Over the past couple of months, a good musician and friend of mine approached me about helping him record 2 original songs that we had session. Originally, this was simply to meet the criteria for his production unit for his music degree. However given the opportunity, we decided to use it as platform to hopefully create “release” worthy tracks for us to potentially start gigging with and sharing with people. As apart of this trimesters projects, I have decided to do an official mix of the tracks recorded.
Tracking these has been the process of a few weeks, organising studio bookings equipment and parts. Drums and vocals were recorded at QUT Kelvin Grove in the Audient studio, this was due to the quality of the live rooms, drum kit and outboard gear available. The live rooms were made with a mix of glass panels and uneven timbre surfaces, which was the more appropriate environment for drum and vocal acoustics. Guitars were recorded at SAE here in Brisbane in the Neve studio, the room is far more dead sounding with the carpeted floors and walls and wanted more control over the room sound for guitars. Plus the Neve preamps sounded great. Bass was record at my house running direct through a Fractal Axe FX 2 digital effects preamp, this was mainly due to the restraints of studio time and the quality of sound we were getting from this method of recording, which was very good.
Yamaha kit (model unknown)
Kick – Shure beta 52
Kick – Beyer Dynamic M88
Snare top – Shure SM57
Snare bottom – Shure SM57
Rack Tom – Sennheiser MD421
Floor Tom – Sennheiser MD421
We approached miking up the drum kit with a typical Pop approach of more microphones is better. Which is always true, although for the style of music it was definitely the appropriate technique to approach the tracking with. For the kick we took the safe option and wanted a beta 52, in our other second song we used a Beyer Dynamic 88 for the sake of variation and actually preferred its tone to the beta 52 for that song. We knew the option to supplement sounds was always there and we were contempt with using sample sounds, with plug-ins such as Trigger 2 but Slate. We used an SM57 on the snare top and bottom, this was agreed on in the early planning phase, from experience we both knew this technique was a good option to use for its tonal diversity. For toms, again we took the safe road and used the industry standard for tom miking, the MD421. The main thing we were aware of when miking up the kit, was the direction in which we pointed the microphone. Personally, in the past i wasn’t very much aware of how important the position of the mic is, even it is still pointing at the correct sound source, bleed can still be very prominent.
Hi Hats – Rode NT5
OH Left – sE Electronics 2200a 2
OH Right – sE Electronics 2200a 2
Room 1 – Shure SM5B
Room 2 – Blue Bird condenser
The Hi Hats were not a large priority, due to the fact that the drumming doesn’t draw too heavily on the Hi Hats component of the kit, however we decided to put a Rode NT5 pencil condenser on it as there are a few fills where we felt they needed to cut through the mix. The Overhead technique was a spaced pair, we wanted a wide sound for the kit and a bright but smooth large diaphragm sound for the cymbals. The SM7B was initially just meant for vocals, but it was a good quality mic that wasn’t being used, so we put it in front of the kit, pointed at roughly the centre. We wanted it to have a different sound, it is however a very dry and clean microphone, so we ran it through a Distressor Compressor. We compressed it heavily with a really high input and ratio of 20:1, the result was this awesome crisp sound that we were immediately set on for the drum sound. The Blue Bird was also a spare vocal mic that we put high up in the back of the room to capture the room sound.
Bass – Fractal Axe FX 2 digital effects preamp.
For Bass we used my Axe Fx, it wasn’t an ideal choice as we both would have preferred an organic and live tone. However, prior to recording the bass I tweaked some of the patches and experimented with different compression, drive and EQ to create a patch that I’m very pleased with. Also, at this time I had just hired out a USA made, 1979 Fender Precision bass from Tym’s guitar in Brisbane for another project. I used it for recording bass and we were both thrilled with the final result.
Electric Guitar – Vox AC15 combo – Les Paul Style Guitar with humbuckers
For Electric guitar we used a Vox AC15, this is a clean and bright British style amp, for effects and gain we used an array of pedals to achieve the tone we wanted. We picked 3 microphones and decided that we would close mic the speaker, then audition them both individually and in pairs to see what sound was the best. The 3 mic’s were all different types, a dynamic mic, a condenser and a ribbon. We chose these as we felt they were our best choice for a quality tone, and we both had a soft spot for the SM7B. The verdict was that we could not decide, so we used all 3 and then when it came time to edit, we decided to use the C414 and SM7B for one half of the parts, and the Royer 121 and SM7B for the other half. This was mainly due to the limitation of tone we had in the studio. For 2 separate guitar parts, we only had 1 guitar, 1 amplifier and 1 pedal rig. The different mic’s gave us the ability to have a tonal variation.
Clean – Blue Bird condenser
Unclean – Shure SM7B
For vocals we chose the Blue bird for clean as it was a boutique style of cardioid condenser which is generally a good microphone type for vocals. For unclean we decided to use the SM7B for its ability to cope with the aggression of screaming. Having reached the mixing stage i’m very happy with the choice of microphones.
I will soon follow up with a post, updating readers on my first mixing attempt, providing detail as to my processing and use of effects.