Drum videos for my padKontrol

August 18, 2008

Okay, as much as I am hating the fact that Korg is giving me non-working free software (I stuck the free in, so that you knwo that I know that it is free), I am really lovin’ the new padKontrol. Mind you, it’s no real surprise to me as Korg has always put out great stuff (been using their gear for over 25 years with no complaints at all). This thing is so sensitive that it picks up my palm resting on the pads when I am playing. I am finding it much easier to play some rhythms, fills and even some percussion. I definitely need to see if I can do some darbuka, bendik and tabla type of stuff on it. I’m even liking the fact that the software is a little easier to use in order to re-arrange the pads.

I decided to take a day and formally get acquainted with it, rather than simply dabble with it. I bought some drum instructional videos for Joelle a few years ago, because she wanted to learn to play her drums, and I thought I would take a crack at one of them seeing as I could probably transmute some of the entire limb stuff to my fingers. If anything, I picked up a few great finger exercises on the pads and found myself practicing some of the various exercises such as swing pulses, polyrhythms (loved those!) and managed to transfer a few licks and was able to arrange the pads in a manner that allowed me to play the licks easier. I even managed to soak up a little beat making history and transmuted that stuff to the padKontrol. It was actually easier to do on the padKontrol than on my ol’ Trigger Finger. Funny enough, I may find myself picking up some more drum videos to improve my technique on the padKontrol. They work, and they work well for me. I can’t wait to try them out in my next song.

One person that I would love to see an instructional video out from is David Haynes. If you don’t know who he is, check out http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/David_Haynes.html and you’ll see why I would want to learn from this master!

WARNING: Useless Freebie Rant!

August 17, 2008

Yes, I am ranting today. I am ranting because of the freebies that came with my Korg PadKontrol. It has nothing to do with the quality of them, in fact, I would love to use a bunch of the freebies that I got with my padKontrol. It has to do with that fact that they aren’t working on my MacPro.

To add even more salt into the wound, the freebie software was made by Korg itself! It was their M1 LE software instrument, which is modeled after their M1 synthesizer. I try to install this sucker and their so-called authorization utility simply pops up a blank screen. YES! A blank screen! Is this a new challenge-response type of game that it is playing? Not only do you have to enter your serial number, but you have to find the box to enter your serial number as well as the button to press okay with! Who is the genius who came up with this authorization scheme??? The dude was probably the class clown in tech school, and missed a few important things that the teacher was talking about when it came to programming. Either that or their project manager is an ex-Microsoft employee. So, sure enough, I am totally unable to use this piece of software and I want to use it. I can’t wait to contact Korg about this and express my satisfaction to them about their own software that comes with the thing. It’s a great thing that I love their padKontrol, as well as all of the other Korg gear that I use in my studio. In fact, I have always loved Korg hardware. Joelle and I owned a Korg Trident as well as a PolySix and they were great synths. I loved the old Korg synths and the VC-10 vocoder. Those were fantastic pieces of gear. And yes, I loved the M1. The beauty of it is that all of these synths are available in software, but I can’t try out the M1 LE, so how do I know how well it will be? I sure as heck am not going to buy software sight unseen. Maybe Korg will see this blog and make good… then again, who am I kidding?? They don’t know me from the next shkeef with a padKontrol!

Yes, I know they came free with the padKontrol and I probably shouldn’t complain about it, but heck, if you’re going to give me something for free to use, the very least that you can do is make it so I can at least use it!! This is even more important if you want me to ever consider purchasing the full versions of the software!!!

There, I’ve vented my spleen all over your screen! I’m going to play with my padKontrol and maybe I’ll post a blog on how much I really love that unit.

Post Vacation Blues…

August 14, 2008

Sometimes I hate vacations… only for the reason that you have to come back from them. Perhaps, it’s the disillusion thinking that coming back, things are going to be different, when in fact, they are nothing more than the same. It’s hard to explain. It must be that insanity thing… doing the same thing over and over again and thinking that I am going to get a different result. The vacation was a nice break and I got some fantastic pictures, but it was just a dent in the cycle and now its happening all over again. The problem is that I don’t know what I need to do that will break the cycle. I know that I need to do something, but I don’t know what it is. It’s not like I can ask anyone either… I feel like no one understands.

