It’s Not All Jolly Rainbows & Recording Sessions!

Hi Everyone!

This post is in a little bit of a different direction. I’ve talked a lot about working with some amazing talented musicians and having some amazing experiences! But not all experiences are the best, but these are the experiences are you learn the most from. Whether it’s a session gone wrong, or business related. Your developing yourself and your skills. The sooner you have these experiences getting into an industry, such as the music industry the quicker you adapt and the better off you will be in the long run.

This post is going to be about an experience I had at the beginning of my last year of college. I was invited to work at a local music studio. I use the term studio very loosely. Initially this was sold to me, as an opportunity to record and produce artists from varying genres. To me that sounded like heaven! It was all I wanted to do, so getting an opportunity to do that was one I couldn’t refuse.

I walked into a highly unprofessional environment. Not just from the perspective of the equipment but the staff there. I was situated in a small white room with a Mac, Mbox and one mic. I only ever got to record any form of music three times to be exact, I was not happy. To make the situation worse I arrived for a recording session nearing my end at this “job” and It turned out to be administration work and what is more completely unpaid! I had made the studio owner aware previously that I wish to be paid and i will send invoices directly to her for my work.

The owner of the studio targeted what she believed to young naive, inexperienced college students as a means of providing cheap (free) labour for her business.

I saw this early on, and acted accordingly standing my ground. Making the studio owner aware that I value my own worth! I sought advice from those around me i.e. my college lecturer, my friends and family. Which confirmed my belief that I was right to stand my ground.

I produced and submitted an invoice for my services to the owner of the studio and despite her initial reluctance to pay I eventually received payment in full buy dealing with her face to face.

I learnt to deal finances, writing up invoices and getting the money I have earned. But more so I learnt and realised that valuing your own worth is key. How do you expect other people to value you and your work if you don’t value yourself?

Hard lessons well learned.

FMP Final Track List!

Hi Everyone! Here’s the final track list for my FMP CD.  I have discussed each of these songs in depth before in previous posts, and said that they’d feature on my FMP CD.  But I just wanted to confirm this and what order they’d play in. So here It is:

FMP TRACK LISTING:

1. Not A Saint – Luke Draper

2. The Power Of Love – Georgie

3. Los Pollos Hermanos – Heisenbergs Blue Lagoon

4. I Was Glad – Bournemouth Symphony Choir

I will be soon posting about how I mixed and mastered these four tracks and any issues I had to resolve.

Till then!

Old Favourites: Luke Draper “Not A Saint”

The penultimate track on my FMP CD is by an acoustic guitarist and singer, Luke Draper. The song is titled “Not A Saint” and is a beautifully emotive track. In this post I will talk about how I met Luke and how I recorded his music.

Luke Draper was the second artist I ever recorded outside college hours. He contacted me through and advert I placed on the internet looking for bands and/or artists to record. I wanted as much experience as possible, going into my second and final year of college. Building up my portfolio for the future.

After a couple of days of back and forth emails. We met over a coffee and discussed his music in further depth, what Luke would like to get from the recording sessions and more importantly getting to listen to his music in person. Simple Pre-Production. Luke’s music is acoustic alternative indie pop, but I’d more describe it as Luke Draper. It’s his sound, unique to him and he does it very well.

However! Let’s get onto the technical side of things! One key question I had for Luke was whether he’d like to play his guitar and sing at the same time or overdub the vocals. He chose the latter and overdubbed the vocals. But how would one record vocals and guitar at the same time without LOADS of bleed? Well, let me tell you!

I will explain this technique, the qualities of an acoustic guitar to help all of you to lay down a successful recording. To end this post I will then explain how I record  Luke Drapers “Not A Saint”.

TECHNIQUE 1:

figure eight polar pattern

This technique use the same principle as the Blumlein miking technique, using two bi-directional microphones. Two microphones with a figure of eight polar pattern to put it simply. This is not a stereo miking technique! With this technique do not see it as a coincident pair and having to use the same microphones. You can use two different mics to taste of what is being recorded!

