Friday, May 25, 2012

Mixing It Up

Wheee!  Now this is fun!

I'm still working on the cover tune that I mentioned earlier.  Today I got to sink my teeth into some mixing.  

I LOVE mixing!  

It's what I went to school for almost 20 years ago now.  Having this studio with all the good gear and plug ins is quite a joy.  To hear the raw tracks and to be able to hear in my head what they are capable of becoming is one thing.  Having the tools and learning how to use them to get that sound out of one's head and into the mix is another.  And it's a blast!

We still have to track live drums.  And Mike is coming back in next Wednesday to have another go at the vocals.  

Drums are intimidating.  I'm going to do a full 8 channels.  Getting a good sound is going to be a good trick.  But even just messing around last week with 4 channels I got a very decent sound.  So I should be ok.

I think the drums are really going to bring the whole thing together.  I can't wait to dig into mixing them!!!

I will put up another sample some time next week.  After the new vocals and maybe after the drums.

Then I have to get a website together.  I want to do a What's New page.  How many record labels have a What's New Page?  I think it's a pretty cool idea.  Almost daily updates would be fun and could really generate a following.  It would be a chance to watch and see if the thing can get off the ground.  Maybe it would go the way my guitar company went.  And what goes on in studios is always such a mystery and typically veiled in secrecy.  This would be an honest and open way to really bring forth the music and the process of creating the music.

That would be quite a cool thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Old Winder

Today I got a new counter for a winder that I bought off of ebay about 6 years ago.  This thing had been taking up space in the shop for the whole time since then.  About a month ago I decided I needed an R and D machine because it was tough to get any machine time due the our busy production schedule.

I briefly flirted with building one when I realize that I had this old professional machine taking up space.  Doh!  So we ordered a counter for it.  It wasn't cheap, but after spending a few minutes hooking it up and exploring how it works, I've realized that this will be a VERY cool machine for prototyping.  I'm excited to get creative with new designs.

I want to try some blade style pickups first.  Something easy to make that sounds great and has a one size fits all quality.  Then I want to get into some old school funky stuff.  Like gold foil single coils.  And some mud-bucker type stuff.  I'm really looking forward to playing with magnets and wire.

We also have to finish the hum canceling strat pickups that have been 4 years in developing.  They are very close to being ready.  One more tweak and we should have it.  And then, with any luck, we'll turn some guitar player heads.  And ears.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vocals and Bowls

I had a great time tracking vocals with my friend Mike Cooper last Friday.  It's amazing how much energy it takes to do that kind of thing though.  Of course, I'm sure it was much more exhausting for Mike than it was for me.  If you want to hear a sample of what we were up to go to my Soundcloud page and check out "My Love Is Alive - Coop Sample".  I'm not sure we're playing it right stylistically yet, but we're working it out and will see where it goes.  Actually, as I think about it, I can easily see this track being "completed" with several different vocalists.

Which raises a question, why not "release" all the versions of it, one with each singer?  There's really no reason not to do that in this day and age of easily accessible music.  We could just make them available individually.  The customer would be able to listen to a sample of each vocalist and then purchase the one they find the most appealing to them.  I could see it possibly being an issue with regards to promotion and marketing though.  Hmmm.  Lots to ponder about this.

I did also get a chance to mic up the bowl last week.  The file is on my sound cloud page.  Check it out.

I think the sample on the seller's site is better than mine, but they used a stereo mic and a baffle around the bowl.  I will probably have another go at recording it soon.  Maybe with two mic's instead of one.

We'll have some basses coming together later this week.  A fretless NJ5 and a vJ5 Classic.  I'll keep updating my FB page with progress shots.  They sure seem to get a lot of attention.  Thanks to everyone that comments and likes them.  Much appreciated.

I think now it's time for a bike ride.  The older I get the more important maintaining a modicum of fitness becomes.  And I think for the mind to have the energy required for creative pursuits it's actually quite essential.  Maybe I'll get my yoga practice going again as well.  I've always been very sporadic with it, even thought the benefits have always been profound when I am in the groove.  Ever the internal struggle to take care of ones self and do things that contribute to completeness rather than detract from it.  Kinda what life is about in a lot of ways...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moba Jones and Love Is Alive

I just found out the new Bass Player magazine is hitting mailboxes now.  I guess I need to write more now that a lot more folks are going to find out about this blog.  Thanks a lot Rod!

