Category Archives: Uncategorized


Just released: Study Electricity’s  latest CD. Think Springsteen meets Alabama Shakes. Rock!
Just release – my own CD! Yes, I actually found the time. The Electric Wire Bird.
Just released: Mister Jimmy’s (aka Jimmy Lepone, formerly of the Union Dead and In The Blond) solo debut 5 song EP.  A mind bendingly great songwriter gets tough while getting you on the dance floor.
Just released: Seve’s “Wisconsin”.  A tour de force.  Think Waits meets Townes.
Just released: Suzanne Dee’s “Hold Me Still”. Defining a new genre of modern adult contemporary. Very cool stuff.

Currently working on:
Geoff Stack’s 3rd CD with me.
Getting ready to mix Jim Steven’s “Collective Energy” CD
Just finished mixing Donny Wilkins’ solo debut CD.
Getting ready to record vocals on Owen “Fiddla” Brown’s  newest CD.
Working on Jon Sallet’s newest work.
Working on Judith Ray’s newest CD.

lush vs minimal production

I think we get into our corners way too easily these day. There seems to be a push in modern life to align or identify with a side. From politics to what kind of computer you use. Production style gets defined this way also.

There are lots of producers with their “sound”. Lots of successful producers hired for their “sound”.  Most of them would consider this a prison much like an actor being typecast. Style yes, but more in approach than delivery. Most want a successful song. How that can be best accomplished depends on the tune.

Sure there’s a lot of drivel out there where production “wow” is really the whole point to a very sketchy musical hook or just tired sameness. But hell, there’s always been that around. We are actually living in the time of the producer more than any other time in recorded popular music. Now an incredible amount of music is made independently, and artist’s are also filling the role of producer. Production can be so fussed to material it’s almost impossible to separate tone from structure. Sometimes a sound alone inspires the song that follows. But don’t let that influence the point. Be aware of the cultural surrounding, sound de jour, but don’t let a song be defined by it nor operate in a vacuum.

The real question is as it always has been – what is the artist or song trying to communicate, either to an audience or the artist themselves.  I am in favor of minimal production equally with lush over the top production. I just consider what’s best for the song before setting a course, a course that may alter if something cooler or unexpectedly great happens.  The problem with lush is that it can obscure the point – like drinking from a fire hose. The meaning lost because the din and thickness veil it. Mostly it’s because too many ideas (even if they’re mostly good ideas) are used. If one guitar part is cool then five cool guitar parts must be inherently cooler. Nope, not necessarily. And in a world where an almost infinite amount sounds are at your fingertips, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Conversely, I don’t think Dark Side of the Moon would have been better with less. Should Van Gogh have used a little less paint in “A Starry Night”? Should Mondrian have used more?

You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You will often alienate even an established audience. Yep. Sometimes art and commerce don’t meet. No harm or fowl. But the method you employ to accomplish what you want to say is only dependent on how you want it heard and understood. You are painting a sonic painting, chiseling a rock down to reveal sound. Stay open to current, stay open to different paths, and stay focused on saying what either you or the tune want said. Sometimes a song will say yes and the artist says no. It can be tricky – I almost always side with tune, but more on that in a future post. If it’s cooler with a kick drum and a vocal then use that and if it’s better with two symphonies battling it out from each speaker then do that. Keep asking yourself if it “needs” it – is it really better in, or just different, and if the difference makes it better, more defined, moving towards precisely what you want to say or feel from it.

If you are an artist filling the role also as producer, make sure you are looking at the song with distance – cold and hard. Without this, you’ll be making judgments in more the pure artistic realm than understanding how an audience may relate, making the more or less question a smaller one but not always right for the big picture. Even Hemmingway had an editor and if you act as both, then fill the role of both. John Cage still wanted to communicate something to an audience beyond just a creation for only him to hear (or not hear, depending on the rests on the staff). This might better inform the less or more questions.

A song wants to engage, sometimes even to the point of confrontation. Extremes can be effective but keep the goal in mind. Just cause you can, doesn’t mean you should, lush or minimal.

stretch your strings

Stretch your strings. Insert your own yoga to Richard Simmons imagery here.

Almost every person has their method and I’m not gonna knock your tried and true approach. What I am going tell you is that I run out of fingers and toes counting the number of times I’ve asked a guitarist if they had stretched their strings. They say yes, and the strings go out the next pass on a track, and the pass after that. Many have said “yes, I put new string on last week and let them stretch”.

