Howard Rabach

Bassist – Live Performance + Studio Sessions

My Latest Article…

March 16, 2017
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This one is a slight departure from my audio-based production and troubleshooting articles.  This one deals with the plight of the artist and the fan – to give in to demands of your followers or to continue to beat your own path of creativity.  Who is at the wheel?  Click HERE to read about it.

Finding Your Purpose (a letter of advice from Hunter S. Thompson)

While working on some other writing pieces, I felt compelled to share this letter from the inimitable Hunter S. Thompson, perhaps one of the most misunderstood writers of the past century.  A friend (Hume) has presumably written for advice in a prior letter, to which this is the response.  I’ve copied it word for word as it appeared, only bolding some of what I consider the best parts.  Enjoy…

April 22, 1958

57 Perry Street

New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,  

Hunter

Announcement – a new feature at hrbassman.com!

January 16, 2017
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BIGMOUTH STRIKES AGAIN…AND AGAIN…AND AGAIN

I created a new page where I have started (and will continue) to write about records…my records, from my collection.  Now, not all of them are truly “vinyl LPs”, but they are all records in one fashion or another.  I’ve created my first entry, of which I hope will be many more to come.  I hope you enjoy it; at the very least, maybe it’ll inspire you to visit a local record store and buy something new.  If you despise everything about it, well, then cover your footsteps well, because I will find you, and I will fight you, until you agree with me!  Sincerely, read and enjoy.  And thanks again for stopping by.  Here’s the link to MY PERMANENT RECORD.

Creating a Routine: easier said than done

January 4, 2017
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Editor’s note: the following post is NOT a rant.

It’s also not fluffy bunnies farting unicorn-shaped rainbows…(which, in hindsight, sounds painful).

It just is what it is.

things-you-should-focus-on

A new year is often confronted with a laundry list of ‘resolutions’; often these are vapid, unfocused, meaningless things that most of us know, deeply down, that we will never accomplish to any measurable level.  If we do, it’s pure coincidence.  If you were truly motivated, you would have done it prior to the new year, and would  never have felt the need to resolve anything.  Around and around we go, at blinding speed, as if looking at food stuffs being pulverized by a Cuisinart.  Puree, whip, frappe..I’m not having any of that.

I’ve been in a “planning” stage for over 3 years as nothing ever goes according to plan, and plans unfurl and transform, develop growths, make unexpected turns, stops, and about-faces because that’s the reality of being a human being in this world.  A very wise person once asked me, “How will you know if you are becoming successful?”  This begat several hundred other questions, such as:

“How do I measure success?”  “How should I measure success?” “I’m an artist, right?  What’s there to measure?”

Still, I’ve yet to find a routine that truly works.  My students aside, I think it’s the routine that I miss most about my life as a classroom teacher.  There was a calendar with solid boundaries; there were specific moments each day when certain things had to be prepared or delivered, or changed, or entered….people counted on me; often over 100 people a day counted on me to be in the groove of my routine to make their days successful.  And I was.  And I did…more than not, anyway!

As a business owner, I suppose I could measure success financially.  Did I earn more than I spent?  Was every penny I spent justified?  Were these purchases all guaranteed to bring some sort of measurable return?  Let’s face it; the first few years of any new business can really suck…big time.  Often, it’s only in reflection that one can perceive the behemoth size of suckage that it is.  When I’m “in the thick of it”; when I’m in a recording session, playing a gig, troubleshooting a piece of gear or an instrument, teaching a workshop, I’m in that moment.  I’m doing what I love with others who are as passionate about it.

I was able to measure some things, though I’m not sure I’ve sussed out exactly what it all means yet.  In 2016:

I played 55 gigs, with anywhere from 2 to 300 other musicians sharing the stage; I played to audiences from as few as 15 to somewhere near a thousand people.

I was involved with nearly 30 recording sessions, many with new artists, some familiar ones (this includes whether they were sessions where I engineered and produced, or played for someone else)

I created and taught 10 brand new audio workshops.  My students ranged in age from 16 through late 60s.

I started learning the Double Bass because it will be an amazing skill to have, AND I’m a total nerd and LOVE LEARNING!

I’ve made more mistakes than I could ever hope to enumerate (and that would be freaking depressing anyhow).  I’m not sure if I’ve made greater or fewer than in past years – and again, what would a mistake really look like to be something measurable?  But I digress – a skill in which I will forever be king.

So how do I do the math on all that?

Right now I can see the forest, but the trees and the other contents are really obscured – blurry, even.  I’m busily getting my freshly refilled daily planner set up and filled, checking it against my Google Calendar, double checking it against scrawled notes across dozens of composition books, surrounded by the doodles of a fairly unfocused mind.  The ADD of the everyday often seems daunting.  The one thing that has come out over the last few years is that I am a monster of a bassist, I’m a hell of a recording and mix engineer, and I know my shit (again, because I keep learning and trying – back to the nerd thing again).

Tomorrow morning, I will go to the gym, return, eat breakfast, inhale coffee, shower, put on grown-up clothing, head down to my studio, crack open my planner, and get out my pen/pencil case, set up all my color-coded categories (the Virgo in me is all a-quiver – 8-)>  ).  I’ll send and respond to emails, work on some mixes, practice both electric and upright bass, follow up on some future business possibilities, and ……wait a minute.  Is it possible a routine has snuck up and taken over without me noticing?  Now how did I let that happen?  I promise I’ll never let my guard down again!

