Why Did You Even Bother: 2014 in Review

It’s been a tradition I write a long, rambling and ultimately useless post about how things here in the lair went for the past year, so here’s 2014.

Let’s get the microcontroller stuff out of the way first. Most viewed posts from this blog:

Title views
A Minimal Arduino Library for Processing Serial Commands (2011) 10,165
Modify an Arduino for DebugWIRE (2010) 8,716
Hardware Debugging the Arduino using Eclipse and the AVR Dragon (2012) 6,799
A Too-Simple Arduino Library for Handling the Seeeduino Relay Shield (and Generic Relays) (2011) 2,333
Changing the Pickups in an Ibanez S420 Guitar (2014) 1,754

It is not really surprising that all the previously-poopular posts are still poopular. Overall views are slightly up (#1 was 8,904 in 2013, 10,165 in 2014). Most readers are the USA (11,640), Germany (4,002), UK (2,481), and Canada (2,034). Way down at the bottom is one reader from the Vatican City. If the Pope is reading this, hello to The Pope.

As always, my most popular single thing is that schematic to remove a capacitor by about a 4-to-1 ratio, for some reason.

I still get email telling me to make my arduino libraries do things they actually already do. Also people who don’t understand the git fork concept.

I didn’t make many new posts this year, with the S420 pickups article being the only thing of substance. If you’re a long-time reader you will notice lots of posts are missing now. In particular all the “individual music posts” I wrote every time I released a new music track are gone. At one point during the year I attempted to transition this website over to squarespace, and I dumped all them as part of the cleanup. I ended up not using squarespace, for reasons I’ll get into later in this article. It’s nicer that all those little posts are deleted anyway.

Let’s move on to the part everybody nobody wants to know about, the music.

Last year I dumped Soundcloud, and they didn’t want me back, so I don’t have to worry about summarizing any Soundcloud stats. All my music has been available on Bandcamp for a couple of years now. In late 2013 I started using Distrokid to put my music for sale on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, and a whole host of services I can’t even access because I live in Canada. Spotify at least came to Canada this year, so I could see if that was working. 2013’s Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf and 2014’s Crap Chute’s Box of Devils got to those services via Distrokid. Albums from previous years (2009-2012) albums are exclusive to Bandcamp, mostly because I’m lazy. Bandcamp remains the best/cheapest way to get all the material anyway.

So yeah, new album, how about that. After the experience with the release of Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf I really was not intending to do more material. June had rolled around and I hadn’t even picked up any instruments to work on stuff as I wasn’t motivated. I ended up buying Rocksmith 2014 on a Steam sale and tried working through that. I will say that I’m hugely disappointed with Rocksmith as a product, but because I had the guitar out to play it, I would noodle and end up recording little snips I called “LOL WUTs” that I would save for later. At one point I had enough snips that I figured I could write some more material around them and make a new album and put that out anyway. That’s why Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is more guitar-oriented than previous years.

I had been making little snips and ideas from June to October 2014, and didn’t start trying to finalize writing and recording until October 2014. In previous years I was making and releasing tracks in a stream throughout the year, and then assembling them into an album at the year end. This time, however, I finalized everything and put the album out all at once.

Since I had finished up and put all the tracks together over about a three week period, I didn’t have titles for any of them other than a placeholder usually named “LOL WUT” and the date. I also didn’t have an album title picked since I had not planned to put out an album. In previous years I was doing releases of tracks chronologically as I finished them, and that was the order they appeared on the album. This time I had to pick an album title, set titles for tracks, and pick an order to appear on the album.

I will not lie, I had all the tracks done and finalized and hadn’t named any of them. I sat and brainstormed about forty titles in about fifteen minutes, picked 36 to use for track titles. Then I rearranged the LOL WUT’s to be in not-chronological order and space out the styles, picked a couple of aggressive tracks to start the album, and Pachelbel canon / O Canada to finish the album, and just started tacking titles onto tracks. Consequently even I don’t know the titles of my own music when I hear them.

The only track with a modicum of thinking behind the title was Bushel of Oats, and that’s only because I was specifically doing yet-another-version of the Pachelbel’s Canon piece. Quaker Oats used to advertise their puffed products were “shot from a cannon”, and the obvious confusion is that people mistake “canon” for “cannon” and yes, it’s really a stupid joke isn’t it. All my titles are usually stupid jokes. At least this year I didn’t get stuck on that sequential-numbering kick.

I did mildly consider keeping the “LOL WUT” names and having everything be “LOL WUT 1″, “LOL WUT 2″ but that would have been too extreme, even for me.

For album titles, my working title during assembly was “Crap Chute’s Half-Hearted Attempt” which I would have stuck with had I not picked “Box of Devils” after naming one of the tracks Beat the Devil in a Box. Other titles I considered were “Crap Chute’s Irreproducible Results” (too much Ig Nobel) and “Crap Chute’s Chiral Nature” (Nobody can pronounce chiral correctly).

I ended up doing the album art myself.

Comparing Crap Chute’s Box of Devils to previous albums:

Tracks 2014 Compared

Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is the shortest album I’ve put out so far, with “only” 37 tracks, and 187 minutes of music. I will say that in retrospect, I did not like trying to make 37 incoherent snips into actual finished tracks all in a three week period. I did have some more snips and works-in-progress that I didn’t finish for Crap Chute’s Box of Devils, and that was really because I was getting fed up writing and recording and just wanted to put the album out and be done with it. The actual release was November 15th 2014 on Bandcamp, with a couple of days following for the Distrokid services like iTunes and Amazon to catch up.

I had some good luck getting both Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf (some months after release) and Crap Chute’s Box of Devils (shortly after release) featured on the Night Attack show with Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young. Disclosure: I support them on Patreon. Can’t complain about the coverage. I wrote articles on those at the time (loaf, devils) so I won’t repeat that here. You can buy the new Night Attack comedy album Too Old to Talk which I think is pretty great.

So here’s only part you’re interested in: what about all the moneyyyyyyy.

Let’s start off with Bandcamp sales and downloads. On Bandcamp I had all the albums free-but-pay-what-you-want. When Box of Devils came out I was intending to start off with a pittance price and see where that went. The release didn’t go as I’d planned, so I just said screw it and made it also free-but-pay-what-you-want. I let that go for a couple of weeks until I figured everyone who would be mad I was charging for it would piss off wanted it would get it, then I moved the price up to a base of five dollars. Turns out none of that mattered anyway, as I kind of expected.

Here are the album sales data (for all time since I started using Bandcamp in 2012). “Downloads” includes both the free downloads and the download from a sale.

Album (Release Year) Sales Downloads
Box of Devils (2014) 4 12
Pinched Loaf (2013) 3 8
Lagrange Point (2012) 3 5
Something or Other (2011) 1 5
Sluice Juice (2010) 2 6
Blast from the Ass (2009) 1 7

crap chute transparency

Three of the four sales for Box of Devils happened in the first week, with the fourth happening by the end of the first month. So yeah, not a lot of sales, but completely in line with my other albums from years past. Total revenue in 2014 for Bandcamp sales was $77.00.

