Saturday, January 30, 2010

Putting it Together

Matthew and I gave our process a trial run this week, recording guitar, vocals and drums on "New York in Winter".

Step 1: Dial in a metronome in the room to the right tempo
Step 2: Record Matthew playing along to the metronome (scratch)
Step 3: Record Matthew singing along to the guitar track (scratch)
Step 4: Record Zach playing along to the guitar and vocals. This would be the first track to keep.

This is how far we made it. Here's the guitar by itself...

And here's everything else with it. It's a long way from perfect. I need some mixing lessons.

After this, we would record actual tracks of guitar and vocals over the drums. I'm not sure if this process is overly complicated or not. We could probably remove a couple of the steps. Right now we just want to get comfortable with the whole process.

Here's Matthew, stepping up.

Oh, and here's Ben. Helping.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An interface

The key to being able to do a recording ourselves is to be able to actually record wherever we want. We needed a way of connecting mics to a laptop. I started looking into audio interfaces, which is a more confusing world than I would have thought.

Technology for home recording has taken some amazing leaps in recent years. I won't feign expertise by posting a bunch of specs and opinions. Instead I'll tell you the trade-offs I was balancing.
  • Cost
  • Quality of recording (s/n ratio, sample rate, bit depth)
  • Preamps (needed phantom power)
  • Number of XLR inputs
  • Connection (USB, Firewire)
  • User reviews

After a few days of intense internet research, I went with the Cakewalk (previously Edirol) UA-25EX. I chose it for it's apparent quality and consistently good reviews. It should allow us to record anything (guitar, vocals, electric guitar, organ) with relative ease. The downside is that it only has 2 inputs, which limits us from a drumset perspective. However, I've been reading up on recording drums with 2 mics and think the sound will work for us. I will post results from those tests later.

Here's a pic of the interface hooked up...

A microphone

An outstanding bass player and audio technician I know once told me that the biggest reason you pay for a studio is their microphones. They have other great expensive equipment and isolation booths and cheap beer, but microphones are at the top of the list for differentiators.

This is why getting a decent microphone was at the top of my list for our project. I was looking for a general purpose condenser mic. There are many players in the field so I decided to let Craigslist choose for me. There was an AKG Perception 200 for $100, second-hand but new condition. I'm pretty sure it was a drug house I bought it from, given the level of security, but regardless it seems it was a good deal.

Here it is, now in my possession.

Matthew and I did some testing at the church with that mixing board. Here's a sample of the audio quality. This is from a new song, which might be titled "It's different when you're gone".

This was a very encouraging mic test.

The appeal

Recording ourselves is attractive for a few reasons.
  1. We have time
  2. We don't have money
  3. We have a vision
That last one is important, and frustrating. We know how we want our music to sound, but can't completely describe it. It's live, energetic, full (for two people). This is easy to hear in a practice room, but difficult to capture.

And that's where reasons one and two come in. Doing it ourselves allows us to experiment without paying for someone else's time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's OK to be Afraid

In this post I'll share a few versions of our song "It's OK to be Afraid". It illustrates the progression of recordings we've had done.

Here is our demo version, recorded live at Stone Chapel.

This is an example from Stone Songs, also recorded live. This version has Zach Coleman on electric guitar. We opened for Bill Mallonee.

And here is the version for what was supposed to be our EP. Recording quality is much better, but the timing is off between us. The aforementioned buffoon couldn't be bothered to fix it.

A brief history

Magnet South is an acoustic indie band in the Baltimore area. We have been playing together for a couple years and have at least a couple fans. We also have at least an album's worth of songs, but no album. Various tactics have been employed, with equally various levels of success. There was the live recording at Stone Chapel, the live recording at Stone Chapel with an audience, the basement "studio" of a buffoon, and then a period of incubation. I'll post some examples later.

This blog is to serve as a record of our newest resolve - to do it ourselves.