U-Turn

Here is another track for the Lost and Found album.

download: mp3, tablature, lyrics &  guitar chords

U-Turn

words and music by Alan Sanderson

I was lost on a lonely highway
Trying to find my place in the sun
And when I thought I’d found my destination
I found my journey had just begun

I wasn’t looking for adventure, oh no
I was just looking for a place to live my life
But I didn’t know which way was home anymore
I didn’t know which way was home

So I turned myself around
I did a U-turn on that highway
And I said to myself,
“Where are the mountains that I love?
Where’s the smell of rain in the desert?
And where are the people that I call my own?
Where are the people that I call my own?”
So I said to myself,

“I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
I’m gonna find my way back home
Here I come!

“I’m gonna find those mountains that I love
I’m gonna find those people that I call my own
I’m gonna find my way back home”

About the Song

The guitar riff that that this song is based on was literally lost and found. I recorded a sketch of it on a cassette tape and mailed it to my cousin before I left on my mission, and then forgot all about it. After I got home my cousin sent the old recording back to me, and I relearned how to play it. (Thanks, Tom!) Here is that old recording, if you would like to hear it:

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Seeing mountains again! Picture taken on my move from the Midwest to Utah in 2015.

I had a basic idea of what the song was about, and had the second verse mostly worked out years ago, but I made a big breakthrough on the lyrics in 2015 when I was moving back home to Utah after living in the Midwest for 11 years. The first verse came to me at a rest stop west of Indianapolis. The lyrics capture a lot of how I felt at the time, but they don’t quite express how much I felt that I was guided by God to move when and where I did.

About the Recording

This was the quickest recording of the album so far, taking a little over a month from start to finish. I had initially planned for more aggressive drums and an electric lead guitar, but opted for the lighter acoustic sound.

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In my new studio!

The recording was done in Ardour on Linux Mint, in a downstairs room of my house that I recently claimed as my studio. The drums were programmed using Hydrogen, and a brush kit sound bank. This song was my first attempt to use Ardour’s MIDI function, which took a bit of time to figure out, but I am pleased with the result. I used the “rock organ” sound from Christian Collins’ GeneralUser GS soundfont.

About the Album

Only two more songs to record for this album! Here is my goal: Finish it during 2019!

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Here is our musical Christmas greeting this year, a recording of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

(Download mp3)

This is an American song written in 1868, with the beautiful text written by Phillips Brooks (1825-1893), an Episcopal priest. The original tune was composed by Lewis Redner (1831-1908), who was organist at Brooks’ church. In England the song is more commonly sung to an English folk melody arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) in about 1903. Our recording follows the English tune.

We hope you enjoy our song. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

FP A-20

 

Healing Heart

I just finished another recording for the Lost and Found album, a song called “Healing Heart.”  (Download the mp3)

Look within your own heart
There is always another open part
This burden, can you forgive?
Oh, please forgive!
I sing for you and your healing heart

Deep within my own heart
Can I open another broken part?
This burden, I will forgive
I will forgive!
Oh, pray for me and my healing heart

(Dedicated to the memory of John M. Stang, MD)

About the Recording

This recording is based on a song which I have enjoyed since I first heard it in 2004. It was written by Andrew Vavrek, who recorded a sketch of the song in 2002:

Andrew Vavrek is a major proponent of the Free Music movement, and this song was released under a Creative Commons license which specifically allows redistribution and even derivative works. One of the rules of this license is that derivative works also use the same or equivalent license, and so my recording is licensed using the same. Feel free to share, redistribute, and make derivative works, as long as you give appropriate attribution.

My idea to record this song dates back to about 2007-2008, when I was reflecting on the healing power of forgiveness because of a few personal experiences. I took the liberty of altering the song’s lyrics to reflect this. (For more info, read my story about Dr. Stang.)

This song was next on the list for recording in 2008, but my music hobby was derailed and all but extinguished by my busy schedule that year (and for the next several years). I did program the drum part in 2008 using Hydrogen, and when I decided to recommence work on the recording in 2017 I found the old Hydrogen file in my archive, dusted it off, and used it with only minor changes. This was my first recording which used Ardour from start to finish, and I learned a lot about the software during the recording. The more I use Ardour, the more I like it.

About the Album

While working on this recording I also struggled with a decision about the album, which had the working title of “Moldy Oldies.” This is not the most attractive name, so I toyed with some other options. Eventually it dawned on me that I could simply re-open work on the Lost and Found album, and finish the project I gave up on so long ago.

I reorganized the website to merge “Moldy Oldies” with “Lost and Found” and I have updated the mp3 tags for Alpha, Lullabye, and Omega to reflect this. The track list is currently in flux, but is starting to take shape. Right now it looks something like this:

  1. Alpha
  2. [TBA]
  3. [TBA]
  4. Rising Sun
  5. Something Wrong
  6. [TBA]
  7. Lullabye
  8. [TBA]
  9. [TBA]
  10. Standing On High
  11. Healing Heart
  12. Omega

Check back here for updates or follow the blog to hear new songs as they are finished!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 in a Linux Home Studio

Last year in late November my family sang Away in a Manger together, and my wife commented on how good we sounded with the kids making up their own harmonies. She suggested that we should record it for our Christmas card and email it out to our friends and family.

