Monday, December 23, 2013

Imaginary Operation

You may be asking yourself "What is The Imaginary Opera? Isn't that just a song we do?" 
It is. 
But it's also much more. 

There is a "book" (words and lyrics) to a 45-minute/hour-long operetta. Do you want to see it? Of course not, nobody will read it. The story is based on Apocalypse Now, the "world" is Blade Runner, and the characters are multifarious but the lead is from Escape From New York. The book needs a re-write. In fact, it needs a re-write from someone who isn't me. But I haven't found anybody who wants to do that (yet.)

Most of the opera's music has not been written -- that we know of. But the fact is that most of the opera will be the actors talking and over their talking will be some "space rock". So that's pretty easy, right? (Other than the band, which is presumably Diatomaceous Earth, there are two actors and one soprano who plays the "Chorus.")

So what is that piece of music we call The Imaginary Opera? Well, we'll probably do a number of versions just the way we do them now, but there will also be a version which will have a melody (with words) sung by the soprano "Chorus". Do we know what those words are? No. Do we know where it goes in the whole Imaginary Opera piece? No. Do we know what the melody will be? No (although I have some ideas.) 

So. You're thinking to yourself "Drew, this whole Imaginary Opera idea is pretty half-baked." Yes, it's almost exactly half baked. But I'm pretty good at completing things like this. And we're at the halfway point.

But The Imaginary Opera is a separate thing from a regular Diatomaceous Earth concert. At least I think it is under normal circumstances. 

Now we need to find a puppet maker.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Drum Preamps

I watched the Dave Grohl directed documentary Sound City. The movie is primarily a love story about a Neve mixing console that was owned by a Los Angeles recording studio and was subsequently sold to Dave Grohl.
There's a couple things in the movie which might confuse a less sophisticated viewer -- like that Pro Tools is analogous to a tape deck more than a mixing board (although it can do that too). And also I'll be more than happy to be "that guy" who points out that if you're trying to proselytize that 24-track 2" Ampex machines are some kind of holy grail that a 2" 16-track Stephens machine is far closer to the holy land than any Ampex and that's just that.
I can make a ProTools rig sound just as good as a 2" 24-track Ampex by adding a bit of noise to the whole thing when I'm done. 

In any case, yeah, a lot of great albums were recorded on that Neve mixer. The two that blow me away the most are Fleetwood Mac's Rumors and Nirvana's Nevermind. Oddly the documentary talked quite a bit about how nice the room sounded but for much of the life of that studio the preference was for very dead rooms -- and very dead drums.
But truthfully, I'm not that super excited by the drum sounds on Nevermind or even the more modern Foo Fighter's stuff. Sure, I get bummed by the papery drum sounds of early Zeppelin or even Cream, but the constant explosions without dynamics of modern rock drumming just make me depressed.
And, as far as I know, ABACAB was recorded on an old SSL console. SSL's are not known for their preamps. Indeed (and I'm just pulling this out of my ear) I think Nevermind was mixed on an SSL.
And ABACAB may have been recorded on an AMEK.
So wait, where was I going with this?
Doesn't Shock the Monkey seem to be a bit fast tempo-wise? I want it to be slower and funkier.
Oh, I know. I'm not 100% convinced of Neve's inherent superiority in recording drums. I do seem to like them as overhead and room mics. I know I know, everybody is all about API's for drums. They're snappy, I'll give you that. Still I'd rather have a drum kit that I liked the sound of in and of itself. You know. To start with.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Hannibal Montana and venues

Talking with Mike from Cavallo yesterday. He said they were going to open for a band called Hannibal Montana.
 
Instrumental rock. On the prog tip. Check them out. They're pretty awesome.

 ∫

Here are some music venues in New York City
Spike Hill
The Grand Victory
Lit Lounge



Thursday, December 19, 2013

What I think about Katy Perry

You know, I really dislike much of Katy Perry's most popular songs. In particular I feel that the end of the hook (the "answer" to the beginning of the phrase or the "subject") squanders the build-up from the verses through the bridge and into the chorus. And it does so by leading you up and up... until she finishes off with an "oh aeh oh eh oh" like nobody could figure out what else to put in there. No, man, that's the part of the song that has to deliver -- that's not the place to cop out.
Anyway, so yeah. Drew has issues with the bulk of the Katy Perry oeuvre.

I did, however, enjoy "I Kissed a Girl" The answer to the subject in the chorus is adequate. And, you know, it can be done in different styles which is also amusing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things 4 Today

The VB3 is considered to be the best modeled Hammond organ. I have to say, it's pretty nice.
This is the kind of thing you get when you look up "guitar mouse".

Arf! Mastering is Alan Silverman's place. He's doing some Russian Chamber stuff I recorded.

The Playroom doesn't seem to do single-day performance rentals.

The Tank is a theater.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

111213

This is Twilight of the Ice Nymphs.
Rehearsal last night. Diatomaceous Earth.
The Hammond organ you hear is actually the Chapman Stick played through an Electro Harmonix HOG2 and a Strymon Leslie emulator.

This recording has Lily using the Jazz fretless through a Fender Twin which is then recorded with a Rode NT1 and a Neve 1272.
This was a "find ourselves" rehearsal -- break stuff down to try to figure out how it's going to work live. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Saturnworks Pedals

Do you know what's cool? Saturnworks Pedals.
ψ is like the perfect logo. Saturnworks. Get it? Brilliant. (Yeah, I know, I just made it "Saturn Wave" but work with me here.)

Hand-made in Davis California, they're very aesthetically awesome.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pleasure for the Empire

If, and this is a big if, one wanted to have a band which regular beer-drinking people wanted to come out and actually see, one could do a big and pompous set of things and just do it in such a way that it would be awesome, and the regular beer-drinking people would come.
Prague Spring in maybe 1999?

