2018-06-03

Mini Recording Studio


Disclaimer


I want to preface this post by saying that I don't claim to be a very good musician or singer. These are just things that I enjoy doing. The songs I play are usually simplified versions, and often my interpretation to bring them down to my level of skill. Do not expect professional quality in any of the samples provided. Also, all songs are copyright of their respective owners, as notated as best I could determine.

Background

My first instrument was the piano/organ back in the early 1970s. We had a split keyboard organ, and I took piano lessons for maybe a year. After that I mostly taught myself to play guitar. Over the years I added bass, and dabbled with harmonica and penny whistle. I also have my father's childhood violin, but not making much progress with it.

Playing in a number of bands during my late teens and early 20s, I picked up a few instruments. At one point I owned a Gibson RD Artist and a Marshall head, but these were not suitable once off the road and the babies started arriving, so they were sold in favour of a Kramer KFT-2 that I have owned for over 20 years. In one band I played bass, but that gear was sold and never replaced. A Yamaha SK-10 keyboard was purchased from a former bandmate, and spent more than a decade in storage before being dug out recently. My most expensive instrument is a M&M Tofino purchased a couple years ago. The newest is a Bb penny whistle.

My first band, Feedback c.1979-1981: Lorne (keyboard), Derwin (rhythm), Bruce (bass), Darren (drums), me (lead).

Feedback live at Lewisporte High in 1981. me, Darren, Bruce, Derwin.
This is a recording from a school assembly in 1981: Feedback - I Saw You On The Telephone (originally performed by 12 Gauge c.1980)

Around 1982 I joined my first bar band. We played night clubs, school dances, wedding, etc. I was brought in to replace the bass player who had moved away, and I bought his Gibson Lab Series L4 amp. Not sure about the bass used then, but it may have been borrowed from one of the other members. Bruce eventually bought that amp from me. It was during this era that I wrote my greatest hit, Call on me Again. This is a version of it as recorded around 1986 by cousins Dave and Wayne Leyden.

Call On Me Again, written by J. Peter Haliburton c.1984  (recorded by Wayne and Dave Leyden)

Street Legal at the first Lewisporte Mussel Bed Soiree (Fred, Curt, Dave, me) in 1986. I'm using the RD Artist, Marshall head and SK-10 keyboard.

My Gibson RD Artist c.1988.

I've always found a way to record the music I play. Back in the old days it would be a tape recorder capturing me messing about with the electric guitar. Eventually, I added a cheap Realistic 4 channel mixer. That allowed playing back 2 channels while adding 2 more. This didn't result in a very good recording, but it was fun to play with.

Bruce and I c.1988. We sometimes got together to jam and record some stuff.

The Mini Studio

I had picked up a Blue Yeti microphone in 2011 for the occasional podcasts I did, and that is a good all around unit. The Sennheiser MD431 was still kicking around from the old Street Legal days, plus my father had a couple of Realistic mics that I inherited. With the addition of a computer, I had a good start on a digital recording studio. When the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ was released, I thought it would make a nice little portable unit to base the studio around.

Raspberry Pi kit, HDMI to VGA adapter, and isolation mount for the Yeti.
Unboxing the Pi.

To free up a couple of USB ports on the Pi, I opted for a bluetooth keyboard/touchpad. So far, I have been pleased with this unit. There is a temporary speaker attached for playback, but this will need to be upgrade at some point. I still have the 4-channel mixer, but added a 3-channel USB mixer which plugs directly into the Pi. This will give me the ability to attach most of the gear at the same time.

Hooking up the gear for the first time, May 2018.

The first full test recording using the Pi Studio was on May 30, 2018 featuring J.P. Haliburton - Wicked Game (written by Chris Isaak, 1988). Started learning this song over the winter, so it was fairly fresh in my head and not complicated to play. There is some crackling from somewhere, but generally the audio is okay. It was done using just the Yeti microphone for both my voice and the Kramer guitar. It was recorded in one take with no effects or audio manipulation.

I still need to track down the source of the noise, setup a proper location for everything, and get some soundproofing before doing any serious recording. That process will be covered in a future post.

