Adrian Sakashita's Music The musical stylings of Adrian B. Sakashita Fri, 21 Jun 2013 05:59:37 +0000 en hourly 1 2006-2009 (Adrian B. Sakashita) (Adrian B. Sakashita) posts 1440 The musical stylings of Adrian B. Sakashita Adrian B. Sakashita Adrian B. Sakashita No no Adrian Sakashita's Music 144 144 New Yamaha CP1 – Could this be the one? Thu, 21 Jan 2010 00:37:48 +0000 Adrian Was it just me, or did any of you feel that 2009 was uneventful in terms of new technology introductions? It seems that the tide may be turning, however, as we’ve just concluded the NAMM show here in Southern California.

For me, the new Yamaha CP1 is amongst the most exciting product announcements, and I felt compelled to share what I’ve found to date given that so many of my readers are keyboard aficionados!   Hell, we’ve been carrying on a wonderful discussion about the Roland GX for nearly two years!

Yamaha CP1

The new CP1 is the flagship “no compromise” model of the newly released CP line. The early read would indicate that this could possibly be the best of all worlds – latest acoustic modeling technology putting the sounds on par with the Roland V-Piano, a brand new killer action called NW-STAGE with real wooden keys putting the authenticity of the action on par with the Kawai MP8, and just enough multi-zone midi control to make it equally versatile on stage and in studio like the Roland RD700GX… Could it be possible?

I’m very open to the possibility and can’t wait to try one out – the street price appears to be approximately $5,000 (USD) which is far from trivial, but given the specifications, not surprising and slightly under the Roland V-Piano. What strikes me about the CP1 (vs. the V-Piano) is that it appears to be a bit more versatile in the MIDI realm. The V-Piano is sorely lacking in terms of MIDI control and it’s a huge heavy beast. The CP1 is much tidier, weighs nearly 20lbs less, and has an acceptable range of MIDI controls (4 zones; 2 internal, 2 external).

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My take on the Mac vs. PC debate for Music Thu, 03 Sep 2009 04:43:11 +0000 Adrian First, my apologies for being MIA with respect to posting frequency of late.  Suffice it to say that I’ve been fairly busy the past few months, and I’ve neither had the time nor proper mindset for my music mistress…  So, I’ve been using this “time out” to deeply consider my options for migrating my studio onto (one of) the looming 64-bit platform choices: Windows 7 vs. Mac OSX (Snow Leopard 10.6 and beyond).   While I personally feel that the first few years of stable 64-bit computing will provide an evolutionary (vs. revolutionary) improvement, there is still enough benefit to make the move worthwhile.  Besides, if you’ve like me, and have been patiently hanging around in Windows XP, your hardware is likely approaching its end of life.   Therefore, you’re next upgrade will likely dip your toe into 64-bit waters ready or not!

Given then that a hardware upgrade is in many of our futures, it’s understandable that PC users are more tempted than ever to switch to a Mac.

Apple has clearly leveled the playing field in terms of price-performance, and continues to garner market share while Microsoft has only recently acknowledged its Windows Vista debacle.   As luck would have it, I was forced into this decision recently with my business machine, and felt what better way to help my dilemma than give the Mac a try in my work life first – realizing that a laptop migration is far less complex than a music studio retrofit!  So I made the switch to a Macbook Pro for business, and most recently upgraded to Snow Leopard (Mac OSX 10.6) and couldn’t be happier.  Without question – the Mac is a superior piece of kit with an unmatched price-performance ratio.


So why not do the same for my music studio?   Well, I’m thinking about it! But as of now, I view these as very different scenarios.  For work, mobility and multi-tasking are extremely important to me.   And, with desktop virtualization, I can have the best of both worlds on the Mac.  In the studio, my workflow mostly centers around a single application, my DAW.  I require no mobility because I choose not to take my music on the road and my collaboration with other musicians is done over the Internet.

For me, switching to the Mac for music would be justified only if driven by a change of DAW software.  Why?  Because most leading DAW applications are, unfortunately, tied to either the Mac or Windows platform.   For better or for worse, that’s one of the reasons why I opted for Cubase many moons ago; Cubase is one of few supported on both.   Whether professional or amateur, we invest heavily in our DAW relationship; and like any long-term relationship, it ain’t always pretty.   Regardless of your choice, you’ve likely contemplated greener pastures along the way, but I believe a “better solution” today ultimately morphs into “different challenges” tomorrow.

I find it helpful to pose this question: Would a Mac (and/or alternate DAW) help me make better music or make music better?

Forcing that perspective has kept me grounded – and not become distracted by an endless pursuit of perfect technology.  So for all the accolades I can now officially bestow upon the Mac, it’s neither helped me to write a good post, nor has it made it easier to write.  Would it be any different with music?   Or should I say, contribute enough improvement to justify the time and investment to switch?   In my opinion way too much energy is expended upon senseless debate of superior tool or platform.   It’s simply not a binary question; the answer is extremely situational and highly dependent on your workflow and what you’re trying to accomplish.  So until someone can prove to me that the choice of platform materially affects the quality of the end-product, the music, I’m going to do my best to stay grounded with regards to my studio technology refresh.   What are your thoughts?

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Last of my remixes with Mischief Sun, 31 May 2009 15:14:19 +0000 Adrian It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally completed the remix work on the prior tunes by replacing the “synthesized” brass and winds with real thing.  Once again, many thanks to Danny Flam and!

This is Mischief – the very first tune written way back in early 2006… Must admit, it’s interesting to work on the old stuff because so much has changed in my technique and approach since then – I’d like to think for the better.  So our next step is to send the last three tunes off to Mastering and then they’ll be no excuse for not writing NEW MUSIC…

New music has been slow going as of late as the day job has been getting in the way… but as with anything, absence makes the heart grow fonder so I’m sincerely looking forward to crafting some of the many riffs I have going in the background into something cohesive.   In other words, more to follow, and yes – you can hold me to that!

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To Play or Not to Play Sat, 16 May 2009 19:42:45 +0000 Adrian I think about this topic a lot because I see many people around me who are fearful and/or frustrated with their lives.  Worse, I’m reminded by some that I can’t possibly relate because I’m one of those fortunate ones that supposedly has the time and resources to PLAY – I humbly disagree, but I understand the argument.

I wish I could tell you that I did so at that time with the insight shared by Dr. Stuart Brown in his presentation below…   For me, it was much more fundamental:  I might have been outwardly successful, but I sure wasn’t having much fun – and therefore, wasn’t very happy.  So, I simply rebelled against the establishment.

Since then, I’ve become far more aware of the relationship between Productivity, Creativity, and Happiness – and I’ve come to believe that PLAY underpins it all. It is indeed a strange paradox…  But during times like these, I feel it is more important than ever to embrace this and raise the level of awareness.

The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them – Albert Einstein

Unfortunately, this approach is counter-intuitive to many cultures and organizations – the USA being the foremost example.   But the “treadmill” of modern society doesn’t prevent you from making your own choices, from writing your own “life song” so to speak.  Dr. Brown explains how and why this is so important in the video below.   His presentation runs for nearly 30-minutes so I realize that’s asking for a lot given today’s norm; but trust me, it’s worth every minute of your attention.  Besides, it’s the weekend here in “Sunny So CAL” and I’m itching to get out and PLAY!

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Music, Wellness, and You Wed, 13 May 2009 02:42:26 +0000 Kimberly

It is a great pleasure to introduce everyone to Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, NMT, MT-BC.  Kimberly and I became acquainted on Twitter, and I found myself so intrigued by her stated profession – Music Therapy – that I asked her to consider developing a series of guest posts – and she kindly accepted with great enthusiasm!

What is Music Therapy?

“So, what do you do?”

“I’m a music therapist.”


“Really?  Music therapy?  What’s that…?”

I have had that exchange hundreds of times, and have gotten pretty good at giving an “elevator pitch” on music therapy.  It goes something like this:

“Well, we use music to help people.  How we help them depends on whom we work with. We can use the rhythm in music to help a stroke victim re-learn how to walk and talk. We can use music and music-based experiences to help a child with autism practice pro-social skills and learn how to communicate. We can use music to help reduce pain and anxiety in cancer patients and to help trauma-influenced children heal.”

Most people, when they hear the words “music therapy” are curious and want to learn more. I feel this is because most of us are touched by music. We have deep emotional connections to certain songs.  Maybe hearing a certain tune on the radio reminds you of your first love.  We have our songs we turn to when we feel angry, sad, or happy.  And music has deep cultural ties for us. What to you think of when you hear “Pomp and Circumstance” or “Here Comes the Bride”?  Most people feel music’s influence and therefore have an intuitive understanding that music can be used as therapy.

So, what can it do for you or a loved one?  Consider the following:

  1. First, if you need any type of therapy (physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, speech therapy), look into music therapy as an alternative, or complement, to what you are receiving. In the United States, you can find a music therapist through our certification board here. We can use music and music-based experiences to address the same goals other therapists target. It’s noninvasive, safe, and fun! And you do not need to be a musician to be involved in music therapy.
  2. Be conscious about ways you can use music in your life. You can make specific decisions on how to use music to improve your overall wellness and quality of life and wellness. For example, listening to music you like can reduce stress. A report came out on CNN recently about a doctor who used imaging techniques and found that listening to music you like opens up your blood vessels, improving circulation and reducing your stress level. Feeling stressed? Turn up your favorite tune!
  3. Have kids? Enroll them in some sort of music lessons. This can be piano lessons, band class, choir, or orchestra. Study after study have shown that music training improves intelligence in a variety of ways: verbal skills, math skills, motor coordination, and memory functioning. Want your child to be a doctor or lawyer? Most medical and law schools really, really like having students who received a music degree.

Interested in learning more?  A more thorough definition is available on my blog or here for more technical information Or, feel free to contact me.  Happy listening!

About Kimberly

Kimberly Sena Moore is a board-certified music therapist who specializes in trauma and attachment, neurorehabilitation, special needs, and medical therapy treatment. She has advanced training in Neurologic Music Therapy and is active in the music therapy professional locally, regionally, and nationally. Kimberly manages Neurosong Music Therapy Services,  and blogs at  Or, you can follow her, as do I, on Twitter!


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A New Take on an Old Tune Mon, 20 Apr 2009 07:21:10 +0000 Adrian Just a quick post to share the newly updated version of one of my early tunes, Scaramouche!   As mentioned, I’ve been working with my friends at New York Brass to provide “live record” brass and wind orchestrations/recordings for each of my tunes, and we’re almost finished – just one more after this.

I gave them quite a bit of creative license on this one because I was still learning how to use a MIDI wind-controller back when I wrote and recorded this tune; as usual they didn’t disappoint.  For comparison, you can listen to the original version still loaded in the Player Widget above; I won’t be replacing it until we finish the last tune and send them out for mastering.

Separate note, turns out Danny Flam (from New York Brass) is visiting Southern California on business this week so we get the pleasure of meeting in person!  This is an amazing new world we live in where so much can be done “virtually”…  but when the opportunity presents itself, face-to-face is always preferred.

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Time Out for some New Brass! Tue, 17 Mar 2009 06:21:24 +0000 Adrian I must admit, I was a tad bit skeptical that Danny (at could do much with this one because there’s lots going on in this fusion tune!   But, he and the boys didn’t disappoint – at least in my opinion!   Here is a quick and dirty remix of the tune after adding their tracks: a brass and horn ensemble and a solo alto sax:

I was particularly impressed with the sax solo and how it interweaves with the lead guitar, and crescendo on the brass ensemble during “Verse 2″ is delicious!   And what about that ending?

