Friday, March 28, 2014

Diatomation Direction

I think Lily came up with the perfect description of Diatomaceous Earth.
"Fantastic, goth-esque, masquerade-type event for which waltzes are the prominent feature and stately, sumptuous outrageous revelry happens with lots of watery darkness, weird wonderful costumes, and some sort of scented smoke…... maybe smoldering rosemary branches sprinkled with opium oil….."

Yup. That's pretty much what we've got going on here.

Here are some improvised pieces we did last week. Ethan on Stick, Lily on bass, Greg on guitar, Drew on drums.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pre and Post

You know what is a song I'd like to cover? This thing, Arctic Botany, could be played cleaner but the structure is pretty solid. I'm pretty sure this is Dave, Lily, Greg, and me. I think it would make an excellent side of an album.

So. Preamps.
The operating theory has been for a while that the quality of a recording is an accumulation of subtleties. Which is why listening to any given preamp makes you think "Huh, that sounds pretty good." Even cheap preamps in (say) Mackie mixers.
But remember that mic preamp shootout a few weeks ago? Yeah. The differences between the preamps were pretty apparent. At the same time there really wasn't a correlation between expensive and good. In fact, the cheapest preamps were among the best-sounding.
The ART PRO MPA II is... well it's just amazing. The sound is (to use a real weasel term here) rather 3-D.
I compared the direct-injected sound of Alice, the Fender Squire Jazz 5-string, between the ART and the built-in preamps in the Focusrite preamps in the Scarlett interface.
The subjective difference is that the Focusrite were more, er, focused. And the ART were more broad and deep. Actually I'd say the Focusrite's were more accurate than the ART's. But that's cool. The ART preamps have plenty of color, which you'd expect from a tube preamp.
As an old man I've started to get very grumpy about audio engineering. My grumpiness is suchly: once you've got gear that actually works, it's all pretty good. Spending untold amounts of money on esoteric gear isn't nearly as helpful as, say, practicing your instrument.
Maybe this wasn't as true back in the day of Realistic mixers and those early Tascam mixers. Because I had a lot of trouble getting those to sound good back in the day (mid 1980's).
But now I have Neve preamps and Apogee converters. They're not night-and-day better than even the Focusrite built-in preamps and converters. Not even dawn-and-dusk better. Arguably not even better in all situations. Am I contradicting myself here in the last paragraph? Yes. Yes I am. Just a little. I'm like the New York Times. Don't worry about it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Note this is actually me playing drums.

Drums are hard.

Could I become competent enough to record if I had enough practice?
It would take a certain minimum number of months though. Perhaps many of those months.
My biggest problem is not that I don't know where the beat should be. It's actually executing the drum part. Hitting things with sticks at even remotely the right time is really quite difficult.
It's like finding a bunny on the moon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This is a test.

This is only a test.
This is a test of the recording system in my apartment. It's made from parts and pieces of other bits of gear I've had lying around. Getting my Focusrite Scarlett to work on this laptop was a spectacular nuisance. I finally went to using ASIO4ALL drivers and that seems to make the hardware stay connected. Sheesh.
Alice now has Thomastik-Infeld jazz bass strings on her. I'll admit, they do sound very nice. They're thicker than the previous strings so the bass becomes a bit "grindier". I don't know if that means I should adjust the truss rod or raise the bridge or do nothing. I'll find out from Ethan.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So. Yeah. Kontakt and Crossgrades

I'm willing to admit I made an error. But this one seems like... it wasn't me.
The data which countervails the rest of my argument here. I swear that two days ago this isn't the message I got.
So. I ordered Native Instruments Komplete 9. The reason I did is because I looked on the web site and clicked on "crossgrade" and found I could order the crossgrade because I owned a previous Kontakt product -- Garritan Personal Orchestra.
Now. It turns out that GPO is not a qualifying product. It's not. Maybe I made a mistake. I could have read the website wrong. But I don't see how I could have. I think they altered the website just after I ordered. There was likely a mistake in their database and they hadn't caught it yet. Why do I think this? Here's why:
When I went onto the NI website I had completely forgotten I'd ever owned Garritan Personal Orchestra. 100% out of my mind. In fact, it isn't even installed on my main audio computer. So when it said I could get Kontakt "full" because I owned a previous Kontakt product I was surprised because I wasn't thinking about GPO.
I really wish I'd taken a screenshot of that now.
Furthermore I believe that over the last two days I'd gone onto the NI website and confirmed that was the case. I believe that even the "Service Center" application confirmed I had the appropriate product to upgrade from even though it would not actually let me register.
The other piece of information which may or may not be relevant is that I put in a ticket to NI a couple days ago and they still haven't got back to me. I, of course, then put in another ticket and that was only about a day and-a-half ago. They haven't responded to that one either.
My suspicion is that they'd coded into their web-based "service center" that GPO was a qualifying product but that had been in error and the registration part of their system knew better. So now I'm theoretically stuck with an upgrade product I can't actually upgrade to.
You may be surprised to learn that there are those on the Internet who have "cracked" NI's copy-protection. This is because you're easily surprised. Drink some chamomile tea, take some deep breaths, and go to your happy place.