Yes, Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is actually now my best-selling bandcamp album to date, with four sales. All four sales were to nice folks who previously bought my albums, so no new fans. The pricing scheme of actually charging five bucks minimum hasn’t had a noticeable effect, because there haven’t been any sales since then.

Technically Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf is the best selling across all platforms, counting the iTunes sales gives a total of six.

Downloads are a little bit higher this time because after my mention on Night Attack I gave out some free download codes to the Diamond Club community, who wouldn’t download it when it was free, but would download it if it cost money and they got a free code. Go figure. Some people used the free codes but didn’t actually download anything (why would you do that?), so the total number of downloads is actually less than the free downloads + sales + codes numbers.

Here’s the sales breakdown from all the Distrokid-supported services, technically from all time (which means October 2013, when I signed up with Distrokid):

Service Sales Revenue
iTunes $21.75 (three album sales)
iTunes Match $0.33
Spotify $0.12
Google Play All Access $0.10
Rdio $0.00
Google Play $0.00
Amazon $0.00

So the total I earned on the Distrokid services system was $22.33 for the past year. That’s good because it covers the $19.99 I pay Distrokid for distribution. iTunes was the only place anyone bought something from, no sales from Amazon or Google Play. The three iTunes sales were for Pinched Loaf, and no sales for Box of Devils. I don’t get any choice in the pricing set by the Distrokid-distributed stuff, the iTunes/Google Play/Amazon stores make that determination.

Spotify’s revenue is from 48 total plays of tracks. iTunes Match is from 125 plays-or-whatever iTunes match counts. Whatever it is, all of them are probably me, since I pay for iTunes Match and use it to download my own stuff.

So overall for six years of albums, 311 tracks, and 28 hours of material available, I made $99.23 in revenue in 2014. Bandcamp for the year cost me $120, another $19.99 for Distrokid, so my net income using that accounting style is -$22.66 for the year. Better than being thousands of dollars in the hole, admittedly. Despite what you might think, I’m not bitter as I do the music for myself anyway, Also, rationalisation. I am interested in the statistics, however.

So let’s talk about something new I attempted this year, which was ad sales and marketing and that bullshit that people don’t like to talk about.

First things first: I really like the Night Attack show, and the hosts are great people, but having two albums featured on the show accounted for zero sales. It’s easy to calculate that too because I’ve had zero actual sales/downloads since the show aired – even when it was free. I only got downloads for Box of Devils from Night Attack’s viewers once I jacked the price up and gave out free codes.

I should say, I gave away lots of free codes, and not just to Diamond Club. Bandcamp makes me generate them in blocks of one hundred, so I couldn’t just make five or six, I had to have a hundred. So I posted them in a few places. There’s no need for a table of results: Not a single code I posted to any social media (Facebook, Google Minus Plus, or that Ello thing) was redeemed. Not a one. The only codes that got used were ten that I gave to the Night Attack/Diamond Club audience.

That segues nicely into Facebook. At one point I tried the Facebook advertising system. I made a Facebook page for my music, and bought Facebook ads (ads that run on Facebook, not on other sites). A flat out disaster, that was. I spent a total of $70 on Facebook ads (Facebook wanted me to “start” with $350 budget, what the hell) and literally got nothing but spammers liking the page. In fact, I had the exact scenario detailed in this youtube video.

According to the Facebook ads manager I got about 22,000 “impressions” (the ad being shown to someone), but all I got was a lot of “likes” originating from non-english speaking countries by people that liked literally thousands of things, yet engaged with nothing, and consumed my entire ad budget. I didn’t have any sales or downloads that came in from Facebook, and at one point Facebook started sending me suggestions that I should pay more money in order to promote my posts so more people would see them, because of 75+ “likers” only three or four people (or bots, I suspect) were getting to see each new music post – Facebook’s own analytics tells you this. At that point I shut down the entire Facebook page and ad system. I dumped all that and chalked it up as life experience.

I then tried using Google Adwords, which is Google’s advertising product. You pay money for little text ads that show up in search results and on certain ad boxes on websites. I used Adwords in “pay per click” and not “pay by impression” mode, so the actual cost per “click” is pretty high. Some of those “clicks” cost me nearly $4. Here’s what those ads looked like:

adwords 1

adwords ad

So how did those ads do? Let’s hit the executive summary first: I spent a total of $151 over a few months in a few batches. Zero sales, zero free downloads.

For the $151 I got a total of 326,705 “impressions” (how many times the ad was presented to people), of those 1,304 people actually clicked on the ad and went to the bandcamp website (“click through rate” of 0.39%), and zero people bought or downloaded anything for free. Technically I had one sale of Pinched Loaf and a couple of free downloads but those were unrelated to the google adwords. For a two week sample period during the adwords campaign I got 505 plays (53 full plays of a track, 118 partial plays, and 334 skips). When I don’t run advertising, I get about sixteen plays over two weeks.

Look at that again. Three hundred thousand people were supposedly shown my ad, and if you take out all the clickfarm countries the people who click are about 0.19%. Netcraft confirms it: Nobody looks at ads on the internet.

Interestingly in the first batch of Adwords ads I ran, I set it up for worldwide without country restrictions and initially started getting a lot of partial plays on the Bandcamp site (but no downloads or sales, remember everything was available free at this point). I highly suspect that was flat-out click fraud. I ended up having to remove countries like India and the Philippines from the regions because otherwise they would eat the entire adwords budget with their clicks. I suspect that the partial plays all come from the bots/farms going to the page, and clicking a couple of links on that page so that the google analytics doesn’t trigger that the person spent zero seconds on the page. When I kept the ads to USA/Canada/UK/Germany/Netherlands I got about 21 plays in a week, compared to about 250 plays using worldwide.

In the last run of ads for Box of Devils I limited it to USA/Canada/UK and I only got a staggering 78 clicks for 32,909 impressions (0.24% rate, with zero downloads, zero sales).

Maybe if I had a huge budget I could make ads like this work, but I don’t have a huge budget, and no revenue coming in so I’m reluctant to take big risks. At least with Night Attack/Facebook/Adwords I spend money and at least could see where it was going, as opposed to other sources I gave money to for promotion and got nothing.

If I wanted to generate a lot of fake plays (which doesn’t benefit me), I suppose I could just hire someone through Fiverr to do it a lot cheaper than google adwords.

So if you want to include my advertising budget into the costs above, my net for the year is -$243.66. If you want to play Hollywood-style accounting that means each track on Box of Devils cost me $6.58 to make.

That lets us bridge over into play counts. We already showed sales and downloads and some hints about play counts, but here’s the detail.

plays 2014

In Bandcamp’s own words: A “complete” play means the track was played past the 90% mark. A “partial” play means the track was played past the 10% mark, but stopped before the 90% mark. A “skip” means the track was stopped before the 10% mark

It’s not surprising that once again my most poopular thing (based on complete plays) is Arduweeny, because that’s the single piece of music I have embedded on the debugwire microontroller article, and my experience is that people who read that page click every single link on it. Arduweeny is short (16 seconds) and so it’s not hard to get a “complete” play out of it.