No question about it, I’ll have these guys kick some brass into the remaining tunes from my “immense catalog” (Mischief and Scaramouche :)  and keep you posted.  In the mean time, YES, I do have some new music underway and it’s going to be my first published piece in an odd-time signature.  I suppose one of these days I’ll get around to writing a nice mellow solo piano tune – perhaps even record it on my Steinway since she’s not getting the attention she deserves lately.    Like many of you, I’ve been mildly distracted by the challenged economy as of late, but doing this work tonight has reminded me that every now and then, we need a Time Out!

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How Smart is your Music? Wed, 11 Mar 2009 01:48:34 +0000 Adrian I stumbled upon a recent article that I wanted to share…  Apparently, a CalTech Ph.D. student and hacker extraordinaire, Virgil Griffith, has conducted an interesting study which relates music preferences to SAT scores.  If nothing else, it’s an amusing illustration, and not surprisingly most bands sit within the 1000 to 1150 score range because that’s fairly representative of average scores for college bound students – if memory serves me correct.

For me, the problem with this inferred relationship between intelligence and musical preference is that intelligence remains relatively static in relation to musical preference(s), which evolve over time.  For example, Jazz is listed on the low-end of the spectrum – but clearly, the majority of jazz aficionados are well beyond an age bracket coping with SAT scores.  And, with all due respect to Beethoven hovering alone in the rare air of north of 1350, if you’re obsessed with Ludwig at this age, you probably need to get a life and savor your youth!   I’m also intrigued by the apparent gap between 1250 and 1350 – how can that be so?   I hope that doesn’t imply being “tasteless” because that’s about where yours truly landed :(



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Coping with Large Moronic Music Retailers Tue, 10 Feb 2009 06:27:19 +0000 Adrian In the words of Chris Anderson, blogger extraordinaire and author of The Long Tail:

“Never underestimate the power of a million amateurs with the keys to the factory”

Within the realm of music production,  modern technology has indeed democratized tools once only accessible by professionals, and the consequences have been nothing short of extraordinary.  I know for a fact that the power and affordability of modern technology is one of the main reasons I passionately reconnected with music after nearly a 15-year hiatus.   Amateurs like myself do this for the love of it (after all, the word “amateur” is derived from the Latin amator, “lover”, from amare, “to love”).  And, we will continue to play a vital role in the music technology industry because, collectively, we amateurs represent the majority of the market!

All good and well, but what if you’re just getting started, or like me, getting back into it after a long time away?   Where the hell do you begin?  Putting aside the challenges of rebuilding your playing skills, there remains a substantial learning curve to acquire the additional skills and tools necessary for high-quality music production.  Sure, you can go a certain distance with freebie stuff – like GarageBand – but you’ll likely outgrow these before too long, and find yourself swimming in a sea of pro- audio equipment choices…

No problem right?  Just venture into your local professional audio/music retailer and you’ll receive exceptional guidance and professional consultative support, no?  I mean after all, we’re talking about PRO-AUDIO gear, this is a whole different ballgame than the moronic level of service you find inside of consumer electronics superstores, right?   Unfortunately, not!

Here are some vivid testimonials that pretty much illustrate today’s reality: is perhaps the world’s largest online community for musicians and producers alike – here you’ll find everyone from famous Grammy Award winning producers to beginning students.  The common ground: sharing insights about music technology and studio design.  But here’s something else you’ll find if you venture into GearSlutz’s Moan Zone section:  By far, and I mean by a healthy margin, the single most viewed topic and ongoing discussion thread is none other than Stupid Things You’ve Been Told at Guitar Center! This is not the first thread of its kind, but this one has been growing for over a year, and now has over 88,000 views and 873 contributing posts! To put it in perspective, the #2 thread has just over 15,000 views and 305 posts, and that’s just as of this writing.   What this tells me is that my own experience with large equipment retail chains is far from unique.

A slippery slope lies ahead for the impassioned amateur musician setting out to build even a modest home studio.

Take a read through some of these posts and you’ll not only be seriously entertained, but also dismayed.  How is it that the largest music equipment retailer (here in the US) can get away with such dismal sentiments from the most experienced and authoritative segment of the market?  The answer unfortunately is that there’s are a lot more unknowingly ignorant consumers, or even worse naive parents of budding young musicians, than there are “connoisseurs” that comprise the likes of  As entry-level consumers continue to fill the market, large retailers rely less on “upper-end” prosumers.  This trend, of course, begins with the manufacturers; today top-end stuff is more likely to be produced by a niche company, such as Bricasti and Barefoot Audio (two of my indispensable favorites) using niche distribution channels such as VintageKing and powerful word-of-mouth marketing.

While the tools have been democratized, quality has been crapetized

So anyone embarking on this journey must proceed with caution.  Fortunately, you can do lots of homework on sites like GearSlutz, and I would highly recommend everyone begin there.  If you’re reading this post, you’re likely already aware of this “market gap” – bravo!   My additional recommendation is to hire professional help.  In the present economic climate, there’s lot of talent that would gladly lend a hand for relatively modest fees.   Start by following the posts of frequent authoritative contributors and when you find someone with the expertise you’re seeking, write them a “private message” requesting help – more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!  In my view, there are only two choices: spend money or invest money – they are not same.

The Links section (right sidebar) lists the online forums I frequent – I suggest you try some of them, and if you have any recommendations, let’s discuss!

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Studio Ergonomics Tue, 03 Feb 2009 07:14:07 +0000 Adrian I’m presently noodling with some new riffs which may see the light of day – eventually!  In the mean time, as promised, more posts regarding gear and studio design.  As I contemplated where to start, I realized that my previous “gear posts” mostly focused on new stuff which, in many cases, was acquired to replace less than desirable stuff.  So this time, I’m going to highlight instead what has stood the test of time inside my studio!

Like many of you, my sanctuary has been a work in progress… In fact, I prefer to call it a “journey” rather than a project because if held to even the most liberal boundaries of project management, mine would be an abject failure in terms of being “on time and on budget”.   For nearly 3 (expensive) years, I churned through loads of gear, only to settle on premium professional products to replace more crap than I care to describe.  Thankfully, my studio has been relatively “stable” now for the past few years; not bad considering the pace of today’s product lifecycles!

So what’s stood the test of time?  Well, oddly enough the most senior item in my studio (besides me) isn’t even an instrument!  It’s my studio mix desk – the Argosy Dual 15K – or as Argosy likes to call it, the “Rocket Ship”…

Home studios usually have limited space and a purpose built mix desk not only maximizes your space and ergonomics, it provides the framing for your work environment.  Yes, there are many less costly alternatives, including DIY; but looking back on it, I’m convinced this thing has paid for itself many times over.  For one, we naturally “fill” the space we have at our disposal right?  How many empty spaces do you ever see in a woman’s designer shoe closet?   Rack spaces are the male equivalent, I’m afraid…  The Argosy desk has forced me into a “less is more” mode while still allowing me to fit a reasonable amount of gear into a relatively small space.  Oh yeah, and compared to cheaper alternatives, it looks uber cool.  To this day, I am still inspired to man the rocket ship!


I’ve also added a few customizations along the way.  To begin with, I’ve always preferred to use an outboard mixer as the interface into my DAW.  This, too, has proven to be a valuable long-term decision, and I’ll expand on that in a future post.   The Argosy Dual15 provides an abundant surface directly behind the keyboard/master controller, and Argosy sells an adjustable control surface shelf (the MPX) that fits into this space.  But, it’s designed for smaller light-weight control surfaces – which the Yamaha O2r96 is not!   So instead, I had them precision cut the MPX shelf so that the Yamaha O2r96 could be receded – just like you see in other custom consoles.  The mixer is heavy enough that it’s not going to move around, but I support it with a pair of Auralex loudspeaker isolation risers – these provide a stable cushion for the O2r96 and just enough “lift” to allow the the mixer to peep through the MPX shelf, as you can see in the photos.   Next, I secured the MPX shelf from the rear of the desk to provide added stability and balance to support an additional extension I attached to the front for my keyboard and mouse.  I wish I could say this was an engineered design – in reality I experimented with different approaches before settling on what you see below – but it works like a charm and it’s very stable.  The other benefit is that I now find myself relatively comfortable combing the aisles of Home Depot.


The next challenge was positioning my LCD monitors.   Until recently, anything north of a 20” monitor was fairly heavy.  I began with another Argosy accessory, their “Fly Bridge”, a plank which sits across the left and right rack risers (as shown on the Argosy site).   The Fly Bridge is fine for lighter, smaller monitors but was unable to support the weight of larger screens – but even worse, the viewing distance was causing excessive eye strain so you can bet I wanted those 30” LCDs once they became affordable.   But how to solve the problem of supporting REALLY large monitors while getting them close enough to comfortably view at high resolution?   One more consideration: I live in California and the earth moves from time to time out here…

Thankfully, Ergotron came to the rescue with a semi-custom solution that enables me to float my dual monitors right above my mixer!   Go to virtually any hospital and you’ll likely see Ergotron hardware providing industrial-grade mounting solutions (for computers and the like…).  Ergotron provided me with a massive steel “Command Post” that I surface mounted onto my floor.   The Command Post was essential because wall mounting simply would not have brought the monitors to an ideal viewing distance; beyond that, I have  acoustic treatment directly behind my desk – not suitable for mounting LCDs.  An Ergotron dual monitor arm (HD 45) was mounted onto the Command Post thereby allowing me to precisely adjust the height and distance of my dual 30” HP LP3065 monitors.  If you’re going down this road, I strongly recommend visiting their website and reviewing compatible “VESA” compatible monitors.  Perhaps to no surprise, this solution ended up costing as much as the monitors themselves, but what’s the point of investing in high-resolution monitors if you can’t position them, and hence view them, optimally?

Last, but not least the gluteus control surface, aka chair.   Because of the reach and overall elevation (when you consider the height of the mixer, monitors, etc) and that, as a piano player, you want to sit proportionately correct to the keyboard, the recently introduced Aeron work stool… basically a “taller” version of the iconic Aeron was introduced just in time!  Without the Aeron, all of the above would have literally remained “out of reach” so this was the last piece of the puzzle…

My Solution in a Nutshell:

  1. Argosy Console Dual 15K – a fantastic mix desk specifically designed to support an 88-key controller/keyboard at its center…  Another great supplier is Custom Consoles – particularly for larger-scale environments – I’ll talk more about them shortly because I use their IsoBox technology to house my computers and an assortment of other (non-instrument) rack gear.
  2. Customized solution to frame/recede my Yamaha O2r96 based on the Argosy MPX mix shelf
  3. Customized extension added to the secured Argosy MPX to support keyboard and mouse above my keyboard/master controller
  4. Customized Ergotron solution to “float” dual 30” LCD monitors for optimal viewing distance and height from my mix position
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Know Music, Know Life Tue, 27 Jan 2009 06:02:00 +0000 Adrian Hard to believe that a year has passed since the inception of my little blog.   It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, but I took some “time off” to not only recharge the batteries, but also pour over the analytics, and consider various directions for its future.   Oh yeah, this global financial meltdown has been a bit distracting as well…  But you know, it’s during times like this that I find myself so thankful (to my parents) for sticking my ass into music school at an early age.  They always said that it would be the type of treasure that could never be taken away, and they were right.  I trust that all of you with the same good fortune agree… but if you’re like many who are wondering whether it’s too late to learn, my answer is that there’s never been a better time!

