My beautiful son arrived into the world last March — so naturally, I did less studio work with clients in 2008. However, this gave me the chance to work again with fellow musicians and friends. This installment of "100% UA" features Spirit and the Bride, which is a collaborative music project that will ultimately result in our second full-length recording. It has been exciting and invigorating to work on my own music again after such a long time, and the process has been a respite from my new job as father. This project has centered much more around “bedroom recording,” simply due to the need to be at home! As always, UA hardware and software was widely used, and contributed to the overall sonic impact of this recording.

Spirit and the Bride
Spirit and the Bride

Origins

The song is entitled “Golden Calf,” and it began with a drum loop played by David Roda. It was lifted from a Spirit and the Bride rehearsal/jam recorded 12 years earlier. Christopher Pajak extracted the energetic hi-hat and tom pattern, which was originally recorded on 4-track cassette, and sent it to the band via email. I was inspired by the two-bar loop and dropped it into Digital Performer. I first added a kick drum part created from a large 14” Roto-Tom (also played by David Roda).

I began improvising bass parts over the loop with my trusty Klira, an early '60s Hofner knock-off. I then incorporated a harmonically dissonant organ part created form Native Instruments B4. The results were interesting, but I got a mild response from the rest of the band. There wasn’t enough to the picture yet. I hastily wrote some lyrics and had Paul Nauman take a crack at a vocal. We were both displeased with the results, and it never left the bedroom!

Christopher flew out from Arizona to work on guitar parts. This song was certainly not a focus for the weekend dates, but we miked up the amp and Christopher quickly improvised some eBow parts over the existing tracks with his Stratocaster. To be honest, I barely paid attention during the recording, as I had already subconsciously “let it go.” The song languished for a few months without even a listen. On a whim, late one night I opened the session and began listening to the eBow parts, and quickly realized there might be some magic. I compiled together the best pieces from the four or five passes, scrapped the vocal and did some minor restructuring to the existing arrangement. The response to the track was much more enthusiastic, and I of course was pleased with it as well. In the haphazard way of writing a song in your DAW and only one track at a time, it seems you never know which new element will suddenly make a recording special.

I once again commissioned Paul to create a vocal, but this time encouraged him to bring his own ideas to the table. I simultaneously worked on my own vocal and lyrics, with the unstated idea of having a vocal layering effect as the ultimate goal. Paul provided a melody and some adapted lyrics, taken from the German poet Rainer Rilke, and recorded them on his own with his laptop and Snowball USB mic. He also created an octave version of his vocal electronically within Garage Band. Simultaneously, I had recorded my melody and lyric as a scratch vocal (which would later be replaced by Mariana Nenadic’s much more interesting and capable voice). Once the elements were combined, the magic was there. The layering idea worked and the song now had the momentum it needed to approach completion. Paul later came to my place and re-recorded another version of the primary vocal part and a harmony part. Christopher came back not long after and added the additional “chimey” guitar part and some additional eBow parts. We then added a few other minor adornments such as the hi-hat part contributed by David Roda and the 808 parts. I delivered the track to Michael Romanowski for CD mastering via his FTP site. Michael was constrained to use only UA tools for this project.

Recording

Klira Bass
The trusty Klira,
strung with flatwounds

Golden Loop
Originally from a rehearsal/jam and recorded on 4-track cassette. Played in 10/8, then later compiled into a 16 beat measure that actually feels like 2 bars of 3/4 and 2 bars of 5/4 - but was easily assimilated into a 4/4-song structure. I’m sure we used SM58s through Radio Shack transformers straight into the Tascam ¼” mic input. It was recorded in a church, with Dave's kit nestled within a plexiglass drum shield, giving the drums a nice isolated “salad bar” effect…

Roto-Tom
I added a deeper and more defined sample-based kick drum part created from a large 14” Roto-Tom tuned low (also played by David Roda). This was taken from another Spirit and the Bride song. I believe we used the 6176 and an SM57 to record it at close proximity.

Bass
The '60s era Klira hollow body bass has a "small" sound that cuts through a mix well in the midrange. I used an interesting rubber pick for a subtly enhanced attack. I recorded the signal direct into the 6176 with moderate compression settings late one night in the bedroom.

Organ
I used my beloved NI B4 virtual instrument to create the thick, slow grinding organ part. A moderate overdrive setting was used and the drawbars were set to create a harmonically dissonant patch. Plenty of B4’s authentic-sounding spring reverb was also applied. The MIDI was bounced to audio and never left the box!

