Archive for the 'Music' Category

Mar 01 2008


Published by under Music

I had the privilege of seeing the band Queensrÿche in concert tonight at the Paramount Theater.  Queensrÿche is a local Seattle band and tonight’s concert was a bit of a homecoming after a long tour. 

The band put on a great sounding show and played a mix of old and new material. Some highlights for me were “N M 156”, “Screaming in Digital”, “Empire”, and “Eyes of a Stranger”.

I managed to sneak up to the front to take a few pictures during the show:


 Below is a shot during the band’s cover of “Welcome to the Machine” and you can just barely see that Geoff Tate is playing the saxophone. The song was featured on their “Take Cover” CD released last year that paid tribute to songs that influenced the band.



I’ve been a Queensrÿche fan since the first album back in the 80’s. I’ve seen them a number of times over the years and this concert was one of the best.

Geoff Tate’s voice was in top shape and the rest of the band was right on the mark. The mix did suffer a bit at times during songs with a lot of layered sound (typical of songs from their early albums).


It was an enjoyable concert and I’d like to thank my friend Chip for supplying the tickets!

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Feb 17 2008

Audio Conversion

Published by under Computing,Music

After ripping all my CDs to lossless WMA files I needed to create a mirror directory containing compressed versions of the files for use on portable devices. Finding a program to perform a batch conversion while preserving directory structure and ID3 tags turned out to be more difficult than expected.

I tried 4 or 5 different programs that claimed to support batch conversion before settling on a program named dBPoweramp Music Converter. The other programs I tried all had at least one fatal flaw. For example, several did not support selecting source files recursively which meant I would have to visit each artist and CD directory manually and select the files into a list. That just doesn’t work when you have 600+ directories. Other programs did stupid things like placing all the converted files in single destination directory.

 dBPoweramp provided a nice interface for selecting the files, flexible syntax for specifying the destination filename and path, pluggable codecs, multi-processor support to optimize performance, and finally an error log to report conversion errors.


I settled on MP3 220Kbps VBR as the destination compressed format. The conversion process took close to 60 hours to complete and the resulting files (8,022) took up 57GB of hard drive space. That was down from 218GB from the original lossless files.

A nice feature of dBpoweramp is that when I run the conversion again it will ask me if I want to skip conversion of files that already exist in the destination directory.  This will be very useful when I rip new CDs and need to convert them to MP3.

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Jan 23 2008

The Great CD Ripping Project

Published by under Computing,Music

cds.jpgOne of my projects over the holidays was to rip all my music CDs to the computer in a lossless format.

People typically rip CDs to a compressed format (e.g., MP3 192 kbits/sec) because the resulting files are much smaller. A lossless format is superior to compressed because it provides a bit accurate copy of a song with no loss in quality. The price you pay, however, for that quality is about a 10x increase in file size which results in an average CD taking up around 400MB.

You might be wondering why I would want my CD collection in a lossless format. Couldn’t I just use a good compressed format and call it good? The real motivation is threefold:

  1.  A copy of the audio in a lossless format means never having to rip the CD again. I plan to create a mirror of my CD collection in a medium bit-rate compressed format (e.g., MP3 or WMA) for use on portable devices. It’s possible in 5 or 10 years, a new audio format will become popular and I’ll want to have a copy of my music in that format. Without lossless “masters”, I would have to convert my music from one compressed format to another which would likely degrade the audio quality (similar to making a photocopy of a photocopy). Instead, if a new audio format arrives, I can simply create new files based on the lossless masters without any unnecessary loss in quality. 
  2. I care about audio quality in some listening environments. Compressed audio is okay for background music, in the car, or from my portable music player. However, sometimes I sit down and and actively listen to music either at my stereo or using headphones. In those situations, quality matters and I try for the best sound possible. In these environments I have quality audio gear and the weakest link can easily be the digital audio format.
  3. Some of my existing ripped music files were flawed. They contained small pops or jitter due to the CD being dirty or scratched when the computer read it. I decided that in addition to being lossless I wanted perfect (or near perfect) copies of each CD.