Trying to register Native Instruments Komplete 9

Native Instruments is bummin' me out man. I bought a crossgrade bundle of their "Komplete 9" software. I got it from Sweetwater. I'm under the impression I'm entitled to use the crossgrade because I also own Garritan Personal Orchestra.
This is merry - go - hoppy me.

So I enter my serial number for my crossgrade. And what happens then?
Errors galore. My User Account does not have the prerequisite software to help me party down with actually having a registered version of Komplete 9. Sigh.

I am, however, allowed to download updates, even if I can't register.

A quick look at what I have registered. Yup the Garritan Personal Orchestra is on there. But I can't activate Komplete 9. Why not? Who knows?

Here I'm just making sure I have Garritan Personal Orchestra. Yup. I sure do.
So now what? It's been over a day since I submitted my first ticket to Native-Instruments.
Oh and look. Now the online tool says I'm not qualified for a cross-grade. Interesting. I believe up until yesterday It was saying the opposite.
So if I'm not mistaken, I bought the crossgrade because the website said it would work on my account. And not it doesn't.
This makes bunny cry.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I'm rethinking recording paths. I would be a lot cooler if I claimed that Echoes or maybe Ummagumma was the best Pink Floyd album. But no. It really is Dark Side of the Moon.
I have this fantasy about how I'm going to be recording a lot more this year. Like a lot more.
I want to re-arrange my microphone preamps. I think I have a way to to that. Here then is what I'm thinking for recording Diatomaceous Earth:
  1. kick
  2. snare
  3. lo tom
  4. hi tom
  5. --
  6. Ethan stick melody
  7. Front panel -- Lily Bass
  8. Front panel -- Greg guitar
  9. Lindell OH L
  10. Lindell OH R
  11. Neve Drew guitar
  12. Neve Ethan stick bass
The first 8 channels are the Tascam's own preamps. They sound surprisingly good. With Lily's bass we're finding that if she goes through an Alembic preamp it really doesn't matter what preamp she hits afterward. The drums are mostly triggered and replaced -- with the exception of the overheads.
What I'm doing here is removing a pair of Neve 1272's from the rack at the rehearsal studio for use elsewhere (like my apartment and/or studio).
We'll make the overheads Lindells. Why? I don't know. I just figure it's what we'll do.
That leaves us with one more pair of Neves. One will go on my guitar because I don't know how to record my guitar otherwise. I don't know about that last channel. Could be Neve on the Chapman Stick bass side. Or maybe not. I have no idea.


Preamps. So. Then. Therefore.
Microphones preamps are very difficult to A/B properly because it's nigh on impossible to get a performance replicated exactly. The dudes at Sound On Sound figured out a replicable source: the Disklavier. And then they did a test of preamps
Wow. The Mackie and the ART Pro MPAII do really well. And those are the cheapest preamps in the bunch.
Listen before looking at the key.
I've been less and less excited by high-end mic preamps. I own a pair of Neve 1272's and... I will use them on guitars but... I don't care that much.
I certainly don't care about A/D converters anymore (and I own a Apogee).
So. Huh.

Here's a walkthrough of the Drumdrops Premier kit interface: And so forth.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


The most hipster bands.
You remember Drumdrops? Oh man. You don't? That's because I sooo olds.
Back in the dawn of Man, there were these LP's of recordings of drums -- just the drums -- to songs that didn't exist. You could buy them and they'd have different tempos and styles of drums you could use to make your clumsy demos with. You'd be kind of stuck with the structure the drummer was playing with but as recording drums is so dang hard and this was the age just before drum machines (JBDM) it was the only way to go.

Now Drumdrops makes drum sample libraries (and loops). Which is, you know, kinda logical.
Their 1963 Premiere kit sounds pretty spectacular. And in the US it's less than $40 (because we pay no VAT and if you sign in you can get 20% off your order).
I've been saying that a late-Beatles drum sound would pretty much satisfy me for the rest of my life. One funny thing about that is that many of those sounds are compressed like crazy. We like to think of over-compression as a relatively more recent phenomena but you can hear some kick drums choke on Abbey Road. In any case, I really dig this Premiere kit. C'est tres groovy.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quiet That Guitar

The Jet City JetStream ISO is presumably only $300 (if you can find it). It's an isolation cabinet.
This video demonstrates about a 15dB SPL difference.

This video claims a 40dB SPL isolation.

I suppose my biggest concern is making a fairly "boxy" sound with it. Also the Eminence speaker is just never going to be quite as cool as my Celestion Alnico Blues.
But the price sure is right, isn't it? And if you need to rock out at home (I do) it could make a big difference.  (And again, the second video didn't post the first time. It just got deleted from the html when I pressed "publish". Sigh.)

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 -- ...