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Conduct Recording Log

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Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Tue Aug 30, 2016 4:00 pm

I'm certain this will solely be for my own benefit, but I've decided to keep a log of our upcoming recording session. In doing so, I hope to elucidate and work out any possible problems that may arise. As always, the input of the formidable brain trust that is the PRF is very much appreciated. Although we have recorded with many experienced engineers, this will be our first attempt at documenting ourselves in full. Please forgive, or ignore, my limitations as an engineer and hopefully this log will serve as an edifying account or, more likely, cautionary tale!

Contextual Information:

We are a four piece - drums, two guitars, bass, vocals, with select auxiliary instrumentation - from Winnipeg. Steve recorded our last record at EA, which was subsequently mastered by Bob at CMS. For contextual purposes, an excerpt from that record can be listened to here: http://publictone.bandcamp.com/track/co ... act-killer

The record will be tracked over three days this upcoming Labour Day holiday. We have access to a large unused building in our city’s Exchange District and will be tracking to ½” ATR Magnetics Tape at 15 ips on our Otari MX 5050 8-track. Tracking will be done through our Soundcraft 200SR and various outboard. To reinforce this setup, we’ll be renting and borrowing some equipment.

Equipment:

Console – Soundcraft 200SR (24x4x2)

Recorder – Otari MX-5050 8-track

Monitoring – Yorkville YSM1 (Passive)

Outboard

API 3124+, Universal Audio 6176 (2), Universal Audio 610 MKII (2), Echoplex EP-2

Microphones

Dynamic – Shure SM7B, Sennheiser MD421 (2), Audio Technica AT812, AKG D112

Large Diaphragm Condenser – AKG C414 XLII (2), Audio Technica 4050 (2)

Ribbon – Royer 121 (2)

Instruments:

Amps – Musicman HD 130 2x12, Fender Twin (Early Rivera) 2x12, Traynor TS-50B, Ampeg B115E

Guitars – Aria 1432T, Fender Jaguar, Peavey T40

Keyboards – Roland RS-202, Acetone Top-1, MicroKorg, Korg MS-20

Drum Machines – Acetone Rhythm Ace FR-1, Korg DDD-1

- -

Our traditional live set up is drums, two guitars, bass, vocals, and one string machine. Certain songs require all five instruments to be played simultaneously as keyboard drones are held while open notes are struck on the bass. This instrumentation may demand extra track space, so we are planning on accommodating these songs by either having the drums committed to two stereo tracks or bouncing elements that can use in the same stereo space together. The default micing scheme for drums will likely be the Glynn Johns method. We may employ aberrations or alternate methods depending on the song’s demands. Here are our current plans for track allocation:

1. Kick
2. Snare
3. Overhead
4. Side Mic
5. Bass/Synth
6. Guitar/Synth
7. Guitar
8. Vocals

Alternate Allocation:

1. Drums (Left)
2. Drums (Right)
3. Bass
4. Guitar
5. Guitar
6. Synth/Auxiliary
7. Vocals
8. Auxiliary

As we have twenty-four channels on our board, we will be able to sum/bus multiple microphones if necessary. The board only has four group outs, so we may have to be creative with either using the four auxiliary outs or the inserts as direct outs for additional summing. Additionally, we have access to a small Tascam board if we need a separate summing board. We will be tracking everything, save for the vocals, live.

More updates to come as we approach tracking this weekend.

Thanks for reading!
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Bon Hoga on Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:41 pm

My band recently released an album we recorded last year in a local cinema, check it out here:

https://gudron.bandcamp.com/

We had a photographer friend document the session, pics here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 907&type=3

I don't know if you'll be able to see the pics, Facebook is in the process of gutting our page because of the bare breasts on the album cover. Misogynist piss garglers.

Anyways, here's my tuppence: have you considered getting only the drums on tape, and using, I dunno, a laptop and an interface for the rest of the band? Eight tracks may be enough in a controlled environment, but in a room you've never recorded in before you will probably want to mic everything and you'll need more tracks. We used 20 tracks and if we had four more mics we would've certainly used the remaining four as well. Get more mics, by all means get more mics. And more tracks.