I said, “Then we need a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface!” She was taken aback at my sudden and specific declaration. So I showed her the website on my phone, which I happened to have open. “See? It’s The Best Selling USB Audio Interface in the World!”

“It sounds like you’ve been looking at this for a while,” she deduced, correctly.

“But clearly we really need one,” I insisted.

So it was settled, and I ordered it within the next week. It cost $151.19 from the Focusrite website, which I thought was a reasonable price. When it arrived we recorded our song and sent it out to our family and friends. The Scarlett 2i2 performed like a champ, and I was pleased with the sound quality of its input. Here is our recording:

A bit of back story: Through the early 2000’s I used my computer’s sound card as my audio input, with variable results. “Lint in my Pocket” and “Aurelia Aurita” were probably the worst results, as the dying old sound card produced a lot of crackling and popping on the recording. The other New Folder recordings were better because I had a new computer with a healthier sound card, and Lost and Found was better still because I started paying attention to the noise level and applying a graphic equalizer to filter out the worst of it. But right when I felt like my recording technique was starting to mature, three things happened to derail me for a decade: 1) Medical education took over my life like a cancer, sucking up all of my free time and strangling all of my hobbies, 2) my wife and I had a bunch of kids, and 3) I migrated to Linux.

The first two of these were certainly more important, but the third one was not inconsequential. I have been tinkering with Linux since 2000, and in about 2006 I made it my primary platform for home computing. I was a poor student, and Free Software was also generally free software. But audio on desktop Linux can be a bit temperamental, and I never could get my audio inputs working the way they worked on Windows or OS X. I did manage to use Linux applications to make music (the drum part from “Rising Sun” was programmed on Hydrogen, and I started playing with LMMS in about 2012), but these don’t require audio input to work. What I really wanted was to record guitar on Linux, and I didn’t have a good way to do that.

Enter the Scarlett 2i2. From what I read online, it was a low-latency USB audio interface with good Linux support. Several people on Linux audio discussion forums reported that the device worked for them, including a few using a software environment similar to mine (for the record: Linux Mint 17.1, Linux kernel 3.13.0-37-generic, Audacity 2.0.5, JACK 5, QjackCtl 0.4.5, Ardour 5.11.4).

I should add a disclaimer here that I am neither a sound engineer nor a software engineer. I am a mere hobbyist in both realms, knowing only enough to be dangerous, and I am really not an expert. But what my story lacks in authority it makes up for in authenticity, and hopefully some other mere mortal out there will be encouraged to learn that a knucklehead like me was able to figure this out. I will assume that you know the basics about JACK, and that you can install software packages on your system.

Using the Scarlett with Audacity

When the box arrived in the mail I eagerly opened it and plugged the Scarlett 2i2 in, but it took me a few minutes to figure out how to use it. For some reason I was expecting it to appear as an input/output device in JACK, and I was confused when nothing appeared in the qjackctl connections window. After a few minutes of poking around I stopped the JACK server and opened Audacity, which is my fall-back standalone audio application in Linux. JACK is nice, and is very powerful, but I admit that its full capabilities are a bit beyond me and I am really happy when I can just get it to work at all. But Audacity I can understand. All of its functionality is in one application, and no supporting software is required. I realize that the all-in-one approach is not very Unix-y but I am more of a pragmatist than a purist when it comes to software.

Audacity has its audio I/O configuration right on the menu bar, and the Scarlett 2i2 showed up in the drop-down menu automagically! I don’t like to use Audacity for big projects, but I used it for “Away in a Manger” because it worked and because I was in a hurry to get this song recorded before Christmas.Scarlett 2i2 - Audacity setup

Using it with JACK

When I recorded the guitar parts for “Alpha” I wanted to use Ardour, which is a more serious tool. This is where I had to buckle down and figure out how to get the Scarlett 2i2 working on JACK. After reading several forums I stumbled upon the solution 2 or 3 screens into a comment thread, which described a setting buried deep in the qjackctl Setup configuration dialog, on the Advanced tab (see images). The Scarlett 2i2 shows up in the drop-down menu on the “Output Device” and “Input Device” settings.Scarlett 2i2 - JACK main windowScarlett 2i2 - JACK Setup AdvancedScarlett 2i2 - JACK Setup Advanced drop menu

Using it with Ardour

Next I had to connect the Scarlett 2i2 input to the Ardour track I wanted to record into. This took a bit of poking around and consulting the Ardour reference manual, but it turned out to be as simple as choosing “Inputs…” from the menu which appears when you right-click on the track name. This opens a new window, where you simply choose the “capture_1” input, as shown in the screen shot.Scarlett 2i2 - Ardour - rick click trackScarlett 2i2 - Ardour track input

Quirks and Other Observations

While I had the Scarlett 2i2 designated as the input and output device in Jack and listened with my headphones plugged into the monitor output on the Scarlett it worked beautifully, but if I set the output device as the computer’s soundcard then I had intolerable latency. I don’t have external speakers on my computer (an all-in-one Dell Inspiron), so if I want to hear the song through the computer speakers I have to reconfigure JACK. This is easy to do by saving a configuration preset in qjackctl. Maybe I will invest in a set of external monitor speakers to plug into the Scarlett 2i2 so that I don’t have to dig through the settings every time I want to record something.

