The grind

I suppose the worst part about playing music is all the time you spend on music where you’re not actually playing music at all.  It takes a few minutes to record a couple of tracks, but it seems like for every minute you spend playing, you spend 2 on getting set up, 3 on fooling with the recorder, and 100 on mixing.  That’s how it’s seemed for me anyway.  Maybe if I really knew what I was doing, it would be different, but I’m doing a lot of experimenting along the way.

One of those things that gets kicked around as common knowledge that you should listen to your mixes on many different output devices, and don’t just trust the shiny, sparkly, pumping sound coming out of your fancy studio monitors.  I hadn’t done that until just the other day.  I listen to these songs either on my computer at home as I’m mixing, or at work on a really crappy pair of free computer speakers I found in a box.  I decided I was really pleased with the latest round of mixing, so I made a CD of everything I have so far and put it in the car.  The low end was overwhelming.

Since I’m primarily a bass player, you’ve got to realize I like the low end, so the mixes were pretty heavy on my very flat response monitors.  I don’t have a subwoofer on my mixing setup, so I’d overdone it.  The most embarassing thing was it was all in the bass guitar.  OOPS.  So, I went back and made another pass where it sounds good on my monitors, but the lowest low end of the bass is pulled down (everything below about 150hz is pulled down about 10db).  That instantly cleared up the mix, and the vocals jumped out at me.  I had to turn them down.  I may have cut too deeply, but it sounds pretty good in the car now, and I haven’t noticed any huge difference in these Dell specials on my work desk -except that I can actually hear bass articulation now, which is pretty key.

I’m doing something a little weird with the bass.  Well, it seems weird to me.  It may be another of those things that people just know to do.  It’s a trick I learned from Grant.  When we were working on the Actraiser track, I thought that my bass sounded great in the heavy parts of the song, but in a couple of places where it was just bass, I noticed it sounded distorted.  Grant had doubled my bass track and put a distortion effect on the 2nd track and mixed them together.  It was very subtle, and you could only really tell when the bass was by itself, but it really helped it cut through the mix.  I’m doing something similar on these songs, where appropriate.  I’m using the Voxengo Boogex plugin (, and it works great.  I even used it on a background guitar track I wanted to have distorted after the fact.  The best part is, it’s free.

I originally thought that I wouldn’t be posting any songs beyond the way-deep work in progress phase (ie, bass and drum mixes, rough mixes, etc), but people can change their minds.  Here’s an all-but-done mix of one of the songs.  It hasn’t been mastered yet, and I’m going to revisit that reverb on the vocals, but the final version shouldn’t be very different from this at all.

Naked Fight (formerly Concrete Flea)

music: Dan Taylor
lyrics: James Moats

The personnel here:

Kevin: drums
Grant: guitar
James: vocals
Dan: bass

So yeah, the core of this project.

The vocal performance is something else.  There are more vocal tracks than instrumental tracks.  That seems to be true for most of the songs.  And yes, this is the song about being ambushed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses I’d mentioned earlier.

1 thought on “The grind

  1. yeah, I’ve gotten in the car and went “oh man this low end is out of control” at least a dozen times. We should buy each other subs for christmas

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