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ACT II Recording Techniques/QuestionsHow did they do it???


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#1 jabadeer

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 03:19 PM

So one thing I love about act II is the one two punch that the band not only did everything musically on their own, but also recorded it all on their own, on subpar equipment. Recording is one of my biggest interests right now, and Casey has mastered all aspects of the budget record; The quality of the recording is amazing, seeing what was used.

I had a conversation with Casey about recording and I hope he ends up seeing this thread to tie up some loose ends. For those that don't know, apparently Act II was recorded on an M-Audio 410 and a mac, using pro tools LE!!!!! A cheap groove tubes LC was used for vocals, reason was used for alot of piano samples and no samples were used for drums. Im guessing all the guitars were just miced up amps, and from watching the in studio videos you can see that most everything else was miced up in what appear to be normal rooms with no special acoustic qualities. Also, no outboard equipment was used, all effects were ITB (in the box)

I have a series of questions for Casey and anyone else in the band that might have any advice, as well as any forum members who have some insight on things.

Question 1. Any advice on doing bass? We have been going DI, wondering if you had any secret weapon DI boxes or anything to fatten up the tone.

Question 2. How the heck do your vocals sound so good with not exactly professional mics or preamps, and no outboard equipment??? I asked you this (it was the Madison, Wisconsin concert) and you told me a technique you have where you totally squash the vocals with a compressor, and then place an expander after that. Then you said something about how this de-esses (i think) and something else. Can i get a quick rundown of how to set this up??? Did you track with this chain or put it on after???

Also, if Sagan happens to see this, he told me about using the electroharmonix black finger as a vocal compressor, wondering if anyone has tried that out.

Question 3. On the intro to red hands, did you just automate eq/compression on the drums going from the intro to verse one? what gives it that phasing sound???

Question 4. SO, you miced alot of instruments as i can see in your studio videos on you tube. Any advice on how things sound so good? Did you ever worry about the rooms you were in or rely on the close mic sounds?? What mic did you use on acoustic guitar (seen in church and the dime recording footage)??

There is enough info online about micing drums, just wondering if you gave any consideration to the room you were in, or if it was mostly close miced sounds, and what kind of equipment you did that with (not sure how many inputs the 410 has).

Anyother mixing tricks that help you get a sweet sound? parallel compression? sidechaining bass and kick???

This question is kind of technobabble, but the CD obviously plays beautifully as one song...almost as if you had only ONE pro tools session (which is highly unlikely)
But the transitions are so smooth...How did you do this? 13 different sessions in pro tools, with endings going overboard and paid attention to in the next song beginning, and then matched up in a program like cd architech or something???

Casey, you are smart!

Thanks again for any help I get, and what you shared in Madison

Did you listen to Imogen Heap yet????? Next concert i go to i'll bring you my bands next cd and imogen's cd "speak for yourself"

Keep it up!

joe abadeer

#2 CrystalMeff

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 03:39 PM

go to ask the casey. he answers all questions in there

#3 sam sanford

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 05:33 PM

if you are DI'ing a bass you should try to go rent a distressor and go from your DI into that and then into protools or whatever you are using.
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#4 jabadeer

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 08:52 PM

I think you guys are missing the point of this...
I am almost 100% sure that casey didn't use ANY fancy equipment like a distressor, i would guess he maybe had a small DI box like a sansamp or something. It's not hard to figure out what expensive equipment sounds good, its hard to figure out how to make crappy equipment sound good... that's real talent to me.

And i wanted to make a seperate thread because this is a very different topic, sorry if its a hassle for anyone, i felt it deserved its own thread. The recording of videos on youtube are so cool, just a little window into TDH!!!

#5 sam sanford

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 01:08 AM

View Postjabadeer, on Oct 16 2008, 08:52 PM, said:

its hard to figure out how to make crappy equipment sound good... that's real talent to me.

good on good equipment>good on bad equipment.

at the end of the day though all that matters is if it sounds good. and although i like the sound casey got i have definitely heard better.
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#6 casey crescenzo

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 03:03 AM

View Postsam sanford, on Oct 17 2008, 02:08 AM, said:

View Postjabadeer, on Oct 16 2008, 08:52 PM, said:

its hard to figure out how to make crappy equipment sound good... that's real talent to me.

good on good equipment>good on bad equipment.

at the end of the day though all that matters is if it sounds good. and although i like the sound casey got i have definitely heard better.


