What I must do

It’s no doubt that I am a Flash team leader, and in a way it blows my mind that I am doing this for one of the largest Flash sites on the net. Not to mention that it keeps growing and evolving. However, I have had to come to terms with the fact that being a team lead has meant a lot less coding. I’ll admit that I have had some depressing nights over this. However, the light has shone on my purpose here, at least for the time being.

As a developer, I was the sole coder. I got to design, code and build my knowledge in the process. Plus, I also have a lot of fun, while getting paid for it. If anything it was just me to deal with.

It’s different as a team lead. However, I’m realizing that it is not a bad thing at all. To start, I now have a team of people. The only place I could think of where the perfect example of a leader is, is right in the new testament. Jesus said (and I paraphrase), “I have not come to be served, but to serve…”, and this is the most powerful example that I can think of. Plain and simple: I serve my team and not the other way around. If anything I’m there to do what I can to not only help them do their job effectively, but to also keep them motivated and positive. This means that I have to be motivated and positive if I am going to serve my team effectively.

The other thing that I need to realize is that if I’m not going to be able to code as much, then it is up to me to pass on everything I know to the group. Not that I have ever held any secrets from anyone, but now it’s more important than ever because if I don’t use it, it will more than likely get lost. So, the only way it won’t get lost is to make sure that the knowledge is passed on to those who will use it and further themselves in hopes that one day they will be in the position to pass it on, along with everything they have learned.

These things I must do are but the start of becoming an effective team lead.

— Posted from my iPhone… because I can

From the wellsprings of pain floweth a fountain of art

OMG! I’m writing again! It’s like someone just pulled the plug out of the mental wellspring this morning and I’ve sprung a fountain. Everything is just flowing today. Not since I was 14 years old riding back home to Toronto from Quebec City, have I been able to write as many songs as I have this morning. I realize that art can be painful at times, but I never realized just how much pain it took to draw up this much inspiration. I’m not saying that I enjoy the pain. I am saying that I enjoy the pain, but I got so inspired by the writing that flowed from it. It’s like it just hit me.

If anything, I have been up since 5am, and I had so many bad thoughts running through my head. And, it was my own fault for entertaining these thoughts to begin with. I was practically feeling consumed by my thoughts to the point of being paralyzed by them. So, I decided to try to think of ways to get them out of my head. I figured, I’d start with a hot shower and then the first song hit me in there. That’s when I started writing “The Warning Sign” and just described everything that was feeling because of these thoughts. All of the overload and overwhelm was put into words and now I have the music in mind for it. From there, I started writing “Takin’ My Time”, which talked about my ignorance of letting these thoughts enter my head in the first place, and then I wrote “Sinkin'”, which talks about dancing with temptation and sin and how I need to stop and rely on God and Jesus to get me through. I’ve even got another song in the making because of this.

I’m excited, to say the least. I’m inspired and motivated. I found something to get me through this… and this produced art. There’s a whole fountain of music that feels like its flowing out of me today and I will admit that I am loving it so much. God knows just how much I love music and He’s given me just the very gift I needed today. It feels so amazing. I will admit that I want more music. I never want to stop writing music. If it means writing what I am feeling about the totally messed up world I live in my mind, then so be it! It’s music to my ears!

God had always said that we can take joy in our suffering. Never has my suffering been more joyful!

Recording Guitar Was Never This Much Fun

I can’t remember a time when I’ve had more fun recording my acoustic guitar. For some reason it felt like a real treat to do. I wonder if it had anything to do with finding the right microphone to record the 6 string neck along with the right position, or the fact that I took the “barber” chair from the bathroom into the studio and sat on that while I played guitar. Or, maybe it is a combination of the two.

All I know is that time passed so quickly, and I’ll admit that I can’t wait to do it again. I have a few more acoustic songs to record and now I can’t wait to get them down. There’s something about the acoustic guitar that feels so expressive that I’m now for some reason able to capture.

Now that I can capture it the way I did, I want to capture more of it. I feel like there’s a whole new world of recording guitar that I’ve just opened up.

