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Bulletproof Musician

There is no such thing, I realize. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit off in terms of making music, simply because there are more people who know about our music now. That changes things, puts a little thought in the back of my mind whenever I compose, and I think, “Will they like it? Will they like it enough to include it in lists of year 201X?” instead of “I love this. I love what I made. I am so awesome and stuff.” Logic tells me that press is important to a band, but is it detrimental to a musician’s self-esteem? Maybe I just have confidence issues, or 20.

I must be crazy, right? Why would more people knowing about our music ever be a cause for distress? Surprisingly, the answer lies in the musician’s creative process : as a musician, I have a tendency to love what I make, and then a week, a month or a year down the line, hate it. Sometimes I have this feeling in my gut that tells me I should have recorded this better, sung it better, played it better, and how will I fix it in the ears of everyone who’s already heard it?

I have a secret. I am only now realizing the subtleties of making music. Back when I was just churning out ditties on my acoustic guitar (which didn’t even have a pickup and had to be mic’d at venues with crappy sound systems, leading to er, interesting results), I really didn’t think about where my music was going to take me. I didn’t care about things like how to boost my clean signal to bring it to the forefront of the “mix”. I didn’t know about delay effects or DI boxes or quantization. I just wrote the damn things, and I didn’t even think about recording deals, national contests, ep launches, “best of lists” from music critics or band “dynamics”. I’m only now venturing out into effects pedals, partly caused by getting a virtual app that allows me to fiddle with as many virtual effects as I want. I’m only now realizing just how far I got on sheer fucking will. I’m only now realizing that some people know me. It’s terrifying, and I’m not good at riding the music hype machine. I get butterflies and I forget to put on my seat belt. There is a possibility of regurgitation.

I think back then I was more a writer than a guitarist, because songwriting is a solitary process, and 90% of the magic is inside your own head. The other 10% (which could be recording, performing, touring, promoting, budgeting, and social media sharing) takes the most work and is sometimes dry, dull and unfulfilling. It’s like you had a recipe to do something, but conditions force you to improvise, and somewhere along the way the recipe changes so much that what you end up with is a totally different flavor from what you expected. I’d love to have an orchestra to do my every bidding, but what I have is FL Studio. I deal with it, because I don’t have a million dollars to spend on equipment, and because when I was 20, I could dream about Big Things and Adventure, and now that I am 10 years older I need to think about Responsibilities and Adulthood. I hate it, because I still dream. Every single night, I look up and think about What Could Happen.

Music is emotional, visceral, for me. It’s especially gutting to pour so much of yourself into something and then get half-hearted feedback, or none at all. This makes me take a step back, makes me dare to form the evil thought that encapsulates my Confidence Rollercoaster ride: You’re just not good enough. And that other band is so far ahead, you’ll never catch up.

Of course I’ll never catch up. I had an ex-boyfriend back in college, and he had an electric guitar. I soldered new pickups into it for him. He was already thinking about his guitar tone, and I was preoccupied with downloading the latest OVA of Samurai X.  I don’t even remember how I followed the schematic diagram for soldering the humbuckers. It shocks me to realize that when I was 17, musicians my age were already old hands at tweaking their equipment, and I’m only starting to think about it now.

I’ll never catch up, but a friend (who had been playing for 20 years in several famous bands) told me, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. Just LIVE”. I’m doing it, you know: Living. It requires me to come out of my comfort zone. It requires me to work hard, and take some shit along the way. I feel like I am only now coming out into the bright daylight, squinting my eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun.

I’m never going to be a bulletproof musician. Like a mother I will always love what I make, but doubt the construction of it, seeing every imperfection and yet feel protective, baring fangs, defending flaws. But here’s another secret: every other musician probably feels the same way. The joke’s on us. And I’m learning to laugh at myself, so that I can move forward. It’s all we were ever meant to do.

Anonymous asked: Hello, my hair turned out orange-ish after I bleached it and I want to dye it red (like Yeng, Hayley and Rihanna) should I wait a few months and bleach it again before dyeing or should I just dye it red now? (Also, it's been a week since I bleached it). Thanks. :)

Hello. Depending on how red you want it, your orange base will affect your final dye result. If your base hair is leaning more towards brown than orange, it’s not light enough. If it’s bright orange or yellow, it could work and you can try putting on the red dye. Also if rebleaching you need to deep condition for 2-3 weeks first before bleaching again. And deep condition/do treatments after. A salon keratin treatment would be ideal.

Hi mom, I’m just here, being cute and stuff. 🐶

Hi mom, I’m just here, being cute and stuff. 🐶

Husband’s work space

Husband’s work space

My favorite color: rust / terracotta. Otherwise known as red that thinks it’s orange.

My favorite color: rust / terracotta. Otherwise known as red that thinks it’s orange.

