Tag Archives: guitar

Banks of the Bann…again


 
Looking over the posts from the past year, it seems as if I’ve been fairly inactive. From a blogging perspective, that is definitely true. On the musical end, however, it has been quite an active year. So, I’m gonna try to get back into the blogging swing of things.

One activity that has taken place in the last few months is the organizational beginnings of a studio recording with Mustachio and Liz. As real proof, I’ve included a recording we did in my dinning room a couple months back. This is a tune that I posted a while ago on fife. This time we are trying it on guitar, bouzouki and fiddle.

You’ll quickly notice the loose nature of the recording. We recorded our whole practice and this was the first time we ever played it together. In fact, I don’t think Liz had ever heard it. So, lots of experimentation more than anything else. Sometimes these are my favorite tracks.
10 – Banks of the Bann by baconworks

Liz Alexander

fiddle
 
Saturday night we had a great party at the Bacon house. Lots of friends, both the musical variety as well as the neighbor variety, stopped by for some food, drink and music. I set up a few mics and hoped for the best. Sometimes the best actually happens. We played lots of great stuff all evening for a lively crowd. But the best, as is often the case, happened after most of our fiends left. That’s when musicians are most relaxed, most oiled, and most able to hear and focus on what each other is doing. They are no longer playing for an audience but, instead, each other. That’s when magic starts happening.

So, here we are, past midnight, sitting in my kitchen, I convince Liz, who is ‘draggin’ and opening her fiddle case, to play just one more. Slowly, tunes we had never heard start coming from her fiddle, and we latch on for a four minute ride of some of the most beautiful fiddle playing you’re ever likely to hear.

Liz Alexander, remember her name. This is the first time she has been caught on tape. It most certainly won’t be the last.

 
Liz Set by baconworks

Pretty Fair Maid on SoundCloud

soundcloud
 
Baconworks has been kind of a wreck for a few weeks and, consequently, all the music on this site is in a state of disarray (missing). So, going forward, the music you see on baconworks.com will be hosted at soundcloud.com. You can find my music there as well as here. One cool thing about soundcloud is that you can comment on the music within the music, which is a neat way to pinpoint what you like or don’t like.
soundcloud_comment
 
Soundcloud also makes it easy to share music that you find and like with others, so don’t be afraid to try out this feature!
soundcloud_share
 
It will take a bit of time to get everything moved over to soundcloud so please be patient. But, to get things started, I’ve uploaded a recording of Mustachio and I from early summer. We were just finishing up a recording session with our friend, the White Rabbit, and decided to try this song just for fun.

When I first learned this song I was hesitant to play it because I thought the guitar part sounded cheap. I told Mustachio how I felt and he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll make it sound more expensive”. He was right.

Here it is – straight from soundcloud – give it a try:
Pretty Fair Maid by baconworks

Banish Misfortune

chapel
 
With my new Neumann’s in hand, I headed on down the road to the Heineman Ecumenical and Cultural Center, otherwise known as the stone chapel at Framingham State College, for a casual evening of tunes and recording. It has been sort of a personal goal to record with as many of the Stone’s session players as possible. To date I have recorded with Sally the hammered dulcimer goddess, Eamon the accordion acrobat, and of course, my good friend Mustachio the bouzouki bad ass. To the list I wanted to add Mark, sometimes known the White Rabbit, though I don’t really know where that name came from…and am somewhat afraid to ask…but I digress. Anyhow, Mark has both an incredible voice and nice touch on the button accordion. In addition, Mark has the keys to the stone chapel, which we thought would lend itself nicely to some recording. In addition to Mark and I, we also convinced Mustachio to come along.

After a tasty dinner at a local Indian restaurant – musicians don’t play well on empty stomachs – we headed over to the chapel to set up the mics.

 
chapel
 
Like most chapels, there was lots of natural reverb, which sounds great when playing but adds additional challenges when recording. From a recording engineering perspective it is nice to have well isolated tracks that can be individual tweaked after the recording. Playing live in a reverberant room introduces a bleed of the other instruments onto each mic as well as potentially slathering the tracks in reverb.

We had no real plan and just played tunes that we thought would be fun to try. Sometimes we played them twice, sometimes we didn’t. We played all the instruments at once and there were no overdubs.

