Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Driving around

The time has come around again for the release of another Six String Bliss album called Driven To Bliss. This is the tenth collaborative album produced by this community and the fifth on which I have participated. There should be a download of the actual album soon.

My contribution was a version of Open Car by Porcupine Tree, one of my favourite bands. I wanted to try something a bit heavier than usual, but this also has some acoustic segments. There's a mix of time signatures in there. I based my recording around a MIDI file I found so that could cover the drums and keyboards that I would not have time to sequence. I wanted to concentrate on the guitars and vocals.

Recording was in my usual set-up based around KXStudio on Ubuntu Studio. The DAW was Ardour 3. This is still awaiting final release, but proved to be pretty stable. The main advantage for me over V2 is the inclusion of MIDI so that I didn't need to run a separate application for that. I ran the output to QSynth/Fluidsynth using a free soundfont from the Ubuntu repositories (more on that later). Having everything in one application makes life easier when you want to mute specific tracks and I was doing that a lot with the MIDI tracks I was using to guide what I played.

Guitars were my Gordon Smith GS2 via my Roland Cube 80x (R-Fier model), Dean Performer E electro-acoustic (recorded acoustically) and Peavey bass (direct). Vocals and acoustic guitar were via my Zoom H4 recorder with line out to my M-Audio Delta interface.

I did consider using software amp models in Guitarix, but didn't have time to experiment enough with that. The Cube did a fairly good job, but I could possibly have got a bit closer to the original tone. It took me a while to get the main riff down, but then I had to play the same on bass! This was a challenge.

I like doing double-tracked vocals. I tried singing some in a different register, but not totally happy with the results. Need to work more on my harmonies.

I also intended to do more playing around with things like EQ and compression to improve the general mix, but that didn't happen due to the deadline and some other things going on. I may still try those on the track to see if I can improve it and learn more about these tools.

The album was produced and mastered by long-term Blissner JMan. He noticed something strange about the waveform of my track that caused some issues with the mastering.

I had noticed it looked odd, but had been preoccupied with just getting it sent off. I noticed that the acoustic sections were offset from the zero line. This was narrowed down to one of the keyboard sounds. To fix it I quickly found another soundfont. I could possibly have used a different patch on the existing one, but I've not quite figured out how to do this.

So, here it is. This is the pre-mastering version. All comments and (constructive) criticism welcome. I'm still in the early days of learning about this recording thing and anything that adds to my knowledge is welcome.


  1. Hey Steve,
    Awesome work on this piece! I'll listen several more times before my official "review" on the bliss forum, but just wanted to congratulate you on an awesome job. Cool song! I've heard a bit of Porcupine Tree on the Dividing Line Broadcast Network, and really like a lot of what they do. Definitely sounds like it wasn't a piece of cake to learn, but you nailed it. I have huge respect for your persistence in using all the OSS tools to do your recordings. I'm a huge Ubuntu fan, but ran into so many problems a couple years ago trying to get the apps to work with the soundcard in my computer that I gave up. Maybe it's time to try again. Amazing how much we have in common - I also use a Zoom H4, am a prog fan, and do computer work as my career. Have a great week - thanks for the great contribution to the album! - David (Guitorganist), New Mexico

  2. Thanks David. This was a fun tune to do. I have minimal experience of recording on other platforms, so don't get too disappointed by Linux. It's come along in the last few years, so I think can do all I need for now.

    I'll listen some more before my reviews