Wow recording has come such a long way in such a short time!

Yup, I sound like an old guy again, the other day my son played me a solid demo of a song he did in his bedroom with GarageBand on his iPhone. Listen to some isolated tracks from Abbey Road then compare the quality with GarageBand on an iPhone and wow, very impressive… now I just need the talent of those Liverpool kids.

Anyway, on to the point of this post.

About 12 years ago, I sat my band, Charlie Chesterman and the Legendary Motorbikes down in front of a few mic in my basement plugged in to this new GarageBand application on my laptop and we recorded some extra songs and stuff for a movie, The adventures of Johnny Tao. Over the last 12 years, I’ve done tons of little demos, then I gave up recording, then I went back to it, and gave it up again. In 2006 I upgraded to Logic and was asked by my old friend Ritt Dietz to record some tracks for him and wire them up to Madison WI for his After the Mountains album.

The real studio experience

Anyone that has recorded in a big studio knows if can be overwhelming, everyone else is in control and all you need to do is play every note right… UGH! You always wish you could just do it at home where you never make mistakes, and if you do, you could do a million more takes! Well, that is where I am now this the latest Jelly Roll Mortals project. We rented a studio and recorded all the drums them posted them to a shared cloud drive. Each of us is pulling down the drums and recording our parts. I think the other guys will be playing over my bass tracks with the drums. I’ll be the only one playing over just drums with a scratch vocal to help me keep my place. It’s just what I wanted right?!?!? I didn’t count on a few issues…

First, let’s start with the gear.

I’ve got a big iMac with the ram maxed out. I’m running Logic 10 which is amazing but really for this project I’m not using much of the power of it, just 2 tracks, a mic’d signal and a direct. To get the sound in I’m using a Focusrite Scarlet. This is a pre-amp I/O device. Most of these basic I/O devices sound pretty much the same, I have a Line6 and an Apogee, but this Focusrite really seems to warm things up and seems to have more headroom… the specs don’t show much of a difference but I’m really hearing it. Now for the fun stuff, my main instrument is Upright bass,It’s full of random noises, buzzes and rumbles. So here is how I’m recording it, I bought a $25 Zingyou condenser mic that sounds better on my bass than any of my other mics! I’m sure if I bump it wrong it will fall apart, but I’m blown away by it for now. I have it on a desk-clamp hanging over my bass. Also I have a new David Gage Lifeline pickup going into a Fishman Platinum Pro pre-amp (the old plastic one) running totally flat. So far so good. Additionally, I have some electric basses and a NS Design electric upright that gets thrown in the mix from time to time.

Now for the process.

Like I said, wishing I could do it alone on my schedule is great but it has it’s issues: First, I live in a tiny row house and you can hear every noise on every floor. So, I have to get the entire family out of the house. Next, it’s a hot summer and I have to turn off the AC as it creates a super loud noise floor (yes, a low-pass filter will clean it up but I’m trying not to make too much work for the other guys mixing.) Next, setting up the tracks, in Logic, its super basic and I made a template for it with gain levels and mix already set  up. I just download the track and drag it onto track one, track two has my direct signal and track three is my mic’d signal. Now for the fun part, I have a blanket that I wrap around me and the bass and the mic stand making a little teepee to help deaden the room reflections. I sit in a chair playing the upright with the boom arm holding the mic 4 inches off of the bridge aiming almost directly at the bridge (I’ve experimented a lot). I slide my hand out of the teepee and hit record and play along. Logic is great and easy for punching in, the key is to stay in exactly the same position so you mic placement doesn’t change.

Here is the hard part.

There is no one there to say, “Good enough, let’s move on.” Good enough? there is never a take that you can do where you will not be thinking you could do it better… and having infinite tracks and time will make you nuts!!! Even if I play it right, Logic’s flex tools and pitch tools make me want to dig in and pull and push the transients and pitches. And effects… UGH! ” I just need to eq it a little bit… and slide a little compression onto it” But I’m resisting. You really need to hear this stuff in the mix before squashing and tweaking it. Everyone involved in this project uses different software so we can just share a session, we have to post raw WAV files and hope for the best.

This Gun’s for Hire!

My old friend Rich Gilbert recently posted that for $50? $100 per track he would letdown a solo for your project, just send him a Wav and he’ll slap a solo on it…. Pure genius! So I’m making the same offer. Send me a track and charts if you have them and I’ll do a bass track for you for $50 It sounds like fun?