Tuesday June 30

July 25th, 2009

We just got together to rehearse and get used to playing with headphones on. We made some changes. The Supraphonic snare sounded great last time, but we were getting some unwanted resonance with that drum so Dave brought out one his snares made by Bearing Edge drums. It had wood hoops and solid brass lugs. It sounded punchier and drier than the Supraphonic and ultimately gave us less problems with unwanted noise. We also swapped mics on the snare drum. KC was able to get a hold of an Audio Technica 4053 which is a small diaphragm condenser mic with a hyper cardioid pattern. I could think of two possible spots for that mic – either snare drum or one of KC’s guitar amps. We ended up trying it on the snare first and ended up liking it better than the sm57 on snare, so that’s where it stayed. I was quite happy with the guitar sounds already so I figured I wouldn’t mess with that.

We rolled while rehearsing so I could get a feel for what we need to change if anything at all. I have a feeling we will need several more rehearsal sessions. We still need to hammer down some of the arrangements and button up some parts. But all in all it was time well spent and I think we all gained for the rehearsal session.

Tuesday June 23

July 23rd, 2009

We all got together to set up the guitar and bass sounds, and Dave retuned the toms a couple of times, and we swapped out the SM 57/58 tom mics for some small diaphragm condensers, and I had to take that 4033 off the bass drum to use it on one of the guitar amps. This mic is sounds excellent on guitar amps. We set up another Large diaphragm condenser for the bass drum. It’s not ideal, but workable. We also tried an SM57 on the bass drum, but we all favored the condenser.

Also Dave brought his own cymbals and hi-hat. They seem to fit more of the style we are playing. My K customs are a little dark and more jazzy sounding than Dave’s Vintage As and his Custom A crash which are very Rock and Roll!

I realized that I was so caught up in the process that I forgot to snap some pics. So basically here is what we have going on. I have a basement with a living room that is carpeted. This is where the drums are, and also Ron has the board and recording rig set up in this room. Also there is an office and a bedroom all carpeted, as well as a large unfinished section of the basement that has concrete walls on three sides and concrete floor. We used to rehearse at my house and KC would mention that the thick carpeting kills his tone, so we set his amps in the unfinished section of the basement for a more lively sound. I set my bass amp up in the bedroom that is through the office with the ability to have 3 doors closed for separation.

For the bass I used one of the available large diaphragm condensers on the top left speaker of a 4×12 cab (ampeg V4) about 12 inches away and set it to a cardioid pattern. Also I activated the 10dB attenuator. The amp is an old 60s tube driven Ampeg b25b – great sounding bass amp. Simultaneously I ran direct through a Tech 21 SansAmp DI, but I bypassed the gain stage. I had the effect “stomped” on but I was only using it for the EQ section and not the gain that most people use it for. I personally still felt that it sounded artificial and I just wanted a good clean DI signal that I could alter in the mix with software modelers later if I choose to. Although I most likely won’t use it at all, but it’s nice to get just in case.

For the guitars, KC played through an old 50s Gibson GA20t 1×12 combo amp and simultaneously through a more modern Savage Macht 6 1×12 combo amp. They were set up on side by side on a rug in between my weight bench (that never gets use). The Savage on the left miced with the AT 4033 with the 10dB attenuator activated about 6 inches away from the center of the speaker. The GA20t was miced with both an SM57 on axis about 1.5 inches away from the grill pointing towards the edge of the dustcap and speaker cone, and also about 18 inches back I placed another large diaphragm condenser set up in a cardioid pattern with the 10dB attenuator activated.

I also ordered a cheap headphone mixer, since we were going to try to isolate our amps in different rooms. A headphone mixer was the only way we could all play together and effectively hear each other and ourselves. Not only that, but I got one that could give four independent headphone mixes. How sweet is that?? Now if the Dave needs to hear more bass drum in his headphone mix, but KC needs more snare, and I need to hear my bass louder, it can all be done with a twist of some knobs on the great Mackie.

Once we were all set up, we quickly ran through a couple tunes to get an idea of what we would sound like to disk. I quickly realized that it will require quite an adjustment to get used to playing this way through headphones. KC, the guitar player couldn’t play that well – he thought he was playing a banjo because he couldn’t “feel” the sustain in his guitar.

After playing back some of the recording, we were all quite impressed with the separation we had having the amps in the different rooms. I thought there would be at least a little bleed from the drum mics, but we heard nothing, or almost nothing. That is good. That way if we need to overdub the guitar or bass parts we won’t run into issues with the drum tracks.

One thing we all need to do is get headphone extension cables. We were all crammed around the headphone amp, so it was kind cramped in that sense, but at least we were able to run some test tracks and hear it work out.

That night I was pretty excited and couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up listening to the tracks and made a rough mix in Logic:

Here is one of the songs. keep in mind these were quick tests. We didn’t even know we would get to that point, and it was getting late, so the songs are rushed (tempo), mistakes were made, and we didn’t even tune first, but it was all just a test anyway. Next time we’ll work on keeping the song tight and adjust to playing through headphones.

