Music

Some of my own compositions and performances on a variety of instruments both acoustic and electronic.



Kalimba 2

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Practicing more on the kalimba today. I’m trying to play double notes.  This is an improvisation. You start a rhythm and then make up variations on the spot as you go. I played this in the den and recorded it using a Blue Snowflake USB mic connected to my new MacBook Air. I used Audacity to record, edit, and save as an MP3 file.

Jim

Korg iPad Module

Korg Module

Korg Module

I’m testing a new sound module from Korg that includes a very nice piano sample. Here’s my first test recording.

I think it sounds very much like a real piano. Keep in mind this is all happening on an iPad.The app has a built-in recorder. It can only output as a M4a file however. I had to import the file into iTunes and convert it to MP3 to use it in this blog.

Jim

Ob-La-Di

The last couple of weeks I've been working on and off learning how to create a MIDI backup band for my harmonica. I discovered that there are quite a few .kar files on th internet. These are MIDI files with lyrics that are usually used for singing karaoke. You can turn the lead instrument off and sing along with the band. I downloaded a few tunes including this one.

I'm using Logic Express on my old MacBook as my audio editor and mixing board. I first converted the .kar file to a standard MIDI file using QuickTime 7 Pro. I then imported the MIDI file into Logic. Each instrument comes in as a separate track. I didn't like the sound of the general MIDI piano. So, I changed to the piano sound from my Kruzweil PC88 keyboard. To do this I output the MIDI to my keyboard, plugged the audio outs of the keyboard into the MacBook and recorded the piano as an audio track.

After a lot of research, I figured out how to change the audio inputs for Logic from the Macbook's built-in input to a USB mic so I could then record my harmonica. It was NOT easy or intuitive. Logic does not see a USB mic when it's plugged into the Mac. You can see it in System Preferences, but you can't in Logic. You have to first use the Audio/MIDI Configuration tool in Utilites to create a new device call it USB Mic, assign the input to the USB mic and output to the speakers.Then in Audio Preferences in Logic you can choose the new device.

I also learned how to apply reverb, compression, and other effects to a track in Logic. There are multiple ways to do this. The best way is to use the Send feature to send the output of the track to an auxiliary channel and set the effects in that channel.

The MIDI file I found was in the key of F. My harmonica is a C harmonica. I had to figure out how to transpose the MIDI tracks to the key of C. You would think that you could do this globally with one click, but no, you have to set it for each track.

Finally I figured out how to change the tempo. I wanted to record the harmonica at a reduced tempo and play it back uptempo. You can do this by checking the Follow Tempo check box in the parameters of the track. Logic does a pretty good job of altering the tempo of an audio track as long as you don't try to do too much. I recorded at 40 bpm and upped it to 60.

I practiced and recorded the song using headphones and played along with the other instruments. It's hard. I'm not used to playing with other instruments and sticking to a set tempo. Hopefully I'll get better with practice.

You can use Logic's Bounce feature to output the mix and normalize it. I then used iTunes to change the AIFF file to MP3.

 

Piano Circa 1989

I discovered this clip of me playing piano at home on an old VHS tape. It was Christmas time in 1989. I used an Elgato Eye TV Hybrid USB video capture device to transfer the clip to my iMac. I then used Miro Video Converter to change the file to a mp4 file and to make an Ogg Theora version. These files were for playing in this blog post and are 352 x 264 pixels. I also made a larger version m4v file (640 x 480 pixels) which you can see here.

I play “Deep Purple, “Three To Get Ready”, “Nola”, and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”. Duration: 13.5 minutes.

Jim

Piano Practice

This is a test recording using my new equipment setup. I’m playing a Kurzweil PC 88, audio stereo left and right out into a Blue Mikey audio connector into an iPad 3 using the MultiTrack DAW app. No FX, no post production.

I’ve been practicing the piano for about a month and a half after a 20 year hiatus. I figure it will take several more months before I’m back to where I was. I’m putting this up to document my progress. I recorded this live with no edits. So, you will hear all my fluffs. Songs include “Take Five”, “Maple Leaf Rag”, “Nola”, “Solfeggietto”, ” Rock and Roll Boogie”, and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”.

Ragtime Piano

Length:15 minutes

Show Listing:

Song
Start
Length
Nola 0:00 4:41
Frog Legs Rag 4:42 1:03
Sweet Georgia Brown 5:45 1:31
12the Street Rag 7:16 1:24
Maple Leaf Rag 8:42 3:10
Kitten on the Keys 11:53 3:02

Description:

And now we travel back in time 40 years to hear me play some ragtime piano. I made these recordings on May 25, 1973. I was single then and for a short time I played piano in a bar in Dallas, Oregon. One day while practicing I used an audiocassette recorder so I could listen to my performance. These are unedited recordings including bad timing, wrong notes and all.


This picture of me at the piano was taken in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1969.

Equipment list:

  • Griffin iMic
  • Mac iBook using SoundEdit 16

The original recording was made on a Sony CF-400 audiocassette recorder. Each song was digitized through the iMic and saved as an AIF file at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. I then combined all the songs into a single AIF file and used iTunes to convert the AIF file to a 64 kbps, 22kHz. MP3 file and to set the ID3 tags.

Flute Test

I figured out how to upload an audio file to my WordPress install using my iPad and link to it in a blog post. It’s a two step process. First, I record the audio clip in MasterTracks DAW and email it to Dropbox using the free Send to Dropbox service. I then use FTP Client Pro to copy the audio file from Dropbox to my WordPress install on DreamHost.

I’m using BlogPad To write this post and I’m using a shortcode to display the audio file in a player. I have the Jetpack plug-in which takes care of showing the audio player cross platform.

Jim

Casio VL-Tone

Casio VL-1

In 1981 my mother gave me this Casio VL-Tone musical instrument. It was one of the first electronic musical instruments and (drum roll) it was also a calculator. I still have and it works. It has several instrument sounds and rhythms. It also has the ability to shape your own waveform by setting the ADSR (Attack, Delay, Sustain, and Release). You can record melodies up to 100 notes long and play them back automatically as you played them in or you can play them back one note at a time.

In this sample I used the Swing rhythm and I set the ADSR to sound like a banjo. The instrument has a line out which I connected to my iMac. I recorded in Audacity.

Jim