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 For those watching from home, I have finished a round of mixing.  And turned everything into mp3s, loaded it on my iPod in album order, and taken a walk with it.

Nearly every song has some little thing I want to fix; some word that is too loud or something.  But really, they're pretty good and pretty consistent.  I'm still insecure about the ones with strummed octave mandolin; now I worry I made everything too loud so none of it sounds loud.  But they are the best I can do at this point.

I will probably spend several hours tomorrow tweaking little things but I'm going to take the rest of today off.
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A Whole Lot of second-stage mixing (for me) is making things louder, often by making parts of them softer.

This probably sounds counterintuitive. But in, for example, a track of me strumming away on the octave mando, some of the strums will be louder than others. This is partly me getting excited, or me striving for expression, and partly the sad fact that I am just not very good, and sometimes I hit the strings harder than I meant to.

And the peak for the track is the loudest point of the track, whether or not that is a strum that is 4 dB louder than necessary. If I go in and clip out that loud strum and reduce its volume to make it only a little louder than the other strums, that will often let me raise the volume of the entire strumming track.

By the same token, if I reduce the volume of the loudest sung syllables, I can raise the volume on the entire vocal track. Thus I can make the voice and the instrument both louder, without blowing out the listeners eardrums--because I can make it more consistently loud.

And while people like songs to have softer parts and louder parts, in general if you want to, for example, listen to music in the car you need the softer parts to be only a *little* softer, or the car noise covers them up and you can't hear them at all. So more consistently loud is good.

The interesting thing is just how much louder my sung high notes are than my sung low notes. I have low notes I'm boosting by 4 dB to get them audible over the instrument, and high notes I'm cutting by 2.5 dB. I end up changing the levels dozens of times in a single verse. Fortunately once I have them entered, the computer handles it automatically for every replay and rendering, or I couldn't possibly do this.

So I skipped one song today because my Ear said it was fine, and worked on three more, and am still on track to finish Friday. But I really need to get a chance to listen in the car again.
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Well, I have now done 7 songs (skipped one that Peter said was already working great.) Mostly it is things like changing the eq to make the esses less prominent, increasing the volume on the soft parts of the vocals, cutting out stray bits of the instrumentals that are a lot louder than the other notes and reducing them, the various things that let me (counter intuitive though it sounds) make everything louder in the mix without making the mix itself louder.

One song had not been properly checked for pitch; on the one hand it sounds better now, on the other hand that took quite a bit of extra time. Another song was much too soft at the beginning; that has now been fixed. Also I listened through two of the three parts and found the source of some pops and fixed them.

But whew it took me 7 1/2 hours or so. I need to start earlier tomorrow. I'm hoping to do four songs each of the next three days, and have second stage mixing done Friday evening. We're gaming Saturday but I'll have Sunday for catch-up if necessary.
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I finished the preliminary mix of Yellow Truck Song today. Which means 1) barring something really unforeseen, all 20 songs will be on the album! 2)I finished a day early! Giving me an extra day for mastering, though we are going to Skype-game with Jake tomorrow, so I may not be accomplishing a whole lot with it.

I also fixed a couple of egregious errors in some of my mixes: Ludington's Ride, I discovered when I went to remove the pre-instrumental that just wasn't working, had gone up without EQ or reverb, so I fixed that, and Hydrogen Burns had gone up as just the lone harmony part--no melody, no instrument, so I fixed that, and I had a couple of things that were peaking much higher than expected in the finished version so I tracked that down and fixed it.

Next comes listening to everything in the car and also incorporating Peter's suggestions about fixes. I need to get the sound reasonably consistent, which may involve moving parts in the auditory field (changing the pan) and also making soft parts of the vocals louder so they aren't drowned out by other vocals or by the instrument. The volume adjustments for a single song can take hours--and go up as the square of the number of parts. I'm going to have to spend some time messing with the esses; the standard de-esser is just not working as well as I'd like, and the esses only seem to really become unreasonable after the reverb is on, so I wonder if the reverb is set wrong somehow. If I can find a fix for that it would be easy to make the adjustment for everything.
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I have mixed pretty much everything I recorded last time and I need (well, want) at least one more recording session, probably tomorrow morning.

Though I have a pretty good idea for a mando part for King Of The Cats that I won't be able to get up to speed today--so two more recording sessions is not out of the question.

But I plan to do the vocal harmony for Oblivion Bridge, Song Of The Makers and the chorus of Neil Armstrong, and the mimmoths need to do the mimmoth harmony for the chorus of Dr Faber's Medicine Show, and I certainly don't trust them to get it right without my close supervision. Also I have a pretty nice Octave Mando bass line for Alice Day that I mean to add.

