This is from the Private Lightning album released in the early 80s. I play bass on this. The picture is three band members on top of the volcano on the island of Montserrat where we recorded.
A new release by Without Focus. Dave Overland wrote and sings. Robert Foy on Keys, Mike ‘Smokey Toobz’ on Guitars. I’m on Bass, drums and production.
Another Private Lightning song – I’m on bass guitar. The picture is the drum setup in the studio that was used on this song and the rest of the album. Recorded at AIR studios in Montserrat (before it was destroyed by a hurricane).
Another song from the Private Lightning album.
From the eponymous Private Lightning album from 1980 = remastered to correct the horrendous mastering job when transferring to vinyl.
Another track from the Private Lightning album. Thriller is cut three. I finally got tired of listening to all of the problems caused in the production of this album. Here is a much better version.
Here’s an update to the Private Lightning song Physical Speed. I’m trying to fix the bad things that happened to this album. This is the first of many posts.
This is a George Harrison song from his Cloud 9 album in 1987. @mojoespage from Bandlab asked me to sing and play the piano on it – everything else is his work.
Fiona’s new album was produced right here at Baselines Designs Studio. Get in touch with us for all your sound production needs.
Check out the new album, ‘I Gave You My Heart’ on Spotify or all the other major outlets.
Fiona is also a member of the vocal group The Treblettes who perform throughout the Melbourne area.
From 1963, written by John Lennon. An early experimentation by Paul with 5ths in the bass on the verses. Lead vocal by Iowa’s own Doug Cross.
This is a song that developed from a keyboard pounding session at 3 in the morning when I was in my 20s and fairly inebriated. Fortunately I pressed record on the old cassette player. I found it years later and have been developing it further ever since.
I wanted to make it about a serial killer, how he developed into such. This was based on a book I read back then called By Reason of Insanity. The main character, Thomas Bishop, thought that Caryl Chessman was his real dad because his mom got raped up on lover’s lane.
Anyway, I never got around to writing the lyrics. I tried, but they just wouldn’t come. Maybe I will try again at some time.
But for now, here it is.
Here’s how 440 mixed with 432 looks:
And here’s how it sounds:
Classic Mamas and Papas track from 1965. @filun and @thetreblettes handle the vocals.
I posted this content onto the Cakewalk blog after I saw a question about it – thought I should make it available to anyone who might be interested.
This demonstrates Cakewalk’s ability to determine a tempo map from an existing track. (It usually does an OK job but most of the time needs edits. It’s a somewhat tedious process but pays off in the long run. Once you get used to it, it goes pretty quickly. So without any further ado, here are the steps I use.
– Get a recording of a song you may like to cover. mp3,wav,whatever can be imported into Cakewalk. Select a track and do a File->Import.
– Once the track is in Cakewalk, check out the start of the file, cut out anything at the beginning that is before the song actually starts. In this image I am about to delete the quiet part and move the rest of the track over to the left to the zero position.
Now if you select the track and hold down the shift key and the left mouse button while dragging up to the topmost bar (it will change color when you have done it), then release, Cakewalk will calculate the tempo map from the file. It may take a while to complete. Often it is not perfect. You can go into the tempo map to edit it as much as you want. This is the time consuming part, but it is worth it if you want to record and line up other tracks with it.
Click on Views->Tempo to open up a graphic of the tempo map. Then you can use the mouse to move the numbers pane to the right and expose the chart.
You can use the + and – horizontal and vertical magnifying glasses to size the chart appropriately. Beats per minute is to the left.
This is where the time consuming part comes in. I turn on the metronome and look at the audio waveform to find out where the major beats are. Here the audio is slightly after the beat.
To correct something like this, you can actually hold the mouse button down and pull the tempo map line down before the cursor.
Like I say, it takes some time to get it right, but if you do it a few times, you get used to it. Once you adjust it, you can use all of the midi tools to line things up close to the grid for any other midi tracks you will add, and you can also adjust the audio on any tracks where needed.
This is my cover of a great Paul Simon song from his 1986 album Graceland. It was the fifth single released. I was completely surprised that I didn’t know (until now) that it was Linda Ronstadt singing the female harmony. On my version, @kiwichrys from Bandlab does the honors.
I am not sure if this is new in Melodyne or whether Cakewalk now imports more information.
From what I can remember I have never had access to the frequency bar graph except when using Melodyne Studio as a standalone.
This snapshot is of an instance of Melodyne applied to a clip.
