Category Archives: blog

Live Recording at Home – An Evolution


This year – for the third year in a row – I recorded my upcoming performance for the BlowUpRadio Spondylitis Benefit Webathon live from my apartment.

The process of recording this performance has evolved over the years. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Year 1

The first year, I had just purchased a great little field microphone made by Zoom and thought this might be a perfect opportunity to try it. I didn’t give much thought to mic placement. I just placed it on a table. Then I sat in a chair and began singing/playing.

I was actually quite pleased with the sound of the mic. The only trick was getting the right acoustic balance between the voice and the guitar. The guitar was a bit too loud when I played with a pick. So I decided to strum with my fingers instead. That seemed to fix the issue.

My friend Joe Egan who runs Missile Silo Studios in NJ did some awesome post-processing work on the recording to clean up the EQ and boost the levels.

Overall, I was pleased with the result. I also released it as a live digital record.

Year 2

I used the Zoom mic again, but this time I wanted to focus on two improvements.

  1. Capture more energy in my performance
  2. Achieve a better balance between the guitar and voice

To capture more energy in my performance, I decided to stand up while playing. It worked quite well, actually!

The second improvement was based on the fact that in Year 1, Joe had to do a bit of studio magic to bring out the frequencies that needed to be heard. So in Year 2, I wanted to capture a better overall signal directly from the source. To do this, I put the mic on a stand and worked on finding the right placement. I wound up putting it just below chest level and about a foot away from where I was playing. I angled it slightly upwards to capture more vocal. This helped achieve a better guitar/voice balance.

Again, I sent the recording to Joe. He actually commented about how much better it sounded right from the start. Yes!

I released this one as a live digital record, too.

This year

Though I was happy with the results from the previous two years, I wanted to try and push things to the next level. This year, I wanted to make something that sounded closer to a studio recording. I still wanted to record each song as a live take – no overdubs, no edits. But I wanted more control over the balance of the guitar and voice. I wanted to be able to achieve better isolation so that each instrument would come through with more clarity and impact on the recording.

So this year, I relieved the Zoom of its duties and opted for a two-microphone approach. I wound up with the mics pictured here – an SM57 on the voice and a large diaphragm condenser mic on the guitar.


Arriving at this setup was actually a lot trickier than I imagined.

The tricky part was not the mic placement. It was deciding which mics to use. I started with the large condenser mic on the voice and another smaller condenser mic on the guitar. The large condenser is my best mic in terms of capturing the clearest audio and the largest range of frequencies.

The result? The voice sounded good, but there was no isolation. The acoustic guitar was coming through the vocal mic loud and clear. I wasn’t achieving my goal.

Then I thought of a story about Bono, of all people.

I had heard that Bono would sing through an SM58 mic in the studio. These are mic’s that vocalists use during live shows, but not so often in the studio. The mic works nicely during a live concert because it actually ignores most of the sound around it. It only pays attention to the sound directly in front of it.

Bono liked to use this mic in the studio because it meant he didn’t have to wear headphones. The engineers could emulate the feeling of being in a live concert by playing the instrument tracks over the studio speakers. Then Bono would sing his vocal takes from inside the control room with the music playing around him. Just like he was at a live show. This would’ve been an impossible recording situation had he been trying to use a large condenser mic for his vocal, as many engineers do.

By using the SM58, Bono was able to harness the energy of a live performance. Plus, the producers had enough isolation on the vocal track to do all the post processing and mixing to produce a great sounding studio album. And after listening to U2’s Joshua Tree, can you really argue with the result? Bono sings his heart out and it sounds great.

Thinking about this story made me realize something. My problem – too much sound from the guitar being captured by the vocal mic – was the same problem that U2’s engineers solved when they handed Bono an SM58. The mic captured only the sound that was directly in front of it, Bono’s voice.

This gave me an idea. I own a SM57. It’s practically the same mic as the SM58 (just add a pop filter!). So I thought, Why not try the SM57 mic on the vocal? I still really liked the idea of using the large condenser mic in some way, so I put that mic on the guitar instead of the voice. I angled it just slightly downward so that it didn’t pick up too much of the vocal.

Bingo. The mic swap made all the difference! The SM57 did its job. It ignored the guitar and captured my voice nicely. The large condenser mic sounded really nice on the guitar, too. It filled up the rest of the space in the recording with a good balance of low, middle, and high end.

Once again, I sent the raw tracks off to Joe for mixing and level-boosting at his awesome studio, Missile Silo Studios. I’m so excited about the result. It’s the best-sounding one yet!

You can hear the finished recording when it airs this weekend as part of’s Spondylitis Benefit Webathon.

