I have a second, separate problem

I need some sort of small, reasonably-portable sound solution for vocal amplification for my solo gigs. And maybe a mixer amp would be nice, so I could amp my zouk and mandolin as well. (They’re both much louder than my voice. Also I will need a reasonably rugged vocal mic for outdoor use. SM58, I presume?)

I’ve been poking around at pawn shop listings going, “um… this looks nice?” but honestly I have no idea. I found this Peavey for pretty cheap (assuming it works) but of course there’s no speaker there, and for all I know it could be total overkill or totally inadequate. And I have no idea about what to look for in speakers.

I need some solution I can run myself, and really, I’d prefer an all-in-one amp+speaker+mixer solution, but I have no idea whether that even exists. (And the Peavy amp being separate, I could point it at me and make adjustments on its front panel in ways that seem reasonable.)

So, um, hints, clues, and so on, appreciated. I know what kind of things I’d want for a full-band gig, but this is a totally different animal. What do I actually want?

I have a problem and I need advice

So I’ve been working on this CD, and I’ve been mastering against a couple of sets of really pretty decent studio headphones. And that’s all lovely and good. But lately I’ve been also playing things on this old Pioneer amp I picked up… somewhere… a long time ago… and a couple of halfway-decent cheap speakers, and all the levelling and such sounds totally different and not so awesome.

Obviously I shouldn’t level to the 35-year-old transistor Pioneer amp. But given that: against what should I be working? I can’t afford good studio monitors and amp; that’d be awesome and HAHAHAHAHAHA <cries>


…what do I do here?


New booking!

Just got off the phone with Everett Market, who have booked me for their 4th of July slot, 1-3pm at Everett Marina on, well, the 4th of July! Woooooooo holiday show! They have a stage tent and audience seating; I played there some as a fill-in performer last year and they wanted me back for reals. Best of all, it’s an early afternoon date so I can still watch fireworks later. I love fireworks. ^_^

You been holdin' out on me?

j0, all you engineers and producers – you been holdin’ out on me. How come never any of you felt it appropriate to explain to me exactly how goddamn useful automation is? Huh? ‘Cause damn.

And Ardour’s automation tools are both effective and easy to use! It’s freakishly unlike Ardour to be this way, so I’m appreciative. Even if it did assplode my machine today for a while, about which I will now rant.

Because srsly, it was like some sort of goddamn movieOS crash. Windows popping up everywhere scrolling errors at machine rate? Persisting across reboots and hardware resets?That was neat. I figured either something very obscure but trivial had happened and I’d lose a few hours to figuring it out, or I’d just lost weeks of work, ’cause I couldn’t even get Ardour stable enough to export individual tracks – no audio sources or sinks would stay online. I mean nothing worked.

So I started googling and eventually I found a French webaite talking avout something similar in another JackAudio-enabled app environment and ended up reading up on PulseAudio, which Ubuntu Studio won’t let you not install and which plays very badly with JackAudio. So I spent a few hours in the guts of the install making it not launch PulseAudio. (You can’t just uninstall it. APT also tries to uninstall the desktop manager as a dependancy. NOT FUNNY!)

And that’s something I’d been wanting to do eventually, because it’s been problematic for me and causing performance problems, but I had it reasonably working some months ago – they’re supposed to work together – and left it alone after that while I tried to get actual work done. But I guess the Time had Come, so I read up on how to force Ubuntu Studio not to launch pulseaudio (nontrivial) and hid all its utilities (srsly it launches this shit like five different places) and reconfigured Jack and, as I put on moo:

You say, “realtime kernel active… pulseaudio confirmed nonstarting… JackAudio running…”
You say, “outputs ACTIVATED”
You say, “automation engaging… engaged!”
You say, “running… FUCK.”
You say, “wait I think I see it”
You say, “fuck. restarting”
You say, “godDAMMIT that was behaving SO much better.”
Anna aw
You say, “it _is_ behaving better tho – enough to show me something…”
You say, “I think I have a corrupt automation event… <deletes> <restarts>”
You say, “…and outputs up… ”
You say, “…dsp at 29% and stable…”
You say, “about to start automation…”
You say, “automation running…”
You say, “so far so good…”
You say, “Jack and ALSA reporting no errors yet…”
You say, “approaching fail point… still running!”
You say, “past crash point…”
You say, “end of song!”
Solarbird collapses. “Automation shutdown orderly, transport stop normal, JACK and ALSA report all is well. It’s fixed. That was scary and unpleasant! But at least repairable.”

An hour and a half actually working on stuff, three-odd hours of fixing the world, really, that’s about what I expect. I go back and forth on all this – I mean, in the middle of All That, if somebody had squawked “OPEN SOURCE IS THE FUTURE!” at me I’d have punched them right in the face. But once it’s working again, well, at least I have tools.

Even if they explode sometimes at random, like people on LOST.

First public booking of the summer

I love getting the first booking of the summer confirmed. Love it. I’m in talks with a bunch of different venue managers and should have a lot of dates to announce, hopefully soon. But this is the first one confirmed. It’s Dara solo, not the whole band, for reasons probably obvious:

May 13, 2010, Kirkland Wednesday Market, Marina Park, Kirkland, Washington. Time TBA.

