Archive for the ‘Recording’ Category

Right, I’m gonna see if I can get this blog back on track and hopefully get it finished before I die. Maybe if I just split it up into smaller posts I’ll be able to get back on a roll…
It saddens me to say that Slugbait decided to call it a day back in December, but hopefully this split (which we all decided to put up on bandcamp as a free download just before they announced their retirement) and any live footage that was recorded at their shows will live on as a testament to their greatness.
Anyway, onto day 3 (which was about a month after the bass sessions, sometime in July anyway). I got a call from Sebdog saying he was on his way out so I met him at the bus stop in BV around lunch time. He had of course brought the now customary 6 pack of Tuborg. We headed up home to get things set up.
I already had my amp hooked up with the tubes warming up for most of the morning because I had been trying out different mics and positions. For the session I ended up going with a blend of m88 on the dustcap and the soundstar around the middle of the cone. I also had my new silver bullets in opposite corners of the room in case we needed some ambience (not something you need too often in heavy guitars, but since most of Slugbait’s guitarwork is lead driven and fairly dynamic, I figured it might be useful in places).
Anyway, once we arrived up, after greeting the family and having a brew, we got down to some tone searching (i.e. playing with the knobs on the amp and Seb’s various pedals until we had a suitable sound picked for each song), as well as making sure again that all the mics were working (there’s nothing worse than taking ages to prepare for a take only to find out about halfway through that there’s no signal being recorded, which happens much more often than I’d like). All in all it took less than an hour and we were ready to get going by about 2.
As with the previous sessions we started with 4 Men, No Mic (to this day I’m not sure what that means – I keep forgetting to ask). Unlike the other sessions though, we spent a lot more time on it since we wanted to layer the shit out of the guitars (who cares if it can’t be replicated live, the important thing here is that it sound good on record, right? 🙂 ). For this particular song we didn’t really go overboard – there were only 3 guitar tracks at most at any one time. That said, they weren’t really doubled tracks, since the song is mostly lead work (“fiddly bits” is, I believe, the technical term) and a lot of it was off the cuff which would make doubling pretty damn tough. It works though, so…
Next we started working on FFWP. This is a much heavier song, so we needed a couple of layers of nasty guitar in the intro provided by a proco Rat doubled with some of the amp’s own dirt channel. After a few attempts of going straight from the heavy section to the quieter parts (which used clean guitars) we decided it would be much easier to just record these parts separately (which should probably have just been our approach from the get-go :P). But it was because we broke up the recording into separate sections that I somehow didn’t notice that we only recorded one pass of the second heavy part of the song, something I didn’t spot until I listened back to the sessions myself the next day, by which time of course, our illustrious guitarist had left the building. In fact, I’ll just take a quick jump out of our timeline here in case I forget to bring this up later: after a few listens over the next few days, I felt that it definitely needed an extra guitar track to beef things up, since this is really where the song gets going. I decided rather than call Seb back for more overdubs (after spending 9 hours here already!), I’d just throw something simple down myself and see if it helped. I added a couple of extra channels with guitar rig 3 loaded (I was using the “gratifier” amp – supposedly an emulation of a Mesa rectifier, although I’ve never gotten it to sound anything like the one Senior uses) and ran my guitar straight into my interface (the first 2 channels have a high impedance input for connecting instruments). I had to listen to the bassline by itself for a bit just to check my tuning – I ended up in drop C. After that it was a simple matter of following the bassline as it played through, double it onto an extra track, then pan the 2 tracks left & right and have Seb’s guitar playing in the middle. Here’s a sample with and without the “girth” tracks:

And that’s where I’ll leave it for now. Next time we’ll jump back to the proper timeline…

