Monday, September 24, 2012

Manhattan Sunset : Production & Stems (Ambient Groove)

I made a couple subtle changes on this mix that make it slightly different than the previous version posted. When I went back into the old project file to export the stems for this experiment I found a muted guitar part that I decided might be interesting to work in - so that's now added. I also tweaked the mix slightly.

None of this really makes up for my generally sloppy playing, but hey, that's why we have computers and effects, right? One other quick note is that this track still does not have a bass line. I'll probably end up doing one more pass at some point with either electric bass or a synth bass, we'll see... until then here it is...

Manhattan Sunset (Stems Mix) 09.21.12 

Download the stems at the link below via WeTransfer (which is an elegant and great service). This download expires on Sunday October 8, 2012. Hopefully by then I'll figure out a long term solution for free file hosting. If all else fails, I suppose there Bit Torrent. 

The song is pretty minimal as follows: 

Track 01 :  
Drum Loop 01 [stereo]
- Just a  loop I found interesting from one of my libraries. I don't remember the details entirely but it sounds like I processed/modified it in Dr.Rex in Reason. I have a few tricks which I'll discuss in another post. This loop provides the rhythmic foundation for the song. I added some reverb directly on the channel insert in Sonar using the Audio Damage reverb plug-in Reverence. For the record, I love the Audio Damage line of plug-ins. This plug-in is now called ADverb and is only $39. It's a steal. ADverb is loosely based on the Lexicon 200 reverb which you can see [here]

Track 02 : 
Drum Loop 02 [mono]
- This is actually from a vintage Korg 33 Rhythm machine. You can see some cool pix of it at Matrix Synth. I had just bought this from a local music store that sells a lot of odd, old and vintage gear so I wanted to use it. I had to play with the tempo to get it close enough that I could make a loop at 85 bpm to march the song. Other than rolling off some of the high frequencies to reduce noise from the machine this track is pretty dry. 

Track 03 : 
Acoustic Guitar [mono to stereo]
- The true inspiration for this song was the recent purchase of an Epiphone Masterbuilt AJ-500ME acoustic/electric guitar. I was eager to record it direct via it's electronics which is how this was recorded.   The guitar was recorded mono direct, but the track is in stereo because of mono to stereo spread that happens when I inserted the SoundToys EchoBoy delay plug-in. The track get's a good dose of compression from a UAD ll76LN plug-in, prior to EchoBoy. Sound Toys are my absolute favorite plug-ins for work in the box and EchoBoy is probably my most used (and abused) of them. 

This song is really just me banging out some chords on the Epiphone as a recording test (which most of demos tend to be, recording tests!).  The progression is a simple Two Chord Wonder of Dmaj to Amin, inspired (very roughly so) from the U2 song "In God's Country." I will confess that I looped this performance. 

Track 04 :
Electric Guitar 01  [Mono]  
- Mostly likely an Epiphone Les Paul. All the effects and amp tone you hear are all in the signal chain for better or worse. If memory serves (and I should take better notes) it was most likely something like this : 

Track 05 :
Electric Guitar 02  [Mono]  
- The same as Track 4. This second part is played a little differently to a allow a little space. The signal path should be identical. I may have switched the pick ups for this second take. The guitars are hard panned to create space. I also should note that the Epiphone Valve Jr is a really underrated low wattage tube amp. Five watts, one knob, no clutter. 

Track 06 :
Electric Guitar EFX Returns [stereo]
- You can't see it in mix window screen shot below, but in the original set up and mix of this song guitar from Track 05 is sent out of the computer to a rack of effects. The return from those effects are then printed into this track, and manipulated. Printing the effects return as their own tracks, 100% wet is an old Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois studio trick. The signal chain for the effects is something like this: 

Sonar Track 04 Send Out Channels 7/8 via Apogee Rosetta 800 -> Mackie 1604 VLZ as Effects Matrix -> Eventide Eclipse -> TC Electronics D-Two -> Lexicon PCM 91 - > SPL Transient Designer -> Mackie 1604 VLZ as Effects Matrix -> Return to Sonar on Input Channels 7/8 via Apogee Rosetta 800

At some point I'll post a flow chart for how the Mackie is used as an Effects Matrix which now includes an Eventide H3000 and a Yamaha SPX 90II. I also use the Mackie as my primary Keyboard/Synth submixer to simply inputs to the Rosetta 800. 

Track 07 :
Clean Guitar [mono to stereo]
- Sometimes I keep old parts in and just mute them. As in this case when I opened the project to make these stems I found an old guitar part that was muted, so I listened to it and thought... hmmm, maybe try to find a place for it. The part is pretty rough, and I can see why I didn't use it. But for the sake of this experiment I put it back in. What you hear is pretty much the track as it was recorded processed with the new Pro Channel in Sonar X1. I'm using the "76" compressor to try and level it out a bit, the EQ to roll off the low end and build a shelf to get this to sit better in the mix. Last but not least is the SoundToys Crystalizer plug-in using the "Doubler" preset without much tweaking. 

The Mix Buss 

Drum Buss 
- UAD 1176 compressor to level out the two drum loops and make them more consistent. 

Guitars Buss 
- Generally speaking I like to use the Wave Renaissance compressor on the guitar buss. I'm not sure why I didn't here, but it sounds OK to me. 

Master Buss 
- I'm using the "4k" compressor in Sonar X1, as well as the EQ. I've tried to "sweeten" the mix a little here as faux mastering. The Flux Stereo Tool is a free useful utility for looking at the stereo width of your recordings. I try to get things reasonably wide. The last plug-in in the chain is the Waves tried and true L2 limiter, which is perhaps the most used and abused plug-in ev-er. Hopefully, I'm not guilty. 


That's pretty much it. I've uploaded the stems as 16 bit / 44.1 wav's so that they can be imported into any DAW. I dropped them into Logic Pro on my laptop just to make sure they work (see screen shot below). 

I hope this is helpful and/or informative to someone despite my limitations as both a musician and producer! 

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