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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maximum Reverb (Goes To 11)

So among my many journeys, I have ended up at Blockhead Radio - - a couple of times in the last few weeks and I tell you - it is awesome! It's not just that they treat me like a king, playing my music everytime I come in. They treat all their artists and artisans like kings and queens. It's rare that you find a podcast, blog, or social network arena so committed to community as Blockhead Radio. Rod, Huck, and their crew are devoted to promoting their chosen folk and are fiercely and proudly committed to independents of all stripes. I count myself as proud and lucky to be one of their peeps! Shout out :-)

Rod did a feature on me a couple Fridays ago and asked me to blog about something that came up. I told him that I used to record vocals in the bathroom because of the natural reverb; an old 4-track trick for those of us with no reverb units. In college and shortly thereafter, all my recording was done on a cassette-based Tascam Portastudio. My dad called the company and got me a new one after I broke my first one. We lied to get the 2nd one lol told them it just fell apart mysteriously but really I dropped it. Certain kinds of lying were ok with my parents. More on that later.

Anyway, naturally reverberant spaces have been used since the dawn of human civilization for art and music. Greek amphitheatres were specifically designed for maximum acoustic efficiency, usually in bowl-shaped valleys ideal for the purpose. Go to one, and you can still hear a person talking from the stage unamplified. My a cappella group in college used to practice in the chapel, the library lobby, and stand under this weird hollow in the arts center to get the best echo. I am now going to draw a straight line from ancient Greece to the bathroom. My songwriting partner in crime around this same time suggested we record our vocals in the echoey tunnel underneath our dorm. I still have these recordings; may actually post some of these just for kicks. The majority of my bathroom recordings were done in Long Beach Island the summer after I returned from Europe (1994). Known as "The Bathroom Tapes". Also used this technique when recording Death and Texas on the road (specifically Lost In The Mausoleum), although by this time I did have the luxury of Real Time Audio Suite plug-ins which had some nice Lexicon reverbs and echos.

Jumping ahead, I actually met a singer in a great cover band recently who told me that no one should use reverb on vocals except for Steve Perry and Celine Dion. He preferred delay. 1) Those were his examples of the "greatest singers ever"? 2) Also, said singer (while fairly talented) uses a pitch-shifter on his vocals live. Nuff said.

There is truly nothing like a reverberent natural space. Artists in the rock and roll era have come up with some pretty interesting alternatives - Duane Eddy used an old septic tank (miked the guitar amp, ran the mic through to a speaker in the tank and then recorded that sound), and Berry Gordy lined the attic at Motown with tinfoil, cut a hole in the ceiling, and had the singers stand under the hole. You can go to the Motown Museum, stand under the hole, and sing Ooh Baby Baby - sounds just like the record! Or at least the echo does lol. I know from experience.

I am actually contemplating lining the top level of my garage with tinfoil and attempting the same. But if we ever sell the house, I'll have to rip it all down. So...thank God for RTAS plug-ins! It's insane ideas like this that usually get me in trouble and are probably the reason for the huge loss reported to the IRS last year. Refund will go to a new hot water heater - maybe I could use the old one for reverb?

Many projects to finish up - my kids TV scoring reel, the CD we promised mom-in-law for Christmas, a MIDI piano project for a friend, my website alterations, a new business plan for the next year, my kids CD, my next grownups' CD, new band members to break in, etc etc. Honestly don't know where the money going to come from next year, but I have some ideas and strategies about how to at least increase my income. More on that later.

