Jag's Current Music Projects 

 

See my finished projects here

I have studied the blues greats such as Bukka White, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House and others in an effort to become a traditional country blues master. Country blues is not your typical polished B.B. King or Bobby Blue Bland Chicago blues. It's the raw, funky, minimal sounds of the 20's and 30's. I intentionally steered away form the blues my entire career except when I was just learning the typical pentatonic scales and early Chuck Berry riffs. Somehow, I stumbled across acoustic country blues, threw away my flatpick and was hooked. I currently play a Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar with metal, glass and porcelain slides. I use my fingers as the masters did, occaisonally using finger picks for those occaisions when more volume is needed. I'm also teaching myself how to play blues harp. I use the famous Shure Green Bullet harmonica mic and a small amplifier.

I play local venues such as Vino's, Cornerstone, Summerset, George's Majestic Lounge Fayetteville Arkansas, Bogies/Counterpoint, Downtown Music, Mother's Best Music Festival, Helena Arkansas, White Water Tavern, Pizza D'Action, The Afterthought, Reno's Argenta Cafe, the Scene, Salty Parrot, Jazzy Blues Preservation Hall, Parrot Beach Cafe, The Third Annual Cigar Box Guitar Extravaganza, Huntsville, Alabama, etc...


It's been a while since I updated this page. A LOT has happened since then! First, I've been playing my butt off in my one man band :"Bluesboy JAG". I play foot drums, cigar box guitar and harp as well as sing. I've played several out of state festivals as well as pretty much every club in the Little Rock area. LOTS of fun! I do old time blues on my electric cigar box guitar. Here's a set list:

 

 


Digitization of Analog Music Archives

I finally finished converting all my analog recordings to digital CD's. I've been working on this on and off for two years. I have many dozens of original recordings dating back to 1979 when I was still in high school. I copied the cassettes to my Mac's hard drive, then burned CD's off the aiff files.

  My 2006 Studio

My studio in 1991

 

My 2002 Digital Home Recording Studio (JagWerks Studio)

A movie of my studio 

 

Pics of my studio

My entire digital studio cost less than $500, fits on one shelf and has more features than my previous $4000 analog tape studio from 1984.

For direct to disk recording I use Apple Garageband which gives me digital samples and software instruments. I can also record live with a mic thru my MIDI USB audio interface and access dozens of digital effects and loops via Garageband.


I've been recording my own music since 1980, 2 years after I started playing guitar. I started with a primitive setup of two cassette decks and I bounced the tracks back and forth between them. I would record say drums with a drum machine first, then put the output of that tape deck into the inputs of another and add guitar on top as i copied tape 1 from deck 1 onto tape 2 of deck 2. This of course was done live, if I made a mistake, I had to start again from the top. I used an old Teac deck that had both line in and mic inputs (these are no longer made today) so that I could add the guitar or other instruments at the same time I copied the cassete from deck #1. Eventually I got a home stereo reverb unit (no longer made and a really weird thing for home stereos anyway) which had another input so I would literally lay my Casio keyboard on my lap, record guitar, bass, harmonica or shakers, then play keyboards when the keyboard part came up, then go back to guitar or whatever instruments I was adding at the time.

The quality of the tracks using this method were limited, as the initial track (and noise) had been re-recorded up to 5 times on the first generation copy. The other limitation was that each track had to be performed in one take, with no opportunity for punch-ins or alterations to previously recorded tracks.