And having an extra session in reserve for anything that doesn't work out is not a bad idea.

Busy day

Nov. 6th, 2013 07:31 pm
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I got up at 3 am and recorded this morning. I forgot to set the alarm but fortunately I woke up at 3:08, so I hopped out of bed and got to it.

I recorded harmony vocals for Scale (substituted yesterday evening when I discovered that I couldn't reliably sing one transition in the Oblivion Bridge harmony), Hydrogen Burns, and fixed a wrong note in the Wyverary harmony. I tried to record harmony vocals for Neil Armstrong but that part goes too low and my voice was too tired and I could hear that it just wasn't working.

I also recorded octave mando bass lines for Come Flying With Me, Driver's Lament, and All Things Pass.

I tried to go back to bed afterwards but didn't sleep much. About 8:30 I gave up, got up and sat in a hot bath to force my temperature back up (I got really cold while recording.) I don't normally accomplish much on recording days, but I wrote an octave mando bass line for Alice Day that I quite like (and that is reasonably easy to play,) checked out Villain's Cat and discovered no easy way to fit another harmony on that, and rewrote the harmony for Song Of The Makers as a high harmony rather than a low harmony because I think that will be more interesting and also easier to learn. Then I patched in the bit that needed to be fixed in Wyverary, and mixed the octave mando bass line for All Things Pass. Having four different lines in that song is making it quite crowded and I'm not entirely sure that is going to work. I also practiced the transition in the Oblivion Bridge harmony that was giving me trouble and I think in another day or so I will have it down.

Left to record: Song Of The Makers vocal harmony, Alice Day octave mando bass line, Dr Faber's Medicine Show mimmoth harmony, Neil Armstrong chorus harmony, Oblivion Bridge harmony. I hope I can fit it all in one morning but that's a lot of singing, so maybe not.

And another twelve days or so of mixing. Eep. But it is almost 8 pm and then I can go to bed.

So...

Oct. 20th, 2013 07:56 pm
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Still gradually detoxing; woke up this morning at 2:30 am; was doing a very good job about Not Thinking About It, but about 3 am thought to myself that if I was going to be short on sleep anyway, I might as well get up and record.

So I did and recorded drum parts for three songs and harmony vocals for three songs. That took me until about 5:30 am, when, thoroughly chilled, I crawled back into bed and failed to sleep much untill about 8 am I gave up and got up. Kip must really love me because even in his sleep he did not spring away from the cold cold body pressed up against his in a futile attempt to get warm again. I am going to break out the electric blanket I think.

We were going to play D&D by Skype with my brother at 1pm but I got in about three hours of mixing and Oblivion Bridge probably only needs a couple more hours to have its current parts ready to go. I have written a vocal harmony for it but I am still struggling with learning it--it has only been a couple of days.

The game was fun, if briefer than usual, and I have done a little practicing (mostly One Small Boat, actually) and will go to bed soon. I am very tired. And tomorrow I have to answer the phones at the clinic.

Good night.
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I had a very productive day yesterday; I finished cleaning up the mando line for Today Is The Day and then patched and checked the pitch on the whole of the vocals for Fairy Willow (which were not up to my usual standards for some reason but I think I've got a good version of it now.)

But I'm behind on some other things.
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Every now and then I stop and look at what I have accomplished so far on the album. This is primarily so I can panic in good time if panicking is called for; panicking too late helps nothing.

So, I have recorded what I shall refer to as the Main Tracks (melody vocals and an accompaniment strong enough to stand alone with them) for all 21 songs (20 for the album and one Bonus Track for people who boost the signal on their social media.)

I have mixed 10 songs, of 21, but many of these mixes are not final because I still need more parts recorded.

I have about 18 extra tracks of stuff to record (a harmony vocal, a bass line, a drum part if I can make it work, a mandolin harmony). At six tracks/recording morning (my current amount) that is three more recording mornings.

I have to write about 5 more harmonies and see if I can work up about 5 drum parts. I have to practice up all 18 parts to get them good enough to record. I do need to arrange my recording sessions so I don't have to do six vocals on the same day, though; three is about my limit at that hour of the morning. I have 2 Octave Mando Bass lines and a mandolin part currently written to sprinkle in the first recording session. I think I see drum part creation in my future for the second recording session. It has been long enough that I will need to change my strings again.

