Saturday, March 5, 2011

Song A Day 2011 Recording Diary

2/24/2011: Mr. Hanley

Not much to say about this one except that the song is weak and the recording is awful. I recorded this one the weekend before Song A Day started as an emergency filler - just something to post in case I ran out of time or ideas. Probably should have left it on the shelf.

On the positive side of things, it's so bad sounding, it makes the recordings created afterward sound better.

I did record one new song, which is Elvis Costello. It's my response to one of Chris' songs for which the notes in the lyrics describe it as 'me doing Derek doing Elvis Costello. Later, Jonathan did a song about himself doing Derek doing Chris doing Derek doing Elvis Costello.


No recording this day. Too wiped out. I wrote Byron Park, spending considerable time on the lyrics.

2/26/2011 Byron Park

Devoted most of the weekend to recording this ambitious number.

Frustrated with the weak sounding bass guitar, I moved the U87 back so that it was 2 1/2 feet from the speaker cone and set it to a figure-8 pattern. This got me closer to the sound I wanted. I switched the amp's midrange frequency center from 200hz to 800hz, but in retrospect I'm not sure that was a good move.

I played bass with my fingers to get a thicker sound and rolled off the volume knob a bit to reduce some unpleasant distortion picked up by the mic. Can't tell if the graphic EQ stompbox is causing that.

Unfortunately, got a horrible 60hz buzz on the bass track that I couldn't filter out. Oh well.

Used the Les Paul for the lead guitar part. Again, the graphic EQ was the only effect used. Nice guitar tone!

Hunted around for the right Reason strings for the ending section and settled on the regular orchestra strings.

2/27/2011 Caught in a Crowd

A pretty ballad, but sung badly. I should have spent more time working on the vocal, but I was just too wiped out after the marathon sesions for Byron Park.

2/28/2011 Goodbye to Song A Day

Also worked on this during the weekend. The recording went pretty quickly. The usual drum setup wasn't working for me, so I substituted the U87 as an overhead for the SM81 to get more body out of the kit. That worked.

Like an idiot, I accidently deleted the floor tom track while mixing. Thankfully, the drums don't rely on it heavily. But still, pretty dumb move.

Used the same bass setup as for Byron Park, but played with a pick. I regret switching the amp midrange frequency center from 200 to 800 hz, as it sounds better when the track is soloed than when blended in with the other tracks. It's not a bad sound per se, it's just not the frequency center that I gravitate towards. It brings out the characteristic Rickenbacher tone.

The horrible 60 hz hum plagued the bass recording again.

For the rhythm guitar parts, I wanted to get a Chris Greacen wall-of-sound type of production, so I spent time experimenting. The key discovery here was swapping the U87 and Sennheiser 906 mics such that the U87 was aimed at the top speaker. This gave me the proper frequency balance and at long last - after four years of experimentation - I finally achieved the Chris Greacen effect. It's just Les Paul into graphic EQ and into Tremolux, but it sounds big.

Oh, another critical change came about after experimenting with the graphic EQ settings. I lowered the 3kz slider and beefed up 200 and 100hz. I also increased the amp's bass setting to 6.

As a side note, I tried using an overdrive box to see if it could add more harmonic complexity, but all it did was soften the sound and make it mushy.

Used the unplayable Jay Turner guitar for the dueling lead guitars at the end. I love the tone of that guitar, but it would have been easier to have played the solo on a banjo. Any attempt to bend strings above the 12th fret result in a complete fretting-out and subsequent muting of the sound.

And thus endeth Song A Day 2011. I'll post my post mortem soon.

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