Friday, November 21, 2014

Sleeping and other excuses.

So what's up? You've probably wondered.
Well in Dec. 2013 I took a leave of absence from my day job as a Multi-media Technician at the
U. of A. It was a buy-out package prior to my official retirement on my 35th year of service in Oct. 2014.
Looking back on my work life I've been steadily employed since I was 21 years old except for a period of one month in 1978 between jobs.
Almost 40 years of getting up every morning and trudging off to work can wear you out. So I've basically been catching up on 40 years worth of lost sleep. I spend most days now sleeping in until 8 or 8:30. Then I get up do my meds, (you young folks will get to know about that as you get older) make myself a nice breakfast and hit the recliner, eat breakfast with my 2 standard poodles while watching the previous nights PVR captures and after that, it's nap time with dogs. Waking sometime in the late morning the girls and I head outside for bathroom break and perhaps a cigar break (weather permitting).
By then it's lunch time and the above process repeats. Following the afternoon nap I start in on cleaning the house up for when my bread winning spouse comes home between 17:30 and 18:00hrs.
Then it's time to help with the evening meal for animals and people alike. Sitting down somewhere around 19:30 and 20:00hrs to eat and watch more TV until it's off to bed.
So you can see that sleep has become my main function and my life really doesn't allow for working much in Studio B.
I have managed to start a few projects one of which is a collection of sleep inducing ambient music like the type that can be heard on Sleepbot.
Hopefully sometime in 2015 I'll have enough material to release an album in Bandcamp or some other "pay what you feel" format. The idea isn't to make money off the project, I just like to produce mood inducing instrumental music.
I've also started to produce a few demo-quality instrumental rock type pieces but I'm slow to complete them due to the "daily schedule". But I've put a few ideas down in various DAWs. Sometimes in ProTools, sometimes in Ableton Live.
I've also been doing some mixing of stems of old sixties tunes like Marvin Gaye, Doobie Brothers, Def Leppard, Queen or Beatles stuff. I view doing these remixes as exercises just to keep my creative and technical skills sharp. Plus it helps me to better understand exactly WHAT the various DAWs are capable of.  
Other related stuff, I bought a new Epiphone Viola bass and have been playing a bit with that and I've hauled out of mothballs what I believe to be a 1957 Sunburst Harmony H62  guitar that a friend gave to me back in the 90s. I used it once for a slide guitar part on a recording I did at the University. It has tonality problems, I think because the original wood bridge has been replaced with a tune-o-matic bridge or perhaps I have the wrong gauge strings on it. Anyway it not in the best shape but it's fun to play with.
So that's what's up. If you read this. I'd appreciate any type of response either in the comments or you can e-mail me directly at

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New equipment in the DAW

For quite a while (couple of years) I did research on work surfaces for the DAW and since I am using multiple softwares. I was in the market for a surface that worked nicely with ProTools, Ableton Suite 9, Sony Acid Pro and the new kid Reaper. Also since I am now slowly moving into working with a Mac Book Pro the chance of using Logic has become a future possibility.

I looked over several mixing desks and had decided on the M-audio ProjectMix I/O. The list price was about $1700 cdn. Just as I had received approval from my accountant (read spouse) I found out that M-audio had (without notice) discontinued sales and support of the ProjectMix I/O. I frantically called around to the local music stores in town only to find that all of them listed the ProjectMix I/O as a special order item and since M-audio wasn't selling them it would be impossible to order one. I was heartbroken. My research began again...

Sometime in the past several years Behringer had bought out the British company Midas who made high end audio mixers used by Pink Floyd (and other bloody famous British acts). Behringer immediately tasked Midas engineers to produce a high end, low cost fully digital mixer to be purposed both for live audio and for DAWs. In mid 2012 Behringer unveiled the X32.
My research into the product got me very excited. It appeared to be an even more complete product than the ProjectMix I/O. The problem was the price tag, over $3200 cdn plus 5% tax. Some negotiations with the account would ensue.

In the mean time one day I was looking through Kijiji and up popped an add for a slightly used M-audio ProjectMix I/O with travel case. In the end I jumped on that and got it for a mere, well I won't tell you what I paid but it was less than half the original purchase price. BONUS.

So I've got it home and I've managed to run some tests and I'm pleased to say that everything works on it and I've started to use it on some mixing projects although I'm still working in the box a lot.
Check the video of the unit doing the obligitory fader wave.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rock Bass with Verbs

Borrowed a bass from a friend to do some test recording. Here's a snippet using Ableton Live Suite8
 and Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4.
It was fun just like the old days.
Bass Test a-la White Stripes

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bob Bell Projects begin in ernest.

A long time ago my (now) ex-brother in-law Bob Mowbray and I had talked about doing songwriting projects together but time and life responsibilities had robbed us of that opportunity.

