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May 31, 2006

Fuck you MOTU

The 828 running on my G4 powerbook has frozen on me mid-take 5 times in the last 2 days. It's history for this project.

So I'm back to using my sweet, sweet rock solid, has never failed me ProTools Mix++ system. And it feels great!

UPDATE:

Steve in comments said he was thinking about buying a MOTU box himself -here's some context about what exactly I was doing.

I was trying to record 5 tracks simultaneously at 24/96kHz on my 12' Apple Power Book with a 1gHz G4 processor and 1.2GB of RAM onto a LaCie 250GB External Hard Drive thru FireWire 400. (the drive has about 30GB of space used)

The recording software I was using is called "AudioDesk". It comes free with the interface. it's pretty much a ProTools rip off witohut all the attention to detail that makes using ProTools such a joy for me.

But the point wasn't to mix and produce in MOTU Audio Desk -just track. No plugins were used and no other software was running on my mac. If I had this out on a gig I'd be pissed. (I shuold point out that Dave Grosmman had a MOTU282 out at Solo Bass night a few weeks back and he tracked the whole show with it at 24/96.) 2 track recording only and he was using it on a PC I believe.

The computer froze up mid take at least 5 times in the past 2 days. It's frozen at the end of a take when I press stop also. These weren't great once in a lifetime takes - but the freeze thingy really reduced my confidence and it became 1 MORE thing to worry about while recording.

Maybe if I had FireWire 800 on my puter it would have been able to track more reliably.

Also - If the sample rate was lower I suspect it might be more stable as well. But that's not why I bought it.

Here's a mesage board where you can get an idea of what people are complaining an raving about in terms of MOTU..

http://www.unicornation.com/phpBB2/index.php

My suggestion - know what you're going to use it for - the upper limit of what you expect it to do - and make sure you buy 2 times the computer power you'll need to do that if it's available.

Record Light Anxiety


Hi. I'm jeff. And I have record light anxiety.


I finally came to the realization that everything tends to go south the minute I hit record.

All my attention is absorbed by every detail.

Every mistake sends off a cascade of dialog about how the take is ruined - should I start over - keep going - blah blah blah blah. I find I'm making judgements AS I'm playing about how bad the mistake was - was it tolerable - was it a deal breaker . . . more blah blah blah. That of cours takes my attention off playing and then more mistakes pop up.

There's a reason they call it Recording "Artist".

May 30, 2006

more techy stuff


So this weekend - I decided I wanted to track my CD at higher frequency rate and bit depths.

So I went out to Guitar Center (shudder) in San Francisco to get a MOTU 828mkII. I lucked out and got a parking spot right out front of the store. On Van Ness. In downtown San Francisco. On Saturday. At 3pm. I still can't believe that.

Since I'll be producing the CD on a ProTools HD system that's capable of running 24bit/96kHz - AND I'd really like to send mastering dude Joe Gastwirt 24/96 files to master - I wanted to track at those higer rates and let Joe dither the finals down in his high end studio.

Anyway. So Sat was pretty much wasted setting the whole thing up on my laptop and moving my practice space around to accomidate everything. I hate MOTU software. I'm a ProTools geek. Everything else just seems so . . . uh . . . stupid.

Sunday & Monday I spent messing around with the system, recording tracks and getting and idea about how it works.

After checking the stuff I recorded on a few different speakers I can't say I hear a dramatic difference over tracking at 24/44.1kHz. There's more low end. Or at least - it's a clearer low end. It's a tad more spacious. So I'm not totally sold on it. My Boss unit's reverbs don't record well at those rates. I had been using it's spdif out in the 24/44.1 set up and it sounded fine. But now thru the MOTU converters - the verbs in the Boss GT-6B sound grainy. So I'm going to track everything dry thru the U5 - (I'll use the Boss for my Vanity headphone mix) and I'll put the verbs back in in ProTools in post.

Oh yeah - 1 more thing. Little by little I'm getting better with the tunes. I really like these tunes and I want the performances to do them justice. So I'm not accepting marginal performances.

I'm holding out for great takes.

Recording thought of the day


Why do I write songs that are hard for me to play?

