Viper Mad

September 10, 2010 12:15 AM

Cover of a Sidney Bechet classic from the 40s. Myself on sufficiently-faked stride piano, rhythm guitar, trumpets, cajun-sounding accordion, and raucous vocal. This is a stomper, and holy fuck was it fun to do. Lyrics seem to be concern tea. Hmm.

Notes: Recorded with a RadioShack microphone run through a M-Audio Fast Track USB interface plugged into my HP Pavilion G60 laptop. Software was the workstation setup I built especially for recording, which works like a dream: Fedora 13 running on top of the PlanetCCRMA realtime kernel, with audio plugged through jack2 sound server into Ardour 2.8.11. (All of this software is free and open-source, by the way, and I really am convinced that Ardour is as good as, if not better than, digital audio workstations that actually, y'know, cost money. It's really awesome.)

The trumpet solo isn't great, but I've only been playing seriously for a few months, so I thought it was pretty good; only one really wrong note in there. And the accordion solo turned out sounding surprisingly cool. I like the effect of my trumpet when I mute it and growl a bit, so I did that some during the last chorus.

At this point I think I owe myself a new microphone. Maybe a new interface/mixer, too. Somebody was suggesting some good ones a while back... I'll have to dig up that suggestion again.

posted by koeselitz (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

The $119 Studio Projects B1 is the one I recommended. Still loving it. I think Cortex uses one as well but maybe his is a Behringer B1.

Musician's Friend have the Marshall MXL 990 for $49 right now, which is just insane.

I think you would have a hard time improving on the pre-amps in the Fast Track without spending a whole hunk more change but you could look at getting a couple of mics so you can both close mic and room mic the same instrument, or stereo mic the piano.

You could also look at the FMR RNC and RNP (Really Nice Compressor and Really Nice Preamp) which Chillmost recently recommended.

If you want a little USB mixer these Behringers are awful cute and cheap.
posted by unSane at 3:51 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

(In case you hadn't realized I'm a MASSIVE fan of cheap-but-good recording gear... it's one of those areas where you can get fantastic results on a budget by good technique).
posted by unSane at 4:01 AM on September 10, 2010

Marshall MXL 990 for $49 right now

For what it's worth, I have one of these. I paid $60 for it with a stand and 20' XLR cable in 2003 or so. It's kind of a POS: all sparkle, no body or warmth. Bright as all get-out, but brittle. It's fine if you can hide it in the mix a little, but I'd spend more and get something that doesn't stink.

Also, this song is a shit-ton of fun. The muted trumpet sounds great.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:16 AM on September 10, 2010

Also, this song is a shit-ton of fun.

posted by unSane at 6:28 AM on September 10, 2010

Yeah, I've actually been contemplating buying drums all week. A snare, a high hat, a tom and a bass... couldn't be too expensive. I've fucked around with drums a little - my old roommate had some a few years ago - and it'd be awesome to have some better rhythm backing.

One thing I figured out doing this song (and another one I've got, which I'll post tomorrow) is that I really, really can't deal with click tracks. I have no idea what it is, but they just kind of didn't work for me at all. This tune obviously moves faster near the end, so I guess it's pretty obvious I didn't use one. Honestly, though, I tried. I think maybe it was just the feel of it at the beginning... maybe I could get used to playing against a click track, since I'm fine with playing against my own recorded tracks, but I'm sure not used to it yet.
posted by koeselitz at 8:15 AM on September 10, 2010

I've been kicking myself the last few weeks for not having bought drums YEARS ago. They are such a blast to play and as long as you can read music (which you obviously can) you can largely teach yourself, up to a point anyway.

I bought my acoustic set from a local drum teacher on Kijiji and they're AWESOME -- $600 for a five piece birch kit with all new hardware, great skins, good cymbals, perfectly tuned. There are some great bargains in the classifieds if you poke around a bit. If you are playing jazz you definitely need a ride, but a crash/ride would do dual duty for you.

It's been a real revelation to me, playing along to my own stuff, because even though I suck, I do basically sound EXACTLY like I want the drums to sound like. It's great, like learning to touch type.

Re clicks there's nothing very difficult about it... just practice to a metronome or play along to recordings. Getting it loud enough helps and getting subdivisions in also REALLY helps (eg eighth notes or eighth note triplets or something). Best of all is a proper drum track which you've written to the track.

I think it helps to think of the click not as a robot who must be obeyed but as another player who always happens to play in perfect time. So it's okay to be ahead of him or behind him. I play ahead of the beat pretty much all the time, which is a disaster when you are playing to midi drums but when you are drumming yourself it all comes out in the wash.
posted by unSane at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2010

I think the reason the click didn't work is because I was focused too much on getting it perfectly, rather than just playing - and the confidence thing. It's easy to get when I get into it, but it sometimes takes a bit at the beginning, and that's when the click track matters. I'm not used to playing with a metronome, either.

Actually, I'm just remembering that I realized the other day while I was practicing precisely why I can't play with a click track: because I can't tap my foot and play at the same time. Don't know why – I guess it's a coordination thing – but, particularly when I'm playing the piano, tapping my foot just throws me off completely. And for some reason, playing with a click track, I just instinctively felt like I should be tapping my foot, I guess. I think if I eliminate that it'll work fine.

By the way, I should stick this here, just for completeness' sake: here is a version without vocal, and with trumpet instead in the lead at the front. It's the same otherwise, and I liked singing this so I tend to prefer the vocal version, but there you are. It's Creative Commons, so maybe if somebody wants some background music for some project or something it'd be useful. I don't know.
posted by koeselitz at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2010

yes, sloppy drums now! that was great as it was though.
posted by peterkins at 4:28 PM on September 10, 2010

I thought the vocal on this was *excellent*. So often this kind of stuff ends up as a technically perfect pastiche but because you are stretching to keep it together, it has that kind of loose, funky urgency that the original recordings had.

Do you ever play this live with other human beings? That would be awesome.
posted by unSane at 4:51 PM on September 10, 2010

I need to find some human beings to play it with. There's a great jazz scene in Denver, and I even know where I'd have to hang out for that kind of thing, but I guess I've been too intimidated thus far to do so. Maybe as fall approaches I'll get off my butt and sally forth to El Chapultapec, the local den of jazz iniquity.
posted by koeselitz at 5:19 PM on September 10, 2010

unSane: “I think you would have a hard time improving on the pre-amps in the Fast Track without spending a whole hunk more change but you could look at getting a couple of mics so you can both close mic and room mic the same instrument, or stereo mic the piano.”

I'll probably do this, but that'll involve getting a different USB interface. My little Fast Track - the most basic USB model - only has one XLR input. So maybe I'll move up to the Fast Track Ultra or something. Maybe I could just get a mixer; dunno.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 PM on September 10, 2010

I would definitely spend my $ on an interface with more (XLR balanced) inputs rather than a mixer. Way more flexibility. I just was looking at a bunch of them -- there's the Fast Track Ultra, the Tascam US-800 and the Tascam 1641 which seem to be the best choices. The US-800 is a great price and is USB class compliant so it doesn't need drivers, but there are hardly any reviews up and support on the Tascam site is non-existent. I went for the 1641 instead just for cheapness but the Ultra looks really nice.
posted by unSane at 5:14 AM on September 11, 2010

That sound you hear is me downloading this RIGHT NOW
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like! Good comments too!

(It's 'vipers' because ya go ssssssssssssss)
posted by bonefish at 2:27 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Really fun. Nice to see someone cares about something but LA TRANCE.
posted by Disbro at 8:30 AM on September 13, 2010

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