 

Needless to say, this wasn't the most ideal arrangement so I saved my pennies for the famous Fostex X-15 cassette 4 - track. What a beauty! I could now overdub with ease without adding noise (or at least without adding MASSIVE amounts of noise) and I could even record two tracks at the same time for live recording. This recorder also worked out great with the new digital cassettes that were on the market (OOOO!) for mastering my songs. I even did an all MIDI recording direct to digital tape to keep the quality high and years later burned the digital master to a CD - it sounded fantastic. Often I would record 4 track songs, using unused portions of tracks for other instruments, then bounce the final 4 tracks over to 2 left and right tracks, leaving me an additional 2 tracks for more goodies. I used the famous Alesis MIDIVerb and Quadraverb along with an ancient mono compressor as outboard effects. I also often used regular guitar 'stomp boxes', routing them to the mixer during final mastering. Often my recordings were so chock full of instruments and weird panning, delay and effects that just mixing it required about 8 hands. Sometimes I had to do several dozen practice mixes or jot down mixing notes on paper like they used to do in the 60's and 70's before automated mixing consoles hit the scene. Now I can do that with ProTools free, but that's another story.

As musicians are always lusting after more equipment and instruments (just like computer users), I quickly moved up to the Fostex Model 80 8 track reel to reel recorder and mixer. This puppy served me well for nearly 20 years. I lugged this monster around to all my different living quarters and it still worked great. OK, so I had to replace the record head after 10 years but that was only $400, almost the value of the recorder back then! I eventually sold the recorder and mixer on eBay for $500 nearly 20 years after I purchased it - not bad for an ancient analog tape machine! I used the money for my new Fender Squire bass and Strat and still had $100 left over for a couple of Zoom effects pedals.

 

The Digital Age of Reason

 

I had dabbled with MIDI on my ancient Mac Plus using EZ Vision back in 1991, but it was just too damn slow and very difficult to deal with compared to just hitting the record and play button. I had a very slow Mac with all these patch cables and MIDI channels and it seemed every time I tried anything, the MIDI channel was wrong or the MIDI in was patched wrong or SOMETHING was wrong. Real pain in the butt. So I swore off MIDI for years - that is until 2002 when I saw a demo of Reason.

WOW! This is the single most amazing program of ANY kind I have ever seen. I could see the potential right way: use REAL drum samples (no more chessy drum machine), I could have as many drum machines, synths, samplers, loop players, mixers and effects as I had memory and CPU power for (usually about 10 of each which is WAAAY more than I'll ever need on any given song), then I could mix down the final song to stereo two track AIFF and import THAT into ProTools Free for 6 more tracks of 'live' overdubs! And keep in mind that these synths sound way better than many synths you can buy for several hundreds dollar EACH. And you can have as many as your Mac can handle!! All this for a measly $300!

Reason even allows you to flip the rack of instruments and effects around so that you can patch the cables to your heart's content! AMAZING! Normally this is not needed as Reason automatically patches your cables as you add instruments but sometimes you may want to route something a little different and this allows you to do so. I bought the MIDI Man Oxygen 8 MIDI trigger keyboard and I was off and running. My entire studio takes up less than 10% of what my old analog tape studio did and I have way more functionmality and 10 times as many instruments and effects WITH NO CABLES! It all sits on my Mac's hard drive with the exception of a tiny mixer and my keyboard. See these pictures of my studio to see what I mean.

I immediately started pushing Reason to it's limits. I wanted to record guitar oriented songs as well as electronic songs. Many users have little or no musical knowledge and all they use Reason for is silly 'rave' type music. This can be easily compsed in just a few minutes. Personally, I HATE that kind of music. I prefer more rock or blues oriented music. I decided that I would do some blues songs in Reason. I plopped in some blues shuffle drum samples and got to work. I recorded entire songs on guitar and then converted the entire guitar part to one sample. This meant that I had to increase the memory allocation of Reason to about 90 megs. (I'm using it on my 7500 as my X box is my home business Mac).

