Where Is My Mind

February 3, 2010 3:40 PM

Pixies cover, with the debut of my new theremin (and a little bit of my new cowbell).

Also featuring new drum mic setup, which I feel like I need to continue working out the details of.

Right now I've got a dynamic on the snare and two spread between the three toms to put them in a left-middle-right spacing in the stereo field, a mic on the kick and two overheads over the hats on the left and ride on the right. All mixed down to stereo on my little yamaha mixer and recorded like that. Any specific feedback on the drum mix and how its sitting in the overall mix is welcome; I'm thinking maybe I should start up a Talk thread to see if people want to wonk out about drum micing and mixing in general, too.

Also, I just launched my new music site a few days ago, and I've posted a few other details over there.

posted by cortex (16 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I apologize for the non specific feedback on the drum mix derail but the Pixies are coming to New Zealand for the first time next month and I am really excited. I have seen them twice before in Brixton Academy, London and Centennial Park, Sydney.

Okay then, about those drums...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2010

Heh. I saw them a few years ago when they first got back together. It was pretty fantastic.
posted by cortex at 7:04 PM on February 3, 2010

Oh wow, that is awesome. When did you get the theremin? Seems like you've figured it out really quickly. I think the drums feel a little close for me, so maybe just some reverb. But I know nothing about the intricacies of recording real drums.

Your voice sounds pretty terrific on this. Really looking forward to hearing theremin songs on this website now. Maybe it's time for a therellujah song.
posted by Corduroy at 11:12 PM on February 3, 2010

This sounds awesome! The theremin is super-cool. And the drum mix, actually, is pretty good, although I might make a few changes (but I don't record live drums much, so take it with a box of salt).

When I do record live drums (particularly to a single track like this), I like to think of the overheads and room mics as actually giving me most of what I need, and then filling in with close mics. So I'd ditch the tom mics and use a mono or stereo room, instead. And probably move the overheads up, or in, to get less cymbal and more kit (you'll get plenty of cymbal no matter where they are). Then, move the kick mic until you get a little more beater, and maybe use the mixer's EQ to give it a little more ~3kHz to bring out the clicky attack.

Start with just your OH and room mics, and bring up the spot mics until the mix sounds right. If your mixer has a "phase invert" switch, you might need it on the close channels (an out-of-phase mic will make the drum sound hollow and less punchy).

Recording drums to a single stereo track without processing is sort of about compromise; not being able to (for example) compress the kick mic or the room mic is tough. But you did a pretty good job here, all in all. This track sounds really good.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:10 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your voice sounds great on this...that's a powerful performance! While I don't know jack about micing drums, I can say that you sound totally natural playing them. Sounds like you've been playing 'em for years.
posted by snsranch at 3:38 PM on February 4, 2010

I like the theremin and I like the song. The pixies are so great!

My friend has a theremin and never really figured out how to use it out of laziness so my other friend always called it the electric kazoo.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 4:56 PM on February 4, 2010

I'm no fan of The Pixies, but I like this. Reminds me of David Byrne for some reason. I've followed your slow dive into the drumming pool with interest - and I think your getting there mate. I like the natural sound you're getting. Timing's a little bit shaky now and then, but you know that. Main const. crit thing I'd say re this track is that you're panning the kit too wide. Needs to be tighter - no wider that 2 or 3 o'clock (if that makes sense). Maybe a bit more early reflection on the 'verb would emhasise that natural sound and bring it forward a little more too. Nice one.
posted by MajorDundee at 8:30 AM on February 5, 2010

Yeah, agreed on the too-wide stereo. It surprised me listening back after I was done recording the drums, actually, since the volume of the physical drums themselves while I'm playing them masks the actual mix somewhat. Really, that's an issue in general, and I need to take the time to tweak, record, and listen back and repeat that, something that I've been characteristically too impatient to bother with so far.

I think my next recording experiment will focus on that and on uncleozzy's point about using more overhead and less on-the-drum signal in general as a starting point.
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2010

Well....I wouldn't worry too much Cortex. I reckon you're more or less there. Might be a dumb question, but are you using closed-back cans when tracking? Also, I don't know what your set-up comprises but can't you simply record the mics to individual tracks and then mix to stereo afterwards? You wouldn't then have to put up with the utter teeth-grinding frustration of turning in a good performance only to find that the mix is fucked.
posted by MajorDundee at 9:00 AM on February 5, 2010

Ah, I forgot to look for this the other day: if you really want to go balls-out on using the OHs, try this. You'll still be able to use the close mics to fill in, of course, but you should get a nice picture of the kit even without them.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:09 AM on February 5, 2010

Cans are all closed-back, yeah. Drum mics are clipped over the heads (or between two heads for the current tom setup).

I think maybe I'll try putting together a "here is my drum stuff" post today for the new blog, I can take a bunch of pictures and go into detail that way.

can't you simply record the mics to individual tracks and then mix to stereo afterwards?

Not with my current setup. My audio interface is just two-channel (I recently snagged a Fast Track Pro to upgrade form my old Fast Track USB, the new one has a lot more going for it but it's still a pretty simple little box) so it's mix to stereo and then record that for now.

Eventually I'd like to buy a dedicated recording box to keep in the basement and get a nice firewire interface that can do a pile of channels. But that's not really a priority yet, especially since I do basically all my recording by myself in overdubs and so drums are the only thing I'm ever likely to be using more than two source inputs for at once in any case.
posted by cortex at 9:16 AM on February 5, 2010

Is it a Moog Theramin?

I was going to second the "recorderman" 2-mic technique that uncleozzy suggested.
When I bought my drums I went and bought an Alesis 4-input interface (IO|14) for the exact reason of having discreet tracks instead of having to pre-mix everything to 2 tracks which was a big drag. Now I look back fondly on how those drum tracks sound because they were way more thoughtful and planned-out.
The problem I have with having a multi-mic drum setup is the endless fucking positioning and tweaking to find the "sweet spot" of each drum which takes forever if you're alone and is enough to paralyze me into not recording drums sometimes. And some of my favourite drum tracks have been one large condenser on the other side of the room. I hate recording drums just a little bit more than I hate recording acoustic guitar because it's hard and I'm lazy.
That said, you may find that your songwriting gets recharged and takes new directions now that you have drums, it did for me. So it's a love/hate thing.

Oh, and the song sounds great!
posted by chococat at 10:19 AM on February 5, 2010

C'mon, tell us what kind of theremin it is! (Mine's a Gakken.) I find it really tough, but you seem to have picked it up pretty quick.

Drums sound alright, although the kick seems pretty weak to me. I agree with the Major about the panning, too.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 5:27 PM on February 7, 2010

Theremin is a Moog Etherwave; wife got me the pre-assembled version for Christmas, and I've been playing with it off and on ever since trying to get a decent handle on it. I'm glad folks think it sounds pretty good, but I have the advantage of heavy editing working for me in this context and I think it'll be a good long while yet before I could do a full track-length job of it in one go that doesn't sound like a dying, tone-deaf cat.

Kick placement is something I should keep playing with too, yeah.
posted by cortex at 6:06 PM on February 7, 2010

I agree with Karlos about the kick, I also think you have a great mind for drums (the accents and the way you play cymbals is really cool), I'm sure many good things will come out of this.

And yeah, your version rocks.
posted by micayetoca at 6:35 AM on February 13, 2010

Needs more "STOP!" at the beginning. I always thought that summed up the Pixies experience in like five seconds. "Aaaaa aaaah.....STOP!...I'm [cut]"
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:42 PM on January 7, 2016

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