Monday, January 26, 2009

Audacity, TASCAM and TGIK

Prologue: Originally I had the lady's real name here. I changed it to TGIK (This Girl I Know) to protect me.

TGIK doesn't believe in computers. She owns a cell phone, but that is the extent of her technological delvings. So, I have no fear she will trip over this blog, and stick me in the middle of a shit-storm - which has happened before. ( Surprising? I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.) I hope.

TGIK helped me record a simple rhythm guitar track Friday and Saturday. Yes it took 2 days (well a day and half) for one #$%ing rhythm track. TGIK was my button pusher, she sings but does not play an instrument.

The reason it took so long is two-fold: distraction and equipment. As for the equipment, I am doing this in my Apartment Bedroom. I am using a TASCAM MF-P01, a serviceable but not very advanced 4-track. After a few hours of trying to get this antique to do what I want, I gave up on it. Instead I used it as my board and input it directly into my computer. For the computer, I have been looking over Pro-tools (audio recording software) which is extremely expensive.

I spend some time at, because I play with Unix/Linux computers and that's the place to go for programs. I found an open source (free to use) program called Audacity, which in some ways is superior to Pro-tools, though it doesn't have as many features. It is free and does the job. SO - for those audiophiles in the audience, I used the ancient TASCAM's on board monitor as pre-amp, and output it to the sound card on my main system. It took hours of twiddling potentiometers to get my jury-rigged system stabilized. But I got it.

Now for the distractions. First I have a bunch of stuff on my mind. I am in litigation with a large, evil corporation over some Montana property that they want to push a road through - a logging road. I have been battling for almost 5 years. I am almost out of money, hocked the property up to it's ears and I will probably lose everything fairly soon. My deceased daughter's birthday is coming up next month and I always have a bad time with that. I hate my job, but I am currently stuck because every cent I have is tied up in the Montana lawsuit.

Enter TGIK, another unexpected voice from my past, and there have been a Twilight Zone-ish amount of those lately.

TGIK is as pretty as a picture. Her face is close to perfectly symmetrical, a desirable quality in models and movie stars. She has a line of freckles across the bridge of her nose that is just right, as far as I'm concerned. Here eyes are green or blue, depending on the day, which I find fascinating. I'm big on looking people in the eyes to see who's there. I'm afraid I over do it with TGIK, because I never know what color her eyes will be. A few years ago she began announcing "Blue" or "Green" when she greets me. It's sort of a running joke. Oh yeah, as far as I'm concerned TGIK is married. I only hear from her when she has a big fight with her husband, whom I have never met. She has divorced him twice, and married him twice. The last time they didn't get re-married. She claims this leaves her free to sleep with anyone she chooses. I don't actually agree, but when she calls I always invite her over. Over the years we have been intimate several times, always (I think) when she was fighting with her "husband".

She get's a little frenetic when she first get's stoned, but she calms down quickly. She likes music and thinks I am a genius (I don't have the heart to tell her lol). She is a really touchy-feely type of person, as am I. Because that type of thing has been absent in my life lately, I let her - helped her be as snugly as she wished. I am very fond of her, but I don't Love her romantically. It was nice to just hold somebody sweet for a while, and even better because we have always been such good friends - even when I told her I wouldn't have sex with her, this time, a few days ago.

We got everything organized so TGIK pushed the buttons and I could concentrate on getting the guitar right. It took 32 takes just to get the levels straight. It was annoying because I am (make that was) a certified Audio Engineer. TGIK made us breakfast! It amazed me because she is not really domestic. That stalled things for a bit and by the time we got back to it it was time for me to get stoned again.

The space that remains when you line up all the equipment in my bedroom is close. TGIK and I kept brushing each other, and YES it made it difficult to concentrate.

After 3 throw-away takes, I finally got a great one. 16 more bars and we would have made it! That's when the sirens started. I said "Oh Fuck" and pulled the the guitar cord out of the guitar. TGIK looked at me in surprise and said, "I thought that one was good."

