My band's latest demo ... finally

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
We recorded demo tracks late March (dunno why since we hardly ever play - but it's fun). We finally managed to get some tracks mixed last weekend.

All of these start off mellow and build up. We do this a lot ... all a bit Freudian, really.

1. Cover of James Brown's bluesy classic, It's a Man's Man's World, but it's a bit closer to the Renee Geyer version, though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcTlH-p94Gg

2. Cover of Roberta Flack's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2YfdbaL_oA

3. Cover of The Drifters's Broadway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfCom00wR-o

Later on I get my one and only brief Keith Moon moment with this group. Yay!

There's still one more song to get mixed and I'll update this thread with it when it's done.

We might look at further remixing so all thoughts/ideas appreciated.

Edit: Also Wild Is the Wind, the old Nina Simone track later covered by David Bowie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_Vng-YFNZA

Changed all links due to problem with video length.
 
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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Overall Pol, I think your playing was right on the money. Some nice little drag ghosts to add flavour. Great time on each piece, even though there was a lift in tempo towards the end of the Roberta Flack song. That showed a natural ending enthusiasm, I like that. My favourite has to be "Man's World". I like the space, & you played the spaces beautifully. I like your slightly heavier than usual backbeat & accents on "Broadway", but I think the guitar needed a bit more grit to match your rocky vibe. I think your band does space better than it does pace.

You should be proud of this Pol, I know I would be. You're a tasty player, with a strong sense of reserve.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Thanks guys. DED, I think nice touch is important ;)

Yep Andy, I rushed late in the Roberta F song ... I just couldn't restrain myself any longer haha. You'd have noticed that I have little explosions late in all of the tunes.

Nice turn of phrase, "does space better than pace" BTW. Not an approach much liked by most of the DW rockers here by the looks of it.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks guys. DED, I think nice touch is important ;)

Yep Andy, I rushed late in the Roberta F song ... I just couldn't restrain myself any longer haha. You'd have noticed that I have little explosions late in all of the tunes.

Nice turn of phrase, "does space better than pace" BTW. Not an approach much liked by most of the DW rockers here by the looks of it.
I don't mind a bit of rush at the end of a number, so long as it's "felt" and contributes to the vibe. Same goes for a slight slowing down (as opposed to a dragging down).

As for the "DW rockers", they're all pussies getting into their stride after a weekend of playing excess. It's been a public holiday here, & other days of celebration/rememberance around the globe, so a quiet board weekend all round. Anyhow, us simple (read, lacking in skill) rockers are in the minority here. They'll be grazing in this largely forgotten "my playing" backwater soon!

As for my space vs. pace observation, I hope you take that as a compliment. High energy is easy compared to generating intrigue in a naked envelope.

Again, great stuff Pol, that showcases the band really well.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Well, speedups like that don't kill it for me tho I'd rather hold steady. Bill Bachman would find it a kooky thing to cover ... a la Superstition :)

What's the public holiday?

BTW, any thoughts on the mix?
 
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antmanbe

Senior Member
It was Spring Bank Holiday for us in the UK Polly

I'm chillin' after a busy 3 gig weekend for Empress

Friday a wedding.

Saturday a pub gig.

Sunday a surprise party.

I have tender callouses on me fingers lol!!

Anyway to your recordings! Very nice vibe and feel. Honest a faithful performance to the songs you are playing. (If that makes sense!!)
I could watch and listen to bands like yours all day. You singer has a great voice too.

I would like the kick up a little more in the mix for me but that's my preference. Also did someone forget to press stop at the end as there is a lot of silence at the lol

Good job well done

Cheers

AMB
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
BTW, any thoughts on the mix?
Not the mix so much, more the sounds. I thought the drum mix was about right. Maybe a bit more rumble to the bass drum, & maybe the snare a little tighter, but those are personal preference things more than anything else. Both guitar and key sounds were a bit on the thin side for me. The guitar would benefit from a degree of "fattening", & maybe some light chorus in places. The organ sound needs beefing up a bit too. Greater use of Leslie variation with wind up & wind down would add drama to the backing. A touch of dirt would add flavour too. I'd like to hear more timbre from the bass. Some high end just to bring out the string strokes.

