Tuesday, 22 July 2014

'Dancing in the Dark' (Springsteen) slight return...

So, on acquiring a Bass Harmonica the first thing one asks oneself is 'why doesn't it sound like the noise I had in my head?'

I'm far from disappointed though.

It was great fun making 'spooky' noises in the dark when I first got my hands on it, but it has a job to do, and that means I have to make some attempt at learning to play it.

Easier said than done...

One of the reasons I purchased this instrument was wanting that 'sound' on The Flying Aspidistras'  version of 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God'.

I tried playing along with the second demo version.

It wasn't a great success.

I kept noodling away... errr,  alright, I imitated farting noises and laughed like a drain for about 2 days.

I eventually found I could very-nearly-almost accompany the demo version of 'Dancing in the Dark' I'd recorded.
I hadn't planed to re-record DitD, as - always happens - I'd become... well, sick of it.
It might come out to play if I can't think of anything else to twang, but it's definatly on the back-boiler.

So, back to work then.
Garageband reloaded into the iPad.
The DAW app doesn't really work of me, I find GarageBand much easier to edit on.
The problems with GarageBand are all the 'bells & whistles'.
It's always a temptation to add 'automatic' backing instruments to fatten the track out.

The only non-human instrument I recorded was the drum track and, initially, only to provide a metronome, but in the end it sounded better in than out so it stayed.

Instruments (in order of recording)
  • Track 01: Metronome Drum Track
  • Track 02: Resonator Ukulele c/w guide vox
  • Track 03: Baritone Ukulele.
  • Track 04: Resonator Ukulele.
  • Track 05: Pocket Bass Hamonica.
  • Tracks 06/07/08/09 Vocals
I made a slight mistake in the recording procedure.
When recording the guide uke/vox track I turned the drums off and used the annoying clave metronome.
My timing drifted in a couple of parts.
This had the knock on effect of throwing the subsequent recordings ever-so-slightly 'out'.

It's an odd sensation, listening back to the guide-track whilst recording another part.
You know your timing is dead-on against the drums - which I'd turned back on - then the backing-track 'wobbles'.
You only have a split second, once you realise something's wrong, to readjust.

It's a bit like being seasick.

I could not get the vocal right, one of the reasons it's fallen off my top 20 songs to sing and play.
The result is a combination of several takes.
I like the way I attempted to extend the word 'and' in the stanza  'I get up in the morning, and I have nothing to say'.
It was an attempt at a tension building 'annnnnnnd here's Dickie' talk show host way.

I like the way I sung 'tired and bored with myself' in my impersonation of a narky teenage way.

These observations may not actually be apparent to normal people, but I can hear them.

Here it is then:

It's growing on me, but it's done now.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tombo Pocket Bass Harmonica (in a green eye).

During recording the demos for 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God' I became somewhat facsinated, if not obsessed, by the sound the tin-box-&-broom-pole bass was making.

It's a difficult instrument to record. It has a built-in piezo microphone, but plug it into an amp and you've got feedback only people with names like 'Jimi Hendrix' could control. It's not a subtle or, in fact, particulaly loud instrument either which makes using an external mic tricky. It ends up being a trade off between volume or horrible string scrapie noise.

'EQ to the rescue then?'

Errr, no, not until the track is recorded. I just try to get as close to the sound I want in the finished product.

That's all well and good, in theory. In practice, well... it didn't happen. The string buzz won the day.

Now EQ?

Yes. Now EQ.

I haven't the faintest idea what I set the various parametric EQ controls to, but I ended up with something that fit the overall sound of the track.

I wrote in the original post about how I'd managed to make the bass sound like a crumhorn: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumhorn

It was the only thing I could think of comparing it to and yet I knew that wasn't 'it'.

To avoid rambling on like this... I eventually, through subsequent recordings and re-recordings, boiled it down to the harmonica family.

I can not play the bloody harmonica!

I've tried, I can't, and don't have time in this life to sit around learning how to be a medioca player.

and... while I'm on the subject of the 'tin sandwich' and the players thereof...

The bane of the open-mic events I used to visit in my old home town were bad 'blues harp' players who would leap in with 'wotkeyzzitinmate?' whilst juggling pockets full of slobber encrusted 'organs' before I'd had chance to plug my guitar in let alone decide what I was going to play or what key it might be in when I played it and then the endless metal calculations of 5th above, or 5th below, 'E' would be great, 'ang on I'll try this one...