The tight rejection characteristics of a figure of eight mic makes it the perfect candidate for avoiding bleed, however you have to take into consideration that the back side of the figure of eight shall have bleed from reflection of the room. This is something you cannot stop. Furthermore another thing you have to take into consideration when using this technique and figure of eight mics in general is that the back side of the mic is the opposite polarity, be aware that issue can crop up.

I have drawn a diagram on paint to help describe this miking technique. Yes, the guitarist has a hat. Don’t judge my immense drawing abilities. I tried.

Null point diagram

Moving swiftly onwards, back to the subject at hand! The mics are set out as there polar patterns are commonly shown. As you can see there are two lots of figure of eight polar patterns. One looking at the singer’s mouth as where the other is looking at the guitar. The red dotted lines in the centre of each figure of eight are the null points. The null pints on a figure of eight microphones do not pick up sound, This is due to the open air diaphragm being very sensitive to sounds coming from either the front or rear axis, while sounds approaching from the side cause no diaphragm movement, therefore no sound being picked up. This is called off axis rejection. Therefore minimal bleed.

ACOUSTIC GUITARS:

An acoustic has a very wide frequency range, it can be really boomy one minute then be screechy the next! But all in all it is a beautiful instrument. The boominess of an acoustic guitar can reach frequencies 300Hz or even lower! Where has the sharpness of an acoustic guitar comes from the fast high frequency transients. More of the lower frequencies resonate from the body of the guitar, kind of like when you lay your head on someone’s chest whilst they’re talking to you and all you can hear that “wub wub wub”.

This can be brutal, say if your had a bass, drums and acoustic guitar based band. As the bass and drums are already occupying the lower frequencies. It’s is very common when mixing in this instance and in popular music containing an acoustic guitar. To filter out the bottom of the acoustic guitar, so the bass does not fight for space. Typically filtered from 250Hz and below, thinning out the bottom of the mix.

If you are recording a rather high frequency heavy acoustic guitar, not using a small diaphragm condenser would be the way forward. As the small diaphragm requires less energy needed to move the diaphragm, therefore picking up for high frequencies. A large diaphragm condenser is the logical answer to this instead of a small diaphragm. Large Diaphragms still pick up the fats high frequency transients as common of a smaller diaphragm, but not getting to much of the harshness evening out the guitars tonality.

Yet the question still remains. Which Large diaphragm should you use? Well you’ve got a whole world of mics to choose from if you’re lucky, but here’s an example a specific mic that is superb yet using it for right purpose is key to getting the best out of it. Choosing a mic is due to what you are recording and to taste so be wary and look into these things!

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The Ribbon. The Sontronics Sigma to be exact. The tonality of this mic is very warm, and in all honesty quite dull. But that’s not always a bad thing when used in the correct way. For instance a female jazz vocal would sound superb captured by this microphone. Ribbon mics and especially this one rolls of the high end, making it soft, warm and lacking in sibilance. This is not only due to its frequency response of 20Hz – 15kHz, but more so its circuitry.  The thin coil sits between two magnets, and these magnets effect the field around them. Creating a field of resistance, rejecting high frequencies.

RECORDING “NOT A SAINT”:

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I used four microphones in total to record Luke Drapers “Not A Saint”. The Sontronics STC-1 ,  small diaphragm cardioid pencil condenser looking at the twelfth fret on the fret board, to capture the fast high frequency transients of Luke’s guitar as his guitar was quite boomy and low frequency driven so I wanted to even out the range of the guitar.

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The second microphone I used was the Sontronics STC-2, a large diaphragm cardioid condenser. Looking directly at the sound hole of the guitar. Still capturing the high frequency transients but also capturing the warmth of the lows resonating off of the body of the guitar.

