July 2004

Tracktion music recording software again shows its worth – we have had a productive weekend having recorded five scottish tunes, and laid down multiple tracks – this time with none of us together. I laid down the fiddle tracks, then when happy with the result, burnt them to CD, passed them on to Butch our guitar player to import the fiddle tunes and mix in his guitar backing – saving that mix to CD then passing it back so Bruce our bass player can lay his bass tracks down tomorrow evening. The result – a very relaxed sound and a good mix so far.

With the material we have down so far, we should have a decent 8-9 track demo ready by the end of next week. The total cost? About US$80 for the software (Butch is using different, open source software whose name escapes me) and a few bucks for blank CDs.

Tracktion’s ability to use VST plug-ins was useful – I sang a sea shanty – but as it was unaccompanied and my voice was not at its best, I wound up singing in D-flat! Enter Tracktion’s pitch/speed shifter – I raised the pitch by a semitone and slowed the result down by 10 cents and now we have a version that doesn’t jar too badly with the rest of the songs.

A good result all round I’d say – but I’m now somewhat tired and wired and ready for bed 🙂



Amazing violinists
I guess one of my favourite violinists is Vanessa Mae – an incredibly talented Thai/Chinese violinist who made (and continues to make) a huge impression on rock violin. Her site also has links to many many other violinist sites – one of whom is the similarly amazing Midori – for those who also enjoy the classical side of the instrument.

And then there’s Ashley McIsaacs – a cape Breton fiddle player of extraordinary power – the punk folk enfant terrible noted for his stage dress of tee-shirt, kilt and bovver boots. He is a player in my own style: folk with attitude! I was introduced to his music by a late dear friend – now deceased – called Rose Mulvale. I had described my playing style to her, and next thing, this CD arrives in the mail… and I’ve been hooked on Ashley McIsaacs’ music ever since!

While I don’t wear a kilt on stage, I have been known to play in formal tails, tee-shirt, bow tie and jeans 😉

One other tale I should relate is when I was a young novice fiddler, busking with the Celtic Music Club in Adelaide on North Terrace – just down from the Festival Centre. It must have been mid-late 1970s (perhaps 1978?) – A group of about 15 of us were playing Irish tunes to the passers by. Then this bloke strolls up – late in the evening – and stops to listen for a while. He is dressed in formal evening wear and leant on his walking stick. We played for a while and decided to have a little break. The bloke came up to me – he had a somewhat foreign accent that I couldn’t quite place. And he asked if he could have a go at my fiddle. I shrugged and said ‘sure… do you know how to play?’ he was non committal, but asked if I had anything to sit on. The only thing I had to hand was my square fiddle case and invited him to sit on that. He grasped the bow by the wrong end, and I said, ‘you might find a better balance if you hold it at the other end’. Well he sat and gripped the bow between his knees with the point upward facing towards him. He then proceeded to play the most amazing gypsy-Hungarian style music by running the violin up and down the stationary bow. He kept us spell-bound for about 20 minutes, and when he finally stopped, he stood up and thanked me while handing back my fiddle, we shook hands and he walked off. It was only later as I headed home past the Festival Centre that I saw his face plastered over the posters – Was it Itzhak Perlman? I was stunned! I think he got a kick out appearing from nowhere as a mystery person and totally spinning out a young musician, but doing so with real warmth and humour. I hope he got some inkling of the joy his spontaneous action brought to me!


More recording
Yes I have neglected my blog over the past two nights! But it’s all in a good cause – honest!

We have been recording more tracks – this time of some Scottish tunes:

  • Athol Highlanders’ March
  • Stirling Castle – a lovely strathspey
  • Redhaired Boy, Merry Blacksmith, Mason’s Apron (reels)
  • Gay Gordons, 79ths Farewell to Gibraltar (marches)
  • Dashing White Sergeant, Scarter Glen, Staten Island (polkas/reels)

So it’s been a bit busy lately – still need to add guitars and bass on most of them and do some post production. But I’d have to say that the Tracktion software i’m using is great – very easy to use and intuitive for the amount of information it displays. I highly recommend it. The software works great on my four-year-old iMac dv – even though it does sometimes push the CPU limits a bit in the post-production phase.

Anyhow I’m learning heaps and enjoying it thoroughly!