I was scrounging around yesterday, looking for something I could build/make…Â When I realized that with but one quick trip to Radio Shack, I could be the neato PWM guitar effect pedal that Collin Cunningham video demo’d for Make Magazine.Â So I did:
Here’s the guts:
It’s a really cool pedal.Â Way different animal than other guitar effects.Â It makes sounds that most closely resemble a synthesizer.Â Hope to use it for some fake-synth parts on some of my tunes in the future.Â It’s kinda “glitchy” though, which I think is by design.Â But every now and then the pedal does something weird, and I can’t tell if there’s something wrong with the it, or if that’s just the way the weird pedal sounds.Â For instance, it doesn’t always pick up every note, and I don’t know if that’s just how it works (it *is* glitchy) or if I’ve got something loose in there.Â I’ve also got some rhythmic clicking going on when the pedal is engaged but I’m not playing.Â I don’t think this is umm… desired behavior, but I checked my wiring and I think it looks good.Â It’s not awful, and since I mostly do recording, I can edit it out fairly easily, but it would be much more nice if it just didn’t happen in the first place.Â If I figure it out, I’ll update the post.
Fat Head II Ribbon Mic Clips
I got myself some ribbon mics the other day.Â Here’s a few clips of the first time I used them for any actual recording.
I played my junky old Sorento guitar through my Fender Prosonic on the dirty channel with a heavy dose of amp reverb, and stuck an sm57 about a foot away through one of the Octopre preamps, and used the Fat Head II on the other side of the room, pointing at the amp, and ran that through my Seventh Circle Audio A12 preamp.Â So we have a close/room mix.Â For the record, there is a slight EQ on the fathead tracks, mostly just a rumble (read: Heating Noise) reducer:
I forgot this was on them until I bounced out most of the tracks, so tuff luck- there’s EQ on them.
First up is a section where I’m playing a crappy guitar solo.Â I have no chops.Â I have clips of the 57 alone, FH alone, mixed, and then in the context of the song.Â Remember the placement is VERY different on the mics.
Fat Head Solo Guitar
57 + FH Solo Guitar
In Context 57 + FH Guitar Solo
Then I’ve got the same thing for a crunchy section.
SM57 Crunch Guitar
FHII Crunch Guitar
57 + FH Crunch
In Context 57 + FH Crunch Guitar
I really like the mic.Â I’m gonna try to build some portable cheap acoustic panels out of rigid fiberglass insulation to improve the room sound somewhat…Â I am also planning on swapping out the stock transformers for some luhndals.Â They sell them this way on their website, but I can order them and do the mod myself for less money.Â And I’m going to mess around with my Little Labs IBP plugin for my UA card to see if that makes the mics play any nicer together, but even as is- with minimal fuss, I think the combination of 57 + ribbon adds a nice beefiness to the texture.
I also cut some demo vocals with the thing, and they sound pretty neat too.Â If I determine the clips are suitable (read: minimally embarrassing), I’ll have some clips of that as well.
My First Piece of Behringer Gear.
I just got two Behringer BCF2000 Control Surfaces (because they were ridiculously cheap) and they are pretty nice so far. Check em out, ready to mix:
I scored these two as scratch and dent deals on MusiciansFriend.com for $161 each (including shipping, no tax).Â I was worried that they wouldn’t play nicely with ProTools, but it turns out that they do a great job working with the software.Â Expect a forthcoming full review, but for now, I’ll just say that I really, REALLY like faders.
Also, I was not able to find anywhere on the internet that could confirm if you could use multiple units at the same time with Pro Tools.Â Well, I’m here to tell you that you can.Â I probably could have hooked up a THIRD one of these if I wanted to.Â You just set up each one in the Setup->Peripherals menu in Pro Tools (use the baby HUI emulation) and they work like a charm.Â Shifting through the banks works as expected and everything.Â Spiffy.Â This should make my mixes better.
On Editing Drum Flams
I was editing some drum parts yesterday that my friend Seth Rouch played (for an as-yet metaphysical, theoretical upcoming “album” of mine), and I came upon an interesting problem that I thought I would share with teh interwebs.
Drum flams: where’s the beat? You all may call me crazy, but IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE, I swear.
