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Angie’s List iOS App Sounds

I made some noises and you can hear them in the Angie’s List app.

My brother Eric Troyer is the Mobile Design Manager at Angie’s List, a service provider ratings and review site for consumers. He has been redesigning the iOS app and it looks really nice.

iPhone running the Angie's List app

Eric asked me for some sound effects to add to the ratings UI. I created a variety of blips and ticks and Eric chose the ones he liked. If you’re an Angie’s List member and have the free app, you can hear the sounds in the latest version. For non-members and non-iOS users, here’s a video of the ‘Write a Review’ process.

Video

Angie’s List iOS App (2.9.1) – Write a Review! from Eric Troyer on Vimeo.

About Angie’s List

If you’re a homeowner, check out Angie’s List. The site requires paid membership, but can prove to be really helpful for finding a great service provider (like my brother Matt’s company Emergent Investments) when your kitchen needs remodeling or the furnace goes out. Get the Angie’s List app free on the iTunes App Store. If you want to make an app or improve your current app, consider hiring Eric to design your app. He’s really good.

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“O Sweet Grace” Music Video

Announcing the debut of the official ”O Sweet Grace” music video.

Scott on set

Hey friends! I’m really excited to announce the debut of the official music video for my song “O Sweet Grace” from All Is Sideways. Here it is!

About the Video

This video would not be possible without the enormous help and generosity of a team of my friends and family. Only through their giving of time, effort, and expertise did this project come together. Below is a little bit about each of them. Thanks, team!

Katie Nelson

Katie on set

Katie and Scott pause for a serious photo between takes.

This duet song and video features Katie Nelson, a singer/songwriter/recording artist that played on a handful of the songs from my album All Is Sideways. She actually helped me write the song, though she doesn’t take any credit for it. Katie has several albums out and I’m producing her next album about queens throughout history. The music is a bit of departure from what she has done in the past, and I’m really excited for everyone to hear it. I’ll post when it drops.

Dan Madison

Dan and Scott on set

Dan Madison of High Decibel Media, wearing his Steadicam on the set of the “O Sweet Grace” music video shoot.

Many, many thanks to Dan Madison of High Decibel Media. He first approached me about making a music video and had this song in mind. I too had this song in mind for a music video, so of course, I said yes. Dan and I have worked on a few projects together, but never in this capacity. Dan wore many hats as the producer, camera operator, and editor. If you need a video made, I highly recommend Dan. He has a new recording studio too in the Indianapolis area, so if you’re looking to record in the Midwest, contact him. He has a new website coming later this year.

Christopher Whonsetler

Chris on set

Christopher Whonsetler taking photographs during a break from lighting the set.

If you’ve followed me on social media and elsewhere, you’ve probably already seen some of Christopher’s work. Chris (or Whonphoto as many know him), is my cousin and the photographer for many of my official promotional photos. He runs his photography business out of Indianapolis, but has and will travel just about anywhere. Chris took some photos on the set and ran the lighting. If you have an adventure and need a photographer, I guarantee Chris is up for it.

Matt Troyer

Matt on set

Matt, cueing audio while hiding on the floor behind a booth.

On short notice and with about 5 minutes of training, my brother Matt jumped in to help cue audio playback on the set so Katie and I could lip sync to the prerecorded audio. We shot in slow mo, so the audio had to be sped up. Matt cued the audio from his iPhone through a BIG JAMBOX, which worked really well. Matt does a lot of creative work, but not usually in the arts. He co-founded a construction company called Emergent Investments in the Indianapolis area. They do really amazing work, which you can see on their Facebook page and in the featured image of the Angie’s List app.

Eric Troyer

Eric on set

Since Eric was the “behind the scenes” photographer, so this is the only photo I have of him from the video shoot. In between takes, I caught him chowing down on some biscuits and gravy.

My brother Eric is an artist/graphic designer/developer and amateur photographer. He volunteered to help out on set and shoot some behind the scenes photos and video. He caught a lot of great moments (and some embarrassing ones) over the course of the 2 very long and very late nights we shot the music video. I’ll be posting more of his work later in a behind the scenes post. Eric works at Angie’s List as the lead iOS developer, does some freelance web design, and runs neck and neck with me for frequency of crazy ideas per day.