While it is true that you can hear a plethora of better sounding records than ACT II, I don't think thats the point of the thread.

some of the best sounding records were done on sub par equipment, and some of the best tones captured have been done with an sm57. The only thing that matters is the engineer, and what he is trying to convey.

If I was trying to convey a polished, crystal clear, commercial sound, I would have. The point of what I was doing was about the composition, and about the character. My favorite records have more character and creativity than they do run of the mill sound. Using tools like the distressor, which we used very much on the 1st TREOS record, comes in handy when you try to slam signal, but the best idea is to run what you are doing in direct and getting the cleanest signal first with a good DI... then during mixing deciding how you want to compress your instruments. Compressing on the way in may sound good at first, but committing your tracks to compression before you have even added guitars (which I expect with a standard Drums, Bass, Guitar sequence of recording) is working backwards. Compression is a tool of mixing, and unless you are meaning to create an effect on a track, compression is good to leave off, or at least this is what I have come to believe. Pre tracking EQ, however, is something I believe in. The idea is getting the best signal on the way in, and with a little eq, specific to the instrument being recorded, you can insure that your signal has the right balance on the way in- and you can counteract some of your mic's more unpleasant harmonics- due to its frequency curve.

In all honesty I have been around too many recording and engineering snobs, usually people who don't know what they are doing, and spend too much time reading magazines about recording to actually let their creative mind explore beyond the preset path laid out by the opinions of others. Records sounded great in the 60s, and they do now, and if you were to have had a conversation with Geoff Emerick in the 60's, he would tell you a world different than Rick Rubin.

What I chose to do, and what I have done on every record since, is to do what I think sounds right. Let me ear guide my hands, and not think about what is right or wrong. You can lose your mind trying to be perfect, and more often than not, you will lose your inspiration in an obsession for sonic perfection.

Sam is right, there are thousands better than I am. Act 2 was recorded with incredibly sub par equipment, and I am proud of what I did with what I had. When you have 32 tracks to work with, and you haven't a mic worth more than $200, you're fighting an uphill battle.

The most important thing I can say is eq. You have to treat every instrument with respect, and understand that you can not rely on guitars to make your sound big. even if you are a punk trio and you are trying to make the music guitar driven. When you are working with all of your instruments in a mix, you have to eq complimentary frequencies, and find the right way to fit each instrument in. Don't let the bass step on the low end of the drums, and also, dont let the bass step on the attack and crunch of the guitar (if you are overdriving your bass). Don't let your guitar step on the sizzle and trash of your cymbals, and dont let it step on the body of the snare either. Once you find the middle ground for your instruments, you will find everything opens up, and sounds influence other sounds. Trying to fill things up too much will always backfire unless you eq the right way.

As far as during the recording, there was no studio room, no iso box, no acoustic foam... there was literally a basement and a bedroom. Trying to make the record work in that condition was tough, and that is why I am proud and confident in the sound. Actually working in a good studio now, I can say the the ease of creation is exponentially better than before, but I hope that the progress in quality of sound that will undoubtedly be heard on act III will be a result of my own progress, and not the result of the upgrade in equipment and location.

Now I know that I have talked a lot, and please excuse any bitterness or temper, it is 4 am, and i haven't slept in quite some time. The center of what I am saying is- get the cleanest signal in, and don't commit to anything until you are mixing unless it is meant as an effect. If you want to fatten up your tone on the way in, I would say eq- don't compress. while compression really does sound great, it is limiting your signal, and you will not have access to the entire picture when it comes time to mix.

for vocals, just make sure that you are at a good distance from the mic, and make sure that you are adjusting your preamp for each change in dynamic. Divide your vocals by their dynamic. You wouldn't use the same input level for full voiced singing as you would for falsetto- and on that note, you wouldn't sing at the same distance from the mic. The reason I like double compressing the vocals is because it can fatten the tone, but also have a slight de-esser effect, without getting the lisp effect of the de-esser. You have to find the right middle ground here as well, and it is very easy to over compress.

With guitars, I will always love the 57. A 57 was handed down by the gods for snare and and electric guitar. Also, high gain doesn't make your guitars bigger, in fact it shrinks them. A distortion is basically and smashing limiter that just cuts your signal. This is why if you look at a distorted wave it is squared off. Try to use distortion to give your guitars a grit and balls instead of turning them into power tools.

in the end- it is entirely about what you are trying to convey, and trial and error. I learned the little that I know from trying out every idea that pops up.

now i sleep.

