Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Right Hand Position

Copy of Carpaccio detail, acrylic on board - Art Sulger
Ok, I give up - I can't get a good tone out of a 12-string using the classical right hand position. It occurred to me that Lute players deal with lots of doubled strings. I'm trying it. Seems to offer more control over dynamics and timbre. 

Here's my latest effort emphasizing good tone, tempo, and dynamics, the Allemande from a Bach Lute Suite,  BWV 996.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12-string Guitar Mic Type and Positions

I've played around with a lot of different mic positions. The one that is the closest to what I hear when I'm playing a 12-string is spaced omni mics, one at the join of the neck, one at the tail, both rather close.

Maybe just because it's a giant jangle of different noises coming from all directions, but that's what I hear.

Dance, a Portrait of Tom O'Leary, c. 1980 Art Sulger

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Convolver and Impulse Responses

Convolver and Impulse Responses for Room Spaces

Even when it's noisy I can get a pretty quiet recording.

I recorded the natural sound of the recording room when it was quiet.

I record my guitar using mics very close to the instrument.

mix, then, Profit!

Spaces, Art Sulger c.1980

Recording the Space

First I transcribe, for later use, the echoes of the room. I've done it 2 different ways. Both are described here.

The easier and quickest way was to put microphone(s) in a good listener location, then record an impulse sound generated at the location I usually play. The impulse is a short and sharp sound with a lot of frequencies. Pop a balloon, fire a starter's pistol [I have a shotgun, probably too disruptive], or clap some hardwood boards together. The impulse sound needs the same frequencies that playing makes.

Then I edit the sound, trimming off the originating sound, leaving just the room response sounds. Some amplification, then fade out the tail.

My room gets about 2 seconds of response sound from the original impulse.

Recording the Guitar

I put the mics as close as I can without knocking into them. Record the guitar, not the dog barking at the garbage truck.

Mixing the Room Sound with the Guitar Sound

Duet With My Phantom, c. 1980, Art Sulger
I use Jconvolver (really it's the subset Fconvolver) to give the dry guitar recording the ambiance and reverberation of the room. It's one of Fons Adriaensen's productions and available here:

Linux Audio projects at Kokkini Zita

I use fconvolver (included in jconvolver) because it doesn't use the Jack connection kit. 

Here's the command line:

fconvolver  defaultStereo.conf  input.wav output.wav

defaultStereo.conf has a bunch of settings for other room sounds. I spent a few days building them up. It's endless fun. My config file has settings for a bunch of impulse responses and I uncomment the lines as needed. It's listed below.

Another, Better Way to Record the Space

Using a frequency sweep of my room is a lot more work, but it seems to be more thorough.
I use the Aliki software from Fons Adriaensen, also at the Kokkini Zita link above. It's a complicated, multi-step process and I have to carefully follow the manual - but his documentation is correct. Any errors in getting it to work are usually me misreading it.

There are some links to impulse response files down below.

My Configuration File for Fconvolver.
'#' is a comment
# bold are the active lines for my use with various impulse response files:

# /convolver/new  

# /convolver/new  is always required and must be first command in the config.

# inputs/outputs = usually two input and two output channels, 

# 'partition size' is the minumum partition size that will be used, 
#    should be between 1 and 16 times the Jack period size. 
#    [ I have 1024 as Frames / Period in qjackctl so let's make this 16 x 1024 = 16384
#    It will be adjusted (with a warning) otherwise. 
#    Processing delay will be zero if this is set to the Jack period size.
#    partition size is 1024 samples [the same as my JACK period for zero latency]
#      [shouldn't this be 500,000 samples or more?]

#    has little or no effect on CPU usage, but
#    determines the amount of memory used, and will determine the sequence 
#    of partition sizes that will be used, so it should not be much larger
#    than the longest convolution you want to use. Unused inputs or outputs
#    do not take significant CPU or memory.
#   [I just use a default value far larger than most of my impulses]

#  optional
#    should be between 0 and 1. It should
#    be representative of the fraction of possible input/output pairs that
#    will actually have a convolution defined between them. It is used as a
#    hint to optimize the sequence of partition sizes for short and medium
#    length convolutions.