Also, borrow miles of mic cables as you're probably going to daisy-chain them for the room mics, but make sure to test each and every one -- we had to scrap our bass DI track due to a faulty cable. Buy a cable tester if you haven't got one already, it'll come in handy anyway.

Since you're playing on the record, have a knowledgable friend operate the gear and help you set up. This is especially important if you have a limited amount of time and have to work fast. Hopping about the place setting stuff up, adjusting, repairing, troubleshooting etc. will wear you down in a few hours and your performance will suffer.

Place the amps far in front of the drums (you'll need long pedalboard to amp cables) and isolate them well. Bring plenty of heavy blankets, old carpets, tarp sheets, foam sheets, anything that'll help minimise the bleed. We used chairs and bean bags from the cinema, but that didn't work very well. There were just too many gaps and we didn't have anything to stick in there (twss). We ended up with zero bass in the drum mics and a lot of drums in the bass mics -- the guy who mixed the record had loads of fun with noise gates, expanders and whatnot. This could've been easily avoided with some due diligence.

Rent or borrow quality headphones, and the best headphone amp you can get your hands on. We had terrible monitoring and I just can't describe the frustration. Don't cut corners here.

Finally, I don't know how much time you will have, but taking one whole day for setup, test takes and tweaks is a good idea. We had very little time, there were no test takes, and I only realised I didn't quite like how my fuzz pedal sounded when we received the roughs a few days after the session. Record a few takes, make some quick mixes on the spot, see how you like what you're getting on tape, make adjustments, it'll be time well spent.

Good luck.
http://gudron.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/gudrontheband

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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:12 pm

Thanks for the suggestions Bon Hoga - very much appreciated! I agree, we will certainly have a snake, headphone amps, etc., to help streamline everything. In the past, we have all recorded in the same room with minimal baffles and have liked the result. In fact, we once recorded live with no headphones. I suppose we've learned to embrace a certain amount of bleed. As far as recording to a DAW - I'm not sure that will be necessary. I do agree it behooves one to be familiar with the acoustic properties of a room, but we have been in this space before and I feel confident that it will provide a complimentary environment for our type of music. Furthermore, I'm certain we can work well with the limitations of eight tracks. We should be able to have as many mic placements as required with a twenty-four channel board and then sum channels to the eight track. Our previous record was recorded to sixteen tracks, yet, on average, we only used eleven to thirteen - and that was with eight tracks committed to the drums. Funny that you mention having an experienced friend as tape op/button pusher - we happen to have a good friend, and excellent engineer in his own right, coming in to assist with the session. Finally, I will have a full day committed to setting up and working out technical issues prior to the session, so, hopefully, we will be able to focus on tracking the first day.

Thanks again for the helpful suggestions and here's an example of a typical board layout that we'll be using:

Groups #1 & #2 (Stereo)
1. Kick - AKG D112
2. Snare - AT812
3. O/H - Royer 121
4. S/H - Royer 121 or AKG C414
11. Room - Royer 121
Aux #1
5. Sennheiser MD421
11. Room - Royer 121
Group #3
6. Guitar (Steve) - MD421
7. Guitar (Steve) - AKG C414
11. Room - Royer 121
Group #4
8. Guitar (Nick) - MD421
9. Guitar (Nick) - AT 4050
11. Room - Royer 121

That should afford us three extra tracks for vocals and auxiliary instrumentation.

Thanks!

*Edited a few typos
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Bon Hoga on Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:25 pm

That wasn't quite as helpful as I'd hoped it would be, I seem to have assumed too much :lol: . Anyway, I'm listening to your last record, good stuff.
http://gudron.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/gudrontheband

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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby elisha wiesner on Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:19 pm

Over the years I've done a ton of 8 track recording, often in less than ideal rooms and the best advice I have is to keep it simple. Basically the less mics the better. I'd probably only put one mic on each guitar amp. Also, as far as drums go, 4 tracks is nice but 2 or even 1 track is fine. The one thing I've learned from years of limited track recording is that it's really nice to have the kick on it's own track for mixing. Especially if the monitoring situation is not great where you are tracking. Over the past 5 years or so, when I've been relegated to two tracks for the drums, I put the kick on one track and the rest of the kit on the other unless the band wants a big wide stereo sound for the drums.
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby steve on Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:42 pm

