This weekend I started working on mixing the audio for the live DVD. I think I mentioned earlier that the kick drum mic did not record during the performance. There are a lot of reasons this is a problem, but I will go ahead and move on to the solution. After listening to each individual mic on the drums, I found that there was one that had a decent amount of isolation of the kick drum; it was the bottom snare mic. This mic was basically ONLY picking up the snare drum, and the kick drum. This was great news for me. Never mind that the kick drum sounded terrible in that mic, it's not actually relevant. So, here is what I did:
1. Duplicate the "Snare Bottom" track, so I can leave it as just that, a second snare mic.
2. On my new (duplicated snare bottom) track, I did a massive cut on all of the high and mid range frequencies. Basically everything above 300 hz. This pretty much eliminates the snare drum on this track completely.
3. I made a huge "spike" in the low end between 100-200 hz. So now my new track is just a low end blob. It sounds terrible, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the speakers are making sound every time that kick drum hits.
(brief recap: the "Snare Bottom" mic was picking up kick and snare, and I EQ'd out the snare, and exaggerated the kick by boosting the low end frequencies)
4. You now have several options of how to make a kick drum track!
a. Use Drumagog or Sound Replacer on this new kick track.
b. Do it the fun way! Send that new kick drum blob signal through a bass or guitar amp with a bass drum in front of the speaker. The sound will actually interact with the drum, and you can put a mic on it. Ok, that may have been really confusing, but I did a little tutorial on this last year. I was doing it with a snare drum, but it was the same technique. It's called "re-amping drums". But the way, I just found out when you google "re-amping drums" my blog is the second thing to pop up! Here's the old video:
So, that's how I got my kick drum back into the mix. I REALLY didn't want to have to try to do it manually. This was much quicker.
Next obstacle to tackle, a very excited baby in the crowd. Thanks for reading.
You wouldn't believe how much I don't know about the recording process. As I was setting up my new studio over the past month, I was reminded of this. I won't go into detail, but I got pretty hung up on a particular problem while trying to re-route my signal chain. I sat in the control room for almost two days just staring at my mixer. It seemed like a giant puzzle that I just couldn't figure out. So, as a last resort I started looking on Gearslutz (not as provocative as it sounds, just a gear site) for a help forum. Sure enough, I found someone that had similar questions. Even when the experts tried to dumb it down to the most elementary level, I was lost. I felt extremely dumb to start with, and that made it much worse. There are so many things that I have to learn about this whole process. In times like this, I am really tempted to drop everything and go to a recording school for a few years.
But this is why I don't:
I don't really enjoy most recordings that people would consider "professional". I think I would have a hard time learning from someone who felt like a John Mayer record was the epitome of great recordings. (They do sound great in their own way, don't take offense to that...) How much do you think Thom Yorke would learn from a classical vocal coach? It's an honest question; maybe it would help greatly, I don't know. It's also possible that under strict proper vocal coaching, he would lose everything about him that was Thom Yorke.
I was a piano performance major in collage, and most of the time I feel like it was the greatest musical learning experience of my life. I LOVED my theory classes, and I use those tools everyday in songwriting. However, sometimes I wish that when I walked to a piano, I didn't know how the "grid" worked. Sometimes I wish I could flip a switch and have a blank canvas again.
In recording, there's a real adventure in searching around in the dark for the "sound" you are looking for. It may take me a while to get there, but lately I have been finding things that I like in my recordings. I've found that the first thing to do when I'm looking for a drum sound that I want, is to do the opposite of what I think the pros are doing. This is especially true with the drum sounds on my side project. A good friend of mine emailed me after hearing some clips. If you were ever curious about my recording process for drums, this email basically tells all.
Those new music clips you put up sound awesome. I was just curious what you're using for your drums. I know you used to use a lot of sampled drums. Are you still doing that, or are most of these real takes? Sorry, for the annoying "what gear do you use question."
Thanks man! It means a lot coming from a talented gent like yourself. Yes, all drum takes are real drums.
