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Stonefly Recording Project


Tom Capasso

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My band Stonefly has been a classic band-on-slow. We're a 60s/70s cover band. The core of the band worked together years back, and we started playing at an annual backyard party held by one of the guitarists. We rehearse monthly and sound pretty good (if I say so myself).

 

We've been trying to step up to some bar gigs. We've done a few, but they were places that were restaurants that were trying to step up to being a club, or bars that couldn't draw flies. We filled these places because our many friend, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers enjoy us while considering us a novelty. In order to interest some more viable venues, we decided to record so that we could create a samples CD with a short bit of some favorite club music.

 

The band:

 

Me bass, background vocals

Jack drums

Ed B percussion (congas, timbales, bongos, cymbals, all sorts of gizmos)

Ed S keys

John B guitar, background vocals

Steve guitar

Chris sax and harp

Barry lead vocals

 

Ed B and John B are fraternal twins. Chris and Jack are brothers. Steve and Jack were in a band in college. Jack, John, Ed S, and I worked together for a while. Ed S and I work together again now. John and I sing lead on a few tunes, but not on anything we are recording.

 

The rehearsal studio we use (Prime Time in Yonkers, NY) has a bunch of rehearsal rooms, and one large room that has recording facilities. The owner Tarik is the engineer. The drummer and one guitarist were in a band that recorded there with another band some years back. We spoke to Tarik during a rehearsal, and he said wed be able to record live even the vocals.

 

We booked for Saturday, May 7. I had a chat with Tarik after we got agreement on the date. The following was discussed:

 

1. Well record live. Tarik said he had done a 7-piece band live recently.

2. Jack and Chris have to attend a dance recital in the late morning. We set up the timing for the day:

Noon Ed B and I arrive. Tarik starts setting up the room, mic up the drums. The studio set is good - the only thing Jack will bring is cymbals, mic the percussion, and get my sound (direct).

1:00 the rest of the band (except Jack and Chris) show up. Guitarists set up with mics. Keyboards will go direct

2:00 Jack and Chris come in finish drums, set up mics for vocals and sax.

2:30 play a tune we arent recording to warm up

3:00 take a quick break, possibly have a beer

3:15 start recording

10:00 go home

 

The first song should go rough and take a while to get over the nerves. We hope it goes more smoothly after that.

Well take breaks as needed, and hope that once we start hitting it, we get a lot accomplished. If we finish before 10, we can start some mixing.

Well set up in a circle facing each other.

There will be some bleed over between tracks, but it shouldnt be an issue for mixing.

While well stop for major screw-ups, weve stated (to each other) that were not going to re-track any parts. That means that if the guitar solo is cool but isnt everything the player wanted, it stays. If the player wants to come back and lay it down again, its at his own cost.

The cost is $50 / hour. With 8 of us for 10 hours, its $62.50 each for the recording portion.

 

The songs (in this order) are:

 

Doors - Roadhouse Blues

Santana - Oye Como Va

Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar

Van Morrison - Domino

Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music

Allman Brothers Band - One Way Out

Counting Crows - Murder Of One

Allman Brothers Band - Southbound

Stevie Ray Vaughn - Crossfire

Ides Of March - Vehicle

 

Im nervous about the singer on the two Allman Brothers songs, because hes never really nailed them. He does everything else really well, but these hes just OK. Weve been doing most of these songs for years, so it shouldnt be much of a challenge.

 

Let's see if I blow the whole thing when I look at the engineer, talk like a Teluride and say "No - you - Tarik of Vulcan - how do you vote".

 

Well see what happens Saturday.

Anyone passing through the area is welcome to stop by and make funny faces at us.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Originally posted by Tom Capasso:

Let's see if I blow the whole thing when I look at the engineer, talk like a Teluride and say "No - you - Tarik of Vulcan - how do you vote".

:thu:
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TC- Rock the house like the player you are!

 

On second thought, maybe you should just bring your bass and shut up. :D "Tarik of Vulcan"... sheesh! :) Remember, you want the engineer on your side. Ideally.

 

Looking forward to hearing the result... :thu:

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alright Tom! :thu:

 

Good luck with the red light jitters bub. Hope it all goes well - you better post some clips mister! ;)

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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OT: BTW Tom - how did you guys decide on the name?

 

The Western Stonefly is one of my favorites to tie and catches a lot of trout this time of year.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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Matt - somehow one of the guys (John?) came up with it. Stone is kinda cool because it reflects the 60s that many of us grew up in (stoned/stone cold/solid). I just remember that as soon as he said it, I thought of those pictures in science books of dragonfly fossils - a fly in stone. When we went on-line to get photos for logo ideas, I saw many sites that talked about the insect known as a stonefly, and it's popularity among fishing folk.