I guess I could write a song about it. Almost sounds like a blues thang… then again, that repeats over and over. Figures.

My Whacky Vacation Blog!

August 10, 2008

This vacation cruise has been nothing short of an adventure from start to the end. Funny things have happened each day. Here’s some of the highlights that have happened:

Sunday August 3, 2008 – Good Thing We Left For the USA Today

We were met with nothing less than delays. We had a 2 hour delay crossing the border. When we got to Customs, we decided not to let it get to us, so we put on our crazy faces and made the border guard laugh when we told him that we were catching a cruise in New York City to Canada. Not to be outdone, however, we were met with delays ranging from construction to a greasy spoon joint forgetting our order (we definitely should have gone to Subways or something), making what should have been an 8 hour drive a 12.5 hour drive.

Monday August 4, 2008 – I Get to Call Joelle “The Crazy Lady!!” All Day

Part I
We get to the pier in New York City and Joelle was so certain we were coming back on the Friday. In fact, she was so certain that she argued with the parking attendant who told us the ship was arriving on Saturday. Joelle wouldn’t back down and the guy says, “Look, if you plan to come back on Friday, you’re swimming back!” So, Joelle pulls the car aside and and goes, “I’m going to prove to him I’m not crazy!” She pulls out the itinerary and looks and it and goes, “I’m Crazy!!!” Need I say more?

Part II
We get to the deck and Joelle was certain that we were staying on Deck 4. They looked at her puzzled and ask what her room was. She looked at her sheet and told them “7292 – Empress Deck”. The first digit clued me in: Deck 7. I asked her, “Are you sure it’s deck 4? It says 7292.” Again, she is adamant, so I didn’t bother to argue with her until we actually got on the ship and into the elevator. I told her to push the Empress Deck. She reaches for the 4th floor and I told here that it read Promenade Deck and that Empress Deck is the 7th floor. She gave me permission to call her Crazy for the rest of the day. And I did!

Tuesday August 5, 2008 – Calmest Day at Sea

If anything, we had a calm day at sea. Our room is very comfortable and the boat has gently rocked us to sleep. I haven’t slept so good in ages… except when Joelle hits me for snoring. I may try sleeping in a deck chair if that persists. Yeah Right!

I got some great dusk photos at sea. As well, I auditioned for one of the parts in the “Legends” show and tied for the choice of Elton John. However, I lost by a hair in the applause test. Oh well! Maybe I should have tried to audition for the Ricky Martin part.

Wednesday August 6, 2008 – St. John, New Brunswick

I had a great time on the photography tour today. I caught a lot of great pictures and the tour guide is a pro photographer and showed a whole bunch of tips and tricks. Yes, Joelle and I knew a bunch of them, it is still great to hear these things from otherĀ  photographers. Overall, I was very happy with my pictures. I haven’t seen Joelle’s yet, but I’m sure she’ll have to dump her cards very soon. Unfortunately, my leg got sore to the point where I couldn’t walk anymore, so I had to go back to the boat, while Joelle shopped in the market square.

Got some great pictures of the dining room staff doing a dance, and we all had some great times at dinner. Too bad it was too cloudy for sunset shots, but I’m not complaining because I caught some great shots today as it is. Was going to try the audition for Ricky Martin, but I will admit right now that I don’t know all of the words to Living La Vida Loca. I decided to stay in my cabin and work on my photos instead. Made some great sepia shots of New Brunswick… that’s how I see the place

Thursday August 7, 2008 – Halifax, Nova Scotia

Overall, had a great time shooting around Peggy’s Cove. The pictures there are what postcards are made of. Joelle had fun shopping at Del Sol, around Pier 21. We also took a double decker bus tour around Halifax and Joelle wanted to get off at the shopping district on Spring Garden Rd. It practically felt like Guelph… mind you, there are two musical instrument stores in Downtown Guelph within walking distance. I was disappointed not to find one there in Halifax that was close enough to the ship. Oh well… got some decent shots in. Took in a bit of Halifax history, but it was a shame that the tour guide that we had was only exploiting the disasters that happened in Halifax (I’m positive that it has some great points to it) and his knowledge of the metric system couldn’t fill a coffee cup… and the dude is Canadian.

