean that in a harsh way but with that voice – everything centered around him anyway. 

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You know our love was meant to be

The kind of love to last forever

And I want you here with me

From tonight until the end of time

His voice is eternally tied to those lyrics for me. 

 

 

 

The documentary is on Amazon Prime. Free to subscribers. It is a movie put together by Terry Kath’s daughter, Michelle. She does a nice job pulling archive footage of the early days of Chicago. 

Here’s what I learned…

Terry Kath was an incredible guitar player. 

Chicago’s albums from 1969 to 1978 are not the Chicago that is on the Karate Kid soundtrack. They are a different band. That is also the time period Terry was in the band. 

Those early Chicago albums are varied. Lots of styles going on. There are some real gems. I’m sure you’ve heard a couple of hits from that time period. I knew the songs but didn’t realize they were Chicago until recently. 

He had some cool guitars.

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There are some folks out there providing replica instructions. 

http://www.geocities.ws/pdga14567/terrykath.html

He was well respected by guitarists during the time period. The film mentions Jimi Hendrix wanted to record with him. 

He died at age 31 from a gun accident. 

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The documentary does a nice job of putting their music in context to the time. I’m listening back to the first album as I type this. The song Beginnings just came on. Great acoustic guitar opening. I like when a documentary gives a context for some type of art. It allows me to get past my bias as a listener. I have something I can latch onto when someone gives the story behind the art. There is some great musicianship on these recordings. I don’t think I would have given Chicago a chance if I’d not watch this documentary. I’ve heard people say their first few albums are gems. I just didn’t believe them. It took watching this to appreciate them. 

Itunes has all of the studio albums from 1969 to 1978 as a single download. Great place to explore. 

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Kaddish

I lost my dad a year ago to cancer.

My brother pointed out that the year has gone by quickly. I agreed it doesn’t seem like a year. I’m sure for my mom it seems a lifetime. I see her each week. She puts on her brave face. She’s an amazing woman who did everything she could to care and support my dad.

We all come to this crossroad. The parent passes away. Time passes. Things move forward. It is an eternal change.

I remember writing the eulogy for my father. I made it as funny as I could because that is what my dad would have wanted. I always felt it was a win when I could get my dad to laugh. During one of his many surgeries I passed the time reading him dirty jokes during his pre-op. It took his mind off things. His laugh was infectious. It would get me laughing as well. It’s still one of my favorite memories with him.

As we turn the page on a year since his death, I remember him differently. Towards the end it was rough. My father knew he was dying. He was in constant pain. There wasn’t much good outside of my mother’s constant attention and positivity. Truth be told, he was hard to be around. I don’t think he wanted people around either. He wanted to suffer by himself. I see that more now than I did at the time.

So what’s different now? I still forget he is gone at times. I’ll find an article or come across something he would be interested in and for a split second I think I’ll see him later in the week to tell him. I do that quite a bit. I imagine my mother does it multiple times a day. I am more relaxed than I was a year ago. I felt on edge while he was alive. Each time he moved from room to room he risked falling. Each time my phone rang I’d prepare for something tragic. I would see ambulances drive past me and wonder if they were headed to my parent’s house. It took about six months to finally leave my system.

I find myself talking to him more. I have had long conversations with him. I know him well enough to know the advice he’d offer. There are times when I feel his presence. There are other times where I have been told what to do, his voice quite loud and clear. “Go see your mother.” “Go talk to your uncle. Tell him this.” I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining this. On those occasions it has been the exact right thing to do. I tried to explain this to someone, but it came across as weird and ghostly. It’s not like some supernatural thing. It actually feels very natural. I get a little annoyed because his timing sucks.

I feel more responsible as a father. With my dad gone, I feel like I have no backline or safety net. I take my health more seriously. I look after things. My priorities have shifted. I am more willing to focus on things like creating, doing things I want to do, not wasting time. It’s the most adult I’ve felt. I look at my wife differently. I value what we’ve made more. My kids are a bigger focus. I see my decision making through a longer lens. I take the future into play but realize it is not guaranteed. I know health is something that can be taken away in a moment’s notice and there is not much you can do about it when it happens.

