Saturday, February 7, 2015

Song A Day 2015 - Preparation

As always, I'm trying different approaches to getting drum, guitar, bass and keyboard sounds. Last year, I tried a few things that didn't work out; in fact, they failed.

Failed ideas from 2015:

  • Tuning top head of snare about 1.5 steps (a minor third)  higher than the bottom. About the worst sound ever. I also swapped out my usual snare strands for a super wide 30-strand version, but it never sat properly on the resonant head.
  • Bass through Amplitude rather than the usual '70s SVT through a mic. My goal was to save time and effort without sacrificing tone. Wrong move.
  • I tried a few tracks using Amplitude with electric guitar parts, but the results were less than stellar.
  • Exclusively monitoring the recording and mixing through headphones. Yes, they say you shouldn't do it, but I did. Needless to say, many of the instrumental recordings are sub-par, for which I blame, at least in part, my inability to hear the truth through the headphones. Lesson learned.
This year, I'm trying out these ideas:
  • Tune snare resonant head to a B, then the top head nearly an octave down from that, to a C. I tried it out and was pleased with the results. I can raise that pitch however high that I want, but I want to keep it no higher than 1/2 of the tension of the resonant head. That's my ideal snare sound. Maybe I can try adding the 30 strand snare band again - but why spoil a good thing now?
  • Tightened the batter head on the kick. Immediately liked what this did.
  • Instead of using the Recorderman technique for the overhead mics on the drums, I'm going full-on Glyn Johns this time. Tested it out today and found it to be superior to Recorderrman.
  • Time to completely revise my electric guitar tone. I typically play through a cheapo Danelectro graphic EQ stompbox as a boost, and then directly into my '64 Tremolux. Last year I used a really cool stomp box called the Lemon Drop to generate a dry, raspy distortion based on the Vox 4 and 7 series of amps, which had a solid state pre-amp feeding a tube amplifier stage. This year, I purchased a treble booster, which increases gain as the frequency of the input signal increases. I'll use it in place of the Danelectro stomp box. It was delivered last night, so I only had a moment to play with it. But when that thing is feeding the Tremolux with the volume cranked high, it's beautiful sounding. Reminds me a bit of Brian May's tone; very rich harmonics with bell-like overtones.
  • For keyboard sounds, I bought Garritan Personal Orchestra, a very cheap VST plugin that I can use in Cubase. I'll use it for strings, horns and who knows what else. Haven't tried it yet - I'll install it tonight.
  • Bass recording: SVT 10" speaker - or maybe the 15" speaker.
  • Capture the room sound of the drums with the U87 in figure-8 mode. Compress that channel aggressively with fast attack/release and blend it into the drum buss to taste.
  • Learned through experimentation today that I should probably have a mic on the hi hat. Well, I have the right mic for the job (Shure SM81) and a spare mic stand, but I need another mic pre-amp!!! I'm all out of pre-amps, unless I'm willing to use the ones built into my ancient Mackie mixer. Ugh.
Drum Mic Setup:
  • Using the Bock 521 6" below snare into RNP pre-amp, phase reversed at the console
  • Sennheiser E906 about 3" above snare, aimed at center into RNP pre-amp
  • Beyerdynamic M60 pair in Glyn Johns configuration with a distance of 3' from center of snare into Millendia Media HV-3B pre-amp
  • SM 57 on rack tom into Babyface pre-amp
  • Sennheiser MD 421 on floor tom into Babyface pre-amp
  • AKG D112 on kick into GA Pre-73 preamp
  • Neumann U87 (figure-8 pattern) on room into Focusrite ISA One pre-amp

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