Next is Eighteen Lashes Should Do it, which was the featured track from Pinched Loaf while most of the ads were running. Followed by Perchloric and The Factor, both of which were also featured tracks from Pinched Loaf. “Featured Track” means it’s the one I set as the default start when someone clicks “play” on the album listing. Inject (first, and featured track) was the most played from Crap Chute’s Box of Devils, but only 7 complete plays, 19 partials and 22 skips.

This year I got 1781 plays in total, all types combined. Last year I got 834 over roughly the same period. I didn’t keep an exact count but about 1100 plays came in during the advertising periods, and I don’t know if I can trust those to be true. Then again, I can’t trust any of the plays from any period to be true. So either the number of plays is actually a little higher or a little under last year.

In terms of Bandcamp money, with $77 in revenue over 1781 plays, that’s about $0.043/play. Counting the $120 charge for Bandcamp and my net of -$43.00 that becomes about -$0.024/play. Last year it was about $0.05/play not counting losses, so the $0.043 is right in line with that. Man, that’s some terrible accounting method.

Like I’ve said in years past, I’m obviously not in this for money. I had a random suggestion from someone that I should be like other internet dbags and setup a Patreon donation page. My standard reply is that I already have a method to give me money: it’s called “buy my album.” This amazing technique works for lots of creative types on the internet. Like their stuff, and want them to make more of it? Support them.

Oh yeah, Radio Reddit. I submitted three tracks to Radio Reddit this year, and I guess they’re in rotation? I can’t tell from the stats anymore. All I can really tell is that nobody listens to Radio Reddit, and nobody submits or votes on my stuff.

radioreddit2014plays
radioreddit2014downloads

As in years past, I still have the open offer to send you all the music on a disc if you figure out how to ask nicely. I didn’t get any requests in 2014. If you feel entitled and five bucks will totally destroy your fedora budget, you could ask nicely and maybe you’d get one of the remaining free codes.

Oh yeah, up there I mentioned that Squarespace thing. This lame-ass blawg is hosted on wordpress.com, as opposed to a self-hosted wordpress.org installation. One day I was looking at this place and noticed that wordpress had started sticking really low quality buzzfeed-style ads on my articles. Honestly, they were really shit. This pissed me off so much I went over and signed up for Squarespace with the intention of moving the lame-ass blawg over there. I’d tried out Squarespace before and although their website thing is okay, the import tool was just dire. That was a couple of years ago and thought maybe I could muddle through importing the site again.

Nope, same stuff different day. Here’s what squarespace won’t tell you: Yes, squarespace imports wordpress sites, but not wordpress.com sites correctly. Specifically the squarespace importer does not bring over the images. Even worse, you think they imported them because the squarespace site has them hotlinked to your original wordpress.com storage. If you imported your site, then deleted your wordpress.com hosting all the images would disappear. My requests to squarespace for clarification were met with “turn off all your plugins.” Unfortunately wordpress.com doesn’t give the users access to adding/removing plugins (that’s the difference between wordpress.com and a self-hosted wordpress.org installation), so it’s not like I could do anything about it.

“As it turns out, you’re correct- the only way to have these images be hosted within Squarespace would be to manually re-upload them. Apologies for the inconvenience here. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Thanks!” (Response from Friendly squarespace help folks)

My dealings with the squarespace help people was usually fine and friendly. Just in the end not really helpful.

I did end up getting the site imported – the hard way. I started up a self-hosted wordpress.org setup, used that to import all the wordpress.com stuff (which you can do, and will bring the images over), and then used the self-hosted setup to export the XML into squarespace, and then manually uploaded the images from the storage and edited back into the articles. It wasn’t really a problem for me, but I suspect your typical user would find that pretty much impossible to do.

That was why all the music posts disappeared. It was a lot easier to just delete them all, to keep them from being imported to squarespace and then me having to edit all the bandcamp embeds to work.

I spent a couple of weeks setting up the squarespace version of this place, but I ended up giving up when I found out that the import from wordpress.com-via-selfhost did not adjust the urls to be with the domain properly. Like all good users I submitted a support request, had to send tons of screenshots and explanations, and in the end they kind of threw up their hands and said “try deleting your site and starting over and see if it works this time.” So I just deleted the site and abandoned the effort. I ended up paying even more money to wordpress.com to get rid of those stupid ads (yes, they have a paid upgrade to remove ads from your blog) and kept the lame-ass blawg here. I’d paid for squarespace a year in advance so I just ended up attaching a different project and domain to it and using it for something else.

Squarespace looks nice, and the wysiwyg interface is nice, but in using squarespace I had some real issues that concerned me. One is the ability to back up the site or roll is back to a previous instance. You essentially can’t. If you work on a site for a while, and want to revert the design back to a previous checkpoint – you can’t. You can pay more money (double the price actually) and get more “developer control” but I still don’t think you can do backup/restores.

Have you read all the way down here? Good, let’s lighten up. Here’s a little bit about some of the tracks from Crap Chute’s Box of Devils.

Most of my equipment is the same as in years past. Presonus Firestudio Mobile into a 2008-era iMac running Logic Pro X. Guitar effects from NI Guitar Rig and IK Amplitube. Synths and other sounds from NI Komplete 8 and the stuff built into Logic X. I really like the new Logic “Retro Synth” and that midi arpeggiator, as you can tell if you listen to the album. Not much orchestral stuff this time around, since I was concentrating on using the guitar more. My IK Miroslav Philharmonic still doesn’t, and never will, work under Logic X so I resorted back to using the sounds from Logic and Kontact.

Primary guitar used was my Ibanez S420 with the pickups changed to the crunch lab/liquifire set as I described in my article. I did do some initial snippets with my venerable and terrible Ibanez EX350 with the bad intonation. Most of that got re-recorded with the S420, but a couple of harmony parts survived into the final album, in particular some of the guitars on Nice Day. Also when used on Nice Day the EX350 only had five strings at the time.

Undoubtedly the worst money I spent was buying a brass sustain block for the S420 from Killer Guitar Components. It cost a lot ($150) and took a couple of months to be machined and sent to me. That was fine. What wasn’t fine was that it didn’t actually fit my ZR Tremolo, even though I’d specifcally asked that first before I placed the order. Of course, they won’t respond to any contact from me now, so I have a $150 piece of brass junk in my guitar case. I sat with my S420 in pieces for a couple of weeks waiting to hear something about the piece, and that’s why I started using the EX350 again in the meantime. I eventually gave up, put the old block back in, reassembled and continued on. Also I’m never buying a guitar with a floating tremolo system again.

I recorded two tracks using the exact same riff, completely independently and weeks apart, and didn’t realize it until I was putting the album together, so I gave them similar names (Cracks in the Glass and Glass in the Cheese) and put them on the album one right after the other to point this out.

Although almost all the bass guitar is from NI Kontact (Jay Bass, MM Bass, Pre Bass), some tracks have a bass guitar that’s actually a pitch-shifted version of me playing the S420. Beat the Devil in a Box is one of those tracks. I still like the NI Basses better, but if I want to do sliding and bending on the bass it’s a hell of a lot easier to play it on an actual guitar than a keyboard. I don’t own an actual bass anymore, as the one I owned was stolen a long time ago, and realistically I have no desire to spend money on a new one.

