Monday, September 18, 2017

AKG BX20e Fixer Upper

AKG BX20 fun!

I happened across a used AKG BX20e on Reverb a little while ago. The price seemed reasonable and it wasn't too far away. Actually, it was in Echo Park, which is quite excellently ironic as the BX20 is an old school reverb unit from the 70's. :-)

It was being sold as is with only one of the 2 channels functioning correctly. I love a good challenge, especially in the realm of old studio gear, so I paid for it and drove out to pick it up.


Here it is all strapped in and ready to go. Must have been quite a sight going down the freeway sticking way out of my car. 

Anyway, I got it home safely and proceeded to immediately rip it apart.


This is the top of the spring assembly. Those are big ass magnets. Alnico I believe.


Above you can see the gap in the magnets, which is where the spring drive and receive coils are suspended. They are tiny!!
They are also one of the more common failure points on these units, at least according to the research I've done. 


The first several minutes were spent simply trying to wrap my head around what the heck is going on with this crazy contraption.


Here, to the left, you can see the cardboard tube that the spring assembly lives inside.


The foam discs are there to keep the springs from moving around too wildly during transport. The ones on this unit were badly degraded and would crumble away when I touched them.


The springs themselves are crazy things. They are bent and crimped into an irregular shape in order to aid in the diffusion and complexity of the reverb's character.


Here you can see how they are held suspended and actually bent in a manner that allowed AKG to put rather long springs in a relatively small space. There are 2 springs that bend twice each so the unit has 2 channels. They are also designed to each have a different reverb character.


Here's where I was starting the process of sorting out what was wrong with the unit.


Here's what the foam discs looked like after I removed them as well as I could.


We laser cut new foam discs and here you can see them installed.


This is the multi pin connector that connects the reverb tank to the amplifiers. I started looking for continuity between the spring ends and this connector just to rule out bad solder joints or wires. I was crossing my fingers that those tiny coils were all still functional. 

I guess I got lucky, it turns out there were 6 wires that were not cleanly connected to the spring termination points and had failed somewhere between the connector and the spring ends.


So I ran new wire from the connector into the reverb tank.


6 pieces in total.


2 went to the top end and 4 to the bottom end.



Continuity problem solved it was time to hook it all back up and see if it worked.


If you're curious, here's my trouble shooting drawing. Might seem crazy, but it made sense to me.


The power light turns on!!


But oops. Something was hooked up wrong. Not sure it was me or someone before me, but there was a feedback loop so one of the amps was being fed right back into itself. Not good. Burned up a couple of transistors on one of the amps. You can see them here about halfway down the right end of the amp card. 

Here's the amp circuit schematic. I've written in pencil the part numbers for the transistors that needed to be replaced. I found original OEM parts on ebay and ordered them up. 
The parts came in a couple weeks later and I got them installed, reversed the bad connection, and put it all back together. The unit fired up and now it works flawlessly. 

The best part is it sounds amazing!


One last photo. This one shows the signal path for the springs. How the engineers came up with this scheme I'll never know. But it's works wonderfully well and I'm delighted to have such a killer piece of vintage gear now living happily in the corner of my studio.

BTW, if you want a really amazing plugin version of this reverb I can't recommend the Universal Audio BX20 emulation enough. Their plugin is the main reason I ever started looking for a real BX20. I did some A/B testing and the difference is so subtle it's almost insignificant. The plugin is more flexible for sure, but there's just an undeniably serious cool factor in having one of these beasts in the corner, quickly available in my sessions as a plugin insert. Love it!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Face Back

Facebook let me back in the club yesterday about 2:30 after 9 days in the wilderness.

Here's what I learned:

- Facebook is too big to be even remotely responsive with these kinds of things. I was fortunate to have a friend that had a friend that works there. I'm certain this was resolved more quickly because of that connection. And I'm super grateful for it. Nonetheless, Facebook needs to figure out a more expeditious way of dealing with this kind of stuff.

- DO NOT SHARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. EVER. It's not worth the risk. Make your own original music. Like I did. Promote your own material. Create! Share! If it doesn't catch on keep creating and keep sharing. Get better. Keep going.

- Do not allow yourself to be made an admin on any page that you are not 100% certain will be carefully run. That's what happened to me. I'm not sure if getting disabled was a glitch or what, but I don't really care. I will not be an admin on any page that allows posting of cover content. (speaking of that I need to go clean up the Best Boutique Basses page right now!)

