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Is Carhartt Made in America?

Here’s a short film about Carhartt that’s quite inspiring. The part around 6:20 gets me every time. I will wear my Carhartt coat and overalls with a little more pride now!

My friend Julien Jarry, the director of photography and co-director, had me do some audio post-production on film. I used iZotope RX8 to clean up some of the voiceovers and Pro Tools for the mix.

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FIX: WordPress Notice: register_sidebar was called incorrectly

Make it go away.

I was having WordPress problems, so I turned on debugging. To enable debugging, you can add the following line to wp-config.php in your root directory.
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );

With debugging on I was getting this error on my home page:
Notice: register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-1". Manually set the id to "sidebar-1" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /home/mydomainname/wp-includes/functions.php on line 5313

To fix the problem open the functions.php file in your currently active theme. Look under ./wp-content/themes/YourThemeNameGoesHere/ for the functions.php file.

In this block of code:

screenshot of functions.php code before

Your specific theme may look different, but the idea will be the same. Add an ‘id’ line of code after the ‘name’ line like this:

screenshot of functions.php code after

If you have additional calls to the register_sidebar function, then you’ll have to location those code blocks and add the ‘id’ line to each remembering to increment the id names or give them unique names.

When you’re done, shut off debugging in wp-config.php with the following.

define( 'WP_DEBUG', false );

Hope that helps you!

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FIX: Shure PG88 PG2 won’t turn on

If your wireless Shure PG2 series PG88 handheld microphone won’t turn on, the problem might be 1 simple fix away. Or not.

I recently had 2 of these handheld mics give me some problems. One of the microphones wouldn’t respond reliably to presses to the power/mute button. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t (usually when it mattered the most, of course). The other microphone simply wouldn’t power on at all. Here is how I fixed them both.

0. Check the Frequency

I gave this a Step Zero designation because before you even bother trying to fix a discontinued wireless microphone, you should make sure that the unit you have operates in a frequency band that is still allowed by the FCC. If not, recycle it and start fresh. If you are outside the U.S.A., check your country’s wireless regulations. 

1. Check the Battery

First, make sure you have a good 9V battery. A battery tester can help remove doubts about power supply issues. If I had a dollar for every time I hadn’t checked the simplest thing first… 🤦

I don’t know what the minimum voltage specification is that Shure designed the PG2 series to operate on, but the further a 9V battery drops from a full 9V, the less likely you are going to have a good time as an audio engineer. Get a fresh battery and give that slightly drained battery to an electric guitar player. Allegedly some guitar pedals—specifically distortions and overdrives—produce “better” sound when the power is under-voltaged or sagging a little. You probably should ask R.G. Keen about that.

9 volt battery and battery tester

This cheap battery tester works well enough.

*** Everything beyond this point runs the risk of damaging something, possibly permanently. If you’re “not good with this sort of thing,” consider taking your microphone to a professional or a friend who quotes The IT Crowd and knows the difference between a Ben Heck and a Ben Eater. ***

2. Short the Button

Is the microphone really DEAD dead or is the mechanical button maybe the problem? Narrow the search by opening the microphone, connecting a good battery, and using tweezers or something metal to short the button leads. If that makes the microphone turn on/off/mute, then you know that the board isn’t completely dead and the switch is probably the culprit. Be careful not to touch the tweezers to other parts of the circuit. There’s only 9V at play here, but who knows what you could fry by touching something wrong.

screwdriver indicating place to unscrew capsule from body

This is the spot to unscrew.

grille unscrewed from capsule

If you grab too high, you’ll unscrew the grill from the capsule.

capsule unscrewed from body

Grab lower to unscrew the capsule and grill from the body.

screwdriver indicating where to unscrew the OCB fromt he body

One small phillips screw holds the PCB inside the microphone body.

PCB sliding out of the microphone body

Once the rear screw is removed, the PCB can slide out of the microphone body.

tweezers on the button

CAREFULLY place tweezers across the legs of the surface mount momentary switch.

tweezers powering on the switch

If the LED lights up after holding the tweezers on the button leads, you have a good mic with a button that is dirty (at best) or bad (at worst).

3. Clean the Button Contacts

Maybe it’s just dirty? If you’re certain the battery is good and the tweezers light up the mic, the next step is to try cleaning the power/mute button. Contact cleaner for electronics can revive buttons and faders like magic. DeoxIT is basically the defacto industry standard electronics cleaner. Spray a little DeoxIT directly into the power button and press the button a bunch of times. The idea is to mechanically work the cleaner down into the button between the internal metal contacts to clean away dust and corrosion. Try a few rounds of spraying a little cleaner and tapping the button a bunch of times. If that lights up the microphone, then you might be good. If not, try the spray and tap a couple more times.

4. Replace the Button

If the contact cleaner still doesn’t do the trick, you might have to order a replacement button and re-solder the part onto the PCB. Apparently, that is a common repair and, luckily, Full Compass carries an exact replacement for the switch. Once you have the replacement button in hand, you’ll have to desolder the existing button and resolder the new one into place. If that sounds daunting, again, contact your friend that can explain the nuanced differences between the foul-mouthed, jargon-blending curmudgeons behind EEVblog and AvE.

5. Give Up

If none of the above steps worked, I guess buy a newer product that isn’t discontinued? Why try to fix something? Why did you have so much unfounded hope? </bleak-sarcasm>

No, but for real though, good on you for trying to repair what you have. Louis Rossman, patron saint of the right to repair, wants to bless you and your children and their children and their children for your eagerness to fix what you already have. It’s good to try to fix our stuff and we should keep trying to do so regardless of the outcome. I always learn a lot when I try to fix things. Only sometimes do I succeed at it, but I certainly learn something every time I try and that makes me better at solving the next problem that comes my way. When I do find success, I blog about it with the hope that others can learn from what I have figured out for myself. I hope you found success on this project too. Let me know how it turned out for you in the comments below.

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FIX: iZotope RX8 The selected audio device cannot be opened.

The fix might be easy.

February 2nd, 2021 | Technology | , , , , | Comments: 0

screenshot of an EHX forum post

The selected audio device cannot be opened. Please make sure it’s not in use by another application and its drivers are up to date. (CAD 0x6E6F7065 [0x6])

Getting this error? If so, you probably can’t play back your file. The problem might not be the output device, but the input device you have selected.

The Fix

  1. Open the Preferences for RX and select the Audio tab (if it is not already selected).
  2. Under the “Input device” field choose a different device than what is currently set. “No audio device” worked for me.
  3. Click OK to close Preferences.
  4. Try playing back your file. If that doesn’t work, try another device.

screenshot of an EHX forum post

Let me know if that worked for you.

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Scheduling Events on Extron SMP 351

How to set schedule events on an Extron SMP 351 using iCalendar.

UPDATE 2021-03-08: The scheduling method I’ve demonstrated will soon be antiquated. Extron plans to remove many of the default scheduling features in future firmware updates for their SMP 300 series devices. For devices running firmware 3.00 and above, scheduling will only be possible via the FlexOS App and may perhaps require an additional LinkLicense.

In this tutorial I walk through the steps required to set up an iCalendar on Microsoft Exchange Server to schedule events on an Extron SMP 351 streaming encoder.

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Pissing in the moonlight

Reader be ware: Urine for it.

January 20th, 2021 | Journal | , | Comments: 2

For approximately half of humankind the act of relieving themselves of excess liquid is an entirely indoor affair. I happen to be of the male variety of my glorious species homo sapiens, so the world is my oyster (and by oyster I mean ‘thing I can pee on’).

Today is Wednesday, January 20th, in the Year of Our Lord 2021, which doesn’t mean much if you’re from another planet, galaxy, or whatever. But for most of us human beings that means that today at noon (when the sun was mostly over head) a guy named Joe Biden replaced a guy named Donald Trump as Ultimate Supreme Leader of All That Really Matters on This Planet™ and it was something of significance, at least within the timelines of our lives, meaning the lives of the people currently living. I don’t expect you (whomandwheneveryouare) to understand this, because honestly I’m not sure any of us beings currently existing really understands it. But I do think that for our present timeline these events are a thing of significance.

Most days that you are alive (and I’m being descriptive, not prescriptive) the days just feel like every other day. But on rare occasions some days will feel like they are a bit more, like somehow the day really will end up having more value than the other days. I don’t know why or when or how these days come to be having more oomph than the others, but they do. History somehow provides us at random with days of seemingly more significance than the ordinary days that mark our regular passage of time. These extra-ordinary days that mark the fleeting days of our lives somehow come to define us.

I know exactly where I was on 9/11. I remember so many details about that day. But the day after? No clue. That was just 9/12, another ordinary day.

The Christian liturgical calendar of Western and Eastern traditions marks days between Resurrection Sunday (“Easter,” as I knew it in my Methodist upbringing) and Christmas as the ordinary days. The term “ordinary” doesn’t mean what we commonly understand it to mean. This term “ordinary” is understood today as “boring, common, or totally to be expected.” But in liturgical context it means something like “counted,” meaning “these are the days we count until the next event of major significance.”

Many days of our lives are insignificant. But some days are not. 9/11 certainly is a day that a lot of humans will count as significant. 9/10 and 9/12 are way less significant for most of us.

But today, January 20th of 2021, the year of our Lord Jesus Christ and/or the Common Era (a debate in itself), was certainly a day that was significant in the big story of homo sapiens regardless of what specific part of planet Earth those homo sapiens called home.

Tonight, like many nights, I stepped outside to relieve myself of excess liquid. I do this regularly, equally to save the environment of yet another flush and to feel connected to the earth from which I know I have come and one day will return. The backdoor is also closer than the bathroom, so laziness prevails.

Regardless, as I stood pissing in the moonlight on the eve of A SIGNIFICANT DAY, I couldn’t help but feel like none of it mattered.

Yes, in real day-to-day terms it really does matter who the Big Dude at the top of this pile of excrement is.

But I also felt the long term insignificance of the New Guy and the Old Guy as I gazed up at the really old guy Orion whilst relieving myself of that-which-I-can-no-longer-contain.

I’m not even sure what the point of this writing is about. I only know how freeing it is to look up at the night sky and know that for countless ages our species has looked to the night sky while relieving themselves and thought, “Ahhhh, whatever.”

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Convert 29.97fps Audio to 30fps

How to fix mismatched audio and video frame rates

January 19th, 2021 | Audio | , , , | Comments: 0

Choosing different frame rates for your audio recording versus your video recording is a really stupid mistake. I would never be so thoughtless, and you, dear reader, certainly would never do such a thing. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that hypothetically I happened to have recorded some audio at 29.97fps for a recent project, but the matching video was at shot at 30fps. With no possibility of a reshoot or overdub, I really needed to get the audio and video frame rates to match. Again, I would never make this mistake, but if I had, this is what I would do to fix my screw up.

The Fix for a Purely Hypothetical Scenario

  1. Record some audio at the wrong FPS. Way to go!
  2. Fire up the application Izotope RX. I used version 7 for this example and cannot recommend it enough. This is not an advertisement. I’m simply a fan of this software suite. It has saved and improved countless recordings for me.
  3. Open the Preferences for RX and select the Misc tab.
  4. Set the “Time scale frame rate” to your destination frame rate (the frame rate of your video).
  5. Click OK to close Preferences.
  6. Open your audio with RX.
  7. Make any edits you desire.
  8. Save or Export your audio.
  9. Import your audio with the corrected frame rate into your video editing software and time align it with your video.
  10. Wipe your brow and breathe a sigh of relief.

screenshot of an EHX forum post

Let me know if this worked for your friend or co-worker, because, again, like me, you would never make this mistake.


I’m posting this article because when I try searching for solutions to this problem the typical results are mostly professionals on forums with their stance: “THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT IS TO RECORD IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME, NOOB.” Yeah? Well you know what? No.

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FIX: wp-admin white screen of death (WSOD)

If you’ve tried everything else without success, try this.

December 19th, 2020 | Technology | , , , , | Comments: 0

Got a blank screen after you login into your WordPress admin panel? If you have tried all the other things suggested on various sites (disabling themes, disabling plugins, increasing memory limit, removing bits from wp-config.php, repairing databases, contacting your host, and enabling debug mode) and you still can’t get it working, try this.

PLEASE NOTE: I offer absolutely no promises it will work for you and no support if it doesn’t.

Aim your big bad browser at:

Your WP installation might give you a button to press to update your database. If so, click it. Et voilà! You’re back in business.

Again, I offer no support for WordPress installations. I got out of the website design business a long time ago and only do this WP stuff for my own interests now.

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a bit of philosophical wax

April 1st, 2020 | Journal | , , , , | Comments: 0

The strain of coronavirus now plaguing our world is more contagious than most understand. Our minds aren’t built to grasp exponentials. The math of this virus does not favor the desires of the human heart for social interaction and the need to continue life as we know it. Isolation is very hard, despite how dreamily utopian introverts may describe it.

