Steam Powered Studio
April 26, 2010


Sheila Jordan sings jazz. I got to record her, and several other fine jazz singers, at the 6th Annual Divas of Jazz benefit yesterday.

It was fun.


Here's how a scat soundcheck can sound...

Scat Sound Check

April 19, 2010

The original shake-a-stick noisemaking thing made its debut last St. Patty's Day, in this bit of a song.

The Sporting Hill Ramblers

music catalogue
April 10, 2010

Today I made a major discovery about the drum on the Buffalo Pole. Adding more "tuners" to the ring that tensions the head improves the tone. Now it sounds like prairie thunder!
improved drum01.mp3

Of course, you've got to listen through a system that has good bass response. Hearing it right next to your head is pretty cool.

Here's a picture of a drum head tensioner.

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I increased the number of these from four to twelve. There is now very little tension on each tensioner, and it's much more even around the drum.

You know they want 25 bucks for a goatskin these days? Then you've got to shave it yourself! Who wants to deal with all that shaved goat hair? Me, I prefer chamoise. I'm not sure how long it will last though.

Here's a beater.

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There are two beaters on here now. I might add some more, for that real thundering herd sound. When you just want to shake it, there are beater-holders to immobilize them a bit. Here's the overall look at the side the audience won't see...

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It will all be quite magical for them when they hear drumbeats coming from this thing with just the slightest twisting back and forth. I'll tell them it's ghosts!
April 08, 2010

Over the last couple of evenings I've figured out how to mount and tune the drum head on the latest rythym stick thing (which seems to be evolving into a buffalo pole). In this first recording I've got some weights mounted inside such that they can strike the drumhead. It's something that you'll need to listen to with a good pair of headphones, or a system that has a sub-low speaker, because most of what's happening is way down in the bass. Although the shaker/clackers aren't bad...

The Stokers
Buffalo Run

mp3  or  ogg

studio swag
April 03, 2010

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I suppose there has been something going on here- a compulsion to create these noise-making things is pretty strong.

April 17, 2010

rhythm section

That's Dave and Oz working out on rhythm here at the studio last night. Summer Thieves came in and used these fellows to track some songs. Big fun.

We did kind of play with things like it was the '60's. We made up arrangements on the spot- it was the first time Tom and Joe had heard their rhythm section, much less played with them. It had the potential for being a complete disaster, of course.

But everyone got along fine, and forgave the studio buzzes and lack of space and piss-poor headphones and whatnot. Turns out we had just exactly enough of what we needed to do what we needed to do.

About the Studio
April 11, 2010

I'm a little nervous about this Divas of Jazz recording gig I've got coming up on the 25th. It's a live show, so there's just one shot at getting things right- I'm not so worried about the sounds, the sounds will be fine. It's just that I haven't used my equipment to record so many tracks over so long a time period before (it's a three-hour show). So tonight I did a dry-run.

16 tracks in

I have mics set up allaround the room, and some feeds from the computer as well. Actually got some nice sounds recording that Les Paul through the Traynor this way, which may come in handy for the upcoming Summer Thieves session. But for the live show I want to make sure I won't be swapping out a disk drive in the middle of a Diva's performance! Well, everything ran perfectly- 24 bits, 16 tracks, 28 "songs" over three+ hours. Good 'ol AW4416s.

I got some encouraging news today. My favorite radio station, on or off-line, is Radio Paradise. They accept submissions, and I have tried to get my songs on their playlist in the past, without much luck. Tonight I noticed that my song What Was The Point has garnered 4 favorable reviews- and zero unfavorable reviews! I don't know what the requirements are for actually getting accepted, but this looks like a good trend.
April 07, 2010

olympic band

Just about a year ago they closed Olympic Studios in London. That was the birthplace of a lot of classic rock sounds- most of the Stones, Led Zep, the list is huge. These fine folks, just losing their jobs, in their party hats, made the last recording there.

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It's not easy to make this work. Like mixing a song, the end result is to make it sound right, but in this case, it's about making some physical object sound right. When you shake it, or hit it, or whatever.

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But of course, it has to look right as well. Sometimes the making it look right part is easier- sometimes that guides the sounds right part of it.

Anyway, I keep getting ideas for more of these things. Tonight I thought of the cornstalk version- a sort of rustling sound, like the sound of dry cornstalks. That's pretty easy to picture. Might be hard to build, though...

April 01, 2010


It was way more than 20 years ago today... I wonder how it sounds to a person, hearing the record Sgt Peppers for the first time? I listened to it today and even though this documentary completely breaks it down, and even though you can see Sir George Martin actually moving the four faders which control all there is to the tracks that make up the record, it's still impossible to listen to the thing and not be amazed at the sonic wonderfulness of it. That's what I think, anyway.

I'm thinking about the upcoming recording for Summer Thieves. I want to play with things like the way they did back in 1966...

sponsometer Dave just rang that sponsorship bell- thanks man!
Featured Song
chunka parts

April 25, 2010

Now that's the way to work. Under the party lights Tom records a chunka chunka part through a Marshall.

I'd never mic'd one of these things before. I went with a Sennheiser 441 right up close and put a little Beyer condensor across the room. Joe and I picked out a sweet spot for the 441 by listening through headphones and moving the mic up and down in front of the cabinet. I'd been reading how the Beatles' guitar amps were mic'd between the speakers of their two-speaker cabinets, rather than being mic'd directly in front of a speaker, which is the more common practice these days. I've always liked those old guitar sounds, so we kept the mic on a line midway between the left and right speakers. It makes a huge difference where you put it vertically- it's really insane how much of a difference. Maybe because it's a 4 speaker cabinet?

Anyway, everything worked out just fine, and even at low volume levels that Marshall sound comes through.
April 09, 2010

Let's rejoin Ron Cook and his friends around the kitchen table, where they're about to perform a fine version of Cajun Fiddle.
(in "A")

Ronnie Cook
Cajun Fiddle

mp3  or  ogg

April 06, 2010

I've been reading Geoff Emerick's book about recording the Beatles at Abbey Road for the past week or so. Other than the rare gossipy bits it's a good read, as much for getting an idea of life in London at the time as about the technical details of making those recordings.

Combining that with some of the out-takes and rehearsals which have recently been released, and with Recording the Beatles as a reference (thanks, Howard), and it's possible to learn a few things about those records. My favorite thing so far is how they got that distorted sound that fades in at the end of Long, Long, Long from the White album, but actually listening to these guys work out harmonies and pick out melodies is fascinating. Will they ever release the making of Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot and Kid A?

There's a new featured song- Toward the Light by Dark 30. This goes back to our 4-track days in the 1980's.