I am of the belief that modern society (for all its goodness) has imposed a heavy price on our stress levels and our ability to focus.  We have way too many distractions and the sound byte is rapidly becoming our lingua franca.  This does not bode well for the human condition, and ironically, we need creativity and focus more than ever in light of present economic circumstances.

A distracted mind is no place for innovation, problem-solving or creativityEoghan McCabe

So what does this have to do with music?  Everything.  Creating music, regardless of your level, is one of very few activities that counteracts this unfortunate societal trend.   One of the things I love doing the most is answering question I get every now and then from a friend, “I want to get (back) into this, but where should I begin?”  Usually, this question means what should I buy first?  Without a doubt, technology is an immutable partner – and a damn essential one in today’s scheme; but returning to the earlier point, having too many choices is a double-edged sword.  I am a firm believer that too many choices can make it that much more difficult to focus your time and resources on the FEW things that really matter; and what really matters will differ from musician to musician depending first and foremost on WHAT you’re trying to accomplish.

My suggestion is to keep things as simple as possible in the beginning.  If your chops are dusty then spend some time reacquainting yourself with the fundamentals.   You’ll have plenty of time to build your sanctuary and trust me on this, it’s a slippery slope; and there will always be a bigger fish!

Bigger Fish Home Studio

As for my blog, I will continue, but probably with greater focus on gear and studio related topics merely because my site statistics overwhelmingly confirm this to be the predominant interest. gets between 2,000-2,500 new visitors per month from across the globe, the majority of which are seeking out the gear-related posts.  And here I was thinking it was all about the fabulous music I’ve created (LOL)…  So I’ll be refining the focus in 2009 and attempt to better cater to my core audience.  Thank you to everyone for your comments, emails, and encouragement!

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Documenting your Studio Wed, 24 Dec 2008 20:40:51 +0000 Adrian The holidays are a great time to unwind, but it’s also a good time to get organized. A few years ago, I took the time to document my studio configuration since I was having a hard time remembering what was connected to what, where, and why. Even in home studios (like mine), it doesn’t take long for the array of cable and wiring to become overwhelmingly complex. Plus, we’re talking about multiple mediums including digital and analog audio, MIDI, digital sync, USB, and power distribution to name a few.  Keeping it tidy is one thing, but keeping this detail in your head is nearly impossible; and you feel the pain when you “open the bonnet” to make any changes.

So my feeling is, bite the bullet once, spend incremental time maintaining it, and save loads of time in the long run as your environment continues to evolve.   There is, of course, a separate and independent need to apply conventional “asset management” such as maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your gear, but this tends to serve financial purposes more so than operational ones.  Things tend to break mostly when we introduce a change into our environment, and maintaining an accurate configuration, from several perspectives, will help you make changes faster and with far fewer headaches.

The diagram above, a topology map, is one of several diagrams that now comprise my studio documentation. It provides a high-level view of key components and connectivity from several perspectives. I use different diagrams to drill into things such as audio signal path, both analog and digital, MIDI routes, and TCP/IP networking.   And of course,  I maintain separate diagrams for machine configurations as well as a mapping of significant software and sound libraries. This is by no means an end-to-end inventory, but provides enough information to get me started in most situations.  For example, if I have my eye on a new sound library, and let’s face it they aren’t getting any smaller these days, I have several choices as to where to place it.

I’ve found it equally important to be mindful of power distribution. Even with multiple dedicated circuits, a must have in my opinion, it is easy (and dangerous) to create an overload if you ignore basic load balancing. I also use uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) that fan current to several intermediate power conditioners which allow me to power up and down the studio in an orderly fashion. But not everything gets the benefit of UPS current as there isn’t much value in providing this to things like my studio monitors.  Basically, anything that I’d hate to lose when a creative moment coincides with a power outage gets the benefit of both uninterrupted and conditioned juice.

View all of my diagrams

I’m sharing my diagrams with the hopes that this may be of help to others. Hopefully they can provide you with a useful reference or starting point.  I used Microsoft Visio to produce these because it’s a simple tool with lots of stencils (especially for diagramming rack mounted gear), and then saved them into a PDF  to make for easy viewing.

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First impressions of the KRK Ergo Sun, 21 Dec 2008 04:52:20 +0000 Adrian This week, I was able to install and test the first of my “year end” gear additions, the KRK Ergo, a digital room analysis and correction system.   I realize there are lots of skeptics with regards to room correction via equalization.  In fact, I’m one of them!  So I’ll say from the onset that, to me, room treatment is the first and foremost step to room accuracy.   80% of your gains will come from your room treatment, but the Ergo can provide some incremental improvement.  It doesn’t work when you try this in reverse order…

Nevertheless, I have long suspected that I was suffering from a low frequency null smack dab in my listening position.  Over time, I was able to compensate simply by knowing my room and literally sliding my chair back a few feet into the sweet spot.   The Ergo took approximately 10 room measurements; so rather than equalizing just your focus position (as is the case with many competing products), the Ergo attempts to build a 3D image of your room.  You use the supplied software to control the measurement/calibration process from a computer attached via firewire.  The measurement process begins at your focus/mix position, and then prompts for additional random positions until the software is satisfied with its room knowledge.   The software then downloads the settings to either the “A” or “B” speaker position on the Ergo- meaning you can store two separate room calibrations on this device (pretty handy)!   After calibrating, you can disconnect the Ergo from the computer and use it as a standalone device anywhere between your DAW and your monitors, or keep it connected via firewire for an elegant DAC interface to your monitors!

In my case, the digital outs from my DAW feed into my Yamaha o2r96 mixing board which, in turn, connects to my monitors (Barefoot MM27s and Avantone Mixcubes).  I simply redirected the XLR stereo outs from the o2r96 into the Ergo, and now use Ergo’s nifty A-B switching to toggle between the Barefoots and the Avantones.

So the question I assume your asking  about now is whether the difference is noticeable?  Candidly, it was very subtle in my case, which I take as a good thing!   This tells me that my room was already dialed in, as I suspected, but I do believe it helped address that nasty little null.  I’ve replayed four recent mixes that I thought were right on, and with the Ergo, the bass guitars were noticeably hot – makes sense because of compensating for that null at 100Hz right?   I quickly revised the mixes and my tests indicate a better, tighter result.  Again, we’re talking subtleties but as you know, it doesn’t take much to get the lower frequencies out of whack.

In summary, the pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion.  The Ergo is relatively inexpensive and it is a better than average room correction gadget because it builds a 3D room image vs. focusing just on your mix/focus position.   It can easily toggle between various filter modes including bi-passing all filters entirely so at the worst case, you’re back to where you started but with a well-built DAC/A-B switching/master volume control between your DAW and monitors.   It’s worth adding that the monitor switching also enables you to configure subwoofer switching – but in my case, not required.  The Ergo also includes a separate headphone out and level control although I wish the jack were located on the front of the unit instead of the back.  Seems to me that the Ergo offers some nice utility beyond its core function so that was the tipping point for me…  And, did I mention that it helped me dial in my mixes in less time?

Verdict: It’s not a game changer, but it’s still a winner!

Here is a link to the most recent trade press review I could find, courtesy of Mix Magazine.

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What’s on my gear radar? Tue, 16 Dec 2008 07:45:47 +0000 Adrian Well, the end of year is upon us and it stands to reason that it’s a good time to take advantage of some holiday deals as well as consider various new product introductions.

Let’s not forget that an up-to-date studio does for us what a designer walk-in shoe closet does for the female species…

So here’s the list of goodies I’m contemplating…


Ironically, I was considering an upgrade to my Receptor Rev C (circa 2006) this time last year, but decided to hold off in hopes that Muse would create a more significant leap.  The newly announced specifications on the Muse Receptor 2 (Pro Max) were just what I was hoping for, albeit 12 months later…

This baby can potentially replace my dedicated sampling server which presently runs GigaStudio 4 and Kontakt 3 and an assortment of sample libraries totaling approximately 400GB.   Here’s my thinking: Tascam has put GigaStudio out to pasture so my long-run strategy is to consolidate everything onto NI Kontakt.  I doubt I’m unique in this thinking…  Muse has always had a cozy relationship with Native Instruments, but prior versions of the Receptor lacked the overall muscle and capacity to provide this function.  Plus gigabit ethernet support now makes their Uniwire protocol something I can seriously contemplate; up until now, I haven’t used it.  And, they’ve added eSATA support; this is a great solution for adding high-performance external storage (not possible on earlier models).  Sure the Receptor costs more (est $3200 street) than an equivalently configured PC, but the Receptor provides more net performance with less configuration because its Linux kernel is purpose built and the absence of a GUI adds another 20-30% tailwind in my estimation.

The question for me is whether to consolidate everything from my Rev C, which presently runs self-contained instruments such as Ivory and other soft-synth VSTs, onto a Max Pro or simply dedicate the Max Pro as my new Kontakt/sampler platform.  Kore 2 support is also on the near-term horizon according to Muse.  My thinking is that wrapping everything under Kore 2 makes quite a bit of sense these days – if you’re going to standardize on NI stuff, may as well go “all in”.  I’d be curious if anyone has thoughts or experiences along these lines?

UAD-2 Quad

I presently have 3 UAD-1 boards in my DAW, a dual Xeon box built by ADK Pro Audio.  And for whatever reason, my UAD plug-ins have not been performing that well since the advent of Cubase 4.x – I’m not sure why, but my theory is that this coincides with a wrapper for VST 2.X plug-ins as Steinberg begins optimization around its new VST 3.X standard.  Just my personal theory, but regardless, I can buy a single (albeit pricey) UAD-2 Quad and not only get a lot more DSP, but also free up some slots inside the box.  I could then add a SSL Duende PCIe – which I prefer to run on the bus vs. over firewire.  The Duende is also on my radar, but I’m going to wait on that one because I suspect SSL is preparing an upgrade of their own given their recent price drops.  Besides, I’m a heavy Waves user so I have the plug-ins I need for the time being.  It’s clear that the UAD-2 is going to be around for a while, so I think I’m going to bite the bullet and buy the top-end Quad – it’s time to consolidate – and this is best done before year end given the special incentives being provided by Universal Audio.

I also contemplated a DAW upgrade, but I’m getting “good enough” performance to hold out a bit longer, namely so I can make a healthy and uneventful leap into a 64-bit configuration.  I’m seeing signs that Vista is beginning to stabilize, and my bet is that we’ll see a lot more 64-bit support (for drivers, plug-ins, etc) becoming available in 2009.  I’m going to hold out until everything stabilizes.  For now, the DAW falls into the category of not fixing what’s not broken…


ERGO stands for Enhanced Room Geometry Optimization – or more simply put, a room correction device that consists of the base unit, a calibration microphone and control software.  These three pieces are used to measure and analyze phase and frequency problems within a listening environment to create a 3D image of your room and apply dynamic filters to control/correct the audio environment.

I haven’t been a big fan of these things in the past, but I believe the ERGO may provide some help particularly since I know I have low frequency nulls smack dab in my mix position.  Notwithstanding, I also have extensive acoustic treatments in my studio including bass traps.  I would not recommend something like this before you apply fundamental treatment, but I figure the combination of a well treated room and this little gadget may provide for some improvement.  It’s all about creating mix transparency and for a mere $550 (USD), I can’t resist giving it a try!  Incidentally, I’ve ruled out the competing alternative from IK Multimedia because I want something that sits outside of the DAW.

