Feel so lost right now. Recording guitar within Ardour also gets this "harsher than while recording" effect. And, after so many takes IT CANNOT BE ONLY PSYCHOACUSTICS. For worse my mouse just died in the middle of a session (he couldn't stand the power).
I hate this situation (when stable? when?), but I think I'll be able to patch up something decent with the different guitar layers I have recorded. Today in fact I've made the first arrangements for the vocals session (as yesterday,, too early, but I guess it's normal that I want to speed up the process).
My "goals" (another word for "wet dreams") of releasing one album in October and another in November have gone down the drain with this delay. But I still can aim to launch album #1 somewhere in November and #2 somewhere in December.
New tests with guitar tones. I estimate I have like 2-3 more days of tests until I have everything tamed. But I'm happy because I can jam along the way, so it's not all boring theory and parameters.
Looking back in perspective, today I've been a bit too confident, a bit too quick. I've tried to go back to the "one pass of drums then tracking", but it was too soon, too much work. I should have focused only in consolidating the new guitar stuff, that I just discovered yesterday. There is an energy cost to the change of activity; although there is also a cost of boredom and therefore morale effects on doing only one task for too long... A dynamic balance.
I promise myself that once I have a decent guitar tone in place, I won't shake things for at least two albums. Unless, of course, a certain song demands something special that requires innovation. But other than that, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Today I've tried a lot of stuff, under the bracket of "fail fast", and I think I've finally found something I can work with.
I've been doing experiments regarding the guitar tone. It's difficult for me to summarize here the chaos of tests in a linear manner; the result, or at least the most plausible hypothesis as of now, is: my audio interface, a Samson G-Track, works better with buffer size=3, but according something I read somewhere, Guitarix acts funny under buffer sizes that are not a multiple of 2 (perhaps this is true for Rakarrack too?). So that's why historically all my tests with buffer size=3 did weird stuff. Today I have tried recording the guitar within Ardour, no Guitarix, just adding a distortion plugin to the track and monitoring via software, and the sound has finally become something I feel confident, not that sensation that someone or something is taking a dump on you whenever you try to play and the latency is "slimey".
So I'm very happy, as I have the sensation that I've finally gathered everything I need to start cranking out stuff seriously. To be honest I get this sensation periodically, but this time what's undeniable is that I've taken a giant step forward, with Drum mutherfucking Gizmo and this song that is starting to sound really kick ass...
The distortion in Ardour is primary and raw, so maybe it will need some more audio polishing, but I'm not going to obsess about it because in the end I'm a musician, a punk musician for worse, I just want to put it out there, especially in this age when so many hide that they have nothing to say under 300 plugins...
Today I was going to work on the drums, but in a funny, organic way, I've finally done some prep work for the vocals too.
It was so because I started my musical day by trying to find some songs in a similar style to mine, and listen consciously how they deal with the crash cymbal. This is a part of my song that has been bugging me for a long time; the song is fast and repetitive, noisy as hell, with a crash on every beat. In the session, however, this continuous crash ended up sounding very unrealistic, and sometimes generating subpatterns that become very distracting because each beat should be evenly accentuated.
I thought this issue had to be dealt with during production; compression to tame the excess of noise. But I wasn't totally clear about that, so today I listened to how other bands do it in these "noisy" scenarios.
Firstly, I had difficulties finding a song that did this stuff. Probably because I never listen to a song in terms of audio production unless I deliberately set myself to do it (and even then, I often shift unconsciously at some point to just following the song), none of the examples I chose (Black Flag, Minor Threat, Hansen Brothers) had that kind of noise I needed. So then I turned to the main influence of my song, Motörhead.
Again, no luck with an alike example, but before I noticed it my audition session had turned into simply listening to some of my favorite Motörhead songs. "Ace of Spades", "On parole" -I'd love to cover this one one day-, "Killed by death", "Sympathy for the devil" (really curious about this one that I hadn't ever listened before; a song like this didn't fit in my concept of Motörhead, but oh boy does Lemmy own it). And, in case there was any need for further proof that Mr. Kilmster was a wonderful human being, "Suicide", whose lyrics I had never read. When I noticed it I was singing aloud, which makes good practice for the upcoming vocal tracking (although I don't know if I will try to imitate Lemmy's "broken style"; my register is like one octave higher, and I don't have enough whisky in blood...)
