Tag Archives: Recording

Recording a Gig

This last weekend I recorded a gig. Multitrack. 16 channels. Into a MacBook Pro. With Logic Pro X. All tracks at 96khz. It was an interesting learning experience.

The equipment used was a Mackie Onyx 1620i mixer (firewire enabled), and an old Presonus. The Presonus was basically being used for the preamps and each one of those was being lined into the Mackie mixer. We tested this several weeks ago, and it seemed to work just fine. On the gig, the Presonus didn’t sound all that great. Not sure why, perhaps I didn’t have the gains up enough, or what. There was too much going on and I didn’t check every little thing. Luckily we were just using the Presonus for the drum set, and it did get the snare, kick, and two toms fairly well. The floor tom, for whatever reason, sounded like crap. Not sure if the mic was crapping out (Audix drumset mics, fairly new), or bad cable or connector or placement. It was rattling and picked up more hihat than floor tom. Basically that track was lost. Luckily the overhead mic, my trusty Rode NT4 did a most excellent job capturing the drum set.

The piano player brought his set of Audix SCX25A piano mics. They sounded fabulous. The bass player had a line out of his amp, and I also placed one of my AKG C414s in front of his bass to get the plucking sound. I was pretty happy with that. For trumpet, since I was running out of mics, we used a Sennheiser 421 on trumpet. On woodwinds, we used my other AKG C414 (the EB version, the other 414 is a ULS).

Setting up was fairly easy, but I ran into a couple of problems. First, not enough cables. I thought I had brought enough XLR cables, but when I was unpacking, there were not enough. Well, there were cables, but I generally needed LONGER ones than I thought I would have. That is a problem I didn’t expect and whenever I record in this setup again, I hope to bring longer cables. It was also one of the reasons I used the NT4 for a drum overhead rather than my “plan two” (which is a simple stereo recording using my Marantz recorder incase shit happens with the computer setup). I didn’t have enough cables to do two drum overheads.

Recording into Logic Pro X was easy. In fact, that was the only thing I didn’t seem to have to worry about. I had planned out a great strategy ahead of time. I bought a 120 gig SSD external drive for the Macbook Pro, and used that to record all the audio too. Worked absolutely flawlessly. The Mackie was connected to the firewire and the SSD was on the USB. No glitches, nada. Flawless. $140 well spent.

There was a LOT of bleed across almost all the mics. Not really a bad thing, as I don’t really need to use any reverb plugins at the moment (still in the process of tweaking things)

Here is a track that I mixed down. Enjoy.

Recording Saxophone in Logic 9

Since leaving ProTools, I had to redo my default recording presets in Logic. Here is how I currently have it set up. First, I record everything at 96Khz. Why? Because I can. I think it sounds better too. More open maybe? I dunno.

Here is a picture of my channel setups. The first track is the track I am recording to (input 1). I have the output bussed to Aux 1 on Bus 27 (could be any bus, it doesn’t matter). This Aux will have all the plugins and EQ setting setup on it. So, if I do another track, I don’t have to recreate everything.

This Aux is also mono, keeping it similar to the source material. Also, this Aux is sending some of it’s signal to Aux 2, which is for reverb. You could add reverb on this aux strip, but a this is sort of a trick I learned while mixing a CD. You have both the source and the reverb separate.
Next, lets look at what plugins I have on the Aux strip….

Continue reading Recording Saxophone in Logic 9

Ditching Pro Tools For Logic

For various reasons, I decided NOT to upgrade my ProTools to the new version. I won a system in 2007 that included a copy of ProTools M-Powered version 7. I upgraded to 8 as well, and mixed a big band album with the gear. I thought about moving to 9, but the upgrade costs were huge. Plus, I had also, in 2007, bought Logic 8 when Steve Jobs issued $200 credits to the first buyers of iPhones (love you Steve!).

Anyhow, when Mac OS X 10.7 Lion came out, the fate of ProTools for me was sealed. Version 8 didn’t run on it. But Logic ran on it. And for $199 I could buy Logic 9 from the App Store. And I did. And I haven’t looked back.

Is there something I miss about ProTools? I think the flow of working with audio is a little better, and the tools are incredibly cool. That is not to say that Logic doesn’t have these tools, but like to put in a Fade in ProTools vs Logic, it seems to be more precise in ProTools. I do miss my McDSP plugins though. I had bought them when they were RTAS, and I do miss them. Especially some of the compressors. Oh well. Oh, and Altiverb 6 sorta works in Logic in 64bit mode but shows up as unsupported. Strange.

I DO however, love the Exporting out of Logic. You don’t have to play the whole thing back. You bounce it, and boom. It is done in mere seconds. Logic also has a wealth of built in plugins.

