Monday, August 29, 2005

Outside Looking In - Mix 1

As promised the first mix of the new song. This is a very rough mix. I spent less than 20 minutes on it, just enough to get an idea of how I need to progress. The vocals are scratch vocals. What this means, is that they are recorded just to guide the other instruments. They are not the final take. I didn't spend much time on getting all the settings correct, I just wanted to convey the energy of the song so the drummer could react accordingly. There are a few bum notes! I am not sure about the falsetto at the end. The drummer likes it, my wife doesn't , I kinda do. At least, enough to work at it.
I also haven't applied equalization to any of the tracks. For example, a standard EQ setting would be to lower the mid range frequencies of the guitar to allow other instruments or the vocals some space, or the remove the lower frequences from the bass drum to prevent the bass guitar and bass drum from muddying each others sound.
The drums were recorded with a set of Roland V Drums. These are pretty amazing. Roland digitally modeled hundreds of drum kits, and it saves an amateur engineer like me a lot of headaches, when recording. Micing up a live drum kit is an art, I've done it but it takes a lot of skill. We recorded the V drums as MIDI data. This means instead of recording an actual audio track, we record a track of digital triggers, how hard the snare was hit etc. As long as the drum brain is attached to my system, we can send the MIDI data to it and it will play what the drummer originally played. The great advantage of this, is that right up to the final mix, we can tap into the drum kits brain, and change any of the drums sounds or settings. For example, I am not that happy with the cymbals on the current mix, they are too wimpy. I intend changing the sound to a larger or darker sounding cymbal. When I am happy with the drums, I can send each individual part of the drum kit back into my system, and record each on a seperate audio track. Then I can do the mix down, (I had to do this to make the mix below).

The guitars were recorded with the amazing Line 6 POD. This is my favourite guitar toy. Like the drums, it is a digital modeling tool. In a piece of equipment not much bigger than my hand, Line 6 have digital models of all the top guitar amps. Again it makes dialing in the guitar tone a breeze, and recording guitar very easy. My only bitch is that the model of my favorite amp, the original 60's AC/30 with Top Boost, doesn't sound that great. I have a perfectly preserved AC/30, and the digital model is completely lacking the shimmery top end that makes the amp so famous.

As I see it the next steps are:
Editing the drum sounds, and doing some suble editing where the drummer sped up a little, ( this is pretty normal when recording live without a click track). Recording the lead vocals, and adding harmonies. I might throw on some acoustic guitar, or maybe some organ sounds on the chorus. Then I will have to re-evaluate. I'll post the new mix.

You can download the mix below. I'd love feedback, especially from recording engineers and musicians - talk about asking for punishment!

FYI there are 10 seconds of silence at the start of the song.

Outside Looking In Mix 1

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

And now the end is near............

Blogging has been the red-headed step child of my recent interests. The musical biorhythms have been waxing, and I have made the final push to finish my long-gestating album. I started this about four years ago, foolishly thinking I'd record a three song EP. Two months until done and dusted, at most, I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. I am always overly optimistic about these things. Three songs became eight. Eventually, the songs were recorded, mixed, and mastered, in the interim, however, there was 9/11, two babies born, and two houses bought (I think myself and Tash may be masochists). Our new home came with a studio, and it was an utter delight to have a room for my gear and a place just for music - but it also meant construction, re-wiring, and setting up a whole new studio. No small feat. I happily discovered that vocals recorded in the new studio sounded much better than in the spare room of our old apartment, so a few songs got new vocal tracks, which means remixing and re-mastering. An expensive lesson. Mastering is not cheap.
When all was said and done, I realised that my rock and roll side was a little under represented. I had the perfect song. I took music lessons with the lovely Jessica Will for a few years, and last year, as a bet with myself, I decided to write a song for one of her student recitals, as opposed to doing a cover or singing one of my own long-written tunes. This was a fun experiment, I had limited time, and I wanted the song to rock, but also sound good with just voice and acoustic guitar. I pulled out all the musical tricks, and rewrote the lyrics until all the fat was trimmed. I hadn't intended recording it for the album, but it was perfect as an opening song. So, everything got delayed again. I also wanted to rehearse with Gareth, my drummer, before recording, as opposed to putting down a click track, layering the instruments and then having the drummer come in and work out a part and record it - a process that takes a few days, as he is essentially learning the song on the fly. Rehearsing and recording as a band first gives more of a "live" feel to the music. Anyhow, finally, the bones of the song are recorded and so far, I love it. A funny thing happened along the way - I discovered a new side of my voice. I am still in the process of discovering my singing. My voice used to be a limited instrument; I sang by default, as I usually wrote the songs in the bands I played with. I really saw myself as a guitarist. After recording the album, "One last Bonfire," with Stride, on which I sang, I decided that the vocals sounded decent, but if I wanted to do this again, I needed the help of an expert. The lessons really helped, but I was always a teensy bit disappointed that my voice was somewhat sweet, without a whole lot of gravel. I was an Irish tenor, as my teacher kept telling me. But while recording the new song, I discovered some grit. Not sure how this came to be, but no gift-horse-looker in the mouth am I!
The upshot is the end is in sight, and as the bones of the song are together, over the next few weeks, I am going to post some mixes of the song, called "Outside Looking In." They will be relatively rough mixes, but each new one should be an improvement on the previous. I would love your feedback...

In the meantime there are some other songs here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


My in-laws, (who live on the east coast), are Indian, the South Asian kind, and while visiting recently, we were hanging out at a party when I overheard:

"Yoga is really popular, even Indians are getting into it now."

Monday, August 08, 2005

San Franciso is famously cold and foggy during the summer. The central valley heats up, the hot air rises and a few hundred miles to the west in the Sunset district, (where I live), cold air sitting out on the Pacific ocean gets pulled in and settles as dense fog. As Mark Twain said, " the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco".
This year has seen much heavier fog than normal, every morning it looks like it has been raining hard all night. We just had our deck stained when the fog began rolling in. While the drops of water were pretty to look at, the deck hadn't dried fully, and all the varnish bubbled up, meaning it now has to be sanded and restained.