The Time Is Now CD!

I’m so happy to announce the arrival of my brand new CD, The Time Is Now! This is my 7th CD of original music and only the 2nd one that I’ve recorded entirely at home!

(If you want to hear it, visit the CD/Music page in the main menu bar.)

Why record at home? For those who know me a bit, I’m sort of a perfectionist! The trouble with studios is that they charge by the hour. That’s not really trouble, it’s just a fact. I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with over the years but I’ve always felt like I had to settle for things because the clock is running! Recording at home takes a lot longer but if I’m not happy with something, I can redo it until I’m satisfied. That’s not to say that this new CD is perfect but at least I got everything to the point of feeling like it was the best I could do at the time. Plus I got some great help!

IMG_2969This is our son Eric helping me with some background vocals on the last song on the CD, Somewhere In The Sun. He loves singing and plays the drums and likes to pound on the piano. He has an ukulele too that he occasionally picks up. I was so happy that he agreed to do this and I think he had a great time. As part of the recording/mixing process, I have played these songs around the house over and over again and he always gets a little twinkle in his eye when he hears his voice. Maybe next time around he can handle the percussion for me too! I keep telling him I’d love to have him take drums lessons. He always says, “but dad, I already know how to play the drums!”

I also leaned on Eric for the cover art!

time cd coverI guess I didn’t really have to lean on him. We’ve had this painting in a frame over our dining room table for quite a while now. It’s a couple of years old and I thought it would be a great cover! As some of you might know, my mom used to do some wonderful watercolor work and she did the covers of my first 5 CDs. Her health hasn’t been the best lately and she hasn’t painted in a couple of years. I’m glad to have another great source for artwork and I’m pretty sure my mom would be OK passing that job on to Eric!

That’s the fun stuff. I love recording but even for a perfectionist like me, it can get downright tedious! There are parts I bet I played 50 times before I got them right!

I’m a long way from recording perfection but all in all I’m quite happy with the results. I’m sure those with better ears will hear things I missed or changes I could have/should have made but I did all of this in a small room in our home, much of it during nap times, late at night etc. with nothing more than one mic, an audio interface, a laptop and a pair of studio monitors (and no room treatment!) I’d like to think I got a lot done with a pretty limited set up. None of the stuff I use is very expensive. The bulk of the investment was time, trial and error (heavy on the error! )

If you’re at all curious about the set up, here is some nerd stuff for my fellow pro audio/home recording geeks:

Equipment:

Mic: I have a RODE NTK Vacuum Tube Condenser Mic. I bought this a few years ago. It was recommended by a friend as a great mic for the price. I haven’t had the opportunity to compare it to much of anything else but it has sure gotten the job done for me. Getting used to the mic and learning how it handles my voice, different guitars, etc. has helped a lot!

Interface: I use the first Apogee Duet. Before this I used a Lexicon Omega. During the middle of some recording a while back I had some compatibility issues with the Lexicon when I upgraded my computer’s operating system so I went with the Duet as it is supposed to get long well with Macs. It’s worked well. Every once in a while GarageBand won’t recognize it so I’ll have to restart my computer and then it’s fine. Kind of annoying but otherwise no complaints about the Duet.

Computer: I have a MacBook Pro that is a few years old. I still use GarageBand. If you’re not familiar with GarageBand it comes free with a Mac so nothing fancy at all! I upgraded to Logic Pro a while back and have done some recording in Logic Pro but I’ve worked so much in GarageBand that I still feel the most comfortable there and what I’m doing is simple enough to make it work.

Monitors: Dynaudio BM5A MKII. The monitors probably represented the biggest learning curve for me. These are still fairly new and this is the first record I’ve mixed on them. I’d track with headphones (Sony MDR-7506) and do some light mixing on the headphones if the kids were asleep and then do the rest on the Dynaudios later on. I would then burn the mixes to CD and check them on several different systems. The main two were my car stereo and our home stereo. It took a while to figure out how the sound from the studio monitors translated to the other systems and what adjustments I needed to make to try to get the best sound I could on all the different stereos I used.

