- Recording Background and Setup
- Current Demo Recordings (2014)
- First Demo Recordings (2014)
- Studio Session (2003)
- Tequila Mockingbird Live (2003-2004)
- Parsec Demo (1997)
I am 40-something (younger in spirit, older in taste) and have been playing guitar since I was 13. I am originally from Brazil, but have been living in the US since 1997 and in Knoxville since 2006.
I am partial to progressive rock, but grew up listening to classic rock in general. Here are some of the bands I enjoy the most: Yes, Kansas, Deep Purple, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, Karmakanic, Peter Gabriel, Eric Johnson, Tears for Fears, Kate Bush, Toto, Rush, Alan Parsons.
And here are a few of the guitarists I enjoy the most: Eric Johnson, Ritchie Blackmore (note that the link is for his new stuff, which I am not very familiar with), Scott Henderson, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Lukather, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck.
Back home I have a 97 (maybe 96) Fender American Standard Stratocaster, my first real strat! I have Kinmann pickups in that one, which are also really great. Since I've bought the Suhr, I left the Fender in Brazil, so I can play it when I'm there.
I've been using a Mesa Boogie DC-3 since I've moved to the US. It is small but quite powerful, with decent clean and distorted tones. (Although I do like it, it is one piece of gear I'd like to replace.) I usually connect it to a Jenkin's 2x12 cabinet.
Back home I have a Marshall JMP-1 preamp, a Marshall 9200 power amp and a Marhsall 1960A 4x12 cabinet, as well as an old Alesis Quadraverb (with a broken LCD, so I cannot tweak it anymore!) and Voodoo Lab Ground Control (version 1). Although I quite like this rig, it was impossible to bring it to the US!
For pedals I usually use a Way Huge Saffron Squeeze (compressor) and a Fulltone Fulldrive FD-2 (overdrive). Sometimes I also use an SIB Varidrive (tube distortion) if I want an alternative to the second channel of the DC-3.
The Start (2014/2015)
In 2015/2016 I decided to start recording some guitars parts on top of backing tracks. Firstly because I missed playing, but also because I could use it as demo when looking for a band. These recordings, which are below, in the section First Recordings, then attempt to show some different styles, as I had no idea what kind of band I would be able to find.
Those were very quickly made, without too much care with the production value. (For instance, you can clearly hear the guitar humming a lot in many places.) They also show how rusty I was (and still am, really), which would be fair, if someone wanted to hire me.
In fact, despite many takes, I left some mistakes, as it would take me a long time to get it all perfect. But most of those recordings were one night's work, and I mostly forced myself to live with the results (despite my OCD kicking in).
In a few cases I fixed/redid a few things the next night, after listening to the results really awake. But I felt it would be more honest of me leaving the mistakes in, since in a live situation there would be plenty of them!
I used the Genesis 3 for effects (all of them, except for the TS-9) and cabinet emulator only. (No amp simulator, as I ran it through the DC-3.) The set up was really noisy, but I've decided to live with it.
Overall the tone was not great, but I thought it was pretty good for quietly recording direct to the computer (no mics) and overall much better than using simply the amp simulation from the Genesis 3.
Most of those songs, except when noted otherwise, were recorded with the Suhr with the DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups.
New Phase (Late 2016 / Early 2017)
Eventually I did find a really nice band, with a great group of guys, but, due to the curse someone must have put on me, things just kept going wrong, and (after countless bizarre events) we lost our rehearsal space. (Two of them, in fact.) So, we had to have an indefinite forced hiatus, which still lasts by the time of writing this (in mid 2017).
I then decided to go back to recordings, now just for fun. Around the same time, a good friend of mine had made a version of the Ghostbusters theme song. (See below.) I liked it and asked if I could rerecord the guitar parts for it, and he was nice enough to allow me. Conveniently enough, he is a Linux guy, like myself, and, since he is a real musician, he had recorded it using Ardour. He then sent me the files and gave me some pointers, and it really changed everything for my recordings! (I had known about Ardour, but I had concerns about being able to run it and learning how to use it. In the end, those were greatly unjustified!) Ardour is a real Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), and so much better than Audacity (which is great for other things).
This first recording (of Ghostbusters) was still done with the Genesis 3 (and the rest of the setup above), but I had put back the Suhr single coils back in my guitar, and the noise was just over the top! (You can hear it in the recording.) In fact, the Genesis 3 turned off when connected to my sound card hummed pretty loudly. So, I got really fed up and decided to get something else. (It's strange, because listening to my older recordings, I did not have that much noise before... But it was an old unit, and I guess things break.)
After dreaming for months I would win the lottery and be able to afford a Line 6 Helix, I decided to face reality and get something I could afford. In the end I bought a Line 6 Pod X3, since it was cheap enough used.
I also thought it would be a good investment to get a real audio interface. After some research I got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which is great and works well in Linux! (After some help from the nice folks at the Linux Musicians Forum!) Moreover, with it I can record directly from my amp's recording output and, maybe someday, mic my amp or record voice or acoustic guitar.
After some experiments with the X3 and the 2i2, I realized I could get a much better sound with my amp going direct to the 2i2 and using impulse responses (IRs) for cabinet/speaker simulations. I've bought some IRs from 3 Sigma Audio and downloaded a few free ones, including a free one from Own Hammer and a free one from Red Wirez. I've been using mostly the latter, which is modeled after a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M-25s for my distorted tones and love it, while I use some of the 3 Sigma ones from clean tones.
Since I was not using the X3, I (reluctantly) decided to sell it, as I thought it would be a better investment to get a direct box and a reamp box. This allows me to save the straight signal from the guitar and, if I ever need or want to, I can use the same performance though a different amp (or same amp with the same settings). I ended up getting Radial's ProDI (direct box) and ProRMP Reamp box. I would have liked to keep the X3 for practicing (and fiddling), but one has to have his/hers priorities straight. (Especially when short on money!)
Since I've started using Ardour my ambitions elevated, and I started to try to mix better try to improve the overall sound with the use of plugins. I am quite new at this and results still leave a lot to be desired, but I am learning and in no big hurry. Hopefully they will be better some day.
I've also been very tempted, now with a better set up, to rerecord many of my old recordings (in the section First Demo Recordings below) which had very poor quality, but this is taking the back seat, as I've been eager to new ones. But it will likely happen, sooner or later.
I've been using Ardour as my DAW (although I had some problems with, I find it really great and it's open source!) in Linux, more precisely, running aptosid (virtually Debian Sid/unstable) with KXStudio repositories. It worries me a bit worried mixing repositories, but so far I had no problems. (I'd rather not dual boot to a dedicated audio distribution...)
My audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I record guitars going through my ProDI. Then, I send the direct signal to the 2i2 and the through goes to my amp amp (the Boogie DC-3). The amp has a recording out that goes to the other input of the 2i2. That way I record the DI and the amp'ed signals simultaneously. With the DI track, I can always go back and reamp it with the ProRMP Reamp box. The amp'ed signal is always processed with some IR for speaker simulation. I've been quite happy with the lead and crunch (distorted) tones I've been getting with this set up, but I still need to work on a better clean tone.
I've also being using plugins for guitar effects. (Except for my TS-9, which I usually use for solos.) Using my G-Major would probably be a bit of a hassle (although I really like how it sounds) and I am happy with the plugins!
I've been using Calf Plugins a lot, which work really well. I also quite like the EQ10Q, X42 and LSP plugins for EQ, compressor, gates, etc. For reverbs, I've been trying an IR simulating the Lexicon PCM90 I've got from here and some from the Open Air Library.
I have also just started working with MIDI. I've been using DrumGizmo for drums and Yoshimi/ZynAddSubFx for synths (which I really love). I've also been using setBfree for Hammond (organ) sounds, LinuxSampler's piano and mellotron, besides some soundfonts for other instruments, like Fluidsynth's R3 Soudfont or some from No Budget Orchestra (Band). I also have been using Samsara's Om Bass 2 (Windows) plugin for bass sounds (using Carla to run it in Ardour).
Here are the actual recordings!
Added on 04/17/2018.
A much needed new version of Opus 10 (that I had here before). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), no guitar on this one....
This is a song I started to write a long time ago, still in Brazil, and finished during my first year in the US (1997-1998), when I met my (then) future wife. It's a very sad piece, though...
Originally it was written for the guitar only, and later I decided to add a solo in the mid section (starting at 1:48). This time I tried to record it, but I could not get clean guitar tone I liked. And, to be 100% honest, the performance was also always lacking. So I decided to make a piano piece.
I still had in mind to have a guitar solo in the mid section, but I again couldn't play one I liked. So, since there is probably too much guitar in my other recordings, I decided it would not be a bad thing to just skip it this time. (It was hard, though!) And I do like the mid section by itself anyway.
