Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Recording the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Here's the first thing: in order for the Sound Devices 702 to record simultaniously to the internal CF card and to an external hard drive, the 702 must be externally powered.
Additionally, doing so will generate a LOT of heat.
The location of the mics -- dead center front row of the balcony.
I was surprised that the balcony had audience in it. I hadn't really prepared for that. But I told them we were recording.
RCCNY rehearsing.
It's a very nice church and very comfortable but the pews are creaky. So recording here is nice but it's also kind of like recording on a sailing ship.


Nikolai Kachanov, the director of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, wrote these amazing pieces. We recorded them nigh on 6 years ago.

All the vocal performances were done (as far as I remember) at the Interfaith Center up near Columbia University. It was a while ago, so I don't exactly remember. I'm going to guess that we were using Neve 1272 preamps with AKG 460 mics with CK1 capsules. But we may have been using Rode NT1 large diaphragm microphones. Or a mix of those. I vaguely recall recording straight into Samplitude through an Apogee converter.

The music is brilliant. Check it out. Buy the CD.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Russian Recording

So, recording Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. Here are my notes.
I discovered the one instance where I might want reading glasses and distance glasses in one pair of progressive bifocals. That's recording where I have a machine close by and then have to look in the distance at the subjects.
SD 702. Remember that you need external power if you're going to be using an external portable FireWire drive.
But you know what? Not really. Because the recorder (and faders, on a mixer) are really at the 22" computer distance rather than book-reading distance. So if I do end up with progressive bifocals one day they likely won't be reading/distance but rather computer/distance.
I used the Oktava 012 mics. Russian made and from The Sound Room. They sound great.
The Oktava mics are a bit further apart on this X/Y bar than I've been having them. Is that good? Bad? I don't know.
We did some back-and-forth about how far away the mics should be. Personally I'd put them either right behind the conductor or way up in the balcony. I feel like on the floor I get too much of the crinkling sounds the audience makes, but if I'm fairly close I get nice articulation off the voices and instruments. The further back I go, the better the "blend" in the room. Up in the balcony there's much less articulation but the audience is quieter.
These look higher up than they really are. They're only up as high as my AKG tripod mic stand will put them. 
So it's all a compromise.
What I did was set up in the back of the room, but then just before the performance I pushed the mic stand about 12 feet closer to the chorus. This was at Holy Trinity on 82nd Street. The shape of the space is interesting with a huge domed ceiling.
See? I'm cheating. I'm using the marks that are already on the floor for my mic positions. This will make it easier to replicate (or avoid) in the future.
Listening to the recordings last night I was pretty happy with them. But I am far from a neutral listener and after an evening of recording I have no critical distance anymore. I did, however, have some smoked mozzarella cheese and strawberries dipped in chocolate. But that has nothing to do with these recordings.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just publishing pictures.

I may have already published most, if not all, of these.

The Porcupine's Dream

Wednesday with the City Samanas, we had Ethan Rosenblatt over. Yes, Ethan and Lily did play at the same time although I could not actually record both of them at the same time. I do not know which song(s) Ethan plays on in the following album.
There is much in the way of material which could be edited and then put together on an album. I would go so far as to say that the only things we wouldn't do anything with are the "Eyes of the World" and the "Imaginary Opera". Everything else has at least some portion which I'd be more than happy to put on an album.

I have questions. Like, for instance, should I add a pair of dynamic microphones for the toms? I could throw a pair of '57's on there and use the Apogee converters' preamps. Or something. I just don't know. Do I know? No. No I do not know. Tell me.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Apparently for some people 4:2:0 is not a video sampling scheme or a code for smoking that Devil's Weed, but is a day for buying music at record stores.
My cousin Kim gives you tips on visiting your record store tomorrow in her Huffington Post article.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You don't see this every day

We played with TWO bass players last night. We couldn't really record both of them at the same time though.
Ethan Rosenblatt and Lily Kenner on basses.