I've done a shit ton of 8-track recording and I usually used 4 tracks for drums, 4 tracks for the rest. If the band needed more instrument tracks I'd reduce the drums to 3 tracks, a stereo pair and a bass drum, and go from there. If they needed more than that I'd make a stereo submix of the drums. If they needed more than that I'd make the drumkit mono, so basically the drums will use whatever tracks aren't being used for other stuff. You can use multiple mics and bus them down if you have the mics and lines to spare rather than using a single mic to cover a lot of the drum kit.
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:23 pm

Elisha,

Thanks for the suggestions. I have been vacillating between using one or two mics on the guitars and bass. Since we have the extra channels, I'm leaning towards setting two mics up and using only one if we're not content with the results. Good call on suggesting that we commit a track to the kick. We likely won't have isolated monitoring, so there is a chance that we'll need a dedicated kick track during mixdown. Thanks!

Bon Hoga,

All sensible suggestions! Thank you for the kind words.

Steve,

Agreed! As my first post indicated, the demands of the song will dictate how many tracks we allocate to the drums. Our "default" setup will be the aforementioned four-track Glynn Johns setup. If necessary, the pared down version would be a stereo submix with an extra track for the kick (at Elisha's recommendation), or, if we're really desperate for tracks, just a stereo submix. I've already posted our projected routing list and track allocation, but I will be sure to post what we ultimately use in order to compare and contrast the intended approach with the final result.
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:23 pm

Apologies for letting this thread die – academic responsibilities took precedence over the past few months. I’ll try to account for the recording in chronological fashion. Ultimately, tracking was completed in five days - spread over three sessions -with each session taking place about a month apart. This an indulgent and long post, so please bear with me.

Session #1 – September 3rd – 5th

Our first tracking session occurred over the Labour Day weekend. On the Friday morning, I stirred early to start the time consuming shuttling around of town; picking up rentals, odds, ends, and the like. As is my typical morning routine, I was browsing the local online classifieds when, Christ as my cousin, I came upon a Soundcraft 200B for sale by a local Christian academy. $120. I immediately phoned the listed number and the kind gentleman said it was mine. Showing up at the crack of dawn, I had time to square and walked around the hallowed grounds of Winnipeg’s Francophone quartier. Many a man and many a woman walked these streets, named after folk heroes of yore. Louis Riel. Father Richot. After my walk, the kindly caretaker led me into the school. Not only was the board in terrific condition, but it was the 32-channel edition - complete with talkback module and sweepable mids. Seldom used, it was a hand-me down from their affiliated church. The 200SR was nothing to sneeze at, but I felt confident that the 32-channel 200B would help streamline our session. Furthermore, I managed to sell the 200SR to a good friend no more than a day later.

Image
(Creek near the academy in St. Boniface)

After filling my small compact vehicle with a university degree’s worth of rental equipment, I nervously drove towards the heart of Winnipeg’s Exchange District to begin assembling our makeshift studio. The three-story building was situated behind the core area’s sole multiplex. As the city had decided to build a substation next to the building, it had been languishing unused. New tenants were a graphic design firm and, on the ground floor, a weed dispensary. As our luck would have it, both would be closed for the holiday weekend. Entering the loft, one was immediately struck by its opulence. Yet, all of the finishes were left incomplete. With 20’ ceilings, the kitchen area of the loft was amenable for setting up a live room. Leading from the kitchen was a long hallway with multiple empty rooms, which is where we set up the control room. As my cohorts had jobs to attend to, the assembly of the studio was left to me. I do not recommend carrying a tape machine, mixing board, outboard, and a studio’s worth of equipment up three flights of stairs alone. After a very long day, the space was ready.

Image
(Carrying equipment)

Image
(Kitchen area)

Image
(Control Room)

Image
(Looking down from the loft)

After walking around the room listening to Rob hit his snare, we decided that the drums should be placed at the base of the staircase. We then set up the bass cabinet underneath said staircase, facing away from the drums.

