Monday, 30 August 2010

Turkey Holiday

I just got back from a holiday in Turkey with my wife and youngest son Lucas. My first time in Turkey and I took quite a lot of holiday pics, as you do, but I particularly liked this one. We went on a boat trip and I climbed to the top of a rock in the middle of the sea where we had docked and looked over the top and saw this view. Not the typical view I'm used to coming from Wigan.
While there I tried to take in a bit of the culture, as the Turks are a pretty friendly lot. I particularly liked the bartering system when you want to buy something. My general rule of thumb was to ask the price, offer half and see if we could meet in the middle somewhere. No idea if it worked but good fun. We went to a tented market in the town of Hisaronu, where we stayed and as you entered at one end, the way the tenting was constructed meant you couldn't get out until you had passed every stall. The system is employed by Ikea, but better things to look at in Turkey!
The funniest thing about the market was hearing the Turkish vendors imitating the Brits, coming out with northern phrases such as "Cheap as Chips " and "Haaw Mooch?" (that's How Much? in proper English).
I also got to listen to a bit of Turkish music thanks to the bar lads at the hotel. I think the scales and patterns they use in the music are alien to our pop culture and I found some of it mesmerizing with the rhythms and melodies taking you in some unusual directions. It made me want to absorb some more, I did try and look for a music store but couldn't find anything. I think I will take a listen to some more traditional Turkish music in the hope it will inspire me in some of my song writing. Its also made me want to investigate some more World Music and that can only be a good thing. I think...

Friday, 25 June 2010


The other morning for no apparent reason I woke extremely early, 4-30am I think it was. Normally I would just turn over and go back to sleep but I just happened to catch sight of the sky as the sunrise was taking place. I couldn't see much from where I was, so I thought I'll get up and take a better look. I'm so glad I did, as the sun was coming up it was kind of back lighting the clouds. I didn't have time to find my camera so I grabbed my phone and leaned out of the window and took the first picture. I thought that was ok, but decided it would be better to take some from outside in the street.
Quickly I threw some shorts on and dashed down stairs. I got into the street and took 3 other pics, stood there bare foot and boxers, not a pretty sight for the neighbors. Hopefully they were all sound asleep.
I went inside again and realized my camera was on a lower resolution, so I altered the settings, ran back outside but the effect had gone. The angle of the sun must have been perfect for a few minutes then changed and the effect was no more. Anyway hope you enjoy the resulting pics. One was chosen for photo of the day by the BBC and resides now in their Flickr site, which is very nice. Hopefully I can use them myself in my future projects.
Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Home Studio pic

Fw: My home studio corner on Twitpic A picture of my little home studio in the corner under the stairs. At least I'm not locked away in the attic. Its actually all I need and quite compact. The 3 guitars I use are a 6 string Ibanez btb Bass, a Fender stratocaster, and an Ozark electro acoustic. The piano is a Roland weighted keyboard midi'd to Reason in the PC and midi'd to a Korg TR-Rack. My audio interface is a Line 6 toneport into the PC via usb. The Digital Audio Workstation I use is Cubase SX3 which also runs Reason 4.0 software via Rewire. I have used other DAW's but I like Cubase and know it back to front and it does what it I ask it to so don't need to change. I have tons of plug-ins including a large Waves pack. I use Ezdrummer and Superior Drummer for programming drums and that's about it.
I'm happy with the set up and thought I'd share it with you.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Fleece recording studio.

The fleece, the pub where quecia recorde on Twitpic
Was passing The Fleece in Ashton-in-Makerfield last night, the upstairs of this pub is where we recorded Quecia's debut album "This Is Where We Are". The traffic stopped so I thought I'd take another random photograph, good memories and still a live venue for local bands, every Friday and Saturday night.

Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Times they are a Changing

I was just on Facebook and I saw a comment and video on "Classic Rock Presents Prog" page of Annie Haslam and the band Renaissance saying she was "one of our fave female vocalists" and how it takes you back to your childhood. This comment made me think back to my teenage years and to the wonderful Sonja Kristina, the lead singer with the 70's Prog band Curved Air. Someone who I thought was absolutely stunning and beautiful and a great vocalist, not just eye candy like so many today. In fact I was probably infatuated with her at the time (no I definitely was) as were many guys, now of a certain age.
Back to the story - I made a little comment on the page mentioning Sonja and the next thing I was messaged by another reader to become friends with her, which of course I did, then Sonja contacted me to become a fan of her new project "Mask" and of course I said "Yes".
This all happened within the space of a couple of hours and I am now virtual friends with a Prog goddess and a fan of her new music. This to me shows how much times have changed for the better in many respects. In the 70's or until very recently, all signed bands and artists like this were untouchable, unattainable and put on a pedestal, by the record companies and PR machine and you would never get chance to interact with them. The best you could hope for would be to read an interview in the N.M.E., Sounds or Melody Maker or maybe go and see them play live once in a blue moon, if they happened to be touring nearby.
Now I can look forward to following the progress of a very talented lady and re-new my interest in the great music she has produced over the years.
My advice - there's never been a better time to be a music fan, so search out the people you admire or have admired, and there's a good chance they'll still be making great music and you get the chance to be closer to that artist, like never before.

Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Random Photographs

Mont blanc, pic taken outside a supermar on Twitpic
Thought this was an interesting picture I found while scrolling thru my phone - I took it a couple of years ago on holiday in France. Its actually the view from a Carrefour supermarket car park. In case you didn't know its Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Don't you wish every supermarket had an interesting view as good as this. The locals seemed oblivious to it. I suppose when you've seen one mountain you've seen 'em all!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Micky Jones: 1946 - 2010

I just heard the very sad news that one of my favorite guitarists, Micky Jones from Man passed away on the 10th of March. I knew he'd been ill for sometime, having to leave the band in 2005. Micky truly was an inspiration to me and so many others. I have seen him perform on numerous occasions and he always blew me away. He never seemed to play the same solo twice and his improvisational skills were amazing, along with his wonderful voice. To me he always sang differently to anyone else I heard and his phrasing was unique.

I first found Man as teenager at a house party, drinking cider and trying to be cool. It was the album "Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics" and I'd never heard anything like it at the time. Micky's amazing soulful voice, brilliant songs, soaring guitar solos and fabulous harmonies. I went straight out the next day and bought it. I loved that album and still do ,as it brings back so many memories - teenage lust, hot party's and even hotter summers and it was never off the turntable. I still play it now.

Unfortunately they split up before I got to see them play in the 70's but by chance one day I was driving passed a venue in Wigan (The Beer Engine) many years later and saw a poster "Man In Concert", I couldn't believe it could be the same band as I'd heard nothing about them for an age. Amazingly it was, I got my ticket and I went to see them play and they tore the place apart, the audience just wouldn't let them off the stage, - from then on I went to see them whenever I could, meeting them on a few occasions. I remember speaking to Micky about some of the albums from the past and he commented, "you don't look old enough to be a fan of us" - he truly was a lovely guy.

The biggest thing apart from the music he left me was something I'd read in Deke Leonard's book, also titled "Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics." Micky would always strive to be original at all costs and try to do something new and that concept has never left me. It kicks me in the backside every now and again and makes me sit down with a guitar and write some music. It's something I believe in as a musician.

I just found this slideshow of Man's Music on youtube that someone has put together so brilliantly. Please follow the link above and watch the video and listen to 50 Man songs in 10 minutes and you'll get a flavor of what he was all about.
R.I.P. Micky Jones, Many Are Called But Few Get Up

Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

CD Mastering For Your Band

A trap a lot of Indie bands fall into when they record an album at home or in a small project studio is that they forget to finish off the process. They will record their tracks, mix them to the best of their ability and stick them up on myspace or any other music networking site and although this is fine, there is so much more than can be done to get a more professional sounding and finished product.

This is where the mastering process comes in. There are no set rules when it comes to mastering and the process can be complicated. After the process is completed the tracks can then be transferred to some kind of data storage, normally CD for reproduction or reformatted for distribution across the internet.

The process I use, is to firstly get to a final mix I'm happy with without using any compression, limiting or eq on the master channel and leaving enough headroom so that the mastering process can be more effective. If a mix is too loud with too many peaks the mastering process will be that much more difficult to obtain great results. An optimum level for a mix would be around -8db.

I've done quite a few mastering jobs over the years and I use mainly digital plugins. Here they are briefly and in the order I use them.
1. High Pass Filter: to get rid of unwanted low frequency noise and rumble
2. EQ : done to suit the track and bring out good or quash harsh frequencies
3. Compression - to tighten up the mix and gel the music together
4. Limiting - to bring up the overall volume levels of the track.
5. High Pass Filter: Again to take out any low rumble if left by the processes above.
6. Spectrum Analyser in real time (at the end of the chain) for a visual look at the track as it plays to see where any problems maybe occuring.

Other processes that may need to be done include, noise reduction, signal restoration, editing, levelling and fade ins/outs

As you can see it can be a difficult job and no doubt if we all had the money we could spend a couple of hundred quid per track sending them to a dedicated mastering engineer.

The bottom line is you should be driven by what sounds best, how you get there is irrelevant, but with a little knowledge and experience you can achieve industry standard results .With this in mind I hope to set up an affordable on-line mastering service in the near future.

Feel free to contact me on if you'd like to enquire about having your tracks mastered.
Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought

Monday, 11 January 2010

A great recording website and RSS Feeds

A while back I posted a blog about Recording and intended to follow it up with Mixing and Mastering posts but since then I found a great site which covers the whole process in far greater detail than I would ever have time for, so I thought I'd pass on the info here. The site has some fab articles, videos, tips and tricks for people with a home or project studio.

With advances in technology these days its now possible to get amazing results from the comfort of your own home.
Joe Gilder is an independent musician in his own right and is the author of Home Studio Corner and it really is a brilliant site, whether you are a pro musician or a complete novice you really should check it out. Its full of knowledge, completely free and you can sign up and download his ebook "Home Studio Production: A Roadmap to Finishing Your Album" which I found very useful. (By the way I don't know Joe and he's not paying me for this... lol)

Finally, a quick tip: You can follow many, many websites very easily, such as Home Studio Corner, if you subscribe to whats called an RSS Feed. You will see the logo at the top of the page on loads of websites and blogs and what it enables you to do is follow those sites without having to visit them individually. You download what's called a "Reader" and you can see all the updates of the sites/blogs and follow them inside the reader itself. The one I prefer is "Google Reader" and it really makes life much easier and simpler. Once downloaded you can search for the topics you are interested in and follow those websites very quickly. TTFN. Happy reading.

Bookmark and Share

Musical Thoughts For Nought