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Connecting Songwriters Throughout Northeast Ohio

News And Updates

Volume 3 Issue 8

August 2019

Searching In A Strange Land. Again.

Ken Moody-Arndt, President
Once again, we are nomads, musical gypsies searching for a place to pitch our tents and stay a while.

Okay—maybe that’s a little dramatic. But once again—whether we wanted to be or not, and I sense that most of us emphatically did not—we embark upon a quest for yet another musical oasis, a place where we can gather, rest a while, and eat the sweet fruit of our musical…okay, okay, I’ll stop!

But we are once again in search of a venue. After a great, five-year run, 2 Girls’ Café & Bakery has unexpectedly found that they needed to close their doors, permanently. We will miss them. We will be ever grateful for what they so freely gave us: a meeting room for our Board, altered hours of operation to accommodate our meeting times, a great selection of food and friendly service, a relaxing environment for our song sharing, as well as great appreciation for our music—and all this in one place! Longtime member Jon David Miller could even be found performing there regularly! Not for the first time, we search for a new venue.

So we ask that you look among your various communities and contacts for a new place that might be open to what we do, that might be centrally located for our Songwriters Summit, which never, impressions to the contrary, considered itself solely a Summit County operation.
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Our Home For The August 5th Meeting.

And as you consider this, consider also that this search can be seen as a metaphor for a larger search—one we’ve been involved in for a while now. Our spirit is strong. We are as committed as ever to offering a serious, supportive place where songwriters can meet and help each other write good songs, better songs, the best song ever. Some of us have been engaged for decades, a virtual lifetime, in this quest for that fabled, perfect"meeting place" of rhyme, rhythm, chord progression, melody, verse, chorus—and a Bridge, of course; never forget the Bridge!

All of us continue to do these things well. But our numbers are dwindling. We can’t help but notice that. Those of us who frequent open mics can testify that the interest in live, local music is dwindling. It’s perfectly okay to ask: is there still a need out there for what we do, in these days of technological advancement, in which it’s so easy just to download a mix? Is there still an appreciation for those of us willing to stand on stage and deliver, in these days of auto-tune, readily accessible backing tracks, and karaoke machines?

Yes, there are, still, many of us out there. We continue to cross paths at open mics. We have formed ourselves into a number of groups focused on our common Art and Craft. Two come to mind, alongside ours: Cleveland Songwriters, which meets regularly the second Monday of the month at a venue as generous as 2 Girls’ Café & Bakery has been to us. And the East Side Songwriter Circle, in the Mentor area, which also recently lost its venue due to an unexpected closure (it would seem that Coffee Shops and Cafés are struggling as much as anyone). Are there ways we can combine our efforts, perhaps at a venue or venues central to all of us?

Our numbers may be dwindling, in these changing times. But “we” are still out there, as passionate as ever about what we do. Are there ways we can shift how we offer what we do to meet the needs of a new day?
It is with great sadness that we note that 2 Girls Cafe & Bakery has closed its doors and we will have to look for a new location for our monthly meetings. We wish the folks at 2 Girls Cafe & Bakery the best of luck and thank them for hosting us for the last year or so.

At this point our next meeting will be at the
Cuyahoga Falls Library Graefe Room, down the stairs and to the left as you enter the building. The meeting time will be a bit earlier because we have to be straightened up and out by 8:45.

SPECIAL REQUEST: We will have the room starting at 6PM. If you can arrive a bit early to help us setup that would be wonderful. Tables and chairs will have to be arranged to accommodate our format.

Finally, you can bring refreshments (no alcohol) and food but if you do, covered containers are suggested and you will be expected to clean up after yourself.

Sorry for the short notice. See you on the 5th.

