FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

I love getting e-mails from you guys, but there are some things I get asked very often, so I’m going to post these topics here as a resource for everyone.

Thanks!
-Richie

What recording software do you use?

I use Avid Pro Tools with a variety of Plug-Ins from companies like Waves, Native Instruments, Line 6, EastWest, Roland, Slate and Soundtoys.

How do you get your V-Drums to sound like that?

When we record Band Geek videos we generally capture both audio and MIDI from the Roland V Drums. In many cases we’ll replace the drum sounds with something more specific to whatever song we’re recording. We replace the sounds by running the MIDI data captured from the drum set and running it through a drum library program. I use Native Instruments’ Abbey Road Drums most of the time. On songs with non-conventional drum sounds like “Close To The Edge” for example, I’ll use BFD 3 by FXPansion.

Why don’t you use acoustic drums?

It’s just a matter of the space. My studio is small and I had neighbors close by.  Using electronic drums solves a lot of problems for us. If I had a bigger space and neighbors who lived further away, I’d be happy to use acoustic drums, but this is our current situation and we’re making the best of it.

What are you guys listening to in your headphones?

Thanks to the incredible MOTU 1248 interface, we’re all able to have discreet monitor mixes that was can control via iPad. So basically each of us gets a customized mix of whatever we need to hear. We also wear headphones to keep the volume down in a packed residential area.

Why don’t you use a Mac like most other musicians?

I think Apple products are great. I own several of them. I used to be a devout Mac User, but after a costly customer service mishap, a friend who built custom PCs convinced me to try running all of my studio software on a Windows computer. Being a gamer, I’m quite comfortable with PCs and was surprised to find that switching platforms didn’t interrupt or hinder my workflow in any way.  So I’ve remained on the PC platform since and have no complaints. I still have no problem with Macs. I think they’re great machines. If I ever had a serious reason to get one, I’d be totally fine with using it. Here’s a video I made about choosing which platform is right for you. Should I Get a Mac or a PC for Pro Tools?

What video editing software do you use?

I’ve been using Magix Vegas for a while. This is a Windows only program. I’ve also started using Adobe Premiere and I think it’s great. The Adobe products work on both platforms.

How do you make a Split-Screen video?

It’s done by layering several videos on top of each other in the video editing software of your choice. They need to be synced up with each other. Once all that is done you shrink the videos so that you can fit multiple videos on the same screen and then use masking tools to make everything look neat.  Here is a thorough tutorial on how to make a split screen video from start to finish. How To Make Split-Screen Music Videos.

How are people doing these Lockdown videos where they’re all playing simultaneously from their own homes?

They’re not.  (At least I’m assuming they’re not.)

The biggest obstacles involved in playing with other musicians over the internet in real time are latency, capture and monitoring.

Latency is a delay or lag in the transmission between 2 or more computers. It’s caused by several factors. It has less to do with what app you’re using and more to do with how fast your internet connection and how far away from each other your band is. If you have a few guys located within a mile or two of each other and you all have fast computers with top-tier blazing high-speed internet connections and you’re all wired directly into your routers via Ethernet, then you have a shot at being able to remotely jam together with negligible latency. And while the latency you experience during a FaceTime or Zoom call might not seem too bad, even 20 milliseconds of latency is enough to throw off a musician and result in a train wreck. Also, if you’re on Wi-Fi, just forget it.

Capture refers to how you’re recording your instrument and listening to the rest of the band. Basically, if you don’t have a semi-pro method for getting the sound of your voice or your instrument into your computer, then you’ll be at the mercy of your computer’s on-board microphone which is usually designed for speech only. This will have a boomy, roomy, distorted sounds that does not lend itself to recording music. Guys, it’s a new age. Every musician needs to have an audio interface and a couple of microphones. It’s just as important as your instrument.

Monitoring is another problem. Most streaming apps don’t offer a way to control the individual levels of your band mates (I know there are exceptions.) So this makes it difficult when you hear the singer louder than the drummer for example.

So basically, unless you meet all these hardware requirements and you’re relatively close to each other, I’m sorry to say that this probably isn’t going to be possible. That being said, we can hope that some genius overcomes this obstacle and that jamming over the internet becomes a viable reality in the near future.

OK, so then how are YOU making it look like you’re all playing together in your Lockdown videos?

Here are a couple of videos I produced during the pandemic lockdown. Lock-Down Godzilla and Roundabout (Quarantine Edition).

