March 15, 2011

Best Friends and Recording Field Overdubs Guerilla-style

Last year my best friend Carmen Borgia lost his dear friend, some-time mentor and High School Drama teacher Tom Humphrey to unfortunate ongoing poor physical health. (A lifestyle like Tom’s would likely claim most of us far sooner. That was perhaps one of the reasons we all loved him. He was seemingly indestructible in his ability to affect everyone in his life, both good and bad).

If it weren’t for Tom there is a strong likelihood that Carmen would not have ended up at UCSD to attend college at the time I met him (1981). For this reason and many more I have always considered Tom a lucky totem, despite his many mostly humorous liabilities as documented by Carmen and his friends.

When Tom died a series of events followed, including the inspiration for Carmen to come out to California and help me get started on my own recording one year ago. Prior to his arrival he sent me a posthumous gift from Tom: a trusty Zoom H2 digital portable sound recorder. I was able to make live demos of my album for Carmen to review, and I discovered from experimentation that the Zoom has a sound and a handy accessibility that causes things to happen that wouldn’t otherwise, like the way handheld smart phones are changing the way we see videos for example.

Carmen and I have written to each other many times since 1981, and I've been so inspired by our communications that I once wrote an instrumental entitled “Letter From Carmen”, which I plan to include on a future album of solely instrumentals.

Here is the letter I wrote Carmen today, which I also wish to share with my friends…


I figure you’ve already thought of this, or heard of it, or maybe this is already last year’s news:

I had an epiphany last night…

I’ve been making new recordings lately with the Tom Humphrey Memorial Zoom H2 recorder, and I noticed I really like the sound of the piano in my living room on that thing. For practical reasons I’ve been having some agita over how to record in the house for my album, so since I like the sound of the Zoom it dawned on me I should try using it to record field overdubs.

Last night I sat on the piano bench with earbuds on listening to basic tracks on my iPod, then hit record on the Zoom and simply played along to one of my songs. These particular piano parts are simple, not rhythmically critical, so I don’t expect any significant timing issues when I fly the wav files into Protools. I will let you know if I have any trouble when I do the importing.

As I lay in bed the next level of this dawned on me, (I just know someone’s already doing this): You go into a place like Lark in The Morning Music store or The Berkeley Jazz School (where they have things like Hammond Organs, Vibes, Marimbas, standup basses and Yamaha Grands in every room) or wherever else they have instruments that will take more than a lifetime to acquire. You’ve got your iPod with one earbud in and you noodle around with whatever instrument and inspiration calls you. Then you handily pull out your Zoom and touch record when the moment strikes, ambient noise and all, playing along to the basic track in your earbud. Then you fly it in at home to the master recording…

I figure there are people that are working on whole albums this way, entirely on instruments they don’t own, exploiting the ambient anomalies to their advantage. I’m seeing people getting chased out of Catholic Churches in the middle of an organ take, things like that. If I was movie-worthy I’d bust into the Carillon of a Bell Tower with my running shoes on, but I’m not made of that…

Perhaps it might be as simple as an inspired guitar solo on a trophy guitar from the vintage room right in the middle of Sam Ash or Guitar Center, with a full house of customers trying stuff out in the background.

I can hear the NPR sound bite and review already…

For me, I’m just sooo happy I finished another track last night.

I owe you all of this…once again, thank you for everything.


No comments: