Music and Guitars

A Journal of Composing and Recording

Alan Van Wert A.I. Guitar Picking Program

This program is around $100.  Too much?  Not if it does as Alan claims.  He claims it will vastly improve my picking speed.  Considering that fact that I can pick straight 16th notes at 210 BPM or 14 notes per second I was intrigued.  It took me almost 2 weeks to pick my way through the 114 exercises the program has.  Then it told me what I needed to practice on.  A few I brought up to the programs goal speed on the first attempt.   The Artificial Intelligence come in as I hit new goals.  The program brought in other exercises I was slow in at my new average note-per-second speed.

My 2 weak spots are picking that involves string skips and mental blocks.   One mental area I have to work with is 16th note triplets that change strings on the 2nd or 3rd note of a group.  For example, picking 2 notes per string off of triplet or sextuplet rhythms.   Another area is playing certain string skip patterns like one-note per string but in this string order D-B-E (1ST STRING)-G-A-E(6TH STRING).  I have to slow way down so that I don’t lose track mentally, not because my right hand won’t pick accurately.

Anyway,   I hope to see so major progress over the next several weeks.

I have been decidedly unhappy with getting a good (let alone great) sound by trying to mic my amplifiers.  So last week I bought a used BOSS GT-001 Guitar Effect Processor/amp modeler off of eBay.  Got it Saturday.

I think it is going to work fine.  It has over 150 factory presets and patches for vocal and acoustic guitar.  Boss has a free tone studio which gives you a GUI on your computer monitor and even better control of this powerful processor.   Haven’t started recording with it yet, just playing with it right now.   More later.


The New Site is Finally Ready

I’ve completely redesigned My Guitar Sings and it looks great.   I spent most  of my time learning HTML so that I could make it do what I wanted, not what some program wanted.


Website Revamp, Benefit, Guitar Effects, and Other Stuff

Been away from this blog and my website for a over a week.  My time has been occupied by getting ready for the benefit gig Saturday Night, working on a friend’s 7-string,  and experimenting with guitar effects.  (Oh, and working on our deck.)   The guys I’m playing with Saturday want to practice 3 times this week.  works for me.

Having a good time messing around with HTML and Cascading Style Sheets.  Expression Web 4, while not Dreamweaver, is going to let me do more modern coding for my website.


Benefit gig, M.2 SSD, Mods to Furman Pedalboard, Expression Web 4

Been practicing with some others guys for a benefit gig at the end of the month.  Old rock.  My friend has two old tube head amps, a Laney and a Peavey that kick butt.  They’re a blast to play through.  He also has a Marshall 4×12 cab and another 4×12.

My M.2 SDD drive still hasn’t arrived.  I haven’t done much on HAL because, I intend to transfer Windows 10  and Sonar to it, once I have it installed.  Should have bought it off of Amazon, but I wanted to use some of my funds in Paypal.

I have always had problems using pedalboards playing live.  I sing a lot of songs while I am playing guitar and many of them require switching between effects during the song.   Tough to hit the right pedals when I have to keep singing in a microphone.  One solution that worked very well was a wireless headset, but I never liked singing through a headset mic.   Since I tend to used combo effects boards like the Boss ME-70 I came up with another option.  I bought an industrial double footswitch and wired it to the first 2 pedals on the ME-70 through a stereo phone jack I mounted on the side of the ME-70.   That works fairly well, since I can mount the footswitch to my right and it has a divider.

The other problem that a guitar player/singer has with pedal boards is that it requires the mic stands to always be set another 2 feet away from the singer.   Plus mounting the tripod legs so that the 3rd leg is pointing away from you so that the boom tends to overbalance even the heavier stands.

I opened my Furman board up.  There is a torroidal transformer mounted in the center top.   I am going to move it to the left.  That required removing one of the 3-prong AC outlets, but it will let me cut a 2″ gap in the center.  That will let me slide the third leg towards me across the board!

