Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Meinl Cajon Kit in Albania

September 20, 2014

This September (2014) I had the privilege of visiting a child feeding programme in Albania… the aim was to serve, encourage and inspire the local Albanian team… and to engage with the children and their families…

I had thought to do some percussion with the Kids… but there were two issues… 1. my percussion is big and heavy (baggage allowances were pretty small)… and 2. whatever I brought with me I wanted to leave behind.

I had already planned to bring some tuned percussion in the form of a BoomWhacker kit (Here at Thomann)… as this was a lightweight 25 piece kit…

So the idea was to build percussion in country… and we were advised not to assume that we could find the resources we needed there… so we needed to bring all that we needed

That’s were the Meinl Cajon Kit came in… a ‘flat pack’ Cajon.

Meinl Kit

Weighing in at 4kg it was ideal weight and size for transport… so ok I did have to bring some clamps, an awl, a screw driver, compression straps, sandpaper and glue… but by pre drilling and counter sinking the playing surface before I left no drill was necessary.

Meinl ConstructionArriving at our first overnight stop in Albania I started assembling the main body of the kit (gluing top, sides, back and front brace) before heading to bed and completed construction (snare, playing service and feet) after breakfast in the morning…

Back on the bus again… the first use of the (unsanded) cajon was at a staff meeting with the Albanian team…

I haven’t played a Cajon that much… but the highly reflective room we were in created a ‘huge’ sound… the bass notes had real body and depth. Folks sat up and took notice… and the Boom Whackers were a delight (our translator told us he was bewildered that he could ‘hear music’ before he realised that the tubes were ‘tuned’)

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Movement in worship was also part of our team – and the girls started with some pre-recorded music – but this started to be drowned out as more and more people started to participate… so I joined in on the Cajon… wow!  in a few moments the pulse of the drum was filling the room, providing a foundation for the dance that was developing…

Meinl FinishedI had to be careful – the Cajon had sharp edges (not sanded yet)… but the effect was dynamic… excellent!

The cajon had proved to be very effective…

After our two meetings of the first day I spent some time sanding the edges of the instrument, giving it a smooth safe playing surface.

The Cajon was a hit (pardon the pun) with the team in Albania and through the week various Kids and Adults gave it a go… and everyone has great fun.

Before our team left we wrote some Albanian phrases (suggested by the local kids) on the Cajon… their promises and prayers  for their village and country — te jene te lire (to live free), blessings on their families, faith, hope… each surface covered with words written in colourful sharpies… and as the drum is played, the sound will resonate through the words… carrying them through the villages and valleys of the places where it is played.

The Meinl Kit was easy to put together – it sounds good (though the snare sound could be a little better) – and it is easy to play… may it’s sound resound for you Albania….

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Mastering with Focusrite VRM

February 12, 2014

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the privilege of working on the final stages of a new album – Kiss of Grace – by Lorna McDougall.

The recordings of the tracks arrived with me for mastering and preparing for production.

So the question arose – the tracks sound great on my speakers: but what do they sound like on others…

Big budget studios and mastering houses do this the brute force way – playing the tracks through arrays of differing speaker types in differing acoustic spaces… which mere mortals like me can neither afford the space or the finance to achieve.

Thats where the Focusrite VRM comes in.

Focusrite VRMThis neat little box is a USB audio interface providing a headphone out (and SPDIF in – but more on that later), a sweet volume control and an application that simulates different speakers in different acoustic spaces…

So – with a good pair of headphones you can hear what your mix ‘may’ sound like across a range of pro to domestic speakers in a ‘studio’, ‘bedroom’ or ‘living room’.

Add this to your desktop or laptop and off you go – where ever you are mastering the sound of your recordings is a doddle.

I’ve got to admit that since this has arrived my headphones have been ‘superglued’ to my head… the sound is just so good… at least to my tastes…

The range of speakers and environments is very useful… and some extreme differences between speakers/environments can be interesting to work on mastering against.

VRM Speakers

In use…

The music I was working with was in Studio One, on my old iMac core duo.

