Sunday, February 28, 2010


Tom "T-Bone" Wolk died early this morning in NYC. His big heart gave out and the world lost a great musician and a lot of people in this business lost a great friend.
I met him when I took a gig teching for Hall and Oates a few years back. The first show we did was in Bermuda at the Atlantis. I had played a few country licks through the guitar rig during sound check and he came right over and struck up a conversation about Country, guitar players, and Nashville and made me feel like I'd been there for years. During his bass solo in the middle of the set that night, he stopped playing his groove, walked up to a mic and said "Tom Spaulding, this is for you". He then played Buck Owens' "Buckaroo" on his bass...behind his head. That was T-Bone.
He could play most any instrument and get something musical and tasteful out of it every time. He loved Vermont cheese and refused to cede any ground when I insisted that all cheese is merely a footnote to Wisconsin cheddar.
I had not been in contact with him since October, when he said in an e-mail that we needed to catch up but he was super busy and very tired. I have a few friends who were very close to T-Bone for many years and my prayers go out to them all. I think anybody who met him felt close to him immediately. He was kind and considerate and listened when you spoke and had the best attitude about what it means to be a musician. Never a harsh word about anyone, and you won't hear any unkind things said about him. A gentleman and a great musician and a beautiful human being.
Thanks, 'Bone. It was an honor and a pleasure to know you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Master, May I?

Most musicians I know have some kind of recording device at home. Whether it’s GarageBand, Pro Tools, Cubase or hardware digital recorders from the likes of Roland, Tascam and Korg, the modern guitarist usually desires and is expected to have some recording savvy. Even if you’re just cataloging your practice sessions or jamming over a backing track, making recordings is part of the guitar skill set and if you’re not participating, you should consider it.

Some of us are recording our ideas quickly into Garageband, while others are producing full-blown album projects. Both ends of the spectrum have an option that did not exist a few years ago.

With the rise of recording technology and hardware devices came a mini-revolution in mastering, the so-called “final creative endeavor” in a finished track. Mastering was traditionally the difference between a professional recording and a glorified demo. If you could afford to master your project, you were serious. The art of mastering was reserved for the studied and schooled practitioner, who piloted esoteric tools, making subtle adjustments that simply made the record Better.In addition, “another set of ears” taking a turn at listening critically to your project has certainly helped more tracks that it hurt.

We now have access to tools that nearly match those of the average mastering house. In today’s music scene, access to tools is a dicey thing. Dropping a pickup truck full of hardware onto my driveway does not make me a contractor. Nonetheless, we can use these tools to learn more about mixing and mastering.By trying to fix a bad mix in mastering, you can learn why the mix is bad.

Having your project professionally mastered – for most genres of music – must still be the first choice if at all possible. Hopefully it’s in your budget to do so, but it is rarely money poorly spent. Getting a pro involved in your project is a chance to learn from someone else’s experience, which is invaluable. You can certainly master your own work, but as the saying goes, “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”. I have a hard enough time removing myself from biased decisions on songs I wrote, performed, recorded and mixed. Getting fresh ears is worth it all by itself, learning and hearing and being audibly shown the solutions to the problems in your mix is a bonus. I believe creativity is also a learning process, as well as a productive labor.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gig Love

Just got my Corsair 16GB thumb drive today. New Egg has a mail-in rebate special that brought the price down to $29.99. $2 a gig for a rubber-encased thumb drive. Crazy.

I'm backing up the entire 9.7 GB album on it right now.

Tuition Fruition

Sting's best rhyme and today's topic: Learning Software With Video.

Growing up in a small Wisconsin town of around 2,500 people, I relied on my Guitar Player magazine subscription to keep me informed of the latest in gear, guitar hero interviews and techniques. I read every column and absorbed great ideas and concepts that eventually made up my personal guitar style. There were a few books around, but mostly it was Guitar Player and listening to records.

In today's world, you can get DVD or CD instruction on just about anything from just about anyone. Here's a few of the tutorials I've been checking out lately:

1) Izzy is a professional videographer who sells online instruction. His FREE download course on Final Cut Express is excellent. A step-by-step tutorial on how to get the basics out of Apple's mid-line video/audio editing program.

2)MacPro Video Cubase 5 Core 101. A start-to-finish primer on Steinberg's digital audio workstation, Cubase 5. Oragnized to be viewed in an as-needed basis, you can start with Video 1 and follow it through to the end, or jump around to learn about specific aspects of this deep and powerful app. Lots of time-saving tip and tricks are included, especially in using key commands.

3) Production, Mixing Mastering with Waves. Waves, makers of industry-standard audio plug-ins, has put together a 4th edition of their hands-on manual on how to use their products to get professional results. Essentially a masterclass in production, the author offers several styles and genres of music and shows how the typical sound of those tracks came to be through tracking and mixing techniques. The multi-tracks are included and you get to actually work on the files as you read the text. A great peak inside modern production styles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

C'mon Baby, Light My Firewire

FireWire Hierarchy

A handy how-to for those with FW issues.

Monday, February 08, 2010

WHOper Bowl

Congrats to the New Orleans Saints and all their fans. A well-played and well-coached game.

The high point for me, being a Packers fan with no particular dog in the hunt, was the halftime entertainment. Once again, the aging boomers are called upon to perform and once again they deliver. Even with the 50% lifestyle-attrition rate that took Keith Moon and John Entwhistle too soon, the Voice and the Music of The Who still resonate with power. Having Pino Palladino and Zak Starkey as fill-ins helps as well.

After watching - and more importantly, hearing - the recent spate of awards shows that showcase the musical/performing artists of the present day, to watch a couple of guys in their early 60's play live to an audience of 100 million viewers and pull it off was a reminder of where the bar used to be set.

Sure, 40 years will take a bit of exuberance from your throat and your strumming hand, but I'll take real music, performed by real musicians in real time over any tuned (or horribly out of tune) pre-programmed fluff that we've been told is the modern equivalent.

Yes, I'm an old grouch. Yes, it's a generational thing. Yes, yes, yes. But the fact remains that there was a time when the best Pop music was sometimes written by Artists and sung and played by Musicians, not "songwriters" and "entertainers". Pete Townshend aimed higher than sharing his high-school crush diary entries with us. He succeeded.

"Won't Get Fooled Again" is timeless, because we all DO get fooled again...and again. For a few more years at least, we have the chance to occasionally give the catwalk over to the Old Models and marvel at how they cloak themselves in Talent and Originality...and not The Emperor's New Spring Line of Fashion.

'Cause they "know that the hypnotized never ya?".