When I recorded the chimes on the 6-track (complete) version of Outbirds today, I knew they were off, but I thought they were off in an interesting way, and I figured "okay, I'll fix these later when I do the final version." I wasn't really going for dissonance in this song, but it's absolutely in theme, and I thought it was kind of neat. (Have I mentioned that I spent a lot of time listening to noisemusic and can sometimes really
get into microtonal dissonance? No? Well, I have, and can, and even when I'm writing my own stuff for more general audiences, I will
write quarter-tones. Just so y'know.)
Then I threw the recording at some people who are not
into microtonal dissonance, which is to say, "normal people." And they said "this sounds awesome except the chimes which make me want to DRILL MY BRAINS OUT." So I was confused about a synth being as off-pitch as this one apparently was, but I have a pitch shifter, and this instrument was never intended to be on the final recording - I want real chimes, properly tuned - so fine, I'll go ahead and fix it in the DAW.
But it wouldn't fix. Not even a little. I could fix some notes, but others would be off. I fix them, and the rest went pear-shaped. We brought in some other friends and got more and more confused, until E. figured out that it was the harmonic overtones, which were pretty much completely fucked. This is a common problem with bells and chimes, particularly fake ones. So I threw a big low-pass filter over the whole thing, got it down to the low notes I'd most wanted, and while they were still
not quite right, and still couldn't all be completely fixed (just like above!), they were reasonable.
At this point, I'm thinking, 'well, this synth is junk
. Or at least this voice is.' But by then I had the six-track recording in listenable form for people with good senses of pitch and less... esoteric... musical tastes. (K. says it sounds like the bell part sounds like the equivalent of a prepared piano
now.) And that's what I needed. I also have a five-track recording without the chimes that serves mostly to show you how desperately important those chimes are to the song.
Then I powered back up the synth to see what was going on. I sat down to play the same part again and see what it sounded like on the built-in speaker, and it sounded completely different
, and by completely different
, I mean, as in not the same voice
, not the same notes
, and not even the same octave
. The synth in this voice doesn't even go down that far
. I checked all the settings against my notes and yes, they were right. (There aren't that many settings available! It's a simple machine.)
So at this point I'm thinking, 'wow, I got the last performance out of this thing, apparently.' And I plug in my studio reference headphones to see what it sounds like in those, and it sounds mostly the same as on the built-in speaker. Completely different to what I recorded... except... way down below all the other tones, below all the intended-by-the-maker
tones, I hear my notes
, and the voice I had been looking for and had recorded.
And right about then I'm realising that I hear the presumably-intended tones in both ears
of my headset coming from a mono
instrument. And I'd used a mono cable for the recording, since it is, after all, a mono instrument. Sound people will know what happened now, but for everyone else ("normal people"):
The left and right channels are out of phase. The engineer behind this thing decided to get the second signal for the stereo headset users by subtracting the intended signal from ground and throwing that out into the second ear. When I used a monophonic cable, I recombined the two mostly
-phase-inverted channels, which cancelled out most of the sound. ALL I WAS RECORDING were the non-phase-cancelled lower harmonics created by the interference between
the note pairs I was actually keying in.
, this was a reasonable approximation of what I'd wanted. Once I hammered on it with a pitch-shifter, anyway.
I will, of course, re-record this correctly - later. But I'll keep this version too. It's kinda awesome, if you know the story.