Virtual Band. Electric guitar, vocal, drums, piano, bass, vocal and acoustic guitar.
Virtual Band. Electric guitar, vocal, drums, piano, bass, vocal and acoustic guitar.
Virtual Band. I’m playing the electric guitar in the upper-left.

In the first month of shelter-in-place I, Natasha, and other musicians recorded parts for a Virtual Band performance. I received the recordings to combine into the aggregate result.

The procedure to create a virtual band (or virtual choir) includes four steps. (1) Create a reference recording for the participants to follow. (2) Each participant records a performance while listening to the reference recording in earbuds or headphones — the reference recording should not be heard in the participant’s recording. (3) Extract the audio from each recording and mix. (4) Combine the mixed audio with the videos.

Our initial recording was a vocal and acoustic guitar video. …


Natasha playing drums, John singing and playing guitar, Eliott playing keyboard.
Natasha playing drums, John singing and playing guitar, Eliott playing keyboard.
Natasha, John, and Eliott playing music.

On Sunday, April 5 Natasha, Eliott, and I performed a song on Facebook Live. Shelter-in-place was in effect, so we were limited to the members of our family and the equipment already in our house.

Here are behind-the-scenes photos.

Electric guitar and guitar effects floor board.
Electric guitar and guitar effects floor board.
My guitar and floor board.
Kemper Profiling Amp.
Kemper Profiling Amp.
The floor board controls a Kemper Profiling Amp. The XLR in the bottom-right goes to the mixer.
MIDI keyboard controller and stand.
MIDI keyboard controller and stand.
The keyboard is a simple MIDI controller — it doesn’t generate sound on its own. The stand is from a table saw. The MIDI signal goes out of the keyboard, …
iPad and iRig adapter. The iPad’s glass is broken.
iPad and iRig adapter. The iPad’s glass is broken.
… into an iRig adapter, into an iPad, then into the mixer. GarageBand on the iPad generates the bass sound (“Liverpool”). See the shattered glass? I broke it on Saturday when I dropped my guitar while setting up the equipment. I feel really bad since this is Eliott’s iPad that he bought after saving his allowance for two years. I got AppleCare for it, so Apple will replace it. After the Apple Stores reopen in several months. :-(
Drum set.
Drum set.
Natasha’s drums. We don’t have much space in our house, so these have moved from a spare bedroom (later Eliott’s room) to setup in the garage to stored in cases in the garage.
Kick drum with a microphone.
Kick drum with a microphone.
An SM58 in the kick drum. I only had two XLR cables, and both were in use. I couldn’t run to Guitar Center for another XLR cable because of shelter-in-place, so I combined adapters to use a 1/4" cable.
Headphones taped to a hi-hat stand.
Headphones taped to a hi-hat stand.
Did you know that headphones can act as microphones? This is how I mic-ed the snare and hi-hat.
Earbuds hanging from the ceiling.
Earbuds hanging from the ceiling.
Continuing the go-with-what-you’ve-got theme, I deployed earbuds as overhead mics on the drums.
Tascam Portastudio 414, Boss Digital Delay DD-5, and ART PowerMix III.
Tascam Portastudio 414, Boss Digital Delay DD-5, and ART PowerMix III.
An old Tascam Portastudio 414 4-track recorder acted as the main mixer. I didn’t have enough channels for all the mics, so I used an ART headphone mixer to mix the drum mics to the Tascam’s sub input. The Boss Digital Delay generated DIY reverb.
iPhone X on tripod. OBS Studio running on laptop. Light fixture clipped to monitor.
iPhone X on tripod. OBS Studio running on laptop. Light fixture clipped to monitor.
OBS Studio is a versatile Open Source video mixer that directly uploads live streams. For this live stream I only needed one camera, my iPhone X. OBS can handle many cameras. In past testing I’ve successfully simultaneously connected three iOS devices both wired and wireless.
Drums, keyboard, guitar, camera, and computer fit into small room.
Drums, keyboard, guitar, camera, and computer fit into small room.
It was a tight fit in this room.

Image for post
Image for post
Left to right: Dunlop DVP Volume (X), Fractal Audio Systems EV-1 Expression Volume Pedal, Kemper Profiler Remote, Mission Engineering EP1-KP

I’ve been testing expression pedals for my Kemper Profiling Amp. I already have a (the green/black pedal on the right) that I really like. It feels like a Dunlop Cry Baby which is appropriate because I use it primarily for wah. It works well as a controller for pitch and morphing effects. For my second expression pedal I was hoping for a longer throw to dedicate as a volume pedal.

