Week 42, The Game

To listen on an iPhone, visit my Bandcamp site, or download the SoundCloud iPhone app.

There have been a few times throughout this project that the song that I recorded doesn’t end up being the song that I thought it would be once it starts coming together. Usually I’ll run with it and make the most of it because I kind of have to due of the time constraint, and it usually works out all right. This week’s song was just too long, and it had a really awkward change in the end part. With a little creative splicing and editing in Reaper, I was able to drop a verse and completely make over the end of the song.  I love how easy it is to seamlessly rearrange and augment a recording of live instruments. I’d love to be able to get every song just right every week, but it’s nice to have a back-up plan because I really don’t have the time to start over.

This is also one of those songs where I would really love to go back and re-record everything in higher fidelity. Not to knock the great sounds that I’ve been able to get out of my iPhone, but some songs lend themselves better to phone-fi than others.

With all of that said, this version of the song was recorded completely on the iPhone using the Alesis ProTrack with the MultiTrack DAW app. The drums were recorded with just the built in condenser mics on the ProTrack, and the guitar was recorded with the CAD E200. The vocals, which I’m dying to re-record, were done with the iPhone’s built-in mic. I spent a good bit of time applying EQ, mixing, and editing in Reaper.

Recording challenges aside, the song itself is solidly in the vein of bands like The New Year and Seam. I hope it doesn’t go as far as being derivative, but rather serves as a bit of homage, since these are a couple of my favorite bands. Seam hasn’t been around for years, but The New Year (formerly known as Bedhead with a different line-up) is still cranking out great records. Do yourself a favor and check them out.


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Sunday, June 27th, 2010 Uncategorized No Comments

Week 29, Undefined

cats-undefinedThis song was about as close as I’ve come to scrapping a track and freaking out because I didn’t have anything else to go with. This was the first song that I’ve ever written on bass, and that seemed to throw me off of my game when it came time to write a guitar part. The bass line and song that I wrote just didn’t call for my usual style of guitar playing which is more chordal and rhythmic. A major credit should go to my wife, who after hearing me freak out and give up two nights in a row, suggested that I try writing a baritone part first. That’s what I did on the third night, and even that didn’t work until I tuned the baritone up a couple of steps to an F# version of standard tuning. Finally a simple baritone and guitar part came together, and I was on my way. I was a couple of days behind, though, and frankly I’m a little surprised that everything came out sounding as good as it did.

That goes doubly for the drums, as this was a pretty challenging drum part, and I was also breaking in a new mic configuration. I started out Project 52 with three drum mics and have slowly been adding them along the way. This song unveils the six-mic configuration. I’m pretty sure that I’m done adding mics, though. I’ll probably start taking mics away from here on out. I was inspired to switch mics up after reading a great article by Chas Ferry in the latest Tape Op Magazine. Quick plug: Tape Op is an amazing institution of a recording magazine. If you’re not currently subscribed, then do yourself a favor and get it (hint – it’s free). They do incredible interviews and generally have awesome content from a less-than-mainstream perspective (this week’s issue features an interview with Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Merge Records fame), along with great online forums which are hands down the best in the recording world.

Inspired to put put a bit more room in my drum mix, I added a pair of large-diaphragm condenser mics about 20-30 inches out in front of the kit, one in front of the high hat and snare, and one out from the floor tom and ride cymbal. The revelation of the article is that in a small room like the one that I’m using, moving the room mics closer in to the source increases the ratio of distance between source and reflection, thus creating the impression of a much larger room. I didn’t have much time to play with it – I pretty much spot miked everything, but first impressions are pretty good.

After a weekend full of two 3-year-olds’ birthday parties, crammed-in drum takes and lyric writing, I ended up with a song that sounds a lot like a couple of the bands that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I’d say most noticeably is the band C-clamp, which is sadly one of the most under-appreciated and unknown of my regular arsenal of 90s bands. As far as I know, both of their albums are out of print, but you should still seek out their music if you can find it. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Bottomless Pit and The New Year, having recently purchased one of the latter’s records. Bottomless Pit is made up of former Silkworm and Seam members, and The New Year is the band of former Bedhead fame. Even though these guys are all of a strong 90s indie rock vintage, both bands are still out there making great-sounding records and playing shows. It’s inspiring.

The rest of this week’s recording was done in regular fashion. The drums and final mix were done with Reaper. The bass, baritone, and guitar parts were all performed on my Orange Crush 30r and recorded using a dynamic mic into the iPhone. The vocals were recorded using the iPhone’s built-in mic, and everything on the iPhone was tracked using the MultiTrack app.  

Thanks again for listening. Have a great week everyone.

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Sunday, March 28th, 2010 Uncategorized 5 Comments

Week 9, Solace

The ninth song is called Solace.

Officially the longest song so far – it also has the fewest lyrics coming in at three lines.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Seam lately, and though this song probably sounds a little bit more like a Bedhead or The New Year song, I would attribute it to my recent Seam obsession. If you’re not already a fan of Seam, Bedhead, or The New Year, then I would recommend checking them out. Seam and Bedhead have been defunct for a good while, but The New Year is still alive, well, and cutting records.

Speaking of Seam, I have a couple degrees of separation from Seam’s last drummer, Chris Manfrin. Chris is my wife’s second cousin, and happens to be the current drummer in Bottomless Pit. Bottomless Pit is the completely amazing band of former Silkworm frontmen Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett. Chris and I have crossed paths as Bottomless Pit and the Karl Hedricks Trio have played several shows together here in Pittsburgh and on the road. The reason I bring it up is because the Trio will be playing a show with Bottomless Pit in Chicago in a couple of weeks at the Hideout on November 14. We’ll also be playing in Bloomington, IN on the 13th, Columbus, OH on the 12th, and right here in Pittsburgh this Thursday. The Kyle Sowashes, another fantastic band, are kind enough to play all of these shows with us (and book them, thanks Kyle). I hope to catch up with some of my Pittsburgh friends at Howler’s for this week’s show, and would love to see anyone else who is in reasonable proximity to the other shows.

Enough about that stuff, here’s the deal with the song:

It gets pretty huge-sounding thanks to seven guitar tracks. The vocal tracks and the three main guitar tracks were recorded into the iPhone using the Blue Mikey. I really wanted to capture the clean tone of my Fender Twin – you can hear that the Mikey captured the Twin + Telecaster sound pretty well as illustrated in the first section of the song. I added a couple more guitar tracks using my Rode NTK tube condenser straight into the laptop since I already had everything set up to record the drums. The next day I added a couple more guitar tracks and the bass track using the custom break-out cable (from Week 2) to mic my Orange practice amp. I wanted a nice full drum sound for this song, so I went back to the four mic arrangement from weeks 4 through 7 but with the Rode NTK out in front of the drum set. I like how they ended up sounding, and for once I’m not miserable about my performance (I don’t fancy myself a drummer). I also managed to work in another DopplerPad track. I created a 16-beat loop which I wanted to sit lightly in the mix and then imported it into Reaper. The loop plays throughout the song, but you can only really hear it during the first and last sections. DopplerPad is really a great iPhone app. I’m looking forward to what they have planned for the next update. I used the fantastic MultiTrack iPhone app again to record everything with the exception of the drums and a couple guitar tracks.

Anyway, that’s about it for this week. Don’t forget to come out and see Bottomless Pit, The Kyle Sowashes, and The Karl Hendricks Trio on our tiny whirlwind tour (which is about the right size for us dudes with kids).

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Monday, November 2nd, 2009 Uncategorized 8 Comments


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