Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cape Lambert Recordings 1

Well here I am at the end of my second two week stay in the tropics.  I thought I should upload something, so here you go!  I did bring up my video camera, but the room is too small, and the internet is too slow so it is audio only.  In fact I'm lucky to have internet at all at the camp - I use my netbook tethered to my mobile phone!

Anyway, some tunes and some stories perhaps?  These are all demos of what is to come, played on my $100 1974 banger, in a room I can nearly touch opposing walls, so be kind :)

First up, Lean on Me.  Pretty close to ready for production.  Tab is made, I play it ok, just not so smooth.  While I was sitting with the lads one evening have a beer with guitar in hand, Lisey said "can you teach me Lean on Me?"  I flicked the chords up, went the improvise, and behold, it was very simple!  Only about half a day invested in this one.  It is my "default" fingerstyle strummy drummy flicking pattern - beat 1 is a bass note, beat 3 is a flick/snare drum feel, the rest is squeezed in the gaps.  This is going to be a nice easy and reasonably popular tune.

I'd already played the intro to "Something so Strong" about a month ago and decided that would be a good candidate too.  My default fingerstyle feel again.  It's okay, I don't have too many songs that are this formula, so if I disperse this sort of feel throughout my setlist, nobody will write me off as a one trick wonder.  But for you, here is the same feel applied to a different song.  Note that I have worked out the solo and tabbed it, it just isn't into muscle memory yet so it was a bit off in this demo.

This I've been playing for a while, I've mentioned it before, Ulli Boegershausen's fingerstyle cover of "Mad World".  Excellent, haunting, highly recommended.

"Albatross" by the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac is an excellent chillaxing tune, Hansel Pethig did a super-cool improvisation on it a while back on youtube, I have had it noted for a while.  You will notice that I...just...can' slowly...consistently...  It's like I have a fixed speed and I always come back to it.  Sorry, but song is still in practise mode!

And finally, the start of "Money", one of the last songs to tackle in my epic Dark Side of the Moon project.  This is really raw, concept only.  Firstly I wanted something that said "fingerstyle" but also was cash registers/coins clinking.  I tried a few tings until I settled on something that flowed, in 7/4 timing, which is achievable and has a "feel".  Tap soundboard under soundhole, scrape upper soundboard, fingernail taps on top side, scrape again, clunk base of bridge, scrape up bridge, fingernail tap bottom, repeat.  I need to work on the "mesh", I don't want it to sound contrived, it must flow into the song.  But it still needs to be obvious what it is!  It may yet morph, and my playing of the song is very stiff, you can tell I've only just started...enough excuses, I don't mind sharing my half-baked concepts with you.  There's a few edit/cuts in this to make sure it was at least vaugely coherent.

There you have it.  Next swing is 3 weeks away, so nothing doing for a while.  Hope you found something interesting in my very hacky fingerstyle song concepts on my $100 banger.  Sorry about the G-string not being in tune, I only noticed when listening back, bleurgh...okay, enough with the excuses already :)


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Look after your hearing!

Once upon a time I used to drill, angle grind, circular saw - you name it - with scarcely an item of safety gear on. After two incidents where I put small fragments of metal in my eye I learnt to wear safety glasses, but it wasn't until much later on I finally heeded the advice: "JAW, wear hearing protection."

Suffice to say, for quite a number of years now, I won't even pick up a hammer without having safety glasses and hearing muffs on. But, damage to my hearing had already started. Irreversible damage. Yes, I have minor noise-induced hearing loss and minor tinnitus (a "ringing in the ear when no sound is present").

Hey don't feel bad for me, it's very minor comparatively, I only hear the tinnitus when the background noise is very low. The hearing loss only affects me when there is a lot of sound coming from all around and I'm trying to listen to something specific. Just take note: if you are doing something - power tools, listening to loud music, that sort of thing, and you come away with a ringing in your ears then that was too loud. Keep a few pairs of ear muffs around the house and a few rolly squeezy type inserts on hand and turn it down. That ringing in your ear, which goes away after a day or so? My tinnitus is very similar to that sound, except it doesn't ever go away...