Not album related but musical I have written a pretty good mando harmony to One Small Boat, which I need to get practiced up to performance level in the next 2 1/2 weeks. I think as long as I practice it every day I will be fine on that.

I *think* I can do this.

Mixing

Oct. 3rd, 2013 07:23 pm
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So, I'm guessing mixing (recording-type mixing) is probably different things for different people. Probably lots of people are much better musicians than I am and they play their rhythm guitar part and maybe they have to try a couple of times, but they get one with no mistakes in it. No wrong chords, but also no buzzes and no places where one of the strums in their strum pattern didn't happen, or whatever.

That's not how it works for me. It's generally not worth trying more than three times, though if I really crash and burn I delete that take and do another. (And if I'm *really* crashing and burning I give up and put that song off to the next recording session after more practice.) I do two (if things are going well) or three (if I feel insecure) vocal takes also. Or sometimes more than that.

Read more... )
So perhaps it is no wonder that mixing a short easy song can take four hours and mixing a longer more challenging one twelve. But this is why I am concerned that "October" may not be time enough. Especially since I also want to write and record harmonies, which takes time, and will produce more tracks that have to be mixed.

Whuf. Probably if I were a better musician, this would go quicker.
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Has to happen in the next couple of weeks. I did 2 yesterday and 2 (I think; I will have to verify in the morning that #2 will work) today, and also put in 4 or 5 hours of mixing today and got another (very short) song almost all the way mixed.

I'm kind of worried I'm not going to have time to do everything. I thought a month for mixing was plenty of time, but maybe not.

And yesterday I thought I would record tomorrow, but I'm really not ready so Friday at the earliest.

Catching up

Oct. 2nd, 2013 08:12 am
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I went down to Atlanta for the house filk at Dawn's place. I had a nice visit with Alice and Beth and Marie, and the filk itself was a lot of fun. Matt Leger skyped in from Africa, where he and his Songbird are stationed. That was the longest distance skype attendence I have seen, but it worked pretty well; the connection didn't fail once and there were only a few sound glitches on our end. It occurs to me that for filk circles it would be handy to have a camera under the control of the person on the other end; we kept having to turn the laptop so Matt could see the person performing. But it was good to see him and to hear a bit about what his life is up to, so far away.

I took Monday off, feeling kind of flattened, and having a new Temeraire book to read, but got back to work yesterday. I mostly finished mixing Villain's Cat, and I checked its sound against that of Today Is The Day (similar arrangement) and they sound consistent. I also tweaked the bass line for All Things Pass (I'm strumming the mando as the instrumental on that, and it occurred to me that I could use the octave mando to play a bass line, though I think it will be a bit higher than most bass lines, but we'll see.) And I wrote a bass line for Driver's Lament.

I have much much *much* mixing to do, and I need to write harmony parts and record them. So that is keeping me kind of busy.

Oh, and I have a new song; I need to solidify the tune a bit and put it up.
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Second-to-last basic recording session (I hope) in the blanket fort this morning. Oblivion Bridge, All Things Pass, and Driver's Lament. Had a good idea for a possible arrangement of All Things Pass but since it only occurred to me at 4:30, I will need a little practice to be able to pull it off. One of the nice results of practicing so much this past year or two is I'm confident that I will be able to record it in a couple of days.

Also I mixed Dr. Faber's Medicine Show yesterday. (Mostly). The mimmoths coming in on the chorus made me laugh. I only hope other people will find them as amusing as I do. Now torn between using pan to make them scuttle about, or whether it would be better to keep the little rascals in one place.

Once the basic recording is done I'll be working on the flourishes--harmonies and possibly drums. No more mimmoths; a little mimmoth goes a long way.

Though I *almost* postponed this morning's session, except that Sparks and Boomer talked me into it. And now I'm glad I did it, even if a train did drive over Oblivion Bridge at 4:40 am this morning. Mimmoths make a great cheering section.
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So the 3 am recording on the 17th went better than I thought. Two of the songs seem quite useable, the third--I think I can make it work, though I have so far spent eight hours mixing it and I am not done yet, which is a bit worrying.

I did another 3 am stint today. It seemed to go quite well. I was particularly pleased with the instrumental for Dr. Faber's Medicine Show, which is quite fast (the song is in swing time and to be different I wrote a jig to go under it--lots and lots of fast little eighth notes) and which I basically nailed on the first try.