“In the haphazard way of writing a song in your DAW — and only one track at a time — it seems you never know which new element will suddenly make a recording special.”

eBow Main
These were the sounds that inspired the resurrection of this song. They were recorded in UA’s studio through the 6176 and AEA 84 ribbon mic. We borrowed Dave Crane’s beautiful Aiken amp and pedal board. There were a few effects used, most notably a Fulltone Ultimate Octave, Fulltone Deja Vibe and T-Rex Replica delay. Some strings were severely detuned and very loose, and were often played via the makeshift natural slide of Christopher’s index fingernail far up on the highest frets, even beyond and above the pickups-providing a very voice-like, expressive quality, capable of articulating subtle microtones.

Guitar Swell
Recorded direct into the 6176 in the UA studio using just the volume knob of the guitar to swell into the sustained chord. A nice addition from Christopher, this bit really makes the ending of the song beautiful.

eBow Glissando/Chatter/Tremolo/Reverse
Recorded in the UA studio as late-entry overdubs to add increased tension to the bridge. The effects used were a Moog MF-102 Moogerfooger, a modified DOD Overdrive, Electro-Harmonics Octave Multiplexer, and an Ernie Ball Volume pedal. “Reverse” was played with rubber xylophone mallets-and then the track was reversed within Digital Performer.

Guitar effects pedalboard

808 Ride/Hi-Hat/Laser/Bridge Paradiddle
Recorded direct into the 6176 from my old Roland R8 drum machine.

Mouth Ride Literally, my own voice attempting to sound like a filtered and enveloped white noise ride cymbal. Recorded through the 6176 and SM57 in the bedroom.

Plate Crash is the sound a single sample going through Plate A at The Plant in Sausalito. Recorded with the line of the MOTU Traveler. I’ve used this sound on a couple mixes now.

Chime Guitar/Chime Guitar 5th
The Chime Guitar was recorded in the bedroom direct into the 6176 with a touch of 4:1 compression. The Chime Guitar 5th was created with DP’s pretty awful-sounding onboard “Spectral Effects” processor. The creative awfulness was perfect in creating a glitchy, textured guitar harmony.

Paul’s Main Vocal
Recorded in the bedroom with the 6176 and the Brauner Phantom V condenser. We used the SE Reflexion Filter and the Royer pop filter. We used mild 4:1 compression.

Paul’s Harmony Vocal
Also recorded with the 6176 and Brauner.

Paul’s Octave Vocal
This one is from Paul’s original demo recordings. It was pitch shifted with DP’s internal pitch edit software. I used it to bump up an entire performance one octave. A great tool for pitch fix, but there are some audible artifacts from such a dramatic shift in pitch. We like what those artifacts added creatively to the sound of the song. The fact that it is not the same performance as the main vocal gives it a doubling effect.

Mariana’s Main Vocal
Recorded with the 6176 and the Brauner in the bedroom.

Mariana’s Harmony Vocal
Recorded with the 6176 and the Brauner in the bedroom.

Ring Mod Vocal
Recorded with the LA-610 MkII and the Brauner in the bedroom. This was recorded as an afterthought once Michael Romanowski’s mastering was complete. The Ring Mod Vocal had the effects bounced into the track along with reverb.

Wurlitzer Piano
Another late entry, incorporated after Michael’s mastering work. Recorded through the 6176 using the Audix D2 mic right on the grille. I used the 6176 hi shelf EQ boosting 4.5 kHz 9 dB. There are two parts, a high and low octave blended and panned.

Mixing

Some of the mix elements have been combined to minimize track count for the purposes of this article. In these cases effects were bounced down in the process. Noted below.

Echo Send
Roland RE-201 Space Echo was used with minimal delay settings with a 16th note echo. Panned hard left within the plug-in.

Reverb Send
Plate 140 with the damper fully open on Plate B. Small pre-delay and low-end cut/high-end boost EQ emphasis.

Bedroom Studio
The bedroom studio

Golden Loop
Cambridge was used to boost the bass with a Type A shelf at 50 Hz. The Neve 1081 EQ was used for some subtle hi-mid and high frequency boosting. Lastly the SPL Transient Designer was used liberally to increase attack and minimally reduce sustain. Panned nearly hard right, while the aux return from the RE-201 was hard left.

Roto-Tom
I used the SPL TD at maximum attack and sustain settings for an extreme effect. The result makes the source a far cry from the final result. What a fantastic plug-in for this purpose. The SPL was followed by the Neve 1073, which adds some subharmonic content with a shelving boost at 110 Hz, and some 1.8 attack with the mid-band followed by some air with the HF shelf.

Bass
A little 1176 compression was used at 4:1 with the slowest attack and release settings. The Klira was chosen for its midrange qualities, but the raw track still needed a little EQ-a mild boost to the low shelf at 35 Hz, plus a major boost to the attack at 3.2 kHz. Sent to the Plate 140 reverb for ambience.

