Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Farfisa Frenzy

For some reason, perhaps Google have recently updated their index, there has been a large jump in visits to the blog here, 90% of which are from a Google Images search on Farfisa. The post from April this year Makkie's Rhythm included a picture of a Farfisa organ, which is now appearing as 4th in a google search. All very nice, but apologies to anyone searching for information about Farfisa organs here - I don't have any!

Well, okay, here's some background about the one we used... It came from some club or other and was on its last legs when it arrived at the Green Shed for us to use. It had a solid veneer of nicotine mottled with beer and grew progressively smellier as it warmed up with use. I don't know what model it is - I did a bit of research recently for more information, but came up with very little, but it had a built-in rhythm section (as used in the aforementioned track) and tape recorder. It also supposedly had a Leslie cabinet built in, but the switch to turn it on did nothing. At the time none of us had any idea what a Leslie was, sowe didn't realise what we were missing, or even how we could go about fixing it to get that unique sound. Oh well. At the time we did think it was an incredibly cheesy addition to our instrumental ranks, but it served us well whilst it lasted.

Unfortunately, one day it just died in a shower of sparks and our association was almost over. I did manage to salvage the rhythm unit from it and get it operating as a stand-alone analogue drum machine of sorts. It was not programmable, but you could jam two or three rhythm type buttons down together to create new composite and quite dense mega-rhythms, which was pretty nifty. I don't know what happened to that part of it, though - I can only assume it was 'lost' in a house move.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Home at Last!

My musical meanderings now have a proper home - my little studio is up and running!

I finished building the frame and shelving over the weekend. I'm no joiner, but it all seems very sturdy, if not exactly a thing of great beauty. It has taken the best part of 2 days to get all the cables and gear in site and connected up. There are still some tweaks to go in order to have everything running smoothly, but I'm at least able to get a sound out of everything, which is much more than I've been able to do for the last few years.

I'll be running it all on three computers - the good old faithful Atari ST for controlling keyboards and any forays into the world of algorithmic music, my regular PC for running virtual instruments, which I've never really got to grips with beyond the odd demo here and there, and a bargain basement (under £1) old PC for actually recording everything. It was great to get back to the ST with its simple-to-use and crash-free environment after years of using PCs, but weird to be back on a little 12 inch screen instead of this 19 inch monster. Hopefully this arrangement will give me the best of all worlds, as I'm not convinced this PC is really up to handling all chores on its own.

Give me a couple of days and I should come up with something new to post on the site...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Green Shed Googlewhack

Every so often I'll check to see how people are arriving at the blog or the main Deserters site. There's usually a fair mix between people looking for the band specifically and 'accidental' visits by people looking for information on military desertion or fire engines. Every so often there's a little gem that makes me smile - somebody does a search for 'what does eximious mean?', for example. The latest was for 'greenshed, progressive rock' from Yahoo japan.

When I did a search on this myself, this blog was the only entry (a Googlewhack, I believe?), so I dug around for anything else about 'green shed' that could be remotely related to progressive rock. Not a thing could I find. So the question is; is there somebody over in Japan creating prog rock under the name 'Greenshed', or was this a return visitor to the site who's enduring image of the band is of us recording in a green shed? Who knows (or cares)?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Studio Progress...?

One month later and things are starting to come together. Hopefully.

Studio Bordet (or whatever it will be called) is on the road to construction - it has power, light and walls. The next step is building a frame to hold PC, keyboard, mixing desk and various other bits of musical gear. With the addition of plasterboard, sound insulation and flooring there is just under 2m2 of useful floorspace, which is even less than I had hoped for, but should still provide enough space to have a usable setup and be able to play bass or guitar in the room. Playing the theremin in there will definitely not work, though, due to lack of space, so I'll still need to cart it around the house depending on whether I'm practicing or recording.

I did a recording recently for the local band using my new multi-input interface which worked out really well (apart from running out of disk space), but having listened to the mix I initially put together it has become painfully clear that I need a decent set of monitoring speakers. I have a good set of headphones, but mixing on 'phones is never a good idea, so I try to get a reasonable sound using them, then switch to my PC speakers, which are pretty good quality for a PC, but still far from HiFi. The mix I ended up with sounded pretty good on the PC, great on the 'phones, but unfortunately lousy in the car or through the little box we have in the kitchen. I knew the day would come when I'd have to fork out for decent speakers - it's one of the things you really can't skimp on (like microphones) to get a good sound, but it's not as exciting as the wonderful wealth of fancy studio toys available. So... Some research, testing and budget-balancing later, I've finally bought a new set of speakers, and the winners are... Tannoy Reveals.


Tannoy Reveal Speaker

I got a pair at a good price from good old eBay, and they're sitting in their box waiting to become centrepieces of the new studio, such as it is. Apart from the great balance between sound quality, tonal range and price, they have a couple of other 'feelgood' bonuses. The Tannoy factory is about an hour's drive from here, so supporting local business is good. I went on a fantastic guided tour there back in my early days of getting interested in sound engineering and have two lasting memories. Firstly, getting to spend a few minutes in their anechoic chamber - a really weird feeling having NO echoes at all, and particularly disorientating when they shut off the lights (to complete darkness) and you realise how much of your balance is dictated by audio and visual cues. Secondly was getting a demo of their top-of-the-range speaker systems at full tilt - revealing a level of detail in the music that I simply hadn't heard through normal speakers.

Plus, what's good enough for Mr Keneally is good enough for me!

In other news - I have finished my theremin/ebow remix and look forward to hearing the final album - details to follow soon, I hope. I ended up submitting two versions - one with vocals and another without - on subsequent listenings the vocal-free version is more pleasing to the ear!