Archive for December, 2009

The Mellotron

Posted in VST Instruments and EQ's with tags , on December 31, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

In a nutshell, it was a sampler built and used in the 1960’s. If you’ve ever played around with one, you know they are a lot of fun. John Lennon is quoted as saying “I must have one of these” after just five minutes playing a Mellotron.

Here’s something I tracked back in 2003 using Gmedia’s M-Tron. It’s called “Welcome to Slaggers”:

Have a great New Year!

Enjoy.

Written, and recorded by The Buddha Rats®. Copyright 2003 Drew Gold. World Rights Reserved. Use without permission is theft and leads to physical & financial pain, so make sure you ask first.

The Buddha Rats® is the property of Andrew Gold. Reg. USPTO.
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Recording Vocals

Posted in VST Instruments and EQ's with tags , , , , on December 25, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

ADT, or Automated Double Tracking

The Beatles laid down some great vocal performances. They were well sung & well recorded. They had a certain fullness to them, and that’s because they were (for the most part) Double Tracked. Initially, they recorded a second vocal track to go along with the lead track. Later in their career, Lennon wanted to shorten the process.

Ken Townshend, a recording engineer at Abbey Road, came up with Automatic Double Tracking (ADT)  in 1966. ADT involves making a copy of the original vocal pass on another tape recorder (the second track’s playback speed is altered to create the effect). Both recordings are then blended and mixed back into the final recording to fatten up the sound.

Up until last year 2008 home-based musicians were forced to create the effect using digital delay, and manually time/pitch shifting a second vocal track. Thanks to the fine programming efforts of Vacuumsound you can get your vocals sounding great in no time at all. Here’s what they say about their own plug:

The ADT Plug-In takes a mono input signal and creates a stereo output. The original input signal will be output on one channel, the new ADT signal on the other. Blending the two is also possible. The Plug-In allows to control the delay time (10 – 50ms), Wow and Flutter (both with intensity in % and frequency). All values are based on the technical data of the tape machines that was originally used to create this effect.

The GUI is nothing fancy, but everything works as it should, and the results are fantastic. The ADT plug also sounds great on electric guitars.

I found a post yesterday by another musician-blogger curious about The Beatles’ use of ADT.  He  imported the songs into Pro Tools,  to find out the ADT delay setting the F4 used (on Revolver). It turns out the number is approximately 29.4ms.

Anyway, this ADT plug by Vacuumsound will help you get close to creating a nice natural sounding doubled vocal track. The end result isn’t as phasey as Waves “Doubler” program, and unlike Doubler, ADT is FREE, and you can download it here.

Enjoy.

I was curious about the Beatles use of ADT (automatic double tracking) on Revolver.
Lennon loved it as it meant he no longer had to sing twice to have the double tracked sound.
On many songs, the original vocal and ADT’d vocal are mixed together “like “Taxman”.
But on some songs, like “And Your Bird Can Sing”, and “Dr. Robert”, they are panned hard left and hard right.
So I imported the songs into Pro Tools, and set upon finding out the amount of delay by running a ddl on one side.
It turns out the number is approximately 29.4ms. I can’t say exactly.
I did try to phase reverse one side and get it to cancel, but it wouldn’t.
Probably because they don’t sound exactly the same, as one has another tape generation on it.
Anyway, if you ever wondered how much delay ADT produced, now you know.

The vocal on the right side is the original, btw.

Songwriting Tips from John Lennon

Posted in How To's, Music with tags , , , on December 24, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

No, he hasn’t contacted me from the Great Beyond, although years ago my ex-wife claimed John visited her in a dream and told her that he enjoyed my songs.

Anyway, here are a few tips from the second greatest, most creative artist in the last 110 years:

  1. START WITH A SONG YOU LIKE: Then change the lyrics, then the melody, and then the rhythm. Aside from the lawsuit, it worked for his tune “Come Together“- that one kicks ass, and was based on an old Chuck Berry tune.
  2. FINISH EVERYTHING: Don’t worry about whether or not it’s “good” or “bad”.  Prepare to spend a few weeks working on just one song. Try to push yourself to work out the best chord structure and arrangement (intro, verse, chorus, etc.). Then work on the actual recording, and move on to the next song.

Simple, huh?

Only if you’re a genius like JL…

Happy Holidays, everyone. War is over if you want it.

🙂

Basic Guide to Setting Up Your Home Music Studio

Posted in How To's with tags , , , , on December 24, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

This is a basic list of things you will need in order to set up a good home recording studio. It is by no means complete. I’ve been recording at home for 25 years, and I will try to list only the essential equipment you will need.

In the interest of saving space and making this a quick read, I will avoid going into too much detail. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line and I can give you more information.

