full life

On Vox: To Retreat

Oh hell yes.

The RPM Challenge may be out of reach now, but I've conquered my computer's technical difficulties and now I've got something to show for it.

All I really wanted to do tonight was to make sure I remembered how to bus everything.  My computer doesn't have nearly enough RAM to run ProTools and all my plug-ins without crashing, but my friend Mike [ALERT:  technical blabbing ahead] showed me how you can bus out midi tracks into audio tracks, which is apparently ProTools 101.  Anyway - now I can run Velvet and BFD and still have room left for some other stuff. 

So, then:  this new song is really, absolutely brand-spanking new; I didn't even know I was writing it at the time.  I was originally just listening to American Analog Set, trying to find a mellow sort of groove where I could play a Rhodes, and instead I picked up my acoustic and started strumming something out.  The thing I'm most excited about is that the bridge here is totally made up on the spot; I was rolling tape and didn't really have a structure planned out, and then it just happened, and it stuck.

Also:  this is NOT EVEN CLOSE to a final mix.  There's clammy notes all over the place, there's peaking and some weird cymbals near the end, I forgot to trim the opening measure AND the fadeout, and the vocals in the 2nd verse sound a bit too much like Lisa Loeb.  I'm just so freaking excited that I was able to record tonight without my computer crashing and I just want to put this out there ASAP, even though it's so far away from being done.

I don't know where the lyrics came from; they were lying around in a notebook.

To retreat
Jeremy Voss

Originally posted on jervo.vox.com

Thanks! It's got a ways to go, but I'm happy just to have made SOMETHING and to have been able to record it without tearing my hair out.
I really like this. It's great to hear you sing finally. I'm not sure why I've never heard a song that you sing on until now.

Also, with regard to plugins... a couple of tips that might help you out in regard to getting more out of them. If you are already doing them, just ignore me. :) I just find a lot of people who don't do the following:

1) Sub-grouping with corrective processing - A lot of times, for instance with a drum kit or several backing vocals, it maybe be unnecessary to eq and compress each track individually. If you create a new stereo aux track and assign a free input bus pair to it, you can then set the output bus for all the tracks you want to sub-group to that aux fader. Then, just put your a single stereo compressor and eq (or mono if there's no stereo info) on the aux track. This often makes things like drums and backing vocals appear more natural anyway because the combined tracks are all being treated the same by the processing, helping to focus the sound.

2) Using aux sends for effects (reverb, chorus, flange, etc.) - I see a lot of people putting reverb effects per track. This is usually impractical and often the culprit for bogged down cpu and memory. Reverb, in general, is a way of marrying isolated tracks together so they sound like they are in the same room. So, your better off usually just having a single instance of it. Create a new aux track (mono or stereo depending on your taste) and put a reverb (or any other effect that might be applied to several tracks) on the aux track set to 100%. Set the aux track input to a free bus. On the tracks you want that effect on, use an aux send set to that bus and adjust the level of send to the effect. You can also send pre or post fader, set automation, and pan to the effect this way.

3) Universal Audio - If your computer system has a free PCI slot, you should consider a UAD-1 card (or many) at some point. If you don't have a tower with PCIs, you can alternatively get the UAD-Xpander. They have their own processor and memory on the card dedicated for the uaudio plugins. And the plugins themselves are the best on the market. Incredible sounding things. Their base packages aren't terribly expensive either, and they almost always run a discount or send coupons for buying additional plugins to registered users. I can't say enough good things about them.

Anyway, hope this helps.
Oh, yeah, and a 4th one related to the tip you learned...