- Appreciate Facebook for what it is to you. I had a pretty hard time being cut off from what has become a huge part of my social existence (not to mention the business aspect). I'm not going to apologize for that either. For many millions of people, this thing called Facebook has grown into something that is fundamental to a modern social existence. I'm not going to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems undeniably to be true. And it sure felt true to me when it was unjustly taken away from me. Just ask my fiancé. It was a rough time.

- Diversify. If you have other barely active social media accounts invest some energy and keep them going. I spent some time digging into Twitter and now have a much more active presence there (NordGuitar). If one of your accounts goes down for any reason it won't be quite such a big blow.

- For critical communications and contacts make sure you get email addresses or find some way to communicate outside of Facebook if your account gets hosed. I was about to do a podcast Skype call with a notable online bass press company right when my account went down. Because of that I was not able to communicate with the podcaster and we missed the scheduled appointment. Please realize that if you are syncing contacts with Facebook that that will all go away if your account goes down. Back up those important contacts somehow. Screenshots, anything.

That's all I got for now. Be careful with your Facebook account. Be authentic. Don't spam. Don't try to game the system to build yourself and your accounts. What goes around comes around. Karma. Et Cetera.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Plot Thickens - David vs Goliath

The plot thickens.

Wow, what a wild week it's been. Dealing with the disabled Facebook account fiasco has taken a lot of my time. As you can imagine it's kind of a big deal to lose access to the largest marketing platform in world history. Not to mention being cut off from all of my friends, who I enjoy following and miss dearly.

To summarize:

- My account was disabled on May 30th at approximately 4:45 pm.
- Repeated attempts to file appeals have been met with silence.
- As far as I know, the reason my account was disabled is that I was an admin on a page that shared an Ed Sheerhan cover video. (see below)
- The poster of the offending content has not been disabled.
- The page the offending content was posted on is still active.
- At least 10 other prominent music industry folks have had their accounts disabled as well. Including Sonia Adame (who works for me), and Sheldon Dingwall, a super well known successful bass builder.
- I have not ever posted or shared any cover song content. Ever.

So I learned tonight that Universal Music Publishing Group is likely behind what's going on here. Please check out this story here to learn about this contentious mess. In summary, UMPG is going after any and all content that is even remotely possibly covered by copyright, including even very short performance cover videos. And a lack of and licensing agreement between UMPG and Facebook is not helping the situation at all.

This seems to be the tip of a potentially huge iceberg. I'd really appreciate again if you read this, and feel so motivated, that you share it far and wide.

I am seeking legal counsel in this matter. This situation is at best wildly unfair and at worst blatantly illegal. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates as we learn more about what's going on.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Facebook Blowing it Big Time - Please Help

Well if there's one way to get me to write more blog posts it's certainly this. My FB account is currently disabled and has been so for about 36 hours. Here's what happened as far as I'm able to discern.

At 4:54 I received the following email:

Hello,

Because of several prior reports that content on your Page ({lob_url}) violates someone else’s intellectual property rights, this Page has been removed.  

You can find further information about intellectual property issues in our Help Center: 

https://www.facebook.com/help/intellectual_property

Thanks,

The Facebook Team

This one came in right after:

Hello,

Facebook has removed content, Video caricato in 29 aprile 8:39:48 PDT, "Shape of You - Walk off the Earth (Ed Sheeran Cover)" posted on your Page (https://www.facebook.com/bassandguitarlove/), because we received a report that it violates someone else’s intellectual property rights. The content was posted by the admin Alberto Rigoni.

If repeat infringement continues, Facebook will be required to block the ability to upload videos and photos to your Page. Ultimately, we could remove the Page entirely. The admin who posted the content has also been notified separately.

You should delete all content you don’t own the rights to or don’t have permission to upload. You can find further information about intellectual property issues in our Help Center:

https://www.facebook.com/help/intellectual_property

Thanks,

The Facebook Team

Then this:

Hello,


We’re following up with more details regarding content that was removed from your Page (https://www.facebook.com/bassandguitarlove/). We were required to remove that content because we received a report from Universal Music Group that the content violates their copyrights. They’ve chosen to report your content because they believe you don't have the sync rights for the musical composition from them.