August 5th at 6:45 PM
2015 Third Street, Cuyahoga Falls

Join Us For Our Next General Meeting
August 5th at 6:45 PM
Cuyahoga Falls Library
2015 Third Street, Cuyahoga Falls

Meeting Details

TC Helicon VoiceLive Reviewed

David Palomo
This month, I’m doing a hands on review of two TC Helicon products: The VoiceLive Touch 2 (Touch 2) and the VoiceLive Rack (Rack). These are both vocal harmonizers. I’ve been using the Touch for about seven years and got a Rack about two months ago which we used at the July meeting.

I learned about TC Helicon when a vocal teacher I studied with recommended their products and just the same week, Sweetwater reviewed the recently released floor unit, the VoiceLive 2. I really liked the Sweetwater demo’s, especially the song Hide And Seek by Imogen Heap, but I wasn’t a big fan of having a floor unit such as the VoiceLive 2. I find floor units unfriendly to making on-the-fly adjustments to the spontaneous flow of performances.

So I looked to see what was else was available and ended up with the VoiceLive Touch 2 which mounts on a mic stand. That was seven years ago and I’ve never looked back. It really is an instrument in itself and, like any instrument, rewards the time you put into it, learning its nuances. In addition to very good user manual, TC Helicon has very nice Video manual for the Touch 2.

The learning curve wasn’t too substantial and TC Helicon had a very nice series of tutorials that got me to a basic level of fluency in a day or two.

Ever since then, I’ve kept an eye on their products, in particular the rack mount version of the VoiceLive series. Recently, I was able to get hold of a VoiceLive Rack on sale. I’ll highlight the pro’s and con’s of each unit below. But first….

The Basics: the key to the VoiceLive series is that we now have the computing power for the units to “read” your chords and construct harmonies from them. Keyboard players can connect via MIDI.

You can choose from several harmony set ups on the Touch 2 and the Rack. I use a basic Major set which does fine when I play minor chords in a song. You can select particular scales to work from but I’ve found it much more straight forward to use global settings and have the unit read my guitar chords in whatever key I choose.

Also nice: All the VoiceLive products include pitch correction. The 50% default setting works well for me. You get a slight chorusing effect if you use headphones (your audience won’t hear it). If you turn the pitch correction to 100% you’ll get the fluttery hard tune effect so keep it in the 50-60% range.


VoiceLive Touch 2

What I like:

  • It mounts on a mic stand
  • Easy to read screen
  • In addition to the editable Harmony block (they call the various effects groups “blocks”), they have a separate Voices block that allows you to sculpt multiple voice arrangements
  • Nine Presets can be selected from the face of the device (so you can have up to nine presets ready to use for a gig)
  • Around 200 factory presets and room for 100 custom presets that you design.
  • Footswitch control (for example: you can turn harmonies on for a chorus and off for a verse)
  • Outstanding video manual (in addition to a well organized user manual)

What I don’t like

  • Navigation controls can be imprecise, requiring two or three attempts before they “take.”
  • Footswitch control: the latest system update converts the unit to work with a five switch footswitch. You can set the switches to a variety of uses: scroll up through presets, scroll down through presets, turn an effect block on/off, or record/play a loop. The problem here is that you can easily hit a switch you don’t intend to and really derail a performance. I’ve solved this by putting caps over the ones I don’t use.
  • Poor I/O access: it is a bit of a squeeze to get all the ¼ inch TRS cables hooked up. It gets very congested in the space between the back of the unit and the mic stand.
  • Looping—here’s where I had the steepest learning curve. I was blown away by the looping example on the TC Helicon website (sadly no longer on the site). The biggest challenge for me is timing the start and stop of a loop. To do this you need to engage the metronome (if performing, set it to play through the headphones only). It’s like learning to play another instrument.

Bottom line: This is a LOT of options in a very small package. You can set it for two higher voices, set those voices to a 3rd and 5th up. You can set it for four voices tight or four voices wide. Same with two voices. You can set it for two voices up, one down (or visa versa). And it’s very convenient to have nine presets loaded on the nine position matrix on the face of the unit—just touch and go in performance.