# -----------------------------------------------
/convolver/new    2    2         16384     500000

# These can be used to provide more informative ports names,
# and to optionally connect the inputs or outputs. Input and
# output numbers start at 1.
# add 2 if you have 2 inputs:
# [ I don't think any of this is needed for using it the simple way I do with fconvolver ]
# /input/name  {}
# /output/name {}
#/input/name   1   In.L
#/input/name   2   In.R
#/output/name  1   Out.L
#/output/name  2   Out.R
# point it to the  directory with the impulse files:
/cd "/Projects/jconvolver/config-files/reverbs"
#  Read impulse from a sound file. 'Input', 'output' and 'channel' start from 1. 
#     in/out - if 2 impulse response files, in = 1, another in = 2
#    Impulse files are read by libsndfile.
#    'Gain' is the linear gain (i.e. not in dB) applied to the response.
#    'Delay' sets the number of zero samples inserted before any data read.
#    'Offset' can be used to skip frames at the start of the file.
#      1,000 samples = 20 ms (.020 seconds) at 48K
#      eg. bassXXL is 107,000 samples long - it decays a lot within 20,000 samples
#    'Length' is the number of frames used, or zero for all.

#               in out   gain  delay  offset  length  chan      file  (usually stereo wav file same rate as target file)
# ---------------------------------------------------------------------
#/impulse/read    1   1   0.05    0      0      0     1   "MTSUIR_ecoplate_04_rolledOffLows.wav"
#/impulse/read    1   2   0.05    0      0      0     2   "MTSUIR_ecoplate_04_rolledOffLows.wav"

#/impulse/read    1   1   0.02    0      0      0     1   MTSUIR_AtmosDelayPlate.wav
#/impulse/read    1   2   0.02    0      0      0     2   MTSUIR_AtmosDelayPlate.wav
#/impulse/read    1   1   0.05    0      0      0     1   MTSUIR_Combing.wav
#/impulse/read    1   2   0.05    0      0      0     2   MTSUIR_Combing.wav
/impulse/read    1   1   0.2    0      0      0     1      Wharf2FP.wav
/impulse/read    1   2   0.2    0      0      0     2      Wharf2FP.wav
#/impulse/read    1   1   0.2    0      0      0     1     take6git355.wav
#/impulse/read    1   2   0.2    0      0      0     2     take6git355.wav

Useful Links

Video I Recorded

Fons Adriaensen papers

Bricasti Excellent Library


Friday, June 21, 2013

The "Rickenbacker" trick

The pair in the 3rd course have been swapped.
A while ago I posted about ways to get the 12-string courses to ring while finger-picking. Commenter "Anonymous" suggested swapping the octave on the 3rd course so that a finger strike would hit the higher string first. I tried it. It works great: I like the way I can consistently strike both strings of  the 3rd course (G g in standard tuning) .

You can try it easily by loosening both strings in the course and swapping them. If you like it, you'll need to have the nut slot filed a bit.

Hand Positions on 12-string guitar - Art Sulger c. 1980
Using the Rickenbacker trick on a Bach Lute prelude and some improv

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Track Stand, Matched Third Party Content

I've been working on an arrangement of a Vivaldi piece over a few years - finally got something listenable and posted it on youtube. Now youtube's comment on my page is:
3:29 Track Stand, a piece for electric strings an… HD
January 20, 2012 5:19 PM
Matched third party content.
Clicking on the link to find out who this third party is shows:

Your video, Track Stand, a piece for electric strings and drums , may include content that is owned or administered by this entity:
Entity: Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society Content Type: Musical Composition
So, let me get this straight...a piece composed by Vivaldi in 1711 was later arranged for organ by Bach in mid 18th century, then about 250 years later I arranged the music for 2 electric guitars, 12 string bass, and drums, and the  Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society claims they own the copyright?