May 25, 2006

techy stuff done


After several days of making test recordings of all my tunes with all the basses I'll be using - and checking the results in as many playback set-ups as possible I'm very confident that if nothing else - my solo CD will sound great.

Now I just have to play all this stuff like I mean it and record it for real. ,-)

May 24, 2006

Trial & Error


The tests I recorded last night were revealing.


Some of the settings I've been using in the Boss GT-6B processor don't record as well as I thought they sounded live. Particularly with the MTD. Got to find some happy mediums there.

The ambient noise level is tolerable as long as I shut the room down. Completely. I did 1 recording with the window open, a fan in the window - the celing fan going and the door wide open. HA! Let's just say that won't work. This could be a problem if I'm still recording when the temps start climbing. More motivation to get tracking done as soon as possible.

Pedulla Red sounds great and Pedulla Blue - with soapbar pups - has a different sound quality that will require a little bit of tweaking to dial in. I've only had it a few days so I'm still figuring that one out.

I don't really want to focus too much on all the technical stuff - but I feel like I should get it handled early (now) to get comfortable that the sounds I'm making are the sounds I'm going to want.

That will free me up to focus on performances and deal with the minimum of production issues and fixes later on.

I HATE corrective production in music. It really pays to get the tones you want recorded at performance - and then use EQ, Compression etc... in post to bring balance to the sound rather than "fix it".

I also want a general level of sonic consistency with all the pieces. I don't want them to sound like they were all recorded with different set-ups at different times. Getting all the techy stuff cleared up is part of the process. Since this is my first go 'round - it's probably taking a tad longer than it should.

It's also a pain that I only have 1 monitoring environment that I trust - the work studio.

So I track shit at home and then have to bring it in here - put it through some of the production processes I think I want to use - and then listen back in a few different spots on CD players to see how it all comes out. I'm getting really close that my set up is solid and will yield quality results.

Oh yeah - I discovered that my U5 direct box is recording out of phase with my Boss GT6B. I can hunt down the cause. Or I can proceed and simply invert the U5 tracks in production later on.

I think its the transformer I stuck on the cable to go from XLR to TRS to input into my Digi 882 interface. I have to fix that.

PLUS - I still have 4 tunes to finish arrangements on.

Oh yeah - and a day job.

,-)

more as it happens.

May 23, 2006

Home Studio pt3

Spent tonight messing around with the home set-up. Did some more test recordings - this time with all the channels I want to use. Here's a pic of what it looks like.

here's a few more. . . .

The bass goes into the Avalon U5 direct box where the signal splits. 1 signal goes direct to the ProTools interface and is recorded on it's own track. The other signal goes into the Boss GT-6B processor which I take the digital stereo out into the Pro Tools interface.

The Rode NT-4 stereo mic goes into the Joe Meek Twin-Q mic pre-amp and then on to 2 channels in ProTools.

I'm using 4 open bass cases to help kill some sounds - like this one stacked up against the computer and hard drives.

It kinda reminds me of being a kid and building forts out of cardboard boxes and blankets.

I'm going to bring tonights test recordings into Studio J tomorrow for a listen - once I'm comfortable all my signals are coming thru clean I'll start knocking it out.

weeee!

Home Studio pt 2


Good news.


I just listened to the stuff I recorded at home last night - and I really think it stacks up to the stuff I did in the "nice" studio.

I'll still have to mix everything here in Studio J - but the recording will be done at home - the ambient mic is really for flavoring and I put it way down in the mix so the noise isn't noticable enough to justify draggin my ass in here on nights and weekends.

Yeah!

Of course - I reserve the right to change my mind. ,-)

Home Studio


Last night I tried to record in the home studio. Going direct should mean you can record anywhere - but I always seem to make things more complicated.


What I really want is to record a stereo signal out of my Boss GT-6B processor - 1 direct dry track - and a stereo ambient mic near the bass to pick up string noise.

The amibent mic idea is admitedly stolen from Michael Manring - but since I also do a fair amount of engineering and live performance recording at work - it's an idea that resonates with me on that level as well. I often mic instruments and blend the signal with their direct signals.