Few of us have the resources, patience, or diligence to wait it out. Our leaders are obviously not great at leading us, and yet most of us are still waiting for them to show us the way before we take action. Their incompetence and our subservience will lead us to destruction. We need another way.

Sadly, the misdirection and misinformation will continue.

The immediate effects of the virus (the sickness, the dying, the isolation, the worry, the fear of each other) certainly will last well into late 2020, if not 2021. But the economic, social, and political repercussions will echo for much longer than that. Millions will die, then a great depression will come. We will have no other option than to rethink what this world is and what this life should be.

And yet I am hopeful.

I think know that the generous, beautiful, creative, anticipatory, unshaken, non-idle minds among us will turn inward to self-examine, find new meaning, develop methods, find the paths forward, and churn out new works to benefit their own being. But the fruit will not be simply to fill their own pockets. From the outset, these gems among the masses will know and act from the postion that the fruit of such diligent and relentlessly hopeful pursuit will spill over the rims of their own cups to inspire, engage, encourage, and challenge those around them that may have lost hope or can no longer see the way. Soon (in big picture sense of time) we will reap the harvest of great works of art, literature, music, and thought. Answers will emerge from this time of correction. They’ll come out of necessity, but with no less passion. Perhaps even more so.

Do not give up heart. Plant a garden, expect a harvest. Double down and reinvest in the soil of your own heart and mind knowing that your endeavors will better the lives of others. Dig deep and resolve to be a beacon of hope, self-reliance, exponential good, unselfish abundance, and goodwill to others when all around you the world may fall away.

A bee only happens to pollinate the flowers while in search of its own sustenance. Seek life and you will find it and you will give it to others.

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Faux Penne Pasta

It’s “low-carb” so it’s good for you.

November 12th, 2019 | Recipe | , , | Comments: 0

prepared recipe in a cast iron skillet

Earlier this year, while visiting our good friends and owners of Cream City Market, we held a cooking night amongst the four of us. The idea was for each person to come up with an original recipe using Cream City Market cheese curds as a star ingredient. We went to the grocery store together, came up with good ideas for recipes, ate some great food, and had a ton of fun together. Excellent way to spend an evening—if your friends can cook. Luckily, my friends can cook.

My recipe idea was to feature the Cream City Market mozzarella whips and some asparagus (both cut on a bias) to give at least the shape of if not also the flavors of a penne pasta dish. It turned out really well and my friends have featured my recipe on their website.


  • 1/2 lb. pancetta, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot. minced
  • bundle asparagus, cut on bias
  • 5 oz. Cream City Whips, cut into 1″ strips
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • pine nuts
  • parsley


Serves: I would say this serves 4, but honestly, you’re going to want to eat it all yourself.

  1. Toast pine nuts, set aside
  2. In same pan, brown pancetta.
  3. Add garlic & shallot, sauté.
  4. Add asparagus, sauté 3 minutes.
  5. Toss with Cream City Whips, olive oil, and squeezed lemon.
  6. Garnish with pine nuts and parsley.

Head over to Cream City Market and order yourself some cheese curds!

recipe card for Faux Penne Pasta

This is the recipe card they put together. And yes, that’s me holding the pan.

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EHX 9 Series Dry Mute Mod

Here’s a simple mod to make your early EHX 9 Series pedal operate correctly.

November 12th, 2019 | Technology | , , , , , , | Comments: 0

The 9 Series

I have a few EHX pedals from their 9 Series: the Mel9, C9, Key9, and Bass9.

They all basically function the same way — input an audio signal and the multi note pitch detection will trigger samples. It’s like having MIDI guitar without the hassle of setting up a MIDI-enabled guitar.


I use the Mel9 a lot. I set the attack slow and sustain long to supplement my acoustic guitar like a synth pad. It extends the perceived sustain of the guitar and is detached enough from the transients to make it seem like a completely separate instrument instead of just my acoustic triggering a sound.

As you can see from the photo below, there are two output jacks labeled DRY and EFFECT.

exterior look at output jacks of Mel9 pedal

Our beloved culprit

The DRY output acts like buffered pass through. This is a great feature especially when used in the manner I mentioned above as a way to generate a faux second instrument. I can separate the dry and wet signals and send them to the house as discrete channels, which can then be processed with EQ, compression, and board FX differently. On the wet pedal signal I like to roll off the highs and lows and add more reverb than I would for the dry acoustic signal.

A lot of players will just put this pedal in line with all their other pedals with the only output coming from the EFFECT output jack. In that case the DRY and EFFECT volume knobs can be used to create a blend of the 2 signals. I have used the pedal this way occasionally when I only get one mixer channel input. I set the DRY knob all the way up and blend in some of the EFFECT knob anywhere from 9 o’clock to noon. Then when I step on the footswitch it acts to toggle the wet signal on and off.

The Design Flaw

However, if you want to use the pedal in the way I first mentioned — as a dual output with the DRY channel being DRY only and the EFFECT channel being EFFECT only — the footswitch isn’t useful at all. When the footswitch is toggled off, it doesn’t just mute the effect as you would expect.

Instead, it mutes the EFFECT and sends the DRY signal out of the EFFECT output jack. So now you have your original signal being sent out of both outputs.

The pedal should have been designed to detect when a cable is plugged into the DRY output jack and then mute the DRY signal from going out of the EFFECT output jack.

This is a glaring oversight in design.

Modern audio jacks also acting as switches is very common (e.g. speakers muting when headphones are inserted). So really, this feature should have been included this series of pedals in the initial design specifications.

When searching for a way to disable the DRY signal on the EFFECT output I found the following forum post where EHX acknowledges their mistake: SYNTH 9 – MOD TO REMOVE DRY OUTPUT ON SYNTH OUTPUT SOCKET

screenshot of an EHX forum post


Needless to say, that response seemed very final and quite disheartening. I almost gave up hope of finding a solution.

A Quiet Switch

Then I saw a reply from EHX to a comment on a YouTube video for the Bass9 pedal.

screenshot of YouTube comment

What’s this?! A switch inside the case?!

Apparently, EHX changed their later revisions of some pedals and quietly added an internal dry mute switch to the base of the foot switch. I haven’t been able to find any info about this switch anywhere on the EHX site.

Long ago I had checked the inside of my Mel9 and didn’t see a switch. So I opened up my C9 (no switch) and Key9 (yay, a switch!).

interior look at PCB of Mel9 pedal

EHX Mel9 Rev C — no switch

interior look at PCB of C9 pedal

EHX C9 Rev D — no switch

interior look at PCB of Key9 pedal

EHX Key9 Rev F — Hey look! A switch!

Reverse Engineering the Switch

Comparing the K9 pedal that had a switch with the ones that didn’t I could see that the switch was simply shunting the DRY signal to ground via a single SPDT switch in between one of the lugs of the 3PDT foot switch and line 2 of the ribbon cable.

Back on my Mel9 I cut the PCB trace in the same spot and tested it. Sure enough, the dry signal was no longer present when the foot switch was turned off.

Completing the Mod

Now that I knew it was possible to disable the the dry signal, I contemplated the following options:

  1. Permanently soldering a cable between the lug and ground. Simple, but not easily changeable if I wanted to use the pedal with only a single output.
  2. Connecting up a small internal switch. A little harder, but still very easy. I could change it later if I wanted to, but I would have to unscrew the back to flip the switch.
  3. Wiring up a switch like above, but mounting it externally. It would be way more convenient if I wanted to change the setting, but I’d have to drill a hole through the chassis.
  4. Make the DRY output jack act as the switch, so the pedal would automatically change the setting depending on how I connected cables to it. This is how it should have been designed, but would take some real thinking to make it work that way.

Ultimately, I settled on the last and hardest option. And…it worked.


Here is a downloadable PDF of the mod: EHX 9 Series Dry Mute Mod.pdf

I’ve included all the options for modification so you decide your level of difficulty and expertise.

For the simplest mod, at minimum you will need:

  • a screwdriver – to take off the back plate
  • a sharp knife – to cut the trace
  • soldering irons and accessories – to connect things back up
  • 1 tiny length of signal wire
  • wire cutters
  • wire stripper

If you want to tackle the intermediate mod, you’ll need everything above plus:

  • a small SPDT switch
  • 2 more tiny lengths of signal wire
  • a drill & bit – if you want to mount the switch externally

For the advanced mod, you’ll need all of the above and:

  • sockets – 10mm (top row of pots), 7/16″ (for selector pot and jacks), 14mm (for footswitch), and a love for both metric and imperial systems
  • patience – to slowly cut away or drill out the switched lug on ring 1 of the DRY output jack
  • digital multimeter or continuity tester – to make sure you have electrically isolated the switch on ring 1 of the DRY output jack
  • glue – hot glue or CA glue to secure switched lug on jack after removing soldered connection

Once you have your tools, follow the diagrams in the PDF. It’s a fairly simple mod that will make your pedal way more useful.


If a cable is inserted or removed after the pedal is already on, the pedal might not recognize it. The internal brain box probably does a check when it toggles. A quick toggle of foot switch will make the circuit “see” the inserted cable (or lack thereof). After the toggle, the pedal will act exactly how you expect. This is a by-product of the pedal not really being designed this way from the start.

Don’t want to DIY?

If you really want this mod but are afraid to do it yourself, hit me up. I can do the mod for you (for a fee, obviously). We can work out shipping and all that.

Hope this helped you! Let me know in the comments!

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First Contact

Hoping for a kind E.T.

September 27th, 2019 | Science | | Comments: 0

As it concerns the first time we make contact with creatures not of this world…

  1. I can’t wait. Finally, something new in this world.
  2. I’m a bit terrified. You non-earthlings are likely much smarter than us proud, precocious primates. Please don’t kill us. I’d like to get to know you and want to learn how to communicate with you.
  3. We (humankind) haven’t made very many good movies or television shows about anyone who isn’t from here. For the record, I had nothing to do with any of these productions. Those people were just trying to sell tickets.
  4. Please don’t judge us by our leaders. They are mostly megalomaniac buffoons that none of us actually like. They are people that had no real friends in school. They are highly incompetent, undesirable, and self-seeking. The ones that aren’t that way don’t make it past the primaries. My dear extra-terrestrials, imagine if your sewer systems were anthropomorphized and given titles like Master Captain of the Poop Brigade. That’s kind of how it is determined who will “lead” us. The ” character used in the former sentence indicates that the word enclosed by those characters is a way of expressing a fabulously dissatisfactory falling short of the ideal. In other words, our leaders are idiots, which is an English word for turds who belong in a sewer system. At your earliest convenience please feel free to relieve us of our lemon-cotton-candy-topped Cheeto-in-chief. He’s basically one of the worst one of us.
  5. If anyone not from Earth has any life pro tips, please comment below. Humans, I’ve heard the best arguments we have, so unless it’s extremely novel, puhlease abstain from commenting. Thanks.
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Official Associations

If you are curious…

September 3rd, 2019 | Journal | | Comments: 0

For a list of people I am officially associated with, please click here.

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Changing Input Voltage on a Roland HP107e-RW Electric Piano

Making a keyboard from the UK run on USA power

Electrical power grids around the world provide electricity to their end users at a handful of different voltages and frequencies. For example, consumer electronics in the USA typically operate on 100-120 V @ 60 Hz while in the UK most everything runs on 220-240 V @ 50 Hz. In addition to the voltage and frequency variations, there are a handful of power cable plug shapes that various regions use too. People generally don’t have to concern themselves with all this information unless they are traveling or moving abroad and taking their electronics with them.

Friends of ours recently gave Katie a Roland HP107e-RW electric piano they had purchased while living in the UK. When they moved back to the USA, they brought the piano and quite a few other items with them that all ran on 230V. To power those items on the US electrical grid, they purchased a step up converter.

rear product label with model number and serial number

This particular model is the HP107e-RW. There are probably several other similar models for which this modification would work.

Instead of buying a bulky step up convertor to run the piano at our house, I wanted to convert the piano to run natively on the US electrical grid. In order to make this possible I needed to do 2 things:

  1. Change the shape of the power cable plug from UK style (Type G) to NEMA 1-15 ungrounded (Type A)
  2. Change the input voltage from 220-240 V to 110-120 V

Changing the power cable plug was easy. The power inlet on the piano is an IEC 60320 C8. Many of the electronic devices I own use the Type A cable I needed to replace the Type G cable. Swapping out the cable was simple, but that only changed the shape of the plug, not the voltage.

Interestingly, the Type G plug was actually a wrapper around the head of a Europlug (Type C) plug. This was perhaps a cost-saving measure.

an opened Type G plug

A sneaky Europlug hiding inside the Type G plug.

Changing the input voltage was a little harder. Some consumer electronics have little voltage switches next to the power inlet that are easily accessible on the outside. I didn’t see one of those, but sometimes the switch (or jumper) is inside the chassis on the power PCB.

