Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Learning the ways of the Force

How long can I sustain the Star Wars title theme?

I still consider myself to be a beginner in the art of recording. I've recorded a few songs over the last couple of years, but most have been very simple. Many have just been a single 'live take' with very little in the way of post-processing. Things start getting interesting when you introduce multiple tracks, virtual instruments and effects.

Easy was a first attempt at a full song for one of the Six String Bliss albums. Most of the tracks (drums, bass, keyboard) were provided by a MIDI file that was found on-line. I muted some of the parts to add ukulele, vocals and an acoustic guitar solo. The recording was done in Ardour, with the MIDI played by Rosegarden via Fluidsynth. I wasn't totally happy with the results. I think that some careful use of reverb might have improved it. Maybe I should revisit it.

Some time after that I decided to try and do a full track from scratch. I used a couple of hornpipes I'd been playing at the pub session and 'rocked them up'. I created a basic drum track in Hydrogen and added a couple of guitar tracks. It doesn't sound too bad, but there's a slight sync issue. The JACK settings may have given a bit too much latency. I was just using the on-board sound for that.

My latest effort is for another Six String Bliss album. It's due in a week or so, but I've been putting it off for months. I had concerns about getting the drum feel right. I eventually tried doing it via my MIDI keyboard. That didn't quite work, but it allowed me to see where the beats needed to be. Like most audio apps Hydrogen allows for endless tweaking, but I'm mostly using default settings. I'm using the Big Mono drum kit I found here. I attempted bass on an aborted track a while back, but have had another go on this. Played it through a modelled amplifier on the H4 and used a bit of software compression to even the levels a bit. The track is coming together nicely, but has a different feel to the original. I'm putting several layers of vocals on and intend to add more guitars for a fuller sound. All will be revealed once the album is officially released.

I'm learning more tricks with Ardour for editing etc. I need to check out more tutorials. You just don't realise what it is capable of until I see someone else do it. I've been caught out by a couple of silly mistakes on the recording session, like leaving the speakers on when recording vocals with headphones on. I pretty much got away with that.

I've had a request for my JACK settings. Obviously these are appropriate to my M-Audio Delta 66 card and will not work so well for a USB or other interface.