My Small Recording Studio Success

I started recording with Cubase LE two years ago using a Focusrite 2i2 and I had no idea about mixing and just used headphones. I liked Cubase so much I purchased the Pro edition. Here’s what I finally ended up with – a zero latency home studio with great monitoring and mixes:

  • Cubase Pro
  • SSL2+ interface
  • Yamaha HS-5’s for stereo mixing
  • Avantone Cube for mono mixing
  • Fender Mustang 50 watt amp
  • Royer R10 and Shure SM-57 on the guitar amp
  • SE Electronics VR2 for vocals

That’s it – very simple. I had done shootouts on all of the sub $500 interfaces and tried all of the decent microphones in the $500 ish or less class, and these won hands down.

Mike Seniors Mixing Secrets for Small Studios was the major breakthrough. Once I carefully read his book my home studio went from schmoe to pro.

The SSL2+ is quite a bit better than the UA Volt 276 that I have. While I like the Volt 276 ergonomics better, the SSL2+ preamps are the cleanest out of all of the budget interfaces. The MOTU M2 is pretty nice too, but even though the SSL2+ has a few things I feel they could have done better, nothing came close to it’s clean sound.

Shanghai Kelly

San Francisco
1870
First flesh peddler
Shanghai Kelly

Barkeep Kelly
Drugged his patrons
Opium Bourbon
Strong oblation

Set up phony
Free Booze Cruises
Lured his victims
With Toxic juices

Offered woman
To Sucker saps
When they woke
They were trapped

No free woman
Only booze
Knocked them out
Kidnapped fools

Trapped aboard
A sailing ship
To Shanghai
Unwanted Trip


Chorus
First head hunter
Called a Crimp
Shanghai Kelly
Sailor Pimp

in a nutshell

  • James Kelly was a kidnapper – but he kidnapped grown men sailors
  • You could say he started a Kelly Temp Agency!
  • He ran a bar and when sailors visited would drug them with Opium laced Bourbon
  • Sailors would wake up aboard a ship they never planned on being on – and as an indentured servant
  • I love Gaelic music – from any of the islands in that part of the world. I also love how such music influenced American Bluegrass and Folk Music. I used a Tin Whistle and a Violin (fiddle) to try to get some Irish sound in it – even just a funny “wisp”

discussion

This is a horrifying story – and legendary. Its hard to believe, but must be along the lines of sex trafficking or even slavery . . .

This is a classic “Barbary Coast” story – many such stories have taken place in San Francisco, some whacky, crazy, nasty – and all hard to believe

I used tin whistle as a joke – but did kind of understand that the way you blow into it is where you cn control its sound. It a really fun little instrument.

theme

Barbary Coast story

conclusion

A silly, but fun song

Firebelle Lil

Smoked cigars
Wore men's pants
Drank and gambled
Lived in France

Adventurous girl
Travelled far
Loved her City
With Cable Cars

Station mascot
Knickerbocker 5
Fireman's friend
Full of life

Napa Valley
Planted vines
Vintage Lillie
Made White wine

Crazy cousin
Tried to kill her
Business man
Bullet diverter

Fled to Paris
To get away
20 years passed
Returned one day

Chorus
San Francisco
Firebelle Lil
Built Coit Tower
On Telegraph Hill

in a nutshell

  • Lillie Hitchcock Coit was the first female volunteer fire department member
  • She gave a good portion of her wealth to San Francisco and the City built Coit Tower at her bequest
  • She wore trousers, smoked cigars drank bourbon and gambled. Dressed as guy, she got into The Bohemian Club, a male only club
  • She travelled the world
  • She was in exile in France for 20 years after her crazy cousin tried to kill her
  • I watched a ragtime piano lesson video for a half hour, then (somewhat) emulated it in this song

discussion

San Francisco might have more character than any other American City except maybe NYC and LA. But per square mile no one beats this gorgeous city by the bay.

The cast of characters of all decades since it changed its name from Yerba Buena to San Francisco is hard to beat.

