When you have a musician coming in to the studio to work, you want them to have the best experience they can. Your job is to make the recording process as transparent or invisible as possible for them. This allows them to totally concentrate on their playing and creativity without having to worry about the technical aspects of the recording process. I recently had a friend come in to start working on a new song. Time is a precious commodity so we wanted to complete as many tracks as possible in one session. He wanted to see if we could complete the guitar, bass and vocal tracks in one session. We’ve worked together before and he’s an amazing musician, so I knew he’d hold up his end and have his track ideas ready to go. My job is to have the studio prepared to move seamlessly from one track to another. Here’s some basic preparation steps that will allow you to do that in the studio.
1) Decide what equipment you’re going to use. One of my goals is to give the musician multiple sonic options whenever possible. In this case that applies mostly to the guitar sound. If the musician has a particular amp or effect pedal of their own that they want to use, I try to get it in to the studio before they get there so I can have it miced and pathed. In this case we were using all in house studio equipment and decided to use stomp box FX pedals instead of rack mounted FX units. This photo shows the overall floor pedal setup.
2) Set up the effect path. The guitar signal is split at the stereo chorus pedal (the pink pedal). One line goes to a delay pedal, a flanger and a distortion pedal to an amplifier. The other line goes to a phase shift pedal and then in to a POD direct in amp emulator. This allows for a variety of guitar sounds to be recorded in one pass, both amped and direct in. The order of the pedals does make a difference in the overall sound. You can try several configurations to get what you want.
The output from the distortion pedal goes to an amplifier set up in another room. Although this large room is great for natural reverb, in this case the amp is just close miced with an SM57.
The bass guitar goes to a ten band EQ pedal. You can see it in the upper right picture of all the floor pedals. I love this pedal for bass, whether recording or live. It allows you to really dial in a specific EQ as well as boosting the signal if necessary. Two other items will go in to the patch bay. One is the drum machine seen in the upper left of the pedal picture to use for a click track. For vocals we have a Neumann mic going in to the patch bay.
3) Set up the signal path through your patch bay. This is where you run your incoming signals in to the rack mounted units then in to your mixing boards. I have paper diagrams of all the patch bays connections – when you have a lot of connections you don’t want to make any mistakes.
For this session all the inputs except the drum machine will run in to rack mount pre-amps and compressors/noise gates. Although the mixing boards have pre-amps and compression for each channel, I like using the higher quality outboard units. For me they’re also easier to fine tune.
4) Set up the signal path through the mixing boards. Decide what channels in the mixing board each signal is going to. I’d advise coming up with a logical system that works for you. I tend to set up multiple recording tracks by instrument the same way for most sessions. This makes my life a lot easier as ‘muscle memory’ will kick in if you’re trying to move quickly to make an adjustment during a recording take.
This is also where you select where each track will go in to your recording software. On a digital mixing board you should have a page that defines where the signal will be sent to. Again, try to maintain a consistent logic as you do this setup.
You can now set up the tracks in your recording software. You’ll want to keep the same order whenever possible. I usually have tracks that go left to right on the mixing board go top to bottom in the recording software.
5) OK, here’s where the organization part really needs to kick in. I like to create a chart for everything in the recording path. With this many transitions and connections, there’s a pretty good chance you could have some type of failure in one of the pathways during the session. The last thing you want to do is have to start guessing where a problem is while you’re trying to record. I don’t want to have the musicians standing around waiting while I’m trying to make a fix. It just feels less professional to me. And it could put a stall on the musician who was on a roll. Inspiration is like lightning in a bottle. When you catch it you want to keep it.
6) Test every pathway. I go one path at a time and test all the connections from the instrument all the way in to the recording software. I work to get a good strong signal level at each stop. Make sure the effects pedals work. Get a good strong signal in the pre-amps, compressors, mixing boards and software. Get basic settings ready in the pre-amps and compressors. That way when you’re recording the changes will be tweaks rather than ‘where the hells the signal?’. This is when you can change out a cable if it’s causing a problem.
All of this does take time. And nothing is perfect. You’ll probably hit some small glitch in any session you do. But when you get to run a smooth recording session it will all be worth it. In the session I was referencing in the beginning we completed the click track, four guitar tracks, the bass and three vocal tracks in a three hour period. And the session was a lot of fun. You can’t ask for much more than that. Now – go out there and create!
