Go, Do, Be.

Categories

02/23/2009  — 

Song-A-Day Notes From The Studio

Seth and Derek (among others) asked for some details on how I recorded a few songs this year. I've been pretty happy with the guitar sounds overall. The big improvement from last year seems to be the mic. I'll tell you everything about what I do. Maybe it'll help you find that killer something.

This is my recipe for rock guitars:

Ingredients:

  • Guitar: Fender Lead II (1980) with a really kooky humbucker pickup (I think it's a Bill Lawrence, but possibly a dimebucker?) in the bridge position. Someone really took a lot of time modding this guitar before I bought it. This pickup is special though, haven't found many that sound like it.
  • Amp: ZVex Nano Amp. A .5 (!) watt tube head which should get most of the credit for the sound. It's really an amazing piece of gear that produces controlled overdriven mayhem at a reasonable volume. Zack, my wife, children, and neighbors thank you.
  • Cabinet: Closed-back Mesa 4x12 (with celestions, I think) (yes, the cab for the dual rectifier)
  • Mic: Pacific Pro Audio LD2ube Large Capsule Condenser (multipattern)
  • A->D: Aardvark Q10 a really handy piece of gear. I'm using its built-in preamps. Aardvark went out of business a few years back unfortunately. This thing is still going strong for me.
  • Multitracking: I have an old version of Nuendo 1.53 (the latest is 4) as my main multi-tracking application.
  • Several effects: Waves RCL is the main compressor I'll use. I set up some really simple, standard reverb as a sendd effect too.
  • 1 Dirty Secret Ingredient: That Evil Multiband thing that comes with Nuendo. This may be the thing that takes a decent sound from the guitar/amp/speaker and makes it really sing on a recording (perverting it and possibly ruining it at the same time).

For the basic "loud" sound here's what I'll do:

The Performance

Set the guitar to use the humbucker pickup only. Volume and tone wide open (11). Believe it or not, someone fitted my guitar with an XLR output. I don't use it, just the regular 1/4" jack.

Set the ZVEX amp to brighness: middle, thickness: normal. Volume knob is about 3/4s+. There's only 1 knob on this amp I get it into the distortion space, but not all the way up. The amp is relatively quiet, the sound is a little mid-rangey, but it sounds good in the room.

Mic the guitars pretty close. About 4-6 inches away from the cabinet's grill. I'm using a large cap condenser for this. I've been leaving the mic in the omni position lately. The sound is a little more open. That proximity effect wasn't doing anything to help the sound IMO.

At this volume, I trim the Aardvark's preamp to "6.5" (not sure if this is a db level or something specific to the Q10) so there's a strong signal and still a fair amount of headroom.

Play with heart and desire -- and fat fingers. I'm not a great guitarrist, but I think pick technique plays a small part here. I'm working toward my ideal guitar sound which is distorted, but clear, with lots of bright overtones. Most of my favorite punk albums had some combination of this. I've learned to get some of those overtones by sticking my finger onto the vibrating strings as I pick. Do you really want to know about this? Just ask and I'll ramble on and on about it...

I'll usually double the main part of the song, then add one more color track, often with a different distortion and pickup setting.

The Mix

2 main (heavy) guitars panned hard right/left. Usually with no EQ.

1 guitar up the middle, usually cleaner (distortion-wise). Might use a little EQ to fill a gap in the wall of sound. Posssibly with a bit more of the send-verb too.

Group all the guitars. Use light compression with the RCL on the group. Might shelf the bass a little (I'm monitoring with NS-10s and I've found that if I can hear the bass at all there will likely be a problem on other systems.). I'll usually add a touch of room verb as a send effect.

Here are the compressor specifics:

  • RCL's 'electro' setting
  • attack: 20.0
  • release: 20.0
  • threshold -11.9
  • ratio: 2.57
  • gain: 4.0

The overall mix is important too of course. The drum sounds are reasonably loud, but offer some space. The bass has a few EQ notches (where? I'll check) to carve out space. I haven't been too happy about the vocal sounds on the full-band songs this year, so no help in this dept.

Here's the Dirty Little Secret: Bus compression is the evil Multiband thing. Yeah, there it is. It's out. What are the settings here? Hard to tell what all these mean. I'm basically choosing the "FM" preset and trying to dial it back just a bit.