My iMac has been my workhorse from 2006 – I use it for everything… and I was interested in what effect the VRM would have on the system…

I created an aggregate audio device with my Presonus FW mobile (used to route FX via SPDIF to my TC Electronic M350)  and the VRM… and routed the ‘main’ out to the VRM.  The outs of the FW mobile went to my speakers as a cue mix.

And it worked – first time, no sweat… badda bing!

Studio One VRM

A screen capture from using VRM today!

Working on the final mix today – the Focusrite VRM has been great.

Now I have it and understand some of its limitations – I will be using this almost constantly from now on.

If you get one of these – and I don’t see why you shouldn’t at £49, from Absolute Music – register it and get the updated software – the 1.0 software… well… sucked!  the 1.4 is significantly better…

Pros

  • Price
  • Convenience
  • Great sound – speaker emulations sound fab.
  • Built like a brick shed – I’d be happy to throw this in a laptop bag knowing that at the ‘far’ end that it would be functioning perfectly.
  • The volume control – very useful, very sweet to use- always by my right hand.

Cons

  • The VRM software takes up CPU cycles and increases latency from the DAW.
  • If there is a load on the computer – or there is a particularly memory hungry application running the VRM starts to crackle.
  • The volume control – there can be noticeable ‘steps’ in volume than would be expected from a purely analogue control… (but I’m being extremely picky)
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Christmas Telecaster Nocaster’51 project

January 2, 2014

Over the holidays I took the opportunity to upgrade the pickups on my 2003 Mexican built Fender Telecaster.

The original electrics had been becoming noisy over the last couple of years, pots were noisy, the jack plug un-sure.  The sound rather thin and anaemic.

Things had to change or the Tele had to go…

I got myself a set of Fender Custom Shop Nocaster’51 pickups at a bargin from Thomann, and found a great wee Guitar builder seller on ebay that supplied all the wiring, pots, caps etc…

IMG_9753On taking the old electrics out what amazed me was the really poor quality of the cabling used… it was really not surprising the sound was poor… even if everything else was perfect the cable was really sub-standard.

The replacement cable was AWESOME – wound and tinned it’s whole length, enclosed in two layers of woven shielding… a joy to use!

So the pickup cavities were stripped…

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I started with the neck pickup… attached to the pickguard…

then the bridge pickup… note I added an ground wire from the bridge to the control cavity… in the old electrics the signal ground wire from the bridge pickup was grounded here an a then extended back to the control cavity… I didn’t like that arrangement… as I was planning to use a 4 position switch to allow the pickups to be wired in parallel and series…

followed by the jack plug…

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I assembled the pots, and switch mechanism..

and wired the pickups in the following configuration…

tele4way

There are a huge number of options for wiring a telecaster – it is such a simple guitar… I was really tempted to drop the tone control to use it as a blend between neck and bridge pickups – but I am extremely glad I didn’t.

Creating spaghetti…

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Reassembled control area..

Fitted a new set of Elixer lights .010’s

and we have tone!

Volume control and tone control are unbelievably better…

The general sound is thicker, has more body to it… it’s great.

having the option of the pickups in parallel & series gives another ‘feel’ in the sound (which I am enjoying immensely)

Lessons learned:

I wish I had done this earlier – my poor Tele has been languishing over the last few years… I’ve been disappointed in the sound… NOT NOW!

I am amazed at just how poor the quality of the wiring was from the original manufactured guitar…

Single coil pickups are noisy… they are susceptible to electrical interference… when my fingers are on the strings, or my palm resting on the bridge – the guitar is pretty quiet… but when not in contact with either of these – it can be a bit noisy.

I should have spent some time shielding the cavities, and especially adding shielding to the rear of the pickguard.

But I don’t know if I would quite go the length of this article…

Noise reduction for SC pickups

which seems the ultimate in noise reduction.

In summary

If you have a stock Mexican Fender Telecaster – replace the the pickups… it’s easy and well worth the couple of hours it takes to do.

Sources

Thomann – Nocaster’51 set is unfortunately no longer stocked!