  1. COMPUTER: Most home-based musicians do not record to tape. (and most kids today have never even seen a tape deck!).  There are a few reasons for this, the first being that computers are cheaper and more powerful than ever before. The second being that it is very easy to edit and arrange your music tracks by having a visual reference of your music displayed on a computers’ monitor. Ever try splicing a thin piece of tape together to rearrange your song? It’s a pain in the butt.
  2. PCI SOUNDCARD: Installing an internal PCI soundcard will enable you to take advantage of more your computers’ processing power. USB 2.0 & Firewire aren’t as useful, as the platforms are slower (especially USB) than PCI. Make sure your soundcard is equipped with Phantom Power so that you can take advantage of the better quality XLR mics on the market, and MIDI to take advantage of VST instruments (using a MIDI keyboard) that are often bundled with today’s recording software. Echo, M-Audio, Focusrite, Lexicon, Apogee, and PreSonus are all makers of Audio Interfaces.
  3. MONITORS: Since most home-based musicians will be using a computer, you will need to get a decent pair of shielded speakers. Computer speakers are an OK temporary fix, but they tend to be quite bassy and lack the full range that true music monitors have.
  4. CABLES: I like Whirlwind Leader cables, but any heavy duty cable will do.
  5. RECORDING SOFTWARE: I don’t subscribe to the belief that in order to make a proper professional recording you have to use Pro Tools. Yes it’s popular, but the fact is that there are a wide variety of great programs out there all capable of yielding excellent results no matter what type of budget you have. Just ask yourself how you will be using the program and what type of music you are going to be making. If you aren’t relying on virtual instruments (vsti’s) then a program like Reaper is perfect for capturing audio. Do yourself a favor and download the fully functioning/never expiring demo. If you like it, and you make less than $22,000 p/year from music, then a license will cost you $60. Also check out the Acid Pro line, Cubase, Logic, N-Track, Fruity Loops, Record and Reason .BTW, if you are working on a MAC, then all you really need to get started is Garageband. Also- remember that there is no one piece of perfect software, and any one of these might work for you (my personal preferences are Reaper and Cubase with a little Acid Pro for loop manipulation).
  6. MICROPHONES: Unless you’re drowning in money, don’t get an expensive mic right away. A Shure SM58 will be perfect for vocals, and any Naiant mic will suffice for use with vocals, acoustic guitars, drums, etc.. Be sure to get yourself a mic stand and pop screen.
  7. PRE AMP: The function of a preamp is to boost the often low-level signal of your voice, or instrument to line-level prior to it reaching the sound card. Pre amps from ART are a good inexpensive way to boost the signal and add warmth to your sounds.
  8. HEADPHONES: SONY’S MDR 7506 Dynamic Stereo Headphones are sturdy, accurate, and won’t break the bank.
  9. MIDI KEYBOARD CONTROLLER: A MIDI keyboard is a must in order to transmit MIDI data to your computer software synthesizers, or a hardware or software sequencer. Check out this MIDI controller buying guide from Sweetwater. You will need this to be able to play and take advantage of the many sample-sets (pianos, strings, etc.) available to the home recording enthusiast.

Well, there you have it. I hope this guide makes it a little easier for you to take the first step into the world of Home Recording.

Have fun!

Guitar Gear: Notes from Mitch

Posted in Gear with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

In short, the biggest difference between new and vintage is…finding what works for you. It may turn out to be both.

My view of instruments is that they are akin to the paints, brushes, knives, charcoal, pencils, canvas, etc that an artist would use in drawing or painting a picture. As such, I consider every thing that goes into making a noise from string to speaker to ear. If I do have a preference for older gear, it’s only because I generally like things broken in; shoes, shirts, pants, baseball gloves, and guitars and amps. There is something about the age of wood and transformers “opening up” over time, but that too has it’s applications and limits. Not sure I would want those things if I had a Megadeath gig to do but who knows.

So here is a rundown of Mitch’s gear:

Amps:

I will note that I am more of an amp guy then a guitar guy with a general preference for tubes, tweed Fenders, and Marshall’s, not withstanding some of the current modern high gain choices and lower volume production “boutique amps” (a word which I’ve grown to dislike). I’ve paired things down over the years and currently have the following that I use in order of use:

  1. 1955 Gibson GA-40 Les Paul (it’s the smaller one with the script LP logo on the grille)
  2. 72′ 50w Marshall Bass (I actually prefer these to the Leads for guitar)
  3. 58′ Fender Tweed Super
  4. A Dr. Z MAZ38NR which is a great amp but almost never use but probably would if I was playing out regularly.

I’m really seeking something like a tweed Tremolux or Harvard as my next acquisition because all of my amps save the GA-40 are too loud. I do swear by a Dr. Z Air Break (I think that’s what it’s called) attenuator which I use with my Marshall. It really allows me to crank it. The last gig I played was in a medium sized room. I used that set up an still didn’t take it above the “Bedroom” setting for very long.

Live – I go guitar, cord, amp, speaker cable (they’re handy), speaker(s). Occasionally an analogue delay or eq as a boost. I like amps absolutely cranked and then use the guitar’s volume, tone, and me hands to do the rest. Rhythm playing from about 1 – 4, bridge’s choruses 4 – 6, solo’s above that.

My 15YO stepson just got a Mesa Single Rect-O-Verb head that sounds great and bet I’ll use at some point. I used to play Boogie’s almost exclusively but haven’t touched their stuff in years.