To get a look at the power situation I opened up the top of the piano. That required removing 8 screws grouped in 4 pairs along the top rear of the piano, then sliding the top board forward and lifting it off. There are no wires or other connections made to the top board.

rear of piano with arrows schowing locations of screws to be removed

The blue arrows indicate the 8 screws that need to be removed to take the top off the piano.

After opening up the top I found this beefy power transformer staring back at me. There was no super convenient voltage switch, but surprisingly the input pins on the transformer were labeled—an easy solution! The fix was simple…desolder the black hot wire from the 230 V pin and resolder it to the 120 V pin.

internal power transformer with voltage labels

The label on the transformer indicates what voltages are expected on the input pins.

CAUTION: Before beginning this surgery, I recommend isolating the transformer from everything else. Unplug the input power cable from the wall oulet AND disconnect the output power cable connector from the main PCB. As with all things electrical, you could kill yourself if you don’t know what you are doing. Be safe! Be smart!

Interior look at cable connection from transformer to PCB

Out of caution I unplugged this cable connector before unsoldering and resoldering the cable to the transformer.

After moving the hot wire to the correct input pin, reconnecting the cable connector to the PCB, reattaching the top board, and plugging in the new power cable the piano fired up perfectly.

Let me know if this helped you. If you fried your keyboard or yourself, sorry, I am not responsible for your mistake. Better luck next time! 😉

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Alesis ADAT HD24 Remote Control Pin Out

Here are the measured resistance values for each button press on the remote control.

front panel of remote control

The remote control for the Alesis ADAT HD24 recorder uses combinations of 1/8 watt ±5% resistors to alter an input voltage.

I don’t have access to the recorder unit. Based on what I see inside the remote control I’m assuming it determines which button is pressed by measuring the voltage that is returned. Each button would lower the voltage by a different amount, thus making the measured value for each button press unique and identifiable.

The supply voltage that the recorder sends to the remote is unknown to me, but is likely one of the modern standard rail voltages — 3.3V, 5V, or 12V.

To obtain the following values I connected a digital multimeter across the tip and sleeve of the 1/4″ cable attached to the remote. All measurements are in Ohms.

Interestingly, the switch labels on the PCB differ slightly from the button labels on the case.

Also, I know this technically isn’t a pin out.

Switch Button Measured Value (Ω) PCB Label
N/A N/A 1406 (value read with no buttons pressed)
S1 Auto Loop 126 Auto Input
S2 Locate 0 279 Locate 1
S3 Loop Start 228 Locate 2
S4 Loop End 177 Auto 2>1
S5 Rehearse 76 All Input
S6 Set Locate 432 Set Locate
S7 Punch In 330 Locate 0
S8 Punch Out 381 Auto Play
S9 Rewind 1107 Rewind
S10 F Fwd 1207 F Fwd
S11 Stop 1008 Stop
S12 Play 899 Play
S13 Record 1307 Rec

component side of PCB

solder side of PCB

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An App to Fix a Guitar

Luthier tasks are not easy. This app combo makes them easier.

My wife Katie‘s acoustic guitars both had active pickups installed. We weren’t completely happy with how they sounded, so I swapped them out for passive pickups from K&K Sound.

product photo

K&K Sound Pure Mini passive pickup

They don’t require 9V batteries, which is a major plus, and sound very natural. I typically scoop out a bit of the mid-range (around 400 Hz) to clean up the sound, but otherwise leave the signal mostly untouched.

The hard part about installing new pickups in an acoustic guitar is trying to perform the whole operation through the sound hole. Tried-and-true luthier methods involve lights, mirrors, and special tools to see and reach into the inside of the guitar. I’m definitely not set up for the real way of doing it. My hands are big and my forearm gets stuck easily.

[Cue improvisation]

In the past I’ve used video apps before for more traditional streaming solutions. Here, though, I simply wanted a camera inside the guitar (my iPhone running FiLMiC Pro) and a monitor on my desk (my iPad running Filmic Remote) to see what was happening.

Here’s what it looked like on my iPad…

screenshot of Filmic Remote app showing the inside of an acoustic guitar

This is a screenshot of the video my phone was streaming to my iPad.

There was a bit of delay in the video (a half a second maybe), but not enough to make it impossible. As with all guitar surgery going slow is best anyway. Using the FiLMiC apps on my iOS devices I was able to super glue the pickups in the correct spots under the bridge with confidence. Installation was quick and the pickups sound great.

This trick would probably work similarly in other scenarios too—auto mechanics, contruction & remodeling, exploration, etc. Hope this helps someone out there. Comment below if something like this has helped you with a difficult problem.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not affiliated with K&K Sound nor FiLMiC Inc. I’m just a satisfied customer happily using the great products these companies have made.

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Fire Juice

I thought of this recipe one day after swimming in lava.

April 17th, 2019 | Recipe | , , , | Comments: 1


      ground ginger
      ground turmeric
      ground cayenne
      apple cider vinegar
      orange juice


  1. Mix equal parts of the dry ground rhizomes and spice in a resealable container like a Ball jar.
  2. In an 8 oz. drinking glass (or bigger, whatever) add some of the dry mix. Use about 1/4 teaspoon if you’re a wimp or about a full teaspoon if you have something to prove.
  3. To the dry mix add about a teaspoon of honey and around an 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine. The dry things combine best if the wet things are room temperature.
  4. Once combination has been achieved, pat yourself on the back then fill the rest of the glass with orange juice. Again, there are options here: Use pulp-free OJ if you’re a wimp or just dump in whole puréed oranges if you have something to prove.
  5. Add some whiskey if you think another dimension of fire sounds nice.


What does this fantastic elixir cure?
Boredom and a random selection of ailments found on WebMD.

How long does this keep?
Why, for the love of all that’s tasty, does everyone always ask how long things can be kept?! Just eat and drink the delicious things.

Why are none of the measurements exact?!?!
The thing about recipes is that no one ever follows them exactly. Even if I told you precisely how to make this drink, you’d still alter it somehow. Use the ingredients you have. Substitute something for another. Try a new idea. Have fun!

ground rhizomes and spice in a Ball jar

Equal parts ground ginger, turmeric, and cayenne

drinking glass containing some apple cider vinegar

About this much apple cider vinegar…

fire juice assuming its final form

…to this much orange juice. (8 oz. glass pictured)

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Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 Power Supply Unit Fix

If your interface doesn’t turn on or fully boot, the PSU may have failed.

A friend of mine brought over his Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 audio interface to have me look at it. The unit wasn’t working. After turning on the power switch a few LEDs would blink and an internal relay would continually click, but it wouldn’t power on fully and wasn’t recognized by the computer.

We opened up the chassis and tried powering it on. WARNING: THIS IS REEEEAALLY DANGEROUS. DO NOT ATTEMPT UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! We looked around to see if we could spot anything suspect. There were no obvious culprits like burn marks on the PCBs, blown fuses, or exploded/leaking capacitors.

Given the symptoms, I suspected that some of the electrolytic capacitors in the PSU were dried up or had vented—a common problem in gear that has aged a few years. Bad caps in the PSU could cause the unit to be under- or over-powered, which probably was causing the relay to keep tripping and preventing the main board from fully booting. After I pulled out the PSU I could more clearly see that the largest cap was bulged on top. That probably was the problem component.

Photo of the old PSU

Electrolytic capacitors go bad over time. At least one cap on this board had failed—perhaps others had failed too.

Since the interface was about a decade old and discontinued from manufacturing, it was essentially out of warranty. We decided to try fixing it ourselves.

Photo of the new PSU

The new PSU has a cool new look and maybe some better electrical engineering too.

I found a suitable replacement PSU sold by Full Compass. This replacement PSU doesn’t look the same as the original PSU that comes in the Liquid Saffire 56 and the Liquid Saffire 56 is not specifically listed as one of the compatible units, but it is in fact compatible. A Focusrite support representative confirmed that this PSU is the correct replacement.

So my friend ordered the PSU. A few days later it arrived and I swapped the old for the new. The interface fired right up and is working like new.

Photo of the interface after the repair

It’s working!

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Add a Fuse Holder to JBL EON Series (Gen 1)

Here’s how to modify first generation JBL EON series powered speakers to have an external fuse.

December 17th, 2018 | Technology | , , , | Comments: 0

photo of modified power panel

JBL EON10 power section with panel mount fuse holder added

The original JBL EON series powered speakers have a habit of blowing fuses more often than they should. Simply flipping the power switch could sometimes be enough to trip the fuse, rendering the speaker unusable until the proper T2A 250V 5x20mm fuse could be replaced. I’m sure that this design flaw was addressed in the much better EON G2 series, because I’ve never had the same problem with them (I’ve owned and extensively used both generations).

When a fuse does blow, fixing it requires removal of 14 screws to open the exterior, plus removal of 2 more screws holding the power PCB to the chassis. Then it’s a simple matter of swapping out the fuse and reassembling everything, which is complicated by having to make sure that the rubber gasket that seals the back and front enclosures together is properly lined up. All in all, it takes the better part of an hour to repair. That’s not very fun when you’re setting up for a show.

To shorten the diagnosis and repair time of a blown fuse, I added an externally accessible panel mount fuse holder. Luckily, the speakers have a convenient spot for just such a modification right next to the power switch. Here’s a photo showing what I did.

photo of power PCB

The pink lines indicate where the wires should be soldered up.

The parts you’ll need can be purchased via these Amazon affiliate links:

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FIX: Pro Tools “Could not create a new document because Assertion in…”

There’s an easy way to fix this Pro Tools error.

The Problem

Could not create a new document because Assertion in “/Volumes/Development/223020/ProTools/DFW/Views/UMenu.MacOS.mm”, line 1813. (Use the Copy button to copy this message to the clipboard.).

Pro Tools 2018 error

If you get this error, it’s likely due to Pro Tools trying to use the wrong audio interface.

The Fix

  1. Quit Pro Tools. (Not forever, just for a moment.)
  2. Restart Pro Tools while holding the ‘N’ key. This forces Pro Tools to ask you which interface to use.
  3. Select your interface.
  4. Boom. No more error, hopefully.

Caveat Emptor

This worked for me on a Mac Pro trashcan running macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 and Pro Tools 2018.7.0 on a Tuesday in November. The Moon phase was Waning Crescent. I had vegetable soup for lunch and was facing South at the time of the error. Your mileage may vary.

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EV ZLX Series Input Board

Locating a replacement input PCB board for the EV ZLX series speakers can be difficult. Here’s where I found the part I needed.

The back panel of an EV ZLX-12P

Both of the XLR combo inputs on the back of my EV ZLX-12P powered speaker were blown. The previous owner had connected an amplified signal into the line level input. In layman’s terms, that’s bad.

Everything on the PCB looked fine, but somewhere in the input board circuit something was fried. The 1/8″ stereo aux input still worked, which told me the amplifier board was still working correctly. So I simply needed to replace the input board.

Easy, right? Nope.

Trying to find just the input board and not the entire back of the amplifier was very tough. Most of the places I was finding online were in the UK. The price of superfluous parts plus international shipping was nearly the same price as buying a new speaker. It was hardly worth fixing.

That is, until I found a Canadian supplier that sells the input board separately. I found it buried in a Bosch parts list. In case you need the same part I did, here’s the contact information you need…

Taylor Electronic Services Inc.
2075 – 16th Ave. E.
Owen Sound, ON, N4K 5N3
Tel: (519) 371-7710
Toll Free: (888) 371-0779
Fax: (519) 371-0813

Ask them for this part…

Description: ZLX Input PCB Assy.
OEM Part #: F.01U.294.654
TES Part #: 12854
Price: $98.00 CDN / $76.00 USD
(price as of Oct. 2018)

This little thing is surprisingly hard to find.

This input board will fit both the ZLX-12P and ZLX-15P powered speakers. I’m not sure if it works with the ZLX-12BT and ZLX15BT models or not, but I would assume that there’s either a different input board or additional Bluetooth board for those models. This board is definitely not needed in the ZLX-12 and ZLX15 passive speaker models.

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FIX: Neumann KMS 105

Inconsistent audio signal from your KMS105? The fix might be really simple. Here’s how I fixed one.

My wife Katie Nelson and I both use Neumann KMS 105 condenser microphones for live performance. We love how the microphones sound and trust the Neumann brand.

The Problem

Recently Katie’s microphone was passing audio inconsistently. Sometimes it was normal, sometimes the output volume was quieter, and sometimes it would crackle as if the XLR cable was bad.

I called Sennheiser, the parent company of Neumann, to inquire about repairs. They connected me directly with a bench technician who kindly asked questions about the symptoms and then walked me through the fix. He correctly suspected that the hex screws holding the capsule to the internal printed circuit board (PCB) were loose. In fact, the capsule was completely disconnected from the PCB. I was surprised that the microphone worked at all considering there was almost no contact between the capsule and PCB.