  • Also Sprach Zarathustra (like a Deodato version)
  • Hocus Pocus (by Focus)
  • Game of Thrones Theme (hard rock version)
  • Peter Gunn
  • Frankenstein
  • One Of These Days
It's not often that I have an actual commercial idea for something. And yeah, "commercial" in this case doesn't mean "making the hits" but rather doing something which some subset of people would dig. But for me it's a big accomplishment.



Venues

Researching venues. There's Gothamist's 8 Best Music Venues (although they're mostly too big for Diatomaceous Earth). But the comments include:

There's also:
The Gutter (bowling alley, has music)

Here's something we figured out last night in the sans-drummer rehearsal of D. Earth.
E/D/A/C#m
E/D/A/A

Wait. Now I've forgotten it. Luckily Ethan and Lily wrote it down.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Your Three Things For Today (with bonus pics)

An interview with Chance Shirley.
Pavlov and the Drooling Dogs c.1985
Ars Nova seems like a pretty cool theater. (Still looking for a venue for the Imaginary Opera.)
Cannon Found Soundstation is Jesse Cannon's recording and mastering house. He used to work for Alan Douches. They'll master an LP there for $200

Quick Audio Notes

Reidel makes high-end intercoms and communications systems. Groove to them.
Peter Erskine is a sound designer and such.

Christoph Stahel is the production manager of the Montreaux Jazz Festival. 21 years ago I met him in Zurich while on tour with the Wooster Group.

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Trainwrecks

Did you know that new Trainwreck amps are being produced?
Trainwrecks sound great. But so do a lot of other boutique amps. Heck, there are some non-boutique amps that sound great too.

I love my Celtic Edana. Together with my Lil Dawg Mutt going through Celestion Alnico Blue 12" speakers they sound as good as the best amp I've ever played, the Blankenship Fatboy Supreme with Sour Cream.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It Means "Horse" in Italian

My buddy Mike Kessell (who designed and built much of Millennium Crisis) plays drums for Cavallo.
They rock.
No, I mean they freakin' rock.
The above link is to their Bandcamp page. And the recordings sound great (I even own their vinyl!) But live?
Live they rock.
I mean they freakin' ROK.
This is the kind of band that's so dynamic that really it's all about hearing them live.
And they're an instrumental band. There need to be more instrumental bands.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Losing My Religion

For the last 20 years or so I've been inclined toward high-end (preferably Neve) microphone preamps. This is in part because I felt I was suddenly able to make things which sounded like real songs once I started using real preamps.
It seemed and seems that mixing is much easier when everything's been tracked through some API's or Neves. That may be in part due to what Alan Douches calls the "accumulation of subtleties" which is what goes into making a good mix.
But then again, it may not.
With some exceptions it can be very difficult to hear the difference between a high-end preamp and some cheapo $10 preamp built into an interface or cheap audio console. I mean while just listening to it alone. And without having the ability to A/B the cheapo preamp against the Neve 1272 you have sitting there in your rack you won't be able to listen to a track and just straight-up say "Oh, that's the preamp built into this Souncraft mixer on this snare drum track".
But presumably we can hear the "buildup" of tracks all recorded through (say) a Trident A-range versus the same tracks recorded with a Mackie mixer which has been sitting underneath your dirty laundry since you quit that job mixing that web-series in 2005.
I say "presumably" because you absolutely cannot get the same performance out of a whole bunch of instruments to do a true A/B test.***
Is it too late for me to become a Hammond organ player?

So let's pretend that there's an accumulation of subtleties in recording, that is: the mix is better because of all the very slight increases in quality brought about by high-end microphone preamps.****
Those increases in quality are nothing, nothing at all, compared to having better instruments to record and, you know, actually practicing more.

Yeah. Practicing more. Now there's a subtlety that'll definitely accumulate.*****

So basically, the guiding religious principal of recording that I've been operating has developed a schism. Although I can't help but feel that preamps somehow magically make the music sound better, I can't prove it. And the fact is we're using four channels of Neve 1272 preamperage and another two of Lindells (which are vastly less expensive but still theoretically better than the built-in Tascam preamps in the A/D converter).
So, you know, we should be ahead of the game as far as the sound is concerned.
The drums are typically being replaced in Drumagog so it's basically irrelevant what the preamps are (or what the microphones are).******
That leaves us with just a bass or a guitar not recorded with a high or higher-end preamp.
Having recorded the bass in Diatomaceous Earth a number of ways I have to admit I don't really get bent out of shape when we use the Tascam's built-in preamps for it.
I've non-blind A/B'ed between the Tascam and the Neves for bass guitar and although I should be prejudiced toward the Neves I'm just not feelin' it. I can feel the difference between basses and have my preference there, but not with the preamps.

Which, in a way, is almost too bad because there's a world of loveliness out there in the world of preamps nowadays. Seventh Circle Audio makes some cool kits (non 500-series based.) There's a whole DIY culture too

But I've lost it. I don't have the faith that those things would make nearly the difference that would... well... make a difference.

I'll stay with the preamps I have. I mean, I'm not going to curse the gods when my sacrifices have already been made. But there's no need to sacrifice more. That I know of.

++++++++++++++++________________________++++++++++++++++

***That's almost true. But if you were recording entirely electronic instruments which you pushed through the high-impedance inputs of preamps you could do an A/B test. Hasn't anybody done this?
****And yeah, that's preamps. Not "microphones". So many great sounding records have infamously (or famously) been recorded using Shure SM57's that it's impossible to count. But in my experience, it's the preamps that make the biggest quality difference in the mix.
***** As a guitar player I'm... pretty terrible. I have exactly one trick: I can make the guitar sound good. I can't play fast, nor accurately. But I can get a decent guitar sound. Enough that if I play slowly and simply it seems like a choice rather than a necessity.
(I just need to practice more. Specifically I need to practice playing rhythm. I do not have a funky bone in my body. It has been strongly... er... requested that I become better at this. So I'm... gonna work on that. Oddly this particular point is not relevant to my thesis here as the one thing I can do is sound -- recording-wise -- good.)
******Note that the overheads -- which is where we get all of the cymbals -- are recorded using nice microphones with a pair of Neves.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Harrowing of the North

So I was checking out the Bandcamp blog and there's this dude who reviews metal and he has a blog with this post about a band called Wiht. I think they only made one album. Which, in their case, means they only released two songs.
 