Wild and crazy times. See?
Andrew Bellware, Greg Bartus, Ethan Rosenblatt.
 Rehearsals are a wild time don'tcha know?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

$32 over budget

So we had a shoot day and we needed 5 wireless mics and for some dumb reason I didn't bring one extra female XLR to male TRS for the fifth mic. Sheesh. It has to go in TRS. So I ran to Sam Ash in Edison, NJ of all places and asked for a cable. It actually took us a while and we found a 10-foot one. I really just wanted 18". So the dude looked some more and found, for five more dollars, a 3' (one meter) Monster Cable. He's all like "This is a much better cable."
I said "Meh. At least it has Neutrik connectors."
Him: "No really, it's special cable, the highs go down one pair of wires and the lows down another so they all end up getting there at the same time."
I actually said (and looking the whole time exactly like my Dad) "I don't believe any of that."
Monster cable nonsense. And I had a pair of perfectly serviceable Canare Star Quad cables sitting on the doorknob of the booth.
Tomorrow night we record some Samanas. I intend to record some stuff to use in The Imaginary Opera.
This setup is elegant and it sounds great.

Every Pop Song

I'm totally going to do the gloves-come-off dance. Plus, also, too. Best Buy is closing out their instrument department. Cheap new guitars even though they're not set up in any way.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tascam DR-680 for music

There are a number of good reviews out there on the Tascam DR-680. I kind of like Bob Haas's review because he's gone and charted the EQ curves and the pan and mix levels.
One complaint he has with the Tascam that I did not have a problem with is the way the meters bounce. The meters -- I don't understand them -- but I get them. They seem to be very RMS-ish. And to my eye they work great for music and for voice.
There are two four things which the Tascam does, or doesn't do, which seem odd and for which there is no solution to be found either in the manual or the Internet.

  • Folder names are whatever Tascam has decided to name them. These are things like "PROJECT_0000". Yes, you can make new folders like "PROJECT_0001" but you can't rename those folders to anything practical. There's some evidence that maybe you can rename the folders on an SD card in a computer and then have the Tascam "rebuild" those directories but you know what? Life's too short.
  • You cannot reset take names without resetting the whole device. So your take names will always ascend as long as you want to keep the rest of your settings. So there. 
  • You can't set it to send a little "boop" into the headphones when you hit record (and have it go "boop boop" when you pull out of record.
  • You can't set it to monitor even with pause off. This is, as I recall, how all Tascam and Fostex recorders work. 

Otherwise, for six hundred bucks you're getting way more than you paid for in a portable recorder. And, so far, my favorite live band recordings have been done on the Tascam.
I have not used the preamps in the Tascam yet. I mean other than with tests here in my studio where I'm saying "Test 1 2 test 1 2" into a wireless mic. For the City Samanas recording I was using all Neve and Lindell microphone preamps and fed the Tascam line level. 
In a couple days I'll probably put something on blog.pandoramachine.com about how well the Tascam works for recording dialog in a dramatic feature setting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tenth of April, 2013

Samanas recording April 10.
First big thing we did was record using the Tascam DR-680. As I pointed out the Tascam behaved exactly the way I'd expected. The direct outputs worked. The line level inputs had good and appropriate headroom. And the unit just recorded the way one would want it to.
We used our standard input list of three mics on drums. We had the pair of Edwina mics by Ear Trumpet Labs on overheads.
David Wolfe at the drums with a pair of Edwinas overhead. It's probably difficult to understand the mics overhead unless you already know what they look like.
The overheads are in an X/Y-ish pattern which is mostly because the microphone bar would slip and make the mics touch. So, okay, fine, more phase coherence. Those mics fed a pair of Neve 1272 preamps.
The Rode NT1 was on the kick backed off about a foot and went through one of the Lindell preamps with a bit of EQ. I don't remember what I did -- I just boosted, flipped through some frequencies, found a frequency I liked, and then reduced the boost until it sound better than no boost but not so much that it was stinkin' up the joint.
The rack of Avalons is not ours. Don't get any ideas.
The real trick is what we did with bass guitar. Lily played directly into the high impedance input of a Neve 1272. As I expected, I needed to roll off a bit of low end (I did a very low frequency high pass filter plus a bit of a scoop at about 500 Hz. There's also a tiny bit of compression followed by a larger bit of compression on many of the tracks.
Note that, for instance, "Eyes of the Vole" is by no means a finished performance. The point of these things is a proof of concept of recording. That being said, some of the finished jams are very album-able. Like for instance "In Apprehension How Like A God. This was just a jam Lily and I did before Dave got there. There may be a bit of Greg in that track. And eventually there may be some voices or some Hammond organ on that track. Otherwise I think it to be very groovy and usable as a final and actual song on a record. That's me. Thinking.
Now, the guitars. My guitar went through an SM58 and into a Neve. But Greg's guitar went through an SM58 and a Lindell. Again, at some point in the evening I fiddled with the EQ on the Lindell to make whatever I thought was "better" to be, you know, better.
The short answer here is that I feel confident we can record and get a groovy sound which I'd be proud to put on an album. Moving the kick drum mic back a bit gives us a nice "poof" on the kick. Plugging the bass into the world's most expensive direct box sounds great. As far as I'm concerned, recording guitars is easy and a no-brainer. If the guitar sounds good and you get a microphone near the speaker, you're in good shape. Your mileage on that advice, as always, may vary.

