I like great sounding, rugged gear that is cost effective, multi-purpose and does what I need it to do. With that in mind, I've also learned a lot about sound reinforcement and studio engineering. So when a member of a songwriters group I belong to asked how to get started recording at home, inexpensively and simply, I put together some info. I get that question a lot from clients who aren't looking to build a production studio, but just need a way to record their own songs, easily and cost effectively. So, I thought I would share my answer for anyone looking to put together a simple set up and learn the basics. Here you go:
Download Audacity recording software (free, basic and easy). It's a great product to learn the ropes with insofar as digital recording...just Google it. Then buy one of these: http://www.alesis.com/products/view/multimix-4-usb-fx
This Alesis mixer connects to your computer via a built in USB interface and permits you to record, directly, into any recording software. It averages costing around $100 so it's very affordable. I have one of these and use it ALL the time for simple guitar/vocals, work tapes, etc. It's very easy to use and has every feature you need, including phantom power (to power condenser mic's) and some really nice on board effects. It's also a great small mixer for a solo gig. The thing fits into the pocket on my gig bag, it's so compact..and sits on my desk without taking up a bunch of space. As an added bonus, it comes bundled with Cubase recording software. Cubase has a tiny learning curve, so, you might want to start with Audacity until you learn the basics of digital recording and then ramp up to the other software.
Then, buy these microphones: http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/wired_mics/80a15233981be556/index.html
This is a two pack of Audio-Technica USA condenser mics for around $170 bucks. Not their high end, but still very good microphones. I use AT microphones exclusively and prefer them over any others. They're deliver great sound and are built like tanks so they last forever (seriously....I have 2 AT vocal mics that I've dragged around to gigs for at least 20 years and they still work perfectly). This package gives you a great large diaphragm mic for vocals and a 'pencil' type, small diaphragm mic for recording instruments. The mics come with pouches, clips and adapters. A nice set of microphones for a very good price.
You'll also need headphones. A good pair can cost a lot and some prefer 'in ear buds' over more traditional style headphones but there are two kinds that you'll typically find in a studio: closed back and open back. If you won't be doing a lot of multi-track mixing, you should probably go with closed back, which can serve your purpose for both recording and mixing. Again, Audio-Technica makes some great ones for around $50, but so does Sony. Just make sure you research and buy what is best suited for the type of recording YOU are wanting to do, and what's within your budget. Padded, over ear types tend to be more comfortable when spending a lot of time recording and also consider the weight of the headphone. If they're bulky and heavy, they'll get in the way and wear you down. I suggest you not go for completely bargain basement here because how it sounds in your ears is ultimately VERY important to how you record. But for informational purposes, here's a link that gives you some options on both, as well as, some good info on how to use them: https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-recording-studio-headphones/
It's important for songwriters to be able to capture what they've written...and also have a 'clean, clear' recording to send to co-writers, your producer, or even upload a basic demo. I hope this will help you put together an affordable basic home recording studio.
Anyone interested in my consultation services towards improving their songwriting or career, marketing/promo materials, etc...should email firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
I'm not a fan of change. I like sticking with what 'works' and am an advocate of, 'if it's not broken, don't fix it.' But I understand change is necessary and try to embrace it, even when difficult or painful. Besides, to shun change, is to grow stale...and I detest 'stale' in any aspect. I am also an advocate of 'going out while on top.' That is why, after 19 years of a successful 'run' in terrestrial radio, I am ending the weekly broadcast of Writers Block. The program will continue to be associated with/airing on, WFIV, however, instead of a weekly broadcast, I will be hosting specialty programs as 'Writers Block Presents' productions. Joe Stutler, Tony Cox and WFIV as a whole, have been consistently supportive of me, my career, and of the 'mission' of Writers Block to shed light on independent artists and I am so very appreciative of their cooperation and consideration in this transition. For business purposes, I will be maintaining all of the Writers Block trademarks and identity of being, "All Independent, All Original, All The Time" and they will soon be incorporated under the umbrella of a new business model.
