As years go by, the difficulty of shopping for me during the holidays gets compounded. In other words, I didn’t have many gifts to open this season. To wit:

  • A bottle of pinot grigio
  • A gift card to Azul Tequila

Both gifts encourage the consumption of alcohol. These are things my friends wish for me to prioritize.

The real toy I "got" for Christmas were two pieces of Native Instruments software — the previously mentioned Guitar Rig 4 Pro and Kontakt 4.

Kontakt 4 comes with samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library, perhaps the most thorough orchestral sample library out there. I haven’t used Kontakt much on this remix project, but I did use a string ensemble on one song. Oh, my. It sounded good, but the articulations were limited. I guess it’s time to start saving my pennies for something either slightly or extremely more extensive.

Guitar Rig 4 Pro and Battery 3, which I bought back in September, have been my workhorses on this remix project. As much as I love how Reason allowed me to fake guitar parts, Guitar Rig allows me to have the real deal (or as much as a real deal with my limitations.)

For my patronage, Native Instruments offered me some vouchers to take a few bucks off of other instruments in their catalog. One of them was set to expire at the end of December, so I also got a gamelan sample library. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it yet, but I’ve got visions of the Akira soundtrack dancing in my head.

Wow. All this talk of these new toys makes me want to play with them.

Excuse me.


If I had to sum up 2010 in a word, it would be "new". Or possibly "change". It certainly felt like a transitional year.

Back at around tax season, I went LCD and bought myself a new computer monitor and television. The monitor gave me enough desk space to move my mixer front and center, while the television made me realize just how behind the times I was in terms of entertainment options. The fact I can hook my old computer up to the television with a VGA cable blew my mind — and VGA is so 2005.

I’m not quite ready to jump on the Bluray bandwagon just yet, especially since I have a collection that includes DVDs from multiple regions. I don’t want to end up with something that can’t play my Cocco music videos. But it’s nearly a year, and I still need to upgrade my TiVo.

In July, I got myself a new job, and with it, a few new skills. No longer am I dependent on phpMyAdmin — the MySQL command line is no longer daunting to me. I also get the XKCD joke about "sudo make me a sandwich".

The job also put me in a position where I had to work within a codebase not designed by myself. I still don’t have a mental picture of all the moving parts in this application, but I do get a sense the design complexity. The code itself is a mess, but the application runs pretty well in spite of it.

The new job allowed me to get a new computer, which in turn let me upgrade a whole bunch of software and to invest in others. As a result, my demos sound closer to final drafts than they ever have, despite the fact I suck at playing guitar. Perhaps in the future I’ll be able to record a concept album akin to 「加爾基 精液 栗ノ花」 by 椎名林檎 or In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. Or maybe a symphonic work. I’ve got the sample library to do it.

All these "new" things makes me think 2010 was the start of some sort of transformation. Into what? I’m not sure.

I guess that’s what 2011 is for.


I am now four entries behind on Holidailies. It’s a good thing, then, the Restraint remix project has reached a stopping point.

There are always things to tweak, but for the most part, the album is at a point where I’m mostly satisfied with the results.

I’ve been recording and remixing and remixing and recording these songs since 2005, and they’ve come a long, long way. In the beginning, they were all computer-driven, with parts faked to sound approximately human. That uncanny valley can sometimes be bridged, but most times it can’t.

Now I’ve got a real human playing on these songs, even if that human can’t really play. (That human would be me.) The songs at least now sound like a band is playing them and not a machine.

I’ve left the computer to handle a few things — the trickier guitar parts, the drums, and keyboard parts that obviously need a CPU’s intervention.

But for the limited budget and space under which I’m operating, the album actually sounds decent enough for me to put it out for real.

That leaves the question of what to do with the version that’s already out there. I’ll figure that out later. Right now, I need to take a break from this project.

I’ll start on the next one.


After charging myself into a credit card hole after the dot-com bust, I’ve been living a life of self-denial for the past four years. In 2009, I was trying to save up for a trip, while having both my salary reduced and no holiday bonus to pad the income. This year, I dumped all the stock I owned of my former employer and split part of my savings into a relocation fund. I also have another account which I used as my emergency trip fund.

Tickets to Hawai"i are expensive on any day, but when you have to get one at a moment’s notice, it costs a huge chunk of change. So I kept this account above $1K for as much as possible.

Well, it came in handy this past month, and now the emergency has passed.

