Old 02-28-2009, 04:35 AM   #401
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Electric guitar is an ELECTRICAL system, not an ELECTRONIC system, and definitely not an ACOUSTICAL system.

But only until you record it with a microphone! (That is, if you're into such things.) heehee!

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More to come...
Good. This is fab reading!
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Old 03-01-2009, 12:26 AM   #402
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I fear that I might start to sound like a broken record as we get more into specific instruments and practices, but the reality is that the same principles apply over and over again.

When it comes to recording electric guitar, the most important thing is to make sure that we are actually starting with the player's "sound." One man's trash is another's treasure, and it's not the engineer's job to decide whether the guitar should sound like My Sharona or Cannibal Corpse or Charlie Christian.

For the home recordist, one of the problems with most "how to record guitar" guides is that they presume that the player's sound has already been worked out and well-established. This is usually the case with major-label artists who have already established a following, played hundreds of concerts, and who have had the opportunity to use advance money to shop through dozens of amplifiers.

But what of the Joe Blow who started this whole thread, he of the Squier Strat and the Peavy amp? How is he to know whether he would hear a bigger improvement from Lace Sensor pickups, or from a vintage tube amp, or from a modern modeling half-stack, or from buying a $3,000 Les Paul, or an original Ross compressor pedal, or from a POD vs a V-AMP vs a Johnson J-Station vs actually buying a real tube amp? For that matter, does he even really know for sure what "his sound" would be, even if he could have it for free if he simply named it right now?

He could ask in a web forum, and get a hundred different answers (see the very first post in this thread). And all of them probably have some merit. But one man's treasure is another's trash, and advice from James Hetfield or Stevie Ray Vaughn or might be of limited usefulness to a budding Andy Summers or Chris Isaac. Moreover, when a complete guitar rig could cost anything from $120 to $12,000 or more, it becomes difficult to priotitize. Especially where we're not talking about a Grand Piano or a Renaissance-era violin, but just about the staple of working-class garage-rock.

We start to get into hand-wired, discrete component this-and-that, and all-tube transformerless-output whatever, and hand-wound pickups and fourty-year-old paper capacitors and so on, and it's all basically doing the same thing as a twenty-dollar piece of wood with some thin-gauge wires wrapped around magnets.

I wish I could give a simple answer, and say that all you need is a V-AMP, or even an all-tube Marshall half-stack. The reality is, as I said earlier, that EVERYTHING matters when it comes to guitar sounds. The beautiful and terrible reality is that every single thing changes the sound of electric guitar. And unlike most other instruments, there is nothing close to a consensus. If you ask 100 top concert violinists which violins sound best, 99 of them will say a Stradivarius. If you ask 100 guitar heroes which guitar sounds best, you'll get 85 different answers, and never mind the differences in amps, effects pedals, picks, strings, and so on.

Moreover there is a hugely interactive aspect to good guitar sounds. Someone used to playing a Strat who picks up a Les Paul is apt find it a tone-killing blandness machine that makes every note and chord sound the same, whereas someone used to playing a Les Paul is apt to find a Strat to be an uncontrollable inferno of string noise and fizzy pick attack.

This fact, this reality, that very good guitar players often have wildly divergent opinions on the "right" gear starts to indicate a possibility that is not often considered. Especially when we consider the irrational and otherwise inexplicable reverence for "old" gear. Why would a simple guitar amplifier from 40 years ago sound any better than one made to the same specs today? Hold that thought.

We might reasonably speculate that modern lumber from heavily-irrigated rapid-growth forests might not resonate or sound the same as the dense-grained old-growth wood that was the norm in the mid-1900s, but why should ELECTRICAL circuits sound different? Moreover, why would old guitars sound any different from new guitars made from old wood?

I'm going to suggest a possible theory that, so far as I know, is unique. And that is that a majority of the "sound" achieved by the guitar greats was not from the gear, but from the player. On first pass, from a conventional gear-nerd POV, this might seem like no insight at all. Of Course Jimi Hendrix (or whoever) contributed more than the gear did. So we brush that aside and ask what gear do we need to get the same sound, given that we are playing like Jimi Hendrix?

But consider the possibility that it is not gear that defines the sound, but the player. That Jimi Hendrix would have developed a brilliant sound if all he had was a Johnson J-Station and a Kay guitar. Would we then be obsessing over Kay pickups and J-Stations with original EPROM chips? Would Jim Marshall still be running a drum shop in London selling Fender amp knockoffs?

I'm not saying that gear doesn't matter. I am suggesting the possibility that guitar players develop their sound in conjunction with the gear available to them. Link Wray invented distortion by punching holes in his speakers. Were those "vintage" holes? What if he had put them in the wrong places? Maybe, just maybe, given that the entire stream of guitar signal is a sequence of distortions and nonlinearities, maybe what matters is not so much the minutiae of the gear, but how the player manages and reacts to the distortions in real time.

Maybe Jimi Hendrix would have sounded just as good using an amp with KT66 tubes with diode rectification, or a custom-overbuilt American 6L6 tube amp overloaded by British 230V line voltage.

I do not believe for a second that all guitar gear is created equal, but I also think that, given a certain modicum of sonic adequacy, there is a possibility that obsessive pursuit of everything vintage reaches a tipping point where it becomes fetishism.

More to come.
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:48 AM   #403
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Default You hit the nail on the head...

You are absolutely right on the money with your observation about guitar 'sound'. It too has been my experience that 99.9% of the time it's the player that makes the sound...not the equipment. A good player sounds good regardless of the equipment he uses. I've watched guys take a non-descript import Strat copy, plug it into a battery powered 'clip on your belt' mini-amp and make amazingly better sounding music than most of the dudes that show up with racks and stacks of gear.

BTW...this is a fantastic post. You should have your own blog/website...

