Friday, August 28, 2015

A little housekeeping

Here are three pieces of music I might want to put in the new Pleasure for the Empire album.

35 Million Miles from Earth

Dance of the Turquoise Mouse

Gwendolyn Wormsign

Rocket Cannon with Florent. Mike Kessell turned me onto these guys. Apparently Steve Albini recorded them.
Oh, and yes, it's a made-up language.
Steve Howe does excerpts from Tales From Topographic Oceans.
There is a distant fantasy that the City Samanas do some sort of version of this. Tales is one of the most difficult Yes albums. I really don't know how it will work. But it's a very distant fantasy so I'm not worried about it yet.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mastering, Meh

I don't know that I care very much about mastering.
There's the part of mastering which is making sure all the tracks on an opus sorta sound same-ish, like they go together. That part of mastering I'm down with. That's cool.
As far as making records that "compete" in the marketplace I... I just don't care. I have nothing to do with any commercially viable music. I've never seen it. In my spare time I record Russian choral music, or I play jazz/rock in a bar in Brooklyn, or Gentle Giant - inspired prog rock in my living room with my friends. The "marketplace" has zero to do with what I do musically.
I've been wanting to put this picture on a blog post for a long, long time. It's not particularly related to this post, but it's a great picture.

So that's a thing. But furthermore:

In a way I am sort of a conscientious objector in the whole Loudness War. Records (and CDs) were getting louder and louder up through the late 90's and now have presumably sorta leveled off.
But personally I don't think that meter-slamming level issue is with the "loudness" at all.
Now, firstwise, "loudness" is a whackadoo thing to measure. The Beatles made some loud records*. No matter what mastered version you listen to, they're pretty freaking loud.
I think that what's been happening is we've been mixing drums louder and louder for the last 50 years until we have mixes which are just a mess.

Now, it's true, I'm not a fan of using multiband limiters or brick wall limiters generally. Because I do feel oppressed by compression when you can turn the compression up so hard -- way beyond what you're able to do with an old-fashioned compressor that would start "pumping" audibly.

But big, fat compressors like the LA-2A sound great to me (oddly, I've never really felt at home with the 1176 -- lotsa people love them but they've just never worked for me on drums or vocals or anything.)

In any case, the only other major tool available to the mastering engineer is EQ. Presumably one wants one's mastering engineer to do those final EQ tweaks in order to
  1. make the record actually fit on a vinyl album (there are a world of considerations native to a mechanical format -- like keeping the needle from jumping out of the groove during "interesting" stereo phase parts in the bass and the like)
  2. to make the record sound subjectively better
  3. to make the record sound competitive in the marketplace
But the thing is

  1. c'mon, a vinyl album is a novelty item
  2. if you really want to make the record sound better then you should do something in the mix. If there's too much 500 Hz in the drums then you should go back and take it out of the drums, not the whole mix. Mastering engineers are forever complaining about a certain frequency which is too much in one instrument and too little in another. There are workarounds to solve it but the actual objectively better solution is to reach back into the mix and solve the problem there with the multichannel recordings, not the mixdown.
  3. we've already established with my career that commercial considerations are irrelevant.

It's not that there isn't a lot of value in having a disinterested third party listen to your mixes on a very high-end monitoring system in an acoustically well-designed room, because there is. There is. There is there is there is.
Ian Shepherd has an excellent website on mastering and music production.

But you can also listen to your mixes a lot, and then (if you're mixing "in-the-box" as we do) make incremental changes in order to enhappify yourself with those mixes. And then, at some point, you have to stop.

In our world, mastering costs more than the rest of the record cost altogether. Or, in the case of more recent albums of mine, mastering costs and recording and mixing are nothing but time.

So my conclusion is that time/money is nominally better spent listening to mixes over a long period of time (on, you know, semi-decent sound systems) and making incremental changes in the mixes of those musical selections.

At least that's where I'm at now.


The Home Mastering EQ Workshop.

Top 10 DIY mastering mistakes.

This is kinda strange. There's an automated mastering service called LANDR. Basically it slaps some multiband limiting and some sort of (maybe) program-dependent EQ on your tracks. Ten bucks a track.
This page has examples of their mastering.

LUFS and digital metering explained.

*You're gonna want to listen to post-year-2000 CD's of their stuff though, once George Martin was involved in the mastering the CD's are pretty good (meaning: they are in the canon of music, not just of the Western world, but in the canon of works created by mankind.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pedal Fork

My pedalboard needs are minor. Note that I don't actually have a pedalboard.