The only problem with this technique is that there is a terrible bug/glitch in reason that won't allow you to listen to a sample unless you start the song BEFORE the sample. Quite silly.The end result is that you have to continually start the song from the top as you adjust your guitar sample so that it's on the beat. This took me about 20-30 minutes. OK, from now on I'll record shorter guitar segments. Fine. However, when I got to the point where I was ready to add vocals and have them tweaked with Reason's dandy new Vocoder, I learned that I had to have FOUR instruments for each vocal track: 1 for the vocal sample itself, one for the Subtractor to play the corresponding notes that I was singing (or trying to sing), one for the compressor to bring out the vocals and one for the Vocoder. This meant that if i recorded the vocals line by line, I might have up to 30 or 40 instruments just for vocals! I quickly ran out of tracks. The solution? Simply route one mixer into a second mixer! Voila! I had plenty of tracks left over. My Mac could easily handle this load, even though I had over 28 rack instruments and effects and 20 tracks! (See Reason's manual for details on how to do this, it's really quite cool.)

When I finally got it sussed out, I had several songs that were recorded almost entirely in Reason. I used good ole' SoundEdit 16 (1994) to record the raw audio that later became guitar samples along with Propellerhead's Recycle. I was even able to add tiny variations of the guitar patterns to keep it from sounding to 'electronic' or too perfect. I also used SE16 for vocal samples that were used with the Vocoder. Here are two examples of this technique: example 1, example 2. I played the Reason drum track in the background as I sang or played guitar into SE16 so that it would match perfectly as far as tempo. This made it much easier to synch the sample track to the Reason drum track. Synching tracks on tape is not possible due ot the slight fluctuation in tape speed. Digital media of course doesn't flucuate, not even a nonosecond.

I also like the fact that I can record my instruments and convert them to samples which allows me to fine tune the song, long after the drum track has been laid down. For example, I can change the drum patterns, tempo or even the drum instruments after I lay down a basic drum track to follow as I lay down the other instruments. I can of course also do the same with all the samples, allowing me to compose segments so that they 'fit' together better. Drum fills can be moved to the perfect spot, guitar or bass samples can be altered and moved, vocals can be altered or moved after the fact. This of course is simply not possible with old fashioned tape recorders. Sometimes I spend several hours just tweaking the placement of samples and drums to make it sound like a band is playing. "Let's move this over here and see how it sounds." Filling in holes and creating drum crescendos really adds spice to your tracks and makes them sound more human. In the old days, I would work on a track for days and then listen back to it only to realize that it would sound so much better if only I could move this drum program over to another part of the song. Too late, in order to do that, I would have to record the entire song all over again as all the tracks must be laid down on top of the drum track and the drum track cannot be altered once it is laid down on tape. This also applies to instruments. I can add samples, duplicate samples, change the key of samples, edit samples and move them around all AFTER I have recorded several tracks. This is truly the ultimate editing tool.

 

There are MANY other advantages to using Reason:


Music links


 

JAG's Guitar Lessons - 23 years of teaching beginners to pros.

www.swingblues.com

On-line Digitech Manuals

BOSS Products

Stew-Mac Guitar Supply

Harmony-central.com

JimDunlop products

ada MP-1 manual

ada MP-1 Patches

ADA Depot.com

Itsbeenstolen.com

Musician's Friend
GuitarNoise.com

Guitar Tricks
Guitar-Wav.com

wholenote.com

A great web page from an ardent blues fan

See my blues guitar page! Collectible blues guitars from the 1900's-1940's.

Blues Primer

Famous Regal Guitars History

How To Buy A Dobro Guitar

History of the Dobro

Great Harmony Guitar Site

Cool software for Reason and ProTools users!

Guitar Synth Page

1930's Regal Resonal Restration Page

Acoustic fingerstyle page

Acoustic guitar newsgroup

 Cool resonator newsgroup

A sad tale of Bill's Nelson's label ripping him off.  

Great interview with Keith Richards - he's my soul brother

Using older Macs for MIDI

More older Macs and MIDI

The Entire led Zeppelin Catalog in tab format

 

Mac Music Links

MacRocks

MacMusic

AudioMac

MIDI Tool for older Macs

Make your own Mac MIDI interface

A sampler for ancient Macs as well and G4's