The Allegheny Ukulele Soiree!

Way back on April 21st, 2018 I had an amazing opportunity to attend the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree in Altoona, PA. It's a wonderful ukulele festival and I got to sit down with some of the people that made it happen.

Here are all of those episodes I recorded that day in order. There's so much great information in all of these podcasts on how to improve as a player, how to write songs, how to run an ukulele festival, and so much more. You might want to take notes. 😉

A great day meeting Jake Shimabukuro!

Well, my album should be done being mastered by next week. It'll officially release soon after that!

In the mean time I had an incredible day. 😁 I got to meet and interview Jake Shimabukuro for my podcast. He's such an incredible guy and unbelievably good ukulele player.

We talked about all sorts of things concerning the ukulele and life. I'm currently editing it and will be posting it at the beginning of next month.

Naturally I was pretty nervous to be meeting one of my ukulele heroes. He played such a big part in getting my start on this sweet little instrument. It was so nice to talk to him about practice, playing in a band, pedals, strings, teaching, and all sorts of other things.

The audio isn't the best, since it was quite a noisy environment, but the conversation is precious. He played one of his songs for me at the end, too. I'll never forget it. 😊

The thing that really made the whole night, though, was when he gave me a shout-out from the stage. Because of that I got to meet some more wonderful people from an ukulele club a few towns over.

Anyway! Just wanted to share that little update. I'm going to the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree this weekend and will meet many more great players and teachers.

So stay tuned for some great episodes and my album!

The Final Countdown

Oh my gosh I'm so excited!

I've had a pretty wild past few weeks. First, my wife was gone to a conference for a week, leaving me with the kids. I have four kids ages 7, 4, 3, and 10 months. Sheesh it was rough. I got a lot of praise just for watching them all on my own.

I mean.... yea it was difficult, but not impossible. I love my kids.

After that week, I recorded a little clip of myself playing Hozier's Cherry Wine on uke. I wanted to do a full version, but this was just to share what I was working on. Eat My Uke saw it and shared it with his fans. It got a LOT of exposure. I made a huge chunk of fans through that. It was incredible and I'm so grateful to him for noticing and giving me the platform to reach more people.

Then I had the final two days of tracking and mixing my album. So from now on I won't be going to Boston. The final mixing and mastering has been scheduled for the end of April. At that point I'll have a record to share with all of you!!

My friend Sunhwa drove all the way across Massachusetts to record backup vocals. So really all I had to do was sit and offer my opinions. She had some ideas, I had some ideas, and the producer Mike had some ideas. We recorded her voice over as many places as we thought we could.

In some places it worked.

In others it didn't.

In some places we needed even more voices. 😂

So anyway, after one day of recording her singing and another day of mixing, I'm just stuck in the waiting game now.

I think I'm actually going to miss the River Street Whole Foods in Cambridge. I went there so often for pizza and kombucha. 🤤  Not good for my voice, really. 

Thank you for believing in me and supporting me through this. I'm so excited for the final product. It already sounds incredible as is, but it's all rough cuts. I can't wait to hear what the final mixes will sound like.

 

Guitars and vocals

Once again I went up to Boston for a few days of tracking. This time we worked on guitar and vocal parts.

When I say we, I really mean Chris and the producer Mike.  

For the vocal tracking, it was tricky like before. We did a few takes, listened back, changed a few things, and finally settled on the best versions. 

For guitar it was a little different. I didn’t play. I noodled around a little, but I left the serious playing up to my good friend Chris. 

He brought his guitar and had a lot of ideas going in. In one sense it was much less work for me, which was nice, but still mentally tiring. I was still listening intently to how everything was sounding together and offering feedback to better serve the songs.

The really interesting thing about recording electric guitar is that you don’t have to be in the studio. The amp is in the studio, miked, and fed the guitar signal from the control room. 

It's much more relaxing than having to be in the studio with headphones on listening to the backing track and directions from the producer. 

So we worked out and layed down the guitar parts for everything. It took about 3 hours just for one song. In total I think it took 6 hours. The last vocal session was about 4 hours.

I’m really grateful to Chris and Mike. I don’t have such a great ear for electric guitar and these guys did some serious work. 

Thanks so much guys! 

So I’ve only got a few more days of tracking left to go. Then it’s down to mixing and mastering. I’m shooting for an April release at this point. Thanks for all your support and patience in the process. 

I’m so excited about the way it’s turning out and can’t wait to share it. 

Here’s a little clip of Chris playing on one of he tracks.

 

Laying down some vocals

Last Tuesday I went in to the studio for another tracking session. 

