Outtakes and updates

So, somewhere in the middle of April I decided to start three projects with the intention of getting them done for summer (now reads the end of summer). Of those three projects one is now complete, the second has begun (with a finished track, as I write this) and the third has has some ideas bashed about ( I need a piano, can some get me a piano please?)

Of the one finished article, I’m not sure what to do with it yet, I should have some idea by the weekend on how I make it available and stuff. It’s around twenty minutes long and is made up of edited down improvisations of the song ‘Spring’, which if you’ve seen me play live is also known as ‘the birdy song’. Over the past two years this songs has developed into a near 40 minute exploration of different strands of the song. I’m happy with how it’s all come out and some of it really captures the ‘letting the mind wander’ aspects of my work. I hope to share it with you soon.

In the meantime, please find below some of the sounds that didn’t make it but I didn’t want to erase.

unfurling morning / untethered afternoon

It’s been a difficult week or so. My ears have been ringing worse than I can ever remember. I’ve been doing a lot of recording and very little of what’s been making it to tape has appealed to my ears.

On sunday morning I took my partners iphone outside to record the bird song – I could hear that thrush again – a thin squiggle of audio drew itself on the touchscreen. Later on I sat on the bed with my daughter’s guitar, the iphone on my lap, listened to the birdsong and started to play. Our cat climbed up on the bed and purred. I listen back to the sounds and pressed the icon marked ‘share’.

I’ll gladly sacrifice sonic quality to get within a quarter’s touching distance of getting what’s going on inside of me outside and I feel this does that. I’m going to make a little film for this song. It’ll just be for me. It’ll be my children spinning round and round in the garden, rolling on the grass.

Enjoy it. Share it with your friends. Thank you for listening.


[I’ll probably write later on about using multitrack DAW to record this as it was a valuable experience]

The phrase ‘untethered afternoon’ comes from an A.E. Stallings poem.

‘it’s not really a remix though, is it?’

Last weekend I attempted to do some remixing of some sound files ( ‘stems’ I believe they call them) from the upcoming We Are Altered record. John M of the band had sent me some of the files, I downloaded them onto my phone and went from there.

Now I know most folk would pop them into their computer and start bouncing around ideas from there but I don’t like working with computers and I have’t got any of the software for that kind of jazz anyway. Nope, my kit list was as follows –

into this

into this

and that’s it.

I listened through to the files and waited to see what caught my attention. Two samples immediately leapt out at me and I basically used those as the basis for my ideas. The first idea came out terrible – trying to pretend your The Neptunes using a mobile phone as a sample player is never going to work. It was awful. The second track (Resigned ARP) faired a bit better – not a lot happens in it but I like it all the same.

Check out more of the remixes here – http://soundcloud.com/groups/we-are-altered-remixes/tracks

Have a go at remixing with the stems here – http://makerecordings.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/remix-we-are-altered/

The record will be coming out on cassette and download on the ever lovely make recordings soon.


I’m not sure where the idea came from but the other night I decided I’d drag that whammo Behringer Condensor mic from the back of the wardrobe and try recording with it and using some headphones to monitor. I’m not a big fan of monitoring with headphones for many reasons – it’s hard to get the balance right; it shreds my ears pretty quickly; it’s just not the same as playing in a room in front of an amp. In the process of doing this I learnt three things.

Having no decent mic pre to hand I had to use the Zoom H4n as the mic pre then put the signal through the pedals. Then the output of those went through my Samson S-Mix and into a Minidisc (YAY!) to record ‘the action’.

First thing I learned? The mic preamps on the Zoom are pretty rough. They’re really noisy and only slightly better than those on the S-mix (which when using a phantom powered mic are awful). So a dedicated mic pre or a mixer with a decent gain section would have been most useful.

Second thing. All though the sound that came out the other end was quite natural sounding there is, as you’d expect, little movement in the audio field, which makes it a bit dull to listen to. On a psychological note – I did notice that when I heard a picked chord being played, the notes going low to high did feel as if they were moving in the sound field. Here’s how some of it came out.

The third thing? In this modern age, possibly the most important instrument any musician can have is a mixer. Any mixer with a couple of mic inputs, an aux send and a couple of outputs is the most versatile tool you could ever own. If I only I didn’t just sell mine. Doh!

A recording diary – post no. 2

Managed to get out of work a few hours early a week or so ago and had a three hour spell to do some recording at home and make some noise before everyone was home from school. What did we learn? This is what we learned….

Doesn’t take too long to set up and get going with the Zoom H4n at all. Probably about half and hour to set up guitar and kit and then go. Managed to record 2 hours and 5 minutes of audio – it said so on the screen! Felt pretty good about that. Better still, I managed to review it all in the following two evenings which is pretty much a record for me.

And the recordings themselves? Well…Using a pick up instead of mics for the guitar is great. It gives the guitar a whole different quality – it’s not the same as mic-ing up but is quicker and sounds 100% better than the piezo. I like it, not saying I’m not going to persevere with the mic-into-looper-for-guitar idea, just for the moment the ease of using a pickup means I’m actually producing stuff, which is ace! All of the instrumental parts of these recordings sound really good, they have a distinct gentle but electric quality to them. All of the vocal takes sounded way below par though – a consequence of a 5 mile sprint home on the bike and rushing to get going? That’s what I’m going to put it down to. I tried to fit an awful lot in and this session definitely pointed the way forwards.

Out of the whole session, this edited piece came through sounding really interesting.

The mic on the Zoom is super sensitive and setting the gain accurately on it is a bit hit and miss at the moment. I have to be very wary of overloading the input so I end up recording very quietly. Add to this a lack of any suitable means for me to mix and monitor adequately and the end result is pretty quiet. I do like the quality of the Zoom’s mics though and they pick up everything including the traffic going passed the house.

So, not quite there yet but well on the road.