Banjo and Mandolin – Robbie Caswell-Jones

After I had finished recording my backing vocalist Indrija. My next artist in this session was Robbie Caswell-Jones. He had a a vast array of instruments at his disposal so I looked to employ these appropriately to specific songs. Robbie had already signed a musician waiver form (seen below) so we got straight into recording.

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We began by recording the Mandolin for Fireworks, I used and AKG 414 to record and used a technique I had developed over the course of the sessions to get the best possible mic placement. As Robbie played mandolin standing up it was easier to place the mic in a specific place and get Robbie to move around it. I pointed the microphone directly at the 12th fret of the mandolin where the neck joined the body which brought out extra harmonics. I kept a clear line of dialogue with Robbie throughout via the talkback and headphones and asked him to get as close as possible to the microphone with it pointing at the 12th fret. From here I asked him to play his part for the song as if he was recording it whilst backing away from the microphone extremely slowly. The sound of the mandolin gradually got clearer, brighter and less boomy until it started to pickup to much room tone. At this point I asked Robbie to come slightly closer forward until we had reached the best possible recording distance or ‘goldilocks zone’. I marked an X on the carpet with tape so he would not forgot where to stand.

After this we double tracked the mandolin Fireworks and this worked extremely well. We then recorded for Tell Me Lies  and it really helped bring the track to life.

Next up was banjo, and I employed the same distance miking technique except this time it was I moving the microphone as Robbie was sitting down and I monitored in the headphones instead. I chose to place the microphone relative closely as the instrument itself was technically providing its own mini reverb from inside the skin. Robbie was also the first to admit, it was also quite a cheap banjo so it did not project that well so I deemed a position of around 15cm away where the body met the neck to be perfect.

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We recorded the banjo on Mason Dixon Line to stay with the country theme that the track was developing and it really improved the track. The best recording we could make however was still quite muddy so I adjusted the eq on the desk after recording to bring out the high frequency plucking sound and reduce the mids.

Again I was really pleased with how the session went,  I’m nearly ready to start post production!

Here is the session sheet from the recording.

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