I used to play this song (and still do sometimes) just by myself at home. A while back, my wife (then my girlfriend) liked it and asked me for a recording of it. At the time (late 90s) it was not so easy to make recordings. But I had some friends with a studio back in Brazil, so I made a quick recording when visiting home. It was pretty bad... I had not practiced it enough and did not have much time. Thank goodness, I think it is lost. (I'm worried it was even worse than I can remember!)
Then, when I started doing these recordings here, I made a new version. It was absolutely awful and I don't know how I had the courage (or lack of common sense) to post it here. In my defense, I was pretty sleep deprived at the time.
So, I really owed my wife a decent recording, and I think this is pretty decent. (The mix could be better, as always...)
About the Name
See my comments on that on Opus 12. (I still can't remember Opus 11...)
Then and Now
As I've mentioned, it was converted from a guitar piece to a piano piece. I've also decided to add some strings to make it fuller. And also added the fretless bass in the mid section and removed the guitar solo.
The piano parts are really close the original guitar parts, though.
The Recording Process
I thought I had a good mix of this for a little while now. But when I was about to "release" it, I realize it was not that great. So, I did some tweaking, but I want to release it today (04/17), as it's my wife's birthday. (I might have to go back and remix it.)
(EDIT (04/18): My "fix" was worse than the previous version! I've tried to fix the "fix" now.)
All the MIDI programming and mixing (and "mastering", done in the master bus only) was done in Ardour.
I've used again LinuxSampler's Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2. This time I did not mix with the Fluidsynth's R3 Soudfont Yamaha Piano in, though. I've done it often to add brightness, but I wanted a more "real" piano sound. So, I justed EQed the Maestro to get some more top end.
I've tried very, very hard to make the piano as realistic as possible. Every note (literally) has been adjusted to that purpose, adjusting tempo and intensity. Michael Willis, who actually plays the piano, provided some invaluable input here!
Also, the original piece was "free-tempo" and I tried to keep that, so the tempo varies quite a bit to mimic how I would play it.
I programmed the all the piano parts trying to reproduce how I would play (or intended to play) it on the guitar.
The string just provided some padding to the piano and some color.
I've used Fluidsynth's fretless bass for the mid section. No amp simulation or IRs. I really like how it turned out and gives a nice "color" to the section.
As I said, I might need to revisit this (as I am on schedule), but I think it's OK for now. It was much easier, though, are there were so few tracks (4 in total!).
A really big thanks to Michael Willis for his suggestions on how to make the piano sound more human/realistic! It really made a big difference!
And thanks to my wife for the inspiration!
Added on 03/09/2018.
My fifth production! Another of my old songs, and again, I recorded all the guitars and programmed the rest. This one has a very long, self-indulging solo! But, hey, it's my song! (You can write your own "short/no-solo" song if you rather have that!)
This, again, was a song I wrote for Ponto de Fuga over 20 years ago. It was initially a short instrumental introduction to another song. (I think for the "Old New", but I am not sure.) I then decided to make a full instrumental song out of it (still back then).
It might be the only song I've written in a major key (well, the main theme is in a major key).
Unlike the other recent productions "Old New", Capitães da Areia, and Stolen, that were meant to be sung, this one was in fact meant to be an instrumental, so I like how it sounds closer to what I had in mind.
I thought that the main theme was played in triplets, which would make again a weird time signature, but my good friend Ciro Visconti pointed out that the theme is in fact a hemiola, which makes the theme in a "square" 4/4 (well two 4/4's followed by two 5/4's). Living and learning. (The chorus is also 5/4 and the secondary theme is 13/8. So, it's Prog enough.)
This is the last of my old songs I had planned to record. So, the next ones will be either covers or newly written ones. Both options are scary in their own way... (I hope I can still write...)
About the Name
It's hard, most of the times, to come up with a name for an instrumental song! The story of the name is this: back in 1991 or 1992, a group of college friends who lived together invited me for a "talent show" they were having at their place, for the guys who lived there and their friends. It was a small thing and I could not take the band, so I decided to enter with a "guitar only" song. It was a ballad that was half written half improvised. (It was similar in style to Opus 10 below.)
When the organizer asked for the name I told him it had no name. And I could not make one up on the spot, so he, for some reason, decided to enter it as "Opus 13". I have no idea where he got the idea for the "13" part... And so it was its name and I decided that all my instrumentals (that I could not name) would be called "Opus n", for an appropriate value of n.
Now since it started with "13" rather than "1", I thought that the numbers should decrease instead of increase. So, this was the first instrumental I wrote after that one. Although it might seem to limit myself to only thirteen instrumentals for my lifetime, it doesn't, as I am not scared of negative numbers. (Although, if things keep going as they are, thirteen would be plenty!)
And that's why Opus 10 is called that. (I really need to rerecord that one!) But it raises an interesting question: where is Opus 11? Honestly, I don't know. Either I forgot one of my own songs, or I miscounted when I named Opus 10.
Then and Now
I must say I don't remember much from the original, as we didn't play it much. I am pretty sure we never played it live, but could be wrong. Anyway, the main theme and "chorus" (the slower part at 1:30) I remembered well. The chords behind it might have changed, though.
The whole new instrumental section (starting at 1:54), including the secondary theme (in 13/8) and solo, was written as I was programming it. I started without knowing what I would do there. (I really don't remember what we used to play at that point back then...)
I did remember the ending of the original, but it did not fit well with the new version, so I had to change it.
The Recording Process
Mixing this one was hard! So very hard! I restarted from scratch twice with this one! I am not sure exactly what it was, but I would like how things were going, but when I got "done", it sounded really bad. Sounded like it was coming out of an old small mono transistor radio. But my attempts to EQ it, did not work very well. Also, the guitars sounded pretty harsh... But I am happy enough with this version. It sounds good through my headphones (my mixing ones (the KRK's KNS 6400) and the bluetooth ones I use with my phone). In my stereo and car it doesn't sound so great, but good enough, I guess. (Most likely I will be the only one listening to it anyway, and I usually listen through those headphones.)
This time, though, I did tracking in a different session of Ardour. I did an initial mix of the MIDI tracks and exported to a stereo audio track. I then imported this track to a new Ardour session which I use to do all the guitar recording and editing. (One of the advantages is that you have less going on, so less stress on the system, which can help when tracking.) I then exported the guitar stems and imported back to the first Ardour session (with all the instruments) to start mixing.
I also, for the first time, started a new Ardour session for the mastering. This has always been recommended, and I liked it OK, although I am not sure it is that essential... Before I just did the "mastering" in the master bus of the mixing session. The problem with the new session was that a few times I had to go back to the mixing Ardour session to fix issues. But it certainly also has its advantages.
I also switched from my usual desktop environment (KDE) to Fluxbox (for tracking only), since it is really light, and does not have many processes running on the background, which makes it less likely of having xruns (basically glitches) when recording.
I liked this process, as making the tracking session cleaner and the mixing session less cluttered.
I also used LSP's Multi-Sampler to trigger the bass drum and snare samples. My main EQ was EQ10Q, and I also used their compressor (CS10Q) at times. I quite like the EQ, and it might become my main EQ from now on. (Although I also want to give X42's EQ a better try.)
This time I've used u-he's Tyrell N6 for some of the synths. It's really nice and free (but not open source). I've used slightly modified presets. The synths in the intro and leads were done with it. I quite like it.
I've used again the always great ZynAddSubFX for strings. I tried a few of the free u-he's synths for that, to try it out, but liked the results with Zyn better.
The piano part during the solo was actually supposed to be guitar, but I liked how the piano sounded (I usually program guitar parts with piano sounds before recording, as the guitar sounds are always horrible) and it was going to be very boring repeating the pattern over and over. It's better to let the computer do it.
As the guitar tone was a bit harsh in my last recording, I decided to try something different, so I tweaked the settings on the amp. But unfortunately, I still did not get a very good sound. I actually ended up reamping the DI tracks twice to see if I could get a better sound. In the end, I went back to the settings of the "Old New" recording. I really liked the tone on that recording, but even with the exact same settings, guitar, IR and EQs, I could not get it to sound the same. (Tube amps can be so temperamental...) It still sounded harsh, but I think I could tame it a little with some EQing, and like it OK.
I've bought a few new impulse responses (IRs) to try, from OwnHammer, Celestion, and some new from Red Wirez. I ended up using OwnHammer's 412 MAR-CB for the main distorted tones. It is also a Marshall 1960B 4x12 cabinet, very similar to the free on from Red Wirez (a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M-25s) I was using before (and also quite like). But I wanted to try something new. (The Celestion ones also sounded good.) I used a new Red Wirez IR of Fender Twin 2x12 cabinet with JBL D120Fs for clean tones, though.
I, as always, used my Surh with the Suhr V60's single coils. I still had some problems with noise, but I was pretty successful "manually noise-gating" the tracks. (I manually cut off the parts where I was not playing and there was only noise.) Since the delay and reverb were not recorded (they came from plugins), this technique worked really well. I also tried the Noise Repellent plugin, and was quite impressed! Unfortunately, there was just too much noise in the guitar tracks, and they changed as I moved the guitar, so it did not work so well, but still it is very nice.