The highlight of my day was watching Joelle walk a professional steamer back to the ship, that she bought off of Kajiji, and told the guy that we were just happening to be in Halifax at the time. I would have loved to have taken pictures of everyone’s faces as they looked at Joelle walking this steamer to the ship. Talk about the a huge laugh!

I managed to really hurt my knee while I was walking in Halifax back to the ship by stepping on an uneven piece of pavement. It was swollen for the night and the pain just short circuited me to the point of passing out after dinner. Good thing sunset wasn’t anything spectacular.

Friday August 8, 2008 – So I Married a Photo Bomber!!

Woke up early from last night’s passing out… about 5am. Joelle couldn’t sleep, and this time it wasn’t because of my snoring. So, we decided to head out to the aft of the ship to catch the sunrise. Not really to my surprise, there were a bunch of teenagers that were up all night at the back of the ship watching the sunrise. We were sharing photo tips with them showing them how to catch the sunrise. I managed to catch some great sunrise shots that morning and caught a few shots with them looking at the sunrise. It was such a cool pic. The cooler part was that I managed to do it without going blind!

Of course, I left the deck early because just after I left, they spotted whales and dolphins. It figures!

This was also a day at sea, so I was relaxing… a little more than I had hoped. I fell back asleep and woke up around 12:30pm. So, I grabbed some lunch with Joelle and we decided to walk around the ship. Joelle spotted a ship’s photographer lining up a family for a shot and Joelle joins the line-up for shot. Everyone there looks at her with deep puzzlement for a few seconds and then everyone burst out into total laughter. It was a classic photo bombing… a totally beautiful sight!

It didn’t end there, however. Joelle and I rushed out of dinner to catch our final sunset on the ship and it was beautiful with all of the pink and orange hues. Sure enough, as we then go about the ship gathering some photos around the ship of various parts of the ship, I have my camera aimed at a hallway in the restaurant and then Joelle sticks her face in my camera, making the funniest face just as I’m snapping it. I burst out laughing as I was photo bombed. Of course, she did it to me a few more times, and I found them equally funny.

Saturday August 9, 2008 – Good Morning New York

Joelle and I rushed out of bed at 5:30am thinking we were going to catch a sunrise over New York City’s skyline as the ship’s log stated that we were supposed to be docked in New York at 5am. So, I run to 7 forward with my ultra wide angle lens on only to find out that we’re not even crossed into the harbours yet. I run back to grab my zoom lens and rush up to deck 10 only to find Joelle already waiting for me. The sun was not yet up yet, so I had a bit of time. A few people from our photography tour were on deck as well, getting ready to catch the sunrise. What a sunrise it was. It was totally spectacular. Even better was that we were far enough from the skyline that I was able to shoot the sun lighting up the side of the skyline. We were just crossing the Statue of Liberty and it was stunning in the sunrise as well. All in all, I took about 280 shots that morning. I was excited because it was a fantastic morning.

We grabbed breakfast and got ready to leave the ship. We decided to leave the car parked where it was and do a little shopping in New York City by train. Man, the subway is hot and steamy in the summer time. We were on this one car that was making me break out into a sweat! Of course, Joelle and I made a few stupid mistakes in New York, and we’ll never do that again. Joelle made me promise never to speak of it again! I more than willingly agreed!

I didn’t find a musical instrument store in New York City where Joelle was shopping, but I figured that I wasn’t going to let it phase me. We visited Joelle’s aunt in New Jersey and I found a Guitar Centre in Buffalo on their computer and figured we could pass by it tomorrow. However, I was reluctant to go there because my friends have dealt with them and it seems no better than dealing with Future Shop here – great to go to if you know what you want, but don’t look for anyone that actually cares about a customer as much as they do about their commission.