Kyoukai no Kanata sort of day. 🍵

Kyoukai no Kanata sort of day. 🍵

#guitar #vintageguitar #jackhornby #uk #vec350

#guitar #vintageguitar #jackhornby #uk #vec350

TC Helicon Harmony Singer Review

I recently decided to get the TC Helicon Harmony Singer because my band does a lot of live vocal harmonies and it just fits my music. For those unfamiliar with this little pedal, the TC Helicon is a guitar-driven vocal processor and harmonizer. You plug two things into it: your guitar and your mic. The guitar signal goes out into an amp, and your mic signal goes out into the PA. So, that’s a lot of cables, but that’s just me nitpicking, lol. Anyway, this means that it will create harmonies based on a mixture of the guitar chords you strum and your voice, which implies that this nifty little device is very intelligent and can create eerily accurate harmonies on the fly, without you ever having to dial in a pitch or key beforehand.

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In the demo below I play a few of my original songs in both standard and alternate tunings.

It arrived last week and I was able to test it out at the studio for about an hour and a half, with the following first impressions:

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The harmonies are VERY accurate, so if you sing off key it will follow you. If you have a breathy, soft voice (like I do) and all the mic picks up is the breathy part of your singing, the harmonies tend to become warbly and confused. This will force you to sing louder, but I don’t recommend kissing the mic to do it. The farther you move away from the mic, the less “wet” the mix between vox and harmonies is and it sounds better. So, I like to sing louder from a few inches away from the mic.

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A lot of the demos on youtube feature singers who do the sort of forceful “soul” type of singing that sounds great with human harmonies, but sounds terrible with the Harmony Singer. Overly nasal voices also create dull harmonies. I found that singing in a clear, steady,  audible and non-wavering voice allows this pedal to shine (think Dallas Green steady). I have to always remember that it’s a machine, so it will only follow the signals, not what “feels” right.

Lowering the mix of harmonies and vocals does wonders, especially since if they’re too prominent (and very accurate) they will sound robotic. Fixed this by decreasing levels and adding a bit of reverb. Also found the harmonies follow the last note you strum on the guitar, so it requires you to be mentally present when singing instead of strumming along whenever you feel like it, which takes some getting used to for me.


For a female singing voice the “below” male harmonies are really nice and seem less prone to wandering, so I tend to use those more. Don’t really see myself using the higher, chipmunky harmonies much (plus they warble a lot when you have note changes). The double harmonies are best used with standard chords (they go off key with complicated chord phrasings or plucking). I did however use it with a DADAAD alternate tuning and it sounded lovely provided every string was perfectly tuned and I didn’t resort to plucking too much.

The TONE button (which de-esses, gates, compresses and auto-EQs your vocal signal) is great. The 3 Reverb choices (Room, Club and Hall) are slick and very nice. It’s worth buying this pedal for those features alone because not only is the pedal a harmonizer, it’s a very powerful mic preamp. :D

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Do I think this pedal is worth the money? Definitely. If you’re a solo acoustic singer who does a lot of cafe gigs, this will prove invaluable. If you’re like me who does both solo sets and full band sets, it will prove to be a wonderful addition to your gear and adds polish to your singing, provided it’s used sparingly and with the proper settings. Just like any other piece of gear, it will never replace human decision-making, but it does a pretty good job if you work with it and do a lot of prep before taking it out for a spin at a real gig.

Morning rituals #tea #pepperminttea #lemontea #breakfast

Morning rituals #tea #pepperminttea #lemontea #breakfast

Wireless keyboard

Wireless keyboard

Ipad Music Apps and Beyond : Embracing IOS Music

Earlier this year my parents went to Brisbane and came back with ipad minis for my siblings and I. It’s probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, creatively speaking. I’ve had a 5 inch android phone for 2 years and I’m not a stranger to the lovely world of music apps on the Android market, but when I got my ipad mini it suddenly sunk in just how much I was missing! It made me wish that I had gotten on the ios music app bandwagon a lot sooner, but at the same time today is an excellent time to be making music on the ipad: the tablets are cheaper, there are more apps, demo videos abound on YouTube and support forums now have so much available data from users and beta-testers it’s practically impossible NOT to get inspired.

Just off the top of my head, here are some of the apps I’ve purchased so far.

Garageband ($5)
Alchemy (free)
Nanostudio ($14 + additional instrument tracks $4.99)
Loopy HD ($8)
Audiobus ($6.49)
Echopad ($5)
Amplitube (free)
JamUp XT (Acoustic Pack $9.99 + Effects Pack $9.99 + 5 individual pedals at $2.99 each)
Soundprism Pro ($5)
Novation LaunchPad (downtempo $1.99, cinematic $1.99)
Launchkey (free)
Vio (VIO sound pack $4.99)
Crystalline ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media!)
Swoopster ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media)
StereoDesigner ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media)

If you’re interested in my music apps and the various things I apply them to, and don’t mind a rather long blog post, then read on. :D

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Listening to sounds from a different dimension #pedals #toneparty #memoryman #strymon @erek_trucks

Listening to sounds from a different dimension #pedals #toneparty #memoryman #strymon @erek_trucks

Hai, cutting class kami

Hai, cutting class kami

#ootd #holographic #hologram #eyeball #harajuku #outfits

#ootd #holographic #hologram #eyeball #harajuku #outfits

Goodbye, bangs. You were pretty and pastel but getting into my eyes so you had to go. #hair

Goodbye, bangs. You were pretty and pastel but getting into my eyes so you had to go. #hair