Anyway, although I am really afraid of messing up my tone, I will try to go back to the noiseless DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups. I am getting tired of dealing with the noise. (My amp might also need a tune up...)
The long solo in the middle was recorded with a different approach. I improvised over the backing track a few times to get some ideas (as usual), and I liked one of the takes. It was not really usable, as there were mistakes and all. So, I just rerecorded that solo part by part, changing only little bits here and there (besides fixing the mistakes). I do like to result, but I regret not having recorded a second version like in the previous ones (part by part, with no "script" to follow), as I got good results that way. I think that I might have gotten a better solo that way. But I thought of that too late and was too lazy to go back and redo it all. (And I do like the current one OK.)
As I said, this one was a bit of a nightmare. But I was more organized in the mixing, as I've got more experience now, and had a more fluid work flow. I like having a cleaner mixing session too. But, again, I think I still have a lot to learn. (One day I might have to come back and remix all these songs... If I ever get better at it.)
Again, my thanks to the Ponto de Fuga gang! And Ciro Visconti for some comments on the mix!
Added on 10/17/2017.
New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.
Here is my fourth production, done in collaboration with Michael Willis.
This song was written by Michael Willis. The keyboard parts were also arranged and played or programmed by Michael.
I've arranged and programmed the bass and drums and recorded the guitars. I did very minor keyboard editing, added the organ, and chose the sounds for the piano and synths.
It was also mixed by me, with helpful input from Michael.
This was a song that Michael posted on the Linux Musician's Forum as open for collaboration. After listening I thought it was right up my alley: some progressive rock influence and weird time signatures. The recording posted had only keyboards and other orchestra instruments (string section, glockenspiel, xylophone, etc.), but I could see a band arrangement for it. So, with Michael's permission, I started working on it.
I quite like the song! The glockenspiel intro is very interesting, rhythmically and harmonically. I thought of this part as a D Phrygian melody with a quick excursion to A Aeolian (or D Dorian), but Michael told me that, although he came up with it by ear, it turns out it is the Acoustic Scale (or the 4th mode of melodic minor scale, also called the Lydian dominant scale). (I should have realized that...)
There are several key changes, to keep it interesting, and a very nice synth solo at the end, playing through interesting changes.
This was a very easy collaboration. Michael and I agreed with all the decisions involved, with the lone exception of what instrument should do the second voice on about 0:12. Michael preferred also a glockenspiel for the second voice, while I preferred a piano together with a xylophone. The version linked above was my version (with the piano), while here is Michael's version (with the glockenspiel). You can judge for yourself.
This is also the first of my original recordings that was actually meant to be instrumental, unlike the previous ones, which were meant to be sung, but I just recorded the melodies on the guitar.
The Recording Process
Michael posted his Ardour session on the forum, and I decided to just downloaded it and worked entirely on Ardour. (I could have imported the MIDI to Muse, but I didn't think it was worth the trouble. Although I do like it better for MIDI programming, I can work fine with it in Ardour.)
I had to do a little bit of clean up, as somethings were not working, but it was not too hard. Harder was to enter all the time signature changes, as very little of the song is 4/4, but Michael managed to fit it all in a 4/4 session. I can certainly see why, as the signatures change at almost every bar, and it is a pain to do it manually! I had to do it because I could not program the instruments with the bars falling out of place. (And because I am borderline OCD.) So, this time I've done all the MIDI programming directly in Ardour.
Side note: On reading the above, here is what Michael had to say:
I never really considered this to be a tricky time signature switching piece! I always thought of it as straight 4/4, but with lots of syncopation on the piano and synths (which is my keyboard playing style). I guess all of that syncopation can be interpreted as switching back and forth between 7/8 and 9/8 time signatures, and maybe 6/8 + 6/8 + 4/8 during the synth parts at 0:50 and 3:24, but I didn't even think of it like that!
However you count it, I like how it sounds!
When I had finished recording and was about to start mixing, I saw that Harrison's Mixbus 4 was on sale for a really good price. Since it is based on Ardour, and comes with some (supposedly) nice EQ and compressor, I decided to buy and mix the song with it.
After importing the stems to Mixbus and organizing everything, including setting the mixbuses, I tried adding a reverb bus and ran into problems. The dedicated mixbuses have some rigid routing, which made it impossible (or so it seemed) to add a reverb bus the way I planned. Although, I am sure I could work around it, I found it annoying enough to just drop it and go back to Ardour. (It also makes me feel better working with free and open source software.) In retrospect, I wish I had saved the money to buy Overtone DSP's Workstation Plug-ins Collection, which I hear is really good. (But, unfortunately, also not open source.)
Anyway, I stuck with Ardour and the same plugins, mostly from Calf, which are great!
As usual, I think the mix could be better, but this was the best I could and I don't think it is too bad. (I really need to go back to reading Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. I just can't seem to find the time...)
I used again Drumgizmo CrocellKil for the drums. I had liked the MuldjordKit better, but I really wanted "stopped (or choked) crashes" for the intro and the MuldjordKit did not have those. I again used my no-bleed version to help with the mixing.
I struggled less with it this time, as I had some experience with it, and I do like the results.
I've used some Invada's tube distortion on the high end, as well as some tape saturation (on both parts).
I've been really wanting to buy a bass to be able to record... But it would probably take me much longer to play it then to program it. (And I would also need to practice quite a bit to do a decent job.)
All keyboard parts, except for the organ, which is pretty far in the background, were sent to me by Michael. It was all in MIDI, so I chose most of the sounds myself. Michael had mentioned he used the Virtual Playing Orchestra for the glockenspiel, xylophone and strings, so I also used them. The original version was more "orchestral", with acoustic strings (violins, violas, cellos and basses). Although I initially kept those, I thought that synthesized strings sounded better in this "band context", so I replaced them. (They play the same parts, but sound like synthesized strings, rather than acoustic strings.)
Yet again, most of the synth and keyboard sounds are from ZynAddSubFx: the synthesized strings and Moog-esque synth were both done with it.
For piano I a mix of Fluidsynth's R3 Soudfont and LinuxSampler's Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2. Although the latter was nice, I thought it was a bit too dark, so mixing Fluidsynth's bright piano helped.
The organ is also from Fluidsynth's R3 Soudfont. I was planning to use again setBfree, but was having a hard time with it this time, while the soundfont sounded very good and was going to be most in the background anyway, so I stuck with it.
It was nice to have keyboards played/programmed by real keyboard player for a change!
I tried to stick with the same setup and settings of my previous original recordings. But I had a harder time... First I was getting quite a bit of noise, but I think I could make it work. (I will probably put my noiseless pickups back in my Suhr for the next recording, though. It might not sound as good, but we will see if the diminished noise makes it worth it.)
More oddly, although I tried to keep the same settings in the amp and used at first exactly the same EQ on the guitars, they did not sound the same. They were too harsh... Maybe some knob got twisted a bit (even though I tried checking they were the same) or maybe it was just a tube amp being temperamental. In any event, I seriously considered reamping it (since I now have the gear to do it!), but was lazy and tried to fix it with a different EQ. I think it worked, as I like the guitars now, but some more testing is needed before my next recording.
Again, I doubled the rhythm guitars and panned them. This time, though, by Michael's request, I did not panned them hard left/right, but set a width of about 80% and pulled them to the right. You still get some stereo effect, but the guitars are a bit more to the right (while the piano is more to the left).
The lead guitar is a bit to the left, while its delay is a bit to the right.
The solos were recorded as in the previous three recordings: first a few improvisations, then develop the ideas and record in parts. The little harmony at the end of the synth solo (at about 4:45) came from an improvisation. I cannot shake the feeling I might be ripping someone off with it, but I can't figure out from where.
The solos were my idea. (I.e., the idea of having guitar solos at all and where to put them.) Michael suggested maybe replace the synth solo at the end with a guitar solo, but I really like the synth solo (it fits just perfectly and became a part of the song to me) and don't think I could do better anyway. So I just added some fills there and added the solos in the repetition of the piano parts. I can't help but feel a bit narcissistic there, as probably the song didn't need any guitar solos at all. (Why do guitarists always want to show off? It might be an insecurity thing.)
Another side note: Michael said that he actually meant to have guitar parts there! (Great minds think alike!) So, it makes me feel less bad it...
I've also considered being more creative with the rhythm guitars. As they are now, they are pretty much locked with the keyboards. Perhaps it would have been nice to introduce some rhythmic variety (although the piano does that in some parts), but playing together does make it sound "tighter".
As I said, the mix could be better. I wish I had more time to practice with some songs in which I am not as invested. But I barely have time to do these. But hopefully it will keep improving.
Of course, I'd like to thank Michael Willis for sharing and letting me work on his song! I'd also like to thank the Linux Musician's Forum for providing a place to share our music and collaborate.