These are mostly wish list things that are difficult to bring out in a budget demo studio, and/or expensive to obtain elsewhere. These recordings are a mixdown of basic tracking, & in that context, they're very good. Of course, if you want polish, they can be sent for mastering, but be prepared for deep pockets being required. Many bands think that the production process ends at a tracking mix, & due to financial restraints, it does. Correct mastering makes a huge difference, & for a gig getting demo, it's totally over the top. I'll be doing some basic budget demo studio recording in July. The end result will be a tracking mixdown because the recordings are only for low level promo.

Most important of all here, both your performance, & the performance of the band was excellent. To a minor extent, it's a band of two halves. Both yourself & Glen are putting in feel & flavour, the others are cruising by comparison. That's ok, because the band positioning can take it. In any other genre, the others would need to up their game a bit. Glen is a vocal talent, & requires strong performances to make the best of his voice. That's not a chops thing, it's a being able to step on the gas when needed thing. You do that superbly, whereas the others are very single speed setting. Just to repeat though, it works, & works well. You should certainly be very proud of your performance, as well as the overall performance of the band. Kudos G!
 

antmanbe

Senior Member
Good comments from KIS regarding your demo Polly.

When I have recorded drums in the past I have always struggled getting a nice kick drum sound. Using budget mics, a fairly basic music program and limited ability lol! My kick sounds were always a bit muddy.

I was recommended a plug in called 'drumagog'. It replaces a recorded drum sound with a sample of any other drum sound you wish. So my muddy recorded budget kick drum can sound like an abbey recorded top of the range DW kick. I used it on our latest demo and brings helps to get the drums sound professionally recorded.

Your kit sounds well enough and you can hear everything ok. This plug in helps but as with all demos, It's how far you want to take it.

Cheers
AMB
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
It was Spring Bank Holiday for us in the UK Polly

I'm chillin' after a busy 3 gig weekend for Empress

Anyway to your recordings! Very nice vibe and feel.

... a lot of silence at the lol
Ta for the heads up on the PH, Ant. Busy weekend for you!

Also thx re: the silence ... I didn't realise! [Expletive!]. Not sure what the story is with Win MovieMaker. Will have to re-do them *sigh*


Not the mix so much, more the sounds. I thought the drum mix was about right. Maybe a bit more rumble to the bass drum etc
Funny, everyone was saying turn the kick, er, bass drum down. I think it's a genre thing ... in those mellow styles in the old recordings the bass drum tends to be blended in rather than obviously there.

Definitely should have cranked up the snare more. My mistake.

Yes, not sure what happened with the guitar ... he recorded at such a low level the engineer had to filter out a lot of hiss. Would have liked more oomph. Never been a fan of Casio keyboards, even the high end ones. They always sounds a bit thin and plasticky to me.

Our bassist's Alien acoustic electric bass has a great tone but there was a fair bit of acoustic-style slap which was creating a noise and some tone was lost trying to alleviate that.

And yes, our engineer was telling us about the benefits and insane cost of mastering. We're actually planning to compile the songs on a CD to flog off at gigs (if we can find any haha) but it's a very low key thing.

Thing is, I'd really like old time jazzy / retro tones (no plug-ins, Ant :) but these recordings we do always seems to turn out sounding a bit more modern(?)-sounding than I expect. Not sure what's happening there either.

In short - I don't know what's happening! :)
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Good comments from KIS regarding your demo Polly.

When I have recorded drums in the past I have always struggled getting a nice kick drum sound. Using budget mics, a fairly basic music program and limited ability lol! My kick sounds were always a bit muddy.

I was recommended a plug in called 'drumagog'. It replaces a recorded drum sound with a sample of any other drum sound you wish. So my muddy recorded budget kick drum can sound like an abbey recorded top of the range DW kick. I used it on our latest demo and brings helps to get the drums sound professionally recorded.

Your kit sounds well enough and you can hear everything ok. This plug in helps but as with all demos, It's how far you want to take it.

