Monday, February 18, 2013

Song A Day 2013 2/11 -/2/16

Gold Standard (2/11)

This was a quick toss-off of a song, but I like how it came out. The guitars are extremely close miked with the U87. I think the vocal was pretty good sounding, and it was pretty much first or second takes on everything.

What's it about, anyway? I had been listening to Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree album in the afternoon and imagining what it would be like to record Alison Goldfrapp's voice. I wondered how they engineer those vocals. Which mics? What's the signal chain? One thing I'm pretty sure of, which is the absence of AutoTune being used on any of the tracks. She's just a fantastic singer and would probably sound great through a ratty old SM57 through a Mackie mixer preamp and captured in Garage Band through a 16-bit converter.

So the song is about being that recording engineer, but unfortunately he does something really stupid during the session and will probably get booted out of the control room once Alison realizes what he's done.

Goodbye (2/13)

I took the previous day off from Song A Day, so when Thursday 2/13 rolled around, I was dreading having to come up with a song. This song came to me while driving home from the BART station and was mostly finished by the time I settled down to make a new recording. Lyrically, I'm expressing my frustration with the songs I'm writing this year. Next year, if I participate in Song A Day 2014, I have to find an entirely new musical direction, because I'm tired of writing pop songs.

This song turned out to have a lot of chords, making the acoustic guitar track difficult to complete. I'm completely incompetent on piano, so I probably spent over an hour rehearsing the parts before recording any takes. The vocal track was good  - no complaints.

Rehearsal for a Musical (2/15)

I struggled with the simple piano part. Darin could have played this with his feet. I Set up two mics in a stereo configuration and performed the director's part walking back and forth across the room, talking and waving my arms around. The way that Hal the pianist sings Paula's part is pretty much what my voice sounds like when I'm singing alone in the car or in the shower.

If I had time to work on it some more, I would have re-recorded Hal's vocal using the same mic configuration that was used for the director's track. I also should have collapsed the piano's stereo spread to create the illusion that it's being miked from a distance. I was somewhat reluctant to upload this one to Song A Day because it's mostly spoken dialog with a song in the middle.

Personality Shop (2/16)

Hurrah for Saturday! I worked all day on this one. The biggest decision to make was choosing a key. I ended up using a capo on the second fret of the acoustic guitar, which put the chorus section slightly out of reach for my voice. Singing it was extremely challenging, but I kept at it until I had some usable takes.

I wanted a dry drum sound, so I moved the top mic as far down to the rack tom as possible and used 3 MoonGel pads on the snare. I disengaged the 'fat' mode on the Bock mic (for the overhead) just to see how that worked out. This thinned out the drum sound considerably, so I will stick to 'fat' mode on most future recordings. I left it disengaged for this recording, however.

I increased the tuning pitch of the kick beater head and was pleased to discover that it resulted in a fatter kick sound. Also, I've abandoned the beater head muffler ring, probably for good. The kick sounds way better without it. I think this is the first time in 6 years that I've achieved a decent kick sound.

The snare didn't fare as well this time around, and I had to do a lot of EQing and messing with compression settings to make it usable.

I used the new standard bass recording setup: Fender Jazz with bridge pickup full on into the Boss graphic EQ stomp box, then into the SVT (bright channel, bright switch engaged, midrange frequency set to 200hz, bass and midrange at 3 o'clock, treble at 2 ). 10" speaker captured by the Bock with fat switch disengaged and pad engaged. The U87 is aimed at the 15" speaker from 3 feet away.

I ended up with an anemic bass tone this time. It just lacked low end. Disappointing, but I'll be sure to get a fatter low end on the next recording.

The piano and organ parts were fun to record, though I went through the usual long period of rehearsal for both of them, especially the piano.

Bad Art (2/17)

I wrote this simple 3-chord rocker as an excuse to work on some weak aspects of my recent recordings.

After much experimentation, I discovered that the Bock mic works well as a drum overhead when positioned very high above the kit with the 'fat' mode engaged. I'm beginning to understand that even if a mic has high headroom, the diaphragm can still be deformed to the point where it compresses the low and midrange bands. Also, when positioned very far from the kit, it captures a bigger sound. I moved the U87 away from the floor tom as well.

I only recorded one drum take, just to see how it sounded upon playback. The performance was terrible, but I decided to stick with it and move on with the guitar parts.

The rhythm guitar was Les Paul into Tremolux through the Danelectro graphic eq stomp box. I kept the 'fat' switch engaged on the Bock mic, aimed as usual at the bass speaker in the cab. The biggest change from previous recordings is the removal of the THD Hotplate. I think it improved the sound. The individual tracks (Sennheiser 906 and Bock) each sound kinda bad when isolated, but together they create a fairly realistic approximation of what I heard in the room while playing the parts. During mixdown I'll have to add some upper mids to brighten up the guitars, even though the Tremolux was set to full treble while recording. Maybe I need to move the mics back from the speaker a few inches to reduce diaphragm distortion? I'll try that on the next guitar recording.

The lead guitar was the Jay Turner, this time using the Lemon Drop stompbox for the fuzz tone. Oddly, both guitar tracks sound quite similar. I don't know what to make of it.

I used the new standard bass recording setup, but left the 'fat' switch engaged on the Bock. I also changed the midrange setting to '800' to get more of a rock-n-roll tone and cranked the volume to add some distortion. It's a decent rock bass tone, somewhat different from the kinds of bass sounds I've achieved in the past.

The vocals were pretty much one take each. I had planned on wiping them out and re-doing them later, but ran out of time. Instead, I added distortion to them via a Cubase plugin and that sounded pretty good.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I would like to see this blog updated for 2014.