So click on through to the recording.

There are two recordings here which I think will eventually be for public consumption once edited and possibly massaged a bit in the mix and then mastered. "In Apprehension How Like A God" and "Thus Slept the Drunken Gods" (I'm on a "god" kick apparently, I blame Game of Thrones) are both improvised songs which I think are going to end up on some album somewhere. The rest of the tunes are strictly for band use -- listening to rehearsals that is.
Greg Bartus with the Rock and Roll.

Oh. And I did a real test of cymbals and bells with Dave playing and I recorded at 48kHz and at 96kHz. I seriously cannot tell the difference on playback. So I do not care about 96kHz any more.

DR-680 under stress conditions

So the Tascam DR-680 performed swimmingly with City Samanas.
Swimmingly, I say.
The Tascam DR-680 sits atop a pair of Neve 1272 preamps.
We fed it line level from the Neve and Lindell preamps. The direct outputs of each channel fed the JamHub. You know, I'd never even tested the Tascam's direct outs. I just presumed they'd work. And luckily they did.
We did an experiment recording some cymbals at 96kHz and at 48kHz. Results of that test should be available tomorrow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tascam DR-680

When I blog about audio gear for movies do I put that in the blog.pandoramachine.com blog or the blog.tyrannosaurusmouse.com blog? What if it's used for both film and music? Do I split the difference and put it in the blog.pleasurefortheempire.com blog? Who knows?
In any case, here's the Tascam DR-680. I started a page on the Pandora Machine Wiki for it.
Here's a review on the Tascam DR-680 from the B&H website.
The Tascam DR-680 parties with the best of 'em.
Now the other thing we want to do is to use the Tascam to record music. And that, obviously, has been a big adventure. But there's six analog inputs on the Tascam and we should be able to plug into it. Right?
Last recording we did we'd plugged the bass directly into the M-Audio 2626's instrument-level input. I realize that's a bit of a cheat, using the M-Audio rather than more fancy-pants preamps. But it worked okay actually.
So now we have to figure: will that work? What do we use as a direct box? Or do we make (Greg's) guitar go through the Lindell preamps and use the DI input on a Neve for bass? Or do we put the overheads through the Lindell preamps and... who knows?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"The Writing on the Wall Might Be More Important Than The Actual Facts In Front of Us"

Oh, right, because a metaphor is more important than actual facts.
See this interview with Jeremy deVine.

One of the hot things to complain about right now is "how badly Spotify treats artists." Artists love to complain how the Man is putting them down.
Now in this particular case the subject is how indy record labels don't earn as much as... well, actually, it's not even that.
Honestly this sort of thing absolutely drives me insane. The complete lack of science involved in the "experiment" and the lack of real equivalence drives. me. nuts.
"Recently, distressed by his labels’ returns from Spotify (about $30,000 for around 18 million plays) deVine sent a well-considered letter to the bands on his roster, asking for their permission to remove the label’s entire catalog from Spotify. His goal: to compare a year’s returns with Spotify, to one without. "
In short, Jeremy deVine feels that his label is not losing money with Spotify right now. And he would like to conduct an experiment where he pulls all his artists off of Spotify for a year to see if there's any change in revenue from Rhapsody and eMusic. That's it. Nothing more.