Cheers
AMB
That's a good hint about bass drum recording on a budget in general, but the change I was listing as a personal preference was slight, & easily achieved by a combination of reso head tuning, mic placement & EQ. To be completely transparent, triggers & plugins go against my way of wanting to do things. I don't have any issue with their use, but to me, once you start using them in a recording, it's a difficult to halt slope that delivers impact with one hand, & sterility with another. Especially in this genre, they're overkill IMO. I also find that although they might add one dimension to the drums, they take away from another part of the band mix. Eventually, if you're not careful, you get into a band element pissing contest. I regard them as an all or nothing decision tool. In most cases, I'd rather put up with a slightly less overtly impressive drum sound and keep the band vibe cohesive.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

Well, its all so understated and seemingly simplistic but I have to say that I think that is some of the finest display of recorded drums played with a song that I've heard on this forum.

Impeccable time, a funky pungent touch, and tasty, graceful sounds drawn out from the kit to embellish each song totally did it for me.

This playing brings to mind Jimmy Keltner, one of the top studio pros, Matt Abs of Govt Mule, and dare I say a touch of Gadd.

Classy work, Pol. Fagen might want you to hold it down if Purdie's too busy looking at himself in the mirror..

Kudos.

Oh, yea the mix is great.

...
 
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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Thing is, I'd really like old time jazzy / retro tones (no plug-ins, Ant :) but these recordings we do always seems to turn out sounding a bit more modern(?)-sounding than I expect. Not sure what's happening there either.

In short - I don't know what's happening! :)
As for the bass drum sound Pol, I was advocating a slight bias towards the bottom end & resonance. To sit that in the mix, it would require a reduction in overall volume, & the complete removal of any form of compression.

The old recording vibe, oh yes, but a whole different recording approach. Did you track these recordings individually? I'm guessing so. To get that old time vibe but with lovely moder clarity is a big ask in a demo studio. Whole different approach. You need a nice live room. If you go the whole way, then record the band all in the same room. If you need more control, then separate the band elements. In either case, run through each number several times until you get a take/performance/vibe you're happy with. Lots of preparation time in mic placement, but oh so satisfying. If ever there was a candidate for doing it that way, it's your band.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
...

Well, its all so understated and seemingly simplistic but I have to say that I think that is some of the finest display of recorded drums played with a song that I've heard on this forum.

Impeccable time, a funky pungent touch, and tasty, graceful sounds drawn out from the kit to embellish each song totally did it for me.

This playing brings to mind Jimmy Keltner, one of the top studio pros, Matt Abs of Govt Mule, and dare I say a touch of Gadd.

Classy work, Pol. Fagen might want you to hold it down if Purdie's too busy looking in the mirror..

Kudos.

Oh, yea the mix is great.

...
I completely agree with this Abe. My first post was a simple, "this is really good stuff", but now Pol's teasing detail from me. That makes me out to be a picky prick. Any suggestions I'm making are very minor, & non of them reflect on Pol's superb space playing performance.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Andy and Abe, send me your details so I can mail you the payoffs ... this is a PM, isn't it? oops ... :)

Seriously, ta heaps, guys (and please be picky - that's how I learn!) ... but it does make me feel like I'm on the right track. As you know, it's always a matter of wondering if you're underplaying or overplaying in spots, missing musical opportunities etc.

Abe, Walter Becker would be spreading me on toast once he got me lined up to a click, though I play along to Dan songs at home on a loop and am a Gadd tragic. Some theft from Bonzo in Man's World.

Andy, yeah, the live room is maybe the missing link. We recorded live as a band with the bass and keys DI'd (vocs and solo at the end of FTEISYF were dubbed). It's a bugger because someone will go "Oops, I need to do it again" and someone else will be going "Oh no! That's as good as I get!". Still, I prefer it to single-tracking.

As for the bass drum ... that's the 16" RT using a woolly beater and minimal dampening. Not sure if it was compressed or not (you know more about this than I do) but we did ask to reduce the boomy resonance with the bass. Maybe a case where the turd can't be polished? :)

Will post the 4th track when mixed - our "kinda arty" one (Thaard's words).
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Good stuff Pol! Sounds like you had a fun time making the thing too!

Some thoughts...