Although it might appear that we’re all playing at the same time, this is not the case, (and for the record we’re in no way trying to pass it off as simultaneously live.) The way this is done is the same way musicians have been collaborating remotely for years. You build these songs just like you’d build a track in the studio. I usually start with a reference track. I didn’t use one of these for Godzilla because Jules knew the song so well, but once he sent me his drums, I made a reference track with verbal cues to let the other guys know when Jules was about to go to a new section. This was especially helpful for situations where there isn’t a set number of bars. Since the Roundabout video had a more involved arrangement, I had to make a reference track first. This was something I made in Pro Tools. I recorded a reference MIDI piano track where I played a scratch version of the song just so we could all here where we were. I tempo mapped this to slow down or speed up in certain sections since this song has several tempo changes. I also programmed the time signature changes. Then I figured out all of the vocal parts and recorded reference vocal tracks for each singer so they knew which part they were singing.  I then used Dropbox to upload several of these stem tracks.  In the dropbox was a click track, a MIDI file with the piano and the tempo map, and all my reference vocals. Our drummer Andy loaded all these files into a blank pro tools session and imported the tempo and meter information from the MIDI file into his session. So now he was looking at what I was looking at.  He miked up his drums and recorded himself with a GoPro while he performed the song. Then he uploaded his files to the Dropbox. I imported his drums into my session and made a new reference track mic with his drums.  So now instead of playing to a click, the next person in the chain can react to what Andy already recorded. Next up was Ann Marie and me.  Since we were in the same house, we recorded our parts together. We played to Andy’s drums and sang with the reference vocals in our headphones.  We used an iPhone to record our video. Then we sent a new reference track to Andy Graziano.  Now he had the benefit of hearing drums, bass and all the other vocals while he performed.  He sent me his tracks and video. I made a new reference mix with the entire band minus the keyboards.  That track was sent to Rob Kipp who was basically playing with a full band at that point. He recorded his parts and sent them to me.  Now that I had all of the audio tracks brought into my master session, I did a final mix of the song. I then imported that mix into Vegas and imported all of our video files in.  I manually synced these up either visually or by matching the audio waveforms to the mixed song. Once they were all synced up, I started using the Pan, Crop, and Mask features to create various split screen shapes. If it sounds like it’s live, we’ll take that as a compliment. I’m very lucky to get to play with great musicians!

BUT I ACTUALLY SAW YOU, ANDY A & ANDY G DO A LIVE STREAM SIMULTANEOUSLY FROM DIFFERENT LOCATIONS!!!

Ok, you got me. I have a top secret method of doing this that I’m not sharing because everyone else must suffer! MWAHAHAHA!!!

But seriously speaking, yes we did do this, but it was a trick to make it appear as if we were playing together.  The term that people came up with in the chat is a “Cascading Stream.”  I think that’s a perfect descriptor.

Again, the key to this is reference tracks. Without reference tracks, this will not work. The internet is not reliable enough. More on that in a sec. Here’s how we did it…

Our drummer had all of the reference tracks on an iPad. These tracks were the original song recordings with count-ins, and verbal cues for upcoming sections. Using a mixer and an audio interface he was able to pan his drums to the left channel and the reference track to the right channel. He then used OBS to stream this our bass player. The bass player used OBS to screen capture the drum stream.  He then added his bass and his webcam to the OBS feed. Now the new mix of Drums + Bass was once again panned to the left channel and the reference track was panned to the right channel. He streamed that directly to me.  Using my audio interface’s virtual mixer, I panned the Drums + Bass mix center.  Added my guitar and vocal and sent the reference track only to my headphones. The audience only heard Me + Bass + Drums.

What’s cool about this is that in a matter of speaking, we are all playing together live. Right there on the screen, you see three musicians playing together from their respective homes in sync with each other.

What sucks about this is that there’s actually a severe lag between us. The drummer is actually starting the song about 45 seconds before it gets to me. It also sucks that he can’t hear anyone else. He’s only playing to reference track. So he has to be incredibly disciplined to imagine what the other guys are going to do. The bass player has it a little easier as he can at least react to the drums, but he has no idea what I”m doing. I had it the easiest since I was able to play on top of an intact rhythm section, but it’s not exactly playing together. It’s more like playing “on top” of each other which kinda takes the fun out of it.

Other problems are if you have one guy with a sub par machine or spotty internet, the entire chain suffers. For us, it was the bass player. This can cause dropouts in the middle of a song. This is why using reference tracks are so crucial. If you don’t use reference tracks and the stream suddenly drops out and then comes back in, all you’d hear are the instruments that come before you in the chain. And hearing just drums and bass can rarely give you a clear indication of where you are in a song. If you have a reference track with the original recording or a scratch track you made, you can at least hear enough cues to indicate where you are and then you can jump back in with little incident.