Line 6 Pod X3 Pro

My remaining upgrades can be done cost neutrally courtesy of eBay!   In this regard, I’m finding myself attracted to the new Line6 Pod X3 Pro.  This new gadget combines the best of the renowned guitar and bass pod technologies plus it provides a decent pair of line and mic pres – the only thing I see missing is meters but I can live with that.  Basically, this is an audio interface on steroids, and will be great tool for my visiting guitar toting mates.  So the plan is to replace not only my current Pod Pro XT, but also my 2U Focusrite TwinMaster Pro and gain a spare 1U rack space along with 2 additional analog ins for my Yamaha O2r96 while I’m at it.  More for less – always good in my book!

Well, that’s about it for now… I think I’ve just mentally spent about $5000 (USD)?  Not really too bad in the grand scheme right?  I haven’t really done much “gear acquisition” this year so perhaps I’m just in the mood, but some of these recent announcements really strike a chord with me so I think it’s time to do a little upgrading!

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What we permit, we promote Thu, 04 Dec 2008 07:22:49 +0000 Adrian I’m taking a “time out” with this post to not only do some venting, but also spread awareness of a pending legal matter which, at first glance, appeared to be frivolous and almost humorous; but upon deeper inspection and reflection really pissed me off!

As a business professional, I’ve experienced first hand the ease at which the ambiguities of intellectual property law can be marshaled to initiate frivolous legal actions.  But Monster Cable seems intent on defining just “how low can you go”…

Cutting to the chase, Monster Cable will apparently be going to trial very shortly as the plaintiff versus defendant Monster Mini-golf for trademark infringement!  Monster Mini-golf is a husband/wife owned small business Child & Family Entertainment Center Franchiser (in Rhode Island, NY) with the concept of indoor glow-in-the-dark monster-themed mini-golf.  That’s right, MINI-GOLF!

Why is it that all of the instruments seeking intelligent life in the Universe are pointed away from the Earth?

Now I don’t mind if people think I’m stupid, but I don’t like to give them any evidence…  I’m willing to risk that, however, by readily admitting that, try as I may, I’m failing to see how Monster Mini-golf could possibly represent a bonafide trademark dilution threat to Monster Cable.

Ironically, I am I was a consumer of Monster’s products – and I must give them credit for being an excellent marketing organization…  For the profit margin they successfully command, I’d be willing to bet they could sell ice cubes to Eskimos!  But here’s a few I things I didn’t know about their apparent business practices, all of which shed greater light on the subject at hand:

  1. Monster Cable are well known for aggressive pursuit of trademark and patent infringements within legal and audiophile circles.  To date, they have pursued similar action with lots and lots of other entities – most of which are small businesses.  Just exercise Google a bit, and you’ll see for yourself or better yet, go straight to the source: United States Patent and Trademark Office
  2. Newsflash: Most small businesses lack the resources to fend off predatory and/or frivolous lawsuits; hence, the vast majority of these cases have been settled out-of-court.  Most of the small entities that have fallen into Monster’s cross-hairs accede to settlements that involve relinquishing the disputed trademark to Monster Cable, and Monster “licensing back” (for fees) the right to continue using the trademark.
  3. Newsflash: Intellectual Property law is not a typical core competency for small businesses.  But here’s a refreshing exception, and it happened earlier this year when Monster decided to mess about with Blue Jeans Cable!  Unfortunately, the Mini-golf case involves a different type of claim (trademark vs. patent infringement) – and the owners of Monster Mini-golf don’t have the benefit of having been a litigator in prior life (as was the case for Mr. Kurt Denke).  By the way, if you have the chance, you must read his response letter back to Monster: Brilliant and better than a John Grisham book!
  4. Monster has racked up quite a collection of trademarks over the years, all of course containing the name Monster; these are apparently held in an off-shore holding company (Monster International Ltd based in Bermuda); any of you familiar with international business can presumably put the rest of the pieces together.  Hint: corporations use these types of mechanisms to legally move retained earnings off-shore to reduce domestic corporate tax liability.
  5. Monster’s litigation appetite is, well, apparently monstrous, and not limited to small businesses.  Monster has (unsuccessfully) pursued similar actions with the likes of Disney/Pixar,, Monster Energy (the drink maker), the Chicago Bears, and the Boston Red Sox to name a few…  But small businesses obviously lack the resources to defend a case like this to judgment, unless they have the necessary background, like Kurt Denke, or simply have brass balls – like Monster Mini-golf!

I want to applaud the principals of Monster Mini-golf for choosing to stand their ground!  As you’ve probably already figured, I was very moved by this story.  I even contacted Patrick and Christina by phone because at first glance, this all seemed too crazy to be true.  But sadly, this is really happening and it’s simply wrong.  Really wrong!

But here’s the thing…  the Internet and Social Networking tools are providing incredible leverage to quickly raise awareness.  Even as I write this, this story is well on its way to going VIRAL, but every little bit helps.  I’ll challenge any of you moved by this to take some form of action…   At minimum, spread the word using the tool of your choice, or visit Monster Mini-golf to find out more.

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Less is more inside the studio Sun, 30 Nov 2008 19:13:21 +0000 Adrian I know that many of you, like me, are passionately reconnecting with music later in life. It’s easy to “get the bug” when you consider the extraordinary possibilities afforded by modern technology. Chances are you love gadgets, but once you put your toe in these waters, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed by the plethora of choices. And, unfortunately, the “wanna-be” nimrods that comprise the sales staff in most equipment retailers are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Before you know it, you are “collecting stuff” because new gear is cool, and does for you what a closet full of designer shoes does for the female species. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of the most vibrant and useful online music technology communities is aptly named:! Many of its members, myself included, affectionately confess to having dealt with chronic GAS: Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Without intention, you can easily become a Gear Slut – but this is a slippery slope.

Here’s some additional food for thought from Carl Beatty, a veteran engineer and Professor of Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music on this topic.

At the risk of being rhetorical, we must remind ourselves that technology doesn’t help us write a better tune; and the more “moving parts” you have in your studio, the more you have to learn and maintain. You’ll end up spending loads of time (and money) learning the ins and outs of gear, and less time making music. This is not to understate the importance of gear, but rather emphasize a going in perspective that “less is more”.

The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity – Bruce Lee

I place a high premium on my time and the results I get from whatever I choose to pursue. From this, I’ve become a strong believer in the application of Pareto’s Law, better known as the “80-20 principal”. The law essentially states that 80% of our desired results come from 20% of what we do. It directly refutes the conventional wisdom of “the more you put in the more you get out”. This is a subject in and of its own, but its applicability to my journey has been invaluable. The bottom line is that you’ll get much better results, with much less effort, by using more of the few things that matter, and much less of the many things that don’t.

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Best in the biz – Feline Category Wed, 26 Nov 2008 22:17:17 +0000 Adrian Having recently posted my proposed Best in the Biz (pianists/keyboardists), it only seemed right to include a nomination from the household pets category. Our feline winner demonstrates her skills and repertoire in the below video.

With all that’s going on in the world these days, figured some levity might be welcomed!

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The best in the biz today? Hiromi & Jordan! Tue, 18 Nov 2008 06:52:21 +0000 Adrian This is strictly the opinion of one, but I get asked this question enough that I thought why not go on record? So who do I feel are the best keyboard/piano players in the biz today?  Notice my emphasis on today vs. even possibly considering “all time best“?   That would be way too difficult to tackle – even narrowing this to “modern day”, I have both a male and female nomination not because of gender or polar opposite hair style (at least in these videos), but because of genre.

My personal picks: Jordan Rudess and Hiromi.  Of course, there are plenty other equally worthy artists- these are merely my personal favs.

Jordan is arguably the reigning king of progressive/rock keyboards and occupies the post with fellow virtuosos in Dream Theater.  A less known factoid is that he’s classically trained, and perfected his craft at this little school in New York called Juilliard.  Believe me, he can switch to a Chopin Etude in a blink!

Hiromi Uehara, a rising star in international jazz circles, is simply beyond description. A graduate of Berklee School of Music (Boston MA), she’s also been mentored by the likes of Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea. I’ve been very fortunate to meet both Jordan and Hiromi- they are both remarkable and refreshingly humble individuals, but the best part?  I asked them each to name some of their favorites: in so doing, each credited one another!  So if I’m wrong, at least I’m in good company!

Lots of material on YouTube on each, these are the ones I picked…

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Tranquilo is a wrap! Sat, 15 Nov 2008 06:58:20 +0000 Adrian Well this one took a while longer than expected, but many thanks to my musical colleagues at and for their contributions!  I hope you agree that this one really comes to life with the “live recorded” tracks.

Having now remixed a few of my other tunes, I’m contemplating getting these re-mastered before beginning a new one.  That said, I have a pretty good riff coming off my fingers at the moment, so who knows maybe it’s time to roll into another project straight away.  No travel plans in November so you never know, I might be able to hammer out another one before year end…

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Led Zepp-again? Sun, 09 Nov 2008 18:00:17 +0000 Adrian So word has it that the mighty Zepp is set to tour again!  One small problem, or at the very least some assured controversy: minus iconic frontman Robert Plant.

I spent some time yesterday reading a few blog posts, but focused mostly on the voluminous fan commentary.   The overwhelming consensus was NEGATIVE, but for different reasons.  Many accused Jimmy Page of “selling out” whilst others accused Robert Plant of being “callous”…  as if rejoining was obligatory?  Amazing…  Many aficionados argued that Led Zeppelin died with John Bonham (1980), or that Robert Plant was no longer capable of delivering the demanding vocal range.   Of course, many pointed out the less than stellar prior Zeppelin reunions, even calling into question Plant’s performance at the 2007 London 02 tribute concert for Atlantic Records Chairman Ahmet Ertegün.

First, I must acknowledge that experiencing Led Zeppelin “live” was way up there on my bucket list because I was too young to see them in their prime.  When the London 02 concert was announced, I knew I was going to attend, regardless of cost – and I did! I figured the likelihood of an immediate follow-up tour was fairly low, and that a lot could happen during ensuing years including looming senior citizen status for a few of the gents.  Today, my decision to attend continues to appear more like an investment than an expenditure!

By all accounts, the London 02 show was a brilliant performance, but I can tell you first hand that it was an even more powerful experience.   As for Robert Plant singing out of key… rubbish.   Not only is pitch correctable with technology – employed by nearly all live artists – but the acoustics in that size of auditorium makes it indiscernible to human ears.

Live performance creates a unique experience – it is a real-time interaction between the band and its audience.  For Zeppelin, the persona and presence of Robert Plant is an immutable part of the equation – the song remains the same, but the experience does not.   Fact is everyone is entitled to their opinion on this, but speaking for myself, I had the same reaction with the Paul Rodgers/Queen team-up…  Sure, they played Queen’s music, but it wasn’t Queen without Freddie.  And it’s not just limited to rock bands: talk to anyone who experienced The Phantom of the Opera with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman.

For whatever reason, it appears Robert Plant will not be a part of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, and I would encourage people to give him some benefit of doubt on this one.  Perhaps he shares the opinion of world renowned marketing guru, Seth Godin: “Be Exceptional or Quit“…  Whatever his reason, I not only admire his resolve, but also respect it.

That said, I really really hope the London O2 show eventually gets pressed into a DVD!  It was an amazing EXPERIENCE, and oh yeah, the music was pretty f*cking good too!