-=-Jeahvel
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Old 03-01-2009, 10:02 AM   #404
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I'm going to suggest a possible theory that, so far as I know, is unique. And that is that a majority of the "sound" achieved by the guitar greats was not from the gear, but from the player.
Not so unique, yep. I've been painfully aware for most of my musical career that Geddy Lee could play my basses and make them sound much more Geddy-ish than I, even though I'm left-handed.

A bass player's magic is definitely in the hands and fingers, much as a saxophonist's sound is in the tongue and breath. And to your point, a guitar player is playing not only the strings, but also the amplifier.

Keep up the contributions, yep! You're single-handedly responsible for organizing, validating and helping to round out my musical knowledge!

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Old 03-01-2009, 01:04 PM   #405
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I sometimes jam with my friend Larry. Larry sounds like mud on electric guitar no matter what he plays although he sounds fine on acoustic.

A month or so ago I was at this party at Larry's glass shop. The guitar player in this band had the best tone. Later on I sat in and noticed he was playing Larry's Korean Tele through Larry's princeton. Once I stopped laughing I told the guy man you really have to show Larry how to operate those. He said it wouldn't work because you would have to be able to hear the difference in order to get the tone

so another amen Yep
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Old 03-01-2009, 04:32 PM   #406
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I do not believe for a second that all guitar gear is created equal, but I also think that, given a certain modicum of sonic adequacy, there is a possibility that obsessive pursuit of everything vintage reaches a tipping point where it becomes fetishism.
Ain't that the truth. Some time ago I made "decent" money, and went on a quest for sound. After 10's of thousands of dollars and MANY boutique pieces of gear, I've "settled" on a VHT rig for the last few years. For the most part I love it, but it's STILL not 100% what I "want my sound to be".

Funny part: a while back a friend and I did a quick demo. Ended up that his solid-state old Ampeg SS140 2x12 combo sounded just as good IN THE END PRODUCT as my $3-4K worth of VHT did.
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Old 03-01-2009, 04:56 PM   #407
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For what it's worth, a really smart old dude said to me once, while I was fretting that I could sound like X if I only had Y brand guitar/amp...

"do you think, if player X was using your current rig, he'd sound like you? Or would he still sound just like him? Do you think he wouldn't sound like himself through a $69 walmart beginner guitar and a $50 chinese amp? Think about that."

I'm still not there, but at least I know where I'm headed.
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Old 03-01-2009, 10:31 PM   #408
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New Yep file is up!

http://www.filesavr.com/yepposts-upto3-1-09

Enjoy!
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:48 PM   #409
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I agree 100% that no amount of gear is going to make me sound like Jimi, nor will buying his rig necessarily make me sound any better.

What I would say, though, is that there are some things that 'work for me'. Things that make me go "yeah", and spend hours just playing because I'm loving the sound (alcohol might do this, but it doesn't translate well!).

So my 2c is, forget the fancy vintage whatevers, and just buy things that make you want to play, that help you express yourself.
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Old 03-02-2009, 01:57 AM   #410
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I agree in the same way I've always thought that guitar's sound makes a good song, no matter how good the guitar actually sounds out of the contest of the song itself.

for example, I can't imagine a better guitar than the Cake guitarist have played on I will Survive (G. Gaynor' cover), even tho it's actually a "cheap" acoustic guitar through a broken loudspeaker... take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvsI3jc4pPA)

I don't mean going on the lo-fi side, but I also think that any different guitar player couldn't result as good as the Cake's leader playing the same song with the same guitar's sound...

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Old 03-02-2009, 08:43 AM   #411
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Originally Posted by yep View Post
We might reasonably speculate that modern lumber from heavily-irrigated rapid-growth forests might not resonate or sound the same as the dense-grained old-growth wood that was the norm in the mid-1900s, but why should ELECTRICAL circuits sound different?
Oh I agree with you, but here are possible answers:
1) Components have changed over the years. Germanium has been replaced by silicon, for the most part. Very different sounds. Tubes would have been entirely phased out by transistors if audio geeks didn't notice something exceptional that could not be replicated. Transistor models change frequently. Even the solder in modern electronics is quite different. You can take the same schematic from 40 years ago and build it today with the exact same specs and have a very different sounding device!

2) Much of the whole scope of tone is mechanical. Much more than we think, even in what we think of as an ELECTRICAL device. Tubes vibrate, speakers soften up over time, wood settles in - we know this to be true in acoustic instruments, why not electric guitars or even amp cabinets? Why should a poly vs. nitro finish on an electric make a difference otherwise? Or tuners? We've become attuned to the old way of doing things, and are sometimes realizing that technological advancement is taking us away from where we actually want to be. Sometimes.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:53 AM   #412
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I have a brief question Yep.

I've noticed that the more I mix the more " Aha " moments I
have as I discover new techniques to achieve the sound I am
looking for.

But, there is so much to remember that I find it easy to forget
these tricks and techniques over the course of time.

I have considered taking exhaustive notes, keeping a recording
diary, etc.

What would you suggest ?
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Old 03-02-2009, 02:26 PM   #413
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Oh I agree with you, but here are possible answers:
1) Components have changed over the years. Germanium has been replaced by silicon, for the most part. Very different sounds...
I know better than to argue with guitar players over what makes for good tone. But when we start to get into loose tubes and germanium vs silicon and so on, consider: Can you listen to a recording of a guitar and tell right off the bat what material the transistors were made of? Can you tell by listening how loose the tubes were? What do we mean by "very different sounds"?

Because the thing is, you usually CAN tell just by listening whether the player was on the neck or the bridge position pickup, how heavy the pick and string gauges were, what fret position they were playing in, and so on. But how many tone addicts actually START with those things when they're looking for better sound?

An awful lot of them use light strings and heavy picks because they're easiest, they stay on the bridge pickup because it sounds brightest, they hold the pick the way their guitar teacher first showed them to, and then they wonder why their tracks sound fizzy and weak compared to Stevie "013s" Vaughn or James "pencil grip" Hetfield. And out comes the credit card.