 

Some (especially some outside of the band) don't favor the name, but we (mostly) like it. Coming up with the right name is such a pain, and Stonefly is such an improvement over our previous name (Sashi Tewari).

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I know this project isn't at the same level as some of the other studio journals. It's covers just to get bar work as opposed to original material. Still, I put everything down here. It's way long, but I hope gives the sense of what we were doing. Thanks to those who take the time to read (and ask questions!).

 

I wrote about half of this in the studio (had my laptop with me), and the rest today.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The band has been arriving according to schedule. Tarik had the drums micd and ready when we got here. With his assistant Steve (called Budgy), they set up the percussion, got a sound for the bass (DI out of a Hartke 3500). The drums are center/back to the wall in a square room. The percussion is in about the center of the room facing the drummer. There are two 3-foot baffles shielding him from the drum mics. On the drummers right is Steve (guitar), with his Fender Super Reverb (4x10). Im next with two unnamed 15cabs. I spread out along the wall (bass stand, gig bag, laptop, food, etc.). On the other side of the drums is John (guitar) with a Deluxe Reverb. The keys guy is next to the percussion, and the singer will be in between them. Remember that were playing live no headphones, etc.

 

While waiting for the drummer sax-harp guy, we ran through Southbound (Budgy sat in quite well on drums - his main instrument). John doesnt usually solo in this, but played the ending solo so they could get the levels right. They put the playback in the room PA and it sounds pretty cool. I made a ton of mistakes, but this is the time to make them. Then we went into the booth, and it sounded pretty tight. The percussion is too low, with too much bleed over. We tried moving some of the baffles and mics to improve this.

 

So far, Tarik and Steve have made this easy. Its 2:00 and the last two instruments are on their way. Havent heard/seen the vocalist yet, but thats OK. We ran through the Stones Cant You Hear Me Knocking as well as Pick Up The Pieces.

 

3:00 and the singer walks in. A bit late but OK. Well get his sound set up in a minute (while we were messing around, the studio guys ate lunch, which I made sure I bought).

 

We just did Roadhouse Blues in two takes. The first had feedback as Tarik made adjustments. John thinks he muffed a bit in the solos (its not exactly what he wanted, but was OK). Onward.

 

Oye Como Va (1.5 takes), then Brown Sugar 1 take (Chris may not be happy about his solo), now Domino (2 takes).

 

I didnt look too closely at the control room. It was neat, and built like a standard desk. Where the drawers would be were racked equipment I didnt really look at it. On the right was a patch panel. On the desk was a large mixing board, and there was a pull-out keyboard/mouse tray. A monitor was just behind the board, and a Tascam unit (I took some pictures maybe I can tell what it was) that was doing the work. The software was from Tascam. Sorry while Im truly a gearhead, I didnt have much time to ask about this stuff and dont have the knowledge to recognize equipment like I do with bass gear.

 

Were mostly doing OK we took a break now, and were going to listen to what weve done so far.

 

We re-did Brown Sugar, and continued with the list. The next few songs went well one or two takes. Vehicle came out much better than we expected. Dinner (pizza) was ordered. John and I looked at the list of possible songs, and came up with about 5, and tossed it out to the band. Whenever I take that hey guys listen up voice, much of the band (especially John) start busting my chops. We came up with a list anyway. Somewhere along the way Steve left, and we thanked him for the help.

 

We decided that since things were going so well, wed play full band songs until about 7:30. We listened to Pick Up The Pieces and resolved a part that weve been doing different since the beginning. Two takes and it was down. Then we threw in Santanas Europa (which was not one of the ones we agreed to). Steve does such a killer job on this, and its one weve done for a while. It came out great.

 

Next was Dancin Days. We went through it once without recording to make sure we had it (we only started doing it 8 months back). Then we recorded it, and Tarik said it was the worst one we did did that night. We didnt try again. The pizza arrived, and we stopped. Mostly, we were feeling very good about things. I told Tarik about this board, and the Tarik of Vulcan crack by now I knew hed laugh.

 

Ed S had a family commitment (grrrrr) so we could only do a few more. We tried The Allmans Black Hearted Woman. I sang because Barry doesnt know it (hell track it over later). I don't think it came out so well. Finally we did a so-so version of Break On Through. Then Ed S left, and we started to break down.

 

While we were breaking down, Tarik set up a vocal mic (it looked like a very cool condenser mic, but I dont know what type it was), along with a wedge monitor facing up at the singers. We started with Oye Como Va, which Barry had sung alone at first. Barry, John, and I did the vocal (with the uh at the end). Then Ed B did the guero (like rubbing a comb over a metal thing). It came out great. I did the harmony for Brown Sugar, and I felt tired. I couldnt tell how it came out but the rest of the band was in the studio and approved. This was followed by the harmony during the refrain of Domino. John and Barry came in, and we did the sing along for Play That Funky Music. Yeah we sounded like jerks trying to ham up the term white boy. We did all those parts twice so it was nice and thick.

