Aesthetics of home recording

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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Larry Mal
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:04 pm

I've seen some people talk about making home recordings using virtual drums, and while there are a lot of MIDI drum samples that sound great out there (I use BFD among others), only Logic's Drummer breaks one free of the piano roll/step sequencer. It's fast and easy and I wish that other DAWs would just rip that functionality off already.

You can sit there and adjust the velocity of all your drum hits and nudge them on the piano roll and use the humanize feature (I don't really recommend that) all you want, but Drummer just does that all immediately, behind the scenes, and well.

It won't vary the tempo, but you can control that with a global tempo automation track directly in Logic if you want to speed up a few BPM on the choruses or what have you.

It is literally the only thing keeping me on the Mac platform. If Cubase doubled that functionality, I would spin off into Windows in a heartbeat, although Apple's new M1 chips have caught my eye if not my money. Well, I will probably get a Mac Mini with the M1 chipset at work, and if I like it, I'll buy my own ARM Apple machine down the road potentially.

But if you are on the Mac platform and you record music, you really owe it to yourself to come up with two hundred big ones and try that out. You'll like it.

I am a drummer, and while I like electronic music and think that synthesized percussion is great, at the same time if I want to use acoustic samples I want the performance to sound like what a drummer would play. It used to take me a very, very long time to approximate that and I wasn't always happy with it. Logic and Drummer take the work out of it.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by mediocreplayer » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:42 pm

+1000 to the above post. Drummer is the best thing that ever happened to making music at home.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Telliot » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:48 pm

Absolutely.
The cool thing about fretless is you can hit a note...and then renegotiate.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by mbene085 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 4:24 pm

And don't forget that Drummer tracks can be converted to MIDI, then fed into other AU plug-ins. You lose the real-time editing capability, but once you have it where you want it, there's nothing stopping you from running the "performance" into Superior Drummer, Steven Slate Drums or what have you.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:42 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 4:24 pm
And don't forget that Drummer tracks can be converted to MIDI, then fed into other AU plug-ins. You lose the real-time editing capability, but once you have it where you want it, there's nothing stopping you from running the "performance" into Superior Drummer, Steven Slate Drums or what have you.
Actually, if you take a Drummer region you can drag and drop a copy into another instrument track, like a BFD track, by holding down option-drag.

If you hold down shift-option-drag, then it makes a copy that will change along with any changes you make to the main MIDI (Drummer) track.

It's called an alias in Logic, and here's an article about using it and Drummer.

Here's a little video about the process also.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:46 pm

And here's a little something I did using that process, I forget exactly what I did but it would have started off with a Drummer track, then I would have put it into a BDF 3 track, and some of the MIDI notes are also put to some synthesized samples... I think I'm using Rob Papen's Punch here.

It's not a finished song or anything, just an example, so consider yourself caveated, but anyway it shows what I'm talking about.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by mbene085 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:48 pm

Oh, now that's really cool. Thanks for that. I thought you had to just make a new MIDI track from the Drummer track whenever you made changes in Drummer.

Using an alias is much more efficient.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Whiny Minotaur » Sun Dec 20, 2020 11:17 pm

As it is, I live in a place with absolutely no treating, and don't have the know-how nor resources to make anything which sounds 'good', so instead of trying to simulate studio quality recordings, I gave up and embraced a more lo-fi aesthetic. I'd still like to record some music in an actual studio with some proper producing and engineering, but I think I'm doing okay for myself.

It can get incredibly frustrating when recording vocals though. It's almost impossible to get good sounding vocals without absolutely drowning them in effects, and sparse arrangements just won't work - too much noise and nasty sounding artifacts to make it work. On the other hand, it does push me to do things I would never have done if I had all the resources I needed to create pristine sounding music.

This is probably the best track I've ever written, and while some of the mixing/production choices make me cringe, it's definitely a product of me working with the limitations I have, instead of fighting them.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by mbene085 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 11:31 pm

There are lots of simple and reasonably inexpensive setups that can get usable vocals in nonideal spaces. What gear are you using that is giving you unusable dry vocals?

There have been chart-topping albums full of vocals recorded in untreated hotel rooms and apartments.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Whiny Minotaur » Sun Dec 20, 2020 11:54 pm

SM58 into a Scarlett 2i2. Super cheap gear, but I wouldn't blame it on the equipment as I've had much better success when recording in rented studios or sound booths with the same setup.

I tried some of the more popular tricks such as using a duvet as a makeshift method for soundproofing, recording in a closet and so on - usually, it's not really worth it as it fucks with my performance, and sometimes, it actually made my recordings sound worse :D

Honestly, I'd probably spend some money to have some proper soundproofing/treatment if my situation allowed it, but I move too often for that to be feasible. It's not something which bothers me too much though. As I've said before, I learned to work with it rather than fighting it.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by jorri » Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:26 am

This is why i do what i have been resisting and track into amp sims with headphones.