My God, the bollocks were endless.

To be honest I'm not really into Blues Harmonica playing. Enjoyed it when I was about 16, but now the thrill is gone.

There are however, Harmonica players I really like. They have names like 'Larry Adler' & 'Max Geldray'.

So, I typed 'bass Hamonica' into the interwebs and eventually found "The Tombo Pocket Bass Harmonica' which, after studying various YouTube videos and establishing even I could play it, I bought.

Since banging the button on 'pay-now' I've bored anyone who came within 10ft of me to death about it.

It arrived today.

The manual has the mandatory 'Engrish' hilarity:

"Many thanks for purchasing Pocket Ensemble Series. We, Tombo musical instrument Co.,Ltd., are a serious manufacturer specialized in producing harmonicas consistently since1917

Pocket Ensemble Series are epoch-making Ensemble Harmonicas innovated with new concept for players to enjoy the harmonica ensemble with much ease..

Both Bass Harmonica and Chord Harmonica consist of C-key and the other keys which are used frequently for the pieces in Am-key. For the pieces in the other keys, you can enjoy playing a wide variety of the pieces by transposing to these two keys.

Small, lightweight and easy to carry, so, these do not pick the place. Why don't you take them along freely and enjoy the harmonica ensemble anywhere and with anybody?"

(The manual covers the Tombo Pocket Chord as well.)


  • Blow only, 10 holes/10 tones (2 tones duplicated)
  • Tonal range E~f (E/F#/G/A/B/C/D/F)
  • Plastic body
  • W145 x H59 x D49mm
  • 395g
  • Complete with carrying case

Cut to the chase...

Oh, I'm going to have some fun with this.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Bamboo Band at the Military/Industrial Complex Event in Worthing.

This gig, featuring 'Up & Coming YOUNG (!) Bands', had been put together by the organisers in just 6 days!

We were asked to play a couple of days beforehand.
Lord James and I sat on deck chairs watching the bands, waiting for our turn.
He turned to me and said 'I have a feeling this is going to be a train wreck'.
'Let's hit the buffers full belt then' I replied.

When we finally 'hit the stage' and plugged in we found the on stage monitor mix some what heavily balanced in favour of my instrument.  So much so, in fact, that it was virtually impossible the hear any other instrument, or voice, over the top of it no matter how 'softly' I attempted to play
I swear our djembe player John's hair was been blown backward in the decibel hurricane.

On the drive home I got the distinct feeling that Sir James was a bit, well, unhappy with our performance.
I certainly wasn't happy about it and the biggest bit of it I wasn't happy with was my performance and the astonishing volume of it.

This video just turned up on YouTube:

I'm truly gobsmacked.

Out front the sound was fine.

I watch myself knowing I was cringing all the way through our set and now I'm wishing I'd enjoyed it a bit more.

(Fortunately the bit where I stood on the edge of the stage and shouted "HELLO GLASTONBURY" has either been edited out, or it was never filmed because the moment the words left my lips the rain started to pelt down.)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014




Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Green Eye of The Little Yellow God... (damn your eyes!)

In a previous post I rattled on about my unnatural obsession with this monologue.


This will be more of the same...

So, having created what is in effect a 'technical' demo of the song's structure there's very little for the original recording files to do except take up storage space.

Or, perhaps have a bit of a laugh with them.

I have in my mind an Edwardian officer, red tunic, gold braid, probably holding his pith hemet, HUGE moustache, I probably remember the image from a biscuit tin at my Granny's house.
Or the label of a bottle of Camp coffee (a vile syrup made from tarmac), but I think the chaps on the bottle wore kilts...

What are you blathering on about?Fi

Sorry, got a bit wistful.

The initial recording of the vocal/uke track will be used as a 'guide track' to hang the subsequent recordings on.

First new recording: baritone uke hitting the off beats.
Second new recording: Concert uke strummed lightly
Third new recording: Resonator uke chord pattern filled out with passing chords.
Forth new recording: Vocal sung in a very nearly right vocal style.
Fifth new recording:  Chorus backing vocal

Edit of original demo track to B sections of the song thus adding another uke and vocal to this passage.

Mix down/trans to laptop/top and tail edit/process via Vinyl @ 78rpm (no scratches).

I end up with something that's been making me laugh all week:

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

OSM Playing Electric Ukulele to the Sound Mirrors at Denge. Filmed by Independent Film Maker Ned Ouwell.