Parts and Gear List

Computer System

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
32GB Micro SD card
Raspbian Linux OS
Rii K12BT Bluetooth keyboard/touchpad
Samsung 941BW 19" monitor

Recording Software

Audacity audio software
Ardour digital audio workstation
Hydrogen drum machine

Recording Equipment

Blue Yeti USB microphone
Realistic 32-1105 4-Channel Stereo Microphone Mixer
Realistic Highball dual impedance microphones
Sennheiser MD431 ProfiPower microphone
USB Mix - ART Pro Audio Mini USB Recording Mixer

Instruments

Guitars
  • Kramer KFT-2 acoustic/electric
  • MacKenzie and Marr 5th Anniversary Tofino acoustic/electric
  • ESP LTD B-55 bass (borrowed from son)

Amplifiers

  • Crate BT15 bass amp (borrowed from son)


Penny Whistles
My tin (penny) whistles

Keyboards
  • Casio CTK-530 (borrowed from daughter)
  • Yamaha SK-10 Symphonic Ensemble


Miscellaneous
  • Capos
  • Guitar stands
  • Harmonica
  • Headphones
  • Music Stands
  • Pop filters
  • Spoons

2016-07-18

The New Shed - Phase 10

Following the relatively snowless winter of 2015/2016, we had a normal wet and cool spring. Newfoundland weather is generally poor, with a scattering of really nice days that make you forget that fact for a few hours. This makes anything done outside a challenge.

For most of the year a section of my backyard is what one would call soggy. It never used to be, since as a kid we used to grow vegetables there, but lately boots are recommended to walk around that area. I have to keep a ditch open so melt and rain water can at least partially flow away.

April 8 and the last of the snow is melting.

The location of the new shed/garage/workshop was partially chosen because it tends to be a little dryer, and the ground firmer. This is another reason the concrete was put above ground with a single pour, and not dug down for footings, etc. While waiting for the far back conditions to improve, I was instructed to build a fence in the near back to keep the dogs in. We had recently acquired a 14 yo Shih Tzu mix from family who could no longer have a dog, to go along with our 6 yo American Eskimo Dog mix, and the two leashes setup wasn't working.

Lucy and Katie happy to be free of their leashes.

After about 3 weeks, with the new fence completed, and the dogs able to run freely around, efforts went back on the shed. Supplies were delivered, and work began on building the walls. A pneumatic framing nailer helped speed that along, but it is still slow going working by yourself most of the time.

June 8: 2"x4"x8' and 4'x8' sheets of aspenite (OSB)
First the back wall was assembled, since that was the simplest, and then the front wall with the two doors, a 9' wide garage door, and a 3' wide steel entrance. Some friends popped by to help with the lifts.

2 walls up and two just about ready to be lifted.

July 17: All 4 walls up.
With the walls in place, some opening were needed, so the doors were cut out. It was finally starting to look like a garage/shed/workshop.

The opening cut for the doors

It was now after the middle of July, and there was still a lot of work to be done. Next on the list is the trusses.



The Entire Story To Date:

The New Shed - Phase 9
The New Shed - Phase 8
The New Shed - Phase 7
The New Shed - Phase 6
The New Shed - Phase 5
The New Shed - Phase 4
The New Shed - Phase 3
The New Shed - Phase 2
The New Shed - Phase 1

2015-11-01

The New Shed - Phase 9

When I started working on the new shed/garage/workshop/storage building in 2014, I thought that I would have the entire thing done before the snow came. Now, here we are in November of 2015, and there are still no walls. At least there is a solid foundation to build on.

October 22

October 22

October 22

Jim came back to help with the concrete pour, and I also hired a guy with more experience, Barry, for a couple of hours. It looked pretty good after it was floated. Once it had setup a couple of hours, I was able to push in the wall anchor L-bolts.

October 22

To give the floor a nice finish, I rented a power trowel. This machine also goes by "whirlybird", "helicopter" and so on, due to its blades.

Sample Power Trowel/Float

After the concrete had been setting up for about 6 hours, I gave it a try, but it was still too soft, and I just made a mess. Every hour or so after that I tested it, but it wasn't until about 8PM, about 10 hours after the pour, that the front was firm enough. The rear, however, still wasn't that great at 11pm. It was too late in the night to be running the motor, and I had had enough, so we just covered it with a tarp to protect the concrete from the rain expected in the middle of the night, and went to bed.

October 22

October 23

After the concrete had be sitting inside the form for a couple of days, I took it apart. Weeks of construction, and attention to detail were only for a temporary structure. I had seen the results of forms that had failed, either partially or fully, and I made mine strong. It had done well, but was no longer needed. Hopefully, I'll be able to reuse the plywood and 2x4s later in the project.

October 24

Now exposed to air, the concrete can fully cure. In another few days it will be ready to support walls and a roof.

