Custom SK and XK1c tonewheel sets

My custom tonewheel sets for the SK series and XK1c are available for free download over on the Hammond Organ USA site.

Look at the left-most column about one-third of the way down for Jim Alfredson’s Custom Tonewheel Settings.

Hammond USA site

Hammond USA site

The custom tonewheel sets are based on my beautiful 1954 Hammond C2 that graces my humble home studio. You can hear that organ on organissimo’s Dedicated CD. It’s one of my favorite Hammonds with a full, rich, thick tone especially in the upper end. You can read more about how I created the set and watch comparison videos between the SK2 and the Hammond C2 in this post.

1954 Hammond C2 vs 2012 Hammond SK2

When you download and install the set, please let me know what you think below!

I also have sets for the XK3 and XK3c. Email me or leave a comment below for more details.

Softube Bass Amp Room plug-in review

Most of the music I record does not involve a bassist. Either I am covering the bass with my left hand and/or left foot on the Hammond organ, or I’m using synthesizers. Two projects currently on my plate, however, do feature electric bass. The first is Greg Nagy‘s upcoming third release, tentatively titled I Won’t Give Up. For these sessions, Detroit bassist Joseph Veloz is handling the low-end. The second is my progressive rock project with Gary Davenport on bass duties.

My humble studio is small and I do not own a bass amp. In my studio, I track the bass direct into a Universal Audio LA610 MkII tube preamp with just a hint of compression added on the front end. Joseph uses a nice five-string bass with both passive and active pickups. Gary sends me most of his tracks, recorded at his home direct into his ProTools audio interface. Both methods sound good, but they lack the roundness and fullness that a nice bass amp provides.

Universal Audio LA-610 MkII

Universal Audio LA-610 MkII

I considered the option of re-amping the tracks into a bass amp at another studio, but this would cost both time and more importantly money. The budgets for both these projects are small. So I began looking for alternatives.

A lot of companies make guitar amp simulators. Many DAWs even ship with them, including Cubase, which is my DAW of choice. The VST Amp Rack plug-in within Cubase is quite good and I have used it on a variety of instruments like guitar, synthesizer, Wurlitzer electric piano, and even vocals. But like the majority of guitar amp plugs, it doesn’t have any options for bass.

Steinberg's VST Amp Rack plug-in

Steinberg’s VST Amp Rack plug-in

After searching and reading reviews and suggestions, I came across the Swedish company Softube. They offer a plug-in called Bass Amp Room that seemed perfect for my needs. I downloaded the fully functional 20-day demo (iLok required) and began testing.

Immediately upon loading the plug-in the bass guitar tracks improved. And it wasn’t just a small improvement. The plug-in does exactly what it advertises. It takes your direct bass signal and puts it through an amp in a room with a mic in front of it. The results really speak for themselves and the Softube website has plenty of audio examples.

Softube Bass Amp Room plug-in.

Softube Bass Amp Room plug-in.

The plug-in models three different cabinets; an 8 x 10″ cab, a 4 x 10″ cab, and finally a 1 x 12″ cab. The amp controls are very straight-ahead; normal volume, bass, mid, and treble tone controls, and a master volume along with a lo/hi input switch. They even included a direct inject section to mix some of the direct signal into the amp sound. The DI section includes more tone controls and a limiter.

You can bypass the amp simulation or the cabinet simulation. And you can position the virtual mic anywhere you want in front of the cabinets, backing it way off if you’d like or getting it up close and right on the cone.

I do like how the amp model breaks up when pushed. You can achieve some great fuzz bass tones out of the plug-in as well as some beautiful dark crunch.

I can only think of two areas which need improvement: It is odd that they did not model the classic 1 x 15″ cabinet made famous by the Ampeg B15 and James Jamerson. And I would like to see a cabinet with a horn. Perhaps those will be in a future update.

Despite these caveats, I bought the plug-in from Sweetwater Sound, which is just a bit cheaper than direct from Softube. Below is a mix I’ve been working on. This song was recorded in Los Angeles in October of last year. The bass was tracked direct into Nuendo through a Demeter tube bass DI. This is Gary Davenport on bass, myself on organ, Zach Zunis on guitar, and Matt Tecu on drums under the recording band name The Hollars. We hope to have an EP out this year.

I highly recommend Bass Amp Room to anyone needing a solid bass amp tone for their recordings. Check out the other amp models from Softube, too. It is worth demoing their Valley People Dyna-mite compressor plug-in. I had a real Dyna-mite at my studio for a week or so and compared the virtual with the real. They were very, very close (the plug-in had more high-end information). That’s on my shortlist as well.

Thanks for reading.