This band is/was amazing. Think an instrumental Tool but with more delicateness and subtlety. They're definitely a "heavy" act but there's a world of dynamics and Floyd built in. I think they're no longer together.
Devouter Records.

Set List

As per Ethan's suggestion, a set list with a link to the latest version of each "song" indicated.
 
Now, to start with, we haven't really decided on the first song. This is just my suggestion.
 
1. Eyes of the World (soundcheck, trade fours) http://diatomaceousearth.bandcamp.com/track/eyes-ii

So. This is what I've got right now. One day things will be different. Today is not that day.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blue Weasel


Above (click through to the post if you don't see a music player in this post)is a song we did with just Greg, Lily, Lou, and Drew. Lily was playing the fretless through (oddly) a Roland Jazz Chorus (a small one) which was replacing the Fender Twin. Lily goes back and forth between using a direct feed through an Alembic preamp and going through an amp. Personally I like the amp sound the best for her. She tends to prefer the direct sound.
Anyway, Blue Weasel. We were looking for ways to sound more "open" and jazz-ish. In doing so I had to leave the snare sound natural (not replaced).
There's also a bit of Electro Harmonix HOG2 on my guitar but in a couple weeks we're going to try that on the melody side of the Chapman Stick.
We also learned that I need a good 6 bars notice before we make a change. I'm just slow.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Golden Age

We live in a golden age of audio.
The fact is that there was a golden age of audio in the 1950's. The recording chain of professional audio was pretty well perfected at the time. They had the finest microphones and many studios had the best consoles and preamps ever (or at least they did by sometime in the 1960's.)
But what we have is the ability for boutique makers of things like microphones to be able to make simply awesome microphones -- at absurdly low (and, from a business perspective, quite frankly unsustainable) prices.
Dig if you will Mesanovic Microphones. The sweet little Model 1 is only $700. For a ribbon microphone. Hand made right here in the Good Ol' USA. That sounds pretty sweet in the demos.
A stereo pair is $1350. I mean come on! I'd be interested in how they sound with a little more distance on 'em.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Just Some Notes

We've been discussing directions and suchlike with Diatomatious Earth. So here are some randomly collected notes.
Here's the City Samanas doing their "Blue Shadow". (D9 to A9)


And then. Grateful Dead with their 7-7-89 version of Fire on the Mountain: (B and A) "Don't Let Go (Part 1)" by the Jerry Garcia Band ("Mostly A but some D's thrown in.") Grateful Dead "Althea". ("This is B#m A E A and B#m A E".)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Notes

Here are some notes. 
 
1.Eiko Eiko (soundcheck, trade fours)
2. Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (Gentle Giant-esque Ethan song in 3/4)
3.Goth waltz (from http://diatomaceousearth.bandcamp.com/track/magnetic-waltz, 10.30.13--- Lou, you are a mad man! esp. from 12:20 onwards)
4.Porcupine's Dream
5.Spacy thing
6.Imaginary Opera
7.E drone/funk thing

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guitars

A couple weeks ago Lou came into rehearsal having met this dude on the street. Rubytone are mostly guitars with amps built into them, but there's other things too.

This is Max. He's a 6-string bass guitar.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween'ene

We actually rehearsed a setlist last night.

I know, right?


Lily used the fretless through her Alembic preamp. Greg's guitar went through the other Neve 1272 channel. Ethan put no compression on the bass side of the Stick (and, honestly, I think I removed all the compression on his channel too.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bunnylick

I think we just recorded a new album. I mean. Maybe? There are certainly some interesting things here. Click through for the bunnylick album.


We recorded things the same way we've been doing the last few weeks. Ethan changed to a more baritone set of strings on his Stick. Lou was tired. Greg and I used the same setups we've been using for nigh on a year now (although I'll admit I went into the low-gain input on the Marshall but with my guitar turned up all the way.)

Generally I've decided that the drum sound on Abbey Road would satisfy me for the rest of my life. If I could just get that one drum sound, I'd be more than happy.

Except for An Obsequious Terrapin Commands the River we have very little reverb added on any of the sounds on these mixes. Lou is not happy with the ride cymbal we have available so he's been favoring the hi-hats. Oh and this is the Shechter bass though the preamp... the er... the bass preamp we've been using. I'm very happy with the sound of the LA-2 emulation I've been using.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weeping Baby Elephant

Full band rehearsal with Diatomaceous Earth. Lily is playing her Schecter through the Alembic preamp. The Stick is split left and right with the bass going through the Badfinger and the "melody" side going through the Philosopher King and the Organizer. I can't figure out how to make this sound like a Hammond B3. Boy, all the YouTube videos make it seem like it's easy.
So I dunno. We make a lot of music. Now we seem to be able to make waltzes. That's cool.

UPDATE: from Ethan "By the way...  that pedal is a Black Finger, not a Badfinger.  A Badfinger is a 70's band featuring a young Paul McCartney.  A Black Finger is a funky compressor made by E-H.  I believe they also made a White Finger, but I don't remember what it did.  After a 12-year Hiatus, George Clinton once released an album called "Hey, Man, Smell My Finger".

Thursday, October 10, 2013

JoeMeek 500

That's a JoeMeek 500-series preamp for $300.

You can get a power supply for two of 'em for $300. 

If you wanna go nuts, this 6-slot 500 rack by Lindell is just $329. That'll give you four extra empty spaces for other things.

So that's a thing. Ethan was interested in something in the JoeMeek line. That's a thousand bucks for two channels.

