Manowar: The Undisputed Kings of Comedy

Hilarious article on ManOwar from my fave blogger of the moment

The Tyranny of Tradition


In The Hallowed Halls of True Satire, no comic acts have attained the lofty heights that Manowar has reached by accident. Charlie Chaplin, Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George W. Bush….no one is on par with Manowar. It’s not even close.

An odd mixture of Goebellsian fascist imagery, arrested pre-teen angst and Rodgers and Hammerstein, Manowar have created an act that aims to stretch the boundaries of the absurd far beyond their breaking point.

The sheer earnestness with which they fight for a cause that is not really being threatened is breathtaking. They are defenders of a faith that no one has. Protectors of a mythos so silly that it is hard to imagine that they can stand on stage for an hour and a half without breaking into fits of laughter. Yet they soldier on, without a hint of the joke that only they…

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Next Post: additional mics with 2 tracks & frequency dynamics

Coming soon…

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New drum Mic position for ‘Say Nothing’

blog new mic position drum pic

So I am currently recording a new tune, bit heavier, bit Mogwai, Kyuss (in MY head anyway!) and probably only choral vocals (no lyrics) because frankly I think I am rubbish at them and I want to something more emotive and obscure.

But above is basically a slightly different drum mic placement for my (limited) mics…I have found it quite a nice position which doesn’t allow the cymbals to get too loud. Good for a limited mic placement. In a larger, more reflective room with a hard wall opposite the kick drum you could probably get away with it as the only mic BUT you’d have to be happy with the natural dynamics of the room.

I am thinking that if I dampen the sound in the room I use I would get a closer sound which would be give me more control over the drum dynamics with my limited mics…

So here is the finished article with the above drum mic positions


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New drum mic set up for ‘Damage’

New tune ‘Damage’ sounding pretty good – recorded the drums with two mics that worked really well, getting much better sounds from the toms and snare – better impact (attack), without cymbals or hats being too loud or quiet (image below – click to expand).drum set up

You will likely need to adjust the position of the condenser mic to best effect – I got it as close as I could without obstructing my drumming. This has been a pretty good two-mic solution to recording drums.

Finished track can be heard here:

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New Song: mic-ing a cab

Mic-ing a guitar amp with additional inside-cab.

Mic-ing a guitar amp with additional inside-cab.

So I started recording a new tune called ‘Damage’ that’s long overdue and I mic’d the cab up with two condensers, one in front slightly to the edge of the cone (to avoid some of the sharp spikes of the treble at the centre) and one inside the cab – a cardiod-pattern  condenser mic pointed at the back of the cone. Cardiod is the name of the pattern of the area of noise response of the microphone – in this case a heart shape – see a good explanation here –

I mean, why would you not just use every mic you can to record a sound? – then you can blend or bin the sounds as required? With sound recording there are not many people who would deny that it’s better to have more than you need than less!

You can see that I ‘mounted’ the inside cab mic with a sock and tape (so as not to get too much vibration from the cab as opposed to the speaker). In every situation I try to maximise the amount of sound I want going in to the mic and minimise the noise I don’t want. This is a good general rule but sometimes you might get a random effect (the room you’re in/ a loose string on your guitar) that you didn’t want, but actually sounds brilliant! So you never know: every time you record you might get something different. It’s amazing how the tiniest little things make such a difference. Even right down to your mood and how you strum the strings – the recording will pick it up!

The way I am recording now, I have a 2 channel USB interface so one mic goes in the left and one in the right (mic and line inputs are generally, if not exclusively mono).

So when I record on to Reaper (free pro-tools-like software) I have one stereo track to separate like so:

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Step 1.Duplicate the track so I have two exact copies of the stereo take on two separate tracks.

Track 1

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Track 2

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

2. Pan one track 100% left and one 100% track right (doesn’t matter which).

Track 1

L (mic 1) 100%  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) 0%     —————————————–   

Track 2

L (mic 1)  0%  —————————————–   

R (mic 2) 100% \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

3. Make each track mono with the program tools (if it was a stereo track with both L and R signals centred, it would combine the two signals  into one mono track, but in this case there is only one either L or R signal so that becomes the only mono track).

Track 1 (mono) (mic 2)/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Track 2 (mono) (mic 1) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

So now you have two separate mono tracks from the same take from two different mics which you can edit separately as two takes. You can blend them back together later which is what I would do because originally they are exactly the same take.

