Sunday, February 3, 2013

Song A Day 2013 (2/1 - 2/2)

Song A Day 2013 Preamble

This was a simple acoustic guitar and voice piece, recorded late at night. Used the new Bock Audio 195 mic for vocals and discovered that it isn't quite right for my voice. It has a lot of low end (in fat mode) which I have to filter out, and the high end is kinda grainy and harsh. Also, the midrange response is lacking. To give it a fair trial, I'll use it again on the next song and see if I like it any better. Recorded acoustic guitars with the U87 because I already knew from mic tests conducted earlier that the Bock doesn't work that well with acoustic guitars.

Rabbit in the Ear

For my first full production piece for Song A Day 2013, I wanted to test the Bock mic on a variety of sources. I had one full Saturday to write and record the song, so I decided to stick with whatever results I got for each track. I know that doing this results in bad sounding mixes, but that's the nature of Song A Day recordings.

While recording the piano track, the mic stand with the heavy SE Reflection Filter Pro rig and Bock 195 mic toppled over onto my back and knocked me off the stool. I landed with a thud, tangled up in the mic cord and suffering a cut and bruise on my back. It took some time to disassemble the Reflection filter to see what had happened. Turns out that there's a spring-loaded hex screw that wasn't tightened properly, so the rotating arm that holds the filter and mic had popped off the rig and triggered the collapse.

After laying down the piano track, I spent hours recording the vocal parts. There must have been a dozen or more tracks to complete and all of them were beyond my technical ability to sing. This is a recurring problem I have with full production pieces. It stems from the way I arrange parts, which is entirely in my head. The sounds coming out of my mouth never live up to my imagined arrangements.

This reinforces something that Seth Freemen has told me on at least two occasions: you should be able to strum a guitar or piano and sing your song along with it. That's how you know that you've written a song rather than an arrangement. To this end, I actually recorded a guide track of Rabbit in the Ear with guitar and vocal as a live performance. When I listened back, I was really disappointed. However, this being Song A Day, I had little choice but to press on and complete the recording.

This was a full test of the Bock mic on my voice.... and it failed spectacularly. So much for that; I'll use the U87 for most - if not all - future vocal tracks.

Following Chris Greacen's advice, I removed the foam ring pad from the kick drum beater head and tuned both heads up a semi-tone. The results were overall pretty good, but the low-mid tones in the resonances are muddying up the overheads. It does sound good in the room, however.

I used the Glynn Johns mic configuration, but the result was underwhelming. Part of the problem is the snare tuning, which should be higher. The rack tom also would benefit from tightening the resonant head. I removed all Moongel pads from the snare and kept the snare bands loose. I liked the snare sustain this produced, but my personal preference is for a tighter, dryer tone.

While playing the drum track, the heavy cymbal stand crashed to the floor with an awful racket. I put it back together and tightened everything up. At this point, I was worried that all of the gear was falling apart on me. Recording is not only difficult, it can also be dangerous.

The drum performance was marginal at best. That's what happens when I only play drums for part of one month out of each year; I forget how to play! Same thing is true for keyboards, guitar and vocals.

I bashed out the acoustic guitar track quickly and instantly regretted not having spent a little time trying to get a decent sound or performance, but it was getting late and Amy was losing her mind listening to my studio work all day.

I stuck the Bock mic in front of the 4x10 Ampeg cabinet and completed the recording in a couple of takes using the Rickenbacker 4003. The sound seemed kinda dumpy, with no clarity or deep bass, even after switching to the bridge pickup. I had completely run out of time by this point, so I would have to fix it in the mix. Famous last words.

The mixing process was frustrating. Bad sounds, bad performances, overly complex arrangements, etc. Hopefully, I'll learn from my mistakes.

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