Studio Recording Project – New Years and Final Product

4th January 2017

I touched upon the project the day before before to which I cleaned up and organised. I also had a tutorial will Lee and made notes that I could used later down the line in the mix as I had done a tiny bit of EQ in the early stages to clean up the sounds but nothing more as I wanted to get most of the recording done first.

This then lead to me setting up my bathroom at home to record. I really wanted to capture the natural reverb of the room also giving a little bit of ‘air’ to the instruments as they currently were very dry. I took the audio from my DAW that was soloed to a Whafedale Linton XP2 speaker cabinet through a Rotel Amp both made in the early 70’s. The main reason I wanted to do this is due to way the speaker sounds. These are the speakers that I listen to music on while I’m at home due to being my fathers system he collected as he grew up. As I have grown up myself I have loved they way they sound, I wanted to include the warm sound from them into my recordings as this is the sound I have listen to music since I was a child.

Proceeding I placed the speaker within my bathroom using a towel to stop any vibrations between surfaces. I placed a SM57 in the middle and slightly pointing upward as the speaker has bass cone with the mid and the treble at the same level just above. I also used an NT1A to record the speaker slight further back over the bath. I used this due to having a cardioid polar patten, as you can see behind it is a glass surface which I didn’t want to record as many reflections from. I just wanted the room sound that I could use to combine the two microphones together. I then went through the process of recording both organ parts and the plucked guitar. This started purely by experiment with microphone placement until I got a good sound in addition to using information that I had learnt last year.

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5th January 2017

Originally I planned to record vocals in studio 1 on the 5th of January however Fatma’s car broke down so my next plan was to get hold of the fender twin and re-amp the chorus guitar signal as I really wanted this to be bright and in the centre of my mix however this was locked in studio 2. As another back up plan I decided to just start working with what I had of the mix firstly by gain staging everything then on to eq. I went forward with the idea of going with my hearing rather than through loads of plugins on each channel (something I had picked up reading reddit and articles on sound on sound)  previously had I also placed a VU meter when I was back home to get my levels as close to -18dBFS as possible.

Drums was one of the things that we first went over within lectures I started EQing drums with the thought of taking out any unwanted frequencies and separating each other. using of gates to stop bleed from each drum that had its own microphone, bar the snare as this was also capturing the high hat. I placed compressors on kick and snare as they are prominant throughout the track and differ in dynamic through each part of the song. As there was multiple microphones for each part of the drum kit I decided to bus them through to each part (Kick, Snare, Overheads and Parallel) so I could also EQ these and add compressors to gel them together with other microphones going through to the overall drum bus. This was also handy as I could EQ the overheads together and make my work flow easier as I had less tracks to look when adding effects and automation.

I continued this approach throughout each instrument cleaning them up adding compression where needed as when reading into mixing a recurring theme was to mix with the whole mix together rather than soloing  an Instrument, EQing it and add compression to then find out it doesn’t sit well at all. I ended up having a channel fader for each instrument that could be manipulated. If I needed to change something small I could head back into the track stacks and alter each sound which was part of each combined bus.

Overall this meant I end up with Drums, Bass, Verse Guitar and Organ on their own bus. I used what time I had left in studio 1 to get a few levels in a different space than I was working in at home and rid of the fills in the drums that I felt weren’t in time. I replaced them with automated delays to fill the space. something that was influence from ‘Walking on the Moon’ by the Police.

6th January 2017 

I used the morning to go back to what I had listen to in November to take notes what was going on within each song as I knew over the weekend I was going to continue to place instruments in the stereo image as I had started in studio 1 and start adding effects. The approach I took here was to think of what I liked from some of my favourite tracks and take these elements.  I gravitated around Walking on the Moon by the Police mainly because I liked how this track sounds and it had also sparked the idea of using the delay for the timing issue of fills within the drum track. I also noting down that the use of the a big reverb can make room for the drums though the dry sound keeps them in the centre of the mix. The bass is very punchy/boomy along with the kick and the guitars are bright and wide within the mix. Bob Marleys One Love was the influence for the organ sound with each part of the organ (high/low) either side of the mix with a tiny bit of reverb and take up the high mids.

Later in the day I went back to the dubbing at the university to record vocals and also use the box Re-Amp (allowed me to bring the signal to an acceptable level for the amp and take away any noise) on the Chorus Guitar take using the fender twins EQ to brighten the sound as I wanted to stand out through the chorus. Once again using the SM57 with the microphone a few inches back from the speaker cone, The room  choice was due to it being small dead space as I didn’t want too much of an open sound to differentiate the guitar sounds in the project plus to get a clean vocal when Fatma arrived.

