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…

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.

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 Mission Engineering EP1-KP (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 Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X) (the black pedal on the far left). It has a longer throw that could work, but the…

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 Raspberry Pi is a small (about as big as a deck of playing cards), inexpensive computer…

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, Bombfell ( (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…

Razor Blade Shave-Off winner: Derby Extra Super Stainless

Third round of the Razor Blade Shave-Off 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. …

While prototyping a pedalboard, 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…

Second round of the Razor Blade Shave-Off 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…

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. …

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…

John S. Jacob

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

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