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The third and the penultimate microphone used was the Audio Technica 4033, looking at the strap button on the side of the body of the acoustic guitar. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? That’s what I thought when my college tutor told me to try putting a microphone there! I have no idea if the technique has a name or whether it is a technique, but I’m glad I listened and used it! I believe that the placement of the microphone is to capture the tonal quality of the body of the guitar and resonance as well as capturing reflections from the room. The Audio Technica 4033 is a larger diaphragm cardioid condenser has a multiple mid and high end boosts, as well as a frequency response of 30Hz – 20kHz. Giving the mic a relatively  bright tonality, but not as bright as say the STC-2, so it seems duller in comparison but it is lovely sounding microphone. A very underestimated mic that should be used more often!

orpheus

The third and the penultimate microphone used was the Audio Technica 4033, looking at the strap button on the side of the body of the acoustic guitar. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? That’s what I thought when my college tutor told me to try putting a microphone there! I have no idea if the technique has a name or whether it is a technique, but I’m glad I listened and used it! I believe that the placement of the microphone is to capture the tonal quality of the body of the guitar and resonance as well as capturing reflections from the room. The Audio Technica 4033 is a larger diaphragm cardioid condenser has a multiple mid and high end boosts, as well as a frequency response of 30Hz – 20kHz. Giving the mic a relatively  bright tonality, but not as bright as say the STC-2, so it seems duller in comparison but it is lovely sounding microphone. A very underestimated mic that should be used more often!

The finally mic is the Sontronics Orpheus. Another large diaphragm condenser. Yet this mic is multi-pattern and in this instance it was set to Omni-directional. The Orpheus was used a room mic, in front and above Luke whilst he played. To avoid phase issues, I measured the distance in doublings to the distance the close mics were to the guitar, as well as checking through the desk and moving if necessary. But all was to plan and no phase issue were present and still aren’t when listening back to the track. If you have read my previous posts, I use the Sontronics Orpheus as a room mic quite often, especially on drums. In this circumstance it was brilliant for capturing the ambient quality that Luke wanted within this music.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with Luke Draper and record his music. His songs contain a lot of emotion without dishonesty and I find that hard to find when listening to music these days. So having this beautiful song “Not A Saint” on my FMP CD wasn’t a hard decision.

Coming Up: I shall be posting about how I mixed and mastered each track on my FMP CD as well as the final track list to confirm.

Till then!

“I Was Glad” Performed by The Bournemouth Symphony Choir

I just wanted write this post confirming that “I Was Glad” Performed live by the Bournemouth Symphony Choir will definitely be featured on my FMP CD.

It’s a beautiful classical piece performed by very talented individuals. I briefly mentioned on a previous post that I was planning to put it on my FMP CD, I just wanted to confirm instead of being ambigious towards what’s going to featured on the FMP CD.

I will soon post multiple about how I mixed this track and the others featured on the. As well as posting a FINAL track listing of my FMP CD.

Thank you for reading!

Till then!

You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Ask!!

After getting the amazing opportunity to record the BSYC and BSC, I thought to myself that it’d be amazing to record drums in the concert hall. So I made that absent thought become a reality.

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You’ll never know if you don’t ask! So I found the correct email address to email, and I asked. I asked about how it would be, whether it’d be possible and all in all I was honest.

I was told that to hire the concert hall at the Lighthouse in Poole would be £3000 plus VAT. After explaining that I am a student just wanting to get the most experience before leaving college, I got radio silence. No reply for around two weeks, I’d let it go and thought at least I had a go! Sods law then kicked in, as I absent mindlessly checked my phone, as you do as teenager of the 21st century. I had an email. Not just any email, an email from the programming manager of the Lighthouse offering me the use of the concert hall for £72 for 4 hours!

I arranged a time and date and let the reality set in. Such an amazing opportunity and I needed to make the most of it!!

I had arranged for my fellow college class mate who is a fantastic drummer to play two specific songs that already had “big drums” in the original tracks. We’d then choose one to cover and record the rest of the instrumentation in another recording session. As well recording full songs I also took samples of the kick, snare and each tom to add to my sample collection. We ended up choosing “The City” originally by The 1975. We shall continue recording the rest of the song in the coming week.