If you use a Mac, and are sick of ProTools reaming you for upgrades, get Logic.

History of UA’s 1176 Compressor

One of my fav compressors for saxophone.

History of UA’s 1176 Compressor:

That same year, Bill Putnam is making the transition from the old standard vacuum tubes to new solid-state technology with his Universal Audio-brand preamps and compressors. The legendary engineer and equipment manufacturer had previously redesigned his original 108 tube microphone preamp (taken from his UA/United Recording consoles in Chicago and Hollywood), into the new 1108 — utilizing the recently invented Field Effect Transistor (FET). Subsequently, he redesigned his successful 175/176 tube compressor (based on the popular variable-Mu design) using FETs, and thus was born the 1176.

(Via The Loop)

Mid-Side (MS) Mic Recording Basics

Found this great gem from The Loop:

“But while XY microphone recording is the most obvious method, it’s not the only game in town. The Mid-Side (MS) microphone technique sounds a bit more complex, but it offers some dramatic advantages over standard coincident miking. If you’ve never heard of MS recording, or you’ve been afraid to try it, you’re missing a powerful secret weapon in your recording arsenal.”

Honestly, never used Mid-Side recording. Since I have a Rode NT4 (XY Mic) I never have the need. However, this does sound interesting.

The Deflavorizing Machine

Stereophile has an article up about how Digital is killing music. (I see these like every week or so)

“A few engineers talked about superstar vocalists who record literally hundreds of takes of a single song, then leave it to the editors to assemble from these a single “perfect” performance, a fraction of a second at a time (footnote 1) Pardon my snark, but imagine how much better records by James Brown, the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin would have been had they had Pro Tools in the 1960s and ’70s. Sadly, it’s a tool that some artists can’t resist using to the point that there’s nothing left of the original performance.”

For me, I still think some of the best recordings are live. Michael Brecker is way better live. The Buddy Rich big band? Live is the only way to go. Thad Jones? Yep, live. Something about the sound, and maybe the mistakes or glitches that happen. Those are the things that make it better. Sinatra singing perfectly in tune? That would be better? Hardly. Or maybe Cannonball, Charlie Parker, or Coltrane having a flubbed note fixed? Or a squeak removed digitally? That would be better? Nope.

Heck, I think we have too many tools in the tool box nowadays. Using less EQ, Compression, AutoTuning would be the way to go. When I do my student CDs, I don’t auto tune it, I add minimal EQ, and a slight room reverb (since we are recording close mic’d). That’s it. Even though I have a TON of plugins, and could use Melodyne to fix the pitch. But every time I hear a new CD, usually smooth jazz but sometimes straight ahead, I hear way too much reverb and compression. Probably some auto-tuning in there as well. Pity really.

So You Wanna Record A Big Band — Redux

Back in October 2008 I did a post that estimated the cost of getting all the gear to have a recording rig for your big band. Now, lets take a look at if things have changed.

The original post I went with an Alesis HD24 which was $1600 then. Its the same price now. For preamps, I went with the PreSonus’s DigiMax D8 which were going for $450. Now they go for about $400. We need three of these to give us 24 tracks. For mics, I had two options. Option one was 13 Shure 57s with stands and cables. Then they were $124 each. Now they are $109. Lets keep it simple and stick with that option.

Case for the PreSonus preamps and the Alesis. Its still about the same, $200. And we will keep the same snakes, which are still the same price. We need three of them. $200 each.

Running total now is $5017. Before it was $5412. The only real price difference was the DigiMax D8s and the Shure Mics. We still need to add in drum set mics which haven’t changed in price ($400), and two Rode NT4s, one for the drum overhead and one for acoustic piano. They haven’t changed in price. $530 each. And two SKB mic cases, which haven’t changed in price either. $150 each. And you need a vocalist mic, a Shure 58, which is $99, was $109.

Final total…..$6876. A year and a half ago, it was $7277. The single biggest cost are the microphones. I went the Shure 57 route due to cost and their reliability, but there are alternatives out there that are cheaper. And there are alternatives that are more expensive. If money was NO OPTION, I would probably replace the 13 mics used for the horns with Sennheiser 421s. However, at $299 not including stand and cable, replacing the Shure 57s with these would about $3887 and that is NOT including cables and stands. However, the microphones are really THE thing to spend money on.

So, it is slightly cheaper to get the gear. This is for all new stuff too. If you are internet savvy, you could probably score most all of the gear off Ebay or Craigslist or you could get the scratch and dent deals or open boxed ones. This could lower the costs by hundreds of dollars.

Run ProTools On Mackie Hardware? Say What???