Moreover, none of the examples above actually address "vintage" gear. You could wiggle the tubes to loosen them and excurse the speakers by playing some Micheal Jackson records at high volume through the amp. Would that make the amp more desirable? How much of the difference-hunting is really grasping at straws for an explanation of why the old records sound better? We could replace the transistors and components with ones that match the measured output-spec of germanium or whatever. And so on down the list. Has even a single copy of any record ever been sold or not sold because the guitar player had equivalent output-spec transistors made from the wrong material?

More to the point, was Jimi Hendrix's amp a bad amp, because it wasn't old at the time? How about his guitar? They sound pretty good to me on those records that were made with then-new equipment.

I realize that the answers are long and complicated and that I'm not framing these questions the right way for vintage gear hounds to answer. And my point is emphatically NOT that a beginner guitar/amp combo from Wal-Mart is just as good as a '67 SG and a Marshall Plexi. Every little component does affect sound, and no two guitars or tube amps sound exactly alike. And the sound IS constantly in flux, as tubes, strings, and speakers age and as mechanical components settle and age, and so on.

And my point is not to dissuade anyone from tone-questing. Finding better sound, by any means, is exactly what this thread is all about.

This is kind of a fine distinction that I'm drawing, and I'm purposely over-stating the case a little to counter-balance the widespread implicit assumption that it's "magic gear" instead of magic players who make rock guitar sounds come alive. There is an understandable tendency among musicians to look outward for the problem rather than inward. My intent is not attack anyone's self-esteem, just to point out that actually focusing on good technique and careful listening is always the best practice, on any gear budget.

I can't tell anyone what is a waste of time and money and what isn't. You have to decide that for yourself. But I can tell you that you WILL waste a lot of time and money if you get fixated on the theory of what's SUPPOSED to sound good or bad, instead of focusing on what actually DOES.
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Old 03-02-2009, 02:56 PM   #414
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I have a brief question Yep.

I've noticed that the more I mix the more " Aha " moments I
have as I discover new techniques to achieve the sound I am
looking for.

But, there is so much to remember that I find it easy to forget
these tricks and techniques over the course of time.

I have considered taking exhaustive notes, keeping a recording
diary, etc.

What would you suggest ?
Hmm... I might not be the best person to ask, since I hardly ever remember what I did on anything. Actually, I'm not quite sure I even understand the question...

Are you talking about stuff like eq settings or something? You could just save those as a preset. In fact, THOSE are the potentially useful and meaningful "presets," far more so than anything you read in a book or get with the plugin. Something that always drives me nuts is when some famous producer or engineer says something like:

"I always boost acoustic guitar about 4dB at around 8k or so, and cut a few dB at 200Hz"(or whatever).

These guys have no idea of the damage they cause with these offhand comments that get passed around as gospel for years afterwards. The problem with the above statement is that it is very often 1. not actually true, 2. only applicable to the one particular guitar/mic/room setup that they use most commonly, and 3. probably almost completely irrelevant to how the guitar actually ends up sounding in the mix. Here's the secret:

Dollars-to-doughnuts, this producer has a favorite console or preamp that has a built-in eq with fixed high- and low-frequency knobs for 8k, 200Hz, and probably a sweepable mid. So they plug into the mixing console and as a matter course slightly boost the highs and slightly cut the lows, except when it sounds better not to. And since they are usually recording with the same mic and placement and often in the same room with the same player, chances are pretty good that what worked the first time around will work pretty good next time. So they probably DO almost always use those frequencies in those ways. But if their console instead had a shelf at 11k and a low knob at 300, then they would probably be using those frequencies instead.

More to the point, if they were using a different mic or different placement then they might take a completely different approach. If they were recording with a Talkamanie Artist series instead of a Gibson super-jumbo, they might do the OPPOSITE.

But the WORST part about it is that this offhand comment almost certainly has NOTHING to do with how they actually mix and process the track. It's just something they do along with mic placement to get the basic sound. They leave out that on their most recent arena-rock hit with the background acoustic strumming track, yeah they bumped the console hi eq up a tick, but then at mixdown they shelved off everything below 2kHz, gated the track slightly, compressed the hell out of it, rolled off most of the highs above 10k, added a delay and exciter, and then sent it through another stage of compression triggered by the vocal bus, in addition to sending it through the drum reverb.

But of course all that was completely different from what they did on the mega-hit before that, when the guitar was a featured solo instrument on an intimate ballad. So when the interviewer asks: "any special tricks or eq you use to get good acoustic guitar tracks?" The famous producer answers truthfully what he does when tracking acoustic guitar, and the entire internet passes around the certainty that the way to mix acoustic guitar is to use the magic frequencies of 200 and 8k.

Not sure if that answered your question, but you SHOULD feel free to make your own "presets" for stuff you record all the time, as long as you don't get locked into thinking of them as closed-ended "recipes."
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Old 03-02-2009, 03:24 PM   #415
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I know better than to argue with guitar players over what makes for good tone. But when we start to get into loose tubes and germanium vs silicon and so on, consider: Can you listen to a recording of a guitar and tell right off the bat what material the transistors were made of? Can you tell by listening how loose the tubes were? What do we mean by "very different sounds"?

...

I can't tell anyone what is a waste of time and money and what isn't. You have to decide that for yourself. But I can tell you that you WILL waste a lot of time and money if you get fixated on the theory of what's SUPPOSED to sound good or bad, instead of focusing on what actually DOES.
Well strictly looking at the transistors, yes, most of us can, golden ears or not. It shows up all the time when a person hears a killer tone and tries to replicate it. They just can't seem to get the same fuzz tone because their silicon-based fuzzface is too harsh. You can hear this live as well as recorded, so it's not purely a recording phenomenon, either. It's at least a big of a difference as string gauge! Maybe focusing on fuzz is cheating because of the huge significance of the transistor makeup.