I find myself thinking about getting things I’ve been putting off because I never knew when I had to tap that fund. I’ve got a 10-year-old copy of Microsoft Office that needs upgrading. I would mind getting a TiVo compatible with my LCD TV. I’ve been meaning to learn Flex, and I could probably think about getting a smart phone.

It feels weird.

My dad has traditionally served as a symbolic obstacle between me and things I want out of my life, mainly because he was less symbolic about it when I was younger. I put off a lot of little things because I was waiting for my dad to die. Now that he’s gone, I can start thinking about those things again.

And still I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

お土産、其の五: Restraint

Here’s the title track of the album.

Aside from the drums and the drones in the background, it’s the only one where every instrument is performed live. I actually had to practice the guitar melody in the chorus. Thankfully, it was slow enough for my limited abilities.

I remixed this track a long while back, actually, but it did inspire me to tackle the whole notion of remixing everything I’ve done so far. (“All the Times I Remember” was also done prior to this weekend.)

At some point, I need to learn how to make those drones myself since Guitar Rig 4 could probably do a bit more convincing job than Reason, but that’s another experiment for another time. Or I could just leave well enough alone.

Here’s the remixed track:

There. Now I’m caught up for Holidailies. Till I fall behind again tonight.

お土産、其の四: Speechless

I’ve been meaning to remix this track for a long time.

I recorded it back in 2005 and didn’t really edit it since then. The vocals are the first take. Back then, I didn’t really know much about effects, panning or any of the tricks in my growing arsenal.

So this past weekend, I finally separated all the tracks — only three instruments — and gave them proper panning and reverb. It makes for better listening on headphones, at least.

Here’s the remixed track:

お土産、其の三: Without Nothing

Part of this remix project I’ve undertaken this weekend is adding effects to tracks that should have had effects to start with.

It didn’t occur to me till I was recording these guitar tracks that to emulate the feel of a room, I needed to add reverb. Usually, guitars are recorded with a microphone strategically placed in front of an amplifier. A bit of the room sound might end up on the track. I don’t have the real estate nor the acoustic — let alone the gear — to do it that way.

So I recorded my guitar parts straight into the mixer, then add effects later, hence Guitar Rig 4 Pro. When I tried to pan the guitar tracks, they sounded flat. So I put a reverb plug-in on an auxiliary bus — essentially, a track to which you can route all your other tracks to apply effects — and adjusted the reverb to sound like a room.

I didn’t stop with guitars — I did the same for drums and a few keyboards. Bass is the only thing that never gets reverb — it gets too muddy.

I didn’t change “Without Nothing” very much, but I think the difference is in the depth of the track. Emulating the sound of a room can make all the difference.

Here’s the remixed track:

お土産、其の二: All the Times I Remember

If you follow the Eponymous 4 Facebook Page, you’ve already seen this track posted. But I’m now four entries behind on Holidailies, so I’m repurposing content for more filler.

“All the Times I Remember” was definitely intended to be played on guitar, but when I wrote it back in 2005, I was nowhere near confident in my guitar-playing abilities. (Not that they’ve evolved much in that half decade.) In fact, the guitar playing on this remix is really, really messy. I need to do some more editing or perhaps re-record the parts again.

I did change the acoustic part a bit. The rhythm of the original demo is a bit more than my wrist can handle, so I expanded it in the remix. Not sure if it works, but it does give the song more of a cluttered feel.

Here’s the remixed track.

お土産、其の一: The One to Make You Whole

I am officially five entries behind in my Holidailies updates, so it’s time for some filler.

I’ve spent the last few days playing with one of my new toys, Guitar Rig 4 Pro. The version of Cakewalk SONAR I have includes a limited edition version of Guitar Rig 3. When I bought my new computer in August, I finally had the processing power to try it out, and I got hooked enough to want to buy the full version, which I did on 黒い金曜日.

Now I’m going back to my demos and recording guitar parts where my limited playing ability can accommodate. On Friday, I realized I could probably go back and remix an entire album I’ve already released, titled Restraint. I already remixed two tracks from the album with Guitar Rig 3. Now I’m doing the same with the other tracks.

Some of them don’t have guitar parts, so I went ahead and just remixed those outright. I’ve put in some full days this weekend, nearly turning down a social engagement yesterday (which, in retrospect, I should have.)

So I’m going to post some of the tracks on which I’ve been working.

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