Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Dumping Ground for Stuff

You know what are great near-field monitors? These Focal Twin 6 monitors. Yeah, they're $1850 a piece, and you need to get a subwoofer for them to do it right. But hey, at least you don't have to buy an amplifier. Eric has a pair over at Trax East and they're very nice to mix on.
Instead of getting an M-AUDIO 2626 and a Focusrite Scarlett I think I shoulda just got the M-Audio Fast Track. Although, it wasn't available even a month ago. Derp. Of course for the difference in price I could just get another Mac Mini. Wait. Why do I need another Mini? Oh. Because I'm only barely allowed to use mine. Ahem.

The version of the Eyes of the World we're going for is the 1974 Jersey City version. They go into some interesting middle sections in that version.
The basic chords to Eyes of the World are pretty straightforward.
The Dm section at the end of the live version brings us into Gentle Giant territory though.


Paisleys (with instructions).


Greg Bartus points out there are tie-dye ones as well

My lust comes from a reddit porn site for guitar stuff.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Report from the Front

I'm on an adventure to find out how to record a rock band using the stuff I'm using.

Part of this adventure is to successfully record a rock drum kit with three microphones. The big issue I have is keeping the sound of other instruments out of those drum kit microphones. The City Samanas are a four-piece (two guitars, bass, and drums) and that offers a lot of opportunity for other sounds to get into the drum mics because we all record together in the same (small) room.
The two things we're doing in order to keep those sounds out of the drum microphones so far are:
  • Using a headphone monitoring system
  • Recording bass guitar "direct"

The headphone system we're using is the JamHub "bedroom". We have one remote for the drummer. Separate headphone mixes are available for each of us.
Recording the bass via a direct injection system rather than through an amp is interesting for Samanas.
Firstly, our favorite bass amps so far have been my JTM-45 clone (with an Alnico Blue 12" speaker) and a Fender Twin Reverb.
The reason we like them is because they've given us a sound which seems full-range in that there isn't that "separation" one frequently hears where the lower midrange, between the actual low-end tone of the bass and the "slappy" sound of the strings, is scooped out.
So we've been experimenting with the sound of bass going direct into a mic preamp. For most of our last rehearsal we were trying a Mesa Boogie Walkabout -- using the balanced "DI" output from the amp to feed a Lindell mic preamp. That hasn't quite yet given us the sound we're looking for.
Then we tried injecting the bass directly into a Neve 1272 high impedance input (the Neves I have are Brent Averill 1272's so they have 1/4" direct inputs). That sounded better but still wasn't quite what we (and by "we" I primarily mean the bassist) were looking for. But it was better.

Lily is going for a broad-range "lyrical" (my words, not hers) bass sound. In discussing with Ethan I came to realize a couple things:
Regular preamps with direct outs typically have cheaper electronics in their DI outputs. A bass head is made to drive a speaker and the line-level direct injection outputs are typically an afterthought. For this reason it is typically better to use a DI box like a Countryman or what-have-you. Side note, I don't even think I own a DI box anymore.
Now as a side note (because this blog post isn't long enough) I'll admit to being prejudiced 'gainst active electronics in all guitars -- including bass guitars. Ethan, however, pointed out that in all Tyrannosaurus Mouse recordings the basses were active. So my prejudice is not legitimate.

I am still convinced that the coloration of the tone using an amusing bass preamp will serve us well. And, as it turns out, Greg actually owns an SMS tube preamp. This is essentially a kind of mid-60's Twin Reverb preamp. Serendipity, no?

Do you have a lot of time on your hands? You can listen to our entire rehearsal (don't do this). Click through:
I'm sort of interested in simply plugging it directly into an M-Audio 2626 high-impedance input (which I totally forgot that I had -- there's two of them actually). It'll be easy and straightforward.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Jazz Phones

Ethan on the Jazz Bass:
Squier (Fender's Indonesia-made cheap brand) makes the Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified Jazz Basses.  It's pretty much a '60's reissue with cheaper...  um...  everything.  Wood, electronics, hardware, the works.  Funny thing is, they play really well and sound pretty good.  With upgraded pickups, they sound great.  They're pretty inexpensive.  A lot of pros are using them as reliable back-up basses.
A step up would be the "Highway One" series from Fender or the "Roadworn" series.  Both Mexican-made, and both really good basses right out of the gate.  No mods necessary.  Both can be found used for good prices.
In the fantasy world I live in there are some good, isolating, flat, wide frequency-response headphones with a boom microphone on them. And they're cheap. It's my fantasy world and I can have anything I want there darn it!
There's the AKG 271's. There are the AT BPHS1's. The AKG's are interesting because the mics turn off when the mics are flipped "up".
The Mouse wears headphones.

Otherwise you're gonna need to insert a mic mute footswitch.

