Fun Waste of Time

If I have my choice, I really prefer to record music with my computer. I have a kid though (and a job), so sometimes I don't get to play around with it until late at night when my little girl is asleep. So I have fun with other things. Here are some of the things that I love to kill time with. I am only listing free stuff, as the act of finding good free programs is in itself a fun way to waste time.

DrawIt Lite
The first is a program called DrawIt Lite. You can edit pictures, draw and do graphics with it. Kind of like a cross between Illustrator and Photoshop, although a very limited version of it. But you can actually accomplish a lot with it. I can't imagine that most people would actually need anything more than this. I did the picture below in like 45 seconds. It could certainly look a lot better, but I haven't bothered reading the manual; and I just wanted to put a picture up so that you would get the idea. There is a "pro" version, but I went the the free "lite" version. Here's the link:


Then there is a program called Paintbrush. It's Open Source, which I think is super cool. You can have a lot of fun drawing things with it. If you have one of those USB tablets, you can sync it up with the thing and get much better results. I don't have one; I did the drawing below with my finger on the scrolling area of my laptop. Very simple, it was really easy to get started on this app. Here's the link:


This is silly, but fun to play with. You basically take a picture that's on your computer, and drag it into the Polaroid camera. You can shake it around and get some weird results. This is a picture of my daughter that I ran through it. Here's the link:

This one is addictive. Watch the video above to see what you can do with it. You basically just start moving things around and watch what happens. You can get pretty in-depth with it. I can't wait until my daughter is old to play around with this one. If you search this app on youtube, there are a million videos of what people have done with it. It's also available for PC, if you swing that way. Here's a link (highly recommended):

RGB music lab
This is on the geekier side of things, but fun for anyone. Basically you load a picture into it, and then it reads the red, blue and green pixels and converts them into music. The notes are determined by the colors in the picture, and you can determine how loud they get, what instrumentation to use (up to 6 instruments), and what the intervals will be. I love using this and dragging the file into another project on Logic. After I do that, I'll edit out the crap, and save the good parts. Here's the link

Here's a link for an online Theremin. You need to have something like Wiretap Pro, or Soundflower to record the thing, if you want to use it in a music project that you may be working on. I used it in this song I did called Kyoto Glitch. I basically recorded a bunch of the theremin and then manipulated it in Logic, added some glitchy stuff, a toy piano i found online and then played a cello and a kyoto over the top of it. I made the glitchy stuff by running an audio file of a thumb being run over a comb through Supertrigga. Here's the link for the song:
here's the link for the Theremin

Pimp Your Mac
You don't really need any special software for this. Basically you just search around online for icons to replace the ones that come stock with your computer. I got the ones I used from this site:
It's really easy. Basically you go to the application that you want to change the look of, hold down control and click once. Then you choose: get info. A box will open on the left side of the screen and it will tell you about that application. There is a picture in the top left hand corner of the box, and you just drag the new icon on top of that picture. That's it, changes automatically. Sometimes you can't get something to change unless you're some kind of programming wizard (like the finder, and your trash cans). In that case you can download Litelcon and it will do it for you. you just drag the icons you want to change into it and hit refresh. I've changed pretty much everything, apps, folders, drive images. I especially love my trash can, my ichat icon and the icon for itunes. You can do this on PC too, but I don't know how. Here's the link for the program I just mentioned:


Is anyone reading this stuff? Leave a comment.

No Spring Chicken

Ice Pillars

No Spring Chicken

I went to the doctor a week ago for a physical and everything was as expected, or so I thought. A couple days later, he called me up to tell me that my thyroid wasn't working. After doing a couple more tests, I got referred to an endocrinologist, who told me that my body thinks my thyroid is a foreign organism; apparently I have been creating antibodies and trying to kill it. Sounds worse than it is: the litany of symptoms is long, but treatable. I'm supposed to take meds for the rest of my life.

The weird part is that I didn't notice. I just assumed that I felt like hell because I am getting older, don't get to the gym as often as I would like, and get less sleep because we have a 2 year old.

Lately I have been thinking about aging, and I am usually okay with it. Every once in awhile it freaks me out, but only because I worry how it will effect my daughter. But overall, I'm doing okay. I feel like I am more aware of the changes in my outlook than in my body. I worry more about the world, the financial crisis is killing me, and the idea of a child suffering (even momentarily) is just too much for me. The fact that I think about this stuff is probably a good thing. Can't stay a selfish prick forever. Overall, I am fine with the whole process. Sometimes it can feel a little sad, but that's par for the course I suppose.

I wrote this song one day when I was thinking about all of this. The song itself is an experiment with Logic and with the classic rock genre. It seemed like when I was a kid listening to bands, that a lot of songs were written in the key of Am, and that they all had guitar solos. I never really do solo's, so I thought I would write a classic rock song in Am, and try my hand at some wailing. It ended up sounding like a lost track from Pink Floyd's "More" album.


I used the 70's drum kit that I have in Logic for the drums, which I pounded out on my keyboard. The guitar stuff is all run through PodFarm. I just plugged my Tele in and dialed in an AC-30 sound. The delay is the Stereo delay that comes with Logic. the stereo delay is a very cool effect as you can sync it up with the songs tempo and pan each delay anywhere in the stereo field that you want.