Then again, the JoeMeek 3Q is only $250, so two of 'em would be just $500.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Delightfully Unhinged

So. On Wednesday we didn't have Lou or Ethan. And Lily decided she wanted to play drums. Which said to me I should play bass.

We only had a single Shure 58 on the drums (going through a Neve 1272 preamp). And another Neve was used with a Rode NT1 hanging over a Fender Twin Reverb (with Lily's Schecter). Greg's guitar was recorded like it normally is, except that I used a Neve on him too.
We tried a bunch of things. Somehow we ended up recording this completely unhinged version of Wipeout.

The drums are smashed with compression -- 1176 and LA2 emulations. And the whole thing was very noisy (there is quite a bit of emulated single-ended Dolby noise reduction too.) But I'm extremely amused by this wacky recording. I think it may almost be in mono.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Amazonian Mouse

The new Tyrannosaurus Mouse Album is available now on Amazon:
 
It's also on CreateSpace. I don't know how much the record is. The price does change around a bit.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Analyze This

Speaking of heavy musical analysis, did you want too much analysis of Grateful Dead's Dark Star? You know you do. So here it is.
I've been playing the song for over a year now and I had no idea that it goes to Em and D from the A and G that most of the rest of it is in. This is why I should never be allowed to play rhythm guitar.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tyrannosaurus Mouse Album Version 2.0

So now here's an interesting article on music economics. And when I say "economics" I do mean "flashbacks to that class in college with the cute TA who tried to use the Chicago band The dB's as an example but nobody knew who they were because my class was filled with losers" economics.

"In most small businesses, pricing is a percentage whacked onto the marginal cost, and the setup cost is paid for in the percentage. Your setup costs are S (recording, designing the packaging, etc.). You can’t charge the customer upfront for those so you need to whack a percentage margin onto your marginal costs. This is the cost of each additional unit after the setup costs (pressing one more record, shipping one record, etc.), which are M per unit. So your total cost is S plus (M times units), and your return is (M plus percentage) times units."
Speaking of marginal costs, I created a new master of The Tyrannosaurus Mouse Album. There may be a bit of EQ. But there's a bunch of compression emulation. And I did it. Which is not, in and of itself, a good thing. But my mastering engineer won't return my phone calls anyway, so I may as well.
Did I make it too loud overall? Probably. Sorry. It's hard not to. But at least all the songs seem to be the same relative volume now. Don't they?
Click through and tell me.
I do like this album though. I think it should just go on CDBaby.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Elephant Mixing

I believe that Wednesday's Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal was the first one where the entire band of miscreants everyone was there. We had Greg, Lily on her Schecter playing through an Alembic preamp (directly into a Tascam hi-impedance input), Ethan on his Chapman Stick going through Countryman direct boxes (one of his and one of mine) into Lindell preamps (with just a hint of EQ added to them), Lou on drums, and me (Andrew) on guitar (recording chain is an SM58 going into a Neve 1272).


I'm going to go ahead and admit that the drums are almost entirely replaced. I think those are a DW kick, and DW Edge snare, and Yamaha toms. But the overheads are Ear Trumpet Edwina microphones going into Neve 1272's. I'm not sure how much better you could record them. I think they sound great.
And, for me, I'm finally able to set the cymbals appropriately for the rest of the kit. This is partly due to the kit replacement therapy but also because I've discovered the LA-2 emulator plugins. I can't get the Fairchild emulators to do anything I want. The LA-2 and the 1176 however... those I can get to glue me some drum kits, make basses sound fantastic, etc and so forth.
Note that I'm replacing all four drums in the kit and that I simultaneously think that Lou is the best at getting less-than-par drum kits to sound fantastic. Even so, we're just not getting that million-dollar sound out of the kit at the rehearsal studio without a little help from The Box. 
I'm mixing very dry for me. For most of these mixes there's no reverb on the snare and the rest of the kit is completely dry. Um. I mean except for the kick. I usually put a kiss of reverb on the kick. The overheads are limited with one LA2 (oh, I'm sorry Ethan, I mean compressed. There. Happy now? ;-) and the rest of the kit is in another group.
I'm not using any mixing board non-linear-type emulation on this mix. When I A/B the emulators of the EMI board, the SSL board, and the Neve board against the natural 2-mix buss in Samplitude I invariably choose the less "collapsed" nature of the Samplitude 2-mix buss. So much so that if someone told me it was in and of itself an emulation of the old EMI tube board I'd be all like "Yeah, this is the only way to mix."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lost Mouse

So wait. What happened?
I lost the masters to the Tyrannasaurus Mouse Album.
You? Don't you always have like four copies of everything?
Except for, apparently, these.
When you say "masters"?
I mean the 2-track stereo mixes.
Are you sure you've lost them?
I know the sub-directory they should be in. They aren't there. Nor does a search of any online or offline backups reveal the folder or any of the files.
Can you go back and re-mix the album?
We could. But lots of little things were done after we'd mixed in order to make songs better. And that would all be lost.
(Remix cat remixes.)

Now just a minute. You used the word "would" there. And I see a blue link in the text above. You have a copy, don't you? 
There's the finished album on Bandcamp.
So you're a liar.
No. That version on Bandcamp was mastered by me. Not by someone competent.
So there's compression on it. Tastefully added by you.
When you say "tastefully" you mean "irretrievably".
I guess I mean "it's the best we're going to get."
Exactly. But here's the thing: for some reason "Ice Maiden" was mastered at a much lower level so I'm going to have to add some compression to it in order to get it to sound like the rest of the album.
But on Bandcamp, the files are in .flac format -- which means they're lossless. Right?
Yes. But they're only 16-bit.
That shouldn't make a difference with one pass of compression.
You are correct, Sir.
So what did you do when you realized the only copy in the world was on Bandcamp?
I changed the price to $0 and downloaded the files, that's for sure.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rehearsal Recording

This rehearsal was Lou, Greg, Lily, and me. No Ethan, ergo, no Stick.
Now. I've been putting a lot of effort over the last year to record drums well. And you know what? I've given up. At first I was trying to do a 2-mic setup, then I moved to 3 thinking I was gonna be all avant and cool and everything. But then I got so many complaints -- and honestly, I couldn't get the toms to have that big sound without miking them individually. So we now have mics on the kick, snare, both toms, and two for overheads.