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Some long overdue remix work… Sun, 02 Nov 2008 00:30:19 +0000 Adrian There’s a reason why musicians often resist playing (or even listening to) their prior work.   As we continue to improve, our new stuff highlights deficiencies in our old stuff!  It’s compounded in my case because so much time passes between each project.  Artists that do this for a living, usually camp out in a recording studio from the beginning to end when creating an album – and hence everything remains consistent down to the finest detail.  I along with most amateurs don’t have that luxury.

But since I’m waiting on the brass tracks for Tranquilo, I decided to go into the abyss and remix some of my prior tunes… I could go on and on about the various issues that required attention, but it essentially comes down to normalization – especially for the rhythm sections (drum and bass).  Also, I’ve already received the brass tracks for Seduction and Worship, but hadn’t updated either.  So I decided to remix them so that I’d have a better reference for Tranquilo.

The updates have been loaded into the “Now Playing” list (above).  I hope you’ll agree that the levels and rhythm are more consistent?  Seduction and Worship now have “real” professionally played brass going on – and I also fixed a few problems with Time OutMischief and Scaramouche (the oldest tunes) were left alone because they’ve been professionally mastered and until I replace the brass, there’s no point in fiddling.

My game plan is to replace the MIDI “sampled brass” across the board.  The latest three tunes (including Tranquilo) are sorted, and I’ll commission the remaining work between now and the end-of-year so that I’m “caught up” by the New Year.

A fellow enthusiast and friend asked me a while ago about some of the lessons I’ve learned on this “journey”, and that’s a pretty long list!  But, it provides lots of material for future posts :)   Anyway, the one lesson that stands above all is: NO substitute for the real thing.   So instead of buying new technology (i.e. the latest sample libraries, etc), I now direct those funds to real musicians.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my toys, and believe me, I have more than my fair share; but the lesson learned is that better results come with enlisting musicians with far greater talent.  Besides, it’s hard enough staying proficient with my own instrument!  This probably sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but rest assured, there’s lots of amateur musicians that are beating their heads against the wall and spending senseless money and time trying to do it all themselves – because technology makes it possible.

I say “fugg-it!” …  If you want better results, rethink your approach.  Use technology to collaborate, use your money to hire professionals, and use your time to write and play better music!  At the very least, you’ll have more fun!

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Tranquilo updated with live guitars Thu, 30 Oct 2008 06:33:40 +0000 Adrian Took longer than expected to get my live tracks back this time around, but I think it may have been worth the wait.   This is an updated mix, still without fine tuning, with the acoustic flamenco-style guitars.

The guitarist retained most of the prior concept, but added a very cool acoustic solo during the finale (ending) section.  The finale is still a bit open and I’m leaning towards having the horns play backup. Speaking of which, that’s the next step: I’ll be sending this off to the New York Brass musicians now and then we’ll move on to the mixing stage.

Danny from New York has shared the opinion that this tune would be better served with a Spanish-style horns section.   He suggested that we ditch the sax to keep more of a latin vibe; so I decided to try it out by replacing it with a subdued trumpet to get a flavor for where this may be headed. All of the brass you here are merely placeholders, I didn’t fuss with getting the tone dialed in because it’s soon to be replaced with the real thing! I’m anxious to see what the New York boys comes up with…

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Tranquilo- Drums, Bass, and new Piano Thu, 23 Oct 2008 05:00:54 +0000 Adrian Tranquilo is beginning to come together.  This is a preview mix with the live recorded drums and bass guitar properly integrated, at least in terms of mix level.  I’m quite impressed with the stereo drum track I received from StudioPros – I placed it into the mix without any tweaking!  Pretty much the same for the bass guitar track except some minor low frequency shaving below 120Hz.

I’ve just reviewed the acoustic (rhythm) guitar track but I’ll wait for the lead guitar recording before placing those into the mix.  The finale section remains “wide open” for now and I’ll make some decisions as to who will take the lead.   One thought: What about letting the sax player rip along side the guitarist?  The piano, me, could just go into “tranquilo mode” or fill in as necessary?

Should have the guitar tracks in by the weekend and then we’ll move on to recording live sax and horns!  More to follow…

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Live drums added to Tranquilo! Thu, 16 Oct 2008 00:35:58 +0000 Adrian This is the fun part… where I get to sit back and see what my team of professional musicians comes up with. We’ve developed a definite process which starts with the rhythm section, the heartbeat of music. This is the recording I just approved for the drums.

The tune comes to “life” at this stage because there’s simply no substitute for “live recorded” instruments, and I trust you’ll agree by simply comparing this version to the previously posted stem mix.  Next will come the bass guitar track that, for a tune like this, I suspect will conform more or less to the MIDI bass track you presently here – the exception being the finale – At present, it’s very open, but I’m going to encourage the bass and lead guitars to really let it rip as we draw to a close!

And, to reassure you, the piano solo you’re hearing in the bridge is a “place holder” – and first take for that matter; it will be re-recorded and played with greater precision.

My next update will contain both bass and guitar parts and will take things to a whole different level. Finally, my New York brass musicians will lend their talent to killer sax and horn parts. And by the way, we do all of this work completely over the Internet!

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SoundCloud has officially launched! Sat, 11 Oct 2008 03:24:52 +0000 Adrian Berlin based provides a fantastic online service aimed at reducing the headaches of “track sharing” – something that virtually everyone involved with music production experiences.   I was fortunate to participate in the beta program and provided a review a few months back.   I received quite a few emails requesting more information and moreover “invitations” as the service was (then) provided on a by invitation only basis.

Good news!  SoundCloud has officially launched and, as suspected, they are providing a combination of free and tiered fee-based options.

SoundCloud: The Tour from SoundCloud on Vimeo.

The pro accounts appear to be way to go despite having a monthly fee ranging from 9 to 59 euros.  The service level is tied to the number of tracks (uploaded) per month.  I rather like this approach vs. something that would limit the amount of aggregate storage.

I’ve been extremely satisified with this service and have every intention of continuing with it.  At first glance the monthly fees may seem excessive for what can seemingly be accomplished with “FTP”, but if you value your time, you’ll quickly discover that SoundCloud is not only a faster and more secure way to share files, but moreover a vastly superior way to Collaborate with your clients and/or fellow musicians.  My recommendation is to sign up for the free trial – I suspect that many of you will arrive at the same conclusion: this is a no brainer!

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New Tune – Tranquilo – Preview Sun, 05 Oct 2008 21:08:25 +0000 Adrian I realize it’s long overdue, but I’ve finally made enough progress on Tranquilo to share something for your listening pleasure (or displeasure, whichever the case may be)!

This is what’s referred to as a “stem mix”, analog to a rough draft, and indeed the mix fits the description!  Nothing has been processed, panned, or EQ’d so apologies in advance if it sounds a little muddy.  The objective at this stage is to lock down the tune’s structure so that my session musicians can take over and record their parts, respectively.  That’s when it usually comes to life!   With the exception of the drum loops, I’m playing everything you hear thru a combination of MIDI samplers and virtual instruments:

  • Drums Loops: DrumCore via Rewire
  • Bass Guitar: Spectrasonics Trilogy (VSTi)
  • Acoustic Guitar: Korg Triton
  • Distorted Guitar: Spectrasonics Omnisphere (VSTi)
  • Synth (pads): Access Virus TI
  • Piano: Ivory Jazz C7 via Muse Receptor
  • Sax: Yamaha VL1-m via MIDI wind-controller
  • Brass: Roland XV3080 “Patchman” additions via wind-controller

Next, they will professionally play & re-record all the key instruments: drums, bass, guitars, sax & horns; and once I get those back, I’ll remix and re-work the piano parts to fit accordingly.  The piano solo, in particular, is a rough draft and has lots of “errors” – all of which will be fixed before it’s all said and done.

As many of you know, this is an iterative process!  But hopefully, you get the feel for where it’s going…  And now, it’s time to employ the power of the Internet and commission my team of professional session musicians; they’re literally spread spread across the globe!  It still amazes me that we can work this way, and it’s especially convenient for me since I’m about to travel overseas for business.

I’ll share the progress by posting the previews of what’s provided back.  For me, this is funnest part of the process because everything really comes to life with help of the StudioPros – stay tuned!

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A sad day for Zeppelin fans! Fri, 26 Sep 2008 19:42:01 +0000 Adrian Well, it seems this was too fresh off the press… The Sun published an article claiming that Robert Plant had agreed to rejoin his band mates for Led Zeppelin reunion tour next summer (‘09)…

Full Article from The Sun, UK

But now, this is apparently being disputed by the Man himself…

Robert Plant sets the record straight

I was one of the very fortunate few that attended the Dec ‘07 London O2 show, and let me again reiterate that I have never experienced anything remotely close – and I’ve seen my fair share.   It goes without saying that this is unfortunate news, but not really a surprise as Robert Plant has never swayed publicly on this topic.  Nevertheless, still unfortunate because millions of adoring fans have been anxiously awaiting official word, one way or another…

With news like this, I continue to reflect on my 02/London concert experience as a wise investment vs. a frivolous expenditure!

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You’ve gotta see this little gal play! Sun, 14 Sep 2008 18:57:21 +0000 Adrian So here I am in London having a much needed Sunday “lie in”, and happened upon this awesome live performance of Carry on Wayward Son by a very talented (then) 10-yr old Japanese girl!   Sure, I’m proud of the fact that my culture continues to develop so many musical prodigies, but typically they’re discouraged from veering away from classical – especially at this age.  Obviously, this girl’s parents are (as mentioned in the opening of the video, albeit in Japanese) are tad bit more “progressive” -  and chances are, she can roll right into Mozart!  Prepare to be impressed!

Fast-forward to today, one year later, brilliantly performing YYZ.  The musicians amongst you know that this is no cake walk to play – let alone solo!

I’m very curious about the rig – a Yamaha Electone – apparently very popular in Japan -  I might have to get me one of these!

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Broken Record or Unconscious Incompetence? Wed, 27 Aug 2008 05:23:18 +0000 Adrian I recently stumbled upon a blog article titled “Broken Record: Four Mistakes that Killed the Record Industry – before File Sharing” authored by Jeff Balke, an interesting take on the demise of the record industry. The article suggests, “The industry, including radio, made four mistakes that preceded their ignorance of technology”.

Summary of the Four Killer Mistakes:

  1. CD Sales are not the same as record sales. The premise is that the CD created substantial profit margins (because of lower production/distribution costs) in contrast to vinyl and tape, and a “gravy train” effect ensued for several years as people converted their collections to the new digital medium.  After people replenished their collections, the off-the-chart CD sales came to an abrupt end.  The author suggests that the “bean counters” failed to see this coming because they lacked creative insight?  This is a convenient scapegoat, but I’m not sure it’s quite that simple..
  2. Longevity trumps the flavor of the week. With shrinking revenues, evil corporate budget constraints ensued, and the labels began aggressive cost cutting, consolidating distribution, and mostly, marginalizing artist development.  This isn’t recent news, so if record labels were the only effective way to develop an artist, we should have, in theory, no worthy talent today… Regardless of your musical taste, that is simply not the case.  If anything, we now have more choices than ever, do we not?
  3. Destroying the chain of distribution is death. Here, consolidation of distribution channels are also pegged as causal. According to Balke, “What the suits failed to realize was that the chain of people working on selling music for them was key to making sales. Even now in the age of blogs, people still listen to what others suggest when it comes to buying music. Prior to the Internet, those people included DJ’s and record store employees…”  So here’s my question: How would have the retention of traditional distribution channels prevented the author’s acknowledged evolution in consumer behavior brought about by the “age of Blogs and the Internet”?
  4. Killing the DJ. The argument here is that the radio DJ was “killed off as the primary link between the listeners and stations”. Centralized programming, again in the interest of profits, ended the variety and the relationship between DJ and listeners. The record industry didn’t cause this per se, but they indirectly benefited because it cut their promotional costs down significantly.  I think the most preferred and sought after relationship has always been between the artist and consumer, no?

