Students Keeping Busy in the Studio

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It’s been quite a transition in getting used to the UW Oshkosh curriculum and studios, but things are coming along nicely and students have been doing all kinds of projects in the studio throughout the semester. In one course in particular, Studio Procedures, we have been recording a variety of instruments from piano to saxophone.

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For each session, we test a number of microphones in various positions, such as here on the upright bass. Comparing mic positions helps us to learn which positions are most effective for the various instruments and how to best mix them after recording.

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Above, David plays his hand-built guitar as we test various mic positions on electric guitar. We’re going to continue learning the studio and updating the facilities as the semester continues. I’m looking forward to where we’ll end up when the updates are all complete!

 

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Three months later… Back to Oshkosh!

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It’s been a wild three months since my last blog post, so I better get caught up! In that time, we managed to pack up our home in South Dakota, and four days later, move in to our new house in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, close to 500 miles away. During the course of the move, I also had the opportunity to play an acoustic concert at an outdoor festival at Strawbale Winery.

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At the beginning of September, I took over as Director of Recording Technology at UW Oshkosh. It’s been both a fun and very busy start to the semester. I have a packed schedule of courses and have also been doing a lot of work on the university recording studio.

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Another major event last month was the “Installation” ceremony for the University’s new Chancellor, Andrew Levitt. I assisted with sound setup in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Hangar next to the museum. It was a new and great learning experience to help with sound in a room that large.

We have been enjoying the great Fall weather as we reconnect with some old friends and get to know some new ones as we re-familiarize ourselves with the city. It’s already starting to feel like home! Much more to come…

Live from the Brickhouse

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We had a fantastic album release show at the Brickhouse in downtown Madison in early June. It was especially great to perform with former DSU students, Kyle Vis on guitar and Derek Carlson playing percussion on cajon for several songs. The audience turnout was great, and it was really special to perform for so many supportive friends. Paul Schipper and Nolan Moser produced the video for two songs, “Distant Call” and “Bury Down”, posted below:

Moving to Oshkosh, Album Now Available!

It’s been a while since I last posted because we are very busy selling our house in South Dakota and hunting for a new place to live in Oshkosh, Wisconsin! It’s an equally exciting and stressful time, but we know there is a lot to look forward to once we make it to our new destination.

There will be more updates on that to come, but in the mean time, my album, “Far Away From Here” is finally officially available! It is posted online to stream via bandcamp.com, and can also be purchased on CD. I also have a couple of exciting shows coming up, including a show in late June at Prairie Berry East Bank in Sioux Falls, and at an event called the “Folk Off and Rib Challenge” at the end of July at Strawbale Winery, just north of Sioux Falls. Enjoy the new album, it’s summertime!

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=872602549/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Album Pre-Release and First Track

I’m pleased to share that I have posted the first (and title) track from the upcoming album, “Far Away From Here”, available on May 19th! This track is about those times when we feel a desire just to temporarily escape from whatever is happening in our world and just get away from it all.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=872602549/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/track=975890030/transparent=true/

“Far Away From Here” Release Date: May 19th

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My new original album, “Far Away From Here”, will be available for download and purchase on May 19th, but I will also be posting up early tracks and previews very soon. I have an album release concert schedule for Wednesday, May 6th at the Brickhouse in Downtown Madison, SD. Track postings are coming soon! Here is a description of the upcoming album:

“…Like a lonely lost survivor floating at sea.”

This line, from the minimalistic acoustic track, “High and Dry”, came to me one summer day in the midst of a long drive across the stark South Dakota landscape. It exemplified a feeling that I think we all have on occasion as we stumble through our lives, searching for answers, fighting through our fears, and teaching ourselves to let go.

In this culmination of several years of writing and recording, I narrowed the theme to time and travel… a means of sharing my struggles with the existential search for meaning and the answers to why we’re here. Creating this album was was a time of intense growth, both as a songwriter, recording engineer, and as a person.

During this process, I had the pleasure of working with many phenomenally talented musicians, both locally and long-distance. From audio production students assisting with engineering, to sharing tracks several states over via the web. Michael Gaylor (Chemistry Professor by day, drum wizard by night) and Jim Thuli built percussive moods, Wisconsin songwriters Paul Otteson and Tony Memmel brought their haunting vocal harmonies into the mix, and composer and professor Jacob Tews added a cinematic flair through his viola performances. Not to mention, my wife Cassie contributing the gorgeous watercolor cover artwork, as well as her gentle harmony vocals.

I hope that your experience with the album allows you to connect in some way through my exploration of those personal challenges and battles that we likely all share in common. Sometimes we just feel that drive to be “Far Away From Here”…

My Favorite Guitar Effects

A while back, I posted about some of my favorite go-to plug-ins that I have been using for my upcoming album (set for release in May!). Now I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the guitar effects that I have used. Most of the tracks feature electric guitar in some capacity, and generally speaking, like to use it to set a mood through use of textures and rhythmic interaction. Here’s some of the methods that I use to achieve this.

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TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay

Delay is one of my most used and loved effects for guitar. A shorter delay can simply give a roomy feel to a guitar sound, while a longer delay can create interesting soundscapes and rhythmic textures in the vein of the now infamous style of U2’s the Edge. I tend to like setting the delay sound to emulate a tape delay so that it darkens and becomes slightly dirtier sounding as it fades away. “Distant Call”, on the upcoming album, is a good example of a track that will use layered guitars with delays in order to generate textures.