I’m more relaxed at work. I see people differently. I can relate to others better having gone through this. It has added skill sets and a depth of understanding. But in the same space I don’t suffer fools. I feel you either want this or you don’t. Make it work or don’t. I don’t have less patience. I have a better understanding about whether you will do something or not and I’m not wasting time or energy worrying about it.

His passing has brought a lot of good into the world. It brought us together as a family. It has made me see the amazing person my mother is. It allowed my brothers and me to work towards things. It created an equal footing for all of us but it’s still nice to throw the occasional responsibility to the oldest. It just happens less now. It taught my kids about death and how to die with dignity or in other words how to fight to the end. It taught me patience and perspective. It gave me a renewed interest in fatherhood and manhood. It made me a better husband.

I choose not to see his passing as the end. He lives on in all the ways I’ve grown since he passed away. It’s just different now. It’s that change thing. Comes back every time. 

 

Some things I am digging

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I go through a lot of books. The reading list is long and the want list of books is longer. I enjoy the sense of possibility books offer. I recently heard an interview on Tim Ferris’ podcast. He interviewed Ramti Sethi. If you haven’t checked out Tim’ podcast, I highly recommend it.

During his interview with Ramti, Ramti talked about his book buying habits. He stated if you have any interest in a book, just buy it. He went on to say a book is a great investment. I’ve never quite said those exact same words but I completely endorse that idea. If I gain one bit of insight from something I’ve read, it was worth the price of admission. When I think about things that have changed my world views – books are at the top of the list. 

There’s also a great belief among leaders regarding books and reading. The great leaders read all the time. The set aside time daily to read. I find that to be further justification for reading. It will take you places you’ve never been. The path forward is lined with books. 

My current book recommendations are a bit premature. I’ve only read a few pages in. I’ve heard an interview with Colson Whitehead recently that made me curious. His new book – The Nickel Boys – is based on a true story. It is a story of systematic abuse of children in a state run facility. Colson has written several books. This is my first time reading something of his. I think it will open the door for me to read his other books. 

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I purchased a book based off another interview from the Tim Ferriss podcast. Each week it seems I have a list of recommendations I’ve written down after the podcast. Tim is kind enough to add links to all the things that get discussed on his show. Following up to find a book is extremely easy. One of his guests recommended Atomic Habits. When I looked it up on Amazon it was one of the few books I have seen with a 5 star rating. I’ve read the first 20 pages. I was talking to my wife about how good it was. The next day she had the book and agreed it was good. She just finished the book. Now that she is done, I can have my turn to read it. The premise is that small changes in habit, routine, can make dramatic changes in the long term. The tagline is “An Easy & Proven way to build good habits & break bad ones.” 

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My last recommendation is a documentary of sorts. It is a DVD called A personal Journey through American Movies with Martin Scorsese. I love old films. I also love learning about the historical significance of art through history. Martin does a nice job of laying out a pathway through film history. He talks a lot about his own development and how certain films influenced him. There are three DVDs in the series. I have finished the first one. Highly recommended. 

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So you want to record some music…

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I recently started digging into photography. As I was buying camera gear I saw similar comparisons of when I started recording music. The options are endless. Everyone has an opinion. The internet is helpful to a degree. The rabbit holes are deep. Money will not get you everything you need. There is a big leap of faith.

I thought it might be helpful to just add my 2 cents to someone starting out in recording audio.

These are suggestions.

My best advice is to just start. Dive in. Record something, anything. Keep it. Think about it. And record again. Keep doing that over and over. Be curious. If the advice you get or hear seems harsh or like you’re being scolded, discard it. It has no place in your journey. Any encouragement or feelings of excitement, those are the footpaths to follow when it comes to recording.

If you have an ipad I think Garageband is exceptional. Getting the sound into an ipad can be interesting. If you’re doing guitar work, they make an adapter. There are several options. Just pick one and start. I say that because it is a starting point. You have nothing to compare it to.

