Monday, February 11, 2013

Song A Day 2013 2/6 - 2/10

Let Go (2/6)

Another live performance into one mic. It's really, really hard to sing and play an unfamiliar song at the same time, but it's good for me to do this

I didn't do anything on 2/7. Just wasn't feeling inspired.

Trouble (2/8)

Yet another live performance. Again, it was a struggle to get a usable take.

Remember the Monks (2/9)

Wrote this simple rock song just to test out the Bock mic on guitars. After laying down a scratch track on acoustic with voice, I worked on the drum track. I tried lowering the pitch of the kick resonant head a quarter turn on each lug, but ultimately it resulted in a flabby sound, which I used anyway. Spend time experimenting with tying tea towels to the drums and ended up with half of the floor tom covered. For the snare, I removed all Moongels and let it ring. I pounded the drums with all of my might and ended up sweaty and exhausted.

The rhythm guitars were Les Paul into the Tremolux with the Danelectro graphic EQ as a boost pedal. I aimed the Sennheiser 906 at the treble speaker and the Bock mic at the bass speaker, cranked it up and played. When I listened back, I was mortified at how dull the guitars sounded. It came out kinda mushy and dumpy. Lacking time to re-record those parts, I just applied a lot of EQ and compression to make it usable, but it's pretty bad sounding. What went wrong? I'm suspicious of the THD Hotplate, which attenuates the signal fed into the speaker cabinet so I can get power amp distortion without having to deal with ear-splitting volume. I think it makes the sound soft and dumpy. Also, perhaps I should pull the mics back from the speakers a bit to avoid distorting the diaphragms, which can also dull the sound.

The lead guitar parts were played on the Jay Turner guitar with a weird sounding filter engaged. I applied a touch of Lemon Drop fuzz to the signal and got a really nice sound.

Bass was extremely problematic. After countless takes of muddy, indistinct bass recordings, I removed the internal mutes and plucked with a pick. I also disengaged the 'fat' mode on the Bock mic, thinking that it was adding mud to the sound and used the bridge pickup to get some brightness. Overall, I didn't get much of a bass tone out of this recording. Maybe I should use another bass?

After all of the struggles with the backing tracks, I discovered to my horror that I cannot sing the sing at all. The mixing went poorly on top of everything else, and now this piece of garbage is uploaded to Song A Day. On the positive side, the song has good lyrics.

Live Brains (2/10)

After the disheartening experiences for the previous day, I was determined to make a decent-sounding recording by concentrating on the sound of each instrument. I worked on the composition for some time to make sure it was singable. Lo and behold, when I recorded the guide track with live acoustic guitar and voice, it sounded good on playback. I think that's most of the battle right there.

I liked how the acoustic sounded with the mic positioned 3 feet away and pointing down, so I recorded that first. Then, just out of curiosity, I doubled the acoustic using close miking. Both guitars recorded nicely, so I was feeling confident about this track.

I tuned the kick drum up slightly on the resonant head. It's still not great sounding, but I went with it. I learned that the Bock overhead (in fat mode) works best if positioned fairly low above the kit and phase aligned with the U87 that is aimed across the floor tom at the hi hat (classic Glynn Johns mic setup for drums). No need to visually align the tracks in Cubase anymore! I simply invert the phase of the mic below the snare and everything sounds right. I left the tea towel half covering the floor tom because it reduces ring and sustain which interferes with everything else. For the snare I used two Moongels and increased the pitch of the top head slightly. I also brought the under-snare mic closer to the drum, being careful not to overload it to the point of distortion.

When I listened back to the drums and acoustic, I was satisfied. I figured it was time to tackle the bass, so I first tried to set up a DI in addition to the mic, but couldn't get enough signal out of it to be usable, so I discarded that idea. I couldn't get the right tone out of the Rickenbacker, with or without the mutes. After some deliberation, I hauled out the Fender Jazz fretless and plugged it in. Yes! That's the sound I want!

I reduced the volume of the Ampeg to avoid overloading the Bock mic and disengaged the 'fat' mode, which I suspect doesn't always work well with bass recordings, especially since the signal is heavy in the low end to begin with. As an experiment, I aimed the U87 (without using the pad!) at the 15" speaker from 4 feet away, above and aiming down. When combining the two mic signals, I get a pretty good bass tone that I can tweak during the mix simply by changing the relative levels. The U87 gets a surprisingly clear low end and depth while the Bock captures most of the treble and midrange.

I added Les Paul through the Lemon Drop at very low volume for the ending section, just strumming the vocal harmony part. I removed the Hot Plate from the speaker too. Got a decent result.

It wasn't too difficult to sing this one. I added some piano and brass parts, mixed it very quickly and uploaded it. I'm happy with this recording.

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