I don't know. All the options are expensive once you've priced them together with options, etc.
Eric has some very boss Fostex headphones at Trax East. I like heavy-duty headphones because people are always dropping and kicking my headphones.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anarchic Botany

Here then is the latest ambient jam recording. Things. Which include a certain guitar player's performance (mine), and the the sound recording methodology. But not necessarily in the same blog post. First let me talk about the recording process we used.
Dave Wolfe at the drums with 2/3rds of the microphones.
It was something like this. The bass was going direct via a Mesa Boogie Walkabout (feeding a Lindell preamp) and the two guitars were somewhat hidden from the drum kit using SM58's (feeding two Neve 1272 preamps). Two Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphones in an X/Y configuration over the drum kit (feeding Neve 1272 preamps) with a Rode NT1 just outside the kick drum (feeding a Lindell preamp).
A closer view of the drum "overheads".
So yeah. Thing one is that the "overheads" for the drums are down pretty low. This is perhaps a mistake, they should be about a foot higher than they are. The cymbals will be relatively less loud if the mics are moved further away.
But having the bass go direct really worked nicely: for drums. Lily and I struggled a bit with getting the bass to sound "right". Listening back to the recordings I'm not really hearing the stuff we were struggling with. What we're trying to get is a good midrange sound on the bass without it being to stringy/buzzy/slappy. But we were fighting with the low end on the bass and I think this indicates we should be using vastly better headphones when we're recording so we can hear those things. Ha! Yes. Capital idea, that.
The JamHub works remarkably well. I mean, it's by far the least-expensive of those kinds of things—headphone monitoring systems where each musician can control their own mix—and except for the somewhat irky fact that the 1/4" signals are all stereo (and that only the XLR inputs may have effects applied to them) it behaves as one thinks it should. Indeed, the XLR inputs even seem to be able to handle line levels, which is nice because we use one of the drum channels to come in line level so we can put some gated reverb on it (for monitoring).
The jam evolved into the Dead tune "Eyes of the World". Or, rather, it evolved into the rhythm section playing Eyes and Drew insisting on playing a melody to it which is quite simply wrong. So I have been told. In order to get that out of my system we might have to pretend that there's a new song here and have Pleasure for the Empire be responsible for it.
The thing we get into at about 9 minutes is interesting. It could possibly be an interstitial between City Samana songs or something for the Imaginary Opera. The Em to G#m is kind of cool. We could have the Chorus in the opera (a soprano) sing over it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Obnoxous Guitar

Who is the obnoxious guitar player on this track?

Why it's me.
There's a lot of things I dig about this jam. Firstwise one should note that there is not a single part of this which was pre-planned. And that includes the key we're playing in. For some reason I went to full acid-rock mode on the Marshall.
Greg has a MoogerFooger which, let's face it, sounds awesome. Apparently I decided to turn the regeneration on my MXR analog delay all the way to the right which has predictably chaotic results. But once done with that I still had the preamp turned almost all the way up on the Marshall.
The Edwina microphones are about 18" closer to the drums than on the other tracks on this "album". I don't know if that's really the way to go. Do the toms sound more... something? I have no idea. There's certainly more specific spread on the drum sound -- ride is in one speaker and the hats are in another.
Also when I mixed this song I was focused on another part of it. So the apallingly loudiciousness that my guitar is relative to the rest of the mix can't be blamed entirely on me. As far as you know.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Those things in a list that belong here.

The best snare drums. Who doesn't need a metal Ludwig?

Ursa Major Sound is a mastering facility. They're inexpensive.
I am completely baffled at what Cash Music does.
I'm trying to list all the Jethro Tull concerts I've been to.

  • 1980 with my brother David. Whitesnake opened. In support of the "A" album. Madison Square Garden. My first rock concert actually.

  • 1982 with my brother David. Nassau Coleseum.

  • Crest of the Knave tour. This was one of the best concerts I'd ever been to. I'm guessing it was this show:
22/11/87Meadowlands ArenaEast Rutherford, NJ. USA
Songs From The Wood, Thick As A Brick/Steel Monkey, Farm On The Freeway/Heavy Horses, Living In The Past/Serenade To A Cuckoo, Budapest, Hunting Girl, The Waking Edge (intro)/'Classical' Instrumental/Keyboard Solo/Drum Solo, Wond'ring Aloud, Skating Away..., Jump Start, Too Old To Rock'N'Roll..., Aqualung, Locomotive Breath/Thick As A Brick (reprise), Wind Up
I do specifically remember them opening with Songs from the Wood.

  • Garden State Arts Center. Procol Harem opened. They did not play Aqualung.

  • Beacon Theatre with brother-in-law David Lewis.  
I finally got around to watching Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking TED talk. I don't think she really understands the backlash of the broo-ha-ha over the "free musicians" thing. Or, she was using a strawman to defend her position.
Me? I have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. I'm like a cultural EKG machine.

