Friday, February 19, 2010

Music is Math

So this dude came over and helped me get my Pro Tools set up working. It took him about 3 hours, but it got done. Turns out all I really needed to do was download an update from Digidesign (that would've been nice to f'n know) and not piggyback my hard drives. Anyway, so far so good. One thing I learned is that USB 2.0 is as fast as FireWire.

On Wednesday after he got it working, I stayed in the studio and watched the 3 hour instructional video that came with the software. It's amazing. I'd had virtually no experience with MIDI before. Basically, technology has advanced to the point that digital instruments are almost indistinguishable from real ones. With a MIDI keyboard (another $150), I have access to over 10,000 different instruments, amps, etc., all of whose sample rates are so high that the average person wouldn't be able to tell the difference between me playing through a MIDI keyboard or playing the real thing. Amazing. Basically, it felt like when Neo realizes he can pwn the matrix and he just starts seeing 1's and 0's. That's all music is, 1's and 0's. Frequencies.

So yesterday, Keith came over. I decided the best way to learn to record was to record a cover first. That way, we're working toward something in which we know what the end result should sound like. I also decided we should be doing 2 covers simultaneously, one "rock" song that includes all the basic rock instruments (guitars, drums, vox, bass), and one solo acoustic song. That way I'd have something to work on when Keith wasn't around. Keith agreed that "Tyler" by Toadies was a good choice. It's a fairly basic song, we already know how to play it, and it doesn't include a lot of layers and effects. Plus it's a cool song. In my alone time (which I have an abundance of), I'll record "Question" by Rhett Miller. It was a toss up between that and "Walkaways" by Counting Crows. Anyway, the plan is to record until we have exact replicas of those songs. By doing that, we should learn the basic controls of the interface and a lot of the standard tricks in adding effects, editing and mixing. (I have learned that recording is broken down into 3 phases: recording, editing, and mixing.) The thing I'm probably most excited about it mastering recording vocals so that they sound badass. Which is nothing like how they sound coming directly out of my mouth.

Yesterday was a learning process. I had trouble configuring the Inputs and Outputs (I/O) to get the (@#&*$&@)$*(&er to recognize the mics. But eventually, we were able to record 4 simultaneous drum tracks. When deciding how best to place the mics, I stumbled upon this pretty f'n cool site: http://www.wikirecording.org/Guide_to_Recording_Drums . We only had 4 mic stands (even though we have 7 studio-quality mics), so we decided to go with the "Led Zeppelin" (Glyn Johns' technique) setup except with an extra mic at the back of the room. Keith listened to the song on my iPhone and played along. Because it had taken us roughly 2 hours to get everything set up, we only did one take, so we'll have to tackle it again this weekend or next week to get a keeper take. After Keith left I stayed in the studio for another 2 hours and messed around with the editing window. It really is amazing. Stretching, cutting, changing...it's like the audio is Play-dough. And that part of it was WAY more user-friendly than I expected, especially after the debacle of getting it all working in the first place.

Anyway, the good thing now is that we can leave the 3 mics we have where they are and everything will be set up whenever Keith comes over from now on. We still have 3 mics and one stand (which includes the 2 highest quality vocal/amp/acoustic instrument mics) that we can move around freely, which is all I need to record on my own. I'd still like to add another mic stand so we can direct mic the snare and have 2 overhead mics to catch the toms and cymbals (with the 4th mic inside the bass drum), but even as it is, with some minor adjustments it would more than suffice. I was also really pleasantly surprised with the mic quality and the lack of buzz and hum. Pretty stoked about that. The only thing keeping us from recording a professional quality demo is time, energy, and knowledge.

4 comments:

Ojo Rojo said...

Cool. Can't wait to hear some of the product. Sounds exactly like my experience with Final Cut Pro when I was working on the documentary. I didn't even really know how to use a computer before that. STEEP learning curve. Feels good to learn and do.

llogg said...

Awesome man. And music is math. Well, math and physics. The math is just so complex it seems like magic to us. Can't wait to hear what you guys lay down.

llogg said...

post you dirty skank.

Snake Diggity said...

Waiting for progress. Going slow. Too many irons in the fire. This stuff is a slow moving train. Marathon, not a sprint. And shit.