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November 25, 2006

Filed under: music»recording»mp3

Four String Refresh, Part 2

The process of re-recording old songs continues, with overhauled versions of "Lazy Sunday Eyes" and "My Foundation," as well as yet another rendition of "Voodoo Funk." Here's a few thoughts on recording these:

  • I finally figured out why I have so much trouble getting good volume out of my recordings. It's because the bass has such a huge dynamic range the way I play it--at any give time, I could be plucking, strumming, slapping, or literally pounding on the strings. Because I always wanted to avoid the nasty popping that results from overdriving a digital input, I was setting the preamp level according to my highest peak level--in this case, percussive slaps. Since my amp overdrives gently, I hadn't realized how much louder those peaks actually are compared to the rest of my signal. By setting them as the highest, everything else was recorded far too soft. The ultimate solution would be to record the amp itself, but my cabinet isn't in a great acoustic location, and I don't really want to mic my practice amp. After that, preferably I'd add a compressor before the interface, but I don't own a hardware compressor. Instead, I added a carefully set software compressor to the track to limit the pops but boost the gain on everything else. This raises the noise floor a lot, but it's good enough for now.
  • I've also switched to an M-Audio Firewire Solo interface, for a couple of reasons. One is that my Tascam US-122 was obtrusively noisy when using phantom power, which I need for my condenser mikes, and I was having to run them through a mixer. The Solo is externally-powered, so I can eliminate the mixer from my signal chain. Also, using IEEE 1394 instead of USB lowered my signal latency from 45ms to 6ms, making it possible to effectively monitor myself and (hopefully) cleaning up my timing a little. Neither of these were dealbreaking problems, but it's nice to have them addressed, and the Solo isn't that expensive.
  • The software pedalboard experiment is pretty much over. Although it was interesting and I still think there's a lot of power there, I was never entirely happy with the results. I've gone back to my MXR M-80 preamp, DOD Envelope, and Line 6 looper, and I'm just running the MDA Combo plugin to tame the harsh treble and boomy low-end. It's nice to have knobs to play with again.

Hear the results, as always, at the Four String Riot. Next up is to finalize/record "Mastermind," and then start writing again.

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