Mercury 5

Maybe this will be interesting to a few of you. It’s a rehearsal recording we made a couple of months ago. This recording is from the same evening as “Todd is Free”, which I posted a couple of weeks or months ago. I think we had a good night. The composition (mine) is something I’ve never posted here, and goes back a few years, but the new band formulation plays it.

The setup is same as before; a mic on guitar amp (SM57), bass through amp with line-out, keyboard also through amp with line out, congas with one live mic (SM57), and drums with four mics - kick (shure something or other), snare (SM57), and two overheads (AT2020). The overheads pick up all the room sound in this case, which is everybody, so editing is difficult. The room is a relatively small room over the garage.

It’s recorded on my old Thinkpad using Cubase 4.5, and then I copied the tracks over to Cubase 8 on my main machine. I did editing within the limits of what I could get away with, given that the overheads picked up everything. It’s maybe not as crisp as Todd is Free but we were happy with it.

Would appreciate any comments on the recording technique, and how I could improve in this situation (e.g. I would rather overdub the guitar solo but I didn’t); the mixing, and for sure feel free to comment on the composition.

Hope you enjoy. Find it here:
https://soundcloud.com/incontinentals/mercury-5-2015-06-01

Well what a great track, really enjoyed the vibe it has, I am in no way qualified to critique this in any way and to be frank I don’t see how you could improve the situation as you so humbly say…what’s to improve? :question: :question: :question:

bloody brilliant… :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

best, Kevin

What a sensational track. Great band.
Do you charge people to attend your rehearsals?
Do you offer discounts to seniors? I qualify now. :smiley:

All I can suggest is to simply turn down the keys
and the guitar (both, a lot). Then crank the whole band up. :laughing: :sunglasses:

Well thanks a lot for listening, Kevin. Appreciate the kind words!

The situation I was referring to was the situation of making live recordings in a room that isn’t optimal, and where there is so much bleed into the drum overheads, that editing is quite difficult. Maybe others here are doing something along these lines and have some ideas how to use such a space as the band’s “studio”. To get a good recording, we have to hit everything right. It can be rare! For any guitar solo I play, it can be extremely rare. Just wondering what others are doing – our bassist wants to go to a real studio nearby and record basic tracks and do solos afterwards. Our keyboard player has a reluctance to doing solos independent of the basic tracks, feeling the “moment” is important. I personally like the sound signature we get with the bleed into drums, percussion, and guitar amps, that I don’t get on my home-made recordings. Sort of a trade off. So that’s the discussion point. We, as a band, continue to talk of creating an album, for whatever it’s value, likely mostly just for us. World is flooded with good music, and, and we don’t have any illusions of rising to any level of attention at this point!

Thanks, Jet. Could I take your comment in reverse? Meaning turn up the bass and drums? My earlier mix had louder bass and drums, but I felt it overran the melody instruments, and adjusted accordingly.

You can attend rehearsals for free! Wait, I want to revise that; you just have to bring a bottle of wine! No discount for seniors – some of us qualify as well!

Leon…yeah.

I think the riddum section lacks punch.
I kept wanting to group it and hit an LA2A
or a Fairchild. The keys (for me) are
particularly loud.

Can you isolate your amps more? Back in the
day I used to construct walls of foam around
the guitar amps, at least as much as was
possible. It helped. And we wuz
in a tight space, too (my living room).

It seems you might need to experiment more with
drum miking.

As to all “live” or overdubs, I get it that
different players have their preferences.
Your band are all great players so I think
what you are capturing “live” is worth the
extra effort and perseverance. Certainly these
last two posts prove that.

On a technical issue, I’m interested in how
you are managing noise. The tracks sound
very clean, especially given you are coming
from amps. How’s all that working?
Suppressors or editing or both? Again, back in
my day, there seemed no escape from the
50Hz loop.

Thanks for the helpful advice, Jet.

I will do some work on the drums and bass. In terms of punch, they are already individually compressed considerably – bass, snare, kick, all at around 4:1, with varying attacks (snare about 30 ms) to let the transient through. I adjust the threshold to taste, but generally I let it hit dips around 4dB. I can’t say I really know what I’m doing but it’s fun to play with it. (Bass amp also has a built-in compressor.) There are no LA2A’s or Fairchilds; I’m using the plugins from Cubase. At this stage I haven’t compressed the overheads or the percussion. Then, I put a compressor on the master bus as first insert attempting to get a mild compression overall (hitting 2 or 3 db at most). That’s again the Cubase plugin. Next is a saturation emulator, which does a little more compression. And next, the whole thing goes through the multiband compression that Ozone gives you, and the maximizer therin, which in truth is hitting it hard.

