Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Little Fretless Bass and the Cher Effect

Here is a new version of "The Future Soon" which has a fretless bass line -- my first attempt at recording a bass line. The bass is a fretless Steinberger Synapse 5-string (one of the new ones). These basses are interesting because they are composite: part wood, part carbon fiber, with a shell on the neck and body kind of like the Parker Fly, and they have a piezo pickup at the bridge with a hunk of ebony in it. This gives it a tone that sounds a lot like an acoustic upright bass! It also has a magnetic pickup, but for this track I used only the piezo pickup.

The guitar track is the same dry track dirtied slightly by putting it through a tube amp simulator in Logic, giving it just a little bit of crunch, which I think sounds interesting on an acoustic guitar. The bass is also through an amp simulator and a little flange.

I heavily tortured the vocal line by applying the "Cher Effect" (unnatural pitch correction, like the effect used in the song "Believe," plus a little chorus). It seems oddly appropriate for a song whose narrator aspires to become a cyborg! I want to try to record some more vocal takes and get a better track at some point when it is quiet around here (that was a little joke).

This really tortured my little Mac Mini (Logic kept throwing up somewhat random misbehavior), as well as my sanity. It's hard to try to record a bass line through headphones while in the same room there is a Sesame Street DVD playing, my son playing his guitar, and two babies yelling. At least it was better than yesterday, when I was recording the guitar part and they kept running around and crashing into me. That made it extra-challenging! At one point I was thinking to myself "I bet Jonathan Coulton doesn't have to put up with this" but then I realized -- he has a toddler at home, and does his own recording in his apartment, so he probably does!


Zander said...

Interesting recording - What software did you use for the vocal pitch correction?

Paul R. Potts said...

Hi zander,

It was the pitch-correction plug-in that comes with Logic. See:

I had it tweaked to a D major chord with the exception of the bridge part, where I had to set it to a B minor on a second track. I think it is possible to set it with variable settings on the same track but I'm not really an expert in Logic yet. It is set to the fastest tracking, which is what makes it sound unnatural.