Last week, a friend posted two home videos to Facebook of “family performance night.” Kids are natural hams and there just happened to be a great sample in it that instantly put some music in my head. The main hooks were done in less than 30 minutes, and it took me another couple of hours to find the right drums, loops, and synth sounds.
Our star vocalist, Lady E., came up with the following impromptu song: “Melinda and Daddy like beer! Mommy likes…” She wasn’t sure what Mommy liked. Mommy prompted from off-camera, “wine and chocolate.” And the lyrics were complete.
Of more technical interest, this is the first track where I’ve worked using the “gain staging” approach to digital recording. From the very early days, the conventional wisdom has been to record signals as loudly as possible (peaks hitting just under 0 dB). The current manual for MOTU Digital Performer says this:
When recording, get as high a level as possible without any clipping. Before you record, always sample the entire range of the audio input you will be recording and adjust the input level accordingly. Ideally, the loudest part of the signal should peak just below zero dB.
After reading several threads on Gearslutz.com that mentioned gain staging as a way to get less muddy sound, I did some research on what that meant. In a nutshell, you record at a much lower volume (peaks averaging -16 to -12 dB or so) so that the DAW and plugins have sufficient headroom to do their jobs without introducing a lot of distortion. I always heard this in my mixes as a sort of fuzzy granularity. For lack of a better phrase, it sounded like there was sand in the mix.
I’m pleased with the way this one turned out. I didn’t have to do a lot of fader work, even to get a usable scratch mix. There’s some light compression on the master, but if you look at the waveform, it’s the kick that’s popping to 0 while the rest of the mix sits nicely just below it. In my studio, at least, that means that the kick keeps thumping nicely without squashing everything else.
Additionally, this is my first use of the highly regarded Valhalla DSP plugins. This isn’t the best track to show off what they’re capable of, but they did add some nice juju to everything, especially the tape echo effect. It is also the first track I’ve done in years without any Waves plugins on it. I haven’t upgraded to the 64 bit versions and am seeing how much I miss them. The jury’s still out on that.
This was a really fun track to do, and I hope you enjoy it.
- MOTU Model 12 (kick, snare, claps)
- Access Virus TI (bass)
- Spectrasonics Omnisphere (Main hook, bells, drops, effects)
- Korg Legacy Collection (Drone synth, main hook double)
- Spectrasonics Stylus RMX (loops)
- Valhalla DSP UberMod, Vintage Verb, Room (vocals, claps, synths)
- Apple iPhone (source video for samples)
- MOTU Digital Performer 8 (DAW, compression, EQ, etc.)