You can see the bar graph at the bottom. You can select frequency ranges and boost or lower them. Here I select some high frequencies and anticipate boosting them a little. You can listen to the differences in real time and watch the frequency components bounce up and down.
This is an English radio station – here are some details. Dave Overland talks about Without Focus. https://www.facebook.com/112129290440054/posts/wwwweirfmcouk-saturday-kicking-off-at-1800-with-adam-francis-the-theme-show-from/161476968838619/
This is a trick I use often and I thought you might find useful.
The Sonitus Compressor that comes free with Cakewalk is the most clear picture of what each of the compressor parameters do in my opinion.
Here you see a spike in a clip. I put the compressor on this and set the attack time at zero so it gets activated right away. I set the release to 1ms because I want it to stop acting really quickly. I just want to blunt the peak.
The two gauges on the left (input) show you the signal level. Here in this snapshot you can see I just passed the peak when I took this snap shot, but it was captured as two green lines where the peak was. I set the little pull down button just below the peaks (here about -10 db). I set the Ratio at 3:1 and the knee to hard, which you can see on the nice graph. I set the limiter on as well.
Now, the peak will be reduced. You may need to adjust the Attack time and the Release time depending on the peak you want to cut.
I’ve used the Sonitus Compressor for over 30 years and it never fails me.
For this version of the Gloria Estefan song, Madame Z adds her vocal. Check out her new album release, produced by Baselines Designs https://baselines.com/?p=5629 – All of the music and other vocals are done by Steve Schreiber, except the marimba, which I added. Bandlab is wonderful!
July 1, 2020 source: Album Reviews
Madame Z has released her long awaited album, Down the Rabbit Hole
Here are some of the recent reviews:
Madame Z – “Down The Rabbit Hole” is a stunning record! – Tuneloud
Madame Z Takes Us ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’ – Indie Band Guru
Perhaps one of 2020’s most eclectic, versatile and uninhibited creative artists…” -Stereo Stickman
As the title implies, Down The Rabbit Hole is no ordinary adventure. And that’s a damn good thing!” -Sleeping Bag Studios
Resiliently spunky. Charmingly unpredictable. Sultry yet boundaried.” -The Ark of Music
She has a very kaleidoscopic approach, charming the audience with her unique combination of different genres, paving the way to a unique and personal sound.” -Bandcamp Diaries
This is a narrative rich album filled with soul and a kind of controlled rage that sears the surface of the story being told.” -Amanda Nargi, author
A Kinks cover this song was released in 1965. @kiwichrys on the high parts.
If that sounds like you, read on: we’re going to give you some hacks for recording in your project studio. With a focus on those who make music out of their domiciles, we’ll walk you through the steps you should take for securing clear, natural recordings, from room treatment to microphone technique.
1. Treat your room for recording
Room treatment is not in any way sexy. Nobody wants to drop five hundred bucks on something that can’t make a sound. Sure, I could go on and on about how fantastic a modicum of room treatment will make your inexpensive gear sound. I also have great recipes for cauliflower rice, and you’d probably be just as interested in that.
Still, room treatment—especially in domicile-based studios—is essential, even if we discount room treatment for mixing (which we shouldn’t). But let’s say you’ll never take off your headphones when producing, no matter the pro advice. You should still outfit a segment of your workspace to achieve proper recordings.
For vocals, you can get the cage that wraps around a mic stand, but I’d wager you’re better off actually treating dedicated portions of the room for recording. If you can only devote a segment of your room to audio capture, that may work out in your favor:
Sure, you may want to convert a closet into an iso-booth, but you very well stand a better chance with a larger, multi-use space, as is-booths are hard to treat correctly. Handled wrong, you’ll get a muddy, lifeless sound for a variety of acoustic reasons. It’s easier to achieve tonal balance in a part of your multipurpose room, believe it or not.
How to go about treating your room for vocal recordings varies on its shape, the materials of construction, and your budget. There is no one-stop solution I can provide, except to suggest that you do the proper research. Many companies, like GIK, offer free advice on how to go about treating a room on any budget. Other sources, such as this article, can be helpful.
And really, you ought to treat your room for mixing purposes as well. It goes a long way to securing mix translation. You can read up on where to do so here.
Treatment geared to both scenarios—recording and mixing—is essential, because there’s no such thing as a demo anymore. With shrinking budgets and satellite schedules, any serious producer is expected to craft material that could go out for mass consumption. The better treated your recording environment is, the better your chances of capturing a usable performance.
