I was privileged to work with songwriter Bill Seymour again on a great song called “I’m Not There Yet”.
Bill posted this song on his blog a few months ago. I made some melodic suggestions and gave him a rough recording of what I was suggesting. He came back with a re-worked lyric and used most of my melody on the new chorus. I’m really thrilled with the result. I think it’s a hit. Of course, I may be biased.
Pre-production went much like many other songs. I learned the song, charted out the chords, figured out what worked and what didn’t work, and developed a “sounds like”. This one had a bit of a sad lyric and was in a minor tonality. I thought it would be good to bring some lonely fiddle on this one to play up the lyric. More on that later. I’m still looking for a pedal steel or dobro player with a home studio if you know of anyone.
Drums* (live – outsourced to a great player/home studio engineer, Travis Whitmore)
Bass (Cakewalk Studio Instruments Bass)
Piano (TruePianos Amber module – really beautiful woody piano sampler)
Acoustic Guitar (live – I played and recorded with an MXL V-63 stereo mic into my Pre-sonus bluetube dual preamp)
Electric Guitar (live – outsourced to my friend, Nate Dean. He’s such a great player. I give him a hard time for miking up his amps, but not too hard. His tones are awesome and his guitars solos bring tears to my eyes.)
Fiddle – My Wife, Melissa, played the fiddle part on this recording. We recorded at a remote location with my AT-2020 mic plugged straight into an M-Audio Fast Track USB interface. She did a great job.
Vocals – I sang the lead and harmony vocals. I tuned them with Melodyne Assistant, which is the new gold standard for pitch correction. It is so transparent!
This was my first time using a live drummer. Usually, I’m programming the drums myself using Cakewalk Session Drummer or Toontrack EZDrummer. I couldn’t believe the difference it made, both with the energy of the song and the difficulty of mixing.
So, this was my first time mixing a full drum kit. I’m not gonna lie to you, it was a challenge. I have a lot to learn and I’m thankful to Travis for his feedback. I have started using Cakewalk X1 Producer and have been really impressed with it. It was a bit cumbersome at first (and glitchy but much more stable after the 1a patch), but I am really enjoying the smart tools and the Skylight interface. It just sounds good, too. My recordings are miles ahead of where they were when I was using Home Studio 7. It may have something to do with the “64-bit double-precision floating-point audio engine”. Can someone explain that to me? Nevermind. I don’t care how it works. I just like it.
Plug-ins on this mix were minimal. X1 comes with the Cakewalk ProChannel on every track and bus. This includes compression, EQ, and tube saturation. I used the ProChannel on every track and bus in some capacity.
Here are some of the other channel plug-ins used:
Cakewalk VX-64 Vocal Strip (for de-esser and doubling effect in a couple of spots)
Sonitus EQ (for some extra precise help with my vocals)
Here are some of the bus plug-ins used:
Sonitus Reverb (I really like this reverb unit. I put it on an aux channel and sent every track to it)
FX2 TapeSim (on the master bus; analog tape simulator. It really beefs up the mix and “glues it together”) Maybe I’ll do a side-by-side comparison.
Cakewalk Boost11 (I know how some people feel about limiters on the master bus. I like it as a fail-safe to make sure I don’t clip. Digital clipping is not purty. I also boosted the overall gain by about 7 dB. I just makes everything play well together, in my opinion.
Like I said earlier, I am thrilled with how it turned out. I really think my mixing is getting better. More on that later.
This is a song written by a talented singer/songwriter named Julie Smith. I contributed a few bars to it as well. I hope you enjoy.
This one came together much differently than other songs I’ve recorded. I didn’t spend a ton of time on pre-production. I knew that this song would be synth heavy so I started out by playing with different sounds until I came across this echo-ey piano sound with a gentle layered synth sweep. I built the whole track around a piano riff that sort of popped into my head from playing with that sound. I really enjoy the KeyRig software from M-Audio. It alone was worth the $99 that I paid for the keyboard controller it came bundled with. To this, I added:
Warm Pad – also from KeyRig
Bass Pad – Roland GrooveSynth
Kalimba – Roland GrooveSynth (with echo/delay)
SIDE NOTE: I didn’t know what a kalimba was until just now when I went and googled it. It doesn’t sound anything like it looks.
Percussion loop – Toontrack EZDrummer cocktail kit
Shaker track – audio loop
Air synth (choir aahs) – Roland GrooveSynth
Follow lead synth – Dreamstation Analog Synth
Bass guitar – Cakewalk Studio Instruments
Electric guitar (two tracks – clean and dirty)
Drumkit – Toontrack EZDrummer – this was my first time with this virtual instrument and I really enjoyed working with it. It sounds great!
To this, Julie sang a lead vocal and some doubles in places for emphasis. She also sang one harmony pass and I sang a harmony.
Effects plug-ins on this were fairly simple:
Reverb aux track for basic instruments and vocals,
In-line EQ on most channels to get them to play nicely together
Compression on lead vocal, acoustic guitar, and drum kit
Distortion and analog tape simulation on bass guitar to give it some presence without overbearing volume.
