Monday, February 4, 2013

Song A Day 2013 (2/3)

He Goes to Disneyland

Having learned some lessons from yesterday's problematic session, I wrote a song that actually works when sung live while strumming a guitar. That made the entire recording go a lot smoother.

First, I laid down some acoustic guitars. As an experiment, I set the high pass filter on the U87 while recording one of them. It's too thin sounding, so I won't be doing that again. The second guitar was recorded with the mic set flat, but I did learn that the mic responds well when positioned close to the 12th fret, even when strumming loudly. For some counter-intuitive reason, this attenuates some of the boomy low mids that often plague strummed guitar parts.

Singing the one and only vocal track went fairly smoothly, though I had to experiment with different vocal techniques until I found one that worked. I dread vocal tracking for this very reason. Why can't I just open my mouth and produce a sound that I like? On the positive side, I verified that the U87 is the right mic for my vocals. It has a smooth high end and full midrange that the Bock mic lacks.

I used the beater head foam ring on the kick drum and tightened up the snare and rack tom. I also added two Moongel pads to the snare and increased the snare band tension to get a dryer sound. Finally, I tried to hit the snare in the center without the usual rimshot technique that I tend to use, just to see how that would work. The top mic (Bock in fat mode) was positioned midway between the front edge of the rack tom and the snare, which improved the balance of rack tom and hi hat levels. This resulted in a better drum recording than what I achieved with Rabbit in the Ear yesterday.

For the electric guitar parts, I used the Jay Turner guitar with the Vintage Vibe P90s into the Lemon Drop stomp box, then into a cheapo graphic EQ and finally into the Tremolux. For all parts other than the lead guitar, I applied a touch of Lemon Drop distortion. The treble speaker was miked as usual with the Sennheiser 906 and the bass speaker was miked with the Bock. Since the idea was to get thin, midrangy sounding guitar tones, I ended up muting the Bock tracks in the mix. For the lead guitar, I cranked the distortion setting to get a fuzz tone and used both mics in the mix. Overall, pretty good sounding.

I wanted to improve the bass recording, so I spent a little time experimenting. First, I flattened the Boss graphic EQ controls and added some midrange. I also backed off the Ampeg SVT bass control slightly and used the bridge pickup on the Rickenbacker bass. This produced a usable tone that didn't require much in the way of post-processing during mixing. I'd like to use the neck pickup in a future song, but it will take some more experimentation with the amp tone controls to achieve clarity without mud.

The mix was pretty easy this time. Spending a little more time getting usable sounds - and having a simple song to mix - makes a big difference. I'm relatively satisfied with the outcome.

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