But you know there's a difference in broken-in equipment. It does sound different. Really, it does. My point was, older well-used equipment is almost always different sounding than fresh off the factory, even if you have the same circuit and same specs. So you can't simply dismiss it saying that it's just in our imagination. There is some science to it, and we haven't really nailed down exactly what it is that makes it sound "vintage".

Now none of this approaches saying which is universally better. Of course, if you give a dropped-D nu-metal chugger an old, loose sounding Bassman he'll think you're deaf and crazy, not necessarily in that order. Someone who plays Chicago blues harp with a Mesa triple rectifier would also probably go just as crazy trying to take the top end off the amp. So each guy needs to know where to go shopping to get the right tone. Sometimes you need to start in the vintage aisle.
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:11 PM   #416
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Ah, perhaps I should elaborate


What I am trying to do is build up a tracking and mixing template ( set of techniques, skills and settings ) that will work to record my original material in my home studio.

I won't be recording anyone else and my instrumentation will always be about the same:

1) Bass
2) Steel string acoustic guitar ( rhythm and lead )
3) Vocals ( mostly lead and some harmonies )
4) a little keyboard to fill things out

I currently use the template feature of Reaper to save EQ, Plug in, and mix settings and that helps alot ( instant recall is awesome ! )

The thing I have noticed is that it is easy to forget things like specific mic placement, preamp settings, Bass tone settings, and such if I have to stop recording for a week or two ( because of work and life ) and then come back to it.

Alot of my stuff does double duty ( like my preamp ) and so things get unplugged, moved and readjusted for other purposes.

So I am working on finding a way to keep track of the above mentioned settings/etc. so I don't have to reinvent the wheel and re-think all that stuff when it's time to track again.

Also, finding an efficient way to log general/specific info ( as in recording tips and practices that I've found useful ) would be helpful, because it's easy for newbies to forget this stuff.

My ultimate goal is to create a pre-engineered template ( tracking and mixing ) that works well on my songs. Once this is done I can refocus my time and attention on writing and creating original music rather than spending so much time on the engineering aspect of the recording process.



Hopefully, that explains my question a little better. Hehe



Carry On Bud !!!

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Old 03-02-2009, 05:26 PM   #417
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most excellent thread. no questions right now, just learning a lot, and wanted to say thanks and please keep it going.

i'm hoping to upgrade my username after absorbing this material and putting it into practice.
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:37 PM   #418
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Well strictly looking at the transistors, yes, most of us can, golden ears or not. It shows up all the time when a person hears a killer tone and tries to replicate it. They just can't seem to get the same fuzz tone because their silicon-based fuzzface is too harsh. You can hear this live as well as recorded, so it's not purely a recording phenomenon, either. It's at least a big of a difference as string gauge! Maybe focusing on fuzz is cheating because of the huge significance of the transistor makeup.
I'm going to push this, because I think it's an important distinction, and maybe I phrased the question badly the first time around-- are you seriously arguing that you (or anyone) can reliably hear the material used in transistors, to the point where if I posted 20 guitar clips you could tell which had germanium and which had silicon transistors, and which had something else entirely?

Note that I am emphatically NOT talking about taking a fuzz-face and clipping out and replacing the diode (which anyone could hear), I'm talking about the difference between circuits designed from the ground up to sound good using whatever kind of components.

Saying that a fuzzface sounds different with different transistors is a categorically different thing from saying that the presence of a silicon transistor automatically imparts a specific sound to any circuit. If you were to design a circuit using silicon transistors that deliberately introduced reverse leakage comparable to a germanium transistor I bet you'd have a hard time telling the sonic output apart. I mean, you might be able to to tell one from the other in a straight A/B test, but I doubt that you'd be able to do much better than guess which had the germanium transistor.

Quote:
But you know there's a difference in broken-in equipment. It does sound different. Really, it does. My point was, older well-used equipment is almost always different sounding than fresh off the factory, even if you have the same circuit and same specs. So you can't simply dismiss it saying that it's just in our imagination. There is some science to it, and we haven't really nailed down exactly what it is that makes it sound "vintage".
We haven't nailed down anything. Older equipment sounds different, but so does one piece of newer equipment to the next. Two Stratocasters that came off the same factory line on the same day will sound different.

My argument is emphatically NOT that the difference between one piece of kit and another is illusory. In fact I stipulated pretty early in this thread that EVERYTHING matters. That COULD be read as a reason to pursue every picayune detail down to the Nth technical degree, or it could be reason to just leave it up to the amp and instrument manufactures to figure that stuff and just find stuff that matters to one's own sound. Either approach is entirely valid.

There is a bit of dialog in the film Time Bandits that goes something like this:

"So now you're the leader of this group?"
"No, we agreed not to have a leader."
"Right, so shut up and do as I say."

Wherever there is controversy or uncertainty, interested parties will rush in and use the UNCERTAINTY ITSELF as proof that they are right. This can be seen everywhere, in a lot of political debates for example. The line is that if you can't prove X, therefore the truth must be Y. Which is patently false as a logical test.

Please note that I am not accusing Boxofsnoo of anything like this. But when some people are saying the issue is black, and some white, it is very hard to make a sincere case for the answer being "unknown" without being pushed into one camp or the other, or without having people therefore read you as saying it is some shade of gray. Gray is not the same as unknown. And you don't have to espouse one side to doubt the conclusions of the other.

Quote:
...So each guy needs to know where to go shopping to get the right tone. Sometimes you need to start in the vintage aisle.
I have no disagreement at all with people whose favorite piece of gear is "vintage."