Fully Ceramic is a laughable attempt to tune a standard set of 9-gauge guitar strings allllll the way down to “C.” I had done that last year on Xmas at the Chandrasekhar Limit. Way, way too unstable to use for longer than a few minutes, Especially with the S420’s ZR Tremolo system. I was having to stop and retune after every take.

Thugs Beyond the Arctic Circle bounces back and forth terribly between 7/8 and 5/4 time signatures, just to see what I could do with it. When I originally recorded it I used so many crazy chords that I couldn’t remember what they all were, and so I ended up re-recording most of it with chords I could remember.

The Demands of Lies, my annual entry into the “I have murdered jazz” scenario originally was based around a terrible, heinous guitar line. It’s one of the few instances where I threw the entire guitar track out in the final version.

I did a version of O Canada solely to counter the examples where people feel they have to Van Halen the anthem up until it sounds terrible.

The first snippet bit I’d recorded this year that actually made it into a song is in After, but the first track I finished for the album was Secret of Secrets. Some of the solo guitar on Secret of Secrets is done with the old EX350, and might even be with only five strings. The giveway is when I’m using the tremolo arm, as I rarely use it in general on the S420.

The last track finalized for the album was Flood Gates, and by the time I had started working on it I really wanted the whole project over with.

This is the first year I didn’t do any xmas songs. It’s okay, I did two last year. Also nobody likes them.

Yep, that is my voice on Transition Metals. I’ve managed to work something into a track almost every year, I think.

The Best Xmas Music Pandering Ever.

I haven’t made any new xmas music this year, because why bother. There’s still lots of old xmas music to not listen to. That’s the point of xmas music in the first place, isn’t it? To milk it for years to come.






The original snuggie-with-lights-that-flash-to-Trans-Siberian-orchestra track

Bonus: New Year’s Eve stuff


I’d Hoped You Were Finished: The 2014 Crap Chute Collection

It’s actually as big a surprise to me as it is to you, but here’s a new album of material for 2014 for you to enjoy. Crap Chute’s Box of Devils. 37 tracks, a little more than three hours.

Download from Bandcamp
Listen on Spotify

Also available from: iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play

This album, like all my previous material is available through Bandcamp. There are benefits to you paying more than nothing for an album. Alternately, why not give your money to your local animal shelter or other artists.

You can get Crap Chute’s Box of Devils from stores like iTunes and Google Play, but if you want to download it your best option is through Bandcamp, as it’s cheaper and you get more choice in formats.

As a download from Bandcamp you get to download it in whatever stupid format you want for your FreeBSD 10.1 powered electric toothbrush or Linux Toenail Chip: Ogg Vorvis, FLAC, MP3, AAC, FBI, CIA, whatever, audio nerds.

Like my previous material, Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike. I wrote a little piece on this once on what this means to you if you want to do things with my music besides listen (hint: almost anything).

Creative Commons License
Crap Chute’s Box of Devils by Steven Cogswell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Crap Chute’s Box of Devils got featured on episode 38 of Night Attack at the 1h41m mark. Yes, I wrote the ad copy. Show notes for Night Attack 38: Clench-A-Butt.

My last album Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf was previously featured on Night Attack episode 11.

Changing the Pickups in an Ibanez S420 Guitar

In late 2011 I bought a stock Ibanez S420 guitar, which I’ve used for most of my musical projects since then. While I like the guitar I’ve always felt that I wasn’t happy with the stock pickups, the Ibanez INF1 and INF2. I can’t even articulate what it was I didn’t like about them. Maybe they were too boomy? Maybe they lacked definition? I don’t know, but I’d managed to convince myself I didn’t like them.

Fast forward to 2014, in order to deflect my increasing frustration with music I decided I would actually change the stock pickups out for something new. This led to the first problem: what to exchange them with?

There are, I believe, a hundred million companies that make guitar pickups. Most of the pickups are marketed based on what I’d consider nebulous terms. “Vintage output”, “sterile edginess”, “smooth mids”, “Useless numeric value of parameter.” I don’t want to read about how pickups sound, I want to hear how pickups sound. Guitar manufacturers sell guitars on their websites pretty much through images alone, like that means anything to a buyer. At least some pickup manufacturers have little videos or samples, but not much in the way of comparisons. You can listen to a video of some well-known guitarist playing pickups on their custom guitar, but no comparison with other pickups in that same guitar, or even details about what huge rack of effects and settings they’re using with those pickups. I also don’t live in an area that features a “hear what stuff sounds like” store, so I can’t just go try pickups out.

I eventually settled on what I figured was a safe bet: a Dimarzio Liquifire and Crunch Lab set, which are marketed as a set from Dimarzio based around John Petrucci from Dream Theater. I like John Petrucci’s work, even though I don’t sound like him, and can’t play like him. I didn’t have any misguided belief that new pickups would make me able to play better – they won’t.

I also watched a few shitty youtube videos of people who changed their pickups to the Liquifire/Crunch Lab set but didn’t provide comparisons.

I bought the “F” spacing pickups, which are slightly wider spacing on the pole pieces. I don’t know if it actually would have made the difference. Here’s what Dimarzio has to say about F-Spacing:

“For proper string alignment and balanced output, F-spaced humbuckers should be used in the bridge position on all guitars with string spacing at the bridge of 2.1″ (53 mm) or greater. On these guitars, if the nut width is 1-11/16” (43 mm) or greater, F-spaced pickups can be used in the neck position as well.”

On my S420 I measured the string width at the nut to be 36 mm. The width at the bridge was be 53 mm. The width at the neck pickup was 49 mm, and the spacing of the poles on the INF1 neck pickup was 51 mm. That’s right on the limit so probably either would have worked. I got F-spacing pickups for both the Liquifire and the Crunch Lab.

Dimarzio in Package

I’m not scared of soldering and electronics work, and I’m cheap, so I did the work myself. What annoyed me about the process is actually how little information exists on how the guitar is wired. The Dimarzio information included with the pickups is fine, but they didn’t have a specific wiring setup for my S420. So I’m left to scour the bowels of the internet with google for strange forum posts from years ago where people have mysterious diagrams and hearsay about how the guitar is wired up.

Therein lies the whole reason I’m writing this post. I rewired the S420 for new Dimarzio pickups and everything actually worked, so I’ll try to document everything involved.

Although I specifically replaced my pickups with the Liquifire and Crunch Lab, all the Dimarzio pickups are wired the same way. Hopefully other pickup manufacturers document their wiring sufficiently to adapt the steps.

I can’t vouch for it other than the Dimarzio and Ibanez wiring, but this appears to show a whole lot of manufacturers and their pickup wiring. There’s a caveat I’ve annotated the picture with about the Ibanez pickups that I’ll get to later in this article.