October 31
The days, however, are getting colder, with fewer daylight hours. It is just about dark by the time I get home from work, and the weather is usually poor on the weekends. Looks like the framing and final construction will be delayed until the spring. What's another year?




The Entire Story To Date:

The New Shed - Phase 8
The New Shed - Phase 7
The New Shed - Phase 6
The New Shed - Phase 5
The New Shed - Phase 4
The New Shed - Phase 3
The New Shed - Phase 2
The New Shed - Phase 1

2015-10-22

The New Shed - Phase 8

This phase of the project deals with the final preparations before concrete could be poured. The top rails of the form were level and square to make sure that the finished concrete is level and square. The lower ones were just there to hold the lower part of the plywood in place. Some had been installed last year, but with the grade being raised so much, they were now too low, and had to be adjusted. I decided not to put them in until after the styrofoam.

October 12

The styrofoam I wanted to use was not in stock, so I had to wait for a few days to have it delivered. Along with it came the wire mesh, rebar and plastic.

October 17

October 17

The first item to go down was the 6 mil vapour barrier. I considered skipping this step since the shed was going to be so much above grade, but it was not a big expense, so I went ahead with it. It will help keep any ground moisture from getting up into the concrete, and damaging it from below.

October 17

The insulating layer is Foundation Plus. It is the beaded type of foam, rather than the more solid type, and is supposed to both breathe and allow water to pass down through. It is rated for below concrete slabs, and the idea is to help keep frost out, while also providing support. The R value is a modest 7.5, so I am not expecting a lot of cold protection.

October 17
October 19

With slopes and odd angles, it took a while to get all the styrofoam in place. There was a small weather window of warmish weather coming up, so we worked some late evenings to get things done. Fortunately, I have a recently retired friend, Jim, who was willing to give me a hand.

October 20

Getting the plywood to fit was more of a challenge than the styrofoam. There were slopes and a little bit of unevenness to deal with. Each piece required multiple cuts. After that process, it was just a matter of laying out the mesh, and putting in the rebar.

October 21
To do the rebar, I supported the horizontal sections on 4x4s, and 2x4s on edge, to get them roughly 3.5" up into the concrete footing around the perimeter. Then, in the corners and as required to provide support, verticals of various lengths were hammered into the ground, staying under the top of the concrete by about 1". All the connections were wired together. This process went on right up to just minutes before the ready-mix truck arrived, at 8:55, Thursday, October 22, 2015.




The Entire Story To Date:

The New Shed - Phase 7
The New Shed - Phase 6
The New Shed - Phase 5
The New Shed - Phase 4
The New Shed - Phase 3
The New Shed - Phase 2
The New Shed - Phase 1

2015-09-30

The New Shed - Phase 7

Before the load of crushed stone could be spread, the gravel had to be compacted. All the rain and walking over it has helped a lot, but it needed to be packed down as evenly as possible. Enter the "tapper"! An 8" x 8" metal weight attached to a stick, that is also a great workout for the arms.

September 5

While moving the pile of crushed stone, another expense came up. The handle of the wheelbarrow, which I had repaired last year, started to give way. The wood just could not stand up to the many heavy loads. The new wheelbarrow has metal handles, and came in a pretty yellow colour.

September 5

The stone had to be distributed more evenly and level than the gravel, since this was the last layer before the styrofoam. This was to ensure that the final thickness of concrete was correct at a minimum of 4".

September 12

September 12

The form was rechecked and the string tied across again to measure down from. It advanced as the stone was spread. The depth of the stone was also checked at regular intervals to make sure it was around 3".

September 19

It takes many trips with a wheelbarrow to move a big pile of rock, and since it could only be done on evenings and weekends when the weather cooperated, it seemed to take forever. Occasionally, however, I did have a helper to speed things up.

September 19

Keeping at something, eventually it will get done. Preparing for concrete was the most time consuming part of the entire shed project, and took over a year to get to this point.

September 28

Another session of tapping the top, followed sloping and tapping the footing area, meant that this job was finally done. But, before I could completely move on from the gravel and rock work, I had to make sure that the cement mixer could get back to the form. That meant another day of moving class A to a new location, and spreading out the stone at the back of the driveway.

September 30

September 30

With no more wheelbarrow loads required, the form can now be completed. It is quite a relief finally getting to this point.



The Entire Story To Date:

The New Shed - Phase 6
The New Shed - Phase 5
The New Shed - Phase 4
The New Shed - Phase 3
The New Shed - Phase 2
The New Shed - Phase 1