The new piano is here!

So much has happened over the past few months! I’ll start by sharing some pics of the new piano being delivered:


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To be honest, I’ve been somewhat negligent at recording new content for the next podcast as there have been quite a few life-changes recently since I passed the CCIE Security.

First, and probably the biggest change is my departure from Soundwave. After over 10 years with the band, God has made it clear that I need to step down. The reason behind the decision was unclear at the time, but there have been a number of confirmations since.

Second, The Connection Church started a fourth service on Saturday Night last weekend. It was a HUGE hit, but this does come with a greater commitment of my time and also brings some clarity as to why I believe God brought me to the decision to leave Soundwave.

As the two little ones get older (now 4 and 6), they want to spend more time with dad, which I consider a true blessing. We are taking our first ever family vacation starting tomorrow and it’s going to be a blast!

With all this said, the next podcast release date is somewhat up in the air at this point, but I’ll keep you posted.

So much to update you on!

First, I want to say I’m sorry for being out of pocket for so long. I came nowhere near my goal for Music to Pray By in 2013. It seems as though other priorities snuck in throughout the year, and I wanted to share with you about some of them.

First, one that directly impacts this ministry – we’ve moved! We actually stayed in the same neighborhood, but upgraded to a little larger house that has more space for the studio. Now the piano has it’s own room where I plan to keep microphones at the “ready” at all times so there’s no setup when it’s time to record. There’s also more space in the control room for recording the band, which will certainly be a welcome change. Here are some pictures right after the move. I’ll be sure to update you with current pics once everything is setup:

Ctrl Room 1 Piano Room 1There’s conduit running between the rooms for the MIDI and microphone cables. Most of the acoustic treatment is here and it’s just a matter of putting it up based on the designs Auralex provided. I hope to have the studio 100% ready by the end of this weekend.

We’ve kept our old home and are renting it out as a vacation home for those traveling to the Austin area since it is a hot destination for a number of reasons.  We’ve listed it at If you’re ever destined to the Austin area and need a place to stay, feel free to reach out! I know this GREAT church right down the street if you’re here over the weekend and would like to attend Sunday service.

Another major deterrent was the CCIE Security lab exam, which I spent countless hours  preparing for this year. I took the lab in the middle of November and I did not pass. In fact, I left Cisco feeling as though version 4 of the lab is not passable. It was extremely discouraging, but I’m not going to give up and hope to try again mid-next year.

With regards to podcast 68, it is recorded and about 60% edited and hope to have it posted before the new year so stay tuned!

Is the Texas drought ending? Is prayer a factor?

Over the past few months, people throughout Texas have been praying for rain. We have had the worst drought in my lifetime this year. I took the family to Burnett for a “Day out with Thomas” and on the way saw some amazing damage this drought has caused. Here are some images:

These are very small examples of some of the damage. There have been hundreds of fires all over Texas, and as a result of this horrible drought, there has been a surge of prayer at church, schools, rallies, and in homes all across Texas for rain. There was the prayer event in Houston inspired by the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and now I believe we are truly witnessing an answer to prayer. The Bible has many examples of God’s people praying for rain and it’s very clear in Zechariah 10:1 Who sends rain. We’ve had modest amounts of rain over the past month but are in desperate need for more and theres some promising chances of rain in the forecast so please pray with me for Texas – that God sends thunder clouds full of rain! Thank You LORD for Your Grace!

Grand piano mic technique and hardware used to record the podcast

For those who are curious, here’s an update on the grand piano mic placement along with the types of microphones and hardware used to record the Music To Pray By podcast.

This has changed quite a bit since the R09HR days. At the low end of the piano, an EV RE320 mic is angled in parallel with the strings. At the high end, an AudioTechnica AT4033a is aimed almost perpendicular to the strings. Completing the 3 foot triangle is an XY pair of Neuman KM184’s. These mics run into a Focusrite ISA428 pre amp, which has an ADAT connection into a Motu 896HD firewire audio interface. Logic Studio 9 running on a MacBook Pro completes the DAW solution. Here’s a quick video of it as well:


New Music To Pray By Album Art!

About 5 days ago, Alex Anze, a podcast subscriber and graphics designer contacted me and said that he felt led by LORD to help the MTPB ministry by designing new album art for the podcasts “…in hopes that a better album cover might be more inviting to more people and so increase the number of praying people.” Today, I received the following image from him and all I can say is, …wow!

When I asked if it was okay to mention him in a blog post, he asked that it be made clear that he did this for the glory of God and not for self publicity – that this was a way of advancing the Kingdom of God and he’s glad and proud to have achieved something that may just do that. There may be some improvements to the website as well thanks to Alex’s generosity. GOD IS GOOD! Thank you LORD for Alex and for the work You’ve accomplished through him, and I pray you bless him in a very huge way!