Having said that, most of the recordings I’ve done recently have in fact been done with a POD straight into a PC and I’ve been quite happy with them. Imagine that! It just works for the available space or lack there of. To his credit, Drew is somehow able to work magic with compression and “Vintage Warmer’s” after the fact (because you just can’t get a straight thru simulation of the real thing without tweaking it a bit- drew). I would like to get over to Hugh’s studio and do some proper recording some day soon….

Guitars:

First noting that this is the first time in my 25 years of playing that I actually own more guitars then amps. I need to change that. Again, current use in order of appearance:

  1. A beat up reliced 52RI Tele w/Fralin’s
  2. 58’RI Custom Authentic Les Paul w/the original factory Jimmy Page/Joe Walsh coil taping and phase switching. It really opens the options up on this guitar.
  3. 62RI Strat that I should really get around to putting better pickups in like the Fralin’s that are in my Tele.
  4. 56′ Martin 000-18 (Wow!)
  5. 31′ National Duolian
  6. A newer off shore Dobro which for a little over $300 sounds pretty dern good
  7. A custom ESP Richie Sambora model that great guy, builder, and designer Chris Hofschnieder made and gave me. It’s really good to have a modern axe with a Floyd Rose although I need to block the route in the body because I don’t care for floating bridges.

I am waiting for a 59′ Gibson ES-125TD to show up at my doorstep as I type……I haven’t been wowed by a guitar in a long time and part of that has to do with being a southpaw. Axes just aren’t available to us. The closest I’ve come to recently was a 58′ Junior that I played for an hour at the Guitar Center in NYC but those guys are just nuts when it comes to their prices. I’m still pretty certain that it was the 60 Tweed Deluxe I was playing it through which reminds my that I really should get one of those…Tangent. Anyway, I’ve been searching for a good hollow P-90 guitar for a few years now. I hope this one ends up being that thing.

Effects – Not a big user of effects. Again like the painting reference they have their place and appropriately placed can (and should) be like ketchup on French fries. I do have a couple that I do use most notably an old green Boss Tremolo/Pan (learned from Hugh Pool who I really look up to), a Carl Martin Delayla, and a boss EQ. I generally don’t care overdrive boxes preferring to get that from the guitar, amp, and speakers. When it comes to more modern tones, when they are required, I’ll use whatever makes the sound I hear in my head.

Strings – yes

Cables – George L

You can get carried away with all of this nonsense if you wish. However I think the real issue is, “what does the song really require?”

A wiser man than myself once said “Shut Up and Play Your Guitar”

Talk amongst yourselves….

1968 Martin 00-16C Guitar, Cottage EP

Posted in Music with tags , , on December 20, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

The Buddha Rats, Cottage EPThis is “The Cottage EP”, and it was written and recorded back in Dec. 2005/Jan. 2006.

I always loved the sound of a good nylon string guitar, and I had spent a few years recording and playing on my Dad’s old ’64 Goya. The Goya’s were a line of Swedish guitars built by the Levin family starting in the 1940’s, and rivaled the sound, and quality of Martin Guitars. Martin ended up buying the Goya name in the 70’s, moved production out of Sweden into Asia, and imported the inferior-quality guitars to America. If you ever get a chance to purchase a pre-1975 Goya, go for it: You won’t be disappointed.

By the time I was ready to buy a good Nylon of my own, I lucked into a deal on a 1968 Martin 00-16C concert sized guitar. The guitar had been owned by a little old lady from Connecticut, and kept in storage under her bed since the early 1970’s. With the exception of a bent tuning peg, the guitar was (and still is) in immaculate shape with simple appointments, no binding, a thick (but comfortable) neck, a thin dull lacquer finish, and a sound that can fill a room.

Once I got the 00-16C, my technique got better and my songs got simpler (at least for a little while).

But that’s enough talk. Here’s “The Cottage EP”: 3 songs (2 instrumentals, 1 with vocals), clocking in under 5 minutes and available for download (links in orange) for your listening pleasure. I hope you enjoy.

Written, and recorded by The Buddha Rats®. Copyright 2005, 2006 Drew Gold. World Rights Reserved. Cataloged with The Library of Congress. Use without permission is theft and leads to physical & financial pain, so make sure you ask first.

The Buddha Rats ® is the property of Andrew Gold. Reg. USPTO.

Naiant Microphones

Posted in Gear with tags , , on December 19, 2009 by The Buddha Rats

Before you go to Guitar Center and spend a lot of your hard-earned cash on over-priced brand name crap, take 5 minutes and check these out:

http://naiant.com/studiostore/microphones.html

I have a few of them, and am very, very happy with the results I’ve been getting on my vocal and acoustic guitar tracks. What’s more is they are inexpensive, and the customer service is fantastic.

I first heard of these mics in AM Mag (the audioMIDI.com magazine). They did an interview with this “mic guru” named Harvey Gerst. He’s widely considered an expert on inexpensive mics that sound great. BTW, I am not affiliated in any way with Naiant or am Mag: I just dig the product.

Anyway, give them a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and still have $ left in your wallet. If they’re not for you, go spend $150 on an SM58.

😛