I was that guy once. I didn’t know how to best put a string on, how to best stretch it, or even how to effectively tune it. And I was no beginner player not knowing this. Here’s what works:

For almost everyone out there, besides Fender Tele and Strat players or nylon sting players, the way to put on a new string is slip the string through the bridge, then the string goes through the hole of the tuning peg until the string lays flat, pull back on the string towards the bridge so there is slack in the string (about 3 to 6 inches of slack – the slack depends how many winds you like around the peg – more slack = more winds. Take the end of the string and bring it around the top of the peg and go under the sting (think of it like an exit ramp that goes under the road you were on), pull it tight against the peg and now bend this end of the string straight up. If you have tuning pegs on bottom of the head stock the wind will be the opposite direction – under the peg and up and under the string. You should still have slack between the bridge and peg but the string is tight against the peg. Now you can wind the string and as you do each wind should go over the bend of the string.  So it’s actually locking the end of the string so you can wind tight without it slipping around the peg.

For nylon string players the principle is the same but the direction may change according to how the peg is placed – usually sideways in the head-stock. For Strat and Tele players you just need to cut the end of the string so when you place the end of the string down into the peg there isn’t an bunch of slack on the string. Again, more slack means more winds around the peg.

Wind the string to pitch. Now with your right hand placed between the pickups pull up on a string while the fingers of your left hand press down on the string against the fret-board.  Pull up with your right hand each time you move up the neck and press down with your left hand. Each pass I’ll move my left hand to about 5 different spots on the neck. Re tune and repeat until the sting stays in pitch after this pull up/press down operation. Go to the next string and repeat.

On semi hollow body guitars sometimes as you tune you can pull the tuning out of the string you just tuned by tuning the next string. To avoid this, tune from the middle strings out – this keeps tension even on the bridge through the tuning process.

If this doesn’t work for sure you then you can write me a nasty post – but that won’t happen, that’s how sure fire this is.

making a demo – (cover gigs)

These words are intended for the vast army of working musicians whose venues happen to be cover rooms – where almost all of the material to be played is not the performers original compositions, rather “covers”. Wedding bands, solo, duo acts, club bands sluggin’ it out night after night.

First, I would not be giving full disclosure if I didn’t tell a story first. I was in my first original music band and I was spewing off some choice words to a producer about the cover scene, probably out of anger to audiences that fill the cover rooms, and the bands that play them, while a local original music scene always seems to struggle for any draw at all or a comparatively smaller one.  At the end of my little rant my producer quietly and with nothing but gentleness in his heart said, “I don’t know. I think that anyone that is making music is doing a noble thing”.  Not only did I feel every bit of the idiot I was but it shook me to my core and thankfully I never looked back. Lesson learned and brought into my very soul.

So you noble warriors, you need to get some damn gigs! Here’s the important rule on your demo. You are not the original artist and therefore there is no need for the entire version of any song. If the booking agent wanted that they’d just go put on the original CD. I’m not saying you aren’t every bit as good as the original, hell, maybe even better, but that matters not for the purpose at hand. 30 seconds to 1 minute of any tune is enough. Medley is the key word here – a “set” made up of 7 to 10 segments of tunes. Keep the overall length of your demo to under 15 minutes max.  The booking agent wants to get an idea of your abilities, taste in song selection, and professionalism. A short concise demo, recorded well, and not over reaching will give you a leg up. Think one verse and one chorus, fade out, and while fading out, fade up into the next song snippet.

You can tailor a CD for any type of gig by using only the song selection best serving that venue or occasions needs. So when recording, remember this idea and record a bunch of segments of different tunes.  With some choices you can tailor fit the blend for the club you’re trying to book and reduce the risk of them not booking because you included a style they or their clientele will not dig.

Think about what part of the song you want to use and record only those parts. It’ll save time in the studio and save a bunch of time in assembling the demo.

Try not to be too over produced or slick. Wedding and club bands will need to sound very close to the original but a solo act that also has a ton of backing vocals on their demo might feel misrepresenting and actually hurt the chances of getting the gig.

Most club acts need an acoustic set or chill set, a perky middle set and I’m hammered and wanna dance set. For wedding bands you too will need to think about sets – dinner set, a middle set and a dance set. For both club and wedding gigs you might be able to combine sets 2 and 3 into one 5 to 7 minute medley.

Most musicians need a general track for the web site, Facebook, etc that covers a lot of ground i.e., “chillin’ as they chew” tunes to a modern dance set. Try to keep each “set” to between 3 and 5 minutes and no more than 7 minutes.

In pacing the set don’t go too fast or too slow – half of a chorus will not due, nor will the intro to on past the bridge. Let it be enough time for it to sink in, “oh I know this tune”, to how you’re playing the song, “oh aren’t they very good” and like the vibe “my toe is tapping” and then fade out. 45 seconds and you are right on.

Medleys that are continues are great – as one tune is ending the next is already starting to fade up. When doing this, try to get the end beat of the first song to be dead on the first beat of the second song – even if tempos don’t match, cutting on a beat just feels better.

You are now ready for the noble cause of playing music for the masses!