It’s taking its time, but my new track is coming along fairly well, I think. I still don’t have lyrics to record, so to prevent myself from beating my head against the wall on the drums, I began to fill out the other elements of the track.
The only element (apart from vocals) I hadn’t yet added was the bass, so it seemed as good a place as any to start. There’s a free electric bass in SFZ format over at Turtle Sounds, but I decided to try the “Naturally Decaying Bass Guitars” SoundFont from HammerSound, since I could load it straight in to Qtractor using the Fluidsynth DSSI plugin; it has a nice fingered bass patch that sounds fairly good to my ears.
It didn’t take long to get a basic bassline hammered out, along with quite a few flourishes; if anything, it’s a little too busy. I spent some time today trimming things down, and replacing some of the note changes with pitch bends (using Qtractor’s pen tool) to give it a smoother, more realistic feel. I’m pretty happy with the results, but I’ve had offers to record an actual bass part, so if I run in to trouble with my MIDI part, that’s a definite option.
Either way, mixing the bass should be fun. I’ve been playing with Rakarrack, using its Convolvatron to apply impulse responses from bass guitar cabinets to the sound, and while the effect is subtle, I think it does help add a sense of realism to it. With some EQ and compression it should sit quite nicely in the mix.
With the bass in place, I re-recorded the entire piano part. Until that point the piano track was heavily quantised and copied-and-pasted, so it was desperately in need of some dynamics and variation; the re-record has a nice build-up from the start, with a solo section in the middle and some more changes in the finale. I also settled on Pianoteq’s K1 piano, after auditioning a few different options. It shouldn’t need much EQ unless it clashes with the vocals (once I record them), but some subtle compression won’t hurt.
The drums are still being problematic, but I’m much happier with them now than I had been; barring a few rough edges, I’d say they’re just about done, or at least arranged. I’m still not 100% sure how I’m going to mix them, but I do know that I want separate room and close mic tracks for each major drum group (probably kick, snare, toms, hats, and cymbals at this point) so I can tweak the levels and EQ on each to get the right feel. I have a feeling that it’ll take a lot of copying, pasting, and editing, to get each of those drum groups on its own MIDI track so they can be routed to separate LinuxSampler channels (or at least routed to the same one and then bounced to audio one-at-a-time).
Discovering how to write semi-open hats with my drum kit certainly helped me get some nice hat parts written. I’m still using the RockStock kit from Analogue Drums, using a third-party SFZ mapping, and to play a semi-open hat I have to play a closed hat while adjusting MIDI CC 4. This setup is designed for use with a foot pedal to control hat openness, but it’s easy enough to write those CCs manually in Qtractor.
Mixing on Qtractor
I’m still not 100% sold on Qtractor for mixing, but it’s working well enough so far. Rui actually added the ability to do sends, to use a bussed reverb, which is great, and its audio recording has certainly worked well enough for the backing vocals I’ve recorded so far. It’s interesting to think that I could keep the piano, bass, and drums entirely MIDI all the way through mixing — everything I’ve done so far has always been bounced to audio for mixing, and I think for archival purposes it’d be nice to have audio bounces, but it’s not something I’d really need to do.
At this point, I’d say there’s a good chance that I’ll get a rough mix finished in Qtractor, and that I’ll get frustrated enough in the process that I end up bouncing everything to audio in Ardour and finishing the mix there.