Pickup Code Chart Annotated

(If you make a nice and useful chart, give yourself some credit on it, so I can give you credit. Alternately, don’t cut people’s credits out of their charts ya bastards)

The S420 is pretty simple: two humbucking pickups, five-way selector switch. The stock switch positions give:

  1. Neck pickup normal configuration
  2. Neck pickup parallel coil configuration
  3. Neck and Bridge pickup together (this is important later)
  4. One coil of the neck and one coil of the bridge pickup
  5. Bridge pickup normal configuration

I didn’t attempt to modify any of this, as overall I’m happy with the options. If you want to add more push-pull knobs for coil taps or change what the selector does, you go right ahead, but I didn’t do that.

Let’s start off with how the S420 wiring cavity cutout in the back of the guitar looks in the default configuration. Yes, this looks like a mess, and this is how it comes from the factory. Don’t let that worry you.

S420 Original Wiring

Here’s that same picture, annotated a little bit to show what we’re looking at.

Annotated Original Wiring px

You can see the wires with the white cable tie around them are from the pickups, and the row of contacts that are the bottom is the five-way selector switch. I didn’t change any of the potentiometers (“pots”) or the output jack so that wiring will all stay the same.

The pickups themselves are mounted in the pickup cavities routed out of the top of the guitar, and the wires snaked down through holes drilled into this wiring cavity. In order to take the pickups out you have to un-solder the wires here first. So don’t unscrew the pickups and start hauling on the wires before disconnecting them.

Here’s a wiring diagram I found somewhere on one of those deep dark forum posts and not on Ibanez’s own website (Ibanez: do better). I don’t even know if this is actually for the S420, as it doesn’t say “S420″ anywhere on it.

Ibanez S420 wiring diagram

After I sat and traced wiring myself I confirmed that, at least for the pickups, this diagram is correct for my S420. Here’s a diagram showing the relationship between the wiring diagram and that physical picture of the guitar cavity:

Ibanez S420 wiring diagram Stock INF1 INF2

Note that it shows the INF1 and INF2 pickups, which I replaced with the Liquifire (neck position, where the INF1 was) and the Crunch Lab (Bridge Position, where the INF2 was). See how the INF1 and INF2 are shown with the same red/black/white/blue wire scheme for the pickups? Humbucking pickups are two sets of coils, which you can wire in series (normal configuration), or do other tricks like coil-tapping (using only one set), or wiring them in parallel (which the S420 does in switch position 2). For the INF1 and INF2 one set of coils goes to the Red/Black pair, and one set goes to the White/Blue pair.

Here’s a spoiler that will save you some grief later. The INF1 and INF2 pickups are purposely wired with opposite polarity, probably to make the assembly and wire charts easier. This is documented nowhere, other than I found it out myself.

The Dimarzio pickups are all wired “the same way” with respect to polarity. The pairs are Red/Black and White/Green (not blue, don’t worry about that). The polarity on the Liquifire and Crunch Lab (and I assume all Dimarzio pickups) are the same.

This means that when you replace the INF2 (bridge) pickup with a Dimarzio, you have to reverse a set of the coils, or else the pickup will be “out of phase” with the neck pickup. You’ll get what happened to me: Neck pickup (position 1) sounds fine. Bridge pickup (position 5) sounds fine. Neck + Bridge (position 3) sounds thin and tinny, when it should sound full and complete like the pickups do by themselves.

Pickup polarity actually does not matter – except when you’re mixing signals from more than one pickup. It’s not “wrong” to wire up the Neck and Bridge out of phase, it’s just not how the INF1/INF2 are setup, and I think it sounds terrible. Position 4 (part of neck, part of bridge) has the out-of-phase sound already if you want that.

In my case, I soldered the wires all on, put it all back together and tried it to just to be very disappointed with the sound in positions 2,3, and 4. I recognized the out-of-phase sound and set about reversing the coils on the Crunch Lab to correct it. After the fact I measured the INF1 and INF2 to verify that yes, despite common wiring schemes they are inverse polarity.

I used the technique similar to this youtube video or documented in text here. Both those references are pretty good and explain what you need to do. I’ve already done the work for you though, and confirmed for myself that my INF1 and INF2 have opposite polarity.

Magnet Orientations for INF1 INF2

An actual hand-written note I made while documenting the pickup polarities:

Actual Handwritten Notes

So with that little fact in mind, here’s an updated S420 wiring diagram that shows the connections for the new Dimarzio pickups.

Ibanez S420 wiring diagram

To actually do the change, unsolder the wires from the existing pickups, and be aware that you’ll have to snake the wires back through the small hole in the body, so don’t leave a lot of jagged garbage on the ends. Be smart and take pictures or document your stuff like I did before you take it apart.

I’m such a lazy bastard I didn’t even take the strings off to remove the pickups. I just slacked them off enough to wiggle the pickups out. You can use this opportunity to change the strings, so just take the damned strings off.

Original Pickups in Cavity

Take INF2 (the bridge pickup) out first. The wiring for INF1 goes through the INF2 cavity, so you’ll save yourself a lot of needless tugging on the wire like I did trying to get it loose.

Remove INF2

Remove INF1

Snake Wire in Cavity

You have to remove the INF1/INF2 from their metal mounts and screw the new Dimarzio pickups into them, snake the wires back through the hole so they come out in the wiring cavity, and then screw the pickups back into place. That whole part is easy.

INF with height spring

Dimarzio with height spring

You might as well screw the pickups into the guitar body while you’re there, since you’re going to get this right on the first try and not have to take them out again. I put the Crunch Lab pickup with the bar towards the neck side (as pictured), as that seems to be the way Dimarzio says to use it, and it makes the wire snake on the side closest to the hole to make it easier to get into position.

Dimarzio Pickups in Guitar

From here really all you’re doing is following the wiring diagram and soldering wires back on where you took the other wires off: there’s no “new” wiring connections. The only twist is the reversing of the polarity of the Crunch Lab compared to the INF2. My wiring diagram above reflects this polarity reverse, so it’s “corrected.”

I’m not going to teach you how to solder, that’s up to you. I use a cheap Weller WLC100 (the red one) station with a big tip, set to heat around position 4. Why? No reason other than “at that setting it put enough heat out to melt the solder on the existing connections.”

Weller Soldering Station

I normally use a smaller tip for electronics work, but I found these huge masses of solder in the Ibanez cavity were not easily melted, so I switched to the big tip. I wouldn’t use one of those big awful-looking “gun” style units as those heat up really fast and would probably be pretty awkward in the small space.

Soldering Tips

Dimarzio Stripped Ends

Here’s the finished job with the Dimarzio wiring in place:

Dimarzio in Cavity

You can see that I had some trouble getting four stupid wires (one wire + shield from each pickup) to connect together and stay soldered to the common point on the potentiometer. I resolved that by soldering a nice lead (red wire) onto the pot, and then joining that to the four pickup wires. It looks terrible but it made the job easier without having to melt that blob of solder the size of Ganymede. Heat shrink is good on the wires to insulate, and more reliable than wrapping electrical tape.

The solder job you do here is the most important part, don’t do a half-ass job. The Dimarzio pickup wires are small and thin and a pain in the ass and the insulation melts far too easily, so you want to make sure you don’t have any stray strands of wire touching each other when you’re done. Also make sure the connections are secure and aren’t just going to pull off with a light amount of force.