The Pedalboard Planner is pretty cool. It doesn't have every pedal made, for instance it doesn't have the somewhat esoteric Saturnworks Volume pedal (so I put a TC Electronic Spark to stand in for it). But it's nice to look at what a finished board will look like.
Saturnworks are just cool. And they do things you sometimes just need done.
Speaking of Electro Harmonix, the Pitch Fork seems like a very interesting and cool thing. I notice they use a very single-coil guitar sound with it. The Pitch Fork seems like a rhythm guitar pedal (I mean except for the dive-bombing thing). Creating those massive picked 18-string guitar parts seems sort of interesting to me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Minding Your Aliens

One of my goals is to finish this Pleasure for the Empire album. When I say "this" Pleasure for the Empire album I do not mean the album above. I mean an album called "Alas, the Alien Mind". But I figure that we'll want some material from previous recordings.
I think that if I edited down Observe Everything, Admire Nothing to under six minutes it would be a really cool song with a groovy Marc Schmied bass solo.
I don't think Penguin Wizard is useful for many purposes. It's a simple blues thing. No biggie.
Fur Kitchen has some merit, especially in that we don't have another song which sounds like that. It has to be edited down. A lot. Indeed, editing it into the best parts of Love Stomp Pantomime might be prudent. There isn't a lot in Love Stomp Pantomime that is particularly exciting melody-wise, but some of the bass stuff is very cool. So yeah, putting those things together sounds like a good idea to me. The 6/8 section has some moments. But the whole thing could be 10 minutes shorter.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mixolydian Headphonia

The rule is you ain't supposed to mix on headphones. But from a practical perspective (and the fact I used to do broadcast) I mix on headphones all the time. For me, the horrid sound of most rooms is such that the room-free sound of headphones is vastly better.
I have a Blue Sky 5.1 Mediadesk speaker system. And it do sound very good. But it's not in a terribly acoustically nice room. And I don't want to bother other people and even though I have made it as quiet (and fan-free) as I can it isn't always that quiet here. So I mix on a pair of Sennheiser 600 headphones a great deal.
The Sennheisers are really quite good. And they're comfy for wearing many hours at a time.

Sonarworks makes a headphone calibration tool which patches into your 2-mix buss (or, alternatively you can patch it into a surround mix buss).

Does it work? Well, honestly it doesn't make me make different decisions regarding a mix. But it does make mixing more pleasant. So it essentially is a "better" button.
Honestly, I'm tempted to leave it turned on for when I export mixes. It's probably not a good idea, but you can see the blue line above to see what it does using the Sennheiser 600 preset (it does the inversion of what the blue curve indicates). But it makes the mids a tad more linear and un-tubby's the bass while extending the bass way down.
The software license (without them personally calibrating your actual set of headphones) is $69. Which is fairly decent. It might be worthwhile because listening through their plugin does reduce fatigue. And that's important.
So. Yeah. Worth it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


These are my notes on the present mix and edit of Crimson Widow of a Ruined God.
  • I think it needs some rhythm guitar or single notes on an organ or electric piano underneath some of the guitar leads in order to thicken it up in a couple of places.
  • And there needs to be some sort of melodic thing happening in the "A" section: that could be acoustic guitar, electric guitar, voice, or something else.
  • Hmm... maybe cut out 16 bars at about minute 16 when the bass sound changes in order to get us into the next funky section earlier.
  • And then maybe a Hammond solo in that funky section.
  • The coda needs to be cut down to under a minute.
I honestly think it's one of the best things I've been involved in.
This whole album is me and Marc Schmied.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stuff what don't matter

I dig this guy and this series on digital audio. Specifically I dig how I don't have to care about recording in better than 16-bit or somewhere around 44.1 and 48kHz.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Assis dans un sous-sol brûlant

"Mastered for iTunes" is the biggest load of malarkey ever. Everyone should be using instead anyway.
Roger Waters should have done a cover of Neil Young's After the Goldrush.

Je espérais que vous aviez menti.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tyrannosaurus Souris

So I have this idea that the next Tyrannosaurus Mouse album should be entirely in French. I haven't run that by the guys in the band. Maybe I won't and I'll just do it. As long as they never, ever, ever read this blog.

I'll tell you how that goes.
We rehearse on Wednesday. Lou wants us to have some songs we come in with rather than just jamming on things. I think we'll likely do both. I want to try to do big, languid, things which go into very dry, tight, funky sections. That's my goal.
Again, I'll tell you how that goes.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

«Prends garde au Jabberwock, mon fils!
A sa gueule qui mord, à ses griffes qui happent!
Gare l'oiseau Jubjube, et laisse
En paix le frumieux Bandersnatch!»

Le jeune homme, ayant pris sa vorpaline épée,
Cherchait longtemps l'ennemi manziquais...
Puis, arrivé près de l'Arbre Tépé,
Pour réfléchir un instant s'arrêtait.

Or, comme il ruminait de suffêches pensées,
Le Jabberwock, l'oeil flamboyant,
Ruginiflant par le bois touffeté,
Arrivait en barigoulant.

Une, deux! Une, deux! D'outre en outre!
Le glaive vorpalin virevolte, flac-vlan!
Il terrasse le monstre, et, brandissant sa tête,
Il s'en retourne galomphant.

«Tu as donc tué le Jabberwock!
Dans mes bras, mon fils rayonnois!
O jour frabieux! Callouh! Callock!»
Le vieux glouffait de joie.

Il e'tait grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.

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 -- ...