The main problem with the home studio is noise. My home studio is actually an extra bedroom - in front of the house. We live about 1/2 mile from highway 101 - during commute hours I get whats called around these parts as "poor mans ocean" ambience. The not so subtle white noise of traffic going 80 MPH.

Even at night it's there - in the background. Since the ambience I'm trying to capture is quite - the string clacking of a bass - the amount of noise that also gets picked up is huge relative to the signal I want.

So I tried a few things last nigt and made about 30 minutes of recordings which I'll bring into work and listen to in a proper monitoring environment. The problem listening in here is that you can't really tell how bad the room noise is when your listening back in the room with the exacty noise your're trying to hear.

I think I might be able to make it work. I have a large moving blanket put up over the window - the walls have acoustic foam on them to reduce the "ring" and I set up and array of guitar cases around the microphone to dampen the other noise in my room - the computer. I'll take a listen today and find out if it's worth all the trouble - and then post a pic.

Why bother with all this when I have access to an ProTools HD set-up at work?

Cuz it takes 40 minutes to get there.

It's work - not MY space.

I have yet to get a performance in there that I like depsite hours of trying. Same thing happened when I was working on the Bass Extremes entry. I ended up doing it at home.

More details later.

May 22, 2006

Light of Day

What a difference a day makes. Most of the stuff I recorded over the weekend doesn't sound as good today as it did yesterday. Oh well. More lessons learned.

The exception is a new version of Until You Don't - which is much better than what was up on MySpace.

So the old Myspace version from the bass extremes contest is gone and the new one is uploading. I know peeps wanna hear new tunes. I'm working it. Patience. ,-)

May 21, 2006

3 tracks - tracked.

Today went well compared with yesterday,

I'm pretty certain I got three performances I will be able to live with - all fretless tunes.

I went for 4 - but my Echoplex bailed on me.

It stopped responding to commands just as I was going to record a tune.

It was only for a percussion type track comprised of sounds made from hitting the bass - but once I ran into problems and then had to turn into engineer the mood was ruined - I started getting fatigued and cranky. Jeeze. I sound like such a pussy. Anyway - I tried to squeeze more out of the day but it just wasn't meant to be.

I realized today that just as live performance requires you to enter a special "zone" - so does recording. I got into that zone when I arrived and stayed there for nearly 2 1/2 hours - getting multiple solid takes of 3 fretless tunes. Then it all fell apart and I turned into a gloid.

I'm heading home now for some chow - a glass of wine - some practice on tomorrow's record tunes - some Sopranos on TV - some more practice and then nighty night.

Back in studio today.


Just read my last post and thought I sounded kinda whiny. So fuck it. I'm going back into the studio today.

Weeee!

Day 1 recording - not so great.


Day 1 of recording presented a few challenges I had not really anticipated.

This is the first time I'm doing this so everything is brand new.

First - I had a parking issue outside the studio which soured my mood.

The un-attended parking payment device took my money but didn't give me a parking pass. So I ended up getting a ticket which is 3 times the cost I had already paid to park. I can't help but think these machines are rigged to fail like that.

Once I got into the studio and set up I started playing and recording I was really uncomfortable. I don't know if it was the "formality" of the whole thing - or the room or the way it was set-up. I just wasn't comfortable for at least an hour.

I tried to record a few "simple" tunes and quicklly realized I had not spent enough time getting the kinks worked out. That further annoyed me -so I moved on to some other pieces and experimented with different recording techniques.

I had hoped to get about 4 tunes done. HA!

I ended up with nothing recorded but I certianly learned a lot about what it's going to take to get this project done.

For whatever it's worth - the ProTools HD system I was using sounded great. A little too great actually. It totally revealed how noisy my Boss GT6b effects unit is. In contrast - the Avalon U5 is DEAD quite.

That's another thing. The short comings of the effects and tones I find useful in my home practice space and playing live were quite obvious in a higher end recording set up with good monitors.

Anyway - I'm not sure I'm going back in to the studio today. I think I need to spend more time working the kinks out of some of the tunes I wanted to record. That's why I'd really like to be able to record this at home. But - it will sound much much nicer to record at studio J.

On another level - the issue of performance - I was really not pleased. There's a certain amount of imperfection I'm willing to tolerate. But I really need this stuff to sound good.