I recently purchased a camera tripod. I found something cheap. I could not understand why anyone would pay 80-170 dollars on a tripod. It holds the freaking camera. I thought it was just some way of showing off gear. On my first trip out taking photos I took the tripod. Within a few minutes of setting it up I realized why people buy expensive tripods. I could see and feel the quality of the cheaper model. It was difficult to take down and set up because it was cheap. If I had purchased the most expensive thing I could, I would have never understood why it is better. Now I know. I’ll keep the cheap tripod. In a year or so I will purchase a nicer tripod. I am not afraid to rough up the tripod I have or push it to it’s limit. That is valuable information.

Don’t be afraid to jump in and put an adapter for the ipad. Make a decent guess and go with it. You’ll gain experience and know what to look for down the road. The important thing is for you to start using it and recording.

I would also consider an inexpensive midi keyboard. They typically hook up to the ipad easily. Do a little research on the difference between midi and audio. It is helpful to understand the difference and how to record each. Most guitarist I knew growing up in the 80s and 90s stayed away from midi. I considered that a mistake. Understanding the basics of midi opens a lot of possibilities.

If you want to go the PC route I suggest starting with a free program or something on the cheaper side. You’ll need an interface. The interface simply allows the guitar or vocal to go into the computer so it can be recorded. Most also have a midi input that allows you to do the same with midi instruments.

I really enjoy Focusrite interfaces. Guitar Center will carry used ones. For something like an interface, I like to buy new. There are just things about interfaces that are quirky. Having a warranty and customer support helps. It will take some of the fear out of the equation.

https://www.reaper.fm/download.php?from_reaper=1img_7427

In terms of recording software, I love Reaper. Reaper is about 60.00 to purchase for a single user. You can purchase it right off their website. No need to go to a music store. You can download a fully functional demo and use it up to 30 or 60 days. I can’t remember which. It was a generous amount of time though. Download it over a long weekend when you have time to play with it. Watch some videos first, get a feel for it.

As much as I love Reaper, it can be difficult. Any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is difficult. They all have little buttons that have to be pushed to record or enable recording. The vocabulary can be difficult. It is worth it though. Be prepared to be frustrated but keep coming back. The second and third time are better. Take notes. Write things down and get a basic path going.

There are other DAWs out there. There are free ones that will work. Reaper just has a great community online. I like DAWs with resources and people who can assist. The Reaper community is second to none.

There are a ton of effect and instrument plugins out there. I suggest using what your DAW has built in. Start with the stock for now so you know how they work and what they are. I suggest knowing about Reverb, Delay, Compression, and EQ. Those are great places to start. After a while I suggest searching for “Best free VSTs” and follow some of the links. One of the things you’ll have to navigate is how to install those VSTs. It can be a little tricky and it requires you going into your computer’s directories. It is worth it but if you know someone who has done it or you can find some videos online for installation, that is the best way. You can misplace some files and that will stress you out. Tread cautiously.

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I have spent days downloading free VSTs. There are some amazing people making things for us to use, free of charge. I love Blue Cat plugins. There are others. I don’t recommend doing what I have done, downloading everything I could find. It is fun at first but then you have too many. This causes you to not know what does what. I think less is better. Rotate some new ones in after a month or two.

Once you get a work flow going and you are able to record sounds and play them back, – that ‘s great place to be. You can use your computer speakers and headphones to listen to what you’ve recorded. Just know that what you hear through those speakers or headphones will sound different in a car or home stereo. Most people who mix their music try to find speakers that do not hype the sound. This means speakers that have bass boost or some other type of built in sound enhancer. I think it is best to find a pair of speakers, whatever they are, and use them to listen to everything – your recordings, other recordings, songs off the internet, etc. You need to know how things sound coming through the speakers. That is the real skill. If you can match a professional recording using computer speakers, you’ve taken a huge step forward. Know what your speakers sound like and you’re golden.

In terms of cables and other items for the studio, go with whatever you can get your hands on. Experiment. Just like the tripod analogy that I used. You don’t know if something is good or bad until you use it.