Then I moved to investigate and fool around with Drumgizmo, in case there was something I was doing wrong, and I think I got it (I ran out of time right then). The humanizer parameter has by its side attack and release controls. I erroneously assumed that they were for some kind of compression effect on the drum sound (as I had only heard of those parameters in such context), but they affect the humanization; when Drumgizmo detects a repeated note, it applies them to the velocity, preventing the "ratata" effect. Armed with this information, I modified those parameters, and the crash cymbal has started to sound more decent.
In addition to that, I'm thinking maybe with this humanization active, the additional work I did on velocities becomes redundant, contributing also to the weird unnatural sound.
I still have this sadness+anger re: the guitar tracks. The sound is very mediocre. Why's that? With the features of this computer I should be getting a better sound. I'll try to live with it and otherwise I'll make some more tests.
I just come from listening "Now you're talking". I think I have decent guitars. It bothers me not having reached the bottom of this matter, but I've made great learnings that will help me getting rid of problems in the future, for sure (for example, I now understand the connections screen in qjackctl and can change stuff there directly, which is very handy).
What happened today was that, out of the blue, Guitarix didn't work with the settings that I've been using all these days. After revising the whole chain, it turned out that for some reason, "capture 2" was now "capture 1", and viceversa. Strange. Never had this kind of inconsistency before.
Through the intensive rehearsals of these days I took out of the equation the poor playing element, which blurred the other possible causes for the problem. I also learned more about Guitarix settings, which helped me discard the possibility of a poorly set tone. The 5.8ms latency is tolerable, but I'm dying to take distortion out of the box. The DAW should be nothing more than a glorified recorder.
The tutorials I've seen these days say completely different things. It's hard to differentiate actual information from noise, but at least they gave me ideas that then I could try through trial and error.
Anyways, I recorded the guitar track twice, hard panned one left and the other right, and after the tracking session I was able to listen to the whole thing without feeling repelled by it, which is always a good sign. In fact I was this close to overlay a few mockup vocals on top, to improve the currents ones, which are very rudimentary, and just for the fun of it. But recording vocals is always the most noisy part of the process and I have to be discrete.
Again, after the advances in the layering, I've discovered the blatantly obvious things that I have to improve in the drums next. So tomorrow it will be voice or drums, head or feet...
The gods favored my endeavors yesterday with an early success. Half the problem at least seems to be gone, and I'm confident about the other half. Sound is being made, although deep down you always have this rage that "things should not be this way, grrr..."
I recorded Guitarix via Audacity and the recorded track sounds as it should. So the obscure problem is an Ardour related thing, apparently. When I say that 50% of the problem is solved, I mean that I still haven't passed yesterday's guitar tracks back to Ardour; will they keep the quality, or is it Ardour what makes them somehow sound like crap?
I would like to get to the end of this affair and squash that motherfucking root cause, but I have to move on, so maybe I'll settle with a provisional solution. Yesterday's takes were not as good as the previous; to record in Audacity I printed the Ardour session in one track and exported it, which reduces the flexibility when you want to adjust playback levels, so I didn't get a comfortable mix to play to. Plus, I changed location and my posture was not so comfortable. I also think I had a case of butter fingers...
Now I can either comp yesterday's takes, which are full of "bruises", or struggle to find a better mix and then retrack again and go for impeccable like the previous batch. It's a matter of where you decide to put the boring stuff. As a starting plan, I'll check what does Ardour do to the guitar tracks, and if I can get a better mix I'll probably retrack again (standardizing the hell out of the whole process, so I don't have to go through this again).
No music possible yesterday. The plan stands for today.
