notes from the shore

Adventures in Home Recording

Project Studio Upgrades, Pt. 2 – Preamps and Channel Strips

This is the second installment of my studio upgrade series.

Part 1: Microphones

Part 3: Keyboards, Synths and Controllers

Part 4: Mixers and Audio Interfaces

Part 5: Computers, DAW’s and Control Surfaces

Part 6: Monitoring and Acoustic Treatment

In the first installment we changed acoustic signals in the air into electric signals in a wire. There’s still a step to take before we can record this signal. Continue reading

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Home Studio | , | 6 Comments

Project Studio Upgrades, Pt. 1 – Microphones

I’m baaack. My life has been in transition for the last several months, but I’m now at a point where I have some free time on my hands. Yes, I’ve been laid off.  So, being laid off with no immediate income, it seemed a perfect time to fantasize about spending a large load of cash on a dream project studio. Why not, eh? This post has gone through several revisions, so let’s see what we’ve got. Continue reading

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Home Studio | , , , , | 3 Comments

Home Recording Podcasts Redux

Since my first post on Podcasts that concentrate on aspects of home recording, I’ve discovered a few more that are worth passing on. Continue reading

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Every Day

My wife celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago. It also happened to be the 20th anniversary of our engagement. I’ve been wanting to write for her a song for some time, and this seemed the right occasion.

So, how does one sum up 20 years in a 3 1/2 minute song? Not easily, I can tell you. This is also the first time I sat down to write a song about something not starting with a melody, or phrase, or hook to begin the process. Continue reading

July 6, 2010 Posted by | Production Diary | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home Recording Podcasts

I’ve had an iPod (several, actually – the current being the first not to self destruct) over the last several years, but only in the last year or so I’ve become interested in listening to podcasts. I think it comes from my desire to always be hearing something new – I have mostly the same old music on my iPod (even if it is 12 gig worth, which comes to roughly a whole lot). With podcasts, it’s always something new, and sometimes useful and inspiring. Continue reading

March 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 6 Comments

Kidz Praise

At my church, the kids under 5th grade have their own service (under 3 in the nursery). I’m the music coordinator for the rugrats, and what we do is project the lyrics of praise songs on a screen with crazy backgrounds, and play kids versions of those songs (in good keys for pre-voice change voices to sing, usually shorter arrangements). Then the kid’s praise leader stands up in front and leads the singing and motions for each song. I work up a good sweat every time. Continue reading

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Production Diary | , , , , | 2 Comments

Song Production from Begining to End

There are quite a few steps that make up taking a song from initial concept to completed production, ready for public consumption. Since I don’t have any real progress on my own music to report, I thought I would entertain myself outlining those steps for potential recording songwriters. Continue reading

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Production Diary | , , , | 1 Comment

Sidetracked

As mentioned in my last post, I knew I would be temporarily sidetracked from my ongoing projects. I needed to put together an emergency track for a funeral. It’s a song we’ve played with the band at church several times, but don’t have a useful recording. The gentleman who sings it (Jack) has been on me for several years to produce a backing track for him. The request of this song at an upcoming funeral (end stage cancer) made it happen. Continue reading

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Production Diary | , | 1 Comment

Djembe Recording Demystified

The first part of creating a brand new soundont is the collection of the raw samples. In this case I wanted to sample an African drum called a djembe. I love the variety of tones that can be achieved from this drum in the hands of a skilled player. I’ve also had terrible luck finding one (a soundfont, that is) that I can use on my music system. Necessity being the mother of invention, I decided that it was time to create a high-quality djembe soundfont for my personal use and possibly for sale.

The first step was getting the personnel together. Two of my closest friends joined me in this activity. My friend Ken is a percussionist who owns a high quality 14″ Paulo Mattioli djembe (specifically, the one on the left). The other is my friend Will, an engineer with plenty of musical credits, himself. He also happens to own higher quality recording equipment than I do, plus I trust his ears and musical sensibility.

We met at Will’s house at 10:00 on Saturday morning and set about arranging the microphones. All three of us had headphones on and Will moved the mics about while Ken played a repeated note. When we settled on a position, we moved the mic stand up to it and locked it into place. Here’s the final set: Djembe Miked Up.

Here are the details: The overhead mic is a Behringer B-5 with the wind screen on. Without it we found that we were getting wind noise when Ken lifted his hand up off the drum head on the harder hits. It is set to a flat response and a reversed polarity.

To the left of the drumhead is a Behringer B-2 Pro. It also has the windscreen and is set to a flat response. Both of these mics were run through a Bluetube two-channel mic preamp.

In the bell of the drum was another B-2 Pro, this one set to omni, and direct to the mixer. Anything above line level was clipping the signal. After we finished recording, Will wondered what would have happened if we flipped the phase, but it was too late. I guess I’ll give that a try in mixdown and see what the results are.

All the signals were simultaneously recorded through a Behringer Eurorack mixer onto a PC-DAW running Power Tracks Pro Audio. Since I also use this software, we were able to burn a CD of the rough samples for later mixing in my own studio. All this took about 1 1/2 hours and we broke for lunch.

Now that we had the mics all set up, we had to decide what we were actually going to sample. Fundamentally, the djembe makes three distinct tones – the bass, the palm and the slap. Each of those has numerous variations depending on whether it is on- or off-hand, muted, or for the slap whether the hand rebounds up or slaps off the side of the drum and continues on down.

We also needed to make these samples at different loudnesses, so that when you hit the key harder to play the sample, not only does the volume increase, but the tone changes in the same way that the tone of the real drum changes when you play it harder. We set up a dB meter next to the drum with the intension of measuring and reproducing the volumes, but that proved unworkable.

What we ended up doing was Ken simply played a series of 11 – 15 hits at steadily increasing volume. We did this in 3 or 4 takes, so we ended up with 33-60 individual samples in one long wave file for each type of hit. Sometimes the hits smoothly increase, sometimes there’s a jump or even a small reversal, but with 3 takes we covered everything we should need, and will probably throw over half of it away as duplications.

After taking samples of all the hits we recorded Ken scraping his hand across the drum head in various ways. Finally, we recorded four drum patterns. These will have a few uses. First, I will use the patterns to mix the samples, and then apply the same mix and effects to all of the samples we took on Saturday. Second, we will try to duplicate these patterns in a sequencer with the mixed samples to see how good a job we did.

Next: Mixdown!

March 21, 2007 Posted by | Djembe, Soundfont Editing | , , , | 1 Comment