This summer, Mackie unveiled a new line Onyx-i firewire mixers that you could, with the purchase of a $50 driver, run Pro Tools M-Powered 8 with. You don’t need to own a M-Audio interface. It would just “work”. A lot of people thought Mackie was going to get a taste of Digidesign’s lawyer division in short order. BUT….it seems they have indeed licensed something with Digidesign, so it is now “legal” to run Pro Tools on a Mackie Onyx mixer.

So, why? And why should you care? I think the reason is that Avid (Digidesign and M-Audio’s parent company) has seen that tons of people are using other pieces of software. Logic, Sonar, Digital Performer, Cakewalk, to name but a FEW. Allowing Mackie hardware to use ProTools allows the software, which is really great IMHO, more exposure. Plus you could have a full 32 track studio happening if you bought 2 Onyx 1640i mixers. True, you don’t get the motorized faders that something like the 003 has (if you have Pro Tools LE) or the Project Mix I/O. But both of these only have 8 preamps.

Anyhow, It is great news. Mackie and Digi working together? Hmmm….

Pitch Primer For The iPhone/iTouch

The Apple iPhone/iTouch software market is amazing. Games, tuners (like the great Strobe tuner). Even AutoTune things like I Am T-Pain.

Now, there is the Pitch Primer for the platform. It is amazing. Transcription tool? Sure it could be. Amazing practice tool? YES! Amazing idea? YES! It is easiest to see a demo of it. Things that I’d like it to do would be EXPORT the audio you recorded (several other iPhone/iTouch programs can do this). And it would be killer if it would export things as a midi file. Or Music XML file.

Amazing product. Get it now while it’s $4.99.

Tom Dowd and the Language Of Music

I finally got around to watching some of the things that had been piling up from Netflixs. One of them was Tom Dowd and the Language Of Music. The description is a little misleading:
“Rarely do we get a chance to see a feature-length documentary about a true unsung hero. Tom Dowd was an innovative music producer and recording engineer. Historical footage, photographs and classic music tracks underscore how Tom Dowd altered the course of contemporary music via his many technical achievements. Features appearances by Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Les Paul and Aretha Franklin.”

This video is WAY more than that. This is THE GUY who recorded Coltrane. He recorded just about every good jazz album out there. ON THE FLY (the way they did it back then). He also recorded a guy name Ray Charles as well. And a bunch of others, like Eric Clapton…..

Did I mention he was also part of the Manhattan Project and was involved in the Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons tests as well? This video is an amazing look into how recording were made, and how a true legend made them. Check out Tom Dowd’s Wikipedia entry as well.

So You Wanna Record A Big Band…..

So, I’ve been working on this CD for a big band I play in. I have no idea how much it cost to get the person to record it, multitrack, and a couple of sessions. I’m thinking at least $6,000….if not more. So, say you have ProTools (or something similar) that can handle 30 tracks of audio. How much would it cost to get the equipment to do it yourself…..let’s figure it out……
Continue reading So You Wanna Record A Big Band…..

Don LaFontaine Dies

Don LaFontaine, the man who provided the sonorous voice for more than 5,000 movie trailers, died Monday at age 68. LaFontaine was known as the “king of the movie trailers,” having done the trailer voiceovers for films such as Terminator, Fatal Attraction, Cheaper by the Dozen, Batman Returns and his personal favourite, The Elephant Man.

Yeah, I know, not really saxophone related, but this guys voice was amazing.

Samson Q1U USB Mic

I just picked up a Samson Q1U for a student as a going away present. He wants to do some webcam lessons or something (we’ll see how that goes…….yeah). Anyhow, there are a number of USB microphones out, or adapters for Microphones to USB. The Samson was a well under $100 mic that includes a little stand as well (I think I paid like $65 or something).

For the money, this mic is great. It sounds good, and it is stupidly simple to set up. On a Mac, you plug it in, and it shows up right away. You simply select it as the input, and off you go. It can be used in Amadeus, or whatever your recording program is. There is a noticeable latency though when you record.

I really didn’t do that sort of testing with the mic, I just simply plugged it in, and did some sound quality/tone tests with it (as it was a gift and I had to wrap it up and give it the next day). It really sounds great. Like a Shure 58, but not quite. Sounded pretty close to my Shure 58 that I have (keeping it fair, just recording the 58 in 48K, 16 bit). Maybe closer in sound to their Performance Gear 58, though I’ve never seen one of these in the wild. The frequency response graph for the Samson looks better (ie more flat, which is a good thing).

Verdict: For $65, this is a great mic. Sounds great. Simple to use. Comes with Cakewalk for you Windoze people. Brainless setup on the Mac side (plug it in, and it shows up). If you can deal with the latency (or not have to hear yourself while recording), then this mic would be ideal for someone wanting to record but not wanting to spend hundreds of bucks on an interface, mics, and cables. 9 out of 10.