As we work with more acoustic instruments and try different techniques to record, we want to take you all along on the ride with us. Our first installment was in the post ‘Start At The Beginning’ where we worked our way through an acoustic version of Ween’s ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’. In this post we take a similar path with The Cure’s ‘The Lovecats’.
We’re starting our recording journey with the most basic recording steps. Each instrument is recorded with one microphone (sometimes using the same mic and setup for multiple instrument tracks) and we’re recording one take for each instrument (other than vocals where we’ll usually have more than one track). We do some punch ins, but for the most part keep it as ‘live’ sounding as possible. In other words we’re not going to edit or digitally fix every string squeak or change in dynamics. It’s an attempt to see what we get if you go back to a time when studios couldn’t digitally enhance or ‘fix’ every little blip. What you play is what you get. As we go along through the songs we’ll describe the changes and additions to the recording process (adding electric instruments and multiple takes will come in to play in future recordings).
As you listen to ‘The Lovecats’ see if you can pick up the instruments that were tracked: acoustic six string guitar, five string banjo, six string banjo, mandolin, twelve string guitar and fretless bass guitar. Hope you enjoy our version. In the meantime, we’re already working on the next song.
– ‘The Lovecats’ by The Cure:
Time has a way of passing us all by. Blink and another year passes. Close your eyes and who knows when you’ll wake up…… I felt that I was in the creative equivalent of neutral for a few years. Lots of ideas, not a lot of execution. So at the end of 2017 we decided to try something new for both the writing and recording process. Americana, bluegrass and ‘old time’ country have added a lot to our listening lists for a while now, so the idea of using more acoustic instruments made sense.
The voicing of the variety of acoustic instruments makes all of them very audible in a song mix. Two acoustic guitars might step on each other, but add mandolin or banjo and they stand out. Hand percussion. Twelve string guitar. Fretless bass. Whatever’s laying around. Oh, we’re not abandoning loud, reverby feedback guitars. Just stirring it all in. You might associate the acoustic instruments with bluegrass music but we’re not looking to work in that style. Or maybe yes. Anything’s possible.
So to learn how the instruments sound together, how to arrange the songs, how to do mic placement, what pre-amps to use, what effects, etc, etc, we decided to re-imagine some cover songs we like. Some of the songs will be quickly recorded, some will have more production. We’ll also be starting to work more with video, both ‘live’ and produced. In the mean time we’re writing and recording new original material. Stick around, it should be interesting.
First song up: ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ by Ween. Did you ever know one of those “I can drink anyone under the table” types. Ween evidently did. Times 100.
We encourage you to listen to the original versions of the songs we cover. Always good to check songs out, especially if you’ve never heard it before. Hope you enjoy it. Back at you soon.
The Gun Club – this is a band that I still love to listen to and even as I get older, I can’t help but still love the way it sounds, the way it’s played, and mostly – I love doing this song. We enjoyed covering this song and have given serious thought about covering more of their songs. Without further ado – here it is again, Ghost on the Highway, or GOTH as we affectionately refer to it.
It appears that the eclectic collective Steaming Mulch has finally spit out a new tune. We never quite know what we’re going to hear, but that makes it all the more interesting. The word is that there are more song partials traveling around the studio at ChurchHouse, so we should hear the next one soon……ish. Their sense of time does not mesh well with the real world. As always your guess is as good as ours as to the origins of the title (go ahead, guess. we’ll wait…………).
In the meantime…
‘Enormous And Turbo Smooth From Diamond To Rose’
Well, thought we’d throw everyone some free swag considering it’s the holidays (any holiday you believe in is fine with me). So we recorded a cover from one of our favorite bands, The Gun Club and put it on SoundCloud for you free. So you can have ‘Ghost On The Highway’ for your listening pleasure as a download (did I mention it’s free?). We had a lot of fun recording it – it’s pretty much a ‘studio live’ version. Hope you enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoyed doing it.
– Pass it along to all your friends – (hint – it’s free)
Here’s the newest single from Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds eclectic collective Steaming Mulch. We never really know what we’re going to see from them until the song is finished. As always with our group of friends it was recorded, mixed and mastered at ChurchHouse Productions Studio. It’s for everyone who’s had to find their way out of their own personal ‘Mordor’.