If anyone is certain that loose tubes or germanium diodes or old speakers are the key to great sound, then I have no argument with their personal preferences, but I do expect a technical defense if they expect their assessment to be treated as empirical fact.
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:32 PM   #419
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...The thing I have noticed is that it is easy to forget things like specific mic placement, preamp settings, Bass tone settings, and such if I have to stop recording for a week or two ( because of work and life ) and then come back to it...
Oh, yeah. DEFINITELY keep copius notes on that kind of stuff. That's what I was talking about in the beginning of the thread. Low-residue painter's tape from the hardware store. Stick it on everything. I have it all over the place, with little circles and lines drawn to indicate knob position, and above that I'll have something like "BLP": stands for "Big Les Paul" sound-- circles for every knob, BLP V, BLP T, BLP B, BLP G, BLP R-- you don't have to know what they mean, because I do. Stuck on the amp, on the preamp, with an indicator of which mic, and so on. Anytime I want to record my own stock "big Les Paul" sound, there it is. I have similar tape markings for SNF (which stands for "snarly Fender" sound), GRB-- growly rock bass, BFB-- burpy funk bass, HFB-- hollowbody fretless bass, and so on. MMV8 means "medium male vocals 8 inches away" for my-go vocal mic. SFV0 means "soft female vocals close miked" on same.

On my mic stands, I scratch lines into the metal to indicate common positions. That makes it quick and easy to set up a boom stand and lock it into place, knowing that it will line up at for instance the right height to get the top speaker of a slant cab. I actually keep a steak knife on the recording desk for this purpose that also helps to motivate singers. I have tape on the angle-adjustment to mark the angle. So if I have to set up in front of the same amp for the "big les paul" sound, I know to set the boom arm to the third scratch, the height adjustment to the lowest, and the angle to the BLP3L mark, and I'm going to be awfully close to where I was last time as long as I remember to aim the mic across the speaker cone almost touching the grill. And that much I remember just from taking the time to jot down those few marks.

In REAPER's "project settings>notes" I ALWAYS write the key and/or rough chord progression and performance notes (something like "verse ADAG chorus DEDCBA bass 1415 except turnaround fill"). It's not a proper lead sheet but it is enough that if I re-open in three years I don't have to go hunting for chords. It only has to be enough to remind me, it doesn't have to be a diary.

In the same field, I always include production notes. Who what where when how. E.g. BLP, RAT, GRB, Jfdr, bsn1, MMV 8, SVF12x2, DimHO78.

To me, the above reads Guitar 1 Big Les Paul; Guitar 2 Raunchy Archtop; Growly Rock Bass; Jeff's Drum kit; Birch Snare 1; Male medium vocals 8"; Soft Female Vocals 12" double-tracked; Dimension Pro set to Hammond Organ 78 preset.

I know that "big les paul" means the little 5-watt tube amp with the gain, eq, and reverb settings marked in tape, and the mic stand notched. I know that "growly rock bass" means the heavy-body maple-neck bass through a sansamp (settings marked in tape). I know that my notebook has the standard setup for "Jeff's Drum Kit" if I don't remember it. I have little pieces of tape tape all over the oriental rug to mark where different drums and mic stands go. I know that Female Vocals 12" means that they were tracked in the corner to the right of the couch, and so on. I could probably do punch-ins on a 3-year-old project using these notes.

You don't have to use my system. In fact you shouldn't. The most important thing is to make it easy, otherwise you won't do it. Just make it easy to take notes, and to keep them in a place where you will find them later. YOUR NOTES DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. They don't even have to be very good. They just need to jog your memory, they don't have to be a historical tome documenting your exploits for future generations. Approximate knob settings and positions are fine, since it's always going to be a little different anyway.

this is why you need that organization and PAD OF PAPER that I mentioned earlier. That way, when you think of something, you can WRITE IT DOWN. Forgot how you set up that awesome sound last weekend. WRITE DOWN ON YOUR PAD OF PAPER: "Figure out way to remember awesome sounds." Then get on with recording. Then, your PAD OF PAPER will remind you to buy painter's tape, sharpies, and to make notes next time.

The PAD OF PAPER is your producer, telling you in the cold light of sober reflection what was good and bad about each recording session, keeping track of the details that need to be worked on for next time, noting which things you were and weren't happy with at different times and providing a kind of emotional ballast against the temptation to reinvent everything every time you get frustrated or annoyed.

Monitors and a pad of paper. It's all you need. (and maybe some painter's tape).
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:51 PM   #420
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Seems to me that the subtle adjustments required to get a part to fit with other parts in a well designed mix, including how individual sounds interact as they're processed and reduced and squeezed in to and out of a pair of monitors, will by far override all the variables of wood and transistors and tube types and maybe even mic choice and amp choice and god forbid dare I even say choice of guitar and pickup and the endless other variables that make up an isolated sound in a room.

'Course it all depends on what you're trying to accomplish and what's important to you.

But the idea that a songwriter in a bedroom studio would spend any time comparing the sound of germanium with the sound of silicon through an amp in the same room she's playing and tracking and mixing in is nothing short of heartbreaking.

IMHO.
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Old 03-02-2009, 08:14 PM   #421
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Well I'm not gonna fight you, yep. You clearly have more experience than I do. But I can hear it, so I think most anyone can.

I think you especially need to go back and read my first thread more carefully. Especially the first line.

Here: http://forum.cockos.com/showpost.php...&postcount=411
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:05 PM   #422
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Well I'm not gonna fight you, yep. You clearly have more experience than I do. But I can hear it, so I think most anyone can...
Well, whatever my level of experience (and it's not all that), my first piece of advice would be this: Never trust anyone just because they have more experience than you. Experts are the easiest people to fool. This is not personal opinion, it it proven fact in a whole lot of scientific peer-reviewed studies. My favorite example is the wine experts who failed to detect that they were drinking white wine with red dye, and who also failed to detect when they were drinking the same wine from different bottles:

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2007/...ource=rss_feed

There is also the great monster cable vs wire coat hangers listening test:

http://gizmodo.com/363154/audiophile...-a-coat-hanger

My whole point is not to brow-beat anyone with ad-hominem arguments of "I know vintage gear and you don't," it's the opposite. Look at the emperor and see what his clothes look like to you. "I have more experience" or "I know X and Y better so therefore I must be right about Z" are stupid arguments, and patently false logical tests. And they are exactly the kind of arguments that most gear debates fall back on. Which is exactly wrong, whether they come from me or anyone else.

