Engineering & self-producing independent music
FLASH!!! Singer-Songwriter/Multi-Instrumentalist Unveils One-Man-Band
ROCK Record on the INTIMATE AUDIO label:
It finally exists. After four years of slow boiling... Unbelievable! Please
check out my brand-new full band album of original compositions,
MAGNIFIED (now available through CDBABY.com,
featuring me performing all the instruments (voices, guitar, bass, real
acoustic drums, piano, accordion, and mandolin). I also produced, arranged,
engineered, and did all the artwork/illustrationsintimate audio
AND visual, lol!
(Details can be seen in my YouTube:
Id love to hear your thoughts!
like embarking on your own ambitious HOME RECORDING project? This
page contains info about my favorite home recording books and other resources,
as well as some of the approaches I used (micing acoustic guitars
and real drums, vocal recording/editing, re-amping, editing, mixing, etc.)
making MANNERISMS MAGNIFIED.
you're curious as to what all went on behind the scenes in the making
of thisliteralsolo recording, feel free to peruse the details
below. I will update this page often (adding more "mixing" details
and possibly some video things), so check back for more info!
find the following topics covered in this page:
my favorite audio book of all-time. I didn't know anything about
PARALLEL COMPRESSION, or the HAAS (PRECEDENCE) EFFECT, or why 24
bit mattered (not for the obvious reasons, but actually
when mixing a 16-bit file in 24-bit) until I read
this book. Contains valuable perspectives/realities/consequences
on/of the Loudness War.
book with super specific signal path/setup info to accomplish almost
any goal. I learned how to sidechain the bass off of the kick in
this book, plus how to do pitch-shifted, super short (panned) delays,
and all sort of EQ info. Very helpful if AUX track and SEND/BUS
stuff is confusing to you. Comes with DVD (audio files) packed with
TONS of stuff. (Link above is for 2nd Edition, which has NO DVD!)
helpful stuff for Kick drum/bass relationship (I
think I also learned how to sidechain the bass off of the kick in
acoustics, and using delays. Has visual diagrams which are helpful
(for approximating different types of rooms with delays). Comes
interviews with numerous mix engineer legends. I didn't know about
the importance of mixing at whisper quiet levels (and checking things
on a bunch of different systemsand not always sitting in the
stereo sweet spot... leaving a vaccum cleaner running
while checking balances, etc.) until I read this. Tons of other
book is greatpacked with info that I had never read elsewhere.
chapter on "uncracking compressors," creating 20sec crossfaded clips
of other favorite mixes (to hear differences in overall mixes before
your ear has time to "settle in"), the "walking around room with
floor tom," chasing the flame perspective, among many others, helped
PERSONAL RECORDING PROCESS When
MAGNIFIED, I did things in the order below (playing
& recording myself), primarily because I had yet to fully realize
all the "parts" for each instrument (all songs were composed as
just "acoustic guitar" and "vocal")
Piano on a couple tunes
Instrumental extras (mandolin, accordion) on a couple tunes
Real Vox (scratch vox were done waaaay earlier, step #2)
add ANYTHING to tracks you're tring to build without referencing
it against a scratch vocal! Meaning: Don't neglect to record a scratch
vocal as early on in the process as possible!
recorded all my acoustic guitars on MANNERISMS
MAGNIFIED with two mics (over 7th fret, and another sort of
pointing at bridgeplaced however far the distance between my outstretched
thumb and index finger is) and a direct feed as well, then blended all.
(Panning depended on "how big" it has to sound across the stereo spectrum,
but generally left of center of mix in every song.) Then, from a send
on the mic'ed tracks, I often panned a mono delay (w/LPF and/or reverb)
with slightly different settings to opposite sides. This is for "guitar
& vocal only" type settings in a song. I also toyed around with using
two mono reverbs (each
to create certain environments.
DiFranco's tracks sound KILLER with one guitar and bass/drums vox, FYI.