The picture is from Astronomy Picture of the Day. It's a website that NASA does, and it's one of my favorite things to look at. You're looking at ice crystals in the air glowing. very eerie looking. Here's a link to the site:

Dub Music

tape delay

Dub is one of those things that you either can't get enough, or you just want it to stop. I'm into it, it's so stoney sounding. I had never done a dub song before, so decide to give it a shot.

First I took a really simple drum loop and ran it through Supatrigga, which mangled it beyond belief. I cut out the sections that were lame and left the rest. Then I took the sound of a car that wouldn't start; slowed it down and sampled it, and then used that as a part of the beat. I also used some other sounds that I sampled for the beat as well (a door and some bird call are the only things i can remember).

After that, i needed a vocal. Since I am not jamaican and my voice would sound dumb, i went to and looked around for a cool acapella vocal. after awhile I found a field recording of a Turkish fisherman singing and talking. Perfect. I dropped that into the track, and then sliced it up and moved things around until it fit. Then I put a dub sounding bass line under it.


The mixing is where the fun stuff started. I ran the "drums" through Camel Crusher to dirty them up a bit, and some delay. On the vocal track I ran it through the TAL-Dub Delay. It's basically a digital model of an Echoplex. I automated the vocal delay so that it varied throughout the song. Then I ran some of the leftover Supatrigga parts I didn't use through a lot of delay and messed with the delay rate in automation. That's what a lot of the weird sounds you hear are.

The whole thing took me about an hour and a half, and now I can say that I've made a dub song. I call it "Turkish Boat Ride"

I Love Syd Barrett

syd barrett

I used to have to hide my Pink Floyd obsession from my friends. It wasn't cool, they were classic rock and we didn't listen to classic rock. My friend Bill and I would listen to them at his parent's house before we would go practice with our glam/punk/pop band. It was all very hush hush. No one ever went in his room, so they didn't see the poster he had up of the egyptian pyramids (the one that came with Dark Side of the Moon).

DSOTM is a fine album, but I really liked Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and Saucerful of Secrets. Syd hadn't gone crazy yet and was writing all of the songs. He had a weird way of playing guitar rhythms and stringing together a melody. For some reason it just appeals to me.

After leaving PInk Floyd he did 2 solo records: The Madcap Laughs, and Barrett. Both excellent. Then in the mid 70's, he really went off the deep end and wound up moving back in with his mother. He died in 2006. So weird to think of this stylish psych icon living with his mum in Cambridge, hiding from the world after taking too much acid. Sad.

more syd

anyways, I wrote a tribute song for Syd. It's not about him (it's actually about my wife Nicole), but I tried to write it in the fashion of a song from The Madcap Laughs. I recorded it badly on purpose to give it that sound.

Lo-Fi Cover Songs

broken heart

I have been able to hook up with an old friend lately, and we started talking about making some music together again. Sounds like a great idea to me, years ago we put out a couple of records together. So I was playing him some of the stuff I have been working on. I record on my mac with Logic, and have basically been experimenting and trying to get a grasp on the software.

My friend really liked the music I sent him, but he also pointed out that I had completely gotten away from my "lo-fi indie rock" roots. As much as I like to branch out and be open minded, I had to admit that he was right. There is a part of me that will always love listening to a terrible sounding recording, with tons of tape hiss and a off key singer whining over the top of a sloppy band.

With that in mind, here are 2 covers I did.

The first is by Guided by Voices; it's called Kicker of Elves. I recorded this on a Tascam 4 track, with a crappy classical guitar. I used an SM57 to record the vocals and the guitar. The psychedelic sounds you hear are me blowing into the mic while it's plugged into a flanger.
"Kicker of Elves"

The second song is by Cat Power; it's called Metal Heart. One of my favorites. This has my old out of tune upright piano, some guitar run through a cheap delay pedal, and my friend scott doing a human beatbox through a toy megaphone that distorted it to death. Hope Chan approves.
"Metal Heart"

I want to pimp my wife while i'm here. she is an art director, and besides being aesthetically pleasing herself, she has a keen eye for art. her mission: that everyone in the world has cool art and doesn't go broke getting it. her website has a new show each month from all kinds of unknown and semi-famous types doing paintings, photography, and any other kind of art you can think of. go check it out:

Freeware Audio Effects/Instruments


I record a lot of music. Used to be a career choice, but now it's one of those little things I do to keep sane and blow off some steam. Having a love affair with sound means I am constantly looking for new ways to manipulate it. One of the ways I do it is with plug ins. Not having oodles of cash lying around, I love to search out and try freeware plug ins. It's astounding to me how many talented people are putting together quality sound tools, and then releasing them for free. You can find effects, instruments, synths, tools, all kinds of stuff. I'm on a mac, but most of these are available for Windows as well. Try some of these out, if you don't like them: throw them away. They're free.

