June 5, 2011

The Three Hour Challenge...

by Chris Randall

My wife is a good sport about my noise-making habits, bless her heart, but she draws the line at cranked tube amps. For extra bonus points, we both work at home. This being the case, my guitar playing usually goes via NI Guitar Rig, which is nice and all, but can't really compete with my '67 Guild Thunder I Reverb.

Today, however, she went to a birthday party for one of her friends, and I had three hours of me time. I decided to set myself a challenge to write, perform, and mix a track in those three hours that I could make all the noise I wanted. For an IDM track, this would be easy enough. Load up some samples, set Replicant to "stun," and render. But I decided that this particular song was going to have guitar and vocals.

Now, in candor, this wasn't from bare metal. I spent the better part of the day getting the sounds together. I used my general Micronaut "experiments" rig for the backbone. The kick drum is coming from the DSI TETR4 to Eventide TimeFactor, that first snare-ish sound you hear is the MeeBlip running through my circuit-bent Boss 'verb, and the bass noink thing is the MS20. I also had to bust out My First Piano with a piezo for a little special sauce. All recorded in to Live through my utilitarian TASCAM USB interface, which I consistently wish had more outputs for FX sends. TASCAM seems morally opposed to making an interface with more than 4 analog outputs, though, so I abide.

Since I'm not only a southpaw playing right-hand guitar, but not an especially gifted guitarist in the first place, it takes a lot of practice time to be able to play and sing at the same time; I have to memorize hand positions per word. Since time wasn't a commodity I was blessed with, I used Live's Looper plugin to grab an 8-measure rhythm part, and then just vamp over the top of that at the end. The guitar, a Harmony Stratotone with Airline badging, is running through a Realistic Electronic Reverb (which is an excellent distortion box) to a Maleko B:Assmaster, to a compressor of my own design based upon the Orange Squeezer, then in to the amp.

For the vocals, I wrote down a couple phrases, and had a general idea of what I was gonna do, but largely ad-libbed it. Ain't gonna give "A Day In The Life" a run for its money any time soon. The vocal chain is DMG Compassion -> Kombinat, with a touch of Dubstation on the ass end. Compassion is also on the drum buss, the guitar, and the 2-buss. Love that plug.

Anyhow, it was fun to do. As far as setting intentional limits for yourself, the short-span-of-time one is the most unforgiving, and the one most likely to be cast aside. But it can be refreshing. The hardest part is showing it off afterwards, because it will never be the best you can do. Any other takers for the 3 Hour Challenge?


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Jun.05.2011 @ 1:09 PM
beauty pill
Yeah, that would have been a smarter title.

Honestly, the whole thing is so fantastically ill-advised. I feel enormously uncertain about it. I'm genuinely scared and I don't scare easily.

It started with an open-ended solicitation from the curators and then we took a tour of different spaces and there was this theater, what they call a black box theater.

It seemed like a cool, weird, dark place to make music. And it had a window that looks down into the space that reminded me of pictures I have seen of Abbey Road Studio 2, where the Beatles worked.

link [www.abbeyroad.co...]

And I got to thinking.

My friends who are musicians and artists have all said stuff similar to Chris: "Whoa. I... wouldn't... do... that."

And yeah, maybe I'll end up feeling profound regret about the whole thing.

But if there's one thing I know more acutely than most people, it is that life is short.

- c

Jun.05.2011 @ 1:12 PM
@beauty pill: Be sure that you don't put too much polish on songs that are already finished. I love "Smiley Smile" by the Beach Boys in large part due to the unfinished nature of the arrangements. The sound went from the rich reverb chambers and lush arrangements of "Smile" to sparse and dry as a bone, and it makes some of the songs just pop out.

@CR: Nice guitar tone and tuning. I don't think that an emulator would work well in that semi-dirt realm. More importantly, you can't feel an emulator pushing the air in the room, and you can't smell the tube heaters when using a software emulation of a tube amp. Playing a real tube guitar amp is a tactile experience, that goes beyond the sound that makes it onto tape or into your DAW.

Jun.05.2011 @ 1:14 PM
"And yeah, maybe I'll end up feeling profound regret about the whole thing."

The funny thing about regret is, that it's better to regret something you HAVE done, than to regret something you HAVEN'T done.

Jun.05.2011 @ 1:32 PM
There used to be alot of spoof plugins, one of them was Studio guests, you can select who is in the studio with you... wife..ex-girlfriend...CEO...

Im trying to teach my stepdad who is a southpaw also rightie...he broke down and got himself a leftie guitar...I ordered him the Mel bay method books in lefty..the fuckin redneck guitar shop over here swear I said righty and told me just do it in reverse its the same thing....tried it he just cant get it though...

3 hours ...where did you squeeze in time for pr0n???

Jun.05.2011 @ 1:40 PM
oh...great tune btw...

Jun.05.2011 @ 2:24 PM
beauty pill
@Sean: RE: regret: That is certainly the premise I'm operating on these days.

Anyway, 'nough about that.

I think there should be a 3hourchallenge.com dedicated to people all over the world uploading all sorts of art that fits the parameter of the site. I bet you that would be popular.

It would have to be curated/moderated by someone though and that takes time.

- c

Jun.05.2011 @ 2:56 PM
@Chris: I hope you don't mind me saying that it reminds me a bit of Peter Gabriel's early solo work.

Jun.05.2011 @ 9:32 PM
Very cool. Great performance.

Jun.06.2011 @ 2:26 AM
Nice work !

Have you ever heard something about "the Immersion Composition Society" ?

link [en.wikipedia.or...]

Some years ago, I had a project called "artistic anti-procrastination's cell". I had to create some music (instrumental rock/metal) each week in 2 hours, which means I had to compose, record, mix, and post one mp3 on a blog, whatever the result I got, so people would be able to comment what I did. It was sometimes scary, but a very interesting experience. The goal was to improve my workflow, and to compose music faster.

I was able to do that for 2 months :) But my recordings were very bad !

Jun.06.2011 @ 4:46 AM
@Sean: And by the way, If you see your mom this weekend, will you be sure and tell her...



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