PRO TIP: Microphones work best when the capsule is physically connected. #signalflow

The Fix

  1. Take out the machine screw on the side of the microphone that holds the XLR insert in place. There may be a small lock washer underneath the screw. Set them aside.
  2. Unscrew the basket (or grille, as people often refer to it).
  3. Slide off the black capsule cover screen.
  4. Very carefully pull on the capsule while simultaneously pushing on the XLR insert. WARNING: BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STEP. THE PCB HAS A SERIES OF WAVY CUTS IN IT. TOO MUCH PUSHING OR PULLING CAN BREAK THE PCB. GO SLOW. GO EASY.
  5. Pull back the rubber ring around the brass capsule body. Remember the orientation of the ring in reference to the notch in the body.
  6. Confirm that spring is seated properly on the capsule center pin.
  7. Push the capsule body onto the PCB until fully seated. The hex screws should be positioned over the solder-tinned holes.
  8. While holding the capsule and PCB together in that position, use a 0.035″ (0.89mm) hex key to tighten down the tiny set screws.
  9. Replace the rubber ring. Make sure the orientation of the ring fits into the notch in the body.
  10. Carefully insert the assembly back into the body. Again, be very careful. You will likely need small pliers/grips/etc. to pull the XLR insert all the way into position while simultaneously pushing the capsule into the body.
  11. Tighten the screw through the body into the XLR insert.
  12. Slide the capsule cover screen onto the capsule.
  13. Screw the basket onto the body.
  14. Test the microphone. If you still are experiencing audio problems, contact Sennheiser for service.
Little parts are easy to break. Be especially careful with this section.
Affiliate Links

Disclaimer: The links to the hex key and microphone above are Amazon affiliate codes. By clicking through and purchasing, I receive a small kick back. Thank you for your support.

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Non-English Songs I Love

September 11th, 2018 | Audio | | Comments: 0

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PreSonus CS18AI + RM32AI + AVB @ 96kHz = No Audio (FIX)

Here’s how to get audio from a 96kHZ session using PreSonus gear.

On a recent session, I was given 24-bit 96kHz stems to which I need to add acoustic guitar. Since I nearly always record 24-bit 48kHz, the higher sample rate is not familiar territory for me, but it didn’t seem like it would be an issue.

To set up for the session, I switched both my RM32AI and Pro Tools to the higher sample rate and restarted Pro Tools. I thought that was enough.

On the CS18AI I could see the meters bouncing, but no audio was passing to the speakers. I tried switching back to 48kHz and everything worked fine. Audio simply would not pass through at 96kHz.

After troubleshooting using every bit of Google foo I knew, I finally found a forum post that enlightened me. One of the shortcomings of AVB networking is that it can only pass audio at 48kHz or lower sample rates. Boom.

I had been using the monitor outputs of the CS18AI to send mains audio to my studio speakers. The CS18AI receives it’s audio feed via AVB, which is why audio was passing fine at 48kHz, but not 96kHz.

The fix was simple: unplug the cables from the monitor outputs of the CS18AI and plug them into main outputs of the RM32AI. Problem solved.

Here’s hoping this prevents some hair-pulling frustration for you.

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iPad Lock Button Not Working (FIX)

How to make a broken thing act less broken.

September 4th, 2018 | Technology | , , , | Comments: 0

I broke the front glass on my iPad mini 2. Things like that happen. Instead of slowly bleeding to death from the micro cuts the broken glass was giving me, I ordered a replacement screen from iFixit.com and followed the replacement guide as best as I could. When everything was put back together the lock button didn’t work. 

The missing magnet

The problem was likely due to the mysterious loss of one of the magnets that triggers the Smart Cover lock. When I opened the iPad, it simply wasn’t there. I don’t know how that happened, but the fact that it was missing caused a problem. Pressing the lock would not make the iPad sleep and because a magnet was missing, closing the Smart Cover didn’t work either. So unless I turned on some of the accessibility features, my iPad would be stuck on all the time. That was less than ideal.

Here’s a work around I discovered. In System Settings under Display & Brightness there’s a Lock/Unlock switch. When I turned that off, the Smart Cover would no longer lock the iPad, which wasn’t a problem because it wasn’t working anyway. But once I turned that switch off, the lock button suddenly started working again. I don’t know why. I only know that it works. Maybe this will be helpful for you too.

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News vs. Rock And Roll

These are my reflections after seeing an artistic incident.

August 16th, 2018 | Journal | , , | Comments: 1

In a most fortunate series of events I was able to see Counting Crows, Līve, and Boom Forest perform in Hartford, Connecticut for free last night. And despite the show being hosted at a huge corporate venue (as all things tend to be once enough people show enough interest), the show seriously reaffirmed many THINGS for me.

A few of those THINGS are:

  1. why I do music
  2. what makes me loves music
  3. why I write music the way I do
  4. what I hope to hear in every song
  5. how I hear melody
  6. how I hear instrumentation
  7. what I believe a song can accomplish
  8. what the world needs
  9. what I can do to help
  10. why good band dynamics are so important
  11. there are kids (of all ages) out there that will always need encouragement, goading, sympathy, reminders, or some sort of whatever-“RESONANCE”-means-to-you to give them enough hope, vision, courage, bliss, distraction, fear, fuck-it, or tears to face another day, another challenge, another impossible life to overcome (or at least to survive and commiserate with the realities of life).

A huge part of what makes me who I am musically (and probably life-ly) is due to what I learned from listening to the recordings of the frontmen Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Ed Kowalczyk (LÄ«ve). These guys have come to life from different directions, but both are virtuoso lyricists, vocalists, and performers with tremendous insight. They had immeasurable impact upon my informal path to learning and understanding of the effort, energy, and emphasis that good music requires of the singer/songwriter, demands of the listener/thinker, and begs of the disengaged/disingenuous. I cannot overstate the profundity their efforts have infected and hovered over my own work.

HIGH ART can often feel unachievable. It is truly difficult to achieve, but I find myself continually returning to those works that wreck me most and they are the most basic of forms. The simplest words are the most profound.

When Līve performed their relatively non-hit, but surprisingly prescient song “White, Discussion” (especially when considering the current U.S. presidential administration), Ed Kowalczyk offered this statement:

“I just want to turn off all the news and listen to rock and roll for the rest of my life.” — Ed Kowalczyk, Hartford, Connecticut, August 15, 2018

And though that sentiment may seem childish or dismissible at face value, it reminds me of why I began investing in music in the first place. We are humans and we are bigger than than the circumstances we happen to find ourselves landing in. The news is worth shutting off. It is designed to make us reel, react, and regurgitate. Instead we should revolt, reinvent, reset, and remind each other of why and how we should live.

I remind you…as I am reminded…as I remind myself…

If anything without love rules you, overthrow it.

If anyone acts as though they are above you, remind them how the “Lightning Crashes”.

If any task seems too hard to start, to endure, or to end, return to the beautifully complicated truth of “Anna Begins”.

And as always, “If Ever In Doubt”…

But blogs are blogs. Blah, blah, blah, blogs. And as “White, Discussion” sums it up:

“Look where all this talking got us, baby”

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How Many Flats & Sharps?

Seriously, I can never remember.

Recalling how many sharps and flats there are in each key signature is really hard for me. I have tried to commit the circle of fifths to memory, but it never seems to stick very well. I try to visualize the circle and think about the fifths. I usually get about a quarter of the way around the circle in my head before I forget where I’m at or what number of fifth I’m on. I know I should be better at this, but I’m just not.

So I made the image you see above as a helpful reminder for myself. I’m not sure if this is a new way of looking at it or not, but it sure helps me. Seeing the pattern on a keyboard works better for me for some reason. Maybe it’s the linearity of it? I don’t know. Perhaps you’ll find this helpful too.

Here’s a PDF version for printing purposes → sharps-and-flats.pdf

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Performance vs. Worship

I’m over it.

January 23rd, 2018 | Songwriting | | Comments: 0

There is performance.

There is worship.

They can be opposing forces in the minds of those who view them as such, but these attributes of church music (and other displays of spiritual music playing) are not necessarily at opposite ends of a spectrum.

When worship is well performed and a performance is worshipful, there is no longer anything to argue about. This “one versus the other” argument is so tired and worn out. You can play your heart out and play well. That is not impossible.

What constitutes a worshipful performance (or inversely, well-performed worship)? That debate could go on forever. But one thing is certain, worship and performance are NOT mutually exclusive circles on a Venn diagram.

I’m so over it. You should be too. Perform well. Worship well.

{end of debate}

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Tympanic Reflex

Musicians, your ears are trying to protect you from hearing loss. Let them do their job and keep you healthy by keeping both of your in-ear monitors in.

a visual pun - earbuds that are timpani drums

This is a visual pun. The design is intentionally bad.

As a musician that uses in-ear monitors (IEM), the tympanic reflex is a topic I regularly think about, but can never remember the name of it. I should file this article under “personal reminders.” I’m writing about it here so I can find it faster in the future.

What is tympanic reflex?

Our bodies have a natural protection mechanism built into our ears that tries to prevent hearing loss from loud noises. I’m not an audiologist, but from what I understand, the tympanic reflex is an involuntary reaction that temporarily muffles the transmission of louder sounds by contracting some inner ear muscles. Unfortunately, the reflex is not immediate; it takes about 40 milliseconds to kick in, which is why very sudden loud noises like gunshots, explosions, snare drum hits, and shouts can still do a lot of damage. But the reflex does help (to some degree) to reduce damage from sustained loud noises.

Why should musicians care about tympanic reflex?

Many musicians now use IEMs instead of stage wedge speakers to monitor audio in live performances. IEMs can help solve a lot of problems that stages wedges present. IEMs can help reduce overall stage volume, prevent hearing damage, allow musicians to hear exactly what they need or want to hear better, and provide click tracks or guide tracks that the audience can’t hear.

However, to provide these benefits, good IEMs completely seal off the “outside world”—an auditory experience which can be quite alienating for performers. This disconnecting feeling drives many musicians to play with only one “ear” in. Best of both worlds, right? Nope. The bad news is that the tympanic reflex doesn’t kick in when our ears hear a loud noise isolated in one ear. Our bodies didn’t evolve to adapt to such an unnatural experience, so we can’t benefit from the natural protective effects of the tympanic reflex in such a scenario.


Musicians, please wear both IEMs. It’s all or nothing if we want to protect our hearing over time. I know a few of my fellow musicians that have hearing loss due to wearing only one earbud. Protect yourself before you wreck yourself.

If you are looking for IEMs, there are tons of options now. I have some Shure E2 earbuds I got a while ago. They’re alright. I don’t love or hate them. I know there are better options out there now (prices correlating with quality). Shure has lots of newer options. Tons of consumer-grade options exist. For professionals, I hear a lot about IEMs from Westone and Future Sonics.


I first read about the tympanic reflex in this article In-Ear Monitors: Tips of the Trade by Keith Gordon. I was researching best practices for IEMs and discovered some valuable tips there. Check it out.

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3D Printed Improvement Part for Audix D-Vice Drum Microphone Clip

Make music. Print the parts if you have to.

Photo of completed 3D part installed

Ah, much better!

Audix make microphones. They are good microphones. Their D-Vice drum microphone clips are almost perfect. The little spring-loaded clamp part doesn’t like to stay on drums.

So I designed a replacement part in SketchUp that can be 3D printed. I’ve uploaded the STL file to Thingiverse.

I specifically made it to work with drum isolation/suspension mounts. Download it. Print it. Let me know if it works for you.

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Script for Finding the Best WiFi Channel

When running a wifi router in a public space, the least congested channel will offer the best performance. Use this script for Apple computers to help you find that channel fast.

For live sound events I often use wifi to interact with computers and digital devices that control audio, video, and lighting. Having dedicated, reliable wifi is critical for successful productions, so I bring my own router with me to live events. This is the model I own and recommend.

image of TP-Link router

All your [wifi] base belong to us.

WiFi is has become nearly ubiquitous. Networks are everywhere. The increasing number of public, private, commercial, and consumer grade broadcasts mean that the designated wifi spectrum is growing more crowded. Like lanes on a highway, there are a limited number of wifi channels to choose from. Car drivers try to avoid traffic and choose the least crowded lane on the road. Likewise, you will get the best wifi experience by “driving” in the least congested wifi channel.

icon for Wireless Diagnostics application

Also available by Option-clicking on the WiFi icon in the menu bar and choosing Open Wireless Diagnostics…

Apple computers have a built in Wireless Diagnostics service with a sub program that recommends the best wifi channel. It’s hidden away in the system folder and I have a hard time remembering the exact clicks and keystrokes to find it. So I wrote an AppleScript that runs inside an Automator Service to make the exact window pop up when I need it.

screenshot of Automator workflow

This is how I wrote the script in Automator. Can you make it better?

