Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New T-Shirts

So we have another print-on-demand vendor for our Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirts. I'm going to have to check them out, especially because they're "Red Bubble T's".

You can also make hoodies and there are even children's sizes (because every child needs a Tyrannosaurus Mouse.)

"Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirt" T-Shirts & Hoodies by pandoramachine | RedBubble:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ostinatoisms

So, there's a couple things I'm digging.
  1. The kind of Pink Floyd ostinato with big chords over the top of it.
  2. The Who kind of lots of fun with virtuoso bass guitar.

So the thing here is that those two things tend to be mutually exclusive because you need the bass to be playing those triplets or whatever with lots of delay. Or, you have the guitar doing that and then all of a sudden I can't play big obnoxious chords or self-indulgent lead lines. And that simply will not do.
Now one advantage of my bass player, Ethan Rosenblatt, is that if anything he tends to underplay. This is a good quality in a musician. We can, however, smack his bum and make him go all Entwhistle on us if we want to. And he's very good at it.
So, if we want the band to go all crazy but want to do it on top of some sort of ostinato then... then the option is obvious.
The Who - like repeated synth playback.
See? Pete Townsend already figured out the solution.
"Sheep" really hit the very bottom (or very top) of where Pink Floyd could go depressing-wise. It brings them back to Meddle-era ostinati and big fun guitar parts (the outtro is really exciting).

So yeah, I've talked about this idea before. It's time to start recording some ostinati.

Now for the big question. Do we use something like Abelton Live for playback? Or do we use QLab? I think we'll end up with QLab because we're going to need it for playing back all the dialog we need to create for the Imaginary Opera.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Counter-Example

So I've been complaining about the sound of Saturday Night Live. But I can't complain about the Bon Iver mix.

Now here's a thing -- they're clearly using in-ear monitors and that always cleans up the stage sound. And I don't know what the double microphone on voice thing is about. He seems to favor the one to his right. Maybe that's a way to keep him just off of the left one.
But the mix is good. We can hear all the instruments, which considering the instrumentation is fairly tricky. I'm not exactly sure where the bass is coming from. Maybe the camera right drummer is playing a bass keyboard?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The State of the State of Things

From an email conversation about microphones and preamps:

It seems that for most things other than single closeup voice I'm coming to the opinion that small diaphragm are better. This is more of a "philosophical" thing about mics than it is any sort of hard truth. Which is the way things tend to be in the way of sound. As far as I know the best cheap condenser are these Oktavas. http://oktava.com/inc/sdetail/99/474

This is important: you really can't get these mics from anywhere other than the Sound Room though as the quality control on those mics is terrible. The Sound Room seem to be the only people who send them back to Russia when they aren't any good. (And now, I've noticed, they've gone way up in price. So maybe they're not the best for the dollar anymore. I dunno.)



I'll confess I'm always surprised when I go and hang a plain old Shure 57 over the strap on the guitar cabinet at just how good those mics sound. They just sound great. Of course, I'm cheating because (and here's where I can go on all day) I don't think that the mics are nearly as important to the sound as the preamps.
And I have Neve 1272 Brent Averill mic preamps.
And boy do they sound good.

We live in a golden age of good cheap microphones. There are plenty of them out there. And they all sound great once you add a great preamp to 'em. I've never heard a bad Audio Technica.

Overall, the thing is that nowadays all audio gear sounds "good". It's like there are three levels of quality: crap, good, sublime. And all gear seems to fit squarely in each category. There really isn't any crap out there anymore. But you're not going to getanything sublime for less than a couple thousand dollars.

The question is: what's the difference between "good" and "sublime"? In music I think it's a matter of what my friend Alan Douches calls "a culmination of subtleties."