Backstage at Solo Bass night - Michael Manring asked if he could hear my recordings. I started talking about my problem comitting anything to tape right now - and how I usually will record something 1 day and then cringe at it the next. Michael said - "it can be perfect, or it can be done".

How true.

I just want it not to suck. ,-)

I'm comitted to getting this CD recorded and out this summer. It's going to be a lot harder than I anticipated.


May 19, 2006

Recording part 1


I'll try to post updates as I work thru the recording process. Right now - the plan is to spend tomorrow in the studio with 4-5 tunes and the recording set-up I "think" will work. I've dedicated the entire day to the project.

It's a test the waters type deal. First I want to see if recording at 24bit/96kHz on a ProTools HD machine will really sound remarkably better than the ProTools MIX system I have at home. I plan on having 5 channels per song. 1 dry channel thru an Avalon U5. 1 processed stereo signal from my Boss GT-6B. And 2 channels of ambient mic sound. The point being to capture as much audio per performance as I can and then worry about mixing and production later. There are certain sounds I'm going for - and I'm not entirely convinced this is the way to get it. But with the dry channel at least I can bail on the Boss signals if the effects in there sound too cheap and won't have to worry about capturing a new performance.

Tonight - I'm just getting my performance plan together. Picking the tunes I'll record first and make sure I've got all the little kinks worked out.

May 18, 2006

Solo Bass night @ the Freight

Had a really great time at Solo Bass night last night. Capacity crowd I'm told - 200+ in attendence. The show presented a really diverse range of solo bass approaches.

I've got to get in the shower and get off to work - but I wanted to post a few pics first.

Thank you - seriously - to you guys who came out and watched ALL of us play. And thank you so much for your kind words and comments. I really enjoyed playing for you! I hope to do it again soon. (pst - don't forget about san francisco bass weekend)


GROSSMAN

BAUDIN

MANRING

These guys were great to hang out with- I had a very nice chat with Jean about music and solo bass before the show and again - super big thanks to Dave Grossman for taking the inititive to put the whole thing in motion.

More pics will be in the gallery when I get a chance - maybe over the weekend.

BTW - I begin recording for my CD this weekend. ,-)

May 16, 2006

Quicky Solo set

I jumped out on Monday night to go to the legendary Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, CA to play a few solo tunes.

Here's a few picts.

Mostly singer songwriters and some other odd ball type acts - I went on around 11pm and played 3 tunes. It was great to get out in front of a totally indifferent audience (non-bass players) to see how the whole solo bass thing would fly.

Over all - the mellow stuff didn't break the constant stream of chatter that pervaded the entire night.

The stuff with a little more pyrotechnics of course did silence the room and illicit cheers. (predictable)

I try to strike a balance.

I'm glad I did it - but I'll probably try a few different venues to check the vibe. I'll certainly post a note to let ya know!

Schmidt on KFOG

I appeared on the KFOG 104.5 FM Morning Show this morning to chat for a few minutes about solo bass- my Freight & Salvage gig and the Bass Extremes contest. MP3 of the interview here.

I played Little Sunflower from the competition. Overall it was very positive and I think I surprised those guys. They admitedly were skeptical of having me on the show (you want to have a guy come on an play Bass?) Thanks to KFOG PD Benson for making the suggestion and letting it happen. It was fun.

May 14, 2006

Solo CD recording


I begin recording my debut CD on May 20th.

I have 13 tunes planned. A few are still in need of some writing and/or arrangement work - but I can start recording about 8 tunes.

Target release is summer.

San Francisco Bass Weekend


Solo performance followed by Todd Johnson Bass clinic - sponsored by Zon & Accugroove.

San Francisco Bass Weekend

KFOG Radio appearance


I'll do a short interview and solo performance on KFOG radio in San Francisco at 104.5 FM at about 8:30am talking solo bass & the Freight & Salvage Solo gig.

It will be streamed live and you can listen online at KFOG.COM

May 13, 2006

It's about time

I've been meaning to get this blog rolling for a while now - I guess now is as good a time as any. This will be my main blog - and I'll cross post some stuff over at the MySpace blog too.