1. Man's World - Didn't do it for me, overall, though your playing was just fine, as was the band's! I liked the left foot hi-hat complement to the ride playing!

But the mix, well, it just sounded like a demo. It needs to sound like your group is in the same (if weird) space, and it needs "dirt", maybe even on the drums submix as a whole! Bass sound is too plain (needs added harmonics, a touch of drive - if you don't want to use a plug, run it through the guitar amp and blend it with the DI signal). Kick needs just a touch of low end (I'm cranking it, and I can't hear any kind of "thump"). Guitar track needs limiting (the loud parts are just bit too loud so as to be distracting). Vocal also needs some love, maybe a subtle doubling effect.

2. Roberta Flack cover - Great! The reverb on the vocal, the piano tone, the cross stick sound (dial back on 4kHz a dB or two, or move the fader down a hair during those parts only), were just so complementary, I could get "lost" in it, ya know? Your playing seems most comfortable here. I totally dug how you left out the snare backbeat at the top of the chorus! Not familiar enough with the song to know if that was your doing or not. Ah, why'd you have to rush at 3:37! It's such a rookie mistake to speed up on the loud parts! :)

I'd definitely try a tremolo stomp box on the guitar track. Pan the guitar solo track straight up the middle (what's it doing on the left anyway?), and maybe give it a subtle delay.

3. Broadway - Solid playing here, especially the entrance with the snare! I would have left out the ghost note drag at 1:04, silence would have been more clever here, IMO.

As for the mix on this one, again, the bass drum has no thump, what happened? And WTF is up with the bass tone?! Sounds like a lame compression pedal or something! Piano sound is too "cheap", too, maybe try cutting around 1kHz. Piano likely needs limiting, and some reverb to sit it back in the mix a touch.

Overall, concerning the mix of all 3 songs:

I noticed very little stereo imaging on the overheads. Usually you can hear the hi-hats slightly off to one side, and the ride off to the other. Did you intentionally go for a mono approach? If so, why are the toms panned as well? Speaking of toms, they need to be gated a bit tighter (shorten the release time). They ring out so long as to be a distraction.

Something's up with the snare track. It could be an EQ thing, or the overheads, of course. Was the snare mic VERY close to the drum? Like, within an inch or two? Or maybe pointing downward at the drum, instead of "across" it? It's hard to describe, but I think I can hear the diaphragm of the mic "choking" because it can't handle the SPL (sonic pressure level). Just a guess here. There's a "papery" quality to the snare that I just can't place.

Did the same guy mix all 3 songs? The second tune seems much more presentable and balanced.

The "modern" sound you hear is the quality of modern recording equipment, with a capable engineer. To get the "old" sound, you need to understand the limitations of old gear and methods, so that you can achieve their sound with the modern stuff. It has much less to do with what tools (tape, plug-ins, computers) you use, than the recording industry would have you believe.

Mastering need not be expensive. For the purposes of your demos, it would be worth it to hire a local studio to hit it with some mastering plug-ins (yes I said plug-ins), to raise the volume, and possibly tweak with an EQ or multi-band compressor. All of this would be silly without getting two out of the three mixes re-worked, though.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Good stuff Pol! Sounds like you had a fun time making the thing too!
First of all, Brent, thanks heaps for taking the time to look into the mix so deeply. Actually, we had a lousy time making it haha ... true! Due to construction next door we had to record at night, knowing we had work the next day - we were pretty bummed out at the end, as though we'd not done as well as we could.


1. Man's World - Didn't do it for me, overall, though your playing was just fine, as was the band's! I liked the left foot hi-hat complement to the ride playing!

But the mix, well, it just sounded like a demo. It needs to sound like your group is in the same (if weird) space, and it needs "dirt", maybe even on the drums submix as a whole! Bass sound is too plain (needs added harmonics, a touch of drive - if you don't want to use a plug, run it through the guitar amp and blend it with the DI signal). Kick needs just a touch of low end (I'm cranking it, and I can't hear any kind of "thump"). Guitar track needs limiting (the loud parts are just bit too loud so as to be distracting). Vocal also needs some love, maybe a subtle doubling effect.
Was it only the mix that didn't work for you, or the arrangement too? Our guitarist was in a timid mood on the night. Do you feel EQ would fix the bass without putting it through a speaker? More top end, maybe?