You will need a microphone. I like Shure mics. They are basic and straightforward. A great starting place is a SM-57 to record guitar amps or other loud type sounds. Singers typically use a SM-58 as a vocal mic. Are these the best? Nope. But like your speakers, if you know how they sound and how they capture sound, you will have a big advantage. I buy a lot of used mics. Those are a good value. Guitar Center always has used mics. Pawn shops have used mics. Get what you can and use it. You don’t have to have 2 mics. One mic can really do everything you need. I like having at least 2 mics. I can get creative with that.

Keep using the same stuff and eventually you’ll know how to manipulate the tools at the sound source rather than sitting at a computer trying 100 plugins to get the sound you want. Put a mic up, record something, listen back. Do you like the sound? If yes, move on. If not, try it again. Where you put a mic changes the sound. There is a lot of experimentation. This is why no one can truly tell you that there is a right or a wrong way. There may be better ways but that comes from just doing it enough times to be able to predict and execute what you wanted.

It will take you about 100 hours of recording to get you at that stage of feeling comfortable. Start a notebook. Log your hours for fun.

It is tempting to think gear makes you better or makes it easier to get better sounds. It is a difficult debate. In my world I have some nice gear, some ok gear, and some not good gear. Someone once told me that each bit of gear does something well. It may take you awhile to figure out what it does well, but it will do something well. I think about that a lot when I have a piece of gear I’m struggling with. I’ll ask myself – what does it do well? And then I ask myself – is that something I need it to do? If not, let the gear go back into the universe or put it in storage. Both are great options. If you trade it or give it away, that ‘s just good karma. Let someone else make meaningful things with it. Thank it for it’s time with you and move on. If you decide to keep it and put it in storage, great. Let it sit for a good long while. On those days where you feel stuck, pull it out and see if it inspires you to do something different.

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I’ve kept most of my gear through the years because I get used to how something works or sounds. I don’t like learning new gear. It takes time away from creating. That is my journey. You do what you want to do. Let your energy and enthusiasm be your guide. I had a conversation with someone who was learning a new instrument. They mentioned they should be spending their time on learning the basics. I asked them if that brought them joy. They said no. I suggested they follow their joy with the instrument. That will get them in the practice room more than obligation will. It won’t always be fun and engaging but that’s ok. Show up. Play. Record. See where it goes. I hope this helps. Good luck.

Priest abuse STL

This past weekend the St. Louis Archdiocese Released the following information.

https://www.archstl.org/promise-to-protect/list-release/fbclid/iwar3dxx2tbp_j4y4aakeh-d42pjusdroio9obvkg52fe2uh5oz-ep-th2qsi

When I started writing this blog post previously in the week, this information had not yet been released.

I went to a small Catholic high school just outside of St. Louis in the late 1980s. I was not a great student. I was creative and ambitious. Given some direction I did good things. Given bad direction, I became frustrated. As a student I picked up on things that were going on. I was smart enough to see hypocrisy. And yet, my age and place in that small community was my disadvantage. My behaviors and attitude were dismissed as attention seeking. 

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In September of 2012 a Bishop in Kansas City, Father Robert Finn, was found guilty… “on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of a local priest who had been known to be in possession of lewd images of children.” – National Catholic Reporter

Father Finn was the head administrator of the small Catholic high school I attended. 

I did not like Finn then. I do not like Finn now. 

The National Catholic Reporter filed a story regarding Finn’s actions during the course of time before and during his trial. 

Journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, Thomas P. Doyle, described the following: 

Between 2005, the year Finn was appointed, and 2015, there have been at least 94 cases filed against the diocese. Some of these involved allegations of serious sexual abuse that goes back decades — abuse covered up and mishandled by Finn’s predecessors. In many cases, Finn was not part of the cover-up because it was all out in the open by the time he arrived. His failure, the extent of which cannot be understated, was in the way he responded to the victims who resorted to the civil courts. And, as an aside, the main reason most victims have gone to the civil courts is because they have been denied any justice, support or deserved compensation by the church’s administration.