Because many of my CDs were scratched or scuffed I decided to use an audiophile ripping program that would provide comprehensive error recovery. The program I settled on was EAC (Exact Audio Copy) which is available here. 


Unlike Windows Media Player, EAC will go to great lengths to extract an error free copy of a CD. It performs aggressive error detection and verification and (at the minimum) reads each sector twice to verify that the data matches. If an error is detected, it switches to a mode where each sector is read 16 or more times and only accepts it if more than 50% of the reads agree.

I severely underestimated the amount of time it would take to rip my collection of roughly 600 CDs. Ripping times using EAC are much slower than other programs due to the overhead of error recovery. An error free disc will take 5-10 minutes to rip with EAC and a scratched disc could take several hours. I typically aborted any CD that took over 4 hours and simply considered the disc a loss.

discdoctor.jpgAny disc that didn’t appear perfect (i.e., no scratches, scuffs, or smudges) was first cleaned with an electric AutoMax CD cleaner/resurfacer and then ripped with EAC. It was a very slow process so at times I had up to 5 computers ripping CDs simultaneously.

The project took almost two weeks to complete with spending 3-4 hours a day ripping. It fortunately didn’t require dedicated attention because discs only needed to be swapped every 10 or 15 minutes. I would save the worst discs to rip as I was leaving to go somewhere so they could take as long as needed.


Rather than returning the CDs to their cases I decided instead to store them in binders. Each CD was filed away in a binder (by genre) along with the corresponding paper insert (when I could find it).  I really don’t need to look at the CDs anymore, however the binders provide a nice way to flip through the CDs and look at the album art.

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Nov 29 2007

Project Studio

Published by under Music

Over the last few weekends I’ve been working to get the project studio cleaned and organized. I never really got things setup properly since moving the studio from my old house. About a quarter of the room was filled with boxes and equipment that had not been unpacked since the move.

A friend of mine who plays guitar moved some of his equipment over recently (e.g., the Marshall stack). Messing around with it has renewed my interest in guitars and the studio in general. My new PRS guitar is a lot of fun to play and another reason I’m spending more time in there.


The audio recording side of the studio is still a bit dysfunctional. I need to decide if I want to continue using my mixing console or switch to a model where everything is done on the computer. Since I rarely record anymore, I’ll probably just stick with the existing setup rather than investing time and money in a new system. I do need to sell some of the synths, sound modules, and devices that I no longer use.


I must admit, it is really tempting to replace the mixing console (barely seen on the right) and all the outboard gear with a mostly software based DAW setup. Switching to software based synths and sampler would also significantly reduce the equipment.

I expect I could get by easily with just a set of outboard A/D converters and mic preamps that interface with the computer. I would keep the Korg N264 keyboard as a controller for when I need to actually play something live.

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Nov 21 2007

Paul Reed Smith Guitar

Published by under Misc,Music

I’m the proud owner of a 2004 PRS Custom 22 10 Top Brazilian Limited guitar. Paul Reed Smith guitars are famous for superb design, craftsmanship, and quality hardware. This limited edition has a carved maple top with tortoise shell finish, Brazilian rosewood fretboard & headstock, and a mahogany neck, back, and sides.


The back plate is signed by Paul Reed Smith and numbered 450 of 500.


The Brazilian rosewood fretboard features abalone bird inlays which are a signature feature of many PRS guitars.

prs3.JPGThis guitar is a bit lighter than either my Stratocaster or Les Paul and has a sound that is somewhere in between the two.

 It has PRS Dragon II Pickups which sound great and I’m looking forward to trying out different AMP and effects combinations.

The guitar has a wide/thin neck profile and feels good in my hand. Likewise, the string setup is almost perfect for me.

This is the first guitar I’ve owned with locking tuners and I must say they are very convenient. I really should have my Stratocaster fit with them.

I bought the guitar from who had it listed on ebay. They were great to work with and I’m very happy with my purchase.