 

Then it was time for Murder Of One. There are easy harmonies in the refrain, but the bridge harmony is high and I wasnt getting it. I had warned Barry up front that he might have to do this part, and after two tries he came in and took over. I was glad. With the adrenaline of a stage show, I can do this, but just standing there after a long day I was happy to give it up. Of course he did a great job of nailing the phrasing and the notes.

 

John and I do a part of Southbound from a live version where we sing southbound mama while the guitars are doing a scale kinda thing. John sings the same note (the chords go from the I to the IV to the I). I do the third for the I, and the (minor) 7 for the IV (Johns note is the V if Ive got that right). Nailed it and felt very cool (for singing a handful of words and two notes).

 

John and I then did the answering part for Vehicle. We didnt plan this well (live John forgets to sing it and its usually just me). We did the first take the engineer says one of you is doing James Brown and one of you is barely singing (John and me respectively). Decide. I quietly said to John well both do James Brown and told Tarik to roll. I pulled up my low growly madball voice that I used with CMDN, and it worked well with Johns JB. Last on the list was Pick Up The Pieces Barry, John, and myself did this I queued us in and Im sure were on the wrong half of the beat. Somehow, we did this twice for each of the sections that has it, and somehow I queued us in correctly each time.

 

And that was it. 9:00 and done. We asked Tarik how much he said well we started around one and its 9 now with the breaks and all 7 hours - $350 is that OK? I looked at the guys, swallowed hard and said I think you undercharged us we started setting up just after 12, and the drums were ready. He said that was fine it was a fun session that went well. So we pulled out the cash and paid him.

 

The next step is mixing and mastering. Tarik said he doesnt think it will take much work, since all the sounds sound good, and he took them mostly flat. Hes planning on about half an hour per song for mix and mastering. I said I understood the mixing, but what was mastering? He explained that it brings all the songs up to the proper level and sets them kind of even, and matching other recorded CDs (so you dont have to turn up the volume in the car when your CD goes in). It will probably be a few weeks before we can do the mixing due to everyones schedule (including Tarik). Were not sure how many of us will attend this I want to be there and others will too, but we all agreed that if some of us can schedule this, well go ahead and not wait for everyone. I know 8 guys mixing has risks, but we might be OK. Im guessing it will be 4-5 of us. Well see how it goes. Tarik told us he has another studio across the street (news to us) that has a larger mixing room. This control room was pretty small, so a larger room sounded like a good idea.

 

I think I have a few punch-ins to do. I'll call next week and see if I have to come in and listen to it all and see. Tarik said he liked the sound of my Kinal. He said most basses can sound good, but that sometimes the player has the wrong bass for the type of music being played (like a metal bassist playing a modern-jazz sounding instrument). He's not stuck on "Fender is easiest".

 

I was exhausted my backs killing me. But it went very well! On looking back, Tarik really seemed to like us and did have a good time. At the end he told us many times that it was a good session or a fun session. I was very pleased with him. I also understand that we were pretty reasonable to work with. We didnt have any ego or fits, and nobody questioned Tarik when he said something was right or not right (except to make sure we knew what was wrong). The band is not a bunch of professionals, but we did our thing (we love to play) and had fun with each other. Definitely a great experience.

 

Thanks

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Sounds really cool Tom. Relatively painless and best of all, cheap!

 

You didn't mention the red-light-jitters. How did you avoid them?

 

Are you happy with the lines you laid down or do you wish you would have done some differently?

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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57pbass - It will be hard to tell until the final mix comes in. It was too boomy in the room, but that's not what went into the DI cable :) What I heard had enough fullness to sound like me - I think it will be OK.

 

Matt - I'm not sure how we (or myself) avoided the jitters. One thing is that most of these songs have been in our rep. for many years. Some have extended back to previous bands (I can still remember singing/Playing Brown Sugar when I was in college). Part of it was that the first song clicked. There were mistakes and re-takes, but not many. We heard the playback a bit, and it sounded so great. Don't forget that we usually rehearse in a room that's too small, or play places that are so tight we can't hear each other well. Hearing the sound come out of the machine was soooo seductive because it sounded full and complete.

 

Most of the parts are pretty well set. I have a few fills that were OK. And a few "guaranteed to make bassists cringe" notes. We probably won't fix these, since our goal is to build a demo CD.

 

The playback in the booth was very "heavy" for bass. On "Murder Of One", I think the kick drum was too loud, and I could hardly hear myself. I have to listen to the song again and see if I was playing a part that fit best (I thought I was). I'm also going to call the engineer and ask him to listen and see if the bass and kick are just in each other's way. It's probably just a mix issue.