I really hope I haven't done anything to set myself up as an "authority" here, because I'm not. If my opinions disagree with your own ears, you should say so, and you should let other people know where I'm wrong (because I probably am, in any number of opinions). I am myself disagreeing with a lot of people with much better credentials than myself, in this thread. That's the whole point, and I actually wish more people would disagree, as long as it is meaningful, substantive divergence of opinion.

But as far as I can see in books and on the web and whatever, most of the discussion is frankly a bunch of know-nothings debating what they've read about other people's opinions. (I'm not accusing you or anyone else in particular of this.)

I personally have never done a study of trying to construct the same signal output from silicon-based vs germanium-based transistors. So I have no idea whether it is possible. I know there are a boatload of people online who think that germanium sounds better, but there are far bigger boatloads of people online who are wrong about all kinds of things. And most of the "germanium-is-better" folks seem to ultimately fall back on the "well, everyone knows its better" or "Jimi Hendrix used germanium" arguments, which are worse than useless.

Until Jimi Hendrix came along, everyone knew that Fender amps were the best. Everyone knows what everyone else knows as long as everyone knows the same thing, even if it's not true.

I'm not trying to pick on you. I've been the main person posting in this thread so far, but that doesn't make me or my insights more important or more useful than anyone else's. If I harp on divergent opinions it's not because I'm trying to bully dissenters but because proof of concept is helpful to me, personally, and I hope to others. I so far do not even disagree with you.

Last edited by yep; 03-02-2009 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:39 AM   #423
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Well I'm not gonna fight you, yep. You clearly have more experience than I do. But I can hear it, so I think most anyone can.

I don't think it's an "I can hear it" type of argument. Seriously.

I know a thing or two about amplifiers from doing repairs and building and the like, but what I've learned from that work isn't as much about amps as it is about the guitarists themselves.

Guitarists are, often, eccentric people. Some can hear the difference between components, some hear with their eyes (It looks cool, so it sounds cool). Some have an undeniable preference in tones, but can't word it to save their lives. And all have "trained" their ears to some extent or other by the music they've listened to and the equipment they've played.

Additionally, many guitarists are social people. Social people learn from their peers and base their ideals and their concepts of normalcy on those of their peers as well as those they perceive as already existing. Normal tribal behavior.

So, if a guitarist wants a fuzz tone, decides that the correct fuzz tone to emulate is Player X, and Player X uses a Germanio Fuzzpedia pedal, the Silico Fuzzopolois just won't be "right" to emulate that tone.

Put less delicately, guitarists are often nuts. They chase gear and tone in crazy ways, almost to the point of superstition.

Here's some anecdotal evidence of that insanity -- I have a red coricidan bottle for slide playing and the last couple of strings are wrapped over the TOP of the stop tailpiece on my main axe. And I have AWESOME ears, that can clearly hear no positive difference wrapping the strings that way, but I do it anyway because it gives me a touch of Billy Gibbons mojo even if I don't sound anything like him.

To a guitarist, be it because he's looking for mojo, emulating a hero, or heard a recoded tone that he just fell in love with, crap like the brand of opamp in the overdrive or clipping diode in his dirt box could be the difference between tonal night and day.

Now, stop thinking like a guitarist. Start thinking like a recordist. Someone whose job is to engineer or produce NEW music.

In this case, you don't really give a flying patootie whether you exactly emulate Guitarist X and his fuzz-box tone. In this case, what you care about is that your guitarist has a good tone that is his own. Who cares if he copped it from someone else, or tried every pedal at the Banjo Center to get it, what matters is that his gear feels good to him in the studio. His sound has to inspire him to play his absolute best.

Remember, you're not trying to recreate some classic. You're trying to create something new and fantastic. A performance with a, technically, perfect recreation of the tone you have in your head might not have any groove or impact. A performance with a good tone that isn't the perfect match to your ideal might have a fantastic groove, or something that just sets it apart, stylistically, that makes it significantly better than the tonally "perfect" alternative.

If the performer's muse is suddenly alive because he has a piece of gear that inspires him, you get the best damned tone from that you can down on tape. Doesn't matter if it's a 35 year old effect box, or something brand new and completely unique.

That's exactly what they were doing in studios before the 1960s, cutting to mono; or in motown where the room was small and made for a very full sound; or in Abbey Road where the mic pres had such a distinctive sound that you can hear the studio's signature on bands as diverse as the Beatles and Pink Floyd. The engineers, producers, and performers were just using what was available to them to the best of their abilities, and chasing inspiration whether it came from a new synth (who cares what type of caps were in it if it was cool) or a fantastic groove by the Funk Brothers after a few weeks of nightly jazz club gigs after work.
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Old 03-03-2009, 04:52 AM   #424
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Thanks for your excellent and thorough response to my question Yep !
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Old 03-03-2009, 05:17 AM   #425
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I really hope I haven't done anything to set myself up as an "authority" here, because I'm not. If my opinions disagree with your own ears, you should say so, and you should let other people know where I'm wrong (because I probably am, in any number of opinions). I am myself disagreeing with a lot of people with much better credentials than myself, in this thread. That's the whole point, and I actually wish more people would disagree, as long as it is meaningful, substantive divergence of opinion.
Now its really time to disaggree!

Yep, you DID setup yourself as an authority. But you did it the very best, most honest and most sympathetic way possible. You NEVER said you are an authority. WE say you are, because we all gained that impression over these many posts by you, dont we?

You should not wonder that only a few people disaggree with you so far. In my case you delivered explanantion why my ears are hearing what they are hearing (in my mixes) and how I could improve it. And you obviously explained it in a genious, educative way, so that I was able to follow, to correct it, to hear improvement.


For the guitar/amp sound thingie:

I made my way slowly up from cheapo equipment up to Fender/Gibson + Hiwatt/Marshall. I bought those when I was young and poor. Was a real pain in the ass, moneywise, that time. I thought I had to.