I played all the instruments/parts myself which is probably why it took as long as it did! Here is what I used:

Vocals: Recorded all with the RODE NTK

Guitar: Taylor 514ce-n (nylon string.) I recorded all the guitar parts with the NTK about 8″ to a foot or so away from about the 14th fret of the guitar.

Ukulele: Collings UC1K miced with the NTK more or less like the guitar.

Piano: Yamaha Clavinova with a mono 1/4″ out to the Apogee Duet.

Bass: American Fender P Bass through either an Avalon U5 or through my Bose T1 with the P Bass EQ preset. But after struggling to get the bass parts to sound right, I cheated and redid all the parts using a midi keyboard with an electric bass setting! Apologies to the purists but eventually, I had to do something to try to get a bass sound I liked. I don’t think equipment was the problem. I narrowed it down to some shortcomings with the skills of the bass player, the recording engineer or the mixing engineer. One or more of those guys had no idea what they were doing when I came to playing, recording and mixing bass! 

Harmonicas: Either Hohner Special 20 or Lee Oskar recorded with the RODE NTK.

Percussion: A Pearl cajon and a Remo pear-shaped fruit shaker

I added a couple of other things here and there with the midi keyboard.

I followed the same basic pattern for every song. I would open up a new track in GarageBand and do a rough recording of me playing and singing the song into the RODE NTK mic. This next part is probably the strangest part of my whole process: I would plug in my old Alesis SR-16 drum machine. It has a tap tempo function. So while I’m listening to what I just recorded, I would tap the tap tempo button on the drum machine. This would tell me my tempo in beats per minute. I would then use this tempo as my starting point for the click track of the song. This way I’m basing the tempo on a free form performance of the song. The result (I think) is a much natural tempo for each of the songs if that makes any sense.

Once I’d have the tempo established, I’d plug in a midi keyboard and create a one measure drum track, usually rim shot and kick drum using that tempo. Then I could loop that drum track and make it my click track. (a click track is a rhythm track you listen to on headphones while you record the other parts to make sure you are playing everything at the same tempo.) I’d play along with my click track a couple of times to make sure the tempo felt right and make any adjustments if it didn’t.

Once I had the tempo established and the click track laid down, I would do a scratch track of guitar and vocals. (The scratch track is just a reference track that will not be part of the final recorded song.) I’d just put the mic somewhere in the middle and play the whole song. This sets up the basic skeleton of the song. It give me the intro, the verses, the chorus, solo break(s) and the outro. This part is always a bit tricky for me because the song will usually be a bit different from the way I play it live. Even if it’s not different, I have to make a “final” decision as to the structure of the song. When I play live I just play whatever feels right at the time. But with recording I need to decide on an intro, what kind of solos, breaks, etc.

Once I get the bare bones of the song established, it’s time to start recording! I always start with the main acoustic guitar part and work from there. Some songs have several layers of different guitar parts. Then I’d add what I think each song called for. Every song has at least acoustic guitar, bass and vocals. Some have every instrument listed above! It would all just depend on the song and what I thought each one needed at the time. Sometimes I’d have a cold so I couldn’t sing so I’d just add some more guitar!

This is getting pretty long! Is anyone still reading this?

Anyway, that is the basic process that I used for all the songs. I recorded a handful of songs that didn’t make it onto the CD so I repeated this process for probably 18 different songs! It took a long time and there were days when I felt like giving up. I’m glad I didn’t and hope the final result was worth it! I know I learned a TON and that I’ll be further ahead when the next project comes along.

Thanks for reading and if you made it over to the CD page and heard a sample or two, thanks for listening!

-Matt

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Northern Spirit Radio

I want to share an interview with you. I had a super fun time chatting with Mark Helpsmeet at Northern Spirit Radio. The interview features 7 newly recorded songs. Some are new songs and some are some new versions of songs that have been around a while. You can listen to the interview on-line and leave comments if you’d like.

You can find the interview here:

Northern Spirit Radio – Matt Wahl Interview

Enjoy the day!
Matt

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Joshua’s Camp Song

I want to share a new song with you. It’s one of only two songs that I’ve co-written.

