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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

FP Update: 12.4.2014

Hello Race Fans...

I just wanted to give a quick progress report on the 'Rabbit Hole' mixdown.

Guitars, bass, and drums are 95% mixed and ready to go. I have a few odds-and-ends to wrap up and adjust, but seriously those last bits/details are the last 5%. Details, details, details. The devil is in those details. Mainly it's about getting the various tracks to blend...and not just in a loud/soft or left/right sense but also in how 'forward' or 'pushed back' some things are. Nothing worse than a lop-sided soundfield, especially in headphones or high-end systems. And I'm a bonafide 'headphoner' so it's important to me...otherwise I won't sleep at night whenever I think about 'what I didn't do' to make the mix 'right'. But honestly as things are currently mixed (even at the 95% mark) everything is sounding pretty awesome.

All things being equal I'll tinker with that last 5% of guitars/bass/drums details off and on as I start adding in the vocal tracks. And I still need to sift through and select some of Jake's backing vocals that he sang a couple weeks ago. We needed another couple layers of voices so he stepped up and delivered. Also there are several other backing vocal layers that our good friend Jeff Nardoni sang for us as well as some sinister whispers that Jeff gave us...

And now to take everyone down into the proverbial 'technological rabbit hole' (which has nothing to do with the song's meaning/lyrics/etc)...

This round of mixing has been a personal study of sorts for me regarding compressors. It's funny how compressors are such a staple in recordings (and I've been using them for years) yet it seems like with this 'Rabbit Hole' mixdown I've really been able to dig in much deeper with the finer parts of compressor usage. And ironically, even though I've got plenty of third-party commercial compressor plug-ins on hand, the compressor that I've grown most fond of is the basic 'Compressor' plug-in that comes free with Logic Pro X. (See pic below.) And I'm getting to the point where I'd almost rather reach for a compressor to fix issues on a track (or even add character/coloration to a track) than say use an EQ. And then there's the whole debate of "Should your compressor be pre-EQ or post-EQ?" Or..."Should you stack multiple compressors on the same track?" As always there are no 'one-size-fits-all' answers to anything in a mixdown but my compressor ninja skills have definitely grown strong with this latest mix.    :-)




And then there are other pressing issues to grapple with: Phase Coherence among similar sounding parts. Mono Compatibility (if a mix sounds great in mono then it will sound amazing in stereo...but not necessarily the other way around). How 'low do you go' on low frequency extension (I usually add a gradual high-pass filter to an entire mix at around 45-55Hz-ish to tighten a mix up and make it punchier). Multi-band Compression on an entire mix (oh yes...the whole compressor plot thickens). Baxandall EQ versus Parametric EQ. How much ambiance to dial in to glue everything together, etc. 

These are the things I dream about when I'm not obsessing over guitars and amps and guitar pedals. It's all fascinating to me...But I digress...

So there's all that. Excuse my tech-speak excursion there (insert maniacal laughter here). I've been spending most of my non-job waking hours in my studio making decision after decision after decision about all of the above (and much more). It's good to come up for air now and then. My brain is in 'engineer' mode right now and my primary mental diet for the last couple of weeks has been EQ's and Compressors...

Time to take a break for the weekend before my gears start grinding...

Will post more updates soon...

~ Todd     

Monday, November 17, 2014

FP Quickie Update: 11.17.2014

Howdy Howdy...

Mixing of 'Rabbit Hole' has officially begun. Also, Jake came over last week and flew in some more backing vocals...but past that everything has been tracked and recorded so now it's just a matter of the mixdown and mastering. Albeit there is a rather massive track count with this one (mainly the multi-mic'd guitar tracks) and so there's lots of details to keep track of...and as they say the 'devil is in the details'. Fortunately we've done a much better (and more consistent) job of recording the various tracks (we keep getting better and better at this stuff) and so the mixdown should be easier and quicker than our previous efforts.


'Rabbit Hole Intro Fuzz' Settings
(This is what you're gonna hear first...)


So far my initial 'rough mixes' have been putting smiles on the guys' faces. Jake described what he heard as being 'more vibey...more organic' than what we've done before. And I'd have to agree with him. Like I said...we're getting better and better at this stuff. The learning curve has been stupid steep as always, but I love the ascent and the proverbial growing pains. I'm pretty sure people will dig the new song...

