Insight on acoustic video covers for the Laptop Sessions

Originally posted 2008-05-24 22:10:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

When the idea came across to do The Laptop Sessions as a free video series, Jim started it all off by watching a video of Let It Be that was covered highly incorrectly, and Jim recorded himself playing it correctly. He wanted to put a good name to music covers on Youtube – especially covers of one of his favorite bands The Beatles. Also, in spirit of “The Bathroom Sessions”, which was a free music video series by two members of Barenaked Ladies, I helped coin the term “Laptop Sessions”, since Jim was using the camera on his laptop to record the video.

After the positive response to sessions that Jim put out, Chris and I decided to help Jim with the “Session a day” project starting in 2008. Initially, Jim enlisted Chris to put up one video between each of them, so that the site had a new music video each day. I had tried ten sessions in late 2007, but I had stopped doing them due to the low quality web camera I owned. In general, I was still new to the realm of video as well.

After nearly 60 new video sessions recorded for The Laptop Sessions this year, I have recording videos down to a science. Here is a typical rundown of what it takes for me to make each session.

1) Practice the song

This is the obvious one. As a songwriter, I know the more comfortable I am with the song, the better the video will come out. I grew up hearing a lot of music in the 90’s, so I tend to be most comfortable when I decide to do a song by bands such as Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Radiohead. However we do try to diversify our recordings across the years, and I know I cannot limit myself to alternative music bands. Therefore, some songs require up to a week of practice. Others I can learn and play comfortably in an hour or two. I will usually begin practicing the song regularly up to two-three days before I record it.

2) Set up the video recording station

Lately I have four common locations for my videos. The biggest problem I have is that I do not have a tripod for my camera (yet – I do plan to buy one). Therefore, I have to rest my camera on a makeshift stand. I also have to make sure there is enough light. Even during the day, I have to have at least one lamp on so the video doesn’t come out dark. After that, I position the camera, set the zoom, tune the guitar, and do a practice run of the song on the acoustic. Music tends to be easy for me – it’s singing and remembering lyrics that is the most difficult. For this reason, I have to put a small sheet of “notes” that remind me what verse or line to sing next. Sometimes, I have to include the entire lyric sheet, but that is rare. “Round Here” comes to mind as a song I just needed that entire lyric sheet by the camera for.

3) Record the video

When I am satisfied that I can record the song, I psych up for the performance. Lately, I have been able to record the song in about three or four takes. I don’t worry about what happens before or after the performance, since I can edit that out in the next step. As you have seen on our site, recording acoustic guitar video covers is real easy some days, other days you want to throw your guitar against the wall because something minor keeps messing takes up. “Jane” comes to mind with this (despite it being a piano cover). I had played it on the first take and was very happy to have satisfactorily made it through the song. That is, until I discovered the battery had died in the middle of the recording. I charged the battery, and then it took me another 20 or so takes to get it again. Other times, the performance comes so naturally you wonder why you practiced the song so much beforehand.

4) Edit the Video

This is probably the easiest step, despite it taking up to 30 minutes. I transfer the video to my laptop (as you can tell, I don’t own a laptop with a built-in camera, so technically I should be doing “The Powershot Sessions”). Once the video is transferred, I split the clip to the parts I want (usually this involves trimming out the beginning and end of the clip), then add on two title screens and a credit roll. Then, depending on the length of the performance, I render the video, which can take up to 12 minutes for long songs.

5) Write the description, and upload the video.

While the video renders, I write the Youtube description and tags. Usually I will comment on the song I chose, why I chose it, the album it is from, and any comments on the performance itself. I will also usually throw in some current news and other tidbits of info. My descriptions tend to be at least 100 words long. I can usually get both descriptions on the blog and Youtube before the video finishes rendering. Then I upload the video, copy the embedding information onto the blog, and publish!

What keeps me fresh for the sessions is when I try to listen to new music that I may like to cover. I found on Chris and Jim to introduce me to bands and songs I’d otherwise not know, but some people I know also help me out in that department. It is also fun to use this as a springboard to get people to hear our independent music. That is why we do “Original Wednesday”, and slowly we are building up some excitement from our subscribers when that day rolls around. At least we know everyone watching will be listening to something they’ve never heard before.