We’re committed to our mission of helping people connect and share, and we’re working towards broader solutions. In the meantime, we have no choice but to remove the content in response to the report we received. If you have additional questions, you may want to contact Universal Music Group directly.

Thanks,


The Facebook Team

No where in any of this is any indication that my personal page has been disabled.  But it was. Repeated attempts to contact FB have been fruitless. Alberto's account remains functional. Mine and several others, including my good friends Sheldon Dingwall (and Sonia Adame who works for me),  are still disabled and no one has been able to get a peep out of FB.

It goes without saying that a functional FB account is critical to my business life, not to mention my personal life. On top of all that, I'm trying to promote an album that I've spent 2 years working on (www.mobajones.com ;-) and without FB it gets very challenging indeed. I also have tons of communication with friends and customers where FB is the only conduit. I was even supposed to do an interview with Nick from Scott's Bass Page today. It was supposed to start 15 minutes ago but since I can't communicate with Nick the interview isn't happening.

I'm not here to lament that FB has become such a huge part of my life in so many ways. It is what it is. I really enjoy it and I feel it keeps me in touch with the world in a way that was inconceivable as few as 10 years ago.

But this current situation is extremely maddening. My account has been disabled through no fault of mine. I posted nothing offensive and am always extremely careful to stay clear of copyrighted material.

In a nutshell, I was added as an admin to a page. Someone posted something that was reported for copyright violation, that material was removed by FB. The original poster's account is still active. He tells me managed to have the complaint removed. I and several other admins on that page are STILL disabled.

Why is this situation not resolved yet? I ask you, dear reader, to help make some noise about this. Maybe we can get FB's attention and get this resolved.

Thank you.
-Carey










Sunday, May 14, 2017

Delicious Uncertainty

Delicious Uncertainty

Music has always been a central and fundamental part of my life, ever since I pulled my parents "hifi" speakers from their proper placement to sit only inches from each side of my 9 year old body. I proceeded to completely immerse myself in the Bee Gees Tragedy, thrilling at the mouthed gun shot sounds Barry Gibb was making to punctuate the chorus. The music permeated my very being and planted something very deep.

When the time came for school band, I chose alto sax, largely because that's what my uncle David played. He was something of a family celebrity, renowned for his stellar work on the Edina High School band's live recorded rendition of Harlem Nocturne.

A painfully cautious and careful child by nature, I ended up staying in band all the way through my brief and disastrous attempt at university. This story has been told many times in other places so I won't get into it here except to say that I went in to a Kenny G show a sax player and came out a bass player. Thank you Vail Johnson! (No offense Kenny)

My point here is that I completely missed the part of life where most rock musicians really get their chops and "find" themselves on their instrument through endless garage jams with friends. There was certainly a lot of value gleaned from my traditional music education, but it wasn't so readily applicable to writing rock songs or playing bass with friends in bands.

It took me almost 25 years to get to a point where I would even get comfortable enough and have an opportunity to play live in a band. I was always one that needed to be unmistakably impressive before I would venture forth and put myself out there. My career has certainly benefitted from this character trait. I did my time in the guitar making trenches before hanging up my own shingle and the success has been steady and pretty much continuous since. (For this I'm deeply grateful.)

But my music took a LONG time to happen because of this. And it probably wouldn't have happened as it did except for one massive disruption in my life - the end of my marriage.

It was this pivotal event that broke me. It broke who I thought I was. It broke my deeply unconscious notion that I could control what people thought of me.

While my sixth-sense sensitivity worked really well for my career, it was paralyzing for developing any degree of musical ability. Risk aversion subverted much, if any, progress here.

Like so many whose lives are disrupted in such a manner, I immediately went looking for a therapist so I could fix what had broken. I would not ever let that kind of thing happen again. In an incredible stroke of luck I found a man that would prove pivotal in helping me find my way home to myself. This might start to sound a bit "new agey" here, but I don't care. Take it for what you will. The journey I started at that point has been amazing and painful and rewarding in ways I don't think I can ever fully communicate. And it's directly tied to how my musical life has opened and expanded and grown far beyond what the old me could have ever dreamed.

Let me see if I can flesh this out in a clear manner. I feel it's so important I don't want to underserve the message. I found my own path to a deeper understanding of my unconscious conditioning which lead to a deeper more authentic and meaningful life. And, not to sound too grandiose, but I believe that this seeking of one's own path is critical for the future of humanity, with the central part of this being that my path is mine and mine alone, as your path is yours and yours alone. This kind of self discovery is the only way our world will change for the better. See the famous quotes "Be the change" from Gandhi and "We are all just walking each other home" from Ram Das. Also, see J. Krishnamurti, Truth Is a Pathless Land.