I would say that check what the default signal input setting is on your recording program because it may be mono, left, right or stereo and if you are sending a stereo signal (two mics for eg), only one mic’s signal will record if your recording software is not set up to receive a stereo signal i.e. it will only record the left signal input if you’re default is a left input (like Reaper is!).

There is another trick I use to thicken up guitar lines which is to play exactly the same guitar line over itself with a new take, because of the fallibility or humankind, no-one could play the line exactly – no, not even Joe Satriani or whoever your guitar hero is! That’s one of the interesting things about sound. It sounds good because it’s not perfect. So you get a chorus-effect, depending on how closely you copy your line. I know that Elliott Smith did this a lot and it’s really useful with acoustic stuff to flesh out a solo acoustic sound without doing overdubs of different lines and harmonies etc – so it still sounds authentically like one man/ woman and a guitar. It can work well with an extreme left-right pan too. I also do this with vocals but it isn’t always the sound you want and can produce a sound that is expansive but lacks focus.

So I have recorded the parts of the song – a few different takes so I can pick the best – I recorded this one to a 115bpm click track. I wouldn’t always record with a click track (‘Carolina’ acoustic song here was tempo-free and P.S. I need to bring the levels up a bit on that one…) but with ‘Damage’ I will probably put drums on it. This tune should be fairly easy to do because I spant a lot of time with the song and know how I want it to go: not always the case!

I am thinking future posts may involve discussions on the pros and cons of compression and software vs hardware (I have only experience of software!), plus updates on my recording. Laters…

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The Process: an overview

So at the moment I have 2 condenser mics (powered mics with a higher output and more sensitive response) and a passive mic (doesn’t need power – standard live vocal mic).

What I generally do is:  record a guitar riff or song to a click track (metronome) in my bedroom then, take it over to my mum’s house and record the drums to the guitar track in her spare bedroom (when she’s out of course!). More details about recording specifics later. I pretty much play drums over the track over and over again and usually, across 4 or 5 takes there is enough to put them together to make ones decent track. Obviously as I get better on the drums I’m getting close to using one complete continuous track.

Now if you’re a purist you might say that putting together different tracks is a bit disingenuous, which is certainly what I used to think. But I think now that with recording music – whatever works! I love playing live and, playing live you only have one chance to get it right, but I don’t see any point trying to mimic that, because it is what it is but a studio experience is just that so why not take advantage of the benefits?

Having said that, in my last band, Irregular John, our last and best recording was in a rehearsal context, a purely live recording with vocals overdubs (laid on afterward): this format creates its own problems.

Well anyway – so then I take the guitar and drum track back home and stick some bass on and vocals (bass is a guitar that is tuned down with a digital pitch-shifter ‘post-hoc’). It’s much better to have the bass on when the drums are recorded – makes a big difference to the feel and often I re-record elements until I’m happy to release it to the world! Most of the time I am composing as I record and vice versa – using the recording to compose and going back and forth to record isn’t ideal and I personally this it saps some immediacy from the multi-instrumental stuff I record. I always think that the simple acoustic stuff just seems to capture some of the vibe a bit easier.

So this is a brief overview of a long process and I’ll come back to some issues when I feel the need.

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Equipment overview as of September 2013…

So a quick overview of my latest set-up would be:

  • HP Envy with an i5 processor, 6mb of RAM and a solid-state drive (effectively a large 120gb memory card) RRP £500-ish
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 external USB recording interface (2 mono inputs, line or mic/ jack or XLR) RRP £120-ish
  • Behringer B2 dual diaphragm condenser mic (powered) RRP £100-ish
  • Rode M3 single diaphragm condenser mic (powered) RRP £100-ish
  • Alto 4 channel mixer RRP £40
  • Sennheiser Cardiod dynamic mic (e series – bit like an SM57/58) RRP £100-ish
  • Sweet sweet Ltd Ed silver Gibson SG RRP £1000-ish
  • Ear-pounding Mapex Meridian Birch Kit with Sabian B20 Cymbals – RRP £650, Cymbals £350…ish!

Note that I have acquired these bits over time and the Guitar and B2 mic are second hand, the Sennheiser is borrowed and the rest was DEFINITELY on sale! So you can do this for a lot cheaper than the RRP’s shown here.

To follow will be details of how I record, where I put mics and probably some stories of the many gremlins that cause me to tear my hair out on a regular basis!

(if setting up this blog is anything to go by then it will be a long list!)

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