The other thing (and main reason that I'm glad my taxes are done) is that I have been OBSESSED with MONEY. It is making me into Gollum. I sit there and caress my measly tip dollars and gig money in my night cave and hiss "Preciousssssssssssss". I took a webinar on using Twitter to increase your business income with the Barefoot Executive - - and there was great stuff all through the 3 sessions. However, right at the end I heard EXACTLY what I needed to hear which is: "Are you doing this to get rich and famous, or are you doing this to get heard, to bring value to people's lives?" Now, artistically, I had made my peace with rich and famous a long time ago (you don't strap on a harmonica holder and acoustic guitar in 1994 to be a millionaire). But now I have a family, and I want to be the provider, the breadwinner, and show how smart, creative, talented, and brilliant I am to them by the amount of money I bring in. After all, I have people I went to school with who I used to run academic rings around that make more money than I can even imagine. Some of them were born into it, though, so that doesn't count.

It has been all about money for the past year, and I have been going OUT OF MY FREAKIN MIND. Not to mention the fact that I have been difficult to live with and be around because I am like Captain Ahab seeking the white whale. So I am turning over a new leaf, more in line with my core values. I am resolving here in this semi-public forum NOT TO OBSESS ABOUT WHERE THE NEXT DOLLAR IS COMING FROM. If my Higher Power which I choose to call the Easter Bunny is really there in that Great Rabbit Warren inside me, then as long as I do the next right thing I am going to be taken care of. I may end up sitting on a pile of ashes, but I guarantee there will be a broom.

I am going to sit down, write a new business plan for my current investors who hopefully will re-up for the next year, contemplate a way that YOU, dear reader, can be involved if you so choose, and try to deliver as much musical value inside my little fingers and skull as is Huffly possible. I am going to figure out a way to achieve some kind of financial stability so that I am not so worried all the time AND figure out a way to produce more content because although I have been a full-time musician in the last year, so much has been about money and learning business and yadda yadda yadda. Mike Masnick - - says in his blog that he doesn't like business models that rely on "setting out a tip jar and praying." I think that undermines the power of prayer. The Great Spirit (call it God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Fred, Ziggy, or Ethel but just don't call It late for dinner) is there for all of us if we access it. I am going to come up with a tighter plan, but in the meantime the tip jar is there and I am not too proud to get on my knees, be thankful for what I have, and pray for guidance to help make these decisions. Also, $200,000 would be nice.

LOL The last therapist I had said that I was hard on myself and high-strung. YA THINK?????

How about you? Are you freaking out? Lots of things in the world are in shift. Where's your natural reverb?


  1. I'm rolling... Celine... one of the greatest singers? (walks away chuckling at the chucklehead who said that)

  2. I almost spit out my club soda - spit take!

  3. me obsessive? never

    steve who?

    huffdaddy is king at BHR. I respect Chris and his music so much I won't even sing-a-long with it..(at least not in public)...and that's a huge compliment.

  4. If I had the $200,000 to throw at someone to make me smile you'd head up the list. I'm howling w/ laughter right now! And the "where's your natural reverb"... when you decide to switch to coaching I'll be your first client!

  5. lol thanks Dixie - I'd catch it!

    I have actually put ads on Craigslist to coach musicians...maybe one of these days will pursue it more...

  6. Chris, i admit you lost me on the music speak..I'll get DH to explain later... (he plays guitar in the few moments he can steal away in the garage--is it blasphemous that he must play it with headphones so he doesn't disturb the monkeys?)
    BUt you are the MAN and i 100% applaud your new leaf and wish you MUCH success bc I have no doubt you can succeed no matter what!!
    I"ll have you know, we play your music not just when you show up! LOL :) You know we love ya at BHR...
    and for anyone else...remember you heard Chris sing "Happy Birthday" on Mom's Cafe first! :) Oh and chris, one of my friends was there that night and told me later, "Amy, WHO was that who sung Happy Birthday? He was AWESOME! He had a beautiful voice!" See!!! :) (go stalk her..i sense a CD sale...! No she doesn't sell cheese or chocolate.....


    Chapter one done..

    BTW..Was I the only one who got the "goes to 11" comment?????? My cat is named Nigel...:)
    "What's wrong with being sexy?"

    ~~Mama possum

  7. oh and rod, so will u share your crown for huffdaddy when he comes in chat? :)