My dad passed away last month, and rather than list facts here—that he was born in Kentucky to a German sharecropper and his wife, that he grew to be a successful man with a wife and six children, etc—I mention his love of music. I am grateful to my dad for many things, but I am most grateful for the love of music that he passed along to me.
In the earliest days of our family, Dad had an electric guitar and amplifier, and he enjoyed playing for fun. We watched Johnny Rivers on television and listened to Duane Eddy records on the stereo, and Dad thought Chuck Berry was the greatest. When I was six, he taught me to play “Secret Agent Man,” “What I Say,” and the Bonanza theme song on guitar, and I played those songs over and over. He sold that guitar one day and never played again, but he bought one for me soon after, and I’ve been playing ever since.
I recall the times Dad drove me and my musical equipment around to practices. I remember him taking a vacation day to watch my band play in a school talent show. I hear him singing as he walked through the house, and when I’m enjoying a tune, I tap my foot like he always did. I think of my dad every day, especially when I play guitar. Life’s better with music. Dad taught me that.
I recently finished mastering my upcoming single, “I’m a Reader.” I’d never mastered anything on a laptop, so there was a bit of trial and error involved. My first try was too loud. It’s called hypercompression, and here’s what that looks like.
I loved it loud. The problem, though–at least as I understand it–is that this loudness will make the music sound worse when streaming services use loudness normalization to make everything play at the same volume. I removed the maximizer from the equation, but the song became too quiet (below).
I had clearly overcompensated (despite this, the waveform clipped twice, as the two red lines indicate). While the song sounded nice at a high volume, it now had too much headroom. I decided to give one of my preset combinators a try, and here’s what happened:
Clearly, things were improving, but I still missed some of the oomph that the original hypercompressed master had. Using the same preset combinator I’d just used, I ditched the preset controls and tweaked away. I liked the sound, and the waveform looked more like what I’d had in mind.
It was a keeper. I have a lot to learn before I can ever master mastering, but I’m light years ahead of where I was a few weeks ago. The thing is, you do your best and keep learning. I’ve got a lot more music to put out. Look for “I’m a Reader” to be available shortly.
The King of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry
From my appearance on WZRD Chicago 88.3 FM one month ago today, here’s “What the World Could Use a Lot More Of.” Turn it up. Sing along.
Playing “Twist and Shout” with Robert Porche (drums and vocals) and Jim Losby (bass guitar and vocals) last week
Ugly Things is dedicated to “bringing you wild sounds from past dimensions, from times when rock ‘n ‘roll was young, daring, dangerous and vital,” and few if any fanzines are as informative when it comes to lost, unknown, and overlooked music of the 1960s and beyond. Now in its 30th year, Ugly Things is published twice annually, and each issue features up to 200 pages of in-depth features, exclusive interviews, rare photos, and more. Each issue is so packed that I sometimes forget it’s a magazine (it feels more like a book). If you’re into 1960s-influenced music like I am, be sure to check out the Ugly Things website, where you’ll find information on back issues and how to subscribe.