And now for something completely different…

July 18, 2016
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I received some awfully kind words from my kindred “music spirit”, Joe Wolfe-Mazeres, writer for No Depression, and for the E2TG (Ear To The Ground) music blog, as well as radio co-host on WXNA’s “Double Shot with Joe & Sue” (Making Musical Connections Assisted by Cocktails).

I’ll let Joe’s writing do the talking.

http://ear2theground-music.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-ubiquitous-howard-rabach.html

Mic Shootout – Acoustic Guitars

July 1, 2016
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As I’ve been “in the thick of it” lately with recording projects, I thought it timely to try out some mics that haven’t seen enough play time in the studio.  Was able to get some truly tangible results.  For those that don’t geek out over microphone technology, you might want to nod off right about now.

For those left awake, here’s how it went:

The Contenders:

  • Earthworks SR40 (Cardioid -HD)
  • Blue Microphones Dragonfly (LDC)
  • Audio Technica AT4041 (SDC – cardioid) – pair
  • Shure Beta 181 (SDC – cardioid) -pair
  • HULK 990 (modded LDC from Michael Joly)

The Instrument:

  • Guild D-125 dreadnought guitar; solid mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard; phosphor bronze .12 gauge strings

Test Set Up:

Microphone placement:

– heights all between 34″ and 36″ – about soundhole height from the floor

  • SR40 pointed at the neck/body seam (about 14th fret)
  • Dragonfly also pointed at the 14th fret
  • AT4041s were set up as an X-Y stereo pair; one pointed towards the lower bout, the other towards mid-neck
  • Beta 181s were set up similarly to the AT4041s, but about 0.5″ above them
  • The HULK 990 was set up directly underneath the Dragonfly, pointed towards the 14th fret.

All the mics were run through a Focusrite Saffire Pro40 interface, offering phantom power where needed.  All tracks recorded in Reaper 5.2 at 0 dB. For the first test, the preamp gains were all set to 6.  For the second test, some minor level adjustments were made (noted below).

For the first run through, I played three different pieces.  The first was played with a pick, and was heavily and percussively strummed.  The second was a more jangly-sounding picked piece.  The final selection was finger-picked.

Test #1:

All three takes for the first test were played where the guitar’s soundboard was at a distance of 12″ from the microphone diaphragms.

Test #2:

Same as above, but with the following two differences:

  1. Mics were at a distance of 18″ from the mics to the guitar’s soundboard.
  2. The mic preamps for the SR40 and the Beta 181s were dialed up to 7 – this made the comparison focused on sound quality rather than audio level.

Findings:

This was interesting overall, with a handful of surprises.  I created a small chart on a legal pad, checking off which mics sounded better for which style of playing, and at what distance.  I then listed to several passes of each takes, trying to determine which pairings of mics sounded best in my room with this particular guitar and setup.  Here’s what I found:

  • The Earthworks SR40 sounded most balanced at an 18″ distance.  Based on the sound quality, my hunch would be to have it focused slightly more towards the neck as there is a noticeable midrange bump.  Overall, it was articulate and VERY uncolored.
  • The Dragonfly was the most balanced of the two LDCs tested.  However, it really bloomed at a 12″ distance.  That said, in a larger space, with some natural reverb, it would make an excellent OH or room mic for a similar recording (I started to notice the room a lot more at 18″ – but that’s where it started to lose it’s overall “sparkle”)
  • The AT4041s were some of my favorites from this test, though the results were scattered in terms of where they really shined.  For heavy strumming AND finger picking, the closer 12″ distance made all the difference – really balanced attack, articulation, and yet still plenty of the meatiness of the guitar body shining through.  When plucked with a pick, the differences were interesting; at 12″ they were overall a tad more balanced, but with a rough edge around 2K or so.  At 18″they were ever so slightly mid-scooped sounding.  But paired with an LDC, like the Dragonfly or even the SR40, they round out nicely.
  • The Beta 181s have a lower output overall (which is why I bumped them up for the second test).  They are not quite as detailed and articulate as the 4041s; a 12″ distance best for strumming , fairing better at 18″ for picked guitar and finger-picking.  At that distance they balance nicely with just a hint of the room’s natural reverb.  I think these were fair better as piano or percussion overheads rather than for an acoustic guitar.
  • Finally, the HULK 990 was best at a 12″ distance.  However, I noticed that precise height measurement with this mic is most important – a little too level with the soundhole and the 990 becomes slightly “hollow” sounding; a slight tilt up fixes that easily.  It’s a very upper-mid forward sounding mic.  I think it’s supposed to emulate a particular Telefunken mic but I’m not sure.  Overall the tone is pleasing, but I think it’s happy spot is somewhere between 12″ and 18″ as neither really allowed the mic to shine. That said, others with whom I’ve spoken simply rave about it on acoustics, so I’ll need to experiment some more with that one.

As an aside, in some quick comparisons, I found the following combinations (simply by randomly soloing tracks together to see how they sounded) worked rather well, in no particular order:

  • The Dragonfly with the SR40 – clean and balanced, perhaps ever so slightly brighter, but in a very pleasing way.
  • The SR40 with the AT4041s – articulate, balanced, nuanced –  had I been a better player, I might have appreciated the results a bit more.
  • The SR40 with the Beta 181s – not as great as the pairing with the 4041s, but would be great for more classical or jazz box guitars.
  • The HULK 990 with the SR40 was interesting – but I need to play with the 990 a lot more before I make that a definitive pairing option.

And there you have it.  Hopefully for those mic geeks out there, this has been helpful.  And for the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed your nap.  Until next time, be well and rock on.

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