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Nov 05 2007

Blizzcon Tavern Music Performance

Published by under Conventions,Games,Music

Here is a video I took of a cool musical performance at Blizzcon this year.

The song, which starts about 90 seconds in after the introduction, is a Celtic folk piece called “Deepwater” and is the in-game song heard when you enter the Deepwater Tavern at Menethil Harbor.

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I shot the video at the “Sound/Music” panel. That panel was part of the developer track which featured talks by people in the various disciplines (e.g., cinematics, music, development, etc) who work on the game.

During the panel, they had a surpise appearance by David Arkenstone and his band. Arkenstone had been commissioned to write a collection of tavern songs for the World of Warcraft which is available on the “Taverns of Azeroth” CD pictured below. It features 19 songs that are heard in taverns across Azeroth. A review of the CD can be found here.


The “Sound/Music” panel was in a small room and I happened to be sitting in the front row which was a great spot to watch the 30+ minute performance.

I hadn’t heard of Arkenstone prior to that panel, but he is apparently a well known composer (nominated for several Grammy awards). He and his band played a few songs the next night at the big Video Games Live concert finale.

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Oct 25 2007

Neil Young

Published by under Music

Neil Young played a great show at the WaMu Theater last night. We had seats in the 4th row which were excellent for both viewing the performance and sound quality. The first half of the concert was just Young on the stage performing acoustic versions of songs like “From Hank to Hendrix” and “Heart of Gold”.  His acoustic performance was outstanding and my only wish was that it could have gone on for another hour or two. 


Between songs, it was almost comical the way he wandered among the assorted instruments on stage while contemplating which song to play next. Young’s voice and guitar playing sounded fresh and he looked very relaxed on stage. His trademark harmonica accompanied his guitar on many of the songs in his acoustic set. He also played the piano and banjo on a few select songs.

The rest of the band joined Young on stage for the second half of the concert and they rocked through songs such as “Cinnamon Girl” and “Like a Hurricane”. He played quite a few songs from his new album which just happened to be released on the day of the concert. One new song, “Spirit Road”, had a nice groove and went on for over 15 minutes.

I attended the concert with my Dad, who had just had some surgery less than a week ago. He was definitely sore and still recovering but didn’t want to miss the concert. I’m really glad that he was able to make it because it turned out to be a great show. We both particularly like Young’s acoustic work so the opening set was a real treat.

Here are the set lists:

Acoustic set: “From Hank to Hendrix”, “Ambulance Blues”, “Sad Movies”, “A Man Needs a Maid”, “Homegrown”, “Harvest”, “After the Gold Rush”, “Mellow My Mind”, “Love Art Blues”, “Love Is a Rose”, “Heart of Gold”.

Electric set: “The Loner”, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”, “Dirty Old Man”, “Spirit Road”, “Bad Fog of Loneliness”, “Winterlong”, “Oh Lonesome Me”, “The Believer”, “No Hidden Path”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “Like a Hurricane”.

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Sep 10 2007

Dragoncon 2007 Bands

Published by under Conventions,Music

Attending late night concerts at Dragon*Con is a tradition that I always look forward to. This post contains video from some of the concerts we attended:

My favorite darkwave band The Cruxshadows were back again this year and put on an excellent show (as always). Their new CD titled Dreamcypher was released earlier this year and has done well on the charts. This concert marked the end of their Europe/Asia/US tour as well as the last performance with violinist Rachel McDonnell. Rachel has been an integral member of the band for as long as I can remember and will be sorely missed.
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Last Dance
This traditional goth band is a Dragon*Con regular and welcome addition to the late night concert line up. Last year their was an issue with the sound mix that decreased our enjoyment of the performance. I’m happy to report no such problems this year and the band put on a terrific show.
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The tequila drinking Texas hellbilly band Ghoultown was at Dragon*Con this year and put on a memorable show. I believe it’s been a few years since we’ve seen Ghoultown at Dragon and there had been rumors that they broke up. I’m happy that they are back strong and promoting a new album titled Bury Them Deep. The horn player on stage contributes a lot to their distinctive spaghetti western sound.
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