With equipment rented and drum tracks completed, it was time to move on to guitars, bass, vocals, and synth.
This was going to be a little easier as the basement in our house came with pretty excellent sound treatment. The previous owner had a home theatre setup down there and added decent insulation in the walls and installed a dropped ceiling complete with acoustic insulation tiles. Both the main room and the back room, which has become my home office, has that slightly “dead” feeling you get when walking into a pro studio. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not pro level perfect, but it’s more than I could ever ask for and I’ve been making good use of it.
My home office has a small closet that I’ve converted into a makeshift isolation booth. I stuffed a small Ikea mattress against the back wall and hung up some fabric to help cut back on reflections.
In the week between tracking drums and tracking guitar, I did some prep which included running a quick mix of the drums to see where we were and backing everything up to an external drive. I put H’s cab, a beat up Marshall (we think?) 4×14, in the isolation booth and plugged it into my Marshal MG100 DFX. I stuck an SM-57 on a mic stand and left it.
The day H came over to begin tracking his guitars began with us recording sound samples of each speaker in the cab and deciding which one was to his liking (bottom right, just to the right of the cones’ centre was the winner).
While we only had my Marshall to work with (H’s Kustom tube amp was in the shop), we did use two guitars and a combination of stomp boxes and the amps settings to record the parts. As well, the Aphex was used as a DI so we had clean tracks to work with as well.
H doubled all of his guitar parts: one using his ESP LTD V-500 and one using my ESP LTD EC200QM. The main difference is that his V has a set of EMG 81 active pickups and my EC has passive; neck is the ESP stock, the bridge pickup is a Seymore Duncan Invader neck pickup (yes, you read that right) that’s as gritty and noisy as it gets. For distortion, we switched between a BOSS DS-1 and the gain on the Marshall. Sure we could have played around with more sounds than we did but why?
As a note, there was a small part in Alleta that I added last minute and H had me play it. He said the way I showed it to him sounded better than the way he was playing it. “So fuck it,” he said, “you play it!”
The vocal setup was pretty simple. I ran my Behringer C-1 into the Presonus unit. I had a shock mount with a metal pop screen that I setup in the booth. I gave Josh the skinny on the tried and true “hand distance” from the mic, closed the door and away we went.
I have no pictures of Josh recording his vocals. He was too quick. Dude laid everything down in two takes: main and double. For someone who had never sung or recorded before, his vocal double tracking was on point. At this point we had all only heard the vocal temp tracks. Needless to say Josh’s actual vocal performance blew us all away.
As a note, I used the old trick of doubling up the vocals in order to add more weight to the overall performance. Like the “hand distance” from the mic trick, vocal doubling is tried and true. Even if you don’t end up using both tracks, it’s good to have more than one performance to work with during the mixing phase. Turns out I needed this; besides the boost in the vocal performance itself, there was a small part in Aletta that I had to doctor a bit during mixing. If I didn’t have the extra take to work with I don’t know how I would have managed to fix it other than re-recording (I’ll talk about this in the next part).
Once Josh was done, he manned the computer while I stepped into the vocal booth and laid down my backing tracks. I think the whole vocal process from beginning to end took two hours.
My setup is a little off-kilter. I have an Ampeg Portaflex PF-350 paired with the PF-210. I also have a TC Electronics BC210 which, to be quite honest, pairs with the Portaflex amp better than the PF-210 does.
I decided to do three tracks of bass: PF-350 into both the PF-210 and the BC210 – both miced with SM-57’s, and a direct in.
I spent the better part of the two weeks between vocals and guitar laying down my bass. There were a few reasons. One was time. I was squeezing recording in between work and family activities. The second reason was now that I could clearly hear, and isolate, the different guitar parts I realized that some of my parts didn’t quite gel so I hunkered down and did some re-writing. Lastly, I this was the time I decided to switch from a pick to using my fingers. This, of course, caused some mild frustration as I worked to (a) play all the parts correctly and (b) make the attack as sharp as it was with a pick without actually using a pick.
Not much to talk about here. For my main setup, see my post on the 12-Step. The only change was I used a cheap, USB keyboard instead of the foot controller. Audio output was handled by the M-Audio USB unit plugged straight into the Presonus.
Other than some very mild tweaking of the synth sounds themselves, these tracks were a breeze. All the parts are written to be played live with my feet so, needless to say, they’re super basic.
I was a little surprised how little time it took to get tracking done. While the drum tracking took a full day, the majority of that was setup and teardown. Guitars took maybe 5-6 hours total. Vocals were done in about 90 minutes. All told the bass tracks took the same amount of time as the guitars. Keyboards, 30 minutes, tops. All of this was spread out over three weeks.
All that was left was mixing. Should be easy. Right? Right?