So, about a week after the first drum & bass session, Costello got in touch with me asking if he could come out to add a bit more to the basslines he’d already laid down. Of course I said yes – he’d mentioned a few ideas the previous week and I was curious as to how they’d sound.
First of all he wanted to double track the bassline on each song, which is something I had never done before, but I could understand the need for it in this case: since Seb is normally playing lead lines all over the place, it couldn’t hurt to add some extra weight to the rhythm section (as long as I could avoid any phase problems that might crop up).
The second, and more important thing he wanted to do was to add some harmonies to the bass at the end of FDR, during the part where the guitar is pretty much fading out and all 3 vocalists are screaming away to their hearts’ content. This all sounded good to me 😎
On the day in question, he couldn’t get his hands on his own bass, so he had to borrow one (I’m pretty sure it was Mini’s), which had some pretty old strings on it. This had me worried for a moment, but once we started tracking it I figured I could actually use that sound to our advantage – Costello has a deep-seated hatred of high frequencies in his bass sound anyway, so blending the cleaner bass tracks from the previous day with the dirty sound we were getting now actually worked out OK. Especially after we added just the tiniest amount of distortion (I don’t like to use too much on bass, otherwise it gets messy in a hurry).
And so we got to work running through the songs. The double tracking was done in fairly short order, then it was time to get to grips with the harmonies on FDR. It was pretty much a case of sit back and let him play through it a few times – he already had some ideas worked out anyway which sounded great alongside the main bassline, then just for good measure he threw down a couple more little flourishes. In the end we had what was basically a big bass chord and it sounded great! Have a listen:

After that it was time for pizza and beer \m/

As mentioned in a previous post, I spent a good bit of Summer & Autumn 2011 working with Slugbait for their debut release. They wanted to get 3 tracks done for a split with another band, and I was only too happy to get the chance to work with them a) cos they’re all sound and b) to get some experience working with other people besides spending all my time on my own projects.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos during the sessions, so get ready for a big wall of text, or maybe I’ll throw in some live photos of the lads in action just to break things up…here’s one:
Slugbait kick back...
The adventure began in June once we could all finally get our schedules organised (we’d been discussing it since february). We figured the best way to start was to get the drums and bass down first so that the guitars and vocals had a solid foundation to build on. Also, we had to get the bass out of the way first since Costello (the bassist) intended to spend the summer abroad.
The night before the first session, Eoin (SG drummer, here taking on the role of assistant engineer) and myself had set up the kit and mics in the corner of the garage so that the lads wouldn’t have to sit through a couple of hours of sound checking. We used a similar set up to the one used when we recorded Eoin’s drums for the Stanton’s Grave stuff the previous year – i.e. close mic’ed all the drums (top and bottom for snare) and a spaced pair for overheads. For the toms, we used the Eagle tom mics, for the snare we had my trusty Beyer m201 on top and another Eagle tom mic on the bottom. The kick was the Eagle kick mic, and the overheads were the Eagle electret condensers (funnily enough, marketed as overhead mics…).
Next day the sun was out and the midges were ravenous. Louis, Costello and Seb arrived out in the evening and we got to work arranging ourselves around the limited space. We pretty quickly decided to throw the big doors open a) to try get a less “cramped” sound and b) because it was fucking hot in there, especially with 5 people in such a small space. Thankfully they’d been thoughtful enough to bring a couple of six-packs to keep us cool 😎
Once we’d checked to make sure all drum mics were working and the bass (which was being tracked using an ART tube MP as a DI through the Ampeg SVX plugin) signal was coming through, we checked out the headphone levels (so Louis could hear the bass) then we were good to go.
First up was 4 Men, No Mic. This was pretty straight forward – the lads ran through it a couple of times with no major hiccups. A handy way to loosen up.
Next was Fighting Fire With Piss (a name Seb came up with on the spot when I asked him what I should call the project file :)). Again, this was pretty spot on – the guys were well practiced at this point with these 2 songs.
FDR was left until last, because it was still a pretty new song – They had even been working on lyrics in the car on the way out, and figuring out how exactly it should flow. So, after we flew through the first 2 songs, myself and Eoin took a break while the lads jammed FDR a few times just to make sure they were all on the same page. I hooked up my guitar amp so that Seb could go join in and left them at it for a while. I also decided to leave all the mics running, just in case they nailed it while I was out of the room 😛
After they’d gone through the song 3 or 4 times they felt ready enough to take a stab at it, so we got back to work. Since the song was now fresh in their heads, we only needed to do a few passes before deciding we had a take worth keeping. There were a couple of transitions that were announced by some quick stabs (called the “stabby bit” naturally) that we decided to try a few more times. The main reason was to try some variations in the drums to see what sounded better – all kick, a mixture of kick and snare, etc. Once we’d decided what sounded best, we just pasted the new part into the song (sacrilege! :P).
And that was it for day 1. Before the lads hit the road, we cracked open a final beer for the road (except for poor Louis, the driver) \m/
And here’s a clip of what we had gotten by the end of day 1:

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Right, this is just a quick one, to let you know we’re still at it…
Last weekend we decided to have another go at some drum tracking. It should have been pretty simple, but we were using my new shells which I hadn’t actually test driven yet, so this was to be their first outing on a recording session. Things didn’t go very well…
It started like a normal session – Eoin came up, set up the kit around himself as usual, and I threw up the usual array of microphones. Then I had him play around the kit for a while so I could set the incoming levels. So far so good. Then we took a quick sample recording to hear what the mics were picking up, and also because I was testing out a couple of different kick mic options. And that’s where the trouble started…
Unfortunately I had made the decision to take the resonant (i.e. front) head off the kick drum, because it wasn’t a proper resonant skin, just a thin crappy plastic sheet with the manufacturer’s name on it and no hole to put a mic through. Now, I’m sure I could have put a mic in front of it and gotten something, but I tend to prefer the sound I get from inside the drum, so off came the head. Trouble is, what I didn’t realise (because this was my first time recording a kick with no reso head) was that the sound of the rest of the kit would bleed in through the front of the kick drum, so the kick mic ended up picking up more level from the snare than from the kick itself (have I mentioned before how insanely loud Eoin’s snare is?)! Which made it impossible to isolate the kick drum hits no matter how much I tried to gate the signal.
First I thought it might have been the mic we were using, but after trying 3 different ones and getting the same results it was obvious that that wasn’t it. Then we threw a thick blanket over the front of the drum hoping to keep the bleed from the other drums down a bit. Still no joy.
At this point it was approaching midnight and we were feeling pretty much defeated, so we called it quits. Looks like I’m gonna have to get a reso head for that drum and hope that keeps the bleed to a minimum, and also causes the actual kick hits to reverberate around inside the drum a bit more giving a hotter signal for the mic…
Cool story, huh? 😛

EDIT 27-07-2011: well, last night I tried a couple of things.
First, I messed around a bit with the sample recordings we’d done the other night to see if they could be made usable, and while the usual mangling that I like to do to kick signals gave a horrible snare sound as a consequence, once this was mixed in with the actual snare mic, the overheads and the room mics, it wasn’t particularly noticeable. So it would be possible to work something out recording this way.
However, the second thing I tried was to put a front skin on the drum (which first involved cutting a hole in it big enough to get the mic through). This made a huge difference to the balance between the kick and the rest of the kit that was being picked up, so I think I’m gonna have to go get a decent reso head now (as well as a new lug – turns out one of them is severely bent, and there’s no nut for it to screw into, and presumably no spring either…)

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…

TV Zombie – Cork Rock City

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Recording

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OK, so after my last post, one of the kind folks over at forum.recordingreview.com pointed out that I’d obviously focused so much on getting some click in my kick track that I ended up cutting out all the meat, so I decided to go back to the drawing board. But not yet, because in the meantime I started working instead on TV Zombie 🙂

You may remember that we’d recorded this one in sections, so the first job was to edit these sections together with no timing problems and no pops or clicks between each part. This took a couple of hours. phew…

With that finished, I started working on a rough mix. This was after I’d upgraded to Cubase 5, so I was eager to play with some of the new toys that came with it. The EQ and Compressor plugins come with plenty of presets (yeah, I know, but, well…) for all number of situations, so I started with these and then tweaked them a little depending on which drum track I was working on. I was able to get a pretty good sounding mix in about half an hour this way.