This is the easiest way to get it in the right place:

  1. Download this ZIP file: Find-Best-Wireless-Channel.workflow.zip
  2. Double-click the ZIP file to unzip it.
  3. While still in the Finder, click Go to Folder… under the Go menubar item. Alternatively, press the key combination ⇧⌘G (Shift-Command-G).
  4. In the little window that drops down, type the following: ~/Library/Services
  5. Hit the ⏎ (Return) key. The Finder will navigate directly to that folder.
  6. Copy or move the Find-Best-Wireless-Channel.workflow file to that folder.
    screenshot of folder location in Finder window

    This is place the file should be put.

Once you’ve put the workflow file into that folder, look for it under Finder > Services > General.

screenshot of Finder Services menu items

Mine has a key command assigned to it. See the note at the bottom about how to set that up.

When you click on the “Find Best Wireless Channel” service item the workflow will run and a you should be left with a window named “Scan” opened. The wireless networks that your Mac has found will be listed on the right. Look at the panel on the left.

screenshot of Wireless Diagnostics Scan Summary panel

The red circle is provided to direct your eyeballs where to look.

The best wifi channels will be listed at the bottom. Use these numbers to set your router’s wifi channel. Good luck!


OS Compatibility

This Automator service works on macOS Sierra. Depending on your current OS and any future OS updates, YMMV.

No Library?

If you can’t see your Library folder, follow the directions found here to unhide your Library.

Roll Your Own

For those of you that like to DIY, here’s the raw script.

tell application "Wireless Diagnostics"
	# opens Scan Window
	tell application "System Events" to keystroke "4" using {command down, option down}
	# brings Assistant Window to the front and closes it
	tell application "System Events" to keystroke "1" using {command down, option down}
	tell application "System Events" to keystroke "w" using {command down}
end tell

Keystroke Combo Power-Ups!

If you want to assign a key command to this workflow service like I did, open up  > System Preferences… > Keyboard > Shortcuts. In the left panel select Services and scroll down to the bottom of the right panel. Next to “Find Best Wireless Channel” click the word “none” and then the “Add Shortcut” button that appears. Press the combination of keys you want to trigger the workflow. Voilà!

screenshot of Keyboard Shortcuts in System Preferences

Assign whatever key combination you like.

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Focus Fox

Check out this new release!

October 8th, 2016 | Audio, Friends | , , | Comments: 0


The debut EP from Focus Fox was released today. My brother-in-law Daniel Nelson is the brain child behind this five track modern folk rock/alt-country gem.

Dan’s songwriting has found a strong footing here. This short album seems to continue on from where Jeff Buckley abruptly left off. His intricate and lush guitar work accompanies his clear and sometimes vibrato-shaken voice. Lyrics are delivered directly, pulling no punches, but never feeling forced.

I had the honor of laying down some BGVs on track 2.

Get your ears on the album via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or Spotify. Follow the band on Instagram.

Focus Fox – EP Tracklist

      Better Than Me
      It Must Be Hard
      If You Would Try
      We’re Gonna Fall
      Way Aback When
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GEQgen Creates StudioLive Graphic EQ Presets Offline

GEQgen is a web application for editing PreSonus StudioLive GEQ presets offline.

I made a web application called GEQgen (short for Graphic EQualizer generator, pronounced: “geek-jin”). It was designed for easy creation of GEQ presets that the first generation PreSonus StudioLive audio mixing consoles read/write/share within the original Universal Control software.

screenshot of GEQgen graph and input fields

GEQgen provides a visual graph for reference.

The older Universal Control software (not the newer UC AI version, which only works with StudioLive AI devices) permits editing only when a StudioLive device is connected. The dB values of the 31-band EQ can only be adjusted by clicking and dragging the sliders, which is kind of tedious.

screenshot of original Universal Control software splash screen

Universal Control requires a StudioLive console to be connected to the computer in order to function properly.

GEQgen allows offline creation of GEQ presets (convenience!) and for the dB values to be typed in or incremented up and down with the arrow keys. The result is plain text formatted in valid XML that can be saved as a preset and uploaded to first generation StudioLive mixing consoles.

screenshot of XML code

GEQgen outputs valid XML which can be saved as a GEQ preset.

Why does this matter? Well, sometimes I like to create “flattened” GEQ presets based on the frequency response graph that manufacturers provide with their products. Having a flatter EQ response means that the output of various mains speakers, monitor wedges, and headphones are more consistent with each other. Doing this task was tough in the old Universal Control software. With this new GEQgen tool I can simply look at the graphs, guesstimate the values, and type in what I want. It’s much faster and easier.

screenshot of many frequency response graphs

Graphs like these can be used as reference to create GEQ presets which can flatten the response of loudspeaker output.

Maybe you will find this tool useful. I’ve posted it on a new Tools page here on my site. I suspect I will be making more things like this in the future. Let me know what you think.

Also, if you like coding for the web, maybe check out GEQgen on Github. Thanks!

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How to Wire or Choose the Correct Audio Cable

This isn’t as easy as it seems.

December 10th, 2015 | Technology | , , , , , , , | Comments: 0

the joke is in the image

Do you know The Secret? It’s not really a secret, just science.

Nearly every audio problem can be traced back to bad practice. Whether that’s a musician not being prepared or an engineer not using gear correctly, almost every problem encountered in the making of music can be attributed to one of these two camps. For the musician, the answer is simply more (and better) practice. For the engineer, it’s more (and better) knowledge.

A pair open letters:

Dear Musician,

Practice, so that we might enjoy your performance.

With gratitude,

Everyone in the Entire World

Dear Engineer,

Know thy shtuff. Don’t assume that you do.


Everyone Who Has Had to Endure a Show

With that in mind, musicians, please excuse yourselves to go practice. Engineers, let’s talk.

Topic: Cables.

Cables are crucial to everything you do. They connect every piece of equipment you use. But do you know—and I mean really know—how to hook all of them up correctly? Even if you think you do, chances are that you could be reminded of a few things. I could.

An audio engineer is a technical professional that manipulates electrical signals under the pretense that we are ultimately providing auditory pleasure (or at bare minimum, tolerability) for an audience, whomever they shall be.

Good sound doesn’t happen by accident. It is the engineer’s duty to use audio equipment properly. Connecting the many pieces of gear together to make a show happen arguably is the engineer’s most basic of tasks and yet the most often screwed up.

I’ve found no better resource for how cables should be wired for the various scenarios than this article from the folks at Rane called Sound System Interconnection. Bookmark it, study it, refer to it every time you think you know the answer. They provide a way to connect anything to anything else an engineer might need to connect.

screenshot of image from Rane

Click for knowledge.

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What is Neuron Plugin Scanner?

Do you want the application “Neuron Plugin Scanner.app” to accept incoming network connections?

The Problem

If you’re on a Mac running a contemporary1 version of OS X with the Firewall engaged and trying to fire up RX 5, you might encounter the following error.

screen capture of the alert dialog box

Do you want the application “Neuron Plugin Scanner.app” to accept incoming network connections?

What is Neuron Plugin Scanner? The alert dialog box warns: “Clicking Deny may limit the application’s behavior. This setting can be changed in the Firewall pane of Security & Privacy preferences.”

The only solid reference to this app that I could find is a tiny thread on this forum. A guy named Jonah (possibly this guy?), who claims to work for iZotope Inc. (software developers of the amazing RX 5, Ozone, Iris, etc.), states that Neuron Plugin Scanner is a “helper application to scan your host for plugins to use” and that “it never connects to any other computer, iZotope, the internet, or anything else!”

That seems harmless, but I wanted better proof that Jonah was legit and the app wasn’t something more malicious. I contacted iZotope customer service and got this reply:

Hello Scott,

Thank you for reaching out! Yes the Neuron Plugin Scanner is related to RX 5. RX 5 has the ability to host 3rd party plugins. Those plugins have to be scanned by the Neuron Scanner before they are instantiated. Allowing this functionality is recommended.

Thank you for your time!


iZotope Customer Care

Verdict: Neuron Plugin Scanner is safe. Simply click Allow and keep making music.

The Solution

It turns out the app is harmless. But clicking Allow every time you open RX 5 is a pain. Shutting off the Firewall is not wise. So if you want to make this dialog box go away forever, here is what to do.

1. Open Security & Privacy panel in System Preferences

You can find System Preferences under the Apple logo () on the far left of the menubar. Click on the Security & Privacy icon.

screenshot of System Preferences

Click the Security & Privacy icon

2. Unlock System Preferences

If your System Preferences are locked, unlock them. Enter your system account password when prompted.

screenshot of lock

Unlock to enable changes to the Firewall

3. Open Firewall Options

Once you enter your password, the Firewall Options button will no longer be grayed out. Click it.

screenshot of Firewall Options button

Click on Firewall Options

4. Find the app Neuron Plugin Scanner in the list

Scroll down until you see Neuron Plugin Scanner. It will have a red dot and the words “Block incoming connections” beside it.

screenshot of firewall settings for various applications

Find the Neuron Plugin Scanner.app

5. Allow Incoming Connections

Toggle the setting for the Neuron Plugin Scanner app to read “Allow incoming connections” and exit out by pressing the OK button.

screenshot of Firewall settings being changed from block to allow

Set the Neuron Plugin Scanner to “Allow incoming connections”

That should fix the problem. The alert dialog for Neuron Plugin Scanner will no longer pop up…at least until iZotope updates their software or Apple changes their operating system. This is what worked for me with RX 5.00.135 running on OS X 10.10.5. Not all systems are the same. YMMV.

1Contemporary = a version released within the last few years prior to this article being publish. If these issues still exist at some point years from the publish date, I would be surprised. If so, well hello dear reader from the future. Do we have flying cars in the time you are from?

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iPad/iPhone Live Video Streaming

Need to stream video over a network using iOS devices? Transmitting video over wifi or Cat5e using an Apple tablet or phone can be really easy. This is how to do it.

A recent gig required live video and audio streamed from one building to a projection screen in another building some distance away. The gig came as a last minute request (the night before a morning event). I had little time to prepare. They were in a bind and didn’t have anyone else they could count on. Though I did not own very much video equipment, I knew I had to help. I had to be creative in order to accomplish the task. Here is what I did.

First, I broke the problem into 2 parts: audio and video. Figuring out an audio solution was easy, since I’m primarily experienced in audio and had all the gear for that portion. So the tough part was figuring out video. Another factor to consider was that the signals needed to be fairly secure (to prevent easy hacking), so wired was preferred over wireless options. My plan was to send audio over balanced audio cables and video over ethernet/Cat5e cable to reassemble on them together on the other end.

Second, I scoped out the location. The buildings were two small structures set on opposite sides of a small parking lot. A quick reading with my super handy laser distance measurer revealed the buildings sat about 100 feet apart. This measurement was helpful for figuring out how much cabling I need to run between the two locations. In addition to the distance between the two, there was also a height factor (the receiving location was on the second floor), plus there were interior distances that needed to be run. Altogether the total distance from the source to the destination required enough cable to reach somewhere in the ballpark of 200 feet.

Third, I needed to inventory my equipment list to figure what I needed to buy, if anything. Luckily, I found a nice iOS app that streams video quite reliably.

Video Signal Flow

This is the basic routing I came up with:

iOS Device with Video Source App > Wifi Router > Ethernet Cable > Computer with Video Destination App > HDMI Cable > Output Device (Display or Projector)

And here are the specific details of my setup:

  1. a newer iOS Device (iPad/iPhone/iPod touch) with good camera (I used an iPad Mini 2.)
  2. a video streaming iOS app (I used AirBeam by Appologics UG with its companion desktop app AirBeam Pro.)
  3. a wifi router (I used an older AirPort Extreme Base Station A1354. For increased security, I also made sure the SSID was not broadcast, the network required a WPA2 password, and the password was fairly long and complicated. Not a perfect solution, but much better than an open wide, password-free network.)
  4. Cat5e cable (I used cable rated for outdoor use since it was kind of rainy and wet outside.)
  5. an Apple computer with ethernet jack (I used an aged Mid-2010 MacBook Pro.)
  6. a video adapter for connection to video cable (I used one of these AmazonBasics Mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt) to HDMI adapters.)
  7. a video cable (I used an HDMI to HDMI cable.)
  8. an output device (I used a projector.)

Here is a sketch of my set up:

diagram of iOS live video streaming  gear connections

Not shown: MiniDisplay Port to HDMI adapter

I didn’t describe or diagram my audio setup as it was a little more traditional in approach. I may or may not write about that in another article.

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Cheap RGB LED Par Can Light Fix

Sometimes the solution is easy. Maybe the wires are just crossed.

A while ago I picked up a set of RGB LED par can lights from a friend. They are unbranded, but I did a little searching online. Turns out they are sold under the brand TMS, which I think stands for T-Motorsports, but can’t be certain.

They are just generic, low-cost lights that you can buy in packs of 20, 10, 8, 4, 2, and even 1. They’re super-affordable, small, and get the job done.

