Another Step Closer

Barely one week after my cover of Linkin Park‘s ‘One Step Closer’ and the inherent realisation that my absence from any dedicated guitar practice for some time has made a significant dent in my progression, albeit for a good cause given my absence was due to relocating upon buying a new house for my five-year-old son and I, and I have also come to realise, finally, that my approach to recording any progress has not exactly been by a method that even remotely offers half-decent footage to gauge progress by. In reality, I have known this from the outset as the recording of these guitar covers has always been more about motivating me to practice, pushing me to learn new songs, to help maintain momentum, and ultimately about simply striving to get better. As such, I have simply been using my iMac’s in-built iSight camera and microphone from day one, so the quality was never going to be the best, especially when it comes to the audio quality.

With this in mind, I have purchased our first piece of dedicated equipment for our new ‘guitar studio’ in our brand new home, basically the spare room, and this new bit of kit is a Blue Microphones ‘Snowball’ mic. Apparently it’s great for vocals and guitar recording, including acoustic or the associated volume of an electric guitar, and can essentially be used to record an entire garage band if need be. So, it’s a versatile microphone indeed thanks to a three-way selector switch that caters to a wide range of sound sources from intimate vocals to powerful electric guitar amps to an entire rock band if you feel the need to record an entire band. All of this is apparently possible thanks to the presence of selectable: cardioid, cardioid with -10dB pad,  or omnidirectional polar patterns. These polar patterns basically relate to the microphone’s directionality, and thus sensitivity. All I know is, after doing my research, this entry-level mic comes highly recommended and at a great price!

So, in the spirit of raising the bar and attempting to set a new standard for my guitar videos, although I’ll still be recording the video footage on my iMac’s in-built iSight camera, the sound is now going to be recorded using our new Blue ‘Snowball’. Indeed, this is the reason for a ‘take two’ of Linkin Park’s ‘One Step Closer’. As such, I have recorded using the new dedicated microphone placed on the floor around one foot in front of my Roland Cube 80XL amp, just off centre. Purely from memory, there appear to be quite a few articles, videos or commentaries that I have been exposed to over time, that have briefly commented on the rationale behind an off-centre microphone placement, but I imagine this is all about experimenting to find the best position for optimum recording.

After recording and realising that this new approach does indeed result in a video featuring a far more powerful sound track recorded from my efforts on the guitar, directly from the amp, and indeed a much cleaner guitar sound track with a greater degree of clarity, I then had the task of adding the backing track back in to the final video, to put the guitar playing back into the context of the actual song. This required some experimentation and several attempts in order to produce a final video that once uploaded actually exhibited both guitar sound track and backing track simultaneously, as initial efforts that appeared to be successful, resulting in a final video that played perfectly well on my iMac, actually resulted in the backing track being almost entirely stripped from the video at the point of uploading it to YouTube, rather strangely.

Eventually, I was successful after using a combination of iMovie and GarageBand on my iMac, editing the video initially in iMovie, then isolating the guitar sound track from the video in GarageBand and combining the resulting guitar sound track with a backing track in GarageBand, and saving both of these side by side audio tracks into a single mp3, which was then uploaded back into iMovie directly to the final video, after stripping the original audio from the video in iMovie. After much trial and error to get to this stage, thankfully the resulting movie when finalised, exported and uploaded to my guitar channel on YouTube, did indeed retain both audio tracks.

Despite appearing to be a rather elaborate process initially, eventually my efforts via this approach resulted in the creation of a new master video that successfully featured both the dedicated guitar sound track and accompanying backing track. All in all, the new approach requires a little more effort to put together the final video, but the result is now a guitar video that has a punchier and ultimately clearer guitar sound, and featuring a backing track that can also actually now be heard with more clarity, resulting in a video that is definitely one step closer to something approaching half-decent quality. A side effect of this evolution in my recording methodology is that now there is truly nowhere to hide, as any mistake in my playing will be revealed with immediate effect! Naturally, this will hopefully also act as a motivator in my quest to continually strive to get better. However long my quest to learn how to effectively play this six-stringed instrument may take, at least I am back on my path now and clearly another step closer!

– Joel BB


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