Week 2, Left to Chance

The second song is called Left to Chance. Give it a listen.

This is the chronological second of the songs that I’ve written for this project. I was expecting to post the fourth song, a simpler one that was mostly written and recorded in one night, but as I got closer to finishing this song and everything came together I figured that I should get this up now as I’ll be out in Philly most of this week and won’t have much time to work on recording.

This song is seven tracks – three of them drums, one vocal track, two guitar (using the Hovland tuning), and a baritone guitar track. Except for the drums, all tracks were recorded using the iPhone and the FourTrack application. The vocals and guitars used the iPhone’s microphone, but I got to test out an external mic for the baritone track (thanks to the new custom break-out cable that I had designed for my iPhone – more on this later).

I gave up on trying to record drums with the iPhone after a couple of miserable failures, and even with the new break-out cable I would have to run an elaborate setup through a preamp or something like that to make it work. I ended up doing a quick spot mic for overhead, snare, and kick, and ran it though my MOTU 896 into the laptop. The overhead was a Rode NTK, a class-A tube mic that I adore for vocals and have found to be pretty great for drums too. I didn’t love how the snare ended up sounding, I’ll change that for the next session. I’m going to go ahead and blame the combination of the snare, my playing, and the quick placement rather than the Audix dynamic mic that I used. The kick was easy – AKG D112 and go.

The guitar tracks were performed using my Telecaster Thinline, along with a Danelectro baritone, through the Orange practice amp. I wasn’t thrilled with how the guitar sounded using the iPhone mic to capture the Orange, so when I got the custom break-out cable in the mail, I went straight for the amp this time using an Audix dynamic mic.

So here’s the deal with the cable: The iPhone uses a 3.5 mm TRRS (tip-ring-ring-sleeve) input, with the first two being headphones left & right and the extra connection is a mono mic input. After spending  a couple of miserable hours searching online for cables and adapters that would allow me to run a line or mic input while listening with headphones, the best I could find was a couple of people who’ve attempted to make one themselves. What I did find was a great company/website called kV Connection that would make a custom cable or adapter for you. I took a shot and they were great. The cable is high quality and works perfectly. If you’re going to record with your iPhone you can purchase the same cable here.

I brought everything together in Reaper and called it a day. I’m finding that when I introduce drums and more complex arrangement into these songs it’s going to be harder and harder to not obsess and tweak everything until I’m against my deadline rather than just record and post. It could get interesting.

Thanks to everyone who listened last week and thanks for the comments. Joel, it’s killing me, I can’t remember the next part to that “Hey man, is that Benjamin…” lyric. The only thing that pops into my head is “buy him some vitamins”. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it.

16 Comments to Week 2, Left to Chance

September 14, 2009

Wow, sounds like more than 7 tracks, I like the mix and imaging, even if it wasn’t extensive.

2 down, 50 to go.
No sweat.


September 14, 2009

Sounds great. I can’t believe the guitars were recorded on an iPhone. I am going to have to check out that setup when I finally pick up my bass amp.

September 15, 2009

like this one alot, Corey. Well done. Lovin this project.

Also, I could be wrong, but for some reason I keep hearing:

Hey man, is that Benjamin?
Find him, and…..

but I can’t recall what the end of the line was.
Looks like it’s time to dig out that cassette, which i know i sill have:)

September 15, 2009

These Benjamin lyrics you refer to… Is that 1/2HAD stuff or Hovland? I need to go through the stack of cassettes I have too. Still wish I could find the stuff you did with Matt Raymo back when you lived in Y-town with us. Great new song! Love it!

September 16, 2009

I think I might still have a cassette of the stuff that Matt and I did. It was called Edgar Kills the Radio – it was a reference to an episode of Northern Exposure…which was a damn good show. The Benjamin lyrics were a very short-lived project of my good friend and prolific Pittsburgh musician Joel Grimes, called The Brilliant Allies…the full name was a bit ridiculous, and there’s no relation to the name of Joel’s current band – Allies (which sound a whole hell of a lot better than Joel and I did). We had at most a few songs and played one show in my basement. Joel introduced me to the drummer for that project, Mark Carlisle, who eventually was the drummer in Hovland. I really enjoyed working with Joel and have no idea why we stopped. He’s one of my favorite local musicians and I hope to someday get a chance to collaborate with him again.

September 18, 2009

you impress me, sir. seriously. week 1 was gold and you managed to pull it off again for week 2. also, i may have to take back a lot of shit i said about the iPhone.

[...] mic as usual, and the guitar and bass tracks were recorded using the custom adapter (see Week 2 for more on the adapter) connected to an Audix dynamic mic capturing the Orange practice [...]

October 1, 2009

Great job. I would kick up the vocal just a bit in the mix.

I just ordered a cable. I am looking for an iPhone holder with a 5/8″ threaded connector on back that would go into a mic stand. Have you seen such a thing or do you know of a DIY method.

October 1, 2009

Ah yes, the common indie rock vocals too low in the mix problem. I think it’s our low self-esteem – who would want to hear our whining?

As for the mic stand mount, I haven’t seen a product specifically for that, but I bet that you could fashion a pretty rugged one out of an iPhone mount made for the car and what you could find at a hardware store. With a quick google search I found a car mount by Pro.Fit that looked like it could work.

October 1, 2009

Thanks for the mic mount suggestions. I will take a look.

Have you contacted the fellow who runs the Palm Sound blog site about your project? If not, you should give it a try.

I mix my vocals pretty high (some say too high) in the mix. But then, I don’t whine…..

October 5, 2009

Great work, look forward to hearing the results you’ll be able to get down the track. I have a question about the custom cable you got – what connection types did you have on it? was it a 3.5 mm TRRS (tip-ring-ring-sleeve) on one end with it split in the other end for a 3.5 mm headphone input and a mic input? Cheers.

October 6, 2009

Umm…don’t mind my previous question sorry – I checked out your link again, the first time it took me to a page full of adapters, the second time it took me directly to the Y-custom cable. Sigh, such a noob thing. Thanks.

[...] Crush 30r into the iPhone by way of an Audix dynamic mic and the custom break-out cable (from Week 2). I wrote the guitar part in my old Half Hour Action Drama tuning (F#-A-D-F#-A-E) and the baritone [...]

Lucas Van Lenten
January 3, 2010

hi – awesome project!
just wondering – are you running an XLR -> 1/4″ cable from the mic to the breakout cable, or are you using something else?
great sounds!

January 4, 2010

Thank you Lucas!

That’s pretty close to what I’m doing. I’m running a standard XLR mic cable into a Radio Shack Low Impedance (XLR) to High Impedance (1/4″) adapter. Something like this.

I think that the impedance conversion is pretty important to making it work with the iPhone. Someone should really come up with a simple but heavy duty dock with quality components that uses the 10-pin jack at the bottom of the phone and provides two XLR inputs with gain control.

Thanks again for checking the project out – help me spread the word.

[...] bass were performed on my Orange Crush 30R and miked using the custom break-out cable (discussed in Week 2). The vocals were recorded using the iPhone’s built in mic.  [...]

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