For those of you that may not know what a drum flam is, you probably won’t be interested in the rest of this post, actually, but I’ll explain it anyway (and try to keep things interesting). Normally, a drummer only hits a drum once with one stick. (Okay, sometimes, the stick will bounce on the head, and sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it’s sloppy. But that’s not the point.) A flam occurs when the drummer hits the head of the drum with both sticks at nearly the same time, but not quite. It’s a sort of accent. You’ll hear it in the clips below, so don’t worry.
So there’s two hits in a flam. Which of the two falls directly on the beat? And which is a little before or after? (Or do you split the difference? I can’t imagine this would sound good, so I didn’t test it, but I suppose it’s a possibility…) Well my friends, here’s a quick rundown of how I tried to edit Seth’s tom & snare flams in my song.
I need to first give you the setup for these sessions. We had VERY little time. I moved all of my recording gear (computer, rack, mics, and all) into his house while his roommate was out of town for a couple days. We ended up tracking like 5 songs or something in several hours. He also hadn’t heard the songs much before hand. So, let’s just say that any slight timing issues are not Seth’s fault. Here’s Seth’s playing in this section, without any editing. Flams are on the toms and also some on the snare.
(All mp3s in this post are encoded at 160kbps.)
The second hit of each flam is louder. I figured this would mean that the first is like a “pickup” to the second and that the 2nd should fall directly on the beat, with the first hit just a teeny-tiny bit before. After several people seemed to agree with this when asked on Twitter and Facebook, I gave it a go. So I edited it all together that way, and came up with this:
[2nd hit on beat]
As I was listening back, I found that I was subconsciously holding my breath. Not a good sign. It sounds to me like the Tom hits are early, kindof like the drums are rushing. This is not good. Not at all. So I said what the heck and tried it so that the first hit of each flam fell directly on the beat, and the 2nd was ever so slightly late:
[1st hit on beat]
Ah-hah! Much better! There may still be some issues with it, but I was breathing normally, things grooved better, and I was much happier. Mmmkay… bit did the snare hits sound a little late now? I made another edit in which the 1st hit of the toms was on the beat, but the 2nd hit of the snares was on the beat. Here’s that one:
[1st hit toms, 2nd hit drums]
Eh… hard to tell. I don’t think I like it. I think I’m getting a little overzealous there. So What I think I will do is make minor edits to the “1st hit” drums. Just to make sure the feel is spot-on.
So… That’s what I came up with. What do you think? Is there a rule here? Is there really a “right” way of doing it, or is it dependent on the music? Is it part of a drummer’s style or groove? Do you like it the other way better? Am I some kind of recording mad scientist, bent on the destruction of all worlds through obsessively-edited drum tracks? Well, yes, but that is beside the point. I would really love to hear your comments, if only to hear that somebody else is just as crazy/obsessed as I am.
Building the A12 Microphone Preamp
Lately I’ve really been in the mood to build things. So I was very happy when I finally got some cash lined up and plunked down for the really nice-looking Seventh Circle Audio A12 preamp kit. My audio/recording friends will know why this is such a big deal, but for the others, it’s a thingy that makes mics sound better. And its way cheaper than many of the alternatives. But the real beauty of this particular kit is that you can mix and match eight different channels of several different “sounds” in one box. So it’s got lots of room to grow. Check out their full line of preamps at seventhcircleaudio.com.
Here’s a basic walkthrough of what I did to get my preamp running.
When you get the kit and break through the really great job they did packing the thing, you find yourself with a chassis & power supply prebuilt, and then a circuit board, some bags of parts, and a schematic.
So you have this blank circuit board in front of you and it’s a little daunting. There are a lot of holes and many of them are tiny and close together. Luckily, you have just bought a nice soldering iron and some helping hands, so you shouldn’t worry too much. Download the assembly instructions pdf and get going.
Be sure your work area is well-let, and start stuffing the components. Follow all directions carefully, look up what you don’t fully understand, and double-check each resistor with a DMM. I just have a cheapy $10 DMM i got at Sears, but it was enough to complete the project with relative ease.