#7 CrystalMeff

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 07:45 AM

night night

#8 sam sanford

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 12:00 PM

View Postcasey crescenzo, on Oct 17 2008, 02:03 AM, said:

View Postsam sanford, on Oct 17 2008, 02:08 AM, said:

View Postjabadeer, on Oct 16 2008, 08:52 PM, said:

its hard to figure out how to make crappy equipment sound good... that's real talent to me.

good on good equipment>good on bad equipment.

at the end of the day though all that matters is if it sounds good. and although i like the sound casey got i have definitely heard better.


While it is true that you can hear a plethora of better sounding records than ACT II, I don't think thats the point of the thread.

some of the best sounding records were done on sub par equipment, and some of the best tones captured have been done with an sm57. The only thing that matters is the engineer, and what he is trying to convey.

If I was trying to convey a polished, crystal clear, commercial sound, I would have. The point of what I was doing was about the composition, and about the character. My favorite records have more character and creativity than they do run of the mill sound. Using tools like the distressor, which we used very much on the 1st TREOS record, comes in handy when you try to slam signal, but the best idea is to run what you are doing in direct and getting the cleanest signal first with a good DI... then during mixing deciding how you want to compress your instruments. Compressing on the way in may sound good at first, but committing your tracks to compression before you have even added guitars (which I expect with a standard Drums, Bass, Guitar sequence of recording) is working backwards. Compression is a tool of mixing, and unless you are meaning to create an effect on a track, compression is good to leave off, or at least this is what I have come to believe.


i am talking slight compression. not smacking. you can come back and compress it but i like the coloration you can get out of the distressor with a low ratio and you can also boost the output gain and just make your signal hotter. and compressing going in isnt a terrible idea at all depending on what you are doing. especially with vocals you can just put on a limiter to make sure you dont clip.


Quote

Pre tracking EQ, however, is something I believe in. The idea is getting the best signal on the way in, and with a little eq, specific to the instrument being recorded, you can insure that your signal has the right balance on the way in- and you can counteract some of your mic's more unpleasant harmonics- due to its frequency curve.

what outboard eq do you have?


im pretty careful about EQing in because you can get alot of comb filtering and then when you go to mix you are compressing the comb filtering which is just bad signal flow. but i understand doing it if you are just picking out a target frequency and just boosting it a bit.
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#9 casey crescenzo

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 04:54 PM

As far as eqing on the way in, im not sure how that leads to comb filtering. My understanding of comb filtering a very fast delay with 0 feedback which gives the response of a comb looking frequency curve. Eqing on the way in is fairly standard. Like i said, a comb filter is really mostly possible only by using an actual comb filter, or by eqing in such a way that you have equidistant spikes.

At the moment I am using Trident mic pres.

As far as compression, in the end it is up to your ear. I hold tight to the belief that if you want a strong clean signal you will stray away from compression on the way in. Use an avalon u5 or other bass instrument mic pre/di if you want to fatten your tone, OR use an amp. Compression on the way in is tricky, and the point of my statement is that it is better, in my opinion, to stick to clean signal. Compression MAY fatten your tone, and give you a hotter signal, but you are without a doubt limiting the range of your instrument and signal. This is simply what a compressor does. My opinion has never been to stray from compression, but committing to it before you are mixing is, as I said, working backwards. I agree with you that you will hear a fatter tone, but you will also hear the added noise of the gear you are running it through, and if you are running the slightest bit of compression with your signal, its not worth the raised noise floor, in my opinion.

AGAIN- everything is up to the creator, and the notion that anything is set in stone or is right or wrong is laughable. The most important thing is fulfilling your desired tone and sound. If this comes to you with compression on the way in, then do it up.


PS. The Crate Vintage Club 50 that Axlethesot was talking about in the gear thread is amazing. We are using it right now and it has been the center of some of the best tones we are using.