After spending a few days listening to the tracks, we decided to do an additional session. Out of this second session came the track included with this post called Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell.

In some cases I had two recorded versions to work with and it was possible to take the best bits from both versions and merge them together. That is the case with Banish Misfortune. The first eight measures are from our first take, while the remainder of the track was from our second take. I mixed the two because Mustachio and I were subtly more in sync on the pickup measures in the first take.

Lastly, for recording geeks only, here is an interesting mixing technique the I tried with the concertina:
1. I made two identical copies of the original concertina track.
2. I shifted the first copy 17 milliseconds to the right, thereby creating a delaying of 17 milliseconds.
3. I shifted the second copy 19 milliseconds to the right, creating a delay of 19 milliseconds.
4. I panned copy one hard left and panned copy two hard right.
5. I then brought the volume of both copies to zero.
6. I then slowly brought up the levels of both copies until the delays were barely noticeable.

This gave the concertina a slightly fuller feel and makes it sound like it is in a nice room. With enough mics and good mic placement I should have been able to get a similar effect naturally from the chapel. But I did not have extra mics to work with.

Anyhow, it was lots of fun and I think we did a nice job of capturing three friends just playing music together. Also, I’m looking forward to posting lots of other tracks from The Chapel Sessions including a killer version of Amazing Grace sung by the White Rabbit.
Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell by baconworks

Jam – The Jolly Beggarman

Jam
 
A couple weeks back I went to a party at my buddy John’s house. My practice over the last year or so has been to record as much live music as I can. Consequently, I recorded most of John’s party.

With this post I’ve included a track that I’ve found myself listening to over and over during the last two weeks. I’m just intrigued by it. So much, in fact, that I’ve since tried, unsuccessfully of course, to reproduce the spirit of the track in the more controlled setting of my home studio. I never planned on posting the original track here. But I’m finding myself compelled.

The musicians at the party were all taking a beer break. After returning with my beer, I sat down and started strumming. I think I was trying to remember the words to Sam’s Gone Away (you can hear me humming during the first few chords). But I quickly gave up on that idea and just started experimenting, trying to find something interesting. I guess the first thing I like is that there is no plan and, initially, it feels rather lazy. Just about then my buddy Roger returns with a full beer and sits down, picks up his bodhran and leathers into it. Things start to take shape. Then my buddy Mark returns with his beer. He picks up his tenor banjo.

I immediately recognize a problem. I’ve capo’ed up my guitar and I know that he will not be able to easily play in my position. So, if you listen closely, you will hear me offer a capo. Quickly realizing how absurd of an idea that is on several levels I, instead, slide my capo down between strums to a more favorable key. I’m actually pretty excited about this part…and still perfecting it.
 
Quickdraw Capo
 
Let me stray from my story for a moment to tell you about this wicked awesome capo, which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. Another friend of mine saw my post about a video where a guy used this sliding capo. I thought, wow, I need one. And this friend happened to find one in Baltimore, bought it for me and drove it all the way up to me. It is the coolest thing.

Anyhow, after capoing down, I tell my buddy Mark that I’m just noodling and ask if he has a song; it is always easier to talk while playing after a few pints. After a moment of thought he goes into a classic Planxty song called The Jolly Beggarman, which for me requires a bit of experimentation before settling on a comfortable way to back him.

Well, you take a listen and decide for yourself if it was worth posting.
 
Jam / The Jolly Beggarman by baconworks

Christmas Wish

I was looking through some old files and found this recording from a session that Unstachio and I did a few months back. It was the same session that South Wind/Out on the Ocean came from.

The tune was written by George and is called the Christmas Wish.
 
Christmas Wish
 
I recall, at the time, that we both thought we could do better and decided to move on. Again, with the rosey glasses of time, I listen to this now and feel pretty good about it. The one real problem with the recording is that there is an unfortunate hum/buzz. I’m not sure how that happened and I did my best to reduce its impact on the overall quality.

It wouldn’t surprise me if George and I come back to this one again at some point, but for now here ya go.
 
Christmas Wish by baconworks

Growing a Tune: Crashing

Ship at Sea
 
The other day Luke summonsed me into his office. He had been working feverishly on a new version of The Marlin Spike with both of Josh’s new guitar parts. Once in his office he had me put the cans on to take a listen. But before doing so, he prefaced my first listen with his impressions of the tune.

