New Music milestone: mid-February check in

So here we are, half way through February.

How far have we come this year, in terms of new music and creating a rich and fulfilling life? Let’s take a quick look…

Cheryl’s Favorite Hymns, Volume 2

Cheryl and I have recorded her performing 12 public domain hymns, a follow-up to her Favorite Hymns Vol. 1 disc from about three years ago. Most of the ones she chose for Vol. 2 were written in the 1700’s and 1800’s. This very rough draft that we recorded was actually a gift to my grandmother, who has basically worn out her copy of Cheryl’s first hymns disc, and also a run-through to get an idea of how these hymns might sound with one voice, one guitar. This is in contrast to Vol. 1, which included lots of harmony vocals, multiple instruments, and overdubs. (When I say ‘very rough draft’, I’m speaking only of the very rudimentary recording quality–single mic, no mastering, etc. Cheryl’s performance was heartfelt, professional, inspirational… just generally brilliant, as always.)

The Sony ICD-BX112 voice recorder. The simplest way to capture song ideas since cassettes. Thirty bucks. So intuitive I didn't even need to look at the manual. Which is saying a lot.

We’re still not sure if we’re going to go the ‘stripped down’ route or not. I think it’s perfect, harkening back to Willie Nelson’s initial recordings that his record company thought were simply demos. He said, “Nope. This is it.” At first, they laughed. But in the end, he laughed. All the way to the bank. For Cheryl’s part, she really appreciates the musicianship that I bring to the table, and has concerns about not benefiting from that on Vol. 2.

Either way, we’re planning on taking this project into a professional studio in late spring or maybe summer so we don’t have to worry about engineering the disc ourselves. What a treat that would be!

We’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Our first cd of kirtan chants

Cheryl and I have been writing and playing kirtan chants since we met and discovered our shared passion for them in 2006. At this point we’ve written at least a dozen original chants, which could easily fill up 2 cd’s (since any given chant can run from 5 to 12 minutes in duration). So this might mean recording a first kirtan disc with only 5 or 6 chants on it, and then following up with a second disc of similar length.

A really joyful aspect of this is creating music with our good friend Charlie Kiene, an amazing hand-drummer and master of loops. We three have been getting together on Sunday evenings for dinner and a kirtan jam for the past few weeks, and it has been incredibly fun. Fun is good.

Not Charlie.

On the recording side of things, Cheryl and I have three of the initial five kirtan chants already tracked and delivered to Charlie. He’s in the process of adding percussion tracks as he sees fit. Cheryl and I feel supremely confident in his skills, ability, and judgment when it comes to tastefully arranging percussion that supports the basic chant.

I’ll be handling final mixdown duties in my home studio, and then we’ll very likely follow up with mastering at Scooter’s Place with Scott Smith and Lacey Black, two rock-solid resources here in our community. Then, it’s off to DiscMakers for replication.

Getting up to speed on the bass

After a year of goofing around with my 5-string bass, I’ve finally begun to start working toward actually being able to play it properly, at least in some sense of the word. The right hand finger technique is very different that my flat picking technique for guitar, and is taking some practice, patience, concentration, and determination. And I am discovering how much FUN playing bass can be! It’s opening up a whole new world for me.

I'm actually looking to get a 4-string, because at this point, learning the basics, I really have no business getting fancy with that low B. But this is what I have, so this is what I'm working with for now.

Which is interesting, because in the early 80’s, when I was a young teenager, I was initially very interested in playing bass. (My reasoning was that since it only had 4 strings, it would be easier than playing 6-string guitar. What a misconception!) I ended up getting a drumset and going that direction, while at the same time also picking up the guitar. In the end, the guitar was much easier to transport and more easily welcomed into a wide variety of living spaces than a drumset. (Plus, I sold my drum set to pay the electricity bill while in college.)

So now it feels like things are coming full circle as I find myself practicing the bass, working with the metronome to strengthen my sense of timing and really embracing the value of becoming ‘transparent’; that is, becoming the invisible glue that holds everything else together. This is in direct contrast with being the flashy peacock who loves the spotlight. “They tell me I’m a 4 on the enneagram, drama queen’s just what I am… pretending I’m not was such a scam…”

Next check-in: Mid-March. We’ve made some progress already this year, which is great. But we can’t stop here. Gotta keep up the momentum by doing a little bit every day, every week, every month. That way, when December comes around, we won’t find ourselves scratching our heads, wondering “where did the year go?”

See you soon!

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