Yo, Mel – this one’s for you.
Has anyone noticed something missing from today’s recorded music? It seems that recording quality, once the keystone of captured music, may be going the way of the dinosaur. We’re not talking about the ‘lo-fi’ ethic which intentionally keeps the sound raw and immediate. What we’re seeing is a downgrading of sonic quality for a variety of mostly commercial reasons. Today’s entry covers what has become known as the ‘loudness wars’.
Simply put, the ‘loudness wars’ is the recording version of “my amp goes to 11”. It’s volume for the sake of being ‘louder’ than the song being played before or after yours. It takes place mostly in the mastering of the music, compressing or ‘hyper-compressing’ a song within an inch of its life. No concern for dynamics, subtlety or tone. Just LOUD – and who cares what gets lost in the process.
Did you ever go to a concert and have a friend who wants to practically stick his head in to the PA speakers – “this is f***in awesome, my brain almost exploded!!” Ummkay, can you even tell what’s being played? Seems strange that’s there’s a ‘world record’ for the loudest concert – you might as well stand next to an airplane taking off. There should be a world record for the highest quality sound….
But I digress. The following clip gives a pretty good overview of what the ‘loudness wars’ are about from a producer and engineer’s viewpoint.
Here’s a shorter video that really puts a visual explanation of over compressing and limiting right in front of you.
This is why I’m thankful that we get to record, mix and master our own music at ChurchHouse. We don’t have to be ‘volume whores’ and I’d rather not produce any music than have crap leave our studio.
Pulled one out of the vault – yes, we did. This song was recorded in early 2000 with the original studio lineup of a band that recorded here, Conduit.PA. It was not released on the album and Barett (our recent addition to the fray here at ChurchHouse) remastered it. Thought it was worth putting out for a listen.
For those of you who have never heard the original song, or the band, they are certainly a blast from the past – Medium Medium. Let us know what you think.
I wanted to pass along an interesting article I read concerning some of the pitfalls you can encounter running a small studio. One of the major problems concerns the fact that a small project studio often does not have multiple people handling the work that comes in. As a result, one person may do the recording, mixing and mastering as well as filling the role of the producer. There are positives to this: less long discussions or arguments over how to proceed as well as a consistent vision for the project. But the downside is the tunnel vision you may incur working by yourself and the project burnout you can encounter as you progress through all the steps.
This article speaks specifically to ‘ear burnout’ and steps you can take to avoid it. One thing the article doesn’t discuss is the positives you have when more than one person works on a project. At ChurchHouse Studios we have taken this to heart and try to have several people working on different parts of the project, especially mixing and mastering. It has produced very positive results for us. Another tip I would give is being aware of who is mixing your music. I’ve found out the hard way that mixing engineers who were in very loud bands and never used ear protection may have lost much of the top end of the hearing and will mix accordingly (also a tip to use ear protection if you’re still playing and don’t have the headphones too loud in the studio).
I want to share a recording technique that I read about when I started studio work and have used during sessions over the last several years. The idea is to track one guitar performance and end up with multiple tracks with different sound qualities.
To do this we have the guitar running in to two separate amplifiers – to get the best variety use amps with different sound qualities. For the example in the photo we’re using a Peavey amp on one side and a Mesa on the other side. Make sure the amps are separated so there is no bleed over between them. Each amp’s sound will be captured by three microphones. In our example we are using two dynamic mics close to the amp and one condenser mic slightly farther away on each side.
Each mic will go to a separate track in the recording software as seen in the photo below. You now have six unique guitar sounds you can use throughout the song. In our example we split the guitar signal going to the amps with a stereo chorus effect to allow for a greater stereo field when panning tracks left and right.
In the final photo below you can see how we used the diverse sounds throughout the song, bringing in different mics during verses, choruses and breaks. You can now accent different parts of the song with unique sonic signatures while maintaining a consistent guitar performance.
If you have enough tracks on your mixing console you can enhance these changes further using different settings of EQ, dynamics and effects on each track. This simple set up will provide you with multiple guitar sounds to make your track sonically interesting.