The Entertainer, c. 1980 Art Sulger
They did this for a few other music videos of mine. They have a facebook page. Their alleged company statement sounds like a parody page some other disgruntled musician created. Though lately I have trouble separating the parodies from the reality:
Founded 2005
About You get the pleasure of posting videos
We get the pleasure of making money from your videos
It's a win-win situation :)
Company Overview We are the Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society. In other words, we are a society that collects rights from the publishing of music onto sites like YouTube.
Mission Our mission is to file copyright claims so that ads will be placed onto certain videos, and we will be able to make money off of them. We do not seek to have anyone's videos blocked in certain countries or disabled altogether, all we are trying to do is make a bit of money. That's not so bad, is it?
Products A wide variety of people post videos containing content that belongs to our organization. We didn't make the music ourselves, but nonetheless we can still make money from it. 
In any case, click on the link - the video and music is nice. I used software from Music Animation Machine to make the notes display. If you're interested, you can download the software for free from the creator's page. Video editing (syncing the display to the playing was tedious - linux and windows don't seem to agree on tempo) is via Openshot, and the sound processing is via Audacity.


Dear utuberowski,
Thanks for submitting your video "Instrumental about 13 and a half minutes" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmuM6dJKltw) for monetization. We have disabled monetization on this video because we were not able to verify that you have the appropriate commercial use rights for all included content.
If you can provide documentation that you have the necessary commercial use rights for all elements in your video, please take a moment to learn how to claim rights to a video, and then submit documentation.
Please note that we may only serve ads on advertiser-friendly content. YouTube reserves the right to make the final decision whether to monetize a video, and may disable monetization for users who repeatedly submit ineligible videos. If you currently have videos pending review, you may choose to opt them out of monetization by visiting http://www.youtube.com/my_videos.
The YouTube Team 

So what's the downside? No bare naughty bits in the video, so I'm not going to get a lot of viewers. Monetization seems to screw up the video with crap text.

Image - I'll Be Here All Week c.1980 Art Sulger

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bicycle Descent of Paris Mountain, the steep side

Paris mountain is about a half hour bike ride from here. It's not huge by real mountain standards, but it's difficult enough to weed out half of the riders in the US Pro Road Bike championships for the last few years. The pros go up the steeper side; you can see why in the twisty turning nastiness on the video. I took a tumble a few years ago - luckily it was into a row of arbor vita trees. This descent was in November - still gorgeous colors but the leaf cover makes you careful.

The music - 

The main instrument is the LKSM-12 tuned down a step, but it's heavily modified through the Caps audio plugin suite. I'm starting to like these plugins by Tim Goetze  a lot. The soundtrack lacked something, so last night I just jammed over it with a 6 string electric (‎Mike McMillan's old Harmony 6 string with a single Telco pickup). Add some overdrive and reverb plugins and it almost sounds like I can play a rock guitar.

The video -

The speedometer / dashboard readings and the Google Earth insert are courtesy of a free download of GPS Visualizer. I had some trouble syncing their readout with the video, not necessarily a fault of their software.

Here is the music video:

Descent of Paris Mountain, the steep side

Image - Graffiti at the top of Paris Mountain Photo Art Sulger 2012 with lot's of contributors


I wanted to add some drum tracks to my soundtracks (my Youtube Channel is here ). Hydrogen Drum Machine is a nice application, but I wanted a more "live" sound. I found Herl the Pearl on Youtube and grabbed the #2 video that he kindly offers for collaboration attempts. My video came out pretty good...just a few rhythmic flubs on my part. But I can't find Herl the Pearl anymore. He seems to have stopped posting a couple of years ago.
2 Guitars, acrylic on board c.1980 Art Sulger

If he's out there, thanks Herl - I enjoyed the jam session and hope others will. Here it is:
Country Blues

Electric Instruments

Speed, acrylic on board c. 1980 Art Sulger

I'm having some fun this winter adding soundtracks to some of the video I shot from a bicycyle.
Here's one that has a lot of fast cuts and video effects (via OpenShot Video Editor). The sound track is a lot of electric guitar, and some simulated brake and wind noises. The camera came loose from the mounting about half-way down the hill, and I had to keep adjusting it; I think it adds a certain excitement to the shots.

Hogback mountain is not the scariest descent - but it does rank high in technical ability, at least for my skill level.