I used many of her records as aural references.
don't do anything like the above approach if it's doubletracked. That's
usually done to enrich percussive quality and fill in the sides of the
stereo field, clearing out the center channel, which sounds rad. For me,
just one mic (heavily HPF'd & compressed... depends if it's picked/strummed/fingerstyle
though) works for that. Sometime a "nashville tuning" or "capoed" guitar
on the opposite side helps for a more sparkly texture (upper register
notes in the "high-string" tuning or capoed stuff.)
me, Elliott Smith's tracks sound amazing with multiple acoustic guitars
and bass/drums vox. I used his stuff for reference as well, in many cases.
I had to record drums "last" (well, again, "real" vox were actually
"last") to (#1) ensure I didn't over-do things with any cymbal activity,
fills, etc. in inappropriate places, obliterating any vox (they
were already in "scratch" form when I laid down the drums), and
(#2) to give me the most "lead time" to create cool drum parts &
practice them so they were (hopefully) interesting and pretty tight
when the time came to actually record them.
recorded most of the other parts with a click, but had to leave
it out (except as a "count in") when I did the drums.... It just
felt too weird for me. I jacked up the acoustic guitars (if it was
a strummed, percussive bit) & bass in the mix, which helped a bit.
I also had to "punch in" a lot of sections. I used those Extreme
Isolation headphones to kill off the cranked cans' bleed in the
close overhead mics (I used the Recorderman mic configuration, detailed
below, plus other mics).
I was doing this totally by myself (button pushing included), I
think the end result--the parts themselves (not talking about sound),
and the way all the instruments/voices interact together--ended
up being better than if I did things in any other order. The DRAG
though was, since I sort of naturally "lay back" a bit when I play
guitar, and I guess, sing, the drums were often a *hair* late; I
had to do pretty substantial "shift" edits. Tedious as heck!!!!
But worth it in the end, for me. I don't know if I'll ever do that
again though, for so many songs.
is a YouTube video (not me in the videojust a tutorial that's
pretty clear; it helped me a bunch with the mic approach I used).
It's called the RECORDERMAN OVERHEAD DRUM TECHNIQUE:
used that, plus a single mic 3 feet in front of the kick (blended
in w/Recorderman setup), and accent mics on kick, snare, and toms,
and have been pretty happy with the flexibility. The snare & tom
mics are mostly used as different/controlled "ambience" generators
(sending them to different 'verb/delay AUX tracks and automating
the "wet" track for ambience). The photos below show what
kind of soundproofing I used (most important of which, I feel, was
the cage I constructed over the kit, which reduced the
reflections off the ceiling into my overhead mics).
pan the Recorderman L & R tracks outwards at about 3 and 9 o'clock,
audience perspective, and it seems to fit okay, at least for what
I'm trying to do. SEE
some of the piano sounds on MANNERISMS
MAGNIFIED, I did a little reamp thing, which helped
liven up a "dead" electronic piano (decent sound--Kurzweil PC88, using
its grand piano patch) I recorded into my MAC... After recording it, I
ran it out through a single PA speaker, stuffed under my real (slightly
out-of-tune) piano, mic'ed the inside, held down the sustain pedal, and
recorded that. Then played with the panning of the added "dirty wetness."
Definitely added a teeny bit of "vibe"--not perfectly in tune resonances,
and naturalness to an otherwise "sterile" piano track. SEE
below, I use for tracking either myself, vocally, or someone else.
Tedious as L, but not tooooooo crazy (gets faster w/practice):
I have the artist make a two copies of the lyric sheet for him/her
I may have them note where to breathe on that lyric sheet, if I
know in advance there will be edit problems. Or how long certain
notes are sustained, for that same reason. (Same with vibrato, if
it's going to be doubled later... which I will make from the comp'ing
I put a strip of masking tape on the floor as a marker, so the artist
will never move from that one spot.
In my experience, punch-ins don't work well, in retaining/matching
tone quality/resonance, dynamics, vocal character... (NOTE: I didn't
say I don't use punch-ins "AT ALL," but "rarely," and that, for
me, punch-ins don't work as well as comp'ing.)
At minimum, we'll track a verse in its entirety (maybe 5-10 times,
who knows), in loop record mode, with a few spare bars at the beginning/end
of that section. (Maybe a verse, leading into chorus, depending...