— Posted from my iPhone… because I can

Embracing My Perfect Imperfections

If anything, I’ve been brooding over my latest piece that I posted, “I Don’t Stand Alone”. When I listen to the mastered track, I think that there’s so much that I could have done with it. The bass was all out of alignment and I hate the sound of the kick drum. It sounds like I’m beating on a kick drum case, rather than the drum itself. And, funny enough, I have a sample of a kick drum case and believe it or not, it sounds so much better than what I have. If anything, there’s a lot of life missing in this song. I started replacing some of the amp modelling in it and started applying some creative cutting with my EQ, and the song started coming to life. And, yet, it feels like there is so much more to do on this song.

And yet, there is the other side that is eating at me: should I do it? The song when I recorded it was a milestone in my life. At that time, I felt that I had learned more about mixing than any other time. I know that I am always going to get better. It’s a known fact that the more you work to improve at something, the more you will improve. You may not realize it at the time, but you will improve. I’m sure that I can look back at every song that I have mixed and find ways to improve it one way or another. The question is, how far do I go? I mean, if I start looking at this song and improve it, yay! Then what? Am I going to start looking at other songs, seeing how I can improve them. I have a whole bunch of songs that I know that I could improve upon. Do I fix them all up as well?

And then the cycle will repeat itself. I’m sure in the process, I’m going to find my mixing skills even more improved and then I’m going to look at the entire batch of songs, including the ones that I have recently done, and once again try to improve them. And then it will happen over and over and over again. I know I spend a day multing bass parts and stuff for this song and then discovering just how much I hate the kick drum. Then what happens when I improve the kick drum? I may make this song perfect… and at the same time make it perfectly boring. Yeah, there is some lifeless stuff about it. However, there is some character to the song. I don’t want to lose the character of the song. It’s not supposed to be perfect. I am not perfect… I’m far from perfect. That’s the beauty of music. It allows me to display my imperfections in such a way that it is perfectly imperfect.

Maybe, that’s the time I should realize that it is time to just stop. I should leave it alone for now. Work on some new stuff and play around with some new ideas. There’s so much more stuff that I’m starting to write now. I should just write it for now and get it out of my head onto the hard drives. I should be happy with my perfect imperfections and not try to make them something they are not.

Has Jesus Become a Dirty Word?

In my quest for some great inspirational hard rockin’ tunes from some Christian bands, I have started noticing a trend in some of the new music. They all talk about heaven, eternity, righteousness, faith, hope and love, and all things good and insert some well-placed “Hallelujahs!” in their songs. But, they’re missing one thing! I went through all of their demo tracks on the iTunes Store and nowhere did I ever find a mention of either God or Jesus in their demo tracks. Not once on their entire album! We’re talking perhaps 13 or so tracks per album, and many of these bands have more than one album and not once do they mention Jesus. Heck, I didn’t even hear the words “Lord”, “King”, “Ruler” or anything like that.

What ever happened to “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord” in the music? It’s like mentioning Jesus in the music business is now becoming a sure fire way to find yourself blacklisted or something like that. I can probably hear it in the back room of these so-called Christian labels going, “Well, if we don’t mention Jesus or God directly, but we imply Him, then we’re still getting out the message…” WRONG!! They don’t call it Christian Rock for nothing, you know! Christian Rock without Christ is just Rock! I can listen to that kind of stuff on Q107, which I am not detracting from that station because it’s my fave Classic Rock radio station. What I am saying is that’s what it seems that these labels are aiming for and rather than set themselves apart, just like it was commanded in the Bible, they are assimilating themselves into this world! They are trying to blend in by removing the very cornerstone of their music.

I’m sorry, but this really saddens and angers me and my feelings on this are getting rather overwhelming. It weighs on me like a huge rock tied around my heart because these bands have lost their balls when it comes to Jesus. It’s like Jesus has become their embarrassing friend. I have a hard enough time trying to talk about Jesus as it is and I look to music for inspiration because music is one of the things in this world that I can directly associate with. That’s what God built into me. I like to fill my morning and afternoon drives with loud rockin’ music that I can sing my praises to Jesus at the top of my lungs. Yes, look over your shoulder into the next car… that’s me singing it out loud about Jesus and I’m not afraid of being watched as I drive in the car, no matter how stupid I look. That’s me and if you don’t like it, then roll up your windows and drive on. But, I can’t sing about Jesus if I don’t have a song to sing about Him. I don’t like to imply Jesus. I like to sing Jesus!

