Thursday, October 9, 2014

FW Recording Project

I totally forgot to mention that two weekends ago one of my bands recorded an album at my house with me at the controls. It was a jerry-rigged kind of affair and I'm sure I did it all wrong...but here's what we did (making use of what was on hand and the little knowledge that I have):

Drums: I mic'ed the drum kit with 4 mics. Snare top, shared crash/hi hat, and shared ride/rack tom were all Shure SM48s. I had special drum mics available to me with tom mounts, but after testing that on some BreedArs recordings I decided that, since I didn't have enough inputs available to mic everything and I didn't want to use true condenser overheads (due to bleed) that the drum specific mics were just too focused. I needed to be able to share mics in a psuedo-overhead kind of way. The kick drum was mic'ed with a kick specific Sensenheiser dynamic mic. I ran all four mics into a little digital mixer that I have and then ran the stereo mix out of the mixer and into a second analog mixer that I have. Essentially this created a drum "bus" or "subgroup"

Bass: Ran through a DI box and into the analog mixer.

Guitar: Used a Sensenheiser guitar amp specific mic. Stashed the guitar amp in a nearby room with the door closed and volume relatively low (like 3 out of 10). Ran the mic directly into the analog mixer.

Vox: We had two vocals, one at the drum kit and one at the guitar station. Ran each as their own line into the analog mixer. There were no effects on the vocals. In an early planning stage I had planned to run the drums through the analog mixer and then everything else through the digital mixer (instead of vice-versa) and that would have allowed me to add effects to the vocals, but I ended up reversing it in an attempt to use the Aux sends (more on this below) on the analog mixer and then never switched it back. The natural sound of the room actually seemed fine and their voices sounded pretty good really. Not dry at all.

So all told, we had 8 inputs...which is all I had available to me. I had been worried about bleed between mics (especially into the vocal mic at the drum kit) but it didn't end up being a problem (maybe because I never needed to listen to each line as a separate track).

Note that I could have just mic'ed the room and called it a day, but I wanted the vocals to be clear and mic'ing things directly seemed like it would give me more control. And I think it did.

The output from the analog mixer went into my usb computer interface and then into Audacity. Originally I had hoped to run the vocals through aux sends to give each vocalist their own monitor mix and for me to monitor the mix from the recording they'd get what they needed and I'd get the final mix levels. But I couldn't get the aux sends to work with headphones. So I ran a headphone line out of the interface and split it 3 ways using a very ghetto assembly of extension lines and Y splitters. So we all had the final mix in our cans. This ended up working really well because then they could give me feedback on the final mix which probably saved disappointment after the fact.

It was hard to get the mix levels right. Even at low levels, the Audacity mix tended to clip easily...and even slight changes either made, say, the guitar too quiet or clipping. So we goofed with it and ended up getting an okay balance.  The bass guitar seems really quiet in the mix, but when you listened to the playback, it was in there plenty. So I'm not sure why that's the case. I've noticed that with the BreedArs project too, the bass line comes in quiet and distorted, but then sound fine on playback. Probably just a cheap interface that doesn't like low frequencies.

And then we played the songs live. No editing. We did a dry run on Tuesday night (about 2 hours) to get the levels and to get used to playing with the headphones. I spent an hour before rehearsal on Tuesday setting up from zero (I hadn't realized we were going to rehearse until last minute). Saturday and Sunday (about 4 hours Sat, about 2 hours Sun) we did the real recordings. We did 2-3 takes per song and that was plenty.

Now we are selecting the best takes. I plan to goof a bit with compression and noise reduction on the final selections and see if it makes them sound better, but I may also just leave them alone. I think the source file is good, the level is strong but without clipping for the most part. I think we did pretty well considering.

I'm gonna export everything as WAV and mp3 and upload the WAV to a bandcamp site and the mp3 to a reverbnation site. Then I'm gonna burn the WAV files to cd. We are gonna DIY a jewel case cover and use printable cds. We're only gonna make about 20 copies for close friends and family. Everyone else will either get a "bootleg" cd or download it off web.

Still have final edits to do, but so far I've been pleased with the results and I learned a bunch.

So True It Hurts

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bass Tab Font

I made a bass tab font. No biggie.