Archive for October, 2009

Week 8, Glitter and Stone

The eighth song out is called Glitter and Stone.

This was a fun one.

It’s another song written in the good old standard tuning. It’s a simple song and I kept it pretty simple. There is one guitar track throughout, and then a second guitar track comes in at the first break. The two guitar tracks and the bass track were recorded onto the iPhone using the custom break-out cable and an Audix dynamic mic. I wanted a bigger drum sound for this song so I went back to recording the drums straight into Reaper on the laptop. I found myself backed against the wall again this week, having not been able to get the drum takes in by Sunday evening, so I had to throw together a three-mic setup using one Audio Technica overhead mic, the AKG D112 on the kick drum, and I moved the Rode NTK tube condenser out about four feet in front of the kit just a little higher than the top of the kick. I think the drums ended up sounding all right considering the time crunch. There are two vocal tracks, recorded using just the iPhone’s internal mic.

Last week, Fred asked if I used a pop filter when I use the iPhone mic to record vocals. I don’t, even though I have a perfectly expensive Stedman pop filter collecting dust upstairs. It took some trial and error though to avoid the air-related issues that are pretty exaggerated when you sing straight into the iPhone like you would a normal dynamic mic. The trick is to treat the mic the way it was made to work: I usually hold the phone in my hand to one side of my face with the mic pointing toward my voice about six inches away. I try to play around with it and it’s tricky to make sure that you keep a consistent location throughout. The mic is a really sensitive condenser that seems to maintain a good amount of gain at around a foot or so. I’ve also had good results holding the phone around my chin pointing up toward my mouth. It’s the same concept, but a little harder to train yourself to not point your mouth down toward the mic.

All of the tracks minus the drums were again recorded on the iPhone using the MultiTrack iPhone app. It’s a very stable 16-track recorder developed by Harmonicdog. As always, everything was mixed and tweaked using Reaper.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Halloween. No fancy parties for me this year. I’ll be happily hanging with the wife and the two-year-old who has a perfectly good elephant costume…we’ll see if he agrees to wear it, it’s day-to-day. I may be required to be an elephant too.

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Monday, October 26th, 2009 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Week 7, For No One

This week’s song is called For No One.

I wanted to save myself from exhaustion and tried to get back to the low-fi concept that I started with. Well, with 14 tracks recorded I only partially achieved that goal.

Here’s how it breaks down:

I started out with two acoustic guitar tracks panned wide that I recorded using the Blue Mikey. There are two electric guitar tracks – both were recorded using the custom break-out cable to mic my Orange practice amp. I added three silly rhythm tracks with the Mikey and whatever I could find laying around. Those are pretty low in the mix now, but if you listen for them you can pick them up.

Next I took a shot at recording drums using the Mikey. I’d read that people were having mixed results using it for high-volume live music, but I’m not the loudest drummer in the world and I figured I’d give it a go and see how it turned out. It worked well enough for what was supposed to be a low-fi song. I’m happy to know that it works because it saves me precious time. I actually have two mostly identical drum takes running on this song for no good reason. They’re panned just a little bit and you can pick out the different tracks as everything falls apart at the end. I’ll keep messing around with drums through the Mikey and see if I can’t find a way to get a great drum sound using the iPhone. I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on how this one came out.

Finally, I added four vocal tracks using just the iPhone mic. The bass track was the usual setup – micing my practice amp with a dynamic mic through the break-out cable. Mixing and production was done using Reaper.

The song itself was written in good old drop-D tuning. It looks like maybe next week will mark my first song using standard tuning. I’m really not that much of a tuning geek, but for some reason it took me two months to get back to basics.

For the second week I recorded everything into MultiTrack, the 16-track iPhone app by Harmonicdog that is really great and is only going to get better. I managed to pull this one off without a metronome, which is promised to be forthcoming, but that’s not something I’ll be able to get away with too often.

Anyway, not a whole lot more to say about this one. Keep the comments coming. One from Chris last week was inquiring about a way to play the songs on your iPhone. I’ve been looking, but since phones are unable to use flash players, it really limits my options other than making the songs available as downloads. I’m not ready yet to post the songs up for download because I haven’t decided for sure what I want to do with the entire project when it’s all said and done. At minimum, I will look into having the mp3’s available for purchase, and maybe have a free mp3 of the month feature or something like that – I could even put up some stuff from my old bands and projects over the years…well thankfully I still have 45 weeks left to figure this all out. I would really like to release the entire collection in three or four volumes on a hard format as well. I have a lot of planning to do and would be happy to hear your thoughts on all of this stuff. Oh, and if anyone knows of a player out there that I could embed or use through WordPress that would work for the iPhone, let me know.

