I learned today of the death of Craig Davis, a truly talented and prolific musician, songwriter, and artist. My history with Craig is long and complicated.Continue reading…
I have used Reaper as my Digital Audio Workstation software for about 15 years now and absolutely love it. Recently I decided it might be nice to get a physical control surface to use with it. I initially got a Korg nanoKONTROL to dip my toes in the water. It’s a decent little surface, but I very quickly realized that if I was going to go this route I wanted to go all the way and actually have motorized faders and all the bells and whistles, so at the suggestion of many other users I got a Behringer Xtouch. The Korg unit had taken a lot of setup and tweaking to get it working with Reaper. The Xtouch works right out of the box though with only basic functionality mostly. I thought I’d document my journey for posterity in case I ever need to remember what all I did or in case it can help anyone else.Continue reading…
Tonight in the shower, which is where I seem to have so many important thoughts, I was thinking about my journey as a singer. A lot of the things on my mind were things I detailed in my post summing up my 7 month adventure as a singer on a cruise ship. One particular lesson rose to the top though. To put it very simply, the thought that singing higher isn’t singing better.
I started singing somewhere around age 16, and at first I was timid, shy, and not very good. I still remember my first real public attempt at singing. I was auditioning for a local musical and we needed to bring a piece to sing. I had a little Casio keyboard with these music cards you could slide through a reader and it would play that song, so I picked one (“You Must Take The A Train,” which I was completely unfamiliar with other than the Casio rendition) and practiced it. I brought my keyboard to accompany me and auditioned for the Music Director, Mrs. Kosztolnyik and the director. I was nervous and horrible. I did not get cast.
Eventually I developed my voice, and more importantly, my confidence and became known as a “power tenor” who could belt Journey songs and rock a mean falsetto on “Kiss” by Prince. While I’ve been lucky enough to receive many compliments over the years, I’m fairly positive I’ve received the most by far on being able to sing high and powerfully. The Journey thing really sticks in my mind as that was a very common comment. “Whoa! I can’t believe you sang Journey! You sounded just like the record!” or other similar things. This common feedback trained me like one of Pavlov’s dogs to “value” singing high and powerfully. It conditioned me to think that it set me apart and made me special.
While on my cruise ship adventure, I was singing 6 nights a week, battling cruise ship air and circulating colds and such, and trying my best to be a good vocal athlete and keep my voice in shape, but much to my frustration, I feel like most of my contract was spent performing well, but sub-par to what I knew I could do. Somewhere along that journey (no pun intended) I learned the concept of “Fach,” which, to put in overly simple and possibly not entirely accurate terms, is the sweet spot of your voice. I had noticed that singing so much had really honed my tone and accuracy and there were nights when I would think “Hey, my voice sounds really good in that sweet spot range when I’m not trying to perform amazing spectacles of vocal daring!”
I’ve always appreciated emotion and soul more than anything else, but this was a deeper epiphany than that and it has stayed with me. I still love that feeling of being able to belt out something impressive and sound good doing it, but I can equally appreciate singing something that feels effortless to me just as much for other reasons. There are so many singers I love who don’t necessarily sing anything technically impressive or set any records for sustained high notes. I guess I’ve finally learned that those vocal highs are like those crazy flashy guitar riffs that make someone seem like they’re from another planet. I can appreciate and be very impressed by the technical prowess, but I can be just as moved or more by someone who can play one note in just the right way, in the just the right place and knows just how much silence to leave between it and its neighbors to reach inside you and pull out an emotion like pure magic. I’ve learned that, yes, many times those high notes will get more comments, but that’s ego singing. That doesn’t actually mean anything or impart any more inherent value. Another example I always remember from my days on the ship is that I sang “Take On Me” by A-Ha which has that last really high note in the chorus, but it’s falsetto and for me it is almost completely effortless. In my mind, there is absolutely nothing “impressive” about it as it’s “easy” for me, and yet that note, on multiple occasions on the ship got spontaneous applause from the audience, something that I don’t think has ever happened to me before or since. Smoke and mirrors. Illusions. Show business. I also had some of my worst nights ever on that ship. Fighting to get anything worth a damn to come out of my throat and while feeling absolutely mortified and wanting to curl up and die, yet for the most part, no one else even noticed. “Great show! You were great!” they’d still say.
So I write this mainly to remind myself but also for anyone else who needs to hear it: singing higher is not singing better. As with every area of life, a lesson I learn again and again is that literally everything is made better by getting the ego out of the way. Find your Fach, and revel in it.
Sure most people are probably asleep at 6:40am. Some are even getting up or already up. Me, I’m laying in bed trying to sleep but instead getting an idea for a very silly song about having a crush on the Prop/Costume Diva for #MST3K and singing it into a voice memo in bits and pieces so I’ll remember it the next day. Quite probably the most niche song I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something.
I then also decided to record a full studio version and video for that version in all it’s power pop glory!
For those who want to skip straight to the conclusion: It’s insanely powerful, with some amazing sounds, but has been a bit of a mixed bag with me. Some technical snafus as well as their “No refunds after downloading” policy will likely keep me from buying any other Spitfire Audio products. Now on to the details.Continue reading…
I previously released a silly video in which I sang the outro of “Killing In The Name” by Rage Against the Machine in the style of Michael McDonald. I had a non-zero number of people on the internet say they wanted the full cover. At first, I thought that maybe they think they want the full cover but that in reality it wouldn’t be as funny or hold up for that long. I was wrong.
While I initially had my doubts whether a full cover could live up to a silly 30 second piece of absurdity illustrating what it might sound like if Michael McDonald and Rage Against The Machine were accidentally fused in a transporter accident, as I would be lying in bed trying to sleep, ideas would start coming to me. More and more ideas. Until I knew I had to be the conduit through which this alternate dimension cover came into creation.
I present to you, all 4 minutes and 16 seconds of this glorious abomination. In case you aren’t familiar with the original song, PROFANITY WARNING during the outro. It’s also way more enjoyable if you are familiar with the original.
Just when you probably thought I couldn’t waste my talents on anything sillier, here is my impression of Michael McDonald singing Rage Against The Machine. PROFANITY WARNING.
Nick Thorburn of the band Islands composed the theme song for the wonderful “Ologies” podcast. Here we see some behind the scenes footage of one of the hottest studio musicians that Nick brought in to record.
Nick eventually opted to go instrumental after a falling out with his lyricist. Here’s rare footage of the original vocal track.
Sometimes you get a really silly idea. Then you go to execute that idea and it’s way harder and more involved than you thought, but you’re committed and make it happen. I commit to my absurdity. Music written by Foreigner (Jukebox Hero).
I feel like things that I learned during my younger years are more “sticky.” Songs I haven’t played in 30 years will come right back while on the other hand stuff I’ve learned more recently I have to refresh far more often if I want to remember it.
From the moment this song came out, I loved this band, the guitarist, Vito Bratta, and specifically this song and this solo. It was another major landmark in my guitar journey. Much to my surprise, when I decided on a whim to play this tonight, it took no refreshing. A few passes through it and it was right there, still permanently stored in the mental archives.