Recording update: Black Titanic, and Learning (read: dealing with) Audacity

This is a song I wrote in the last couple months called “Black Titanic.” My wife helped me with the title. It was originally called, “Black Melodic Titanic Medieval.” A descriptive title at best, it contains adjectives that I think describe the song well. You’ve got Black metal-style guitars, Melodic lines, Titanic heaviness, and Medieval-sounding 3/4- and 6/8-time-signature-ness.

When my wife asked me what the title was, I told her, but I messed up the order of the words and said, “Black Titanic Melodic Medieval.”

Her response: “Black Titanic.”

It was perfect. Those two words sound awesome together, and now I’ve got all these seafaring lyrical ideas poking around in my head.

This is a new song. The structure was finalized in the last few days, the rhythm guitar recorded Tuesday, and the bass recorded yesterday. It needs drums, lead guitar and vocals.

It’s a tough song to play all the way thru, but after hours spent on both instruments, I managed to edit all these separate, small tracks (each a piece of the song, and the best take of each instrument–however long I could play without fucking up) together into a seamless piece.

This is easier in Sonar than Audacity, I’ve found–in Audacity, whenever you stop and press record again, it creates a new track, and records to that. So, if you’re doing multiple takes on one instrument, you have lots of tracks stacked up on top of one another, increasing size and confusion, and guaranteeing lots of moving tracks up and down in post. And you can’t blend sounds together on a single track, either, something Sonar allows, so moving one up into the other requires pretty minute attention to detail, as far as where you cut.

You’ve gotta make sure to hold Ctrl before moving, too–don’t want it sliding left or right, and out of time.

By the way, I’ve recently started making the switch from Sonar to Audacity. The reason? My red laptop, Redbluud, can’t handle much at one time, and Sonar uses a lot of (what I think is termed) processing power. Audacity is much less energy-intensive.

The nail in the Sonar coffin was when I tried to record this band live in their practice studio, twice, and the computer froze both times. It was the using of two mics at once that overdid it, I think. Piece of shit. I’m using my faster, newer, and more lightweight MacBook Air as soon as I get a mac-compatible digital preamp. Until then, Audacity works well enough on my Redbluud.

There are some significant limitations to Audacity, however, when compared to Sonar. I’d like to delve into adding audio effects to recorded sounds.

“Black Titanic” needs compression and equalization really badly. As it sounds now, as you’re hearing from above, it sounds a lot like a wash of noise. I hate that about a lot of black metal, and I mean to correct it with my own. I could have turned the distortion down on my guitar, but the song NEEDS killer, tough, tearing-bone-from-sinew distortion. I know it can sound better, cause I played this track in Windows Media Player, and messed with the equalizer, and it sounded a lot clearer.

Now, if I were using anything but Audacity, I’d be able to equalize and compress more easily. The problem I’m having with Audacity is that the program doesn’t allow you to play the track as you change the settings.

Here’s the basic sequence of events: you highlight what you want to add the audio effect to, click Edit, scroll down to desired audio effect (in this case, compression), and you’ve got your new, small window which shows the wavelength of the compressor and a few slider bars to alter.

If you want to preview what the effect added to the highlighted area will sound like, you have to basically remember what it sounded like at first, and compare that track, in your mind, with the new, effected track. See how that could be problematic?

A workaround would be to duplicate the track before adding the effect. That way, you could hear them right next to each other. But if you don’t like the effect you added, you can’t just tweak it the way you want. You’ve got to undo the effect you just made, highlight the track to be effected again, select Edit, the desired effect, and tweak from there.

In Sonar, the effect is kept unembedded from the track. It’s a separate thing, like a pedal you’d add to your guitar that you can click on and off. And you can play the damn thing while editing. No need for any duplication bullshit–you’ve got one track you’re working with, seamlessly tweakable while playing, with the ability to just take the whole effect off without losing sound.

…you know what? Recording in Sonar is what uses up the processing power so much. What if I recorded and edited for timing in Audacity, and exported the files to Sonar for the e.q. and compressor? I’M A GENIUS!!!

About Glenn Smith

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