I haven’t really used them yet. In some recent tests I noticed one of the fixtures did not seem to be addressed the same as all of the others.

picture showing the lights not working properly

BEFORE: The can lit green should be lit red like the rest of them.

After confirming that the problem was that the red and green channels were flipped, I figured it was a problem that could be fixed easily. I opened up a good light and a bad light to compare the wiring.

side by side comparison of good and bad can lights

On the left is a properly functioning can light. On the right is the can light with the red and green channels switched.

It might be hard to see in the picture above, but the blue and black wires coming from the control PCB were soldered to the LED PCB backwards at the factory. I fired up the soldering iron and swapped the connections.

interior shot of wires before and after modification

Shown above are the black and blue wires before and after the switch.

Here are the all the lights functioning as expected after switching the wires.

picture of the 10 lights working correctly

AFTER: All 10 cans working properly.

So, yes, you get what you pay for. Cheap, unbranded lights might not be wired correctly at the factory. But sometimes good enough is good enough and a little know-how can keep the show on the road.

WARNING: Always be careful working on electronics. Unplug the power before opening things up. Don’t touch stuff on the inside. Be very cautious. You can be killed or seriously injured if you don’t know what you are doing. Prior to any electrical work consult with your local electrician, doctor, lawyer, and priest.

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TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay DIP Switch Settings & Simple Case Mod

Which DIP switch does what? Plus a simple case mod to make the switches more accessible.

November 7th, 2015 | Technology | , , , , | Comments: 4

Photo of top panel of the pedal.

The TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay/Looper effects pedal.

The Flashback X4 is one of the delay effects pedals in the Flashback series by TC Electronic. It features their famous 2290 delay along with quite a few other delay modes and a looping function. In addition to the X4, the Flashbacks come in several different packages: Flashback Triple, Flashback, and Flashback Mini.

I own both the X4 and Mini. The pedals sound great, have lots of features, and are generally really easy to use. I also like the TonePrint stuff that TC Electronic is putting into all of their newer effects. The pedals can be customized for the exact sound you are looking for.

The Flashback X4 has the ability to change some settings on the pedal using internal DIP switches. By flipping these tiny switches hidden inside the pedal, users can adjust the bypass mode to either True Bypass or Buffered Bypass (terms which really only make sense to guitar junkies and audio engineers) and turn the “dry” signal on or off (which can be useful if the pedal is used in an effect send/return scenario).

While I love the X4, there are a few issues with these DIP switches.

  1. They are inside the case. Removing 7 screws takes time. It makes it hard to quickly A/B test the bypass modes or toggle the Kill Dry.
  2. The screws are Torx star drive, not standard or phillips. Good luck finding the right bit when you need it.
  3. The switches are not labeled. The manual tries to explain them, but it’s still confusing.

The DIP Switch Settings

Here is the explanation of the switches from the user manual.

Screenshot of the manual showing DIP switch settings.

These are the cryptic instructions found on page 32 of the user manual.

It kind of seems like that section was written during the prototyping stage of the pedal development because it doesn’t make it any clearer which switch controls what or which direction they should be flipped to. Even after re-reading it several times I still couldn’t make sense of it. Using the power jack as a orienteering guide isn’t very helpful. I figured out what was what by just flipping the switches. Here’s what you need to know:

Interior photo of the Flashback X4's PCB.

The green circle shows the location of the DIP switches on the main PCB.

Here is a close up of the switches with labels for what each switch controls.

Close up shot of the DIP switches.

DIP switch 1 controls the Bypass Mode and switch 2 controls the Kill Dry On/Off. The numbers might vary from unit to unit, so go by the location and direction, not the labels on the switch.

Be careful when flipping those little switches. They are delicate plastic components.

The DIP Switch Hole Mod

Instead of fiddling with the back panel every time I want to adjust these settings, I figured I would modify the pedal to make it easier.

I could’ve gone the route of desoldering the DIP switch and wiring in a pair of new switches mounted externally. But that seemed like a lot of work.

Instead I simply drilled a hole in the bottom panel.

How to drill the case

  1. Flip the pedal over with the jack panel away from you.
  2. Once you find the right T10 Torx star bit, you can take the 7 screws out. Be careful not to mess up these screws. They are made from a soft metal and are easily damaged if roughly driven or over tightened.
  3. Remove the bottom panel.
  4. Measure where the center of the DIP switches are located. Mine was 41mm (~1 5/8″) from the right edge and 72mm (~2 13/16″) up from the bottom edge. This location may vary from pedal to pedal, so make sure to take your own measurements on your specific pedal.
  5. Mark the location on the bottom panel. It should be somewhere in the area where the label is.
  6. Drilled the hole. I used a 5/32″ drill bit because that was the only size bit that I had on hand that was not too big and not too small. You might want to go for a little larger diameter drill bit to give yourself more room to toggle the switches. The metal is fairly soft, so you shouldn’t need any drilling oil.
  7. Clean away the metal shavings. Make sure you didn’t get any into the pedal. Metal shavings could cause electrical shorts in the circuit.
  8. Test fit the bottom panel, adjust if necessary, and replace it.

The result should look something like this.

Hole drilled through case and label.

This is the 5/32″ hole drilled into the bottom panel.

As you can see, the hole is nearly invisible with that label there. To adjust the switches, use a small screwdriver or paperclip. Again, be careful when toggling the delicate DIP switches!

Back panel of the Flashback X4 with the DIP switch hole modification.

The hole is barely visible, but the DIP switches are easily accessible with a small screwdriver, paperclip, etc.

I might print up some labels to put on the bottom panel so I can remember which switch is which.

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Hot Linking Can Be Fun

Copy, Cut, Paste — Egg on Face.

March 25th, 2015 | Technology | , | Comments: 0

The Internet. The World Wide Wow. It’s a digital jungle out there, kids. But it sometimes brings fortune.

My first personal experience with hot linking ended with some free stuff and a funny story. Read all about it via the updates at the bottom of my article called iLok “The session you were using is no longer valid.”

Happy reading! And be safe out there! 😉

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5 Tips for Audio Recording Hard Drives

Hard drives are hard.

hard disk drive with Pro Tools logo as the platter

You want to record audio in the modern age? You don’t have a Zildjillion dollars to be able to record to tape? Even so, it all ends up digital. You need some hard drives.

Five Audio Recording Hard Disk Drive Tips

Hard disk drives aren’t all the same. Picking out the right one can be tough. Here are some things I’ve learned — sometimes the hard way.

1. Heed the DAW makers’ suggestions.

If AVID says that Pro Tools doesn’t support it, don’t expect it to work. Legit DAW makers will post the system requirements for their software/hardware. Look them up. Follow their recommendations and instructions. Spoiler: You’re probably going to have to spend more than you had planned for.

2. Faster is better.

A faster drive means it read/writes faster. And faster read/writes means more tracks and/or higher quality.

Traditional hard disk drives have platters that spin. A hard disk drive that spins at 5200 rpm really isn’t fast enough — it’s like red-lining a Geo Metro. 7200 rpm is better. 10,000 rpm better still.

And then there’s flash drives, which are way faster than hard disk drives.

There are also seek times to consider, for which lower numbers are better. Seek time is the baseline amount of time in milliseconds that it takes for a drive to fetch data.

I have found that drive manufacturers don’t always make these stats readily available. When in doubt, assume the drive doesn’t meet spec (because it likely doesn’t).

3. Data interfaces matter.

Hard drives have come with lots of data interface flavors: PATA, SATA, USB (1, 2, 3), FireWire (400, 800), Thunderbolt, Ethernet, and some are even wireless. The data interface dictates bandwidth, which roughly translates to how many tracks you can record at once and how much latency your playback will suffer. More bandwidth is better, which translates into better recording and mixing experiences. Again, check your DAW maker’s system requirements and choose the drive with the fastest and most forward-compatible data interface.

Also make sure your computer can handle the data interface type you’re choosing. And find out if the data port you intend to use on your computer is sharing a bus with any other peripherals in your computer. That can adversely affect your bandwidth, causing a data bottleneck.

4. Bigger isn’t better.

For tracking and mixing, you don’t necessarily need a 3 TB drive. (Unless, of course, you’re recording a 10-piece prog-rock group with 40 minute “works” at 32-bit 192kHz.) Save the big, slow drives for backups and archiving. Use smaller, faster drives for works in progress. If you have more than one project going at a time, consider using a small drive for each project, so the different project files are not interleaved with each other on the drive. This will speed up read/write times, as the drive will not be jumping around on the platters trying to find the files for the current session. This also saves money, since really fast and really big drives are expensive.

5. Always have a backup.

Have a backup plan, because hard drives fail. All the time. More so than any other part of a computer. Make sure to always backup your work after every session, whether recording, editing, or mixing. And make sure you have an extra drive ready in case one goes down during a session. I can’t stress this enough. Millions of ones and zeros (i.e. your priceless recordings) can go poof at any time — and there’s never a right time for that. Buy more hard drives. Make backups like a chronic. Sleep well.


So there you have it: my top five hard drive tips. Comment below to let me know what you would add to the list.

And enjoy some “Tainted Love” made with old hard disk and floppy disk drives…

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FIX: Waves Preferences “Don’t ask me again”

Make that Waves Preferences pop up dialog window go away forever WITHOUT having to uninstall and reinstall your plugins.

The Problem

After doing a fresh install of Pro Tools and my Waves plugins, this Waves 9.2.100 Preferences dialog window (pictured below) kept popping up every time I fired up Pro Tools.

screen grab of Waves 9.2.100 Preferences dialog window

Checking the “Don’t ask me again” checkbox didn’t seem to be working.

I searched for some solutions on the Google machine and found some forums were recommending a complete uninstall and reinstall of all Waves plugins. This didn’t seem necessary. Here’s the fix I used:

The Fix

  1. Quit Pro Tools.
  2. Trash the entire Waves Preferences folder. The folder is located in the Preferences folder in your user Library folder, not your system Library folder. A quick way to locate the folder is to switch to the Finder and hit Shift+Command+G. A Go to Folder dialog window will pop up. Copy and paste the following line in that field and hit enter.
    ~/Library/Preferences/Waves Preferences

    Put that folder in the trash and empty the trash.

  3. Start Pro Tools.
  4. A window should pop up asking you to select the Waves 9.2 Plug-Ins folder. By default, it should be located in the Waves folder in your Applications folder.
    /Applications/Waves/Waves Plug-Ins

    Once you’ve located the folder, click Open.

  5. The Waves 9.2.100 Preferences dialog window should pop up again. The “Don’t ask me again” box should be checked. If not, check it and hit OK.
  6. To test if everything worked, quit Pro Tools and start it again. The Waves dialog window shouldn’t reappear.

About the Fix

I adapted this solution from a somewhat unrelated problem I found on Sweetwater Sound’s SweetCare Knowledge Base. The fix definitely works for the following system set up. YMMV

  • OS X Mavericks 10.9.3
  • Pro Tools 9.0.6
  • Waves 9.2.100 plugins

Please leave a comment below if this helped you or not.

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FIX: You are opening the application “Pro Tools” for the first time.

There’s a first time for everything. This is not one of those times.

Blame it on entropy or whatever. Things get messed up. Apple’s OS X is no exception.

In the last few months, I started getting this error a lot:

screen grab of an OS X alert dialog box

You are opening the application ”Pro Tools” for the first time. Are you sure you want to open this application?

Except, it’s not true. I open Pro Tools nearly every day. The alert isn’t very important, but it was beginning to get annoying seeing this pop up every time I wanted to record.

So, a little googling and I found an answer on StackExchange. It involves using the command line on your Mac, which can be a bit scary if you’ve never done that before. But it’s a single command, so you should do just fine. Here’s the quick and dirty summary…

Terminal application icon

This is where the Matrix is on your Mac. There’s no green falling code or woman in the red dress. There may Agent Smiths lurking though.

The Fix

  1. Open the Terminal application (found in /Applications/Utilities/).
  2. Copy the following command (all of it… the whole long line) and paste it after the prompt.
  3. /System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Versions/A/Support/lsregister -kill -r -all local,system,user
  4. Hit the Enter/Return key.
  5. The process will begin. It may take a minute or two to finish. Do not quit the Terminal application while the command is running.
  6. Eventually the process will complete and another prompt will appear. Now you can quit the Terminal app.

This command resets all of the first run warnings. So any application that requires that will be reset. So you should see the alert one more time for each of those applications and then it will go away for good.

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Export MIDI from GarageBand

GarageBand likes to keep MIDI data hidden and inaccessible. Here’s how to extract it anyway.

GarageBand icon with MIDI cable superimposed

Apple’s GarageBand makes it relatively easy to sketch out an audio demo, but it does have some severe, intentionally-crippled limitations.

One of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of built-in support for exporting MIDI data.