I know that you can find anything for free on the internet, but show some class. Don't steal software. It's not cool. Someone spent a lot of time putting it together, and if you steal it you're an ass. If you and all of your buddies download a free version of Logic, eventually Apple will get tired of updating and working out bugs and such. Then I end up getting screwed, even though I have a legitimate copy. Don't steal software. If you can't pony up for something, then you don't want it that badly. Buying your recording software shows a commitment to your craft.

One more thing and the lecture ends: if you download shareware and like it: make sure you send some cash. It's rude and selfish to just take it, and totally uncalled for. These people are trusting that the people who use their stuff will do the right thing. They really believe that you will. As an example, there is a plug called GleetchLab that is a phenomenal shareware plug. you can do granular effects, spectral filtering, glitchy stuff; it's really cool. It was a shareware program, and I read an interview with the guy who put it together and he said that 1000's of people downloaded it and he got like 43 people to actually donate. That's messed up. He still does it, but now you have to pay. It's still dirt cheap and you should buy it. Here's a song I did with it:
"Kalimba Manipulation"

I can only tell you how to install a plug in on an intel mac, but if you're running something else Google it. On a newer mac running Leopard, you need to make sure that the plug ins you get are AU Universal Binary. You can then use them in Garageband or Logic.

Once you find something you want to try, download it. Sometimes they come with an installer. In that case just double-click and do what the installer says. But usually once you download a plug- in, you get a .zip file. On my computer they open automatically; if that doesn't happen on yours, you should be able to double click the file and it will open. If it doesn't get stuffit expander.

After opening the file, you will end up with something called a .component
Put the component in:
now you're done. open up Garageband or Logic and your instrument will be there (or your effect or whatever it is)

Here are some of my favorite freeware plug-ins:

"Camel Crusher"
It's basically like an overdrive, but you don't generally use it like a distortion pedal. You put it on vocals and drums to warm them up. You can use it to get subtle tube style saturation, or you can go crazy and make a wall of noise. i use this one constantly

This is another plug that makes your fancy ass mac sound more like an old skool recording setup. You have to check out the Neve emulation. I like to put it on a bus and warm up the whole mix.

This is sick. It rearranges audio according to the parameters you set. Makes for really wild, glitchy, messed up sounds. Try putting a drum beat or a vocal through it. I will generally copy a track, run it through Supatrigga, and then edit out and save the really cool bits. it's not something you want to use for the whole song (or maybe you do).

This is an emulation of the Roland SH-101 synth. Really good for basslines in electronic music, although you can do the usual analog bleeps and bloops if you automate it. TAL makes a whole bunch of really nice free plugs, so be sure and check out the rest of their website. Their Dub Delay is especially nice, as well as their phaser, flanger, Juno emulation, and bitcrusher. The phaser and the flanger don't show up in Logic for some reason (it won't validate them), but everything else does.

I'll post more freebies and shareware as I run across them.

For more freeware instruments and effects, check out these sites:

Another story why you shouldn't steal software:
I bough a $14 sampler from "Expert Sleepers" . When I got a new Mac, it wasn't working. I sent an email and the guy who designs the software, spent his time duplicating my set up and figuring out how to make it work. It was a $14 application. You don't want to steal from someone like that. They also make a lot of really neat toys, that are dirt cheap. Check out Augustus Loop and tell me you don't feel like Robert Fripp.

Poor Tired Organ

busted organ

Haven't used this since I got the account, so here goes. I am not really sure what makes me more lame: starting a blog at my age, or starting a blog at my age and not utilizing it. When we moved into our house back in 2000, there was a band who lived there. Can't remember them actually playing shows or anything, I think basically they were a bunch of rich kids who had a band to get girls. They lived like animals: standing water in the corners of the bathroom, garbage and dirty dishes piled high, there was a bag of Dorito's under the kitchen sink that was at least 5 years old (you could tell by the packaging). When they moved out they left all kinds of crap (including a VW they were going to come back for). I managed to fit most of their garbage in the VW, but kept the organ.

It was pretty cool, but basically a big, testy space-hog that only worked in fits and starts. It took 3 people to carry it out of the house and into the basement where I had a studio set up. I never actually used it as much as I planned; only once that I can remember. A couple of years later our house flooded and the thing became completely unreliable and smelled like mildew. Not knowing how to repair organs, I tried to put it on Craigsist but had no takers. I was giving the thing away, and still no one wanted it.

Eventually we had a baby and needed space in the basement for all of the accoutrements that go along with our tiny bundle of joy. There was no room in my new studio, so I tore the organ apart with a crowbar and salvaged some parts (the reverb unit and a speaker). then not wanting to pay someone to haul it away, I broke apart and put it all in the trash can. It was all a bit sad actually. My wife had the foresight to take pictures of the unseemly end.

Here is the song that I recorded with the organ. This was recorded on a Tascam 4 track with my friend Scott Matz playing drums. We did the guitar and the drums live at the same time, I overdubbed the bass (played through a Musicman 4x12) and the organ. Years later I found the song and dumped it into Garageband, where I tried to clean up the sound a bit, and added a synth part (I think). This song is the only recorded evidence I can find of that poor organ. Seems like a sin to trash a musical instrument; so this is my tribute:
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