I was intrigued by the warm reception of this article, but try as I may, I do not agree that the above were causal to the record industry’s demise. I should preface that I am not an “industry insider”, but I was a partner at a major international consulting firm during the time this supposed blind incompetency was occurring; and many of the marquee record labels were our clients – this experience taught me to honor the words of Arthur Schopenhauer:

All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed; Secondly, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as self-evident…

So here’s my take. First, there is a long list of seemingly unaccountable failures in once dominant organizations and industries; this is not a phenomenon unique to the record industry. Sears Roebuck missed the advent of discount retailing and home centers and let Visa and MasterCard usurp the enormous lead it had in retail credit cards; IBM dominated the mainframe market but missed the emergence of minicomputers; DEC then dominated the minicomputer market but missed the personal computer market; Xerox missed the desktop printer/copier market; then there is the American steel and auto industry …

But consider this: Just as with the record industry, the decisions or indecision that lead to these failures were made when the organizations and leaders in question were widely regarded as among the best in the world! So, it’s either the case that these once successful companies and once dominant industries succeeded with very poor management, OR there’s something more to the story, and I believe there is.

In my opinion, this is best understood by studying the “Failure Framework” proposed by Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School. The key concept in Christensen’s work (The Innovator’s Dilemma & The Innovator’s Solution) is the distinction between sustaining vs. disruptive technology, and its implications.  Christensen, presents compelling evidence that good managerial practice is, ironically, the reason that sustained growth is so difficult to achieve. Why? Because well-managed companies follow a strict set of rules: They listen to their best customers, invest aggressively to provide these customers improved products and services, carefully study market trends and allocate capital to innovations that promise the best returns.

I like to think of “good management” as being akin to classical music: Wonderfully essential, but stringent.  Managing “disruptive innovation” is more like playing Jazz! It’s more about breaking the rules! And, yes, there are times when you need to break conventional management rules, and NOT listen to your customers! There are times when you need to invest in developing lower-margin, seemingly nascent markets with lower performing products. Christensen’s body of work codifies these ALTERNATIVE RULES and the changing market conditions that mandate their application.

So what happened to the record industry? The record industry viewed its product as MEDIA, not CONTENT. Each successive format (from vinyl, tape, to CD) was all about “sustaining” a business that required the consumer to buy media in order to get content – music.  As computers became more powerful, content such as music and video was no longer confined to physical media, and growth of the Internet spurred new delivery methods. All of these factors were significantly disruptive to the entrenched record industry. Consumers no longer needed to buy a CD to get what they wanted in the first place:  a few good tunes.

As Christensen’s “Failure Framework” suggests, these early adopters did not represent a very profitable segment. They weren’t even customers!  They were “criminals”, reckless kids and teenagers stealing intellectual property! The record industry went on the defensive by treating this as a problem, instead of recognizing it as disruptive innovation. It attempted to do what Christensen labels as defying a slippery slope. But, was this because record industry executives were arrogant and incompetent? Not entirely. They were rightfully following good (conventional) managerial practices by attempting to protect the profitability of their core business.

Christensen presents this paradox: Disruptive technologies enable new markets to emerge, BUT these markets are usually too small, or even non-existent, to satisfy the growth needs of large companies even if logic says they might be big someday.  The investment process in “well managed” companies demands quantification of market size and financial returns before entering a new market, and for this reason, it’s very rare for incumbent leaders to seize a first-mover advantage.

Apple was not in the music business at that time, but they understood the principals and application of disruptive innovation.  They also understood (and still understand) the difference between selling media vs. selling content, and they eventually made customers out of these “renegades” – and lots of them!   The overwhelming success of iTunes proves that “illegal downloads” was never the real problem – It also proves something else: businesses are rewarded more so for brilliant execution than fabulous technology!

So rather than playing Monday morning quarterback with the battered record industry, I suggest we recognize what happened as being neither unique nor unprecedented. Scores of outstanding companies that had their competitive radar up, listened to their customers, and aggressively invested in new technologies still lost their dominance.

In my opinion, the best defense for business leaders is to recognize when to play classical and when to play jazz! Embrace creativity as much, if not more so than conformity! It will help you recognize these sorts of conditions, convert threats into opportunities, and give you the gumption to apply alternative rules.

“I can’t give you a surefire formula for success; but I can for failure: try to please everybody all the time” – Herbert Bayard Swope, first winner of the Pulitzer Prize

As for the perceived lack of quality in today’s music? I fail to see how the demise of the record industry can be linked to a supposed degradation of music quality. I think it’s more the case that the Internet has opened the flood gates and we now have so many choices that finding (one’s own definition of) quality has become the “new problem”.

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New Brass for Seduction! Sat, 09 Aug 2008 08:44:18 +0000 Adrian Hot on the heels of kicking some new brass into Worship, Danny (from kept the hammer down and recorded live tracks for Seduction.  I decided to remix Seduction first…  This may still require some additional work after I enlist the feedback of some professional ears – before re-mastering.

By the way, have I mentioned that is delivering in spades?  I absolutely love this service!

Danny delivered a total of 9 tracks (dry): 3 sax of which 1 is the lead/solo, 3 trumpets, and 3 trombones – a full blown horn section (no pun intended)!  It took some time to get these dialed-in as I was aiming to apply the least amount of processing.  I originally routed the tracks to my outboard HEDD 192 and Bricasti M7 (reverb), but had better luck using plug-ins.  I ended up dealing with the lead/solo sax on its own employing the Waves API-550B EQ and IR-1 (Hall) reverb.  I created group tracks for the remaining sax, trumpets, and bones, respectively; and applied the same EQ, but with different settings for each instrument.  I tried to minimize the verb on the trumpets and bones, and decided not to use any compression – we’ll see if that holds.

Oh… YES, I am working on a new tune, and do LIKE where it’s going.  I’ve been recently inspired to inject some latin vibe into my work, but as a result, the rhythm is a bit tricky.  I may end up having the drum track pre-recorded and write to the completed track vs. the other way around… because for once, I actually know what I’m looking for!

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Real Sax & Horns for Worship! Tue, 05 Aug 2008 23:07:13 +0000 Adrian Despite having oodles of technology and sound libraries at my disposal, I’ve been gradually shifting towards the use of professionally played and recorded instruments for everything – except for my piano and keys – those will remain on amateur status until further notice!   First came the live-recorded drum tracks, and then real bass & guitars – all courtesy of services provided by   It’s been much more difficult, however, to locate an online studio specializing in Brass – Horns and Sax.  Brass plays a key role in the type of music I write because I use it to melodically interweave with the piano.  So the authenticity of the sax & horns is extremely important, and despite using some great acoustic modeling technology, there’s only so much “pizazz” you can produce from a MIDI controller.

Fortunately, I recently stumbled upon and after some discussions decided to give them a go on the tune of their choice; they chose Worship.  If these folks work out, I plan to re-record the prior tunes and, of course, use them on future projects!  Here’s the newly recorded version with REAL horns and sax…

Bear in mind this is an unpolished, low-resolution mix (MP3) so the levels and tone need to be dialed in, but it’s good enough for a preview post.  And most importantly, to get your feedback!

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Creativity vs. Literacy? Mon, 04 Aug 2008 01:22:41 +0000 Adrian I recently expressed my need for a holiday to a colleague, and he snapped back, “Adrian, your whole life is a holiday!”  Honestly, he could not have paid me a greater compliment!  Indeed, many people, especially business associates, are surprised when they find out how much time and energy I devote to my hobbies.  And yes, I must confess that I have an additional mistress beyond music – Golf.

But when it comes to my music, the second question I’m usually asked is: “What are you intending to do with it?”  Meaning, do I aspire to make money from it.  Answer: No.  You’ll have to forgive my friends for giving my so-called potential far more credit than deserved…  But from these conversations, I grow increasingly concerned about the dismissal of developing and maintaining personal creativity.

So no, my hobbies are not just about enjoyment, and they are definitely not about chasing dreams; nor are they about making more money…  Music and golf, my lifetime mistresses, are my creativity sources – and I wouldn’t trade these pursuits for anything – especially more education.  Besides, academia – the pursuit of knowledge – is highly inflated these days (even a lazy guy like me managed to earn two degrees).  To be clear, I’m not encouraging anyone to abandon education; but I am challenging you to consider its relevancy in the grand scheme.   And yes I believe creativity is equally as important to, if not more so than, literacy for developing long-term success and happiness.

Imagination is more important than knowledge – Albert Einstein…

Creativity requires two things: time and the absence of fear.   Yet, the rhythm of modern society not only robs us of our “free time” (which, by the way, you need in order to think), but moreover instills fear of failure.  So is it any wonder that innovation, the product of creativity, suffers?   I trust you can connect the dots to appreciate the broader social and economic implications…  But just in case, I wanted to share a presentation from one of my favorite authors and cultural visionaries: Sir Ken Robinson.

Thankfully the sponsors of the TED Conference both encourage and permit the sharing of this video.  Highly recommended viewing for over bearing parents and/or stressed-out over achievers…

If ever there was time when creativity was necessary for the survival and growth of humanity, it is now!   So if any of you get similar questions about the time and energy you devote to your craft(s)…  you can either direct them to Sir Ken Robinson for a very dignified explanation, or continue to respond with the most convenient “Verbal Chord Progression” – in the key of F – of course!

]]> 3 makes reviewing easy Sat, 19 Jul 2008 20:54:02 +0000 Adrian In the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

That’s the thought that came to mind after experiencing, a new site for people who create music and need an easy and effective way to either send, receive, and review tracks.  SoundCloud solves the problem of distributing your tracks to people of interest and provides a powerful collaboration environment that sets SoundCloud apart from other “hosting sites”.   Rather than sending bulky audio files by email, or having people download from FTP, your audience can review your tracks inside of SoundCloud, but even better, you can embed SoundCloud into your own web site (as I’ve done below)!

First, you upload your tracks in virtually any format and resolution.  SoundCloud converts your audio files into “wave forms” that are displayed inside their player tool.   You have the option of making each of your tracks public or private as well as downloadable (or streaming only).  You can also create “set lists” to group multiple tracks into a single player – very useful for reviewing multiple takes… You can also use SoundCloud to receive tracks from other people, regardless of whether they are a subscriber through a handy “drop box” feature – notice the widget I’ve installed on my Sidebar (to the right)…

Send me your track

But for me, the coolest thing is the ability to embed the SoundCloud player just like the example below.   So rather than uploading my “work in progress” audio files onto my blog, I can instead provide the SoundCloud player to my fellow musicians and listeners and consolidate all of my reviews!  Did I mention it’s also very fast?

The above example illustrates a “timed comment” I’ve inserted into Worship.  This is especially powerful because your reviewers can visually place their comments precisely where they apply inside your tune WITHOUT HAVING TO START/STOP THE PLAYER TO NOTE THE TRACK POSITION.   This is extremely useful if you collaborate with other musicians, and virtually eliminates the need for producing “song charts” to describe what’s going on where!