Fast forward 10 years. Bob now lives in St Isidore, Alberta (near Peace River) and I have remained in Edmonton and for health reasons I have retired from playing drums in a live situation.

By the summer of 2010 Bob and I had individually started building DAWs in our homes. So on the rare occasions when we got together, talk of doing recording projects together just for fun invariably came up.
So in February 2011 we set up drop box accounts and started sending wav files back and forth.

Bob is a prolific writer and has been turning out song after song and I have yet to produce one serious effort to work on. Bob being the hyper-active child and I being the attention deficit child.
He's the mover and shaker and I'm the one who slows things down to make certain all details are covered.
My job in the partnership has become more technical and production rather than musical, though I have contributed a few tracks and have promised to do more.
I imagine that I sometimes frustrate Bob with my snails pace often getting distracted and finding it hard to finish a project. I know that I should be working on some drum tracks for his tunes but I have 6 blogs and 2 Facebook accounts to look after. Oh shiny thing. Be right back.

Last weekend is a good example.
Bob was scheduled in town for a week and we had set up a tracking session with Percy Marshall to record some guitar parts for as many tunes as we could get done in two 3 hour evening sessions.
My DAW was in some disarray and needed a spring clean up to accommodate more people than just myself and though I knew for several weeks that company was coming, I left it until the night before to attempt to a clean up.
With the help of Bob and Mrs. B. we got things squared away to where the DAW was in a reasonable shape to accommodate 3 people and equipment comfortably. More needs to be done of course, but I'm feeling more positive about the space.

We did have fun during the sessions, talking about the old days, dropping names of all and sundre and telling stories while drinking a few brews.

I found out an amazing thing about Pro Tools.
During the second night of recording we had a couple power outages in our area of town.
Candles came out and beer was poured and more discussion ensued.
We had fully expected to re-do all the previously recorded tracks because we hadn't saved any of the sessions to that point.
Fortunately Pro Tools has a wonderful function where it saves a new bak file after every pass while recording until the session is saved and then it deletes all those bak files except the very last one.
That function literally saved us hours of re-recording. Brilliant. Score 1 for Pro Tools.

More to come in the next installment and perhaps some music as well.

Oh... yeah... why is it called the Bob Bell Project?
Well you've probably got that figured out already. Bob's first name and my last name.
Oddly enough I have an uncle Bob Bell. So, Bob's is my uncle.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Native Instruments, Komplete 7 and lousy customer service

Stand back, I'm going to go ballistic.
Just a few short months ago I spent over $600 hard earned Canadian Dollars on what I thought to be was cutting edge in a sampled technology collection called Komplete 6 by Native Instruments.
Native Instruments is German based company that sells musical instrument digital software and programs to a largely independent music and production type producer clientele. Their marketing is very good and for the most part so are their products. Where they fall down is in their customer support.

As I mentioned, I recently purchased their top of line collection of production software called Komplete 6. Which consists of 6 or their most usable programs including over 90 gigs of sampled sounds and instruments.
It's a huge package and takes about a half day to fully install and then the other half of the day to download the updates and test the various software. It's also very expensive, over $600 canuck bucks and that's on sale.

Here's where I spurt.
I haven't had even time to do but one test recording using samples from Komplete 6 (see June posting) and BAM!
Native Instruments releases Komplete 7.
It's got all sorts of new sound packs and software for Drums and Vintage Organs, and, and and etc. These additions are all stuff that I crave and had considered possibly purchasing sometime in the distant future. There was absolutely no indication from Native Instruments that Komplete 7 was going to be released and they aren't offering recent purchasers of Komplete 6 any kind of (as they all it) grace period for free updates to new software. So even if had bought it the day before the release of Komplete 7 or even the day after, that's just to freekin' bad for me

I complained to Native Instruments that I had only a short time before purchased Komplete 6 and that had I known of the impending release of Komplete 7, I would have waited and purchased Komplete 7 instead.
I mentioned that I was feeling kind of ripped off and that I hoped they would at least free of charge extend the new sound packs to recent purchasers of Komplete 6.
I also cited by way of example when I had also recently purchased the older version of Pro Tools, Digidesign the company that owns ProTools, offered free updates to all recent (6 months) purchasers of Pro Tools. This seems like fair, decent and well thought out smart business decision to me.

This was Native Instruments' response.

We are unfortunately not offering grace period updates or a discount other then the standard update to Komplete 7. Komplete 7 did not invalidate or replace any of the instruments from Komplete 6 this time, rather we added more sample content that was previously available just as soundpacks."

In other words: 
'Yeah we've added a bunch of new sounds and stuff that you want. But we have your money and if you want this new shit you're just going to have to pay for it'. 'SSSUCKAAA!!!'.

