#1
Hello UG. I spent the last year recording a collection of songs that I can only describe as Progressive Emo music. As this is UG, it's obviously a guitar-heavy record. If you've ever wanted to hear a mix of Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Moneen, and Sunny Day Real Estate, then I think you might enjoy my album.

Have fun with it. Sorry if you hate it.


http://amateurchemist.bandcamp.com/album/prove
#2
Sweet! Sounds really good for a home production. Full band? Or are the non-guitar instruments all in the box?

Any insight on your signal chain or techniques would definitely interest people around this forum, it's always nice to have an actual product to discuss recording techniques in context.
Telecaster - SG - Jaguar
Princeton Reverb, Extra Reverb
P-Bass - Mustang Bass
Apogee Duet 2 - Ableton Suite
#3
Ahh I am pleasantly surprised! Some of the best home recording I have heard on here! Good work. I could nit pick on a few things as far as mix, but nothing serious is getting in the way of me enjoying this, so you obviously did a good job. Everything is balanced, structure is good, textures are great.

Keep it up! Mind giving some info on the recording process?

PS bonus points for using real drums...I'm guessing on that one, but they sound real...amirite?
UG MISSILE BASE
Fight for the cause!

Quote by RMC06
Donkeyman2341, you are my new god!
Last edited by donkeyman2341 at May 6, 2014,
#4
Thankyou guys for the feedback. It's great to know that all my hard work actually meant something. I guess I'll explain the whole process:

Gear:
I'm using Cakewalk Sonar 8 as my DAW, into a Tascam US-1641 (proof that your software and interface mean very little in the signal chain). The mics consisted of an SM57, a couple of cheap 57 copies (GLS Audio ES-57 found on Amazon), a pair of Superlux SMK-H8K, CAD KBM412, and a Rode NTK.

Guitars were a Mexican Strat and a Fender Classic Player Jaguar Special HH into a Blackstar HT-100. Bass was a Squire P-Bass into the same Blackstar!

The drumset was a modest Gretsch Catalina Elite (only a 13" Floor tom!) with an SJC Custom 14X6.5" Hammered Brass snare.

Recording
Drums were recorded first, to acoustic scratch tracks. I simply put a 57 on the snare and the 57 knock-offs on the toms. The Superlux SMK-H8Ks were used as overheads and captured the whole kit. The overhead tracks were sharply Hi-passed at about 500hz so that they only represented the cymbals and the stick/kick attack on the drums. The close mics were then brought in to add fullness and isolate the different parts of the kit.

The overhead tracks were heavily compressed to control the overwhelming dynamic range of the cymbals (I relied on bashing my 21-inch ride for all of the intense parts on the album). The close mics were also heavily compressed, with the snare receiving the most attention. I squashed the life out of the snare but used a slower attack to let the transients through and get that really punchy sound (attack: 23ms, release: 30ms).

I found that my 20-inch kick drum wasn't cutting it all (despite the bass boost on the CAD KBM412), so I replaced the kick using SPL DrumXChanger. I used a different sample for almost every song. I found this was essential in getting a professional sound that I had complete control over. Kick and tom replacement is easy, but my one piece of advice would be to get a good snare and TUNE IT WELL, because trying to trigger samples from an intricate snare track is almost impossible. There are certain methods that work great, but they involve much more than simply slapping a plugin on the Snare track.

GUITARS
Guitars are by far the easiest to record. I recommend staying away from software/recording direct. Get a good tube amp and crank it. All I had to do was stick an SM-57 right on the grill, slightly off axis from the cone and that was it. I recorded all effects (delay, modulation, distortion) on the way in and used a different guitar for the Right and Left sides. There are only 2 guitars in every song and they're hard panned L and R (approximately 80-90%). Compression on clean guitars is a must, and with enough distortion the dirty guitars compressed themselves. The great thing about heavy distortion is that there are a lot of frequencies to EQ later. I used a lot of equalization on the dirty guitars to emphasize the mids and give them more presence. Clean guitars are more difficult, so make sure you get it right at the source. Finally, acoustic guitar was recorded with the Superlux SMK-H8K pair.

BASS
Bass went into a guitar compressor pedal, a Tubescreamer, and then the Blackstar HT-100. The bass has quite a bit of overdrive. It was necessary to cut through the wall of guitars I created, but the drive disappears in the mix, providing a solid bass track. Luckily the Blackstar has a lot of low end for a guitar amp, but still I resorted to using the harmonic exciter in Izotope Ozone to enhance the bass frequencies. For a rock song, it's all about compression (a LOT, slow release) and distortion. Otherwise the bass just gets lost.