Tim Witzenman

Tim on set

Tim helping out on set and simultaneously auditioning for rugged male model.

Tim is a good friend and nearly like another brother. He also works in the design/web industry and does amateur photography. Tim volunteered to lend his hands and creative mind on set while shooting behind the scenes. I was really glad to have Tim’s eagle eyes keeping track of the details—especially when late in the game when we were all tired and not thinking straight. If you need someone who can fill any role to round out your creative team, get yourself some Tim. You’ll be glad you did.

Peppy’s Grill

exterior of Peppy Grill

Eat any time of day or night in Fountain Square at Peppy Grill.

A special thanks goes out to Peppy Grill in Fountain Square. The fine folks that work there were kind enough to let us shoot part of our music video in their restaurant. Thanks to Betty, Michelle, Joe, and Mike for taking care of us, giving Katie way too much coffee, and helping to make the shoot a great memory!

A Final Note

Thanks to you, the friends and fans that share my music. Here are the links to the video on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, or your network of choice. Let me know what you think of the video!

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“Bring Me All The Way Home” Music Video

The official music video for “Bring Me All The Way Home”

screen grab of video

Bring Me All The Way Home” is the last track on my album All Is Sideways. This video is me singing the actual take heard on the album. Thanks to Lynn Graber of The Recording House for engineering the audio for this session.

For more information about this song, visit the “Bring Me All The Way Home” information page. To buy the album, visit the store page.

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All Is Sideways preview video

Hear snippets of the new album!

screen grab of video

Hear you go. 😉

Preorder information can be found at this article.

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iPhone Rolling Shutter Captures Guitar String Oscillations

This is cool. My inner nerd had to come out and dance for bit. This is video by Kyle Jones, a designer, animator and illustrator from Nashville. Check out his website here and follow him on Twitter. He decided to record himself playing guitar using his iPhone from inside the guitar. Genius. Rejoice with me, […]

This is cool. My inner nerd had to come out and dance for bit. This is video by Kyle Jones, a designer, animator and illustrator from Nashville. Check out his website here and follow him on Twitter. He decided to record himself playing guitar using his iPhone from inside the guitar. Genius. Rejoice with me, all you audio and science loving geeks.

If you want to know why this strange wiggly string phenomenon happened, ask my cousin Chris Whonsetler, the photographer behind the beautiful images found on WhonPhoto.com. Here’s his blog entry about rolling shutters.

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How To Get Perfect Guitar Tone

Ain’t no such thing as the one perfect tone, son. Stop chasing that non-existent guitar holy grail.

Picture of a photoshopped guitar made from the Holy Grail

Can I get it in tobacco sunburst?

Bad News First

Perfect guitar tone does not exist.

…at least not in a permanently defined state. It is always changing depending on context. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for guitar tone and the guy who is showing you exactly how to get “perfect” tone is either demonstrating his idea of a good sound for a very particular context or selling you something. Let the buyer beware!

I’ve seen a zildjillion YouTube videos and magazine articles in which an “expert” outlines in very fine detail the “preferred” gear or “professional” way to play/mic/mix. They have shown me how to dial in that Clapton tone, place ribbon mics like Eno, mix a hit song like the Lord-Alge brothers, mod my guitar and amp like SRV, and even dress like a rockstar. In each circumstance I think, “Yes, that might just work. I could sound like that, if I do everything else exactly the same way as Mr. Famous Rockstarpants.”

They have it right. It truly is the small stuff that matters. In fact, all these tiny details matter so much and there is such a vast quantity of them, that replicating such performances is nearly inconceivable. Every part of the signal chain plays a role – from player to instrument to amp to room to microphone to preamp and all the cables, power supplies, recording/storage media, surfaces, and recording/mixing/mastering engineers in between. Even weather, location, and moods can make a difference.