Maybe the whole song, but usually not.)
I find it takes *at least* a pass or two--or three--till the vocalist
can get "into character." Rarely ever is it a "first take is a keeper"
As takes are going down, I'll (quietly) take notes on the lyric
sheet, marking stuff that's particularly good, and stuff that's
not yet nailed. And I'll indicate what "pass" that take was.
All these passes sit in a takefile. When done, I will take each
one out and put it on an individual track so I can see all the takes
stacked above one another. This makes it very easy to see each phrase,
and any timing issues between takes, including the length of sustained
I play each one (first checking out the ones I thought were good,
based on my notes during tracking) and delete everything that sucks
(sound quality, intonation, etc.). Or delete individual words, in
the midst of an otherwise good phrase. If something is great, but
the timing is off, I keep it and shift it, if needed. If a last
note of a phrase needs to be longer, for whatever reason (maybe
it will be doubled), on occasion (if no takes are good enough) I've
time stretched the tail end of that word.
I put together whatever is left into the best possible composite
vocal (its bits dragged to a separate track as I go), picking/choosing
"the next word/phrase" while in loop playback mode, so I hear the
"edited" vocal, then the next possible phrase from a surviving take
(kicking the other takefiles in/out w/mute buttons). This part is
easily the most tedious. After that *maybe* auto-tune a bit if needed,
but usually this process eliminates that need.
If something needs to be doubled, I audition the leftover bits against
the edited vocal, and find the best blending/resonating parts. Or
similarly timed vibrato parts. I rarely have someone "sing along"
with a take to get a double.
Crossfade and move on!
ON COMP'ING VERSUS PUNCHING-IN: All of the above is in the
name of insurance, if a singer goes on an improvising burst and
wants to try stuff, if a decision is made way later to double a
part, etc. And as for doubling... I've had HORRIBLE problems with
people who can't sing along with their own vocal to do doubles,
or punch-in and nail the exact vocal quality of the phrase that
needs a punch in--let alone, sing as well as they do "live" at a
show, but with headphones on. You work any way you can with who
you get, so the project moves forward, and the artist/producer is
happy with the result. If they don't need the help, then obviously
all this "comp" stuff doesn't mean anything. But it may help you
if you end up with a billion tracks of vox you need to sort through.
*I* have ALWAYS gotten a better result with assembling a double
from alternate takes. Well, at least 90% of the time. That's just
me, I guess... In *my* case, even if the singer is VERY good and
consistent, the resulting double can be BETTER sounding than if
they sang along with an earlier "perfect" take. Ends up sounding
naturally balanced, because they sang the exact same thing twice,
hearing the exact same thing in their cans both times. The resulting
blend is often better. Whatever works--so that it sounds the best
(and natural)--is all that matters.
ENHANCING/THICKENING TIP: Blending in a "whispered" scream often
helps, in addition to things mentioned above: doubles, squashed/tweaked
clones, and some level of gain introduced... via a send or applied
to any of the above.
MIXES: Generally all single-tracked lead vox were sent
to a plate reverb, and two (buried) timed delays (different note
values, w/LPF). Sometimes I added a manual doubling effecttwo
copies of the track, hard panned, with one transposed one up 9 cents,
the other down 9 cents, then offset them by 14 & 19 ms, if I recall,
their faders brought up a touch for spread. Double-tracked
vocals were generally either sent to a Waves SuperTap delay with
a subtle chorusing effect, or two mono, panned reverbs (two similar
versions of a TrueVerb preset).