Added on 08/14/2017.
New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.
Here is my third full production. As before, I've recorded the guitar parts and programmed the rest (bass, keyboards and drums). This took longer time as I went on vacation in the middle of it.
One more song written over 20 years ago. This is probably my favorite of all the songs I've written so far and the one I was most eager to record. It's also likely the most "progressive" of my songs, with a long instrumental part in the middle (from around 3:33 to around 6:52) and runs at eight and half minutes. (It might seem odd to talk about an "instrumental part" here, as this version is entirely instrumental, since, as with the previous two songs, I had to record the vocal parts on the guitar, but you know I mean...) In fact, I might try to make a new version with real vocals in the (more or less) near future.
The original lyrics (also written by myself) were in English and talked about how life, with day to day struggles and disappointments, sometimes takes (or steals, hence the title) parts of ourselves from our hearts/souls, like our compassion, trust, and faith in each other, and how there is always a chance to recover them. (In truth, I don't remember the whole lyrics, but would not have any qualms in rewriting what I forgot, as I remember clearly what it was about. I hope to do it someday for the sung version.) Now that I think of it, it was the first lyrics I've written, if I remember well.
This one also never had a real recording properly done. We did make a live recording of it once in a studio, very quickly (I think with two room microphones only -- no mixing or anything), so we could enter it as a contestant for a Brazilian music festival. (It goes without saying it was not accepted. I'd like to think it was mostly because it really doesn't fit very well with the general idea of "Brazilian music", and not because it was not good enough.) Oddly enough, it was when we were in between vocalists, so it was also recorded instrumental with the guitar playing the vocal parts. But, as far as I know, no one has this recording anymore. So, yet again, I am happy to have one now!
I remember when I first wrote it, it had a different chorus. I remember showing the chorus to Pietro (the bass player of my band then, Ponto de Fuga) and seeing that he did not like it (and rightfully so!). I then said that I had written a different one as an alternative (which I had not!) and came up with the chorus recorded here (and which we played then) right there on the spot! He said "definitely the second one!", and that was that.
The song was written in parts and pieces were added or changed as we practiced it. We did rehearse this song quite a few times, I believe, but I am not sure if it ever made to a live performance. I really wish we had recorded it in our official demo (as Parsec) back then, instead of When You Go Away, but it would have been much more difficult and time consuming (and thus, more expensive).
The sung parts were originally in E minor, matching most of the rest of the song, as it would fit better in the range of our singer at the time. When he left the band, we had very high expectations for our new singer, and I transposed them to A minor. I decided to keep it in A minor for this recording as the guitar sounds better in that key. If I really make a sung version of this, I might have to switch back (or to some key in between), as it is a bit high to sing it in A.
Then and Now
There are some parts I did not quite remember, so they might be changed. I think the main intro riff (starting at 0:30) is slightly different (I know it is different from the original, but I am not sure I changed back then already). Also, the chord progression of the guitar part at around 0:50 is probably different as I didn't remember it. I am pretty sure that the rhythm section in the solo is the same, but can't quite recall. (If not, it was very similar.) Finally, the short synth lead theme at around 4:49 is new. I actually meant to record it on the guitar, and actually did a few takes. But I got a blister on my little finger when recording it (more on that below) and my 9 year old son was complaining that there was too much guitar in the song (which I guess is fair, since the guitar plays the vocal parts), so I decided to make it into a synth part.
The rest should be about the same, although I also did not remember much about the bass lines and drum patterns that Pietro and Gláucio played, so I had to make up my own parts. I think the keyboard parts are probably much closer, but can't say for sure. (Again, it was over 20 years ago!)
The Recording Process
I've used Muse (version 3, self compiled) again to do all the MIDI programming/sequencing, except for small fixes, which were done in Ardour, since that is what I've used to record guitars, print the other instruments and mix.
This time I stuck mostly with Calf plugins, replacing EQ10Q's EQs and compressors and X42's EQ with Calf's. Not that there were any problems with them, I just wanted to try the Calf versions this time.
The recording on this one was somewhat rushed. We were leaving for vacation (to Brazil!) and I wanted to finish recording all the guitar parts before leaving, as it would be a whole month before returning. I hurried and it was almost done in time, but a couple of days before we left I got a blister on my little finger (but no blister on my thumb!). I wanted to redo a couple parts of the solo (the fast lick in the end of it is a bit sloppy...) and some of the clean parts, as well as record another new part that I then replaced with a synth (but that part, in the end, I think was better with a synth anyway). It was quite frustrating, but I think the problems in the solo are mostly passable, and I preferred not to try to fix it now (that I'm back) as the tracks are loaded with plugins (from the mix), which would make the latency too high for recording. (And I'm lazy...)
Most of the first mix was done while I was in vacation. I took a laptop, with a copy of the project and my headphones. I did only some final touches after coming back. But, after some listening I decided to scratch the whole mix and start over.
I feel like I still have a lot to learn about mixing (and mastering), as I am not all that happy with how my mixes have been turning out. I might have to revisit this one (and the ones before) someday, if I ever get better at it. I've bought Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio and have just started reading it. It's quite interesting (so far) and I hope it will help...
On the other hand, I was having a lot of trouble with bleeding when mixing. I understand that it makes it more realistic, but for a novice like myself, it makes it really hard to mix. So, I edited some XML files and created a "no bleed" version of it and used it instead. Maybe it is my lack of experience (and bad ears), but I can't see why having it bleed would make it sound better or more realistic.
But, despite the options, I am not sure I will stick with it or go back to the MuldjordKit. Listening to the previous recordings, I think I like the sound I got from the MuldjordKit better, but this could be easily attributed to my limitations in as "sound engineer". I think I might have to experiment more. Perhaps make a "Frankenstein" kit, adding the missing cymbals from the CrocellKit to the MuldjordKit. We will see.
I've used again Samsara's Om Bass 2 for the bass. I've tried some samples from Karoryfer, but the one that seemed best suited for the job (the Fashionbass) did not work for me. (All other samples did...) The fretless in the quiet part is again from Fluidsynth's Soundfonts.
Honestly, I am not 100% happy to the bass in a few parts and the samples don't sound that great in higher notes, but I can live with it. (Or, maybe someday I will redo them. Or maybe I should buy a bass and practice a whole lot...) Maybe someday I will convince Pietro to record the bass for it...
Again, most of the synth and keyboard sounds are from ZynAddSubFx. I must admit I just love this synth! Although it is quite complex, I just use some presets and the little I know is enough to tweak it to sounds I really, really like.
Most prominent is some (synthesized) strings through out the whole song, with (synthesized) brass added at parts for some more attack.
At two quiet bits (at about 1:10 and 4:00) there are some sampled strings from Fluidsynth's Soundfonts. I also used their Rhodes (at about 0:55) and Organ (at about 6:52) for small parts, and in both cases I've mixed them with some of Zyn's presets (for Rhodes and Organ). (The organ part was short and much in the background, so I did not even bother to use setBfree this time. Also, Fluidsynth's Organ is not bad at all!)
There is also a very Moog-esque part (at around 4:59) done also with Zyn.
I tried to make the synths more prominent in this song, as I feel it fits it well, and if I remember well, the strings parts are very similar to how Alexandre (keyboard player from Ponto de Fuga/Parsec) used to play.
Again, I was not too happy with the clean sounds. I only found it passable after a lot of processing (EQ, Compressor, Chorus, Delay, Reverb). I really should spend some more time searching for a good clean tone.
On the plus side, these time I recorded the guitars from the amp and it's direct signal, using my Radial ProDI (direct box). So, I can, whenever I want, go back and tweak/reamp it, since I've also got the Radial ProRMP Reamp box. (This allows me to send the direct signal from my computer to my amp, via the ProRMP, and reamp the same peformance.) I might try it someday to get a better clean tone...
As I've mentioned, I had to rush a bit to record this, but I do like the guitar parts. I wish I could do a better take of the end of the solo, but, again, I think it is passable and I am proud of the solo (overall).
At some point, after recording some sections of the solo, I got really stuck. I recorded a lot of takes, and did not like any one of them! After spending a lot of time, I decided to call it quits and try it again the next day. I then went on to record just one more temporary take, to not have an empty part in the current version (which I planned to listen to and see if there was anything I wanted to go back and redo), and it turned out that that "noncommittal" take I liked. The rest of the solo was then rerecorded the next day, but I repeated the same ideas of that take and even kept some parts of it. (I guess I don't work well when I put too much pressure on myself...)
Again, I felt like I need to practice more. Well, I guess what I need is to get better at mixing and programming, as since that is so time consuming that it leaves not too much for practicing the guitar.
Also, I feel obligated to say it again: the solo (with it's problems and all) is not representative of my real playing (as anyone who played with me would attest!). Having an unlimited number of takes and no time constrain (or monetary concerns with studio time!) makes it so much easier. There were many, many takes, and it was recorded in sections. (It was as patched as a king-size Amish quilt!) It would take me a lot of practice to reproduce it live.