Needless to say, it’s nearly impossible to replicate that one sound by that one artist on that one record. So many factors are involved in the making of a sound, that in many cases the original artist that recorded it might not be able to make that precise sound again, even when given identical circumstances. (I’d like to point out that perhaps the very reason we enjoy certain sounds is because a beautiful moment was captured – something unique that will never happen again – and trying to recreate it verbatim would somehow make it less amazing. Frankenstein’s monster wasn’t very pretty, was he? I digress.)

“We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about, but try to be yourself while you’re doing so.” – quote attributed to B. B. King[citation needed]

And The Good News

Proper tone (the right tone at the right time) can be bought. You can pay for it with practice and critical listening. Good equipment is nice, but not necessary, as Jack White demonstrates so well in It Might Get Loud.

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The Worst Christmas Song Ever

It’s time for Christmas music! Some love it, some hate it. I mostly like it. But no matter what our preferences, every year starting around Thanksgiving (and now even as early as Halloween – oh, the humanity!) we are bound to hear Christmas and holiday music playing non-stop at least until New Year’s Day (and […]

Photo of Elvis Santa with white guitar

It’s time for Christmas music!

Some love it, some hate it. I mostly like it. But no matter what our preferences, every year starting around Thanksgiving (and now even as early as Halloween – oh, the humanity!) we are bound to hear Christmas and holiday music playing non-stop at least until New Year’s Day (and sometimes longer). So no matter where we go, for approximately a month and a half every year, we’re bound to experience Christmas music in one form or another.

Good Songs

On the good side of Christmas music, we might hear Bing Crosby on an AM radio promising “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” a claymationized Burl Ives wishing us a “Holly Jolly Christmas,” Ray Charles telling us that “The Spirit of Christmas” should last all year while Clark Griswold rediscovers old family films, Sarah McLachlan tenderly crooning a gorgeous “Silent Night,” or The Peanuts gang singing the melancholy perennial favorite “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Gauraldi.

And I have to admit I’m a sucker for Mariah Carey explaining (in no less than 12 octaves) that “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” I almost believe her. I bet you do too.

Bad Songs

But on the nefarious side of Christmas music, we have to suffer through double-time punk rock versions of “Jingle Bells,” terribly over-jazzed renditions of “Santa Baby,” the latest winner of a pop/idol/reality show butchering “O Holy Night,” college choirs covering the panic-inducing “Carol Of The Bells,” and Kevin McCallister lip-syncing The Drifters’ version of “White Christmas” into a hairbrush.

Countless bad Christmas songs have been hastily fluffed like whipped cream to make albums that are then pumped into the public airspace in hopes of swiping up a bit of Joe Consumer’s annual Christmas music budget. Without taking an official census, I’d say there are probably 20+ bad Christmas songs for every good one. In short, there are a lot of bad Christmas songs. The Christmas music naysayers really have some solid exhibits and evidence in their favor.

The Worst Song

In my mind only one Christmas song can claim to be the worst Christmas song ever. I award that prize to “The Christmas Shoes.” You’ve heard it, I’m sure. It’s the sappy tear-jerker about the poor little boy that wants to buy some shoes for his dying mother on Christmas Eve and it’s the epitome of awful. Sadly, it’s been made into a novel (what?!) and a movie that I’m sure Rob Lowe considers a low point in his career. Here are the lyrics and a video just in case you need a refresher.

The Christmas Shoes

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line,
Tryin’ to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood.
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously,
Pacing ’round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes.

His clothes were worn and old,
He was dirty from head to toe,
And when it came his time to pay,
I couldn’t believe what I heard him say,

Chorus:
“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please.
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size.
Could you hurry, sir? Daddy says there’s not much time.
You see she’s been sick for quite a while,
And I know these shoes would make her smile,
And I want her to look beautiful
if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

He counted pennies for what seemed like years,
Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here.”
He searched his pockets frantically,
Then he turned and he looked at me.
He said, “Mama made Christmas good at our house,
Though most years she just did without.
Tell me, sir, what am I going to do?
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes.”

So I laid the money down,
I just had to help him out
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said,
“Mama’s gonna look so great.”

