Author Archives: solarno

I can see the finish line

It’s so close I can taste it.  Here it is 1am and I just finished the first go-round of mastering on all eleven tracks.  No, I didn’t do them all tonight.  The brain couldn’t handle it.  All eleven were done over the course of the last week, eeking out a few minutes here and there when I could find the time.

Just for fun I took a picture (attached) of some of my album notes.  You probably can’t read much, but here’s a brief rundown of what you’ll see:  Track names; BPM; early mastering notes; RMS volume info.  For this album I’m paying a lot more attention to the RMS volume values.  Previous mastered works of mine worked primarily off of the peak volume values with strong limiting to increase perceived volume.  This time, with quite a bit more knowledge and experience I’ve switched to RMS values.  I find that it allows a more balanced volume level throughout a track, and across multiple tracks.

I also taught myself the power of mid/side processing tonight.  It’s like audio control in 15 dimensions, or something like that.  No matter how dimensions it works in, it’s a very powerful way of manipulating sound and controlling where it sits in the soundfield.  Minor adjustments just using the side component for frequency enhancement seemed to really open up a couple of tracks, allowing more breathing room for the mid-range freqs.  I’ll give all the tracks a good listen on fresh ears tomorrow to see how I did, and I’m prepared for one more go-round of minor tweaking and polishing.  I also have to finalize a couple of blended transitions between tracks.  Once that is finished it will be time to dump all of the tracks into Waveburner for the final album master.

Then I can do the album artwork.
Then I can prep for CDBaby.
Then I can send off a master for duplication.
Then I can be excited again when finished CDs show up my house.
Then I can sleep.

2008: Hope on a Rope

The highly anticipated new album from Solarno is nearly finished!

In the works for close to 18 months, I have been feverishly putting the final touches on my second album, Robot Junkyard. I expect to have a release date scheduled within the next month.  

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Bedtop mobile studio surgery

I had the wonderful opportunity to perform a surgical procedure on my mobile studio this evening, and by mobile studio I mean my trusty Macbook Pro.  A few months ago, my trusty studio took an unfortunate cliff dive off of a shelf with a cable in the left side USB port.  Sadly, the USB cable was no longer attached when I arrived on the scene to render medical assistance, and in its place was the mangled, twisted wreckage of one-time pristine I/O port.  I tried to revive the USB port, but even after bringing out the paddles, it refused to live, so I’ve had to exist with only one functioning USB port on the right side.  Most of the time this is not an issue, but occasionally, like when I’m lying in bed and I wish to have my monitor pre-amp plugged in, I need the left side USB.

I finally decided that it was time to do something about  the dead port so I started searching for a place to repair my wounded studio and I stumbled upon a website called iFixit.  I now love this site.  Not only did they have the replacement part I needed, they also had well photographed, step-by-step instructions on how to fix it myself.  After mulling over the costs for a couple of days, $130 including I/O board, tools, and freight, I decided to take the plunge and attempt open-case surgery on my laptop.  Parts ordered Thursday, and after waiting anxiously all day, parts delivered on Friday.

The kitchen table was already sequestered for random junk, so I decided to create a makeshift M*A*S*H facility on my bed.  I had ample light, a laid out light blue pillow case as a place for equipment and parts, and a quick borrowing of an IVAR shelf from my studio rig made for a solid surgical bed.  Now I wa ready to open up the patient.

Even though I’ve not had any previous reservations about opening up and working on any other computer I’ve owned, I was apprehensive about this one.  A laptop, where every nook and cranny is utilized, is quite different from the seemingly expansive insides of a desktop G3 or even my iMac.  Thankfully the well written instructions from iFixit made the operation a piece of cake.  Apparently, replacing the left I/O board is one of the most time intensive and difficult medical procedures on a MacBook Pro, but moving ahead slowly and deliberately for each step had the entire process done in about one hour, and that was with a couple of pauses to go check NCAA basketball tourney scores. (Go Wolverines and Zags!)

After surgery was complete, I fired up the laptop, started Logic, and plugged a midi controller into the now mended USB port.  I pressed a pad on the controller and the sound of moving electrons emitted from the speakers of my laptop.  Surgery was a success!

I am very happy with my new I/O ports, and even though I won’t be wary of mending my laptop again, I hope I don’t have to.

Cover songs can be a tricky proposition

I recently made a list of songs that I plan on doing cover versions of.  It’s hard to determine what songs will be worthwhile to put one’s own personal take on.

  • The first criteria, and possibly the easiest to determine, is the obvious one, do I like the song.  Almost seems like a no brainer, but if it’s not one of my favorite songs why cover it.
  • The second criteria I looked at was does the song invoke an emotional response in me.  If I don’t have an emotional connection to a song, why would I attempt a cover of it.  The original artist created the song for a reason, the least I can do is have a reason with more substance to it than “it’s got a good beat and I can dance to it”.
  • Criteria three?  Will this song translate into my style of music?  That’s a tough one.  I’m pretty sure that the songs I’ve chosen so far will adapt to my brand of music, but really I won’t know until I start laying the tracks down.  To me, the best covers treat the original song with respect, but seamlessly infuse the covering musician’s style into the original intent.  The new artist makes it their own.  If I want to listen to someone do an exact copy of the original, I’ll listen to the original.
  • The fourth stop on the criteria train is popularity of the song.  Now I’m not saying one should cover only an artists most popular songs, actually in some cases quite the opposite.  I absolutely love Blue Monday by New Order, and it fits the first three criteria almost perfectly, but there have been so many covers done of it due to its popularity that I just don’t have an interest in doing my own version at this time.  On the other hand, another song I’ve chosen to try my hand at happens to be one of the most popular (and covered) songs by a particular band. I think this may be due to a particularly strong emotional bond I have with this song.  Like I said, this can be a tricky process.
  • A fifth criteria would be how will the fan base of the original song respond to the cover.  This is another tricky one.  In some cases the cover is so different that the original fan base may not even be a concern as I’m aimed in a totally different direction.  Sometimes the fan bases overlap, and again, I want to respectful towards the original, and it’s fans.  But, this is music afterall, and frankly you can’t please everyone with everything.  The fanbase I’m aimed at may think my cover sucks, but the fans of the original may think its a fantastically fresh take on their world.  Or just the opposite.  Or everyone hates it.  Or everyone loves it.  You just never know.
  • Finally, the sixth criteria, which dovetails into the fifth one to a certain extent, is how would the original artist respond to the cover.  As an artist myself, I feel that I should handle another artists work with the utmost respect.  It is their sweat and emotion that went into the original, and I am merely adding my own twist to it, but I know I would not like to hear one of my songs done in a blatantly grotesque manner, ill-fitting of the original intent of the song.

That’s pretty much it  I’ll keep you updated as to the progress of my covers.