If you use great mic preamps (and great mics) on an album, the record will have that big "expensive" sound we're used to hearing on, well, big and expensive albums. Individual tracks aren't necessarily that important (with the possible exception of voice, where it seems that you can hear the difference in mics and preamps right away.) The big expensive sound is an accumulation of great sounds. If you made an album and used expensive mic preamps and microphones on everything except(for instance) the toms -- well you probably wouldn't notice. But overall you're hearing an accumulation of all the subtleties on all the mics and preamps and good instruments you have on the record.
The difference between good and sublime is very slight.
Now here's a trick: for movie sound nobody cares about "sublime". They might claim they do but they don't. They need the sounds without background noise and clear of other noises and that's about it. Which, of course, is not easy at all. But if you record a movie using nothing but Neve preamps, Apogee converters, and the finest microphones in the world, but there's a lot of noise and traffic and airplanes all thorough the thing -- it's gonna suck. Believe me, I know from experience.
If you recorded a movie using a Zoom but you got it right over the heads of all the actors and were in a quiet environment then you'd be good to go.

I think the main issue with Chinese - made stuff like microphones is that US-based manufacturers who are trying to go cheap use Chinese plants. And if they're trying to just go cheap, and don't care about quality, the Chinese plants will give 'em that. Hmm... now that I think about it that's my overall opinion of the Guitar Center. Ha!

That being said there are some very good Chinese-made microphones. It mostly depends on who the "manufacturer" is.

I know that Rode and Audio Technica consistently make microphones which are better than their prices would indicate.

Personally I wouldn't try to go up a little ways in regards to quality mic preamps. I'd go all the way or nothing. I think most of the "good" preamps are pretty much the same, whether they're made by Mackie or Focusrite. I think the cheapest one can bump up to the level of "sublime" is with the John Hardy M1 (which do sound very very beautiful, they're much like my Neve 1272's.) So if you're going to want to improve your preamps I think you should make a BIG jump rather than a little one. And again, for film sound it isn't as much an issue although almost every film post house has some decent mic preamps. Which is ironic because the mic preamps used for dialog recording are "good" but not "great". 

I'm always surprised at how durable those SM57's are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ensemble Playing

You know, it wouldn't take that long to become technically as good a drummer as John Bonham was. The key word there is "technically".

Sure, he could do some fancy double-kick triplets, but if you practiced steadily for a few years you could indeed pull it off.
What would set you (me) apart is getting the drums to actually sound that good. And to think of the parts in the first place.
Really the same thing is true with most any instrument.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
Many players get so up in their own world that they don't get good at playing with others. And you know, blending and making a "sound" -- that's an amazing thing. And it takes practice. You know, practicing with others.
Which brings me to Tyrannosaurus Mouse. We ain't been practicing near as much as we should. You know. With each other.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Analog Cat

OK, so I was going to talk about virtual synthesizers and sequencers. Because they're awfully good. I'm digging this TubeOhm sequencer and synth.

But I had to stop and show you this video of analog synthesizers and a Siamese cat. (Of course I do.)



Bandcamp has a Twitter feed of "staff picks".

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Roundabout

This is more of a Jethro Tull cat. 
Analyzing the structure of the Yes song Roundabout. I will not say this is definitive in any way shape or form. And ironically it's the shape and form I'm trying to figure out here.

One of the things about this song I find interesting is that they do a great job of making little turn-around sections to get from one place to another. Really the song is mostly what I'm calling the "A" section. And Yes are the kings of placing one section over another. They must compose working out new riffs underneath the same vocal lines in order to create those sections. And then they probably do the opposite -- make new vocal parts over the same riffs in order to create choruses.

Opening/Intro -- acoustic guitar with harmonics and reversed piano
A section with acoustic guitar and fast bass
A section verse
B section with sequencer
A section verse 2
B section
A section Chorus version -- syncopated kick and bass "In and around the lake..."
turnaround
A section with acoustic guitar and fast bass
turnaround
A section verse 3 "I will remember you"
B section turns around to
A section Chorus with arpeggiated keys "In and around the lake"
B section turn around
C section rock riff
C section "verse" with riff underneath
C section with syncopated keyboard riff
C section verse
C section "Roundabout"
Opening 2 -- acoustic guitar and Arp 2600 sequence
Going into flutes (In and around the lake...)
A section -- electric guitar -- syncopated bass and drums -- with Hammond solo
D section -- electric guitar walk up and turn around back into
A section -- adding Hammond playing a sequence of 16ths similar to Opening 2
D section -- turn around and guitar solo
A section -- Chorus version
A section -- (In and around the lake)
E section -- "Da da da" -- I don't really know
Coda -- I think this is a unique section -- acoustic guitar only

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Does Saturday Night Live Sound So Bad?