Will be in touch...

~ Todd

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FP Quickie Update: 10.21.2014

FP Quickie Update: 10.21.2014:

Another round of main vocals on 'Rabbit Hole' are finished and ready for mixdown. I sang them yesterday and then 'graded' them today and made my selections. These parts were especially fun as they're a loud falsetto thing...a blast to sing.

Here's a quick low-down on the mics and gear used:

1) Joly-Mod Oktava MK219  >>  Antelope Audio Zen Studio Mic Pre

2) Shure SM57  >>  Cloudlifter CL-Z (for impedance mismatching)  >>  Vintech Dual72

3) Shure SM58  >>  Cloudlifter CL-1  >>  TC Helicon VoiceLive 2 (for tone shaping only...No cheating via pitch correction...Don't get me started on a rant against 'auto-tuning'...)




Oh yeah...and a pop-filter. 

Moving forward...

Good times!

~ Todd

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

FP Quickie Update: 10.14.2014

Just a quick post to celebrate! let everyone know that Rabbit Hole's main Verse Vocals are sung and selected! I actually sang the new vocal verses last week and then stepped away from them over the weekend before doing any selecting of the various takes. The crazy thing is that I sang all three verses in one morning/afternoon (before heading to work) and then it only took one additional morning/afternoon (again...pre-work...today) to do the selection process. I think that may be a personal record for me...Dang.




So what's up with the telephone picture? Glad you asked! It's a quick shot of a modified telephone handle that I used as a microphone for the new Verse sections. I spent a couple days last week (before my singing sessions began) setting up various mics and mic preamps so that I could have plenty quick-and-ready options for tonal colours. This little telephone/mic hybrid won the shoot-out for vibe and tone for the Verses. And then I ended up using a Crown Royal whiskey sleeve as a pop-filter. From there I ran the telephone/mic through an older slightly-modded Vintech Dual 72 mic pre for grit and colour. Sounded great and was real easy to sing into...  :-)

Also worth mentioning here is that I came up with a brand new set of lyrics for the 3rd Verse. Since we first began writing 'Rabbit Hole' I've had several lyric variations for the 3rd Verse, none of which I have been completely happy with. Last week, mid-vocal-session, I realized that I didn't have any 'keeper' lyrics for the 3rd Verse that I could live with. So I put the telephone/mic down and penned the 'official' 3rd Verse lyrics. And they are completely new and different (and better me thinks) than the previous lyrics I had been singing...I like them lots!

So things are moving forward very nicely now and nearing completion. Dang. I've learned/grown so much over the past couple of years (especially from doing several side recording jobs) that I feel like I've got my stride on things again...Finally. And it feels good...

Until next time...

~ Todd


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FP Update: 10.1.2014

"It is Finished..."

Well, at least the guitars to 'Rabbit Hole' are officially done being tracked/re-tracked. And that means that Robert and I are done playing said guitar parts. I may need to 're-amp' a couple tracks 'here and there' if some of our amp tones don't jive well during mixdown, but that would be a quick and easy fix and won't impede progress or cause any real delays. So the rest of this week I am doing some final documenting and housekeeping duties (i.e. finish jotting any tracking notes, make sure computer files of guitar parts are properly named and indexed, write down anything else that needs notated, etc). It's kind of like doing your taxes at the end of the year...kind of boring but essential and necessary. And in the case of Rabbit Hole's guitar tracks, the track count is well over 120(+)...Four mics per guitar performance/take can add up quickly. Dang.





So the plan, as of right now (once I finish 'housekeeping chores' for the guitar tracks), is to start re-singing certain vocals as needed...starting next week. Not sure how long that will take but I'd say those vocals are the Last of the proverbial Mohicans on 'Rabbit Hole'...

Moving forward...

Stay tuned...

~ Todd

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FP Update: 9.24.2014

Another Day At The Office...