We worked on vocals for a couple of tracks. I’m really happy with the end result.  

Generally the vocals are the last part of the song that you record. They’re arguably the most important part of the song. Everything else supports it.

So we started with a scratch track way back. Then we recorded the drums, bass, ukulele, piano, guitar, etc, in that order. Not all songs will have all of those parts, but while recording them you have some basic vocal part to follow from the scratch track. It’s much easier for me to focus on the instrument I’m playing. It also makes it much easier to know where you are in the song while recording.

Eventually everything else is done and you just have the vocal track to record. It’s so nice hearing the full backing track to support you as you sing along. At that point it feels much more complete and you can finally get a strong sense of how the final song will sound. 

So in addition to testing out some organ and melodica sounds on certain tracks, we tracked a lot of vocals.

The first song went well. I got a pretty good take done in only a couple of tries. 

The second took a bit more work. Compared to any instrument, the voice is so incredibly personal, so any mistakes or not-quite-right performances are felt very deeply. There’s a lot of self esteem and confidence tied to singing.

At least it’s like that for me. Maybe I’ve got a huge ego? 😂 Well there's a lot of getting-over-it I have to do in the moment.

We did some takes, listened back, did some takes, listened back, took a break, and so on until I got it right. 

I was trying to sing more, then less, then more gruffly, then lighter and more angelic (whatever that means 🤔).

Anyway I can't wait to share the final results with you. This is just another little piece of my experience making the best album I possibly can.

I hope you enjoyed reading it.

This Saturday I'll be traveling up with Chris to track a bunch of guitar parts. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Here's a pic of what my "office" looks like when tracking vocals.

Aloha!

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More Tracking

It’s all coming together nicely!

I went for another day of tracking last week to start working on the keyboard and bass parts. I had a little more prepared creatively this time. We also got some simple percussion parts done.

One of the songs called for a really simple bass drum, like a heart beat. Another really wanted a stomp, kind of like on a porch. 

What do I mean by that? Well I don’t totally understand it myself, but when I’m writing a song, I’ve got a sound in my mind and an image that the song would paint.  

Then I’m trying to make it a reality. That just means first trying out what I think would make the sound I’m seeking, and then adjusting as I go. It could end up that the sound actually doesn’t work. Or it might just not be enough. Or it’s just perfect.

So although the song isn’t actually calling me up and saying “hey I need some stomp sounds,” 😂 there’s just some undefinable hole in a song that needs filling. Through experimentation, daydreaming, and listening back to recordings, I can hopefully figure out what will fill it and make the song feel complete.

For the heart beat pulse, it was pretty straightforward. We got a giant kick drum (or maybe it was just a bass drum?) and beat it to the music. 🤔 Simple right?  Nope- we still had to move the mic around, mess with the dampening, practice even consistent strikes, and then EQ it to really get the warmth I wanted.

I needed a stomp sound in another song, and that was fun figuring out. Previously we had just been wandering around the studio smacking stuff and stomping on everything to see what kind of sounds we had available. Eventually we settled on some scraps of wood, stacked in a way to leave a little gap above the floor. Then we stuck a mic on it. You can get an idea of the final product by watching a clip on my instagram. 

Certain impacts just gave off slightly weird sounds to me, so it took more focus than I thought to pull it off right. I used some worn out Toms (shoes)to minimize any squeaking, and through trial and error, found the perfect spot to stomp on the boards for that sweet porch tone I was after.

Finally, we worked on some keyboard parts. We tried working on the Wurlitzer, but it just wasn’t happening, so we stuck with the piano and Rhodes. If you don’t know, a Rhodes piano is like an electric guitar, there are little metal bars that are struck by hammers. Then little magnets pick up the signal (like electric guitar pickups) and send it out to an amp. They’re fantastic fun.

So then I was playing along with the tracks that needed it. At least that’s what I thought. It didn’t work out with every song. 😅

Some parts I played were too busy, and some not busy enough. Not every song has keys and we still have to get some organ in one song. At least, I think we do. 😁 

I won’t know for sure until we try it out. Til the next time I go, I will be writing and trying different parts on my own that I think could fit in.  

We also tracked the bass parts. I think my hands were too used to tiny fretboards at this point. I often play on a short scale bass, and that’s what I played on “Without You.” I was playing around with it to write some bass lines, and felt pretty happy with what I was thinking.

I wanted a regular scale bass for the last songs, so I decided to use the Studio's bass. It didn’t really work well. My hands felt clumsy and sloppy and whatever bass lines I had written were poorly played or lacked the energy I thought they had. 