Guitar builders on-line – Fender USA Wiring kit (four way switch)

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Musical playpen…

November 27, 2013

Over the past few years I’ve dabbled in music… attached are some of the rough messing about I’ve done… enjoy

 

This tune is my Telecaster, VOX amp… with everything cranked to 11

I acquired a 12 string electric guitar and this is a recording of what it sounded like through my VOX amp

Playing with Loops and synths in Ableton…

My trusty Suzuki W400 and M-Audio Oxygen 49 and Keyrig…

Telecaster.. loops.. and Keyrig again…

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Micah Bournes – Every Poem

January 14, 2013

Micah Bournes blends influences from rap, hip-hop, rhythm & blues and funk into his spoken word poetry.

Here is his take on every poem, every song, every thing… ever written… enjoy.

 

There’s more about his work and art here at: http://www.micahbournes.com/

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Soaking In God’s Presence – by Pam Watson

January 13, 2013

Soaking

Soaking In God’s Presence

By Pam Watson

Reproduced from (http://www.secretplaceministries.org)

Rest / Waiting On The Lord / Tarrying / How To Soak In Prayer Before The Lord

Psalm 37:7 “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

This essentially is what “soaking” is. When we soak in God’s presence, we are in a place of rest where we wait upon Him. The old timers spoke of tarrying. This is where they would spend long hours waiting on the Lord. Many times however they were waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit and their waiting was more a form of pleading and trying to get to the place where they felt ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Fortunately we have gained more understanding of the Word and the heart of God and know that the Lord desires to pour out His Spirit upon us. Soaking in the Lord therefore, while similar to tarrying, has an emphasis on rest and receiving by faith, as opposed to striving and crying out to God.

Saturated With God

To soak something, is more than a five minute dip. It is allowing it to become saturated and full of what it is soaking in. If you take a cucumber and place it in vinegar and spices for a few minutes, then eat it, it still tastes like cucumber. But if you take that cucumber and soak it in that solution for a couple of weeks it no longer tastes like cucumber – it has become a pickle. It has taken on the flavour of that solution.

Soaking involves becoming saturated with God so that we take on God’s flavour or nature. Too often we “taste” of flesh. But God wants us to be transformed into the image of His Son and carry his fragrance and flavour.

Transformed From Glory To Glory

2 Cor. 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

When we soak in God’s presence, we begin to behold Him. As we do, we become like Him. Soaking in God’s presence enables us to behold the Lord. We cannot do this and remain the same. We are changed from glory to glory and transformed to be more like Him.

Waiting on the Lord

Is. 40: 31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

This familiar verse reveals that something happens when we wait on God. Who He is, starts to get on us and in us. This divine exchange of His strength for our weakness and His ability instead of our frailty and inadequacy, happens because we spend time waiting on Him.

Many of us have experienced this in our day to day lives. When we spend time with the Lord in the mornings our day is empowered. As we soak in God’s presence this effect is intensified.

Adoration / Adoring God

Soaking is also about delighting in and adoring the Lord.

Song of Solomon 2: 3-5 “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick.”

Soaking in God’s presence is like coming and sitting in His shade and being fed with the fruit of His presence. Like the bride in the Song of Solomon, we can do this with great delight. This passage also speaks of the progression that usually follows where He brings us to the banqueting house or house of wine. This is something that only the Lord can do, but it starts with us coming and sitting in His presence. As we do so, so we are taken into deeper realms of experiencing His love for us, which is likened to being in a house of wine. This not only increases our love for the Lord, but can result in outward manifestations in those who have drunk the wine of His presence. It is not unusual for people to laugh, shake or cry and sometimes this experience is referred to as “drinking.”

Be Still And Know That I Am God

Ps.46: 10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Again this exhortation tells us that when we are still or soaking in God’s presence there will come a knowing or experiencing of God. There is a weight or glory to His presence that we can experience as we are still before Him. It is hard at times to come to this place though because our flesh is very active and often takes a while to settle. What we do with our bodies however is a powerful declaration in the realm of the spirit. When we lie down in God’s presence it is a statement of surrender and a posture of rest that the Lord will honour.

It helps to play worship music while we are soaking. Music sets the atmosphere and worship music opens our heart and causes our spirit to rise in adoration. Worship is the love call of the saints and as we simply love and adore Him, we will experience the richness of His presence in even greater degrees.

