Archive for April, 2011

A New Rough Mix

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Recording
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At this point I guess I should mention that since the last time I’d worked on A New Hope, I have in fact been tinkering with the drum mix to try and get more oomph (or punch, whatever…) out of them, especially the kick which seemed to be a little anaemic.
Several months ago I upgraded to Cubase 5, which came with some new plugins to play around with, one of which is a transient designer. Now, I’ve never used one of these before, so like any n00b I started with the presets. Whaddya know – there’s one called tighter kick drum, perfect! And it actually does do a pretty good job of getting more attack back into it, especially when used with some EQ and compression. So this, coupled with a newly EQ’d snare (the overheads and toms haven’t had much work done, since they sound pretty good on their own – maybe just some gating to clean things up) means the song now has a pretty damn good drum track to work with.
With the drums mixed by themselves, it was time to start pulling up some other faders. Bass and guitars managed to work themselves in fairly nicely, with some cuts around the main vocal frequencies (1 – 2kHz). Obviously I panned the main guitar tracks (the close mics) about 60% either side, and panned the room mics a little farther out, and lower in the mix, so they’re only barely perceptible.
Then I brought up the vocal faders. For the room mic, I compressed the hell out of it to get as much room sound in there as possible, so that it’d essentially act as a reverb track, provided it sounds alright – this being only a rough mix to see what I’ve got to work with I wasn’t too worried yet about sounding totally awesome 😛
Since it was pretty damn late at this point, I figured I’d bounce the work of the night to listen to the next day (using my good ol’ car test). What I notice listening back now is that I left all the vocal tracks at about the same level, which for a final mix is certainly not going to be the case – normally I’d have a lead vocal track that the doubled vocal would sit somewhere underneath just to lend a little girth (coupled in this case with the compressed room mic, and maybe some reverb or delay just for some stereo-ness :P).
But anyway, in the interest of whetting people’s appetites (or turning them off :shock:), here’s a little snippet.
Now we just gotta wait for a new bass track and even more guitars! Til next time…

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Picking up where I left off yesterday…
In between my unsuccessful attempts at making more racket with my guitar (well, I was successful in making a racket, just not any worth saving), I decided I’d also have a go at doing some more vocals, specifically on A New Hope (since TV Zombie was done recently and I’m fairly happy with how that turned out, and none of the other songs are far enough along yet to warrant adding vocals).
So I dug out my (relatively) new Beyer Soundstar MkII (aka M400 – apparently a poor man’s Shure SM7, but of course I don’t have a SM7 to compare, being a poor man :P) and stuck it on a stand with my shitty pop-shield.
Beyerdynamic Soundstar II & ghetto pop-shield
Then I hooked it up to my ART tube-MP and set it up for a fair bit of tube gain (yum :cool:), set up some tracks and started firing away.
Having a few beers helped (good ol’ Tuborg ;)), as it usually does when I need to roar my head off in a quiet room (also, cranking the hell out of the headphone mix helps too).
singer's gotta drink...
Since I already had the room mics scattered around the place, I decided to take recordings from them too, for a bit of ambience (hey, if it sounds shitty, then I don’t need to use it, do I? :)).
Once I’d gotten a couple of passes through the song (I like to double track), and an overdub on a few parts where my voice had broken (if you listen to the old demos, you’ll hear that happen a lot, but I never bothered fixing it before), I sat down to see how well all the work I’d done so far would gel together in a mix…

Oh, before I sign off, here’s one last EXTREME CLOSE-UP! Wooooaaaoooohhhhh…
EXTREME CLOSE-UP!