I’ve been spending my computer time researching html editors since Sharepoint Designer 2007 won’t let me add embedded mp3 or wave players.   I don’t want to shell out $300 for Dreamweaver, since I only have the one website.   Anyway,  I’ve started to learn to use Expression Web 4 which was Frontpage’s successor.   I cut my web teeth on Frontpage years ago.  And it has several media players.



Downloading software.

Entering day 2 of software installation.  There are pros and cons about CD-less software.  I see definite pros for the software companies:

  1.  No inventory
  2.  cuts CD production and mailing costs.

For the consumer I can think of:

  1. Instant access after purchase…no waiting on snailmail
  2.  I don’t have to remember where I stored the CDs.  🙂
  3.   You “should” get the latest upgrade with the installation.

I can’t see any cons for the company, but for the consumer there is a big one.   It sometimes takes hours and hours, and lots of bandwidth to get my software downloaded.

Anyway,  it has taken most of yesterday and I continue to download and install SONAR and its add-ons today.

When can I get back to the business of writing and producing music?


HAL Lives!

My studio is just about back together.


I started getting pieces/parts of my new studio PC, HAL, in the mail last Saturday.  Tuesday I had enough to start building it.  This project was the most high-tech, (and costly),  DIY project I’ve undertaken.   I was a bit nervous.  I spent a month researching and catching up on 10 years of technology, so  everything fit, worked together, etc.  HAL’s innards:

ASUS X99 PRO/USB3.01 Motherboard with an Intel 2011 V.3  CPU socket

  • 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 Expansion slots
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 Expansion slot
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1Expansion slot
  • Gigabit LAN
  • Dual Band WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio
  • 4 x USB 2.0 port (supports 8)
  • 6 x USB 3.0 ports (supports 10)
  • 2 x USB 3.1 Ports

Intel Core i7 5820K CPU

Hydro Series H105 Water cooler for CPU

Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 DRAM 2133MHz

Corsair RM1000 1000 Watt Modular Power supply

Corsair Obsidian Series 550D  Silent Case

EVGA GeForce GTX 960 Video board

SSD 850 EVO 2.5″ SATA III 500GB Solid State Drive

SAMSUNG 128 GB SSD  M.2 Gen3 x 4 NVME

2 x 2 TB Seagate ST2000 hard disk drives

Windows 10 Pro 64 bit

I didn’t have any real problems. There was one tense moment where I didn’t think the cooler’s radiator was going to fit past the motherboard, but it did.  Then  I couldn’t get the hardware RAID to work.   When I switched the hardware (in BIOS) to RAID, I could not make the SSD a bootable drive so Windows wouldn’t load.  I finally gave up after 6 hours or so.  Turns out I don’t need to use hardware RAID with this powerful machine – the CPU is more than fast enough to make the drive mirroring flawless and immediate.  I’m using two 2 Terabyte drives and letting Windows make duplicate files for data redundancy.

My M.2 SSD isn’t here yet.  I will need to migrate Windows 10 from the 500 GB SSD to the M.2 when I it get it installed.  I  intend to install Sonar and my other  important apps on the M.2 as well.  We’ll see if I really can tell the difference in speed.

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Sweetwater Gearfest 2016

The Sweetwater Gearfest in Fort Wayne, Indiana is billed as The World’s Largest and I believe it.   It is a HUGE event.  The store by itself is bigger than any other music store I’ve ever been in including Manny’s in NYC before it cloIsed in 2008.


It took us 4 hours just to walk through all the tents. There were over 350 venders there with 3 Pro Audio tents, a Drum tent, 3 Guitar tents, and others.

Sweetwater’s concert Pavilion is HUGE.

My nephew working on pro Yamaha audio/video DAW in the Yamaha Trailer. That’s close to a $100 Grand console he’s playing with.

I was fortunate to run into Craig Anderton briefly.