The overall verdict: The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an awesome and affordable device which works well in a Linux environment once you learn how to configure JACK. It is now an indispensible part of my home studio, and I can’t imagine how I ever recorded without it.


I also blog about medicine and religion and about trail running.

Ye Olde Garage Band

Claudia Doesn’t Like It” was my most successful garage band. We played gigs regularly during my junior year of high school, and I learned a lot about how to write songs for a three or four piece rock band.

We didn’t have access to good recording equipment in those days, so I don’t have many recordings that are worth sharing here. But in 2001 Jake Bracken and I got together to digitally record some of the old songs for posterity, and called the album “2001: A Claudyssey.” Some of these recordings turned out okay, but I was a bit clumsy on the drums.

“The Yellow Banana Ant” is one of the definitive Claudia songs, and the version I posted here is the 2001 recording with an extra guitar part and some backing vocals which I added a year or so later.

“The Red Plastic Shark” is another Claudia favorite. This is the 2001 version.

“Nameless” displays the edgier side of our sound. This song was heavily influenced by Ride’s “Vapour Trail.” This is a slightly edited version of the 2001 recording.

In late 2001 I started working on a new song with my brother Mark, which we called “Cyberian Joe.” The rhythm track was made from dial-up modem sounds, and it took me months to put it all together. It’s easy to hear the Kraftwerk influence in this interesting and weird song.

I have hours and hours of poor quality live recordings from 1995-1996, but I won’t afflict you with any of them unless I get requests.

Enjoy!

 

Early Adventures in Digital Multitrack

I just posted recordings from my university days, which was when I first got my feet wet with digital multitrack recording. I licensed a shareware app called n-Track Studio which I used for years. A new version came out within a month or so of my purchase, but the company wanted me to pay for the upgrade so I just kept using the old version for the next 6 years until I migrated everything to Linux.

The name “New Folder” was a joke, because I was a compulsive organizer of my own computer’s filesystem and it drove me crazy to see other people’s computers with random folders scattered all over the desktop. “New Folder” is the default name for a newly created folder in Windows, and I remember seeing a desktop with New Folder, New Folder (2), and New Folder (3) all on the desktop, and all empty folders! I decided that the only way I would ever have a directory named “New Folder” on my computer was if I gave that name to an album. So I did, and I chuckle to myself whenever I see it in the file manager.

I am still fond of these recordings, but they are a bit rough around the edges because I was at an early stage of learning the craft.

“The Dead Horse Revival” was my first attempt to program drums in a midi piano roll editor. This is a song that dates back to about 1995, but in the early 2000’s I was working on my fingerstyle technique and had been reworking this song with a new chorus. I needed a song to test the electronic drums with, so on a whim I chose this. I was smart enough not to try recording my primitive fingerstyle, which was pretty sloppy at the time. The original song was called “The Dead Horse,” and this version breathed new life into it.

“Oasis” has been through many iterations. This version is actually a remix that I did in 2006, and I was still not entirely satisfied with it. I am resisting the urge to revisit this song, because I have already spent too much of my life on it. But it is tempting, because I left out the rhythm guitar in the verses and it sounds too empty. I also want to rework the drums during the verses, rewrite the lyrics, and maybe transpose it down to a key that I can actually sing in. But I like the guitar parts, the synthesizer, and the drums during the second half. (Obviously I have mixed feelings about this recording.)

“Green Thumb [midi]”  was the logical extension of my experiments with midi drums. My brother Mark was working as an intern at the local PBS affiliate TV station, and needed a short song for the soundtrack of a commercial he was making. “Green Thumb” is an old Claudia song, and this version was a radical departure from the alternative rock original, but I was really pleased with the result. This recording is actually a stereo remix I made in 2006.

“Wormwood [midi]” has almost an identical story to “Green Thumb [midi].” This was a song from the immediate post-Claudia period during summer 1996, and the original version was recorded on a tape that we named “Chronocide: The Downfall of Mountain Standard Time.” We performed this as a new song at the last Claudia concert in November 1996. This version is a stereo remix from 2006.

“Song of Odysseus” is a rearrangement of the Claudia song “Stay With Me,” which needed a new set of lyrics. These new words were inspired by my winter bicycle commute, which always seemed to have a headwind. Mark contributed a line to the new words. The music was taken directly from the “2001: A Claudyssey” recording which featured Jake Bracken on bass.

“Lint in my Pocket” was a solo recording of an old pre-Claudia song that I wrote with Mark in about 1995. This was my first attempt to do digital multitrack recording by myself, and I think it turned out okay. The popping and crackling came from my cheap sound card.

“Aurelia Aurita” was another early solo multitrack recording. The song was written in 2000 not long after I got home from my mission. I found the words in a notebook of poems that Mark had written. Aurelia aurita is the scientific name for the moon jellyfish.

I hope you enjoy these old tunes!