MIKING THE KIT:

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My classmate had brought his own Yamaha kit and a collection of microphones as I brought more microphones, my Focusrite Saffire PRO 40 and my Macbook Pro. We were raring to go!

Kick:

I used an AKG D112 on the outside of the kick. After testing which sounded better, the inside of the kick or the outside and the outside was the winner.  Due to the heavy dampening inside the kick, getting the microphone inside the kick was a massive hassle, it would never of worked as the mass of blankets and pillows surrounding the grill of the mic would just absorb the sound and the mic wouldn’t pick up anything of use.

The D112 has a frequency response of 20Hz – 17kHz, a low end boost between 50Hz – 200hz and a high end boost between 2K – 5K. The low end capturing the boomy full attack of the kick yet the high end boost adding clarity and brightness to the tonality of the microphone.

Snare:

The snare was miked up using a Shure SM57, close miked on the bottom of the snare looking at the snare wires. I intentionally only used a bottom microphone due to the three overheads would capture more than enough of the top of the snare. My reasons for using an SM57 to mic up the snare, is simple it is an amazing microphone, with an amazing tone. A frequency response of 40Hz – 15kHz, with multiple high end boosts between 4K – 15K and clarity and a brightness to the microphones tone.

Over Heads:

The technique used to capture the cymbals and the overall kit was spaced pair using a pair of AKG C430 pencil condenser microphones, with a set cardioid polar pattern. The C451B has a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz. High end boost between 3K – 15K, giving the mic a bright tonality perfect for cymbals.

There’s one more over head microphone used an that was the Sontronics Orpheus. I beautiful mutli-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone. The Orpheus was placed behind the drummers back over his head around 3 feet away. The mic stand was placed on a higher part of the stage behind the drummer, looking out over the kit and into the room. Capturing the massive room that was there. The Orpheus is amazing a mic on its own but even better when used as a room mic. The Orpheus has a very full tone with its low end boost between 30Hz – 100Hz and a brightness to it with its high end boost between 6K – 15K. An overall lovely microphone that performed brilliantly in this circumstance.

I could not have asked for better results. An amazingly unique drum sound, to say its big is an understatement! But more so, I’ve learnt a lot from the experience of arranging a recording session in a facility outside college. I didn’t just arrange with a band to be a Poole college at a certain time, I took the bull by the horns and organised times, dates and money with a big venue and ultimately my approach and courage gained their respect. This give me more confidence in myself and my ability to become a Record Producer.

I will update the blog with the progress of the cover of “The City”, and maybe even it may hopefully make it on to the FMP CD!

Till then!

Simon The Saffire PRO 40 & Choirs.. Again.

By the title, you probably think that I solved the interface issue by buying a Focusrite Saffire  PRO 40 and I named him Simon…. Well your correct!  After hours of playing with the Presonus 1818VSL and my Mac, It still wouldn’t  work. I faced defeat, but me being a competitive soul. I HAD to find a solution not just for my own satisfaction but the second recording session with the BSYC and the BSC was getting closer and closer.

I had recently been saving up for a Focusrite Saffire PRO 40, it was a slow but sure process. Just like when I saved up for my Mac. I then thought to myself one evening, I’m four weeks from getting enough money to purchase the PRO 40. I have well paying stable weekend job that pays weekly, so I came to an arrangement with my parents and paid them back the funds immediately with my weekly pay cheques.

INTERFACE ISSUE SOLVED!!

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The Focusrite Saffire PRO 40 is a fire wire/thunderbolt interface with eight Focusrite award winning combi input preamps, ADAT I/O, stereo SPDIF, 10 analog outputs. Every channel also has phantom power.  I knew it was compatible with Mac’s and thunderbolt but I was still anxious buying my first large piece of equipment!

I got it back to my home and tested it immediately, downloading and installer the driver and mixer, eagerly awaiting to see if I could record my electric guitar via the first Line input.

It worked like a charm! Crystal clear recordings with no CPU or clocking issues! I also tested it using phantom power on a DI box to record my bass. No issues at all. I was over the moon! I couldn’t wait to finally put it to the real test by recording the BSYC and BSC!