Since you can bus a midi instruments input to an audio track, you realize you can record that instrument to the track right? Everyone, regardless of how beefy your CPU and RAM is, has an issue at some point with virtual instruments bogging things down. I can barely run three stereo instances (and even then, it's a slow pain). I'll usually have three running at any one time while I write the parts and print them each to an audio track when done. I'll often have dozens of midi tracks being routed to one of the instances and just mute the ones I'm not recording down at the time. So, ultimately, you have unlimited virtual instruments. Plus, then you can edit and process those recorded versions as desired.
So, wait - I can print to audio as I'm recording? See, I'm a little way of that because as long as I'm working in MIDI, I'd like to be able to go in and edit clams and stuff before I print. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?
I'm not talking about during bounce. I'm mean you can literally engage the record button on the audio track that which you are sending an instrument to, hit record, and use it from there on out just like you had record the real instrument with a mic. If you have several midi channels going to the same instrument on different channels and you want to keep them isolated, just print a new track for each one. And, as for editing, just keep the original midi track so you can always go back, edit the midi, and re-print. So, ultimately, you should end up with a final session that has no RTAS instruments running (just a bunch of unused midi tracks, which you can hide or even turn off so they don't take up track real estate). So then, you are considerably freed up on CPU to use plugins in the mixdown.
OH, ok, I get it. I think? I don't have many sources of virtual instruments, is the thing; I have Velvet (for Rhodes/Wurlitzer), BFD (for drums) and Xpand! (the cheapo default ProTools synth). I'm still not sure I understand what you're saying, but it's probably because I'm so incredibly naive when it comes to proper recording techniques.

If what you're saying is to keep an audio track open so that I can have multiple midi takes on hand (as audio, not midi), that's definitely something I ought to be doing - right now I basically just keep throwing stuff out until I get it right, and then I move on.

This would be easier for me to understand if I had it in front of me.
I've been planning to do a video tutorial series on ProTools for a while now. It would have been really helpful in this instance!

You can find my number at http://jimmyether.com/contact/. Feel free to call when you are at the computer and I'll try to explain it better.
Re: 1 - That's definitely the right way to do it, especially with a drum plug-in as intensive as BFD. I've been cheating, though - rather than setting up individual tracks for each drum, like you're supposed to, I've been simply using the "Stereo" option and sending all the drums into one stereo instrument track. I don't know if that's why I've been having CPU troubles, but in any event, doing what I did last night definitely helped (i.e., bussing the instrument track into an audio track).

Re: 2 - This is also something I've been meaning to learn how to do, and I did it last night and it worked pretty well (although I still need to do a real, proper mix). Compression and EQ probably needs to be on an individual track-by-track basis, though, right? My vocals need lots of it; my keyboards need very little.

Re: 3 - I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'll look into it.

Thanks for all the feedback and advice! This is all much-needed info and direction.
Re: 1 - I'm not sure, but it seems the way you are doing it is probably the least processor intensive. But, as I addressed in the second reply, if you actually record that into the session when you are happy with the sound, it'll open up a whole new world for you.

Re: 2 - Yeah, I consider eq and compression as corrective measures, and I can't think of an instance where I would ever using an aux send to send signal to an EQ or compressor (well, I can think of *one*, but that's a bit more of an advanced mix trick).

Re: 3 - It's a plug-in suite based on it's own card-based hardware. They are the same guys who develop all the new hardware versions of their dad's old Urei 1176s, LA-2As, 610s, etc. They have created digital clones which are insanely close to the real vintage Urei gear as well as Neve, Pultec, Fairchild, Roland, etc. They actually develop algorithms to emulate the behavior of every stage of the electronic circuits verses the other plugin developers who mostly just try to emulate the final sound (and never get it quite right).

Re: 3 - have you used the Massey plug-ins? I got my hands on his EQs and compressors... OMFG.
I've messed with the TapeHead one, which is okay for that kind of thing. I tried the L2007 limiter and thought it was better than the Waves L2 (which isn't saying much, I hate that thing) but the Massey was no where near the quality of the UAD Precision Limiter. I should give the vt3 a try just for its economy of processing though. I'll also eventually grab the td5 probably... there's always room for another analog delay (though, the UAD version of the Roland SpaceEcho one is about the sickest delay plugin ever made... even better than the original hardware units!).