De-esser on lead vocal
Chorus aux track for background vocals to give them some shimmer and presence without the need for more volume
As always, Boost 11 final-stage peak limiter on the master bus to glue the whole mix together.
Is there any part of this you would like explained further? Don’t be shy.
I just posted this as a comment on a friend’s blog. It was so good I thought I would post it to my blog as well:
So, Cakewalk just came out with X1 Producer, Studio, and Essential software. It ships on Dec. 8 and they’re offering a free upgrade to anyone who purchases Sonar 8.5 Producer/Studio or Sonar 7 Home Studio before then. After that the price goes up. I’ve been on the HS version forever and decided it was time to step up to the flagship. Cakewalk makes it really affordable to keep up with the upgrades so I just upgraded to Sonar Producer 8.5 Producer edition in anticipation of the free upgrade to X1 Producer when it ships.
The problem (that I knew going in) is that Sonar 8.5 PE will work fine with my 5-year-old computer (even though it is showing its age as my productions get more complex), X1 requires a multi-core processor and more RAM than my current computer has. Also, my current computer runs on Windows XP Pro, so making the jump to Windows 7 will allow me to take advantage of 64-bit recording and effects. I don’t know what that means, but it can’t be bad, right?
All that to say, I’ve upgraded my DAW in the past week and next I’m upgrading my computer.
Next is the interface. I have the Delta 44 from M-Audio and it’s working great, but I would like to have an interface that I can take with me and record on my laptop; maybe something with 8-10 inputs so I could record a band without doing a bunch of overdubs.
I know it sounds like I’m a poster child for G.A.S., but I have hit the ceiling of what I can produce with my current setup. The difference between me and someone with G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is that I didn’t let those limitations keep me from producing some great recordings. Ain’t gonna lie, though. I’m excited yet nervous about upgrading.
I just finished another demo recording for Bill Seymour titled “You Comfort Me”. This was a really fun project and I was happy to enlist the services of my friend, Nate Dean, to record the electric guitar tracks. He did a fantastic job as always.
I would like to share a recording I just finished for my friend, Bill Seymour. Bill is an advertising executive in Nashville and quite a talented songwriter. You can hear more of his music here.
Hope you enjoy. Please leave a comment. If you want to read more about how the song was recorded and mixed, please keep reading.
Bill wrote this song a few years ago for his son. I’m a sucker for a song about a dad and his boy, especially since I am a dad with a boy (and a girl). He had recorded a demo in his home studio that was not too bad. It had some timing issues. Bill felt it was too slow (about 72bpm) and piano driven. He wanted something a little faster (78bpm) and guitar driven.
In pre-production, I decided that the song could really use an instrumental solo after the bridge. I also suggested some melodic tweaks to make the song more consistent. Nothing major, but it’s little things that can make a big difference.
I started with a scratch guitar/vocal demo and sent it to Bill for his approval of the arrangement. Once he signed off on it, I started tracking. I started by programming the drums using Cakewalk SessionDrummer 2 using the stock patterns, plus some patterns and fills I bought from Toontrack.
Bass came next, which I programmed using Cakewalk Studio Instruments Bass. I really like the variety of bass models I can call up. This particular model was called Quick Slide, which slides between notes when the notes overlap as I am playing them in with my midi controller. If there was a slide where I did not want one, I simply went into the piano roll and cleaned up the performance. It really added some realism to the bass part.
Next I tracked the piano using the M-Audio KeyRig software that came with the Keyrig49 controller I bought. KeyRig has a variety of layered piano and keyboard sounds. It also has an analog synth simulator and a tonewheel organ sampler. This has become my “go-to” virtual instrument for piano and organ.
That was the extent of the virtual instruments. I then tracked two passes of acoustic guitar (one in regular tuning, and one capoed up to the 7th fret for a sparkly–almost mandolin–sound) and two passes of electric guitar (rhythm and lead). I even played the electric guitar solo, which I would usually farm out, but this one came together pretty well. I use a Line6 Gearbox plug-in suite for my electric guitar sounds. They offer a great variety of amp, cabinet, and stompbox models with an easy-to-use user interface.
After all the instruments were tracked, I moved on to vocals. I recorded one pass of the lead vocal and wasn’t completely sold on it. After a snack of potato chips and water, I tried again and got a good performance. Then, two harmony passes on the choruses and I was ready to edit.
I exported the vocal tracks and tuned them up using Melodyne Uno. Then I imported the tuned clips back into the session and edited some of the guitar parts to tighten up the performance. There was a spot where I played a passage slightly out of tune so I copied and pasted a clip where the passage was played in tune.
Mixing was fairly simple since there were only 10 tracks. I used some compression on the drum kit, acoustic guitar and lead vocal. I created an aux bus with a distortion simulator and routed the bass through it to give it some slight fuzz. This makes it sound really fat without being too loud. I eq’ed the tracks to make them play nicely together. I then created another aux bus with a reverb plugin. I sent all the tracks through the reverb bus so they sound like they’re all in the same space. Finally, I used a combination of an analog tape simulator and the Boost11 peak limiter to make the final mix nice and warm (and fairly loud).