I do most of my songs by laying down a scratch track in which I sing and play at the same time, then singing "for real" to the scratch track and playing "for real" to the scratch track and matching them up. That wasn't working well for this song; I was playing right at the edge of my abilities when I made the scratch track and it just wasn't regular enough for the "for real" tracks. So I spent several days practicing to the metronome, laid down my mando track to the metronome, and then sang to mando-plus-metronome. That worked pretty well.

I also did Come Flying With Me and That Kind Of Mouse. They seemed to go okay also. We will find out the truth of the matter when I mix. I mean to spend today and tomorrow mixing (and practicing Oblivion Bridge, Neil Armstrong, and Song Of The Makers) and record again Monday am. I'm hoping to have all my basic tracks down before I go to the Atlanta filk circle in a week. But we'll see.
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I tried to record at 3 am this morning but it didn't go very well. I'm not sure if it's just that I'm not very good at strumming (I'm much better than I was before I practiced but I'm also trying to do fancier things now) or if it is that I didn't practice those particular pieces as much, but it also seems to me that the sleep issue is weighing heavier and heavier on me. I am beginning to feel, not so much like I am sick, but like I'm going to be sick tomorrow.

So I'm giving serious thought to mixing more for a few days and not recording. That would hopefully let me get caught up on my sleep, and would give me a few more days to practice up on these particular strum patterns and these particular songs, and I have plenty of mixing work to get caught up on, and sometimes I don't realize I need to re-record something or even come up with a different arrangement until I'm in the middle of mixing anyway.

Though I was feeling like recording everything in the same week would give me better consistency. But it may not be that much of a help, or consistency may not be that much of an issue. And I do feel like I need to make some changes.
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I put together a verse of the vocals and a verse of the mando from Today Is The Day, recorded in the blanket fort, and compared them to some tracks recorded at Carson Newman back when I had access to the padded room there.

I really think the blanket fort recordings are better. I hear a distinct chest hump (reinforcement of lower frequencies) in the CN recordings that I don't hear in the blanket fort recordings. That is a load off my mind, because I made the CN recordings sound okay, so the blanket fort recordings will probably be fine. I'm not in the best voice at 3 am, but I will make it work somehow.

I recorded 2 and possibly 3 more songs early this morning. That made for a rather challenging day, as this was also my morning to volunteer at the Rural Clinic from 9 am to noon. I'm still not doing very well at getting back to sleep after recording. I came home and got most of my practicing done and also ordered new octave mando strings.

Along those lines, I listened to recordings of the mandolin and octave mandolin from Saturday morning versus this morning, to see if the timbre of the strings was changing. They say you should put fresh strings on when you record--but I think they were invisioning recording once a week or once a month rather than every day. (It takes me forty minutes to change the strings on one instrument--and it costs 6-8$)

I think I hear a subtle change in the mandolin sound. I don't hear any change in the octave mandolin sound. It may be that my ear is just not all that good. On the other hand it may be that the mandolin strings are lights and I think I heard that lights "go stale" faster than medium or heavy strings.

I'm out of the light strings (I had about six packages but used them all up for concerts and the like, I guess.) I have ordered more and they should be here Wednesday; I have enough octave mando songs that I don't need to record mando between now and Thursday morning. I have also ordered octave mando strings because I only have one more set. They won't be here until Friday at the earliest, but it's not as urgent. Now that I am recording CDs these are business expenses (I sure wouldn't be changing strings so often if I weren't recording.) Must remember to put these into the spreadsheet.

If all goes well, Saturday should see me with the basics (instrumental track and melody vocals) of all 21 songs recorded. Then I need to leap into writing out harmonies for some of the songs and getting those recorded. Also mixing. The detail work alone (picking which version of a track is best, patching any mistakes, reducing the volume of the breaths, checking the pitch of everything) for a single track can take a full day so I don't have many days to waste.

Must go to bed soon. Getting up at 3 am...
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3 am recording continues apace in the blanket-fort. 3 songs yesterday and 3 today means 15 to go. Hoping to cut some pieces out of the sound files this afternoon to have my audiophile friends listen and tell me if they think the blanket-fort will do the trick.

If it is good enough I will probably go for it, and look into the rock-wool for the long run. The 3 am schedule is kind of tough--I can't really get back to sleep properly at 5 am--but I can handle it for a few days, and aside from the occasional train there aren't many interruptions. I am kind of froggy at 3 am, but I do the mando and octave mando work first, with lots of breaks between to drink water and by the time I'm looking at vocals I have been hydrating for an hour or so. I've been careful with my levels--peaking at -3 dB to -8 dB depending on the track, so hopefully the fridge sometimes turning on in the next room, and the insects singing outside won't be a problem. They seem to be down around -59 dB or so.