And I don't know if it's just been that I've been influenced by Dave and Lou but I'm not happy with the sound of the drum kit. Even now that there's a metal Ludwig snare it's still... meh.
So like I said, I've given up. We throw cheap mics on the kick, snare, and two toms. And they just go right into the Tascam's mic preamps. And from there they get freakin replaced in software.
The drum replacement plugins out there in the wild are... sweet. I mean they work great. They sound just like you were playing a better drum in the first place. Weirdly, too, when you insert one of those plugins on a track it cleans the track up 100%. I mean, you're not hearing any of the original kick or snare or whatever, the plugin is listening to the track and triggering a sample of appropriate dynamics and such. We used a DW Edge snare drum sample set on this recording. Lou has been telling me how great those snares are. And now we don't have to lay out a couple thousand dollars for one.


Now look, the overheads are recorded with a pair of beautiful large-diaphragm microphones going into Neve 1272 preamps. You can't get much better than that. And I'm free to make the overheads sound good rather than trying to balance the compression of the toms with the airiness of the cymbals.
But the drums themselves? Forget it. I'm done with drums. When they can be replaced this easily with drums that are always in tune, don't buzz, whose snares don't rattle constantly, that aren't affected by the humidity, and aren't creaking randomly then I'm all agog with the replacement.
Now bass. Bass we did something different with. The thing with bass is that we can hear the articulation nicely in the headphones but we lose the nice punch-in-the-chest of the low end of the instrument. Now back in the day when I was trying (foolishly, as it turns out) to record drums, I wanted the bass to be direct so that any processing to the bass didn't affect the drum sound. But now that doesn't matter. So I'm no longer on the bass DI crack pipe. It's nice to be clean.
We have this nice fretless Jazz bass which Ethan lent. And the rehearsal studio now has a beautiful tweed Fender Bassman reissue in a 4x10 (? I think) cabinet. So Lily plugs directly into that and it sounds... wonderful. I mean it sounds great. We throw a Rode NT1 on it (just draping it over the handle) and go right into a Neve 1272. It's a monster.
Halfway through rehearsal we decided to put the FatMan limiter on the bass' output of the computer which feeds the headphone mixer. This was met with much rejoicing.
I still have a pair of the Lindell preamps. And I'm still wondering what we want to do with Greg's guitar. Right now it's going from an SM58 into one of the Tascam's preamps. I've put it through the Neves and I've put it through the Lindells and so far the Tascam's have made me feel more, er, something. I have no idea.
Maybe I'll break out the Apogee Mini-me and use its preamps for guitar and for part of the Stick. Or something. I'll have to sleep on it.
Now note that this recording is just a rehearsal. This isn't for regular humans to listen to, just us. But if you want to hear what too much compression sounds like, listen to the last track -- the turbo weasel version. The bass is having a party through an LA2 emulator and most all the rest of the instruments are getting smacked real good with 1176 compression emulation. Those emulators sound sweet boy. And I like them better than the Fairchild, which actually doesn't do that much for a Drew.
One day I'm going to need a vastly more powerful laptop computer.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Photoessay

The mic clip on one of my Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphones took a complete break with reality. Actually, the brass knurled threaded piece which was glued into the clip just let go. Twice.
This means I managed to drop the same Edwina twice onto the kick drum about 5 feet below it during the same rehearsal.
Oof. And both times it hit the mic in the same place.
Such actions dented the grill. I don't really care what happened to the kick drum.
Lily suggested that I open the mic and push the grill back out from the inside. Which was very smart.
Disassembling the Edwina.
Another view of the flat-ish grille.
The microphone unscrews in a fairly intuitive manner but then once you've got all the screws undone it sort of explodes in your hands. Now note that my initial plan (before Lily set me straight) was to take a small needle nose and pull the basket back into shape. But there's pop screens built into the mic which make it easier to push the grill back from the inside.

I actually have no idea what is up with this picture.
The element itself didn't look damaged. And the recordings we did last week after this reassembly was complete didn't sound damaged. They sounded remarkably good actually.
Putting it back together required a bit of a balancing act, but it all fit nicely.
Much better.
These are very sweet microphones. I love them on many things -- drum overheads, guitars, acoustics, vocals.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Talking Back

As more and more members of Diatomaceous Earth get better and better headphones, we're stuck with an ironic problem in rehearsals. Although we can hear one another's instruments better while playing, we can't hear one another talk.
Now I realize that for most bands, not hearing what the idiot horn player has to say is a plus. But for us it really would be nice to know when someone calls out chord changes and the like. Or even discuss the way we're supposed to come up to the coda. Or what-have-you. Sometimes jokes.
The JamHub we've got works great for us. And there are inputs for microphones. Now, if we all had headset microphones and cough switches we could have usable full-duplex talkback between all the musicians.
Right?

So thing: I own two pair of Sennheiser HD280's. And Ethan just got himself a pair. They are great, cheap, isolating headphones. But personally I don't find them that comfortable. And the low end sounds a tad "boxy" to me. And when you add a boom microphone (like the link above) you're spending around about $265 on them (with the appropriate connectors).
Okay, so that's over $1250 just to cover each member of the band. Ah. But we're not done. Because we would each need an on/off "cough" switch.  Think another $50.
 