As today I'm going on 23, I'll extend the deadline until #30, as homage to Sananda Maitreya's "Seven more days". (Ive noticed all my musical references are always 20 or 30 years old... What you gonna do, I'm just grateful I had such wonderful formation years...)
Intestines! It turns out I do my best to get a great guitar tone in Guitarix, only to find that the recorded version in Ardour does its own thing, and it's not a good thing.
I tried all kind of things yesterday to corral this problem. The only options I can think of are: 1) some kind of mismatch between Guitarix sample rate and Ardour's, resulting in a loss of sound quality. 2) Some "channeling" stuff of the kind mono gets recorded into stereo, phase cancellation issues... 3) Some badly adjusted ratio of input-output volumes that makes the signal get "fried" at some point before getting recorded.
I tried all the experiments I could think of yesterday and got nothing concluding. It's not a preset thing, it happens just the same no matter which one you use. It's a torture getting such a good sound with the guitar while playing, and then being submitted to the turd that gets recorded (harsh, mid-rangey and fake, and yes, I've tried connecting head_fx vs head_amp, I've tried every trick in the book).
This is is a perfect depiction of what makes horrible wearing so many hats in home recording. I've been taken totally out of the flow, this was going to be that one song that, finally, took short to accomplish and went smooth. I feel hopeless and angry, I used to think Linux documentation was bad, I was wrong, the real horrific documentation is Linux Audio's... Broken links, unexisting forums, technical docs that give unnecessary details but ignore the basics... and those videos of guys who don't speak, they don't provide a context, just a screencast... what a bunch of creeps, in order to teach you have to TELL in addition to SHOW, I'd really prefer no video at all...
I'm going to get analytical again, define all possible hypothesis and plan for each the one or several experiments required to refute/corroborate them; asking at forums is like pulling teeth, and with very slim possibilities of success, so I reserve it as the very last resort.
I know I have to pull myself together, but I feel so frustrated... A good thing of this is that with so much testing I got to rehearse the song a lot, and the guitar part got new expression along the way. But I'm very angry and very concerned with this problem. Let's just keep pushing and hope for the best.
The song is taking shape big time. I rehearsed and recorded the guitar track yesterday and went to bed in a state of euphoria, absolutely pumped up by adrenaline; it took me long to fall asleep.
I finished tracking and closed everything without even relistening. One of the parts, despite my efforts, is in the reds at some moments, that's all I know. But while playing I had this great sensation you get sometimes as if, instead of playing, you were taming some kind of beast. This is what makes great the rehearsals with a band, and in this case I have the plus factor of finally taking out my chest a song that's been living within me since 2013. Needless to say, everything else pales like cheap cardboard compared to these moments. I live for this shit.
Today is one of those days where the arrival to music land seems far far away, at the other side of the Chores mountains, full of thorny canyons and dangerous trails that lead to nowhere. Something I can do is repeat yesterday's method; one pass of drum improvement and then on to the instrument. I like the way it balances the load.
My drumming powers got greatly enhanced after installing VMPK (short for Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard - It works flawlessly in live recording with Qtractor, and configuring it is as simple as activating one option from a drop down menu), plus the watching of a few generic "Midi drumming" videos --without falling in the "getting prepared" trap--.
To that I can add Qtractor's "randomize value" option, which is great because allows a percentage (1st time I tried a 7% in a cymbal and it was too much, 3% made it a matter of minor touches here and there).
So the drum track is very advanced, the feared arrangement is almost there (to be more precise in the state "every time I listen to you I change you I'm gonna get you you sneaky bastard"), and soon I will leave it and move on, with the "safety valve" of going back to it later if something sticks too much later as a no-no when I listen to it with fresh ears.
The same goes for the bass line. There is a couple of things I could improve, but the general vibe is there so I'll move on and see how it works when adding new layers, always with the same "safety valve" at hand.
So the chances are, if I play my cards well, I could be layering some guitars today, muahahah...
I'll extend this log's deadline till 23, as in Butthole Surfers' "22 going on 23" (from the album, I can't resist to say the name, "Locust abortion technician").
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it