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So a few weeks ago I finally went back to work! As I keep saying, we/I’ve been kinda letting this slide for far too long now – originally when we had our first session back in June last year (!), I figured we’d be all wrapped up by September and have a release ready before the end of the year. How wrong I was…
Anyway, we were discussing it again recently and we figured the only way to get this thing done at all is to give ourselves a deadline so we’ll have something to aim for. We have yet to pick a date, but even the mention of the word deadline was enough to kick me into gear 😯
So where to start… I decided the most important thing to get out of the way first was the new guide tracks, since I wanted to have all the drum tracks laid down before getting Dan or Senior out to do their parts. I won’t bore you too much with the details on this – basically, I programmed drum tracks in EZDrummer (following some dodgy recordings from the practice room) and recorded bass and guitars direct (using Ampeg SVX and Guitar Rig 3 plugins respectively), then put some lackluster vocals on top (I wasn’t gonna fuck up my throat just for the demos :roll:). I reckon “Mommy’s Got a Virus” is fairly spot on, but “Dark Passenger” still needs a little tweaking because of all the tempo changes and whatnot…
…But last weekend I decided to ignore that and revisit the older songs and start putting replacing the old guitar and vocal tracks with new ones – you know, actual recording! Of course, having been inactive for such a long time, the garage was after filling up with a fair amount of clutter, so I had to spend a few hours cleaning it up to make enough room for my gear with enough space for me to rock out while I’m recording (very important, don’t y’know).

OK, it’s not perfect, but at least it’s possible to walk from one end to the other without tripping over something now 🙂
Anyway, once I’d gotten the place tidy enough, I threw a few mics on the cab and did a few test runs to see which mic I’d use for the recording session (you’d think I’d have a go-to guitar mic at this stage, but no… it’s a constant search for the best mic for the job, especially since I modded my amp recently so it doesn’t sound quite the same as it used to anymore). Now, I’m sure right here would be a great place to put a photo of my cab with 3 or 4 mics pointing at it, but naturally I forgot to take any photos of this selection process. D’oh!
Well, after listening to the results of my little shootout, I decided to go for the Sennheiser MD417 for the close-mic’ing of the cab, and I also used both my Karma Silver Bullets as room mics: one just a few feet away from the amp and the other one in the far corner (where it picked up a fair amount of bass frequencies, illustrating my need for some acoustic treatment – a project for another day…).
You can actually see the MD417 and one of the Silver Bullets in the previous pic, but here’s a close-up anyway, just for the hell of it:
Guitar setup
Everyone likes gear pr0n, right? 😛
Onward, to the recording session (several hours later)… Starting with “A New Hope” (cos, y’know, it’s super easy), I quickly ran through 2 tracks, including an updated intro which makes the song sound way more pop-punk – I’ll leave it up to the listener to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. After a quick EQ tweak, it was already sounding pretty good. I’m not sure if it was the guitar settings or the mic positioning, but the sound was quite treble heavy, but I’m not too worried cos I figure Senior’s Dual Rec will provide plenty of low end growl (as will the bass, obviously).
Next, I opened up the “Shut Up And Eat Your Freedom” project. I was still working on the drums on this one – it was the last song we recorded the drums for last June, and certain parts of the song kept slipping away from us, so it was recorded in several parts, with the intention of editing it all together at a later date. However, while that worked reasonably well with “TV Zombie”, by the time we’d gotten to “Shut Up…”, the drums (and therefore the mics) were after moving all over the place, so when I tried to comp the various recording together, the sound kept changing, especially in the kick drum as the mic moved further from the beater head. After spending at least an hour working on it, I tried to record a guitar track on it, but the timing kept slipping, no matter how much I tried to tighten up the tracks (well, I could have gotten them tighter, but then there’s be some obvious silent gaps in the overheads). I think as far as this song is concerned we may need to consider re-tracking the drums 😥
Once I’d gotten tired of working on “Shut Up…”, I tweaked the settings on the amp a little and had a go at “TV Zombie”. It went reasonably well to start, but I had turned up the amp a little too much without compensating in the headphones, so when the end kicked in, my timing got away from me a little, and second time around, there were a few too many fuck-ups happening. 😡
Frustrated as all hell, I looked at the time: 4:00 a.m. – I decided it was time for bed…