Better performance.

Before i rented a space, just rehearsal space and did it loud. Thats not possible at home. But its outside my creative lair and involves carrying a lot of things. The setting up still creates a flawed performance where mic placement and all are in question.
I have considered taking the simulated tracks to re-amp a space or paid pro though, it just depends after some feedback whether its worth the fuss. I think reamping could be a way to go. But for what i thought would just be "rough demos" have turned out better than that mic process, only using kuassa Matchlock, Creme, and MConvolution or SP2016 for the room sounds. Perhaps i do have a shite amp!

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 21, 2020 8:06 am

jorri wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:26 am

I have considered taking the simulated tracks to re-amp a space or paid pro though, it just depends after some feedback whether its worth the fuss.
Brad wrote something on this forum recently about how he doesn't like re-amping in most cases, and reading what he wrote kind of put into words what I have been feeling for some time. You dial in a certain sound and it works for a certain song, chances are good that other sounds aren't going to work and why would they.

To start with, time based effects like delay and reverb to a degree will be seated within the tempo of the song itself, but also certain amps (even simulated ones) will "blossom" at certain notes and playing velocity and so when you re-amp you can lose the dynamics of your performance very easily.

I'm not saying it can't be useful, but I can say that I used to be excited about having a world at my fingertips and then realized that it wasn't quite as great as it seemed to be. I'd recommend getting the best guitar sound you can the first time as the best thing to do.

I'll also recommend that you record things as cleanly and with as little noise as possible. Don't be fooled by anything that offers to remove noise for you, that always, always comes at a steep cost and usually isn't really all that effective in the end.

This doesn't mean that people can't or haven't made great recordings in less than ideal situations, people get emotional about that point. But I will bet that even under those situations the people doing the recording spent some time making sure their recording environment was the best it could be for what it was, and that's what everyone else should do, also.

Your home wasn't designed to be other than a home, no effort was put into making it work as a recording studio. And your microphones will pick up every single noise that your home makes, even things you don't think about whatsoever. Your refrigerator is noisy, you probably don't notice it but your microphone does. And your room has a sound to it, so find a way to reduce that if you can.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:51 am

I got to thinking, a while back I was doing some home recording in my buddy's basement, so of course the sound wasn't going to be good. I ended up making these little isolation booths:

Image

I put the kick drum mic in one and used it for the guitar cabs, also. At some point I put a packing blanket around the outside of it as well.

It's a pretty hack solution but it can help.
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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by mbene085 » Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:06 am

I agree that reamping has limited uses, but it certainly has some.

I remember Brad's point was that an amp is essentially an instrument in and of itself, and the way the player phrases things is often directly tied to the amps response.

Revamping doesn't have to be about changing gain structure or the amp entirely. Sometimes it can be because you chose the wrong mic or cab and it's not sitting where you want it to. I suspect Brad is more talented at tracking than the average OSG home recordist, and part of tracking is recognizing when you've achieved the right mic and mic placement and committing that to tape (err, disk for most of us).

Because I deal with digital amps anyway, changing the mic model or cab in post is a great way to fix what was essentially a tracking error that I will hopefully learn to stop making. It leaves the amp and its touch response unchanged, so it doesn't fuck with the performance.

And then there are performances that I feel are more amenable to entire amp swaps without messing things up. Distorted powerchord-based music comes to mind. Djent's sense of dynamics is basically "is this note palm-muted or not?" and I've seen lots of videos of engineers and producers swapping entire amp rigs on DI recordings of various metal subgenres to good effect. It's totally different from switching an R&B player's bluesbreaker to an AC30, or a country player's tweed Deluxe to an Engl Powerball's clean channel for example.

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Re: Aesthetics of home recording

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:46 am

mbene085 wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:06 am
I agree that reamping has limited uses, but it certainly has some.

I remember Brad's point was that an amp is essentially an instrument in and of itself, and the way the player phrases things is often directly tied to the amps response.

Revamping doesn't have to be about changing gain structure or the amp entirely. Sometimes it can be because you chose the wrong mic or cab and it's not sitting where you want it to. I suspect Brad is more talented at tracking than the average OSG home recordist, and part of tracking is recognizing when you've achieved the right mic and mic placement and committing that to tape (err, disk for most of us).
Sure, I never said that reamping had no uses, I sometimes double up my bass lines that way, for one thing.

That being said, though, while Brad is no doubt great at getting the sound he wants out of his amps, my point was that anyone here should be able to do that as well (or with your virtual amp).

And if for whatever reason you can't do that, then address that. We can look at it as mise en place, if anyone is familiar that concept. Get your recording as close to right as you can the first time you are rolling, uh... tape, and the better your end results will be. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that technology will rescue your recording down the chain is my thinking here, whether it be re-amping or correcting for noise.
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