I've finished tracking my guitars for Rabbit Hole's chorus sections and only have one section left to deal with (FYI...'tracking' is the official name for 'recording' in studio-speak). I'm also editing these guitar parts today which can ironically take longer to do than actually playing the guitar parts themselves. Go figure. But the editing is easy work...it's just boring and requires a lot of critical listening and decision making as to which takes sound the best, grafting sections seamlessly together as needed, and being on the prowl for any weird noises that need to be eliminated (although these days I've been prone to leave more noises well enough alone rather than fix them...lots of those weird noises are awesome...especially in headphones...you can thank me later). So in between editing the various chorus sections, my brain needed a quick break, so I'm blogging.  :-)


Here's a screenshot of what I'm doing today:





And here's a quick pic of my homemade 'scorecard' sheets that I use to keep track of which parts are 'keepers' and which ones are 'questionable':





Good times. For someone with slight OCD tendencies...

So that's all for now. Time to get back at it and wrap these sections up...  :-)

Until next time...

~ Todd

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FP Quickie Update: 9.17.2014

Howdy Race Fans...

Just a quick update on things in FP Land. Robert and I have finished up retracking 75%-ish of the guitars for 'Rabbit Hole' using my studio's new re-amping rig (see Pic 1).

Pic 1: Re-Amping Schematic



I've got a ton of speakers on hand plus a growing collection of 'bread-and-butter' microphones and we're getting some seriously improved guitar tones across the board (See Pics 2).

Pic 2: Re-Amping Speaker Closet



Can't wait to get 'Rabbit Hole' finished (after two years of it sitting on the proverbial shelf). Also, I'm planning on revisiting the main vocals and re-doing many of them as well. We're just at a better place as far as our recording capability and know-how goes and the last couple of years of me doing freelance work on the side has helped me grow exponentially in the areas of engineering and production. That being said, I have no plans or intentions of pulling a geaorge Lucas by way of overhauling past projects ('Marigolds', 'Some Other Year', etc) as I simply want to move forward and put out new material. 'Rabbit Hole' in particular was simply caught in the middle of some major workflow changes and has suffered delays accordingly. Once 'Rabbit Hole' is finished then we can all thank it for taking one for the team...

Also, I've been doing a bunch of reorganization over the last couple of months in my workflow, especially where documenting gear being used, equipment settings used, and session set-up notes are  concerned (See Pic 3).

Pic 3: Gear Inventory App



There's nothing worse than coming up with an amazing sound via amps, mics, guitars, pedals, etc, only to forget the details of what was used for said amazing sounds, especially later on when you want to find those tones again for another project...and even more especially when doing freelance work-for-hire. So I've been a busy little beaver in trying to standardize how I work (and document my work...See Pics 4 and 5) in my studio.

Pic 4: Guitar Signal Path Template



This 'reorganization' has caused more temporary delays in one sense but will speed things up dramatically in the long run. Sometimes to build something up even further you have to take the time to fix the foundation. Will be worth it in the long run...

Pic 5: Tracking Notes in Logic Pro X



So that's what is going on at the moment. We've all been busy with various life distractions (like helping kids find cars, work, helping kids move away to college, work, having more kids get born, work, vacations, work, etc). But life is good if you know where to look...

Until next time...

~ Todd



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Howdy Again...

This may be the quickest follow-up blog post in the history of FP Updates...Dang.

Just a quick mention to everyone that we decided to let our online song distribution lapse at iTunes, Amazon, etc.. At least for right now. You can still grab our first three songs on our SoundCloud account for free. Direct links to those are here:

"Sycamore"

"Some Other Year"

"Marigolds"

FYI, we do plan on redistributing our songs on iTunes, Amazon, etc down the road, but we'd like to have more songs on tap as well as offer a downloadable album format once we've reached a certain point in our recordings...

Thanks again for hanging out with us...

~ Todd

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hello All...

Time to break the silence. Here's what's up:

1) Recording...After an extensive delay (obviously right?) we've been quietly resuming tracking sessions on upcoming songs. Our workflow (especially mine) has changed drastically over the last several months, so in a way one could say that we've been retooling our methods. The upside to this is that things will continue to improve and accelerate from a technical POV. The downside is that any such "engine overhauls" equate to having your proverbial car in the shop versus being out-and-about getting speeding tickets...

2) Songwriting...Yep. We've been doing that too. Several really good songs are in the works (as one might expect), but I'm going to keep the details of said songs close to the chest at this point.

So as minimal (and belated) as this little FP update is, it'll have to suffice for now. Good things are happening in the background. I'd just prefer to keep a low profile while we work. At least for now...

We'll be in touch...

~ Todd