Plus, you know, cabling. We're essentially doubling the amount of cabling we carry when adding a talkback system like that. 
Now one might think "Hey, start slow, just get yourself one headset mic and go from there." Yeah. About that.
The person with the headset mic gains a lot of control over the band. Right now the band has no clear leader. I like it that way.
Hmm.
Now that I say that out loud I realize I'm making a hierarchical unilateral decision which systematically maintains a democracy. Uh. Yeah. So there's that.
What if we put a switch in the middle of the floor and a single omnidirectional microphone somewhere near it? That's good for everyone but the drummer, right? Well, it's not quite as practical as I'd like as it's difficult for us to all get to the center of the floor. And yes, it's impossible for the drummer to get to.
That brings me back to just thinking I should get myself a headset microphone and a single switch. Because, you know, ME. That would violate some of my earlier terms herein but I could also use the headset for recording commentary tracks.
I don't know. This is an issue only in that it's a bit of a pain to flip off headphones in order to hear what someone is saying or to hear someone say "You take the solo here" or whatever. Personally it means that I make more dramatic motions coming up on a change and I yell "hea!" a lot.
The other thing which just occurred to me is that when someone opens the contact on a microphone for talkback the drums will likely get loud. Er. Maybe not. Maybe not if the gain is such that you're practically kissing the mic. Uh. Maybe. In my head I imagine the snare becoming much louder in the headphone mix.
So like I said. I dunno.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Porcupines

Now just note this is not an album. No. It's instead an aural mess.
But that's okay. This rehearsal (Greg, Drew, Lou, and Ethan) was in part a proof-of-concept and was also an experiment in how we can work a song.
The process is pretty straightforward. We take a song which was improvised at one point (the melody and the Dm to Em chords). Then we play it some more and somebody suggests the B section. Then somebody suggests the C section. Then somebody suggests new chord changes and we discuss where those chords should go (the last time we come back to the A section, as it turns out.)
Then we learn how we want to interact with one another. Then someone comes up with a descant -- an opposing line to the B section which works really well. And off we go to the races. Plus, somehow, I get to play blues guitar.


In practice this means, er, lots of practice. In this case, two hours playing two chords. I'm going to guess that we'll have done about 20 hours on this one song; working together in the studio. And the song will be about 20 minutes on an album.
That's not too bad actually. Especially if one is happy with the results.

Porcupine Part Dream

Tonight we played two chords for two hours. That's an hour of Dm and another hour of Em.

Still, Lou wanted something he could listen to at home in order to make up a part.
Here is that thing:


We had no Lily tonight as she was a bit tired and under the weather. So this is just Ethan on Stick, Greg and Me on Guitars. The piece "for Lou" has no drums on it. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ed's Message

Are you sure? Are you really sure? You know this can't be undone, right? Do you really want to go through with this? Do you want to think about it first?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Ides of August


Now then therefore this is the most recent rehearsal of Diatomaceous Earth. Two basses -- both fretless actually. We had a big problem with the level from Ethan's bass. Now that I think about it, if that bass has normal pickups, it SHOULD have been relatively low-level. You know what? Every other signal we're feeding into the JamHub rehearsal headphone distribution system is line-level. So why shouldn't a bass plugged into it not have to be turned up?
Chocotaurus Mouse

The snare at the rehearsal studio got changed out for a metal Ludwig snare. Lou was not impressed. He's more of a wooden snare guy although his favorite is the stupendously expensive Drum Workshop "Edge" snare which has metal rims and wood center.
The sort of grand experiment that is two bass players has much of interest. Still, Ethan has threatened to bring his stick next time and I suspect that will work awesomely.
Overall my focus tends to be on the wheat we create and not the chaff. Sure, there's a lot of chaff but even a few minutes of wheat is a very good ratio. Thing is though, somebody has to sit down and go through the whole thing and say "Okay that moment between 10:42 and 11:35 is good, but cut out every thing until 22:50" etc. 
I tried to not use a "center" microphone for the drums in this recording. I can't say that blows my mind. I think I will go back to having a center mic. Oh, and I put the overheads at the upper-most setting on the boom (the boom is level horizontally). Which is something which you find extremely important.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Belt, Biz, Boff

The musician's belt. It's actually both a musician's and a mechanic's belt. The point is that it has no buckle to scratch your guitar (or finish on your car).
I don't know that it's honestly possible to play the blues without scratching the back of your guitar. In fact I think that may be the deal you make with the devil in order to play the blues -- your guitar gets scratched. But, you know, it's interesting.

There is much the noise in the world of musicians about various things about the business of music. Indeed, there's is much the Luddite in (ironically) much of the internet chat regarding the nascent horribleness which is ostensibly Spotify. In any case, here's a critique of the argument that vinyl will "save" the music industry.
Lastwise: aargh. My main computer is being very cranky of late. It may be that it does not like to read off of large ExFat drives. I'm hoping it's that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Uninformed Aardvark

Here's a rehearsal album. I'm always surprised at how well these things come out. Nobody, I mean nobody, had any idea what we were going to do until we were doing it.
We have two bassists and two guitar players. We suffer from having too many good ideas and too much fun. Which is a good thing to suffer from. We could sit down and take (say) one rehearsal and work and edit them all down into single coherent songs (you know, with changes and such which are, er, planned).
But so much of what we do is an experiment. I mean who would have thought two bassists would have worked? But it does. This sort of experimentation is fantastically and critically necessary.
For me, I mean I've been in bands where I pretty much wrote everything and had to have all the arrangements down. And being in a band where we can just experiment with the writing process for... hours... is a hugely euphoric and euphonic experience.
That last song there, A Mere Resplendence,  is only divided up into two parts because when we played it it was over an hour long. So I had to split it in half to get it onto bandcamp.
If you have the willpower, see for yourself how many times one of us tried to play Darkstar by the Grateful Dead. It's gotta be 4.
I'm gonna bet that we're going to think of some specific sections to go to at some point in the many hours of rehearsal we're going to do on Wednesday.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Theories

Holy cats the sound of that live version of Won't Get Fooled Again off of the movie The Kids Are All Right is even more spectacular than I remembered it watching as an impressionable teenager on late night TV. I remember my dad saying that he didn't think they were so violent. Meaning he didn't like how violent they seemed. I only thought Ha! THIS isn't the Who at their violent!
But looking back, this sound was exuberance. The Who were kings of the power trio. And adding keyboards is something to not be taken lightly. And boy they don't. The sequence (which apparently is just played live on an organ of some sort) freakin ROCKS.
It's funny though. Remember the volume wars? Those volume wars substantially post-date The Who. The Who. I mean those guys had a stage volume that would make dead men wake from their graves.
But on a recording, where you can play back at any volume you desire, they're simply not as loud as a modern bubble-gum pop song. And I'm wondering if the fault lays only partially in multi-band brick wall limiters.