Performances are stored inside the session file in some sort of MIDI fashion, but Apple doesn’t give users an easy way to get that information out. Major bummer. *looks west towards Cupertino, squints eyes, shakes fist in air, mutters under breath*

However, a nice guy named Lars Kobbe has put together a workaround/hack that extracts MIDI data from the reluctant clutches of GarageBand. You can download his GB2MIDI Apple droplet script from his site: MIDI-Export in Apples Garageband. Here’s the direct download: GB2MIDI.ZIP If that link doesn’t work, I’m providing the file hosted on my site here: GB2MIDI.ZIP

The article is in German, but instructions in English are found near the bottom of the article (just before the comments section). Getting the MIDI data out involves several steps. Here’s my summary of the process.

How to Extract MIDI Data from GarageBand

  1. Join (Command-J) regions of a track you want to export
  2. Convert that region to a loop via Edit > Add to Loop Library (NOTE: In GarageBand 10.1.0 this menu item is now located under File > Add Region to Loop Library )
  3. Find the newly created loop file (an .AIF with MIDI data hidden inside it) in the folder: Macintosh HD (or whatever your system drive is named)/Users/(your home folder)/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/User Loops/SingleFiles/
    or the abbreviated: ~/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/User Loops/SingleFiles/
  4. Drop that .AIF file on Lars’ GB2MIDI droplet
  5. Grab the freshly extracted .MID file, which should appear in the same folder where the .AIF loop was. If not, see the comment section below.
  6. Import the .MID file into a respectable DAW (basically almost anything other than GarageBand).
  7. Make next hit record.

That last step is optional, but I say go for it. 😉 Let me know if this helped you.

Locating The Files

UPDATE 2014-08-10

If you’re having trouble locating the loop file, it may be because your Library and/or Users folders are hidden, as later OS X versions have been wont to do.

To unhide the Library folder, open the Terminal application, which is found in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder. At the prompt type the following:
chflags nohidden ~/Library/

To unhide the Users folder, type this into Terminal:
sudo chflags nohidden /Users
Then enter your administrator password.

Look for the newly unhidden Users folder in your hard drive’s root folder. It should look something like this:

screenshot highlighting location of User folder

After running “sudo chflags no hidden /Users” you should see the Users folder (highlighted in red in the image above) appear under the root folder of your hard drive (often named “Macintosh HD” by default).

For more on the hidden Users folder issue check this article from The Mac Observer. It seems the problem was introduced with iTunes 11.2 when Find My Mac is enabled. Another blog suggests that updating to iTunes 11.2.1 fixes the issue.

GarageBand Alternatives

UPDATE 2016-02-04

This GarageBand MIDI article has regularly been one of the most popular posts on my site. That means there are a lot of people using GarageBand and discovering its unfortunate MIDI limitations. The best bit of advice I can give to any musician or audio engineer still using GarageBand is STOP. I know that may sound harsh, but GarageBand is intentionally made to be consumer-grade software. If you’re serious about recording, take the time to investigate other DAWs. Find an alternative solution. There are many to choose from and nearly every one of them is less limited than GarageBand. They range from super affordable to “professionally priced.” Here’s a list to get you started. (Some links are affiliated.)

Pick any of the DAWs above (or find another — this list is by no means exhaustive) and you’ll find it much easier to work with MIDI. Let me know what software you chose.

64-bit Support

UPDATE 2020-05-19

If you are on OS X 10.15 Catalina or greater on your Mac, then you can only run 64-bit apps. As of the time of this update (May 2020) the app is not 64-bit compatible. This is a known issue. I am not the developer of GB2MIDI, but thankfully the developer Lars Kobbe maintains his app on Github. Here is the link to an open GitHub request for updating GB2MIDI to 64-bit.

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BATTLEGROUNDS: After the Battle

Autumn Ashley’s new EP BATTLEGROUNDS is out now!

Sometime last year, my friend Autumn Ashley asked if I’d help her complete her next EP. She ran a Kickstarter to raise funds and anyone who contributed got the album early. On Friday, Autumn Ashley’s BATTLEGROUNDS album was finally made available for everyone.

cover art of BATTLEGROUNDS by Autumn Ashley

BATTLEGROUNDS by Autumn Ashley

When Autumn first contacted me about BATTLEGROUNDS, she had all the songs written, rough demos recorded, and a handful of local arrangers putting together the individual song scores. She asked if I’d help engineer the recording sessions. As we got into it she asked if I’d also play some instruments and design the artwork.

A few months later, I headed out to Autumn’s place in Connecticut for a week of turning demos and scores into album-ready recorded audio. We tracked friends new and old playing a variety of orchestral instruments in a few different locations.

recording the string section

Our string quartet (L to R): Jessica Buchanan â€” Violin, Nicole Stacy â€” Violin, Caty Dalton â€” Viola, Jeff Chen â€” Cello

It was fun.

Scott Troyer conducting and engineering

Me, “Conducting”

It was hectic.

recording piano

Pianist Tim Lillis performing nocturnally, on a piano I tuned with a drum key

It was a great learning experience.

recording the string section

Autumn and Scott at the helm while Nate Brown, arranger for the title track “Battlegrounds,” confirms proper execution of his score

I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And that’s why I really appreciate the people that pre-ordered the album and the people that are about to buy the album on iTunes. For a few bucks, you’ll get 5 bloodsweatandtears songs plus you’ll be supporting indie music and local (if you live in Connecticut) artists!

Autumn Ashley and Scott Troyer in the studio

Setting up microphones for recording Autumn Ashley playing acoustic guitar

Some relevant links:

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Custom Cell Formats in Numbers Spreadsheets

How to create custom cell formats in Apple Numbers.

graphic of Numbers logo

I really like spreadsheets. Lately, I’ve been building spreadsheets about electronics stuff in Numbers, which is Apple’s version of Excel. I was curious about how to use custom cell formatting to display the correct unit abbreviations on values. Here’s how I did it for Ohms, the SI derived unit for electrical resistance.

  1. Click in the cell you want to format.
  2. Hitting Option (⌥) + Command (⌘) + I opens the Inspector window. It’s also available in the menu bar under View > Show Inspector.
    screen grab of Inspector window in Numbers
  3. Click the Cells tab (it looks like a little 42 in a box).
  4. Under Cell Format heading choose Custom… from the drop down menu.
    screen grab of Ohms listed in Cell Format drop down menu
  5. In the Name field type “Ohms” (without the quotes).
  6. Make sure “Number & Text” is selected in the Type drop down menu.
  7. From the Number & Text Elements field drag the Decimals (.##) element into the field with the existing Integers (#,###) element in it.
  8. Add a space after the Decimals element, then type the symbol for Ohms, which is the omega character (Ω). The keyboard shortcut for this is Option (⌥) + Z.
  9. Click the plus (+) button on the right twice to add two more conditions.
  10. In the first added condition, select “If greater than or equal to …” from the drop down menu.
  11. In the field to the right of that drop down type “1000000” (one million without the quotes).
  12. In the element field below that, make sure there’s an Integers element, a Decimals element, a space, a Scale element set to Millions (M), and finally an omega.
  13. For the second condition you added do the exact same thing as above, but enter “1000” (one thousand without quotes) and set the Scale element to Thousands (K).
  14. If everything looks like the screenshot below, hit OK.

screen grab of Cell Format window

Now when you type a value into that field, it should automatically format into Ω, KΩ, and MΩ. If not, go to step 4 and double check that everything was entered correctly.

Your newly created formatting will be added to the Cell Format drop down. You can now select other cells and apply this custom formatting to them. The custom format will be saved in this Numbers file.

screen grab of Cell Format drop down menu

Try creating custom cell formats for other SI Units too.

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You vs. The World

Feeling up for the fight?

altered image of earth

We are unsuited for the battle this world presents.

When it comes down to it, it’s us, each of us, the individuals, versus the world.

Mostly unwittingly, we pit our own knowledge, logic, and wisdom, against the collective knowledge, logic, and wisdom of the entire rest of the world. When any one of us does anything or makes a statement, we open ourselves to be potentially judged by the entire world.

When we post a tweet or Facebook status update that contains something ignorant, foolish, unvetted, or decidedly individualistic and singular, we cast our vote to the roughly seven billion other people living on the planet (and those yet to come). Then they get to decide what to do with us.

The odds are astronomical.

The chances of any one of us having it all put together into a package that’s approvable by all the other humans is next to impossible. It’s more probable that I’ll win the lottery than be a person who has all of my thoughts inline with the zeitgeist of this age (or any age, really).

The truth is this: none of us has it together.

Most of us are fortunate enough not to have the eye of public scrutiny upon us because we are essentially not “persons of interest.” Some of us are wealthy enough to hide the parts of us that we know won’t pass The Test™. But even those among us that are fortunate enough to be able to hire PR reps, editors, or life coaches can rarely pass either.

The unfortunate ones among us are those that get our laundry aired for all to see. You know the ones – they’re in the court cases we read about, in the tabloid pictures we see, and news broadcasts we watch at 6pm and 11pm every night. They’re made infamous in YouTube videos and lynched on Twitter.

We relish these Darwin Award moments, because “Haha, who would be that stupid?!”

Answer: regular folks like you and me.

We all have laundry. And it’s dirty.

It’s sad how much dirt I personally have on the people around me. God knows, many people have dirt on me.

We could divulge so much about the people we know. Luckily, most of them are not famous enough, nor “valuable” enough for society-at-large to have reason to tear us all down. If you’re reading this, it’s likely (both statistically and by association with me) that you are not worth destroying either. You’re probably not a powerful politician, CEO, nor Kardashian with an empire to lose.

Lucky you.

And lucky me.

Because you’re not “valuable,” you’re entire life will be spared the microscopic, fine-tooth comb of large-scale public examination.

But just because you’re not a congressperson, fat cat, or reality TV star doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty. You probably think you aren’t, act like you aren’t, and judge others like you aren’t, but guess what… you’re guilty of something and you wouldn’t survive the gauntlet.

If your life and history were scoured by journalists, if your friends and family were interviewed to get the dirt on you, if everything you posted on the internet made its way onto the evening news, the verdict would come swift and sure: “You have failed.”

Perhaps even: “You are a failure.”

I don’t care how sure you think you are in your own belief and reasoning, if you ever come to find yourself in the spotlight and the World (that beastly, collective entity of humanity) gets to do it’s thing, you can be sure that “they” will find the fault in you. They will spare no judgement, penalty, nor harsh word to put you in your place.

It doesn’t matter what good deeds you’ve done. We only need one false step, one moment of humanity, a split second of personal expression to tie the boat anchor to your neck and sink you.

We’ll love watching you drown. We feed on the gossip, believing we’re innocent. We’re humans. This is our sickness.

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Bluetooth Pairing Unsuccessful

An alternate method that might make your Bluetooth device connect with your iOS device.

Can’t get your Apple Bluetooth keyboard to pair with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? I couldn’t either. My A1255 keyboard wouldn’t connect at all. The iPhone would find the keyboard, but wouldn’t update the name of it, nor ever present the four digit code for pairing. I could only get this error:

Bluetooth Pairing Unsuccessful alert screengrab

Pairing Unsuccessful
Make sure “Keyboard” is turned on, in range, and is ready to pair.

I tried a bunch of fixes I read about online and none of these worked in any combination nor configuration:

  1. turning Bluetooth off and on
  2. rebooting the iPhone
  3. holding the power button on the keyboard
  4. deleting other Bluetooth device pairing from the iPhone
  5. clicking ‘Forget This Device’
  6. connecting to another device and then my iPhone
  7. replacing the batteries
  8. holding the V, A, and R keys while powering on the keyboard
  9. turning off Bluetooth on any other nearby devices

It seems Bluetooth under iOS 7 is broken. Lots of people are having issues with Bluetooth on iOS 7 that weren’t there in older iOS versions. Unfortunately, Apple is apparently ignoring this problem.

The Fix

Here’s how I finally connected my keyboard to my iPhone.

  1. Switch off Bluetooth on iOS device under Settings > Bluetooth.
  2. Shut off the keyboard by pressing and holding the power button for 3 seconds.
  3. Switch on Bluetooth on iOS device.
  4. Turn on the keyboard by pressing and holding the power button until it green light blinks.
  5. The keyboard should appear listed under the DEVICES heading in the iPhone Bluetooth settings screen with “Not Paired” in gray next to it. Bluetooth settings screengrab
  6. Now at this point you’re supposed to just tap on the listed device on the iPhone to begin the pairing process, but when I would do that it would time out with the “Pairing Unsuccessful” alert. Here’s the trick: repeatedly tap on the listing (maybe 5-6 times) and hopefully the “Bluetooth Pairing Request” alert will appear with the four digit code you’ll need to enter. Bluetooth Pairing Request alert screengrab
  7. The pairing may fail the first time. Try again.
  8. I also found that subsequent attempts to connect after forgetting the device worked much better after that initial connection.