Producing a weekly broadcast is very time intensive. Writers Block has never been a 'hands off, just load songs, let them play' kind of thing. It's always been completely produced, edited, songs carefully chosen to help promote artists with new releases or performing in town, and even in memory when some have passed away. It has been my pleasure to listen to the music as I edited the program...appreciating the skill and talent of those trying to build a career in a most difficult industry. I have truly enjoyed the process, regardless of the countless hours and work involved. That being said, to decrease Writers Block in any way, has been a very difficult decision that I have struggled with. I went through the same struggle when I chose to end the live concert series that was the 'sister' to the radio program. The series provided independent, original artists with what was, arguably, the best paying, most enjoyable 'listening room' gig ever presented in Knoxville for a singer songwriter, and I wanted to give it the same longevity as the broadcast. But life and business alike must go through changes in order to spawn growth and progress, as well as, meet challenges. Certain avenues have opened up for my career that, in my own interest, I need to pursue and take advantage of. Also, some health issues brought about by my cancer surgery are requiring additional time and focus, so the decision to make this change was both a practical and a necessary one. The final weekly broadcast will be on Wednesday, August 30th, and will feature some of the many listener favorites (and in particular, local artists) that the program has played over the last 19 years. Joining me on that broadcast, will be Dennis Double, who served as my co-host for 10 years, and also, Perry Bonck, a regular volunteer for the Writers Block LIVE concert series.
I extend my deep gratitude to the many, many listeners, both locally, nationally, and quite literally, from around the world, who have regularly tuned in each week to the program...who followed during the move from publicly supported radio (WDVX), to the leap into the commercial radio world (WFIV). It's always been YOU who make the difference by your interest in original and independent artists. Your gift of support by purchasing cds and attending shows, is what enables them to share, their gift. I hope you will continue to provide that support whenever and wherever possible, and I hope you will tune in and join me for the final weekly broadcast, August 30th, 8pm eastern time on WFIV, 105.3fm in Knoxville, Maryville, Sevierville, Loudon and simulcast online via TuneIn Radio.
I remain, very much obliged. Signed, Karen E. Reynolds, Host/Program Director, Writers Block. Please follow the 'back story and new beginnings' blog on my Reverb Nation Page at www.reverbnation.com/karenereynolds
Somewhere, deep in the forest of our southern Appalachian/American family tree, lies a few branches that are said to be a little greener than the rest of the foliage. Our Irish family ties. Probably true for most, but I took the trouble many years ago to research our family crest. I found it....complete with the original surname of Mac Rághnaill. So with that, I wish you each a pleasant St. Pat's Day, and especially to my red headed, also Irish, Terry....because as legend tells it, Saint Patrick was lauded to have 'driven the snakes out of Ireland'...and Terry hates snakes.
I've only ever written one Celtic related song: 'Annie Glover'. It's a true story about an Irish indentured servant who was placed on trial and found guilty of being a witch because she 'spoke in tongues' in court. She was actually reciting the Lord's prayer in Gaelic, which the judge nor jury could understand....so they hanged her. I wrote the song ages ago, but have never recorded it. Maybe that's a goal for next March 17th. But I won't be heading out to one of the many parties boasting green beer and Guinness by the buckets (I prefer Irish whiskey, anyway). I have rehearsing and preparations to do towards being in the recording studio tomorrow as a guest vocalist on someone's cd. That, is an extreme honor....for someone to ask you to become part of something they are so passionate about. I am humbled and flattered at the same time. So, I will be prepared, rehearsed and ready to provide the vocal he needs me to provide, which is NOT to become too obvious. A harmony vocal should never over take the lead. It supports....enhances...and helps the lead vocalist to sound even greater. Period. I love singing harmony....hearing human voices come together and achieving that 'greater than the sum of it's parts' goal. I also love the recording process....the production...the building of a piece of music that will soon be placed in listener's hands. So this will be an enjoyable task, and I appreciate the artist asking me to be involved.
