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May. 30th, 2011 | 01:20 pm

So about a month ago, I wrote about how happy I was being a vocalist for my cover band -- The Rogues -- and that Darrell has joined us as a sound man. Three days after I wrote that post, we played our first private-party gig.

Things have since exploded, in a good way.

First, our song list went from 12 to 25 in one month during a few ambitious weeks of brainstorming and trying out new tunes.

In the wake of this, I borrowed one of my guitarist's spare Fenders -- a very basic, Korean-made humbucker solid-body, along with his Yamaha amp.  A week later, I played rhythm guitar during rehearsal and found myself able to beef up about half of our song set this way.  It was  a lot of fun and helped me feel more integrated into the band, and saved us from needing to get extra personnel to do so. :)

I went to the Miami area to visit family, and when my sister picked me up from the airport, she immediately began gushing over a song that she insisted I "must learn" with the band, because in her opinion, the singer sounded a lot like me. The song was Rolling in the Deep by Adele.  (For the record, I listened to this song and was immediately intimidated... I think my voice is thin compared to hers.)  I emailed it to the band. They all liked it and had their parts worked out by the time we got together for our next rehearsal. I decided I could sort-of do it justice, but the song underscored the fact that we were really missing a keyboard player.  Luckily, I'd already been chewing on the idea of filling that gap myself.

A few days later, I bought a moderately high-end digital piano.  If that sounds impulsive, it really isn't-- I had a lower-end Yamaha keyboard in 2004 in Orlando which I sold to cornrelish right before I moved to California, and hadn't since owned one until this week. Piano was my first instrument, and the technology involved in replicating a piano-like feel onto a semi-portable keyboard has improved in just the last 7 years. The piano I bought is rock solid. And expensive. And tips the scales at 57 pounds, so I don't see myself comfortably taking it out to gigs. So now i'm already plotting buying a second, much cheaper and lighter-weight keyboard that doesn't suck.  (This piano is still great for rehearsals and studio recording, and if I ever do a gig in my own home or neighborhood.)

That keyboard's 12-watt built-in speaker system was going to be drowned out by the band, so it became clear that I needed a keyboard amp.  Up to that point I'd been trudging over to Guitar Center for my gear (apart from the stuff I could order on Amazon.com, like the piano), but I decided to check out the slightly-closer store location of the independent Starving Musician. I didn't want to bother getting a cheap practice amp that I could only plug in one instrument-- I wanted something large enough for performance and versatile enough for a multi-instrument setup, but under $350.
 
The helpful guys at Starving Musician pointed me toward the Genz-Benz UC-4, a powerful 4-channel combo amp with a 12" speaker and tweeter. It can run my keyboard and guitar at the same time with independent volume and effects controls for each. I only need to turn the master up to 3 to rehearse. In a small venue it could also be used as a portable PA system, and in a large venue with better speakers, I can still use it as a stage monitor. Used, I picked it up for $299. Perfect!
 
So I'm no longer just the vocalist. I'm the band's multi-instrumentalist.  I sing, I play an electric rhythm guitar, and I play a keyboard.  (Also I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a fairly bad harmonica player.)  Now that I am playing all these instruments, the time I need to prepare for rehearsals and gigs has effectively tripled.  I've got a work deadline right before our next gig (the 18th) which means I'm working late, so my practice time is squeezed by churning out documentation.  Social life's a little thin too, lately, because of all the time and energy eaten up by music development and work. But I'm building and living my dreams at the same time. I can't complain much!
 
We're also talking to a potential backup singer. She's already part of another band, but she can help us in our next gig. I've been sending her stuff to work on, and this Tuesday I'll be meeting her in person, and Thursday she'll work with the band for the first time.  I'm hoping that works out and that she can help out in occasional future gigs as well.
 
Darrell, meanwhile, has been augmenting his audio engineering setup in increments. Hardly a day goes by that he's not ordering more cables, stands, or modules.  This was his last list of gear: 2 Shure dynamic mics; 1 Dayton Audio EMM-6 omni electret mic; 8U portable rack enclosure with Behringer T1953 2-channel mic pre-amp (2U), BBE 482i Sonic Maximizer (1U), M-Audio 10x10 USB audio interface (1U), Alesis MultiMix 12R mixer (3U), 12-outlet PDU power/surge strip (1U); borrowed Yamaha MG10/2 mixer; Pyle-Pro PDC22 2-channel DI box; gobs and gobs of cables. To that list, I've added things like an extra Berhinger mic (that's almost on par with the $100 Shure) and a DigiTech Vocal Effects Processor, and I think there's been even more recent purchases since.
 
Now we're thinking about non-permanent room treatments to trap bass signals and correct some of the acoustical flaws of the space.
 
So much stuff goes into supporting our little quartet!  Our living room, where the rehearsals take place now, is a morass of cables, knobs, blinky lights and vaccum tubes, guitars sitting on guitar stands, boom mic stands, sheet music stands, my huge keyboard on a double X-brace, and my gigantic amp dominating the room, with the omnidirectional mic looming overhead. And we're not even done yet.  My rhythm guitar sound is too clean, so I'll be borrowing some stomp boxes to add a crunch to some of the more aggressive songs (our Joan Jett stuff, for instance).  Still gotta get the cheaper gigging keyboard. And I'd like to own my own electric guitar eventually.
 
Somehow, I don't think we'll look back on all this effort and cash outlay with any regret.  It's fun. It's an activity my beloved spouse and I really are bonding over. And even if this particular band doesn't work out, it's all our stuff and we can do what we like with it.
 
But I think our next home will have a more dedicated studio space. :)

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Comments {5}

El Fragberto

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from: fragbert
date: May. 30th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
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I lovelovelove stories about the beginnings of bands. I am also highly jealous of your blues harp ability, even if it does scare the cat.

FYI, you might wanna fix the link to your harp vid.

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Geek of Weird Shit

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from: gows
date: May. 30th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what half that stuff is, but it sounds great. :) Hope your hands/wrists are holding up okay.

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black with starlight

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from: witchchild
date: May. 31st, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
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Woohoo, that sounds great!

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Nanospleen! (v2.0)

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from: stevenglassman
date: May. 31st, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
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Neat!

By the way, there are already many different versions of Rolling In The Deep. For example-

http://soundcloud.com/johnlegend/john-legend-rolling-in-the

Edited at 2011-05-31 03:02 am (UTC)

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Kid_J

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from: kid_j
date: Jun. 1st, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
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I am proud of you. I love that you are expressing the amazing talents you have. I can feel it from afar.

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