Next day, I happened to get an email from Mike at drop-d magazine (also of Homeless Productions) telling me that they’re putting together a compilation of Cork acts called Cork Rock City, and asking if we’d like to submit a song for it. I figured, since I’d been updating TV Zombie lately, I’d give them my fresh mix with the new drum tracks. This way, they’d have a different version from the old demos on our bandcamp, but it would also be different from the EP version, since I haven’t added any other new tracks yet, so it’ll be a one-off special 🙂 But then I thought, maybe I’ll update it a bit more, since it still sounds fairly close to the old version. So I decided to record some new vocals – I’ve never been happy with the fact that I fluffed a few of the lines when I recorded the original, or that I use the same chorus twice.

So, roll around last friday night (15 Oct 2010): wife and kids in bed, I had a few hours before the baby’d be up for her feed, so I got down to business. I grabbed myself a drink and headed out to the garage.

No beer this time - I was on water for my throat.

I set up my trusty Beyer M88 (instead of my Studio Projects B1 which is what I used on all the old stuff) and my brand new ART Tube Mic Pre. This presented a problem of it’s own, since I’ve never used an external preamp with my Alesis IO26: I wasn’t quite sure how to hook it all up. I ended up using the XLR output from the ART into the XLR input on the IO26, which meant I was still using the IO26 preamp also.

Mic preamp setup

I later learned that the best way to do it is to use an insert cable (of which I have none :p) to bypass the IO26 preamps. Oh well, we live and learn… It ended up sounding fine anyway 🙂

I also put up a blanket on a mic stand behind the mic to tame some of the reflections from my hard walls – I’ve noticed before that I got a lot of room sound in my vocal recordings, although I was hoping that the fact I was using a dynamic instead of a condenser would help in that regard this time. I also used a pop shield since the proximity effect on the M88 is pretty huge.

Mic, popshield & "acoustic material" :p

Once all this was set up, I added 6 tracks into the Cubase project and got to work. I used 6 because I like to double track, and I also prefer to sing in parts to save my voice – so there’s 2 tracks of verses, 2 of choruses and 2 of bridges. Then there was nothing to do but start screaming 🙂

mid-shout

Once I’d gotten all the tracks done (incidentally, I wrote new lyrics for the 1st chorus to better reflect the theme of the preceding verse) I sat down to get started on mixing, but was soon alerted to screams from the  bedroom – time to go feed her highness :p

Next day, I decided the song needed a little something extra to differentiate it from the demo a bit more. I went looking for some samples on youtube 🙂 It wasn’t too long before I found exactly what I was looking for: a long rant on the evils of TV. Perfect! I downloaded it, brought it out to the garage and started chopping it up to scatter around the song. I figured a quick intro, and then I filled the long outro with a few quotes.

After that, it was a matter of a couple of hours to massage the vocal tracks a little (EQ, compression, delay etc.) to fit in with the rest of the song, then I added in an extra delay track with some fairly big echoes on it, and automated it so it only kicked in in several places (like the final “open your mind” for example).

The first mix that I exported was at about 4am, so naturally it was a bit off – the crazy delay was a bit too crazy and the vocals were a bit high in the mix. The latter is fairly typical when I’ve been working on a particular element – notice how the drums are a bit louder than necessary in the version earlier in this post. So I just headed back out today to bring things back under control a little. Hopefully this is the keeper, look out for it on the Cork Rock City comp when it comes out on November 1st…