I hope you all have 'enjoyable tasks' for this weekend, including the contractor who will be tearing out and remodeling the bathroom in my studio over the next few days (happily, I will be immersed in music instead of saw dust). But I also hope that, as so many celebrate St. Patrick's Day by declaring an Irish heritage while tossing back a few and shouting 'Erin Go Bragh', that we remember one fact: we are all immigrants of one degree or another. Each and every one of us in this country...which was a country before it became 'this' country. My 'full tilt' lineage is one of Irish, Black Dutch and....Native American Indian. Native. They were here first, regardless of how we choose to interpret it. That needs to be honored, as does our individual heritage. But I am not an Irish American. Nor a Native American. I am American. Together, from so many different places, we became one. Like harmony and lead vocals, we became more than the sum of our parts. We would not be the country that we have grown into without the many who came here from other places. There's so much unrest across our land....who belongs and is welcome here...who should have, or have not, rights, healthcare and equality....and who we permit to join us in continuing to be, simply, 'America.' I think it's important to remember that we ARE a nation of immigrants...yet we SHOULD have one goal: A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Not a pile of separated people, political parties and governments. All equal. All proud to be American...green beer and all.
"Go n-éirí an bóthar leat .Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl " (May the road rise to meet you....may the wind be always at your back"-Traditional Irish blessing)
A quick update and KIND of an end of year shout out. I am healing. My voice is coming back, and will continue to get stronger every day. Still not as fast as I'd like, but the doc says I'm healing ahead of schedule. Terry says I need to accept that and stop bitching. She keeps me grounded! But I have deeply appreciated the prayers and well wishes from all of you. It's been a frightening time....and your words of encouragement have meant so much to me. I am much obliged for the friendship. I am slowly getting back into the swing of things and earning my living...because the hospital bills are, as you can imagine, dreadful. (Hey...you can buy my cds, tshirts and hats at https://squareup.com/market/keronlinestore ) So, I'm working hard on booking gigs for 2016....concentrating mostly on house concerts, teaching workshops and speaking engagements for songwriting associations and playing festivals...so hit me up if you have a lead or want me to play a gig in your home/hometown. My first gig of 2016 will be the Townsend SnowDown on Jan 29th in Townsend, TN, along with friends, Marc-Alan Barnette and Scott Southworth. The info is on my schedule. This past year was a big ol mix of good and bad....what with the surgery, the cancer and considerable other hardships faced, but over all, 2015 was still immeasurably blessed with a really good number of my songs being cut, and my cd, 'Paper Castles' receiving airplay around the world...not to mention, my first plane ride and a trip to Utah. And, hey, I'm alive and that's a petty good blessing! This coming year is looking to be an exciting one with some amazing opportunities that have already made themselves known....and I will update you all as they become more 'concrete'. But one of the things I am most proud of in 2015, is the release of 'Better Day', the song I wrote and donated to Casting for Recovery East Tennessee. The song has done well and we were able to make two sizable contributions to the organization due to the sales and downloads. I'm hoping that it continues to benefit this amazing organization throughout 2016 as well...and each of you can help with that. Casting for Recovery is an amazing organization that serves women in various stages of breast cancer. They teach them how to fly fish. It sounds simple, but you could never imagine the good this does for so many....providing not only healing counseling, medical information, spiritual counseling and support, but it also gives these women the chance to tell cancer that it does NOT define them...and, in my own words, CFR also gives the women the opportunity to tell the bastard cancer to go get screwed! That being said....I hope you'll all go to Www.cdbaby.com/castingforrecovery and purchase 'Better Day'. 100% of the proceeds benefit CFR and the women they serve. If you hate cancer as much as I do...I hope that the song provides you your own sense of hope and strength...and a march towards a 'better day'...one without cancer in our society. Just follow the link below. I also have download cards for the song that you may purchase from me at any of my gigs. Like the downloads, they are $2 each...but I will accept any amount. We've had some generous souls pay as much as $100 for one of those cards...and we appreciate their kind donation. Again, 100% goes to the women. If you'd like a card and to make a larger contribution through my channels, just let me know and I will make sure to connect with you. And, if you want to do a little more...maybe in honor of someone who has beaten cancer....is suffering from it now...or in memory of someone that bastard stole from you....I hope you'll also consider going to www.castingforrecovery.org and making a contribution. If you go to the site today, you can get it in as a tax deductible contribution on your 2015 taxes! Thank you all for your support of me as an artist....of my career...and of this cause. I wish each and every one of you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016! God Bless!
This is a video by my friend, Sean Gasaway...and the song we co-wrote with another friend, Dan Mitchell.