The year that wouldn’t end is officially over. We’re all going in to 2021 with hopes and plans that we can accomplish some positive things. We received a new track in November from Steaming Mulch with the goal of seeing more this year. We’ll be replaying some of their older tracks while new ones are being worked on. We also came across some unfinished tracks from The Flank, another band on Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds (Note – you can find more info on the bands on the label site velvetwrinklewreckerds.com as well as songs on our Soundcloud site). We’re hoping to finish those tracks this year and thought we’d dig in to the archives (it’s been quite a while since the last album release) and give you a sample of The Flank material. We’re starting with ‘Something Better Be’ which is the opening track on the album ‘At Stake’. I’m really looking forward to working on the new songs as they headed in a different direction from the first album which is always exciting.
Here’s ‘Something Better Be’ from The Flank:
There are other projects in the works for 2021 since some situational changes may allow us more time to work together. New original music is in the works for Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs as well as more Messin’ With The Music covers and some live In The Studio performances as well as more In The Studio ‘tech simplified’ videos. We’re looking to have some t shirts and other merch available. There’s even the possibility of another band coming in to Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. Bonnie and Samantha are certainly happy to see a new year so we’re starting with some dreams and the hope that this year will allow us to make them reality. We’re hoping you’ll join us in this 2021 adventure (and bring your friends along)!
This episode of In The Studio describes the basics of microphone functions and the different types of microphones. As with most episodes of In The Studio, I’ve tried to keep this from being overly technical. Since there are literally thousands of YouTube videos and blogs that are made for tech heads, I wanted to put out content for people who may not be deep in to the subject, but are interested in how recording studios work. So this video is set up like a conversation between me and you. This video is straight from the camera without editing software. As always, please feel free to comment or ask questions – discussion is always welcome.
So we’re at the end of another year. Seemed much longer than a year. As always there was good and bad; ugly and beautiful. This was a year when I decided to consciously cut back on the ‘noise’. All the stuff swirling around that destroys creativity. Sooo……Newspaper – dropped. Cable TV – dropped. Staring at phone feeds – ehhhh…..work in progress, but improved. Have a basic idea of what’s what without drowning in it. There’s so much to do musically and with the site, and I needed some energy to work on it.
So my wife Lorena and I ventured to the national parks to do some hiking and photography. Two weeks in the parks works better than years of meds or therapy for me.
I even got to work on my ‘dislike’ of heights. Seems if you add jaw dropping views, my brain tends to ignore the height.
So when we returned at the end of September, I got back to work. Three features that were started – ‘Grapevine’, ‘In The Studio’ and ‘Messin’ With The Music’ will continue in to 2020. We’ll see what else we come up with. There are a bunch of new Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs original songs in the works. We may even get a new tune from Steaming Mulch. And we’d like to get more eyes and ears on ChurchHouse Productions. More contact with like minded folk (hint – tell your friends).
So ends our yearly update. Hope your 2019 was great and your 2020 will be better.
Welcome to Episode 8 in the ‘In The Studio’ series. Today’s topic is how to create mixing options for yourself during the recording process. A couple things to add about the process in the video. In the video the guitar sounds you hear have not been EQ’d on the mixing board. You can magnify the differences in sound by tweaking the EQ on each microphone using the mixing board. You can also add more diversity by adding effects units in the line between the guitar and amp (this will make more sense after you watch the video). As always if you have any questions or ideas, let us know.
Grapevine will be a new feature we’re going to try to do on a monthly basis. It will contain info about things we come across and would like to share with our readers. Most times, it will feature bands or songs that make an impression on us. Some will be new, some may be old but we’ve just found them. We don’t do reviews. These are songs (or some other media) that we like and why we like them. It may be the recording, the song style or feel, the instrumentation, arrangement or the attitude. We may also look at videos, photos or whatever excites us at the time. Who knows how it will evolve?