Well, except the last one, those had a sampled kick and snare blended with the real drums. I have a
project pulled up right now, let's see... All individual drum channels are dry- no eq or comp. All drum
channels go to a group drum channel, and that's where I get the "sound". First plug in is a Waves c4. I
hyped up all the frequencies between 163hz and 2500. There's a lot of good tone in that range. Most
people cut that out, but I love it. Then I did a pretty drastic cut for everything above that 2500 range.
The c4 is a compressor (not an eq) so those frequencies are still there, but just squashed down a ways. I
also cut down the low end (everything under 163) just a little. Next plugin is an ssl compressor. I use the
fast attack, threshold is 5, ratio is 2, release is .4. Next plugin is a cheap overdrive (comes free with
cubase) with the speaker simulation on. Last, I have a Roomworks reverb at the end of the chain. I'm
using the Vocal Plate preset with the predelay down all the way. Not sure if any of that made any sense,
or if you even use those plugins. Basically you want to eq opposite what people teach you. Boost the
mids, cut the highs and lows, compress, overdrive, and add reverb. Oh, the here are the mics: kick- d6,
snare top-57, snare bottom- cheap $100 pencil mic, overheads- tlm 103's, toms-e604's. If you are
curious about outboard gear, I can send that too, but this email has gotten too wordy already. Hope that
helps. All of the above info was for the song that was first in the series of clips.
Anyhow, that's my process. More information than any of you probably cared to know, but there it is. I certainly don't have anything against expensive sounding recordings. In fact, I really wish that I had the ability to create those sounds at will, but just not for my own music.
Thanks for reading.
As promised, here are some drum clips from my album.
And here are some pictures of the different snares (and one marching bass drum) that you are hearing in the clips:
Pearl Marching Bass Drum:
By the way, this Saturday I'll be playing an acoustic show at Q Enoteca here in Springfield on Commercial street. I'll post more details tomorrow, but please come!
Thanks for reading,
Tonight I continued working on track 2 of my "Fun Drums" album. I spent several days trying to work with a particular beat, and tonight I scrapped everything I had, and started over. It's turning out to be the most happy sounding song I've ever written. Picture the drums on "God Only Knows", but about 30% faster. The way I've been recording drums is quite a bit different than usual. I will usually record the snare drum by itself with a straightforward rhythm. Then I've been recording the kick drum and toms together playing a complimentary rhythm. I'm trying to stick to that Pet Sounds approach, where you treat each part of the kit as "percussion" rather than a full kit. Doubling the snare with a tamborine goes a long way. Try it sometime. Now that I'm thinking about it, that would be a fun post for later on this week; posting some drum tracks from all of my current projects. Maybe you all don't get as excited about drum sounds as I do, but I still think it would be fun to share. A lot of people ask what kind of drums I play. I use an old 60's Japanese kick and toms (thrift store $20) and a variety of vintage snare drums. I'll take pictures tomorrow and post them.
Thanks for reading.
Ps. Have any of you seen Inception yet? I'm not one for Blockbuster movies, but it got a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Just curious.
You may remember that a while back I posted about the Neumann M149 that I bought. I wrote a brief review of it after spending a few days with it. Now, after using it for several months, I thought I'd write a proper review of it.
First of all, it didn't end up being the one thing I'd thought it would be- "the last vocal mic I will ever buy". Currently, it is the best option for my voice among the mics that I own, but I still feel the need to keep searching. (Please forgive this next part) There is a bit of a bump in the 2-5k range which makes it a little bit harsh for my voice (the "sh" consonant sounds are made in that range in case you don't speak nerd). A little compression in that range actually rounds it out nicely though. When you drop a bunch of money on a mic, you don't want to be EQing or "fixing" it, you just want it to sound great. For my voice, it does require some additional work (though VERY minor work in the whole scheme of things). It's probably important for you to know that I seem to have an extreme sensitivity to upper mids in my vocals. I tend to mellow out my vocal EQ much more than most people. In fact, I was told by another producer recently that he would prefer for my vocal to be much more "present"; which probably means undoing the way I EQ the vocal.