Probably the best approach, if you’re not sure of yourself, is to solder the wires into place, keep the back of the cavity open, tighten up the strings and try out all the positions of the five-way switch to see that they all work and are phased properly. If you’ve got phase issues position 3 (two pickups together) will sound thin and tinny as the pickups work to cancel each other out rather than add their signals together. In my case after soldering the five-way selector became “noisy” when switching (humming, would buzz if you bumped the switch). This turned out to be loose strands from one of the pickup wires touching another contact on the five-way. Once I re-soldered those joints and cleaned them up it sounded fine with no bump-buzz noise.

Guitars are passive devices designed for amplifying noise. So once you’re happy with things, secure the wires so they won’t move around (cable ties are nice), and put that cavity cover back on securely with the screws. See the silver foil the cover has on the inside? That’s to cut noise down. Once it’s all back together plug in and make sure it’s not become noisy again. You should be able to tap and push on the cover and not have it start to buzz. If it does, you’ve got wires touching/too close and should take the cover off and try to secure them better.

After things are back together, you can go about setting the pickup height with the the little screw on either side of the metal mount (the one that had the spring on the inside). I won’t detail how to set “optimal” pickup height since I don’t know how, I just adjusted them until everything sounded even in volume between string one and six. You don’t need them really close to the strings, and having them too close will probably bend the strings and cause intonation problems. Pickup height is super easy to play with after you have the guitar back together though, so you can fuss with that to your heart’s content.

So after all that, the million dollar question (or $200, in my case). Does the S420 sound better with the new pickups? Recall at the start of this long drawn out article I lamented the lack of documentation on this, so I tried to provide that comparison. I recorded some garbage with the old pickups, then tried to record the same garbage using the new pickups. Bits are done in Logic X with a combination of Amplitube and NI Guitar Rig (for variety of sounds), and I use the same settings in Amplitube/NI Guitar Rig in both cases – I just opened the file in Logic and recorded over the old tracks after changing the pickups. Other than a temp drum track to keep my timing there are no other instruments used other than the S420.

If I remember right, the rhythm parts have the INF1 (neck) on the left channel, the INF2 (bridge) on the right channel.

In this the Liquifire (neck) is on the left channel, and the Crunch Lab (bridge) is on the right.

So do I think it sounds better? Probably. Maybe a little less boomy? Maybe it’s just all confirmation bias. At the very least I don’t like the stock pickups better, so I don’t have to put them back in.

Did you read all the way down here? Here’s my shameless plug. You can hear this guitar with the new pickups on my 2014 album Crap Chute’s Box of Devils which you can get for a ridiculously low price or maybe free if you ask nicely.

Ass Seen on TV

From the shameless self-promotion file.

I got a nice mention on Episode 11 of Night Attack, which thankfully did not diminish the great show that Night Attack is.

You can watch talented rubes Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young all the time on Diamond Club TV. You can support them directly on patreon.

Although contrary to Mr. Booshwood’s kind words I do not actually bring ruck, you still can get the music discussed for free at http://stevencogswell.ca. Also I have lots of other garbage.

Show notes for Episode 11 of Night Attack.

Gnu Years

I haven’t made new gnu pneu New Year’s music for a couple of years, because I haven’t seen the point of retreading that ground, having already done the same thing twice. I did make a super awexome music video this year though.

Or you can just listen.

or not, whatever.

Creative Commons License

What Did You Think Was Going to Happen: 2013 in Review

Every year I waste my time and your time, by writing one of these long things giving details of how things went here in the past year. Having said that, this is the one for 2013.

Let’s start with the usual suspect, posts here that got the most views:

Title Views
A Minimal Arduino Library for Processing Serial Commands 8,904
Modify an Arduino for DebugWIRE 7,799
Hardware Debugging the Arduino using Eclipse and the AVR Dragon 7,704
A Too-Simple Arduino Library for Handling the Seeeduino Relay Shield (and Generic Relays) 2,832
(Yet Another) Sparkfun SerLCD library for Arduino 1,560
On Soundcloud 1,377
An Arduino Library for the ADT7310 SPI Temperature Sensor 921
The Arduino Duemilanove with ATMega328 and that Reset Line 888
Using the Sparkfun Speakjet Voicebox Shield with an Arduino in Passthrough mode 682

The “do my homework for me post” remains at the top for all time (23,476), with the arduino serial command library next (13,369) followed by the Eclipse/Dragon post (13,253). Overall views are up (SerialCommand: 8,904 in 2013 vs. 3,871 in 2012. Eclipse: 7,704 vs. 5,606. Debugwire: 7,799 vs. 8,015)

Most visits were from the USA (11,926), Germany (3,996), and the UK (2,365). Down at the bottom of the list a single view from someone in Guam and Kyrgyzstan.

Most poopular link remains this one of a capacitor location.

That simplistic SerialCommand library I wrote is the most poopular thing I have on Github. At least, I think it is, since github doesn’t publish stats. SerialCommand is the thing I get the most email about. Some people are very nice and have suggestions they want, and lots of people complain it “doesn’t work.” I did make some changes to it this year, and I still get people asking me to add things it already does. I figure nobody actually knows how to use Github properly. All I can say is “it works for me, it works for others, you’re holding it wrong.” If you don’t like it, fork it and make your own, that’s the whole reason I moved to Github.

So, music. Let’s talk about music.

After Soundcloud’s pivot to become a new tumblr, and my general dissatisfaction with it, I didn’t pay €250 to renew. Consequently I ended up having to delete the resulting free account, as it was jammed up with the dozens of hours of music I’d previously uploaded and free accounts can’t manage any music that goes past the free account limits. A few days later Soundcloud came out with “Soundcloud Pro” for €99/year, but weren’t interested in winning me back (read: “renew for €250 and we’ll do something something”). I haven’t seen anything in the last year that would make me want to go back to Soundcloud. Stats that are severely broken, same old skrillex-with-fire-engine remixes, spammers, and other useless stuff. If you’re using Soundcloud and like it, good for you. It just wasn’t for me.

Interestingly, the post I wrote about leaving Soundcloud is way more poopular than all the music I’ve ever made combined. Probably because it hits all the keywords for people looking to game soundcloud (tl;dr: log out and hit the play button a lot, trick people into loading your page, randomly comment “HUGE DROP” on everything you can find).

I would have stayed with Soundcloud, if the alternative of Bandcamp hadn’t come up. Bandcamp was cheaper ($120/year instead of either €250 or €99), I liked the players, and people couldn’t crap up your posts with comments. So I moved everything over to Bandcamp.

One of the features of Bandcamp is that they want you to upload audio in a lossless format, both for quality reasons and so they can generate any of the formats someone may want when they download it. That’s a good idea. My only problem was that although I had recorded all the previous years’ stuff in a mix of Garageband and Logic 8/9, I had only been generating MP3 files – because that’s what Soundcloud/Wordpress took at the time. So I had to go back and re-generate output from all the previous years stuff. In the course of doing that, I ended up re-mixing all the old material and trying to fix the problems with some tracks. Some tracks I expanded out and recorded new parts for, and some I had to do a lot of re-recording because the original was corrupted. Also in the process, on a personal front I was able to go back and delete all the originals from my computer so I didn’t have them cluttering up my library. Good riddance.