The tune, as he described, made him think of an old ship, sails full of wind making headway through the vast ocean. He could hear the waves crashing against the sides of the ship. He could imagine the sound the ship would make as it pitched up and over the swells of the sea. And with that he decided to add some percussion. I listened. His descriptions came to life. As the tune ended and I was reaching to pull the phones off, I started to say that I didn’t want it to end. Then I noticed a gleam in his eye, he raised one finger and said, ‘wait’…

The thing I love about this recording is that it has taken turns that I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done on my own. Luke does not come to this recording with the shackles of how percussion or bass is supposed to sound in Celtic music. It is just not part of his musical background. This is new material for him. Consequently, he, unknowingly, breaks some traditional rules and adds a new dimension, an entirely appealing dimension, to the music…and that is exciting.
 
The Marlin Spike (crashing) by baconworks

Growing a Tune: Mixing up Josh

Josh spent some time recording two new guitar tracks. One he describes as being a bit more traditional versus the other being a bit more chordal. I liked them both and decided to split the difference and mix the two tracks together. I can also tell you that Luke is working on another wicked pissa track, with a new bass line, that uses both of Josh’s tracks as well. I’m hoping to be able to post that track in the next day or so…Luke???

Also, there has been some interest by a couple of new musicians in recording some additional tracks. So, with any luck, we may soon have a fiddle track and a resophonic tenor guitar.

In the interim, I’ve created an image map of the various iterations below. This gives a nice visual representation of how much activity is happening:
 
Marlin Spike Map

Check it out.
 
The Marlin Spike (Josh mix) by baconworks

Growing a Tune: Not Finished Yet…

Luke on Bass
 
Luke is at it again.

This time, he has put a bass track to Josh’s first guitar track, which Josh thought of as a rough draft. Compared to my track this accompaniment has a much more jazzy feel.

Also, you will notice that the melody does not include the original flute and, instead, only features the penny whistle. This is an artifact of the impromptu process that we used to do the recording, which is illustrated in the highly technical graphic below:
 
Recording Process
 
One of the things going on here is that above all the music there is a process that we are learning about as we go. That process includes syncing and overdubbing tracks across multiple players who don’t know each other and we have learned that there are some steps that can be added to that picture to give us more flexibility in the future (as we will see in a subsequent post).

Another interesting phenomenon that I see unfolding in this collaborative recording experiment is that the distinction between what is a rough take and what is a ‘finished product’ has been blurred. Josh’s rough guitar track sits nicely with Luke’s bass and from my perspective the mix is a very listenable and arguably ‘finished’. But, I know that Josh was generally unhappy with the sound quality of the guitar track and, therefore, his perception of ‘finished’ is probably different than mine, which brings me to a very salient point: There is no such thing as ‘finished’ in the absolute sense.

The term ‘finished’ is a misleading adjective that we tend to use when describing our intentions. It is not, ironically, a very good word for accurately describing state. In other words, when I say I am finished with a tune or a painting or building a new deck, I am really saying that I have no intention of doing more work on that thing. However, given that humans are notoriously bad a predicting the future, it might not be wise to place bets on whether the state of that thing will remain stable in the future. After all, I may decide, many years later, to add more paint to the canvas. Is it finished then?

Why am I babbling on about this? Because the notion of finishing a recording, which is very often a goal of musicians, is just an artifact associated with the historically high costs of recording albums. While it is hard for many artists to get their heads around this, I’m here to demonstrate that it is time. Free yourselves from the shackles of that elusive perfect and printable recording. Instead, embrace the notion that the process, flaws and all, is just as interesting and is really the reason we play music to begin with.

The cool thing here is that the plummeting cost of recording and music distribution facilitates the phenomenon I’m describing. The Compact Disc is no longer a necessity and, therefore, does not need to be the final resting place, as it once was, for a musical idea. With the financial factors removed, the creative process, once again, can take its rightful place at center stage thereby giving freedom back to the artist to create as inspiration strikes.

I used to believe that waking up on the wrong side of the sod was the only sure measure of being truly finished. But in world where we allow others to expand on our ideas we open the doors for evolution, which is far more enduring and exciting than being finished.