That's about 1.7 cents per 10 plays. Now, the question is how much were the other revenue streams (Rhapsody, eMusic (?) paying? Nobody knows. But wait, in this interview he says it's 1/3 of a cent per play, which does not line up with his other numbers.

He says that the $35,000 from Spotify is less than 10% of what they make off of iTunes. So really the Spotify issue is that $35K this way or that in the Temporary Residence Records world is completely statistically irrelevant and possibly un-measurable.

Also 20% of record sales are in the first week of release.  By about 6 months you're at 40% of total sales. Those are very interesting facts.

We're looking at the macro hitting the ground running with an X-Factor looking at the bottom line!

How much do/does/did radio pay "per stream" of a song? You'd have to look at what they pay BMI/ASCAP etc. per year and divide that by their listenership and how many songs they play. It's way not an apples-to-oranges comparison.

In short, this whole thing about how Spotify is bad for artists has no basis in either finances or reality (the two seldom meet). 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Diatomaceous Earth

I feel like we hit some kind of high point here.
Tell me how this isn't the perfect band photograph.
The interesting thing between me and Greg is that he and I come from very different approaches toward the guitar and music. What I've been saying is that Greg tends to play "harmonically" whereas I tend to play "melodically". That's not really true of course, but it's an interesting way to think about it.
This is the first band I've been in where I wasn't the only guitar player. So we've had to learn how to play inside one another's styles.
And here, with the jams Diatomaceous Earth Part I and the last part of Illustrious Motorcar, I think we've really achieved something. My feeling is that we've found a place where the unique flavor of each member of the band does the "thing they do" and it meshes the most organically.
So, you realize, that these recordings are really just for us in the band to listen to. They don't make any sense for public consumption. But Diatomaceous Earth is relatively close to something we could actually release on a record. Heck, if that's not City Samanas then it'll be Pleasure for the Empire 'cause, you know, it sort of sounds like a song a band called "Pleasure for the Empire" would play, right?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rethinking a Recording Path

So my recording path. I'm rethinking it.
Months ago, when I was starting to figure this out I was convinced that the quality of the A/D converters out in the wild were widely variable. I have since come to the conclusion that this is incorrect. The difference between the most expensive Millennia converters and whatever converters are on the back of a random piece of Tascam gear is relatively small.
Added a power supply output. Shouldn't Brent Averill have used females for the hot side of the supply? Well, he didn't.
What my mis-thinking led to was the consideration that I needed a new outboard A/D converter. I don't. I just don't. But I did. So I had this absurd signal path where the audio came out of preamps and into the M-Audio 2626 mic inputs (because there's actually more headroom on those inputs than in the line inputs -- go figure) and then to a Focusrite Scarlett A/D converter (which has substantially less headroom than it even vaguely occurred to me was possible) via TOSLink so that my laptop could be fed the signal through USB.
This, as you can imagine, is a pain in the tuchus.
But wholly unrelatedly I also needed to get a multitrack portable recorder. The Tascam DR-680 pretty much fits our needs for multichannel production audio for movies (I, er, blogged about this on one of the other blogs). The DR-680 has six analog inputs.
Which, by coincidence, is exactly as many as I need for recording City Samanas.
  1. Bass
  2. Kick
  3. Drums L
  4. Drums R
  5. Guitar Greg
  6. Guitar Drew
See? Perfect.
But now my whole path of trying to plug things into the back of the SKB rack case is just not going to work. So all those XLR's? They do... not a whole heck of a lot. Or, rather, they won't very soon. Basically the SKB will have four preamps — two Neve and two Lindell — and power conditioning and XLR males and females on the front panel.
As far as I can guess the only thing which has to/wants to be on the back panel is the 5-pin XLR for the power for the second set of Neve preamps. And after months of trying to get it I finally did. There's a big arrow pointing to it in the picture above so you can't miss it.
All the other stuff, the FireWire, the TOSLink, and the XLR's are about to become meaningless because of the Tascam DR-680. The Tascam will eliminate my need to carry two freakin' A/D converter boxes. And because it's just going to sit atop the rack in rehearsals, I'll just pull the feeds in and out of it via XLR's in a cheap single-rack XLR patchbay. See how easy things are?