The “re-mixing” job took a few weeks, and are all available on bandcamp (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). If you had an older one, maybe you’d want to see if it’s any better – it probably isn’t. Also 2010 got a new bonus track from an unfinished collaboration project, and 2012 got a few bonus tracks. The bonus tracks show up if you do the album download, they don’t appear in the regular track listings. Ooo, secrets.

In 2012’s roundup post I had only just started on bandcamp and so I didn’t have a lot of data to compare stats with Soundclound. Now we have an entire year of stats to work with, so let’s go over some of them.

Bandcamp tries to get a little finer grained with what “plays” mean than Soundcloud did. With Soundcloud, if someone hit play and then immediately stopped, that counted as a “play.” Soundcloud has also further complicated this since I left by making stuff automatically start playing when you hit the page, so just tricking people into going to your url will get you “plays”

Bandcamp classes things as “complete” (played 90% of a track), “partial” (played between 10% and 90%), and “skip” (played less than 10%). I think that’s a pretty good concept, as it shows how many people didn’t like listening to something and gave up.

So, for all time (which really is since Dec 2012) here are things sorted by complete plays:

Bandcamp Complete Plays 2013

222 total “complete” plays, with 301/311 partial/skips. Put differently, 37% of people who start playing a track stop almost immediately, and 26% actually get through it.

So as I expected Arduweeny is the most played track, by virtue of the fact that it’s embedded on the page of the most poopular post on this blawg. It’s short (sixteen seconds) so it’s pretty hard to get anything less than a “complete” play on it. People who want their homework done for them tend to arrive on that page and click every link. 138 total plays for 7,799 views – or about 1.7%.

Most poopular “legit” track is Xmas a the Chandrasekhar Limit, at six plays. Remember this is all tracks I uploaded for the year (same as all time), so that’s why Stolen by the Hermit from 2012 is #5 with four plays.

Here are things sorted by “skips” (i.e. the most skipped tracks)

Bandcamp Skip Plays 2013

Perchloric is the most skipped track partially because it was the default track that started playing when you clicked “play” on the album page for Pinched Loaf. Eleven of those skips are from the day of the album release, which was the day it got the most attention. Also nobody that day skipped to track #2 (no plays recorded), they just hit stop.

Also note the wild difference in the performance of Booze ‘n Snooze since moving over to Bandcamp. Back on Soundcloud it was the track with a strange poopularity that had no source nor rationale. Here the stats make sense. I suspect it gets the number of plays it does only because it’s linked on the big post I made about Soundcloud as an example.

Let’s look at downloads.

Downloads not sorting by Sales

That’s all downloads – free and paid (we’ll get to paid stuff momentarily), 78 in total for the year. Bandcamp tracks “visits” to pages which they call “Buzz”, and “Buzz” said I had 8,195 visits to the music pages for the year (same as all time). So that’s about 0.95% of the people who visit download something. By same token, 10.1% of visitors actually try to play something, and 2.7% of visitors actually finish listening to something – which says most “visits” are people not interested or here by accident.

The most-downloaded single track is The Next One is Fourteen with four downloads.

Here’s the new information that I can discuss this year: sales. Bandcamp lets me charge for stuff, but I usually either mark it “Free” or “Name Your Price” which actually also means free – but some people can’t figure out you can enter “0” for a price. Someone said to me “why don’t you charge for your music?” to which I reply “You won’t listen for free, why do I think anyone would pay?” which pretty much bears out. Any person could download everything from here for free, so anyone who pays is a sucker is just feeling charitable.

Yes yes, I know. You want me to finally admit that I’m just raking in the cash from this music thing and ripping you all off. Yes, I will divulge all the sales info to appease your pitchforks.

Here’s downloads, sorted by sales:

Bandcamp Downloads

The most “paid for” thing is a tie between 2010’s Crap Chute’s Sluice Juice (2012 reissue), 2012’s Crap Chute’s Lagrange Point, and 2013’s Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf, all with two purchases.

Total revenue from all sales: $157.88 from sixteen discrete sales. All the sixteen sales were to three individuals. I won’t name them, because they’re silly people who paid for stuff they could have for free, but I will say thanks very much. $157.88 is my “net from Bandcamp” figure, because Bandcamp does “revenue sharing”, meaning they keep 15% of the sale price. Also there’s a little bit in paypal fees lost.

I paid $120 for the Bandcamp service for the past year. You can use Bandcamp for free, but I like the extra benefits of having the paid account. Also, I’m a firm believer in paying for things you find useful, since I would hope that helps keep companies in business. Hence my net revenue from Bandcamp for the year is $37.88. Hey, it’s not zero.

I didn’t spend the $37.88 all in one place, but I did spend money on a few things this year. When it went on sale, I finally bought Komplete 8, for US$699. Then UPS dickbags charged me an extra $170 for the privilege of having them give it to me, because that’s the sort of dickbag move UPS always does to Canadians receiving packages from the USA.

As I had feared for a couple of years, Apple finally pulled the wraps off Logic X which I think I waited about ten whole minutes to buy for $225.99. Much cheaper than what I’d paid for Logic 8 and 9, which I think were on the order of about $500 each. I like the new Logic X, starting with The Next One is Fourteen everything has been done with Logic X.

Unfortunately, some of the things I’d paid for in the past don’t work with Logic X. Principally being IK Multimedia’s Miroslav Philharmonik, which I really liked but isn’t 64-bit compatible. Logic 9 was 32- or 64-bit, but Logic X is only 64-bit plugin compatible. IK have had since 2009 to get Miroslav up to 64-bit, and hey some day they still might. The current plan seems to be you’ll be able to load Miroslav’s soundsets into the someday-coming Sampletank 3, which I’d have to pay for. Any day now. I’ve been using the NI orchestra stuff that comes with Kontact 5 instead, and resisting wanting to buy things like EWQL. I didn’t do any movie scoring work this year, so that was probably a good idea not spend more money on orchestral instruments.

I sat and made a little list of obvious things I spent money on directly for the music stuff here (on top of Bandcamp charges), and came up with a figure of $1239.49. So with this we can do some Hollywood Accounting and show my net for the year after sales as a loss of $1201.61.

Let’s have some useless stats fun:

Category BC Net Revenue Only Bandcamp Costs Only Overall Net (Hollywood Style)
Per Track Released $1.05 ($3.33) ($33.38)
Per Download $0.49 ($1.54) ($15.41)
Per Complete Play $0.17 ($0.54) ($5.41)
Per All Plays $0.05 ($0.14) ($1.44)

I calculated last year that my “cost per play” on Soundcloud was $0.14 and $0.15 on Bandcamp (counting skips), compared with this year’s $0.14 on Bandcamp (counting skips). Complete plays went from $1.11 last year to $0.54 on Bandcamp. I’m sure that means something. Playing with numbers means nothing; I don’t earn enough to quit my day job.