This is where the M149 really shines, which is great because I need all the help I can get in this area! With violin and viola, it sounds great dry. No EQ needed. I do use a little, but it's more of a "taste" thing. There is another bump in the 7-15k range which just sparkles with these instruments. In this case it is EVERYTHING I hoped it would be. The low end starts to roll off ever so slightly at around the 200hz range, which is exactly what I want it to do. It sounds wonderful on the cello as well. The EQ on this mic served as a reminder that the cello doesn't really need to be hyped in the 100-200hz range, the bass can handle that. This mic was a lifesaver for this album since there are hundreds of strings tracks throughout. Thank you Neumann!
To summarize most other applications, I would say this:
More than any other mic I've used, this is the most "natural" . It sounds like what you put into it. It really doesn't color (especially the low mid range) like most other mics I've tried. It's works wonders as a room mic for a piano, or any ambient instruments you want to record. This also makes it ideal for live acoustic recordings. If I had to use one room mic for a live recording, this would be my choice.
I usually record the bass direct, and I'm too scared to put this mic in the drum room, so vocals and strings are what I've primarily used it for. I use it on guitar, but I always EQ heavily because I go for non-traditional guitar sounds.
Ok. My little nerdy lecture is over now. Thanks for sitting through that.
Here's a little clip I recorded on my phone yesterday. I'm pretty pleased with the quality of video that the new iPhones take. The guitar that I'm playing in the video was a wedding present from my mom to my dad. I think it sounds pretty good recorded.
Tonight I had a pretty big breakthrough on one of my songs. I had written three different sets of lyrics for this song before realizing that it was actually the melody that was bothering me, not the lyrics. So, I completely threw away the verse progression and recorded the first thing that came out (on the piano). I liked it so much, that I immediately began working on some strings to go along with it. I will probably try to also make an instrumental based on this simple progression. I recorded the audio with my phone.
Side note: I realize that it's not wise to be playing low quality audio of new ideas on my blog. It probably doesn't create a very good first impression, but I really want you all to feel like you are a part of the process. I like the idea of sharing these things as they happen.
Thanks for reading.
I'm officially in love with my new microphone.
I've been doing some testing over the last couple of days with a bunch of different instruments. I was basically doing an A vs B vs C test with a TLM 103, SE Titan, and the M 149 (that's the new one). I tried each one out on cello, ukelele, and viola, and compared the results. One of the main differences I noticed from these tests was that the M 149 sounded more "natural", which was usually a good thing. On the cello, the Titan pushed out some low end that I liked, but it did seem to have it's own agenda. The biggest difference came tonight when I was tracking vocals.
Let me sidetrack you for one second-
With most recording microphones, you get what's called "proximity effect", which basically means that the closer you get to the mic (especially with your voice) the more boomy and bassy it will get. That may sound like a good thing for someone with a high and girly voice like mine, but it's actually not. I always knew this was happening to some extent, but it never really bothered me too much.
So, I'd heard people boast that the M 149 has a very minimal proximity effect. This is true, and my eyes have been opened. When I compared my old scratch vocal (the TLM 103) with my new mic, the difference was night and day. The scratch sounded annoyingly muddy and un-natural when compared with the M 149. It kind of did feel like "magic".
I've officially been spoiled, and can never go back.
By the way, I basically finished that song tonight. I'm still searching for a strong opener for the album, and trying to be patient and wait for the right one to come along. But I'm starting to get a little worried since Elsie and I are already starting to have conversations about an album release date/show...
As I was writing this blog, I discovered that Howard Zinn passed away. Actually he died in January of this year, but I was completely unaware of it. I try to stay away from politics on this blog, so I will just say that Howard Zinn was a peaceful man and a warm soul. I wish I could have met him.
I made this short tutorial on how to "ReAmp" a drum track. This technique can really come in handy for several reasons. Say you recorded a snare track, and the mic was clipping, or it was too close to the top head, or since then, you've purchased a better mic/snare drum- but you are unable to actually "re-perform" the take. This gives you a chance to retrack the same take. It also works well for live applications where you were getting a lot of other stage noise in the snare mic. The first few minutes are just talk, but I actually give a demonstration of this a few minutes in. Enjoy!