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VoiceLive Rack - front view

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VoiceLive Rack - rear view

VoiceLive Rack

What I like:

  • The Tone function: this is a game changer. Engaging the Tone function button automatically adds EQ, De-essing, and Compression to your voice. This really worked well at our July meeting. This function is not available on the Touch 2.
  • Nice two rack space size
  • Easy to read screen
  • Very easy to navigate (easier and more precise than the Touch 2)
  • Easy to set up in the back
  • XLR outs in the back: this makes it easier if you’re working with a someone else’s sound system. Select “dual mono” in the easy to navigate Set Up tab and the right channel will then carry the guitar and the left channel will carry the vocal for the sound engineer to mix (you can also do this in the Touch 2 with its TRS outs).
  • Easy to dial in your vocal level: there’s a one touch action that gives you a visual on your vocal level and tells you when you’ve dialed it in to an optimal level. On the Touch 2 there’s just a light that flashes when you start to clip.

What I don’t like:

  • I really miss having the “Voices” block on the Touch 2 where I can dial in group set up for Harmony. They are available in the Rack but they’re hidden under various “blocks.” This is probably because the Rack came first and the Touch 2 was a later iteration and they found out it was more convenient to load the “voices” the way they do on the Touch 2.
  • The Bypass function: this is the on/off control for all of the effects you have loaded. If you hit Bypass, all your effects turn off. By comparison, the “Hit” button on the Touch 2 allows you to turn on/off any set of effects you want. If you want to turn off harmonies and chorusing and just keep reverb going, you can’t do this with the Bypass function on the Rack but you can do it with the Hit button on the Touch 2.
  • Steps: this is the workaround for the problem I just described. This is probably more a leaning curve issue for me since I’m more familiar with the Touch 2. This function allows you to assign sets effects to a series of up to eight “Steps” within a given preset. Moving from one step to the next, you can turn on/off multiple effects. You can scroll through these using a three position footswitch or manually from the front of the unit.
  • Deeper learning curve: the settings on the various effects are much deeper than on the Touch 2. I’ll say this: with both units, I think you need to regard them as an instrument in their own right that you are learning to use.

Bottom line: After seven years of using the Touch 2, I’m beginning to like the Rack more and more. I don’t miss the looping function of the Touch 2 and the ease of navigation and cable set up makes up for the larger size. The Tone button with it’s adaptive EQ, De-essing and Compression is well worth the bigger size.

Guitar effects: not so great. A big downer for me on both units is that the guitar effects cannot be set to automatically mimic the voice settings. Example: if I have a certain reverb setting on vocal, I have to go to the guitar tab under the Setup button in order to set up the same reverb. This is much easier to do in the Rack but is still something that can interrupt your flow in a performance.

I’m experimenting with turning off the guitar effects in the VoiceLive units and using an external guitar processor that can be controlled via phone or iPad to see if that goes any better. I suspect it will be just as easy to do this on the Rack as on the phone or iPad. On the Touch 2, fawgeddaboudit. The guitar effects are buried too far down to do anything efficiently in a performance.

OMG—the sticker shock!! I regard the Touch 2 and the Rack as instruments in themselves not just because of the learning curve and performance, but because of the price. The Touch 2 weighs in at $498 and Rack at $598 (down from $798).

TC Helicon has been developing some more affordable products over the past couple of years and I noticed a new one that is more affordable and more specifically for the solo singer-songwriter.

Enter The T-C Helicon Perform-VG

Disclaimer: I don’t own this—I haven’t done a hands-on test of this unit. However, I can comment on the features I see that come from the Touch 2 or the Rack. Let’s start with price: $198. Not quite the apoplexy-inducing pricing of the Touch 2 or the Rack.