 

FYI - Southbound and Murder Of One were played with a pick to improve my articulation.

 

I had hoped to have my daughter take photos, but that didn't work out because we finished early (I didn't want her to drive for an hour to find half the band gone). I took some, but it looks like Chris (and Tarik) didn't make it. Mostly I concentrated on how the room was set up.

 

CLICK HERE

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Originally posted by mattulator:

Sounds really cool Tom. Relatively painless and best of all, cheap!

 

You didn't mention the red-light-jitters. How did you avoid them?

 

Are you happy with the lines you laid down or do you wish you would have done some differently?

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Welcome John - one of the outstanding Stonefly guitarists. One of our founding members.

 

We have a Tequila tradition - each rehearsal/gig, we always have a shot. Some (like me) barely cover the bottom of the dixie cup (classy group are we). Some have more...

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Tom, Good Luck with the recording & Mixing !!!

My Band also has a Tequilla ritual on the

occasion (we're AZ band after all!), but then again we also have a "Tom" & a "John" in the band, Hmmm.... ?

I brought a bottle of Cabo Wabo Reposado last Jam

(this is Sammy Hagar's distillery - Great pure blue agave Tequilla !)

we offer a shot at 1st & 2nd breaks to loosen up a bit & share in the band

bonding thing. Where's the Lime & hit me with that salt ! We'll be waiting to hear some sound bytes from the Demo :thu:

I'm Todbass62 on MySpace
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  • 2 weeks later...

This past Tuesday we started the mixing. It had been decided that we arent doing any overdubs/punch-ins or fixes of any type. But we could hear the mistakes. It was live, and were not anything like a precision machine. Some of them we managed to hide, some werent serious enough. And then there was the moment when we heard a bass goof, and John looked at me and said were not fixing that! Being an authority figure (and a wise guy) gets me in trouble sometimes :) We kept in mind that the primary purpose is to create a demo, so no one minor oops was going to be an issue.

 

Five of us showed up to mix. We requested songs pretty much in the order that we put them down. The band contributed very little to the mixing process. We didnt have to. The drums sounded great as recorded. Depending on the song, there were minor bass tone tweaks. The only challenge was finding what the percussionist was doing. This is where the recording process was not at its best. Id like to have seen the percussionist in a more acoustically-isolated set-up. He was sometimes drowned out in his own mics by the live-room noise.

 

Each song had its own challenges most were minor. Tarik added reverb to the Santana solos in Oye Como Va, mixed the rhythm piano parts down in Southbound because it didnt fit rhythmically with the guitar strum, and used copy-and-paste to fix a horn bit in one song.

 

The challenge is that with 8 guys + backing vox, there is a lot going on. Tarik seemed to instinctively know what was important and what we could mix down. The process took time because he/we listened through the songs a few times to make sure that everything was right. As a live recording, it had some level issues. For example, the keyboard solo in Southbound started out OK, but Ed S must have thought he was too loud so he turned down. That section had to be boosted. Stuff like that.

 

The real issue was our version of Counting Crows Murder Of One. I asked that we take a shot at that, wondering how it would go. We ended up switching the levels on various parts so that it was very different from what it sounded like live. We also lacked some of the dynamic range we would have liked to have, and Tarik managed to help out. And my tone was weird. I played with a pick, but must have been playing over the J/neck PUP more than I realized it had this strange quality unlike anything else I played. Since I didnt change settings between songs, it must have been in my hands. Tarik warmed it up for me. While the result was OK (theres enough there to include on our demo mix), we left the song planning a pretty thorough re-arrangement. I have to find a lighter part during the verses that follows the kick, while the drummer has to stop the quarter-note kick he used in the beginning. Steve did a tremolo part for most of the song, but that left some of the other guitar parts unrepresented. So were going to have the keys do the ethereal stuff (think leslie+strings patch or something) while Steve and John do the guitar parts. Yeah thatll be fun next rehearsal.

 

We worked for 4 hours and did 6 songs (mixed, mastered, wavd to CD). I dont have the experience to see how we could have done this any faster. The band members asked few questions, and usually the answer was yep heard that not there yet. So the bill was $200. We have 8 songs to go (one will need a vocal track recut I sang it when I was tired and not trying too hard not sure if/when this will be done, but well take a copy anyway). Tarik says hell do the last 8 for $200. He says it was a fun recording session, and were rehearsal customers. He has been great to work with friendly, funny, knowledgeable (you know I was asking questions), and he delivered. Next session is next Tuesday.

 

I managed to get a site started on MYSPACE . It needs a lot of work, but I put 4 of the 6 songs up there for your listening pleasure. Im pretty sure theres at least one clam in each song. Have fun finding them!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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