Seriously, this has become something of an albatross for me lately.  It was quite a liberating thing to do for a while.  Almost to the point of being spiritually necessary.  Now, the commitment I made to do this is seeming like quite a challenge.  Maybe I'm just too up in my head lately.

That does make sense.  There is a sort of undercurrent of unease about things for me lately.  Which is silly because by all accounts, my life is fantastic.  I get up early every other morning to take my daughter to school and roll down to the shop, sometimes stopping for coffee at the local home town shop.  On the mornings when I don't have my daughter I take a little more time and get up to speed as I feel it.  I try to get in by nine at the latest.  Usually I do, sometimes I don't.

Once at the shop I check in with everyone and see how things are moving.  If there are any issues I'll do my best to address them.  Sometimes that will end up taking a lot of time - even the whole day.  Other times everything is running smooth as could be and I then have to figure out what my priorities are for what I want to do for the day.  Typically, I will work on bass stuff in the morning, before it gets hot.  I've really dialed back my commitment to building, so it's not the end of the world if I take a day or two away from the wood shop.

If there's no woodwork to be done for the day I'll check in on the EQ DI pedal and see where it's at.  As of this writing, my side kick Devin is doing some metal work on some prototype boxes.  Should be fun to see that come together.  I'll have a lot of circuit work to do on the pedal once we get all that dialed in.  We have to make the pedal as easy to build as possible to keep the price down.  The devil is in the details.  Always.

If there's nothing to do there I'll head for the studio to work on music.  And that's in a very general sense.  These days, I am working on starting a label.  It will be called Moba Jones Music.  Here's a concept web site splash page:

I'm also working on putting a website together for this label.  So I'm learning the software for that.  

To be honest, I'm not even sure what a label really is these days.  I know that I want to record, produce, and market great music.  Music you can feel, like it says above.  

I have the studio ready to go, I have a handful of projects that I'm working on, and I have a handful of people that I want to work with.  My sense is that at this point, I just need to start doing it.  Put the website together, record and produce the music, take the pictures and videos.  Present it all in as clean and accessible a manner as possible.  And above all, keep it all as honest as I can.  

In that spirit of getting started, yesterday I had Johnny Gomez come by to record some guitar tracks for a cover we're working on called Love Is Alive.  It's a tune from the 80's by a guy named Gary Wright.  He had a much bigger hit with Dream Weaver, but this particular track is much more fun in my opinion.  We're taking a more organic approach on it and doing almost all the synth parts with guitar.  I think it's coming together really well.  At this point I'm going to get some drums mic'd up and see if I can get my resident drummer employee Pat to pull it off.  Should be fun.  Then it's time to put the vocal on it and polish it up in the mix.

Here's a quick little sample of where we're at in the process.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Ok.  I'm back.  After an impromptu hiatus of almost a week.

It's been an interesting week to say the least.  Last Friday we had a bit of a change happen here at the shop.  I'm only mentioning it here in the context of how big things in our daily lives can have a big impact on creative energy.  This particular situation was profoundly draining.  And I just haven't felt any creative spark really for almost a week.  It's kinda bumming me out a bit.

I started to come back to life yesterday though.  I had an idea come to me on the guitar in the morning.  It was a tiny little thing, but it felt very genuine.  So I quickly got a mic set up and recorded it.  I think I'm going to put some serious work into it soon.  I hear some singing fretless bass and some spare percussion and drums on it.  Not sure where it'll go.  That's part of the fun though.  The journey of discovery.

Check out the clip here.  Let me know what you think if you feel so motivated.

A quick note about the guitar.  It's a Taylor GS Mini.  They sell for $500 at Guitar Center.  I got this one about 4 months ago now and I have to say the thing is just amazing.  Out of the box it was set up perfectly and the tone is incredible.  It's continually mistaken for my substantially more expensive Goodall in recordings.  I keep it close at hand on a stand so I can grab it and play whenever I feel like it.  For anyone looking for a really great beginner to mid level acoustic I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's just stellar.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

29 Hz Bowl Tones

Ben Howard.  Wow.  Check him out.  Kind of a cross between Fink and Ray LaMontagne.   Really great and on semi permanent repeat in my iPod.  Thanks to my friend Ed for making me aware of him.

The bowl is really getting a great reception here at the shop.  Every single person that I've shown it too and demoed it for has been affected.  Usually they go "whoa".  Then they mellow out just a little bit.  The thing really puts out a grounding and calming energy.  It's awesome.