“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please.
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size.
Could you hurry, sir? Daddy says there’s not much time.
You see she’s been sick for quite a while,
And I know these shoes would make her smile,
And I want her to look beautiful
if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

Bridge:
I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out.
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about.

I know a lot of Christmas songs could qualify for the worst ever, but I think this one wins for several reasons. I could rant about this song for awhile (as some of my friends and family know quite well), so I’ll try to make this short and sweet.

Note: My intent is not to criticize the songwriters or anyone that genuinely likes this song. I simply want to point out the problems I detect in this song. I am doing so because the song is insanely popular despite what I believe to be very obvious logical and theological flaws. I know lots of other Christmas songs fail in many of the same respects, but this one stands out above the others because it often goes under the radar as “a good song to sing in church.” Passing off heresy and consumerism under the guise of a heart-warming ballad is quite wrong on so many levels.

Why “The Christmas Shoes” is the worst Christmas song ever

The Real Meaning of Christmas is Consumerism

Ah, the Christmas consumerism machine at it’s finest! Finally someone has found a way to not only condone our consumption that makes it seem like the “Christian” thing to do, but has also capitalized on the concept by writing a song about it that’ll “just get ’em every time.” This is the primary reason I hate this song, and honestly, it’s reason enough, but I have to continue.

NOTE TO SELF: If you are ever hard up for cash, remember this simple song equation:
Poor Young Child + Dying Parent + Sacred Holiday = Money Train

Shopping alone?

Why is a little boy shopping alone on Christmas Eve? Why didn’t anyone else in the song see a problem with this? Wouldn’t someone contact authorities?

Don’t miss the last moment!

If “there’s not much time” left for the woman, then why is the boy out buying shoes instead of spending time with his mother in her final moments? Priorities, son. Priorities.

Almost dead people have no need for shoes.

I know it seems harsh, but if his mother is close to dying from a terminal disease she simply does not need shoes. Maybe it’s the kind gesture or the thought that counts, but if she’s really that close to death, she probably would not be conscious enough to recognize a heart-warming deed from her son. Seriously.

Dead people have no need for shoes.

Caskets only open on the end where the head is, so no one besides the undertaker is going to see mama in her beautiful new shoes. That’s gonna be a real let down. And if she’s cremated, well… you might as well just burn your money.

You don’t take it with you.

Umm… I thought we were all clear on that. For this being a “Christian” song, it sure seems like some pyramid-era theology is slipping in there. I don’t know what heaven will be like, but if I had to speculate about footwear, I’m pretty sure that whatever we wear in heaven (if we even need any shoes) will be far superior to whatever mass-produced-by-slave-labor kicks the boy could’ve purchased with some change at the local big box store.

Does Jesus care about shoes?

The boy’s concern is that his mama look beautiful when she meets Jesus. I’m not sure where the boy is getting his information about who Jesus is and what he wants from us. Jesus is not Tim Gunn and heaven is not Project Runway. Mama will not be voted out of heaven based on her footwear. If so, those atrocious Crocs you just bought mama will not be winning her any style points.

Picture of Christmas Crocs footwear

‘This worries me. Make it work.’ – a quote by Jesus or Tim Gunn, I can’t remember who said it.

Adults Messing Up

Congratulations, to the adults in this story (the father, the cashier, and the narrator of the song). Instead of being wise and using this difficult time as a teaching moment, you helped an already poor kid waste his last few coins on useless shoes and let him convince you that his well-meaning, but half-baked plan is in fact the true meaning of Christmas. But the shame doesn’t rest solely upon the fake characters of this trite story, we the consumers actually bought this song and are continuing to buy it every year! Please, for the sake of future generations, stop supporting this song.

These are just a few of the reasons why I believe this song is the worst Christmas song ever, but don’t let me convince you. Judge for yourself.

Buy Shoes for Christmas

Graphic: Shop To Stop Slavery logo If you actually are in the market to buy shoes for someone for Christmas and you want to do more than just buy shoes, check out ShopToStopSlavery.com. My friend Robin researches products that are fair trade and slavery free. You can visit her site to find quality resources and good places to shop. That’s a gift that keeps on giving, Clark.

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