Song file:

Click here to hear the recording from this session.

Saturday June 20

July 23rd, 2009

Supposed to get together with Ron and Kieth C. to set guitar sounds and my bass sound. KC had the flu, so we postponed until the following Tuesday pending Keith’s health.

Thursday June 18 – an email I sent to some of the guys:

July 23rd, 2009

This is my quick and dirty rough mix in Logic – nothing Final.

I used all mics in the mix except the TOM mics, but I would like to use them in the final mix if we can fine tune the mic placement. The tom mics actually do add some nice attack and presence when they are hit.

This is fun! My first time mixing more than 2 tracks for drums since I only own a 2 Ch interface.

I used a little compression and EQ on each track, and a touch of reverb on the sanre track and panned it left a hair. Also ran a drumeset compression on the bus mix.

I think drums can be the biggest challenge in getting to sound good, especially vintage kits from the early 60s. They have their quirks, but they also had mad character!

Sound file:

Click here to hear the recording from this session.

Wednesday June 17 – an email I sent to Ron and Dave:

July 23rd, 2009

I played around a bit with those drum tracks through my headphones in Logic… The 58 on the floor tom has to go. It’s picking up a weird resonance form the bass drum. When the floor tom is hit it sounds OK, but the rest of the kit ambient sound does not sound good through the 58.

As Ron suggested I think we will try our tiny condenser pencil mics on the toms, hopefully that will give a more focused detailed sound. I have always preferred condenser mics to dynamics for just about anything anyway. That would free up some 57s to put on the guitar cabs, and maybe even a 57 to mic the bottom of the snare for extra sizzle.

The 57 on the rack tom sounded fine, but I still think I would like to retune those toms. The bottom heads are off enough to cause some ugly dissonance.

Also we need to balance out the overheads. When I sat down at the kit tonight I saw that the overhead- drummer right – was out of place – damn cheap stands move too easy. Don’t know if that happened before or after the test recording, but if it was before, that explains what I hear.

I think it would be wise to try to work on this a bit more, perhaps just Ron and I can experiment and Dave can fine tune the next time he is here. I know we can do better than what we got, although it wasn’t bad at all.

One thing about headphones is I can hear these subtle details like a mic out of place, but they sure don’t move air like a real speaker – the bass drum doesn’t slam you with headphones like a monitor does –  so now I see why both are important.


Tuesday June 16 – Day 1 – Drum Set up and Test:

July 22nd, 2009

Ron and drummer, Dave met at my house so we could set up. We moved my 60s Gretsch drumset out of the way (too jazzy sounding with the heads I have on right now) to make room for the kit we will be using for the recording – a vintage 60s Pearl kit that sounds great. We’ll be using the hardware and cymbals from my drum kit as well as one of my vintage Ludwig snares – a 1967 Supraphonic. I read somewhere that that is the most recorded snare drum in history. That seems appropriate for this project – plus one for the statistics.

Dave set up the drums and tuned the heads while Ron was setting the recording rig up. Meanwhile I set up the mic stands, chose the mics used, and ran the mic cables to the Mackie. Then we took a dinner break before going back into my home studio and continued with some testing.

The mics we ended up using were small diaphragm condensers as overheads set up in a stereo A/B configuration. We close miced the snare and toms with Shure Sm 57s and an SM 58 on the floor tom, since we were out of 57s to work with at that point. We put an Audio Technica 4033 on the bass drum, since we didn’t have a proper Bass drum mic. I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out, but to my surprise that mic sounded great on the bass drum. We can EQ that to taste later in the mix.

Some photos of the set up: (pardon the blurry photos. I tried to get some photos without flash to capture the ambience and all I had at the time is my wife’s point and shoot camera).

home recording project

June 10th, 2009

Hey All,

I have decided to record my four piece rock band in a home studio environment with yours truly playing bass. The guys in my band have been discussing the prospect of recording our tunes for quite some time now, and we finally decided to make some time to do it. We chose to do the recording at my house instead of using a studio so that we could take our time with the project and not have to worry about an expensive hourly rate at a professional studio. After all this is Home Recording Hub, right?

I have enlisted the help of Ron and some of his fine equipment to help with the tracking process. We are recrding with whatever mics we can beg borrow or steal – through his 24 channel 8 bus Mackie board into a 24 track Alesis ADAT hard disk recorder… and no we did NOT really steal any mics  for this project:)

The goal is to get everything down on the Alesis, then transfer the files to my MacBook Pro and I will mix the project in Apple’s Logic Pro.

Hopefully I will have the time to keep you updated on the progress as the project goes fourth. If I can, I will try to provide you with pictures and video of the set up as well as sample audio tracks. We’ll see how close we can get to pro studio results with a little creativity and careful testing and listening.