Now I'm old, self-employed for 20 years and could afford any guitar and amp I wished. And what am I happy with? Baton Rouge (Gibson Jumbo replica), Weller (Gibson Lucille replica) and the hardware POD. These there 'workhorses' are less than $1500 all three together!

Cheers
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:54 AM   #426
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OK definitely last post on this, because it's getting WAY off my intent. There are even a few misunderstandings in your posts that I'm not even going to address. So I'm just going to try and reestablish what I was trying to say.

So let me rephrase very bluntly (many apologies to yep)

yep: "Why should ELECTRICAL circuits sound different?" Because they're ELECTRICAL and ELECTRICITY doesn't change! Therefore, logically, old and new ELECTRICAL circuits sound the same! [If you disagree you must be illogical and a guitarist]

Me: Yeah but how come they do tend to sound different? - could it be because they're not just ELECTRICAL devices, they're something like 80% MECHANICAL (and thus, change over time)? ... Maybe even because there's more than one way of building the same schematic?

I never even said anything about better. Go look, I'll wait here.

It's definitely not all about germanium either, so ignore that. That was just an easy example that I thought everyone would understand. (Apparently not)

I know I said the key word at least 20 times in my posts. DIFFERENT. But, forget it. It doesn't contribute to the thread anymore. So that's the end of it from me though, I'm out. Back to lurking mode.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:24 AM   #427
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OK definitely last post on this, because it's getting WAY off my intent. There are even a few misunderstandings in your posts that I'm not even going to address. So I'm just going to try and reestablish what I was trying to say.

So let me rephrase very bluntly (many apologies to yep)

yep: "Why should ELECTRICAL circuits sound different?" Because they're ELECTRICAL and ELECTRICITY doesn't change! Therefore, logically, old and new ELECTRICAL circuits sound the same! [If you disagree you must be illogical and a guitarist]....
Huh!?.....

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...My argument is emphatically NOT that the difference between one piece of kit and another is illusory. In fact I stipulated pretty early in this thread that EVERYTHING matters. That COULD be read as a reason to pursue every picayune detail down to the Nth technical degree, or it could be reason to just leave it up to the amp and instrument manufactures to figure that stuff and just find stuff that matters to one's own sound. Either approach is entirely valid.

....I have no disagreement at all with people whose favorite piece of gear is "vintage."

If anyone is certain that loose tubes or germanium diodes or old speakers are the key to great sound, then I have no argument with their personal preferences, but I do expect a technical defense if they expect their assessment to be treated as empirical fact.

Oh, and yes, electric guitarists are superstitious, irrational, fetishist lunatics when it comes down to the search for the Almighty Tone.
I'm one of those.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:29 AM   #428
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Huh!?.....

Oh, and yes, electric guitarists are superstitious, irrational, fetishist lunatics when it comes down to the search for the Almighty Tone.
I'm one of those.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:52 AM   #429
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Personally, I'm not really interested in the discussions that are presently weighing down this thread.

With all due respect to the people asking certain questions or debating certain points: please realize that while these may be subjects of pivotal interest to you, others may find them to be mere details in the greater scheme of things. The same others may feel that there is too much time being spent on these details, because yep is obviously willing to address them all individually. Perhaps a pm or a separate thread may be a better and more productive way to get a direct discussion going.

Admittedly, I'm hardly a bona fide member of this forum, so my opinion doesn't count for much. But I'm positive I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I'd very much like for yep to get on with his tutorial, as I feel there is a lot more interesting stuff coming our way.
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Old 03-03-2009, 12:26 PM   #430
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Yep -
THANK YOU for these great threads.
Gotta admit from the title I stayed away for too long.
Now I wish I would've jumped in from the beginning.
The best thing is they're not really tutorials,
just well spoken insight.
THANK YOU.

Smurf - Thanks for the PDF Files. How did you do
them??? I wanted to do the same thing, and so far
I've just been using "scrapbook" to save 'em.
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Old 03-03-2009, 01:43 PM   #431
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Yep, this is a great post!
Everything you've said is so right on!!!
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Following the above, and this is going to disappoint a lot of people, I'm afraid, we are going to start with the very un-glamorous back end of the recording chain.

Before you can do anything in the way of making polished recordings, you have to be able to trust your ears.

This cannot be over-stated. You must be able to trust what you hear, and only then can you start to make good decisions.
So true! My ears have been conditioned by every TV, boom box, aftermarket car stereo, computer speakers, and producer, to hear airy highs and punchy thump in recorded music, whether I like it or not. Even when stereos are in 'flat' mode, recorded music sounds like a far cry from 'real sound'.

I got my NS-10s a year and a half ago, and when I'd try to make a 'flat' recording, it always came out wrong. NS-10's are very friendly sounding, and you 'can' be 10 decibels off in some frequencies, and it will still sound way better than most any car stereo. But when you put on a reference CD, you will hear a difference.

For the longest time I was trying to make a mix that sounded like something good on my car stereo, with lots of highs, strong lows, subdued mids. I had to teach my brain to 'recall' what NS-10's sound like. And that meant I had to re-train myself to think what 'good sound' is supposed to sound like. Still, clients are always wanting me to make NS-10's sound like their car. I think your tips will help.

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The main argument in favor of live recording is the ability to capture the authentic energy of the real performance. The main argument against it is the massive increase in technical headaches and/or severely limited flexibility compared with one-at-a-time multitracking.
In my town, 9 bands out of 10 think they're good enough to record live. Do you have any tips on the 'rattling snare' that happens during live recording in a small room? I figured out that low frequencies from the drums, guitar, bass all cause the snare's spring to rattle like crazy on certain notes. I swear that better drummers (with more expensive kits) don't have this problem as much. Am I crazy?
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Old 03-03-2009, 05:04 PM   #432
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In my town, 9 bands out of 10 think they're good enough to record live. Do you have any tips on the 'rattling snare' that happens during live recording in a small room?.....I swear that better drummers (with more expensive kits) don't have this problem as much. Am I crazy?
FINALLY, a question I know something about!