I’m grateful that the albums that I do have from Jeremy Camp, Kutless and Casting Crowns sing about Jesus in all of His glory and mention God, Jesus and everything else associated with no fear. I’m glad they have the balls to mention Jesus and set themselves apart just like the Bible commands! I’m glad they fill me with the inspiration to sing in my car. Their work is inspiring to me because their love for Jesus shows in their music. They’re not just Christians in a band. Their bands are about Christ and nothing but. They day they drop Jesus from their songs will be a sad day for me indeed.

I only wish I could find more rockin’ bands with the same courage to proclaim Jesus as their foundation. I’d go right into the iTunes store and buy them right away and fill my iPod, so I can sing along and be further inspired. As for the others, it seems inspirational has become a loose terminology.

Where I am is where I need to be…

If anything, resuming a habit of leaving work at a healthier hour, and trying hard to stay away from it until the next day, has put my mind back into perspective. I’ve been thinking clearer and it has started to show in my work. It has also made me realize the most important thing about work: I really do like where I am. I enjoy the challenges, and I actually enjoy being put to the test on to it see if I can deliver. Even more so, I am enjoying the bigger test these days of delivering with a team of developers. Honestly, I don’t know how good of a team leader I am, but for the most part, I enjoy leading my team. It has its good days and its bad days, but there are no boring days.

If anything, I can remember praying about this job, and at the same time, I remembered God opening up every single pathway leading up to where I am today. I can honestly say that God has put me right where I am today. And this is where I want to be because that is where God put me. So what if things are not always roses. I’ll live! Even more so, I’m showing that I am growing in this job. I must be growing because I have been making decisions that I would have been really scared to make in the past. That’s gotta say something. I’ve been given to opportunity to put my, or are they, strategies into play and I can see the results. I’m actually at a point where I am doing what I can to make our department look better. Of course, it’s not me alone, but I know that I am not alone, and we all work together to make our environment a great place to work. It takes a lot of work, but what good thing doesn’t?

At this point, I do not want to just drop everything and go someplace else. Just because things are very hard and the pressure is on, I’m not going to back down from the challenge. I was put there for a reason and even if that reason is to fail, it will all be a testament to God’s glory. Perhaps, I have to realize that this is not about me anymore. I may be a team leader, but I am now serving a team. I want them to succeed. Perhaps, that is why God put me there.

Always a Learning Experience

Every time I work at a mixdown, I alway try to find something I can learn from and apply it to the next mix. This really is nothing new for me because I have been doing recording and mixing for almost 30 years, starting from a 4-track reel-to-reel in my bedroom. This last mix was definitely no exception.

I sought the advice of a friend of mine, who is a very successful engineer and producer, and also makes a lot of the drum samples that I use within my mixes. The things I learned from him on this mix were eye opening. He just listened to my mix and was able to tell me what was wrong. He then gave me some great tips and techniques that I applied and got an eye-opening moment from them.

The one main thing I really managed to internalize from this mix was the importance of mixing at lower volumes. I wouldn’t say that I mix loud. After all, I do want to protect my ears as well. However, it is loud enough to alter the perception of certain frequencies… you know, the ol’ Fletcher-Munson curves and such. So, I was instructed to turn everything down very low… almost whisper volume. I should then balance the mix at that volume. I should also work with the vocals at that level. Once I get it working at that level, it will work at any level. When I was mixing it loud, my ears must have been compressing the vocals, so it didn’t seem that loud compared to the rest of the mix. However, at the whisper level, I could barely hear the music above the vocals. Once I brought the vocals down and could hear the music and the vocals together, I the proceeded to mix the vocals at that level, supplying whatever automation I needed for it there. Once I got it, I turned it up and listened. The vocals sat right in at that point. I was amazed at how well that worked. It’s funny how I heard many times from Charles Dye that I should mix at a low volume. It just didn’t sink in until now. Now, between the vocals and the bass, it all sat in nicely.

I learned other lessons as well, such as the fact that if I need to, I can split my tracks up into multi tracks. I don’t need to have the vocals sitting all on one track. I also don’t need to do everything on one track. Tonight, I used two kick tracks and emphasize the click frequencies in one of them and brought them up under the main kick. All of a sudden, the kick sounded totally clear and I didn’t need as much compression as I had on it before. That was totally cool! All these available tracks and I have only discovered its power now.

It’s things like these that make me glad that I feel I don’t know a lot, despite the many years I have done this. It opens me up to learn new techniques. Now, I can’t wait to work on the next song as not only will I apply what I have learned from this mixdown session, but I know I will learn new things from the next session.