I had high hopes for the (the black pedal on the far left). It has a longer throw that could work, but the motion isn’t smooth. And worse, the output is not consistent: even when stationary the level wavers. …


Image for post
Image for post

Natasha moving from fifth grade down to kindergarten provided me the opportunity to re-architect her classroom’s computers. For a while I entertained the idea of buying a small set of tablets (iPad Minis or Nexus 7s). Thinking about how Natasha would have to maintain (i.e., charge) the tablets, the risk of not knowing what software she’d need, and the cost led me to shelve the tablet idea. Rather, I decided to complete the Raspberry Pi terminals I started in her fifth grade classroom.

The is a small (about as big as a deck of playing cards), inexpensive computer for hobbyists. I hesitate to call it a kid’s computer, at least not at the often-quoted $35. For that low price you get a bare circuit board. In the configuration I deemed necessary, the actual price is closer to $80 (Raspberry Pi, power supply, SD card, case, and HDMI-to-SVGA adapter). Like a “regular” computer you also need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. …


Image for post
Image for post

Like many people, I am a reluctant shopper. Well, not exactly. I enjoy shopping in general. I dislike clothing shopping. I think it’s because I don’t like making fashion decisions. And since I’m a problem solver, I was excited to learn of several websites that will make fashion decisions for me. I recently signed up with one of those sites, () (that link includes my reference code).

“Bombfell” is short for “Bombfellow” and is intended as a male version of “bombshell”. I leave it to you to decide if that is descriptive or aspirational.

Signing up was relatively easy. The required registration included basic questions about my size (height, weight, waist — all could be guesses), complexion (bonus for using photos of the cast of ), preferred style, and credit card info. The optional info included photos (or a link to Facebook) and more specific measurements (chest, inseam, etc. — instructional videos provided). …


Image for post
Image for post
Razor Blade Shave-Off winner: Derby Extra Super Stainless

completed. Since the three Round 2 finalists performed similarly from an objective closeness/nick perspective, Round 3 was about subjective experience. Basically I picked the blade that I liked the most. Only one made the “cut”: Derby Extra Super Stainless.

Big Ben and Crown, while top performers in Round 2, both come from the major blade manufacturer Lord. I can’t help but wonder if these blades are the same blades in another Lord brand. I prefer to purchase a blade from a more focused manufacturer. …


Image for post
Image for post

While , two events prompted me to reconsider the pedal board idea. (1) My Boss GT-8’s input exhibited some noise (probably a loose solder joint); and (2) I realized most of the equipment on my prototype pedal board wasn’t designed to be touched while playing (power supplies, direct box, etc.). Since the Boss GT-8 is over eight years old, I decided I would purchase a new effects system / amp modeler rather than fix the GT-8. Undoubtedly amp modeling has improved in the past eight years so that was a fairly easy choice, expense notwithstanding. Combining the two events, I chose to look at rack-mounted units rather than floor boards. …


Image for post
Image for post

completed. One blind-tested razor blade a week for seventeen weeks. 119 post-shaving forms filled. 114 cuts. After analyzing the data looking for the fewest nicks and closest shave, three blades rose to the top. In no particular order:

  • Big Ben Super Stainless
  • Derby Extra Super Stainless
  • Crown Super Stainless

Three more blades were very good, but didn’t quite make the top:

  • Shark Stainless Chrome
  • Shark Super Chrome
  • Lord Platinum Class

Interestingly, five of these six razor blades are manufactured by the same company in Egypt: Lord (Big Ben, Crown, the Sharks, and the eponymous brand). …


Image for post
Image for post
Prototype pedalboard and Boss GT-8

I’m prototyping a pedalboard for my electric guitar effects gear. The first phase was stabilizing the gear I need. The second phase (pictured) was building a prototype from Home Depot pegboard.

I intended to make a larger pegboard and place the GT-8 (big black thing in the front) on it as well, but I realized the pegboard wasn’t strong enough to hold the GT-8. Also, I didn’t have any bigger bag in which to carry a larger pegboard. …


Image for post
Image for post
Remaining razor blades at the end of the first round.

First round of the Razor Blade Shave-Off completed. Last year I bought a razor blade sampler. After many months of using a new blade a week I can declare a set of losers and a set of winners. Or more specifically, a set of losers and set of maybes: since I was new to double-edge razors when I started, I only feel comfortable identifying the worst performing blades. Five blades seemed awful to me. This leaves seventeen blades in the running (see photo above).

For the second round I will collect data in a more formal manner. I think I will get the best data if I don’t know which blade I am using during the week. Rather than blindfolding myself when I replace blades, I’ve asked Natasha to select a blade randomly and put it in the razor. Every day after I use the blade I will fill a quick survey. I won’t know which blade was in the razor until I remove it at the end of the week. …

About

John S. Jacob

Software developer, electric guitarist, runner, scuba diver, singer, husband, father.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store