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day to all of you mothers! I have somewhat failed at showing my true appreciation to Yoko today for all she does as a mother – likely the most difficult job in the world. I spent most of yesterday and today editing the podcast – a total of about 15 hours so far, and I’m at around 19 minutes. Still have about 12-13 minutes to go, but I really need to spend the rest of the evening with Yoko. My plan is to work on it after Yoko goes to bed and hopefully finish before the sun rises. Regardless, I will get Podcast 58 posted within the next 24 hours – my apologies for the delay. When I committed to May 8th, it completely slipped my mind that was Mother’s Day. I pray Yoko finds it in her heart to forgive me, and I had hoped the Mother’s Day gift pictured below would have helped in that area. Turns out my time with her is more valuable so here I go!

DCYC 2011 – Limitless

Once again, Soundwave was blessed with the honor of participating in the largest Austin DCYC event in it’s 53 year history! It was an awesome experience to say the least, and wanted to post some media from the event. Here is a Youtube video of something the Youth Animators put together. This looked much more amazing live. Unfortunately, my iPhone is limited in it’s video capabilities:


Here’s a picture I took of these motivated young people Sunday morning:

…and last but not least, Limitless – the Soundwave Original written specifically for this event and recorded in my studio. It’ll be available for download on iTunes soon:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Many thanks to all who attended, and I pray you’ll stay on fire for God!

Soundwave recording new album

This past weekend, Soundwave came together at my new place to record two new songs, and we got quite a bit done. I still have a lot of mixing to do, but the new studio is definitely helping. Check out the pics below:

On a side note, the piano was tuned last week, and I’ve got the next podcast recorded. I’m a bit rusty so it’s taking me longer than normal to edit, but I hope to finish it tonight. Stay tuned!

New way of recording the podcast

I mentioned in the last podcast that I would blog about the new method of recording used in the last podcast. Instead of the Roland R-09HR, I used a balanced pair of Rode NT5’s with the Apogee Duet as an audio interface. The results were pretty surprising. Normally the EQ I use will have massive peaks and valleys throughout, but with the NT5’s, very little EQ or anything else for that matter was needed.

This is a good shot from the front. You can see the XY pattern used.


This shows the XY pattern from the back, and the placement inside the piano. I actually used Westone in-ear monitors, which completely block out any sound and listened to what the mics picked up using various positions over the piano strings and soundboard. This is what I came up with.


Here’s the MacBook Pro running Logic Studio 9 with the Apogee Duet ready to go. This thing is so quiet!


A shot of the whole setup.


Because of Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll be taking this week off from the podcast to spend some time with the family. Next Saturday, Soundwave is going to record one of our new songs here at the Maestro Music studio, but I’ll try to get another podcast recorded next Sunday after church. Happy Thanksgiving!

This week was strictly to an audience of One.

Here’s what happened:

It’s Saturday noonish, and I have a Soundwave gig in a few hours and need to get the podcast done before then. So, is the microphone positioned perfectly in the sweet spot with input levels properly adjusted on the R-09HR?


Music picked out to play in case a song is needed?

Check check…

Ice maker turned off?

Chiggidy check…

A/C turned off?

That would be a….. CHECK!

Cell phone on vibrate?

Big Phat Check!

Dogs outside?

Diggidy dog check!

Parrot upstairs in the study?

….that would be affirmative

Yoko and SanBan upstairs in the bedroom keeping quiet for the next 30-40 minutes?


Everything is ready to go so, I hit record on the R-09HR remote and begin to worship with music. I just had the piano tuned and it’s sounding beautiful! I feel the Holy Spirit fill the room and find myself thinking, this is going to be the best podcast yet! I finish the last song thinking that has to be right at 30 minutes excited about mixing since this was going to be the first podcast right after a tuning, and I look at the R-09HR and see this:

I know it’s blurry, but it says “standby”, which means the entire time I was playing, the recorder was waiting for me to press “record” one more time! DOPE! In the past, I’ve always checked to make sure it was recording before starting. This time, I was so excited about getting started that this was the ONE thing I completely forgot to CHECK! As you can imagine, I hadn’t been that frustrated in a very long time. But after a few minutes of banging my head against the wall, I realized that it was by no means a waste since my LORD heard every note played, and that made all the time spent in preparation and playing totally worth it. I pray next week will be even better!

About the gig rig:

Last night at practice for church, there was a fellow keyboardist there who showed a bit of interest in my setup and was impressed with some of the sounds, so I thought a blog about the “gig rig” might be interesting to some of you.

The guts: I do something very few live keyboard performers do, but more and more are moving toward. I trust a standard computer to produce live, real time sounds as I play. I use a program called Main Stage by Apple. It is bundled with Logic Studio 8, and has literally changed the way I think about keyboards. It is fully customizable based on the controller hardware you have and comes with a huge selection of software synthesizers and samplers. You also have the ability to add 3rd party software synths for even more sounds. I was given IKMultimedia’s Philharmonik which has some beautiful orchestral sounds as well as some very real grand piano samples. The install is almost 50 Gig, but the sounds that are produced are the closest to the “real thing” I’ve ever heard to date.