These Are The Simple Days – Excerpt

For the last three years or so I’ve been working steadily on a collection of songs that can best be described as progressive rock. As touched upon in an earlier post, I grew up listening to bands like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and others. When I was 16, I recorded an “album” of my own songs on a four-track reel-to-reel, with myself singing and doing all the parts on my trusty Yamaha SY77 (with a bit of acoustic piano thrown in). It was called Satori and included a 30 minute suite dedicated to the poet John Keats.

John Keats

John Keats

Yeah, I was that kid.

The only people that ever heard that “album” were very close friends, my siblings, and my mom and dad. And that’s probably the way it will always be. I don’t know if I can ever release what I’m sure are some real cringe-worthy moments.

I got into jazz a few years after that and spent the next 14 years or so honing my jazz chops with organissimo and others. I focused entirely on Hammond organ and left my synths in the corner, for the most part. When my father passed away in 2008, I was suddenly inspired to dust off the synths (including that same trusty Yamaha SY77!) and start making ambient / electronica music, which is a genre he loved. He made a lot of that kind of music himself. The result was my album ‘In Memorandom‘, which was dedicated to my late parents and random memories from childhood.

Diving back into synths inspired me to eventually re-visit progressive rock. I still love those classic Genesis and Yes albums. But I was disappointed with a lot of modern prog, which seemed to be almost all guitar driven and metal-based. I have nothing against metal and a lot of that stuff is really cool. But where were the keyboard gods of yore? Who was the new Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman?

Actually, there are a handful of modern guys that could possibly fill those roles. My favorite prog keyboardist, however, is much more underrated and subtle: Tony Banks. His compositions, melodic sense, lyrics, textures, and orchestrations, are all beyond compare. His approach to keyboards has always been a huge influence on me.

Tony Banks of Genesis

Tony Banks of Genesis

So I decided to start writing some material inspired by such an approach; not so much about technicality and flashiness, but melody, textures, and atmospheres. Sure, I play with some fun time signatures, but I try to avoid making them sound trite and instead feel natural. I also focused heavily on melody, both for my vocals and for the supporting parts.

The album is coming along nicely. I hope to release it by the end of the year. Right now, two other fantastic musicians are involved; drummer Kevin DePree and bassist Gary Davenport. Kevin played with my good friend Greg Nagy for several years and is on Greg’s Fell Towards None record. He’s got chops galore but is tasteful and sensitive as well. Gary is the bassist in Janiva Magness’ band, the group I’ve been touring with for the last four years. Gary is a monster player, educated at Berkeley. His first band out of college was a prog band that covered Genesis extensively. In the clip below, listen to his beautiful fretless bass work.

The following clip is just an excerpt from one of the songs. It is called “These Are The Simple Days“. This is just half the solo section. This is the first through-composed solo I’ve ever written. I usually just improvise and that’s that. But I wanted to approach this like Tony Banks, who admitted repeatedly in interviews that he was not an improvisor, and actually compose a solo part.

The song itself is about childhood, specifically about my young daughters’ childhood. It is a plea to enjoy this innocence, which is gone too fast. The section in the clip is in 5/8, though the main tune itself is essentially in 11/8 (and a completely different key center). I’ll post more of the song later. I hope to make an actual music video for this song, as the lyrics are very narrative.

I’m very excited about this project. It is a wide departure for what I’m known for, but it’s just another natural side of me. It’s really a return to my roots in some sense.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll re-release that 30 minute epic ode to Keats. I’ve still got the 1/4″ masters.

Satori - on tape. State of the art, yo!

Satori – on tape. State of the art, yo!

Why Crowd-Funding is essential in the Internet Age

NOTE: I originally published this on my Facebook page on May 11, 2013 while in the middle of my second Kickstarter campaign for Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers – A Tribute To Big John Patton. It was looking quite bleak for that campaign but thankfully, with the support of music-lovers and jazz fans, we pulled through. I wrote this piece in response to many private messages and emails I received from musicians, fans, and friends. The theme running through all the messages was some variant of “Why are you resorting to crowd-funding? Isn’t that begging?”

I thought I would post this piece here to hopefully gain more exposure to the thoughts within and begin a dialogue.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Right now my second Kickstarter project is about halfway to the finish line. Unfortunately it is also behind in terms of reaching my funding goals. I realize my last project was only six months ago (the very successful CD “Dedicated” by organissimo) and I also realize that, like last time, I’m asking for quite a tidy sum of money. I’d like to take a moment to explain why I’m asking for that amount but more importantly why crowd-funding is so important to independent, niche musicians like myself, using my last successful project as an example.