Image
(View from hallway leading into the kitchen)

Image
(Rob on drums)

Image
(Drums from above)

As previously mentioned, with only 3-4 tracks available for the drums, we had decided that a limited microphone scheme would be the most suitable. Applying the Glyn John’s method, we first set up a mono LDC (AKG C414) overhead and moved the microphone around until we had a satisfactory drum sound. Measuring from the center of the overhead’s diaphragm to the center of the snare, we then placed the mono side head equidistant from the center of the snare to the right of where Rob was sitting. Depending on the song, if Rob was riding the ride cymbal, we’d move the side head to avoid any nulling effect as the cymbal moved over the microphone’s diaphragm. Finally, we threw on a shitty dynamic (AKG D112) for the kick. Listening back in the control room, we determined that an additional snare mic was unnecessary. This fact is wholly due to Rob’s balanced and musical drumming. Other than slightly compressing the overhead, there was no processing done to the drums.

Image
(Drum setup)

Here is a fairly representative comp of some drum sounds:

https://soundcloud.com/user-414412174/drum-mix/s-IGWzB

For the bass, we first tried using a dynamic microphone, but found the lower frequency information to be lacking. We then replaced the dynamic with the Royer 121 and were happy with the result.

Image
(Bass)

Finally, the guitars, which were situated on the second floor, were close miced with the AT 4050 and Shure SM7-B.

Image
(Guitars)

Forgetting to rent headphone extenders, we had to place the headphone amp near Rob at the base of the staircase. Consequently, Steve and I were forced to stand on the staircase like some sort of Robert Palmer music video.

Image
(Doofus)

The track allocation ended up looking, somewhat, like this:

Bed Tracks:

1. O/H (Left Pan) -> LA610 -> Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #1 -> Otari MX5050
2. S/H (Right Pan) -> API 3124+ -> Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #2 -> Otari MX5050
3. Kick -> API 3124+ -> Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #3 -> Otari MX5050
4. Bass -> API 3124+ -> Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #4 -> Otari MX5050
5. Guitar -> Soundcraft 200B -> Aux Send #1 -> Otari MX5050
6. Guitar -> Soundcraft 200B -> Aux Send #2 -> Otari MX5050

Overdubs:

7. Vocals -> LA610 -> Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #1 -> Otari MX5050
8. Synth/Vocals ->LA610/Soundcraft 200B -> Group Out #1 -> Otari MX5050

In reality, the track allocation was much messier and jumped around as we realized that the Sel-Rep on track six was intermittent and, therefore, required us to always use it as a native track. While recording the bed tracks, we certainly could have had a much more streamlined approach as we were constantly re-patching the board/outboard while moving between songs. These difficulties resulted in a botched take as we accidentally printed a scratch vocal onto the same tracks as the drums and bass. Consequently, we developed the habit of either zeroing the board after each song, or grouping songs with the same signal flow together.

We managed to complete all of the bed tracks, save for one song, over the two days. I'll go over the subsequent recording and mixing in a later post. Thanks for indulging.

Here is a rough mix of one song (the track has been normalized for listening purposes.) I'll probably only keep this up for a week or so as we still need to master the record. This song happens to incorporate some trash percussion. We found what appeared to be a sandbag hopper on the roof of the building and it just had the sound:

https://soundcloud.com/user-414412174/gdhv1y7vso0o/s-i1dnb

Image
(View from the roof)

*Edited due to Soundcloud embeds not working.
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby max on Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:56 pm

That sounds excellent. Thank you for sharing.
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:13 am

max wrote:That sounds excellent. Thank you for sharing.


Thank you Max. In the past, we've always been reticent in recording ourselves as we have tried to ensure that, if anything were to fail a record, it would be our performances and the material - not the recording itself. I suppose it was our way of not having any excuses for the final output. It felt risky buying the tape machine, board, and renting some very expensive equipment knowing that my abilities as an engineer could fail miserably. A result that would have precluded us from recording for quite some time while we saved our pennies once more. So, the only moment in which I've allowed myself to feel pride was when I realized that the recordings did the material justice. It felt very fulfilling to apply the morsels of information that I've accumulated since my adolescence. I think we were all a bit surprised that our gambit was successful. Thanks for the kind words!
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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby Nicholas.L on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:39 pm

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Re: Conduct Recording Log

Postby flanneljammies on Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:54 pm

Bon Hoga wrote:We had a photographer friend document the session, pics here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 907&type=3


Great pictures!
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