March 8, 2007 4:36 PM

My attempt at writing a song based on the James Joyce short story from Dubliners. 2nd track from my RPM album.
posted by Ira.metafilter (16 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: removed at poster's request -- mathowie

Yes, what you can hear at the end there is my clicking the mouse to stop recording. I'm professional like that.
posted by Ira.metafilter at 4:39 PM on March 8, 2007

Yes, what you can hear at the end there is my clicking the mouse to stop recording. I'm professional like that.

I own several albums that start with the sound of someone plugging in guitars or pushing record on a 4-track or whatever.
posted by sparkletone at 5:11 PM on March 8, 2007

Yeah, that's charmingly lo-fi. Not so much the sound of the Mighty Mouse.
posted by Ira.metafilter at 5:20 PM on March 8, 2007

Fun fact: Nickel Creek also has a song called Eveline about the Joyce story.
posted by danb at 7:46 PM on March 8, 2007

I really like the song, some lovely chords in there! In terms of production though the sibillance (harsh sss sounds) is out of control. You need to EQ that out by cutting the vocals around the 7.5kHz to 10kHz range.

Not sure what your setup is but if you're using something which has fairly standard EQ controls then the best way to find the offending frequency(s) is to turn the Q value all the way up (so you're hitting the narrowest possible band of frequencies) boost the signal and sweep from the lowest to highest frequency until the sibillance (or whatever it is that you want to cut) is at its loudest, then you can lower the Q value a bit and cut that frequency range!

Keep 'em coming!
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:02 AM on March 9, 2007

danb: I know the Nickel Creek song - love the harmonies, but not the song itself so much. I thought I'd give it a go :)

TwoWordReview: THANK YOU! I totally forgot to ask about the harsh sss sounds, it hurts my ears, but I know little about recording and production and didn't know what the problem was. Maybe it was the microphone. Yeah, I know, it's terrible, but my flat has terrible soundproofing and it seems like this microphone reduces the background noise somewhat.

(My "setup" is just that microphone plugged into an iMac, with GarageBand.)

Can I ask you to kindly explain what the Q value is? And what sweeping means? Like you're talking to someone who knows nothing about recording and production? Because I AM THAT PERSON. Thanks for the advice!
posted by Ira.metafilter at 6:32 AM on March 9, 2007

Cool yeah. Basically when you're applying EQ there's three parameters you can control.

Gain is the amount you want to cut or boost the frequencies (usually measured in dB)

Center Frequency is basically the middle of the frequencies you're affecting. Filters (even really good ones) never affect just one frequency, it's always a range of frequencies, so center frequency is just the middle of the range. (measured in kHz or Hz)

and Q is basically the range of frequencies you're affecting. (no units)

A high Q value means you're only affecting a very narrow range of frequencies so your gain has more effect on the center frequency.

A low Q value means you're applying the EQ to a broad range of frequencies so the gain is more spread out.

Sweeping is just changing the center frequency so if you're going the whole range you start at 20Hz and changing it up to 20kHz. (for EQ controls on mixers, the center frequency would usually just be a dial, so sweeping would just mean turning the dial all the way from min to max)

So sweeping the frequencies with a high Q value will boost all the frequencies, just a small range at a time, so you can tell what frequency is having the most effect on the sound as you pass it.

Then to fix the problem you would use a lower Q value so you cut the problem frequency along with (to a lesser extent) the frequencies around it so it doesn't sound unnatural!

(About the microphone - that's usually the biggest factor in the quality of recordings, spending even $30 dollars on a semi-decent mic will make a big difference. )
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

This graph shows the effects of different Q values!
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2007

Agreed on the mic suggestion. My rule of thumb for incremental fidelity improvement is this: replace the weakest link in your chain with the most affordable part that will not still be the weakest link.

Right now, your microphone is the worst thing going for you. Spend $30 or $50 or $100 on a good USB-based recording mic and you'll see a world of difference. (And then when you're feeling saucy you can replace the next weak link, and so on.)
posted by cortex at 10:18 AM on March 9, 2007

(And I somehow failed in all of that to mention that I found this entirely charming. Lovely.)
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on March 9, 2007

Much thanks TwoWordReview - I think I understand what you mean now. But I can't really do any of this with GarageBand or Audacity can I? Don't think they have Q values. I could probably still boost different frequencies (in Audacity at least - GarageBand just gives you "Bass Gain", "Mid Gain", "Mid Frequency" and "Treble Gain") until the awful sibilance is most noticeable, then try to lower that and maybe the ones around it.

And thanks cortex - is there a good lower-mid range mic for vocals and acoustic guitar you would recommend?
posted by Ira.metafilter at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2007

I'm not much use for specific USB mic recommendations—I use an old SM57 clone and a nice $100 condensor, but run either through a small mixer, which is maybe more complicated and more outlay than you want to bother with initially.

There've been a few Ask threads talking about mic choices—that might be a good place to start, though frankly you could throw a dart in the $50-$100 market and come out yards better than that silly little stick no matter how bad your aim. :)
posted by cortex at 5:25 PM on March 9, 2007

A 57, a cable, and a mixer would be a top notch $150 path to your computer.

I guess this would be old school given the arrival of studio quality USB mics. I haven't tried any of those yet.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2007

If you want to go quick and dirty with garageband then a negative treble gain is the one. Like I said it's the 7-10kHz range that's the problem so any cut there should sort it out!

I think somebody recommended this Blue USB mic before in another thread. I've heard good things about blue mics in general!
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:01 AM on March 10, 2007

Yeah, I recall that Blue coming up as well. Seems well liked.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2007

Thanks everyone! That Blue USB mic looks interesting - I've never sung into a ball before. I'll also go learn what condensors and mixers are. Thanks again for the pointers!
posted by Ira.metafilter at 7:20 AM on March 12, 2007

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