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Monday, October 19th, 2009 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Week 6, Pushing It

The sixth song is called Pushing It.

I’m finding out that these songs have lives of their own. Last week I set out to write a short acoustic song. I wanted to experiment with the Blue Mikey, and since we had my mom and step-dad coming in from New Mexico on Thursday, I knew that I only had a little time to work with. So what started out  as a short and simple acoustic song, ended up as not so much, but it worked out all right. The production was definitely rushed, and I would have been happy to have retaken some of the guitar tracks, and don’t get me started on the drums… but then that’s the deal with this project. I like how the song came out, and it worked out as a nice chance to use DopplerPad in one of my songs. DopplerPad is another great iPhone app, developed by Retronyms, co-developer of FourTrack. Here’s a video of DopplerPad in action. It’s super-fun, but could easily eat up all of your free time.

Anyway, here’s how the song breaks down: The tuning is D-A-D-G-B-D. There’s one vocal track and three acoustic guitar tracks recorded with the Blue Mikey, one acoustic track of the entire song and the other two are just during the break, hard panned. I wanted the break to sound huge.  I added two electric guitar tracks of the same take – after getting a drum take that I could live with, I tracked the electric part on my Fender Twin using the overhead mic and the Rode NTK further back in the room. I added a bass track using the custom break-out cable on my practice amp, and the drums were the same four-mic setup from the last two weeks. I recorded the drums and the electric guitar tracks using Reaper onto my laptop. I recorded the rest of the tracks onto the iPhone using a new app, MultiTrack. MultiTrack is a fantastic piece of iPhone software developed by Harmonicdog. Believe it or not, it’s a fully functioning 16-track with input gain and input monitoring, two features that no one else that I’ve seen has pulled off well or even at all. It was just released in September and is relatively bare-bones, but due to having complete access to the developer on Harmonicdog’s forum, I can tell you that there are many more great features on the way (including a metronome, which is the one thing keeping me from using this app more often).

When everything else was done I added two tracks of DopplerPad which creep into the mix gradually. I used a 1/8″ cable plugged directly between the iPhone headphone jack and the mic input jack on my laptop and used the iPhone and DopplerPad like an instrument. It ended up having just about the effect that I was looking for. I don’t know how much I will end up using DopplerPad again on this project, if at all. But it’s super-fun to play with, so I’ll get my money’s worth.

One last thing. You may have noticed a new addition to the website. I’ve added a subscribe feature on the main page so that, if you’d like,  you can get a heads up of when I post my weekly song. You can use RSS, Twitter, or simply have an email sent. Thanks again to everyone for listening. Have a great week.

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Monday, October 12th, 2009 Uncategorized 4 Comments

Week 5, Back Out

The fifth song is called Back Out.

I’m pretty pleased with how this one came together. This song, like last week’s, was written in the drop-high-D tuning. It’s a really simple song. One guitar part, recorded once with my Audix dynamic mic through the custom iPhone adapter (same method for the bass track), and once with a new addition to my iPhone arsenal, the Blue Mikey.

Mikey was developed by Blue, a high-quality mic company, for recording to the iPod. It’s not officially compatible with the iPhone, but it’s worked just fine for me and some of the other folks out there working on iPhone recording. Mikey plugs into the iPhone connector, rather than the headphone jack, where it gets the power to make two tiny condenser mics work. All of the vocal tracks and the second guitar take on Back Out were recorded using the Mikey.

I’m happy with how everything ended up sounding, but it’s really a sensitive/touchy mic and I’m thinking there’s a bit of a learning curve on how to get the most out of it without too much noise. There are three gain settings, with the lowest advertised to handle loud live music. I’ve read that some have had mixed results using Mikey for that application, but it’s a relatively new product and there’s not a whole lot of user feedback that I’ve been able to find yet. For what it’s worth, I took a minute to test it out across the room from my drum kit and it seemed to be able to handle it without noticeable clipping. With 47 songs left there will be ample time to give Mikey a good workout.

For the drums I used the same four-mic setup as last week’s song with a slight shift of the snare mic. Drums and mixdown were in Reaper as usual. The other tracks were recorded on the iPhone using FourTrack. Extra thanks to the great folks at Sonoma Wire Works, the developer of FourTrack and other great iPhone and non-iPhone audio software. They were nice enough to mention me on their website and Facebook page. I really appreciate it. I’m digging how the iPhone has become the fertile ground for all of these creative new apps. It’s been really cool to be able to have access to the software developers and see how quickly things are evolving.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. When I have a little more time I’d like to expand the links portion of this site, so if you have a favorite music or recording blog, site, magazine, or whatever, let me know.

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Monday, October 5th, 2009 Uncategorized 9 Comments

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