At this point in the EP project I have almost finished recording, the only tracking left to be done is backing vocals which is happening very soon. In other new the 4 tracks is being dropped to 2 track, just for the sake of getting to a more professional standard, I believe I overscoped this project a lot and didn’t take into much consideration other learning outcomes that I had(have) to tick off that aren’t related in any way to this project. The obvious thing to do at this point is to get 2 of the 4 song up to as high a standard as I can for this unit, and then come back throughout the holidays and finish the other 2 tracks. The band is planning to release anything until next year anyway.
I’ll now go into a bit about the instruments or elements of the tracks and how I went about recording them. Excluding drums as I already completed a blog on that component… https://lucaswillmermusic.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/ep-project-update-1-drum-recording/
The bass was a mexican Fender Jazz that we ran through a DI direct into the desk in our Audient 8024. I also ran the bass through a Urei 1176 compressor and a Qure SPL tube EQ. The aim of the EQ was to run the input of the bass in fairly hot and get more colour, as well as a low end boost. The compressor was set to a quick attack, a ration of 4:1, and a high input as well, again just to add colour and fatten up the low end. There’s nothing cleaner and thinner than a flat DI sound. The reference sound for bass that the guys sent me was Mr Beat by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, check out the song below.
The song has a very 1970’s psychedelic tone and feel about it, the bass isn’t too aggressive, it’s sounds a bit boppy even. I did some research into the bass for the band and how they achieved that tone. I discovered there is an actual technique called “dampening”, it basically involves putting a piece of foam underneath the strings at the bridge. The reason for this was that back in the 70’s it helped the base cut through more on the radio. It’s created a certain tone associated with the genre and period of time. We racked all of the songs with a piece of foam in the bridge, the bass player Billy enjoyed the sound and had apparently never heard of it before. I’ve since then experimented with the bass tone further, using a fabfilter plugin called “Saturn”, you’re able to distort different frequency bands with different tones, with the plugin i could really saturate the mid and low range, it thickened up the bass a lot. A the moment I’m working with the original DI and blending a duplicate in with the Saturn plugin on it to still get a bit of honky high end from the original track.
The keys and synth were track with a Nord Stage 2 keyboard in our Synth/Midi/Raven studio. Initially I went to record through 2 basic active radial DI’s, however the preamps in there are really nice API 500 series ones with FET direct inputs, so I just used those. Either way it didn’t make a great deal of difference to my ear, the main reason I wanted to swap was to see if there was any major difference.
One thing I’ve noticed with all of the instruments/vocals, however lately the keys/synth, is that every is very smooth and rounded of in the high end. Even the more aggressive synth patches sit back maybe a little too much. I noticed this when I was trying to boost some of the different clip gains in the track and just the track level in general, I was struggling to get it to cut through at all. That will probably be something I will try to rectify with an EQ and some multiband compression in mixing. In hindsight, I should’ve tracked MIDI through USB as well, at the time I didn’t see the need, until Steph our lecturer came in and recommended it so I could add sub bass in post if there wasn’t enough low end.
The rhythm electric guitar was tracked in the Audient 8024 with a mexican Fender Telecaster and Roland Jazz Chorus amp. I got the amp of the floor for recording, I have been doing research on the physics of how the room and surroundings can affect the recordings and tone of the amp. Getting the amp off the floor uncouples the amp from the floor which means there is no messy low end resonance from the floor. More research explained to me that the angle that the amp is pointed in the room can create random reflections from the wall that the mics will pick up, to although I don’t believe I’ve encountered this issue before, however just to be safe I angled it in an odd position that would stop any dry reflections. Which is why I’m assuming most electric guitars amps sit in the deadest and driest rooms for recording.
The Lead electric was tracked in the Neve studio with a mexican Fender Jazzmaster through a Vox AC30 Tube amp. I spent the first hour of the session getting the signal running so that the guitarist, James, would be able to sit in the control room with me for tracking, but of course with the amp in the live room. The signal flow was a little confusing, it began with running the guitar into a passive DI, then with a mic input lead into the desk, i pulled that out and used a gender bender to turn the input into a send and plugged the guitar passive DI output into it. Basically that reverses the signal flow to send the guitar signal out into the dropbox in the live room. I then ran the signal from the appropriate channel, into a reamp box, which is basically turning the signal back into an unbalanced TRS jack line to go back into the guitar amp in the room.
This all worked great, however all the trouble shooting I managed to do in 30 minutes didn’t solve the issue of noise. It came to the point where I got James to go into the live room and plug directly into the amp, and the noise remained, unless he stood in certain positions in the room. This means that the issue is the pickups in the guitar. So I made an executive decision to record with him in the live room. It wasn’t ideal however it worked well and I don’t have very much noise in the recordings at all.
All of the electric recordings were kept fairly clean most of the time, we did some experimenting for both of the sessions and it was really fun producing the guitars, particularly with James. He is a very proactive guitarist and we had a lot of fun coming up with layers for bridges/chorus and using different effects on these parts such as tremolo, chorus and delay. I didn’t want to track with any reverb initially however I was happy enough with the guitar tone from both of the guitarists to record them.
The mics I used on the recordings were all very different, I made it so as I wanted to audition them all and see what sound they all had and what their character was. I also made a point of recording the talkback mic in all of the sessions as you never know what cool or weird sound you can get from them. The mics I used on the rhythm tracking were a Sennheiser MD421, Royer 121, and an AKG c414. The 421 has a very flat response in comparison to most microphones, especially in comparison to the c414 which is very bright. The mic I was relying on for the main body of the tone was the 121, it has a very warm tone.
The mics used for Lead were a Sennheiser MD421, Rode K2, Royer 121 and a DPA pencil condenser, the last 2 were swapped around a bit, we swapped out the DPA for the 121 for the smoother and softer songs.
Vocals were tracked in the Neve Studio with a Neumann U87, a traditionally clean and bright microphone. I wanted to use the Neve as the preamps are great for more rock styled vocals, according to our lecturer. Our Audient 8024 studio also has an Avalon preamp/EQ/compressor which I would have also been happy to use, and will be using for BV’s, it’s more suited to a pop vocal.
We experimented with doing full takes for a song and then, breaking it up into verse, pre choruses, choruses and so on. We used the broken down method on all of the songs, as it meant Kevin wasn’t singing for very long periods at a time, and it also helped me zero in more on the individual parts. One thing I struggled with throughout the session was Kevin’s experimenting, he would often to little things like hesitations or frequently changing little parts in the melody. The lacking in consistency is making it harder to edit the parts as they are all very different. Having a variety to edit with is great, however only if there are enough GOOD takes of each part.
Just after recording rhythm guitar, as I sat down to compile and edit the tracks, I’ve discovered in a select few of the songs, there are clicking noises from effects pedals. Although I told the guitarist beforehand that we would record the parts with different effects separately, I’m unsure about how clear I was about it, as I didn’t mention that it would appear in the track, even tho his pedal board was metres away from the microphones.
Part of this trimester has covered, repairing audio and performance correction with plugins such as Izotope RX and Melodyne. The obvious desire is to get it right in the recording, but I can quite honestly say that sometimes it’s not so simple, and little accidents are going to try and kill your tracks.
I used Izotope RX de-click to try and clear out the deal clicking in the recordings. In Izotope Audio editor, it makes it quite simple to visually see in the spectrum where the evil noise is in the track.
The way you get rid of the clicks, short of erasing the audio, is to use instant process and select de-click and it will target the clicks at where ever you click on the waveform. Or you can select the click module on the right and try to clear them automatically. The video below is very clear on explaining how RX works for de-click.