RECORDING THE BSYC & BSC… AGAIN.

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I had come to the same agreement with the college to borrow a few cables and microphones for the evening. I used the same technique as I previously did, a stereo spaced pair of Sontronics STC-1’S and  the Sontronics Orpheus directly central mic between the STC-1’s. If you would like to read my justification of why I chose these superb mics here’s a link to the previous post.

https://eveterry21.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/choirs-cpu-issues/

Both sessions went on without a hitch. No unwanted distortion within the recordings, crystal clear recordings.

When arriving at the concert hall record the BSC, I was surprised to see that the hall had changed from seated format to standing, leaving a 20 foot drop beneath the floor.  I repeated the miking technique in front of the choir on the stage. In turns out the BSC had prepared a piece called “I Was Glad”  for my two classmates and I to record.

This performance and recording was so successful that I have decided to use “I Was Glad” as a track on my FMP CD. Showing my versatility as an engineer and producer.

Stay Tuned for my next endeavour!

Till then!

Choirs & CPU Issues!

When you get to class on a Tuesday morning you don’t expect your college tutor to say “Who wants to record the Bournemouth Symphony Youth Choir!?”. He’s always full of surprises!

Of course my hand shot up at this amazing opportunity! Before I knew it I was arranging a time and date for my two classmates and I to record the BSYC, via email with one of the Youth choir coordinators.

That was the easy side done. I then had to figure out where I’d get the microphones, cables and the interface from! I had come an agreement with the college to use their microphones and return them after the session had finished. One of the two classmates joining me that evening, owns a Presonus 1818VSL interface. I downloaded and installed  the necessary drivers and we were prepared for the session.

My two classmates and I were situated in the ground floor studio of the lighthouse huddled round a coffee table, recording twenty children of varied ages singing “The Rhythm Of Life Is a Powerful Beat” written by Sammy Davis Jr.

Two takes were laid down, yet there was an issue. The recordings were laced with a horrible crackling all the way through. I took the lead and alerted the youth coordinator of the issue and arranged another date to record the BSYC. As a thank you the Bournemouth Symphony Choir invited us to record their rehearsal in the upstairs concert hall. When I entered the hall I did not expect to have this view.

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Unfortunately throughout the BSC recordings the same crackle presented itself. I believe to this day that the issue was that the master clock within the Presonus 1818VSL would not be the slave and my Macbook Pro’s CPU could not cope with what the interface was asking of it. Not processing the  audio correctly as it was fighting with the interface. Leaving the recordings distorted.

A lesson learnt the hard way. We should’ve checked compatibility between my Mac and the Presonus. They obviously were not a match made in heaven.

Your all probably wondering.. “Is she going to talk about mics at any point?” Well! Yes I am.. Right now!

MICROPHONES:

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For both recordings of the BSYC and BSC, I used the same microphones and technique. I used a space pair of Sontronics STC-1’s to capture the stereo expanse of both choirs. As I have said before the STC-1 has a bright and clear tone. This is due to the high end boost between 5K – 12K within the frequency response of 25Hz – 20kHz. The last microphone I used was the Sontronics Orpheus, a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone. The Orpheus was placed directly central between the STC-1’s. Set on Omni-directional to capture the room and the choirs in all their glory. The Orpheus has a rich yet bright tone due to the low end boost between 30Hz – 100Hz and the high end boost between 6K – 15K.

I have discussed these two microphones before on multiple occasions. No, I’m not sponsored by Sontronics! These microphones are not just pretty to look at but have their own character/tone that is superb and never fails to give outstanding results.

CLIFFHANGER?

After discussing the technical issues with the coordinator, we came to a arrangement of re-recording the BSYC and the BSC the following week. After returning the microphones and equipment  to college, I had a week to figure out how we were going to record the BSYC and BSC without access to an interface that works alongside my Mac.

Next Post: I will write about how I overcame this issue. Did I find a working interface?

Till then!