I hope you enjoyed getting some insight on the process on my end. As always, if you have questions please email [email protected], and direct your questions to me, Jeff Copperthite. Have a great evening!

The Weekend Review: July 2012 Report

Originally posted 2013-01-11 01:00:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Cold Hard Want (House of Heroes)

Producer: Paul Moak

Released: July 10, 2012

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Out My Way” & “The Cop”

Kicking off as it does with the a cappella “A Man Who’s Not Afraid,” it is immediately clear that House of Heroes continues to work to defy the preconceived formulas imposed on their genre.  The next three tracks proceed to blow the roof off, raging with energy and literally screaming with ideas, criticisms, and hopes for change.  While “We Were Giants” runs a bit predictably, “The Cop” rebounds with the rare acoustic outing by House of Heroes, highlighting their more subtle talents, primarily with vocals.  Where this album falls of previous efforts, most notably 2010’s masterful Suburba, is from midpoint forward; the second half suffers from alternatingly predictable and bland moments that detract from the powerhouse opening.  Still, Cold Hard Want is a strong effort that marks House of Heroes as band worth keeping track of.

 

 

 

Harakiri (Serj Tankian)

Producer: Serj Tankian

Released: July 10, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Uneducated Democracy” & “Cornucopia”

“We rape the earth and don’t know why it strikes,” Tankian sings early on Harakiri opening track “Cornucopia.”  This sets the pace for the ten tracks that follow, ten songs driven by a critical voice that is masterfully woven into fast-paced soundscapes.  As early as “Ching Chime,” there is an epic quality that Tankian achieves here, particularly on this track’s chorus.  He seems to delight in continually ramping up the pacing, then alternatingly dropping back a notch to allow for some vocal breathing room and amping back up to nearly breakneck speed.  The result is an album that is both fun to listen to and engaging: there is both a beat and a message to be conveyed for anyone willing to listen.

 

  

 

 

thefearofmissingout (thenewno2)

Producer: pHd

Released: July 31, 2012

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Won’t Go” & “The Wait Around”

When I reviewed thenewno2’s 2008 debut album You Are Here, the best description I could form was that it was what I imagine Radiohead would have sounded like if George Harrison had been their frontman.  On their sophomore release, thenewno2 have maintained elements of their signature sound, yet I don’t know that this comparison holds true any longer.  They seem to have progressed, developing their sound beyond the realm of handy comparison. However, there is something missing here on thefearofmissingout that helped to drive You Are Here and enabled its strong sense of cohesion.  Still, it is rewarding to see the band stretching out a bit, incorporating new elements (rap, for instance), and maintaining an overall sense of experimenting with what will be their signature sound.

“Development of a writer” – A retrospective by Jeff Copperthite (Part 2/3)

Originally posted 2009-04-02 22:40:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

One of the things that anybody who knows me well is that I am into a very special type of music.

No, it isn’t anything mainstream.  In fact, I can think of only 3 other people who enjoy this type of music as much as I do.

Quite simply, it is soundtracks from video games.   Especially Role Playing Games.

I have what I feel is a very impressive collection of OST (Original Soundtrack) from a variety of games.  One reason I think I enjoy the music so much is because I did grow up listening to the music from these games almost entirely.  When it comes to my favorite activity both now and then, it certainly is video games.

More so than any of my other hobbies.  It even surpasses the playing and writing of music.

So I have an ingrained affinity to the music.  I always had a great auditory memory as well.  I can still hum music from old Nintendo games I haven’t played in over 15 years.  If you say “Flash Man from Mega Man 2”, I will hum it in tune and on key.  You may even get some of that terrible synth drum channel that NES was notorious for.

But the ones I latched onto immediately are the Final Fantasy series’ OSTs.  I have them all.  And not just some remixed versions or user-generated remixes.  Just like I was playing the original version of the game.

Why do I enjoy listening to the music so much?  Plain and simple – it is something for me to listen too, and I can do almost any regular task while I listen.  Simply put, many papers got written while I listened to “Dancing Mad”, the final boss music from Final Fantasy 6, and other songs from those series.

As I discovered the fact that some more uncommon OSTs existed, I found as many of them as I could and got them.  I have the OSTs for such obscure games as Emperor: Battle for Dune (a favorite actually), Dune 2000, StarFox, Perfect Dark, Super Mario RPG, Secret of Mana (and all of it’s prequels and sequels), Ogre Battle (and it’s derivatives), and the F-Zero series.  Simply put, there’s a soundtrack for all kinds of moods.