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Line6 Verbzilla

I also love using reverb in tandem with delay effects. This can help to add to the “wash” sort of effect, and lengthen out tones. It really can make the electric guitar sound very beautiful and spacious. Typically, I like setting the reverb to a brighter “plate” sort of sound (plate refers to when studios would use sound vibration on large fiberglass sheets to create a reverb effect), but a “spring” reverb is also a common and effective type of reverb to use with a guitar amp.

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Electro-Harmoix Knockout

This probably isn’t one that you’ll see on as many pedal boards, but I love the tone manipulation possibilities that this pedal brings. It acts as a sort of 3-way tone equalizer, and can even be set more extreme so that your guitar sounds like it has a different type of pickups (like making a Strat sound like a Telecaster). I generally prefer to use it just to give a gentle high and low end boost, which further enhances the tone when coming into the amp.

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Ibanez Tube Screamer

This is perhaps one of the most classic and well-known pedals of all time. The Tubescreamer is what is known as an overdrive pedal. It serves to boost and add drive to your signal, which ultimately results in more distortion and break-up of the sound when it goes through the amplifier. You will here a wide variety of overdrive levels on the album, from totally clean tones, to loud and dirty overdrives, and most everything in-between. It’s a very versatile tool.

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Ernie Ball Volume

This last one isn’t exactly an effect, per se, but it’s very important to the overall shape of the tone in some of the songs. A volume pedal can be useful for creating “swells” which slows down the attack of a note and makes it sound smoother. It takes away the recognizable pluck sound of a guitar, and can even make it sound more like a bowed instrument such as a violin. When used in front of a delay and reverb, the sound trails can create some really magical moods and textures that you’ll hear throughout the album, even if far off in the distance.

Condor Performs at DSU

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As a collaboration between DSU Live and the Madison Area Arts Council, we were excited to invite the Sioux Falls band Condor to perform a concert on the DSU Campus. Condor is unique in that they are a three-piece group with banjo, acoustic guitar, and cello. The band performed an extended set with a variety of original songs, and even threw in a surprising cello piece on Bach while a broken acoustic string was being replaced!

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As is a traditional part of our concert series, we also recorded the audio of the show and will be sending it to SDPB radio to be broadcast on the show, “No Cover, No Minimum”. There was also student artwork on display from Cassie’s Design 2: Color class. The concert was a lot of fun, both in terms of listening, and practicing recording techniques with help from the students.

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I’m extremely happy with how the final product is turning out. Here’s a video of the song, “Sunshine Wine”:

Favorite Studio Gear

As I get nearer and nearer to completing my next big original album project, I was thinking through what has become some of my favorite studio equipment. If you’re curious, I also did a blog post on some of my favorite plug-ins here.

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AKG Perception 420 Microphone

This is the mic that I used to record all of my vocals, and some of the harmony vocals on the album. There are virtually endless options when it comes to studio mics, and I happened to have a lucky find when I came across the AKG 420. I think it has a very nicely balanced sound, with just the right amount of fullness and openness, without being to harsh or “nasal” in the upper-mid-range. I also use a pop filter and attach a sound absorber to the mic stand arm to further isolate the vocals.

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Taylor Grand Symphony Mini

This is the first acoustic guitar that I purchased myself, since the Seagull that I own was a Christmas present that I’ve had for about fifteen years. I really like the contrast in sound between the two guitars. The Seagull is a bit warmer and fuller because of the larger dreadnaught-shaped body, and the Taylor has a brighter and more upfront sound, while also holding it’s own in terms of fullness. I have actually used both guitars on the recording, depending on which tone is most fitting for the song. It has been great to be able to choose between the two, and I’ve been really satisfied with the results.

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Electric Guitar Rig: Fender Telecaster Thinline ’72 Reissue and Jet City PicoValve Amplifier

I probably spend way too much time tweaking my electric guitar rig, but I think the tweaking has paid off since there are some great tones and effects that will be on the album. There is some Stratocaster on the album, but I more-often went with the Tele because the body type and pickups provide a slightly richer sound, which was a better fit for most of the songs on the album. The “PicoValve” amp is a low-wattage tube amp that records really nicely with an SM57 mic on the cabinet and/or a small diaphragm condenser mic (see the next section). I’ve had the  speaker cabinet for quite a few years, and have been really pleased with it. The cab is an open back pine enclosure with two 10″ Jensen Neo speakers.

Lastly, I am continuously tweaking my pedalboard to find certain effects that fit my needs for the sound that I am seeking for the album. Some of the most used effects that are heard on the album include the Line 6 Verbzilla reverb, classic Ibanez Tubescreamer overdrive, TC Electronic Flashback X4 analog modeling delay, and Electro-Harmonix “Knockout” equalizer. Admittedly, I sometimes also used virtual guitar simulators in Logic Pro X, which helps to provide even more options for sonic character.

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Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

Throughout the recording of this project, I’ve used a number of different brands of this type of mic, including AKG (Perception 170) and Audio-Technica (AT 4041). I especially like them for recording acoustic instruments because they are very sensitive and accurate. For instance, I use a stereo pair every time that I record acoustic guitar. They also can work well on electric guitar amps and as overhead mics for drums.

More details are soon to come as I finally come close to wrapping up the album!

 

Video from White Wall Posted

As a nice birthday present, a live video of the song, “Palisades”, from my upcoming album, aired last weekend on the White Wall Sessions. The show is a weekly broadcast on our local CBS station, and the videos are also posted on YouTube. The show uses excellent production values to highlight regional bands and musicians in an open setting in order to give a raw and intimate feel. Check out the White Wall Sessions website, and the performance is posted below!