Organ
I filtered out the subs at 71 Hz at 18 dB per octave and added a little bump at 2.65 kHz.

eBow Main/Guitar Swell
Only DP’s Auto Pan was used for both tracks for a slowly moving stereo image. Both were also sent to the Plate 140 via an aux send-both were set pre-fader. The ending swell was sent liberally to the Plate 140 and Roland RE-201. Bounced with pan and fader positions intact and all UAD plugs.

eBow Glissando/Chatter/Tremolo/Reverse
Four tracks combined here. Only “eBow Trem” used any insert effects. Cambridge was used to filter out the top at 6.57 kHz, 30 dB per octave and Neve 1073SE was used to minimally boost the midrange at 3.2 kHz. Each track is panned at various places in the stereo field, and eBow Glissando was sent to the Plate 140 pre-fader. Bounced with all effects, pan, and automation.

808 Ride/Hi-Hat/Laser/Bridge Paradiddle/Plate Crash/Mouth Ride
Six tracks combined here. Each track is panned at various places in the stereo field and all but “Bridge Paradiddle” is sent to the Plate 140. The Hi Hat was sent to the RE-201 as well. Bounced with pan and fader positions intact but without effects. Bounced with all pans, effects and automation.

Chime Guitar/Chime Guitar 5th
Two tracks combined here. Both use identical 1176 settings at 4:1 and 1081SE settings both with a mild cut at 2.2kHz. The main chime guitar also uses the Roland Dimension D in “All-Buttons” and the Roland RE-201. The RE-201 is only used in automation at the very end of the track to send the guitar into a moment of self-ocillation. Bounced with effects and with pan and fader positions intact.

Paul’s Main Vocal
The Neve 1073 was used to add a mild boost to the bass at 110 Hz, a moderate midrange peak at 1.6 kHz and some air with shelving filter. Two LA-3As were used in series, both doing mid compression. Lastly the Precision De-Esser was used, for obvious reasons!

Paul’s Harmony Vocal
Cambridge was used for a low cut at 71 Hz at 18 dB per octave with a very wide boost at 1.5 kHz for intelligibility. This was followed by two LA-3As in series. This was sent to the Plate 140 buss.

Paul’s Octave Vocal
Again, Cambridge was used for a low cut at 71 Hz at 18 dB per octave with a very wide boost at 1.5 kHz for intelligibility. This was followed by a single LA-3A. This was sent to the Plate 140 buss.

Mariana’s Main Vocal
The mids were boosted very conservatively at 16.kHz with the Neve 1073SE. Sent to the Plate 140.

Mariana’s Harmony Vocal
A minor floor rumble was cut with Cambridge-49 kHz at 18 dB per octave.

Ring Mod Vocal/Wurlitzer Piano
These parts were mixed in later with the mastered version of the mix. The Ring Mod was the built-in effect within DP and the reverb used was Dreamverb with a particularly long predelay and emphasis on the high frequencies. I used the Harrison 32C EQ high and low cut filters and one bell to boost the mids at 1.4. Plus a little LA-3A compression. For the Wurlitzer, I compressed the part with the 1176, Boosted 1kHz with the Harrison EQ and inserted the Cooper Time Cube with two separate delay times panned hard left and right. I automated an increase in decay on the last chords of the part. Both parts are bounced together with effects.

Harrison EQ screenshot

The remainder is written by Michael Romanowski, Mastering Engineer.

Mastering

After hearing the song, I wanted to pull the mix forward a little. The left-to-right organ swirl became a bit wider, more dramatic. The vocals became more prominent, clearer. The bass harmonic rings more clearly as well.

Pulling the presence forward was aided by the Pultec Pro, adding a slight boost with a wide Q at 5 kHz and a small dip at 1 kHz. Additionally, I pulled back the middle with the Precision EQ at 572 Hz, which helped clean up the midrange vocal area without brightening the mix. Again using the Precision EQ, a low boost at 57 Hz was to needed to give the foundation portion of the kick a little boost, as was the boost in the low band of the Precision Multiband Compressor. The kick had a nice attack, but the low bass and bottom of the kick needed a little strengthening to match the punch of the kick. Adding some slight compression to the low mid band of the Precision Multiband was to help balance the low punch with the foundation and avoid letting the kick get out of control by the related boosting.

Returning to the Pultec Pro, I added a slight warmth to the grind of the organ and power of the vocal at 200 Hz. Next, a wide 11k bell curve on the Precision EQ helped open up the top slightly without adding brightness. The Precision EQ high pass filter at 20 Hz let more energy through in the listening reproduction frequencies rather than weighing down the mix with frequencies that would be hard to reproduce and muddy up the playback. Finally, the Precision Limiter was put in place last to bring the volume up a little without allowing digital overs. A very quick release was to let the music breath without holding it down unnecessarily.