Hot from the presses, my latest work. Oh boy. Am I corny or what.
The thing is: even musicians sing silly things to themselves now and then.
The silliest of those musicians, even try to record that kind of silly stuff. In addition to all the rest they have in mind. This is like a little vice of mine, a distraction. But there's a part of me that will always be 5 years old (and probably without that part the others would never get anything done).
Damn, I just forgot about my weekly post and I'm remembering now.
Even worse: in fact, I've been intermittently remembering it along the weekend, but then getting swept away by some other thing. Lots of waste there.
So in the spirit of kaizen, a modification of my process is in order. In this case, the countermeasure to keep this problem from reappearing starts with a change of standards. In my initial working standards, I decided that this blog was going to be an informal, out of the map thing, and so it was going to be "that thing not documented". That idea, as romantic as it sounded, creates no value for the reader, and can even become a 'disvalue', as this mishap proves.
So the countermeasure is including a reminder in my calendar on Sundays; so when things get frantic, I'll still find that warning to write the "broom" post. My hypothesis, considering how stable is my calendar checking process, is that it will be enough to keep the problem from reoccurring. I still want to keep this from becoming too 'complicated', avoiding generating inventory like notes for future posts and the like, but maybe I went too far with frugality this time. I blame it on the 'Honeymoon effect' of any blooming project: "but of course, honey, I will always remember our anniversary..." But at some point the passion fades and all that's left is commitment... lol...
Jam Loops is an app for Android to help musicians loosen up and get inspiration through jamming. It contains bad ass rock loops ordered in gradual speed, to help your mojo get going.
The app is free for download in the Google Play Store and can be found here.
Please ignore the un-lean cables hanging on the left side of the screen, and focus on the guitar on the chair. Yeah, that's right, a chair. After some experimentation, this has proven to be the best way so far to get and drop the guitar easily.
The empty chair in front is the one I use to sit, and in front of it is my computer with the daw fired up. If every time I want to do something new with the guitar I had to go through the struggle of lifting it from the floor, it would mean endless experiences of the waste of transportation, in the form of struggle on my back and shoulders, and a lot of resistance adding up in a nasty, never declared of feeling of "oh god, not again, I have to grab the guitar again". At some point it can make the difference between "OK, it is what it is, let's move on", and "let's record one more take for good measure", therefore having an impact on final quality.
That up-down lifting movement that I had to do maybe a thousand times a year, was in itself pure waste, even if it wasn't aggravated for worse by Newton's ruthless laws: going back to the definition of value, I'm pretty sure nobody who listens to my tune will be interested in how many miles the guitar had to travel to produce its notes. By putting the guitar at the same level as us, we're reducing transportation to a horizontal distance, and keeping it close to us to reduce waste as much as we can. The only moment when value is created is when the musician is generating notes, or the sound engineer is enhancing the sound. In this case, with both persons being the same, it's wise to ease the transitions.
There's one more enhancement in the picture: as the chair was slippery, I converted my guitar cover in a stand. A common premise in Lean is "use your head instead of your wallet", and I didn't have a proper guitar stand; this counts as serendipitous innovation, something I just found along the way of solving a different problem, and I like the DIY'ish feeling of the thing, that I can reproduce anywhere.
One more improvement associated to guitar transportation, not in the picture, was creating a standard for guitar-to-daw and daw-to-guitar transitions. It was very simple: short after recording with the guitar, you tend to move your attention to the computer, and if the guitar just remains on your lap, forgotten, you can be uncomfortable soon, creating fatigue and an unnecessary health hazard. So the situations I've distinguished and how I deal with them are:
1) Ended using the guitar and it's time for production work -> The guitar has no deal being in my lap, so move it back to its chair immediately (or as close to immediately as possible; obviously, if you've finished recording a track, you first want to press space to stop the recording process, that kind of tiny stuff).
2) Not ended using the guitar but have something to solve that will take a while -> It is not worth to leave the guitar if I have to pick it again soon. In this case, I slip the guitar 90º so that it rests on my legs. The relief of tension is great; if you don't do so, you are doing 2 things at the same time, and without noticing: the daw work you're engaged with, and keeping your guitar in balance. This is the standard that has benefited me the most.
3) Ready to rumble again -> Well then, quick checking of what went wrong or can do better as a performer in the next track, minimum movements required to record a new track, and let's go again!
(The guitar in the picture, btw, is called Sinforosa. I like to give a name to all my guitars, like B.B. King used to :) )
Before I started documenting my music making processes, I have found myself time after time reinventing the wheel. Given that recording, production and the like is not my cup of tea, but something that I will gladly hand over to someone else as soon as I can, I tend to forget what I've learned from one time to the next.
The consolation, then, is that this effort of documentation is the last one. At last I have learned how to accumulate the knowledge, the achievement and the failures, in a way that adds up. The stakes will stay there, put in a way in which they are good reminders, even if some time goes by between session and session.
The part of this struggle that has taken my attention last week has been recording electric guitars. One of the notorious mistakes I've made along this process has been succumbing in excess to the temptation of technique. Just one more experiment that I had to run, in a way.
My initial rationale was "cranking out stuff as quick as possible". To do that, I decided to abandon the "live musician" mindset that perhaps was still dominant in my mind, and rather think of a way of producing finished tracks quicker, no matter what it took. The final customer, in the end, finds no additional value in listening a song that has been recorded, say, by copypasting or speeding up sections instead of stubbornly rehearsed to get it right in one take.
Or does he? The answer to this question was a bit ambivalent, and implied to dig a bit deeper in my guiding values.
Firstly, this is not an "I would know it" kind of thing. The tradition with which I feel most identified is the punk movement, which was based in DIY and pretty much anything goes as long as you get something done, put new real stuff of any kind in front of actual human beings. So, in a way, all that technical shortcuts that previously would have looked "dirty" to me, would be fully justifiable. What is not justifiable is letting yourself drag by old prejudices, living in a world that is like a sinking ship, and being a person with a say on the situation, not getting the word out because of poorly understood "authenticity".
The material conditions for musicians are currently far from ideal in these times of readjustment, but we can compensate it with a bigger capability to get the music done, and access to a wider audience.
So for the song I'm working on, I recorded slow and then sped up the bass and drums tracks, and the results were good. I have also found that for voice, under certain conditions, it can do the trick. But then I moved to record guitars, and the result was not acceptable. There's something about the "hairyness" of distortion that does not accept well the speed manipulation, and sounds fake and boxy.
I did several tests, and finally I noticed there was no way out: I had to rehearse those guitar tracks and get them right, at the right speed. I had this stupid fear that I couldn't but of course I could, I've done it thousands of times before.
The music genre of my liking is a tough one. Punk hardcore, or other of its tough cousins. It's the way I like it, and its energy cannot be faked. This implies a different way of working, there are no shortcuts. The rehearsal days must be put together so that the skill accumulates.
Under such premises, I developed a system for recording easily track after track after track, as usual taking as much waste out of the equation as possible. I got a process to help me record easily track after track, but within each of those tracks, where the music happens, there are no standards. It's the musicianship, the training and intuition, the emotional expression on its own. But it is the standards which protect that music, give it a home, make it happen and flourish more often. Make a more fertile ground for the miracle to happen. Invariably, in every thing that I've ever recorded, I always find stuff later that I cannot explain: "what did that came from?", "when did that happen?". I know by using standards, by taking the boring bits out of the way, I can make more of those moments happen. Maybe that's the big reward for someone who makes music: at some points, you get to have a different, unexpected glance of yourself.