Here's the video: Descent of Hogback Mountain

It was a chilly day for me - anything below 60 F is chilly for me - check out the lobster gloves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gliding Down the Highway

The best part of the bike ride - gentle downhills with enough turns to make me think I'm a racer.

Here's a piece about gliding down from the Blue Ridge Parkway on route 215 in the Carolinas

I spun around a bike wheel for some of the 5/4 rhythm. A single pickup solid body 6 string handles the bass and lead.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Celtic Gig Book for Mandolin

Allan Alexander has a new edition of The Celtic Gig Book for Mandolin. I've been listening to the tunes and they really are amazing. The pieces were composed before Western music became strict about tonic - dominant tonality that dominates right up to today, and these pieces have a refreshing freedom in the use of scales and chord progressions.

Check out the piquant dissonance of The Song of the Chanter and the mix of major and minor that occurs within the theme. The Courante starts out simply enough, but it develops into a real pretty melisma that repeats a phrase in a rising scale - very effective.

I can hear a preview of the fugue that would become a standard musical form by the 18th century in several of the pieces like Garrett Barry and Man of the House, yet they could also be modern trance pieces.

Agincourt is nicely syncopated.

Each piece is a unique exposition of a single idea, each idea seems unique, yet one nice thing about listening to these pieces is that the mandolin and guitar combination lends a consistency to the overall collection.

I'd love to see a movie with this as the soundtrack.

You can get the book and CD here.

Here are the tunes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Unified Theory of all (musical) things

Four stinkin' views on my last music video...really chagrined. I mentioned this to my friend Gary Robinson who politely pointed out that he couldn't find it and wasn't sure where to look (and here I was thinking that people didn't understand my geniusissity).

Groan, what with web sites, blogger, twitter, facebook, google+ and so on the music was getting posted here or there or sometimes nowhere.

I'm trying blogger to pull it all together. If it works, I'll even pop for a reasonable url.

So if you have suggestions, I'd really like to hear them. I put links or embeddings for a lot of stuff that was scattered around like music notation, how to buy my music, some recent videos with links to the rest of the music videos.

Image - Thirst, c. 1980 Art Sulger

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I want to hide from the internet

Oh, the irony:

An anonymous reader writes
"I've decided that the internet is no longer a positive influence on my life, and am interested in canceling my service. In the interest of not forgoing all digital conveniences, I plan to set up a small intranet, hosting a few resources that I think I'd like to have access to on a regular basis (e.g. a text dump of Wikipedia). I'll also still have access to the internet at my office, and have easy access to public Wi-Fi at libraries and coffee shops. My questions are thus: Does anybody have any experience living without the internet? What major nuisances did you encounter? What resources should I put on my intranet? Is there anything I'm overlooking?"
ask.slashdot.org - probably not the best people to ask this question

Thursday, May 19, 2011


New way for musicians trying to make a few cents - Pay Money To Be Heard. Isn't this supposed to work in the other direction?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

things I've learned about a Taylor 12 string guitar

Finger picking a 12-string is hard to do. The 12-string loses a lot of jangle when you use a classical free stroke (Tirando instead of Apoyando). I tried modifying the saddle so the fingers attack both strings in the course more equally. DADGADJohn also tried it a while with some success. He says it's all how you attack the strings - thumb to get the high octaves, fingers to get the lower strings. I'm trying rest strokes now and the sound is much, much better - akin to using a pick, and both strings are quite audible.

Here's a quick video:

I've also found out that a good rest stroke sound depends quite a bit on how the strings leave the bridge pins. The octave strings don't seem to matter as much - the fatter string is away from the hand so the angle of the pair is already good.

The tops of the unison courses (they are the ones to the left of the forefinger in this picture) tilt away from the hand. So striking them together is a little like riding a bike around an off-camber turn.

You can alleviate this off-camber effect in the two unison courses by getting the pairs closer to each other. No surgery is required. Face the front of the guitar with the neck up vertically. You need to channel the longer string of each course under the pin that is above it. You can see this in these final two pictures.

It doesn't seem to make the bordering pin pop out.