I think the other problem may be how freaking loud we've been mixing drums since sometime in the 1980's.
With The Who you can tell -- yes the drums are loud and being hit hard but they're slightly swamped by the double HiWatt heads driving 4x4 12" cabinets on a guitar with P90's being smashed by a sledgehammer. You can hear the drums, sure, but they're right there next to several hundred watts of guitar amplification that do not mind in the least going into distortion.
Nowadays those drums would be at least 6dB louder in the mix. The snare would smack you in the face every time it came down. And suddenly at that volume it's competing with the vocal (because snare drums have all kinds of sounds which smear right across the vocalist's range -- we can call a snare drum a little band-limited white-noise  generator can't we?)
And once you're fighting with the vocal you're fighting with everything and the answer to making everything loud is to use more compression everywhere. And look! Now we have the ability to use digital multi-band auto-makeup limiters which eliminate pumping and make every part of signal as freaky-deaky loud as we could ever imagine it being.
If we mixed drums quieter this wouldn't be as much an issue. Not that I'm advocating that. I'm just saying. Louder drums = louder everything.
This is just a theory mind you.

Richard Waters, the fellow who invented the Waterphone, passed away on July 4.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Diatomaceous Earth's First Album

Diatomaceous Earth: In the Vast Iteration
The new album by Diatomaceous Earth, "In The Vast Iteration" is now available. We recorded this album inadvertently. Ha! I do really like it. It's quite avant weird yet melodic.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ermines of Love

Diatomaceous Earth had a rehearsal last night. Ethan Rosenblatt was there so we had two, count 'em TWO, bass players.
 
One thing this caused was us playing one jam for over an hour. Seriously folks, we have zero preconceived notions about where these things are going when we start out. You're asking yourself: "What's the difference between The Effortless Ermine and The Enumerated Ermine?"
The difference is that I put a bit heavier compression on Lily's bass in The Enumerated Ermine just to try to bring it out a bit more because I was afraid the two basses were running into one another. They may still be. I can't always tell the difference between the two basses.
I did actually pan Ethan a bit to the right and Lily to the left. Note that my guitar is on the right and Greg's is on the left. Actually, all the panning is as though you're right where I'm standing in rehearsal. It's like I'm emulating me or something. Odd.
So we had an input from Ethan's bass to a Countryman DI and right into the Tascam US 2000 preamp number 4.
Inputs 5 and 6 were kick and snare. Yeah. Using the cheapo Tascam preamps. The mics are Equation Audio.  Now the kick may or may not have been replaced. But the snare actually sounds pretty good.
Greg's guitar (from a Shure SM58) and Lily's bass are also both straight into the Tascam -- Lily actually goes through Ethan's FatMan limiter and into one of the high impedance inputs on the Tascam.
The two toms are now going into the Lindell preamps with a couple Equation tom mics. I think the toms sound pretty dynamite although honestly that's mostly because Lou can make drums sound really good.
The overheads are Ear Trumpet labs Edwina microphones going into Neve 1272's. So yeah, that's signal path is pretty much book.
There's a "center" mic which is a Rode NT1 going into a Neve 1272. This mic just gives a bit more beef to the drum kit overall. It's in front of the kit aimed center and is about as far away as the overheads.
My guitar is the last track -- Shure SM 58 hitting a Neve 1272.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mac OS for Audio

It turns out that Samplitude is going to have a Mac version. That's interesting because I've been insistent upon having a PC specifically because I use Samplitude. Now that wouldn't be as important a reason to be a PC-shop.
PC's are, however, cheaper than their Mac equivalents. So unless that new Mac Pro turns out to be reasonably priced, I'm not totally seeing going to Mac for audio.
Besides which, I'm trying to wean us off of the Mac OS altogether by moving to Premiere Pro from Final Cut Pro.

But that's not all.
Logic Pro X has been updated and is now only two hundred bucks. Which, you know, is a pretty good price for such a full-featured program. That is... interesting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Welcome to Diatomaceous Earf

Slowly I'm uploading more songs from the last Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal. See post below for the expanding song selection.
50 Mixing tips. Not that I really do many of these things. The only mixing tip I have is to solo any track you're wanting to put an effect or EQ on just to make sure you're actually working on the track you think you are.
That whole thing where we're close - miking the kick and snare has really reduced the amount of hair-pulling-out that goes on in mixing. I'm a lot more delicate with the overheads. Less compression is more betterment.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rack


That's a 51-minute version of Luscious Earth. That's right.
But you're here to talk about my rack, aren't you? So I'll tell you about it. One day I'll actually label the inputs on that patchbay. Won't that be lovely?
I can record 14 channels. I get hella "lost ASIO buffer" errors with my little laptop, but I can't hear them. On this recording I may or may not have used some sort of drumagog thing to replace the kick and the snare (I'll never tell!) but the short answer is that the two toms, the bass, and Greg's guitar are using the built-in preamps on the Tascam US-2000; the kick and snare are using the Lindell preamps there on top; the drum overheads use that pair of Neve preamps in the main rack, the sort of "distance center kick-ish" mic uses one channel of that Neve under the computer on the right, while my guitar uses the other channel of that Neve (which isn't actually mine but my friend Scott's).
Although things may change in the future, the mix I've done here is a "laptop mix". It's extremely simple without any fancy limiters or anything. Plus it's not really "mixed" in that I'm not riding levels or anything during the, er, 51 minutes of the song. I just set them and let the mix roll off. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

And that's all I got.