You have four opportunities to listen. The set will air on the following websites virtual stages at the following times: Stage:

Saturday 10/18 @ 1:10pm

Sunday 10/19 @ 1:10am Stage:

Monday 10/20 @ 4:20pm

Monday 10/20 @ 10:20pm

 Hope you are able to tune in!

Banding Together: A Benefit Webathon for the Spondylitis Association of America

Each year, it gives me great joy to record a live set of original music to benefit a great cause.

Lazlo, who runs NJ’s, has put together a webathon of epic proportions… all in the name of raising money for the Spondylitis Association of America. He combines his talents for gathering some of the best local original music artists with his dedication to finding a cure for this disease. It’s truly a labor of love for him. And for that reason, it gives me great pleasure each and every year to take part in this webathon.

I’ve pre-recorded a live acoustic set of original music specifically for this event. Just me, my acoustic guitar, my voice, and my songs. All songs were recorded live in one take.

From Friday, October 17th through Monday, October 20th you can tune in online to listen to the benefit webathon and donate to a great cause. There are two online stages. Each will be broadcasting live sets beginning noon on Friday and not finishing until 11:30pm on Monday! That’s a lot of live music! I encourage you to check out the full schedule of performances right here.

My set will air four times over the course of the webathon: Stage
Saturday 10/18 at 1:10pm
Sunday 10/19 at 1:10am Stage
Monday 10/20 at 4:20pm
Monday 10/20 at 10:20pm

I’ve donated one of my songs to the exclusive compilation album for this event. It’s only available to those who contribute a tax-deductible donation!

It was a lot of fun to pre-record this year’s set from my apartment. I took a different approach on the technical side of things. I’ll share some of those details in a future post.

The Importance of an Intriguing Story


It’s sort of funny. More ironic than funny, actually.

A few years ago, I wrote, performed, and recorded a piece of music entirely on an iPad. The GarageBand app had just been launched and I wanted to experiment with it. So for a few days, I used my time commuting on the 2 Train between Brooklyn and Manhattan to compose and record. I liked the way the piece turned out, so I released it online.

The ironic part? It’s the most listened-to piece of music I’ve ever composed.

I had to disable downloads from SoundCloud because they were about to charge me an upgrade fee. It was getting too many! I moved it over to Bandcamp here on this page, so you can still download it if you want to.

But this post is not to talk about one music service over another. Nor is it to discuss techniques for composing music on an iPad. And it’s certainly not to tell you about how many people are listening to my music.

This post is to share the part of the story that is most interesting to me. Why is this piece getting so many listens?

Well, it certainly wasn’t for either of the reasons I thought it might be.

  1. It was released as a free download.
  2. It was composed and recorded entirely on an iPad.

No. Turns out, the reason actually has to do with the piece’s title. It has an intriguing story. The intriguing story led to me writing about that story. And writing about that story is what continues to allow people to find and listen to the music.

I must confess. At the time, I didn’t even know there was an intriguing story to tell.

My piece was an instrumental, so I was at a loss for a title. I happened to be scrolling through a blog called i can read. The blog consists of quotes layered over images in a beautiful way. The day I named my piece, I came across a fantastic quote.

“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.”

So I named my piece, “You Smiled Because You Knew.”

After deciding on this title, I figured I should probably know a little something about the origin of the quote. The blog post attributed it to William Shakespeare.

Yet something about that attribution gave me pause. Really? Shakespeare? It didn’t sound like something he would have written. Sure, he wrote plenty about love, but the structure and the phrasing seemed uncharacteristic.

My curiosity kicked in and I discovered that my suspicions were, in fact, correct. The quote is not Shakespeare. It is actually a translation of the Italian libretto from the Verdi opera, Falstaff. Written by Arrigo Boito. Not Shakespeare.

I thought this was absolutely fascinating. Think about all of the years that have passed since the Falstaff libretto was written. All of the years since Shakespeare has lived. All of the technology that allows us to research the written word in seconds! Yet still, we have a misconception about something so seemingly simple as who should be credited for a popular quote.

As a brief aside, the opera is actually based on a work by Shakespeare, “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” So there is a loose connection. It is probably the reason the quote is falsely attributed. Yet Shakespeare never wrote those lines. It was Arrigo Boito.

All of this was so intriguing to me. I couldn’t help but write about the experience. And since my experiment with composing music on the iPad led me down this path in the first place, I included a link to my instrumental piece, “You Smiled Because You Knew.” You can read that post here.

I couldn’t believe what happened after writing that one post. Other people had been curious about this too! They read about my discovery and listened to the piece. Some even reached out to tell me about it. I noticed increased traffic to my website. More and more people were listening and downloading my musical composition. To this day, that one post drives more traffic to my website than any post I’ve written. It’s actually the 3rd search result when you Google the quote!