Finn pretty much ignored victims. In his 10 years as bishop, he met with two and possibly a couple more, but not to extend pastoral care. His meetings with victims were all part of legal proceedings. From all sources queried, there is no evidence he ever reached out as a caring shepherd to any of the people whose lives had been ravaged by the Kansas City priests.

He did his dirty work through his lawyers. Although some bishops when asked about the toxic antics of their attorneys try to dodge the issue by claiming it was the lawyers and not them, the cold fact is that the bishop hires the lawyers, sees that they get paid, and approves their strategies. Unlike the victims’ attorneys, who are paid on a contingency basis, the church’s lawyers are paid by the hour whether they win or lose. The lawyers for the Kansas City diocese were paid a lot under Finn’s reign.

Then we come to the long, ponderous journey of some of the abuse cases through the legal system. The victims’ attorneys, basically one firm, were faced with a constant barrage of motions, deposition notices and other legal roadblocks to prolong the inevitable. The only winners were the lawyers, and the major losers were the lay people of the diocese who actually provided the money through donations to pay for Finn’s campaign against the victims.

The legal costs to the diocese are in neighborhood of $24 million. Included in this amount is a fine of $1.1 million imposed by the court because the bishop failed to honor some of the terms of one of the settlements. He, and consequently the diocese, agreed to do certain things that they intentionally failed to do. The people of the diocese paid for it.

Finn did not instill faith in the students he was paid to oversee. He was distant, aloof. Rules were meant to be followed. He was not to be questioned. My parents looked up to him. His word was golden. My instincts told me differently. 

After graduating high school I forgot about Finn. It wasn’t until 2012 that my memory of him came back. I was not surprised of the charges against him. I was not surprised by the decisions he made. They were the same sort of behaviors he displayed as the head administrator of a school. He is not a nice shepherd to his sheep.

Once a rising star in the church, he is now the source of rumors and speculation. He’s isolated in a world that has nothing to offer him. 

Taking Pics

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My wife and I recently bought a new camera. We took a leap of faith. With our oldest in Marching Band, we convinced ourselves we needed a proper camera to document the Marching Band season. Ok, so maybe that was the line I used to get me a new camera. It is what married people do. I truly want better pictures of my son in Marching Band. A new camera fits the bill. I also want to get into photography. It is a win for all of us. 

 

Over the weekend we went to Schiller’s Camera in Brentwood, Missouri.

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We purchased our camera there. It is a locally owned camera shop. It is the shop recommended by the photographers I talk to. I like locally owned shops. It keeps the community going. They offer a free class on your camera if you purchased it from them. I didn’t think anyone else would be in the class but I was wrong. Seems like Schiller’s is a hopping place. There were about 10 others in the class. I think that says a lot. In this day and age – with cell phones attached to really good cameras, people are still buying proper cameras. 

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The class was good. These new cameras have so many features. To not take the time to learn them seems foolish. Yes. You can point and shoot. It has a mode for that but if that is what you’re going to do – keep your phone and save some money. The iphone does great pictures. It is more camera at your fingertips than a top of the line camera from 2000. Technology has come a long way. 

 

All of the photography I’ve done up to this point has been on my iphone. The camera and access to filters is astounding on the iphone. I consider my time with the iphone good training. Now I am ready to go to the next level. I’ve always leaned towards photographers. I’ve had friends who were photographers. Taking the leap now is exciting. 

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Coming from a guitar player’s perspective, Photographers love their gadgets. I thought guitar players had piles of stuff. We’ve got nothing on photographers. I now see photographers as part of the same tribe of guitarists. We appreciate the hunt for more things to tinker with. I’m sure the average person doesn’t know when I use an amp or a plugin just like the average person doesn’t know what aperture or fstop I used on a photo. It either sounds / looks good or it doesn’t. But to those in the know – we appreciate the gear as well as the product. 

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This is a new journey for my wife and me. She’ll remember the technical stuff. I’ll say – oh look sparkly things. Between the two of us, I’m sure we will get a good picture or two.