And I figured out that lowest the note it puts off is 29 Hz.  29 Hz!  That's nuts.  It really makes one slow down and listen, and open up perceptions beyond listening.  It can really be felt in the feet and lower legs.

In the realm of the creative theme here, the bowl has inspired me to possibly explore building a resonant structure out of wood.  Something that could be played with a mallet, or otherwise brought to a state of emitting complex, low, and deep sounds.  I'm letting the concept "ferment" for now, but I will probably start experimenting with ideas very soon.  Maybe there's even a way to build a speaker of sorts made out of wood.


I love this place of contemplative openness waiting for the next glimmer of idea to float to consciousness to be considered and maybe acted upon.  It's kind of a great place to live from.  And maybe it can be applied to all things in this life.  I'm curious enough to try.

I'll be sure to post any developments regarding this "wood sound engine" here.  Should be interesting.

(If you're not familiar with my bowl go back here for some explanation.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cracked Up No More

Here's a quick creative solution.  We had an issue with a body that came back with a crack running from the neck pocket through our weight reduction chamber.  It looks like the chamber might have weakened the area a bit so that the crack had more space to develop.  Hard to say for sure, but in order to help prevent this type of thing in the future we decided to rotate the grain on the cover 90 degrees on the new basses we make.  This will give the area around the cavity more strength because the grain is much stronger perpendicular to the grain than parallel to it.

It's hard to know what caused the crack in the bass.  It probably took quite a hit and it's definitely not a warranty issue because of that.  But our modified cover technique will hopefully provide a little extra insurance against this type of damage in the future.

Here's the cracked bass:

We're going to use some thin epoxy to repair it and then it'll be refinished.  Should be good as new at that point.

Here's the solution on a new bass:

Just a little example of how looking at things from a different angle can help solve a problem or make an improvement.  Of course if someone wants to take the pick guard off the bass on a trans finish it may be a bit of an issue.  We'll cross that bridge when we get to it...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Bowl of Creativity

Time to write about creative stuff again.  As I was firing up the computer to do this I remembered that I took a creative writing class as UC Riverside during my ill fated attempt at college.  It was probably the best class I took during my one year stint next to the physics class.  Loved that one!

Anyway, I remember that in the search for something to write about I came to rest on doing a fleshed out story built around Rush's Red Barchetta.  It was great fun.  Here's a story about a young man that gets to drive an amazing car in a dystopian future where gas powered cars have been outlawed.  Of course he almost gets caught by the cops in their air cars.  Only skill and daring keep him from getting caught.  Man, I love that song.

The story was well received by the class.  A few fellow students even figured out the provenance of it.  And now here I sit without a Red Barchetta to inspire me for today's installment.  Which is only four days late.  So I guess I'll just try to clear my mind and see what floats up...

A theme has emerged in my life lately around the idea of grounding.  Trying to find a solid foundation from which to move through my days and nights from a place of centered peace.

I have found an aid to this end.  It's a bowl.

Yep, a Tibetan singing bowl.  A huge deep Tibetan singing bowl.  I found it on the interwebs.  There are several sellers that put audio clips of them up for potential customers to listen to.  I have always been interested in singing bowls and my girlfriend even bought me one as a gift last year.  Somehow I got interested in them more deeply and found a particular bowl that just really grabbed me.

Here it is:

The guitar is there for scale.  It's BIG!  It has an amazingly powerful and profoundly deep complex sound.  It can be struck with a padded mallet or rubbed around the edge with a large felt covered stick.  Struck, it has more upper harmonic content than if it's played with the stick.  The low bass frequencies that come off it are amazing.  And one definitely has to calm down and open up to really perceive all the complex lowness.

The effects are almost instantly calming for me.  And others seem to respond the same.  I made a clip and put it on sound cloud.  It sucked.  The lows didn't come through at all.  I used the little Marantz recorder and I don't think it goes very low.  I'll have to try again with a real mic and ProTools.  I'll be sure to mention it here when I do.

In the mean time, I will link to the seller - Bodhisattva.  Their clips are very well done.  Obviously.  They got me to buy a bowl.  A BOWL!

What does this have to do with Creativity?  Once again, I will put forth the idea that creative solutions are not readily found when one is stressed out and not grounded or at peace.  So this bowl, by virtue of it's meditational and calming effects, will help me be more creative.

See.  It's already working - it helped me make a post on my blog...