Not a very wise business decision in my humble opinion.
Will I be buying any more Native Instruments products?
Not likely. There are plenty of other digital music software providers out there that will work just fine with my DAW softwares and I'm sure they're hungry to have my business.

So I say, FUCK YOU TOO to Native Instruments and Haste La Vista Baby.

What do you think? Am I fucked in the head or totally righteous in my attitude?
Leave me comment and let me know

Friday, July 16, 2010

We're a WEB-SITE. WOW!!!

HANDWRITTEN DIGITAL is now it's own website.
I finally broke down, entered the 21st century and bought myself a couple of web domains.
Spending the money was fun and easy. Getting the technology to work afterwards was a little more difficult. 
I decided was the place to pick up fast domains plus they offer a bunch of free stuff to go with that simple purchase. So I picked up the domain and the domain which is still not up and working. 

It's been a world of discovery. There are all sorts of things you have to know to get even a simple web-site up and running. There's domain sites and hosting (which is kind of scary). The costs can mount up quickly if you're not careful.
I'm of Scottish decent so that means that I'm a frugal individual. I've been using Blogger blogspots for all of my 5 web-sites because blogger is
1. free and
2. simple to use. Blogger is made for dummies like me that can't tell their ass from an HTML in the ground

Well it turns out that Blogger will also host your old blogspot under your new domain name for free. Cool huh? 
Blogger can also sell you a domain name at a very competitive price, which I didn't know but that's ok because GoDaddy is very cool and has great service. Mark from GoDaddy even phoned me the following day and told me to call if I needed any help at all. Now that's great service I mean who does that these days.

The nice thing is that I can still use Blogger as my design tool which means I don't have to learn a bunch of new stuff just to let you know that
Not that it's any big deal as it's just nothing type blog.
Anyway I just thought I'd share that  with you.
I'll be back soon with some actual Studio B recording type news as things continue to develop.
Ciao for now.

COMMENTS:  Don't forget to leave one (or two).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Setting up your Digital Audio Workstation or DAW

Despite the blog title this not a step by step instructional on how to set up your own DAW. It's just me whining about my trials and tribulations while setting up my DAW, when all I really want to do is be creative and produce wonderful melodic music for movies and CDs and blah, blah, blah. Hang out anyway, maybe you got some handy tips to pass along...huh?...huh?

SETTING UP a recording studio, even a little Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is an expensive and time consuming affair.
Especially if you're doing it alone and as an "as time permits" project.
Sometime a purchased piece of software or equipment will sit in the box on the shelf for weeks before I get time to install it or set it up. Even after it's installed, software could sit in the computer for months before I have time to open it and test it out.
Not all software is setup in an intuitive manner which means a learning curve that could make it a week or more before you get a sound out of it or get it to do what it's supposed to do.
Then there's compatibility issues and believe me those can set you back months.i.e. ProTools and IE8 (but that's a story for another time).

As I see it there are series of limitations involved in building a DAW..
Space is limited. Time is limited. Money is limited.
Technical support is limited and occasionally my patience have been extremely limited. Thus from time to time one might pass the studio and hear a long streak of blue words which describe an oral event of a sexual nature performed by a person of a certain profession with an Oedipal complex. The streak is usually spoken in a loud, rude and aggressive manner. Possibly flying objects are involved, scaring people and animals of all sorts.
Regardless, Studio B is slowly coming into focus. The preliminary software is mostly all installed and functioning as it should. The hardware is talking to the software and I am actually learning again at the age of 56. Keep in mind that I come from a mechanical, analogue, old school, recording background so working in a software environment while not totally foreign is bit like swatting at a wasp, you might get lucky and hit it before it stings you.  While the DAW is still a mess with piles of crap (some proper studio furniture is on the list) it is semi-workable and on the last long weekend I was able to do a test recording of a small, tiny, little project.

So Ladies and Gentlemen may I present to you, Jazz Dicks. So entitled because it's jazzy, and written by me, Richard (but don't call me Dick). The first item recorded and mixed, blah, blah, blah in Handwritten Digital Production's Studio B
 Jazz Dicks.mp3
double click to listen or right click and "save link as" to download to your computer

The tune (such as it is) is written by me and is copyright (© 2010 Handwritten Digital) but you can download it and listen to it multiple times at your leisure.
Just don't play it out loud in public or try to sell it or post it on the internet etc, etc, yada, yada, yada.
Or I'll sue you like it's 2012. (I got that from a Library Voices song, cute huh?)

One more item to mention.
COMMENTS: We likes them. So you leaves them. 
simply look down and find the word "comment" click on that bastard and then unleash the inner you in type form. 
We loves it.