KEYS/SAMPLES
Normally I like to use FL Studio in conjunction with free samples I find on the web, but this time I used Ableton Live. The DAW doesn't matter, as long as it has a Step Sequencer and allows you to use your own samples. I did all the electronic percussion (Tracks 1 & 4) in Ableton using basic hi-hat and kick samples. I just manipulated them with different distortions and degrading effects to make them sound interesting. The bell sounds in Track 1 are simply samples from Ableton.

I used the Korg R3 as my synth. It's mostly in the background at the end of Track 5 but was used for everything except percussion in the outro on Track 4. The robot voices on Tracks 1, 4 & 5 were done using the synth's vocoder. I recorded it all direct into the interface, un-amped.

VOCALS
Fortunately I was able to borrow a RODE NTK from a friend. If you can't afford a mic like that I strongly recommend renting one, because it made a HUGE difference. If you're really on a budget, any $100-$200 condenser will do the trick (the Superlux' work great), but dynamic mics are just about useless (except for screams).

The room is almost just as important as the mic. ISOLATION is key. You can add ambience in post, but you can't take it away. Cluttered, carpeted bedrooms work great. Stay away from open spaces! For me, I found best results in my car of all places. The non-parallel surfaces and fabric seats kill all reflections. The only problem is that I drive a 2-seater sports car! If your car is bigger I strongly recommend just getting a power inverter and plugging into the cigarette lighter. It can be uncomfortable, but it's a DEAD environment.

I snuck a double into almost every chorus (though in some songs the double is much more obvious) and tried to use harmonies wherever I could. At times I even doubled the harmonies and panned them hard L and R. Finding the correct reverb/delay is key to getting the vocals to sit in the mix and sound BIG. I made use of the standard Cakewalk Sonitus plugins. I don't know how you feel about pitch-correction, but it separates the kids from the big boys. Autotune is terrible. Melodyne is much better. Even the pitch correction built in to some DAWs is better. Still, all I had was Autotune so I tried to make it work :/

And most important is to get those compression settings right. I tailored the compressor to each song. Those that are more shouty needed a much heavier hand. Alternatively it can be useful to ride the faders (or automate) and even separate different sections of the song onto separate tracks. I try to maintain an authentic live feel to the vocals, but less raw styles can benefit from unrealistic dynamics. Don't be afraid to have whispers just as loud as screams.

LITTLE OUTROS
All of the little outros at the end of some songs were just quick things I threw together. Mostly I took old snippets of short instrumentals and reversed them. For some of the longer outros I heavily processed the drum tracks to give a Lo-Fi, almost electronic feel.

MIXING/MASTERING
Basically it came down to separating each instrument and putting it into its own space. Guitars were hi-passed right where the bass frequencies end (250-300hz). That separation is key. The cymbals/overheads were hi-passed to cut everything below 500-600 hz, but you can easily go as high as 1500hz if you want. Any good vocal mic should boost the upper mid and high frequencies. Vocals should sit mostly between 2500 and 4000hz. You can add air and clarity by boosting 7000hz and up (the RODE NTK did all this for me). And don't forget to HI-PASS those vocals. I have a rather deep voice to be singing rock and I cut everything below 166hz. Most rock singers are tenors, so I've hi-passed as high as 400hz before. With a true tenor there might not be ANY information below 250hz, so get rid of it.

For mastering I made used of Izotope Ozone. Essentially it's a collection a dynamic controls and EQ. The best features are the multi-band compressor and limiter. I started with a preset that made use of the compressor and expander to offer a loud master that still retained dynamic range. From there I tailored the rest to my liking, using the Limiter to squash the remaining transients and bring the mix up to a modern level. I found that mastering simply came down to understanding how to use a multi-band compressor and EQUALIZING for PERCEIVED loudness and energy. I was just careful not to over enhance the treble, as that can be very tempting but will sound terrible on less accurate sound systems. And finally, deep bass can be fun but will eat up your headroom. Compressing the life out of the low end was essential to getting a loud mix.

CLOSING COMMENTS
I think that sums up the recording process. I hope you guys can find it useful, and if you have any more questions or comments feel free to throw them my way. I'll be releasing a lot more material this summer and look forward to sharing it here on UG.
Last edited by curlyhead_P at May 7, 2014,