Yes, it’s sort of funny. A piece of music I wrote and released quickly as an experiment is the most listened-to piece of music I’ve ever created.

But it just goes to show you how far a great story can go.

I’ve learned something valuable from this experience. I hope that in sharing it, you will also benefit. What I’ve learned is this – It’s so important to tell your story. It’s interesting. It’s important. And it will take you places you never thought possible.

So please, go tell yours.

On Vinyl and Attention


I recently started listening to vinyl and I think I’ve discovered something interesting.

What I discovered isn’t about sound quality, music snobbery, or a compulsion to scavenge through record store bargain bins. I’ve experienced all of those things, but there’s something else….

And it has to do with attention.

Like many people, I spent the last decade or so collecting a ridiculous amount of music in mp3 format. I loved having access to a ton of music – tagged, catalogued, searchable, and available at my fingertips. Playlists allowed me to customize my listening experience in new ways and take that experience with me everywhere. There were many opportunities to interact and engage with my music collection.

Then, an interesting shift took place.

iTunes started creating playlists for me via Genius. Pandora started predicting the music I would like. Shuffle mode became popular. My listening experience became increasingly more random and less deliberate.

Sure, Shuffle is still a great way to re-discover lost gems in a music collection. Yet it’s a passive listening experience. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll throw it out there… I’m less engaged and less happy listening to music in Shuffle.

Think about it. How many times do you hit the Next button when you’re in Shuffle? I see this every day on the subway in NYC. I saw a girl skip through at least 12 songs before she landed on the one she wanted to hear. Isn’t that fairly common for today’s listener?

I spent a little more time thinking about this and it made me wonder… Even though we can listen to more music more often with more variety than ever before, are we actually less engaged?

Are we actually devoting less attention to the act of listening?

I recently started listening to vinyl at my apartment. What struck me most was not the sound quality… though I do notice I can play it louder without an overbearing high end. It’s a nice benefit, but isn’t the biggest benefit.

The biggest benefit is that I’m forced to pay attention to the experience of listening to music.

I need to take at least 30 seconds to look at my records physically in front of me and choose the record I want to hear. Take it out of the sleeve. Look at the artwork. Make a conscious decision to listen to it as a work of art. No shuffle. No happy accidents. It is a conscious choice to listen to a particular record.

I think these tiny actions actually make me a happier listener. They allow me to be fully engaged with the music I own. The artwork consumes most of my field of vision so that I’m immersed. And as I’m listening, I find I’m devoting my attention to the music. There’s even a welcome intermission when it’s time to turn the record over.

Even the act of purchasing vinyl takes time and attention. It’s not an instantaneous download. There is thought behind whether or not this record should consume physical shelf space. And there is anticipation leading up to the listening experience – from purchase to first listen.

Listening to vinyl has brought me back to a slower, more deliberate and attention-focused listening experience. At the risk of sounding too zen, it’s helped me become a more mindful listener.

Yes, I still own digital music. I still love the convenience of having it with me everywhere I go. But when I’m at home, no other form of listening is more enjoyable for me at this moment than vinyl.


5 Tips for Learning an Artist’s Set in One Week

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need to learn another artist’s songs quickly? I found myself there recently, when artist Shayfer James‘ drummer broke his arm. Shayfer had an important gig in a week and needed someone to fill in right away.

A few weeks have passed since the gig. Through reflection, I thought about five things that really helped to expedite the learning process. I’m posting them here in case they are helpful to you, too. Though they are written from a drummer’s perspective, some tips may apply no matter which instrument you play.

