Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Killers

I have been listening to Hot Stuff by the Killers. I don't exactly like it, but I have listened to it, by choice, several times already. I may listen to it again. It sounds just like all those 80's English New Wave bands like New Order and the Smiths, except that the songs are all told from the point of view of a sociopath. Maybe the sociopath is what I like about it.

One thing I don't really like is that The Killers, like Franz Ferdinand, are totally gay while remaining sexually coy. I never thought it would come to this, but I much prefer Morrisey's Queen Bitch persona.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I am good with the following chords : E, Em, A, Am, G, D, C, F. Are there any popular songs which deal with just those chords? Someone recommended some songs to me before but when I looked them up online they had complicated chords (and some involved putting that clamp on the guitar) others had a lot of obscure chords which are difficult to play like B chord.

An example of a song which is really simple to sing is the Beatles' "Hide your love Away" it just has the basic A, G, D, C chords and that is it. I am looking for more songs which just deal with those chords. Would someone be kind enough to point me to a few urls?

You should probably start with songs that you like/are familiar with/sound easy to play. Then look up the simplified tabs (.crd) on a site like www.olga.net or www.harmony-central.com (Search Results). If the tab has a few chords in it that you don't know, try just skipping those chords and picking up again when you do know the chords. If the tab has a "slash" chord in it (e.g. D/F#), pick one of the chords and play that instead of trying to combine the two chords (which is what a slash chord is indicating). If the chord is not a major triad (G7, E5) just play the version you know (G, E).

If the tab has a lot of chords you don't know, you might try transposing it (a little music theory will help here). Basically, most of the useful chords you know are in the key of C major (C Em F G Am). A very common rock chord progression is I-IV-V, which in C major would be C-F-G. If the song was in the key of E major (a very common guitar key), a I-IV-V progression would be E-A-B. If you can't play a B major chord, you could transpose the song to C major and play it as C-F-G.

If you are looking for examples, most blues based songs use a I-IV-V (C-F-G, D-G-A) progression. If you are a Beatles fan, your might try "Get Back" or "Revolution". Another very popular progression is I-VI-IV-V (C-Am-F-G), which is used in most doo-wop songs. Many rock songs use a variant of this progression, such as "Let It Be" (C-G-Am-F) or the chorus of "She Loves You" (Em-A-C-G).

Keep practicing.

Digidesign Mbox Factory Bundle

I'm thinking about purchasing this:Digidesign Mbox2 Factory Bundle

Check out the musicansfriend postings. Lots of useful information there.

Does anyone have experience using the Mbox 2? The factory bundle comes with a ton of programs which are appealing.

I bought the Mbox factory bundle, so you may want to check the specifics of the Mbox2 bundle. Reason Adapted is a MIDI virtual instrument/drum loop library. I wound up upgrading to the full version ($150 credit for Adapted version). Reason is a wonderful program, but it is only useful if you are doing MIDI. Live Adapted is an audio sequencer (again a cut down version). I already had FL Studio, and I am happy with that for sequencing, so I haven't really used Live. The Bomb Factory and Amplitube are RTAS effects which you can use to modify audio tracks in Pro Tools. I have a POD amp/effect simulator, so I really don't use the Amplitube plug ins (or really any post-recording guitar effects).

I have a Dell Inspiron, 2 Ghz Pentium M, 1 Gig RAM, so it should be able to handle the workload.

Be EXTREMELY careful to make sure that your computer is supported by Pro Tools (http://www.digidesign.com/compato). This is a VERY PICKY piece of software. I work with computer hardware for a living and I wound up with a setup where I cannot record through the Mbox using ProTools.

Also - it says it's powered by the USB port, but this thing have real-time sequencing? Can it/does it plug into the 1394 port?

It uses a USB port and gets power over the USB cable. It does not plug into a 1394 (firewire) port - I believe that some of the rack models do, but the Mbox
does not.

I don't know what you mean by real-time sequencing. If you mean that want to be able to play along with backing tracks, record overdubs, patch in, etc. you
can certainly do that. If you mean that you want to combine and loop smaller audio clips into larger audio clips, you want to use Live, not ProTools.

I play guitar and plan to record demos. I realize there are simpler programs, but I like the software package this one offers.

The Mbox is a high quality/low latency external sound card. With a 3.4Ghz processor and 800Mhz FSB I can record with 8 ms latency (which means that I really don't have to do any input monitoring). If you need to set a larger buffer size (higher latency), the Mbox provides direct input monitoring via a spin knob on the front of the box. If you have a mono audio input (microphones, guitar amps) the Mbox can mix the mono equally into both headphones.

I appreciate any comments/advice on this software package, and if there are other alternatives.

ProTools and Reason are both complicated software products - there are a ton of knobs to twiddle and options to choose. Expect to spend some time (weeks) reading manuals and how-to books. That being said, I don't think that ProTools and Reason are unnecessarily complicated. Digital Audio is a complicated subject, and these are powerful programs - you need to take some time to understand the tools at your disposal and how to use them.

The Mbox is a good piece of hardware. The mic-inputs are pre-amped. The monitoring features are extremely useful, and the drivers are excellent. If you are going to connect an electric guitar directly into the Mbox you need to get TRS (stereo) patch cables.

There are other alternatives. FLStudio (www.flstudio.com) combines MIDI/Audio/Effects/Mixing/Sequencing capabilities. If you are just doing audio Cakewalk Home Studio (www.cakewalk.com) is pretty good. Both of these programs can run (for better or worse) with almost any sound card. As far as sound cards, I had an M-Audio Delta 44 (www.m-audio.com) before I bought the Mbox, and I was pretty happy with it - drivers and latency are good, but it doesn't have mic inputs, pre-amps, or the stereo monitoring option.

Bottom line - the factory bundle has good versions of everything you need to run a home studio. Just make sure it works with your PC.

Have fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Life Pursuit

The Life Pursuit:
"1. Act of the Apostle - Belle and Sebastian
2. Another Sunny Day - Belle and Sebastian
3. White Collar Boy - Belle and Sebastian
4. The Blues Are Still Blue - Belle and Sebastian
5. Dress Up In You - Belle and Sebastian
6. Sukie In The Graveyard - Belle and Sebastian
7. We Are The Sleepyheads - Belle and Sebastian
8. Song For The Sunshine - Belle and Sebastian
9. Funny Little Frog - Belle and Sebastian
10. To Be Myself Completely - Belle and Sebastian
11. For The Price of a Cup of Tea - Belle and Sebastian "

The new Belle and Sebastian album (suprisingly) kind of rocks. Not, perhaps, as hard as "Don't Fear the Reaper", but rock nonetheless. It's got a little bit of the Beatles, via Badfinger (the shuffle blues riff on "The Blues are Still Blue") or Imperial Bedroom era Elvis Costello (the keyboards, hand claps and skronk upstroke rhythm guitar on "Funny Little Frog" and "To Be Myself Completely").

My appreciation of "Funny Little Frog" is somewhat tempered by the consistent (and insistent) attempt to rhyme "poet" and "throat", but all in all I have been enjoying this album much more than I expected.