Yes, the kick is a long way down - more than I remember. What happened? Buggered if I know :) Really, most of the time I'm trying to get the kick felt rather than heard, like a reinforcement of the bass notes. The keys player was saying he would have liked more verb on the vox in hindsight which is in line with your doubling comment.


2. Roberta Flack cover - Great! The reverb on the vocal, the piano tone, the cross stick sound (dial back on 4kHz a dB or two, or move the fader down a hair during those parts only), were just so complementary, I could get "lost" in it, ya know? Your playing seems most comfortable here. I totally dug how you left out the snare backbeat at the top of the chorus! Not familiar enough with the song to know if that was your doing or not. Ah, why'd you have to rush at 3:37! It's such a rookie mistake to speed up on the loud parts! :)

I'd definitely try a tremolo stomp box on the guitar track. Pan the guitar solo track straight up the middle (what's it doing on the left anyway?), and maybe give it a subtle delay.
Yup, when we were working it out I tried pulling out the backbeat at the start of the chorus and felt that gave me a chance to have a little noodle :)

"Rookie mistake" lol ... I've been a rookie since 1975 :) I did a better take on the night but someone else wasn't right with that one. Oh well!

I was asking the engineer about the panning of guitar and keys. He said he likes to put the instrument on one side and the effects on the other to bring it in. Personally, I'd rather the lot be at about 70%. Your effects on the guitar idea is a good 'un.


3. Broadway - Solid playing here, especially the entrance with the snare! I would have left out the ghost note drag at 1:04, silence would have been more clever here, IMO.

As for the mix on this one, again, the bass drum has no thump, what happened? And WTF is up with the bass tone?! Sounds like a lame compression pedal or something! Piano sound is too "cheap", too, maybe try cutting around 1kHz. Piano likely needs limiting, and some reverb to sit it back in the mix a touch.
I always do that drag in that spot ... will try it without. It doesn't really add anything rather than say "This Is Bar One.

What happened with the kick? We were saying it needed to come down. Studio speakers are deceptive. He used some crap speakers for the "radio test" but ideally there would be some midrange speakers akin to an average home system.

I actually quite like the bass tone in this one lol. Maybe Pete did something to deal with the acoustic-electric bass's clicking? Good idea with the piano sound - that Casio is a cold beast. I've heard many warmer keyboards than that one.


I noticed very little stereo imaging on the overheads. Usually you can hear the hi-hats slightly off to one side, and the ride off to the other. Did you intentionally go for a mono approach? If so, why are the toms panned as well? Speaking of toms, they need to be gated a bit tighter (shorten the release time). They ring out so long as to be a distraction.

Something's up with the snare track. It could be an EQ thing, or the overheads, of course. Was the snare mic VERY close to the drum? Like, within an inch or two? Or maybe pointing downward at the drum, instead of "across" it? It's hard to describe, but I think I can hear the diaphragm of the mic "choking" because it can't handle the SPL (sonic pressure level). Just a guess here. There's a "papery" quality to the snare that I just can't place.

Did the same guy mix all 3 songs? The second tune seems much more presentable and balanced.
I've never for a moment given thought to stereo mixing of the kit. Good idea, though. I only used the one tom in the recording.

Yes, the mic was very close to the batter head. Not sure about the angle ... I think it was pointing down. Will remember that. I've attached very brief snippets of the pre-mix and mix so you can compare what we did with the snare sound. Because I didn't tune it high enough (and didn't use a new head - doh!) I asked Pete to get it sounding more toppy. I think that resulted in that odd tone ... maybe the en natural was better after all?


Mastering need not be expensive. For the purposes of your demos, it would be worth it to hire a local studio to hit it with some mastering plug-ins (yes I said plug-ins), to raise the volume, and possibly tweak with an EQ or multi-band compressor. All of this would be silly without getting two out of the three mixes re-worked, though.
So there are grades of mastering (and price?). Will do some asking about that.

Thanks again, Brent. There's a wealth of info there!
 
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