Almost a year ago, John Finney introduced himself to me and told me of Joshua’s Camp. Joshua’s Camp is a camp for families who have a child being treated for cancer. You can read all about it here:

Joshua’s Camp Website

John asked me if I would play at the next Joshua’s Camp scheduled for 5/31/12 – 6/3/12 and I’m thrilled to be a part of it! John also asked me if I would take a look at some lyrics he had written and see if I could put them in to a “Joshua’s Camp song.” I told him that I would certainly look at the lyrics but that I couldn’t promise anything songwriting-wise but I would do my best.

John’s lyrics were great and I got lucky and came up with a chorus and adapted his words as the verses and the bridge and played the song for the first time at the Festival In The Pines in Eau Claire in August where John and other volunteers were doing a fund raiser for Joshua’s Camp.

I asked John if he could share with me (so I could share with you) his inspiration for the lyrics:

“When I watched the children, that were attending our Cancer Camp, one thing always seemed to be the same. No matter how sick they were from all the treatment side effects and the disease they were fighting, they would try so hard to join in with the other healthy children. They desperately wanted to sing, dance, play the game or just sit on the floor and play with the toys. More than anything else…they just wanted to be a kid again.”

You can hear our song called, “I Just Want To Be A Kid Again” on the music player:

I Just Want To Be A Kid Again.mp3

Thanks for listening. Enjoy the day!
Matt

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Just Look At The Lake Slideshow!

I got the final, mastered version of the song back yesterday and put together a little slide show to go with the tune. It features photos of Lake Superior taken from all over the city of Duluth!

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When The Long Horn Blows….

Now I know that no song deserves three separate posts but I’ve been having a ton of fun with my Duluth song called, “Just Look At The Lake.”

When a ship passes underneath the aerial lift bridge in Duluth, they do something called a Captains Salute. The captain of the ship blows the ship’s horn and then the tender of the bridge answers back with a long blast and two short blasts. It’s really neat and we can hear it from our house.

I wanted to find a way to include the bridge’s horn in the song. So this morning I checked the harbor schedule and saw that there was a ship coming in at 1pm. At about 20 minutes to one, I looked out the window and saw the ship steaming in. I grabbed my camera and my trusty digital recorder and headed out the door. About 5 minutes later I was parked down in Canal Park and I headed for the bridge just as the ship was entering the canal. I turned on the recorder and recorded the ship’s horn and the bridge’s response.

If you listen to the updated version of “Just Look At The Lake,” on either .mp3 player you can hear the bridge at the end of the second verse where it talks about the bridge and the long horn blowing! Pretty fun!

I’m working on getting enough lake photos together for a slide show too.

Enjoy the day!
Matt

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Just Look At The Lake! Studio Version!

I’ve been doing a bit of recording this week and I’m pretty close to being done with a studio version of “Just Look At The Lake!”

You can hear it on the little music player that is on the right side of the page underneath my photo.

You can also hear it on the music player on the Ukulele Sunshine page. The last thing I added to the recording late last night was the ukulele and I love what it does for the song! I’m not sure how many other Lake Superior songs there are featuring an ukulele but if it works for the ocean, why not for the Big Lake?

Enjoy the day!
Matt

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Just Look At The Lake!

I wrote a new song today about my favorite part of our still relatively new home of Duluth, MN.

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Positive Music Association

I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of a wonderful organization called the Positive Music Association!

From the Positive Music Association’s website:

“The Positive Music Association (PMA) is a professional trade organization dedicated to expanding and promoting all styles of music expressing universal, life-affirming messages.”

Since the theme of my music is, “The Fun Side of Life” and to me, that theme means enjoying yourself and living life to the fullest, I thought it was a good fit with the values of the Positive Music Association. Luckily for me, they thought so too! I feel very fortunate to be included and to be a part of such a great group of people and musicians!

So if you are looking for a fantastic place to find musicians from all sorts of genres creating, writing and performing music with wonderful messages, the Positive Music Association-(click) is that place!

Enjoy the day!
Matt

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My “New” Guitar

I’ll have a “new” guitar with me this weekend. It’s really quite far from new but I have never performed with it so in that way, it is new.