The Kickstarter for organissimo’s “Dedicated” reached it’s funding goal of $12,000 on October 15th, a full two days ahead of schedule. It finshed slightly above the goal at $12,275.  Kickstarter and Amazon (who processed the payments) each took 5% right off the top.  So that left us with $11,047. I tracked and mixed the album myself, spending $274.50 on a suite of plug-ins for my DAW. That is the only money that I personally received from the Kickstarter for my role in the production of the CD. Not only did I perform on the disc, write songs for the disc, engineer the disc in my home studio (with gear that I purchased myself), and spend countless hours fixing and mixing the audio, but I also did all the promotion, handled the Kickstarter, updated the websites, contacted the photographer, graphic designer, radio promoter, and mastering engineer, scheduled all those folks to do their thing, handled the payment for all those folks, contacted press people, and generally oversaw every little aspect of making the CD a reality. And I did not pay myself one cent for any of this except for buying those plug-ins in order to be able to mix the audio. I literally spent hours and hours and hours putting this CD together and I did not receive any money except to buy those plug-ins.

Drummer Randy Marsh did not receive any money either. Guitarist Ralph Tope was paid a small severance package when he left the band in order to protect the group’s rights to the music (which ate up the “extra” money I had calculated into the budget).

Indeed, I actually spent hundreds of dollars of my own money on postage, after the post office either lost or delivered half-empty packages to over half the people who purchased the “organissimo box set” as part of the Kickstarter. The budget was so tight that by the time the packages were lost, there was no more money to mail new ones and so I picked up the cost myself. The post office also raised prices on international shipments by 200% and I had to eat those costs as well.

Which brings me to my next point: Why is crowd-funding so important?

Within one week of organissimo’s Dedicated being released it was available on blogs and torrent sites on the internet for free.

You can go find it right now with a simple Google search. In fact, you can find every single organissimo album for free with a simple Google search.

This is not by choice.

In the digital age, musicians no longer have any control over how their product is distributed. This is why we must receive money up front to record the music.  Waiting until after it is released is foolish and financially ruinsome for independent artists like us. And that means we need you, the fans, to step up and help us make it happen. You are vitally important to the process. Without you, we have no hope.

The last four organissimo CDs cost about the same to produce: between $10,000 and $12,000.  I was able to curb a lot of that by tracking and mixing Dedicated myself and so we spent the “extra” money not spent on studio time on promotion. One thing I’ve learned as an independent musician is the importance of promotion. If you’re not going to promote yourself, who is?  Without promotion, Dedicated would’ve done nothing. With promotion it was able to hit #5 on the national jazz charts, #2 on the college jazz charts, and has lead to more sales and more opportunities for the band. Promotion is immensely important and that’s why over 30% of the Kickstarter budget for Dedicated was for promotion.

Before Kickstarter, we would personally go into debt every time we recorded an album.  It would literally take years to pay that off. As file sharing has become easier and more prevalent, it has taken longer and longer to pay off that debt. Our first disc took 2 years to pay off. The second 3. The third 4. See a pattern?

And so, to answer the question “Why is crowd-funding so important?” It is important because it is no longer financially feasible to go into debt to produce an album. And that is because of file-sharing. The only way to guarantee that I’ll be able to make an album financially is to get that financing up front. And that’s where you, the fans, come into play.  If you want the music to be made, you have to support it on the front end. Give me your pledge of support up front and I will produce the music for you to enjoy. I need you.

I hope I can count on your support. Beyond the current Kickstarter (http://kck.st/11TeOky) I am currently working on a progressive rock project of all original material (with me singing!) that is reminscent of the 70′s keyboard-centered prog, but not derivative thereof. I also have several project by good friends that I am producing / engineering / consulting on and many many more ideas up in this crazy head of mine. If you know me, you know the music is going to be great regardless. Thank you for reading and thank you for caring about indepedent artists like myself.

—-Jim Alfredson

organissimo’s Dedicated #25 on JazzWeek Top 100 of 2013

organissimo’s Dedicated came in at #25 on JazzWeek’s Top 100 of 2013 chart. The chart is based on airplay nationwide on JazzWeek affiliated stations.

Top25

 

I am very proud and humbled to be listed among some truly great artists. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Dedicated yet, please consider doing so.

BUY NOW: DIRECT FROM BIG O - Amazon - CDBaby.com - iTunes | More info…

organissimo’s ‘Dedicated’ named 2013 Top-10 via CMJ

CMJ, the College Music Journal, released it’s year-end top CDs of 2013 and organissimo’s Dedicated made the #10 spot on the jazz chart.

CMJ Jazz 2013 chart

CMJ Jazz 2013 chart

I would like to thank all the DJ’s who spun our CD on college stations nationwide. Thank you for supporting independent music.