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Well, it’s been about 2 months now, and I’ve done fuck all! Yay for me! Until last week that is – I finally got back out into the garage to listen back to the work we did on the first drumming session (yup, that’s the kind of glacial pace we’re dealing with here – at this rate the EP might come out some time in 2012, just before the world ends…). Quick note: if you’re not a recording nerd, this may bore you – you have been warned :p
I figured since A New Hope had gone so well that I’d start there. It was a simple matter to line up the 3rd take (remember how that was the best one?) with the rest of the song and choose one of the intro rolls to stick onto the front. BANG! Editing done! Time to mix…
…And so mix I did, even though we’ll be replacing all the other tracks eventually, so I’ll probably have to remix the drums when there’s new frequencies to battle, I still wanted to hear what kind of potential the live drums have.
Starting with the kick, I still liked the nice thwack sound I got with the m88 microphone, but somehow in the context of the full mix, it seemed to lose some of it’s attack. In fact, at low volumes, it didn’t cut through the song at all, so I had to go in and EQ the fuck out of it 🙂
Using my Morcky IIEQ Plugin (it’s a free one that I got somewhere long ago) I put in a slight hump around 90Hz, pulled out loads of 250Hz – 500Hz, then a pretty massive dose of around 5kHz and 10kHz and rolled off everything above 15kHz.

Kick EQ settings
Kick EQ settings

I then added a compressor to get the attack to shine through a bit more (for this I tried one of the Antress Modern plugins), as well as sending it to a parallel compressor (Kjaerhus Classic comp) that was set up to smash the hell out of anything that came through it.

Kick compressor settings

parallel compression settings

There, much better 😀
Next I tackled the snare tracks (I had a top and bottom to work with). For the bottom, I simply Hi-passed it, and sent a little bit of it to a reverb send. Not too much obviously…
The top took a bit more work, since I was gonna be using that for my main snare sound. Thankfully Eoin’s snare has a nice crack to it, so it was gonna cut through no matter what I did 🙂 I ended up just EQing it a little with a Nyquist EQ plugin (notice how I can’t stick to one single plug for a given task – I’m still trying to figure out which one I like best… :p), compressed it slightly to even out the peaks a little, and sent it to the parallel compression bus.

Snare EQ settings

I then took a listen to the overheads, and thought they sounded pretty damn good – so much so that most of the sound is actually gonna be coming from them. The only thing you can’t really hear in them is the kick, but the rest of the kit is fairly well represented. All I needed to EQ here was a bit of the room’s boxy sound, then I ran it to the parallel compressor.
Also, just for kicks, I ran the whole drum bus to the parallel compressor – as you can see, it’s something I’ve only looked into recently, so I’m going a bit mad with it. Chances are when it comes time to do a real mix of the song, I’ll go a bit easier on it (when I’m less of a n00b).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve managed to come up with so far. Compare it with the version on the player in the sidebar – I for one prefer the sound of the real drums, but maybe that’s just cos there’s more work gone into it :p

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OK, on to the meat – this is the main reason I started this blog: to discuss the recording of our first EP.

Most people reading this have probably heard all our demo tracks by now (all the stuff up on myspace and bandcamp – if you haven’t heard it, you’re probably here by accident 🙂 ), but you may not be aware that the majority of those tracks (all of them except Floyd the Barber, in fact) are just demo versions of our songs: stuff I just put together at home on my DAW. In essence, it’s all fake, and doesn’t represent us as a band. The instruments were all done by myself, and I programmed the drums. This is why they have never been put on CD for sale – they are available as a free download, and that’s how they’ll stay (until we delete them perhaps 🙂 )

Anyway, I digress…

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to get cracking on this idea. For the EP, we decided we’re going to re-record 3 of the old songs, which meant I could just open up the old project files and record Eoin’s drumming over them, then remove the midi drums. Easy-peasy, eh? Then we’ll probably add one of our new songs, which we’ll be starting from scratch – not so easy…

Naturally, we opted to start with the easy songs. So on the 19th of June, 2010 I got Eoin to come out to my house (hidden in the foothills of the Cork & Kerry Mountains :p) to get started. We spent a good few hours on Saturday evening setting up the kit and microphones, checking to make sure we were getting a good signal, and a good sound for each mic (I’d already spent some time on Friday night adding in the extra tracks I would need on each Cubase project).

