After hiring out all the necessary equipment, I began by loading up pro tools and selecting the 24 in 24 out template as it already has the channels assigned to each room. I decided to set up in the dead room as I was recording acoustic guitar and looking for the driest environment possible so I could add any reverb or delay in post production. In order to achieve this clean sound, I placed a chair facing away from the mixing console, parallel to the longest sides of the room. I did this so that the sound created from the acoustic guitar had further to travel and could therefore disperse more adequately. I had previously assumed that it would be better to place some acoustic foam or sound absorbing material directly behind the mic but my research showed this to be incorrect. As White states in The Producer’s Manual,
‘Some improvised screens behind and to the sides of the mic can help reduce room colouration’ (White, 2011, 128)
This allowed me to capture subtle reflections from the back and side of the 414’s whilst not overpowering the sound with ambience. I set the microphones up using the XY method and placed them around 30cm away from my proposed playing position with the axis of the mics directed at the 12th fret of the guitar. I did this as it allowed me to pick up a wide range of tones from the instrument as described in Sound on Sound by Veteran Nashville Engineers, Chuck Ainlay and Bob Bullock,
‘I like to record acoustic guitar with the XY pattern – one capsule pointing towards the fretboard and the other one more towards the hole – placed somewhere off the 12th fret, about where the neck combines with the body of the guitar.’ (Ainlay in Senior, 2010)
‘It let’s me get the sound of the low and high strings with more definition, which means I use less EQ, and it gives me a good combination of room and guitar resonance’ (Bullock in Senior, 2010)
This resonance allows the mics to pick up more harmonics, which creates a fuller sound.
The results however were, at best O.K. I kept trying to record at different positions on the guitar and at alternative distances but I couldn’t quite get a sound I was 100% pleased with. Due to my research into miking techniques I had wrongly taken a ‘one size fits all’ approach in regards to my application of the XY method. When I returned from the studio I researched further into my microphone set up and soon discovered the issue. Sound on Sound had a very informative article purely based on the XY method with 414’s and it shows some great examples of how to set up the equipment accurately. Unfortunately, my method was inaccurate as the article states,
‘The problem with this configuration is that each microphone sits directly In the active area of the polar pattern of the other mic, forming an acoustic shadow for high-frequency sounds, which will mess up the imaging fairly comprehensively.’ (Hugh Robjohns, SOS Technical Editor)
This definitely shows in the recording, as the original feels very muddy and has a distinct lack of top end.
Despite these flaws, it made for good practice and that is exactly what these sessions are for. It ensures I won’t make the same mistakes in the final production phase and the E.P. is destined to be greater for it.
I also thought it would be important to attempt mixing these recordings as it would be extremely helpful to have experience with poor recordings as I can guarantee my workload will be less when it comes to the final mix stage with better recordings.
Please follow this link to see if I could (somewhat) rescue the session!
White, Paul. (2012) The Producer’s Manual. Second Edition. Sample Magic.
Senior, M. (2010) Recording Acoustic Guitar: Techniques From The World’s Top Engineers & Producers. [online] SOS. Available from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr10/articles/acguitar.htm#para7 [Accessed 29 Jan 2015]