2. Invest in a solid mic chain
The same assumption here: your audio needs to sound as radio-ready as possible. You can work all your magic at the mixing stage, but if you’re a producer looking to create great sounds efficiently, it helps to have a solid recording chain to bring life to your audio on the way in. I’ve often heard breakdowns like, “50% of a good sound is the singer, 40% is the room, and 10% is the gear involved.” If you think it’s true, then it behooves you to go for that extra 10%!
It may take a while to save up for good recording gear, but even one channel is worth the expense. And, luckily for you, many interfaces in the sub-$1000 range sound great. Provided you’re working at sample rates at or under 48 kHz, Spire can act as one such interface since its preamps were made by Grace Design—a manufacturer of high quality, transparent preamps. If you don’t have the scratch to shell out for vintage gear or clones thereof, go for clean and transparent: you can vibe the sound later on with other tools. Mic presets are very important — it’s why I wrote about them first. Conversion too is something worth researching. But you should also invest in a couple of great workhorse microphones. I’d say two would do the trick. If vocals and the occasional acoustic instrument come through your space, a dynamic mic and a great large diaphragm condenser will serve you well.
Note I said “great,” not “expensive.” Modeling microphones are getting better and better, as well as cheaper and cheaper. Large diaphragm condensers like the Aston Origin or the WA47 sound great in the sub-1000 category. For dynamic mics, a Shure SM7B, an EV RE20, or even a trusty Shure SM57 can get the job done.
If you pair one workhorse condenser and one dynamic mic, you’ll probably have enough to handle most singer/guitar situations that come into your home recording studio. Occasionally you’ll come across a singer who’d probably benefit from a ribbon, but until you’re able to spend discretionary income on one, you can feasibly handle whatever comes your way in this department.
3. Banish all noisy equipment to faraway place
Noise is a troublesome issue for recording. It can come from anywhere in the domicile-based production studio. Do you live off a traffic circle? I did for six years. It seemed motorcycle drivers and truckers had a penchant for knowing when I wanted to record. Do you have roommates? I did, and they opened doors at all the wrong times.
Yes, there are things you can’t control—and for those things, iZotope’s RX7 is a godsend. Even though RX is more transparent with each iteration, nothing beats a clean, noise-free recording. you can minimize noise on your end as much as possible.
Air conditioners, refrigerators, hard drives—all of these are within of your control. Turn the air conditioner off whenever you record. If you can hear the fridge on your recordings, unplug it for the session. Set your hard fives far away from the recording location, and outside of the microphone’s pickup pattern. If they’re still whirring loud enough to come through your recording, box them up. I had a particularly noise external hard drive and was lazy about replacing it, so I lined a large bucket with a packing blanket and just placed it over the top when I recorded. It worked well enough. Do what you can to banish extraneous sound in the recording process, and you won’t have to worry about noise-reduction compromises later on.
4. Get at least two pairs of closed-back headphones
This tip applies to those who have only one space for recording and mixing. You may love your open-backed Grado, Sennheiser, or Audeze headphones for producing. Open-backed headphones do give you a feeling that closed-back headphones can’t emulate. But as soon as you’re recording, it’s time to put those leaky headphones away. Again, you want your audio to sound as clean as possible, and that means as little headphone bleed as you can get.
To that end, it is well worth your while to have multiple pairs of closed-back headphones, one for you, others for your artists. They don’t have to sound as amazing as your mixing headphones, just good enough to give the singer a pleasing picture of the voice.
At least one pair should be flat enough to trust while recording, and detailed enough to reveal issues should they come up. That pair should go on your ears. Familiarize yourself with that pair by listening to all your favorite records and logging any differences you notice coming through the headphones.
5. Correlate the meters to your ears
When recording, it’s good to have meters on hand to give you visual indications, showing you signal-strength, or whether the signal has clipped. Your preamp, interface, or converter usually provides some sort of metering, and of course, you can always use a plug-in within your DAW, something like
But more importantly, you should learn how to correlate any meter with what your ear hears as you record. Mics and preamps tend to have sweet-spots, areas where the sound is harmonically rich and satisfying. Correlate these aural sweetspots with the visual indicators of your metering.
When you’re setting up the mic on the vocalist or the instrumentalist, take note of the meter reading when you really hear the juice, and as you record, watch the meters to make sure you’re still in that zone. If you find the artist is peaking near the sweet-spot, you may have to compromise and turn down, or use a compressor in your chain. Some tracking compressors, such as several pieces in the FMR series, are both incredibly transparent and quite cheap.