VOCAL INTONATION, in general I've
noticed, in some cases, singers who are so "overly emotional" and "in
their own head," getting off on their own *sound* when singing, they totally
lose any ability to hear how their own voice relates to the track (or
band they are singing in), and it's a lack of concentration that's part
of the reason their pitch goes out the window--to the point where it's
borderline atonal. (Same thing with rhythm/timing.) I've seen some of
these people, when asked to really chill and concentrate, and not get
"soooo into it," make some improvements with intonation. Not 100% improved
(or even close), but a clear improvement, bordering on "useable."
sister was totally tone deaf (we're both adopted--from separate families,
FWIW). I remembering wanting to jump out a window when she'd be singing
along to stuff in the car. For whatever reason, now (years later) she's
"in tune." For some, it's clearly honing an ability to mimic the pitch
in their head, which is a bit technique-oriented. Simlarly, I have people
in "ear training" classes who can transcribe almost all examples, but
cannot reproduce pitches vocally to save their lives. They are clearly
not tone deaf. Over time, some of them tighten up their ablity to match
the pitches in their heads with their voice. Obviously none of these folks
should (or would ever strive to be) vocalists, primarily.
HOME RECORDING / SELF-PRODUCING ADVICE Don't
add anymore stuff to the dayum song! If you liked it once (before
you added more crap), and it felt natural then, you (similarly) dug
it from the perspective of a "first time listener." If YOU get bored
(hearing your song more than anyone on earth), then start adding stuff,
you just pissed that first listener magic away. You ROBBED the first
listener of that (theoretically) pure experience. GET IN AND GET OUT!!!!!!!!!
(At least "tracking"-wise.)
MIXING APPROACHES AND INFO Below
are just a few of the mixing ideas I toyed with while producing MANNERISMS
MAGNIFIED. I'll add more later, I promise!
A SINGLE STEREO REVERB PLUG-IN ON AUX TRACK, BUT HAVING DIFFERENT PANNNING/PLACEMENT
OF 'VERB FOR EACH INSTRUMENT (If AUX is Receiving Multiple Mono Sends):
don't know if I'm explaining this right...
if I have a stereo reverb on an aux track with its inputs being BUS 1-2....
any mono track I want to send to this reverb (regardless of where the
track itself is panned)....
that mono track is also being bussed to BUS 1 and BUS 2 (not as a group,
I crank up only the BUS 1 send on the mono track I want to reverberate,
the verb pops up on the left, mostly.
I crank up only the BUS 2 send on the mono track I want to reverberate,
the verb pops up in the right, mostly.
I crank up only the BUS 1 & 2 sends together on the mono track I want
to reverberate, the verb pops up in the middle. Or I can vary it slightly
for it to be slightly off center.
VOCAL MIXES: Generally
all single-tracked lead vox were sent to a plate reverb, and two
(buried) timed delays (different note values, w/LPF). Sometimes I added
a manual doubling effect--two copies of the track, hard panned,
with one transposed one up 9 cents, the other down 9 cents, then offset
them by 14 & 19 ms, if I recall, their faders brought up a touch for spread.
Double-tracked vocals were generally either sent to a Waves SuperTap
delay with a subtle chorusing effect, or two mono, panned reverbs (two
similar versions of a TrueVerb preset).
TWO MONO REVERBS:I also hard-panned two mono reverbs (each
on its own AUX track) with slightly different settings (different pre-delay,
decay times, and EQ roll-offs) for lots of things (mostly acoustic guitars
and crosspanning of reverbs with double-tracked vocals). The resulting
effect, when an instrument is bussed to these two (panned) mono reverbs
can be an interesting side-to-side-like reverb effect, rolling
lightly across the stereo spectrum.
BASS GUITAR (or other):I don't know if this will help
for the style/vibe you're after, but on a couple recent things, I've tried
super short (30-35ms) hard-panned delays (slightly different settings
& volumes for each side) with LPF. It
helped for a song with real sparse instrumentation (just a single acoustic,
full kit, bass, and a few vocals). It may help add that big heavy resonance
of bass you're after, spread acoss the stereo field. (Just BARELY bringing
those delay volumes up.)
REMEMBER:All tweaking is POINTLESS without decent monitoring. For the
curious, here's what I used, as I checked my mixes (making handwritten
notes on how things sounded on each system):
Studio Precision 8 (ASP8)
M6082 Powered Speakers (Bob Clearmountain's balance checking
and Home Stereo
I mixed, I checked everything in mono as well in ASP8, M6082, and MDR-7506.)
You can see some of these monitors (ASP8, Clearmountain Speakers,
and MDR-7506 cans) in THIS