I watched a video on how to play ragtime on the piano – and then adapted a “forward roll” to work in the context of this song

theme

Lillie Coit, San Francisco legend and benefactor. And pretty cool person way ahead of her time.

conclusion

Lillie Coit is a local hero. San Francisco will always be one of the best Cities in the world. Never mind ye naysayers ….

Its Time to KRY

The sound of pathos
On Radio KRY
Where empathy sheds
A tear stained eye

The sound of care
For those in need
Radio KRY
A dying breed

In old days
When people cared
No need to KRY
No need for fear

It used to be
We got along
On Radio KRY
We play your songs

Hate is in
Love dismissed
On Radio KRY
We Persist

We're holding out
For better times
We still have hope
On Radio KRY

Chorus
Yes we care
We're hear for you
On Radio KRY
Love still rules

in a nutshell

  • Another KRY song. Why not?
  • First real mix I’ve ever done – where I thought about the mix even during the recording session, and even checked the mics

discussion

This song is more about the mix, but with a humorous ongoing drone of Radio KRY.

This is the first song written knowing the new mixing procedure – and using the Avantone Mixcube from the start – instead of going back and fixing stuff. I also did try two different mic sets on guitar and cello – and it seems that all mic combos are fine – its more about the mono mix that ensures the mix will be great.

Shure SM-57 and SE7 in X-Y position
NT1A and SE7 at the cone – paper junction

theme

Radio KRY cares about You the valued listener!

conclusion

The mono mix process using the Avantone Mixcube and then checking the stereo mix using the Yamaha HS-5’s is killer and a serious breakthrough for me

Magic Box

YOWZA! I finally am in control of my mixes. I even figured out why the Cello was so muddy as well as other recording and mixing problems. I hope to share these in another post soon.

I thought the mics used on the guitar cabinet were the SM57 and NT1A, but it was actually the SM57 and SE7 small diaphragm, with the low cut switch on and the mic pointed at the right side of the speaker. Happy accident – this is my best mix yet.

For those who hear
Imagination
Into the ether
Communication

For those who see
Imagination
Through the lens
Communication

For those who say
Imagination
Into the Mic
Communication

Chorus
A slight of hand
A magic box
The golden age
Opportunity knocks

in a nutshell

  • Most major modern inventions between 1822 – 1922
  • Camera, bicycle, radio, automobile, home electricity
  • Small simple boxes that seemed like magic

discussion

My father was born February 12, 1922, so I thought it would be cool to Google the Modern Invention Timeline. Sure enough, I would argue the most important modern day inventions all happened in the 100 years before my father was born. I’m also reading a fascinating book on Photography that has both the cultural as well as technical aspects of photography.

theme

My favorite inventions are the Camera, Bicycle, Radio and Microphone. It took many other inventions leading up to each of these, but all these years later, these inventions still are extremely important. Fun fact – the first mechanical computer was invented the  same year as the camera – 1822. Today, the Smart Phone has a camera, radio, microphone and computer built in!

conclusion

I’m still blown away by inventors and what they invent. The human imagination is such a gift and wonder. It is magic!

Ten Tin Heads

Ten Tin Heads hide
In shadows they lurk
They come out at night
That's when they work

They steal metal shovels
They steal metal rakes
If it's not bolted down
Then that's what they take

Their lust and greed
Smelted down from tin
Their pointy metal heads
Their creepy little grins

They say that they are DJs
They say they play the hits
Then smack you real hard
On the places that you sit

They won't play my songs
They won't play my rhymes
They lack common sense
And commit many crimes

When they're not lurking
At night in the dark
I'll play my music
And climb up the charts

Chorus
Tin Heads
Steel eyes
At the mic
At radio KRY

in a nutshell

  • The KRY theme just won’t quit
  • I found out some doll heads used to be made out of tin
  • Its always fun writing about pure nonsense

discussion

Guitar, Cello, Piano, Solina and vocals. I started working on my mixing. I think I need to work on this one some more. I record everything in stereo using an SE Electronics SE7 small diaphragm Mic and a VR2 Active Ribbon mic. I need to look at each stereo track and maybe pick one of the two. I seem to have some phasing issues – and low noise rumble – especially on the Cello.

