rreplay is back with a new track this week, “Atmospheric Phenomenon” with a killer bass line. The cover is a mural from the side of a house in Graz, Austria, where I visited last week. Hope you will give us a listen!
OK, so we successfully completed the 8 songs in 8 weeks challenge….actually it was 52 in 52, but we had a meltdown, took a week off to fix the long distance mixing tech, and have decided that we’ll opt out of the 52 in 52 challenge, declare victory, and leave the field. We are sure you will greet us as liberators! Anyway, I’ll keep posting new stuff, but not sticking to the one a week schedule as it was not working out.
The music: Driving squall, sort of like East Coast weather this week, but with a fundamental optimism, like the first few weeks of the Arab Spring, when things were chaotic and anything was possible, before things went South.
You might want to give “More Lost,” from last week (see previous post), another listen. I remixed it to get the bass to sound right and it sounds a lot better. I know you didn’t ask, but here is what I did, in case anyone else runs into the problem of changing the sound of the bass when there is no separate instrument track. Of course, the best option is to record the sound the way you want it to its own track, but that is not an option here because of rreplay’s live workflow. So I had to try to get the sound in the mix instead of in the recording. We were aiming for a dubby bass sound, nice and full on the low end without being boomy. Here is the recipe, and an A/B comparison at the end.
FIrst split the track into two: a mono (sub-) bass track with a cutoff around 200 Hz and a stereo track for everything above that. I left the top the way it was originally mixed and worked only on the bass. Remember though that all the “finger” sounds and most of the transients of the bass are up there. I read the manuals for the two main plugins I used, a transient shaper and Ohmicide multi-band distortion. I also did side-by-side listening with “more lost” and Sly and Robbie’s Fatigue Chic as the dubby timbre we are aiming for on the mono sub-bass track.
For the initial mix, I muted the top (stereo) channel and worked just with the bass. Unmuting for A/B comparison was not a good idea, because as my ears got accustomed to the bass, turning the top back on for brief periods sounded way more trebly than things actually were. I needed to give the piece a listen all the way through when I wanted to hear both channels, so I got the main part of the bass working with it soloed, and then tweaked the finishing touches with the full mix. Going back and forth with “Fatigue Chic” was very helpful to see if I was getting closer on the bass sound.
I could get the bass really fat in my good monitors, but then it sounded like $#!+ on anything else. When I was turning up the bass channel, it was also amplifying a bunch of low end cruft. The solution was to use a transient shaper (I used the transient shaper included in Sonar, but you can probably score a [free] [one] or a demo to try), with a fast attack and a slightly sped up release, so that the bottom is only happening when it is either Eric’s bass playing or the bass drum. The attack does not need to be instant, since the treble parts of the attack are still in the upper bands, but fast enough so that the bass is coming in at the same time as the same transients in the upper track. Set the release really short for the moment to accentuate what you are keeping. Fiddle with the threshold until all the bass notes and the bass drum play, but nothing else. It is ok at this point if it sounds choppy. Raising the threshold should make notes drop, and lowering it will introduce extra stuff. There should be empty space between the notes. Once the threshold is set, lengthen the release time (move from “dry” to “wet” on the plugin I was using) to bring back the tails of the bass notes, but don’t set it so long that the gate stops working and the cruft seeps back in. There should sound like there is a little (not too much) space between the notes where the gate is working. the upper track will fill those in once we introduce it back in.
This tightened things up considerably. I messed with EQ a bit on the mono bass channel to push the frequency where the bass drum sat a little. Your mileage may vary on this, depending on the bass drum sound. It can make it ring in an unpleasant way. the boost for this was a somewhat narrow and small one at about 130 Hz, but YMMV, so use your ears. I also gave a lesser, rounder (i.e. lower Q) boost around 80, so there was a slight sharper peak centered on 130 over a rounder peak centerred on 80, with a sharp cutoff below 50 and above 200. I then put a little compression after the transient shaper instead of at the beginning of the chain, which further tightened things up. It goes after so that the cruft stays quiet and the notes and bass drum loud.
At this point, I started listening to the whole track (upper and lower bands both on). Looked at overall EQ of bass and treble channels together in Voxengo’s free SPAN meter and solved some dips and peaks caused by splitting the channel apart, added the ohmicide distortion, set to a mild vaccum tube emulation, to the mono bass channel but turned down to 10% in the mix — all it does now is adds a little tail of midrange harmonics that “glues” the bass channel to the high channel so it does not sound like the Eric’s bass finger work is from one bass and the sub-bass from another. Could prbably do this with many other tube saturator type thingies. The trick is to really go light on it. I wrecked several versions until I backed it way off until I thought I could no longer hear it, then checked by bypassing it to hear if it was an audible difference at all and if it improved the sound (yes to both).
I tested the new remix on the good KRK monitors, on Cambridge Soundworks computer speakers, and on my Bose computer speakers and the bass sounds way better …no woof, gargle, or fizz while being more prominent with a better fat dubby tone, and because of the cruft removal and glue, much tighter sounding in the mix.
Thinking about how much suburban homes look like motherboards, I missed my turn. We missed last week’s installment, so here are two new rreplay tracks this week. “more lost” ostensibly “about” driving in Somervill, MA, where this was recorded, and “we suppose,” because we wanted to call it that we suppose. Hope you did not miss us too much!
Gonna try and put up a rreplay track each week. This one floats away on guitar and bass then transforms into the bomdiddybom bewaka before exploding, after which the pieces all float down. Named after the things in your eye that float around looking like they are there but aren’t.