I'm mighty proud of this song. This video represents how we originally wrote it...and then were asked to change the words to "Little Itty Bitty East Tennessee Town" for a pitch to Kenny Chesney, with a few geographic alterations as well ("I left my mountains chasing a dream. Now I can't believe all the things I've done and seen"...certainly applies to Chesney and his journey). It was on hold for a while....and, unfortunately, he passed on the song. Kind of a bummer, especially considering Chesney is from my own home of East Tennessee. But the change in the words made it apply directly to my own story...and how I love where I was born...and live, today. All roads, throughout my life, have always led me back home. Where I honed the skills and craft for what I do for a living. My roots are here. My heart and soul is here. I love the song so much I recorded it, myself, on my latest release, 'Paper Castles'. (You can take a listen at my version at www.reverbnation.com/karenereynolds)
Funny, though...."Itty Bitty" works perfectly for Sean as well. He's a Mississippi boy, through and through. His love for his own birthplace is reflected in the original words of the song. He now lives in Nashville and is pursuing/living his own dream...but he always returns home. To Mississippi.
I'm mighty proud of how Sean sings it...with heart and emotion in every word. I sing it the same way....because, like Sean...those roots continue to inspire and call to me when I'm off on the road. But I'm also proud of it because, it could be anyone's song...about anyone's birthplace. Where you...or you...or you, were born and what it means to return there, regardless of where you live now. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do....and that it reminds you of home....and who you are. And that the memory makes you proud. Have a blessed day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLc3ZbZDU7iQ8RzmZ_EG8dfm2xkID3Basy&v=GNmRY8_ahwM
I've been thinking about my 'new years' blog. Now, admit it...y'all HAD to know I would make one! Afterall, I've never been known for NOT having something to say! But truth be told, there are a lot of things to say about my 2014. Clearly, this past year was one of the most difficult I've ever faced, what with almost not living through it (literally!). But at the same time, it's also been one of the most blessed periods in life that I have ever experienced. The 'downs' were deep and crushing....the 'ups' were as high as the Heavens and have allowed me to soar. But as thankful as I am for the good, I think I may be more thankful for the bad.The difficulties opened my eyes to a lot...and made me a more appreciative, thoughful and compassionate person. While, at times, I felt so defeated, I also discovered the strength, power and worthiness that I wasn't sure I had in me. I've always lived my life guided by my Faith, but I became more connected to and reliant upon, my God, than I ever thought possible. A disappointment in my career that, at first, had me angry and feeling like it was time to quit...turned into a determination to succeed that provided me the path to the future I've always dreamed of in this business. So, the hardships I faced in 2014 became the blessings that carry me into 2015. My future is bright...my health is a priority, and my heart stays full with the warmth of the love I've been shown by so many, and the beautiful life I am fortunate to share with Terry. I'd like to give each of you the gifts I received without the hard knocks that birthed them. But all I really have to give are prayers, wishes and words. My words these days, are pouring out into songs and the music that I was built to create. So, I'll share with you something that my friend, Sue, posted to her facebook page. It kind of says it all. My only real addition is that you be healthy...be happy....don't sweat the small stuff and make time for the truly important things and people in your lives. While you're at it, kick negativity to the curb completely, along with hatred, bigotry, discrimination and bitterness. Fill your mind and hearts with understanding, acceptance and respect. Build upon the good things that happened in 2014 and learn from the bad. And most of all, don't forget to count the blessings you have...even if they seem like anything but. God bless you, my friends. I truly appreciate the support you provide to me as a person, and as an artist. I pray that your New Year is full of love, laughter, promise and prosperity. Happy New Year. NEW THNKING FOR 2015 1. Practice gatitude 2. Rmember that tomorrow is always a new day 3. You have the power to make a difference. 4. Get plenty of sleep. 5. Forgiving makes you happier. 6. Blieve that good things are going to happen.