6. Learn some basics of vocal mic technique
Typical microphone placing for a singer involves leaving about 6 to 12” of space between the mouth and the capsule, which is usually cardioid in polar pattern (unless you have a great room or are trying to capture a specific effect, go for cardioid in most vocal-recording scenarios).
You may want to get the mic closer or farther away depending on a few variables. If you’d like to use the proximity effect to secure more low-midrange in the signal, move the singer closer to the mic. If the room sounds great, and you want its quality to come through in the recording, try moving the singer farther away.
But hold on—what is the proximity effect? This occurs in many microphones, and simply put, it’s this: as you move the mic closer to the capsule, you’ll notice more low-midrange in the signal. This can be used to your advantage, or it can be detrimental. Experiment until you achieve the appropriate fullness.
Be aware of the microphone’s angle. On a cardioid mic, if you angle the capsule so that the artist is singing somewhat diagonally into it, you can minimize sibilance, which will serve you well in the mix. Also, I’ve found that playing with the height of the mic can greatly impact the singer’s performance. Too low, and the singer tucks in the neck, squashing the sound and the chords. A little higher than dead on the capsule causes the singer to tilt up a bit, which elongates the neck and may engender a clearer tone.
7. Learn some basics of acoustic guitar mic technique
Other than vocals, the most common recordable instrument you’ll come across is probably acoustic guitar. So, learn how to mic one!
Here’s an easy, straight-forward way to mic an acoustic: point the capsule at where the neck meets the body, about a foot away from the instrument (give or take). This will act your focal point in balancing the tone. Angle capsule slightly toward the body, and you’ll get a boomier timbre. Direct the capsule slight toward the neck, and you’ll hear a thinner sound with more string presence. Straight on is also good. Balance the tone for your song.
For more of a fuller sound, without the exaggerated boominess from directly miking the soundhole, try positioning the microphoning above the soundhole, about a foot away, angled down at the instrument. This can get you that darker, richer sound, with less string noise, and more body. As for mic choice, let’s assume you’re working with either a large diaphragm condenser or a dynamic mic. Try either to see what’s best. Something like a dobro might benefit from more of a dynamic mic, while a more rounded instrument like a dreadnought might crave that LDC.
But what about stereo?
For stereo miking, you have your pic of X/Y, spaced pair, and M/S miking configurations, but always keep in mind that you should space each mic the same distance from the guitar to avoid obvious phase issues.
Honestly, when you’re a bedroom producer, you want good results fast. You may not want to bother with stereo at all, unless you’re confident and practiced in getting up mics within your space. Try trusting in the gods of Fake Stereo, using EQ tricks, such as the one laid out in this article, particularly tip four when it goes live). You can mult an acoustic track to two new tracks, pan one to the left, the other to the right. High pass one, low pass the other, keep the unaffected one in the middle, and play with them all till you have a nice stereo spread.
In terms of naturality, this technique may not work for a solo acoustic recording, but for a medium- to heavily-dense arrangement, it can be a way to affect the right stereo acoustic-guitar sound quickly.
Home recording studio hacks: the takeaways
Don’t forget about the other gear that goes into securing a good performance. A Shockmount for a vocal mic? That’s a good idea. A mic stand that’s solid, with a round base that won’t tip over? You bet. A pop-filter? It can help.
Are these essentials? Not really. You can get by without them, but once you have them, you’ll never want to go back.
Also, remember that the artist needs to hear everything in the most flattering light. This may mean setting up a cue mix for them to hear exactly what they want—more of the vocals, less of the bass, etc.—while your mix remains the same.
It’s unrealistic, however, to expect a bedroom-based studio would always have the gear for a cue mix. Maybe you only have an interface with two headphone outs.
There’s nothing wrong with that! In this case, make sacrifices for the artist. Mix it on the spot for their liking, with the EQ they need, the instrument balance they ask for, and all the effects they crave. You’ve already heard how it’s going to sound when you set up the mic. Now you can step aside and trust them to their job, provided you’re sure in your technique, your gear, etc.
Is there more to cover here? Absolutely. The subject of room treatment alone is a volume of books, let alone a 2,000 word article. But use these steps as a guiding post, and you’ll be on your way to hacking out a quality acoustic recording in your room.
Here’s my version of the Beatles song Girl.
Thanks to @kiwichrys vocals and @the_m_project guitars from Bandlab. I did the piano, bass and drum programming…oh and the whistle and cowbell 🙂
This is an original song by Cocobark. I added keys, some bass and drums and produced it.
There were a series of distinct pops in this vocal track. The first screenshot shows them and the second screenshot shows the fix. They are the 5 bars that go up the whole frequency spectrum about a quarter of the way over from the left.