The computer: A very solid Apple MacBook Pro with a 2.4 Ghz Intel Dual Core proc, 4 Gig of RAM, 160 GB 7200 RPM HD, and a high res 1920×1200 display. Even with this much power, Main Stage can still buckle if too many sounds or effect plugins are layered so there is still a balance to maintain. Part of the problem with processing power is the USB audio interface built into my VX8. If I were to move to firewire, this would help substancially, but so far I’ve been able to work within the constraints.

The Bottom Stack: My main controller is the CME VX8 88-key controller with a lot of nice features, but it weighs a ton! This doesn’t really make it ideal for a gig rig, but it does help me stay in shape. The weighted action has a good feel, but it makes a clicking metal-on-metal sound when certain black and white keys are played in sequence which can be annoying. I swapped this keyboard out 3 times and every one of them did the same thing so it appears to be a manufacturing defect. Another problem is the USB ports. I’ve only been using this keyboard for about 6 months and I can already tell that the USB ports are going to wear out eventually and I’ll be forced to move to another audio interface, which will likely be the Apogee Duet. Other than these flaws, this keyboard has served me well so far.

The top stack: A Korg Triton Extreme. Ever since Korg came out with the Triton over 7 years ago, I’ve owned one. It started with the standard Triton Pro x, then to the Trinity, then the Triton Studio Pro, and now the Triton Extreme. This keyboard makes up for the heaviness of the VX8 weighing much less, but only providing 61 keys – enough to play organ riffs all night long! My favorite thing about this product line is the synth pads you can create. This also can be used as a backup if my laptop decides to stop working, which has happened once or twice when I first made the move to this rig back in December of ’07. It also has a USB midi out so I have it configured it as a controller in Main Stage as well.

The Sound: I prefer to use my Westone ES2 in-ear monitors if the venue permits, but if not, I use some Yamaha MSR100’s. I run everything through a Mackie 802-VLZ3 mixer which opens up a number of options. One of the options is to restrict the output to only my keyboards if I have an overall mix being fed into the mixer or if I feed the output of my R-09HR to hear the “room” when I use the Westones. The mixer also has XLR outs which eliminate the need for direct boxes.

The stands: For the keyboards, I use the Ultimate V-Stand. I do have the laptop attachment, but the vibration was a bit much so I moved the MacBook Pro over to an insTand, which has worked out nicely. For the Yamahas, when I use them, I have some standard 45 degree angled guitar amp stands. They’ve held up pretty well so far. The one thing that hasn’t held up well is the second tier of the V-Stand. The adapter to attach the second tier stripped out after about 6 months of use.

Well, that about covers it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them. I’d be happy to answer any questions or discuss any of the parts that make up the gig rig with you.

Tech update

After waiting over 2 weeks, I finally received confirmation from (ISC)2 that I passed the CISSP exam! Thank you for your prayers and support.

The iPhone 2.1 update came out today. I’ve upgraded but haven’t had a chance to see if there’s an improvement in 3G performance. Apple said this update is supposed to fix the 3G signal problems as well as the following:

– decrease in call set-up failures and call drops
– significantly improve battery life for most users
– dramatically reduced time to backup to iTunes
– improve email reliability, notably fetching email from POP and Exchange accounts
– faster installation of 3rd party applications
– fixed bugs causing hangs and crashes if you have lots of 3rd party applications
– improved performance in text messaging
– faster loading and searching of contacts
– improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display
– repeat alert up to two additional times for incoming text messages
– option to wipe data after ten failed passcode attempts
– Genius playlist creation

I went ahead and got the Roland Edirol R-09HR for recording the Music To Pray By blog. I’ll also be using it as a stereo mic when I use in-ear monitors during live performance in order to hear the room since the Westones block out everything. I currently do this with the R-09’s and it works really well. I’ve already recorded some of this week’s posting with the R-09HR, but haven’t had a chance to compare yet. I hope it’s an improvement in sound quality over the R-09. According to Roland, the mic pre’s are supposed to be better, and it records at 24 bit 96k, which is double the sample over the older version. I’ll be listing the R-09 on eBay this Tuesday to recoup some of the costs. Why Tuesday you might ask? Ask me in a comment and I’ll elaborate…

Because of hurricane Ike, I decided to pull my antenna that was mounted on the side of my house and move it inside, and surprisingly enough, Windows Vista Media Center is reporting better signals inside at a lower altitude than what I was getting outside with it mounted much higher. It must have been the attenuation of the added cable and grounding required. On a side note, my family is in the path of this hurricane so please be in prayer for them as they ride it out.

Week 8’s podcast will be posted sometime tomorrow as long as we don’t loose power. Based on the current Ike forecast, that shouldn’t be an issue – just a bunch of much needed rain.