So again, it’s doable, but it’s not as fun as it looks.

What app do you use for your Live Stream?

It’s not an app!!! (said in Kindergarten Cop style)

I recently did a 6 part Live Stream series on building a song for my live show from soup to nuts. These videos can be found here: Playlist – Building A Song For My Live Stream

There isn’t a single app I use. There are actually 10 apps that precariously work together and often stop working to semi-comical effect during my live shows. Here’s the list.

  • Pro Tools – For playing backing tracks, video tracks, sending MIDI data to other apps and hardware.
  • MOTU AVB Control – My audio interface’s virtual mixer. This is how I create separate mixes for the audience and for my monitors.
  • OBS – For streaming, camera switching, graphics, etc. It’s free and incredibly powerful.
  • Restream.io – This is a paid service that allows your stream to multiple platforms simultaneously
  • Streamlabs – This is a site that manages tips, subs, and merch. It also provides the onscreen pop-ups.
  • Bome’s MIDI Translator Pro – Another very powerful app that converts MIDI notes to keystrokes.
  • AutoHotKey – A scripting language that allows you to automate various tasks.
  • American DJ MyDMX 3.0 – Light controller software that accepts MIDI commands.
  • Deep Dish Gig Book – an iPad app for managing lyrics and sheet music
  • Stream Deck – Allows me to assign certain OBS commands and AutoHotKey Scrips to easy access physical buttons.

Here is some of the other hardware that I use:

  • Line 6 Helix Rack – controlled via MIDI by Pro Tools
  • Logitech c920 webcams
  • TC Electronic M One – vocal effects
  • iRig Blu-Turn – for turning pages on my lyrics
  • Audio Technica AE-3300 Handheld Condenser Microphone
  • American DJ MyDMX 3.0 – USB DMX Lighting Interface
  • SSL Alpha Channel Mic Preamp
  • Line 6 PowerCab 112 Plus – for guitar
  • Line 6 L12 – for monitoring

I’d like to give huge thanks to Monty over at Scene of Action Music for helping me out when I was getting started with this stuff.  His stream puts mine to shame and he was very gracious with his help and information.

What’s the deal with doing cover songs on YouTube?

A little while ago I put out a video literally called: What’s The Deal With Doing Cover Songs On YouTube?

However, YouTube’s copyright policy is an ever shifting set of rules that are super confusing and honestly not great for content creators. A good friend of mine is starting a new YouTube channel and he asked for my advice so I’m going to copy what I told him in to this answer…

YouTube is a mess right now. They’re actually phasing out the music policies page which sucks for cover musicians. Basically it’s become a post and pray policy. There are 5 things that can happen when you post a cover. I’m not sure if you’re eligible for monetization, but I’ll put the money stuff in here anyway.
1. They don’t detect it and you keep all the ad revenue
2. They do detect it and the publisher allows revenue sharing. In this case the video stays up and you get a percentage.
3. They do detect it and the publisher does not allow revenue sharing. The video stays up, but you get no money.
4. They do detect it and the publisher does not allow cover songs. In this case the video will be blocked in certain or all countries.
5. They do detect it and the publisher issues a copyright strike against you.
So there are various degrees of suckage here. Obviously, the number 2 scenario is the best one. Everything is on the up and up. You get paid, the publishers get paid and the video stays on YouTube. I’d say the averages I’ve experienced with the various scenarios are:
1. 5%
2. 45%
3. 45%
4. 4%
5. 1%

#4 sucks because you put work into a video and then no one can see it, but 5 really sucks because if you get 3 strikes they take your whole channel down. In the last 10 years of posting videos I’ve only gotten 2 copyright strikes. They’re not supposed to issue these for cover songs. Copyright strikes are for people who are just using the original recordings in their videos, but some publishers are just redacted and don’t care. I generally avoid The Eagles, Supertramp, and Hall and Oates.  Over time you get a feel for what artists are safer to cover.
One way to test it out is to upload a rough demo unlisted and see what the algorithm comes up with. Then you’ll know how the system is going to handle the song you’re planning on posting.
YouTube REALLY needs to do better on this front. Cover songs are such a huge part of their content and they’re foolish not to come up with a policy that protects their creators.

So that’s all I got on that topic.

Can I use the music from one of your YouTube videos in my project?

If you’re referring to a video that has original music that I wrote, then feel free to contact me to discuss your project.  If you’re talking about one of my cover videos, then please keep in mind that I don’t manage the rights of these songs. You will need to secure the rights from the song’s publishers.  Once you’ve done that, then we can discuss using our cover version.

Why did you take down the ______  cover video?