Noise induced hearing loss, well, let me try to describe it. You might actually have it and don't realise. Now would be a good time to stop it getting any worse if you do. What, you are fine, you can hear a pin drop? So can I. In the quietest of quiet rooms I could hear a flea on a mouse squeak. That's not how this type of hearing loss happens. However, if you put me in a room where several people are talking, and someone is talking to me - right there, right in front of me - I can't understand a word they are saying. Why is that?

As it was explained to me, which makes a lot of sense, it's the high frequencies that are lost first. High frequencies are where the data is. Think about wireless data, or radio transmissions: the higher the frequency, the more data you can fit in it. And even though the main component frequencies of the human voice are generally lower than 1kHz, the "sss"es, are up as high as 8kHz. That holds more information that you'd think. Let me see if I can simulate noise induced hearing loss for you.

First, here is me saying something Ocker. Yes, I am a bit "nasal", that's why I don't sing:

Now here is the same thing with everything above 1kHz removed. It sounds "mumbly", but you can still tell what I am saying:

Here is me saying the same original thing again this time with a crowd of JAWs all saying Ocker things. At about the 3 second mark you can hear me pretty clearly over top of those other noisy JAWs:

Same thing, except the talking over the top has everything above 1kHz removed again. You can still hear me, but it is more difficult:

And that's where the problem is. In a noisy environment, you can't "hear" (where "hear" means "understand") the important stuff - that high frequency data is lost. Apparently people with this sort of hearing loss, as it progresses, may start to withdraw from crowds, perhaps leading to other psychological problems.
But like I said I'm not too bad. I do struggle in a noisy environment, and yes, I don't go into a loud music environment. I do ask people to repeat themselves quite often, and will get up close to hear them. I notice people get a bit annoyed if you ask them to repeat themselves for the third time...and if I still didn't understand them I smile, nod my head and play along like I did hear them. Ah the social techniques and strategies of hearing loss...

Bottom line - protect your hearing!

Saturday 1 June 2013

What's happening June 2013

Welcome to the Pilbara!  This is my home two weeks out of three for the foreseeable future. It is an area in Western Australia responsible for about 20% of the worlds iron ore production.  I've been working in the iron ore mining game on and off for 20 years, and have spent the last couple of years engineering software for an expansion of an iron ore port facility at Cape Lambert.  Now it is the pointy end of the job - where we commission the facility, which means a lot of time away from home.

(Here is the Birrabira camp where I am staying, and here are a couple of stackers in the facility I'm working at.)

What this all means is that since I don't work more than 12 hours a day I get a bit of free time between meals and sleeping...which I have been filling with guitar playing.  I've been running through my set list most nights to several mates who are happy to listen, and I put in time working out new songs.  Good news for guitar!  Not so good news for my family.  But, it is the nature of my work, good pay in return for being away from home.  Make the most of it me thinks.

I decided I'm not going to take the Esteve on the plane up and down every roster, so I looked in the classifieds for a good classical banger that I can leave up here.  I think I have mentioned I have a soft spot for 70's and 80's Yamahas.  Probably because that's all I had for the first ten years of playing.  I found a nice example of a G-55, circa 1974 vintage, so pretty much the same as my first guitar.  It was in fair condition so I grabbed it for $AU100 (2013).  I ditched the strings and went to take out the saddle for a looksee...which I discovered was glued in (sheesh) and when trying to pull it out shattered in my hands.  Lucky I have spares!  I cleaned up the saddle rebate, filed a new one down and popped it in.

Although the neck is ever-so-slightly bent in giving an ever-so-slightly high action, it plays fine and sounds great.  I think my audience is surprised when I tell them it is a $100 banger that I'm going to leave up here forever!

(Note, if you are interested in old yamaha guitars - when they were made, out of what - Yamaha's excellent "Guitarachive" Guitar Archive was closed but has found new support here:

I'll let you know of my progress.  It's overwhelming what to tackle first!  One of my mates who'd like to learn to play said "can you play Lean On Me?"...quick internet search for the chords, quick improvise...then an hour or two later in my room and I have made a really nice fingerstyle version.  I think you will like it but I didn't bring any recording equipment...this time.  But since I mentioned it, here, have a quick look at the main riff:
Note the strum/finger flick indications on the bottom of the tab section.

Anyway, I'll be in touch! :)