Now, for those Audiophiles paying close attention: I had been recording voice, earlier, and because the apartment is not sound proofed you have to take your chances: an open mike is open to everything. This time the sirens were not picked up on the track because I was input straight through the board to the computer. I was so distracted that I didn't realize it.

During a later take I had some unexpected visitors, and TGIK went and hid in the 2nd bedroom. She thought it might be her "husband", who doesn't know me, has never even heard my name and couldn't know where I lived unless he followed her. (which would make him a real sick one). She ran and I continued strumming, but the whole scene aggravated me enough that I strummed a little too hard and the track clipped and distorted the last 32 measures.

Would I never get this done? Ah well. I ordered a Pizza for dinner, we blew right through lunch. We set up for another take, and I brought the sheet music up on the computer. I tapped my foot in 4/4 and nodded my head when it was time for TGIK to push record.

POING! My favorite cowgirl was IM-ing me and I forgot to silence the IM client. When this sweetheart contacts me I drop everything. She is one of those very special people, who (if she gets a break and some guidance) will be someone special someday. She is only 13 and has become a good friend. I don't know why she bothers with an old fart like me. But she is witty and sweet and has seen more than her share of stupid bullshit in her young life.

So TGIK donned her best pouty face while I chatted with my favorite cowgirl. TGIK didn't realize that this was more like big-brother, she thought that my little cowgirl was the reason I wouldn't sleep with her the other night. Not that the cowgirl isn't gorgeous, she is. However, she is only 13 and not the reason I told TGIK, she could spend the night but I didn't want to have sex. I never turned her down before. The reason I did is ... is way to complicated for a single blog entry.

Time to get stoned again and TGIK wanted to go out somewhere. I was all frazzled so we got toasted and went and got Ice Cream. When we got back I set my jaw, grabbed the guitar and TGIK punched record. 1 take. We got it. I put the guitar down and sighed. I was so relieved I could have cried.

TGIK, dropped into my lap and grabbed both my ears (honest, I was so surprised I tried to jerk away, which hurt more than I thought it would). She kissed me with a fierce tenderness that stunned me. We had kissed before, we are both such snugly people that it was inevitable, and we had been intimate before. I kissed her back, with as much feeling as I could muster. It was nice, it was very nice. We did it a bit more and then she stopped and backed away to look at me, with her hands on my shoulders. They were green today.

"It's that Princess person, isn't it?" she pouted. I didn't understand at first, I am a pretty good kisser, if I do say so myself. (It's all a matter of concentration) I was a little shocked. I started to laugh aloud, when I got it, because the mis-understanding was so funny - and so uncharacteristic. There had never been a spec of jealousy between us and that is what this was. I tried to explain that if I was 40 years younger, I would probably be chasing that cowgirl around the corral, but under the circumstance the extent of our relationship was helping with homework and one short wrestling/tickling match.

See, TGIK didn't know my cowgirl was only 13, and I didn't tell her the real reason behind my earlier refusal because it was actually a little embarrassing. She probably wouldn't have believed me, anyway. She knows me well and believes that I don't waste time on romantic lost causes. I think if I told her it was because of someone I had never kissed, never even held hands with, that she wouldn't have believed me.

I would like to tell you that I pushed her on the bed and we made passionate love for 3 hours (yes I can, we had before), but I didn't. I couldn't actually. Just the kissing was enough to make me feel like I had betrayed the other person, even though we had never done.. anything really. Jesus, this love stuff sucks.

So we played the track over and over, we sang to it and I sort of worked out some harmonies and a bass part. It has been a very long time since I tried to record anything other than a scratch track. Now I have to work out the fills and the lead guitar. I hope it's easier than the rhythm track. I don't have a drum machine, but I think I might get one, 'cause I really don't like drummers very much (lol). I've worked out a cool bass part, but I don't have one of those either (hint!). I can probably use a blind track to get the bass down and then track it after - when I find a bass.

Gee, I wish I had someone to push buttons for me.

PS: to my favorite hot jumper: I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.