Monthly Archives: February 2015

Preparing for Acoustic Test Recordings

After noticing the flaw in my recording technique in my previous recording session in regards to microphone placement, I went into my next session keen to rectify my mistakes and learn in the process. In order to achieve this, I decided I was going to utilise the live room as well as the dead room in the multitrack studio and test which environment suited my acoustic the best. I recognised in previous sessions that the best position for miking my Acoustic was the 12th fret, as White (2012) suggested,

 ‘Aim the mic towards the point where the guitar neck joins joins the body. This can produce good results, picking up nice harmonic string detail.’

However, I still needed to work out the best distance and ambience. I use a parlour acoustic, specifically the Sigma 00R-28VS.

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Baring this in mind, this means that as the body is smaller than typical guitars it will present a sound with more treble and detail but less bass. In this regard, it will probably mean I will have to position the microphones closer to the guitar than others, whilst angling the microphone slightly towards the sound hole to effectively work as it’s own E.Q. and balance out the tones. I shall also be using the large diaphragm capacitor AKG 414 condenser microphone, as White (2012, 129) states,

 ‘Many engineers like the results they get from large diaphragm models’

The techniques used to record a parlour acoustic with an AKG 414 are described extremely well in this video from Full Sail University (2013).

As the song I am recording this time requires greater detail, I shall be tracking the guitar parts twice and panning them far left and right to get a wide stereo feel. This provides extra clarity with no possible issues of phase with the slight nuances of different performances that makes it a legitimate technique. It is successfully employed by Bon Iver in the song ‘Holocene’. I really like the slight delay and reverb effects applied on the guitars however, I must not get ahead of myself and first I should correctly record the piece. Please see my following post for the live room test recordings.

 

References:

White, P. (2012) The Producer’s Manual. 2nd Edition. Sample Magic.

Full Sail University (2013) How To: Recording Acoustic Guitar Basics  [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyMOj0dVO2w [Accessed 16 February 2015]

Bon Iver (2011) Bon Iver – Holocene (Official Music Video) [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWcyIpul8OE [Accessed 16 February 2015]

Purchasing Komplete (Virtual Instruments)

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After reading several reviews online and getting great recommendations from friends and colleagues I decided to take the plunge and purchase a virtual instruments package. Komplete by Native Instruments stood out as the outstanding performer in this category so after months of trawling through ebay I managed to find a good offer.

The package contains thousands of samples both of real and virtual instruments that will no doubt be useful in my project. As with all things in this project, I am aiming to achieve all of my recordings and instrumentation naturally and originally so I will only use this software as a last resort. It just means that if I fail to find a specific musician or if a recording doesn’t go to plan, I will at least have a reasonable back up.

The only instrument that I am aiming to record solely via MIDI is keys; be it piano, organ or an alternative. This is due to the high quality samples available in Kontakt 5 player. The libraries include 5 different sampled pianos and numerous vintage organs that have a great warm sound with a vast array of control over the production choices. This includes the E.Q. on the instrument to multiple choices on mic placement, which can help get a more intimate feel. The practicality of not being able to record these high quality pianos and vintage organs naturally deems MIDI to be the correct production choice. It also gives me more control over the final end product and I can tweak the sound to my liking more accurately. It also gives me more time to record other interesting instruments such as the pedal steel guitar and the accordion.

I look forward to using these incredible instruments in my E.P.

 

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Recruiting an Assistant Engineer

As stated in my Objectives and Learning Outcomes, It was important that I found an assistant engineer for my project. The salience of having an assistant was shown in my first session in the studio, which I undertook by myself. The practicality of performing, engineering and producing was too much to contend with so I decided I should find my engineer as soon as possible.

Firstly I considered exactly what I wanted from my assistant engineer and I found the IADT (International Academy of Design & Technology) website extremely helpful. (Please see references).

After writing a list of what I desired from my engineer, I began by sending an email to Audio Production lecturer David McSherry, as I was aware that he often forwards emails from students looking to collaborate with others. I was careful not to sound too formal as I also remembered I was effectively selling my project, a skill that will become extremely helpful in the future. I had decided to work with a fellow student for three reasons. The first was purely a budget decision as I would not able to afford a freelance engineer with my current funds. The second being that I wanted to keep it within the University community as collaboration is key to this project and I know I can trust someone who is regularly in and around campus. Finally I understand the importance of working with someone who is familiar with the software, hardware and acoustics of the studio. As I move forward after University I hope this represents a similar structure to that of working with an in house engineer.