Over the years, so many on this forum have complained about too much compression that I have always been worried about overdoing it! But as you can see on this track (and the other live one), I’m really squeezing it. However, if I look at the waveform vs. a pro recording, it has a lot more variation. The pro recordings always look like solid blocks!

Interested in your remark that I should experiment with drum miking. Right now I’m using four; kick, snare, and two overheads. The overheads are definitely low-budget mics. Kick and snare are “the standards”. I could allocate maybe two more tracks if I wanted, but I think I’m hearing all the source I need. e.g., if I put another mic over the toms, it would just introduce phasing issues. Never tried a bottom snare, if that’s important! We spend some time to ensure that the two overheads are equidistant to the center of the snare, and hopefully balanced across the toms and the hihat, but that’s it. I’m putting the left and right overheads all the way to left and right, but I think about bringing them back in toward center. How did you set up drums/mics in your living room?

Isolation… I think we could do more of that, but we’re not using a monitor feed… that is, we’re not wearing headphones. We just hear what we all hear. Maybe some cotton in the ears! So we are balancing the mix in our playing. Maybe it would help if we put some isolation between the instruments, but it’s a balance against whether we’d get lost. How did you handle that situation? This is probably the main reason the bass player wants to go to the studio.

Noise (60 cycle hum here) - we sometimes get an issue, but we found if we turn off a certain dimmer in the next room, we’re pretty quiet. Even with single coils, we’re fine. We didn’t do anything else.

Happy to learn from your experiences. I’m enjoying the stuff we’re getting especially with this new drummer, and who knows how long we’ll be able to keep him. He doesn’t get hardly any edits. The rest of us get edits where I can get away with it, considering you can hear the original playing in the overheads (as well as kick, snare and guitar mics). Piano on this number came in with too much reverb, because the keyboard player’s Yamaha box had a broken knob and he couldn’t adjust it. Oh well! Not much I can do with it.

Hi Leon,

thanks for the info on noise. I’m still impressed with your floor.
I could never get things as good as you’ve got here.

As to isolation, we constructed foam huts around the two guitar amps
and turned them around so they didn’t face the drums. They could project
sound and it was all certainly loud enough for us to hear, albeit a little
obliquely. We weren’t going for overtones or harmonics or feedback
so we managed pretty well. It depended too on where each player
stood in relation to the amp hut as to what you heard. We experimented with baffles within the
huts (my amp was a 65W Music Man combo, open back) behind the
amps to help block the sound getting out that way. As much as we could,
we forced the sound out front through a gap in the hut and away
from the drums mics.

I put large foam mattresses on their edges directly in front of the drums
and around them in a shallow arc. They came up to chest level of
the drummer, so eye contact was still ok as was catching his arm
movements (mostly). I’m trying to think back thirty years. :confused:
Like you, four mics: kick, snare, OHs.

Bass was direct from the head, and the player used an Ampeg
rig. Somehow it didn’t seem to muddy things up in the room even at
a reasonable volume level

So into the mixer went the four drum mics, two geets and
the bass…and in later days the keyboard player, also direct. But
then we went straight to 2-track tape. No separate tracks!
It was a “live” stereo mix. I hired two other dbx compressors
(mono) for such recording sessions and the mix hit those first.

We had a headphone hub so we could each hear the mix.
We used an 8-channel mixer with two AUX sends.
My brother-in-law was an electronic technician and he
managed all that stuff, often building project-style
bits of hardware to tailor monitoring for us. We just brought
our own cans and plugged into the hub he built for us.
Extension cables for cans were needed, of course.

So we could all see each other, give and follow cues
and generally get a vibe happening with ebb and flow.

The room was carpeted and furnished (soft fabrics)
plus their were drapes on the windows, but the walls
were bare and it didn’t sound dead.

The recordings sounded great, and much better than
studio overdubbed ones I’d made with a different
band just the year before. They were far more
dynamic, but then again it was different music and
different personnel…and spirit. That all counts.

I did the same again with my final (3-piece) band
a few years later, but did overdub some solo
and extra synth parts. By then I had a 4-track!
Lookshurry! :laughing:

Killer writing!!! Great players,

It is true that the guitar/keys is very loud compared to the Drums/bass If you can get some punch to the kick/bass/drms and make them more in your face that sure would help. Great keyboard solo! I am unsure about the panning did you go hard lft/right the guitar and keys?
Kenny

Thanks, Jet, for all that info. You hit on a point that I’ve been thinking about, which is that the live take you guys had into the 2-track had a quality you couldn’t get in the studio. I like how these recordings sound; maybe I would say they sound more “real” than what I might get by overdubbing stuff at home. Maybe I would even admit that we all play better when we play live with our new kid on drums. He drives us to a higher level!