Apparently with Diatomaceous Earth I'm the guy who keeps saying "This is the most brilliant rock music every created" and the rest of the guys in the band look at one another and think "What did he smoke before rehearsal?"
I think I've figured out our rack situation. I wish... well honestly I wish we could just leave all the gear set up and then I just walk in and someone hands me my guitar all tuned up and we start playing.
Hmm... what was I smoking?
In any case I'm feeling fairly confident about the new direction of things. When we play out I think I will wear a kilt.
So anyway, I think we have most of this all figured out recording-wise. I feel pretty good about our ability to record everything. I suppose I might be inclined to wish we had an even better drum kit. The sound of the snare sort of made me feel bleh last time. It's a wooden snare drum. Which is... weird. I mean at least to me it is.
Could we replace the snare with something like Drumagog or such? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. Lou would prefer DW drums. I don't have any experience with them. I do know that I like Gretsch drums though. Word on the street is that DW's are easier to tune.
Remember that fantasy world we I live in? Well in that world we'd have some sort of permanent space with everything set up where we can just go in and lay down tracks after turning everything on. That being said, our recording rig is remarkably mobile for being so confoundingly, er, confounding. One 6-space rack, one 1-U rack, a computer, and a suitcase of microphones and mic cables. The monitoring system (so far) tucks into the rack when we aren't using it. Everyone (in theory) brings their own headphones.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Bastille of the Comforted Milieux


Above (if you click through) is our newest "album". Yup. Only two songs. We of The Diatomaceous Earth, found a thing we do and are happy with -- space rock which goes into funk and other sections. This is a "laptop mix" -- fairly quick and dirty. But honestly with the tom and snare (and extra kick) microphones it's much and vastly easier to mix. The bass was Lily playing Ethan's fretless Jazz bass through that lovely little Fatman tube compressor. (Set to... "Bass 2" maybe?)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cabling

It's true. I simply do have have a decent way to create an input list. What I really need is a cable list. I feel as though I need some XLRF to 1/4"TRSM 18" cables. But I'm not sure now am I?

So in order to make a mess of this blog, I'm trying to figure out what cables need to be in the rack. Good times, amiright?
These are the inputs to the Tascam US 2000. We already know how to patch into the associated preamps.

5. Low tom -- short XLR 
6. Hi tom -- short XLR 
7. Greg guitar -- patches directly into front via XLR 
8. Lily Bass -- patches directly into front via TRS 
9. Kick close -- short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Lindell)
10. Snare -- short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Lindell)
11. OH L -- short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Neve A)
12. OH R short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Neve A)
13. Distant kick short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Neve A)
14. Drew guitar short XLR F to 1/4" TRS M (from Neve A)

I think this means that eventually I'm going to need at least four more XLRF to TRSM cables. And maybe a half-dozen short XLR cables. 

Input channels

1U rack Neve outputs to 11 and 12 on XLR bay to 13 and 14 on Tascam
    Distant kick and Drew guitar
____________________________________________________________________
1. Lindell pair (inputs 7 and 8 inputs on XLR bay) and outs to inputs 9 and 10 on Tascam
    Kick and snare microphones
2. Neve (inputs 9 and 10 on XLR bay) outputs 11 12 on Tascam
    Ear Trumpet Labs overhead microphones
3. Tascam A/D converter
4. XLR patchbay
5. 1U Power

Here's an input list:
5. Low tom
6. Hi tom
7. Greg guitar
8. Lily Bass
9. Kick close
10. Snare
11. OH L
12. OH R
13. Distant kick
14. Drew guitar
We only need 10 inputs until we add cello, flute, a second bass, and vocals.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Activated

Blogger has been awfully buggy lately. There was that thing where it kept whining about not having a blog title as soon as you started a new post. Then sometimes it just decides to not actually allow you to have a bandcamp link (the first few tries you make to publish one.) Anyway, I'm (almost) done with complaining about that.


Saw Annie Activator at Otto's Shrunken Head the other night. I had a mai tai. For the first half of the drink I was all like "this drink isn't very strong at all."

Then, instantly, I was plastered. Furthermore later on in the evening Ethan then bought me some other tiki concoction which actually glowed a radioactive green. Just because he thought it was funny. I took a bus home.
Also, Ethan lent us his Fatman compressor. The manual for it is here. I had a devil of a time finding it because I kept googling "HHB Fatman manual" and that only led me to links talking about how the compressor has a manual setting on it. Ha-rumph.
So, in a way, I'm sort of pleased that the Aphex preamp is dead only because it means that there's one fewer things for me to deal with.
That being said, cabling is something I do have to deal with and I haven't done anything about it yet. The Tascam US-2000 actually has 14 analog inputs. This pleaseth a Drew. The only thing is that my laptop can't really handle the ASIO drivers at low-latency without causing errors. I'm working on that.
In any case, we'll try the Fatman on the bass. We just need to keep the very high-amplitude stuff (slapping) from breaking up the rest of the analog chain (our monitors).

A 6U rack just might not really work for the recording setup.
1. Lindell
2. Neve A
3. Neve B
4. A/D box (Tascam US-2000
5. 1U Power strip
6. Input XLR patchbay strip

See? There's no room for connectors for the monitor system or the computer in that setup. If we keep one of the Neves in a separate rack we might be able to make the whole thing work. I have to figure out the way that stuff gets in through the input XLR patchbay though.

You know you love it when I share my notes out loud to the universe.

Robot Christmas video concepts

So I came up with a little ditty called Robot Christmas . And it amuses me. The first verse is about evil robots. They are waiting for t...