Craig Anderton

Guitar Player Magazine articles by Craig Anderton

Sound on Sound Magazine article by Craig Anderton


Recording Bass Guitar

Spent the afternoon setting up and recording the bass track to Demons and NIghtmares.  Demons is a song I wrote back in the 1990s about the Challenger disaster.   I record directly into the DAW, but will probable want to get some sort of hardware processor for the bass.

Changed a couple of bass parts, added a lead-in on the choruses, and a cool new bass riff for the finale.


Analog vs Digital Recording

TEAC A-3440 4 track 15 inch

The Analog World

I did a lot of home  recording with analog reel-to-reels.    You would practice your parts and then lay down the tracks.  I used a TEAC 3440 with 15″ reels recording at 15 inches per second (IPS).   With 4 tracks you could record 4 instruments in mono.   If you wanted to record more than 4 tracks you would dump the first 3 recorded tracks to the 4th track adding a 4 instrument or vocal in real time to that track.  You could then record 3 more tracks to the 4th.

You had limited means of editing and it was near impossible to do any editing to a track that had multiple tracks dumped to it.  You could record over a mistake or a bad track, or you cut and spliced a section of tape in or out.  Seriously,  you laid the 1/4″ tape on a special cutting block, sliced the tape with a razor blade at the beginning of the edit, sliced the tape at the end of the section, removed the unwanted section and then taped the 2 sections back together.

Splicing and Editing Block for 1/4" tape (Reel-to-Reel, 8 track & DVM MiniDV Tape) Splicing Block

This was all such a pain in the but that ignored minor blemishes in your recording or you paid a sound engineer BIG BUCKS to get the editing perfect.

Pros:  Lots of headroom.  If you occasionally spiked the signal levels too high,  it often wasn’t too noticeable.  Analog distortion doesn’t sound nearly as bad as overloading a digital signal which absolutely sounds like crap.  You probably could not afford lots of extra outboard gear like compressors, equalizers, limiters, reverbs, etc.  I used the spring reverb on my mixer or guitar amp,   This meant you spent a lot more time making music rather than playing with or learning how to use all the extra dodads.   Big reel-to-reel machines are also just fun to watch.   They were also incredibly easy to set up a signal chain and to troubleshoot signal problems not related to the internal workings of the recorder itself.

Cons:  $$$$$$$$  Even a simple 4 track machine like the TEAC was $1200 + in 1980 dollars.  Add the mixer, your guitars, mikes and you can see why I didn’t have many outboard effects unless I built them myself.  15″ tapes were $30.00 each.    Analog machines, and analog tape have a much higher noise floor than digital.  In other words, there was a lot of hiss built in.  Annoying and especially noticeable  with soft music.  The hiss builds up each time you bounce tracks to another track.   You had to deqauss the record and playback heads periodically and also clean them regularly.  You occasionally had to re-calibrate the heads.

The Digital World

Today, you can buy a PC and software for under $1200 in 2016 dollars that will do much more than my 4 track system back in 1975.   Recording software costing $400.00 will give you hundreds of tracks capable of recording analog sounds and sequencing them with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) instruments such as internal or external synthesizers and drums machines.   The Pros definitely outweigh the Cons.

Pros:  For all practical purposes, an unlimited number of tracks.   Thousands  of various effects, such as reverbs, equalizers, limiters, expanders, compressors, etc.  Thousands of instruments like pianos, organs, orchestral instruments, ethic instruments, etc.  Extremely easy and accurate editing.  Cut , copy and paste with simple mouse movements.

Cons:  If you redline a signal there is no forgiveness.   It distorts with a terrible sound.   Learning curves on most software.  Each update tends to cause changes that you have to learn.   Too many choices!!!   You must be careful to weigh what you want to learn about the software vs.  what you want to create musically.  You can literally spend all your time playing with and tweaking the software.

No I would not want to go back to the analog recording days.  I can produce much higher quality stereo recording than I ever could before.  But, since I am still my own recording engineer, producer, song writer/composer, and musician(s) I do get less actual music recorded.



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