I have basically been doing very little else. When I'm not practicing for the next songs I want to record I'm wandering blearily around without a whole lot of oomph. But it should only be for a couple of weeks; I think I can handle that.

The only other thing (besides the sound quality issue which I will investigate today) I'm worried about is that I have been doing the easy songs first. So I may not be able to keep this pace up. We shall see.
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It looks like this:

The Blanket Fort

Inside the blanket fort is my microphone. The theory is that the blanket fort reduces the amount of sound echoing back from the walls and lets me get a cleaner recording. This is a very low-tech way to do this but it is basically free (because I have a lot of blankets) so it is worth a try.

To deal with the noise from outside I got up at 3 am to do the actual recording. Almost nobody mows the lawn at 3 am, the birds aren't singing yet, very few people are driving up the hill by the house.

Early thoughts on the results: 1) I was considerably more comfortable recording in my familiar practice room than in the studio. I think I did a much better job playing as a result. I recorded 3 songs in an hour and a half. 2) I went back to bed about 5:45 am but didn't sleep very well and feel pretty dragged out today. My throat also feels scratchy. I hope I'll be able to make this fly. 3) Kip usually uses my laptop to play videogames on the weekends. He turns it over without complaining whenever I ask (and he doesn't play at 3 am, so there's no problem with recording) but I hate to cut into his fun time, so I'm going to wait until Monday to go through the tracks and see what I think of the sound quality. 4) I have verified the next 3 tracks will work to record to. (Sometimes they don't keep a constant enough beat and I can't play along to them very well. A lot of my strummed pieces are having this problem. I have taken to practicing with a metronome and will record new scratch tracks for them soon.)

Given the difference in comfort (and price!) of recording at home versus in the studio, if the blanket fort isn't good enough I'm giving serious thought to getting the rock wool and putting it up on the walls.


Progress

Sep. 8th, 2013 05:01 pm
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Yesterday I laid down four scratch tracks.  Yesterday and today I rendered everything to mp3s (all topping out at -3dB volume-wise) with count-ins, moved them all into an iTunes playlist that got sorted into the order I intend to have them on the CD, and then went on my iPod and my iPad (on the iPad the scratch tracks can be matched up to their sheet music in ForScore so I can make playing with the scratch track part of my daily practice).

Now I need to 1) listen through everything in order and think about whether that order works for the CD 2) practice playing along to each scratch track with particular attention paid, at least to start with, to the four I hope to track in my recording session Wednesday. (Realistically I hope to track 2--being ready to track 4 is what my former research advisor used to call "armed reconaissance"--you proceed to a set point then farther until you hit too much resistance to continue.)  Hopefully I won't need to 3) re-scratch track anything I can't play along to properly.  But we will see.

Also I need to decide which 4 things I want to have ready to track, and work out any arrangements for them I haven't already done.  I got a lot done this weekend and I'm glad but I think I have a lot still to do.

On the other hand I have now been doing 20 minutes practice per instrument per day (roughly) for about a year and a half, and I am *so* much better at this than I was when I set out to record _The King's Lute_.  Which is good because I need to be able to play when I'm standing in front of the mic trying to keep from swaying in and out of the "sweet spot" and also to not touch the mic stand or mic cord with my fretting hand.

Just Stuff

Sep. 5th, 2013 08:19 am
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 I have been laying down scratch tracks for the new album at the rate of two a day for nearly a week.  I only did one yesterday, but I wrote a new song also, so I'm good with that, I think.

I need to sort out recording very very soon.  Right now my major two options are pay for time at a studio (40$ an hour) or buy about $600 worth of materials to pad out the inside of the rumpus room and record in there as many hours as I want (less quiet surroundings, and not sure if the padding will work right but if it works properly I can get as much time in as I want as long as I don't mind getting up at 3 am to do it.)

And if the padding didn't work there is the option of upping the project cost to build a permanent recording booth in the garage (my first plan before I realized how expensive it was likely to be) and take the padding off the rumpus room walls to fully pad out the inside.

But purchasing the padding and having it delivered and installing it would take time; if I'm going to do that I better hurry.  And I think I want to buy an hour of recording time first--$40 isn't an unreasonable test cost--to see how much material I can record in that time and thus get a feel for recording costs for this project, and to listen for myself to the sound quality from that studio.

So I guess signing up for that hour is the way to go today.  Also laying down two more scratch tracks, or three if I can manage it, but I've done most of the easy stuff already.
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