I did this really quickly and it sounds acceptable. If I spent a lot of time I could probably get it perfect.
It was as easy as highlighting sections of the noise bars and cutting them out of the track. Then highlighting what remained and hitting delete. The delete function brings those sounds down without fully erasing them. I hit delete a few times and it mostly fixed the issue.
To put the final nail in Covid-19, I present for your consideration, Do the Conga. This is mostly Steve Schreiber on Bandlab. I added Marimba and produced.
@kiwichry adds her great vocals to my song about losing a loved one.
Sometimes a track will sound great with a few exceptions, where the player hit a note a little too strongly. Here’s a good way I’ve found to make these spikes better without having to record again.
This is not a radical example here – the spike shown is probably mostly under control, but I’m using it just to demonstrate that sometimes your eyes are almost as good as your ears.
Here is a bass note recorded into Cakewalk by Bandlab. You can see a small spike near the beginning of the note, particularly on the bottom side..
Looking at the rest of my track, this only happens in a few instances. In order not to affect most of the track, I cut so that I am only processing this one note.
In Cakewalk, I really like the simplicity and the quality of their free Sonitus plugins. You can right click on the little cut track of the note and then insert an effect only on to this clip. I’m going to put the Sonitus compressor on it.
Here’s how the plugin looks. I’ve already set some of the parameters, which I will detail below. There’s a small square in the right hand top corner where you can get to the plugin you loaded on the clip.
I’m just trying to get rid of the spike above where my cursor is. I set the attack to zero because I want the compressor to act right away. I set the release to 1ms because I only want the compressor to work for a short period of time, so that the rest of the note is not affected.
I played the note to get an idea on how loud the input is.. You can see on the bars on the left what the level is. I slide the threshold control (on the colored volume bars) down just a little to -3.3. I set a pretty hard ratio of 5.0:1 with a hard knee. There is a limiter button also, which I usually keep on.
All of these values are trial and error. Once you get something that will work, you can apply it to the note segment (select the segment, right click and bounce to clip), and the waveform you see will change. I did this here, and this is what the wave segment now looks like.
You can see that the spike is somewhat reduced. If you find that things are flattened out to much, like in the image below, you can always edit->undo in Cakewalk and get back your original waveform.
It’s a little bit of trial and error, but at least you have a visual indication of what you are working with.
This can also be done for a whole track if you need to, but it is always a good idea to try to not affect anything other than what you need to fix.
Here’s a before and after side by side.
A Friend of mine sent me this picture. They say the photo of the Beatles was taken at Plymouth Hoe during the Magical Mystery Tour. They marked the spot where they were sitting. Pretty funny and cool.
Seems like forever that I just went from guitar to direct box to preamp to USB interface to DAW. It always worked fine, but was problematic.
If I used that method and tried to put on the effects inside the DAW, the latency was too much to bear, so I always laid the guitar tracks down with no effects, listening to the output from the preamp. This eliminated all latency, but of course the guitar sounded like a very low volume no character twang. I had to imagine what it would sound like with effects.
I use the RME TotalMix software mixer. It is fantastic, but confusing to get up to speed on it.
Anyway, today I got fed up with the volume issues and decided to make it better. I had given my son a small Orange amp, but he has his mind on other things, so I stole it back.
Well I can’t believe I waited so long to do this. It gave me plenty of power, and enough character to play more easily. I still put effects on after I record, but this has made things so much easier.
Another thing that it made me realize is the difference between pickups and volume and tone controls on my Fender Strat. I was so used to just using the bottom two pickup positions with the tone and volume full open on the guitar. There was little difference otherwise. Now, each switch position and the tone knob changes makes a huge difference.
I’m so glad I finally did this. Details below.
Here’s what I tried…
From the guitar to my direct box
From the direct box to the Orange Crush input.
From the Orange headphones out to the Behringer ADA8200 preamp
From the Behringer to an RME Babyface Pro USB Audio Interface
Into the TotalMix software and to the DAW
@thelonewulfproject and @chry-me-a-river on vocals. I play the instruments. If the video does not show, there’s a local link to it below.
Here’s a new release by the band Without Focus. Written by Dave (@eipi) at Bandlab, with Robert Foy on keys and Mike (@Smokeytoobs) on Bandlab on Electric Guitar. Dave plays acoustic and does the vocals. I did bass and drums and produced the song.
My cover of a song by Joe Jackson. Released unsuccessfully in October 1978, re-released in 1979 and was a hit. @thelonewulfproject on vocals.