No Greater Love

As someone who is considered fortunate enough to live in the western world, I take a lot of things for granted. I have to freedom to decide many things for myself, go to church and pray to God for saving me, as a Jew, through the blood of Jesus Christ, and I get to write and post songs about it, among everything else I try to write about.

Being Rememberance Day, I started to thing how many soldiers bravely fought and gave their lives for the ability for people like me to do what I am able to do. These soldiers laid their lives down not only for friends, but for people they will never know. People like me. Christian or not, to me they fulfilled the scripture:

John 15:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This has become huge to me this day. I will never know these people, but they would be willing to put their life on the line so that I could write about it. Perhaps, even sing about it. It takes me to right back to how Jesus died on the cross so that I could write about how He set me free from sin. Did Jesus know me then? I don’t know. I do know that God did know me two thousand years ago, and that I would be put on this earth to receive His love through Jesus Christ. I wasn’t there when Jesus died on the cross, but he laid down his life for me. Who could love me greater?

I’ve been set free in almost every which way possible. That freedom wasn’t free. The price for my freedom had to be paid with blood. You are reading this because I am free. Not only was I freed from the bondage of sin. I was freed from the threat of various forms of tyranny on this earth so that I could write about it. More importantly, I could sing about my freedom and share my songs with everyone who wants to listen.

For this, there is indeed no greater love for me than those who laid their life down for me.

Most Important Music Tools: Our Ears

I find it rather sad that many musicians and engineers will spend more time focusing more on the care of their instuments and gear than anything else. They’ll rewind their guitars in a timely manner with precision and care not to cross the windings for fear of making things look messing. I’ve known many engineers to spend considerable time aligning the heads of their tape decks and setting the bias almost every time they change reels of tape. I don’t disagree with this. In fact, I have done both guitar maintenance and I used to spend great care aligning and de-magnetizing the tape heads of all of my decks.

However, until a few months ago, I often forgot about or neglected the one musical tool that makes all things musical not only possible, but enjoyable: my ears. You see, a few months ago, while feeling something suspicious around my right jaw, and while trying to clean it out with a Q-Tip, I made things much worse by impacting the wax that was built up in my ear. As a result, I wound up losing the hearing in that ear. it was the one of the scariest moments in my life, because I discovered what it felt like to lose the ability to hear music. It was awful. We tried almost everything to get it out, and nothing was working. I had to wait a few days until the doctor’s office would take me in and have a look at what i had done. That was the worst three days of my life. I could hardly hear anything and I was praying that my hearing be restored. I was really down, not being able to hear music. I felt that I robbed myself of the gift that God gave me.

Fortunatly, I didn’t do any real damage to my ears. However, flushing my ears out showed just how much junk was in my ears. It also showed another issue: having had a problem with dry skin all of my life, I discovered that my ear canals were no exception. Worse than the wax buildup in my ears, I would have a buildup of a dry skin inside and the flakes would the plug-up my ears.

From that moment on, I decided that i would do a regular maintenance on my ears. Part of the regiment is a daily regiment of olive or peanut oil drops. At the onset of any perceived issue, I will flush my ears out, provided I’ve not developed any ear infection. Alhough I take great care in flushing my ears, I used part of my aspie “super powers” to memorize everything that I could about the flushing from the teamperature of water to the pressure of the flush. I don’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t attuned to their bodies in this manner as one misjudged step could result in permanent damage. Even more so, I don’t profess to be a doctor. Everyhing i do works for me, because I know me. And if you’re reading this and decide to try the things I am doing, then you do so at your own risk as I do so at mine. Remember that having a doctor do something like this is usually a better thing.

However you do this, ear maintainance on a regular basis will help keep your hearing in check. If your hearing is in check, your music will be that musch more enjoyable and in check. Also remember to be aware of the volumes that you are listening to music. It doesn’t take much to cause permanent damage to your ears. Don’t wait until it is too late. For me, not having music is like not having oxygen.  The moment you lose the music may be the worst moment in your life. Keep the music going by keeping your ears working.

Getting Dirty

For years, I have been somewhat of a purist when it came to recording. Everything going in to my computer had to be clean and plug-in free so that I could scuplt it within Logic. For some things like acoustic guitars, that was good to a point, and even that had its moments, but for many other things, like electric guitars, it became totally uninspiring to record because what I really wanted was a tone that would excite me, and quite often it was right at my fingertips. But I felt I had to wait to apply them to my sound, and quite often, the wait would often result in not getting the sound that I originally intended. Main reason as far as electric guitar went was because there was no real interaction because the guitar and speakers and whatever interaction there was, it was a more digital response resulting in squeals for feedback, if there was any feedback at all. So, by the time the song was ready for mix, it would already be boring and the it would feel like nothing more than an act of turd polishing.

You can say I’ve had enough of that. If I was going to get a sound that excited me, I had to get dirty with my recording. This meant knowing the sound I wanted to use for the song, which is uaually the case, and stick with it to the end. Of course this means making a commitment. But, heck, I wouldn’t really change things once I record them, so I’m good.

These days, almost any track that is not of a software instrument is recorded with some type of treatment on them. Electric guitars will go through my POD or my Rockman, using one of the amp patches. I will also make sure that I am not using headphones when I record them because I can get some really cool interaction between the guitar and speakers, and it doesn’t sound digital. For my acoustic guitars, I have been taking advantage of some console emulations, such as the Universal Audio 610-A, and I’ll drive it through either an 1176 or LA-2A and Pultec emulations. Even vocals get treated now. I’ll do anything that gets me closer to the sound that I want to hear right away.
The result lately is that my last few mixes have got me even more excited because I am getting the sound I am looking for right from the start. Everything sounds right in place and I have been able to pull mixes together within a matter of hours, instead of days because I was fiddling for that sound and feel after the fact. And, the mix to me is far better than I imagined. Even Joelle has given me the “don’t change a thing” after listening to them.

I’m not saying that this is going to work for everyone. However, it has worked wonders for me. If I know how I want something to sound, I’m going to record it right away, rather than set it all up later. And most of all, I’m not afraid to get dirty.