It’s a 1967 Gibson C1 Classical guitar. There is a wonderful story behind this guitar. Many years ago I was at my parents’ house and my dad had a friend over. They asked me to play a few songs so I did. My dad’s friend got quite emotional and said that his brother used to play. His brother had passed away several years earlier and he said listening to me reminded him of hearing his brother play.

He told me that he had an old guitar of his brother’s and he wanted me to have it. I was quite moved by his story and touched by the generous offer. I told him that if that’s really what he wanted, I would give it a good home.

That was a Saturday night. The following Monday he met me back up and my parents’ house and gave me his brother’s guitar. This super cool old Gibson! It was in pretty tough shape. The strings were of course shot, the finish was all checked, some of the tuners were (still are) bent and the bridge was coming off of the guitar.

I took it in and had it fixed up, got a new bridge and a new nut, had the neck reset and put some strings on it. It’s come with me as I’ve moved around over the last couple of years and every once in a while, I’ll get it out and strum a few songs.

Yesterday I pulled a pickup out of one of my guitars. I was going to try and sell the pickup when I came up with a plan. What if I put the pickup in the old Gibson? Could I play that on stage? That would be so great!

So today I got out my tools, poured some coffee and got to work. The install was a success and this old Gibson sounds fantastic! I spent quite a while with this guitar today, just thrilled to finally have him stage-ready! I feel like I’m finally doing this guitar justice and I’m honored to have it and I can’t wait to play it live! What a treat!

So there you have it! Just thought I’d share the story behind this great old guitar.

Enjoy the day!
Matt

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P90x = Surgery = A New Song

(scroll down to the bottom if you just want the song!)

My plans for the summer took an interesting turn this week. In March I started a workout program called P90x. They call it, “extreme home fitness.” And it is! Tons of pull ups, push ups, abdominal exercises, dumbbells and core training. Most of the workouts are about an hour long and then three days a week you add 15 more minutes of ab exercises, the yoga video is 90 minutes and you do this 6 days a week. On the 7th day you can either rest or do the hour long stretching video.

It’s a very difficult workout but the results have been or at least had been wonderful. I had just started my 10th week and I had lost quite a bit of weight and trimmed off a lot of body fat. I was continually delighted and surprised that each week I could lift more weight, do more reps and do more push ups and pull ups than I could the week before. In short it works and I highly recommend it! If you do what it says and keep doing your best, you will get in great shape.

However…..I guess I got a little extreme with my “extreme home fitness.” I found out Wednesday morning that i have an inguinal hernia. I know I’m certainly not the first person to hurt myself working out but it’s disappointing to damage my body doing something that was supposed to be good for me. But it’s not all that surprising. I had a doctor tell me during a physical years ago that I had some inherent weakness in this area and that there was a pretty good chance that I would have this problem somewhere down the line. But that was years ago. I had forgotten about it and I was busy pushing myself and since I kept getting stronger and leaner, I just kept right on going.

So now, not only do I have to give up P90x just 2 and half weeks shy of completing the program, an inguinal hernia doesn’t heal on its own and requires surgery to repair the tear and then about a 4 – 6 week recovery period with no lifting or strenuous activity. Bummer!

Certainly not the summer I imagined! I was super excited about our first summer in Duluth, spending tons of time outside, chasing Eric around the yard and around the various playgrounds. Hitting the bike and running trails and of course a busy summer of outdoor music.

Now what? Basically, I don’t know. I don’t know when I’ll have the surgery nor do I know what I’ll be able to do afterward. I know I won’t be able to lift much. I’m not planning on canceling any shows. I’ll use my little baby Bose system as much as possible (Bose L1 Compact) I might have to sit down and play and maybe get some help with set up and tear down but I’m hoping the shows will go on!

In thinking of all this it dawned on me that it is a perfect time to share this new song I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It’s called, “Rolling Along,” and it’s about realizing that things that seem bad can turn out to be good and things that seem good can turn out to be not as good. It’s about realizing that not everything needs to be judged and put into the categories of good and bad and sometimes it’s best to just roll along with life and accept that things are the way they are.

Hope you enjoy it! Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

-Matt

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