Soaking does quieten the flesh and allows our spirit to ascend. As this happens, we become conscious that we are a spirit that lives inside a body. As our spirit starts to rise up in adoration and communion with the Lord, we can get to the place where our body is totally at rest, but our spirit is awake and receiving from the Lord (Dan.10:9).

The Results Of Being In His Presence

Revelation is often the fruit of soaking in God’s presence. The Lord delights in revealing the secret counsel of His heart; dealing with issues that need to be addressed and bringing wisdom to our situation and needs.

The scope of all that is made available to us, as we soak or wait upon the Lord, is revealed in Psalm 27. David climaxes this psalm with his declaration in verse 14.

Ps. 27: 14 “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

The exhortation to wait on the Lord is the key to everything that David expresses within this psalm.
v. 1 – 3 confidence and strength in facing the enemy
v. 4 – 5 his desire to dwell in the house or presence of God all the days of His life
v. 6 – 8 sacrifices of joy and the seeking of God’s face
v. 9 – 13 victory over the enemy and seeing the goodness of God

All these things flow from the presence of God and are laid hold of through waiting on God – or in other words, through soaking in His presence.

Is. 30: 15-17 “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, and you said, “No, for we will flee on horses” – Therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses”- Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill.”

The Lord encourages us here that salvation, which means wholeness, stems out of returning and resting in Him. This is a picture of soaking, and speaks of trusting in what He alone can do. The fruit of resting in Him is quietness and confidence. This becomes the source of our strength.

Unfortunately our flesh is very strong and wants to rule. Our tendency is to want to do, do, do. Soaking in God’s presence is an insult to the flesh because it is required to do nothing. This is what these people struggled with, and they refused to return and rest in God. As a result they discovered that their fleshly abilities were not equal to the assignment against them. They thought that their “horses” were strong enough to get them through and when their efforts failed, they did not turn to the Lord, but doubled their efforts. The result was that they were left as a pole on top of a mountain. Literally, it means that they were a tree stripped of its branches. In other words, they had no fruit and appeared lifeless.

Verse 18 “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

How gracious the Lord is! Because they would not wait, He waited until they were as a lifeless pole and He was exalted. Then He could minister to them. How much better it is for us to wait on Him! Someone has to wait. When we choose to be the one that waits, then the Lord is able to be gracious, have mercy, reveal His justice and bless our lives. What wonderful fruit, and all because we chose to wait on Him.

Soaking is worth the effort. It takes time and it takes dying to self but the rewards are great. Not only do we increase our awareness of the Lord’s presence, but all the fruit or benefits of His presence are released into our lives.

Soaking is something that can be done privately in our own home whenever we choose. There is something powerful however about doing it in a group. When believers gather together there is a corporate anointing and finding the presence of God is easier.

Enter in, and enjoy!

Ray & Pam Watson pastor Pursuit church in Auckland, New Zealand

 

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Street Pastors Benefit Concert – an update!

November 4, 2012

Well it has been quite some time since I’ve created an original post on the blog… there has been just so much going on!

So over the next week or so I’ll be playing catchup on events… Starting with the Street Pastors Benefit Concert in August.

Around 150 people came to the concert from a wide spectrum of churches throughout Inverness. Along with a large gathering of existing street pastors.

Part of the event was also to commission new street pastors into the team, charging them with the responsibility of carrying the message of Jesus Christ into the streets of the City.

Scott McRoberts was the host for the evening – and this week will see him installed as the minister at Holm Church of Scotland in Inverness.

There were a variety of performers at the concert from male voice choirs, gaelic singers, harpists though to the christian rock band Atrium (who gave a very memorable performance that was enjoyed by all).

The folks of Inverness East Church of Scotland were hugely generous in organising the event sponsoring teas and coffees, and the hire of the facilities at the Drumossie.

And we are very grateful for the work of Scott McGowan of Babyface Productions for pulling the whole event together.

At the end of the evening over £2500 was raised for Inverness Street Pastors.  This money will go to continuing the work of Street Pastors in Inverness, serving the community, communicating the Love of Christ in a practical way… Listening, Caring and Helping those in need of a saviour.