Didn’t matter however, because our plans got marred. A major NASCAR event in Watkins Glen, NY caused all of the hotels to be booked from Syracuse to Rochester. We got to Rochester and decided that it was time to just drive home, so at 11pm, we stopped on a rest area and grabbed some McDonald’s Chicken Snack Wraps for the ride home and headed for the Canadian border. Mind you, Joelle was hoping that the Wal-Mart in Buffalo was open 24 hours, but it sadly wasn’t. Her brief hope was faded and we decided it was time to cross. We made it back into Canada at 1:30am and got home to Guelph by 3am.

The vacation itself could have been better, but just having Joelle with me made it a fantastic time as it was. She made me laugh and made me feel good overall. This morning, we capped the end of our vacation by going to Angel’s for breakfast.

And the music store thang… doesn’t bother me because I only have one place where I like to shop and that’s Long & McQuade and they haven’t steered me wrong in the past 30 years. What was I thinking going anywhere else??

Building a body around a finger

August 2, 2008

This week was one of the most unusual recording sessions with Natalie Pifer, but we had to do it this way because she is going back to school and probably won’t be back for a few months, if not Christmas. It’s not unusual because of Natalie… she’s a star, in her own right. In fact, she shined throughout the sessions. What makes it unusual is that I am taking her guitar and vocal recording session and building a song around it.

It’s like taking a finger and building a body around it.

Don’t ask me how I’m going to do it. I don’t know yet. I’m just going to play this as I go along. I’m going to go where the spirit leads me. Nothing more. To me, it’s unusual because I never record the vocals until last. This time, I recorded a whole bunch of vocals against a guitar track and we’re going to take it from there. For all I know, this just might work. I’ve never tried it before, but I’m always willing to try some new methods to get the best out of a song. For all I know, it could be another great way to write a song.

Mind you, it does create another huge task… making the song sound as great as her vocals. She’s blessed with the most fabulous voice I’ve ever heard. I want to make sure that she has great music behind her. At times this feels so much bigger than me. I guess that’s a good thing.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna grab that finger and start building that body!

Overambitious at the mixing board!

July 30, 2008

Okay… so after Joelle and I listened to Natalie P.’s mix on Monday night, we felt that the bass guitar had to be pulled back. Of course, when I was trying to look at how far to pull back the bass, I may have gotten a little overambitious with it because I didn’t quite get how much was too much. I got my answer in the car this morning. I heard no real bottom. That’s not good because now it just her voice and guitars against a very weak drum set and no bass guitar. So now I’m going to have to bring it up the bass and kick a db or so… just enough to shine through.

At least I can say that I have now had both extremes on the song. So, the trick will now be to find a delicate balance. I will have to put aside my feelings and try to mix this thing objectively. I have to carefully listen to the song and see where the bass has to fit. If I have to carve a few more frequencies out, so be it. The trick will be finding where. I may have to thin the guitars out a bit to give the illusion that there is more bass. Funny how our ears work that way.

All I can say is, let’s hope it works.

Feeling totally blessed…

July 29, 2008

As I listen to the results of our summer recording sessions with Natalie P. on my iPod, I am truly feeling that I am in the presence of a real star. She is an amazing songwriter and singer and I can truly say that I was blessed with being able to arrange her music and record her voice (and her guitar) along with enormous honour of producing and mixing her song. It’s not my work… it’s hers. I just worked with her to help her be at her best and portray her at her best. But in the end, it was all her. No fancy tricks. No pitch correction. Just Natalie’s talent!

She gave me a card last night stating that Joelle and I were a blessing on her life. It feels more like the other way around… I am the one who is blessed by Natalie by getting the chance to work with her. I got the chance to be her producer, engineer and even a back-up band where needed. If anything, I feel like God is giving me another chance at music. Even if I don’t make it big in the industry, I still get to be a part of something far bigger than me. There’s a huge blessing in that. Besides, someone like Natalie deserves to be a star. She’s proven it and if it ever does happen, I hope that Joelle and I have the opportunity to be a part of it.

Like I said, she’s a real talent! She’s something this starved music community needs. And I feel blessed to have been a part of it at this time.

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