I don’t know what it is, but things just sound different in the studio. 

So, my producer Mike ended up playing the bass. He had some awesome ideas. We just played it, listened back, played it differently, cut it out at certain points in the song, and eventually had something awesome.

Wow this is long. 

We really did a lot, huh? 

If you read this far, you’re awesome! Thanks for checking it out and being so interested in this journey. 

I tried to keep it brief while still giving good insight.  I hope you got something out of it.

Until next time, cheers and aloha! 

(here's a little clip of me messing around on the Rhoades)

 

 

 

Happy *late* New Year

I hope the new year is treating y’all well!

On Jan 3 I went to the studio to start tracking the drums. I’m really excited with the way they turned out. 😁

Getting the best sound for an album requires being very particular, and setting up the drums takes a pretty long time to begin with.

Of course they have to actually be set up. They aren’t always in the right spot. Then you need to tune them and mic them. The mics have to not phase each other out, and there’s a lot of them. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that. 😂

🤷‍♂️I don’t understand it, but whatever these guys do is magic. 🤩

So once we’re ready to record I get locked away in a side room with my uke, some headphones, and a simple mic. Then the real work begins.

The first thing to do is make a scratch track. So the drummer and I just play the song with a click track til we get it right.

I mess up the words. We mess up the order.

Yes it’s written down. No I don’t know why I can’t get it right after so much practice.

This is my song, right?

Anyway it’s totally new and we need to give it life. Eventually we get into the groove and it starts to really work.

Then I’m done.

I go to the control room because we have enough voice and uke to play along to.

From this point it’s the drummers chance to really polish it up and give it some oomph.

So the producer and I are sitting and listening and giving critiques here and there. The drummer is clearly committed to getting the groove really solid and plays many more takes.

Theres a constant, creative, back-and-forth throughout the whole process. Every now and then whole sections get re-written.

He threw in some colorful, reverbish, reggae snare hits that were just 😘.

Oh and then we did the whole thing over again for a second song. 😅 It took about 6 hours in total.

So that’s a quick summary of what it took to get the drum tracks for two songs. We have to do that for the uke parts, keyboard parts, bass parts, guitar parts, vocal parts, and anything else we think of along the way.

The nice thing is that we don’t have to make another scratch track for these two songs. Now we’re recording the final product.

There are a few more songs to go after this, though, so we still have scratch tracks to make.

I can’t wait to hear it all come together!

Here’s a little sneak peek of a song while the drummer was laying it down. The producer stepped out for a moment.

Back in the studio!

So I finally have all the dates set for the recording of my album!

I'm so excited.

I'll be going to Boston first this coming Tuesday for the first day of pre-production planning. While I've been essentially in the pre-pro phase of this project til now, this is the first time I'll be back in the studio since we mastered the first track of the album. 

I still remember getting home after the last long day of mixing and mastering it and playing it for Mika in the van (the best sound system we had with us). All she said was "wow...... it sounds like a real song." 😂🤗

It's funny and incredibly validating at the same time. It's that same experience I'm striving for as I go back to the studio. I want every song to really move people, and ultimately become a profound listening experience.

What will I be doing on Tuesday? Pre-pro is just a chance to play through the songs how I think they should sound with all the extra parts. I'll be working through every aspect with the producer to see what fits well and what doesn't. 

Every step of the way in the process things can be reinvented or scrapped, but in pre-pro we make the most progress towards finalizing the song.

I had a plan for the songs, but just wrote another one the other day, so we'll see how it goes.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

The beginning!

Hello!

Welcome to my site and my blog. I recently ran an Indiegogo campaign for my first solo studio album. I made my goal and will begin working on the album within the next month.

I'm so grateful to everyone that's supported me in this. It's incredibly validating and liberating to be able to take this giant step towards being a professional musician.

This blog is where I will document the process of recording my album. I'm hoping that it will be helpful and interesting to hear about my experience. Actually, it's really just for Tripp. 😂🤙

I have recorded simple things on my own over the years, and I've also been in many live playing situations, but rarely with my own music. This is the first time I'm working with a professional producer to create music that resonates with me and hopefully connects to many others.

I've also self-produced and recorded an EP with my band Prideswell, but the quality of this album will be on a whole different level. I'm so excited, and I'm kinda trying to hide it.

This is a fantastic beginning! 

I'm working out the dates with the studio to start working on pre-production for the album. The studio is in Boston and I have a heap of responsibilities here in Bridgeport, so it might be a long process. I have no definite time-frame, yet.

At the moment I'm enjoying the extra time to work on the remaining songs. Stay tuned for more!