Remember to trim the leads on the back a little. It will make working with the board easier. I used a nail clippers to do this, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to use…
Before long, it will start looking like something:
The kit uses high-quality Cinemag transformers, which should make EVERYONE happy. Audio guys sometimes underestimate the amount of coloration that comes from big iron transformers, and just call everything that’s colored “tube.”
Before long, the board is fully-populated.
Before you go plugging anything in, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and test as much as you can. I did fully re-check all the resistor color codes and cap values, as it said. It took a while, but you can smoke components if something is wrong. And that’s a hassle, I’d imagine.
At about this time you realize that there’s a few things you need to do with the power supply too, like attaching the ground wire (VERY IMPORTANT), and soldering up the lamp and power switch. My only gripe out of the whole project came here, because the PDF of instructions for the power supply appears to be for a previous revision where you had to do more of the wiring yourself. Now, they ship with a wiring harness. This normally would make your life a lot easier (and probably still does), but the instructions are vague on what you need to do and what you can skip. Also, the freakin’ little metal things you crimp on the wires to get into the white connectors are REALLY hard to get on solid. I suggest soldering them all after you crimp them, to be safe.
Now all that’s left to do is power up, do more testing with your DMM, and then calibrate the voltages with your DMM. Note that at no point should the bottom of the board or any of its electrical contacts touch the case or anything. This could create a short and I think bad things would happen. Note the bubble wrap:
You’re supposed to connect the leads to the op amp at one point here, and it is a little tricky. Some notes: You NEED both alligator clips and probes for your DMM. Mine just had probes, so I bought a cheap bag of alligator clip jumpers to attach, and that worked fine. It just looked funny. Also, you might wonder how you’re supposed to get the clips on the op amp leads while the op amp is still in the socket – well, the simple answer (for me) was to clip them on to the back of the board, attaching them to the big metal post things the op amp pins go into. Hope that makes sense. You’ll figure it out either way, I’m sure.
Wahoo! Stick it in its case, plug a mic, power it up, and YOU’VE GOT YOURSELF AN AWESOME PREAMP!
Hope that’s been enlightening. I hope to do more of these photoblog type things for more projects in the near future.
Another Day, Another Noise Complaint
Last evening I brought all my recording junk over to Seth’s place. His roommate was gone for the week, so we both took that as a sign to go make some loud noises. We set up his drums in the living room and crammed all my recording gear in there with ’em. And I donned my earplugs…
This time we got five songs done. Not bad since we didn’t actually hit record until about 7:00 or 7:30… Oh man but was I tired by the end of the night… It was somewhere around 1 am I think when we quit. Which is late for me these days. When I have to get up for work the next day (and bring bagels, at that).
Here’s what we worked on:
Every Time I Close My Eyes
Pretty standard cool drumming on this one. Seth did a cool part on the instrumental part before the last verse.
Pretty Darrrrrrn Great. Think the drums on ‘Wolf at the Door’ mixed with Ringo Starr, but played by a jazz drummer. something like that.
Brushes – sounds AWESOME.
I think there’s some cross stick in this one, kinda perky happy sounding, which realllly works nicely with the stupid-depressing lyrics.
Human Nature and Love
Probably my favorite drumming of the night… REALLY awesome stuff. I was initially thinking that the stuff on this song would have to be REALLY light – and it sort of is – but the drumming is a little bit like Glenn Kotche’s (Wilco), in that its not about the beat, but more about an ensemble of percussion instruments. I won’t give it all away, but we did some reallly cool stuff on this song.
Last time we did this, I draped a comforter over the kick drum and put the soundeluxe outside the kick, but I didn’t end up liking that sound very much after I took it home. I remembered how I had liked the sound of the old “NS10 speaker as a microphone” trick for kick drums. So I asked if he had any kind of speaker laying around… He pulled out this radioshack guitar amp (!!). It would work, if we would affix the bare wires from my cut-up mic cable (especially for this purpose) and get em to stay. A lot of speakers have clamps, so it isn’t a problem, but not this one. We ended up using some little paper clippy things to mash the contacts together. Gotta love ghetto recording. Can’t tell at all from the sound though. Big, deep, “round” bass drum sound.