#10 Scott

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 07:06 PM

View Postcasey crescenzo, on Oct 17 2008, 04:54 PM, said:

PS. The Crate Vintage Club 50 that Axlethesot was talking about in the gear thread is amazing. We are using it right now and it has been the center of some of the best tones we are using.
i never knew casey went out of the dear hunter section

#11 OurSerratedDust

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 07:23 PM

View Postcasey crescenzo, on Oct 17 2008, 04:54 PM, said:

The Crate Vintage Club 50 that Axlethesot was talking about in the gear thread is amazing. We are using it right now and it has been the center of some of the best tones we are using.

Even better than the Orange Rockerverb? Do you even record with that?

#12 Grizzly Bear Arcade

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 11:54 PM

I realize the name of the thread is "ACT II Recording Techniques....", but I'm wondering if the methods/gear Casey is referring to is the same as used on Act I and perhaps even the Dear Ms Leading Demos. Maybe someone, anyone, would know this.

These are things I've been wondering for quite some time. Glad someone finally started a thread on it. And thank you Casey, as always, for taking the time.
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#13 casey crescenzo

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 12:21 PM

View PostOurSerratedDust, on Oct 17 2008, 08:23 PM, said:

View Postcasey crescenzo, on Oct 17 2008, 04:54 PM, said:

The Crate Vintage Club 50 that Axlethesot was talking about in the gear thread is amazing. We are using it right now and it has been the center of some of the best tones we are using.

Even better than the Orange Rockerverb? Do you even record with that?

I actually like the clean channel on that amp cranked... the dirty channel is nice and heavy, but for recording purposes I tend to use the AD30 more for dirty, and rely on the rockerverb for more of the soaring lead sounds.


View PostGrizzly Bear Arcade, on Oct 18 2008, 12:54 AM, said:

I realize the name of the thread is "ACT II Recording Techniques....", but I'm wondering if the methods/gear Casey is referring to is the same as used on Act I and perhaps even the Dear Ms Leading Demos. Maybe someone, anyone, would know this.

These are things I've been wondering for quite some time. Glad someone finally started a thread on it. And thank you Casey, as always, for taking the time.

The recording techniques on the demos were "press record". As far as the ep i had even more limited resources than on act II. At that point the software and hardware I was using was extremely low budget and I was also under a pretty tight deadline, or at least a tight deadline to me.

#14 Obvious

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 04:16 PM

this thread makes me so happy...

I, too am a budding recording engineer, i currently have a room that i want to build into a studio.
and your 32 track LE setup is most likely what i'm looking at setting up, and i was wonder what computer you had, and how it handled what you threw at it?


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#15 sam sanford

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 07:14 PM

have you dudes tried out i5's? shit's legit.

doesnt the production toolkit make it so you can have more than 32 tracks?
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#16 casey crescenzo

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 08:05 PM

View PostObvious, on Oct 18 2008, 05:16 PM, said:

this thread makes me so happy...

I, too am a budding recording engineer, i currently have a room that i want to build into a studio.
and your 32 track LE setup is most likely what i'm looking at setting up, and i was wonder what computer you had, and how it handled what you threw at it?


co-sign on 57's


View Postsam sanford, on Oct 18 2008, 08:14 PM, said:

have you dudes tried out i5's? shit's legit.

doesn't the production toolkit make it so you can have more than 32 tracks?


At that point i had a Mini mac and protools M powered. As far as the production toolkit, yes it gets you to 48 tracks. If you use a PC I am sure you could find a crack of the program, but for Mac, Im fairly certain that there is no crack available if you have Intel. It is in the 3-500 range which at that point was more than I had to spend on equipment.

Protools 8 will have 64 tracks standard from what I remember (with LE, or M Powered) and the toolkit purchase will kick it up to 128.

#17 sam sanford

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 08:18 PM

im gonna be operator certified in a month and i get that shit half off.

bunch of my friends flew out to san fran for AES and said that pro tools 8 was bugging out during the showing like crazy.
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Posted 19 October 2008 - 03:08 AM

casey vs. samford: whose producing dick is longer?

#19 Obvious

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 08:06 AM

Casey chooses Act II

Sam fumbles through his heshen shoulder bag and realises he left all his pokeballs at school.

btw how many of the stringed instruments were real? and what were sampled?
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#20 casey crescenzo

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 10:04 AM

View PostObvious, on Oct 19 2008, 08:06 AM, said:

Casey chooses Act II

Sam fumbles through his heshen shoulder bag and realises he left all his pokeballs at school.

btw how many of the stringed instruments were real? and what were sampled?

All of the strings were real on act II.




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