As I mentioned above, I was hoping my mixes would improve with each project, but I feel that it hasn't been the case. But I don't entirely dislike it either.
I must repeat the acknowledgments "Old New" and Capitães da Areia, as again, although the song was written by me, many ideas in the arrangement came from Pietro Bergamo, Gláucio Tachinardi and Alexandre Torres. It took many rehearsals for it to take shape and I'm sure there are very significant contributions from all of them.
Added on 05/08/2017.
New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.
Here is my second full production. Again, I've recorded the guitar parts and programmed the rest (bass, keyboards and drums). And, just as before, it was slowly done in the mornings before work. The process was a bit quicker this times, but still took me over a month to get it done.
This is another song from over 20 years ago. It was the first song I wrote for Ponto de Fuga (my band in Brazil). It was the first "more complex" song that I've written. Gláucio (the drummer) had to suffer through quite weird time signatures and changes.
The title "Capitães da Areia" (Captains of the Sand) is a reference to a book by Brazilian author Jorge Amado about street children in the city of Salvador (Brazil). The lyrics were written by a friend, Vergílio Bonifácio (not sure about the spelling), who used to play bass with me in a previous band. He had given me a few lyrics and I used this one, with his permission, after that band ended.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the full lyrics. I was planning to have it sung, but because of that, it made it difficult. (The guys in the band don't seem to remember it either. It's been 20 years...) If the lyrics were mine, I'd rewrite the parts I forgot, but I don't want to mess with Vergilio's work, which was really nice. (Also, I did not read the book, I am ashamed to say...)
So, again, the guitars are (unfortunately) playing the parts of the vocals, which is less than ideal, as without the lyrics, they becomes a bit repetitive.
Unlike the "Old New" (below), we did play this song quite a bit. In fact, this song won a couple of "battle of bands" we've entered (in the early 90s). And we did record it once, live in the studio. (I remember it was not a good recording, but it was something.) It was quite stressing as you are playing live, trying not to mess up a single note! And, of course, whenever you are having a great take, someone else messes up and you have to start all over! (I messed up quite a few myself, and the final one is a version in which I messed up, but it seemed passable and we did not want to keep doing more takes!)
I think someone still has the master tape, but we don't have the equipment to transfer to digital format. (Last I checked, people were asking a fortune to do just that!) Anyway, I liked that song and wanted to make a new recording of it, so here it is!
I'm glad to have it done. Of course, the process was fun, but it also brought (again) good memories of my time with Ponto de Fuga.
Then and Now
This one is not much different from how we used to play (I think -- again, it's been 20 years). I've added a couple of things I've remember Pietro suggesting a long time ago that I don't know if we ever really played. But I remembered this one much better, as we did play it a lot.
But, of course, the main difference is that it was supposed to be sung.
The Recording Process
This time I did the MIDI programming/sequencing in Muse. I actually had to compile Muse version 3 from source, as Debian's and KXStudio packages would crash on start.
The advantage of Muse is that it had less glitches than Ardour and, mainly, allowed me to export a MIDI file. (I can't believe Ardour won't do that!) I then did some (MIDI) edits in Ardour.
Also, Ardour now can import MIDI with tempo and meter, which also makes things easier, as there are so many meter changes that it is a pain to enter it all manually. (But, Ardour did mess up importing the tempo/meter... But it was easier to fix than to enter them all).
With the MIDI done, I've imported it to Ardour. After selecting the instruments/samples, I've recorded the guitar and mixed it.
This time I was able to use the great Calf plugins directly into Ardour. (I had to remove the LADSPA versions to make them stop crashing Ardour.) I used EQ10Q's compressor for all compression and their EQ for the guitar parts (since I had presets saved I knew worked well). For all other EQs I've used X42's EQ. I've also used Distrho's port of the Luftikus EQ on the master bus, which worked really well!
I've used, again, Drumgizmo's MuldjordKit for the drums. (I've missed the release of the CrocellKit by just a couple of weeks, or I would have used that.) Again, I printed individual tracks (kick, snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, etc.) for processing and mixing.
This time I had MIDI's of just snare and kick (which is a lot easier to get from Muse than from Ardour), and added some of those from Soundfounts to mix with the ones from the MuldjordKit. (Although, in the end, very little was mixed in.)
Again, I don't remember exactly how Gláucio used to play it, so I had to make my own here. As with the "Old New", the drums are quite elaborate, but that's part of the fun of being able to program whatever you want.
This time I also split the bass (after the preamp/cab simulations) into two tracks, one with just the low end and another with just the top end (using EQs). I've added quite a bit of tube distortion (from Invada) in the top end and some tape saturation on the bass bus.
I think that the bass line in the main riff is exactly what Pietro used to play, but in the rest I just had to make up as I went.
The synth in the main riff is a mix of two (slightly modified) presets from ZynAddSubFx. One with the portamento on, and the other was used to add some attack. When we used to play it I think it was just some kind of strings, but I don't remember it exactly, so I did not try to emulate it. I also liked the vintage style (Moog like) sound I got.
The strings from the slow parts are also a (slightly modified) preset from ZynAddSubFx, with some chorus form Calf. I think that when we played it was piano with strings, but I liked the strings by themselves, letting the clean guitars ring a bit through.
All the keyboard parts had some tape saturation and reverb (besides some EQ, of course).
Since I was so happy with the guitar tones in the "Old New", I just stuck with the same settings. Only I found out that my son had twisted the knobs of my amp after that recording. I did notice it sounded different, but I thought it was because it had no processing (mainly EQs) from the previous recording. I just saw that the amp knobs were not in the previous settings when I was done recording all the distorted rhythm guitars. Since I did not want to redo it all, I just tried to improve the results with EQing in the mixing. (Which, I think, tuned out just fine.)
I went back to the previous setting before recording the vocal parts and leads, though. (I'm glad a had a picture of the old settings!)
So, it is again my DC3 going from the "Recording" out directly to the interface and a Red Wirez Marshall 4x12 impulse response, except for the clean parts, where it was a 3 Sigma model of a Dr. Z 2x12.
The solos on this one took me a lot longer to record. With all the programming, mixing and all around turning of knobs, it doesn't leave me much time to practice the guitar... and it shows!
Although I like the final results of the solos, it was patched as heck! As with the previous song, I recorded them a piece at a time. And even after complete, I went back and redid quite a few parts. (It's fair to say that the end results is not really an honest representation of my playing, after some many takes and fixes...)
Again, the delays and chorus were from Calf plugins, and I used my Tube Screamer for the solos.
Mixing was much quicker this time, as I had extensive notes from my previous song (and its learning process). But again, the end result is far from perfect, but I am mostly happy with it. And, although it was quicker, I am not sure it is any better than the previous.
Besides all the ones from the "Old New" (which still hold for this one), I need to acknowledge again that, although the music was written by me, many ideas in the arrangement came from the guys in the band, Pietro Bergamo, Gláucio Tachinardi, Márcio Silva and Alexandre Torres. Again, I cannot remember exactly what, to give proper credit, but you can be sure that their contribution was significant.
I also would like to thank the people behind KXStudio for providing such great software repositories for the use in Linux, which I used a lot in this project!
Finally, again I'd like to thank the folks from the Linux Musicians Forum for the great source of information and their support.
Added on 03/30/2017. (Update: New and hopefully improved mix replaced the original mix on 06/02/2017.)
This is my first original recording (done by myself), so it's very special to me! I've recorded the guitars, programmed the bass, drums and keyboards and mixed it. It took over two months, but I've learned a lot in the process. And it was so much fun!
It was truly a "labor of love". It took countless hours, often waking early before 5am just to work on it before work. But it provided me with immense pleasure!
The idea of recording this song came after I've watched the fantastic Audio Production with Muse and Ardour videos by Michael Oswald. I stumbled on this video when looking for more tutorials about Ardour and it really made me think of doing my own songs.
I've been reluctant to program/sequence songs for a long time. (My close friends Pietro Bergamo and Ciro Visconti have been doing it for over 20 years!) I am not sure why. Maybe it just seemed too hard. But after watching the video I thought it was not that bad. I know how to write music (badly, but it is a lot easier when you can hear it back played as written and fix the problems!) and that's all you really need! Now that I've done my first, I really kick myself for not having started sooner!
This is a song I've written over 20 years ago, when playing with Ponto de Fuga back in Brazil. I wrote it in a period of transition when we did not have a singer. I wrote lyrics for it, but, at least as it is (and was at the time), it is probably not "singable", as the range is too broad. (It keeps modulating up.) I guess I was expecting Jon Anderson to join the band. Anyway, I have written some lyrics for it, but remember very little of it. Of course, it was not a problem since I was not planning to record vocals anyway, but it was originally meant to be sung. (I recorded guitars for the vocal parts. It doesn't sound as good, but it will do.)