Actually, now that I look closely to a randomly picked mix, it looks like I'm just using the default 'FM Radio' setting for 'Trouble Sleeping'.

That's about it. Here's a guitar-only mix for Trouble Sleeping: http://greacen.com/media/greacenzone/20090222_guitar_mix.mp3

You can hear slight variations on this on a bunch of this year's songs:

  • Up In The Attic
  • Drive North
  • Even in Winter (I used the less-distorted guitars in the panned position on this one, reversed the model)
  • Master of the Mall
  • Wafflepalooza
  • Put Down That Bag Of Rocks
  • Bring it Back
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Istanbul
  • 2wo
Plus a few more that will likely come before we cross the finish line.

Go Listen!

12/06/2008  — 

Mad Scientist

I saw this on facebook the other day:

Mad Scientist

Which reminds me of one of my favorite scenes of all time...

Enjoy it before the copyright police take it down.

03/04/2008  — 

29 done...

Maybe I should toss these into my last post about the get-together. Just a few mire words on this before I return to posts about vertical ad networks, qa and the like.

I didn't really make it to 29 songs as planned, but I'm ok with it. I have at least 10 (ok, maybe 6) decent songs to refine which is way more than what I had at the start of the month.

I uploaded a bunch of tunes from the wrap party to the 29 site (finally). I have stereo versions of the full band experience. Email me if you're desperate to hear those recordings (then please turn yourself in to the kookoo police).

Soon I'll lock down the files that make up the 29.netscrap.com site. Derek's comment about keeping the record of the month in tact is right on. I'll move those things somewhere else. The site will continue to work of course. In fact, it needs a few changes.... Gotta have better control of the player:

  • play in order (as opposed to random)
  • play a single artist if you want
  • play a single song if you want
  • make it easy to embed all of these into other internets.

So what's next? I'll be spending some make-up time with the fam (and work) in the meantime. I also need to rehab my leg which was bonked one recent Saturday when I should have been finishing some songs. After that? I learned that I like recording tunes and I need to keep rolling with this. I learned that my main blockage with songwriting is more in the commitment department than the execution (except maybe the verboligization that accompanies the rock guitar). Even if it's just a slow simmer of experimentation, I need music to be happening. Maybe some 29'ers will get together to jam. Maybe we'll get to collaborate in each others studio to help get Greenberg's recordings recordings LOUDER... I DEFINITELY need to thaw out and finish a few blert songs that haven't been heard by many. Maybe I need to launch http://52.netscrap.com to be home of our new song-a-week lifestyle.

Who's in?

02/01/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 1: Took To The Air

Sheesh!

I just barely made it in before midnight. This is gonna be tough.

I came up with the verse on guitar & vocal melody idea over breakfast, but didn't get a chance to sit down and record until about 9pm. A little over 2 hours later, and 'Took To The Air' popped out. I was really itching to record drums for this one, I wish I had my kit in my garage.

Peter, there's still time! C'mon!

I recorded this on my laptop which is completely wrong for the job. Sure, I have the multitrack on there, but I was installing a mp3 codec at 11:15... Gotta get this in shape.

Also, Jim's Samson USB Mic is right for the job. Extremely handy to have this working with the laptop.

01/31/2008  — 

29 Songs Starts!

We're doin it. Tomorrow.

I'll put a page (and maybe that js-kit forum (yes techcrunch nerds, I'm lazy)) at http://29.netscrap.com to track the progress.

At this point Derek, Seth, Peter, and possibly Mark will join me on a quest toward sketchyness: sketching out song ideas and recording them every day for the month of February.

Seth took the first splash last night:

I decided to see what this was going to be like tonight. It took longer than I thought, but I wrote, recorded, and uploaded a song ... not to the netscrap site because it's not yet February :) but to myspace : http://www.myspace.com/thesethfreeman - check it out. I don't think I'll be putting in 3 hours every day on this so I'll probably end up with more simple / unfinished idea-type songs for most of the month :)

Derek responded:

Oh man, that's a great song, Seth. It sets the bar impossibly high.

You can beat that Derek! Beat it!