This last picture is from the cover of The Music of Leo Kottke, Transcriptions & Instruction by Mark Hanson. I guess it is Mark Hanson's guitar. You can see the right hand string of the two unison courses actually runs under the flared top of the paired bridge pin

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

JDL Bridge Doctor

A couple of years ago I added some reinforcement to my Gibson B45 12-string guitar. A JLD Bridge Doctor was part of the fix, but yesterday it broke. I'm not sure why...I had medium weight strings and had the guitar tuned down a fourth. The tension was really too sloppy, rather than too much.
Here is a link to a series of pics snapped during the project.
The JDL Bridge Doctor is that piece that goes from under the bridge to the tail of the guitar.

I really like the sound of this guitar. It is unlike my Taylors in that there is very little mid-range or sparkle. Very old-fashioned (think 1930's era).

I expect to open it back up and do some more surgery. I'm thinking of attaching a permanent piece to the underside of the maple triangle and bridge back to the tailpiece but using solid, non-adjustable thing-a-ma-jigs. I haven't worked out the details yet. But the JDL didn't keep the top straight and it was very hard to keep in tune as the bridge see-sawed from playing.

I'm also wondering about making the top two courses be single strings. It seems odd that 4 courses are octaves and two courses are unisons. Doesn't make sense. It's harder to play tremolo or arpeggio with any speed on a double course.

You can buy Bridge Doctors at stewmac.com, among other places. They are simple to install, but you do have to drill a hole in the bridge.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weird Weather

Incredibly cold in the Southeast. Kerosene heater goes almost all of the time and the humidifier is working overtime, pumping moisture out to keep the guitars happy. Spring seems a long ways away.

I saw these shoots today on the ends of the Dogwood trees out front. They won't bloom until the first week of Spring, but it warms me up to see this.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Good Reverbs For A 12-string Home Studio

Most of the ones I've tried make my 12-string sound like I've got a buzz saw in it. I'm not confident enough to plunk down several grand for a hardware solution; all the ones I tried are free demos or open source free plugins.

Here are a few that I've found that seem to work nicely on the complex sounds of a 12-string guitar:

Note that all the software here is running on Linux (an Ubuntu distro) and I don't know how much is applicable to other operating systems. Jack is a low latency audio server that runs on Linux.

The information here about convolution is applicable to most audio systems, and the Freeverb plugin is available on most platforms.

Calf Reverb Plugin

I've read good things about the Calf plugin but I usually use Audacity, and the calf plugin doesn't seem to communicate well with that sound editor. But because of one thing and another, I started using Ardour (ardour.org) and the Calf audio plugins, which seem to prefer jack connection applications over LADSPA, work great in Ardour.

The default reverb settings for the calf plugin use zero pre-delay. The buzz saw sound that takes over my guitar from software reverb seems to come from "pre-delay" (some reverbs call it "early reflection").

When I went back to try some other LADSPA plugins like Gverb and FreeVerb without pre-delay, they sounded better. But I think the calf plugin is better sounding - very smooth and natural.

So point one when adding some 'verb to the 12-string is to "can the pre-delay".


Convolution uses the actual sound of a place like a church or concert hall to modify the audio file that you record. So for the home recording guitarist who mic's the guitar real close and finds the resulting recording sounds too "in your face", this adds a nice bit of roominess around the guitar. There aren't many settings you need to change for convolver reverberation...I guess you can delay it; you can scale how much you include in the mix.

There are gigs of Impulse Files free on the 'Net. Here at SpaceNet.org.uk, for example, are some that were generated in rooms with very long reverberations. The Hamilton Mausoleum is the longest. And it is very smooth.

To run this on Linux, I'm using Jconvolver software created by Fons Adriaensen, an acoustic engineer who has done a lot of interesting acoustic research and written some very nice music software open source.

You can see (and hear) a short video I made of a desktop session where different kinds of reverb are applied via Ardour to a 12-string guitar practice session here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bicycling for Health

Helmets do help. I did a forward 360 degree somersault onto the road while braking to avoid a dog. Really sore back and shoulders, but didn't feel a thing on the back of my head even though I obviously hit the pavement pretty hard.