I hope this fix works for you. Let me know if it does.

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FIX: Pro Tools “You do not have appropriate access privileges (-5000)”

Oh, yes, you do!

A friend gave me a Pro Tools session on a thumb drive. I copied the entire session folder to my external hard drive and opened it. After changing the routing to work on my system, everything played back fine. Then I tried to clean up the session.

Every time I attempted to cross fade or consolidate an audio or MIDI region, I would get an error like this:

screen shot of a Pro Tools error dialog

“Could not complete your request because You do not have appropriate access privileges (-5000)…” Why do you build me up, Buttercup? Capitalize ‘You,’ then award me negative five thousand points…pssh.

The Fix

Seeing the “access privileges” bit, I figured the problem was probably an operating system issue, not a Pro Tools thing. The session files were indeed set to ‘Read Only,’ which is why I could play back the session, but couldn’t do anything to the regions or fades.

Here’s how to fix the issue.

  1. Close the session. You shouldn’t have your Pro Tools session open while changing its permissions.
  2. Select the session folder in Finder. Make sure the session folder is highlighted, not the files inside the session.
  3. Get Info. Hit Command-I (capital i) or from the Finder menu select File > Get Info. An Info window will pop open.
  4. Change all privileges to ‘Read & Write.’ At the very bottom of the Info window is a box with a list of users and their privileges. They should all be set to ‘Read & Write.’ You may be asked for user password to unlock and verify the change.
    screen shot of Sharing & Permissions file metadata

    Not listed are NSA permissions, which by default are set to ‘Collect All,’ but, like, totally isn’t a violation of your privacy.

  5. Close the Info window. After making the privilege changes, try reopening your Pro Tools session and editing some regions. If you can, this fix worked for you.

Why does this error occur?

Many common problems that Macs develop are related to file permissions errors. Files are given various permissions to maintain privacy between computer users and prevent users from easily messing up the operating system.

Permissions can get wrecked when disks are removed without being ejected and during unexpected shut downs. That’s why it is important always to try to eject disks and shut down your Mac properly.

Permissions can also get messed up during copying and moving of files or while installing software. That appears to be why I experienced this error. During the copying of the files, the permissions were never changed to grant me access. Simple problem, simple fix.

UPDATE 2013-10-30

After encountering this problem on several other sessions, I tried another method and found a better (and probably more proper) solution. Try this in addition to or instead of the above fix:

In the problematic Pro Tools session, pop open the Disk Allocation dialog (Setup > Disk Allocation…).

screenshot of the Setup menubar item in Pro Tools 9

When the dialog window opens, you’ll be presented with a list of all the tracks in your session and the location where that track should be located. If you’re having problems creating fade files and getting the sort of error that brought you to this page, then you’ll probably see something like the picture below.

screenshot of the Disk Allocation dialog window in Pro Tools 9

As you can see, not all of the tracks had their disk allocation pointing to the right place. To fix them, select all of the incorrectly allocated tracks, then click and hold the little up/down arrows on the right hand side. A little window will appear and ask you to select a folder. In my case, the session file was looking on my internal system drive instead of my external audio drive. Choose the correct location of your session files and click OK. That should solve the issue. Let me know if this worked for you.

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FIX: Sibelius “There are fonts missing.”

Those fonts probably aren’t missing.

Error dialog windows can be really frustrating. They pop up and demand your attention, when you just want to get to work on something. Sibelius 7 has thrown this missing font error for me a few times:

Sibelius 7 error dialog window

There are fonts missing. Sibelius 7 will still work without these fonts, but some scores may not display properly. The missing fonts are: Reprise Std, Reprise Special Std, Reprise Title Std, Reprise Stamp Std, Reprise Rehearsal Std, Reprise Script Std, Reprise Text Std

The Fix

Most likely the fonts aren’t missing, but simply disabled, which makes the fix really easy. Here’s how to re-enable the “missing” fonts.

First, open the application Font Book. This native OS X font manager should be located in your Mac’s Applications folder.

Second, search for the missing fonts. Font Book has a search field in the upright corner. Type in the names of the missing fonts.

Enabled fonts are shown in black text. Disabled fonts are grayed out and are labeled “Off” on the right hand side.

screen shot of Font Book OS X application

In my case, all of my “missing” fonts were part of the Reprise family, I typed in “reprise” and all of the fonts in question appeared in the filtered list.

Third, enable the fonts. Select the fonts you want to re-enable. Then hit Shift-Command-D. You can also enable fonts by using the menu bar by selecting Edit > Enable Fonts. The fonts should turn black and the “Off” label will disappear.

screen shot of Font Book drop down menu for enabling fonts

I see you checking out my wallpaper.

Lastly, close Font Book and reopen Sibelius. If you enabled all the “missing” fonts, you should be good to go. The error shouldn’t pop up this time, however, it may happen again in the future.

Why does this error occur?

I’ve had to run the fix a couple times now. I don’t know why this error seems to reoccur. If you know why those Reprise fonts sometimes disable themselves, please send me an email or comment below.

Being a graphic artist as well, I know that fonts are notorious for becoming corrupt, conflicting with other fonts, and generally being a hassle to manage. You might think being a musician is a good way to get away from graphic design problems, but unfortunately software like Sibelius relies on fonts to display notation. At least the fix for this error is easy to do and only takes a minute.

UPDATE 2013-10-30

The fix I posted above seemed to only work for a while. Occasionally, I would have to run the fix again, which is to say, it wasn’t much of a fix. So, I dug in further and found a real, permanent fix.

The issue was with duplicate fonts. The strange bit was that it wasn’t duplicates of the Reprise family, which was the family of fonts that Sibelius said were missing. Instead it was duplicates of various other fonts that Sibelius uses.

By referencing this forum post and this forum post, I figured out which fonts Sibelius requires and, thus, which ones might be causing problems. Then, for clarity’s sake, in the Font Book application I created a new Collection (File > New Collection or ⌘N). After that I did a search for duplicate fonts (Edit > Look for Enabled Duplicates… or ⌘L) and looked in the Sibelius font collection for any that were flagged. Sure enough, about a third of the fonts that Sibelius uses had duplicate copies. One by one, I “resolved” (deleted) the duplicate fonts, then rebooted. Problem solved.

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Dummy Head

How to Make a DIY Binaural Baffle

I made a dummy head baffle to test out binaural recording techniques on an upcoming session. The baffle was super simple to make, looks sleek, and works quite well, so I thought I’d share how I made it.

animated GIF of the binaural baffle mounted on a stand with microphones

Note: The microphones shown here are not the same brand or model. I recommend using a matched pair of omni mics for the best stereo imaging results.

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, let’s get some questions out of the way first.

What’s a dummy head?
Dummy head is either an insult you used in third grade while playing kickball at recess or the term you use for the baffle placed between two microphones while making a binaural recording.
What’s binaural recording?
Binaural recording is a technique that attempts to record audio in a way that replicates the way our human ears encode three-dimensional audio information. This is done by simulating a human head by arranging two microphones (the ears) in relationship to an acoustic baffle (the head). The result is recorded audio with a stereo image that when played back through good headphones is supposed to sound exactly like “being there.” The dummy head acts like a proxy for your own head in whatever environment it is placed in. You get to hear whatever the dummy head heard.

One of the best known binaural recordings is the inconspicuously named album Binaural by Pearl Jam. Note: If you click that link and buy the album, Amazon will give me a little kickback, which I would totally appreciate. I’m sure Amazon and Pearl Jam’s label would appreciate it too.

What’s a baffle?
In audio jargon, a baffle is an object made of sound absorbing and/or acoustic dampening materials used to block or reduce transmission, reflection, or propagation of sound waves. Baffles are like shields that can prevent or impede sounds. They can be used to isolate a particular sound source from other sound sources in the same room. Baffles are often placed around loud things like drums or guitar amps. Sometimes engineers will place small baffles on the back side of microphones to reduce early reflections and room sounds or give more directionality to an omni microphone.
Shouldn’t a dummy head look like a head?
Binaural purists say that a binaural dummy head baffle must closely resemble a human head to capture all the nuances of how sound reflects off our faces, is absorbed by the mass of our heads, tickles our nose hairs, and gets caught by those biologically amazing curvatures of our outer ears.

The purists might be right, but if we’re going to replicate a human head down to the smallest details, whose head should we use as the model specimen? When I last checked, human heads still come in all kinds of neat shapes and sizes. Sure, we could build something will all sorts of exacting specifications, but I say a board roughly 20 cm by 25 cm that’s covered in felt is Good Enough™.

If you build one and test it out, I think you’ll agree. All we really need to get a decent binaural recording is something roughly head-sized that blocks reflections between two quality microphones.

How to Make a DIY Dummy Head Binaural Baffle

Materials Needed for This Project

  1. Wood Board – Solid or plywood, roughly 20 cm x 25 cm, whatever thickness you want. I happened to have a piece of solid oak lying around. Good enough!
  2. Thick Felt – Enough to cover the board on both sides. You can use multiple layers to get the thickness you want. I had enough thick black felt left over from another project to do three layers on each side. I suppose you can buy this stuff at a fabric store or directly from your local feltsmith.
  3. Microphone Mounting Bar – I used this On-Stage stereo bar from Sweetwater Sound. You could probably make something instead of buying something, but you will need a way to mount the baffle and two microphones on a microphone stand.
  4. Short Screws – Pan head wood screws, quantity 8, long enough to secure the felt to the wood without poking out the other side.
  5. Longer Screws – Pan head wood screws, quantity 3-4, for securing the mounting bar to the bottom of the wood.

Before Getting Started

You’ll need a few other things to build this baffle. I used a circular saw to cut the wood, razor blade to cut the felt, power drill/driver with drill bits to pre-drill and drive screws, clamps to hold things together, and a bandage to put on my finger.

This is probably a good time to give the obligatory reminder to be careful when you use power tools. Really that applies to any time you do anything in life. I find it silly that from a legal stand point it’s necessary to post a disclaimer about the dangers of power tools when writing about them. Cars kill people all the time, but to my knowledge articles about using cars don’t require disclaimers. Anyway…you should probably wear gloves, eye protection, ear plugs, and a respiratory mask. Maybe put on some pants too.

Putting it Together

  1. Measure and cut the board. It should measure about 20 cm x 25 cm. That’s the approximate size of a human head when looking at one from the side. Yes, I used the metric system, because it’s way better than imperial. And no, that does not make me an anti-American, unpatriotic traitor. If you want to use imperial dimensions for human head size, may I suggest starting here?
  2. Cut the felt. The felt should be the exact same dimensions as the board. A razor blade works well for making nice clean cuts. A sharp knife or strong scissors could probably work too.
  3. Make a sandwich. Stack up the layers of felt with the wood sandwiched in the middle. I clamped this together to keep everything in place for the next step.
  4. Attach the felt. Pre-drill through the felt into the wood approximately 2-3 cm in from each of the four corners. Try not to let the wood dust get embedded into the felt, which would look bad. Do this on both sides, but offset the location slightly on each side so the screws from the back side don’t end up hitting the screws from the front side. Drive the short wood screws in deep enough to hold the felt taut, but not too tight. Puckered felt looks unprofessional.
  5. Drill holes in the Microphone Bar. Figure out where you want the long screws to be. Mark those spots on metal bar and drill holes just slightly larger in diameter than the long wood screws. When drilling metal, a little oil helps to cool the drill bit, making the drilling process easier. You can use cooking oil from the kitchen; it works just as well as anything else. Also, be careful with the metal shavings this produces, which can cause trouble if they get into electronics and/or your body.
  6. Attach the Microphone Bar. Once the holes are drilled in the microphone bar, align the bar to the bottom of the baffle. Mark where the holes are and pre-drill the wood deep enough for the long wood screws. Again, avoid getting the wood dust on the felt. Screw the microphone bar to the baffle.
  7. Ready to Use. Mount the baffle on a microphone stand using the center mounting hole. Use the shorter adjustable arms to place the microphone shockmounts or clips so the microphones’ capsules are approximately in the center of the baffle vertically and horizontally. The microphones should be about 20 cm apart from each other, which is about an average distance between most human ear pairs.

Final Notes

So does it work? In testing the dummy head I made, I was really surprised at how accurately the stereo field mapped sounds to the real world. I was kind of expecting it not to work very well. I had two different brands and models of microphones for my test. For the record the microphones you use to make binaural recording should be a matched pair with an omni pattern. Other patterns can sort of work too, just not as well.

I’m not posting audio samples here just yet, as I didn’t have the rights microphones on hand. But I did build this for an upcoming session, so once that session is done, I’ll post some clips for you to hear just how well a DIY dummy head can work.

Update (2013-08-18)

I somewhat coincidentally stumbled across an article about a thing called a Jecklin Disk, which is a lot like this dummy head baffle only larger. Check out this Wikipedia article for more about it.

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