How about features? Does the solo performer really need a multiple voice choir for harmonies? The Perform-VG simplifies things down to 3 voices max. It doesn’t have a screen so you’re relying on a button to activate the function you want to adjust (say, reverb or harmony) and then you literally dial in the level with a knob which has lights around the circumference to indicate the level you’re dialing up. You do the same thing for guitar effects. According to the manual, you can specify various configurations of harmony voices (for example: 1 high; or high and higher; or high, higher and low)

Unlike the Touch 2, Perform VG has the same Tone function as the Rack—that is, it provides you with adaptive EQ, De-essing and Compression. Unlike the other 2 units, this one has an Anti-feedback button. The Perform VG mounts on a mic stand but they’ve solved to in/out access problem by having the mount on the left side of the unit, leaving the back totally open for your mic and guitar cables and your outs to your sound system.

Closing thoughts: these things are just plain FUN! Between my health and managing Music Together Summit, I really don’t have the time or energy to get out to play with other people. But being able to plug in and sing some songs with these harmonies can really turn around a tough day. So I sometimes refer to the Touch 2 and the Rack as my personal mental health clinic. Hey, if nothing else, the voices are no longer just in my head!
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Components Of A Great Song

Bob Sammon
I want you to think back a way. Before your iPhone carried your entire music library in your pocket. Before iPods and earbuds. Before portable CD Players. That's right. Back to when great sound really mattered.

I still have the pair of Pioneer HPM speakers I bought back in the '70s when researching the elements of a home stereo system was an art form unto itself. Visiting retailers dedicated to reproduction of great music became pilgrimages. Reading the audio magazines a ritual. Talking to others and listening to their systems just part of the process. Sooner or later we got it right. At least we got it right for our rooms, our taste and our budgets.

Then there was setting it all up. The turntable plugged into the phono jacks. Maybe there was a AUX IN for a reel-to-reel recorder. A four track if you could afford it. Running the speaker wires to keep them out of sight was just one of the tasks that made up the litany of jobs that had to be completed before the first nots of"Alice's Restaurant" or"In A Gadda Da Vida" blasted out of the open windows forcing your neighbors to consider calling the authorities.
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"One of my current favorite songwriters is Jason Isbell."

Play If We Were Vampires
What we do as songwriters isn't all that different from setting up the stereo (or Quadraphonic?) in the den. We must pick and choose from the tools and skills we have to create something that is more than just the sum of its parts. The components we use in the process include the instrument of our choice, the style of music, the groove, the lyric and the melody. Each one has to be carefully selected and magically connected to the others in order to assemble something that is exactly what we're looking for.

We find inspiration - and encouragement - in everything around us and, as members of Songwriter Summit, maybe even the people we see and hear at our meetings. Songs and artists we like push us in new, different and exciting directions.

One of my current favorite songwriters is Jason Isbell. Sometimes all it takes is a single word in a song to catch my attention. With Isbell that word was"benzodiazepine" In his song"
Different Days."

Then"If We Were Vampires" grabbed me much the same way. Take a listen as see for yourself just how haunting [sic] this tune is and how well crafted it is. All the components are there. The instrumentation. The lyric. The melody. And the feeling that connects you to his song. It's a reminder that attention to detail - the same kind of detail we put into matching audio components, prepping recipe items or editing articles in a newsletter - is the key to creating great music and maybe even making your next song something bigger and better than the last one.

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Kevin Eblin
"I Will Sing You Back To Me"

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Grace Notes
Our Next Meeting
Our next meeting will be held at Cuyahoga Falls Library, 2015 Third Street, Cuyahoga Falls, at 6:45 PM on August 5th. If you are presenting a song please bring 30 copies for distribution to the other attendees. Copies will be returned to you at the end of the meeting. You do not need to be a member to attend a meeting or bring us a song.
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Officers And Board Members
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Ken Moody-Arndt

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Bob Sammon
Member At Large

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Don Henson

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Mike Urban
Member At Large

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Dave Waldeck
Recording Secretary

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Larry Davis
Member At Large

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David Palomo
Member At Large

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T. B. Announced, Jr.
Member At Large

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