It is sad that this was probably the last song I've written for a band. (I've written Opus 10 after that, but almost 20 years ago. Now that I think of it, I will probably rerecord it, since the current version below is pretty bad...) And, even more, there was never a recording of it. It's always made me sad that I've played in some bands with some original songs I really liked that are now complete lost, with no recordings and no one playing them anymore. So, I am glad to see that at least this one will have some recording of it.
In truth, this song was not my first choice. We used to play another (original) song that I also really liked and we have no recording, but that one was more complicated (over 8 minutes long), so this one seemed like a good starting point.
Since it took me a while to write the lyrics, the song did not have a name for a while, so we used to just call it "the new one". After a while, Pietro (bass player of Ponto de Fuga) came up with a new song (which he programmed back then!). (It was great, by the way!) So, his song, which also had no title, was then the "New New" song and mine was the "Old New" one. I think even after I wrote the lyrics, I've never named it, but I could be wrong. (It was a long time ago...)
Then and Now
A few things are different in this new version. Firstly, of course, it is not sung. I played the vocal parts on the guitar. (I've also tried it with synths, but liked the guitar better for it.)
Second, the ending is new. I remember trying to come up with a nice ending then and thinking "sometimes a simple ending is OK". But I decided I had the time to come up with something a bit different, and so I did. (Originally, it would just end with chorus.)
Also, I don't remember the arrangement for the middle part (pre-solo). I remember the simple two chord progression inverting and going up, but I did not remember much else. When I started programming the bass, I decided to make it the main part, so it became basically a bass solo. (Maybe it was the case then already, but I really can't remember.)
Also, the guitar solo was divided between guitar and keyboards originally, but there was no way I would program a keyboard solo. (Maybe some day...) It's a shame. I remember that this was the first original keyboard solo that Alexandre (keyboardist from Ponto de Fuga/Parsec) would play with us. He was great in getting great tones and coming up with great parts, but we were not sure what to expect from soloing. I remember being really pleasantly surprised by some great solos he played in this song!
Finally, the main guitar riff (in this recording) was played only by the keyboard originally. When playing it on the guitar then I thought it was getting too "muddy", so I left the keyboard play it and played only single notes. Since I liked the main riff in this recording on the guitar, I left it and made the keyboard (brass synth) play those old (single note) guitar lines.
The Recording Process
The whole song, even the MIDI programming/sequencing was done in Ardour. (Ardour gave me a bit of a hard time there...) I started programming the guitar parts (playing as a piano) and adding the other instruments. At this point I was using soundfonts for the instruments.
(Honestly, I kind of regret using Ardour for the MIDI programming, as it won't allow me to export just a complete MIDI file. As Ardour can import MIDI files, I might use something else for MIDI in my next project.)
I copied and pasted a lot of the parts, but then, after the song was complete, I went back and add variations to each repetition of the bass and drums. (The keyboard parts are pretty straight forward.)
This whole MIDI programming took me a long time, as it was my first time and I was learning as I was doing it.
After all the sequencing was done, I've printed the tracks, recorded the guitar parts and then started mixing. Mixing took a long, long time, as it was completely new to me. I must have watched 300 youtube videos on mixing trying to learn about the process. I must admit, my ears are not very good (maybe they will get better with practice) and so it was a difficult process for me, with a lot of trial and error.
Here are some comments on the individual parts.
I've used Drumgizmo's MuldjordKit for the drums. Then printed individual tracks (kick, snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, etc.) for processing and mixing. (I really was copying what Michael Oswald was doing in his video!)
I had programmed the drums using soundfonts, which had a few more instruments than this kit would give me (snare rim, splash cymbal and I think one extra tom), so I had to make adjustments when converting. (The snare rim on the middle part is from the soundfont.)
I don't remember exactly how Gláucio (drummer for Ponto de Fuga) used to play it, so I had to make my own here. I remember that, since the time signatures are so weird in chorus (and verse!), when I heard him playing the chorus by himself, it sounded so crazy (and great!) that I decided to add that drum part by itself after the first verse. I think that what I've made here is pretty similar to what he played, but I can't remember for sure.
All the bass was programmed thinking "what would Pietro play". (WWPP?) Even the choice of bass sounds, as he has a Chris Squire signature Rickenbacker and a fretless. But again, I can't remember what he played. (I'm sure it was better than what I've programmed...)
The nice thing about the bass is that I could actually play the parts in the guitar when figuring them out. And, being all programmed, I could match bass and drums perfectly. In fact in the bass solo in the middle I programmed the drums after the bass to match it.
I also used the No Budget Orchestra's B3 Organ (Hammond) for the organ parts, but I (lightly) mixed in to those some organ preset from Yoshimi. This organ mix has some (a lot of, actually) tape saturation and some phaser from the Calf plugins.
The choir in the bass solo is from Fluidsynth's R3 Soudfont again with a little of choir from Yoshimi mixed in.
I again tried to take some inspiration from how Alexandre used to play it, but I don't think he used the Hammond at all. I think it was all strings, but I really like a good Hammond pad!
I finally could get a guitar sound I really like! The best way is indeed to ditch the X3 (and the old Genesis 3) and go direct from the amp (my good old DC3) recording out directly to the 2i2 interface, and use an impulse response for speaker simulation. From all my recordings so far, this is the first time I was truly happy with the tone! (I used my Suhr, with the Suhr V60 pickups, for all the guitar parts in this song.)
Here are the settings. (I took a picture so that I can always go back to it.)
The impulse for the distorted guitar parts was the free one from Red Wirez. It is modeled after a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M-25s. I think the mic I selected was a Royer R121. I tried this first and was so happy I did not even try other IRs or mics!
For the clean guitar part during the bass solo, I think used the Dr. Z Best 2x12 (Celestion G12H30 and V30 speakers) model I bought from 3 Sigma Audio. I still need to work on the clean tones, but I think it worked well for this small part.
All the delays and chorus were from Calf plugins. The only external effect was my good old Tube Screamer for the solo.
As it is usual (it seems) in professional recordings, the rhythm guitars (even the clean) were double tracked and panned hard left/right.
I tried to add some variation to some of the vocal parts, as since there is no lyrics, it might sound a bit too repetitive. But I was improvising things and making too many mistakes, so the current version is a bit restrained, but I thought it was good enough.
In fact, after deleting some of the "flat" vocal parts I had a bit of a scare, as when I tried to rerecord them (with more variation) I was getting an inconsistent tone, without having touched any settings! (I still don't know what that was about!) So, when I got the good tone back, I wanted to record it all as quickly as possible, so I kept things relatively simple.
The whole solo was done punching in and out. After many improvised solos (full of mistakes) I started to get some ideas for what I'd play. Then, I'd play one part only, until I liked it, stop and move the next. It was the first time I've ever done that, but it helped give it a bit more structure. I would not say it makes it a written solo, as many parts were still improvised, but it was more thought out. I would think of what should come next before recording, listen to it after and see how it fit with the rest, and redo it until I was happy with the result.
I actually planned to "shred" (or attempt to shred) less and have more interesting phrasing in the solo, but that (shredding) was what was coming out that day, and I decided not to fight it. So, I wish it did have more interesting parts, but I still like how it turned out.
It was nice to play the solo on this song as the music keeps building up as the solo progresses, making it more interesting to play over.
In this whole process, recording the guitars was relatively quick! With Ardour's editing tools (and recording the solo punching in/out), life is much easier. Only the vocal parts took me a little longer.
Mixing was a long and hard process for me. (It's my first real mix.) As I said, I've watched many videos on youtube (in particular from Recording Revolution) and tried a lot of different things. I used a lot of Michael Oswald's tips and suggestions from his tutorial. In fact I used a lot of the same plugins and settings he used, especially at first. Then I tried to adjust them to my song. In the end, I bought a pair of KRK's KNS 6400 Headphones to mix, as my stereo speakers were too bright and was getting very inconsistent results.
Although I've used Calf plugins a lot, I actually could not load them directly in Ardour as it would make it crash immediately. I had to use calfjackhost (that runs the plugins separately "in a rack") and use inserts in Ardour. So, I used alternatives whenever possible. I've used EQ10Q's EQs and compressors. In the middle of the process I've also discovered LSP plugins which are also very nice! I've used some of their EQs, compressors and spectrum analyzer as well.
The end result is far from perfect, but I am mostly happy with it. Hopefully I will get better (and it will become easier) as I go.
I'd like to thank my good friend Pietro Bergamo for turning me to Ardour and better recordings in Linux, and for showing me by example that it is possible to make good music with sequencers (even 20 years ago)!
Michael Oswald has my eternal gratitude for his outstanding tutorial. His videos made me take the last step and start working on new original songs, which has provided me so far many hours of fun. It was a truly an invaluable help and source of information for this project.
Also, the nice people on the Linux Musicians Forum were very helpful! I'm not sure I would be able to get it all (hardware and software) working without their support.
