Musicam novam præsento. This song pushes the analog emulation about as far as I think that I can realistically go. For those who like to know what’s going on behind the curtain, let’s dig in.
A few brief words on tracking, which took place over four lunchtimes and evenings last week. Most of the synths are VSTis, but I snuck the K2000 in there in a few places—you can hear it under the first guitar solo, for example, and trading notes with the sax in the altro. Speaking of the solos, both were winged as placeholders, the first on a strat and the second on my signature JPM 335; I kept meaning to retrack them, but in the end I liked them just as they were, “warts n’ all,” as they say, so I just went back and punched in to fix a few wrong notes. The vocals were challenging; you can hear that I still struggle to stay on pitch, which practice is helping, and I just don’t have a very appealing timbre to my voice, which can’t be helped.
Coming out of tracking, I had 89 tracks (I generally prefer separate tracks to multiple takes within a track), which were immediately cut down to 53 going in to post, and whittled down, after comping and combining, to 34 to actually work with. Some of those shrank to stereo stems; others morphed a little. The piano (for the record, Hephaestus’ recent Steinway Grand 3), for example, has a nice little trick to simulate a piano mic’d in three places: I triplicated the track, panned one hard left with a eq curve that turned down the treble, one panned hard right with an eq curve that turned down the bass, and the third was pushed out to 9′ away using TDL’s nifty Proximity plugin, then the whole smash was bounced down to one stereo track. Every track, whether VSTi or mic’d, was routed through VoS’ Tessla Pro (for an analog pre emulation) into VoS’ Ferric (to emulate recording to multitrack tape), quite hot, and printed as a stem.
I then mixed it as 22 channels into four busses (Drums/bass, Keys, Egtr, Agtr, Vox). Each stem was fed through Ferox into Sonimus’ Britson console emulation. Instead of pushing Ferox‘s input to emulate tape saturation, I kept the meter well within the green; the idea was to emulate the sound of each channel being fed from tape, just a little hiss and wobble per channel, and these artifacts, along with the saturation from Britson, gradually accumulate in the big picture. (There is an obvious flaw in that strategem, but it’s unavoidable.) Because I do a lot of work to get everything straightened out in post, few tracks required attention at this point, but where compression was needed, I used my usual go-tos: Minimal Systems’ Punch (1176-style), VoS’ Thrillseeker LA (LA2A-style), and Sonimus’ SonEQ. (Each buss also had the Lindell 6X-500CM that Computer Music magazine recently gave away and SlickEQ for finishing touches.) Reverb sends came from MS’ Airwalker and Bootsy’s Epicverb; Voxengo’s Stereotouch was used on the cello; the venerable Classic Delay is lurking in the background in a few places, too.
I want to emphasize that none of the plugins that I’ve mentioned are expensive; most are free. The developers have put an enormous amount of work into these for little or no money, and I am profoundly grateful to them for making it possible for hobbiests like me to do whatever it is that I’m able to do.