Actually, now that I mention the “Emperor” soundtrack, it reminds me of a story.

About a year ago, I did something that I was always a bit afraid of, but knew I had to do – I donated blood.  I’ve always been a bit squeamish about things like this, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  To get me through it, however, I popped up the Emperor Soundtrack because the music had such a driving beat to it, and the tunes are so engrossing overall (I even asked the Phlebotomist to cover the donation bags so I couldn’t watch my blood being drawn).  I looked up at the ceiling of Sacred Heart’s Field House for a while and enjoyed it.  Hey, it got me through it.  I may even do it again in the future.

Well anyway, point is I have always enjoyed VG music.   I downloaded MIDI tracks as well.  But then I found a game that had a great soundtrack, but very few MIDI files for its music.

And so, I began the Final Fantasy Tactics Battle Music Project, which at the time was a regularly updated website with the files that I created using various implements, most notably a program called Noteworthy Composer.  My methods were this easy.  I used an audio recorder to tape the particular song of interest off of the TV while the game was playing.  Then I systematically tried to pick out the different instruments and parts, then try to transcribe them on the keyboard.  Once I had figured out one or two instruments, usually the rest were easy to pick out as well.  This method certainly wasn’t the best, but at the time I was very mad that these files didn’t exist, and I wanted to change that.

I ended up transcribing quite a few of the songs from the game, and within the next two years, I noticed lots of fan sites posting my MIDI files.  I also got lots of great comments, emails, and requests.  I did the majority of the work for files in this game within those two years, but I would go back periodically until I was done in college to update some of the songs that I knew better.

I also at one point in college (~2000 I think) did a similar site for Final Fantasy 9 called (how original) the FF9 MIDI Project.  Similar to FFT, I transcribed select songs due to not many being transcribed at the time.  I still find both of the MIDI files from these games around the internet.

It wasn’t long after this that I began composing music similar in style.  There will be more on that in the next edition of this series.  Stay tuned for that next month!

The Laptop Sessions: “We have a lot of songs on this site” – an impromptu article by Jeff

Originally posted 2009-04-30 22:41:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  I have a really cool song to bring you this evening, it is a favorite of mine and one i’ve wanted to cover for a long, long time.

The song is…

Well, that’s how I was planning on starting the post this evening.

But, for the first time in the history of this site, I finally fell for the fatal mistake of being part of a site w/ multiple cover artists posting on it.

I recorded a previously covered song.  A song that has been posted for some time now.

Funny thing is when I am going about my business figuring out the list of songs I want to do, I usually check the category of the artist to make sure that song hasn’t been done already.  Hell, i’ve even caught myself writing a song on the list that i’ve already covered, let alone one that Chris or Jim have already tackled.

But the more songs that get added, the more likely this mistake is going to be made.

By my guesstimate, we have just about 500 cover/original videos posted on this site.  When you get right down to it, assuming 12 songs a CD, that’s 42 CDs and change worth of songs on this single website!  Most of them are familiar songs – we don’t delve into the rare album cuts often for the sheer reason that most people don’t know them.

But yet, despite my best efforts, I did it.

I even did the song in one take – and it’s not a terribly easy song either.

I even edited it and slapped on the titles, filters, and effects.

I even started writing the article for it!

So because of this, you have been reading my thoughts.

To be honest, I blame the extremely busy week i’ve had.  The prom i’ve helped plan is happening in 3 weeks, and we start selling tickets for it tomorrow.  I have to revise and edit the planned format, and print them on cardstock in the morning.  I also have to correct a few more Physics quizzes (how fast do you have to throw a 2.4 g dime at a 3.0 kg piece of plywood, such that they have a perfectly inelastic collision and start moving at 2.0 m/s anyway?), finish correcting Earth Science projects, get ready to introduce the next (and probably last) Chapter in the course, since the Seniors only have 13 days left of class (excluding tomorrow).

Oh, and to boot I was at the Doctor’s for two hours today – but I’m not at liberty to say why.

Well, next week I guarantee I will cover, play, record, and post a song that has not already been covered.  Until then, I hope you have found some humour and light hearted-ness in this post.

Until then…