My foray into YouTube posting

I generally hate blogs, and I have my own website so I can do what I like rather than fit myself into someone else's idea of expressing myself (you're reading one page on it, now), but I suppose I should at least say something about my foray into YouTube.

From time to time I have a browse through YouTube looking for interesting things, as we all do, and one of my interests is organ music.  Everything from the classical pipe organ, to the theatre organ, to the home organ.  From classical music, jazz, rock, stage and screen, and even some avant-garde.

I play a 1980s Technics U90 electronic organ, so every now and then I have a look to see what's been played on the U90, on YouTube (unfortunately, quite a lot of very low-quality clips).  When, lo and behold, I found my photos (from my website) showing on the search results, so I just had to have a look.  It was a recording of someone (unidentified) playing Hoagy Carmichael's song, Georgia, on the U90.  And he'd used my pictures as a slide show (which I'm perfectly happy about, I put the pictures on the WWW for people to use).  Well, I can play that song, I have a U90, and I just couldn't resist recording it as a reply, so I did.  Plus it's a chance to give something back, in exchange for all the videos that I get to watch on YouTube.  You can find my clip of playing Georgia in my collection of clips on YouTube, and its info page has a link back to that clip I found.

I rarely ever recorded myself, I just play for fun, and only occasionally for other people.  So I figured the best way to make a recording and not be self-concious about it, would be to set the camera rolling, and just play for a few hours, then cherry-pick the best bits afterwards.  And here's the results, thirty-odd clips, of some of my least-worst playing.  Most of the music has come from twenty-odd-year-old books, The Complete Organ player, by Kenneth Baker.  These are the ones I learnt to play from all those years ago.  Unfortunately, they tend to have truncated versions of songs, over-simplified bass, and a tendency to turn all major chords into sixths (which I don't think sound good when used all the time), so I usually improvise the bass and simplify the chords.

As a side-effect of recordings being made during a long playing-session, the tempos of some pieces may be a bit too fast, or too slow, by themselves, because their tempo was influenced by the previous piece.  It's a force of habit if you play a set of songs for people to dance to, rather than sing to, that everything gets a similar tempo.  That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.  And songs played without their lyrics often seem a bit too slow, so there's a tendency to over-compensate.

Currently, the organ's tucked in the corner of my playroom/workshop, surrounded by lots of stuff, so it's not an easy thing to film.  However, I already had a couple of cameras in there, and mixing equipment, so I aimed them in the right direction, did a split screen so you can see the action (keyboards and pedalboards being played), and used a couple of studio microphones for a stereo recording.

For the first lot, the main point-of-view camera is actually an early-1970s colour television camera, a working museum piece—a Philips LDH1 (or LDK2, depending on who you talk to), that needs a bit of maintenance (you can see the colour registration drift badly out of alignment on a few clips).  And the other camera was slightly more modern 1980s JVC colour video camera.  For those interested in that sort of thing, they're described in the camera collection subsection, in the photography section of my website.  The big camera has an elaborate page all about it.

It amused me to record the organ using a camera that's even older than the organ (the organ's 1980s vintage), but the next time around I used more modern cameras:  A Panasonic F250 for the single-camera over-the-shoulder point-of-view clips.  And a couple of domestic MiniDV cameras running through a Panasonic MX50 mixer for the the next lot of split-screen clips (with the overhead shot).  All the videos were played and mixed live, there's no post-production, and no backing tracks.  The only automation is the drum unit; and as well as it playing the drums, it can add something rhythmic twangs from synthetic guitar, banjo, & piano, to whatever's being played on the lower manual, though I only have them barely audible.

Though it was really getting decent sound that I was more concerned about.  So-many of the clips I see on YouTube have awful sound, with over-driven audio (too close to a very loud organ), heavily compressed data (MPEG strikes again), no bass (you need to turn off your “low cut,” “wind cut,” or “wind noise reduction,” feature on your camera, or plug in a better microphone), or they have lots of noise drowning out the music (from the microphone being closer to a noisy console, than where the sound comes from; or from being just too far away from the speakers or pipes), etc.

I used a couple of Nakamichi electret studio microphones, placed about a metre away from the console (so it sounds rather like you're sitting next to it, hearing the organ with a bit of the room ambience).  With the microphones placed a foot apart for a stereo effect, though still sounding okay in mono (the spaced omni-mike stereo technique).  Though, it's mostly a case of trying mikes in different positions until it sounds good, rather than following a "this is how you should mike organs" rule.  If you've got good speakers, or headphones, you'll get to hear this organ in all its glory, turn it up to eleven and enjoy.  But the average set of computer speakers won't do it justice, they won't reproduce the sound from 16 foot pedal notes very well, if at all.

Unfortunately I had a bit of a an electrical buzz, albeit a quiet one, get into the recording.  I'm not sure why, it's the first time I've had that problem in here.  My best guess would be because they were too close to the big camera.  I've never put microphones that close to it before, and I know it radiates a lot of electrical hash.  But there wasn't really any avoiding putting them there, my playroom is quite small, the organ sounded good being miked from that spot, and I wanted the stereo sound to fit in properly with the point of view of the main picture.  I made the mistake of not doing a proper test recording at the start of things, and dissassembling things before playing back the recording.  I really should have had a listen to a test playback in quiet conditions, before I got stuck into recording.

Occasionally you can hear a bit of birdsong (from outdoors) in the background, including some bird that likes to make a series of wolf-whistles.  I don't know what bird it is, but it's been amusing me for a few weeks, now.  It usually used to be a bunch of magpies that'd I'd hear suddenly burst into a few seconds of song whenever I finished a song.  They're very musical, but I don't think I managed to record them doing it, this time.

Later on I found out the wolf-whistling bird was a magpie (the neighbour looks after sick and injured birds).  It also speaks, and it sounds like it's saying, “more alcohol,” to me.  So, now it's become known as “the alcohol bird.”

Also unfortunately, YouTube's conversion of my MPEG files has put the sound out of sync with the picture (well it did on all the computers I've tested with).  My only way to get a video clip as a file was to use my DVD recorder, and upload its files, so I don't have any way of avoiding that issue.  I would have thought YouTube could handle that kind of file format, it's not a rare and unusual one.

For those interested in the U90 organ, whether you're thinking of buying one, trying to sell one (I don't mind ebayers using these clips for demos), or just plain curious, I've had a fairly extensive review of the Technics U90 on my website for the last few years, and reviews of the other organs I've had over the years.  Just look in the reviews section, and you'll find them easily enough.  As well as my thoughts on the organs, there's close-up pictures and information about their features.

Written by Tim Seifert on 11 June 2009, and last updated on 10 May 2017.

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