Very cool and a definite time saver!

I’m not quite sure how SoundCloud intends to commercialize their offering.  My guess is they will provide some base services for free, but with some limitations.   For now, SoundCloud accounts are by invitation only, but the vetting process appears fairly straight forward.  I was emailed an invitation approximately 2 weeks after making my request.

SoundCloud is still in their early days, but they clearly address a fundamental pain point for collaborating music professionals!  Thus, another example of how Web 2.0 continues to change (and improve) the way we work!

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Interesting Collaboration Site: IndabaMusic Tue, 08 Jul 2008 05:20:04 +0000 Adrian To begin, I know it’s been some time since I’ve posted… It’s been a busy month on several fronts, but pleased to say that I have some promising riffs coming to life inside my studio so a new tune appears to be on the horizon!  I’ve also been adjusting to my new RD700GX master controller – but I’m getting it dialed in.

In the mean time, I wanted to share a promising music collaboration site that I recently “stumbled upon”:

This site appears to be designed around the concept of a creating Online Sessions; meaning, you create a “space” that represents a Project or Session and post your tracks with various tags allowing others to find, listen, and then join in.  You can also specify the type of tracks (and musicians) you’re looking for…  Those who join can then contribute their tracks – and you can even do the mixing online, although I don’t envision this replacing my studio tools.  I’m hoping to use Indaba to find some high-quality musicians with whom I can collaborate with & hire.  I especially like the ability to search for specific musical skills and sample previous work… you can reach out to these musicians and invite them to work on your session.  You can make your sessions either public or private, the former enables anyone in the Indaba community to listen in, comment, and/or contribute.

I’ve been struggling to find professional session musicians for sax and horns.  My music has a lot of interweaving between sax and piano, and despite having some VERY good technology, there’s no substitute for real, live-recorded wind instruments. I have drums and guitars covered courtesy of my friends at, but I’d welcome an expansion of options since they don’t provide horn players, and I’d just assume do it ALL on line.

Given that music is now mostly recorded into a digital medium, a site like Indaba could really help.  Most importantly, it “appears” to have a growing membership base.  In my brief review I found it easy to search and review a wide range of talent and genres, certainly not all to my liking.  BUT, I did find some very good players, particularly in the realm of jazz guitar and sax – the authenticity and quality of these parts are critical for the kind of stuff I write…

So I think I’m going to take Indaba for a spin – best of all, you get everything you need for your first session for free! But once you need more “space” (as in gigabytes of storage space for more sessions), you pay $10 USD/mo.  Very acceptable.

Check out Indaba when you get a chance, and let me know what you think!

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Learn to Play or Play to Learn? Mon, 16 Jun 2008 05:43:16 +0000 Adrian One of the things I frequently hear is that musical talent is more a gift than an acquired skill. I have a hard time with this absolutism because it divides people into “capable” vs. “non-capable”, and discourages so many from either considering or continuing with musical training. The same can be said for any number of long-term skills for that matter. No question about it, people abandon their pursuit of a skill more often than not due to fear, frustration, and/or lack of progress; but I believe this has more to do with the “teaching establishment” than a “lack of ability” on the part of the student.

But it’s different for those truly “blessed” with prodigal talent, right? Well, consider the words of Isaac Stern:

I was enormously lucky to have a teacher who let me learn how to learn. He did not make me play the way he did”. Said to his students: “I am not here to teach you how to play. Learn to think for yourself, to have WOW moments. Joint the art with the mind to move from a possibility to a certainty”.

It has been well documented that self-discovery is the best road to any long-term learning, where firsthand personal experience and learning go hand in hand. Useful instruction is not about giving people the right answers, it is more about helping people learn to ask the right questions.

“Learn the means to education, not things” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Using a “how to” list is looking outside yourself for answers, where self-discovery looks inward to where long-term learning is born. I’m not suggesting that one can entirely bypass musical theory for this curriculum is non-negotiable; but what can be made more effective is our approach for learning it.

For example, should one Learn to Play or Play to Learn? Numerous studies have shown that during True Play, we exploit the freedom to investigate and interact with our instrument and decode musical theory into a personalized form. Playing is what makes it relevant, and playing the music (genre) you enjoy makes it even more so. Said another way: Honor thy Jam Session – both in music and in life!

The best thing about today’s world is that modern technology can bring the experience of learning music to the masses! There is so much technology now available that promotes self-discovery and at very affordable prices. So any of you that have that desire to take the plunge, by all means there has never been a better time. I’ve been putting my beliefs to the test by having recently started with my first string instrument: the bass guitar. It’s a strangely fascinating experience to have, on one hand, the musical background, but on the other hand, limited skills to play a new instrument… Well actually, I have limited skills in BOTH hands for the moment, but I am pleased to say that I’m DISCOVERING how to play my new instrument little by little. And, I truly believe it is helping me with the piano – an added bonus!

It is indeed a paradox that some things are learnable, but not teachable…

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A bit about software samplers Mon, 09 Jun 2008 18:41:28 +0000 Adrian I’ve mentioned in past articles literally having thousands of sounds at my disposal; this is made possible through what is known as “sampler technology” (or more specifically, software samplers). A sampler is software that manages, well, sound samples! For example, a piano has 88-keys, so a sampled piano consists of a recording of each key on the instrument. Each key is recorded with different variations such as velocity levels (playing soft or hard), as well as other nuisances such as staccato, legato, pedal on, off, etc. So you can imagine that you end up with literally thousands of possibilities for a single instrument.

That’s sampling in a nutshell, and software samplers manage all of this, and can be triggered directly by a keyboard or thru a digital audio workstation just like any other connected instrument.

I use dedicated computers for this function… actually two dedicated samplers. The first one is a high-end PC configured to run a leading product known as Tascam GigaStudio. The second sampler is a purpose-built Linux server called a Muse Receptor that can run a wide variety of “virtual software instruments” that conform to industry standard VSTi format. In fact, the piano sound I used on the most recent tune, Seduction, was courtesy of a virtual instrument known as Ivory that runs on the Muse. It’s worthy to note that a virtual instrument is not the same as a sampler, but often provides for similar functionality (I’ll go over this more in a future post). Regardless, there are literally thousands (several gigabytes worth) of sample files organized into “sample libraries” on these boxes, and the sampling software makes them accessible as instruments – just like dedicated outboard gear! And, we’re not talking about “synthesized” sounds here… rather, samplers play back professionally recorded “samples” from real instruments. The sounds/samples of $250,000 Bosendorfer concert grand can be acquired and placed into your recordings for a fraction of the cost! So it goes without saying that sampler technology is a key component in most studios – particularly if your music incorporates acoustic instruments.

Even when you use a self-contained “digital keyboard”, it most likely uses built-in samples to play back acoustic instruments. The difference is that these samples are compressed into relatively small storage mediums such as on-board ROM chips; where as a true software-based sampler can take advantage of today’s low-cost/high-capacity disk drives and provide for virtually unlimited storage. The depth of a sample library is kind of like pixels on a television; the more you have, the higher the resolution… so think of software samplers as a bit like HDTV on steroids! Commercial sample libraries designed for software samplers often require GIGABYTES of storage, just for a single instrument, and from this density comes the authenticity. One well known professional orchestral library requires nearly 60 Gigabytes just for its baseline package… so we’re talking server-grade hardware and performance requirements, but the results are well worth it.

All but the most well-budgeted of films these days use sample libraries to some extent. You can literally be a one-person band, so to speak, if you know what you’re doing. Obviously, the technology doesn’t write the music for you, AND there is an equal craft in knowing how to “articulate” the sound so that it comes off authentically. In the end, technology will never 100% replace a real orchestra, but it comes pretty damn close these days, and for literally pennies on the dollar. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing in the grand scheme because there is truly a special magic to the “real thing”… but no question that more can be done for less, and I believe that benefits everyone in the long run.

Click here to Expand/Collapse a picture of the setup…

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New Toy – Roland RD700GX Stage Piano Tue, 03 Jun 2008 03:39:41 +0000 Adrian Well, I guess all the previous commentary about GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) must have had a lingering affect as I succumbed this past weekend to the newly released Roland RD700GX Stage Piano/Master MIDI Controller. Suffice it to say that this is a serious piece of kit, so I’m dividing this post into two sections: an easy non-technical read and another aimed more at fellow musicians because I know there’s lots of you out there waiting to hear some early reviews before pulling the trigger!

The new Roland RD700GX installed

And my view!

Click here to Expand/Collapse the non-technical review…

Click here to Expand/Collapse the musician’s perspective…

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Seduction finally in the can! Tue, 27 May 2008 17:44:20 +0000 Adrian Happy to report that the newest tune, Seduction, is finally wrapped up. I’ve received the mastered copies back from the engineer and it now plays at “commercial levels”. I’ve added it to the player above, but there’s a link below just in case it doesn’t appear in your browser. Turns out that you need to clear your “browser cache” whenever I post a new song into the playlist. Oh well…

Seduction Mastered Version

My mastering engineer, Brian Lucey, informed me that the mix I sent him was apparently an improvement from my previous tunes. Turns out that’s a good and bad thing because one one hand, he was able to get a better “sound level” out of Seduction; but on the other hand, it shows the need for improving (the mixes) on my prior tunes. This has been a typical outcome of my music journey – and I suspect that many traveling on a similar road experience this as well: Improvements reveal shortcomings in your prior work… So, do you go back and fix it, or just move on? My tendency, unfortunately, is to go back and fix things so I may take a detour and explore that before moving on to a new tune – we’ll see.

I credit a good portion of the so-called improvement to some relatively new gear, namely some NEW mix studio monitors (aka speakers). Again owed to Brian’s recommendation, I invested in a pair of hand-built Barefoot MM27s which are absolutely top of the line nearfield monitors even by professional standards. The difference has been remarkable as I can now produce a mix that is “transportable” across virtually any playing environment. There’s a whole science behind this challenge, but suffice it to say that achieving a transportable mix is an allusive yet foremost objective in music production. Most of it comes from experience, but you also need the right tools and a properly (acoustically) treated room. So I’ll leave that as a segway for an upcoming post to delve into that stuff a bit further.

Thank you to everyone for your feedback during the evolution of Seduction. It was fun to chronicle a project from beginning to end!

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Spring Concerts Mon, 26 May 2008 20:21:09 +0000 Adrian Managed to squeeze in two fairly diverse concert performances this month: Rush and Hiromi. Rush, of course, is the world renowned PROG powerhouse that have captivated their loyal fans for over 30 years. But make no mistake, these boys truly get better with time. I’ve had the privilege of seeing them perform on numerous occasions, but the LA show at the Nokia Theatre was a standout! The Nokia is relatively new concert hall certainly more famous for hosting American Idol than Rush and provides world class acoustics.

Click to Expand/Collapse Rush at the Nokia…

Click here to Expand/Collapse Hiromi at Ronnie Scott’s…

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Seduction is ready for Mastering! Sun, 18 May 2008 14:29:16 +0000 Adrian We’re now at the final stage of the process! Thanks to the guidance provided by Brian Lucey, my Mastering Engineer, the mix is now sufficiently dialed in… Hopefully this sounds a bit “less congested” than what you’ve previously reviewed.