I probably didn’t. Since YouTube’s Copyright Policy is in constant flux, certain videos get blocked from time to time and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I literally have zero recording equipment. Where do I start?

I did a video called: What Do I Need For A Recording Studio?

Basically you can get a lot of stuff done with a simple 2 channel interface. The Focusrite Scarlett series has a lot of great and affordable options.

How did you get the BÖC gig?

I was their substitute sound engineer for about 3 years. One day, in 2004, their bass player left the band on short notice. In a bind, they asked if I could fill in. I’ve been filling in for a loooong time now!

Can you tell Buck and Eric to play my song request at your next show?

Sorry, I can’t.

Can you tell Buck and Eric_______?

I will not forward any requests of any kind to any other members of Blue Öyster Cult past or present. All BÖC related inquiries must go through the band’s management, TKO.

How do I book BÖC to play at an event?

I am not involved with booking Blue Öyster Cult in any way. Please contact the band’s management for all booking inquiries here: TKO

Can you mail me an autograph?

Yes! I have several autographed items available on the store page.

If I send you an item, can you sign it and mail it back to me?

No. I do not accept items sent to me through the mail. I’m only offering what is currently available on the store page. If there’s an item you think I should be offering on the store page that you don’t see, please feel free to e-mail a suggestion.

Can I mail you something?

While I really do appreciate the thoughtfulness, I’m currently not set up for it.  Maybe in the future, I’ll set up a PO BOX.

Do you have any copies of 11:11 by Regina Spektor?

Sorry, I don’t.

Can you send me your Helix sounds?

Whatever I have made available can be found at the Line 6 Custom Tone Site.

Here you’ll find presets for Helix, HX Effects, HX Stomp and Pod HD500.

What IR’s do you use?  Can you send them to me?

I use OwnHammer Impulse Responses and I can’t send them to you because that would be theft!  You can purchase the exact IR’s I use here: 412 Recto Six-Pack

I’ve also made a video all about which specific IR’s I use: Impulse Response For My Custom Helix Presets

What pickups should I buy?

I’m a big fan of DiMarzio pickups. If you’d like to know exactly which pickups I use on my guitars, all that information can be found in this video: All Of My Electric Guitars

Did you change the pickups in your Variax? If so, how?

Yes. I changed them so they would be tonally closer to the other guitars I use in case I need to use the mags as a backup for my main guitar.  The exact pickups I use are listed in this video: All Of My Electric Guitars

Just a note of warning… changing your Variax pickups WILL void your warranty.  When you order your new pickups, try to keep them in the 6k to 8k range.  Anything hotter will sound muddy.  Thank you to Partev Sarkissian for the info.

What happened to your Axis?

Nothing. I still love it and use it frequently.

Is your Fodera a custom signature model?

Yes and No. Technically every instrument you order from Fodera is custom. Yes, they have certain models you have to choose from, but there’s a lot of customization that can be done to each model to make it work for you. So my guitar is technically an Imperial Custom Model, but in this case it’s drastically different from the regular Imperial guitars. I’m not a tall guy, so they shrunk the entire body down to fit me. Then they custom contoured the top for my arm position. They also came up with a completely new neck profile that is unlike anything else I’ve played. Even though it started out roughly as an Imperial, it ended up being very different from the Imperial Custom model in almost every way.

So while there isn’t a Richie Castellano model on the Fodera website, I’ll let you in on a little secret… They told me if you order a Richie Castellano guitar from Fodera, they will make you one to my exact spec.

Do you give lessons?

Yes! I have been teaching privately for since 2002. I’m currently offering lessons via Skype. Aside from offering lessons in guitar and bass, I also give lessons on the tech side of things. These include lessons on music production, video editing, programming guitar sounds and anything you think I’d be able to help you with. Please email me for more information.

Can you play on my record?

This depends on my current workload, but feel free to email me with your inquiry.

Can you tell me exactly how to hook up/configure my rig via E-mail?

Unfortunately this is not something that can be done in a simple email.  It requires a lot of time and research on my part. And it also goes much quicker if I can talk to you and see your gear.  I’d be happy to do this as a Skype Lesson. If you’re interested, please contact me, but there are just too many variables to do do this over email. You most likely have gear that I’ve never used and it requires manual diving plus a lot of trial and error.

Can I hire the Band Geeks to play a show?

Yes, but please keep in mind that just because we’re a bunch of friends hanging out in a basement, we’re not a bar band. The process of hiring the Band Geeks would be very similar to hiring a national touring act.

Hey, did you see the Star Wars thing that’s been going around?

Yes. I saw it. Thank you for thinking of me, but I saw it. Multiple times. Thank you.