I also need to re-record the vocals. Its funny how you need to sing a bunch of times to flesh out the vocal melody – its quite different than playing a melody on one instrument. You need to fit your voice and it’s inflection and accents accordingly.

theme

Pure nonsense, fantasy, dada

conclusion

My daily dose of fun. I’ve been playing open chords on the guitar and changing one note in the chord to see what progressions I can come up with. Laying down a rough mix, then listening and re-recording (at least the vocals) seems to be a good workflow.

Ringing Strings

In only 10 Cello lessons, my fabulous niece has me to the point where I feel comfortable enough, and confident enough to plow ahead with the Cello and where I am 100% confident that I can add simple but decent parts to my songs. Today we switch gears and I have my first Violin lesson ever. I did add a little Violin part to this song – just as a warm up for my first lesson. I can tell you that learning the Cello really helps with the Violin.

Best in Show

I had written lyrics – but then I found this cool Buchla Easel synth patch and just started riffing – do there’s little room left to sing. I’m also starting to concentrate on creating better mixes – I’m going to use my cell phone as the ultimate terrible sounding device – meaning – if it sounds at least clear with good levels in each track – then it should sound better on better systems. Thenn I try it on my Kindle – which has cheapy Panasonic ear buds that are actually quite great for $7.. I’m reading a great book on mixing – so fingers crossed that I can create better sounding MP3 files. Todays remix:

Don’t KRY4ME

My songs aren't played
On Radio KRY
It feels just like
A poke in the eye

Didn't quit my day job
Do you understand why?
I can't get no airplay
On Radio KRY

I sang about a girl
Whose a sty in my eye
They won't play it
On Radio KRY

Wrote that bouncy song
The station denied
They won't play it
On Radio KRY

Wrote three songs
For that radio station
KRY won't play
They said "No Obligation"

I packed my guitar
I'm wondering why
They won't play my songs
On Radio KRY

Chorus
All the hits
All the time
My songs rejected
On Radio KRY

in a nutshell

  • Less is more when it comes to mixing
  • The KRY radio theme keeps on giving
  • Just learning a few new guitar chords opens up new song ideas
  • I’m just starting to enjoy singing

discussion

Wow, less is so much more when mixing and creating an MP3.

theme

KRY – the theme that lives on past what I had expected

conclusion

Less is more, more or less

Outbound Train

The third that I have re-mixed to reduce the number of effects:

in a nutshell

  • A mini Roaring 20’s is upon us
  • Short attention spans mean moving on
  • It’s time for good news!
  • Leaving 6 – 7 years of pain

discussion

I can’t unlink the pandemic from Trump – he is also a terrible disease. People are simultaneously sick of both diseases. I have new hope that the tide is about to turn in a big way. Americans are very fickle. In this context, it’s a good thing.

I think the end of the pandemic starts a mini Roaring 20’s and (short attention span humans) will move on to better things. We endured Trump, Climate Change Disasters, Social Unrest and a Pandemic. At least some things have to get better.

theme

The last 6 – 7 years, the light at the end of the tunnel was the Trump Train entering the tunnel. Now that train is leaving us – and we can see beyond that darkness.

conclusion

The pandemic is Karma in that regard – it not only prevented Bozo from an easy win, more importantly – and no matter what happens politically – his business is pure burnt toast. No more loans, no more insurance and his brand died completely on January 6th. His handling of the pandemic was criminal. . The whole story will be fascinating a very un flattering way in the history books. He and his minions will be viewed like The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Sadly, some more competent and imminently dangerous buffoon will emerge, but we will at least have a few more “quiet” years to enjoy.

Out of the darkness
Into the light
Its time to say
Goodbye to blight

Its time for peace and light
We've all paid our dues
Lock him up, shut him down
Its time for some good news

The other blight, disease
We've all paid many dues
Shut it down, let it drown
Its time for some good news

Chorus
The blight that plagued
Us for so many days
Disease and strife
An outbound train