Finally, I'd like to thank my old band mates from Ponto de Fuga, Pietro Bergamo, Alexandre Guimarães and Gláucio Tachinardi, for indulging me and working on this song when I first wrote it. Although I cannot remember what exactly to give it proper credit, I am sure many of their ideas appear in this recording. (And also thanks for the countless hours of fun playing together!)
Added on 03/24/2017.
One more recording with original backing track! This one from one of my favorite bands! I really like this song and was fun working on it.
In this one I started experimenting with impulse responses (IRs). I've used the X3 modeling a Marshall JCM800 and the free IR from OwnHammer for the distorted guitar parts. I think that the clean guitar was a model of a Fender Vibrolux with an IR from 3 Sigma Audio.
Honestly, I was not too thrilled with the tones, but it was a worthy experiment. I've tried many configurations and settings and I think the results is passable. (Too much noise still...)
Also, I am pretty sure that all the effects on the guitars (compression, chorus, delay) in here are from Calf Plugins, not from the X3.
It was fun recording the solo. Interestingly, I had no pitch shifter effect to use, so the effect in the solo is the track copied and shifted manually.
For the outro solo (which they do live) I had to copy and paste the last few bars over and over. I thought it would be nice to add something personal (and it's fun to pretend to solo with Yes!).
The hardest part on these one was the arpeggios on the verses. It's such a weird pattern...
All in all, not thrilled with the result, but it is what it is. (And I do this for fun, anyway...)
Here is the backing track I've used.
Added on 02/24/2017.
Yeah, I know, cliche, overplayed, etc. I don't care, I like it! And it was a good excuse to learn the solo, which I had never really done before, even though it's such a good one. Also, it's always a blast to play with a backing track of the original recording!
This one was pretty quick to record, except for the solo, which I had to practice quite a bit to get (mostly) right. I also had recorded it before I got the X3, but decided to redo it. I've use two Marshall models from the X3. (No real amp here.) On the left is a model of the JTM45 and on the right is a model of a Plexi. I am pretty sure each had some sort of stomp model in front to increase the gain a bit. The guitar effects (delay and reverb) are also from the X3.
The intro might sound different, as I start a 4th below the original (studio) recording, but that's how Ritchie Blackmore has played it live for a long time. (If you don't believe me, watch this version from the California Jam. By the way, the first 30 seconds of this video reminds me of why Blackmore is one of my all time favorites!)
Again, I'm still figuring how to dial the X3, so the guitar tone again is not that great, but I find it quite passable. (Others may disagree, though.)
I also squeezed a little solo of my own at the end, just for fun. As the original just fades out, the ending is weird and abrupt, but if I also faded away, I would not be able to squeeze the solo, so I let it as it is.
I again tried to spend some more time mixing this one. I am not entirely sure it made a difference...
Here is the backing track I've used.
Added on 02/23/2017.
This is not your typical Toto song! This is a instrumental fusion piece from their Tambu album. The title was at first temporary, and was chosen because keyboardist David Paich was not at a recording session because he had gone skiing. Later, they decided to keep it.
I've always liked this song and was thrilled when I found a backing track for it! (It's a lot of fun to play it!) The drumming is just fantastic and the original solo is great. The recorded solo, though, is an improvisation of my own and not the original. The original also has a great piano solo (Dave came back), that was cut from the backing track.
I had recorded this with the Digitech Genesis 3, and when I got the Line 6 Pod X3, I decided to redo it. So this was one of my first tests with the X3. The tone in virtually all of it is a model of a Soldano SLO on the left and Diezel Herbert on the right. All the effects came also from the X3. I did not use my amp at all with X3, unlike what I had to do with the Genesis 3. The tone is far from perfect, but I think it's mostly OK. (I wish I could afford the Line 6 Helix...)
I also experimented more with Ardour, and tried to take more care with the mixing, adding some compression and EQ. (I really like working with Ardour!) As any first attempt, the results are not great, but I am learning!
Here is the backing track I've used.
Added on 18/11/2016.
- Arrangement: Pietro Bergamo
- Bass and programming (drums and keyboards): Pietro Bergamo
- Guitars: LF
This is a version of the famous Ghostubusters theme song. The new arrangement was written by my good old friend Pietro Bergamo. He posted this song with guitars recorded by himself and I asked if he would mind me recording the guitar parts.
It took me a long time to record this, as things kept going wrong. (I joked that the song was haunted...) But, this is the first song I've recorded with Ardour (still in Linux!). I was using Audacity before, but Ardour is so much better for this. It is a really great piece of software! Hopefully what I've learned will help me also with future recordings. (I'm trying to get back at it...)
There are quite a few little problems with this recording, but I will just say it is "good enough" (for some value of good). I went back to single coils here as I wanted a truer strat tone, but that increased the hum quite a bit. (But honestly, after going through my old and cheap Genesis 3, I am not sure the difference in tone (when compared to the noiseless Virtual Vintage pickups) is very noticeable.) In particular the pauses in the solo have a lot of noise. Maybe some day I will try to fix that...
I've recorded a few different solos, although all with similar parts and vibe, and it was a bit hard to choose. I had a couple I really liked, but had a small mistake here or there. At the end, I though this solo (in the posted recording) was a good compromise. And I will take wabi-sabi defense for the other imperfections. (No, I am not lazy.)
The version is quite different from the original, but I quite like it. Pietro recorded the bass (great bass solo!) and programmed all other instruments! I had a lot of fun recording my parts! In fact, I will make a backing track of it so that I can play along at home just for fun (and practicing).
These were my first home recordings I've made at home, with intent of looking for a band. (And to have some fun!)
These are listed in chronological order of recording, but I don't have the exact dates.
I've been playing this song, by Steve Vai, since the early 90's. I quite like this song and enjoy playing it. It took a lot of practice to get it close to the original and there are parts there are not that close.
In this recording, the outro solo starting at 5:42 is my own improvisation.
This is the only one of these recordings that was done all in a single take. (No editing!) It did take about a million takes to get two that I liked. But still, nothing was fixed and one can hear a few mistakes here and there. But, I am quite happy that I could get anything I liked in a single take.
Here is the backing track I've used.
This lovely ballad was written by Stevie Wonder and recorded by Jeff Beck in his "Blow by Blow" album. I've always liked it but never played it with a band. I've tried to be mostly faithful to the original, but there are variations, especially on the main theme.
Here is the backing track I've used.
This is a piece by Chick Corea that I also quite like. I hadn't played it in a long time (and I think it shows). It is a challenging one!
I thought it would be a good addition as it is different from most of the rest. (And I really like playing it!)
Solo starts at 1:38 and it is an improvisation. (Many takes until I could get one I more or less liked. I am not too proud of this one, but it was the best I got that night. I might try to redo it at some point.)
Here is the backing track I've used.
I guess this one needs no introduction. A classic from Pink Floyd.
I've been playing this solo for a long time (I must admit that I probably have messed it up most of the time), but I've never gotten tired of it. I just love it! I tried to make it as close to the original as possible as I believe the original cannot be improved!
That being said, here are some improvisations on it: Take 1, Take 2 and Take 3. These are all different, but share some common ideas. It was a lot of fun to make my own solos on this backing track! (The best thing was hearing "Wrong! Do it again!" in the end of each take. (It seemed that the voices in my head were getting loud.))
Here is the backing track I've used.
This is (something perhaps somewhat similar to a possible version of) a piece by J. S. Bach (for the organ). More like a very free interpretation/adaptation of it.
I started playing this a long time ago (88 or 89). I borrowed the sheet music from a keyboard player and tried to make a version of it. I hadn't played it in a very long time and it was hard to get this version, especially since I haven't been using tapping that much in recent years.... (There are some clear problems with it, but it is hard to edit, and I thought I would just live with them.)
I used to play it when we had a guitar solo in a concert. I thought it would be nice to have it here for some variety (some classical music!).
I've used a pitch shifter (from the Genesis 3) with an octave down to give the more ominous feel. (The organ is also played in octaves, but they can use two hands.)
A classic Ozzy Osbourne song with Randy Rhodes on the guitar. I wasn't really planning on recording this one, but I used to play it and found a backing track with the original recording!
Since I knew it already, it was relatively quick to get done. The rhythm guitar is a bit shaky at times and perhaps the lead also would deserve another take, but I think it is good enough.
I tried to play the solo pretty close to the original, but did change a few things, mostly because I did not remember exactly how it went. (I did not really bother listening to the original. Maybe I should, but I'm afraid it would make me want to redo it.)
For this one I broke out the PRS! I hadn't played it in a long time and I felt the scale length difference, but I thought it sounded better for this song.
Here is the backing track I've used.
One of my favorite Van Halen songs! (Unlike apparently most, I much prefer their Sammy Hagar era.) I used to play it and it was always fun to do it. The backing track is not from the original and has no vocals, so I almost dropped it, but I had fun just playing and decided to go for it. And I thought it would be nice to have a Van Halen song in the recordings.
