For the record, I despise tinkering! Like…LOATHE it! And it can be ANY kind of tinkering, but a lot of what I tinker with is music equipment related. So I recently purchased a couple of upgrades to the studio; an ART Pro MPA-II Mic Preamp and an ART Pro VLA-II Compressor. I got a killer deal on them and while they weren’t exactly ‘necessary’ to my setup, they sure look cool (and that’s really all that matters, right?). All kidding aside, this preamp and compressor are gonna make things sound better and I’m excited to get them up and running. This is where the tinkering comes in…did I mention that I HATE tinkering?

I’ll have to clear out some space in my main gear rack and take the existing gear, relocate it to another rack, install the new pieces, and re-wire everything. All of this is just a major pain in the butt because it requires all 6’2″ of my to crawl under a my studio desk and squeeze behind a rack so that I can re-connect everything. My plan after getting everything in place was to sing one of my songs today to keep this EP train moving. As I go to duck under the desk…at full, confident speed mind you…I slam the top of my head against this protruding clamp that is holding a microphone stand in place. OUCH!!! Well…that’s not exactly all I said, and let’s just say that I expressed myself with the utmost fervor, and at the top of my lungs.

I checked my head for blood…no blood, but a nice goose egg was forming. While I am happy that I released the anger of knocking myself silly, the unforeseen side effect to said release was that my throat felt a little funny. Hmmm…I sure it will be fine. I finish tinkering…man do I abhor tinkering…and pick up a guitar to run through the song a couple of times before I record some vocals. Let’s just say that stepping on a cats tail sounded better, and it hurt. So it’s hot tea with honey and lemon for me as I let the ol vocal chords recover. So the lesson for the day…next time, try to see the big picture before you scream bloody murder after crushing your skull while tinkering in the studio. Did I mention that I detest tinkering?

In this week’s blog post, I’m actually going to share an article I wrote for work…that dreaded, corporate 9-5 that allows me to put food on the table, keep a roof over my head, and most importantly guitars in the studio! 🙂 I think the article is timely as we continually see people being downright ugly to each other in social media and in public. I would love to see this change for the better…so here we go:

A Candle’s Flame and the Power of Support
Written by Daron Mack
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While browsing the Internet the other day, I saw a meme that caught my attention. It read:

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

As we all know, the Internet can be a vicious place nowadays, but this particular post made me pause and consider what I’d just read. I closed my eyes and visualized the scenario of lighting a thousand candles with the flame of just one, and it made sense. The flame of the first candle would continue to burn even after ‘giving’ part of itself to another candle. I wondered if this analogy was something that someone made up, or perhaps it had roots in an established philosophy.

I started keying in pieces of the quote, hoping to find the origins of this beautiful concept. Before long, I landed on a site with a curiously funny name (fakebuddhaquotes.com) and began reading. The quote comes from a Japanese book on Buddhism called “The Teaching of Buddha”, and was actually derived from a much longer, yet equally lovely passage, which reads:

“An act to make another happy inspires the other to make still another happy, and so happiness is aroused and abounds. Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. Those who seek Enlightenment must be careful of each of their steps. No matter how high one’s aspiration may be, it must be attained step by step. The steps of the path to Enlightenment must be taken in our everyday life.”

I began thinking of ways that I could incorporate this concept into my daily life, and I found that it was surprisingly easy. Every time I had the opportunity to offer support or encouragement to a family member, friend, co-worker, acquaintance, etc., I took a moment to offer praise or recognition for whatever this person had done or was sharing with me. If someone just needed to vent, I willingly offered my attention, let them get something off their chest, and offered encouragement with regard to their current situation. And guess what…it didn’t hurt one bit. As a matter of fact, I found that I felt better about life in general and my place in it. My light hadn’t dimmed at all.

In today’s highly charged and polarizing atmosphere, it’s easy to get caught up in the wave of emotion that has become a part of our culture. If we step outside of this environment and see each other for what we are, human beings, it’s easy to find moments where a little bit of our own light could help light a candle that is struggling to shine.

Over the last few years, I found myself paying more and more attention to the news and to current events. I was in the know on pretty much everything that was going on in the world from politics, to wars, to he said, she said, etc. I had either heard the story or knew the ins and outs of what went on behind the scenes. I felt that it was important to know what was going on around me, and it gave me a sense of pride to be able to have conversations with nearly anyone, because I was paying so much attention to the news of the day. And it was good…until it wasn’t.

I found that I was getting angry very easily. I was becoming sad. And as I grew more and more despondent, I started to kind of pull away. There is a folksy, indie band that I like called Lowen and Navarro, and they have a lovely song called “The Opposite Of Everything” and this is where I was. I’d gotten caught up in the bullshit of the world and it was having a detrimental effect on me. I didn’t get caught up in silly arguments on social media, but I did have disagreements with family members and over what…a difference of opinion? Ridiculous.

So I stopped. I stopped watching. I stopped reading. I stopped listening. At first, it was kinda hard. I felt disconnected somehow. I had thoughts that I was missing out on valuable information. Turns out I was missing out…I was missing out on the vitriol, the pathetic grasping at straws, and ludicrous leaps in logic in order to prove a point or attempt to “win” an argument. Clarity of thought was gone. Critical thinking was non-existent.

I think my light is slowly but surely returning. I didn’t realize how dim it had become, but I’m glad that I realized it before I’d lost sight of who I was. This isn’t an ostrich with his head buried in the sand kind of thing…it’s self-preservation, and I’m ok with that.

That’s a Harry Potter reference for those who may not know what Nargles are.

Anyway…for some ridiculous reason (unless the Nargles are truly behind it) THREE of my four EP song files have somehow become corrupted. I stared at my studio screen is disbelief as each one tries its hardest to open up in Cubase (my DAW of choice), but eventually crashes the program. Needless to say, I’m pissed…then I’m devastated…then I’m in denial…and whatever the other things that you are supposed to experience during stages of grief.

After my initial wallowing in self-pity, which didn’t last very long BTW, I let my analytical brain take over and start figuring out what the ever loving ‘F’ could’ve happened. I’m a responsible tech guy. I back up files, I scan for viruses, and my studio computer rarely touches the internet except for downloading software updates and the like. Something has made it so that my music files aren’t playing nice and I’m determined to find out.

I set out to it, searching the internet for users who have experienced the same thing that I have. I read forum posts of musicians from all over the world who have shared in my grief of working on something so hard, only to see it act like a little bitch when it’s time to get to work! Technology giveth and technology taketh…this is the mantra of my techy brethren, and yet I shall not be deterred. I tried a few things, but to no avail. Then I tried opening the song on my laptop…huzzah…it actually opened. All is not lost, however I REALLY don’t want to finish this EP on my laptop. I start researching the likeliest candidates for trouble (for my musician buddies, look to your VST plugins if things get wonky) and I take them off of the tracks that I have recorded. I save the song under a new name, throw it on a jump drive and head back out to the studio.

Lo and behold…the song opens up!!! I notice that things are a little out of place, not sure why but this is an easy fix. I start re-arranging tracks, re-sizing windows, and getting things back to normal, re-save, and breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve dodged a bullet and I know it. Tonight I offer thanks to the music gods for not smiting me…I honor you with my songs!