We started with the kick mic. When we recorded Floyd the Barber back in October last year, I used a kick mic that I got with a drum mic set, but I don’t know if it was the mic itself or the way I positioned it, but I couldn’t get a decent sound from it – I ended up processing the hell out of it in the mix and still don’t like it. This time, I used a more recent acquisition: a Beyerdynamic m88. This is what I use for vocals at practice, but I’d heard it can be pretty good as a kick mic since it has a huge proximity effect (look it up :p). sure enough, we tried it out and had a nice meaty ‘thwack’ from the kick.

beyer m88 inside the kick drum

Next, for the snare I used a Beyerdynamic m201 on the top and an Eagle G158J (from my cheapo drum mic set) dynamic on the bottom. The 201 gives a nice crack (well, it picks up the nice crack from the way Eoin hits it 🙂 ). Just for kicks, we tried sticking the 201 into the hole on the side of his snare to see what it might pick up – horrible sound! Nothing useful, unless you’re doing some strange electronic song. It sounded more fake than my fake software drums 🙂 Back to the top of the beater side it went!

beyer m201 on the snare (also, note the dampener)

The tom mics, I was less worried about – I used the cheap G158Js on them last time around (I should have mentioned that the recording of Floyd was kind of  a practice run for this endeavour 🙂 ), and they worked out fine, so  I used them again. They’re handy because they’ve got clips on them to mount them to the drums, which is good, because as of yet I haven’t got a lot of mic stands.

We spent a bit of time getting the overheads sorted out – last time we didn’t really have much of a scientific approach, and the stereo image ended up being slightly skewed to the left. It wasn’t too bad – all it took to fix was a little volume and panning adjustment in the mix. This time though, I wanted to get it right at the tracking stage. We started out with the 2 mics (again from the G158J set – battery-powered electret condensers) above the centre of the kit in an XY formation for the least phase problems (lots of reflections in the garage), but when we listened back, the image was very narrow, even when the mics were panned 100% each way. So we went back to trying a spaced pair system. Eventually we got them sorted out, and sounding pretty good if I may say so myself.

spaced pair overheads

Once we were set up and everything was working the way it was supposed to (after having to repair on of my cheap mics – one of the XLR pins tried to disappear into the shaft! Grrrr!), we decided it was time to get to work (this meant removing our ‘drum tech’ from the room, since it was well past his bedtime!)

We started out with TV Zombie, since it’s a nice slow song, and after a few runs through it (and a couple of cans of Tuborg 🙂 ), Eoin found his stride and we started to power through it. We recorded a couple of passes of the entire song, then we started working section by section to give us plenty of options at mix time – if there’s any mistakes, we can just edit in a part from another take. Horrifying, isn’t it?! :p Well, I guess that’s just how recording works these days… 🙂

after spending an hour or so on that song, we figured it time to break for the night to start again fresh the next day.

creative juice

Next day was much easier – everything was still set up from the night before, so we were able to just get cracking right away. We checked what we’d got from the night before for TV Zombie (it’s always a good idea to re-check what you’ve worked on with a fresh pair of ears), and, happy enough, moved onto Shut Up And Eat Your Freedom.

This one took a bit of work to get right – maybe it was just the time of day, but for the first few passes we couldn’t get the flow. I realised during this process that the guitar tracks for the demo version have some terrible timing issues, so for Eoin to use them as a guide track was throwing the song all over the place. No problem – I fired up guitar rig, plugged my guitar straight in and recorded a fresh pair of scratch guitar tracks 🙂 The going went much smoother after that.

Next we tried A New Hope (aka No We Can’t aka NObama). We flew through it – no recording part by part here: 4 passes, one after the other. After recording the 3rd pass, we knew it was the keeper, but went for a 4th anyway. Then we just added a few different versions of the intro to choose from at mix time.

And that was it – all done. time for more beers \m/