In which I discover EQ

The trio CD continues to near completion… still.

We are done recording, and I’ve got decent mockups of the graphic design, so all that remains is finishing.

Thursday evening we got together to listen to the CD. We agreed that the panning and balance among instruments seemed fine, and the volume from one piece to another seemed consistent. But in general, the guitar is just a little too bassy or muddy on some tunes, and the fiddle just a little too sharp.

I had already experimented a little with the EQ plugin to do a bass cut on the guitar and a high cut on the fiddle. It’s hard, with little computer speakers, to tell how much difference it’s making. Apparently not enough yet.

Yesterday I revisited the first four tracks and tried again. It’s certainly a learning experience.

One very useful thing I discovered is that you can have the plugin open during playback, adjusting and instantly hearing the change, even turning it on and off to compare to the original.

I’ve also been experimenting with what to adjust, too. I started with presets for bass cut and high cut, and have been modifiying the gain and bandwidth knobs — I only have a vague idea of how they work, but by tweaking one or the other or both I seem to be able to get the sound I want — at least on the computer speakers. We’ll see what happens with the CD player.

A very surprising discovery was that on one piece where the guitar starts with fingerpicking, the guitar track has a lot of bleed from the fiddle and dulcimer — perhaps that mic’s gain had been boosted to get a strong enough signal compared to flatpicking. So I added the fiddle EQ adjustment to that track as well, and I also understand now why everything sounded balanced even though the guitar track’s meter runs higher than the other two.

Two other discoveries, not EQ-related:

1. “Spootiskerry” is not a traditional tune. It was written by the late Ian Burns, copyright 1980. Thanks to Susan Songer (of The Portland Collection), I was able to get in touch with his daughter to get permission to include the tune. Whew!

2. For medium runs (500-1000 CDs), it’s only pennies more expensive to have them professionally replicated (manufactured), versus professional duplication (CD-Rs; actually more expensive than replication for this many CDs), having imprinted blank CD-Rs made and the graphics professionally printed, or doing everything ourselves.

Replication costs more up front, and you have to commit to a pretty high number of CDs, but the quality and appearance is better, it’s less time and work on our part, they’ll be shrinkwrapped, and even if we only sell 100, we’ll at least break even.

So — we’ve decided to have the CDs done by the same company (National Tape and Disc) that pressed my two solo albums.