I have a new cd...and a deal that helped pay for it! A complete and total blessing. This is my best cd to date, and I would like to give it the chance it deserves out in the world. You know...kind of like giving a child the opportunity for a better education so they can go on to build a good life for themselves. I want this cd to have a good life...a good LONG ife! The songs on 'Paper Castles' were written specifically to resonate with lsiteners, reach hearts, deliver messages, make you laugh and make you cry. They run through a myriad of emotions that we all feel, and allow us to share our burdens, discoveries and joys. I'm trying to launch the cd with as much promotion as possible...everything from radio to print media to a full out promotional tour with my band. The deal only covered the production of the disc...and now it's up to me to get it out there. So, I need your help. I've put together a GoFundMe account to help raise the funds necessary to effectively promote the cd and the campaign offers incentives from autographed cds to hand written lyrics to house concerts. I hope you'll join me on this journey...and to quote the title track of the cd: "Come live here with us in the lines Cause it's the song that's everlasting So we're building dreams in Paper Castles" Much obliged, y'all...and God Bless. www.gofundme.com/karenereynolds
It's been a while since I've written a blog. I've been immersed in recording my new cd, and have had little time to even peek outside my own world. In part, because of that, I've stayed pretty silent on the Robin Williams tragedy...and 'tragedy' is what it was. A man who had provided so much laughter and pleasure for so many, who had given his time and energy to charities, military, those ailing with disease, is now gone from this world and that joy went with him. In my opinion, any removal of joy is a tragedy. Of course, I was shocked on one hand, but, sadly, not surprised at all on the other. I am surrounded by creative people and I see the power within them: sometimes a power that is difficult to control. Creativity to me, is the breath of life. It makes even the dullest of days, amazingly interesting and brings new discovery and wonderment in each passing moment. It spawns life changing, and at times, world changing clarity and opportunity. It is, indeed, a holy gift. But being a creative person also means feeling things a bit too deeply...and you can find yourself engaged in a fragile dance not to allow it to toss you into the abyss of absorbing the pain and suffering of friends and even the world around you. Amongst my stunningly creative friends, I see, first hand, the propensity to sacrifice one's self for the sake of the muse...to disregard all reason and give in to that mischievous imp of creativity without consideration of the consequence. We celebrate our creative community because it brings that joy, that exuberance, that 'spark', that can heal and brings a certain 'living' to our lives. But it's important to keep a watchful eye on those that create and inspire because they (we) live on the edge: constantly teetering between insight and success, and falling to our death. Every day. Every moment. That 'thing' that brings such joy, can also deliver crushing heartache. So, to hear that Robin Williams, a man so full of creativity and talent that there is, never was and will never be, anyone else quite like him, had taken his own life, was almost expected. A friend shared an article by a blogger named Matt Walsh, who chose to write a piece on William's death. I'm not a regular reader of Walsh, but this particular blog contained what struck me as important information. Society is not generous to healing your heart, nor is it geared towards what is truly important. The societal fabric we clothe ourselves in, needs some alterations. If we don't change the way we think and feel about what deserves our attention, what is truly important, we are all getting a little closer to that edge, and Robin William's personal 'demon' becomes familiar and our own. THAT, is dangerous. So, I share Mr. Walsh's words, in the hopes that, whether you are creative and your soul becomes the catalyst of joy for others, or whether you aren't able to sing a note, manage a single stroke of a paint brush or don't have an 'artsy' bone in your body, that you will heed these words: "Joy and love. There might not be much else for us on this Earth, but these are the only two things that matter anyway. These are the forces that brought the whole universe into being, and these are the forces that sustain it, and us, and all life. Life. Life exists, and we are made to live it. To quote Robin Williams playing a character quoting Walt Whitman: “What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here — that life exists.” If you are thinking about suicide, don’t keep it inside. Tell someone. You are not alone. Never give up the fight and always look for the brightness and the light that IS present, IS there in your world...you just may have to open your eyes a little bit wider to see it. There is always hope If you need help all you have to do is call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. You can also visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Amazing what a single picture can inspire or evoke. My brother, Dave, has been posting a lot of pictures on Facebook from our family album and they've been reminding me that I come from good musical stock!