This was the first time I had heard the lyrics and melody as I gave Fatma the freedom of doing what she liked with the track (updating her when I added additional parts to the track a few days before). I did this as I like to include as many ideas as I can. I find when I work with others in this way I end up hearing something I would of never thought of myself and when I heard it I had this moment of amazement of what she had done as I thought it fit so well. For the Vocal take I used a Rode NT2A with a pop filter facing towards the wall to minimise reflections from the glass. It fit to the style of the song plus the lyrics and melody made the track more ‘pop’. (If I was recording a traditional reggae song I would probably looked at an older microphone as while going slightly of topic I like the idea of what daft punk did when recording Random Access Memories to which was to find microphones from the era they were recording music from.)

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Overall we got a few takes of the main vocal added a few harmonies with a few ad-lib tracks to give me as much as I could when editing over the following weekend.

7th & 8th January 2017 

Now that I had the vocal track within my project along with the harmonies and ad-libs. I decided that Saturday (7th) I was going to adjust start to make adjustments within EQ on all tracks and edit any of the vocals to make it sound smooth throughout the song. Luckily due to getting a few alternate takes for the vocals I had a lot to work with and it was very easy to EQ and compress to get to a level I wanted. Though I had to automate vocal breaths to make it sound more natural as gating was cutting off parts. As the song was coming together I went through and started to use Flex Pitch on the bass and vocals to correct any tuning issues. I could also manipulate the time in the vocals with flex pitch. At this point I also removed a few microphones for example the Sub Kick and Bass room as I didn’t think they sat well within my mix.

Now that I had my final insturmentation I started thinking sonically throughout and was separating the instruments to allow for space for each one. Panning was done one within the separate microphone channels as this allowed to me separate different parts / sounds of the instrumentation as I mentally visualised where I wanted each instrument using my reference tracks to inspiration. Then I allowed for space sonicly using EQ on the bus for each insturment. I could adjust levels using the VCA’s track stacks created automatically then make smaller adjustments on the busses.

Channels

I then went on to add effects to these buses. I combined the use of effects on the whole channel and sending audio to aux sends depending how I wanted to manipulate the effect to the sound. For example the drum channel has tape delays on the whole channel as the bypass is automated with a space designer reverb placed on the whole channel allowing to add reverb to whole signal adjusting the wet and dry in the plugin. On other hand sending the dry Vox to a bus so I can adjust the reverb between the verse and chorus. The harmonies themselves have a slightly different reverb on them to push them back behind the main vocal with the overall in addition to the main vocal having a slight bit a reverb on its own channel. These then combined with a reverb that is automated ‘verse verb’ I also added slight reverb to the verse guitars and organs using busing but gave the chorus guitar its own reverb to separate the two different guitars. I also tighten the effects I had added previously when making the rough edit, making sure the automation for the tape delay bypassing was correct on the drums and that all the automation was smooth.

My main objective with the effects were to emulate recordings of reggae with a pop vibe. I went through the process of spending a few hours getting the sound I wanted.

Once I was happy I did one final check and found a few issues with the bass and drums that I wasn’t happy with. One bar of the bass had a few issues with buzzing and double notes. This was fixed easily by finding a part that I through was well played and copied over. My problem with the drums was that the ending was sloppy and changed to much. To which I did the same were I found a steady rhythm and copied it over coving any changes with the use of echo.

Then just to smooth some of the high frequencies after getting some feedback within a tutorial session by putting an EQ on the master bus and gave the project one last clean up organisation wise.

Refection 

This was one of biggest mix that I’ve worked on and have really enjoyed doing so however there would be a few things I would change in the process, I think that when I first dived into this it was great having an idea of where I wanted to go with it but I tried to do too much at once. Early on into the project I tried EQing compressing and manipulating a sound before I had got a good edit down. Now I put this down to the learning process and now when I go to record and mix I will most likely break it down in to stages of Writing, Recording, Editing, Gain Staging then Processing and adding effects. While I will most likely go back over a few things when I get to the processing stage I wouldn’t of rushed in and waste time as I found myself doing that a lot with this project. I also think within the future I will probably push myself to record more, experiment with microphone placement and also  explore different microphones that have different frequency responses.