Spielbergs – ‘Five On It’
Great recording, sounds kind of lo-fi style, but with all the instruments a clear part of the mix. Vocals are mixed in low enough that they have an instrumental feel, another instrument in the mix. The kind of songs I listen to cruising around backroads with the windows open singing along. Love the guitar crunch. This song is from the album ‘This Is The End’ and hearing the whole album straight through is a great listen. Some songs add a little shoegaze feedback guitar to the mix.
Strand of Oaks – ‘Weird Ways’
The songs starts with vocal and just some background guitar. Really makes you listen to the lyrics. Excellent clear vocal sound. When the band kicks in the song goes up a notch without losing the vocals. Really like the clean drum sound. The song structure works with the interlude in the middle and the kick back in to the song. Super headphone music.
I’m adding a second song from the same album ‘Eraserland’. If for no other reason – the sonics of the slide guitar. Why do I so love melancholy?
The Devil Makes Three – ‘Chains Are Broken’
My reason for this song is pretty obvious. Live. In. The. Studio. Acoustic. Does it get any better than that? So simple, so beautiful. If you can pull someone in using that format, you got it going. This version sounds a bit darker (and I do love darker) than the album version that has drums and more production. Second guitar part bites a little better on the studio version. Pretty cool that it kicks in both versions.
Hey, if you like this too, let us know.
The idea of an ‘Inspiration Point’ always reminds me of standing on the edge of a canyon and looking down at the beautiful scenery below. Or shouting in to the canyon and hearing an echo come back. Here’s an In The Studio version of our indoor inspiration point (Episode 6):
We also have three new ‘Messin’ With The Music’ songs in production and hope to have something out soon.
Without further ado – here is our latest release of the music video for Acetone… gotta love trains.
You can also listen to the song here on SoundCloud:
As we work with more acoustic instruments and try different techniques to record, we want to take you all along on the ride with us. Our first installment was in the post ‘Start At The Beginning’ where we worked our way through an acoustic version of Ween’s ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’. In this post we take a similar path with The Cure’s ‘The Lovecats’.
We’re starting our recording journey with the most basic recording steps. Each instrument is recorded with one microphone (sometimes using the same mic and setup for multiple instrument tracks) and we’re recording one take for each instrument (other than vocals where we’ll usually have more than one track). We do some punch ins, but for the most part keep it as ‘live’ sounding as possible. In other words we’re not going to edit or digitally fix every string squeak or change in dynamics. It’s an attempt to see what we get if you go back to a time when studios couldn’t digitally enhance or ‘fix’ every little blip. What you play is what you get. As we go along through the songs we’ll describe the changes and additions to the recording process (adding electric instruments and multiple takes will come in to play in future recordings).
As you listen to ‘The Lovecats’ see if you can pick up the instruments that were tracked: acoustic six string guitar, five string banjo, six string banjo, mandolin, twelve string guitar and fretless bass guitar. Hope you enjoy our version. In the meantime, we’re already working on the next song.
– ‘The Lovecats’ by The Cure:
Just wanted to throw out a few thoughts on some items I think deserve some ink. The kind of wonderful distractions from the ‘real world’ that keep me going.
Always a great pleasure to drop in a new track from The Record Company. For your listening pleasure, ‘Life to Fix’:
An introduction to some of the invaluable staff at ChurchHouse Productions. I’d like you to meet our ‘in-house’ Public Relations staff:
She’s been a wonderful greeter and is a 24/7 studio pup. Bonnie loves to spend time in the mixing room.
And never hesitates to let me know what she thinks of a mix.
I believe the feedback was “I’m outta here…”
Besides being the owner of the famous ‘hound howl’ she’s a fanatical lover of David Lynch movies.
Although the aftermath of her watching a movie puts her in a bit of a ‘Lynchian’ mood (“this bed belongs to me now”).
Love them both and ChurchHouse wouldn’t be the same without them.
Shout out to a wonderful, old fashioned record store in Jim Thorpe, Pa, Soundcheck Records. The kind of place I grew up with and sadly are hard to find in today’s world. Let’s cross our fingers that vinyl and stores like this make a big comeback. If you’re up in Jim Thorpe it’s a must to check out.
We’ll be rolling out another song at the end of September. We’ll keep the title a surprise until then but as with the last song, we sort of broke it down and did some rebuild. Gotta have some fun.