Since I've played this one a lot before, it was also relatively quick. I try to play very close to the original, but there are certainly differences. Notably the harmonics in the very beginning were replace by "regular notes". With me playing, I always felt it sounded better this way, even though I was aware that the original was done with harmonics.
I also played the PRS with this one.
Here is the backing track I've used.
A song by Deep Purple I listened to a whole lot when I was young. And a great solo by Ritchie Blackmore!
Again, I was lucky to find a backing track with the original song and it was so much fun playing with it!
I recorded most of the song relatively quickly, since I knew it so well, even most of the solo. The sixteenth notes in the middle of the solo were a nightmare, though, and took me several days.
The problem is not even that it is too fast (although it is quite fast!), but that the pattern is not one natural to me (and apparently most). I also played it wrong for many years, and it is hard to break a bad habit... I had to practice for a while until I could get it right! (To be honest, it was hard for me to even tell if it was right or not!) I almost broke my computer with my guitar with frustration with this one!
But, now it's done and I'm proud of it. (Thanks to my good friend, ex-teacher and excellent guitarist and musician, Ciro Visconti, for the help with this!)
Here is the backing track I've used.
A lovely, jazzy piece by one of my favorite guitar players, Eric Johnson. He wrote it as a tribute to Wes Montgomery and I thought it was, again, something different to add to the recordings.
I am not too proud of this one, but I like it and wanted to have it among these recordings. And, as it is a difficult one (for me), I decided to cut myself some slack and hope that others would too.
It was hard to get a decent clean sound, and it is still not that great. This feels especially bad as EJ's tone is simply gorgeous. This one I did rerecord a few times (in different nights), as the first takes were below satisfactory... I think this final take is good enough, though.
I tried to make the two solos similar to the orignals, but definitely, again, they are not note-by-note the same, which is fine with me.
Here is the backing track I've used.
This was also added for the sake of variety of styles. This is a Yes piece (or, more precisely, a Steve Howe piece) from Fragile. I always liked it and one day decided to learn it, even though it is an acoustic piece, and I don't play the acoustic very well (or at all). So, this is the only acoustic piece I know, and it is quite hard for me.
As to be expected, it is not the best version, but I liked the idea of having something so different and, at the same time, a Yes piece.
It was actually recorded with an electric guitar (the Suhr) through the Genesis 3's acoustic simulator. So, the tone does not help either, but it is OK.
Here is my one and only "studio session": Unknown.
- Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Unknown.
- Bass: Pietro Bergamo.
- Drums: Paulo B.
The song, which I don't know the name of, was written by the singer, whose name I also don't know. The lyrics, in Portuguese, are quite nice and I like the song.
This only happened by accident. I was rehearsing with friends, when on vacation in São Paulo (Brazil), in the drummer's (Paulo B.) studio and left my guitar there for a while after we were done. (I don't remember if I forgot it there or if I was going somewhere and did not want to carry it around.) When I came back to pick it up, Paulo B. was recording this song with the singer. He asked me if I would record some guitar for it and, since I didn't have anything to do, I was glad to oblige.
The singer showed me the chords and I went in to record. I've done three takes of the whole song (without stopping). The first was bad, both in playing (I was still cold) and in recording. We liked the second and third takes. I then asked to do one more take for the outro solo, but it did not turn out well. Since we were happy with the other takes, we decided to stop there.
I've never been so quick to record something and, perhaps because of that, I'm pretty proud of it. (It is not usual for me.) But I also simply like the result.
I also quite like the tone, even though it was done with very cheap gear. The guitar was a Brazilian made "Spanich" (yes, with "ch"), which is not very good at all. But, it had a Schaller Floyd Rose tremolo, Fender tuners and, most importantly, Lindy Fralins PAF pickups, which helped a whole lot. The guitar went through my trusty FD-2 and then to a cheap small transistor Fender combo (I don't remember the model) they had at the studio. I've used its gain channel throughout and only added the FD-2 in the longer fills and outro solo. I've also used its own reverb. (If any other effects were added, they were added in the mixing.) I was really amazed that it actually sounded good!
With the two good takes we could chose which one had the best longer fills. (The shorter ones are both from the same take, but I don't remember which.) We liked both outro solos, but eventually chose the one you hear in here (from the first good take). I wish I had a version with the second good take, as I also liked it. (By the way, I was told that the song would fade out, so I wasn't too worried about the ending of it.)
- Vocals: Bob McDermott
- Guitar and Backing Vocals: Tom McFaul
- Bass and Backing Vocals: Jim Giles
- Drums: Steve Timm
I played with this band (which still exists, but unfortunately without Tom) when I was living in Santa Barbara, California, and it was a really great band. (My first and only band in the US!) All were good musicians and very nice people! No stress, just fun. I truly enjoyed my time with them! The music was very eclectic, and although many of the songs we played would not have been chosen by me, it was always fun and sounded good. Bob was a great front man and Tom and Jim were very good at backing vocals (an area that was somewhat lacking in most of my previous bands), besides being very good at their own instruments. Steve was also great and had one of the best drum sounds I've ever heard (with his fantastic DW set).
These are live recordings, so the sound can be a bit bad at times and there a few mistakes. They were recorded with my current gear.
Recorded at the Creekside Tavern, Santa Barbara in 2004.
I am a huge Kansas fan and lobbied for us to play this song! We did not have keyboards, so I played some of the keyboard parts, including the solo. (The main riff is played by Tom, as well as the very last guitar solo.) I played it with the PRS.
This version has a few very evident mistakes, but since I really like the song I wanted to post it anyway.
Recorded at the Creekside Tavern, Santa Barbara in 2004.
We've played this Pink Floyd song with a shortened intro. The solo is close to the original. Of course, played on the Suhr Strat. It's always nice to play David Gilmour's solos!
Recorded at Dargan's Pub, Santa Barbara 2004.
This is our version of Stevie Wonder's classic song. The main riff is played by Tom, while I play some of the horn parts. We've added two guitar solos to it (one in the middle and one in the end). I played this one with the PRS.
- Vocals: Bruno Sant'Anna
- Bass: Pietro Bergamo
- Keyboards: Alexandre Torres
- Drums: Caio (Carlucci? -- I am not sure about his last name)
This (and its predecessor, Ponto de Fuga) was the band for me! (It was back in São Paulo, Brazil.) Its name was Ponto de Fuga until the previous singer and drummer left, when we decided to change the name to Parsec.
Pietro, Alexandre and I were (and still are) close friends with very similar taste. In particular, we shared a love for progressive rock and most of the bands I listed above. We played covers from Yes, Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Jethro Tull, among others, and wrote our own songs.
Bruno and Caio came in later, but were both excellent!
I can't say enough good things about all of them, and feel like I might have taken them for granted. Hearing them playing in these recordings is such a pleasure. I am blown away by how good they were (are)!
We recorded these two songs in a rented 24 track studio. We did not have too much money, so we did not have too much time. To make things worse, for what felt like an eternity, we had to wait until some rain storms passed by, as they were affecting the recording gear. On the positive side, Caio recorded his tracks incredibly quickly (and well). I think he must have done two takes per song...
I've recorded these songs with a Marshall amp set up (JMP-1 preamp, 9200 power amp and 1960A 4x12 cabinet) and an Alesis Quadraverb for effects. I recorded with a friend's Fender Strat 54 Reissue, since my guitar at the time (an Ibanez 540S with Seymour Duncan pickups) had just been stolen.
I remember having some initial difficulty getting a decent tone. I had to tweak it while feeling the pressure of the clock ticking. In the end I've left the guitar pretty dry, especially on When You Go Away (below). But, other than that, I like the tone in the end.
I was suppose to sing the backing vocals myself, but it was not sounding good (it never did!) and so Bruno himself recorded them, with a much better result that I could ever get!
- Lyrics: Augusto Pedralli
- Music: LF
This is a song that I wrote for another band, called Corsário. (Also a great band! I wish I had some decent recordings of it.) I think is uncharacteristic for Parsec, but we chose as we thought it would have a greater "commercial" appeal. In retrospect, I deeply regret it, as we had much better songs and more representative of our style. (Not that I don't like this one.)
It pains me to no end that on the very intro of this song I bend a note out of tune. (Which, I must admit, it is not a terribly rare occurrence, but we would certainly have it fixed if we had heard it! The solos were the last things to be recorded and we were all tired and in a hurry.) I also think that the guitar and piano clash a little bit. But, I still like the result. I quite like Pietro's fretless bass lines!
The lyrics have serious English problems and Bruno's English is also not that great, but I do quite like his vocals.
Credits: Music and lyrics by Pietro Bergamo.
A much better representative of our style and a great song by Pietro! Pietro and Caio really do a fantastic job on this one. Great bass line (as usual) and a great bass solo! Alexandre, also as usual, got some very nice keyboards parts. This one was always so much fun to play!