KIOS names Dirty Fingers in Top 12 of 2013

KIOS FM in Omaha NE has named my CD, Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers – A Tribute To Big John Patton as a Top 12 release in 2013.  I’m thankful and honored.

http://kios.org/post/jazz-junction-top-twelve-2013

Jim Alfredson's Dirty Fingers (BIG O 2419)

Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers (BIG O 2419)

Got your copy yet?  It’s available via the Big O Store, AmazonCDBaby.com, and iTunes.

Hammond XK1c video demo

As a companion to my Hammond XK1c Quick review, here’s a video demo of the XK1c in action. I took one of the tracks from my Tribute To Big John Patton sessions last August and muted the original organ track. I then overdubbed myself playing the XK1c instead. I think it sounds very good! Such demos are important because they demonstrate how the instrument fits into a mix with a band.

I considered connecting the XPK-200L bass pedals to the XK1c and kickin’ a bit of bass, but I decided to just do left hand bass instead.

The XK1c was recorded directly into Cubase 7 from it’s 1/4″ outputs. The onboard Leslie sim is used. I added a bit of the session reverb from the track to help it sit into the “room” with the other instruments.

Enjoy the video and let me know what you think.

Hammond XK1c

Hammond XK1c

New upcoming Greg Nagy release…

I first met Greg Nagy in early 2005. I was doing some freelance video work in Ann Arbor and got a call from Greg that morning asking me about organissimo’s first album Waiting For The Boogaloo Sisters…  Greg complimented the record and specifically wanted to know what I had done to promote it.

“Uh… nothing,” I naively said.

That wasn’t going to fly with Mr. Nagy. He had a bunch of ideas that we eventually applied to the following release, This Is The Place, ideas that helped make that CD very successful on jazz radio and in the press. For that release, we co-founded our own label, Big O Records.

organissimo - This Is The Place (BIG O 2404)

organissimo – This Is The Place (BIG O 2404), released in 2005.  This is the first project Greg and I worked together on.

Before all that, he invited me over to jam and maybe write some songs. On our first get together, we wrote “Won’t Cry”, which is featured on his first solo release Walk That Fine Thin Line. He joined Root Doctor as well and together we produced three CDs for the band. We also produced his sophomore release Fell Towards None and he’s had a hand in every other organissimo release and even my newest solo release A Tribute To Big John Patton.

Root Doctor - Change Our Ways (BIG O 2407)

Root Doctor – Change Our Ways (BIG O 2407), released in 2008. I’m very proud of our work on this one including production, songwriting, arrangements, and more.

Greg Nagy - Fell Toward None (BIG O 2417)

Greg Nagy – Fell Toward None (BIG O 2417), released in 2011. This was a very enjoyable record to make and features one of Greg’s finest performances on my tune “I’ll Know I’m Ready”.

In short, we’ve become really good friends and musical partners.

Greg and I are now working on his third CD. The last 18 months have seen some dramatic changes in his life. The last few years of my life have been dramatically different as well due to my intense touring schedule and being away from my family. All these things are filtering into the songs that Greg and I are writing together. In the spring, we released a single we co-wrote called I Won’t Give Up, which you can hear for free here (Flash required). It is available on iTunes.

So we’re working on a new record together, Greg’s third. We have assembled a stellar cast of musicians to bring it to life. And like my past two projects, we’ve begun a crowd-funding campaign via Kickstarter to finance it. The music industry is in flux. Nobody knows how its all going to shake out. But with crowd-funding, the middlemen are removed from the process and we can connect directly to our fans. You’re not donating to a cause, you’re supporting the creative process. You’re directly participating in the production of new music.

I really believe in this music and I hope you’ll consider being a part of it. My role will be as songwriter, performer (Hammond, Wurlitzer electric piano, piano, Rhodes, etc.), and engineer.

Check out the introduction video above and consider becoming an important part of the process with us.  Thank you!  Here is the direct link to the Kickstarter campaign.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/307717482/greg-nagy-recording-project

Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers – Available everywhere!

My new CD, Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers – A Tribute To Big John Patton, is available all over the web for your enjoyment. It’s currently enjoying a lot of excitement and airplay from radio stations across the US.

Jim Alfredson's Dirty Fingers (BIG O 2419)

Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers (BIG O 2419)

You can order a physical copy from Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, or direct from the Big O Store, which is my label’s outlet. Note that the Big O Store is the only place you can also purchase the companion DVD, featuring 90 minutes of music including three tracks not on the CD.

If digital downloads are more your thing, it is also available in mp3 format on Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, and more.

Here are some examples from the companion DVD, again only available via the Big O Store.