But it cannot be done alone.

In my case this self discovery happened with the assistance of the man I mentioned above, Michael Sieck. I don't want this to get too long and convoluted so I'll try to make this succinct. I started therapy. I made rapid progress learning the mechanics of what had happened to break my marriage. (I was determined to be very good at doing therapy!)

I then learned that I was conditioned in such a way that it made true relationship nearly impossible. My adaptive self had put together ways of being in the world that had made me "safe". Unfortunately these ways also kept me from taking risk and being fully authentic. This lead to a build up of pain and anger that came out in destructive passive ways leading finally to the destruction of the primary relationship in my life.

I started to work on undoing this conditioning. And work it is. ( I never liked the word work - yuk, and ironically, the work never ends.)

One of the ways we undo this conditioning (using a method Michael calls Three Fold Way) is through ongoing group work. For me this group work has happened at retreats on a roughly quarterly basis at an amazing place in the hills above Lake Elsinore called Pine Manor. We gather, typically between 10 and 16 of us, for a long weekend that consists first of a teaching/learning phase where Michael does his best to lead us to an understanding of the ways we have adapted to life in a painful world that so often says NO to us in no uncertain terms. Next, we do a sort of group therapy where each of us, lead by a pair of facilitators, has a chance to "process" in a loving and affirming container created by the energy of the group and the facilitators. This safe space allows one to find a way into "what wants to happen". And it's here that the mirror of relationship can allow us to reprogram and loosen the hold of our automatic and triggered response patterns.

Through this process we realize that there is a dimension of existence beyond what we often end up unconsciously caught in. This is the very presence that effective meditation (or prayer) promotes. When we undo our reflexive automatic patterns we begin to truly be with what is and then our underlying authentic self has the space to emerge.

For me, that underlying authentic space is one full of unending music, curiosity, and creativity, which leads me to the reason for this post here today. The music that has come from that authentic place, that was co created with my dear friend Edward, is finally ready to see the light of day.

We started work on this batch of songs in some cases over 4 years ago. But most of it has come about over the past 2 years. All of these songs are a result of finding that creative flow and letting the music emerge of it's own volition. Truly the manifestation of what wants to happen in a musical context.

We've used a handful of instruments that I've made, and some that I've found along the way (which of course we installed our pickups in). I've built a studio space over the past 3 years that has been absolutely fundamental to this project happening (thank you Universal Audio!). I've spent countless hours watching tutorials on groove3.com, puremix.net, and lynda.com. I've paid deep attention when I've been fortunate enough to be around successful musical folks like Joe Barressi, John Paterno, Justin Chancellor, Tim LeFebvre, Hershel Yatovitz, James Santiago, Lucas Pimentel, Rafe Bradford, Howard Ulyate, etc. The list is almost endless and I'm truly grateful for how my career has allowed for such things to happen. I'm also grateful that my business has been successful enough to allow me the incredible luxury of the time I need to learn and grow musically in such a manner.

Mostly though, I've learned to pay deep attention to myself. And to Ed. And to the music and what it's trying to tell us. And I've learned to feel what needs to be felt. And to me, this is the magic of music. It's always an invitation to a deeper state of existence. Always an invitation to feel more, hurt more, love more, live more.

Our project is called Moba Jones. For now you can stream premastered versions of the songs from Soundcloud. Soon, our fully mastered songs will be available to stream, download, and even purchase in physical form (cd's and vinyl's!) And they'll be available to enjoy, hate, criticize, love, take or leave. That part is not up to me. And I'm ok with that. I have put myself into the music with the most authenticity I've learned to find.

But I'll be honest and say I really hope you enjoy it. Because I'd like to keep it going (as would Ed). For the rest of my life. And an affirming response will make that a lot more fun.

So as I sit here writing this on Mother's Day I feel a bit as though I'm standing on the edge of something I can't define. There's a sense of excitement. There's a sense of trepidation. There's mostly a sense of delicious uncertainty. What happens next is not fully up to me or Ed. It's up to the music and that crazy big wide world out there. I wonder what it'll look like to read this a year from now...