Friday, January 31, 2014

Aargh!

I was recording Bad News Alway Comes In the Mail today. Really. But it wasn't going well. I didn't like the guitar part (I'm not good at this strumming thing: I'm more of a picker), and I wasn't satisfied with the voice recordings. So I was going through again and again, trying to improve the performance and the mic position.

The guitar part still sucked, but it was multitrack, so I still had the option of replacing that part. And the vocal was getting there.

And then my headphones broke. They were cheap headphones anyway, but they just sheared off and came apart from nothing more than me taking them off of my head.

It was my cue to stop. Besides, the vocal wasn't really all that good, and the guitar part wasn't just bad, it was off-tempo. So I set down a click track, to which I will sing tomorrow, when I can dig up some temporary headphones. And after that I will do a completely new guitar part, and some harmony, and a little bit of extra instrumentation.

And the result, I hope, will more than compensate for the loss of the headphones.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looping For Nothing

In one of the experimental videos I made recently, I used this fun but bizarre program called "Fun Movie Maker" (or FMM) where you can do the old Clutch Cargo trick (or, for a more modern reference, something like Annoying Orange) and substitute your real mouth for the mouth of a photograph or drawing. I chose a drawing.

The problem I had was that, although the movie was perfectly acceptable, the audio was too quiet and a little distorted. I won't blame the microphones on my iPhone for that; they seem to be pretty good under most circumstances. I just think the recording conditions at the time were lousy.

But I didn't want to redo the video recording. So I decided to loop the audio instead. Now looping can often involve pretty expensive software (and back in the old days, some really expensive hardware). But I managed to get good results with the free program ocenaudio (which I run on a Mac, but it's cross-platform) and my Zoom H2.

I cut a version of the sound containing only the line I wanted to loop, and played it back over my headphone in ocenaudio, which plays the file over and over in a loop by default. I set my H2 to record, and then just repeated the line several times until I liked the way it sounded.

Then I loaded the file from the H2 into ocenaudio, and trimmed to the chosen take. I normalized it, then imported it into iMovie, which I used to edit the video, and lined up the track with the original audio.

That's a lot easier than it was in the days when this stuff was all done with coated film for the sound; now you can see the peaks and valleys in the waveform for the rough line-up, and then you can hear the two together. You just make minor adjustments until they play simultaneously, with no noticeable echo, and then you can silence the original track and the new, better track will be there playing in perfect sync with the video.

For the performer (me in this case), the recording part is really easy, so it's a method I'll likely be using with my talent in future project when the sound from the field doesn't quite work for me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bookshelf

I have a lot of books. I think most writers do, and I think most writers have a lot of books about writing. But there on the many bookshelves in my house, there is a section about 18 inches long close to my computer where I keep my current reference books. My dictionary, rhyming dictionary, and thesaurus are always there. But the rest of the collection shifts around to suit the project I'm currently working on.

Right now there is a small group of books to help me with my screenplay, including The Comic Toolbox and How To Write Mysteries (since it is a comedy with a murder plot). There is a little section for songwriting, including The Songwriter's Idea Book, but right now I am going through the process with my Kindle version of Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison.

The books come in and out throughout the day as I switch from one project to another, sometimes coming downstairs to the laptop at the kitchen table (the family machine, but I've been hogging it lately).

I've read many of these books from cover to cover, but it helps to have them at hand to look up something that I knew, but had forgotten. Despite the promise of these titles, there is no real "how to" manual for writing. There is craft, there are rules, and there are tools.

But after that there is practice. And more practice.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing!

That whole chaining-myself-to-the-keyboard thing actually turned out pretty well. I wrote over 2000 words and made progress on the tune of Bad News Always Comes In the Mail. I like the way that feels!

Shooting for 3000 words tomorrow, on various projects.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Song Number Five, Finally

This posting is a few days late. The day after I got this song recorded and posted, I got a nasty flu bug. Which will make it fun when it comes time to record the sixth song, which I hope to have done by the end of this week.

Here's my new one:


A bit out of my comfort zone, but I hope you like it.

The next three days in particular will be spent chained to my computer keyboard, catching up on the writing to go with the many ideas that are rattling around in my head (I wondered what that noise was). The following week I will concentrate on turning that writing into finished works.

Stay tuned, and please don't forget to follow; Twitter is best for keeping up-to-date on releases.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Finally a Chance To Start

One of the annoying things about Winter in New Hampshire is the occasional appearance of snow days, which have the kids sitting at home making it impossible for me to get any substantial amount of work done. One of the annoying things about this Winter, aside from the roller coaster temperatures, is that we've already had two snow days and one early release because of weather.

Which means that this is the first day that I haven't had the kids at home. And so I'm writing, doing musical arrangements, and trying in general to catch up.

So I don't have a lot of time for this blog, but I just wanted to let you know.