Specifically I mean the musical performances. They are way uneven.
Why did Jack White's band(s) sound so godawful? Same instrumentation, two different sets of players, no violin or bass to be found anywhere.
I mean, OK, so the violin isn't as loud as (say) a trombone or glockenspiel. But this violin has a freakin' pickup on it. For broadcast that means it can be mixed at any volume you want.




Word on the street is that the reality of the quality of the mix on SNL is that the sound mixer sort of decides whether you're going to sound good or bad based on how much you're liked. Bands and artists who are friends of Lorne Michaels are specifically given the "good" treatment.
Now, honestly that word is about 15 years old. And SNL has gotten much better (especially from the days of only hearing the vocal mic.)
But seriously, where is the violin?
And where's the bass?
Is there just some sort of prejudice against bowed instruments going on?
The vocals are well-placed and the floor tom sounds pretty good though.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sequencing

I'd like to experiment with a little bit of sequencing in Tyrannosaurus Mouse. I mean sequencing like it's 1972, not 1986.
There are some rather amazing sounding free VST synthesizers out there. Glen Stegner has a MiniMoog and an Arp2600 emulator. I have to admit, they sound very good.
The Wikipedia article on Bohemian Rhapsody has a pretty detailed analysis of its structure. Yes' Roundabout does not.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mixing in the Box in the Box

So. I'm a huge Samplitude partisan. I admit that.
But you know, I've been doing a lot of work in Samplitude over the last couple years especially, and I've started to think a couple things.
  • Mixing in the box is a good idea. 
Sure, if you have a Neve (or, probably better, a Neotek) you can push some signals through it, combine them together and make a great sound. I mean a really fantastic sound.
But it ain't repeatable. And it ain't cheap. And the fact is that the console isn't where your problems are. Your problem is that your music sucks. ;-)
Actually, your problem is probably your mic preamps, the quality of your players, how good your instruments are and that your music sucks. So buy better preamps, practice more, get a good instrument, and work on your music. Because:
  • The thing you need to do anytime you've recorded something and it isn't quite sounding right is to put the sound through something expensive.*
And up until lately "something expensive" meant an outboard piece of hardware, probably with a lot of iron in it, which was old and had an unfashionable faceplate (fashionable from whatever era it came from). It came from companies like Urie and Pultec and Fairchild.
But nowadays the software emulations of those kinds of things is pretty darn good. (I've been kinda thinking about getting an IK Multimedia Fairchild 670.)

So the problem is that you want to put your sound through "something expensive" but using a DAW over a nice analog mixer is not where your big problems are. Your big problems really are in the performance, if you've got that and you're using great preamps and converters, you can get your mix out of the box. Even if some or many or all of your tracks have to go through "something expensive". How is that? Well, it's like this:
  • Software emulations sound really good nowadays.
They do. They sound really really good. Mostly when we're talking about software emulators we're talking about expensive plugins from Waves or such. But here's the thing: the design team over at Samplitude is doing an amazing job of making up their own emulations of classic compressors and EQ's. They have a couple "analog" compressors which are simply fantastic. They're very "musical" sounding and they can really give tracks the sort of thing you want from putting the sounds through "something expensive".

And so I've come to this conclusion:
  • Mixing in the box (Samplitude) is completely viable without  external effects. 
You can do an entire album just using Samplitude's reverbs, delays, compressors, and EQ's. No problem. You don't need external plugins.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes. The SSL compressors from Waves do sound really good, and that's not a sound I've gotten yet from Samplitude. Also, the Samplitude noise reduction suite is fantastic but rather than replacing the Waves "Cedar" DNS system, it just does the things the Waves WNS does not do.

*I can't take credit for that -- that's an Alan Douches saying.

Last Voyage of the No Ship

The Pleasure for the Empire record The Last Voyage of the No Ship is now on CD. And, of course, on Bandcamp.   The Last Voyage of the No ...