On the other hand, it doesn’t come out sounding like a studio album. Maybe who cares. I’m only in it for the art now! Just got rejected by the local bar with the justification that our music was “too slow” for 28 year olds. Wrong bar, I guess.

But I think about isolating along the lines you have done as a middle ground, and I can get many discrete tracks. Although, my problem in that case is that we don’t rehearse at my place; we are using the home office of the keyboardist’s wife. We leave our amps there, but maybe mattresses will be too much for her.

About line hum, it could be easier for us since we’re in the burbs. Sources of hum are going to be mostly limited to what’s in the house. It took us a while before we figured out that a dimmer in the next room was a problem. But I’d say, dimmers are very often the problem.

Kenny, thanks a lot for listening. I wrote that one a while ago, first producing a midi-only version to help them learn it. Since then, they’ve always considered it one of their favorites.

I’ll work on the punch when I get a free moment. It’s useful feedback. On this one, I didn’t go hard left/right with the guitar and keyboards, but I went maybe 2/3 for each. I pulled them both closer to center for solos. It’s another thing I’m wondering about. If I had made the recording track by track, I might have done LCR mixing, but something a little less than that seems more representative of what was in the room.

Glad you enjoyed the keyboard solo. I always find it interesting with our guy. I’ve tried recording him with a backing track and headphones, and he can’t seem to get into the spirit of it. But when we’re all playing together, maybe a glass of wine or two, we never know where he’ll go. Unlike me on the guitar, he never does the same thing twice!

Well let’s try this new version, with thanks to Jet and Kenny for their input. I did a lot of instrument balancing, and I focused on giving the rhythm section more punch. Your input is very much appreciated! I left the prior version there so you could compare.
Thanks,
Leon
https://soundcloud.com/incontinentals/mercury-5-2015-06-01-revised

not too many words from me… just awesome :smiley: enjoyed it alot.thanks

Thanks for giving it a listen, Mozizo!

Not sure that the room, the floor, the bleed or anything else for that matter is of any consequence when faced with such brilliant musicians, you had an awesome atmosphere last time and you have a different but still awesome atmosphere this time…to a simple minded listener such as me it’s awesome… :slight_smile: great really loud :slight_smile:

did I say it was awesome?

I think my neighbors have just moved out :laughing: :laughing:

best, Kevin :slight_smile:

So much better drums are popping! I would make one more small suggestion, the guitar around 1:20-1:50 (also same section at ending?)should be tucked back in the mix more to make that section breath more and also during keys solo. I would like to hear the guitar a little closer to center maybe only 20% left (I’m making that number up lol). You can hear left and right guitar when the echo happens and I love that echo. I am listening in headphones though so that may be part of it. I will defer to Jet if he listens again.

This track is brilliant!!!
Kenny

Kevin, thanks for listening again. It was meant to be loud; glad you gave it some volume! My apologies to your neighbors! In truth, the drummer is the expert, who we’ve been lucky to keep interested for almost a year, and hoping longer. Sometimes I think the mix would sound best if I just muted everything but the drums. We all play better when he’s there. I might be the weak link instrumentally, but I write the tunes!

Kenny, thanks for giving it a second listen after the revision. And thanks for the valuable input on the mix. I’d say I’m afraid to bring the guitar that close to center without doing the same for the piano so the whole thing isn’t leaning to the right. Is that what you’re thinking? Bring them both in, leave the overheads hard left and right? Since the recorded piano is so thick with mono reverb from the keyboard patch, I found I couldn’t really do a lot of processing on it. Originally I tried to throw a mono keys delay over to hard left, but it just made more soup out of it. In the future, I think he’s figured out how to work his Yamaha box so it’s cleaner coming in, and that will give me more options.

again really good playing and again really good recording , Amazing !
I agree with the loud rhodes upfront in the mix and the more distant mixed guitar. That give a bit strange placement in the room you hear. I would like to hear more of the bass and really good drummer. As always you can tweak forever on a mix of course so sometimes you better leave it as it is. The sound source is what counts and that is some great musicianship.

regards Peter

Peter, thanks for the comments! I hope you were listening to the revised version… I should have edited the first post to point there… I applied some of the input along the lines of what others said so far. Really appreciate you thoughts!