One of those pictures is of my sister, Joyce and her band, the Jades. Started by Joyce and my brother, Jerry, the Jades played at pretty much every select venue in and around Knoxville for about 30 years and were ground breaking. First, they were seriously good, even as youngsters. But they played music that was considered 'the devil's music' by many church going southerners, had, not one but TWO, killer front vocals (my brother and sister....two GREAT voices in the family!), and they had another 'aspect that set them apart from other regional bands. They had Titus Downs, a black bass player. Back in the late 50's, early 60's, no white band in the south would ever have included a black musician, but the Jades were different. Titus was not only part of the band, but part of the family as well. We loved him like a brother and he was a frequent guest in our home. It was never a consideration that he was black (we were raised to never make a difference, and that we were ALL God's children). Rather, all my sister concentrated on was that Titus was a seriously bad ass bass player and she wanted him in the band! They ran into problems, of course. They would arrive at a club and when they were stopped at the door and told that no blacks were allowed, Joyce would whip out her contract. My Sis was way ahead of her time and had all the business savvy of today's most seasoned music industry executive. She had the Jades playing contract gigs when they were just a high school band. She booked and managed them because she knew this business inside and out! Even though I've taught songwriting and music business on the collegiate level, I will probably never have the grasp on this business that she did, way back then. She'd show the club owner the signed contract, pointing out the part about their responsibility of providing the ENTIRE band a safe stage and atmosphere. Then, she'd make sure they re-read the part about, if they canceled for any reason other than an act of nature, the band was to be paid anyway. Needless to say, they were always allowed in, but they also always thrilled the crowd and were always invited back.
Joyce was an amazing blues and soul vocalist. She had the emotion and grit in her voice that won hearts and delivered a song like no one else could. She was known as 'Blue Eyed Soul' and the Jades became notorious for playing clubs that were for blacks only. But that didn't matter. She kept it about the music and paid no attention to the crap that tends to separate us as humans. The Jades became a staple in the clubs that most whites would never attempt to go to out of fear. She wasn't afraid....of pretty much, anything! I learned so much from her and would NOT be the performer I am today without her influence. Fact is, there are a LOT of musicians who eventually made a 'name' for themselves who might have had a very different future had it not been for Joyce's help and knowledge. She believed in a musician's 'community' and that the music should take precedence over competition and rivalry.
She would be proud of how far I've come with my career, my songwriting, and the fact that I never see impossibilities in this business. I only see an obstacle that needs to be moved....so I go about moving it and getting on with doing what God built me to do...every day.
It's pretty easy to figure out that music is what makes me tick. I use songs to express just about every feeling I have, from anger, to peace, to love, to sadness, and everything in between. I'm not only fortunate to do what I love for a living, but I am surrounded by incredible music via the many wonderful artists I've come to know and admire. Many of them reach my heart with their songs and my life is richer for the experience. But even in this amazing collective, a stand out emerges.
I've been a fan of Cheryl Wheeler's for many years, and few songwriters and artists have moved me to the extent that her music has. It speaks to my soul and provides me immeasureable guidance insofar as my quest to be the best songwriter I can be. Her capability of bringing a listener to tears one moment, and then having them guffaw with laughter the next, is talent at it's finest, people. A reporter once heralded me as being "in the realm of creativity as Cheryl Wheeler" and I was so honored and flattered that I stopped just short of having that quote tattooed on my body. But, I held off, considering that one of my idols may be a little put off by my having their name emblazoned on my person! Yep...that kinda screams 'stalker', doesn't it? Sooo..... Truth is, I've learned to curb my enthusiasm a bit since the, as I refer to it, "unfortunate incident" with Emmylou Harris, another of my musical idols. So, no Cheryl Tattoo. I'm sure she would appreciate my considerable restraint.
I've never seen her play live....have never met her, although I've been booked to open for her twice....and sadly, those gigs fell through. *sigh* Maybe someday. In listening to her stories, I think we might have had a similar upbringing....her in the north, me in the south....completely different but the same in many ways. And I strive to be as skilled a songwriter as she is, and as captivating an artist. But if you're not familiar with this woman's music, then I strongly suggest you drop by YouTube and watch everything she has on there. Then, buy all of her cds and listen to them until you know all of her songs by heart. Then, tell your friends to do the same thing. They tell their friends....you get the picture.
Here's a link to one of her songs. I make this my inspirational song for the day, because I am truly blessed in this life and because, once again, Cheryl Wheeler speaks my heart.