Speaking of the bass drum, Seth got all new heads for his kit – and the kick head was this special thingy. It had deadening rings on the front head, with the intended purpose, that you wouldn’t need to put a pillow or anything inside the drum. Well, that didn’t really work out quite like they said, because the back head rang a lot. We ended up putting some padding in there anyway. After we did this, the system really worked great though, because it gave us a lot of flexibility. For songs like ‘Chris’ and ‘Human Nature and Love,’ we could just remove one of those foam rings real quick and suddenly, the drum resonated a lot more. Real nice for controlling that stuff.
- Kick Inside – AKG D112
- Kick Outside – RadioShack Guitar Amplifier
- Snare Top – Modified (transformerless) SM57
- Snare Bottom – RODE NT5
- Hi-hat – SM57 (I tried an nt5, but it was clipping out my preamps, no matter what I did. So I had to sacrifice some quality)
- All 3 Toms – Seth’s cool Shure mini-condenser guys – cant remember the numers now.
- Overheads – Seth’s SM81’s, equidistant from the snare (for phase, nice little trick)
- Room – Soundeluxe u195. Moved it into the adjacent room for a few tunes.
Sound clips posted sooner or later. That brings the list of songs with drums up to:
The Way off the Ground
Is This What You Really Want
Every Time I Close My Eyes
Human Nature and Love
Please continue the discussion of which of the remaining songs need drums, and which of all the songs i’ve demo’d (or others you know i have but haven’t demo’d yet) you would like to see on an album. Thanks!
A few random pics
Here’s a few random pics that I got off my phone the same time I got the ones from “breakfast” – but they didn’t quite fit with the “work” motif. So here they are.
cuties. can I say that? I think i can.
I seem to be making that face a lot in pictures…
Whoah, eh, easy there. Lets keep this PG.
What I did this weekend, Part One
listen to the “everybody dance remix.”
You won’t be sorry.
Nigel Godrich is my Phil Spector.
“Phil Spector’s greatest idea was to create a whole mystery around himself, in which artists would sink. He was more an businessman than a producer, never touching the controls, leaving the engineers do that dirty work.
We don’t do the same job, I work in communion with the bands, without a gun.
from this interview on greenplastic. A good read for anyone interested in the music biz. Nigel Godrich is my idol.
Another good quote from the article is:
“I remember asking Pavement on the phone: ‘Do you want me to make you sell a lot of records? Because it doesn’t look like your aim!’ And I was surprised to hear them say: ‘Sure, we wanna sell records.’ ‘Oh good, ‘cos I thought you only want to piss people off by messing up your songs!’
hahaha… Nobody wants their songs hidden in the biz, and that is a fact.
And another good one, which I sorta align myself with:
“Sometimes on [OK COMPUTER] I prove a total lack of professionalism, voluntarily plugging instruments any old how. The courage comes from Radiohead, a band that will never get out of fashion because they make the fashion. And when the others follow, they are already somewhere else, far away.”
which is sorta related to:
“My technique is to set the environment to make creative accidents easier. And then all I have to do is pick the right whim of fate.”
This is what I’m working towards. But the projects i’m involved in are always so rushed its hard to do it. The closest i’ve gotten is on the House stuff and my won projects, but my own projects don’t count because the whole point is for someone else to surprise you. If I know where I’m going I always get off there. Still, that’s where I’m going. Lack of proffessionalism. Happy accidents.
“House” is the name of the current Matt Good and friends project. We have awesome pictures of tons of gear loaded into a small house and recording like nuts, and also playing a show at the creepy crawl in St. Louis. You can check all this and more out at www.myspace.com/house if you so desire. So desire.
There are a few song demos up, one of mine and one of my amazing friend jonny weaver’s. The goal for last week and this weekend is to get as many scratch songs done as possible and then the next two weeks we will be adding tchotsch to the basic songs. What you hear on myspace is the basic tracks and later you will hear the full finished ones. Make sure you check out the awesome pictures too, and add us (and pedalboy too) to your friends.
Anyway the House project is going really well so far. Pretty much we sit around and take turns recording stuff ALL DAY LONG and its pretty much amazing. Keep checking up with us for more updates and stuff. Peace out everyone, well wishes for all.