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Filling out a three piece with effects

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Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby _ Six _ » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:22 pm

I'm about to start recording a three piece rock band that are adamant that what ever they do in the studio must be able to recreate on stage. At the moment they're relying on sheer volume and delivery to get them through but want to refine their sound a little. I'm working on the arrangements but it's still sounding a little flat in places.

Drums sound good and the bass player is using distortion to fill out the sound. What I was considering was using octave effects on the guitar to try and fill in the spaces. Ideally I'd like to add a second guitar and a few synth lines but it's not an option.

Any tips or tricks for working with three piece bands? Their style is along the lines of the Arctic Monkeys.

Cheers
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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby The Elf » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:45 pm

_ Six _ wrote:I'm about to start recording a three piece rock band that are adamant that what ever they do in the studio must be able to recreate on stage.
I sometimes hear this from (typically inexperienced) bands and I find it a bit silly. There's always a way to recreate things on stage - sometimes not perfectly (reverse reverb, for instance), but well enough.

Whatever you do to fill out their sound is just as artificial as adding a reverb, sample, synth, or a harmony from the lead vocalist - and they are going to have to recreate it somehow, if they are going to stick to their ideal. On this basis it could simply be that you need to make as plain and honest a recording as possible, and not try to fill out their sound at all - and get the band to track it as a single take.

But...

Consider artificially doubling the rhythm guitars left/right, using delays to widen lead/solo parts and vocals. Use an octave double for some of the lead/solo licks too. A simple stereo widener method (delay/detune) can work wonders, but I'd probably reserve this mainly for vocals. Get as good a stereo room sound on the drums as you can and use this to make the background of the mix bigger - especially if it includes spill from the other instruments/vocals.
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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:58 pm

Well it's a tricky one this. Some bands don't really get that a record is not a gig. They're very different deliveries and you have to work around the limitations of each to get the best out of them. The trick is to retain the vibe of the three piece and the parts. You never want to attract attention to a part which isn't what the part would be live. But sometimes you have to provide width. It's great in the verses because you can be quite contained and mono but when the chorus drops you want the thing to expand and of course it doesn't do that very easily. You can hard pan the guitar and use a short delay on the opposite side, but it's weak in mono unless you're actually going for that slapback sound. Sometimes you can balance a guitar on one side against a floor tom or something on the other but obviously you need the parts to be doing that sort of thing. Chorusing will spread the bass and guitar but it will be washy and again weak in mono, and it won't leave a coherent space for the vocal.

I'm doing a three piece at the moment where they wanted the live thing without a lot of extra stuff, and the guys have been really cool about it...There are a couple of little overdubs and we've used some sustained edgy, compressed chords as a sort of 'invisible' balancer. There's also some single note distorted piano stuff to provide weight. You can't hear it but it fills the gap. We haven't really doubled stuff.

So what can you do...Well, I'd be really tempted to keep the vocal, guitar and bass completely mono...make each work within its frequency confines. Let the bass be the bass and the guitar and vocal provide the midrange. Use the drums to fill the width. Let reverbs and delays or whatever you're using fill the width too. It could be cool. Just go with it. Embrace the mono!

OR....pan the vocal and guitar hard left and right!

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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:03 pm

Oh...re that distorted bass...Be careful. If the bass is distorted it's going to have a lot of midrange content and that's going live in the middle, on top of the guitar and vocal. It could hinder rather than help. A little bit is fine. It depends if it's like a big muff on full or whatever. If you have control over the distortion after the fact, you could try filtering the lows out of it a bit and spreading it left right with a chorus of some sort. That way the clean deep bass sits in the middle below the guitar and vocal and the hairy stuff keeps a little bit out of the way. But that might just sound un-naturally wide and a bit silly in context.

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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby zenguitar » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:13 pm

Any chance of getting a recording of them live, discretely?

It can be difficult to explain that playing live and recording are related, but different. Sometimes it is just easier to play a good, raw sounding, studio album by (say) the Arctic Monkeys followed immediately by your live recording of them. Let them hear for themselves, then explain that the clever bit is using arrangement tricks, subtle extra parts, and a variety of different sounds to give the impression of playing live and raw but still maintain interest and make an impressive recording.

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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:20 pm

zenguitar wrote:Any chance of getting a recording of them live,

+1 then sit down with the band and some grot boxes and AB them with:

Nirvana
The Police
The Jam
Motorhead
Pistols
The Arctic Monkeys if that's a workable direct comparison.

Discuss what's (im)possible and the gear/expertise available. Manage expectations.

I like the sound of raw, sparse recording but sometimes it takes 10 overdubs to make one decent guitar sound.
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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby Dave B » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:37 pm

Bass pedals. The bass player will probably want to get more interesting and the distortion may fill the sound slightly, but it may take away from the bottom end more. Pedals can give that low end back. It doesn't need to be an enormous sound - but that can sometimes be right - as just a bit more helps.

Moog Taurus 3's can be found, but I'd recommend some Roland PK5's (proven to be bullet proof and long term gig worthy) and almost any decent synth module. I adored my old Oberheim Matrix 1000. Some people like the Novation Bass Station. There's even a Moog Taurus module.

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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby _ Six _ » Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:04 pm

Dave B wrote:The bass player will probably want to get more interesting...

Ambitious!
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Re: Filling out a three piece with effects

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:57 am

Listen to Dr Feelgood's first album, Down by the Jetty. This was mixed almost in Mono, as Jack suggests. The vinyl actually had Mono printed on the sleeve I seem to remember, even though the mix was actually stereo just with very little, bordering on the no, panning. They also claimed there were no overdubs but if you listen carefully you can hear a couple of guitar lines ghosted to fill it out a little, get a little more clarity hear and there. But as a No Frills, Make it Sound Like Live, album it takes some beating. Depends on the genre etc, of course,but Down By the Jetty is a good start. Still one of my absolute faves of all time.
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