Saturday, February 18, 2012

song a day 2012 comments #1

We're at the halfway point and I'm out of song ideas.

Some random comments about recordings up to this point.


Recorded it with Adam Gates and Geoff Marx at Adam's home studio. Along with the various Reason sounds, I played a Rogue sitar guitar and an Epiphone big body acoustic during the middle section. Nothing was subject to quantization.

Stick Around

Quick and easy to write and record. Why not write a love song about candy? Emma gave me a box of Whitman's chocolates for Valentine's, which inspired this.

I now understand how to use the U87. Basically, don't get too close to the mike. Even when whispering, 8-12 inches away is better than anything closer. There's no way to dial out boomy mid-bass caused by proximity effect, even with careful adjustment of a multi-band compressor. With just a high pass shelf on the vocal track to cut rumble, it sounds clear and has some presence. The low end is surprisingly good, and low mids are just right. Add a bit of treble eq with perhaps a touch of high mids, and it sounds good in a mix on any speakers.

Used the Harmony Rocket again via DI. I'm beginning to love that guitar!

Goofus and Gallant

Live, one-take piano recording, un-quantized as usual. Sloppy and bad, but it works with the song. I'm proud of the lyrics. Vocal performance was interesting, as I'm using a very different way of singing. It's more character-based than lyrical-content-based.


Find a shape on a guitar, move hand up and down while finger-picking, add lyrics, you're done.

Come Shopping with Me

This is a bone-headed song all around. The true purpose of the song was to create an opportunity to put the new fret-less Jazz bass through it's paces. That's why it's a weak song.

Anyway, it got the full studio production treatment. I had endless problems with drums, vocals and bass recordings in particular. Just about every track suffered from an error in recording technique. I recorded things in a hurry without listening for sound quality issues.

Drums got the usual treatment. No padding at all on the kick. 414 at snare drum level, pointed mid-way between kick and snare, about 6 feet away. As I move the 414 in closer, it gets more snare, but also more of the piercingly bright hi-hats. U87 overhead, pulled back a bit from the snare so it gets more of the cymbals, about 3-4 feet above the snare. Both tomtoms top-miked. Snare with e906 aimed at the top and SM81 at bottom. The top mike was about 3 inches above the drum head, which turned out to be too much distance. The result was too much bleed from the hi-hats. I tried hitting the snare without using rim shots for impact. Ultimately, it's better to use rim shots, mostly because the impact helps make the snare jump out in the mix.

Bass was the fretless Jazz again, 414 aimed at center of speaker about 2.5 feet away. The results sounded tinny and muddy. I spent considerable time crafting a usable bass tone with compressors (including a multi-band) and eq. I think the recorded tone should have more in the 500k range - will try on the next recording

Acoustic guitars were a disaster. Muddy and dull. What was I thinking? Am I miking too close or too far away?

Vocal sound was terrible, all muddy boom. I sang way too close to the mic. Multi-band compressor and other devices salvaged something out of it, but it's the worst vocal recording I've ever made.

Electric guitars sounded good. U87 on bottom speaker, e906 on top speaker, both about a foot away. I should probably try to phase-align these tracks in Cubase, as I'm violating the 3:1 rule for multi-mic phase coherence. There's probably some comb filtering going on there, but I don't hear it when I move the two faders up and down.

Used Peter's PRS with P90s for the country guitar licks. The solo at the end is the Les Paul. This time, I used the DriveOMatic direct into the Tremolux for the solo. Sounds good!

Keyboard was some random patch from the old Alesis QS6.1.

My Angel

Written on the spot. It's good to have something to write about that matters. Got some honest emotion in the vocal performance. I think this song is too melodramatic for my tastes, but the point of Song A Day is to try different things and to venture out of your comfort zone.

Thanks Walt

Followed Peter's suggestion for writing a song: use a capo on a guitar with a dropped D tuning. So I just let my fingers wander a while and this song came out. I like the guitar and vocal performances. No complaints.

Elvis Sandwich

Drums were recorded with just the U87 hanging a mile over the snare and the D112 aimed at the outside of the skin, with the beater switched to the felt-type. Wonders of wonders, it's a fantastic sounding recording. The kick is not so great, but the overhead picked up the sound of brushes hitting the snare perfectly. It rocks. Usually, the further away the U87 is from the kit, the worse the sound. I don't understand why it worked so well this time.

Bass was fretless Jazz via DI. Not much tone there, but it gets the job done.

Guitar was the Harmony Rocket with ancient, rusty strings, both miked with the U87 and DI. Sounds good! I like that guitar.

I kinda did an Elvis-inspired vocal. Kinda.

Naked and Scared

Based on a comment Seela made on the site about hiding behind simplicity rather than complexity. I figured that the former is easier and faster, so go with that. Simple-minded melody and words, sung in the style of Kermit the Frog. I wasn't too keen on uploading it, but did it. Got a lot of positive feedback on it.

Nothing Went Wrong

Inaccurately named 'epic' song. Of course, everything went wrong with the recording.

I probably sang too close to the mic, resulting in a battle to compress the low mids without thinning out the sound too much. There's a ton of eq/compression on the vocals and they sound awful.

The bass sound is meh, and it took a lot of effects to get it up to that point. I have a long way to go before I can figure out how to get a decent bass sound on a track without effects.

Drums weren't any good either.

Code Zombie

This came out great! I love everything about this song and the recording. Used the Les Paul and Peter's green PRS with P90s into the Tremolux through the Danelectro graphic EQ.

Bass: I 'think' I used the fretless Jazz for this one, but I'm not sure.

It took me some time to learn how to play the guitar parts on this one. The solo melody is tricky to play.

Here I Am

Some melodrama for ya. I actually had fun singing this one, and it shows.

A Quick Fix

Simple 3-chord folk song with one-world lyrics. I like it.

The climbing arpeggios are plucked harmonics on the fretless bass! I discovered that by accident while messing around on the bass.

Welcome to Song A Day 2012

Fun song to kick off the season. The 414 is further away from the snare, near the doorway at the entrance to the house. Gets a deep thud for the kick and not much else, but the kick low-end sounds good when judiciously blended into the mix.

Recorded two bass tracks. First, fretless Jazz into Tremolux with bass rolled off into 414 aimed at the top 12" guitar speaker. Second, Rickenbacker into SVT with 15" speaker, again recorded by the 414 at 4-5 feet distance. Got some good upper midrange crunch by combining them, but not a very good bass tone overall. It was fun to try - and my first recording with the Jazz bass.

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