David thought it was a good idea and kindly agreed to send out the following email:

 

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The message was sent out at 10.04 am on the 3rd February and I received a response almost immediately from a keen 1st year student, Daniel Marnie.

 

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After sending emails back and forth over the next few days, I was sure that I wanted Daniel to be my assistant. I could already tell he showed a great desire to learn and he showed me examples of his recording, mixing and mastering skills as shown by this cover of Jenny Don’t Be Hasty – Paolo Nutini:

Another factor that made me certain I waned to work with Daniel was that he understood the genre I was targeting with my E.P. and had similar interests musically. This is a factor Owsinski (2010) highlights when discussing what to look for in an engineer, under the heading ‘Experience in the type of music you’re about to produce’,

‘If you’re able to hire an engineer who has a lot of experience with the music you’re working on, then that’s the guy to get’.

He also states,

‘It’s important to have a meeting with the engineer prior to the first session to discuss the parameters of the project so you each know what to expect from one another’

Therefore I asked Daniel to meet me on 7th February in the Multitrack Studio for a quick informal chat about my project and what I expect from him. He agreed and the meeting went really well. Daniel took notes as I discussed my different influences and clearly defined the role he would have. I encouraged him to be vocal throughout the process and have a clear opinion but whilst understanding at the same time that my decision would be final.

The meeting was a great success and it did no harm that we got on really well! I finished the talk by discussing my proposed timeframe of the project and Daniel said he would come to as many sessions as possible / required. (I understand he will also have deadlines for projects so I shall aim to work around his schedule as well as mine).

I look forward to working with my assistant engineer in the coming months!

 

References:

IADT (2013) What Does an Assistant Sound Engineer Do? [online] IADT Blogs. Available from http://www.iadt.edu/student-life/iadt-buzz/november-2013/what-does-an-assistant-sound-engineer-do [Accessed 7 February 2015]

Owsinski, Bobby. 2010. The Music Producers Handbook. Hal Leonard Books.

Overview of Project

Synopsis

I intend to produce an E.P. that shall consist of 4-5 tracks and be loosely based in the singer-songwriter, folk, soul and country-blues genres. I will play many instruments myself that will form the backbone of my songs but I will also utilise professional session musicians. I intend to employ a sound engineer to aid the production process, as I will be assuming the role of auteur producer. However my role encompasses far more than the creative vision, as I shall be performing, engineering, producing and managing the process. In doing so I hope to develop on my broad skillset in the field and mature into a contemporary producer.

 

Main Aim

My primary aim of this project is to:

‘Produce a four–to-five track E.P. to a high ‘release’ standard so that it can be employed to represent my skills as a producer.’

I understand this is a relatively broad statement, which is why I would also like to break this main aim into sub categories of Producer, Engineer and Artists and Repertoire in regards to my objectives and learning outcomes. In doing so I am able breakdown the three main roles of the contemporary producer and assign realistic yet challenging goals that will develop my skills in each category. I am confident that this will keep me focused and help me mature throughout the process.

 

1. Producer

My objectives for this category are as follows:

1. a)  I shall write and record relevant arrangements while working with high quality session musicians.

1. b)  I will analyse and critique other producer’s techniques and adapt them with the aim of creating a new sound, that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

 

My learning outcomes for this role include:

1. a)  I will have a greater understanding of arrangement and employ it to a professional standard in my songs. This will include the use of session musicians specific to each track in order to maintain my artistic integrity.

1. b)  I will develop a ‘signature sound’ or ‘feel’ to the E.P. which shall be inherent in each track, thus aiding coherence.

 

2. Engineer

My objectives comprise of:

2. a)  I shall research mixing techniques, select the most suitable for my E.P. and apply them to the final product.

2. b)  I will dedicate a great deal of time in the studio, employing a mixture of traditional and contemporary recording techniques to enhance the E.P..

 

My learning outcomes are:

2. a)  I will have a greater knowledge of the art of mixing both theoretically and practically.

2. b)  I shall have developed a larger skill set in the studio environment, aiding the creation of a high quality, balanced studio sound that is relevant for the genre.

 

 3. Artist and Repertoire

My objectives consist of:

3. a)  I will employ an assistant sound engineer.

3. b)  I shall book equipment / rooms / artists in advance and manage the process in an efficient professional manner.

 

My final learning outcomes are:

3. a)  I will further my abilities as an auteur producer, distributing and delegating work when appropriate to aid the production process.

3. b)  I will have a greater understanding of the importance of the management aspect of production in regards to organisation of talent and creating a piece of work that helps develop the already talented musicians skills.