Penguins and You

Here are some things City Samanas did last night. This is just a rehearsal. I believe that there isn't a single piece we did here where we had any idea of what we were going to do before we did it. At least that might be true for me. In any case, the thing we're looking at here is the recording(s), not the performances. Click through to dig the grooviness:The songs have progressively more "stuff" on them. The Foot Hen song is all but dry. Those are just the raw tracks with panning and a limiter strapped over the stereo buss.
Then I added a drum submix buss with some additional compression on the next song.
Last mixes have a bit of reverb on the drums. With bigger compression. So this is a decent overview of what the raw tracks sound like, and then the various things I did in the way of mixing them.
There are a number of new or different ways we did of things:

  • The drum overheads are, in fact, overhead, and are the Ear Trumpet Labs "Edwina" mics in an X/Y pair.
  • I only recorded two tracks for drums. No kick drum microphone.

I didn't have my camera with me so you'll have to be satisfied with this X/Y pair.

  • The bass was put through the PA cabinet because the Twin Reverb was being buzzy. That is not our preferred solution however it did sound surprisingly good.
  • We used the new Jam Hub (bedroom) headphone amp. I fed one of the drum mics into it via an XLR adapter so that we could put a bit of gated reverb on the drums. That seemed to make people happy.
My feelings right now are that I (for the first time) wish I had used the kick drum mic. I feel derpy. Dave does not have a heavy foot to start with. But although I feel the rest of the kit has a good (albeit "old-fashioned" sound) the kick is a bit buried. So: next time we'll use a Rode NT1A on the kick and send it through the Lindell preamp.
I think I want to get the bass guitar mic a bit further from the bass speaker. We're not getting quite the midrange out of it that I think we're going after. I'm even punching a bunch of mids on the EQ on the Lindell.
Do I want even yet more separation of the drums from other instruments? Yep. I sure do.
Am I digging the sound of the Edwinas as overheads? I sure am.
The big takeaways: we still need more isolation for the drums. Also, we seem cool with the normal X/Y configuration (about a meter above the snare).  Everyone digs the headphone mix. We will add back a kick microphone.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Blue Concept

[Nothing for the 1st of March on Taxi for me.] Click through for a proof of concept for recording drums with only two mics. Here I was going for a dry mid-70's sound. I feel somewhat successful. My guitar playing is simply atrocious. And honestly the drums are e'en now too compressed. There's no reverb on them but there's a multiband compressor on the drum track itself and on the whole mix.
There's still way too much of the other instruments in the drum tracks. I have two submixes: one for drums and one for the bass and guitars. Honestly if you were to solo the drum mix it wouldn't sound that substantially different from what we have here.
The drum sound is in the ballpark. Right now the bass is enormous, vastly more than you could expect from an analog master.
With the headphone amplifier we may be able to turn down the instrument amps. Honestly we don't play very loud. I could measure it but we're staying under 85dB SPL A in the rehearsal room. But ha! It may encourage Dave to play louder if we don't put any drums into his headphone mix. Hee!
In order to get to this mix I'd put way too much stuff on the submixes and the mix buss. And then I started taking stuff away until it sounded better. You'll notice that there's no lack of compression. It's plenty compressed.
Now I'll admit that with the whole 2-mics on the drumkit ideology that it's impossible to do things like, say, put special reverb on the snare drum. See? This is me. Admitting that.
But I'm kind of digging where this whole experiment is going. Plus, one day I'll actually be able to play this song.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Implicating the Stranger

So then therefore: Further experimentation.

My monitoring environment is problematic right now. Standing desk = speakers are too low. Also I can't figure out where to put my subwoofer. And there's something wrong with the crossover point. Either that, or the subwoofer is too loud where it is.
I'm not even trying to make sense of the dialog. This is all the dream ballet.
But soon the rewrite will make the whole thing work.

Dedicate Your Porpentine

Next week we will try having separate headphone mixes when we rehearse/record. Hmm... it occurs to me that this will mean we'll actually be able to hear what we're recording too. The trick with the JamHub is that it has TRS stereo inputs. So you can poke a regular 1/4" cable halfway into one of the inputs and the signal will show up on the left and right outputs. But you know, that's less than reliable.
The new Darth Vader hospital.
Take a listen to the Porpentine. This is City Samanas. I'm not sure what the piece of music we'd started jamming on was. I was just endeavoring to keep up.

I think we've figured out a pretty good 1968 band sound here. Of course, I'm still convinced we can move ourselves into the 1970's still only using two microphones for the drums. But I think we'll have to use some magical multi-band compression in order to let the cymbals ring and make the toms boom more.

Moving the Blags

I'm re-consolodating my blogs.  I know, you wanted them separate. But my little mind just doesn't work that way. All my blogging -- ...