Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Election Day Raunch Control (Parts 1 & 2)

I always dug how James Brown tracks would have a funky name with pretentious sounding suffix. For instance "The Popcorn (Parts 1 & 3)" or whatever.

Actually, come to think of it.

Election Day Raunch Control

That is a really excellent name for a band or an album. Perhaps for a band that only has one album? Fans would abbreviate it EDRC, I'm guessing.

Hmm ... yeah.
I like where this is going.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I'm Not Saying It Was Aliens

... But it was Aliens.

Just some random jammin' from the attic.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How To: Make a Stupid Easy Re-Amp Box and Run Everything Through Your Guitar Pedals

Guitar pedals are awesome. They're like audio cupcakes: there are nearly infinite varieties, and like the sugary treats ... no matter which one you choose, even if it's not exactly what you're looking for, it's probably gonna be fun.

The only problem with guitar pedals is that they ... you know ... only work with guitars ... but what if that wasn't the case? What if you could run toy keyboards through them? Vocals? How making 'bout making the rattiest, nastiest snare in the world by running it through your fuzz pedal(s)?

For instance, running a stylophone through an auto-wah to make a surprisingly familiar synth sound:

All this and more is possible, my peeps, through the use of what is known as a "re-amp box". Which you can buy for a lot of money. Here's the thing though, at the end of the day a "re-amp box" is simply this: it converts a line-level signal to an instrument-level signal.

Boom, that's it. It takes a high signal level and reduces it. Many of those expensive boxes do more, but if you want to run non-guitars through guitar pedals, that's really all you need it to do.

It is a ridiculously simple circuit, and if you're the handy, adventurous type, I suggest making yourself the "New York Dave" box. I almost did this, in fact, I'd already got all the parts in my shopping cart on mouser and edcor, and was about to checkout. I was about to spend about $80 in parts including shipping, and a lightbulb went off.

This is a thing that exists: the Behringer Ultra G DI Box. It costs about $40 or so, but it's designed to do the opposite: take an instrument-level signal and amplify it to a line-level signal. That would be the end of it, except for these two buttons:

that's -40db of gain reduction in -20db increments!
With that much gain reduction available on the input, you can certainly plug a line level into the input and get a passable instrument level through the output. Except for one more problem (well two more problems really). It starts with the output connector ...

Thank Gawd it Takes Batteries, Y'all
So ... yeah, two problems:
  1. The output is XLR.We want to feed the output to a guitar pedal, so that's not gonna fly
  2. It's not passive (it needs a power supply), and that power supply is phantom power.I cracked it open. There's a couple transformers in there, and a tiny circuit board (one presumes which runs the "virtual 4x10 cabinet simulator" -- which before you gong that, actually does some interesting things when you turn it on reversed like this). Anyhow, yeah it needs power, and it's designed to suck that power from the board you plug it into. That's not a problem because ...

  3. it takes batteries!
So, I mean this really isn't even a hack. All you need is an XLR to 1/4 inch adapter and a 9V battery.

If, like me, your DIY ethos remains unsatisfied, you could always make your own XLR->1/4in. adaptor ....

things are about to get nerdy ...

I discovered that the rubber sleeve at the end of a female Radio Shack XLR connector is just the right size to grab the innards of a female Radio Shack 1/4 inch connector. Check it out:

And the finished product:

Happy Re-Amplifying, and Happy New Year 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Daryl Hall's Microphones are Unplugged (or This is the Most 80's Keyboard Ad of All Time)

Daryl Hall's Microphones are Unplugged

This evening I have stumbled upon a goldmine of late 80's nostalgia, in the form of a stack of old "Electronic Musician" magazines. These were piled atop the tank of my leaking upstairs toilet (that leaking being the circumstance that lead me to them).

What strikes me the most are the ads. Perhaps it's nostalgia or what have you, but there is something charming about that late 80's advertising. It has a sort of old-schoolness about it,  perhaps some sort of lingering 50's/60's sensibility. It was on the cusp of the digital revolution, so it was either no photoshop, or like photoshop to the max. There was no in-between. And the words, my God ... so many words! Look in a magazine today, I'm telling you. Nothing ... a glossy picture of the thing (whatever it is), probably under harsh fluorescent lighting, and probably on top of a reflective surface of some kind (i.e. "everybody wants to be an iPad"), the name of it (maybe) and a web address. That's it. Nobody writes multiple paragraphs of condescending ad copy like this anymore.
"we'll get to that glaucoma test after this
bitchin' solo"

Here's another thing: every photo appears to be depicting a scene from inside an Optometrist's office. Perfect lighting, bland if well-appointed interior decorations, and strangely the musicians appear to be dressed like they were just off to Church and decided to swing by the old home studio on the way out the door. It's uncanny. I mean have you ever ... ever ... seen a musician dressed like that in his own home, just jammin'? ... and there's just pages and pages like this.

But really, if I had to narrow it down, there are really only two things that I found so incredibly lulzy that I just had to break out the scanner and post snarkily about them on the internet immediately.

Behold exhibit A: the most 80's keyboard ad of all time.

behold the power of revolutionary "virtual Fonzie modeling" synthesis.
(also you can order a poster of the ad)
But really THE thing was this. Words simply fail:

the lead bad guy from "Superman 1" plays his Chapman Stick

Aw hell ... here's a bonus.
This was Mainstage before there was Mainstage, yo:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to fix broken mic cables from Guitar Center

If you've found your way here, you doubtless know just exactly what I'm talking about, but lest there be any confusion, these:

Sole virtue: they're cheap
Cheap. Yes indeed, that they are. Incredibly so. Irresistibly so. That is why you bought an arm load of them at Guitar Center or some such place. Because you could wire up a drum kit for like $50, instead of $250. Yes you did, you cheapskate!

Chances are you've got at least three duds in that pile. They crackle and hiss like a bucketload of fireworks whenever you plug them into just about anything, am I right?

There is a thing called a "rainbow loom", my daughter has one. You basically weave braceletts and stuff out of tiny rubber bands. They sell these rubber bands at Walmart and craft stores. Here's one of them.

'Bout to blow your mind
Then do this: