How I Met TriPops, Part 1

Ya know, for an amateur recording artist, I’ve been blessed with the fortune of having a simply stellar production, recording, and graphics crew continually by my side—TriPops Music Production and Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.  At this point, they are sort of “family” and an extended “appendage” of my strumming/picking and vocal arm, if you know what I mean.  Given that, and what I’ve been able to achieve since I started recording with them sometime back in 2015, I felt that they needed a rightfully deserved tribute from me—just one of many who pass through their doors.  

Chuk Peña recording with TriPops Music Production at Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.
Chuk Peña

You know how we have the standard big breweries and zillions of outrageous “micro” breweries? It’s the same in the recording industry. And, for my money, TriPops Music Production is one of those “micro” production/recording studios that is a standout from the crowd!  I have too much to say on the subject for a single blog, so here comes the first installment—meeting Roy Rendahl, Certified Audio Engineer extraordinaire (not to mention one helluva bass guitarist!).

Let’s jump back in time a bit, before Roy, so you’ll understand how I got here.  I think it was during the winter of 2015, I had a bug up my ass to record a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” and finally get my music out there by whatever means available to me—maybe YouTube, or Facebook, or a even a Chuk Peña website, etc. Completely ignorant of what it takes to develop a decent recording, I contacted a highly successful recording studio in Nashville, thinking this was a piece of cake, and summarily got my comeuppance!  My thought was, record your guitar and vocal and get it to them, and they will turn your cover into a masterpiece—for a fee of course!  Nashville style!  WRONG!

This young savvy guy in Nashville says to me, “No Chuk. We don’t work that way (I’m sure in his head, he was probably adding ‘you dumb dolt’)!  You need to go to a local Las Vegas recording studio first, and record your guitar to what is known as a click track. Next, while listening to your guitar track via a nice quality pair of headphones, sing the lyrics. Then, have the recording studio send us the recorded tracks and we will make you warble like a canary with a full band sound to boot!” 

What the f**k is a click track,” I asked.  The young man was patient and explained how the speed of all songs is measured by the number of beats that occur in the space of a minute. Beats Per Minute or BPM is how that measurement is notated. A click track is like a metronome in your ear that helps you record your instrument or vocal in time to the desired BPM.  You want to do a cover, we need you to record the song at the same BPM Leonard Cohen did.  Ok, given the tutorial, I thought this was going to be a “slam dunk,” so I got on the Internet looking for recording studios here in Vegas. My thinking was that a big, prestigious studio wasn’t going to be interested in such a “micro” job as this, so I focused on smaller venues.  One studio website that popped up was “Trimordial Studio.” In addition to recording, they created and hosted websites, plus did graphics and video production, etc.  I liked the name so I called and got Roy Rendahl, the owner. Explaining my needs for a click track recording of “Chelsea Hotel,” he said he could easily accommodate me. On top of that, I found out that Roy was from Winona, Minnesota (a little town near Rochester), whereas I had moved to Las Vegas from Minneapolis, MN.  A match made in heaven, right?  Let’s see!  Thinking this was going to be a no-brainer, I booked an hour with Roy one afternoon, and came prepared to hit the ground running!

Chuk Peña with Roy Rendahl of TriPops Music Production at Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.
Chuk Peña and Roy Rendahl

Well, to cut to the chase, and much to my chagrin, I might have spent 2-3 hours with Roy, and damned if I could NOT play my guitar to a click track.  It became very apparent that click tracks and I were literally like fire and ice.  I was frustrated to no end, at which point I said to Roy, “Ya know, I can play my guitar and sing this song fabulously, but I do it my way, meaning the beats per minute don’t matter to me as long as the finished product sounds great. So why can’t we just record my guitar the way I feel it, forget the whole BPM mess, then record my vocal to my guitar track? What’s wrong with that?”  To which the Master Audio Engineer said, “We can!  Regardless of what recording speed is the ‘right feel’ for you, using a metronome or click track just makes the rest of the recording process much easier, but we can work around that.”

Oh man, I felt this dark cloud of frustration fade into the air—it was Nirvana!!!  But, then I told him those guys in Nashville wouldn’t work with that kind of recording—they needed my guitar and vocal to be in their idea of perfect timing in order to add more instruments or vocals, then mixing, mastering, etc. to do justice to the song.  To which Roy calmly said, “We can do all that; and you don’t pay us a penny until you are 110% satisfied.”  I was blown away!

And that’s how I met Roy Rendahl!  As to the “who” of the aforementioned “we” and “us,” stay tuned for my next installment…

What Can I Do With A Degree in Music?

I began thinking about this question several weeks ago because 1) my son Chris asked me the question, and 2) one of our dear friends, whose daughter graduated from Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (LVA) as a Vocal Major and a straight A student on the academic side auditioned and was accepted into the Berklee College of Music. Her name is Hannah and she will graduate in December.  I told Chris to ask his private teacher, Lynzii O’Connor that question because my answer would be limited, and she provided this great “wheel” graphic as an answer.

Getting back to Hannah, 6 months after she entered Berklee, she declared that she would not continue her quest to become a “professional vocal performer” because she had seen, in just 6 months, enough talented vocal majors to understand that as good a vocalist as she is, in her mind, she didn’t stand a chance in hell of making it! So, she set her goal to focus on the “business” side of music (Berklee and all these major Music schools teach the business side of music too). Hannah has now focused her sights on becoming a booking agent.  She posted a really nice piece about her decision on her Facebook page, starting off with the statement that performers (whether single or groups) need to get onto Spotify and from there, how important it is to be booked into the right gig venues that match with your music and performance techniques.

Chris asked me the question because he already knows how hard it is to make it in JAZZ.  He is now seeing the level of competition he is facing daily, just at LVA.  He’s also sees how much his LVA JAZZ band role models practice compared to him.  For instance, Lynzii’s third year LVA student Ian, a Tenor saxophonist (who made it into Jazz Band 3 his Sophomore year and is Chris’s “idol” and “role model”) practices 4 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And, he told Chris how he divides his daily 4 hour practice sessions up.  Another one of Lynzii’s LVA Jazz Band 3 students, Stone (Baritone sax), told Chris he doesn’t practice much during the school week, but practices virtually all day on Saturdays and Sundays.  These 2 are headed for the big Music schools with Lynzii’s help.  They also have the overall grades!  They have the “passion” for their instrument. Chris? As good as he is, he is struggling to find that “passion” for one’s instrument that drives you to practice almost unconsciously, without having to think about it!  Passion leads you to Commitment, which further leads you to continuous and consistent Practice.  That in turn takes you, over time, to a “near perfect” saxophonist.  However, what distinguishes one Tenor saxophonist from another, in JAZZ, is “improvisation techniques.”

So, what can one do with a music degree? Many wonderful things, as long as they figure out what they want from it, and have the drive and passion to go after it!