If it’s their usual thing, they’ll have a stage tent and some audience seating. But it might be the gazebo, which would be nice. And also funny, because gazebo!

Hey, should I do this?

Hey, waddya think, should I do The Stranger‘s Gong Show? “Shout at the Desert” fits in four minutes, it’s played on a Weird Instrument (Irish bouzouki), and I don’t need anything more than the mic and an amp they provide. Hell, you see any reason not to do it? ‘Cause if you don’t, I think I should.

Assuming my voice is back, I mean. This sucks. I’m on day 3.5 of antibiotics and I feel fine except for my throat which is still lumpy and stupid. (This is how I always get sick: I get tired and a sore throat and generally that’s all there is to it.)

This throat fuckery is really starting to bother me badly. I almost had an emotional breakdown on Friday because I cannot, cannot, cannot stand the idea of my voice getting fucked up on me the day after I lay down the best fucking vocal tracks I’ve ever laid down ever, and I keep having nightmares (daymores?) about not being able to sing anymore now that I’m finally making my voice start to do the things I want it to do. Then I found out “oh look, I have strep” and thought “okay! Tuesday was just the start of symptoms and I got strep throat last weekend. I can deal with that. Hello, antibiotics! Glad to see you [nom].”

But I should be feeling better in the throat by now and I’m not. So I’m getting all fucked up again and I can’t find the name of that ENT on the eastside who sees all the Seattle Symphony Chorale people and is a specialist at working with singers and and and hate.

I hate this so much. It feels like every time I have a srs breakthrough I get a facepunch back in change and have to recover from that. This is yet another one of those times and I’m just AGJKJAHFLSUGFLIUEFGWKUYFD!!! I want to punch some things BUT MY ARMS ARE TOO FUCKED UP adhsflalifuhalweifuhawel (no they’re not worse they’re just the normal bad. But that’s bad enough.)

I should take my antibiotic and go to bed. Today was actually a pretty good day other than that. I did some Norwescon wrap-up, all my laundry, some post-tax paperwork cleanup, and today is housecleaning day and I was a sparkling fury of housekeeping, even where the cats threw up hairballs overnight, like they do. I got a lot of stuff done. I just want a throat that works.


…it looks like I can edit together two takes I already have. They’re really pretty reasonable. A couple of timing issues but nothing I can fix with tiny snips, and there are a couple of places with a bit of level issues (a couple of notes are a tad hot, a couple are a little too restrained) but I need to learn automation anyway, and it’ll be a good exercise. (Not just for here.) I could fix the three or four problems with that, and maybe should do. And most importantly, Anna likes it. ^_^

This song is mostly on the high end – it’s all mandolin and percussion – so having a bass solo over the bridge really throws it into tonal balance. The bass is as big a surprise here as the flute is on “Artefacts,” but without the shrieking. Ha! I wish I’d thought of that on purpose. Maybe in the liner notes I’ll call it an intentional counterpoint.

take that, primus

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA “Let Me Help” gets a bass guitar solo TAKE THAT PRIMUS!

Really, it’s far too sedate to be compared to anything Primus – “Let Me Help” is Dick Tracy Must Die‘s only slow song, a ballad that I wrote to Anna, and I mean, I’ve only been playing bass a month, so, um, yeah. But it is an actual bass solo, and it’s totally the right thing to do here. I’ll need to re-record parts of it ’cause I’m only good enough to fake it in studio, not get it all right in one take, but the idea is down now.

(Jazz background peeking out? The deuce you say! Hi, have you met my flutework?)

Really, things are moving along pretty well. “Let Me Help” got a couple of new tracks today (including BASS SOLO lulz) and some more remixing, and I fiddled a little more with “Thought You Knew” and even “Artefacts” which got some more mixing clues added and they help. And I discovered (as was kind of inevitable) what kind of driving bodhran line “Stay Away” is going to have. Productive elf is productive.

…it's full of stars!


i’m rerecording the vocals tomorrow because now i finally see where i’m trying to go

and it is epic

Back from Norwescon

Back from Norwescon, and am wiped out. But it was awesome. I met the local nerdcore band Death*Star; They’re playing the Blue Moon on April… 29th, I think? Verify the date, and then go see them. We traded EPs, and their Saturday night show was rawked the haus.

Also met up with the effervescent Tricky Pixie, and got to talk with Alec about mixing techniques – he’s been producing his own CDs for years, whereas I’m still learning what kind of shit I have to learn – and just catch up for a bit. (Tricky Pixie just wrapped up a tour – this was their last stop of the spring – but will be playing in Oregon at the end of July.)

My biggest regret is that I missed him and Vixy and Tony doing a workshop on recording techniques. Tony operates Monkey Brains Studios and has a good ear. (V&T’s next show is May 29th, in Seattle). I hope somebody who was there took notes.

Then as things wound down, a bunch of the bands got together for a big jam session on Sunday. That was all kinds of fun.

And now that the studio computer is done updating and rebooting, it’s time to test some of these suggestions. Fingers crossed.

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