This year, more as a personal success goal than anything else, I worked through Philip Kaplan‘s service Distrokid to put stuff onto the iTunes music store. It also goes to Amazon MP3, Google Play Music, and Spotify but being a dirty Canadian, those aren’t available to me, and the last two I can’t even check to see if music is available. I put one track ( Eighteen Lashes Should Do It ) as a test just to get it to work. That worked, so I put all of Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf onto iTunes through it. I didn’t include any Distrokid data above in sales because there weren’t any sales on any platform. Distrokid only costs $19.99/year though. Mr. Pud, you’ve done a good thing.

For interest’s sake, as of this writing Pinched Loaf is available on iTunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play (I think, Canada is geoblocked), and Spotify (can’t check, Canada is geoblocked). It hasn’t shown up on iTunes yet It was late showing up on iTunes, because iTunes changes were postponed for the holiday period.

I likely will not put any previous years’ stuff on iTunes, because of the hassle and expense I’ll have to go through over tracks that are cover tunes. You’re much better off getting the music through Bandcamp anyway, as you can get it for free and in whatever format you want. In 2013 I didn’t do any cover tunes, specifically to not have to worry about paying thousands of bucks a track for clearance. Besides, Dennis Miller once said “You know why Led Zeppelin recorded that song? So you didn’t have to.”

Let’s talk about music production. As I mentioned in the Pinched Loaf release, this was the year of least output in both number of tracks and total minutes. Even less than 2009, in which I only put music out for the last half of the year.

Music Output

Year Number of Tracks Total Minutes
2013 36 227
2012 57 331
2011 50 287
2010 85 432
2009 46 258

The longest track from this year is Five and Time, which was 9m 13s. Shortest was Twenny One Gallon Hahs, at 4m 11s.

Counting over 2009-2013, the average track length is 5m 36s. Longest track ever is A Flash of Internal Organs (12m 08s), shortest is Arduweeny (16s), or L4 (Lagrange Point Bonus Track, 52s) if you want something “legit.”

My personal play stats from iTunes say I played The Inside the most. Of course, it was earlier in the year so I’ve had more time to listen to it. I like the way Eighteen Lashes Should Do it turned out.

I worked on updated themes for shows I’d previously done themes for, including [The] Little Pod of Horrors, and Starbase 66.

As it was pretty obvious, I was not well motivated for producing music this year, partially due to 2012’s dicks everywhere. I also got really tired of trying to come up with titles (“The Cops Said I Was A New Age Yak”). Then I spent the rest of the year drawing out that stupid joke of having sequential numbers in the titles, which then got too difficult to think of stupid jokes about. Maybe I’d have been better off with my original idea of just naming everything random hex code strings like 0xA72739BE. Also, although unplanned, no ukulele music this year, as the ukulele’s got packed up for transport and never unpacked.

I still put out more material this year than Jonathan Coulton, but he toured quite a bit more than I did.

Less is Less: The 2013 Crap Chute Collection

Wait, this was 2013?

So for the fourth fifth year – following the pattern, the end of the year rolls around and bundle up all the music from the past year and put it under one collection. This year’s fantastic album is Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf. This collection features nothing not previously released in the year, no tracks have changed, and there aren’t any bonus items this year either.

Crap Chute's Pinched Loaf cover art by Ro Karen

You can listen to the whole thing right here:

Like previous years, the only good part of the whole mess is the wonderful cover art by Ro Karen.

The entire collection is available via Bandcamp. If you’re homeless and destitute and somehow are downloading music off the intarweb you can once again enter the secret code of $0.00 for the price and not pay a damned cent for it. Also, don’t complain to me about it. If you want to put your money to good use give something to your local animal shelter, or Ro Karen, or some new media disruptive kickstarter indie go go douchebags.

Bandcamp very nicely will provide you with just about any audio format you want, even if you’re still using that Diamond Rio and Microsoft Kin Phone Zune Whatever.

Following last year’s successful campaign by Dicks, Everywhere, output this year was not as prolific as year’s past. In fact, this year has the least number of tracks (36), and the least running time (three hours and forty-eight minutes, give or take). Even less than 2009, which was the year where I only put out material for half the year. It’s enough material to maybe get you through the morning, or the whole day if you like to go to the bathroom a lot or work for the government.

Still all covered by Creative Commons. I know, you still don’t know what that means. That’s okay.


Creative Commons License
Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf by Steven Cogswell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I’m not going to bother to make the MD5 joke this year. Once again, the offer still stands that if you can somehow figure out how to ask nicely, and actually provide a mailing address, I’ll send you a disc with the material on it. Number of discs I sent out in 2013: zero (0).

If you’re completely crazy, you can also uselessly spend money and buy Buy Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf from iTunes, or from Amazon’s MP3 store, or from Google Play. Not all these links work in all countries. In fact, they don’t even work for me in Canada, so I can’t even check them myself. Bandcamp should work for everyone, and is cheaper for you.

Updates So That Lame SerialCommand Library Supports SoftwareSerial

A frequent request has been that my SerialCommand library be usable with SoftwareSerial objects. I’ve never had a use for this myself, so I never tried to code anything for it. In order to test this I had to put a setup together where I could be reading/writing to a SoftwareSerial port and still have access to the hardware serial for debugging.

For this I used a CP2103 Breakout I bought a long time ago from Sparkfun and had sitting in a box. How old? It has a green-not-red circuit board, that should be an indicator.   To make it more complicated I used an entire second computer connected to that CP2103 using our old friend Hyperterminal so I could debug it.  I tested this on an UNO R3 and Arduno IDE 1.0.5.

This version is now on github.    I have not tested it extensively, except to modify the included demo program to see that it works correctly with the SoftwareSerial line.

If you have trouble, be sure your SoftwareSerial ports are actually working the way you intend.  The library includes a tiny test program that spits stuff out your SoftwareSerial port and your hardware serial port, so you can identify which one is which.

As a note, if you used this library before, you now have to include SoftwareSerial.h in your project, even if you’re not using it.  Don’t blame me, blame the way the Arduino IDE compiler wants to preprocess things.  You could also keep using the old version of the library, as there were no functional changes other than the SoftwareSerial support.  Other than the include I don’t think it should have any effect on existing code.

Dualling Serials

Logic X and the Missing Edit Button on EXS24 Instruments

Like a lot of people, I bought Logic X, and have been digging my way through it. One thing I ran into was that my EXS24 sample instruments were missing the “edit” button, which you use to edit the zones and velocities associated with the samples.

No Edit option

Googling around didn’t help, the usual things that people who don’t know the actual answer tell you what to do are “repair the permissions” and “check the disk” (which I did do), usually moving on to “reinstall everything” (which I wasn’t going to do).

Turns out with Logic X, especially if you have a fresh installation on a machine you didn’t have Logic 9 on before, there are some options under “Advanced” for enabling things for advanced users. Logic X (and previous Logics) are pretty complicated pieces of software, and hiding options seems counter-productive to me – but hey, I don’t write Logic I just use it.

Anyway, easy solution: Go into the Logic X Preferences, and under “Advanced” you can turn on the “Audio” selector, that will enable editing EXS24 instruments again.

audio must be enabled

Presto.

Edit now available

Maybe while you’re there, you’d like to check the rest of them too. That’s up to you.