The best trick I have used, being a drummer, to get rid of that rattle is to de-tune 1 lug that is right beside the snare bed. It usually only takes 1 turn, but by slacking the head tension at the point where the strainer comes off of the snare bed, it releases a lot of the tension across the head that is directly under the snares, without affecting the tone of the snares like taping, or putting small pieces of napkin or cloth between the snares and the head.

Also, the better kits have better tolerances on the bearing edges of the shell, and the angle & depth of the snare bed itself, thus making the better drum set easier to tune.

Hope this helps!

PS-And moodswinger I will send a PM you in a few min...
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:26 PM   #433
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to get rid of that rattle is to de-tune 1 lug that is right beside the snare bed. It usually only takes 1 turn, but by slacking the head tension at the point where the strainer comes off of the snare bed,

Wow, that simple? I will have to try this. Great tip!

Unfortunately, drums are an instrument most of us do not know how to tune -- including some *drummers* without a lot of experience, like many of us in project studios and small rooms might encounter.
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:52 AM   #434
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I must thank you for these gems.
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Being that this engineer spends his days actually making records instead of prowling the internet for flame wars and gear debates, he makes the simple decision that recording to tape sounds better, and says as much whenever he is asked. He also feels that at least compressing and eq'ing in analog is preferable to digital. For obvious reasons he does not bother to spend weeks looking for freeware tape emulators and AB'ing them with his real Otari deck or whatever, he just tracks to tape first.

This perfectly legitimate opinion based on real and non-imaginary experience leads to a widespread misunderstanding that digital is somehow flawed or incapable of capturing the tiny details or nuance or warmth of real instruments.
...
I do not claim to have the answer to all questions and debates, just offering some food for thought next time your heart sinks when your favorite producer says he prefers the sound of tape.
Just what I suspected, but you won't hear it from any pro that I've met (which isn't many, though).
My town is certainly in the grip of analogue fever, and the few studios left wouldn't have it any other way.
Keep them gems comin'
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:37 AM   #435
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An anecdote :
I went to a small basement club in Greenwich village in the summer of '67 to see John Hammond Jr, when Eric Clapton in powder blue tights and some of his friends walked in for the first set. In the second set, Jimi H showed up and and all three and a New York jazz guy I don't remember sat in.
With a borrowed strat Jimi made organ, sax , distortion, every sound you could imagine , with no box, just a borrwed axe.
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Old 03-04-2009, 08:13 PM   #436
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More stuff on vocals: ...

If you have any musical talent at all, then you have some degree of pitch perception. If you can tune a guitar, then you can hear pitch. And if you can hear pitch, then you can hum along with a steady pitch. Find something humming and hum along with it. A single-coil electric guitar's hum is a great place to start if you have never done this, seriously. There was a loud-humming electric transformer box in the subway station near where I used to live where the singer and myself would practice humming intervals against the steady note of the transformer while we waited for the train. We would just stand there, mouths closed, humming different intervals against the transformer. It was hard for other people to tell why the harmonics kept changing. Best vocal exercise I ever encountered.

Just find some loud-ish steady tone and start humming until you find the right pitch. It will be obvious, because your chest will start vibrating. Play a long synth note if you have nothing else to sing with. Once you find the unison or octave note, it should be pretty easy to find fifths, fourths and other consonant intervals either above or below the reference pitch. You don't need to know what interval you're singing, the idea is just to get the vibe of what it feels like to sing the "right" notes. You can feel it resonating in your chest and sinuses, and it's obvious when you get it.
Electric toothbrushes work really well for this. And as the battery runs down, the tone changes, so in between re-charges you can practice against different pitches. Plus, you can play with different resonances as you move from your front teeth to the back.

It's like killing two birds with one stone. Like two mints in one!
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Old 03-05-2009, 09:03 AM   #437
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...Do you have any tips on the 'rattling snare' that happens during live recording in a small room? I figured out that low frequencies from the drums, guitar, bass all cause the snare's spring to rattle like crazy on certain notes. I swear that better drummers (with more expensive kits) don't have this problem as much. Am I crazy?
Good advice from Smurf about tuning. Also, decouple everything from the floor, especially bass amps. Sometimes the worst resonances come through the floor instead of through the air.

If the problem cannot be controlled, a neat alternative to sample-replacement is as follows:

Record the drum performance with the snare wires slack, to prevent buzzing. Then, take a guitar amp and lay it flat on its back. Send a gated snare track out to the guitar amp input so that the guitar amp is playing a short "pop" on each snare hit and nothing else. Now take the snare drum and place it face-down on top of the amp speaker. Turn up the volume and it's like a ghost is playing the snare. Set up a mic and you record your drummer's actual snare sound.
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Old 03-05-2009, 09:46 AM   #438
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I have done this also, and you can create some great sounds by changing the EQ on the amp (all high, all mid, all lows). This affects the "impact" on the snare, and affects the "rattle" to a great degree.
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Old 03-06-2009, 09:48 PM   #439
thinking allowed
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priceless tips!
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Old 03-08-2009, 05:02 PM   #440
TedR
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Yep !


After reading your comments on the Marshall MXL V67G I decided to
do a little research. I read some additional reviews ( which were all
VERY positive ) and I checked pricing ( it's still $ 100 US dollars ! )

So, for that kinda money, I thought what the heck, I'll order one and try it this weekend.

Once I got it positioned properly ( 8 inches away and directly on axis
with my mouth [no tilting]) and then added a bit of EQ, compression, channel splitting, and verb to the track, I was amazed

It sounded MUCH better than the typical vocal sound I've been getting and I can assure you I am not new to condensers. Your comments about it sounding " BIG " were right on.

I am running it through a Grace Design M101 and the two work splendidly together.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks !

I can't believe it sounds that nice for 100 bucks.


Ted

Last edited by TedR; 03-08-2009 at 05:14 PM.
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