    1. All’s well that ends well.
      Learn the ending first. Does the song end with a hit, a rit., or a fade out? If it’s a fade out on the recording, how does it end in a live setting? Above all else, nail the ending.
    2. Know thy entrance.
      How does each song begin? Do you start it? Does someone else? If someone else starts it, are they relying on you to set the tempo? If so, learn the tempos cold.
      A tip: Look at the playlist of songs on your device. Without hitting the play button, quiz yourself on the entrances, tempos, and overall song style for each song. As you’re learning, test yourself by clicking the play button. Repeat until you no longer need to hit play.
    3. Gradually release yourself from the recordings.
      Listening to an artist’s studio recordings can be a double-edged sword. It’s good because you’ll hear all the parts clearly, but it’s bad for the very same reason. You’ll get used to everything you hear in the recording, which may not match up to the live performance. For instance, you might subconsciously cue off an auxiliary string part while you’re listening. Then when you’re in the first rehearsal – where there are no string parts being performed – you notice you’re getting lost in the song! How could this have happened? You were listening so closely to the recording that you missed the forest for the trees!
      The cure is to gradually ween yourself off the recordings. Stop playing the songs in your earbuds and start playing them in your brain. As you start to do this, it will reveal new gaps in your understanding. As you find these gaps, go back to the recording to fill them. Then, play back the song in your brain one more time to let it sink in.
    4. Know the quirky bits.
      If you’re playing with a good musician, he/she is going to have a unique style.
      Think: What are the signature elements that occur in their songs? Does he like to use lots of starts and stops? If so, learn those cold. Does she tend to gradually build each song into a climax? In that case, be sure you are paying extra attention to your dynamics.
      Each artist will be different, but the key is to figure out those signature elements. Then, figure out the parts of your playing style that best complement those elements. Adjust as needed, but stay grounded in reality. With only one week to learn the tunes, you won’t be able to duplicate every last fill in the recorded performance. Nor should you have to. No one in the audience will be looking for that anyway. If you complement the artist’s unique style, you’ve done a good job.
    5. When it comes time to perform, don’t think about any of the tips above.
      Sure, obsess like crazy leading up to the gig. But when it’s time to perform, focus on connecting with the other musicians on stage. Focus on creating a good experience for your audience. No one is looking for an exact replication of the recording. They want an experience. And the experience you provide by creating a true connection with the musicians on stage will far exceed an error-free performance that may be technically perfect but does not connect on any other level.

Hope you found these helpful!

What a Week!

Wow, what a week for double-breasted. Two performances and our photo up on a Times Square jumbotron!

Wednesday – Chalfonte Hotel

The Chalfonte welcomed us back for another performance in beautiful Cape May, NJ. We played to a packed house! We’re so grateful to their staff for continued support and promotion of our music.

Here’s our setlist: Chalfonte Setlist

A behind-the-scenes look at my setup: Chalfonte Drum Setup

Ardith rocking out behind the harp strings: Ardith and Harp Strings

A cover version of Coldplay’s “Clocks” from soundcheck:

[Sharable YouTube link:]

Live performance of “Easy to Leave”:

[Sharable YouTube Link:]


Thursday – Holy crap, our photo is up in Times Square!

d-b in Times Square


Saturday – Canal Day

We enjoy playing this outdoor festival each year. This year was particularly great because of the gorgeous weather. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer day and a nicer audience.

Here is our setlist: Canal Day Setlist

Thanks to everyone who joined us this week!

– Josh

Creative Commons License

You may remember my composition and experiment – writing, performing, and recording a piece of music entirely on an iPad. The piece is called “You Smiled Because You Knew.”

In the spirit of experimentation, I’ve decided to change the copyright license to be less restrictive by using a Creative Commons license. Instead of the standard “all rights reserved,” you are now free to share it, remix it, make derivative works based on it, and even use it commerically.

  • More about the license here →
  • More about the quote that inspired the title here →
  • To listen to the piece, click here (or use the embedded player above)→

So please go ahead, use it as a soundtrack for a slideshow or a video, sample it, remix it, whatever you’d like to do. If it’s helpful to you, write me a quick email to let me know how you were able to use it!


CD Release Recap

What a night!

A huge thank you to everyone who came to the double-breasted CD Release show this past Saturday. The place was packed. I took this pic from my vantage point behind my drums just before we started to play.

Here’s a photo of the setlist.

As you can see, we had a few friends there to perform with us. We had Uton, Chris, and Jodie in the choir, Amelia on violin, and Ken on timpani. Here’s a picture of the whole crew.


Photo courtesy of Susan P. via Facebook.

And here’s a photo of Ardith, Kristy, and I at the end of the night.

Photo courtesy of my sister, Amanda via iPhone.

Once again, thanks so much to everyone who made it out to the show to celebrate the release of our new CD, Suit Yourself!

For those who couldn’t make it, you can purchase the CD or MP3s at CD Baby right here.


A Shift from “The Man” to “The Fan”

Browsing the Kickstarter blog, I came across this article showing their stats from 2011.

$19M pledged for music.


Everyone wants to talk about how the music industry is failing. Everyone wants to talk about how poor the quality of recorded music has become. As music fans, are we actually surprised by this? As the Big Three record labels try to stop the bleeding from decline in sales, they’ve had to cut investment in artists and their recordings.

As the “old way” of doing things continues to spiral downward, I am encouraged by the Kickstarter model. It’s on its way up. And it’s giving anyone with a creative project – not only music – the chance to carry out their vision. For the supporter, it provides a feeling of connectivity, a kind of partnership in the project. The fans are like investors in a business.

And the best part? At the end of the project, you can hold something unique in your hands and know that you were a part of bringing it to fruition.

I am happy that my band, double-breasted, was one of the 11,000 successful Kickstarter projects in 2011. I can’t wait to share the new CD, Suit Yourself, with our fans on February 11th.