Seduction Premaster Mix

I should caveat all of these mixes have all been “processed” so that the volume approximates commercial levels. This is just so you and I can hear without having to make big adjustments to our settings. AND, you’ve been listening to MP3 files, which are significantly compressed in size. The version I sent out for mastering is a high-resolution file that’s more than 10 times the size of the MP3! It’s also stripped of the limiter because bringing up the volume, amongst other things, is part of the mastering process.

So what is Mastering? It is the practice of taking audio that has been previously mixed in either the analog or digital domain and preparing it for use in distribution, whether by physical media or as some method of streaming. Translation: Mastering is the final polish! When you hear that “commercial sound” on a CD, it’s courtesy of the skill and specialized equipment of a professional mastering engineer.

Many will argue that Mastering can be done using today’s software programs all within the digital realm. And while it can be debated, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties. To me, it’s more about the skill than the technology or the domain, analog v. digital. Sure, I have collected my fair share of technology (remember, I’ve already confessed to having GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome), but I prefer to hire the skills I lack. Besides, it is truly the best way to learn!

I think you’ll hear the difference after Brian applies his craft to the mix this week. Perfect timing because I’m off to London this evening!

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Great Feedback on Seduction Sat, 17 May 2008 14:35:47 +0000 Adrian I sincerely appreciate the inputs you’ve all provided on Seduction. In particular, I received some very helpful and critical feedback from professional mastering engineer Brian Lucey. Brian is a well known industry professional I got to know through the forum. Great name, no? GearSlutz has over 40,000 members and nearly 2 million posts and is moderated by industry professionals. There is no better way to learn the craft of production than to tap the experience and insight of those that do it for a living! But as the name implies, its real purpose is to help members cope with a common ailment we affectionately label as GAS: Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Brian not only knows his stuff, but also shares his opinions CANDIDLY… and of course, he does great work! In fact, he’s mastered all of my (finished) tunes so he’ll eventually apply his craft to Seduction, but not until I fix a few things. Also, Brian definitely has serious GAS, and he frequently passes it my way! My best studio additions as of late have come courtesy of his recommendations…

Brian took a few listens and replied back with “It’s fairly congested toward the end … more of a pile up than a mix with space and depth. Do you have limiting on the mp3? What about middle to width balance … have you considered that? It seems too much in the middle by the end, and the low mids are overfull. Once the Sax comes in it begins to get crowded … look at possible cuts in the 280 and 500hz range as a center freq, on the sax, guitar lead, and bass to a lesser extent”.

This feedback is all about dialing in the production. As mentioned, I didn’t spend a great deal of time on my trial mix due to those sinus issues (which are thankfully behind me), but it’s feedback like this that helps chart a more specific course of action! Brian has basically given me a recipe to get the mix in better shape, and that’s important to do before I turn over to him for mastering. So thank you Brian, and now it’s time to “go back to the board”… the mixing board, that is…

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Trial Mix for Seduction Tue, 13 May 2008 16:44:52 +0000 Adrian Here is the first pass of a “mixed” version of Seduction.

Seduction First Mixdown

Each of the MIDI instruments (piano, wurly, sax, horns) has now been recorded onto its own track (into the computer). Having a dedicated track for each instrument allows for “mixing” – that’s basically where the term comes from. I’m by no means an expert in the area of production, but one thing I’ve come to believe is that the less you muck with it, the better. I’ve applied some light compression to the sax and horns from my board (the external mixing board to which my outboard gear connects). Many people prefer to do all of it inside the computer (also known as “mixing in the box”) but I do a bit of both.  I prefer to shape sound outside the box where I can employ real devices in the analog world – before it gets converted into digital when recorded.  Sure, you can now do everything within the digital realm, but software is, by definition, emulating stuff from the analog world.  Plus, my hybrid approach allows me to spread the workload between my outboard gear and the computer for better overall performance… I use the digital medium for more fundamental stuff like track levels (volume) and panning. Ok, that’s enough of the technical details for now…

I must also confess that I’m having some sinus challenges at the moment so my ears are totally stuffed, so I’m in no position to judge the mix. Hence, I’ll be calling in some better ears to help. Once the mix is finalized, the last step is to send it to a mastering engineer where the professional veneer and final touches are applied.

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Tune Update! Mon, 12 May 2008 16:43:09 +0000 Adrian If you reviewed my prior posts, you’ll recall that I received back the live recordings (for drums, bass and guitar tracks). These recordings were made against a Sketch of the tune … very basic stuff to namely define the song structure for the session musicians. It’s best not to have too much going on in a sketch so that the musicians have lots of room to work with… and that’s a hard thing for a piano player to let go of! But now the final compositional stage is about ME putting down some spice with my own tracks! I decided to add a horn (trumpet/trombone) to back the sax… and changed the saxophone from an Alto to a Tenor… just sounded better to my ear.

Seduction All Instruments Preview

So here, we have a trial mix with everything… with the caveat that the Mix needs work. For example, the horns are too loud and the lead guitar is too low during the Finale, but I’ve yet to begin the Mixing phase (where all of that type of stuff gets dialed in). At this point, I like to take a few days just to listen and ensure all of my instruments are doing what they should… before I record them and proceed to mixing. I’m noting a few mistakes here and there, a few spots where too much is going on… It almost comes down to what you can remove vs. what you can add at this point. I’ll clean this up, but I’m happy to say that this preview is closer to a Tune than a Sketch…

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A Dream Theater Evening in LA Mon, 05 May 2008 17:33:37 +0000 Adrian Those that know me understand that I have a wide range of musical tastes, but the common denominator is musicianship. IMO, Dream Theater sets the bar in the Progressive Metal genre, and the easiest way to summarize them is simply this: They can play anyone else’s stuff, but very few, if any, can play their stuff – at least without a whole lotta effort. I’ve had the great fortune of not only experiencing these guys on stage, but also off-stage; and they are quite simply refreshing people! My good friend Greg Hosharian is a professional composer and keyboardist who had the priviledge of touring with Dream Theater last year, during which he befriended Jordan Rudess.

Jordan is to keyboards what Jimmy Page is to guitars. He is regarded by most as the best in the business (today)… Talented beyond belief, yet Humble beyond expectation. It was great seeing him and the other DT guys after the show! Special thanks to Jordan’s keyboard tech Robert Dorion for making it happen and inviting us to hang out on the tour bus (VERY NICE). I think Greg and I were the last to leave the after show party somewhere around 3A? A very good night… What about the concert? Nothing short of another remarkable performance!

Click Here to Expand/Collapse some Concert Pics…

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Adding another guitar track Fri, 02 May 2008 00:57:26 +0000 Adrian After some careful listening, I felt it was necessary to replace the MIDI guitar patch that was backing the piano (chords) with a real guitar. Thought I could get away with it, but when real instruments are added, the ones being “synthesized” really stick out. So this is the way it goes, it’s very iterative, but I just received the preview track and thought I’d post it herein to show you how this stuff gets reviewed. You’ll notice on this recording that the newly added rhythm guitar, the strumming sound, is turned way up.

Preview of Newly Added Rhythm Guitar

That’s simply to ensure the track itself is correct. The studio will next send a completed high-quality audio file and I’ll import this into the mixing software – known in music speak as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). I’m still trying to size up the audience that is visiting my humble little site, so trying to keep the technical speak down to a minimum. I’ve been asked so often how one of these projects come together so this one is pretty much laid out chronologically from concept thru completion.

We’re about ready to move into the mixing and production phase, but before that, I’ll take some time to add my piano solos and few other spices. I’ll most likely be changing the piano itself, meaning I’ll use a higher quality piano sample. The one you’ve been hearing up to this point is coming straight out of my Kawai MP8 controller; not bad, but certainly not fantastic so stay tuned… this should be coming together within the next few days.

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Guitar tracks in the house! Tue, 29 Apr 2008 17:11:59 +0000 Adrian As previously posted, the guitar tracks were completed just as I was leaving on a trip, so now we have the complete preview with the all the live tracks:

Complete Preview of Live Drums, Bass, and Guitars

There are two guitar tracks: a rhythm/chucking track, and a lead guitar. I really like the “tone” that was selected, not too hard, not too soft; just right for a jazz piece. I need to do more listening and decide whether to add an additional track (strumming) to replace the patch that is presently backing the piano. I’m leaning that direction because it’s so easy to discern “real” vs. “not” once you have live tracks included. I’m also experimenting with some horns which I’m reasonably certain will help round out the rhythm section. That way, I can re-record the piano into something more along the lines of a lead instrument. PLENTY of room for great solo riffs in this tune… those are the thoughts fresh off the press, but I’m sure more will come. Either way, now the ball is back in my court. Thanks again to the fine musicians at!

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Quick update… Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:20:43 +0000 Adrian The guitar tracks have been recorded, but unfortunately I didn’t receive them before heading back to London so I’ll get into the mixing stage after I return, at month’s end. Because the guitars, particularly lead guitar, add so much color, it takes a bit of time to adjust to the new sound. And, I still have work to do on my side with piano solos that will interweave with the lead guitar. All in all, it’s safe to say that the “live tracks” provide lots of spice and we’ll hopefully end up with a tune worthy of its name!

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Bass Track Preview… Wed, 09 Apr 2008 16:54:48 +0000 Adrian Well, the bass track is now ready for a preview! The session musicians provide an opportunity for me to review and comment before we finalize each track, but I rarely find myself having much to add. I figure they know their particular instrument better than me and already took the time to try different approaches before recording… In this case, they captured the “feel” that I was hoping for; a funky jazz/slap bass. Hope you agree! Next come the guitars, which I suspect will take things to an entirely different level so stay tuned!

Seduction with Bass Track Preview

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Drum Track Preview! Mon, 07 Apr 2008 00:03:54 +0000 Adrian Like I was saying, this is the FUN part of a project because I get to hear what professional musicians can do to “liven up” my tune. Elad, the founder of, never ceases to amaze me. Apart from being a great drummer, he has fantastic musical judgment and orchestration skills… Oh, and he strikes me as a very capable business professional having followed many of Clayton Christensen’s (Harvard Business School, author of the Innovator’s Dilemma/Solution) rules for disruptive business strategies, whether or not by intention.

Listen to the tune come to life with some REAL DRUMMING (the loops are hasta la vista)!

Seduction with Live Drums

I’m very excited to see what they come up with for the bass and guitars… and then I can get busy with some hopefully burning solos and possibly a horn section on my end! I’ll post the updates as I get them!

Keep in mind that this is not a fully mixed MP3 that you’re hearing; it’s very basic just to get an idea of how the drum track fits… the tidying up and mixing comes after the rest of the tracks have been recorded.

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Now the fun begins… Sat, 05 Apr 2008 15:22:27 +0000 Adrian My musical collaborators gave thumbs up to the latest revisions I applied to Seduction. So now, we are moving from Composition into Orchestration, and I really enjoy this stage because I get to sit back and see what professional musicians come up with! I usually order live recorded drums, bass guitar, rhythm and lead guitars, and that’s what we’ll be doing for this project as well. is a GREAT service because the entire submittal, review, and acceptance process is performed “on line”. Sure beats having to drive into Los Angeles and supervise recording sessions… although fun, it’s time consuming. Elad has developed a fantastic service that caters to professional and amateur musicians worldwide and their quality is top-notch! Their service is one of many examples of how the Internet has positively contributed to the music industry vs. damaged it (as so often claimed). Bottom line is that a one stop shop for my session musicians saves me boat loads of time!

Turns out, this series of posts pretty much outlines my entire process, so since we’re already down the road, we’ll continue through Mixing and Mastering!

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